The Bible is a fascinating collection of books that speak in a variety of ways about a God who provides and cares for His people. Many modern Christians and non-Christians may be surprised at how much God cares about the everyday things, such as the health of our relationships or even our physical health.
There does not seem to be a sharp division between the spiritual and the physical aspects of life in the Scriptures. Human beings were originally designed by God to manage the resources of this world in a way that enhances life for both humanity and the living creatures of the world. Surely observing how things work together and making estimates of the likely outcome of changes is part of that management. Put this way, it is similar to the scientific method.
In some biblical books ancient sages compiled important information about how life works in a created world. The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes provide short wisdom sayings that try to teach young people how to succeed in living well. They cover important themes such as how to get along with peers or those with the power of life and death over us. They tell us about the importance of choosing well when it comes to friendships or a life-mate. They warn against excesses of food and drink that will drain vitality out of our lives.
One would hope that in a scientific age much can be added to the accumulated wisdom of the biblical sages. In that vein I would like to share some observations made by a brilliant American scientist.
First, some background. He won his first Nobel Prize, the 1954 prize in Chemistry, by applying quantum physics and mathematics to chemistry in order to unravel the mystery of chemical bonds. He stunned the scientific community by developing rules to explain how electrons interact to form the three-dimensional structures of chemical elements. This made modern biochemistry possible. Although this is what his Nobel Prize was about, he did not stop there.
Working from the other direction he also devised rules for x-ray diffraction to help chemists determine the content and structure of crystallized compounds. He discovered the structure of several amino acids and proteins, including hemoglobin, and even created a blood substitute, oxypolygelatin, that could be given to surgery patients suffering from massive bleeding. (This latter, if followed up, would have prevented a lot of blood-borne diseases from being propagated through the blood supply.) He also did a great deal of ground-breaking work in proteins that are used by the immune system to identify and hunt disease organisms.
His second Nobel Prize, the 1962 Peace Prize, came from his efforts to persuade governments to ban the testing of nuclear weapons. Using his knowledge of the science of radiation and biology, he predicted dramatically increased rates of all manner of cancers and published his predictions in the face of disapproval of his own government. As usual, he turned out to be correct. That did not prevent the American government from revoking his passport privileges, hindering his work on the structure of DNA. (He needed access to instruments in European labs to check his theory about a triple helix structure.) Once he was shown to be correct, an embarrassed American government finally relented.
In other words, it was a normal thing for Linus Pauling to be far ahead of the curve. It was also normal for him to have detractors who were eventually proven wrong.
His most controversial work involved his promotion of vitamin C for the prevention and treatment of many illnesses, particularly the common cold, flu and cancer. The medical community was less than enthusiastic, and did not embrace the idea.
When the “Albert Einstein” of biochemistry with a specialty in immune proteins tells us that large doses of vitamin C will reduce your time spent sick and will reduce your likelihood of dying of cancer, he should probably be taken seriously.
He has done the world a tremendous favour by writing a book for the layman, How to Live Longer and Feel Better (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2006). In it he goes into detail about nutrients, vitamins and minerals and how they work in various systems in the body. Naturally, the book highlights vitamin C.
Because of the negative approach to his work from the medical establishment he goes into technical detail about the research both for and against the vitamin. The amazing thing is that he does not rail about corporate conspiracies. Instead, he just sticks to the facts. He describes the experiments and highlights the discrepancies between the results and the researchers’ conclusions about those results. He also notes, when necessary, any methodological flaws in the research that may skew the results.
The basic ideas came to him from research by another Nobel Prize winner, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who won the 1931 Physiology and Medicine Prize by isolating vitamin C and studying its properties. This work was brought to his attention by a biochemist, Dr. Irwin Stone. He recommended large doses of vitamin C in amounts proportional to that produced naturally by most animals, which create the vitamin in their own livers. Szent-Gyorgyi and Stone believed that human beings could increase their lifespan by supplementing with vitamin C. The idea intrigued Pauling, and his subsequent research confirmed the idea. His popularizing work led to cooperation with physicians willing to test the ideas on illnesses, further confirming the theory that the vitamin reduces sick-time and speeds healing.
While researching vitamin C Pauling noticed a strange paradox. Recommended Daily Allowances of vitamins and minerals are published by the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences – National Research Council. Another branch of the same organization, the Subcommittee on Laboratory Animal Nutrition, recommends much higher amounts of vitamin C for laboratory monkeys to keep them in the best of health. These amounts were carefully researched, and amount to an equivalent of 3.5 grams per day for a 150 pound man. In addition, amounts manufactured by those animals that can do so range from 1.75 g to 3.5 g per day for the same weight. He goes on to recommend between 3.5 and 10 grams per day.
The most controversial claim of all was the work with Dr. Ewan Cameron, a Scottish physician who conducted a study of terminal patients whose conventional therapies had failed. The study compared cancer patients treated by the same hospital with the same methods, with the exception of added vitamin C in the experimental group. It showed a dramatic difference in survival times and quality of life. Those who received ten grams (10,000 mg.) of vitamin C lived longer and had much less pain than those who did not receive it. Studies that claimed to refute these studies used less vitamin C, and for shorter periods of time, making their conclusions suspect.
Remembering that all cases were considered terminal, it became difficult to statistically quantify the average survival time because 8% of the vitamin C patients were still alive at the end of 600 days, whereas the non-C patients all died before day 500. In a similar study in Japan, 25% of the vitamin group was still alive at day 200, when all non-treated patients were dead. (Read the book for all the references.) Other physicians, using much higher doses, report much greater rates of success in treating cancer.
Imagine the possibilities if the vitamin were used long before the cancer starts!
Another important health-related observation that he makes concerns the consumption of refined sugar. Keep your yearly sugar consumption under 50 pounds per year. Letting it creep to 150 lbs per year increases the risk of heart problems by up to 10 times.
It turns out that sucrose is made up of two simpler sugars, glucose and fructose, in equal amounts. Excess glucose over a long time tends to lead to diabetes, a well-known and studied phenomenon involving insulin.
Fructose is broken down by the body in a more complex process that leads, in part, to the formation of cholesterol. The body is only designed to break down a limited amount of fructose, corresponding to the amount found naturally in fruit and vegetables in a pre-agricultural diet. A well-designed study showed how blood cholesterol dropped over 30% when all the sucrose (normal white sugar) in the diet of 18 prisoners was replaced with glucose. (This doesn’t mean we should replace white sugar with pure glucose. Remember that excess glucose causes insulin resistance, leading to Type II diabetes.)
If you find your blood cholesterol is high, you might want to consider cutting out a lot of sweets and carbonated beverages (the worst offender) before resorting to drugs.
Take lots of vitamin C. Cut down on sweets. The content of this post may not be considered, strictly speaking, as spiritual. However, God did create us as physical/spiritual beings. He also created us to observe and modify our environment in ways that bring glory to Him. If our bodies are a temple of God’s Holy Spirit, doing two simple things to keep it from falling apart prematurely strikes me as one way of doing that.
The ancient sages of the Bible were not above tapping into the best wisdom of their day and promoting it. Paying attention to what wisdom the brightest lights of our generation have provided may be a good way to do precisely that.