LE Magazine January 2003
Vitamins and Minerals Help Fight Off Diseases of The Mind and The Body
Interview with Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D.
Hoffer: We ran it for two years, and then we did a blind follow-up. We had a follow-up team that would call the patients in every three months to see how they were doing, and at the end of the two years, we wanted to see what had happened. We found that for the patients on placebo, there was a 35% recovery rate, which is what you would expect from acute schizophrenic patients. The other two groups had about an 80% recovery rate. These results were very encouraging, so we ran another study, and another. Eventually, I did about six double-blind, controlled experiments in Saskatchewan between 1953 and 1960, and they were all confirmatory.1-3 Also, by this time, I was developing a good deal of clinical experience because I was also treating other patients who didn't fit into our study.
By 1960, a large number of American psychiatrists had joined us, and by 1970, I think we had a collective experience of over 100,000 schizophrenic patients treated. The results were really good. They weren't perfect-we've never claimed that-but they were certainly an awfully lot better than what you get today by simply taking drugs.
LEF: Have you been able to apply this to bipolar patients or other types of psychiatric problems?
Hoffer: Yes, we have. This was, later on, called Orthomolecular Psychiatry by Linus Pauling [American chemist and researcher], who published his very important paper in Science in 1968.4 For a long time, I didn't believe that depression would really respond, but I began to see a large number of people who were bipolar or depressed.
LEF: I understand as your research continued, you also made some discoveries by accident in regard to this approach to treating certain cancers.
Hoffer: It wasn't our discovery. We just confirmed what Linus Pauling had reported. The first observation happened in 1960. A retired professor who was psychotic was admitted to our ward, and I discovered he had cancer of the lung. He was terribly psychotic, and he was declared to be terminal. At that time, we were examining the urine for a chemical factor that has since been discovered to be crypto pyrole. I was looking for psychotic people, and normal people [for a planned trial]. When he came in, and was psychotic and had cancer, we ran [several tests on] him, and we thought we had a huge quantity of this product in his urine. So, I wanted to start him on niacin because I wanted to treat his psychosis, and I didn't think it would do anything to his cancer.
So, I started him on niacin-1 gram taken three times per day with vitamin C-on Friday. The following Monday, he was mentally normal. It wasn't really schizophrenia he had. He was in a delirium, and he recovered very quickly. Then, I said to him, "I want you to stay on these two vitamins as long as you can," not expecting it would do very much for [his cancer]. He was supposed to have died within a month or two, but he remained well for another 30 months. When he died, we couldn't get an autopsy because he died at a different hospital. But as far as I can tell, the tumor was completely gone 12 months after he started on this approach. On an x-ray, they couldn't see the tumor anymore. This was one observation.
I had another observation in 1986; a woman who had a terminal cancer of the head of the pancreas, and she, too, made a complete recovery, and lived for 20 years.
LEF: Were there other treatments used as well, or was this the primary treatment?
Hoffer: By this time, it was a fairly comprehensive treatment because we had concluded by then that one or two vitamins wouldn't be adequate; that this was a major nutritional problem that required a more comprehensive approach. By this time, Linus Pauling had published his very important book on cancer and vitamin C5-13 [additional citations noted]. So, having read what he and [Ewan] Cameron had written, and in my own few observations, I decided that I would do the same. Because I was well known as an expert in the field of nutrition, cancer patients who were told by their doctors that there was nothing more they could do, would demand that they come and see me.
So, I began to see more and more patients. And after seeing five that first year-and some of them did remarkably well-it gradually began to increase. Eventually, I was seeing up to 150 cancer cases a year. It's not a cure. Every one of my patients also had the usual treatment, which consisted of either surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or some combination. But when the vitamin program was grafted onto that, they certainly felt much better, and, according to my data, they also lived a lot longer.
LEF: Should these vitamins be taken in combination, or do they have their own unique value when they're taken individually?
Hoffer: Each vitamin has its own unique value. It depends a lot on the patient; it depends on their condition, it depends how old they are.
LEF: Do you find that they need a multivitamin, so that they get all the basic nutrients to work together with the megadosages of the other vitamins that they're using for treatment?
Hoffer: I think one should do that. One should use a good, comprehensive approach, using the essential vitamins and minerals. Not all, because a lot of the vitamins we get from our food. But the B vitamins are the most important, I think [as well as] vitamin E, vitamin C, and maybe some of the others depending on what condition you're treating. For example, I've treated a few cases of Huntington's disease. I think that's a double dependency of vitamin E and niacin. And when I put the patients on 4000 [international] units of vitamin E and 3 grams a day of niacin, they were the ones whom I saw got well. And this is a disease from which there is apparently no treatment.
LEF: When you say "vitamin E," it has a whole new meaning to us these days because there are a few different components we've discovered now besides alpha-tocopherol. Which kind were you using?
Hoffer: The alpha-tocopherol. Four grams a day. I worked up to it. I started out with 800 units, and gradually worked it up.
LEF: Can you explain the risks related to the toxicity that exists in our environment, and how vitamin regimens can help ward off that risk?
Hoffer: I think that we are overwhelmed today with a large number of chemicals, which are present in our air, soil, water and in our food. I found that since we can no longer live in a pure world, the best thing we can do is to improve the immune system of the body so that it can deal with these toxic compounds more adequately than it has been doing, and vitamins and minerals are very helpful with that.
LEF: What is your opinion in terms of conventional medicine? Where does it fall short? For instance, why don't government RDAs work, in your opinion, when it comes to nutrition?
I think that the best thing one can do with RDAs is totally abolish them. They were developed many years ago, in 1945 to 1950, because during the war, the American government was very concerned with the health of the American soldier. So, the government went to the few nutritionists who were available, and asked them to figure out how much should be the daily requirement [of nutrients]. And most of the time, they just guessed at it.
Hoffer: I think that the best thing one can do with RDAs is totally abolish them. They were developed many years ago, in 1945 to 1950, because during the war, the American government was very concerned with the health of the American soldier. So, the government went to the few nutritionists who were available, and asked them to figure out how much should be the daily requirement [of nutrients]. And most of the time, they just guessed at it. How could they tell? They didn't have any human studies. They'd run animal studies, but you can't extrapolate from animal studies to human studies. They hadn't done them. So, they tried to make the best guess they could. There was also an economic problem because if you made your RDAs too high, the food companies wouldn't be able to match them. I think the RDAs are a total waste. What we need is a realistic RDA for every disease. As a matter of fact, most nutritionists are paying less attention to them.
LEF: You've dealt with some challenges over the last several decades in terms of getting some of your studies published in major medical journals. But it seems today that a lot of your findings about vitamins and minerals are beginning to gain more acceptance. Is that true?
Hoffer: That's true. What we're up against is the battle of the paradigms. The vitamin paradigm was very simple. It stated that people needed only small amounts, in tiny dosages, only for diseases known as the "vitamin deficiency diseases" like scurvy and pellagra. This was firmly entrenched and had been very useful in helping to isolate these vitamins. But that was engrained in all medical schools and every doctor who learned them. But [I and other similar experts] were outside that paradigm. For example, with niacin, we're using 2000 times the natural RDA, and we're using it for a disease that's not a "vitamin deficiency disease": schizophrenia. Also, we found out that niacin lowered cholesterol levels. And of course, whenever one attacks the old paradigm, you run into a lot of trouble. It takes about 40 to 50 years in medicine for a new idea to get established, if it's a good idea.
LEF: Do you advocate the same type of vitamin megadoses for prevention?
Hoffer: I have had some experience with prevention. And I don't think you need the same high dosages. To do prevention, you'd have to get a large group of people who are, as far as you know, normal. Then, put them on a program, and see what happens. And I have recommended that. If you were to add enough niacinamide to our flour so that every person would get 100 milligrams a day without knowing it, in my opinion, there would be a massive decrease in the incidence of schizophrenia.
LEF: What's next in your plans?
Hoffer: I think my main job now is to stimulate other doctors to get into the field and do the same thing.
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