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Adelle Davis Revisited:
Her Detractors

One cannot argue with science except scientifically ~ the people who try to assail Adelle Davis with emotional slurs can't touch the science she reported on

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There is no doubt that she was controversial. In those days, you were a "Health Nut" (or worse!) if you asked for 100% whole wheat bread, took more than 10 mg of vitamin C, or suggested yogurt for dessert or snack.

Adelle Davis's work is extremely motivating. Thus everyone was challenged to answer her claims for creating vibrant health through nutritional practices that included, but were not limited to, trying larger-than-previously-tried doses of vitamin supplements. She also stressed again and again to eat 100% whole grain products, to cut out refined sugar, to get lots of quality protein, and to try to include as many of nature's nutrients as possible in one's diet.

Her main message might be summed up as the practice of gaining one's "optimum health" by getting as many known nutrients into the diet as possible. She always stressed that one could get these nutrients in nutritious food, without taking supplements. However, as her readership ballooned to international proportions, people clamored for ways to get the nutrients in pills. The vitamin industry we know today was created largely by Adelle Davis's writings, in the company of several others, people like as J. I. Rodale and Linus Pauling, along with the then-stupendous National Health Federation and the speakers they presented.

We start this critique by looking at the criticism of her on the Internet. But let's make one thing clear: Adelle Davis made some mistakes, but they were made in taking the research of the time at face value. One of them was, as she herself later decried, her recommendation for using, and her own overuse of, powdered milk, which she suspected of contributing to her cancer. Research then said that powdered milk was fine to use. Adelle wanted people on meager incomes to be able to afford enough protein in their diets, and powdered milk was (and is) inexpensive. Whole milk is excellent protein, and in those days, science was excited about technology's ability to "save" milk by dehydrating it. Now we know that myriad molecular processes are lost or distorted by over-processing of foods.

Also, research into such nutrients as the essential fatty acids and vitamin D was in its infancy when she wrote. Omega-3 and -6 were never mentioned by her, probably because there was no science on them for her to draw from. Even so, she discerned from the research then what is just now (2011) getting some media coverage: that vitamin D has wide-ranging regulatory effects in the body but its optimum dosage was, and still is, quite difficult to determine.

But don't doctors also make mistakes? And drug researchers? Think of the number of mistakes made by the entire medical/pharmaceutical profession. I don't understand why established medicine cannot be big enough to allow room for other health researchers. Doctors admit they get extremely little training in nutrition (one semester only, I was told). The two groups would certainly benefit from peacefully co-existing. And the people of the world would have the "best of both worlds."br>
But for some reason, there is an element in the medical profession that just can't stand health researchers and practitioners, and feels self-propelled to try to shoot them down.

QuackWatch Tries to Assail Adelle Davis

That is an obviously prejudiced diatribe that doesn't merit comment.

See our Posts page for this author's reply to doubts raised from reading QuackWatch. On another blog, one which is swallowing QuackWatch's bull, hook, line and sinker, this author wrote:

"Adelle Davis was a superlative writer and researcher in addition to having highest qualifications in biochemistry. She embarrassed the established medical profession by showing people how their bodies really work, and what they can do to keep themselves in the best possible health. The fact that such mud-slinging websites as QuackWatch still spend hundreds of man-hours to try to assail her writing shows the power of what she wrote.

"QuackWatch offers no journalistic referents for their small handful of claims ~ no way to tell if 'Little Eliza Young' really was a patient of Adelle's, or even if she existed at all. No way to tell who the heck the "mother" was. He gives just three examples of people, fictional unless and until identified, who supposedly "followed Adelle Davis's advice." None of these examples are tied to reality by even the most basic journalistic procedure that identifies facts: who, what, when, and where.

"Anyone who reads Adelle Davis knows that she never recommends taking a single nutrient for anything! The basis of her philosophy is that the best health is obtained by consuming as many natural nutrients as possible, from food sources! "Nor does Barrett ever mention any specific doses of anything, either the ones he says are recommended by Adelle, or as consumed by his supposed victims. He is just out to make people afraid of trying to understand their bodies, so they will always turn to the established medical treatments: drugs, drugs and more drugs."

"Dietitian" with Foot-in-Mouth Disease
A quote from "Ask a Dietitian" website:
"Probably the biggest advocate of dolomite (crushed animal bones that may contain toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium and others) was Adelle Davis who is now deceased. Unfortunately, her books are still in circulation and influencing people's choices of supplements."

Mmm ... excuse me.... Dolomite Dolomite is ancient rock, not bones as the "Dietitian" says! She/he has it confused with bone meal. Bone meal is an excellent dietary supplement, firmly regulated and tested for heavy metals. I've taken it for decades, and my hair tests (minerals come out in the hair) show that I have lower than normal amounts of the heavy metals. I've never suffered any type of side effect from taking it --- much to the contrary.

There is no actual physical identification of the author anywhere on the "Ask a Dietitian" website. (An email address is not contact information! Anyone can email from anywhere on or off the planet). There is oblique reference to "teaching experiences" but that is not identification --- if she actually does exist and is not a fictional entity, was she the teacher, or did she just 'experience' someone's teaching? Without a physical address, anyone can pretend to be anything on the Internet. The reader has no way of knowing if this "Joanne Larsen" is a trademark name (such as Betty Crocker and the like) or a person. If a person, running such a major medical business claiming expertise in virtually all health conditions, she should have legal contact information. Everything said on this website should be considered to be fiction, or at best hearsay, and acted upon accordingly.

MD's talk about Adelle
This is a medical newsgroup thread focusing on the work of Adelle Davis, which started by a question about heart health. There are over a dozen repartees.
"She thought she knew a lot about nutritional cancer treatment and prevention, but was wrong. Thus, we know the woman was capable of thinking she knew a lot about what she didn't know beans about. That makes everything she wrote suspect."

"AdelleDavisRevisted's" comment: One mistake makes all her writing "suspect"??? I don't think so. I do agree that it is a mistake to boast about health, which is a fault Adelle's detractors have to a much greater degree than she herself did. "You don't stand on Superman's cape. You don't spit into the wind." And you don't say, "I'll never get Disease X." I wish for her sake that she had not gotten cancer. She had a very painful death. But remember, in her lifetime, agri-business and its outlet, the burgeoning industrialized food industry, were experimenting, unrestrained by any laws, with the deadliest of pesticides and other food additives, which she probably consumed just as unavoidably as everyone else who also got cancer, which is a huge percentage of the American public. She had such faith in the nutritional research that was just beginning to emerge, that she thought it would protect her from those horriffic toxins. It did not.

If anything she practiced did contribute to her cancer, it may have been her over-consumption of powdered milk. That is what she herself attributes it to, but there's no proof of this one way or the other, and she says as much. She never presents this idea as factual. Powdered milk was thought then to be a miracle food for the planet Earth. But powdered milk is grossly altered by industrial processes. Adelle, seeking ways to give the underprivileged as much protein as the well-to-do could afford, promoted it, and took it herself in large quantities, and later regretted it in print.

(BTW, this is the same thing that is now being sold to you in every quart of "Low-Fat" milk. Read the milk carton: "Nonfat milk solids" means powdered milk!, and it's in all Lowfat and Nonfat milk ~ which should be labelled "Reconstituted milk" if there were truth in labelling laws. Lowfat milk, if nothing is added to it, looks a translucent, sickly bluish gray color, so extra powdered milk is added to it to make it look more normal. And, while we're on it, normal milk should never be pure white. It should be slightly creamy colored, due to beta carotene which cows get from grass. But industrial milk, the kind you most likely drink, is from cows that eat only corn and abnormal fillers such as cardboard and styrofoam. Those poor cows die an abnormally early death, due to malnutrition and over-milking. Try looking for Grass-Fed milk. Adelle would have adored Jo Robinson, author of the book and website, Why Grassfed is Best. Trader Joe's milk, labelled Organic Cream Top, is also 100% grass-fed. If you freeze a carton of it, it turns bright yellow from all the beta carotene in it. (Don't worry, it will look normally cream colored again when it thaws back out!) NEVER BUY THE CHEAPEST MILK!!! To do so is to financially support the very worst dairy practices.

Breast cancer is one of the most unpredictable of cancers. Anyone who has read about cancer knows that its causes are numerous and as yet unfathomed. Who is to say that Adelle Davis, or anyone else, died of cancer due to personal dietary habits? There is much evidence that cancer is related to one's level of aggression, which might have very little to do with diet at all. Cancer patients are invariably "nice" people, with too little of a hormone called DHEA, something not researched until fairly recently. Aggressive criminals, with high DHEA levels, rarely get cancer. Sharks, unique in the animal kingdom, never do. It is undeniable that cancer is rampant in the US, and becoming continually worse. By trying to learn what its causes are, Adelle Davis encouraged everyone to keep seeking, to have hope. Together, the world might really discover the solution.

Homo sapiens sapiens (the wisest of the wise) is probably too clever for his own good. But we will keep trying to gain optimum health. The freedom to choose our own paths in doing so, here in the US and elsewhere in the world, is a most cherished heritage. Oh, and Dr. Stephen B. Harris states: "What DO you say about people who do good things to public opinion, but are wrong in their facts?" However, in all his lambasting against Adelle, he never takes time to state even one simple fact and try to substantiate it. NO EXAMPLES. Nor do any of Adelle's other (half dozen) would-be detractors give examples of their claims. They all say something on the score of "she advocated taking too much vitamins," but they don't quote anything she said. Anyone who reads her work realizes how carefully she has presented the nutritional research, so that people can begin to use food supplements and design their recipes with wisdom. That's something the American medical establishment tragically lacks. They themselves are the ones who prescribe one chemical for one ailment, not Adelle Davis. That's why they can't understand her, and why they can't approach her.

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NEWS ITEM: The Adelle Davis Foundation will be re-publishing Adelle's books in the not-too-distant future. We are soooo happy! A whole generation of people has not heard of her work, due to the demise of the Health Food Movement in the early 1970's.

Adelle's advice for people taking radiation treatments


Acid: a substance or chemical that has a high number of electrons in the outer shell, which gives the substance certain reactive properties; capable of combining with a base to produce a salt

ALERT: abbreviation for Adelle's book Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit

Alkaline: also called a base; a substance or chemical that has a low number of electrons in the outer shell, which gives the substance certain reactive properties; it is capable of combining with an acid to produce a salt

Amino Acids: An amphoteric organic amino acid containing the amino group NH2: esp: any of the alpha-amino acids that are the chief components of proteins and are synthesized by living cells or are obtained as essential components of the diet. They are the building blocks of protein. Amino acids contain nitrogen, unlike other foods. There are 22 kinds of amino acids. Thousands of kinds of proteins can be made from these 22 amino acids. (See "Essential Amino Acids" below.)

Atom: the basic unit of matter, generally thought to be composed of three kinds of smaller particles (protons, neutrons, and electrons), the number of the particles in the atom determining the observable properties that that substance has; generally, the nucleus of the atom is made of protons and neutrons, while the much smaller electrons orbit around the nucleus, one electron for each proton, in an arrangement of spherical shells, or so it has been conceived in the past; there are only about 100 different kinds of atoms in the universe, numbering from 1 (which is hydrogen, having one proton and one electron) to Lawrencium (having 103 protons and electrons) (See "Elements" below.)

Beriberi: a disease caused by B-vitamin deficiencies, marked by inflammatory or degenerative changes of the nerves, digestive system, and heart caused largely by a lack of, or inability to assimilate, the B vitamin thiamine, as well as other B vitamins

Bioflavonoids: Ketone derivatives that occur in many parts of primroses and other plants, and which enhance the activity of Vitamin C in humans; sometimes used as dyestuffs

Calorie: 1. One of two recognized units of heat. The large or great calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water 1 degree Centigrade. The small calorie is the amount of heat required to raise one gram of water 1 degree Centigrade. 2. Physiol. The large calorie, a measure of the energy value of foods or the heat output of organisms./ An amount of food having an energy-producing value of one large calorie.

Carbohydrates: Sugars, starches and cellulose; compounds containing carbon combined with hydrogen and oxygen, which break apart to release quick energy

Chemical: a substance derived by chemical processes, or used to create something through chemical processes; a chemical is usually composed of just one kind of molecule, or a specific blend of several kinds of molecules in specific proportions

Complete Protein: A protein food that contains all 8 essential amino acids, and thus is capable of supporting life if no other protein source is consumed.

Compound: a mixture of chemicals; also called a "chemical compound"

Element: a substance composed of just one kind of atom; look up "element" in your dictionary for a list of them; they can be gaseous, liquid or solid; there are 102 different kinds of elements, at last count.

Emulsified: when a substance has been blended into another substance in an emulsion

Emulsion: a combination of two liquids that normally will not mix, accomplished by breaking up one liquid into extremely tiny particles that remain suspended in the other liquid; most commonly, a combination of an oil or fat in a water-based liquid; oil-based vitamins are often treated this way in hopes they will be better absorbed in the digestive tract

Essential Amino Acids: Of the 22 amino acids, all but 8 can be manufactured in the body. These 8 amino acids must be obtained from foods; thus they are termed "essential." They are tryptophane, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Two more are sometimes essential to children: histidine and arginine. The proteins of beans (legumes) and grains have complementary essential amino acids, and when the two foods are eaten together, the resulting protein provides all 8 essential amino acids.

Essential Fatty Acids ("EFA's"): Fatty acids that the body cannot produce, and which are extremely important for myriad health processes. There are two types of EFA's: Omega-3 and Omega-6. They cannot be interchanged in the body. Omega-3's come largely from the green parts of plants (especially grass eaten by ruminants) but including some seeds, and the sea plankton eaten by fish. Omega-6's come from many seeds of plants and animals that eat them. Today, with most of our food animals being fed corn and other grains, Americans are extremely high in Omega-6's and deficient in Omega-3's, which can cause major health disorders. Many, many nutritionists are recommending supplementing the diet with Omega-3 EFA's as a preventative measure for myriad diseases. This was research that was just beginning to come to the public's attention in the 1980's; before that time, Adelle Davis was seeing the very earliest research when she commented on the linoleic, linolenic, and arachnidonic EFA's.

Fatty Acids: Any of numerous saturated aliphatic monocarboxylic acids, including many that occur naturally, usually in the form of esters in fats, waxes, and essential oils; any of the saturated or unsaturated monocarboxylic acids (as palmitic acid) usually with an even number of carbon atoms that occur naturally in the form of glycerides in fats and fatty oils

Gram: Unit of measurement of weight; about 454 grams ("g") equal one pound. About 28 grams equal one ounce. In measuring vitamins, 1/1000th of a gram is a milligram, written "mg"

Iodide: any of several compounds containing iodine, artifically added to salt to prevent goiter, an enlarging of the thyroid gland of the throat due to deficiency of iodine; Adelle believed strongly in using real sea salt, or iodized salt

Iodine: chemical element number 53, using the symbol "I"; needed by the thyroid glands to produce the hormone thyroxin, which profoundly regulates growth and metabolism; certain soils that were once under the ocean (along the Atlantic Coast, and parts of Kansas, South Dakota, Utah, western Texas and New Mexico) have enough iodine to produce foods of adequate iodine content --- elsewhere, the only reliable sources are sea foods including ocean fish including shellfish, kelp of all kinds, and real sea salt (ALERT p. 181)

I.u.: International Units, a unit of measurement for oil-based vitamins such as vitamins A, D and E. One milligram (mg) of vitamin A equates to 4,000 to 6,000 international units (i.u.)

Mg: Milligram, one one-thousandth of a gram

Mineral: homogeneous substance composed of molecules made of a combination of several elements, usually in solid and/or rock form, often as crystals, generally found in the ground and sea water (which contains all of the elements on Earth); when nutritionists speak of "minerals" they usually mean elements, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, many others; this website will use the term "mineral elements" for such chemicals

Nutrient: a general term for any substance in foods, or added to foods, that promotes health in describable ways

Organic: Adelle writes, "grown on humus-rich soil without the addition of artificial fertilizers" and in her day, the term "organic" meant food grown to be vibrantly health-promoting, full of life, close to nature, and all the indefineables we all know mean naturally grown on rich soil, managed by good farmers who keep down pests through their expertise and skills; in chemistry, the term "organic" simply means molecules that contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which all life is largely composed of; today, states and countries define the term differently, but it usually means food that does not have added artificial chemicals of any kind; such a term says little or nothing about the vibrancy of life in the food

Pellagra: a disease caused by a multiple B-vitamin deficiency, marked by dermatitis, gastrointestinal disorders, and central nervous system symptoms, and associated with a diet deficient in niacin, protein and other B vitamins (See "Beriberi" above.)

Protein: Unlike other living molecules, proteins contain nitrogen. They are made from "Amino Acids" (q.v.); there are thousands of kinds of proteins. The body is built largely of proteins. Therefore, meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs are excellent sources of protein.

Retinol: the original "vitamin A," which is the unadulterated compound found in animal fats, especially liver

Salt: the word itself is cognate to the Greek hals, meaning both "salt" and "sea"; sodium chloride, or "table salt", is just one type of salt, which generally means a residue left over from the evaporation of a large amount of water.

Sea salt: as a food labelling term, this means any kind of salt derived from the sea, even pure sodium chloride; usually this product has added iodide to protect against goiter, and some other chemical to keep it from attracting moisture. The term was popularized during the Health Food Movement when people made real sea salt by evaporating sea water and keeping all the crystals and compounds that were formed; the salts thus obtained are composed of all the numerous mineral elements on Earth, in proportions needed by the body (mineral elements occur in the blood in almost the identical proportions in which they occur in sea water). Ironically, there is more iodine in real sea salt than in the commercial product, and in its natural form. Yet the FDA has decreed that real sea salt must be labelled with the repelling words: "Does not contain iodide, a necessary nutrient." Currently we have not found any way to determine from the label whether anything called "sea salt" contains the numerous elements of the ocean, or only sodium chloride. Real sea salt (we make our own) is gray and stays moist due to its power to attract water from the air. Any salt that does not get wet has an added chemical, not required to be identified on the label.

Synergistic: When compound (or muscle) enhances the effectiveness of another compound (or muscle); compounds that work together in the body, an absence of one can cause inefficiency of the others; an oversupply of one or more synergistic compounds can cause a deficiency in the others; pertains especially to the B vitamins

Unit: International Unit, or iu: a unit of measurement for oil-based vitamins such as vitamins A, D and E. One milligram (mg) of vitamin A equates to 4,000 to 6,000 international units (i.u.)

Vitamin: literally means simply "life-giving"; a man-made chemical or naturally-occurring compound derived from foods, plants, or animals, that is essential to human health

Vitamin A: Fat-soluble vitamin obtained largely from animal sources (IF the animal is allowed to eat green plants, not grains, a rarity in the US today); the absence of vitamin A results in hardening (keratinizing) of the mucous membranes

Vitamin B: Water-soluble vitamin complex found especially in the germs of seeds, in yeasts, liver, and vegetables that have varied metabolic functions and include coenzymes and growth factors; the B vitamins work synergistically, and a deficiency of one or some may bring about deficiencies in others

Vitamin C: Water-soluble vitamin found largely in fruits and leafy vegetables, or made synthetically; absence of vitamin C causes scurvy, a breakdown of the cell walls of the body's cells; vitamin C detoxifies toxins in the body, and is used in food preparation to prevent destruction by oxygen

Vitamin D: Fat-soluble vitamins chemically related to steroids, essential for normal bone and tooth structure, and found esp. in fish-liver oils, egg yolk (from naturally-raised chickens), and milk (from grass-fed cows), or produced by activation (as by ultraviolet irradiation) of sterols: as vitamin D2, an alcohol usually prepared by irradiation of ergosterol and used as a dietary supplement in nutrition and medicinally in the control of rickets and related disorders, called also calciferol, or vitamin D3, an alcohol that is the predominating form of vitamin D in most fish-liver oils and is formed in the skin on exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet rays

Vitamin E: Fat-soluble vitamins that are chemically tocopherols, are essential in vertebrates for fertility, preventing muscle degeneration and vascular abnormalities; found especially in leaves and in seed germ oils; used chiefly in animal feeds and as antioxidants

Vitamin G: Riboflavin, one of the B vitamins

Vitamin H: Biotin, one of the B vitamins

Vitamin K: Two fat-soluble vitamins essential for blood clotting because they promote the production of prothrombin; can be produced in the intestine when yogurt is consumed

Vitamin P: Bioflavonoids; enhance the activity of vitamin C

Water-Miscible: a vitamin or other substance, normally not able to mix with water, that is altered to be able to be mixed into water without separating out; water-miscible vitamin A is ten times more toxic than oil-based vitamin A

Wheat Germ: Every seed has an embryo plant inside it called the "germ." It is the part that grows to become the new plant. This embryo is full of vitamins and protein. Since growing cells need B vitamins, the germ is rich in B vitamins. The germ is ground off and sold separately (sometimes it is given away) when wheat and rice are milled. The rest of the wheat and rice grain is mostly pure starch, without many B vitamins.

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