Alzheimers News Is
Smoking Gun Pointed at FDA
by Ken Welch
May 4, 1998
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 1970, Signet)
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".
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