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From: ((Steven B. Harris))
Subject: Re: Modern Snake Oil and FDA complicity
Date: 15 Apr 1995

   >> Scott Ballantyne ( writes:  Ok, I'll bite. I've
never heard of it, never seen a case report of a person who was
deficient in one and only one amino acid. If you know of some,
I'd be fascinated to see them.<<

    Scott, you should be warned that these cases are billed as
protein deficiency or Kwashiorkor.  In many cases of this,
however, the problem is not so much lack of grams protein, but
lack of grams biologically active protein for a human.  Plants
have a different amino acid mix than growing humans, and in some
cases quite different.  An animal burning plant proteins can use
protein for anabolism to the limit of the essential amino acid in
shortest supply, but the rest of the protein, no matter how much,
gets broken down and burned as energy.  Thus, in most cases of
Kwashiorkor there is one essential amino acid which determines
the weakest part of the protein chain, and more effective protein
can be administered, in effect, by supplementation of that one
amino acid up to the point where another amino becomes the new
limiting factor.  To that extent, though I agree this is a bit of
a semantic quibble, you have a single amino acid
deficiency.  In practice, this amino acid is often lysine
(especially in corn) or tryptophane.  However, there is more than
semantics involved, because all this is precisely WHY they add
isolated tryptophane to soy-based baby formulas.

    As you know also, tryptophane can be converted to niacin, and
low quality corn-based diets are short of "niacin
equivalents" for this reason.  Though again it was not called
such, folks with classic pellagra in the deep South were also
suffering, in effect, from a single amino acid deficiency.  Had
they somehow been able to take tryptophane for sleep, many would
not have wound up in mental institutions.  And had tryptophane
somehow been available in 1920 and been sold to prevent madness,
the sellers would have been called quacks.  And yet it would have
worked in many cases.

    None of this is relevant in today's over proteinized US, of
course, and I'm not pretending it is.  But it's an interesting
thing to think about in terms of how the craziness of claims
cannot always be told just by thinking about whether or not they
SOUND plausible.  I'm reasonably confident, based on induction,
that we have yet to make many powerful discoveries about nutrit-
ion which will invariably leave us knowing that we could have
done something about many intractable medical problems NOW in
1995, and fairly innocuously, with the tools available now, but
didn't know how to.  The reason being that the information, not
forthcoming because the research had no backers anywhere, was
simply not available in a timely way.  That's a travesty, but I
don't run the NIH.  What is needed is not an orphan drug system,
and not even an office of alternative medicine.  What is needed
is a committee which looks at every single NIH clinical grant
application, and gives demerits to any which involve ONLY
patentable substances.  These molecules already have champions,
and need no help from the taxpayer.

   This one change alone would speed the pace of medical progress
immeasurably, by putting all possiblities for treatment on more
or equal footings.


Steven Harris, M.D.| Der Luft, dem Wasser, wie der Erden
Experimental       | Entwinden tousend Keime sich,
Gerontology        | Im Trocknen, Feuchten, Warmen, Kalten!
"24 extra years    | Haett' ich mir nicht die Flamme vorbehalten,
is a good start"   | Ich haette nichts Aparts fuer mich.
                   |                  -- Der Teufel

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