Paavo Airola - Health Forum - Vegetarian Times - February 1982 Index

What Causes Overweight?

Q. Deep down, I've never really accepted your or other experts' claims that overeating is the cause of overweight. I knew better. I knew that my sister eats twice as much as I do, yet she is never overweight and I have a constant battle trying to fit in the same size dresses. I have finally found the evidence that I 'm right! I've just read a medical report in my morning paper which said that obese people burn their calories slower than normal weight people. The paper says that: "energy used by the red blood cells of very obese people was 22% less than that observed in the red blood cells of normal controls." It seems that this new study proved that some people are born with this genetic metabolic abnormality which actually causes overweight. Overeating has nothing to do with it. What can you say to that? - M.M.P., Wichita, Kansas

A. You are referring to a study by a published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (October 30, 1980). then picked up, sensationalized and distorted by the news-hungry media. It is true that the red blood cells of 21 severely obese people did use 22% less energy than the red blood cells of normal controls. But you, and many others, seem to draw the wrong conclusion from this study: that calories really don't count. Calories still do count! They only count more for some than for others. But this is nothing new. In Everywoman's Book, on page 474, I have written the following: "Persons with a low metabolic rate, so-called 'slow-burners,' can put weight on faster than those who are 'fast burners' on the same amount of calories." Many causes can slow down the metabolic rate: thyroid insufficiency, physical inactivity, overeating, improper food mixing, lack of digestive enzymes, psychological causes, hypoglycemia, diabetes, etc. Even damage to the liver can slow down the conversion of food to energy when the liver is not able to synthesize an adequate amount of energy-producing enzymes.

This latest study must be interpreted with due scientific caution. It only shows the reduced energy used by red blood cells. In order to conclude that there is a basic metabolic difference between obese and normal people, we need more evidence. Reduced energy use must be demonstrated in other body tissues and in other vital processes. It just may be that these grossly obese study subjects had normal red cell energy use before they became obese, but the gross obesity damaged the vital organs and glands involved in energy conversion to the point where it affected the red cell function. The total metabolic story is much more complex than just the energy used by the red blood cells.

I am not trying to minimize the importance of the aforementioned study. But, even if we take it at its face value, all it proves is that there are truly two kinds of people in respect to the use of energy by red blood cells. For those belonging to the low-energy-user group it is even more important to avoid overeating and overconsumption of calories in order to prevent obesity.

Thus, overeating, or excessive dietary calories, is still the number one cause of obesity. This study proves, if anything, that some of us put weight on faster than others on the same amount of calories. But we already knew that. The ultimate secret of reducing - no matter what category of red blood cell typing you belong to - is still consuming fewer calories than the body needs, which, in plain language, mean eating less.

Plant Sources of Vitamin B12

Q. I am a vegetarian. I've read recently that vegetarians risk serious health problems since there is no vitamin B12 in the vegetarian diet. Is this true? - M.M.,

A. No, it is not true. Research by the meat and dairy industries has been slanted. New discoveries show that B12 can be found in numerous non-meat sources, such as olives, mushrooms, bananas, spirulina, bee pollen, concord grapes, sunflower seeds, dates, ginseng, prunes, parsley, watercress, rice polishings, apricots, kelp, blackberries, soybeans, fortified yeast, fresh wheat germ and, of course, milk. Although most vegetable sources are relatively low in B12, nevertheless if a variety of the above-mentioned foods is eaten regularly, the daily requirement of B12 can be safely met, especially if your diet includes milk and milk products. Also, vitamin B12 is manufactured in our intestines by the beneficial bacteria that normally exist in a healthy organism. So if you keep your intestinal tract healthy and eat regularly some of the foods mentioned above, you need not fear that you will develop a B12 deficiency.

Vitamin C in Potatoes

Q. Several books dealing with diet assert the vitamin C content of the potato. As the boiling and baking processes destroy the vitamin C, how is it possible that the vitamin C content of the potato remains intact even if boiled or baked with the skin on? - S.D., Zion, Illinois

A. The vitamin C content of the potato is, indeed, very high. Although some of the vitamin C is lost or destroyed in boiling or baking, most of it still remains in the potato, especially in potatoes which are baked. The content of vitamin C in one boiled, medium-size potato (with the skin on) is 24 mg. - about as much as in a small glass of orange juice! Baked potatoes contain even more vitamin C. Scandinavians, Russians and Germans, who hardly ever eat citrus fruits, but eats lots of cooked potatoes, obtain most of their daily supply of vitamin C from this excellent source.

Interferon: Boon to Mankind or Another Wonder Drug Disaster?

Q. I have been reading so much lately about interferon. It seems to be such a miraculous substance. I have an aunt and a nephew with terminal cancer, and I have what my doctor describes as a "pre-cancerous" condition. I would like to know what you think about interferon and how soon we will get this wonderful-sounding drug. I understand several drug companies are working overtime trying to produce interferon at an affordable price - Mrs. L.W., West Nyack, New York

A. I haven't seen such media hullaballoo about a new drug since the development of synthetic cortisone, the Pill, or the Salk Polio Vaccine. Both the scientific and lay communities are in a continuous state of expectation and euphoria over the much-touted healing prospects of the new wonder drug, interferon. The cancer-panicked public is kept at a fever pitch by the prospect of a drug that all but guarantees a cure for cancer. The giant drug conglomerates foresee unprecedented sales of the drug - as much as $3 billion annually.

What do I think about interferon? I have good news and bad news.

First, interferon is a wonderful substance. It is naturally manufactured in the body. It is a stress and disease resistance factor. It enhances the body's own defensive and healing mechanisms. It is especially effective as a protective factor against cancer. I am talking, of course, about interferon as naturally produced in the body. Once the drug companies produce interferon artificially, it will be a different ball game altogether. I have a vivid memory of the exciting times when cortisone was first synthesized. Cortisone is another naturally-occurring substance, also a stress and resistance factor, that is normally produced in a healthy body. The development of cortisone in pill form was hailed as one of the true milestones in medical progress and a great boon to mankind. It promised miracle cures for everything from skin rashes to arthritis, from stress to premature aging. The euphoria died gradually as unsuspected side effects began to surface. The cure turned out to be worse than the disease in many instances. Today, cortisone is used with great caution because it often creates more problems than it corrects.

If the artificial cortisone discovery was before your time, perhaps you are old enough to remember another, more recent medical wonder discovery: the Pill. It was hailed as a totally natural, completely safe, simple, scientifically proven and effective birth control method. Millions of women believed in the "safety" of the drug until reports of thrombophlebitis, strokes, heart attacks and cancer began to appear. The Pill may soon become just another sad page in the medical history of wonder drugs. Certainly, it is not the wonderful discovery it was once hailed to be. I could go on and on. Many wonder drugs seem to follow the same pattern: penicillin, valium, chemotherapy ....

My advice is: do not set your hopes too high in regard to interferon in a drug form. At present, we know for sure only that:

What we do not know is what side effects it is going to have. I predict that serious side effects will eventually be identified. Some of the side effects will be worse than the disease the drug will be used to combat. And then, after the drug companies have made their kill (literally), and thousands of iatrogenic (doctor- or drug-caused) disease victims are gone, interferon will be all but forgotten, repeating the familiar pattern again. A new wonder drug will surface just in time to ignite the imagination of the greedy pharmaceutical companies and offer still another new hope to long-suffering humanity.

Now the good news!

Your body is a self-protecting, self-healing, self-repairing mechanism. It has an inherent capacity and ability to protect itself from all threats to its health and integrity. It can heal itself from every condition of derangement or illness, and restore health. This healing and defensive mechanism is more effective and far-reaching than anything known to medical science. You must realize (what every doctor knows) that no drug and no treatment of any kind, no vitamin, no diet and no herb ever cures disease. The disease is always cured by the body's own inherent healing mechanism. It behooves the doctor, and you, to support the body's own health-restoring efforts and with all available means: rest, optimal nutrition, relaxation, pure air and water, vitamins and herbs and, occasionally, drugs. And last but not least, with a heavy dose of positive, health-oriented attitude and faith in our Creator that will make healing possible.

Your body, when functioning normally, produces all the interferon that is needed for its defensive and healing activity. However, by optimizing your health - i.e., by raising your general health level with such health-building procedures as improved nutrition, adequate rest, plenty of physical exercise, fresh air and positive attitude - you can help your body to increase its defensive capacity and enhance its immune and healing system.

For example, it is known that vitamin C stimulates production of interferon in the body through natural means. Vitamin C has been used in the treatment of over 2000 terminal cancer patients in Scotland and Japan, with astonishing results. Doctors who treat cancer patients with vitamin C believe that large doses of this vitamin stimulate the body's own production of cancer-fighting interferon. My own view is that not only vitamins, but all health-optimizing procedures mentioned earlier will stimulate the body's production, not only of interferon, but of many other identified and unidentified healing substances that can enhance the body's own defense and healing system.

So, instead of waiting for interferon in drug form, why not start with a do-it-yourself program of optimizing your health and resistance by following the health-building advice offered in this column.