Recent Noteworthy Books

Several books of likely interest to our readers have recently been published, including Vitamin C & Cancer: Discovery, Recovery, Controversy by Abram Hoffer with Linus Pauling, Vitamin C: How Best to Use It by Stephen Sheffrey, and Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker, edited by Clifford Mead and Thomas Hager.

Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., is a Canadian psychiatrist who, with his colleagues in the 1950s, introduced the adrenochrome hypothesis of schizophrenia. They postulated that a toxic epinephrine metabolite called adrenochrome acts as a hallucinogen that causes schizophrenic disorders, and used large doses of niacin and vitamin C, which may inhibit the formation of adrenochrome, in the treatment of schizophrenia. Dr. Hoffer also introduced the use of niacin as a powerful agent to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. In 1965, Linus Pauling, who had been interested in the biochemical basis of mental illness, came across Hoffer’s book Niacin Therapy in Psychiatry and was astonished to learn that certain vitamins could be used therapeutically in large doses with little if any toxicity. This discovery stimulated Pauling’s introduction of orthomolecular medicine (the right molecules in the right amount) in his seminal 1968 paper, “Orthomolecular Psychiatry”. 

As Hoffer recounts in the preface to Vitamin C & Cancer (Quarry Health Books, Ontario, Canada), he met his old friend Linus Pauling at a festschrift for Dr. Arthur Sackler and told him about the nutritional regimen (niacin, vitamin B6, vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc, and other substances) that he had developed initially for use in treating depression among cancer patients but later extended to all cancer patients. Pauling encouraged Hoffer to collect the patient data and later analyzed it. They published their first paper on a set of 134 cancer patients and their second paper on an additional 170 patients, concluding that about 40% the patients who followed the regimen lived at least five years and 60% survived, on average, about four times longer than controls.

Vitamin C & Cancer provides illuminating sections on the nature of cancer, the biochemical rationale for the therapeutic use of certain micronutrients, and on clinical trials and methodology. Over 50 case histories are succinctly presented, representing patients with lymphomas, leukemia, sarcomas, or cancer of the lung, colon, breast, bladder, kidney, pancreas, uterus, or ovary. Another chapter focuses on the controversial nature of the orthomolecular treatment of cancer. Dr. Zelek Herman, Pauling’s longtime collaborator on problems in quantum chemistry, contributed an appendix on understanding the Hardin Jones biostatistical method, which is intended for scientists but also gives some insight into the flaws of the second Mayo Clinic trial of vitamin C and advanced cancer. In the third appendix, Dr. Hoffer relates his adrenochrome hypothesis to cancer. Vitamin C & Cancer is a stimulating and educational book that presents information in a clear and understandable manner. The author of each section is clearly identified. Even those who consider only the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled methodology compelling may still find this book persuasive.

Vitamin C: How Best to Use It (Stephen Sheffrey, publisher; Ann Arbor, Michigan; available from Barnes & Noble) by Stephen Sheffrey, D.D.S., distills the author’s lengthy review of the literature on the clinical uses of vitamin C. He delves into the controversies surrounding the use of vitamin C for the common cold and cancer from the perspective of an advocate convinced that conventional medicine has had a bias against “low-tech medicine” like vitamins. Anecdotal and clinical evidence, including largely ignored or forgotten provocative studies from the 1930s and 1940s, are discussed in an easy, conversational style. Dr. Sheffrey addresses the recurrent problem of inadequate dosage that is common to many clinical trials of vitamin C. He also reviews the prophylactic or therapeutic utility of vitamin C in a number of diseases and conditions, including asthma, viral hepatitis, gallbladder disease, diabetes, exposure to toxins, and neurological diseases, and provides references to the relevant published scientific studies. A chapter is devoted to side effects and safety and another to the author’s personal experiences with supplemental vitamin C.

Oregon State University Press has recently published Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker, edited by Clifford Mead and Thomas Hager. This unique volume gathers a wide variety of original material by Pauling—much of it never before published—as well as contributions from his contemporaries and students. Publishers Weekly has called the book “a stunning tapestry of Pauling’s life and work . . . [that] brings into focus the life of a scientist passionately dedicated to using the results of his scientific endeavors to bring out the best in the human spirit.” As the editors note in their preface,

    “After enlisting the aid of Pauling biographer Tom Hager as coeditor, Mead decided that the best approach to a valuable and readable centenary volume would be that of a mosaic, modeled on similar works noting the centenaries of Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr published by Harvard University Press. These works were compilations of first-person accounts, historical reminiscences, illustrations, and short anecdotes that together cast a variety of lights on their subjects. This, it was decided, would work better than a narrative biography—which in any case would have been redundant in Pauling’s case, because several biographies already exist.”

The book’s editors are both experts on Pauling’s life and legacy. Clifford Mead is Head of Special Collections at Oregon State University, home of the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers. Tom Hager is the author of the acclaimed biography, Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling.

Last updated May, 2001

Honoring a Scientific Giant with Nutritional Research Toward Longer, Better Lives

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