Dr. R. L. Wysong
August 1992
A Cure For All Diseases

    In the Reviews we often discuss the conflicting information that is reported in the scientific and medical literature.  (See Wysong Review September 1988.)  We have also discussed evidence regarding the value of periconceptional supplementation with folic acid in the prevetion of neural tube defects in chhildren.  (See Wysong Review December 1988.)
    Both of these topics in our discussion here.  Since Smithells first reported a beneficial effect of folic acid supplementation in women as a protective factor against neural tube defect, a debate has raged in the medical literature.  First there were confirmations of Smithells’ work.  In December of 1988, even the Center for Disease Control, Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, stamped their aegis to Smithells’ findings.   Thus, our own government (but not the FDA) concurred that a multivitamin supplement containing folic acid could decrease the occurrence of this birth defect. 
    Neural tube defects are no little problem.  More children in a year are afflicted than children with polio during the worst years of the polio epidemic.  Therefore, by simply taking a few pennies a day of a multiple-vitamin supplement containing folic acid, more good could occur than was ever attributable to any measure that supposedly caused the fall in the polio epidemic.  (Vaccines were likely not the cause — see Rationale for Nutrition, Resource 1, page 82.)  The potential for benefit is remarkable, and the downside risk is virtually nonexistent.  For example, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in the November, 1991 issue that folic acid was nontoxic even after years of supplementation.  The levels being evaluated were  300 to 800 micrograms per day. 
    But the story does not end here.  In August of 1989 The New England Journal of Medicine published an article arguing that folic acid does not prevent neural tube defects.  Then there was a mad flurry of letters to the editors of medical journals across the country on the controversy.  In the November, 1989 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, and The Lancet issues dated July 20, 1991, January 25, 1992, and September 5, 1992, corroboration of the evidence was confirmed that folic acid supplementation can produce a dramatic effect in decreasing the incidence not only of neural tube defects but of all congenital malformations.
    On the following page is a copy of the results produced by the Spanish Collaborative Study of Congenital Malformations.       Notice the totals comparing numbers of neural tube defects and malformations from women who had been exposed to folic acid supplements compared to those not exposed.  For neural tube defects, the women who had been exposed to folic acid had 54 neural tube defect children as compared to 263 for those women not exposed to folic acid.  Total malformations for women who had exposure to folic acid was 2,163, whereas those who had no exposure to folic acid had babies with 7,274 birth defects — a truly remarkable difference particularly if measured in human pain and suffering.
    From this data, there is a five-fold greater risk of neural tube defect without folic acid, and approximately a three to four-fold greater risk of having some type of birth defect without folic acid supplementation.
    For the average physician who might have time to survey some of the literature to follow this controversy there would appear, perhaps, to be no conclusive proof, particularly if one is not diligent in examining the data and the study methods carefully.  Those who simply read The New England Journal of Medicine article stating that there was no benefit from folic acid would be justifiably skeptical of folic acid supplementation.
    There are political, professional, and egotistical forces at work here.  The medical community by-and-large, even many in the nutritional community, and certainly the FDA, have generally pooh-poohed the value of nutritional supplements.  Even when The Center for Disease Control affirms that a supplement will decrease the likelihood of birth defects, their sister government agency continues to deny it. 
    This is not science at work for the betterment of the human condition.  It is politics, it is power, it is money, it is ego — or whatever.  It is many things other than how people can be helped.   Solid evidence about a supplement that costs pennies a day, which has the potential for significantly alleviating the scourge of this prevalent neural tube malformation with no down-side toxic risk, should make it apparent to any reasonable mind that nutrition is powerfully linked to health — and for would-be mothers, appropriate nutrition and supplementation is a wise choice.
        Rationale For Nutrition is available from Wysong at 1880 N. Eastman Rd, Midland, MI  48642.
Iraq — The Children
    It has been approximately two years since Iraq invaded Kuwait and international trade sanctions were placed against Iraq.  The six-week Gulf War began in mid-January, 1991 and ended relatively quickly thereafter.  As American streets were adorned with yellow ribbons and automobile bumpers carried nationalistic victory slogans, we all sat cozily watching on TV what a modern high-tech war was all about.
    We were told that Sadam Hussein was a bad guy, that our national security was at risk and that he had the capability of unleashing chemical, germ, and nuclear arsenals.
    Nothing much happened of consequence here at home.  We were merely spectators.  The dazzling array of war pyrotechnics was presented almost like entertainment on the television networks.  In the meantime, Iraq was pulverized and civil unrest followed with an estimated two million people displaced into northerly and southerly directions.  By some estimates over 100,000 Iraqis were killed.  The Gulf War and trade sanctions also caused a three-fold increase in mortality among Iraqi children under five years of age.  It is estimated that more than 46,900 children died between January and August 1991 as a result.   These numbers are staggering, but the cost in terms of human misery and suffering is incalculable.  Consider the pain of losing a member of your close family.   How do parents ever survive the loss of an innocent child, especially a baby under the age of five?  Our hearts must go out to these people, and to all who are innocent victims.
    Somehow, we are led to believe it was all necessary... the price of freedom for us and the price of living under the rule of a tyrant for them.  At the same time that General Schwarzkopf receives several million dollars from the publisher of his new book on the war, questions surface regarding the United States’ role in arming and perhaps even supporting Iraq in the first place. One must indeed wonder what on Earth has really gone on.
    In our enlightened era war seems so barbaric, so unnecessary to resolve conflict.  But it continues as it has throughout history, with the peoples of each warring nation believing their country is in the right and that certainly God is on their side.  The whys and the wherefores are perhaps forever hidden from the plebeian public seeking the truth.  Whether this war, or any war, has ever really been “necessary” is difficult, if not impossible, to determine.
    It is difficult not to feel partly responsible for the misery and suffering of over 150,000 innocent people.   Surely there must be a better way to resolve conflict.  But certainly we, as citizens of the world, and brothers and sisters to all of humanity, have a responsibility to ask the right questions, to hold our leaders accountable, and to never simply blindly follow. 
    Evidence, for example, is compelling that the Gulf War was fought by-and-large to protect American petrochemical industries.  Cheap oil perpetuates environmental pollution and delays clean, sustainable, more environmentally-friendly alternatives.  Was the war about how we can maintain our environment-wrecking oil glut?  If so, the price of even one life was excessive.
        The New England Journal of Medicine, September 24, 1992: 931
Iron And Heart Disease
    Pre-menopausal women are much less likely to be afflicted with atherosclerotic heart disease than are men.  This has been a subject of considerable study with most researchers concluding that the disparity is due to differences in the levels of the hormones testosterone and estrogen.   This gender gap between men and pre-menopausal women essentially disappears after women are post-menopausal.  Then women move into the same heart disease statistical area as men. 
    Studies now indicate that the heart disease rate differences between women, both pre- and post-menopausal, and their male counterparts are due to levels of iron in the blood.  Iron, like other divalent cations such as copper, can promote oxidation of lipids in the blood.  As we have repeated in the Health Letter, oxidized cholesterol, not cholesterol per se, is likely the culprit in atherosclerosis.  Pre-menopausal women often have low levels of blood iron due to menstruation and, therefore, have less oxidized LDL cholesterol.  After menopause, blood levels of iron increase and so does oxidized cholesterol, thus making this group more susceptible to the disease.
    This is another piece of evidence supporting the broader theme which we have argued for many years.  It is likely not natural cholesterol either obtained in the diet or produced by the body that is the culprit in heart disease, but rather what we do to cholesterol through food processing.
    Iron has been popularized as an important dietary supplement. “Iron poor blood” has been promoted as being as common as the common cold.  There is much controversy in the literature, however, on the required levels of iron and their appropriate sources.
    Research, for example, has shown that iron as it is supplied by meat sources is more available than that from vegetable sources.  Vitamin C is known to increase the absorption of iron.  Iron competes with other important minerals, such as selenium, copper, and zinc, and thus, if consumed in excess, may result in a deficiency in these important minerals. 
    High levels of iron are reported in some instances to promote or increase the growth rate of some forms of cancer.   The diet of the average woman has been found to contain less than the RDA of iron, and this often leads to an inability to cope with cold temperatures. 
    Iron can be made more available in the diet by cooking in iron pots, but the danger of oxidation of not only cholesterol but other fats increases by such cooking.  Ghee, which is a popular Indian rendered down product made from butter, is notorious for having high levels of cholesterol oxides, but the studies showing these high levels were from batches of ghee made in traditional copper pans.  The copper was oxidizing the cholesterol.  A similar action can occur from iron pans. 
    Some research has shown that the risk of cancer can be increased as body stores of iron also increase.  This may be related again to the oxidizing capabilities of iron, which generate free radicals, which in turn have the ability to disrupt and destroy various cell membranes, genetic material and biochemical pathways.   (High levels of iron in the diet have also been linked to an increased rate of SIDS [Sudden Infant Death Syndrome]).
    Eating whole foods with their native high fiber content, which is high in phytate, will automatically decrease the amount of iron that is absorbed.  This is likely the reason that meats are a more efficient source of iron than are vegetable products.  In food processing, the use of iron fumerate or succinate is believed to not foster the oxidation of fats as much as common iron oxide or iron sulfate.  It has also been suggested that iron supplements should be in the fumarate or succinate form, or as ferric ortho phosphate to be more readily utilized by the body.
    Now, given all of this information, we must also say that there are contrary opinions to just about all of it.   With iron deficiency indeed being the most common deficiency in athletes and the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, the debate will continue as to how much to take, what form to take it in, and what the consequences of excess or deficiency really are.
    As scientists continue to debate  interpretations of statistics and study designs, wisdom should guide us again to the natural whole diet as the primary source of our nutrients, and if supplements are taken we should turn to those which retain the complex character found within natural foods themselves.
    From the survey of literature on this subject, men and post-menopausal women could conclude that they should not cook in iron pans, and not consume iron supplements if they are eating a varied natural diet.   Premenopausal women and vigorous athletes would perhaps use iron cookware for non-fatty foods, and if necessary, consume iron supplements as part of a multiple-vitamin/mineral-supplement with iron in a natural complex such as succinate, fumerate, or ortho phosphate.  If in doubt about the iron adequacy of your diet, consuming an additional amount equivalent to the RDA of 18 mg/day would be a conservative insurance policy.
Governor Cuomo Takes A Step In The Animal Rights Direction
    Governor Mario Cuomo of New York recently vetoed the state legislature’s proposed bill attempting to change New York law with respect to bear hunting. 
    The bill would have, for starters, removed the standing prohibition against using dogs in bear hunting — a practice which many believe to be unnecessary in the first place, unfair and even cruel.   The Department of Environmental Conservation on a limited basis permitted but closely monitored the use of dogs in bear hunting for approximately ten years and found that while only a small number of hunters participated and had positive experiences, on the downside there was greatly increased stress on the bear population, as well as deer and other animals.  Permitting dogs to run in the woods in a hunting mode was stressful for all woods creatures.  Thus, the Department of Environmental Conservation concluded that after years of observation, the enjoyment and positive results of a very few hunters hardly justified the negative impact of using dogs in hunting.   This would additionally seem to spell doom for those hunters who are trying to propose the use of dogs in deer hunting.
    This bill would additionally have removed the prohibition against hunting for cubs.  Young bears can be quite large, and hunters indicate that they have difficulty sometimes determining the age of a bear.  If they shoot a cub, they would like to be absolved and face no consequences, since it was likely an honest mistake.  Governor Cuomo, and many others, insist that they should be more sure before they pull the trigger.  Perhaps one glimpse from afar through the high-powered scope of their rifle will not be enough; perhaps they will have to track the animal for a time and use very careful judgement and criteria — such as how large did the bear look compared to the tree I am now standing next to, etc.    In any case, cub hunting is now strictly prohibited.  One certainly does not have to be an “animal rights” person to be glad of that.
    Finally this bill would have permitted the intentional feeding of bears — in other words, the baiting of bears.   While it is one thing to hunt, Governor Cuomo evidently agrees that it is quite another to feed them and kill them while they eat.
    In his eloquent veto, Cuomo writes, “There is something else that argues — intellectually and viscerally — against this bill.      There appears to be no justification for the danger and damage it inflicts upon the animals involved.   Moreover, the notion of authorizing this advantage to bear hunters seems inconsistent with the sense of ‘sport’.  Isn’t human superior intelligence and use of weapons advantage enough?  How much more of a mismatch should we sanction?”  He concludes that the bear population can be managed and maintained without the use of dogs in hunting, or the killing of cubs — and quotes a suggestion he recalls:  “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”
        Animal Welfare Institute Quarterly, Summer 1992;41;3:4
Second Hand Smoke Dangers
    The Environmental Protection Agency now says that airborne cigarette smoke is a known human carcinogen.  A new report by the agency attributes 3,000 lung cancer deaths to nonsmokers per year for routinely breathing smoke from other people’s cigarettes, such as in the work place.
        The Journal of the American Medical Association, August 12, 1992: 749-752
        Science News, August 22, 1992: 127
Worse Than A Hurricane
    Andrew was the worst natural disaster from an economic standpoint to ever fall upon America — twenty- plus-billion dollars by most estimates.
    Just a thought:  every year we spend a trillion dollars on health care.  If Andrew is an unprecedented disaster at twenty-plus billion, what does that make the failing health of our population at a trillion each year and rising?
The Fall Of 98.6 F
    We are creatures of habit.   This applies not simply to our day-to-day living, but overlaps into professional areas believed to be much more critically based.  It is estimated, for example, that only about 20% of modern medical measures have actually been proven safe and efficacious by controlled investigations. 
    Often when sacrosanct ideas are examined closely, they are found to rest on pillars of sand.  An example is the recent demonstration that the yearly physical exam has no effect whatsoever on morbidity and mortality.  The stethoscope’s usefulness, vaccinations, and a whole array of diagnostic procedures are also under suspicion. 
    As if nothing were sacred, now 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit as the normal temperature for humans has been re-examined and found faulty.  The assumption that 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is normal human body temperature was established by Wunderlich in 1868.  In axillary temperature readings on over 2500 patients, with over one million tests, he set the average normal temperature at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit with a range of 97.2 to 99.5.  Temperatures above 100.4 were considered suspicious of disease and febrile.  For over 120 years people around the world have made decisions about sickness based on this reading.
    A report in The Journal of the American Medical Association states that Wunderlich’s conclusion should be abandoned, and that the normal oral temperature range should now be considered to be 98.9 to 99.9 degrees Fahrenheit.  A little change is good every 120 years or so.
        The Journal of the American Medical Association, September 23, 1992: 1578-
Depressed ? — Take Control
    Feeling boxed in and helpless exerts a powerful effect on our health.  The immune system can become compromised and various diseases surface under such circumstances.  Animals put in a situation where they cannot escape pain (real nice experiment) have a reduced life span.  Other laboratory experiments have shown that stress — such as foot shocks or loud noises — result in animals learning that they cannot control their environment.  Later, when given a choice of escaping or staying, these animals will simply resign themselves to further discomfort.
    Animals, as well as people, in such powerless situations have increased levels of certain brain chemicals such as norepinephrine.  Organisms perhaps become sensitized, addicted if you will, to these altered brain chemicals resulting from the stress of helplessness, and have become refractory even to antidepressant drugs.
    The resignation to “fate” is common in the depressed Black and Hispanic communities.  For example, studies have shown that Blacks and Hispanics are less inclined to wear seat belts because “there is no point in using them since you can’t change your destiny.”
    Psychiatrists believe the best therapy for individuals who have become chronically depressed and feel powerless is cognitive-behavioral therapy since the anti-depressant drugs appear to be ineffective.   This therapy focuses on correcting negative perceptions and behaviors, and attempting to reinstate the individual’s power over their own lifestyle.   Inappropriate eating habits, cigarette smoking, or an extremely sedentary lifestyle, in spite of evidence that this may ruin health and shorten life, may be linked to this brain chemical imbalance.
    It is extremely important to be able to control your own destiny.  It is difficult in a world of society, law, peer, family and business pressures.  It is easy to feel boxed in, victimized, and helpless.  We must recognize that this situation may result in not only depression but increased susceptibility to physical disease.
    Some scientists believe that helplessness should be avoided at all costs if happiness, health, and long life are desired.  This may require perhaps dramatic life changes, such as changing a career, moving to another location, developing new skills, openly discussing problems and difficulties with others, not to just whine but to try to fix the problem and regain control.
    Notice that when stress occurs, depression occurs, and life seems to be going very badly, you can usually identify something occurring over which you feel you have little control.  If we can focus in on that problem and resume control, or at least make efforts toward taking control, often new vitality will be injected into life, moods lifted, and health restored.
        American Journal of Psychiatry, June, 1992
        American Journal of Public Health, June, 1992
        Science News, June 13, 1992: 396