Senior Thesis submitted to Anthony Fink, Ph.D.
for the Comprehensive Requirement in Biology
Do as little as possible to your food
between the ground and the tummy.
The book, Are You Confused?, by Paavo Airola,
was published in 1971. In it the author holds a kind of debate
with himself about many important and controversial issues relating to
food and health. Nutrition is a confusing subject. When I
first saw the title of the book in 1976, I said to myself, “Yes,
I am confused.”
In the forward to the government publication,
Dietary Goals for the United States, Senator George McGovern
Are You Confused? changed not only my diet but my
life as well. It began the series of changes that resulted in my
returning to school to study biology and chemistry in preparation
for entrance to graduate school in nutrition. It seems appropriate
to satisfy the comprehensive requirement for my B.A. in biology
by writing a Senior Essay on a topic related to nutrition.
The primary purpose of this report is to point out that the
eating patterns of this century represent as critical a public
health concern as any now before us.
We must acknowledge and recognize that the public is confused
about what to eat to maximize health.
Paavo Airola has a Ph. D. in biochemistry and an N.D. - a degree
in naturopathy. The style of Are You Confused?
(abbreviated hence AYC) reflects his education. It is a very
persuasive combination of scientific evidence, common sense, and
natural wisdom. The book is not a scientific treatise that proves
everything it says. Dr. Airola wrote: (AYC pg. 13)
Because of space limitations and the desire to make this
a short and easily read book, the presentation in this work
is free from the usual references. I could have easily filled
25 pages or more with various references to substantiate every
claim made. Those readers who are impressed by such voluminous
references I advise to read my other works, which are richly
documented, ... They contain the documented sources of scientific
references for most of the claims presented in this book.
His other works are not richly documented.
The aim of this essay is to search for “scientific” evidence
for the following questions about nutrition that were presented
These 7 were chosen for no good reason. AYC has a controversial
statement on almost every page!
- What are the consequences of eating too much protein?
- After heavy sweating do we need to replace the salt that was lost?
- How harmful are heated fats and oils?
- How harmful is the substance, solanine, that develops in potatoes exposed to light?
- What are the consequences of the pasteurization and homogenization of milk?
- Are vegetarians healthier?
- Does juice fasting and a lacto-vegetarian diet help arthritis?
Each section will have 4 parts:
I hasten to say that my search for evidence was not complete
or exhaustive. I simply present what I found given the limited
time and resources I had. The main sources I used were the standard
reference work, Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease,
and the journal articles listed in Cumulative Index Medicus
from 1974 to the present.
- What Airola said about the issue.
- The evidence I found - in favor and against.
- Conclusions - was there enough evidence?
Before treating the 7 controversial topics in nutrition I thought
it relevant to discuss “certainty”. How sure can we be?
Since absolute truth is rarely, if ever, possible, how sure
should we be before making a conclusion?
Airola, P. O. (1971) Are You Confused?
Health Plus Publishers,
Airola, P. O. (1968) There is a Cure for Arthritis Parker
Publishing Company, Inc., West Nyack, NY
Goodhart, R. S. and Shils, M. B. (1973) Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 5th edition, Lei and Feibiger, London
U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs (1977)
Dietary Goals for the United States 1st edition
From AYC pg 21:
Medicine and nutrition are not exact sciences. Medicine is an art
more than a science. When any given drug, vitamin, or food
brings about a different reaction in each individual,
you can not talk about exact science. Scholastic dogmatism
in the area of human nutrition, scientifically rigid adherence to a principle
or tenet, without taking the varied and changeable human element
into consideration, can only result in pseudo-science and confusion.
Even with the best science (uninfluenced by commercial motives and
personal prejudice) there is a limit to the “surety” of our knowledge.
McMullin (1981) has some important comments about this:
McMullin ends by quoting Aristotle:
... since it is inappropriate to demand certainty of a properly
scientific claim, an assertion that is expressly hypothetical
in character must not, on these grounds alone, be treated
as though it were somehow lacking in proper scientific status.
... since commercial interests are always deeply involved in
patterns of food consumption, spokesman for the threatened
interests will inevitably remind us that the supposed hazard
has not really been proved. The implication is that a
proof, an incontrovertible theoretical account of the processes
involved, can properly be demanded of anyone who would seek to
use science for the guidance of action. This is wrong, of course,
but it can be very persuasive.
It is the mark of an educated person to look for precision in
each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject permits.
When the U.S. government published the “Dietary Guidelines” the issue
of certainty in nutritional science was raised. Harper (1981) quotes
C. T. Foreman, the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture:
We could have awaited unanimity, instead of accepting consensus [before
publishing the guidelines]. We could also have waited for the millenium
to dawn, for the cows to come home, and for the moon to be made of green cheese.
In “Dietary Goals”, the respected Dr D. M. Hegsted, professor of
nutrition at Harvard, said:
There will undoubtably be many people who will say that we have not
proven our point; we have not demonstrated that the dietary modifications
we recommend will yield the dividends expected. We would point out to
these people that the diet we eat today was not planned or developed
for any particular purpose. It is a happenstance related to our affluence,
the productivity of our farmers, and the activities of our food industry.
The question to be asked, therefore, is not why should we change our diet,
but why not?
All of these quotations speak very eloquently.
Even if scientists did all agree and could prove that a
certain element of diet were harmful or beneficial, most people would
still simply eat what they want. The healthfulness of a certain food
item is usually the last thing considered. Custom, habit,
social pressure, and psychological needs are very powerful influences.
There are many people, however, who are curious and are
willing to change. For them, science and government have an obligation
to provide the best available knowledge, certain or not.
Is everything published in an accepted, refereed scientific journal
true? Even a cursory glance a the history of science
will force one to answer, “Of course not!” How, then, is one to recognize
truth? How to recognize “bad science”? These are hard questions, far beyond
the scope of this little essay. I will simply note two fallacious tendencies
that I felt as I was searching through those innumerable references:
- A paper published in 1984 has more claim to truth than
one published in 1964.
- Papers in English are more trustworthy than those in a foreign language.
Harper, A. E. (1981) “Human Nutrition - Its Scientific Basis”
Nutrition in the 1980's: Constraints on our Knowledge
Alan R. Liss, Inc., New York, pgs. 15-28
McMullin, E. (1981) “Certainty: The Elusive Goal” Ibid pgs. 3-14
U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs (1977)
Dietary Goals for the United States 1st edition
What are the consequences of eating too much protein?
From AYC pg 31:
In his book on hypoglycemia (pg 78), Airola said:
... too much protein in your diet can cause:
- Toxic residue in the tissues ...
- Biochemical imbalance in tissues and resultant over-acidity
- Accumulation of uric acid, urea, and toxic purines in the tissues
- Diminished strength and endurance ...
- Intestinal putrefaction and resultant constipation and autotoxemia
- Vitamin B6 deficiency
- Arteriosclerosis, heart disease and kidney disease
A good rule to follow in regard to protein is: enough but not too much.
We are so brainwashed by two decades of protein oriented propaganda
that although we readily accept the fact that too much fat is harmful
(although fat is vital in human nutrition), that too much carbohydrate
is harmful (although carbohydrates certainly are important), and that
too much of anything is not good, we have an almost allergic
resistance to the mere suggestion that too much protein, also, can be harmful.
I didn't find very much about this. Some references were unavailable.
Many of the references in Airola's book on hypoglycemia were in a foreign
In Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease the authors
first state these facts (pgs. 57-58):
Giving examples of Arctic explorers who lived for years mainly
on meat, they conclude that “normal adults seem able to tolerate
a protein intake far above actual requirements”. Infants and children,
they say, do not do well on diets containing large amounts of protein.
Citing a reference I was unable to get (Albanese and Orto 1963),
they describe the “protein overload effect”:
- the utilization of dietary amino acids for protein synthesis
is limited by the actual requirements of the body for growth
- protein cannot be stored in appreciable quantities - excess
amino acids are simply further metabolized.
- it is not economical to feed relatively expensive high protein
foods in abnormally high quantities.
Consumption of protein over and above the usual levels,
namely 15% of the total caloric intake, can lead to increased
water requirements and increased levels of end products of protein
metabolism in the bloodstream. ... Excessive ingestion of protein
may lead to fluid imbalances.
Apparently at one time it was thought that excessive protein intake
would lead to hypertension, febrile disease, and kidney or liver
disease. The authors (in Modern Nutrition) point out,
though, that “these ideas have been abandoned”. They continue to say:
On the other hand, this should not be regarded as an indication
for feeding excessive amounts of protein. There is no wisdom in
prolonged feeding of diets containing more protein than
20% of the total caloric intake.
With so little evidence to draw on, I can't conclude very much.
Airola listed 8 consequences of excessive protein. The first 3
related to toxic residues seemed to be supported. The last 3
about various disease processes would appear to be pretty flimsy.
High levels of protein in the diet would probably imply a high level
of fat and a low level of fiber and carbohydrate. This shifted balance
could lead to various diseases that would not be attributable to
the high level of protein alone.
Airola, P. O. (1977) Hypoglycemia: A Better Approach
Health Plus Publishers, Phoenix, Arizona
Albanese, A. A. and Orto, L. A. (1963) Newer Methods in Nutritional Biochemistry Academic Press, New York, pgs. 1-112
Goodhart, R. S. and Shils, M. E. (1973) Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 5th edition, Lei and Feibiger, London
After heavy sweating do we need to replace the salt that was lost?
From AYC pg 191:
To say that your body loses salt, which it needs
, with sweat,
is to display total ignorance of the body's inherent wisdom.
The truth is, in fact, exactly the opposite: your body uses
perspiration as a welcome opportunity to get rid of the undesirable,
toxic salt from its tissues
. To replace this salt, after your
body has succeeded in excreting it with perspiration is to do
your body a great disservice. ...
Your body does not need salt to perspire; it can perspire
without it. I haven't used any salt to speak of for twenty-five
years. I exercise and work very hard, run several miles each day,
use a sauna once or twice a week - and sweat profusely.
Often I spend several months in tropical heat and perspire
gallons of water each day. My perspiration has no salty taste,
and I have never experienced symptoms of salt deficiency. On
occasions when I consumed salt unknowingly, however, I could
taste it the next day in my perspiration.
I found 4 papers and 2 books related to this topic but none
directly addressed the question.
The mechanism of sweating was explained in the paper by Dobson
and Sato (1972). In the eccrine sweat gland there is the Na-K-ATPase
which pumps sodium into the intercellular canaliculus.
The resulting osmotic gradient induces a water flow (sweat) across
the cell from the extracellular fluid to restore osmotic equilibrium.
This implies that the sodium content of the plasma and sweat will be
equal. This model is confirmed by the fact that oubain, a specific
inhibitor of Na-K-ATPase inhibits sweating completely.
Cage et. al. (1970) studied the effects of ingestion of large amounts
of water on the sweat rate and sweat composition. Drinking 3 liters
of water greatly increased the sweat rate but had no independent direct
effect on the concentration of sodium in the sweat. Increasing amounts
of water did increase the sodium concentration but no more that would
be expected through increasing the sweat rate by increasing the
Allan and Wilson (1971) found that sweat sodium concentration
increases with sweat rate and decreases with heat acclimatization.
To explain the latter they discuss the fact that sodium is reabsorbed
from sweat as it passes down the sweat duct. This reabsorption has a
maximal rate which is increased by heat acclimatization.
If the previous two papers were somewhat confusing, that by Ohara et. al.
(1974) was more so. These physiologists put people through the
strangest things and measure everything they can. Then they try to
relate everything to everything! The title of the paper looked
promising but I couldn't make heads or tails out of their conclusions.
Of the two books, The Hunger for Salt gave the most relevant
information. By devoting several hundred pages to it the authors
reminded me of the role that habit and taste play in how much salt
people prefer in their food. The minimal need for sodium is about
1 gram a day or less. That people use it in great excess of this implies
that there are many other factors to consider beyond physiology. The
book quotes Lapicquez:
The explanation of the use of salt is that it should be considered
as a condiment and not a food. It is a substance agreeable and at
the same time useful because of its action on the senses but
not a substance necessary for the continued supplementation of the body.
The symptoms of sodium deficiency include:
Two other things I gleaned from this book were the concepts of
sodium balance and sodium status. One is in sodium balance if the amount
of sodium ingested is balanced by the amount excreted (in urine,
feces, or sweat). This equilibrium is maintained in northern Japan where
the intake is 500-600 mmole/day and also in Brazil where the
Yanomamo Indians consume 2-10 mmole per day. These two populations
are both in sodium balance but have a greatly different sodium status.
In certain individuals and under certain conditions of sodium overload
the body cannot excrete all the sodium that was ingested.
When the plasma concentration of sodium reaches a certain point
the body takes steps to reduce it by increasing the blood volume
and eventually the blood pressure. The alternative is to store
the excess sodium in the tissues. To do so it must first
be diluted sufficiently with water and this leads to edema.
This is a simplistic explanation of complex physiological events
but it should suffice.
- weight loss
- acid-base balance changes
- languor, weakness, cramps
- changed taste sensations
- blood volume and eventually blood pressure decrease
Airola was wrong when he said that “we don't need sodium to perspire”.
Sweating depends on the action of the enzyme Na-K-ATPase. We do need
sodium to perspire and this can usually be supplied by the sodium in
foods without added salt.
Salt is not “lost” when we perspire unless one also considers that
water is lost when we urinate. That's how the body works! We should
trust its wisdom.
Sodium is reabsorbed by the sweat glands so that there is a recycling effect.
Since plasma and sweat have the same sodium concentration one can conclude
that sweating would have a more efficient cooling effect if the sodium
concentration were as low as possible. For each mole of sodium
pumped out, more water would be excreted thus giving more cooling power.
The story that Dr. Airola told about his perspiration tasting salty
after unknowingly consuming salt is pretty convincing. It merely shows
that his sodium status was very low and that on consuming excess salt
he excreted it (through sweating). His urine would probably have tasted
A final point: what is excessive sweating? When the body is put under
abnormal heat stresses and the sweating response is insufficient to cool
the body, then one could probably say that the excreted salt would need
to be “replaced” - the body was pushed beyond it limit.
Rather than regularly taking salt tablets it would be wiser to avoid
the extreme stresses in the first place.
Allan, J. R. and Wilson, C. G. (1971) “Influence of acclimatization on sweat
sodium concentration” Journal of Applied Physiology
Cage, G. W., Wolfe, S. M., Thompson, B. H. and Gordon, R. S. Jr. (1970)
“Effects of water intake on composition of thermal sweat in normal
human volunteers” Journal of Applied Physiology 29(15): 687-690
Denton, D. (1982) The Hunger for Salt Springer-Verlag, London
Dobson, R. L. and Sato, K. (1972) “The secretion of salt and water by the
ecrine sweat gland” Archives of Dermatology 105:366-370
Fitzsimons, J. T. (1970) The Physiology of Thirst and Sodium Appetite
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Ohara, K., Sato, H. and Takaba, S. (1974) “Correlative relationships of
response patterns between body temperature, sweat rate, and sodium
concentration in sweat during heat exposure in man” Japanese Journal of
How harmful are heated fats and oils?
From AYC pg 97:
... besides altering the odor and flavor in oils and foods,
the products of oxidation which cause rancidity are detrimental to health:
- The digestion of oils by pancreatic enzymes is clearly
retarded by rancidity. The body cannot effectively digest
or assimilate rancid oils.
- Animal studies show that the products of oxidation in
flaxseed oils are found to be lethal to rats.
- Oxidation destroys vitamins E, F, A, and carotene in the oil.
- Eating rancid oils or rancid foods causes destruction of
vitamins E, A, and F stored in the body, or supplied with other
foods, thus causing nutritional deficiencies.
- Rancid oils can irritate stomach and bowel linings and cause
acute and chronic disorders.
- Rancid oils can cause cancer. In one study every rat
fed a sample of rancid wheat germ oil developed malignant tumors.
A very recent review by Bruce Ames in Science (1983) and the responses
that it generated show that the issue of rancid fats is still
very much alive. Ames said,
... the amount of ingested oxidized fat my be appreciable.
Unsaturated fatty acids and cholesterol in fat are easily
oxidize, particularly during cooking. The lipid peroxidation
chain reaction (rancidity) yields a variety of mutagens,
promoters, and carcinogens. ... The colon and digestive tract
are exposed to a variety of fat-derived carcinogens.
In response to Ames, Hunter (1984) stated:
There are no direct estimates of the amount of oxidized fat
ingested by humans, and it is well recognized that the unpalatable
nature of rancid fats precludes their ingestion in significant
Ames (1984) rebutted:
Hunter cited a study in which
Appreciable amounts of lipid oxidation products may be found
in palatable food. For example, Tsai et. al. have found significant
amounts of cholesterol expoxide in commercial dried eggs, ...
each averaging about 20 ppm although some samples reached
8 times this.
Even a small amount of oxidation which could be found
commonly in cooking oil in restaurants and in fat would
represent a level of 1200 ppm.
animals consuming used frying fats as the sole source of fat
in the diet throughout their life-span thrived as well as control
animals consuming the same fat that had not been subjected to
It should be noted that Hunter is employed by the Institute
of Shortening and Edible Oils.
To understand the rancidity reaction I looked at the very extensive
review by Artman (1969). He begins his 80 page review like so:
The central question to which this review is directed is
this: “Are fats that have been heated in cooking harmful to
people who consume them?” The weight of available evidence answers
this question with a strong 'No' But since direct
experimentation relative to this question is impossible, investigators
have used many different, indirect approaches and have come up with
quite disparate results, conclusions, and implications.
Rancidity occurs via these steps.
Exposure to air causes antioxidants to be consumed and free
radicals (R) are formed. Light and the presence of transition
metals accelerates this process.
The kinetics and mechanism of these reactions has been well studied.
The length of the induction period is shortened by and the rate of
oxidation is increased by: increases in temperature, irradiation,
increasing surface to volume ratio, and increasing unsaturation of
the fatty acids. Once the hydroperoxides have been formed, a host
of other secondary oxidation products ensue.
Artman goes on to cite an endless number of studies of feeding
heated and oxidized fats and oils to rats. The results of the studies
varied widely as did the kind of lipid used and the degree to which
it was abused. It's hard to conclude anything. Ames (1984) simply said,
Rodent feeding studies with oxidized fat have not yielded definitive
4 recent papers were found related to this topic. McMurray and Rice (1981)
state that it is important
... to ensure that unsaturated fatty acids are used correctly.
Molecular damage resulting from peroxidative pathways can
result in alteration in lipids (membranes), proteins (enzyme activity)
and nucleic acids. This gives considerable potential for both short
and long term pathogenic processes. Thus, where the consumption
of unsaturated fatty acids occurs and especially where their use
is actively encouraged, care must be exercised to ensure that
tissue peroxidation is not an extremely unpleasant sequel. Vitamin E
and selenium dietary intake levels must be adequate to ensure
that this is not the case.
Alexander (1977) fed rats a variety of oxidized fats and did
histopathological evaluation of the heart, liver, and kidney
tissues. He observed cellular damage including pyknosis,
vacuolization of the cytoplasm, and mitotic aberrations. He concludes:
It is obvious that the thermally oxidized fats were more damaging
to the organs of the rats than the fresh fats.
Chang et. al. (1977) did a survey of fats actually used in
commercial frying operations. They also did an extensive
fractionation and identification of the volatile decomposition
products of 4 fats and found a total of 211 different compounds!
There is no doubt that overused or highly abused frying oil
contains oxidized and polymerized materials which are harmful
to human health. ... A quick, simple, and dependable test must
be deveoped to allow those who conduct deep fat frying to determine
the point at which a batch of frying oil must be discarded.
Billek (1979) analyzed the effects of heated sunflower oil
on rats and estimated the point at which such oil would be
harmful to humans.
If I had only read the review by Artman I would have thought
that Airola was exaggerating the harmful effects of rancid oils.
Artman's review was 15 years ago and the question is still being
actively debated and studied. It seems wise to exercise caution.
Airola recommends using only sesame and olive oil as these
have special factors to retard rancidity. He describes a kind
of “water frying” where oil is put on top of a sheet of boiling water
and this used to saute until the water is gone. This prevents
the oil from being heated over 100° C. For baking purposes
he recommends butter over oil. These practices
are simple to follow. In the words of former president, Jimmy Carter,
Why not the best?
Alexander, J. C. (1977) “Biological effects due to changes in fats
during heating” Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society
Ames, B. N. (1983) “Dietary carcinogens and anti-carcinogens: Oxygen
radicals and degenerative disease” Science 221:1256-1264
Ames, B. N. (1984) Letter to editor Science 224:759-760
Artman, N. R. (1969) “The chemical and biological properties
of heated and oxidized fats” Advances in Lipid Research Academic
Press, New York pgs. 245-330
Billek, G. (1979) “Heated oils - chemistry and nutritional aspects”
Nutrition and Metabolism 24 (supplement 1):200-210
Chang, S. S., Peterson, R. J. and Chi-Tang, H. (1978) “Chemical
reactions involved in the deep fat frying of foods” Journal
of the Americal Oil Chemists' Society 55:718-727
Hunter, E. J. (1984) Letter to the editor Science 224:659-660
How harmful is the substance solanine that develops in potatoes exposed to light?
In The Airola Diet and Cookbook (pg 35), but not in AYC,
Airola describes the many virtues of potatoes and goes on to say:
Watch out for solanine, a highly toxic chemical which
develops in potatoes when they are exposed to light. ... Solanine
can be present in harmful quantities long before
the development of a detectable tell-tale green color. ...
Solanine is located in the skin, under the skin, and also in the “eyes”
of the potato.
Ames (1983) mentioned solanine in his paper and pointed to
the exhaustive review of solanine by Jadhav et. al. (1981).
This study is 80 pages long with 250 references! I was really
blown away by the magnitude of the research into this one topic.
Most people don't know anything about solanine. From this
review I will extract 5 things - the structure of solanine,
its distribution in the plant, conditions which encourage
its development, its toxicity, and its physiological purpose.
Solanine is only one of many glycoalkaloids found in potatoes.
Alpha solanine is the major one and has this structure:
Solanine is present in most tissues of the plant.
In the tubers it is concentrated in the peels and sprouts and around the eyes.
The concentration is arranged in a descending gradient from the outside inward.
Little or none is found in the pith and only small amounts
in the intermediate region.
Solanine can form when potatoes are exposed to light.
Such exposure also induces “greening” that indicates that chlorophyll
has formed. The formation of chlorophyll parallels that of solanine but
it actually independent from it. In different cultivars solanine content
can range from 1.8 to 25mg/100g of fresh tissue. One study found a cultivar,
Katahdin, which, although greening the least, contained the maximum
amount of glycoalkaloids (88mg/100g of peel). Solanine content
can be affected by soil, climate, environment, maturity, storage temperature,
and physical stresses.
Jahdev et. al. tell several stories about the toxicity of solanine.
The most recent one was in 1979 in England where 78 school children
were served (accidentally, of course) potatoes containing 33m/100g of
glycoalkaloids. 17 required hospitalization some for nearly a week.
The episode serves as a reminder that in spite of the usual
care taken to provide a toxicity-free meal, incidences of poisoning
from potatoes high in alkaloid content was possible, even in modern times.
Ames states that >20mg/100g of glycoalkaloids is a toxic level
for man. Solanine is toxic because of it anticholinesterase
activity and possible teratogenicity.
Potatoes develop solanine because it gives the plant disease and
insect resistance. Ames (1984) concludes:
Plants have been devising nasty chemicals to kill of insects
and animals throughout all of evolution. There is not reason
to think nature is any more benign than man.
Airola is right. Potatoes can be a dangerous food if they aren't
stored properly. He doesn't suggest eliminating them from the diet
but his advice to be aware seems wise.
My mother always peels potatoes before she cooks them.
I thought this wrong because of the loss of vitamins and minerals
from the skin. In view of the higher concentration of solanine in
the peel I now see that this wasn't so dumb after all. The advice
she was following from The Joy of Cooking may have been an example
of “natural wisdom”.
To the objections of those who say that the small amount of solanine
in potatoes cannot have much effect, I quote Ovid:
Add little to little and there will be a big pile.
Airola, P. O. (1981) The Airola Diet and Cookbook
Publishers, Phoenix, Arizona
Ames, B. N. (1983) “Dietary carcinogens and anti-carcinogens”
Ames, B. N. (1984) Letter to editor Science 224:668-669, 759-760
Jahdav, S. J., Sharma, R. P. and Salunkha, D. K. (1981) “Naturally
occurring toxic alkaloids in foods” CRC Critical Reviews in
The propoganda from Alta-Dena emphasized that the sanitary standards
they follow are much stricter than those dairies producing pasteurized milk.
They did not say that their milk was freer of toxic contaminants such
as antibiotics, pesticides, or detergents.
I think Airola is right in this case. The evidence supports him. If
the price difference between “normal” milk and raw certified milk
is not too much, it's clear, raw milk is better.
Does juice fasting and a lacto-vegetarian diet help arthritis?
Airola wrote a whole book entitled, There IS a Cure for Arthritis (1968), on how
arthritis is treated with juice fasting and a lacto-vegetarian diet in numerous
clinics in Europe. He did not claim it was an instant cure nor an easy one
but did make one aware that there was indeed some promise in that direction.
The paper by Skoldstam et. al. (1979) caught my eye as I was flipping
through the Index Medicus. The research was done because of the
increasing interest in Sweden about the effects of juice fasting and lacto-vegetarian
diet. The orthodox medical community was moved to action by the “faddist
Skoldstam et. al. tried to imitate the practice of the “health farms” -
this included fasting for 7 to 10 days using juices, teas, and a vegetable
bouillon followed by a lacto-vegetarian diet for 9 weeks.
Prior to fasting a purgative of castor oil was given and during fasting
water enemas were used twice daily. This is very different from the
orthodox drug therapy!
The results were interesting but not conclusive:
An aside: do all journal articles end with the refrain, “further
investigation is needed”?
... fasting brings temporary improvement to patients with rheumatoid
arthritis. The most striking effect was the feeling of reduced pain
and stiffness reported by most patients; an impression which was
strengthened by the significant reduction in average drug intake
by the fasting group.
... In only one patient did improvement persist after 9 weeks of the diet.
... The beneficial effecs of fasting for 10 days are not long lasting,
and would seem to be an insignificant gain with regard to the
chronic character of RA.
... We believe our findings are of interest, but that they
need to be confirmed by further investigation.`
The results of the study weren't too convincing. Airola would
probably say that the fasting and diet would need to be continued over a
longer period for the lasting effects to be gained. In his book (pg. 92)
he describes one woman who achieved a complete and lasting cure of
her “incurable” arthritis but only after 2 years
of periodic fasting and diet and various treatments. He emphasized that
“it takes time”.
As I scanned through the Index Medicus I noticed that foreign
countries do a different “style” of research. I saw that research
on fasting was mainly done in Germany and Russia but no where else.
Interesting. To what extent do scientists learn from each other?
How much interest is there in what other nations are doing?
Is there a certain provincialism even in science?
Dr. Airola is an international citizen. He was born in Finland,
educated in Sweden, England, and Russia, is a Canadian citizen,
lives in Phoenix, and works in Mexico.
The study by Skoldstam et. al. was supported by a grant from the
Swedish National Association Against Rheumatism. Would the corresponding
organization in the U.S. have supported such a study?
Airola, P. O. (1983) There IS a Cure for Arthritis
Company, Inc., West Nyack, NY
Skoldstam, L.; Larsson, L. and Lindstrom, F. D. (1979)
“Effects of fasting and lacto-vegetarian diet on rheumatoid
arthritis” Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology 8:249-255
Are vegetarians healthier?
In AYC pg 34-35:
He goes on to give many examples of healthy vegetarian or near-vegetarian
cultures around the world.
Some popular health writers will tell you that meat eaters
are healthier than vegetarians. Haven't they ever met Seventh-Day
Adventists? There are a million of them, mostly living right here
in the United States. Seventh-Day Adventists supply grand scale
scientific evidence supporting the low-animal protein diet.
A recent study conducted by several medical doctors, show
that Seventh-Day Adventists, who do not eat meat for religious
- 40% less coronary disease
- 400% less death rate from respiratory diseases
- 100% lower mortality from all causes
- 1000% lower death rate from lung cancer
- 50% less dental caries among their children
... The above is an extraordinarily remarkable scientific
study made by reputable medical men and reported in the Journal
of the American Medical Association which shows that a large
group of people, who live in the United States under seemingly
the same conditions as the rest of us, but do not eat meat
have such superior health compared to the rest of Americans!
There is no better way than the empirical way to prove
any nutritional theory. If one can put the theory into practive
and see what results if has produced through the centuries, even
milleniums, of actual application - then it is worth more than
bookshelves of scientific reasoning and laboratory proofs.
It was easy to find studies on vegetarians.
I will briefly indicate the main findings from the 16 papers I chose.
The first one (Lemon and Walden 1966) is the one quoted by Airola
in the excerpt above. It is a study about respiratory system disease
and its relation to smoking. It makes no mention of diet.
It is a remarkable study and speaks well for the Seventh-Day
Adventist (SDA) lifestyle but one can't draw any conclusion
Phillips observes that
... cancer mortality rates in SDAs are 50 to 70% of general
population rates for most cancer sites that are unrelated to
smoking and drinking.
He studied the existing data and suggested that “the apparent
reduced risk of cancer death in all Adventists may be due to
selective factors related to who chooses to become and remain
a SDA.” He studies colon cancer specifically, however, and concluded
that the “lacto-vegetarianian diet may protect against colon cancer.”
Armstrong et. al. (1977) studies blood pressure in SDAs. He noted
a significant difference between the SDAs (128/76) and the control
group (139/84) and made an extensive discussion of what factors
could be responsible. SDAs differed from the control group
in many ways other than their diet.
Goldberg et. al. (1976) studies the fecal microflora of SDAs and a
control group and found no statistically significant differences.
Kinlen et. al. (1983) did a proportionate study of cancer
mortality among members of a vegetarian society in England.
This type of study will only show what vegetarians are likely
to die of, not whether they are healthier. The only major disease
group to show a reduced proportion of deaths was respiratory disease
which is consistent with the evidence that vegetarians smoke less
than the average.
Rouse et. al. (1983a, b) studied blood pressure on a vegetarian
diet. This was a well designed study. It seems best to simply
quote the abstract in full:
59 healthy, omnivorous subjects aged 25-63 years were randomly
allocated to a control group, which ate an omnivorous diet for
14 weeks, or to one of two experimental groups, whose members
ate an omnivorous diet for the first 2 weeks and a lacto-ovo-vegetarian
diet for one of two 6-week experimental periods.
Mean systolic and diastolic blood pressures did not change in the
control group but fell significantly in both experimental groups
during the vegetarian diet and rose significantly in the
experimental group which reverted to the omnivorous diet.
Adjustment of the blood-pressure changes for age, obesity,
heart rate, weight change, and blood pressure before dietary
change indicated a diet-related fall of some 5-6 mm
Hg systolic and 2-3 mm Hg diastolic. Although the nutrient(s)
causing these blood-pressure changes are unknown, the effects
were apparently not mediated by changes in sodium or potassium
Dwyer et. al. (1980b) studies the intelligence of vegetarian children
and found that they had mental ages over a year beyond their
cronological age (61.6 vs 49.1 months). They comment:
No matter what type of diet they eat, educated parents
are likely to have bright children, provided that basic nutrient
needs are met. Therefore, it is unlikely that the omnivores
and beef-eaters of the world would need to worry that this
particular aspect of their life styles is doing violence
to their children's I.Q.
Dywer et. al. (1978, 1980a) studied vegetarian preschool children
and found them to be shorter, lighter, and leaner than their
Graves et. al. (1980) studied bone mineral mass in vegetarian and omnivore
women aged 30-60. They compared their results with a similar
study of women aged 60-90 and concluded that:
A lacto-vegetarian diet may be beneficial in extended
protective health care in terms of defense against, or control of,
bone mineral loss in the later years of a woman's life.
Harland and Peterson (1978) examined the nutritional status of
a community of Trappist monks and found nothing remarkable except
that they needed a little nutrition education.
Began and Brown (1980) studied “new” vegetarians. They found
that they were “extremely lean” and that their nutritional status was
acceptable with respect to most nutrients.
Register and Sonnenberg (1973) review the literature on vegetarianism
and conclude that “a well planned vegetarian diet (with or without
milk or eggs) can easily supply sufficient amounts of all known
This was established 30 years ago by Hardinge and Stare (1954)
and I find it curious that it is still being written about. On
obtaining sufficient protein they quote Hegsted:
It is difficult to obtain a mixed vegetable diet which will
produce an appreciable loss of body protein without resorting
to high levels of sugar, jams, jellies, and other essentially
This sounds like something Airola said in AYC (pg 33):
It is virtually impossible to not get enough protein in your
diet provided you have enough to eat of natural, unrefined foods.
The proponents of a high protein meat diet often refer to the
big-bellied, starved African children as an example of protein
deficiency. These children suffer from protein deficiency
not because they eat a protein-deficienct diet, but because
they are starving.
In 1980 the American Dietetic Association issued a “position paper”
on the vegetarian approach to eating. It is a very good review
of the types of vegetarians, the sufficiency of well planned diets,
and the times when more attention needs to be given to the diet
(pregnancy, lactation, childhood). Two quotes from this paper:
Many omnivore diets fail for one reason or another to provide
nutrient intakes which are likely to result in satisfactory
nutrient status. Any evaluation of vegetarian diets must be made
within this overall perspective.
The ADA recognizes that a growing body of scientific evidence
supports a positive relationship between the consumption
of a plant-based dietary and the prevention of certain diseases.
It is recognized that this relationship has been established,
in the main, from animal experimentation and epidemiologic
The ADA encourages scientifically controlled, long-term, prospective
follow-up studies which should provide more conclusive evidence.
All of these studies agree that a well-planned vegetarian diet is
possible - that people can choose to follow such a diet
and remain healthy. Many of the studies indicate that the diet may
be associated with lower incidence of certain diseases - heart disease,
cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, dental caries, etc. As is usual in
such relationships, there are doubts about exactly what factors
are involved - it may not be the vegetarian diet per se but the lower
overall fat or increased fiber.
Airola was right but he could have been more accurate in his
quoting of the JAMA study of Seventh-Day Adventists.
American Dietetic Association (1980) “Position paper on the vegetarian
approach to eating” Journal of the American Dietetic Association
Armstrong, B.; Van Merwyk, A.J.; and Coates, H. (1977) “Blood pressure
in Seventh Day Adventist vegetarians” American Journal of Epidemiology
Bergan, J. G. and Brown, P. T. (1980) “Nutritional status of 'new'
vegetarians” JADA 76:151-155
Burch, P. R. J. (1983) Letter to editor Lancet September 24:743
Dwyer, J. T.; Palombo, R.; Thorne, H.; Valadian, I.; and Reed, R. B.
(1978) “Preschoolers on alternate life-style diets” JADA 72:264-270
Dwyer, J. T.; Andrew E. M.; Valadian, I.; and Reed, R. B. (1980a) “Size,
obesity, and leanness in vegetarian preschool children” JADA 77:434-439
Dwyer, J. T.; Miller, L. G.; Arduino, N. I.; Andrew, E. M.; Dietz, W. H.;
Reed, J.; and Reed, H. B. C. Jr. (1980b) “Mental Age and I.Q. of
predominantly vegetarian school children” JADA 76:142-147
Freeland-Graves, J. H.; Bodzy, P. W.; and Eppright, M. A. (1980)
“Zinc status of vegetarians” JADA 77:655-661
Goldberg, M. J.; Smith, J. W.; and Nichols, R. L. (1976) “Comparison
of the fecal microflora of Seventh Day Adventists with individuals
consuming a general diet” Annals of Surgery 186(1):97-100
Hardinge, M. G. and Stare, F. J. (1954) “Nutritional studies of
vegetarians” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2:73-94
Harland, B. F. and Patterson, M. (1978) “Nutritional status
of lacto-ovo-vegetarian Trappist monks” JADA 72:259-264
Kinlen, L. J.; Hermon, C.; and Smith, R. G. (1983) “A proportionate
study of cancer mortality among members of a vegetarian society”
British Journal of Cancer 48:355-361
Lemon, F. R. and Walden, R. T. (1966) “Death from respiratory
system disease among Seventh Day Adventist men” Journal of the
American Medical Association 198(2):117-126
Marsh, A G., Sanchez, T. V.; Mickelson, O.; Keiser, J.; and
Mayor, G. (1980) “Cortical bone density of adult lacto-vegetarian
and omnivorous women” JADA 76:148-151
Phillips, R. L. (1975) “Role of life-style and dietary habits
in risk of cancer among Seventh Day Adventists” Cancer Research
Register, U. D. and Sonnenberg, L. M. (1973) “The vegetarian diet”
Rouse, I. L.; Beilin, L. J.; Armstrong, B. K.; and Vandogen, R. (1983a)
“Blood-pressure-lowering effect of a vegetarian diet: controlled
trial in normotensive subjects” Lancet January 1:5-8
Rouse, I. L.; Beilin, L. J.; Mahoney, D. P.; Margetts, B. M.;
Armstrong, B. K.; and Vandogen, R. (1983b) Letter to the editor
Lancet September 24:742-743
I chose 7 controversial topics in nutrition from the book
Are You Confused?, by Paavo Airola, and did a literature search
to see if these statements could be scientifically justified.
In general I found that, yes, there was some scientific
justification for all of them. None of the issues has been
decided absolutely nor will everyone agree on the importance
of the findings.
Dr. Airola did exaggerate and make some statements that were
beyond what reason might allow. He was very uncompromising
and insisted on the best. At the same time he urged moderation,
common sense, and always discouraged fanaticism. I am reminded
of something Beethoven once said, (paraphrased):
Will I ever be able to exaggerate enough?
Often one needs to exaggerate to make one's point, to move
people to action, to disturb inertia.
In May 1983 Paavo Airola died at the age of 65 of a cerebrovascular
In May 1984 I was denied admission to graduate school in nutrition
The life or death of a single man should never alter the course
of science. Throughout his career Dr. Airola said, “Do not follow
my teaching because I say so. Follow them because they
Upon inquiring about the reason for my rejection, Berkeley said:
There were 90 applicants for 15 openings. You were definitely
one of the top candidates. We felt that you did not have sufficient
experience in a biochemistry lab. ... You should try to get some
more lab experience, take a few more courses in nutrition,
and certainly reapply.
For a final word on the role of science in the inexact field of
nutrition I quote Shakespeare, King Henry IV:
I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Why so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?