"Progress in Megavitamin and Orthomolecular Science" (pages 1-25)
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25 (1,258,336 Bytes)
1984-06-12 (June 12, 1984)
Original Repository: Oregon State University. Library. Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers. Oregon State University Library.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Progress in Megavitamin and Orthomolecular Science (June 12, 1984)
Progress in Megavitamin and Orthomolecular Science
During the first half of the 20th Century the several fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins were identified, isolated, and
characterized and methods for their synthesis were developed. By 1943 the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs)
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were formulated and published by the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences -- National Research
Council, which has revised its recommendations about every five years! The RDAs are defined in the following way^1: "Recommended
Dietary Allowances (RDA) are the levels of intake of essential nutrients
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considered, in the judgment of the Committee on Dietary Allowances of the Food and Nutrition Board on the basis of available
scientific knowledge, to be adequate to meet the known nutritional needs of practically all health persons."
The Board states that the RDAs are intended to be met by a [ . . . ] of a wide variety of foods rather than
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by supplementation or by extensive fortification of single foods, and that they apply to healthy populations, not to those
people with problems such as premature birth, inherited metabolic disorders, infections, chronic diseases, and the use of
medications requiring special dietary and therapeutic measures.
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During the second half of the 20th century it has been recognized that there is a fallacy in the definition of the RDAs.
The fallacy lies in the last words of the definition, " . . . to meet the known nutritional needs of practically all healthy
persons." Thus the "nutritional needs" are the amounts ingested by the control
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subpopulation of people in "ordinary good health." Since the nutrient intake of these people is an average one, the
definition of RDA leads to values of the RDA equal to the amounts in the average diet.
With this definition, there is no possibility that the RDAs would be given values that would improve the health of all the
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This fallacy is well known, even though the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board does not tell the American people about it. In
their book Human Nutrition and Dietetics^2 the authors, Sir Stanley Davidson and R. Passmore, mention that the different recommendations
of the national committees of Britain and the USA are related to the customary diets of the two countries [p. 242]. They
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also say [p. 213] that the chief argument against recommending an intake of vitamin C that would lead to full saturation and
improve the general health is that it would require a revolution in British habits to eat sufficient fruit and vegetables
to provide the vitamin in this amount.
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The value of megavitamins
The recognition of the value of an intake of a vitamin larger than the intake that prevents manifestations of the corresponding
deficiency disease has come mainly during the second half of the 20th century. In 1937 Albert Szent-Gyorgyi wrote^3 that
"Vitamins, if properly understood and applied, will help us to reduce human suffering to
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an extent which the most fantastic mind would find to imagine." In the period from 1940 on values of intake of vitamins
somewhat larger than the RDAs were tested for prophylactic and therapeutic value. The early investigators were conservative;
for example, Cowan, Diehl, and Baker, who in 1942 reported that
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in their double-blind study of 363 students who received vitamin C or a placebo, with 31% less respiratory illness in the
vitamin C group than in the placebo group, described the daily dose of 200 mg (four times the RDA) as a "massive"
dose. A dose of 27,000[?] mg is now considered a massive dose.
Megavitamin therapy was developed in 1952
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by A. Hoffer and H. Osmond, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who then began the first double-blind study ever made in the field
of psychiatry. In this study of 30 schizophrenic patients a comparison was made of a placebo, nicotinic acid, and nicotinamide
(each as an adjunct to standard schizophrenia treatment. The patients receiving vitamin
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B3 (nicotinic acid or nicotinamide) fared better than those given a placebo: Hoffer states [Ref 4, p. 207] "A second
double-blind study with 82 patients, follow-up studies since 1952, and clinical experience on nearly 2,000 cases treated between
1952 and 1969 have clearly established for me that the treatment of choice for schizophrenia is a
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combination of megavitamins, tranquilizers, anti-depressants, and electroconvulsive therapy, combined with psychotherapy within
the framework of the medical model. An example of independent corroboration is the work of Hawkins (Ref. 4, pp. 571-673).
He and his clinic have treated over 4,000 cases, and the vast majority were restored to normality."
This more recent work may
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considered to be the logical consequence of earlier studies by many investigators of the value of this vitamin, which had
been recognized in 1933 to the pellagra-preventing vitamin, in controlling the psychosis associated with pellagra and also
in controlling depression and other psychotic states. The
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early studies are described by Hoffer (Ref. 4, pp. 203-205). The RDA of vitamin B3 is 17 mg per day. In the early studies
daily amounts from 100 mg to 1000 mg per day were used. Hoffer and Osmond, Hawkins, and other psychiatrists prescribe 3,000
or more mg per day, usually together with an equal amount of ascorbic acid and often with other vitamins.
The biological importance
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of vitamin B3 results from its involvement with enzymes in nicotinamide is a constituent of nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide
(NAD) and nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP), which serve as coenzymes in may enzyme systems.
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Another early investigator in the megavitamin field was Fred R. Klenner. Following the 1935 report by Jungeblut of the inactivation
of poliomyelitis virus by ascorbate ion^5 , Klenner before 1949 began the treatment of patients seriously ill with viral pneumonia,
poliomyelitis, and other viral diseases by oral administration or venous infusion of ascorbate, often
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in amounts so large as 100 g per day^(6-10). He recommended 10 to 20 g per day for prophylaxis. The biochemist Irwin Stone
also played an important part in this development by marshalling the arguments about the optimum intake of vitamin C and advocating
the prophylactic and therapeutic use in amounts far larger than the RDA^(11,12).
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Orthomolecular Substances and Orthomolecular Medicine
Most drugs have little physiological activity at doses far less than those at which they show pronounced activity, and the
doses of drugs usually prescribed for the treatment of a serious illness are usually rather close to the lethal dose. In
these respects the vitamins are much different. A daily intake
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of 5 mg of nicotamide [sic] is enough to prevent pellagra from developing in most people, but 50g, 10,000 times as much, can
be taken without harm. Similarly, 5 mg of ascorbic acid per day is enough to prevent scurvy in most people, but 10,000 or
even 50,000 times this amount can be taken without harm. No lethal does is known for these vitamins or for
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most of the others -- it is estimated that a single dose of 10,000,000 I.U. of vitamin A might be lethal.
Because the vitamins and some other substances have physiological activity over a great range of tolerated intakes, and important
question may be asked: What is the optimum intake?
For a vitamin the optimum intake may be
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far greater than the RDA. Only during recent decades has there been serious interest in determining the optimum intakes.
In order to differentiate them from drugs, the vitamins and similar substances have been given the name orthomolecular substances^13.
An orthomolecular substance is a substance that is normally present in the
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human body and that serves some purpose. The vitamins, essential amino acids, essential fats, essential minerals, and various
other constituents of foods are orthomolecular substances, as are also various other substances, such as choline, p-aminobenzoic
acid, the ubiquinones, and human proteins such as insulin and interferon.
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Orthomolecular medicine is the achievement and preservation of the best of health and the prevention and treatment of disease
by varying the concentrations of the orthomolecular substances in the human body. Reaching the goal may involve either increasing
the concentration (of, for example, high-density lipoprotein in the blood) or decreasing the concentration (of, for example,