Monday, December 25, 2006

How to Live Longer And Feel Better

Originally published in 1986, the Oregon State University Press has recently released a Twentieth Anniversary edition of Linus Pauling’s monumental book for the layman, How to Live Longer and Feel Better. While simple in its prescriptions for health and in its plain, matter-of-fact style, the information that supports Pauling’s assertions carry the Noble-prize winning scientists’ enormous understanding of chemistry, biology and nutrition. All this is backed up by his easy to understand explanations and references to numerous scientific studies. Recognized as one of the greatest scientific minds of the twentieth century, Pauling was one of those rare geniuses that could distill a complex subject in a way that we less gifted could understand.

I first read How to Live Longer and Feel Better in 1991. Pauling states his case with an elegant simplicity while the reader comes away understanding that this guy knows what he is talking about. I was immediately captivated because the information presented is so simple, so important to human health and nobody seems to know about it! It was the impetus to the publication of, my website about vitamin C dedicated to Dr. Pauling’s life and work.

Paulings’ ascertion that high-dose vitamin C could prevent and cure the common cold, followed later by claims of its benefit for cancer and heart disease were quite controversial. Paulings ideas, while not well received by the established medical community that is dominated by “conventional wisdom” and hampered by a general lack of education concerning nutrition, could not be dismissed due to his stature in the scientific community. Combine this with his ability to speak directly to the common man and you have a force to be reckoned with. Even so, the inertia was, and remains, daunting.

Most of the people I talk to are reluctant to accept this simple, powerful information. I believe there are several, common reasons for this. The most basic is people’s general hard-headedness and hesitancy to accept something new, especially if it is revolutionary. Building on this is the classic response “If this were true, everyone would know”, a rationale derived from the logical position that something so basic and important would not elude the medical community. If further support of the status quo is desired one need look no further than the many studies showing vitamin C’s ineffectiveness. Amazingly, this is not a hard objection to overcome.

The biggest obstacle in the way of people’s willingness to accept the importance and effectiveness of vitamin C is the dosage requirement. The amount of vitamin C needed to provide the results Pauling described is, in “vitamin” terms, huge. If we disregard the vitamin C studies where dosage was obviously too low, we are left with studies that show amazing benefit.

Most of us have an intuitive understanding that nutrition is important to human health. It is most obvious that we all need to eat to live. Most of the media coverage of “diet” and health focuses on foods that may be harmful or lead to disease. A classic example of this is the “diet-heart idea” that claims that “high” levels of cholesterol in the blood leads to heart disease. The acceptance of this idea has led to a very large change in the food industry with the introduction and promotion of foods low in fat and cholesterol. What is lost in the rush to eliminate the foods that are killing us is the other side of the nutrition coin. What are the nutrients that are required for our systems to work at their best, to prevent and cure illness and at what levels are these nutrients necessary to promote optimum health? These are questions and some answers that Pauling brought to the publics attention in his classic last book and that others, including your humble reviewer, are attempting to amplify. If this approach to nutrition makes sense to you and you are interested in learning more then How to Live Longer and Feel Better is the best place to start.


At 12:50 PM, Blogger Steve said...

I can find no evidence that people don't take vitamins because they are hard headed or unwilling to accept new things. Dose is an obstacle, because taking large doses of vitamins should be a cause for concern.

Like you, I read Pauling's book in the early 1990's and it changed my life. I have become an expert in the safety and effectiveness of vitamins. I started feeding my children vitamins right after reading Pauling's book. At that time they were turning 2 and 4. Today, they are full grown and turning 14 and 16. I believe that my family has benefited from vitamins and would like to see others share in these benefits.

So - my family and I believe that what Linus Pauling had to say was true. Today, however, none of us are able to make ourselves follow his advice about B-complex vitamins. The Pauling regimen includes "2 super B vitamin tablets". This means 50-100 mg of B1, B2, and B6, 300-600 mg B3, and 0.4 to 0.8 mg folic acid (and some others). For all of us, B complex vitamins at these doses caused troublesome side effects. My kids had far fewer problems with side effects, but I have been slowly reducing the B-vitamin doses I give them as they reach maturity.

Vitamin C has caused no problems, and everyone continues to take it. That said, even I have stopped preaching about vitamin C. Taken by itself (without B vitamins), it is very hard to perceive the benefits. We take the vitamin C because we believe in the science not because we "feel" the effects. What kind of revolution is this? This is asking alot.

My daughter is the only other member of my family that really feels the effect of the B-vitamin, vitamin C combination on colds. She takes them both and typically experiences her head clearing up within an hour. Yet even she is leery. She had a cold yesterday and went to NYC with friends. She chose against taking the vitamins before she went fearing that she might flush and/or get nauseous. She took the vitamins when she returned in the evening.

The data from my small sample suggests that the very young and the very old tolerate much higher levels of B-complex vitamins. Pauling was introduced to vitamins in old age.

Vitamins present a very tough problem. They are difficult to use, the benefits are seldom easy to perceive, and they really cure. Stopping vitamins rarely causes an ailment to resurface (once cured, 1 RDA of vitamins is typically sufficient to maintain the gain for many years).


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