by Henry Bauer on Friday, 16 May 2008

Linus Pauling created an astonishing number of significant advances in the chemical sciences, including the theory of chemical bonding and the physicochemical basis of biological activity, and he was the first to discover the molecular basis of a disease, the misshapen structure of hemoglobin in sickle-cell anemia.

Pauling’s political activism against the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere made him something of a pariah in political circles, and his insistence on the dangers of the radioactive fallout produced in the tests was pooh-poohed by the expert white-coated gurus of the establishment. For a long time now, of course, his view on that has been the mainstream consensus, though I am not aware that there’s ever been a public acknowledgment that Pauling had been right and that the Government and its experts had been wrong.

For his chemical work, Pauling received a Nobel Prize. For his political activism, another Nobel Prize, for Peace. But when he began to stump for the desirability of large doses of vitamin C in particular, as well as the benefits of other supplements, he was labeled a crackpot who had lapsed into senility. Yet his argument for such “orthomolecular” practice was eminently reasonable: he pointed out that the “minimum daily requirements” established for vitamins and minerals were based only on clinical knowledge of the minimum amounts needed to avoid illness; it seems very likely that the optimum amounts for healthy functioning would be greater than those minimum amounts. As to vitamin C, he pointed out that our vegetarian primate cousins get far more of it from their diet than we do.

In dribs and drabs, here and there, consensus medicine has been catching up to Pauling; for instance, we are informed that senior citizens should take supplements of vitamin D, and ophthalmologists advise vitamin E, selenium, and zinc to stave off macular degeneration. At the same time, determined “crank busters” and representatives of consensus medicine continue to castigate anyone who recommends a mineral, vitamin, or other supplement that has not already been approved by the bureaucracies.

One result is that periodically a “breakthrough” is announced that comes as no news at all to people who know about these historical facts. For example, two recent articles report the discovery that for Africans seriously ill from TB, and sometimes even “HIV-positive”, “micronutrient supplements appeared to decrease the risk of early tuberculosis recurrences among HIV-positive patients”, and they “significantly decreased… incidence of peripheral neuropathy, regardless of HIV status.”

(Peripheral neuropathy is described as “a condition that can be caused by both HIV infection and key medication used to treat tuberculosis”. The second statement is correct, but the first is not; it is antiretroviral drugs, not “HIV infection”, that causes peripheral neuropathy. This is the same sleight-of-mouth as when there’s talk of “HIV-associated lipodystrophy”—the lipodystrophy comes from the drugs, chiefly the protease inhibitors. Lipodystrophy was not a widespread condition among AIDS victims or “HIV-positive” people before the advent of HAART.)

“Micronutrients”, then, offer benefits to Africans suffering from TB and also “HIV-positive”. Still, castigation and calumny are heaped upon Dr. Matthias Rath http://www.dr-rath-foundation.org.za/ for his research on the role of nutrition in various illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, and his advocacy of a variety of supplements. Rath had worked with Linus Pauling and had been Director of Cardiovascular Research at the Linus Pauling Institute in Palo Alto (CA). Rath is now vilified just as Pauling was; and just as with Pauling, some of Rath’s insights are likely to be accepted belatedly by consensus medicine. And just as with Pauling, Rath is unlikely to be then given his due credit. From the Pooh-Bah point of view, the misunderstanding needs to be preserved, that the mainstream consensus in medicine and in science is always right.

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