Part 3. Foundation for a Paradigm Shift
As soon as I moved to the East Bay in the early ’70s, I got that exposure to the anti-establishment point of view regarding diet and nutrition. Antioxidants. UC Berkeley was one of the centers of investigation of the whole antioxidant aging theory. A newly-minted PhD in Physiology provided me with the information, some insight both into how and why antioxidants worked and what was going on in the science world as this paradigm shift took place.
So, this new information was not exactly “hippie” speculative nonsense. Of course, there was pushback from the orthodox medical and scientific community. There were, I have to say, quite a few MDs who embraced all this. Good for them and good for us!
So, there I was, just a few years later, looking at pioneers such as Jack LaLanne, one of the founders of the whole fitness movement on the “Tomorrow Show” with Tom Snyder, looking like a fit 25-year-old, in his mid-50s, a living, breathing example of what dedication to fitness and diet could produce. I barely understood the parameters of exercise then compared to what I eventually learned. But, the question? What to eat? What role did food play in this whole thing?
There was a lot of talk and quite a few books that came out about that time. Everybody interested in the field had read Adelle Davis. She was easily the most discussed, the most appreciated. The whole health food store thing mushroomed. Adelle Davis got me to take vitamins, but, truth is, I really didn’t understand what I was doing for a few years. B complex and choline helped my attention during periods of stress. For me, stress was the usual state of affairs. I mean some heavy stress, too.
My “Vitamin C Story” will be among the next blog entries. A great paradigm shifter.
However the one that got me to improve what I ate, the one having the greatest effect on diet and nutrition, per se, was The Pritikin Diet. The other one was the book, Life Extension- A Scientific Approach.
The Pritikin book got me to look at food. Everything I vaguely knew about regarding food from that very inadequate exposure in those two years of courses at Jeff Med School became clear and then some.
Nathan Pritikin had successfully cleared blocks in his coronary arteries through diet and a bit of exercise. Ah!
Well, first he tried a vegetarian diet. But, it didn’t lower his blood lipid levels as much as he wanted. He figured that high lipid levels helped create the blocks. If he could get the lipid levels down, maybe he could reverse the arteriosclerosis.
The vegetarian diet helped. It lowered his lipids, but not as much as he wanted. His coronary arteries remained blocked. All that thinking was based on an overestimation of saturated fat’s capacity to damage your arteries. And, all of that based on a misunderstanding of cholesterol, and saturated and poly-unsaturated fat. We will get to that later.
So, instead of a vegetarian diet, he went to very low fat.
Now, Pritikin was a Canadian electrical engineer with a dozen patents in his field. He used that intelligence and began looking at the demographics of heart disease. By that, I mean, for example, he looked at heart disease rates in Japan versus the rates among Japanese living in Hawaii, with their somewhat modified diets, and, then, compared their rate with the rate of Japanese-Americans.
Each deviation from the traditional Japanese diet produced an increase in heart disease. Each deviation meant that they ate a higher and higher proportion of their calories as fat.
After putting himself on this Japanese-inspired low fat diet (max of 15% calories from fat), his rear coronary arteries opened up. Heart disease overcome, he wrote his book, The Pritikin Diet. He explained what he thought had happened and opened a center for diet and exercise in Santa Monica on the beach.
This movement toward a low-fat diet swept the country. Mostly, what happened, though, was the people ate e.g., low-fat ice cream, or other pseudo-adaptations to a low-fat diet, packed with sugar. In the end, all that sugar will raise your lipids as well by getting your insulin level up, moving the food out of the bloodstream into the cells, where it undergoes transformation into fat (!). Then, the lipids leave the cells to go to the fat cells, and, essentially, you have done nothing to solve your problem.
All of that will be the topic of future blogs.
At the same time, Atkins and others launched their low-carbohydrate diets. The rivalry got so intense that after a blistering exchange on a TV talk show, Atkins and Pritikin began lawsuits against each other. (Ah! “Objective” science!)
In any case, Pritikin and others demonstrated that arteriosclerosis was reversible. Personally, I breathed a sigh of relief. At the time, I could not tell you exactly why I was so concerned, but I was and still am. Apparently, I had some sense of my own mortality. My own problems regarding lipid levels and arteriosclerosis will definitely be covered. (!)
Part 4. Paradigm Shift and Orthodoxy’s Resistance
In Part 3, I mentioned the book, Life Extension- A Scientific Approach, by Pearson and Shaw. With that, I saw that life extension was possible. That is, not the mere exclusion of whatever could shorten your life, (e.g., too many calories, infectious disease, etc), but a genuine extension of one’s life. Definitely, not proven for us humans, but a scientific, well-documented fact for animals. And, since the animals most similar to humans for metabolism lived longer, why not use the same supplements, especially if there was some advantage in the here-and-now use of them as well?
So, from the Life Extension book I ended up reading the books by the founder of the Life Extension Foundation, on-line at LEF.org. I became quite convinced that life extension was possible and that we could live out longer lives in better condition, middle aged, as it were, at death, in terms of our overall physiology. So that paradigm shift was done. Preventing heart disease and arteriosclerosis would have to be an essential aspect of that.
But, what about existing heart disease? Would there be nothing better we could do than change one’s diet or go for surgery?
While continuing to read articles by Pearson and Shaw, authors of Life Extension, I ended up at the site Life Enhancement, and there I read about chelation therapy.
While it was a surprise that a significant change in diet could lower triglycerides and reverse arteriosclerosis, the prospect of getting millions of people to eat in a very disciplined way seemed beyond the pale of what was possible. Plus, wouldn’t it be good if there was an actual therapy to open up those clogged arteries, a speeding up of the process that diet alone might be able to achieve, but, then again, was not assured? A way to avoid the need for coronary by-pass surgery, an expensive, dangerous procedure?
Apparently, there is. EDTA chelation therapy.
Some history, first. Chelation was actually invented for the textile industry as a way to process cloth, to remove the calcium in the 1890s. In the 1930s, this lead directly to the invention of EDTA, a “chelating” agent. A “claw”-like chemical structure that grabs and holds onto another chemical moiety. Spinach, for example, extracts iron from the ground to be used in its own metabolism, but keeps it inside the plant with its own chelating agent. That, by the way, means that your own intestines will not be able to absorb any significant amounts of iron from spinach.
By the 1950s, other uses of EDTA and chelating agents were discovered. One of them was the treatment of lead poisoning. The EDTA could successfully grab the lead and then carry it out of the body in urine. And not just…
EDTA chelation therapy removes a whole array of heavy metals from the body. They are very toxic. They have names such as thallium, lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, chromium. Some, such as selenium are actually co-factors in enzymes that are free radical scavengers, and, in the case of selenium, aid in the prevention of dandruff and, yes, believe it or not, cancer. (More on that in a later blog.)
“In the 1950s, Norman E Clark, Sr. and Albert Boyle separately published several articles showing improvements in patients with heart disease who were being treated for lead poisoning.”
That’s the background, but, I actually began reading about chelation therapy at life-enhancement.com, with articles such as this one:
Now, the paradigm shift rubber was about to hit the road. I approached a member of my extended family to go and get her carotids and other major arteries checked for blockage. I wanted her to get chelation therapy, if she needed it. I was intuitively quite certain that, based on her health and dietary history, it was highly probable.
Then, of course, fate intervened.
She woke up one morning dizzy and was afraid she had had a stroke. She called for an ambulance after talking to us on the phone. They took her to a local hospital. Other than the dizziness, she had none of the usual signs of a stroke such as loss of movement or paralysis of eg the face muscles. It turned out to be a viral infection of her inner ear.
She underwent a body scan. Good news. No stroke. Bad news. Carotids blocked 99%. Worse bad news. Surgeons would not operate because the likelihood of a stroke during the surgery was greater than the risk of stroke itself in her condition.
Worse, the MDs treated her as a person who had lived life and now had to prepare for death in the not-so-distant future. She was very depressed.
Now she was open to chelation therapy. I found an MD/Naturopath. She sent her onto the clinic in Portland where she underwent therapy. Basically, you show up and get a certain amount of EDTA dripped into your veins.
After about maybe two weeks, she began to hear a noise, a definitive “squirt” noise in her upper neck. We all took this to mean that the carotid had begun to get unblocked. This continued for a month or so.
There were some definitive changes beside the “squirt” noise in her neck. She had a greying finger that was numb. My extended family member is black. Any area of the skin deprived of circulation will lose its brown color. After several months, this changed. The numbness went away and her normal skin color appeared again.
Then there was a significant change in her overall mental capacity. She talked about being able to remember the names of workmen who came to make repairs in her home. She went shopping for Thanksgiving and bought several dozen articles without needing to consult her list a single time. And, her intra-ocular pressure went down. Yes. She has glaucoma, but, now, with a much lower pressure.
So, we were all convinced it had worked. Her doctor advised her to go back to the original surgeon and get a new scan of her carotids, which she did. Good news. Her carotids were now only 75% blocked. They had been opened by 25%.
Now, would you, if you were the surgeon, want to ask her what had been going on in her life? Obviously, this level and kind of change cannot be brought about through some kind of “placebo effect”, can it?
He never asked. Same attitude of my urologist who never asked what supplements I had taken to reduce my PSA to 3.95.
What he had before him was a miracle of sorts. He advised against any surgery because her circulation was so improved the risk of something going wrong from surgery was not worth it.
Now, another part of the story.
Two conversations I had had with MDs previous to her undergoing treatment told me flat out that it wouldn’t work. The first one, an Internist, had a positive attitude re alternative therapy and used to read Life Extension Foundation’s monthly magazine. But, he was dead set against the therapy, as I said. I didn’t argue with him, and, in fact, never saw him again.
A second MD who worked with a major insurance company also told me it would not work. When I told him that there had been a 25% opening of her carotids, he told me such a variation was “normal”.
Now, that’s how bad the denial can get.
The president of a major insurance company that I drove regularly listened politely and apparently believed me. I was aware, however, of a significant lack of enthusiasm on his part considering the hundreds of millions for his company and the billions on a national scale that this treatment could save, beside the sense of accomplishment his company would have bringing about that improvement in health. His company’s employees were a highly ethical group.
I realized after puzzling about this reaction for a few days that his medical adviser would rule against it and that the president had no way to implement a controversial treatment as part of the services they paid for. He talked about looking at a documentary on the effect of a plant-based diet and the evidence presented of reversal of arteriosclerosis. He knew treatment could be done. But, I concluded that chelation therapy would not be accepted until the medical orthodoxy accepted it.
So, once again, there are orthodox gatekeepers in the medical and scientific world that very effectively block progress. Their reactions, ranging from managing to ignore the clinical significance of what is there in plain sight for them to observe, to actual malice and hostility…..
Well, we have all seen this recently, have we not? But, you didn’t know that this was par for the course.
More to come.