Health & Welfare: Aging and Health

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To continue from last month our listing of good sources of information about aging and how to improve your health:

Supernutrition, by Richard Passwater (New York: B.J. Publishing, 1975, $2.50 paper). This book is seven years old and, consequently, somewhat out of date. However, it was a bit ahead of its time, so there is much of value remaining. For example, it contains cogent explanations for the layman of what free radicals are and how they cause much of the damage that produces aging, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, to name a few. This alone is worth the price of the book. There is also an informative discussion of why cholesterol-reducing diets usually do little, if any, good in preventing heart attacks. There are recommended nutrient regimens—somewhat conservative, by our standards—and uses for individual nutrients are generally well explained. One complaint we have is the rather dry, dull style in which the book is written. Two pages of references are included.

Vitamin B6: The Doctor's Report, by John M. Ellis, M.D., and James Presley (New York: Harper & Row, 1973; out of print, but worth looking for in the used book market). This is a book about clinical results obtained by a doctor with the use of relatively high doses of vitamin B-6 for symptoms of arthritis. The book focuses on practical use of the vitamin rather than explanations of mechanisms. (Vitamin B-6 is an important antioxidant nutrient. A deficiency of B-6 in persons consuming a diet high in meat, for example, can result in the development of atherosclerosis. That is because the methionine in the meat is converted to a substance called homocysteine, which is an oxidant that can promote the damage that causes atherosclerosis. Normally, homocysteine is converted to cystathione, which is an antioxidant. However, the latter conversion requires plenty of vitamin B-6.) There are nine pages of references.

Vitamin E for Ailing and Healthy Hearts, by Wilfrid E. Shute, M.D. (New York: B.J. Publishing, 1972, $1.95 paper). Anyone who plans to use doses of vitamin E of 200 IU or more per day, or who plans to use vitamin E and has a damaged (particularly rheumatic) heart, should read this book. The famous Shute Clinic in Canada has treated about 40,000 patients with vitamin E, and much of the experience is reported here. The book explains how to use the vitamin and the side effects that may be encountered. For example, when vitamin E is first used there may be a transitory blood pressure elevation. That could be important if a person taking vitamin E has high blood pressure. Also, it is possible to get differential benefits in a damaged heart, so that some parts become stronger sooner than other parts, resulting in a strain on the weaker areas. It's all here in this book. There are five pages of references. Highly recommended.

The Healing Factor, by Irwin Stone (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1972, $2.95 paper). This is an excellent book on vitamin C and its many uses. The bibliography (53 pages!) is a good one, with many references to the primary scientific literature. Stone even explains in the beginning how man and all other primates came to be dependent on the environment for their vitamin C (through the loss of an enzyme necessary to manufacture C in our bodies). Dr. Stone, who first interested Linus Pauling in vitamin C, explains how to use vitamin C for herpes and other viral infections, bacterial infections, cancer, heart attacks and strokes, aging, arthritis and rheumatism, allergies, ulcers, diabetes, hypoglycemia, stress, pollution, poisons, wounds, pregnancy, and even mental illnesses. Vitamin C, for example, has been found of value in the treatment of schizophrenia. And vitamin C is required in the brain's manufacture of many neurotransmitters (substances used by brain cells to communicate with each other). Highly recommended.

Nutrition against Disease, by Roger J. Williams (New York: Bantam Books, 1973, $2.25 paper). This is an excellent introduction to the field of nutrition, with many references to original scientific papers, written by the scientist who first identified, isolated, and synthesized pantothenic acid, vitamin B-5. He also did pioneer work on folic acid and gave it its name. There are 31 pages of references. Highly recommended.

Vitamins and You, by Robert J. Benowicz (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1979, $5.95 paper). Robert J. Benowicz used to work for the Food and Drug Administration. He believed the agency's claim that most people can get all the nutrition they require with a knife and fork (in their diet). Benowicz decided to write a book exposing the use of vitamin supplements as a hoax. Being a real scientist, however, he did some literature searching on the subject and found, to his surprise, that the scientific literature didn't support the notion that all nutritional needs can be obtained from even a good diet. When Benowicz tried to bring these facts to the attention of his superiors, he was rebuffed. He quit the agency after that, calling it a "Kafkaesque organization." This book is a good survey of vitamins, as found in the diet and in supplementation. It has one and a half pages of references.

Regulating New Drugs, edited by Richard L. Landau (Chicago: University of Chicago Center for Policy Study, 1973, $5.50 paper). This economic study provides an excellent analysis of the effects of regulations on drug innovation and production in this country. Of particular interest is Dr. Sam Peltzman's section, "The Benefits and Costs of New Drug Regulation." He found that, considering costs and benefits, consumers were losing at least $250,000,000 per year (in late 1960s dollars) as a result of drug regulations requiring proof of efficacy (the 1962 Kefauver Amendments) using a set of assumptions that are incredibly charitable to the FDA. Dr. Peltzman has shown that these amendments, which have increased the costs of and delayed drug approval, have provided no significant increase in either safety or efficacy. He has also demonstrated that the health costs of a three-month delay in introducing a new drug exceed the health costs of a West German thalidomide maxi-disaster once each decade! This book is a real eye opener.

A list of scientific literature on this topic is available through REASON. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope and ask for H&W references, January.

Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw are consulting scientists, authors, and TV personalities. Copyright © 1982 by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw.