In the realm of human achievement, few accolades hold as much prestige and significance as the Nobel Prize. These coveted awards celebrate exceptional contributions to various fields, from literature and peace to physics and medicine. Yet, you might be surprised to discover that the laureates’ brilliance extends beyond their awarded domains. Delving into the intriguing nexus of Nobel Prizes and nutrition unveils an often overlooked connection that sheds light on the intricate relationship between groundbreaking scientific discovery and our very sustenance. We explore the lesser-known ties that bind these realms together, unveiling a tapestry of knowledge that extends far beyond the confines of laboratory walls.
Modern medicine is big business
Medical costs in America are $3.8 trillion per year with $500 billion of that in drug costs. Make no mistake: sickness is very profitable. The largest advertiser in America is Big Pharma. Their $9 billion/yr spent on TV ads means that you will never see a story about the merits of non-drug therapies. That same mega profit spreads throughout government, media, Big Tech and more. The tentacles of the medical industrial complex are vast and deep. From this prominent vantage point, the medical industrial complex wages an ongoing war against any therapies or people who deny the merits of drugs and surgery, or worse yet, offer an alternative…which is quickly labeled quackery. Physicians are more likely to lose their license over using “alternative” therapies than molesting a patient.
Nobel Prizes and Nutrition
The Nobel Prize, widely regarded as one of the most prestigious awards in various fields, was established by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish inventor, engineer, and chemist. Nobel became concerned about the karma of selling dynamite to both sides of a war. Nobel is known for inventing dynamite, a powerful explosive that revolutionized construction and mining. In his will, he left the majority of his fortune to fund the Nobel Prizes, which would recognize individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to humanity in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. So, if nutrition is one of those “fringe” fields ignored and discouraged by medicine, are there any Nobel prizes in medicine that were nutrition discoveries? Turns out, there are quite a few. Over the years, several Nobel Prizes have been awarded for significant discoveries in the realm of nutrition, shedding light on the vital role that vitamins and nutrients play in maintaining our well-being. The following are just a few samples of Nobel prizes awarded for discoveries in the nutrition field.
Vitamin C: Unveiling the Power of Ascorbic Acid
In 1937, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Albert Szent-Györgyi for his pivotal research on vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. Szent-Györgyi’s work led to the isolation and identification of this essential nutrient, which is crucial for collagen synthesis, wound healing, and maintaining the integrity of blood vessels. Moreover, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from oxidative stress and supporting the immune system.
Szent-Györgyi’s findings revolutionized our understanding of nutrition and health, highlighting the importance of consuming sufficient amounts of vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, and leafy greens. His work paved the way for the prevention and treatment of scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency. However, next came another Nobel laureate who proved the value of vitamin C intake way beyond the scurvy prevention level.
Linus Pauling – Nobel Prize and Nutrition
Linus Pauling, a distinguished American chemist, left an indelible mark on the scientific world with his remarkable contributions. In 1954, he was honored with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his revolutionary insights into chemical bonding and molecular structure, which revolutionized our understanding of complex molecules, e.g. nutritional biochemistry. Later Pauling was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his work advocating nuclear disarmament. Pauling is the only person ever to receive two unshared Nobel prizes. Pauling was close to a Nobel prize in his work on the DNA molecule and another for his work on sickle cell anemia. Pauling was a very bright guy. I had the privilege of spending personal time with him. His keen intellect and creative directions were palpable.
Later in his career, Pauling delved into a different realm—orthomolecular medicine. His advocacy for using nutrients, especially vitamins, in large doses to prevent and treat diseases marked a shift in medical thinking. Linus Pauling’s diverse legacy underscores his profound impact on chemistry and medicine, illustrating the breadth of his intellectual curiosity and his enduring influence on scientific exploration.
Nutrition: the Biochemistry of Life
In 1956, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to two scientists, Sir Cyril Norman Hinshelwood and Nikolay Nikolaevich Semenov, for their contributions to the understanding of complex chemical reactions, which is how nutrition works in life. This award underscores the critical role of chemistry in advancing our understanding of various compounds, including vitamins.
Moving forward to 1985, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein for their groundbreaking research on cholesterol metabolism and its impact on health. Cholesterol is one of the more ubiquitous substances in the human body. So essential to life that an average adult generates the equivalent of 8 egg yolks a day in cholesterol for its role in hormone production, nerve sheath, and cell membrane dynamics. Modern medicine would later wage a multi-billion dollar campaign to lower blood cholesterol with drugs that are rich in adverse side effects. Understanding the role of cholesterol in human biochemistry is critical to preventing and reversing degenerative diseases.
Vitamin B12’s Cure of Pernicious Anemia
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine stands as a beacon of recognition for transformative discoveries that reshape our understanding of human health and well-being. Among the laureates celebrated for their groundbreaking contributions, the discoverer of vitamin B12’s role in curing pernicious anemia holds a special place. This revelation not only unveiled a life-saving treatment for a debilitating disease but also highlighted the profound impact of nutrients on our overall health.
Pernicious Anemia: A Silent Menace
Pernicious anemia, a condition characterized by a lack of red blood cells due to vitamin B12 deficiency, once cast a dark shadow over the lives of those afflicted. Pernicious anemia is particularly common in women over 40, due to the lack of “intrinsic factor” required to absorb the huge molecule of B12. Vegans are well aware of their need to supplement with B12 since it is only found in animal products. Pernicious anemia caused fatigue, weakness, and neurological symptoms, their bodies failing to produce enough healthy red blood cells, nor repair nerve cells.. This condition was especially perplexing due to the lack of a clear understanding of its cause.
B12 Breakthrough: Nobel Prizes and Nutrition
In the early 20th century, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recognized the tireless efforts of scientists who unraveled the mysteries of pernicious anemia. George Whipple, George Minot, and William Murphy received the Nobel Prize in 1934 for their revolutionary work on pernicious anemia, culminating in the discovery that consuming large amounts of liver could alleviate the symptoms of the disease. Unbeknownst to them at the time, this liver therapy was rich in vitamin B12.
The critical breakthrough in understanding vitamin B12’s role in curing pernicious anemia came later. The work of Sir Harold Alexander “Sir Harry” Himsworth in the mid-20th century confirmed that vitamin B12 deficiency was the root cause of pernicious anemia. This pivotal discovery illuminated the path to more effective treatments and offered hope to those suffering from the ailment. Though Sir Harry Himsworth did not receive a Nobel Prize himself, his work significantly contributed to the broader understanding of vitamin B12’s role in pernicious anemia. The collective efforts of researchers who brought the spotlight onto this essential nutrient reshaped medical practices and ultimately transformed the lives of countless individuals. Today, supra physiological doses of B12 are used to treat, slow down, and prevent everything from depression to Alzheimer’s disease.