- Researchers met in Holland on last week
(4/27) to announce confirmation of new discoveries about the causes of
Alzheimer's disease, an affliction marked by memory loss and mental incapacitation
in millions of elderly people. The new studies clearly connect the disease
to long term deficiencies of vitamins B-12 and Folic Acid. As a result,
Alzheimer's disease has become a smoking gun pointed directly at catastrophic
prohibition of a nutritional supplement for political or financial gain.
The information about Alzheimer's, available overseas for several
weeks, has not been widely reported inside the U.S. censorship zone. Internet
users, however, could find stories posted elsewhere, such as the website
for the Times or the Telegraph in London. The new research pinpoints excessive
levels of homocysteine, a chemical over-produced by the body during vitamin
B-12 deficiency, as a common denominator among Alzheimer's victims. Homocysteine
has already been implicated in the creation of birth defects, and associated
with increased risk of stroke and heart disease as well. Homocysteine
is neutralized by folic acid, or folate, another B vitamin.
- Two Essential Vitamins
B-12 is found naturally in animal related foods, such as meats and dairy
products, while folic acid is primarily found in green leafy vegetables.
Fresh uncooked spinach leaves are one of the best sources. Over
sixty years ago it was clear to most observers that social changes in the
industrial nations were producing nutritional deficiencies. Changing eating
habits and higher costs associated with the increasing distance from farm
to table were major factors. New manufacturing methods were also thought
to be harmful to the basic nutritional content of many refined foods.
This created interest in dietary supplements, vitamin pills, as a way to
get necessary nutrients. While only small amounts of B-12 are needed
to fend off pernicious anemia, another deficiency disease, and the benefits
of larger amounts are uncertain, an appropriate amount for folic acid was
estimated at fifty milligrams or more to ensure good health. Few people
today eat enough fresh uncooked green leafy vegetables to obtain anywhere
near this amount, except for serious vegetarians. Those who eat no animal
products are typically deficient in the animal-produced B-12, unless taking
supplements. It is also not clear how much B-12 the rest of the population
is getting either, because of current cooking and food processing techniques,
as well as pervasive chemical treatment of food animals. During
the 1930s and 40s, the relationship between B12 and folic acid was an item
of significant interest, in a period that saw a vast increase in our understanding
of the body's need for various minerals and vitamins. It appeared that
folic acid allowed vegetarians to escape the effects of B12 deficiency.
In fact, the appearance of visibly good health displayed by many long
term vegetarians was discovered to be related not so much to what they
avoided, but to the large amounts of folic acid that they naturally consumed
in their diet. It was also noted that people in this group rarely went
to the doctor.
- The FDA Steps In In response
to the studies showing the importance and value of folic acid, the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration outlawed its inclusion in vitamin pills except
for microscopic amounts. The bizarre reasoning offered by FDA, perhaps
evidence of panic, was that vegetarians who took vitamins supplying them
with additional folic acid were so radiantly healthy that they would not
go to doctors. Consequently, the doctors did not have the opportunity
to diagnose the B12 deficiency which the vegetarians were not experiencing
anyway. Serious vegetarians were a tiny minority at the time, and no one
has ever believed this was the actual reason for a ban effecting the entire
population. The FDA usually acts after someone complains. The parties
involved in the story were vegetarians and doctors, and the vegetarians
were not complaining. The whisper in the FDA's ear would necessarily be
from the other involved party, perhaps through their collective voice in
Washington, the A.M.A. To understand the intention behind this ruling,
it is only necessary to grasp the effect.
- First, vegetarians who were already getting
enough folic acid did not get more of it, but they were not going to doctors
very much anyway. Second, it was now illegal for people who were not getting
enough folic acid in their diet to obtain it elsewhere, thus insuring that
long term deficiency would result. The consequences are the truly staggering
amounts spent on medical treatment, long term care, etc. It is not difficult
to see who the winner is. Nutritionist Adelle Davis, perhaps the
most important voice for nutrition in the twentieth century, advised her
readers in 1954 that she and others were forced to get folic acid supplements
from Canada. This is an amazing state of affairs for something as simple
as condensed spinach leaves. She was baffled by the restriction, pointing
out that the sensible thing for the problem of vegetarians was simply to
require that vitamin supplements contain a small amount of B12, so it would
no longer be an issue. (Davis, Let's Eat Right To Keep Fit, 1954, revised
- In her "Let's Eat Right" book,
Davis also reported, "The young of animals lacking folic acid are
grossly abnormal. Similarly, women given drugs which take the place of
this vitamin (folic acid antagonists) have given birth to malformed and
mentally retarded infants." Apparently the risks associated with
serious folic acid deficiency were known.
- One factor that has not been addressed
in a flurry of new B vitamin studies, is the often reported synergistic
affect of this family of vitamins. This refers to the fact that they work
together in many ways, and may be dependent on each other in many chemical
processes. In fact, when some B vitamins are supplied, while one or more
others are missing or in less than needed amounts, the deficiency of the
missing vitamin(s) may appear to be worsened. Has this happened to consumers
of multiple vitamins which contain only the miniscule amount of folic acid
allowed by the FDA? More specifically, has the prohibition intensified
their folic acid deficiency? This is a tricky question at the present time,
because many vitamin suppliers are marketing capsules or tablets with 50-mg.-of-everything
(except folic acid of course) and not worrying about a synergistic ratio.
- A Long Term Pattern
- It is common knowledge that the FDA has
continued to fight an aggressive battle against any health related process
or product that would upset a very profitable status quo. Due to the work
of Davis and others, interest in nutrition grew rapidly, and in 1966 the
FDA responded by holding hearings over proposed rules that would make it
illegal to sell vitamins at all, except in tiny amounts, unless by a doctor's
prescription. Almost as bizarre, the new regulations would have made it
a felony for any business to suggest in its advertising that refined foods,
such as white flour, did not supply all necessary nutrients, or that improper
processing or cooking could destroy vitamins. Efforts by the FDA
to prevent competition that might impact the balance sheets of large corporations
are legendary and have continued to the present day, the most recent scandal
involving the refusal to allow importation of a superior dietary sweetener
that is natural rather than artificial. One observer has gone so far as
to say that FDA footdragging is directly proportional to the amount of
money involved. This is probably to be expected in an age when corruption
in government seems more the rule than the exception. It was well
understood at the outset that folic acid was essential to human health,
and that long term deficiency would necessarily create serious health problems.
One can assume that this has become more apparent as the decades have
gone by, yet the prohibition has never been lifted. Still it took a long
time before the connection to fatal birth defects was confirmed. Official
confirmation was only logged into TEKTRAN, the FDA's Agricultural Research
Service data base as Report 078855, approved 2/26/97. The FDA response
was not to lift the prohibition on folic acid, but to propose regulations
requiring that tiny amounts be added to certain manufactured foods. This
would be just enough, it is hoped, to prevent deformed or dying babies.
Apparently those vegetarians still need protection.
- Is The FDA Responsible For Billions
In Healthcare Costs? It is still a difficult jump, from ordinary
corruption to deliberately causing harm to millions. Yet this is where
events such as the Alzheimer's discovery seem to be leading us. This is
more serious than other puzzling situations, such as the new "food
pyramid" with its nutritional equivalent of two cups of sugar a day,
or the strange "unavailability" of an anti-cavity vaccine that
has been proven safe and effective for years. Few pay attention to the
food pyramid, and once the dentists have completed their transition to
gum disease fighters, the vaccine may surface again. Or the team developing
a less desirable paint-on vaccine in Britain may get theirs on the market.
Outside the U.S. of course. But cavities don't often cause death,
mental damage or incapacity. They just cost money. Is it really possible
that government officials would willingly create a sick population to provide
a cash cow for the medical / pharmaceutical industry? The signs are beginning
to point that way.
- Perhaps it Is time for the families of
Alzheimer's victims to learn about the Freedom Of Information Act, and
start going after those old files at FDA. If they haven't been shredded,
of course. There is not much legal precedent dealing with government actions
that harm millions, but perhaps there is a way to recover damages.
The recent discoveries are not a cure. Merely a major advance in understanding
and hopefully, prevention. Still, the ban on folic acid may never be lifted
without major changes in Washington. So make sure your daily vitamin contains
B12 and don't forget to eat your spinach. Fresh and uncooked, of course.
- Congratulations to Dr. Andrew McCaddon,
of North Wales, who carried out his research on Alzheimer's disease over
ten years of evenings and weekends while conducting a busy practice. Congratulations
also to his associates at Wrexham Maelor Hospital who helped with the research,
and the members of an international team co-ordinated by Oxford University.
Dr. McCaddon and his team completed their project late last year,
and their results were just published in the April edition of the "International
Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry".
- The author always appreciates comments,
which can be directed to Ken_Welch@bigfoot.com