(Use right form of Mg)
More about Minerals
THE AVERAGE AMERICAN DIET, high in phosphorus and low in calcium, magnesium, and zinc almost guarantees osteoporosis in later life. Osteoporosis, as we learned in an earlier chapter, is the disease in which bones become soft and brittle, causing a general shrinkage of the skeleton, a “dowager’s hump” at the back of the neck, pain in the lower back and, in some cases, malfunction of the lungs. It is especially common among women after menopause. Part of the reason is just plain lack some of the essential minerals at meals, and another part of the reason is the prevalence of diets high in phosphorus that disrupt the important balance between calcium and phosphorus these two minerals.
Americans in general tend to decrease their intake of calcium as they get older. However, the shift from big meals to snack foods and carbonated beverages has caused phosphorus intake to go up and calcium intake to go down in the United States. Foods that contain a great deal of phosphorus and little calcium are: fish, poultry, meat, cereals and bread. Dairy products, too, are rich in phosphorus, although they are also our best source of calcium. But they are relatively low on magnesium, which is also in a healthy mineral mix.
All these are fine foods—no reason to slight them. But, if you want to avoid the painful and disfiguring disease of osteoporosis in later life, you must somehow manage to get more calcium. We suggest taking calcium and magnesium supplements, not just after middle-age when you become concerned about the dangers of softened, brittle bones, but from the age of 25 on. Take supplemental calcium up to one gram (1,000 mg) of calcium and 300 mg of magnesium daily in the form of calcium tablets, if you want to avoid osteoporosis in later life. If you haven’t done this earlier in life, of course, the next best thing is to begin now to use calcium and magnesium supplements daily.
The official recommendation of calcium intake is 1,200 milligrams a day for adults. We may need more than that, and a number of prominent researchers in this field agree with that. They, too, suggest 1,000 milligrams daily in a supplement—that is, in addition to the amount in food. It is best to take 500 mg tablets in two separate doses (spaced out) because there is a limit to how much the digestive system can handle at one time.
It is essential for life that the level of calcium in the blood remains normal. When there is an abnormal absorption of this element in the stomach and intestines or when too much calcium is lost in the kidney, the skeleton provides the only source of calcium. Bone tissue is resorbed (taken away, borrowed) to put more calcium in the blood. The same thing happens when the diet is too high in phosphorus without enough calcium to balance it.
If you want to end up at 70 with the skeleton of a 16-year old, start supplementing your diet with calcium, magnesium and zinc at age 25. Two other aspects of life that are related to the way our bodies use calcium. Alcoholic drinks tend to make us lose calcium and magnesium. Half of all the calcium and magnesium we get in food may be lost if we drink something alcoholic at the same time. The other important thing to keep in mind is activity. Daily activity is absolutely essential to keep bones healthy. Inactivity (very common in older women) prevents stress to the bones. And they need stress—the stress of holding the body upright, of supporting the legs, hips and arms during strenuous activity.
Just going for a 15-minute walk or taking 20 minutes of exercise is not enough. One needs to be active throughout the day for the proper stress effects to occur. It is well to keep in mind also, that other food elements are essential to one’s absorption of calcium. Vitamin D must be present for calcium to be absorbed properly. It helps if lactose is also present. This is milk sugar. So taking your calcium tablets with some milk will help the absorption. Either too much or too little fat in the intestines at the same time you take calcium tends to prevent absorption. This is one reason for avoiding diets that sharply restrict fat. It is also a good reason for not living on diets extremely high in fat.
Some studies seem to show that taking at least one dose of calcium supplements at bedtime is preferable to taking all of them during the day. A number of women with osteoporosis who took their calcium supplements just before going to bed retained considerably more. Animals tooth-decay-causing foods—chiefly snacks and commercial cereals loaded with sugar showed rampant tooth decay. Calcium lactate added to the sugar-laden foods and produced a 50 percent reduction in tooth decay. We could find a way to add this calcium to all the sugar-laden foods without destroying the taste of them and thus could cut in half the incidence of tooth decay in children. For many years, the health conscious people have recommended bone meal, dolomite, calcium lactate or any other calcium preparations to prevent tooth decay.
Something that is destructive to teeth is also probably equally destructive to other parts of the body. As is becoming increasingly evident these days, eating sugar in the amounts in which we eat it is the single most destructive eating habit we have.
Diarrhea brought on by milk consumption is probably related to the lactose (milk sugar) contained in milk. Some individuals, and ethnic groups, do not have the necessary digestive enzymes to handle this milk sugar. The result is fermentation and diarrhea. Yogurt sometimes contains considerable lactase (the enzyme that splits lactose into glucose and galactose), hence lactase deficient individuals can handle it. For those unable to digest milk sugar, a yogurt drink could prove superior nutritionally.
What is “lactose” and why should any human being have trouble digesting it? Lactose is the not-very-sweet sugar in milk. Human milk contains 7 to 7½ percent lactose. Cow’s milk is only 4½ percent lactose, which is the reason most baby formulas have some sweetening added to them to bring the sugar content up to that of human milk.
Since the main purpose of milk is to sustain the infant, we must assume that lactose, the only carbohydrate in milk, provides energy, while the protein is used to build and repair cells. Scientists have reported that lactose also helps the body to absorb calcium. Unlike white sugar, which is absorbed immediately, lactose in absorbed very slowly in the intestines, and in the process establishes helpful intestinal bacteria that are capable of synthesizing a number of B vitamins. In parts of the world where there is little sunlight to provide vitamin D, the lactose helps to prevents ricket and osteomalacia. This suggests that lactose enhances calcium absorption as effectively as does vitamin D. It also helps the intestines to absorb protein.
When people who cannot digest lactose drink milk the lactose draws water from other parts of the body into the intestine and causes fermentation by colon bacteria, resulting in cramps, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. This condition is called lactose intolerance. It occurs because there is none or too little of the enzyme lactase in that particular digestive tract.
There are three forms of this condition—congenital, primary and secondary. It seems some babies are born without the ability to digest lactose. This is an extremely rare and serious condition. It is believed to be caused by a mutation. Primary lactose intolerance is a condition in which newborns can drink milk with no trouble, but later in life they cannot. Secondary lactose intolerance involves a temporary condition due to degenerative or inflammatory disease, in which not just lactose but other sugars as well are not digested properly.
Less than 15 percent of all Scandinavians and Western European nationalities are unable to digest lactose. But about 60 to 80 percent of Greek Cypriots, Native Americans, Arabs, Ashkenazi Jews, Mexican-Americans and American Blacks are unable to drink milk, and 90 percent of all Orientals and African Bantus are digest milk sugar or lactose. Usually children lose their ability to drink milk between the ages of 2 and 12, depending on where they come from and what the milk drinking patterns of their families were.
It seems reasonable to assume that all healthy mammals should be able to drink milk when they are born, since this is the food supplied by nature from their mothers’ breasts. And it seems only natural that the enzyme, lactase, which helps the body to digest milk, should be present in newborn babies. It is. In cultures like the primitive Eskimos babies sometimes nurse for three or four years. The lactase processes the milk with no difficulty. But after an Eskimo baby is weaned, there is no chance that he will get any more milk, since Eskimos cannot raise herds of milk-producing animals. So, understandably, the lactase in his intestine would disappear since there is no further use for it.
This is, indeed, what happens in nations where dairy herds are not raised. Native Americans, early Chinese and Japanese people did not have cattle from which they could obtain milk, not because there is anything unhealthful about milk-drinking, but simply because their way of life or agriculture did not lend itself to dairying. So, presumably, their body supply of lactase disappeared soon after they were weaned.
When people from such a background come to the United States or Europe, where milk-drinking is widespread, they find they cannot digest milk. Because of this, some people have decided that milk is not good for all of us and they refuse to drink it. But an Oriental child, for example, raised in this country who drinks cow’s milk from the time he is weaned, will, other things being equal, be able to drink milk all his life, just as most Americans can. The lactase in his intestine remains there throughout life, since it is serving a metabolic purpose.
It is possible that if the early Chinese had not had such strong views on hygiene, they might have developed the soured milks which other nations have used for thousands of years—the yogurt, the Koumiss, the laban drink. But the Chinese may have classified soured milk as unclean or tainted. If so, they were wrong, for the chemistry of soured milk products makes them unusually hygienic.
The lactobacillus bacteria, which are in the “culture” with which yogurt and buttermilk are made, establish a very healthy condition in the colon, correct constipation and diarrhea, help the digestion of food and otherwise keep things in this department rolling along comfortably and well. And that is the reason why even cats and dogs, as well as human beings, can eat cheese and eat or drink yogurt, even if they lack the enzyme necessary to digest milk.
Nutrients in 100 Grams (About 3 ½ Ounces) of Powdered Whey
Protein 13 grams
Lactose 73 grains
Calcium 646 milligrams
Phosphorus 589 milligrams
Thiamine 0.50 milligrams
Riboflavin 2.51 milligrams
Niacin 0.8 milligrams
Nutrients in One Cup of Yogurt Made of Partially Skimmed Milk
Protein 8 grams
Lactose 13 grams
Calcium 295 milligrams
Phosphorus 270 milligrams
Vitamin A 170 I.U.
Thiamine 0.1 milligrams
Riboflavin 0.4 milligrams
Niacin 0.2 milligrams
Whey is the liquid part of milk that separates out when cheese is made. The solid part, the curds, go into the cheese. The liquid part, the whey, is produced in immense quantities by our cheese makers. Dried or powdered whey is 13 percent protein, extremely rich in calcium and the B vitamins, especially riboflavin (B2), which is not very plentiful in other foods. It also contains about 74 percent lactose.
More about yogurt. The bacteria used to make yogurt give it the pleasant acid taste that most people find so appetizing. Yogurt has always been a fermented milk product containing billions of viable bacteria per gram. These are very healthful bacteria, mostly the Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, which act very helpfully in the human intestine. These health giving bacteria—and there are billions of them in every tablespoon of yogurt—overcome the pathogenic or harmful bacteria and help the human colon to achieve smooth, trouble-free handling of waste material, so that we are scarcely aware of their function. It can mean correction of either constipation or diarrhea. It means rather rapid transit of wastes through the colon, so that they do not harden and become almost impossible to move. This rapid transit is also believed to help eradicate danger of colon cancer when we eat foods containing cancer-causing elements, as all of us must in the world in which we live.
One investigation of commercial yogurt samples revealed the following ranges of total plate counts (of bacteria) per gram: 26 million to 4,159 million at the second day after purchase; 700 million to 30,300 million at the tenth day; and 1,200 million to 71,700 million at the 20th day. In all samples, the counts increased from day 2 to day 10 when held about 45 degrees F. in a walk-in refrigerator. In all samples except three, the counts continued to increase over the next ten days of storage.
And what about the bacteria it contains? The bacteria used to make yogurt give it the pleasant acid taste that most people find so appetizing. But, in one survey, only 44 percent of all the people questioned know that yogurt contains bacteria. The rest eat yogurt, presumably, because they like it, because it's a "fun" thing and very fashionable, and because of its excellent nutritional value. A cup of yogurt contains all the nutrients of a cup of milk, plus the special bacteria. So, with their usual genius for going at things from the wrong end, food companies have sold the American public a "new" taste treat—yogurt. With goodness knows how much money spent on advertising, they have convinced a large segment of the population that they should eat yogurt.
If one is making use of dairy products that contain both protein and calcium, there seems to be no danger of this. But people who, for some reason, shun dairy products may eat lots of meat, which contains little or no calcium. Thus they throw the relationship out of balance. It has been speculated that it is the acid-ash of the high meat diet that destroys the calcium level. We would point out that a diet high in sugar also creates an acid-ash. So avoid the use of sugar if you would save your bone structure into a healthy old age.
Surveys in homes for the aged and of ambulatory patients 50 to 95 years old have disclosed symptomatic back pain osteoporosis in 15 and 50 percent of these populations respectively. It’s nothing to ignore, hoping that it won’t happen to you as you grow older although you may have seen it happen to older relatives and friends. Such observations reminds us to get plenty of activity and exercise. Don’t allow yourself to become house-bound or chair-bound or bedridden. Get out, move around, get interested in some hobby involving vigorous exercise.
Secondly, get enough calcium in diet and/or supplements. Can you get too much calcium? Apparently not—if other things (including magnesium and zinc) are in good balance. Unwanted calcium deposits sometimes appear in various sites of the body. But this happens as often in those who are not getting enough calcium as in those who are getting enough, so it indicates some disturbance in the body, mechanism that regulates calcium disposition in the body. The parathyroid gland, located near the thyroid gland in the throat, is in charge of this job. Some disorder in this gland can throw off the balance of blood calcium.
Mention of the thyroid gland brings us to the subject of another mineral—iodine. We generally think of iodine only as a mineral, which, in extremely small amounts, is necessary for the health of this gland. The thyroid gland regulates many physiological activities of our bodies. It must have iodine to manufacture the thyroid hormone, which it sends through the bloodstream to bring about many physical changes in our bodies.
The incidence of breast cancer is higher among Japanese American women than among Japanese women living in Japan. And mortality rates for Japanese women living in our country are higher than those for Japanese women living in Japan, in regard to three kinds of cancer It is known that seaweed or kelp is eaten in Japan as a main part of the diet, along with a great deal of seafood. Both are rich sources of iodine. If Japanese women who come to the United States abandon these two foods and eat meals in which there is little iodine, this could account for the difference in cancer and mortality if lack of iodine is indeed one of the causes of these diseases.
Another significant fact is that differences in breast-cancer rates in various parts of the United States and in various regions of the world parallel differences in the prevalence of goiter, which is a disease of iodine deficiency. Hence goiter and breast cancer are found much more frequently in the same geographical regions. Cancer of the lining of the uterus is also found more often in regions where. goiter is found.
These observations suggest the hypothesis that environmental or genetic factors that increase the risk of goiter formation may increase the risk of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer. Thus intake of the goitrogens (foods that cause goiter), or genetic abnormalities in iodine absorption and utilization and, most simply, a relatively low dietary iodine intake may be factors important in determining the risk of these cancers.
At times during the reproductive life of affected women thyroid hormone levels may be normal, although likely to be at the lower end of normal. in other words, all the tests a doctor gives his woman patient may not be able to detect this slight deficiency in iodine, which may later cause her such terrible difficulties with cancer. She may simply drag along with just a bit too little iodine and never know she lacks it. At some times in her life she may indeed get enough iodine, so that the thyroid gets back to normal operation for a while.
Researchers have already identified a large number of young women who are at high risk of breast cancer because it “runs in their families.” These young women do indeed have the imbalances of female hormones that apparently accompany susceptibility to breast cancer.
A “goiter belt” is located in the central part of the United States—that part farthest from East and West seacoasts. Whatever iodine was in the soil originally has leached out of it over the centuries, so food grown there lacks iodine. In earlier days seafood was seldom available, because it could not be imported over such long distances. This was one of the reasons why salt is now iodized. If you are avoiding salt, then increase your diet of ocean fish. Then there is kelp, available in various forms at your health food store.
We mentioned the word “goitrogen” and we want to clarify this term, lest you become concerned that certain foods may be responsible for causing thyroid troubles. The Cruciferae family of plants contains a substance that is harmful to, the thyroid gland if these foods are eaten in excessive amounts or if they are the only foods available to eat—as in the case of famines or war conditions.
This family of plants includes all the cabbage kin: cabbage, broccoli, Kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, as well as garden cress and watercress, turnips, rutabaga, horseradish, mustard and several other plants not generally eaten in this country. This is one of the reasons we recommend eating a diet as widely varied as possible. Everything edible contains something that may prove harmful if eaten in excess every day or if eaten with the exclusion of all other foods.
Obviously nobody in his right mind would decide to live on horseradish or turnips. But we know of people, during the great wars in Europe, who lived for long periods of time on nothing but turnips, for there was nothing else to eat. They suffered from goiter as a result. But turnips and turnip greens are excellent food in a mixed diet and, in reasonable quantity, make a fine contribution to your meals.
People are using less and less iodized salt, so goiter from lack of iodine is beginning to appear in our country once again. Should we ask the government to order that all table salt be iodized? It seems not, for with all the other sources of iodine available, perhaps many people might get too much. And, on the other hand, lots of people, especially those with high blood pressure, are being put on low salt diets by their doctors. So they use little or no salt. If, at the same time they don’t like seafood and are avoiding bread because of overweight or allergy, they might get almost no iodine at all!
If you do suffer from high blood pressure, your doctor has probably prescribed diuretics. These are drugs that increase urination. One of the reasons such drugs are prescribed is that they cause excess salt or sodium to be washed out of your bladder and excreted. Well and good. Most of us eat too much sodium—in the form of table salt—for our health.
But, eventually, if you continue to take the diuretic drugs you may begin to suffer from some bizarre symptoms: muscles may become weak and unreliable; you may have a “dragged out” feeling and the certainty that you simply cannot move one foot after the other. You may also have muscle cramps. These symptoms are indications that you are excreting too much potassium along with the sodium. And potassium, an essential mineral, must be carefully conserved by your body or you will suffer dire consequences eventually.
People not taking diuretics may also have trouble conserving enough potassium to assure healthy, well-functioning muscles. This group includes older folks, who tend always to be short on potassium, people with kidney disorders and people taking the heart drug digitalis. This is quite a large group to be threatened with deficiency in potassium.
Here are some suggestions from Medical World News for ways to get enough potassium and, at the same time, avoid foods high in sodium. If you are avoiding salt, you already know to eliminate all heavily salted foods like potato chips, pickles, olives, luncheon meats, many cheeses, bouillon cubes, catsup, caviar, commercial crackers, ham, herring, mustard, salted popcorn, salad dressings, salt pork, salted nuts, sausage, canned soups and other foods whose salty taste you can easily recognize.
But here are some foods that do not taste especially salty, but whose high salt content and low potassium content make them off-limits to the hypertensive on the low-salt diet, or taking diuretic drugs: canned tomato juice, raw clams; sardines, some commercial frozen foods that have been salted before they are frozen, such as lima beans and peas. Canned spinach and canned carrots are two other commercially available foods that contain considerable salt. So avoid them.
On the list of acceptable foods are those richest in potassium and containing the least sodium. These include the following:
Fruits: raw whole apples, apricots (canned, dried or fresh), avocado, bananas, cantaloupe, dried dates, grapefruit nectarines, dried cooked prunes; raisins, watermelon.
Vegetables: asparagus in any form, all dried beans and lentils, fresh snap or green beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, corn on the cob, fresh lima beans, fresh peas, green peppers, baked or boiled potatoes, radishes, summer or winter squash. Bananas, raisins, potatoes and winter squash are especially rich in potassium.
Of fruit juices here are those that contain the most potassium: fresh or canned apple juice; grapefruit juice; prune juice; fresh, frozen or canned orange juice. Unsalted nuts or soybean snacks are also very rich in potassium. It goes without saying that you should not add any salt to any of these foods, either in the kitchen or at the table, if you are avoiding salt and trying to get as much potassium as possible.
If your doctor has placed you on a low-salt diet he has probably given you a salt substitute or recommended one. Some of these are herb mixtures that give foods a zesty taste without doing any damage to your salt balance. Others contain potassium in some form.
One final caution. Many people have water softeners in their homes or drink water softened at the community waterworks. The ion-exchange process used for removing the “hard” minerals—calcium and magnesium chiefly— substitutes sodium for these; so do not use softened water if you are on a low-salt diet. Softened water may be acceptable for a perfectly healthy person who does not eat too much salt. But for a person with high blood pressure, the salt in the drinking water could mean the difference between good health and soaring blood pressure figures.
If your home already has a water softener installed, ask your plumber to connect only the hot water to the flow of softened water. Then you can use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Or have your-plumber install a spigot n some handy place before the water pipes enter the softener equipment. You can then draw water for drinking and cooking from this faucet.
There are exciting prospects for using the trace mineral chromium in conjunction with brewer’s yeast to stabilize the wild blood sugar swings of diabetics and, presumably, victims of low blood sugar as well. Public health measures to ensure adequate chromium intake will be not only desirable but essential for the long range health of this nation. It seems that the trace mineral chromium, which is essential to human beings in very small (“trace”) amounts, may soon be used to prevent and to treat the diabetes so common among older Americans and possibly also the raised levels of fats in their blood. It is believed that lack of enough insulin may be responsible for the accumulation of these fats. And, if chromium can be used to potentiate—that is, to make more powerful—the available insulin, then perhaps the fatty accumulations can be prevented.
Americans have far less chromium in their bodies than people of a like age in the Middle East, the Far East and in more primitive nations in Africa. Along with the lack of chromium goes the impairment of blood sugar regulating machinery that is controlled by insulin. Insulin, you will remember, is the hormone secreted by the human organ, the pancreas. If the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to process the starches and sugars eaten by an individual, that person will probably succumb to diabetes.
Lack of chromium is not confined to the elderly people. Even among much younger patients, giving chromium improves what is called “glucose tolerance” a well as lowering the blood levels of cholesterol and other fats. Glucose tolerance is the ability of the body to process correctly sugars and starches.
Those of us who get large amounts of calcium without regard to our magnesium intake may be courting deficiency, for a high calcium intake seems to necessitate a rather high magnesium intake. Dairy products, which are an excellent source of calcium, are poor sources of magnesium. Seed foods and cereals, which are the best sources of magnesium, are poor sources of calcium. So the idea is a good balance of the two.
Symptoms of gross magnesium deficiency may be convulsions, depression, vertigo, ataxia (difficulty in walking) and muscle weakness. Giving magnesium quickly brings things back to normal if deficiency is the cause.
One common cause of magnesium deficiency is prolonged loss of fluids from the digestive and intestinal tract without replacing them. This might occur in vomiting or diarrhea disorders. There may also be magnesium loss in renal failure and in the presence of glandular disorders such as over or under activity of the parathyroid gland. Alcoholics and patients on long-term intravenous therapy are likely to suffer from lack of magnesium. Heart and high blood pressure patients taking diuretics are usually aware of the dangers of potassium loss, as we have reported. But losses of magnesium are also likely and should be carefully watched for by anyone taking diuretics for any length of time.
In some heart conditions, diuretic therapy along with other complicating conditions may produce quite serious magnesium deficiency, which can cause irregular heart-beats and precipitate digitalis toxicity in the same way that potassium deficiency does.
Many doctors believe that lack of magnesium in the water supply may explain the higher incidence of circulatory disorders in localities where the water is “soft,” hence ‘ lacking in this mineral.
Relief of magnesium deficiency is only hours away if one takes a magnesium supplement. Since there is little danger of getting too much, it seems wise to add magnesium to one’s daily supplements if any of the above conditions seem imminent.
Kidney stones and bladder stones made up chiefly of calcium oxalate or a mixture of calcium phosphate present a stubborn and curious puzzle to urologists. There just doesn’t seem to be much reason why certain individuals should suffer from these painful disorders, since they appear to be otherwise healthy and the amount of calcium in their blood appears to be “normal.”
Symptoms of both kinds of stones are pain and frequent, bloody urination. Small stones may pass out through the ureter. Larger stones, which may block the flow of urine must be removed by surgery or some other method. Up to now, specialists have generally believed that bladder stones are caused by chronic inflammation of the bladder, enlargement of the male prostate gland, contraction of the neck of the bladder, a diverticulum or pouch in the wall of the bladder or kidney stones that have moved down into the bladder.
Stones may be caused by deficiency in an important mineral and an equally important vitamin. The mineral is magnesium. The vitamin is vitamin B6 or pyridoxine. A lengthy experiment involving some 150 people seems to show great improvement in the tendency to form such stones when people who are susceptible are given the two nutrients over a long period of time.
The experiment was accomplished by getting the aid of a large number of urologists who agreed to give the two nutrients to a given number of patients who could be expected to form a given number of stones in the time of the experiment—five years. About 150 patients were involved. Certain qualifications were set. Only patients who had formed at least one stone in the previous five years were accepted. They must also be free from urinary infection, have normal kidney function, normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood and be free from other diseases that sometimes accompany stone formation—peptic ulcer, for example.
The volunteers were given a magnesium supplement consisting of 100 milligrams three times a day. By this we assume they took the tablets with meals. They were also given 10 milligrams of vitamin B6 daily. No other change was made in diet or treatment.
The reduction in stone formation was dramatic. The group as a whole had formed an average of 1.3 stones before they began treatment. Taking the food supplements for five years resulted in an average of only one-tenth of a stone during the five years the test continued. Furthermore, the only stones formed were limited to 17 of the 150 subjects. The others had no stones at all during this five-year period. None of them suffered any side effects.
The Nutrition Reviews writer professes amazement at these results. What could they mean? he asks. Is it possible that the person who regularly forms kidney or bladder stones has a marginal deficiency in magnesium and/or pyridoxine, either because he doesn’t get enough at mealtime or because he just happens to need more than the average person? We would say, gentlemen, that both of these circumstances may certainly be the reason for formation of stones. Magnesium and pyridoxine are both found most abundantly in wholegrain cereals and breads as well as other seed foods. When white flour is made, most of the magnesium and vitamin B6 are discarded and never replaced in the flour. Why should not modern human beings be short on both nutrients?
But, says the Reviews writer, these people did not seem to be suffering from a magnesium deficiency. And, what is more, people who are known to be suffering from a magnesium deficiency, as a result of lack of absorption, prolonged diarrhea, excessive alcohol intake or protein malnutrition, do not generally form stones.
In the case of pyridoxine, there seems to be even less evidence of a deficiency. In fact, it seems that the pyridoxine may not be necessary to the success of such a trial. An earlier experiment showed that magnesium supplements alone stopped the formation of stones in the people tested.
The article goes on to tell us that, in laboratory rats on a diet low in magnesium, bladder stones are always found. Calcium oxalate stones are always found in laboratory rats on a diet low in vitamin B6. A strongly alkaline urine and a reduced excretion of magnesium will produce stones.
A diet low in magnesium, but high in phosphorus and moderate in calcium tends to cause stone formation in kidneys and heart. This kind of diet is probably widespread in our country, for meat is high in phosphorus, which tends to overbalance the lack of magnesium (found mostly in cereal foods and bread). When all the breads and cereals you eat have had their magnesium removed, the balance between the two minerals would be thrown out of kilter.
The question of why some otherwise healthy people tend to form stones while others do not, and why the addition of magnesium and pyridoxine should stop the stone formation remains a mystery, says Nutrition Reviews. But there is valuable evidence that this is so. Since the therapy is completely harmless this study “should encourage its wider application,” says the magazine.
Nutrition Reviews is published by the Nutrition Foundation, a trade organization of the giant food industry. It is the official position of this industry that the American food supply is totally adequate in all respects and that it is totally impossible for any American eating “the average American diet” to be deficient in any nutrient. So one would expect that their publication would be unable to explain how two simple,. essential nutrients, given in rather large amounts, might correct a long-standing disorder as serious as stone formation.
However, we have known for years that many of us may be deficient in many nutrients, both because we cannot get enough of them at our daily meals and because we, as individuals, may have needs for individual nutrients far higher than “the average.”
In his book, Vitamin B6, the Doctor’s Report, Dr. John Ellis shows the relationship between magnesium and pyridoxine. He relates stories of his patients who suffered from a variety of disorders that yielded to magnesium and vitamin B6 supplements.
One is perfectly safe in taking far more pyridoxine than the 10 milligrams these doctors gave their patients. Many specialists are now requesting that this B vitamin be included regularly in all contraceptive pills, since it appears that women taking these pills are bound to be short on pyridoxine. Many other conditions of ill health are seemingly related to shortage of vitamin B6, due largely, one must believe, to its almost total absence from those foods that make up half the meals of many people—white sugar and white flour and everything made from them.
Dr. David L. Earnest of the University of California in San Francisco believeed that people who are unable to absorb fat properly may be susceptible to kidney stones because the fat in such a person’s intestine tends to unite with most of the calcium there (forming an insoluble soap, like in the bathtub ring), hence robbing the body of its essential calcium.
One of the functions of calcium is to unite with oxalates in food, rendering them harmless. The more calcium available, the less danger there is that oxalates (or oxalic acid) will cause any trouble. This is the reason we recommend lots of calcium at meals, especially if one eats a lot of spinach, rhubarb and other foods that contain considerable oxalic acid. Plenty of calcium protects against any possible harm from the oxalates.
But people who suffer from Crohn’s Disease, non-tropical sprue, pancreatic insufficiency and other conditions where fat is not absorbed may lose most of their calcium to the unabsorbed fat in their digestive tracts. This frees the oxalate and allows it to be absorbed through the intestinal wall rather than being excreted in the feces. It is then carried to the kidney and excreted in urine. If there is a large amount of it in the urine, it may unite there with whatever calcium is present and form kidney stones.
The remedy is to give large doses of calcium or aluminum or lanthanum, which is a rare earth metal that precipitates oxalates. At the San Francisco General Hospital, Dr. Earnest gave four grams of calcium (that’s 4,000 milligrams) a day to patients who habitually show oxalic acid in their urine. This reduced the oxalic acid and did not increase the calcium in the urine. Extra calcium was excreted in the stool. In those patients who had high levels of calcium in their urine, he gave aluminum hydroxide, which also reduced the oxalic acid in their urine, but caused other trouble in the form of lost phosphorus. By giving a nightly dose of phosphorus, Dr. Earnest corrected this situation and kept the expected kidney stones from forming.
It is difficult to discover just how much oxalic acid is present in American foods. We know that spinach and other leafy greens contain considerable-amounts of oxalic acid. But they also contain considerable calcium, so they should not cause any trouble, if eaten in moderation, since, in healthy people, the calcium will combine with the oxalates and render them harmless.
But, aside from spinach and rhubarb, there’s an incredibly small amount of information on the oxalate content of American foods. Who knows what’s in a hot dog? One of his patients who was on a diet from which all oxalic acid containing foods had been carefully removed was still excreting oxalates in his urine. Testing the Cola beverage this patient was drinking, the researchers found a ,sizable quantity (8 milligrams) in the soft drink.
Another specialist in this field, Dr. Frederic L. Coe of Chicago, expressed his delight at these simplified methods of treating the tendency to form kidney stones. “Very exciting results,” he called them. And he said that the idea of using the earth metal lanthanum for precipitating oxalate is “fantastically interesting and extremely important.” This story appeared in Medical World News for September 6, 1976. News of still another development in kidney stone research turned up in the British Medical Journal for July 10, 976. It seems that certain ethnic groups in some nations are virtually the only people in those nations who suffer from kidney stones. In Fiji, the Native Americans, who came originally from Indian subcontinent, make up about half the population and are the only people who ever get kidney stones. They come from widely varied family backgrounds, so apparently this tendency to form stones is not inherited.
“The explanation may be a matter of diet,” says the BMJ editorial. These folks were found to have no abnormalities in the way their bodies handle calcium, uric acid and amino acids. And there is nothing to suggest any inborn dysfunction of the kidneys. They may get stones for the same reason other East Indians have been found to be susceptible—large amounts of peppery, hot, spicy foods at meals. A physician has found that five of his patients had evidence of severe kidney damage, some of them had stones.
The traditional diet of these people is rich in curries and spices. That is, these folks eat curry, spices or pickles in some form every day. One physician estimated that Fijian Indians must eat about the equivalent of one bottle of Worcestershire sauce every day in curries. In addition, ginger and cinnamon are used in large amounts.
The BMJ writer calls their disease “curry kidney.” He asks if someone might examine the health and diet of East Native Americans in other countries—England, for example—to see if their consumption of hot spices and their susceptibility to kidney disorders may match that of the Fiji Indians.
The lesson seems clear. Hot, peppery foods should be eaten in very small quantities, if at all. They should not make up a major part of one’s diet. Their volatile oils may threaten the kidneys, which, after all, have to excrete all that remains of these peppery substances. A dash of this or-that adds agreeable piquancy to many foods, especially if one must eat little or no salt.
But in some parted the world peppery hot herbs are used in large quantities. No one has ever been able to point to any benefit these spices bring except to hide the taste of spoiled food. This was the reason spices had such great value in ancient times. With no refrigeration, most foods that contained any fat were rancid by the time they got to the table. So ancient cooks, from Greek and Roman times on through all European history, laid on the spices with a heavy hand. And in hot countries today where refrigeration is not available, spices are used to conceal the taste of spoiled food. In our country, we have no need for such seasonings. Fresh food is easily available. Home refrigeration is almost universal. Let’s be careful to be guided, in all things, by moderation. Too much of anything is not good.
A physician from Seattle has been treating arthritic patients with a daily zinc supplement given with each of the day’s three meals. He reports that results have been ncouraging.
The Lancet for September 11, 1976 contains an article by Dr. Peter A. Sinkin of Seattle describing a trial of zinc supplements for 24 of his patients with “refractory” rheumatoid arthritis. This means arthritis, which did not respond to any other method of treatment. It was a double-blind experiment.
That is, the volunteers were divided into two groups. One group was given their regular medication plus zinc supplements for 12 weeks. The others got their regular medication plus a tablet that contained nothing. Not until the end of the trial, when all observations on joint swelling, morning stiffness, walking time had been made and the patients themselves described how they felt, was the code broken so that patients and doctors alike knew which had received the zinc supplement.
The doctor examined all patients at the beginning of the trial, recording scores for swelling of joints, tenderness in each joint, along with scores for the length of time morning -stiffness persisted, and grip strength, as well as ability to walk 50 feet in less than 30 seconds. Patients reported any symptoms they had of such things as discomfort, nausea, vomiting, change in appetite or bowel habits and so forth. X- rays of all hands were taken at the beginning of the test, again in 24 weeks.
Says Dr. Sinkin, “patients taking zinc sulfate fared better in all clinical parameters than did patients receiving placebo (the nothing pill).” In every area investigated—swelling, pain stiffness, walking time, the ones getting the mineral improved while those who did not take the zinc showed little or no improvement. The only test in which the zinc did not seem to bring much improvement was the grip strength. An early improvement in the test group was not sustained, says Dr. Sinkin.
After the original test, all the Volunteers in both groups were given zinc supplements and all reported improvement. There were few side effects. Headache, rash, change in appetite, abdominal pain or discomfort and diarrhea were all reported oftener in the group not getting the zinc supplement than in the group that got it. All side effects were mild, however.
The zinc sulfate was taken after meals to prevent any difficulties with nausea. Dr. Sinkin suggests that it would be preferable to take a zinc supplement that would be better absorbed and would be taken without any digestive irritation. “From our experience,” he says, “and that of others, virtually all patients can tolerate oral zinc sulfate for three to six months. Possible toxic effects of prolonged use must still be carefully sought.” He believed that much additional work must be done to confirm his observations and to determine what part zinc plays in the health of joints.
If you suffer from arthritis, there is no reason to delay in taking a zinc supplement. There is no need to take the sulfate form that Dr. Sinkin gave to his patients. Alternative zinc supplements may be easily available. These come in various potencies, marked on the label. An especially valuable kind is the “chelated” product, meaning that the mineral has been associated with amino acids that “chelate” it into a form that is much more readily absorbed by the body.
Dr. Sinkin’s patients were taking large amounts of zinc three times daily. Much more zinc would undoubtedly be absorbed from a chelated product than from the zinc sulfate tablet that Dr. Sinkin gave. So there seems to be no need to take as much as he was giving patients in his experiment. Eat lots of those foods that contain plenty of zinc and avoid those from which it has been removed. And take a zinc supplement. It is a perfectly natural substance that cannot harm you.
It’s hard to imagine a more difficult or discouraging disease to treat than one called acrodermatitis enteropathica. Fortunately it is rare. Unfortunately, it is apparently sometimes inherited. It brings terrible blistering sores on the skin, sores on the mucus membranes of mouth and throat, diarrhea and loss of hair. Usually it occurs in infants when they are taken off breast milk and given formulas.
Drugs that have been used are sometimes successful. If they are not, the baby must be kept on breast milk, no matter how this is arranged. If untreated, says an article in the New England Journal of Medicine for April 24,1975, the disease is usually fatal, though some victims have survived and have apparently outgrown this inherited defect, although we have been told that inherited defects usually persist throughout life.
Quite recently the trace mineral zinc has been used to treat this disorder and patients have responded “dramatically.” The Journal article describes still another patient, this one a 22-year-old woman who developed the disease when she was only three months old. When she was 1½ years old, she was at the point of death when her life was saved by drugs that she had to take every day. For some reason the drug increased the amount of zinc in her blood. Several years ago this observation led to doctors giving zinc to see what the effects would be.
In this case, as in earlier ones, the effects were startling and gratifying. This woman had had two pregnancies that ended in spontaneous abortions. Then she had a stillborn defective child. Since then she has taken The Pill.
The doctors at a Colorado hospital gave her first the drug that usually controlled her condition. Then they withheld it until ominous symptoms began to reappear. Blisters began to form on her knees, her mouth tissues became sore and she began to feel ill and depressed.
They gave her zinc sulfate—220 milligrams three times a day—and she responded rapidly and dramatically. Within 24 hours she felt well. Within four days her skin blisters and other symptoms had completely disappeared. Levels of zinc in her blood became normal. The doctors stopped the treatment after ten days and she remained well without any treatment. But within five weeks symptoms had returned and the zinc levels in her blood were once again low.
On zinc therapy, 100 milligrams this time, given in two daily doses, she improved once again—showing improvement within 24 hours. The doctors believe, they say, that her response to this trace mineral indicates that this disease is very much involved with-the metabolism of zinc. Either the patient cannot absorb enough zinc to keep her healthy or she ‘ loses it before it can do her any good. The amount finally needed to keep her well is, they comment, only a little above . the Dietary Reference Intakes for zinc, which is 15 milligrams. The 100 milligrams of zinc sulfate contain about 22 milligrams of zinc.
Severe zinc deficiency could explain all/the symptoms of this unpleasant and serious disorder. Animals made deficient in zinc have retarded growth. They lack appetite, they suffer from skin disorders and loss of hair; the area around their’ fingernails becomes infected, their sexual organs do not develop properly. They become lethargic and are very susceptible to infections. Offspring of animal mothers that are deficient in zinc have abortions and congenitally malformed offspring. In many human beings the sense of taste is lost during zinc deficiency. There also seems to be some defect in handling some of the food fats in people who are deficient in zinc.
We were impressed recently with some material on zinc by Robert Rodale, the son of J. I. Rodale. He has done lots of research on the subject and covers it in very understandable form in his book, The Best Health Ideas I Know, which was published by Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pa.
Rodale says there is lots of evidence that we need far more zinc than the present estimate for a daily allowance. One of the main reasons may be that the zinc content of our food is declining all the time because of the use of modern commercial fertilizers that provide no zinc. Yields on grain are increasing because of all the fertilizer our farmers use, but the zinc content of soils is dropping, not only in this country but also in many parts of the world.
He tells us that a group of Colorado children were found to be quite short on zinc, as indicated by slow growth rates and severe deficiencies in the senses of taste and smell. Another specialist in the field points out that vegetarians may suffer most from zinc deficiency. This mineral is needed for the body to use protein. It is most abundant in high protein foods like meat and fish. So vegetarians who use no animal products may lack zinc, even though they get enough protein in their vegetarian foods. They cannot use all this protein without enough zinc to process it. And vegetarian foods may be especially lacking in zinc due to lack in the soils in which the food is grown.
Two Midwestern scientists, Dr. Donald F. Caldwell and Dr. Donald Oberleas, believe that as many as 80 percent of all Americans may be deficient in zinc. Our bodies lose zinc in excretions when we have colds, also in perspiration. Zinc is lost, too, when foods are processed. Even canning and cooking cause some loss of zinc. But most important is the amount lost when cereal foods and sugar are refined, and made into white flour, processed cereals and white sugar.
Dr. William Strain and Dr. Walter Pones have found that the trace mineral helps to heal wounds, decreases pains in the legs of people suffering from intermittent claudication, a circulatory ailment, and possibly helps to prevent hardening of the arteries.
Here are some symptoms that may be linked to deficiency in zinc, although other conditions may be involved as well: lethargy, apathy and unwillingness to learn. Lack of ability to use all protein in the diet, since zinc is involved in this process. According to Dr. Jean Mayer, formerly of Harvard, zinc also helps one to recover from fatigue caused by exercise and helps undo the effects of alcohol.
Drs. Strain and Pories found that people suffering from hardening of the arteries were deficient in zinc. Giving zinc supplements brought some dramatic benefits to such patients. Two Tennessee doctors reported rapid healing of gums after tooth extraction when zinc was given. More than 30 different enzyme systems in the body depend on zinc as one of their ingredients—about three times more than are dependent on magnesium. Enzyme systems are those groups of nutrients—proteins, hormones, vitamins and minerals— which bring about chemical changes in our bodies, allowing us to utilize food and build it into our cells or use it as energy.
“No part of the human anatomy contains more zinc than the prostate gland,” says Robert Rodale. “Actually a healthy man has several times more zinc in his prostate than he does in most other soft tissues of his body.” He goes on to tell us that large doses of zinc have improved prostate health in experiments conducted in Chicago. Scientists found that seven, percent of all men they tested have low levels of zinc in their semen and 30 percent are borderlines They have given zinc to men suffering from chronic prostatitis (not caused by bacterial infection), have gotten good results in 70 percent of these.
If zinc is obviously essential and involved in so much that goes on inside us, why are not doctors more concerned about it and why do they not give their patients zinc supplements? Rodale lists some reasons. Doctors are notoriously uninterested in nutrition. The typical American diet, which is causing zinc deficiency, is thought by most doctors to be the best possible diet. Then, too, giving trace minerals is a way to prevent disease, rather than healing a condition already present. Doctors are looking for quick cures for acute diseases, mostly. They seldom express much interest in preventing disease, except by vaccination.
Zinc therapy is not an overnight therapy. As is the case with any nutritional therapy, it works slowly. It may take quite a long time to undo the damage done over many years by inadequate diet. Zinc is a common mineral, which cannot be patented or sold as an expensive drug. So drug companies are not much interested in promoting it. They can’t make much money out of it. Doctors get much, if not most, of their information on therapy from drug salesmen and drug advertising.
And most doctors—like most official spokesmen on nutrition—believe that no patient is short on zinc unless he conies in half-dead from well-recognized symptoms of zinc deficiency. Not many of us in this country ever show such definite symptoms. But this does not mean we are getting optimum amounts of zinc for good health.
One specialist in zinc metabolism believes adults should be getting up to 25 milligrams daily. Dr. Harold Rosenberg in his book, The Doctor’s Book on Vitamin Therapy, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, recommends up to 30 milligrams. Supplements of higher potency are available only on prescription. These are generally zinc sulfate, zinc gluconate, zinc chloride. Zinc carbonate, which seems most acceptable, since it is a natural product that is mined, is not yet available as a supplement for human beings, although it is used in animal feed. Bone meal contains zinc in natural form, but not a great deal in terms of the potencies we are talking about here.
So your first concern should be to get asmuch zinc from meals as you possibly can. Fish and shellfish contain more zinc than any other foods. Oysters are abundant sources. Liver, beef, egg yolk, brewers yeast are other excellent sources. Whole-wheat cereal and bread have not had their zinc removed by processing, so they contribute considerable amounts to your diet. White bread and processed supermarket cereals are all but useless as sources.
“Crib death” or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) kills perhaps 20,000 American babies every year. This cruel drama takes its toll of young parents as well, many of whom are unjustly suspected of being responsible for the baby’s death, many of whom assume unwarranted guilt and blame themselves, thinking they must have done something wrong.
The perfectly healthy baby is put to bed, cooing and smiling. His mother comes to check on him during the night, or the next morning and finds him dead, with no sign of a struggle or any convulsive movements. Physicians and researchers have suggested many causes. Most of them seem to be related to the completely unnatural conditions that surround most American babies from the very moment of birth.
Dr. Mavis Gunther, a British physician, theorizes in the February 22, 1975 issue of The Lancet that “cot deaths” as they are called in England, result from infections or allergies induced in the baby by bottle-feeding. Her reasoning is that all mammalian young refuse any kind of food except their’ mother’s milk during an appropriate period after birth. It is well known to scientists that breast milk contains resistance factors that protect the baby from infections until he is old enough to-develop his own protective mechanism.
“The effectiveness of breast feeding in defense against viral and bacterial infection has only tardily been accepted, but it is real,” says Dr. Gunther. The first milk after childbirth, called colostrum, is known to be very rich in protective factors but so, too, is breast milk later on. Certainly bottle-fed babies are more liable to infection. Some pediatricians believe this is because the mechanics of bottle-feeding lend themselves to contamination with bacteria. But in animals as well as human beings vital protection against an array of disorders is guaranteed by mother’s milk, whereas cow’s milk contains na such protection for human babies.
Rabbits that are raised in germ-free environments and fed on cow’s milk die when they are 18-22 days old, says Dr. Gunther, at an age when behavior ordinarily makes mammary feeding obligatory and nibbling on other food is only starting. In the case of the rabbits, as in human babies, death may be caused by bacteria to which the infant has not developed immunity or to some allergen to which it is susceptible.
Most babies that die of crib death are bottle-fed. The risk is much greater also in babies whose weight at birth was too low. The incidence is much higher, too, among young mothers who have had children in quick succession without access to highly-nutritious diets. So lack of protein and lack of folic acid, a B vitamin, are suspected as one more reason for such tragedies. Babies dying this way generally have watery accumulations in their lungs, suggesting that they could not get enough oxygen to keep breathing normally.
In the same issue of The Lancet comes word from another British source that lack of vitamin E and the trace mineral selenium may have something to do with crib deaths. Vitamin E does not pass freely from mother to unborn baby, say Drs. E. Tapp and C. Anfield of Manchester. Human babies are born with much lower levels of vitamin E in their blood than adults have. They may develop a kind of anemia as a result. The levels of vitamin E in the blood rise much more slowly in infants given formulas than in those who are breast-fed. A study of 14 infants dying of crib death showed in general much lower levels of vitamin E than in those babies who died of other conditions.
And from New Zealand, in November, 1971 evidence reached us from an Animal Health Laboratory that human babies are being raised under conditions of deficiency in both selenium and vitamin E, which would not for a moment be tolerated in animal husbandry. Says Dr. F. C. Money, autopsies of the victims of crib death show the same conditions found in animals dead from lack of vitamin E and selenium, “Many fatal vitamin E and/or selenium deficiency diseases of the young of about 40 mammalian and bird species are known,” he says. Most deaths occur only when both nutrients are lacking, since one can substitute for the other.
Found at autopsies are hemorrhages from small blood vessels in the lungs and adjacent chest walls, filling of the lungs with blood fluid, degenerative changes of, and hemorrhages in the vital heart muscle and hemorrhages around the spinal cord. When there is not enough oxygen, Dr. Money says, “the normal oxidative processes by which tissues gain their energy and heat extend into the tissues themselves where chain reaction proceeds unchecked. Simply this means that otherwise healthy tissues combust. The reaction is termed peroxidation and in prevention of this, vitamin E acts as an antioxidant.”
Dr. Money goes on to describe other conditions of infants such as retrolental fibroplasia, which causes blindness. It can be prevented by vitamin E. This disorder occurred in premature infants exposed to too high a concentration of oxygen in their incubators, long before anyone suspected what was causing these tragedies.
Consumer Bulletin for June, 1972 tells us that cow’s milk is deficient in vitamin E and high in phosphates that the baby’s kidneys have trouble dealing with. In human milk there is considerably more vitamin E and it is in proper balance with the unsaturated fats. This is important, since getting too much of these fats tends to raise one’s needs for vitamin E. The Bulletin tells us that guinea pigs fed a die deficient in vitamin E showed many of the same conditions, after death, that infants dying of crib death show.
A disease of newborn infants called Respiratory Distress Syndrome may be caused by lack of lecithin in their lungs according to a group of Welsh physicians who reported the findings in Nature for February 25, 1972. This is a disease that kills babies within a few days after birth. Tests on infants showed that those who were delivered in good health had lecithin levels of 3.5 to 37.5. Of 13 infants who developed the respiratory disease lecithin levels were only 0.6 to 3.4. In every case the lowest level of lecithin accompanied the most severe respiratory distress.
Breast milk is a mixture of many things, including lecithin and cholesterol, as well as trace minerals, B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, and the minerals calcium and phosphorus. Now we learn that it contains much larger amounts of vitamin E than does cow’s milk. Everyone who makes official statements in the field of pediatrics admits that to one can reproduce breast milk, no matter how hard they try. It’s simply too complex a mixture, so there is no way of knowing how many other essential elements we are leaving out when we mix up formula or feed the baby already mixed formulas.
A Medical Detective Story
A MYSTERY STORY involving arsenic in a sealant sold in a hardware store was related in The New York Times on December 29, 1976. Dr. James Darnell, a research scientist at the Rockefeller University, bought the silicon sealant to apply to the vinyl lining of his wife’s dishwasher, which had worn thin. Several months later Mrs. Darnell and her children began to suffer from symptoms that they thought were flu—nausea, Stomach pains, low-grade fever and increasing weakness.
Tiny white translucent specks began to appear on the Darnell’s dishes. A General Electric repairman made some repairs. The dishes continued to be spotted. By now muscle- aching and hacking coughs had appeared in the Darnell family—except for Dr. Darnell who seldom ate at home. A second repairman, called in several months later, found that the sealant had not adhered to the lining of the dishwasher, but was flaking off and clinging to the dishes.
Mrs. Darnell set out to discover what was in the sealant. Nobody seemed to be able to tell her, until finally one GE official told her the product contained a very small amount of arsenic—“no more than you might eat in three shrimp.” Dr. Darnell had the sealant analyzed. It contained 25 times more arsenic than the GE official had mentioned.
The Darnell’s doctor finally began to make tests. After checking with an expert in the field, he told the Darnells that they were suffering from arsenic poisoning. Mrs. Darnell and one of her sons had such high levels of arsenic in their tissues that they had to undergo a very-painful treatment with the drug dimercaprol, which removes toxic arsenic, mercury and/or gold from the body. No one is quite sure whether other symptoms will develop in the future, especially in Mrs. Darnell and the one son who was most affected. Experts say that reaction to arsenic poisoning can be very variable—from “nothing to death.” The sealant, which was also recommended on the label for mending china, contained no mention of possible danger except the brief warning that it should not be used in aquariums. The Darnells disposed of their china and silverware because the arsenic could not be removed.
Arsenic is used in herbicides, pesticides, wood preservatives, rat poisons. It is believed that one reason for lung cancer in smokers may be the arsenic that remains on the tobacco leaves after they are sprayed with pesticides. Arsenic is a contaminant of phosphate detergents, and it washed into waterways in the sewage that carries away the detergents. Several years ago the Department of Agriculture warned us that arsenic was appearing in very small amounts in the livers of some animals that we eat. The USDA experts assured us that this was a form of arsenic that is not “very toxic.”
Nevertheless, it’s something to keep in mind. And it’s well to check as carefully as you can on any household chemicals you use that may come into contact with food. If it’s at all possible, avoid using a new product about which you feel uncertain—don’t use it. Medical detective stories don’t always end happily.
Suggested Further Reading
Duyff, Roberta Larson, American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 4th Ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, 2012.
Ellis, John M., Vitamin B6, the Doctor’s Report, Harper and Row, New York 1973.
Food, The Yearbook of Agriculture 1959, The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
The Heinz Handbook of Nutrition, McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., London, New York, Toronto, 1969.
Hemphill, Delbert D., Editor, Trace Substances in Environmental Health, Volume V., University of Missouri, Columbia, 1972.
Holvey, David M., Editor, The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Merck and Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., 2003.
Lee, Douglas H.K., Editor, Metallic Contaminants and Human Health, Academic Press, New York and London, 1972.
Monier-Williams, G.W., Trace Elements in Food, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, 1949.
Otten, Jennifer J., et al, (Editors), Dietary Reference Intakes, The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006.
Price, Dr. Joseph M., Coronaries, Cholesterol & Chlorine, Pyramid Books, New York, 1972.
Schauss, Alexander, Minerals, Trace Elements and Human Health, 4th Ed, Biosocial Publications, Tacoma, WA, 1999.
Schroeder, Henry A., Pollution, Profits and Progress, The Stephen Greene Press, Brattleboro, Vermont, 1971.
Schroeder, Henry A., The Trace Elements and Man, Devin Adair Company, Old Greenwich, Conn., 1974. ,
Schiitte, Karl H., The Biology of the Trace Elements, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and Montreal, 1964.
Underwood, E. J.; Trace Elements in Human and Animal Nutrition, 3rd Edition, Academic Press, New York and London, 1971.
Waldbott, G. L., Health Effects of Environmental Pollutants, C. V. Molly, St. Louis, 1973