A Genetic Need for More Nutrients

As early as 1968, Dr. Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel Prizes, speculated that some people may have a geneticially based need for more vitamins and minerals than the general population. He also proposed the idea that much mental disease may be due to lack of these nutrients in the brain.

Recent research is now showing that Dr. Pauling was right. Dr. Bruce Ames at the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that genetic mutations often result in increased requirements for nutrients, and that higher nutrient intake can often overcome the effects of these mutated genes. Dr. Ames has also shown that deficiencies in iron, zinc, folic acid, niacin, and vitamins B12, B6, C, and E actually cause mutations in the same way that radiation does, leading to cancer, premature aging, and possibly neuron decay, cognitive dysfunction, mental disorders, and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Half of the U.S. population may be deficient in one or more of these nutrients. For folic acid alone, 10 percent of Americans are deficient at levels known to cause breaks in human DNA.

Nutrition and Mental Illness: An Orthomolecular Approach to Balancing Body Chemistry. Believing that drugs and psychoanalysis were not always the best course of treatment for a variety of mental illnesses, Dr. Carl Pfeiffer began an extensive program of research into the causes and treatment of mental illness, and in 1973 opened the Brain Bio Center in Princeton, New Jersey. Here, with a team of scientists, he found that many psychological problems can be traced to biochemical imbalances in the body. With these patients, he achieved unprecedented success in treating a wide range of mental problems by adjusting diet and providing specific nutritional supplements for those conditions where deficiences exist. This book documents his approach.

Each year, thousands of people are diagnosed as schizophrenic; many more suffer from depression, anxiety, and phobias.

Dr. Pfeiffer's methods of treatment presented in Nutrition and Mental Illness are a valuable adjunct to traditional therapies, and can bring hope of real wellness to many of those who suffer.

"A proper biochemical balance is necessary to mental as well as physical health. In Nutrition and Mental Illness, Pfeiffer details how deficiencies (and excesses) of various nutrients can lead to imbalances that result in mood swings, manic-depressive states, schizophrenia and antisocial behavior. Pfeiffer also explains how these conditions are treated with nutrients rather than drugs; he calls the latter 'a door that leads nowhere."

"For every drug that benefits a patient, there is a natural substance that can achieve the same effect." — Pfeiffer's Law, Dr. Carl C. Pfeiffer, M.D., PhD.


1. Pauling L. Orthomolecular psychiatry. Varying the concentrations of substances normally present in the human body may control mental disease. Science. 1968 April 19;160(825):265-71.

2. Ames BN, Elson-Schwab, Silver EA. High-dose vitamin therapy stimulates variant enzymes with decreased coenzymes binding affinity increased K(m)): relevance to genetic disease and polymorphisms. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2002 Apr;75(4):616-58.

3. Ames BN. The metabolic tune-up:metabolic harmony and disease prevention. Journal of Nutrition. 2003 May;133(5 Suppl 1);15444S-8S.

4. Ames BN, Atamna H, Killilea DW. Mineral and vitamin deficiencies can accelerate the mitochondrial decay of again. Molecular Aspects of Medicine. 2005 Aug-Oct;26(4-5):363-78.

5. Ames BN. Supplements and tuning up metabolism Journal of Nutrition. 2004 Nov;134(11):3164s-3168S.

6. Ames BN. DNA damage from micro-nutrient deficiencies is likely to be a major cause of cancer. Mutation Research. 2001 Apr 18;475(1-2):7-20.

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Lack of folate, also called vitamin B-9, may triple the risk of developing dementia in old age, according to a study published Tuesday.

Researchers in South Korea measured naturally occurring folate levels in 518 elderly persons, none of whom showed any signs of dementia, and then tracked their development over 2.4 years.

At the end of the period, 45 of the patients had developed dementia, including 34 diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, said the study, published by the British Medical Association's Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

When the researchers, led by Jin-Sang Yoon of Chonnam National University in Kwangju , South Korea , remeasured folate levels, they uncovered a strong link with the dementia.

Even after other factors were taken into account -- including age, disability, alcohol consumption, weight change -- "the onset of dementia was significantly associated with an exaggerated decline in folate," the researchers concluded.

Folate and folic acid, another form of the compound, are essential for the creation of new cells in the body.

The compound occurs naturally in leafy vegetables such as spinach, turnip greens, lettuces, dried beans and peas and in certain fruits.

An study published last year in The Lancet showed an improvement in short-term memory, mental agility and verbal fluency among persons over 50 who took a daily dose of 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. The US recommended daily dose is 400 mcg.

Taking folic acid before conception and throughout the first trimester helps a mother ensure that her child will not develop certain brain and spinal cord defects, including spina bifida, according to previous research.