Archives for July 2012

Hard Metals Disease

“If I poisoned someone, they would put me away for life, but the company I worked for poisoned me and got away with it,” says a disabled worker.

Hard Metals Disease (1987) is the shocking story of the Valenite Corporation, a subsidiary of General Telephone and Electric (GTE) and an international corporation with factories in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. This investigative documentary spent four years tracking Valenite activities. Did Valenite knowingly expose its workers to hazardous substances? What happens to jobs and workers when factories move to Mexico? The trail of dead and sick workers Valenite left behind raises questions about corporate responsibility.

As a correspondent for NBC’s Today Show, Jon Alpert consistently brought investigative reporting on controversial social issues to commercial television. This Emmy® Award winning documentary examines “Hard Metals Disease,” cobalt poisoning among workers in the tungsten carbide machine tool industry. Alpert focuses on workers suffering from this debilitating, incurable lung disease who were exposed to cobalt dust at three plants of the Valenite Metals Corporation. Establishing a close rapport with the workers as they tell their own stories of Valenite’s negligence and subsequent cover-up, Alpert departs from standard television reportage in his powerful and unapologetic indictment of industry.

 

Biochemical Individuality

The Basis for the Genetotrophic Concept

Roger J. Williams (1893 – 1988) was an American professor of chemistry, which named folic acid and discovered pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). He was founder and director of the Clayton Foundation Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas which, under his directorship, was responsible for more vitamin related discoveries than any other laboratory in the world. Dr. Williams was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and President of the American Chemical Society.

Roger J. Williams also developed the concept of genetotrophic disease. According to him, the following thesis formed the basis of this new approach to nutrition:

“the nutritional microenvironment of our body cells is crucially important to our health, and deficiencies in this enviromnent consititute a major cause of disease.”

In 1956 Dr. Williams published the groundbreaking work Biochemical Individuality, which is only now coming to be accepted and understood by the medical community. Until now, generalized dietary recommendations like the RDAs were the norm. This timeless classic links our biological diversity with individual nutritional needs and shows you how to determine and meet those needs for optimal well-being.

This version of Biochemical Individuality was reprinted in 1989 by Keats Publishing, New Canaan, Connecticut. The book has a new introduction by Jeffrey S. Bland, Ph.D.

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Link to the text version of this audio presentation from the Ludwig von Mises Institute

 

Read More 

Roger J. Williams: Pioneer in Biochemistry, Nutrition, Biochemical Individuality, and Public Education. Biochemical Institute, The University of Texas, Austin (website)

Roger J. Williams, Wikipedia article

 

Increase in RDA for Vitamin C Could Help Reduce Heart Disease, Stroke, Cancer

The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, of vitamin C is less than half what it should be, scientists argue in a recent report, because medical experts insist on evaluating this natural, but critical nutrient in the same way they do pharmaceutical drugs and reach faulty conclusions as a result.

The researchers, in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, say there’s compelling evidence that the RDA of vitamin C should be raised to 200 milligrams per day for adults, up from its current levels in the United States of 75 milligrams for women and 90 for men.

Rather than just prevent the vitamin C deficiency disease of scurvy, they say, it’s appropriate to seek optimum levels that will saturate cells and tissues, pose no risk, and may have significant effects on public health at almost no expense – about a penny a day if taken as a dietary supplement.

“It’s time to bring some common sense to this issue, look at the totality of the scientific evidence, and go beyond some clinical trials that are inherently flawed,” said Balz Frei, professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, and one of the world’s leading experts on the role of vitamin C in optimum health.

“Significant numbers of people in the U.S. and around the world are deficient in vitamin C, and there’s growing evidence that more of this vitamin could help prevent chronic disease,” Frei said. “The way clinical researchers study micronutrients right now, with the same type of so-called ‘phase three randomized placebo-controlled trials’ used to test pharmaceutical drugs, almost ensures they will find no beneficial effect. We need to get past that.”

Unlike testing the safety or function of a prescription drug, the researchers said, such trials are ill suited to demonstrate the disease prevention capabilities of substances that are already present in the human body and required for normal metabolism. Some benefits of micronutrients in lowering chronic disease risk also show up only after many years or even decades of optimal consumption of vitamin C – a factor often not captured in shorter-term clinical studies.

A wider body of metabolic, pharmacokinetic, laboratory and demographic studies suggests just the opposite, that higher levels of vitamin C could help reduce the chronic diseases that today kill most people in the developed world – heart disease, stroke, cancer, and the underlying issues that lead to them, such as high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, poor immune response and atherosclerosis.

“We believe solid research shows the RDA should be increased,” Frei said. “And the benefit-to-risk ratio is very high. A 200 milligram intake of vitamin C on a daily basis poses absolutely no risk, but there is strong evidence it would provide multiple, substantial health benefits.”

An excellent diet with the recommended five to nine daily servings of fruits and raw or steam-cooked vegetables, together with a six-ounce glass of orange juice, could provide 200 milligrams of vitamin C a day. But most Americans and people around the world do not have an excellent diet.

Even at the current low RDAs, various studies in the U.S. and Canada have found that about a quarter to a third of people are marginally deficient in vitamin C, and up to 20 percent in some populations are severely deficient – including college students, who often have less-than-perfect diets. Smokers and older adults are also at significant risk.

Even marginal deficiency can lead to malaise, fatigue, and lethargy, researchers note. Healthier levels of vitamin C can enhance immune function, reduce inflammatory conditions such as atherosclerosis, and significantly lower blood pressure.

  • A recent analysis of 29 human studies concluded that daily supplements of 500 milligrams of vitamin C significantly reduced blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and directly attributes to an estimated 400,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
  • A study in Europe of almost 20,000 men and women found that mortality from cardiovascular disease was 60 percent lower when comparing the blood plasma concentration of vitamin C in the highest 20 percent of people to the lowest 20 percent.
  • Another research effort found that men with the lowest serum vitamin C levels had a 62 percent higher risk of cancer-related death after a 12-16 year period, compared to those with the highest vitamin C levels.

Laboratory studies with animals – which may be more accurate than human studies because they can be done in controlled conditions and with animals of identical genetic makeup – can document reasons that could explain all of these findings, Frei said.

Critics have suggested that some of these differences are simply due to better overall diet, not vitamin C levels, but the scientists noted in this report that some health benefits correlate even more strongly to vitamin C plasma levels than fruit and vegetable consumption.

Scientists in France and Denmark collaborated on this report. Research at OSU on these issues has been supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

 

Reference 

Frei B, Birlouez-Aragon I, Lykkesfeldt J. Authors’ Perspective: What is the Optimum Intake of Vitamin C in Humans? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2012; 52 (9): 815-29.

 

Awakenings: Encephalitis lethargica and L-DOPA

This is the remarkable story of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen for decades in a trance-like state, these men and women were given up as hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Oliver Sacks gave them the then-new drug L-DOPA, which had an astonishing, explosive, “awakening” effect (the drama film Awakenings 1990).

The following text is an edited excerpt from an article by Foster and Hoffer [2004]:

 

“Encephalitis lethargica is a viral epidemic encephalitis that occurred in many parts of the world between 1915 and 1926. Also known as sleeping sickness or sleepy sickness, those who survived the initial infection typically displayed long term apathy, paralysis of the extrinsic eye muscles and extreme muscular weaknesses [Sacks 1982]. There is still disagreement over which virus was involved in this disease but the disorder often preceded Parkinsonism, suggesting that there must have been similarities in neurological damage. Although little or nothing has been published on the roll of oxidative stress in Encephalitis lethargica, damage by reactive oxygen species has been implicated in other forms of such disorders, as for example in Japanese encephalitis [Liao et al. 2003].”

“In 1969, Sacks [1983] began treating Encephalitis lethargica patients, some of whom had been catatonic for years, with high doses of L-DOPA. The dramatic improvements that followed were later documented in his book Awakenings and in a film of the same name [Sacks 1982, Awakenings 1990].”


Watch Awakenings

“It was discovered through the use of L-DOPA by Parkinson’s disease patients that, although its initial results were dramatically effective, a growing tolerance to it developed. This resulted in a need to increase dosages over time. Eventually side-effects of the drug, such as dyskinesias (abnormal movements), gastrointestinal symptoms, insomnia, hallucinations and even psychosis, became worse than its benefits [Katzenschlager and Lees 2002].”

“A similar picture emerged in the treatment of Encephalitis lethargica patients. Sacks [1982, screenplay Awakenings 1990] described treating 20 such patients with L-DOPA. The initial dose was 500 mg daily but, if required, was increased gradually to 6 g. Many patients showed great early progress, which Sacks termed an Awakening. Unfortunately, this dramatic improvement in health began to reverse. Sacks’ book Awakening first appeared in 1973. By the time his revised 1982 edition was published, seventeen of his patients were dead, mainly from Parkinsonism and all had relapsed. Sacks [1982] describes the experiences of an Encephalitis lethargica patient receiving high dose L-DOPA as follows:

For the first time, then, the patient on L-DOPA enjoys a perfection of being, an ease of movement and feeling and thought, a harmony of relation within and without. Then his happy state – his world – starts to crack, slip, break down, and crumble; he lapses from his happy state, and moves toward perversion and decay.”

“The evidence just presented suggests that dopamine deficiency probably plays an important role, not just in Parkinson’s disease, but also in Encephalitis lethargica” … “However, attempts to correct such deficiencies with L-DOPA, especially at high dosages, while initially beneficial appear to quickly produce a wide range of negative side effects.”

“The most logical interpretation of the L-DOPA experience is that patients with untreated Parkinson’s disease, Encephalitis lethargica” … “all display two distinct types of symptoms. Some of these are due directly to a deficiency of dopamine and are quickly improved by L-DOPA. A second set of symptoms, however, are the result of neurological damage caused by the metabolites of dopamine. The use of L-DOPA, therefore, increases the severity of these symptoms over time until they outweigh any improvement observed from the correction of dopamine deficiency. It is suggested that the damaging side-effects of L-DOPA’s use stem not directly from the drug but from its oxidation products which include dopachrome and other chrome indoles which are hallucinogenic, toxic to neurons and have been seen to hasten death in Parkinsonism patients [Graham 1978, Graham et al. 1978].”

“At least part of the neurological damage seen in Encephalitis lethargica” … “appears to be caused by dopachrome and other chrome indoles, produced by the oxidation of dopamine. The use of L-DOPA in these patients probably accelerates production of such neurotoxins. If this hypothesis is correct, it follows that combining L-DOPA with very high dose antioxidants may permit the beneficial use of this drug”.

… “high doses of natural methyl acceptors, such as thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3) and ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10) should delay disorder progression. This is because they are capable of decreasing the conversion of dopamine to dopachrome and so preventing the toxic impacts of this and other chrome indoles [Hoffer 1998].”

 

References 

Awakenings (1990). Film. Directed by:  Penny Marshall. USA: Columbia Pictures.

Foster HD, Hoffer A (2004)  The two faces of L-DOPA: benefits and adverse side effects in the treatment of Encephalitis lethargica, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Medical Hypotheses 62: 177–181.

Graham DG (1978) Oxidative pathways for catecholamines in the genesis of neuromelanin and cytotoxic quinones. Mol Pharmacol 14 (4): 633–643.

Graham DG, Tiffany SM, Bell WR, Gutknecht WF (1978) Autoxidation versus covalent binding of quinones as the mechanism of toxicity of dopamine, 6-hydroxydopamine, and related compounds towards C1300 neuroblastoma cells in vitro. Mol Pharmocol 14 (4): 644–653.

Hoffer A (1998) Vitamin B-3 Schizophrenia: discovery, recovery, controversy. Quarry Press, Kingston, Ontario.

Katzenschlager R, Lees AJ (2002) Treatment of Parkinson’s disease: levodopa as the first choice. J Neurol 249 (Suppl 2): 19–24.

Liao SL, Raung SL, Chen CJ (2003) Japanese encephalitis virus stimulates superoxide dismutase activity in rat glial cultures. Neurosci Lett 324 (2): 133–136.

Sacks O (1982) Awakenings. Pan Books. London.

Sacks O (1983) The origin of “Awakenings”. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 287 (6409): 1968–1969.