“Orthomolecular medicine”. Now there’s a phrase you don’t hear in the 21st century, except in historical terms. Invented by two-time Nobel Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling (Do you even remember him? Ah! How fleeting is fame!), one prize for his work on chemical bonds, the second, the Nobel Peace Prize for his work banning atmospheric nuclear testing.
But Dr. Pauling’s real fame, and to some extent the controversy that followed, was when he published the very thoroughly researched, “Vitamin C and the Common Cold (1970)”. The very successful book met with immediate resistance from the conventional medical community, although I certainly remember every physician I knew on the verge of a drippy cold popping 2,000-3,000 mg of “C” a day and claiming “the stuff really works”.
Pauling had given the term “orthomolecular medicine” when he used virtually any nutritional supplement in place of a prescription drug for almost any disease. He’d been working with psychiatrist Abram Hoffer, treating mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with high doses of vitamins and essential fatty acids with promising results. Then, with the addition of vitamin C, he saw other possibilities for disease treatment and prevention. He advocated very large doses of intravenous vitamin C for pancreatic cancer, which to this day is still being used with results certainly no worse than conventional chemotherapy.
In 1986, using orthomolecular principles and many nutritional supplements available without a prescription, Pauling wrote, “How to Live Longer and Feel Better“.
He did enjoy healthy longevity himself, passing away at age 93 at Big Sur.
These days, with so many of us with grey hair, wrinkly skin, mortality anxieties, and sheer retirement boredom among Baby Boomers, “Anti-Aging Medicine” and “Longevity Medicine” moved front and center as the 21st Century progressed. The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine founded here in Chicago in 1992, by physicians Robert Goldman and Ronald Klatz, now has almost 30,000 healthcare members and meetings around the world. Many of Pauling’s original orthomolecular principles are topics of research papers.
When you’re taking Vitamins C and D, Zinc and a Mushroom Blend to try to prevent COVID, Pauling would heartily approve. He would also give a nod to magnesium for heart arrhythmias and muscle spasms, combination products for memory (nootropics) like Cognicare, adrenal support for stress management , and I’m sure he’d be more than fascinated at how easily it is to measure the levels of all our micronutrients in a single blood draw, as well as the importance of our intestinal microbiome and its effect on health and longevity.
Eating in the Blue Zones for Longevity
When I first read about the project of National Geographic Research Fellow, Dan Buettner, my own response was a guarded “Interesting”. His findings might not please everyone and following The Blue Zones Diet may get a bit tiresome over time. “Still, I like a handful of pistachios as well as the next guy…”
What Buettner did was examine the eating habits of those places where more people lived 100 years and longer than anywhere else in the world. He located relatively small areas in Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Loma Linda (California), Costa Rica and Greece. He called these “Blue Zones”, and although these areas seemingly have little in common except extraordinary longevity, above average physical activity and reasonably good social interactions, here’s how they eat:
- Mainly plant based and organic; whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds. Most eat a handful of nuts every day;
- Healthy fats like olive oil;
- One cup of beans daily;
- Dark green leafy veggies (spinach, collard, kale, chard);
- Some fish;
- Limited dairy (goat and sheep milk preferred over cow);
- Rare meat (2 ounces, 5 times a month);
- NO processed foods, period;
- NO added sugar, period;
- Moderate alcohol, 2 glasses of red wine, max.
Buettner has now also written “The Blue Zones Challenge”, “The Blue Zones Solution”, “The Blue Zones of Happiness”, “The Blue Zones Kitchen”, “The Blue Zones American Kitchen”, and (I swear) twenty titles with “Blue Zones” including: “Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way”. Given the pervasiveness of “Blue” in his books and the proffered delights of both longevity and happiness, it would not surprise me in the least if Buettner soon announced that he was running for Congress in the next election (in a “Blue State”, of course).
To me, the shortfall with the Blue Zone Diet is the reliance on so many carbs and some people just don’t digest them well. Also, if you’re not careful, some protein and nutritional deficiencies might develop over time. Buettner’s basic book, “The Blue Zones Diet”, likely covers these issues. If you’re interested in pursuing this in depth, schedule a consultation with our Nutrition Provider Tam Dickson-Meyer who’s quite the expert at this.
David Edelberg, MD