Whole Foods Magazine
September 2001

 

Words Of Wisdom From a Friend:

An Interview with Wayne Martin
By
Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D.

 

Wayne Martin is a biochemist who has devoted his first 90 years to sorting sense from nonsense in nutrition and health. We became friends in the early 1970s, comparing notes on a host of subjects ranging from how selenium increases the body's coenzyme Q-10 production to the "cholesterolphobia" caused by the now disfavored concept that eating cholesterol was a major factor in heart disease. In the next few columns, we will chat with Wayne about many nutrients and how they prevent, fight and cure many diseases. We will chat about the "real" causes of heart disease and cancer. However, in this first column, we will have a little fun and chat about specific examples of how the medical profession's reluctance or refusal to accept new facts has caused countless deaths.

In 1977, Wayne wrote a marvelous book, Medical Heroes & Heretics (Devin-Adair). I was quoted on ft cover, saying "It is incredible that this vital book can be so loaded with new facts and yet remain so delightful to read. Wayne Martin has a unique knack of weaving interesting stories around the important new information that he presents. Both laymen and professionals alike will benefit immensely from Medical Heroes & Heretics." Well, he has continued to uncover new information and I feel that it is time to chat with him and share this information with you.

Wayne took many courses in the emerging field of biochemistry while majoring in chemical engineering at Purdue University. Following his graduation in 1933, he maintained his interest in, and continued to study, his first academic love, biochemistry. In 1964, he developed a completely new concept on blood platelet adhesion, which was accepted by the Royal College of Surgeons for use on patients at the National Heart Hospital of London. Today, he frequently writes for The Townsend Newsletter for Doctors.

Wayne and I both admire Louis Pasteur as a great medical scientist. His germ theory of disease is probably the most important medical discovery of all time. One of my biggest professional thrills was to lecture to the French Academy of Medicine, standing on the very stones where Pasteur stood to lecture to the Academy in the 1880s.

I also have had the privilege of twice visiting the Pasteur Institute, which was founded in 1888. On one of these occasions, I interviewed HIV virus co-discoverer Dr. Luc Montagnier for my September 1995 column.

In his book, Wayne tells the story of Pasteur's life and his struggle to overcome the prejudices of the orthodox medical establishment. Scientists always have been slow to accept completely new principles. This reluctance to accept new discoveries goes back to the days of Socrates and continues through Galileo to Pauling. But, whereas scientists are slow to change, physicians seem to be absolutely steadfast in their posture against nutritional discoveries.

When a new theory comes along, they resist change as if their lives depended on the status quo. Or are they afraid that their reputations or earning powers are at risk? -Things that we can't see cause disease-nonsense," they said in response to Pasteur. It reminds me of my attempts in the 1970s to teach physicians about free radicals causing diseases such as cancer. "Free radicals cause several life-ending diseases-nonsense! Germs cause diseases, including cancer," they said. By then, they had accepted germs, but the notion of free radicals was too radical.

A case in point is what Wayne Martin calls the "blood-caked frock coat effect." Nineteenth century surgeons, who wore their coats (the badge of their office) while operating, were killing half of their general surgery patients and one in five of their obstetric patients by infecting them with germs from the blood on these garments. But they adamantly refused to clean up their acts because they refused to believe that germs caused infectious diseases. Seen from today's perspective, this might almost be laughable-if it weren't so sad.

 

Passwater: Why have you always had such an ardent interest in medicine and biochemistry?

Martin: In 1926, I was hit by a car while motorcycling and lost my left leg. I was given an artificial leg, but it was ill-fitting. Shortly after, I attended Purdue University, a long commute from where I lived, and one that involved an eight-block walk on both ends. In addition, I would walk about four to five miles a day around the campus. All the pressure when I walked was on my kneecap, and a bit of skin would be torn off in what the manufacturer called a "fox bite." I developed a deep compassion for anyone suffering from pain. I also became addicted to reading the medical literature.

Passwater: You went to college during the Depression. Did that prevent you from going to medical school?

Martin: Yes, the cost of medical school was beyond my means. I entered the School of Chemical Engineering and took all the bacteriology and biochemistry that I could. As a chemical engineer, my first job paid 40 cents an hour for $16 a week.

Passwater: What led you to an interest in heroes and heretics?

Martin: When I was 15, my 40-year-old mother was dying of pernicious anemia. Fortunately, we don't hear much about pernicious anemia today, but at that time, 1926, there were about 10,000 deaths each year from this cause in the United States. Pernicious anemia is caused by the absence of an intrinsic factor that serves to bind dietary vitamin B-12 to receptor sites in the ileum. This is necessary to facilitate absorption.

My mother was white as a sheet and confined to her bed. A young Baptist minister was caring for my mother's salvation before her expected death. One day, he came running up the stairs waving the Baptist magazine and saying that everything was going to be all right. Two researchers at Harvard, Drs. Murphy and Minot, had reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that they had fed 46 patients with late stage pernicious anemia one pound of liver a day, and, in three weeks time, all 46 of them were free from all signs of anemia. The Baptist magazine had picked up the story and published it.

I did the cooking and my mother got liver three times a day and became free of anemia in three weeks time. She lived to age 94. Meanwhile, her doctor had nothing but contempt for the idea that eating liver would cure pernicious anemia.

Passwater: OK, I can see the basis for your book. Unfortunately, the medical community is slow to accept many findings about diet and health.

Martin: Doctors do not learn medicine from lay magazines, but they could learn a lot about how to improve people's health. This doctor did not even take note of my mother's dramatic recovery from pernicious anemia. I mentioned that in 1926, there were about 10,000 deaths from pernicious anemia Well, in 1934, there were still about 10,000 deaths in this country from this disease. The discovery by researchers Murphy and Minot had had exactly zero affect on the death rate.

In 1934, Murphy and Minot shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their 19211 discovery. But even the Nobel Prize (lid little in terms of encouraging doctors to advise patients to eat more liver. What did happen was that the pharmaceutical firms came out with an injectable liver extract. While hardly pain free, this did some good. By 1948, we were having only about 3,000 deaths a year from pernicious anemia. Of course, we wouldn't have had any deaths at all if the doctors had paid attention to Murphy and Minot.

Then, in 1949, Karl Folkers, a young Ph.D. working for Merck, discovered vitamin B-12, and he learned how to make it synthetically. Merck then sold an injectable form of vitamin B-12 worldwide for treating pernicious anemia. Doctors began using it almost overnight, administering weekly injections at a charge of $10 per shot-which was a lot of money then. But, at long last, there was an end of deaths from pernicious anemia.

Passwater: I'm glad you mentioned Dr. Karl Folkers, as I plan to chat with you about his work with coenzyme Q-10. But first, let's continue with the story of how you came to recognize that the medical community was doing considerable harm by not responding more expeditiously to the findings of nutritional research.

Martin: I realized early on that many doctors do not read medical journals. Also, I took note of how doctors will respond to the effort of a pharmaceutical firm to promote a new drug, but will pay little attention to a food or nutrient of great help in treating a dread disease-unless it is promoted by a major drug firm. Doctors seem to learn about medicine from drug companies, but they seem to learn little directly from medical journals. This was the lesson of why liver made no impact as a cure for pernicious anemia, but injectable B-12 became popular.

Even before there were major drug firms, the medical profession often would prefer to persecute the scientist rather than accept a new set of facts. Think about Pasteur: the important part of his story is not how lie invented the now familiar process that bears his name, pasteurization, but how the medical profession fought against his discovery that germs cause contagious diseases. Bad as that was, however, it is not the worst part of tire story. The horrible part of the story is how the arrogance of physicians killed half of their surgery patients and a fifth o1 the mothers they attended in childbirth.

Pasteur began to form his theory of germs while teaching at the Ecole Normale in Paris, a graduate college where, in 1847, at the age of 25, he had received his Doctor of Science degree. He had attended on a full scholarship, and, as a payback, graduates were required to teach for 10 years.

During this period, he made time to do "extra" research and became interested in microbes after he found a .mold that would destroy one of two stereo-isomers of tartaric acid, but not the other. He studied the effects of various bacteria with the theme that bacteria can be of use to man. This went against the beliefs of scientists of the day, who held that bacteria played absolutely no role in the affairs of man. It also was believed then that bacteria were formed by a process of spontaneous generation.

In 1855 or thereabouts, Pasteur began studying problems in the fermentation of wine at the urging of one of his students. He found that bacteria were involved with the fermentation. process, and published his findings in 1857. This report was widely criticized and dismissed. Two high priests of orthodoxy at that time, Justus von Leibig in Germany and Jon Jakob Berzelius in Sweden, proclaimed that microbes had nothing whatever to do with fermentation. Martin: Yes, the cost of medical school was beyond my means. I entered the School of Chemical Engineering and took all the bacteriology and biochemistry that I could. As a chemical engineer, my first job paid 40 cents an hour for $16 a week.

Passwater: Now, be careful Wayne, you know that Berzelius discovered my favorite element, selenium, in 1817.

Martin: Yes, and other elements as well. But that was inorganic chemistry and analytical chemistry. My point is that he was out of his field with organic chemistry and the chemistry of life. It is now known that his obstinacy also retarded scientific progress. Few, if any, scientists would ever think of contradicting Berzelius, and it was his belief that organic compounds arose from the operation of a "vital force" in the living cell and that synthesis of organic compounds was therefore impossible.

In any event, Pasteur had now laid the cornerstone of his heresy. In 1862, in a letter to the Minister of Public Education, he stated that putrefactive microorganisms, acting on live humans and animals, caused sickness and death, and that contagious diseases were caused by microorganisms. In this respect, he stated that each specific disease was caused by a specific microorganism. Thus, he had stated his germ theory of disease.

Pasteur went on to show that bacteria could be killed the same as other forms of life, and once killed in an area or place, that area or place would be sterile of them and would not be repopulated by bacteria unless a new strain of living bacteria was introduced into the sterile area. By 1864, Pasteur had largely disposed of the fallacy of spontaneous generation.

Pasteur then applied his findings to the French wine and beer industry, where rouge microorganisms were souring desirable alcohol. His development of pasteurization was largely completed by the spring of 1865.

Passwater: It's more common to think of pasteurized milk than pasteurized beer or wine.

Martin: Nevertheless, most people who drink wine and beer prefer not to have a lot of lactic acid or acetic acid in these beverages. This can happen when the wrong bacteria are present during the yeast fermentation. Pasteurization greatly helped the French beer and wine industries and Pasteur was rewarded by the French government with a leave of absence from his teaching duties and a request that he investigate a disease of silkworms causing problems in the silk industry. Pasteur found that the silkworms were being infected with a microorganism. He solved the problem by identifying the infected worms and having them destroyed by burning. By 1868, the French silk industry was well on the way to recovery.

With these successes, Pasteur was made a professor at two universities. He petitioned Emperor Napoleon III to build a laboratory for his research. Construction of his laboratory began in 1869, but soon misfortune would occur. In October 1869, Pasteur suffered a paralytic stroke which would plague him for the remainder of his life with partial paralysis of his left leg and arm. The Franco-Prussian War began in 1870, which left his school and laboratory partially destroyed and partially used for a hospital. No funds for his research were available after the war. Not only that, but he was unemployed not even getting the poverty-level of pay that the government was paying teachers-and was living on the food he raised Oil his small family farm.

The next three years were years of dismay, frustration and near despair for Pasteur. In the meantime, in Scotland, Dr. Joseph Lister had taken Pasteur's advice ;111(1 Mss using carbolic acid to kill germs arid create aseptic conditions during surgery at the University of Edinburgh Hospital. His patients had little danger of

death from post-surgery infection. In 1874, Lister wrote a letter to Pasteur, thanking him for his "brilliant researches [that] demonstrated the truth of the germ theory." This letter not only revitalized Pasteur's spirit, but helped convince the French government to once again support his research. The French Senate voted him a lifetime pension of $1,000 a month, which he used to live on and support his research.

Passwater: Wasn't it around 1880 that Pasteur made his first vaccine against chicken cholera?

Martin: Actually, it was 1879. He read his report before the Academy of Medicine in Paris, telling the doctors that their blood-caked coats were loaded with virulent germs and that it was time that they clean up and stop killing their patients. Now, remember, in those days those coats symbolized the doctors= status. In a rage, they laid hands on Pasteur, gave him bum=s rush out of the hall, and challenged him to a duel.

Passwater: Gee, I thought my research findings got rough treatment, but I was merely harassed and unsuccessfully sued, never challenged to a duel.

Martin: Robert Koch, a German physician, heaped abuse on Pasteur, saying that this non-physician had no business dabbling in medicine. Koch argued that it was utter nonsense that a bacterium could be attenuated.

Despite this ill treatment, Pasteur continued his research. In early 1881, he learned that heating bacteria, under certain conditions, could not only lessen the severity of a disease, but, at the same time, bring about a full immune response. In 1882, Pasteur made his vaccine against anthrax, a highly infectious bacterial disease. This time, he read his report before the French Academy of Science, where he now held the Chair in Mineralogy. There were no physicians present, but there were many members of the news media. The next day, the Paris newspapers all but shouted, "Up with Pasteur's Germs, and Down with Dirty Doctors."

Since most doctors in those days "just knew" that there were no such things as germs, all they had to do was to bring in the news media from all over the world and have Pasteur fail in an effort to demonstrate his vaccine. The fiasco would rid them of Pasteur, and they could go on, being just as dirty as they pleased.

Passwater: I found that when I challenged researchers in the 1970s to prove my antioxidant theories wrong, the few who did accept the challenge became avid supporters. Sometimes a little "show-and-tell wakes people up. What did Pasteur achieve with his?

Martin: Just as you said, it woke them up. It took place on June 5, 1881 and involved 25 unvaccinated sheep dying in agony alongside of 25 well and contented, vaccinated sheep. His demonstration was well-attended by the news media and thousands of French people.

Almost overnight, all over Europe, physicians cleaned up, got out of their frock coats and went to aseptic procedures in childbirth and surgery. Nevertheless, no such thing happened in the United States. As far as physicians over here were concerned, Pasteur's anthrax trial never happened. My professor of bacteriology in 1932 had a photo on the wall of his office of two physicians in Boston doing surgery in 1889. They were wearing frock coats, and the hooks used to close a wound were stuck in a lapel of one of their frock coats.

Passwater: So, in France, the germ theory was being accepted (the French Government established the Pasteur Institute in 1888), while U.S. physicians still were infecting patients with deadly diseases in 1889. What, eventually, led to American medicine's acceptance of Pasteur's theories?

Martin: Once again, as in France, it was pressure from the news media. As a boy of nine, Pasteur had witnessed a man dying in the screaming agonies of rabies, and it had always been his goal to give the world a cure for this dreaded disease. By 1889, some 60 years later, he had developed a rabies vaccine, and it was being used with great success. He had shown it to be effective in treating rabies for 21 days after a person had been bitten by a rabid animal-but not a day longer. There was no use or knowledge of the vaccine in the United States, where germs still were not officially recognized.

In the summer of 1889 in New York City, two small boys of a very poor family were bitten by the same rabid dog. As there was no rabies vaccine in America, the editor of the New York Herald brought steamship tickets for the boys to go to France. He sent a doctor with them. There was no radio then, so for 12 days there was no knowledge of the boys Where was however, the transatlantic cable, so Pasteur knew of their coming, and lie had told the press that it was going, to be a very close thing for the boys. Meanwhile, every day, the editor of the Herald had a front page editorial telling the Pasteur story and relating details about the anthrax trial. This copy was picked up by scores of other newspapers worldwide. My Grandmother Martin told me of prayer meetings that were held for the boys throughout the U.S. Midwest.

Pasteur sent one of his physicians on a small naval vessel to meet the ocean liner off the coast of Ireland so that the boys could begin their injections two days earlier. The youths arrived in time and were saved by Pasteur, to worldwide rejoicing and acclaim. This, at long last, got physicians in America to clean up and go to aseptic procedures in child delivery and surgery.

There are no more blood-caked frock coats today. Unfortunately, however, we still sometimes see vestiges of the blood-caked frock coat effect.

Passwater: I always have had great respect for the - media and their ability to get the scientific truth out directly to the public. In the 1970s, unpopular new findings remained buried in the scientific literature. It took activism to bring the information to the public because the establishment wasn't interested. By the 1990s, the media actively sorted through the scientific literature and educated the public. And, apparently, what you're saying is that this kind of thing has been going on for more than 100 years. This means that millions of lives have been saved by the media.

Wayne, there's one more point that we have to make. As I'm sure you know, and I hope our readers will understand, it is not our intent to denigrate physicians, but to show that, traditionally, they have been slow to accept new findings-especially nutritional advances. I have the utmost respect for physicians-especially holistic (also called complementary or alternative) practitioners-and the work they do. I understand that the conservative nature of the training presented at medical school, and the assumption that it is an ultimate gospel, make change difficult for most of the medical community. Holistic physicians usually arc more open-minded to new information and that's a good thing to keep in mind.

In our next installment, we'll visit again with Wayne Martin and discuss the real causes of several diseases. WF

 

2001 Whole Foods Magazine and Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D.

This article is copyrighted and may not be re-produced in any form (including electronic) without the written permission of the copyright owners.

 

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