How to Live Longer and Feel Better. By Linus Pauling. W.H. Freeman. $7.95
Launched with a "$75,000 promotion budget and author tour," this book recites Dr. Linus Pauling's recommendations for drenching us with vitamins, especially vitamin C. The author claims that taking daily doses of several of the vitamins "far larger than the usually recommended intakes" leads to "further improvement in health and greater protection against many diseases."
His evidence for such claims is often based on anecdotes, and in many cases the usually recommended intakes would probably have sufficed. The doses seem to be pulled out of the air. Why should 50 times be any better than five times the "usually recommended intake"? If we are thirsty, we may need a quart of water, but we don't drink 10 gallons.
Some doses in "How to Live Longer" are thousands of times the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs), including 100 to 200 milligrams of B12 and 400 to 800 milligrams of folacin. Pauling recommends 1,000 milligrams (1 million micrograms) of B12 and 400 milligrams of folacin for "every retarded child."
Doses of vitamin C as high as 18,000 milligrams daily are recommended. The RDA is 60 milligrams. Ten milligrams will prevent or cure scurvy, and 60 milligrams will maintain a body pool of 1,500 milligrams as an adequate reserve.
When large amounts of vitamin C are given, the body protects itself by making an enzyme to destroy the overdose. If the big doses are suddenly stopped, the enzyme persists, and continues to break down vitamin C rapidly even though it is consumed in normal amounts, so that vitamin C deficiency, called "rebound scurvy," may develop. This was seen in the siege of Leningrad in World War II. It was produced in guinea pigs by Jakovliev in 1958 and Gordonoff in 1960, and has been claimed to appear as long as two years after overdosage ceased.
Pauling warns his readers of the rebound effect and speculates that the same effect may be produced with other vitamins if his huge doses are suddenly stopped. In my opinion the rebound effect is a caution against taking liberties with our bodies by overloading them with such doses of vitamins, which, as he says, can be obtained only by taking supplements.
Pauling says, correctly, that most of the vitamins "serve as coenzymes in a number of enzyme systems." He then asserts, without evidence, that "the amount of an active enzyme can be increased by increasing the intake of the vitamin that serves as a coenzyme." This assertion comes from test-tube experiments. If it were true in the complex environment of the body, it should also apply to the many enzymes for which trace minerals such as molybdenum, copper, manganese and selenium are coenzymes. But he warns us against levels of these higher than the RDAs, thus telling us to boost some enzymes with big doses of vitamins, and leave the others alone.
Pauling condemns the use of sugar and tells us to reduce our intake of sugar to 50 pounds per year, "which is half the present U.S. average" of 100 pounds. The actual average in 1985 was 62 pounds per year, calculated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from "delivery figures," which include several pounds of waste.
He says that cigarettes and sugar "have brought pandemics of cancer and cardiovascular disease . . ." This is true of cigarettes, but untrue of sugar. The safety of sugar (sucrose) was thoroughly examined by a committee of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The Food and Drug Administration lists both sucrose and fructose as foods that are generally recognized as safe.
Pauling asserts that fructose is harmful and that it is processed differently than glucose "such that it produces acetate, which is a precursor of cholesterol."
Actually, glucose, fructose and several other food substances all produce acetate. Most of the acetate is eventually oxidized to carbon dioxide and water.
Pauling quotes John Yudkin, author of "Sweet and Dangerous," on sugar and heart disease, but does not mention that other investigators have failed to confirm Yudkin's work. There have been many reports that there is no specific relation between sucrose and heart disease.
On cancer, Pauling says that those who disagree with him have "deliberately misrepresented their investigation" in a "fraudulent paper," which reported failure of vitamin C in treatment of cancer. He says the treatment was not long enough (an average of 2.5 months).
The author, Dr. Charles Moertel of the Mayo Clinic responded that treatment was continued until increase in tumor size had reached 50 percent, or there had been substanial deterioration, and that no matter "whether patients were continued on treatment for 1, 3, 6 or 12 months, high-dose vitamin C never performed any better than sugar pills."
Pauling invented a new term, orthomolecular medicine, which, to quote Humpty-Dumpty, "means just what he chooses it to mean -- neither more nor less."
It is sometimes unkindly called paramolecular medicine, or even pseudomolecular medicine. In the book, we learn that an example of it is the treatment of diabetes by the injection of insulin. Insulin was introduced to conventional medicine 45 years before the name orthomolecular medicine was coined.
"It is not easy to be an orthomolecular physician," says the author, and he tells us that the president of the Orthomolecular Medical Association had his California medical license revoked in 1984.
Pauling says that he testified at the hearing, and "none of his the physician's patients presented charges against him." I also testified: the principal patient was indeed absent. She had died of cervical cancer following an onslaught of 99 different orthomolecular remedies, including buttermilk enemas, red clover tea, mudbaths, wheat germ juice, megavitamins, garlic clove per rectum and "candle meditation, beeswax only."
After her death, the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance, which held the hearings, concluded that she would have had a 90 precent chance of recovery given conventional treatment.
Pauling says that the assistant attorney general asked him "rather silly questions." These included asking his opinion of some of the 99 remedies, including coffee enemas and chelation therapy. These he favored, and he says that chelation therapy is "far safer and much cheaper than having a bypass operation" for heart disease.
The FDA disapproves chelation therapy as "unproven and of dubious safety." The other two patients were 3-year-old twins who had been treated for earache with 70,000 units of vitamin A daily plus coffee enemas prescribed twice daily. A complaint was lodged by a pediatrician on their behalf because of the treatment.
While Pauling advocates taking 40,000 units of vitamin A a day, others need it more: 500,000 Third World children go blind every year from vitamin A deficiency, preventable by 1,000 units daily.
Pauling is at his best in advising us to take some exercise, to drink alcohol only in moderation, to "work at a job that you like," and not to smoke cigarettes.