As you probably realize, I don’t refrain from expressing my opinions about national events, particularly the actions of the government, whether it’s outlawing raw almonds or starting another insane and criminal war in the Middle East.

However, this article is not about that. This article is about the war between the tree nuts. Which is the best nut?  

American researchers recently announced that walnuts have the best combination of antioxidants of any nut. They also raved about the quality of walnut protein, saying that it can replace meat in the diet. Of course, they also extolled the omega-3 fats in walnuts.

“Walnuts have a combination of more healthful antioxidants and higher quality antioxidants than any other nut,” were their exact words. Study findings were presented at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Anaheim, Southern California on March 21.  

The researchers based their conclusion on an analysis of antioxidants in nine different types of nuts: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias and pecans.  "A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut.”

Those are strong words.  I have always felt that in the domain of nuts, there are so many giants, it’s hard to say which one is best.  But walnuts are, undoubtedly, one of the best. And they have an amazing history too. Walnuts are the oldest cultivated food on planet Earth. And they are also the oldest pre-agricultural food eaten by humans. Walnuts that were quite identical to our modern walnuts grew one million years ago in a large swath of Asia that extended from Iran to India. It was the Romans who introduced walnuts to Europe, planting them in every country that they occupied, including Britain. Americans speak of “English walnuts” but England was actually one of the last stops in the march of the walnut trees. And, walnut trees are very hearty and long-lived: living up to 500 years.

However, what’s interesting is that, in contrast, the US Deptartment of Agriculture rates the pecan as the nut highest in antioxidants. In what they claim was the “largest, most comprehensive analysis of foods to date,” USDA researchers analyzed all kinds of foods and found that “pecans ranked highest among all nuts in antioxidant capacity and were among the highest of all foods in antioxidant capacity.” Pecans, of course, are an all-American nut. They are the only major tree nut that grows naturally in North America, with a natural range that encompasses the central and eastern USA and extending down into northern Mexico. Pecan trees have been known to live 1000 years! And as I have mentioned before, pecans are the highest in zinc of any plant food. Pecans absorb so much zinc that growers here in Central Texas use foliar zinc sprays to insure that the nuts fill out completely. And I don’t have to tell you how important zinc is.

So, which is better, pecans or walnuts? All I can tell you is that I eat both and on a daily basis.       

 Many Americans are taking or stockpiling potassium iodide due to the catastrophe in Japan.  It was reported on Friday that miniscule fallout from Japan was detected In Los Angeles.  However, it is Sunday  evening as I write this, and I have not seen any updates to that in the mainstream media.   An alternative media website reports that French authorities have announced that the radioactive plum has already crossed North America, reaching the western Atlantic Ocean, and is now headed towards Europe. They do not consider the amount of radiation being detected to be dangerous.  But, the entire Northern Hemisphere is expected to be affected eventually, which was also true of Chernobyl.

The basis for taking potassium iodide is that radioactive iodine-131 is formed from uranium and plutonium during nuclear fission.  Iodine-131, a potent carcinogen, will find its way to the thyroid gland and cause cancer. Other organs that accumulate iodine are also vulnerable, particularly women’s breasts.  

However, if tissues are fully saturated with iodine, they won’t pick up iodine-131. The standard emergency dose of potassium iodide is to take 130 mgs, which comes to 100 mgs of iodine.  100 mgs is 700x the US RDA for iodine. However, it is only 8x as much as is typically consumed in Japan on a daily basis  The seafood and seaweeds that they consume in large amounts deliver a lot of iodine.

But, it doesn’t have to be potassium iodide for emergency protection.  Any form of iodine will do.  Just don’t rely on iodized salt because consuming that much sodium could kill you.  Lugol’s solution will work, and so will Iodoral.  I keep the 12.5 mg Iodoral  around, which means that I would have to take 8 tabs to get the recommended 100 mgs.  And I will do that, if push comes to shove. Iodoral contains a combination of potassium iodide and elemental iodine.  This is advantageous because some tissues, including the breasts, like the elemental iodine better.

But timing counts for a lot. In order to be effective in blocking I-131 uptake, the 100 mg dose of iodine needs to be taken in a window of 24 hours before and 2 hours after exposure to fallout. If I hear of significant fallout on the West Coast, I am going to take 4 Iodoral  tablets immediately and then more later.  

Although the nuclear fallout from Japan has lost top billing, it’s far from over. As of Sunday night, they are saying that 2 of 6 reactors have been successfully cooled down. However, a third reactor is experiencing high pressure, and they may have to release some radioactive steam into the atmosphere.  They are saying that the risk of a core meltdown has dropped substantially, but it is not non-existent.  

Like most companies, VRP has been sold out of Iodoral and Potassium Iodide, however, they did locate a supply a Potassium Iodate, which is also safe and effective.  If you are interested, you can order it here: http://www.1to1vitamins.com/daily-program.html?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=354&category_id=21

I never overlook an opportunity to extol the virtues of nuts, and that includes pecans. 

New research out of Loma Linda University (which has penned much of the research about nuts) found that specific naturally occurring antioxidants in pecans support heart health and prevent disease. The results appeared in the January 2011 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.  

Pecans contain high amounts of the various forms of Vitamin E, including tocopherols and tocotrienols.  Pecans also contain numerous “phenolic compounds,” many of which have great antioxidant power. Pecans are especially rich in a form of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol. It was found that after eating pecans, gamma-tocopherol levels in the body doubled, and oxidation of LDL cholesterol decreased by 33 percent. Oxidized LDL is believed to cause inflammation within the arteries, the harbinger of cardiovascular disease.

"Our tests show that eating pecans increases the amount of healthy antioxidants in the body," says LLU researcher Ella Haddad, PhD, associate professor in the School of Public Health, Department of Nutrition. "This protective effect is important in helping to prevent development of various diseases, including cancer and heart disease."

Dr. Haddad analyzed biomarkers in blood and urine samples from study participants (a total of 16 men and women between the ages 23 and 44) who ate a sequence of three diets composed of whole pecans, pecans blended with water, or a control meal that lacked pecans. The pecan meals contained about three ounces of the nut. Samples were taken prior to meals and at intervals up to 24 hours after eating.

Following the test meals composed of whole pecans and blended pecans, researchers found that amounts of gamma-tocopherols (vitamin E) in the body doubled eight hours after both meals, and oxygen radical absorbance capabilities (ORAC-a scientific method for measuring antioxidant power in the blood) increased 12 and 10 percent respectively two hours after the meals. In addition, following the whole-pecan meal, oxidized LDL cholesterol decreased by 30 percent (after 2 hours), 33 percent (after 3 hours), and 26 percent (after 8 hours).

"This study is another piece of evidence that pecans are a healthy food," says Dr. Haddad. "Previous research has shown that pecans contain antioxidant factors. Our study shows that these antioxidants are indeed absorbed by the body and linger in the body for a long time, helping to prevent disease."

Research from Loma Linda University published earlier in the Journal of Nutrition showed that a pecan-enriched diet lowered levels of LDL cholesterol by 16.5 percent-more than twice the American Heart Association's Step I diet, which was used as the control diet in that study. Similarly, the pecan-enriched diet lowered total cholesterol levels by 11.3 percent (also twice as much as the Step I diet).

The USDA ranks pecans among the top 5 antioxidant foods on the planet.

But, won’t pecans, being high in oil, make you fat? Well, being a Texan, I eat pecans every day.  And I mean that literally. If a day passes in which I don’t eat some pecans, it’s probably because I fasted that day, which I occasionally do. And I am a lean, mean fighting machine. 40+ years of pecan-eating has not made me fat, and I dare say, it’s not going to.    

 

I want to refer you to an excellent article on Evolution by Dr. David Deming entitled “Doubting Darwin.” You can find it here:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig9/deming5.1.1.html

Dr.Deming makes the important point that Darwin’s theory contradicts the fossil record.  The big question Dr. Deming asks is, “Where are the transitional fossils?” I agree it’s a huge, gaping problem. But, if we hone in on one particular line of evolutionary development, then we can see clearly how gigantic the problem is. 

 

So, let’s take Dr. Deming’s question and get very specific about it. Let us ask: Where are the transitional breast fossils?”

 

Darwinists don’t like talking about breasts. They prefer to talk about eyes. That’s because the evolution of the eye seems very straight-forward. Supposedly, it started with a strip or patch of cells that happened to become more sensitive to light. Then it developed into a cavity so that the light could be channeled. Then there evolved the pupil, the lens, etc. resulting in the modern complex eye, but every step along the way was useful and functional.  Every change conferred a survival advantage.  There is fossil evidence of rudimentary eyes, and there is wide range of complexity in the eyes of existing species. Conceptually, it’s neat and tidy.  Let’s say that they’re able to talk a good game over it.

 

But when the discussion turns to the female breast, it’s much more arduous. There are no transitional breasts in the fossil record, and there are no rudimentary breasts among living species.  A female breast produces a finished product, milk, and nothing less.  It’s hard to imagine what the gradual evolution of the mammary gland was like. What exactly did the first (accidental) genetic changes towards lactation consist of, and what did they accomplish? How did they provide a survival advantage? (And remember, according to Darwin, they had to do so, or otherwise they got chucked.) 

 

Evolutionists have tried to answer that by suggesting that breasts evolved from sweat glands, and that in the beginning, it involved just a transfer of water, and perhaps salt, from mother to infant. But, we should note, first, that that is just a speculation.  There is not the slightest bit of evidence to support it, past or present.  But, not only is it fanciful to suggest that the lapping of sweat by an infant would enhance its survival- it’s preposterous even to suggest that the infant would lap.

 

Infant behavior is instinctual; it is genetically determined. So, you would have to have simultaneous, but independent, genetic changes in the infant brain controlling its behavior at the same time that the maternal breast was evolving, and the changes would have to be synchronous. And remember, we are talking about random, accidental genetic changes. 

 

But, it isn’t just the infant brain that had to evolve. The entire body of the infant had to be completely transformed to turn it into a milk-processing machine. That involved its mouth and teeth, its entire digestive tract, its kidney and liver function, its hormonal function, its immune function, and more.  The entire body of the infant is adapted to a milk diet. These myriad changes would have had to occur at the same time the maternal breast was evolving, and all from accidental, spontaneous mutations.

 

Do you have any idea how many mutations would be involved in the complete metamorphosis of a pre-mammalian infant into a mammalian one?  Can you see now how flighty it is to depict breast evolution as the mere tweaking of sweat glands into mammary glands? What about the infant? How could millions, or perhaps billions, of adaptations take place in the body of the infant to adjust it to a milk diet if the entire process depended on nothing but random, directionless mutations? And why would the very earliest changes in that random process have been naturally selected when there was not yet any milk? Remember, Evolution is blind, directionless. It is not leading anywhere.

 

The point is that with the eye, you just had one thing and one purpose. But, with the breast, you had not only all the changes to the breast, but you also had all the changes to the infant, which amounted to the complete transformation of the organism. We’re talking about a magnitude of change comparable to caterpillar to butterfly. How could it possibly happen by a series of genetic accidents?

 

Let’s compare it to the lottery. If you only had to pick 1 number right out of 45, your chances of winning would be 1 in 45.  If you had to pick 2 numbers right, your odds drop to 1 in 1980.  To pick all 6 numbers right, your odds drop to less than 1 in 15 million. To simultaneously evolve the female breast and the mammalian infant from random genetic mutations, how many numbers would you have to get right?  And what would be the odds against it? Even if you grant that Nature can “select” (through survival of the fittest) a lucky mutation, you still have to get the mutation. You still have to get all of them. The mutation itself is a random event. Nature has no control over that.  How could Nature be so lucky as to keep getting them? Isn’t it like winning the lottery again and again and again, ad infinitum?

 

The stock answer to that is that my foolish self has no idea of the impact of geologic time. We’re talking about eons of time- enough time for evolution by natural selection to do its thing. Well, the Earth is only 4 ½ billion years old, and life on Earth has existed for only 2 billion years.  It’s funny how small those numbers seem in the age of trillion dollar deficits.  But whether 2 billion years was enough time or not is a matter for mathematicians to debate, and according to Granville Sewell, mathematics professor at the University of Texas El Paso, it was not enough time.  Dr. Sewell, like Dr. Deming, is a signee of the Dissent from Darwinism statement of the Discovery Institute. Mathematicians, as a class of scientists, have been the most skeptical of Evolution.

 

The bottom line is that modern Evolutionary theory, which is the foundation of all of Biology including Medicine, is the most colossal fraud in the history of Science, and every aware person should feel an obligation to expose it.

Ingrid Bergman is my favorite actress, and it’s partly because Casablanca is my favorite movie.  No female character was ever more radiant, beautiful, and alluring than Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund.

Ingrid Bergman died on her 67th birthday.  Hers was a relatively short life, but surely it was more exciting and tumultuous than anything she could have possibly dreamed of growing up in Sweden- and she did imagine herself as a great actress.  But, it wasn’t her acting career but rather the heartaches of her personal life that caused her so much tumult.  

But, even her childhood was tragic. She was born in Sweden in 1915 to a Swedish father and a German mother. But her mother died when she was only 3, and Ingrid was sent to live with an aunt. But, that aunt died less than a year later, so Ingrid suffered again. Then, she went to live with her beloved father, but he died when she was 12. Then, she spent her teenage years living with another aunt and uncle, who had 5 children of their own. So, it was a harrowing childhood, for sure.   

The book I read was called Ingrid by Charlotte Chandler, and it is one of the best known Bergman biographies.  It was good, and it almost left me in tears at the end.  But, I am also rather annoyed with the author.  She never mentioned anything about Ingrid’s smoking, and she was a heavy smoker.  Her most famous character Ilsa Lund never smoked- even though Casablanca is probably the most smoke-laden movie ever made, and there were other female characters in it who did smoke.  And, it was Ingrid’s decision not to smoke on camera in Casablanca.  She said it was because “Ilsa was a good girl.” I learned that from reading a book about the making of Casablanca, and to me, it is an interesting piece of trivia that a tenacious biographer would have included.  Ingrid Bergman not only smoked, but she smoked the strongest cigarettes in the world: unfiltered Gauloises cigarettes from France. She also drank quite a lot of alcohol, and her drinking was an issue between her and her first husband, Petter Lindstrom.

However, one thing the book did cover very well was Ingrid Bergman’s eating habits.  I am going to address that, but before I do, I want to point out that I am not trying to disparage Ingrid Bergman.  I admire her greatly, not just for her radiant beauty and immense talent but for her courage in coping with all the trauma in her life.  She played Joan of Arc, and you could say she was Joan of Arc.  I am just trying to analyze why she died of cancer at 67.  

Ingrid Bergman liked to eat.  The book said that. As a child and as an adult, she had a healthy appetite.  And, I don’t say that facetiously. It is healthy to have a good appetite.  But Ingrid was tall (5’9”) and rather big-boned, and it was a constant struggle for her to maintain her ideal weight.  One of the biggest problems in her first marriage was that her husband, Petter, was constantly riding her about what she ate.  Nobody likes that. And unfortunately, she leaned towards fattening foods.  The Swedish diet that she grew up on was heavy on cream, butter, meat, fish, and low on fruits and vegetables.  She had a powerful sweet tooth, and she adored “butter cookies.” Can you imagine using so much butter that you name the cookie after it? When she came to America, she discovered American ice cream. She found it to be so much richer and creamier than the European frozen desserts, such as Italian gelato. The book said that, when in New York, she would sometimes consume 3 or 4 big ice creams desserts a day, such as ice cream sundaes, and she would visit different ice cream parlors to avoid embarrassment. 

The sad thing is that there is nothing wrong with having a sweet tooth. I certainly have one.  It just depends on how you satisfy it. Eating fruits is the best and most natural way to satisfy it, and it would have been so much better if she had eaten fruits, and even pigged out on them. It may not have been practical for her as a girl growing up in Sweden, but once she became a movie star, I dare say she could have indulged in all the fruits she wanted.  And you can argue that fruits alone might not have done it for her by then, but if so, it was only because she got conditioned to ice cream and other more intense sweets.  When it comes to food, conditioning is a powerful factor.

The most tumultuous time in her life had to be when she left her husband and daughter in America to join famed director Roberto Rossellini  in Italy to make a movie. She had become enthralled with his "neorealism" approach to movies. It began innocently enough, but before long, she fell in love with Rossellini, conceived a child by him, and it became a major scandal. Can you imagine that a US Senator stood up before the entire Senate to condemn her? He even proposed legislation to formally condemn her.  Condemnation came from all quarters.  The Swedish Lutheran Church, of which Ingrid was a member, formally condemned her, and so did the Roman Catholic Church- even though she wasn’t Catholic. She received hate mail from all over the world, which, unfortunately, she read. What’s insane about it- besides the fact that it was none of their business- was that they didn’t even know the whole story. They didn’t know that her marriage to Petter was already on the rocks, and that she had already discussed  divorce with him- for reasons that had nothing to do with Rossellini.  She had been miserable in her marriage to Petter for a long time.  It was a major reason why she worked so much- to get away from him.  He was a tyrant. And the attacks on her motherhood were also unwarranted. She loved Pia. It is true that she went 6 years without seeing her, but that was only because Petter did everything he could to prevent it.  He would not allow Pia to travel to Italy, and Ingrid could not come to America- for fear of her life.  There were death threats, and there was even talk of arresting her. Eventually, Pia did reunite with her mother, and she also bonded with her Rossellini siblings. So, that aspect of the story did have a happy ending.

But, there wasn’t much happiness for Ingrid with Rossellini. He turned out to be just as bossy and controlling as her first husband.  And he had one fault that her first husband completely lacked: unfaithfulness.  The reason their marriage ended was because he went off to India to make a movie, and he returned with a young Indian woman whom he had impregnated.  But of course, there were problems before that. From what I can tell, Rossellini was, frankly, a  jerk.

My impression is that her first husband was loyal, reliable, and very mature and responsible, also very accomplished in his own field, which was Medicine, but he was also rather cold and unfeeling- or at least unable to express much feeling.  Rossellini, on the other hand, had tons of feeling, but he was a perennial adolescent,  totally spoiled, and recklessly irresponsible.  So, Ingrid went from the frying pan to the fire to be with him.  It must have been every bit as stressful as being with Petter and maybe more so. But as she said herself years later looking back, if she hadn’t gone with Rossellini, her three beloved children with him wouldn’t exist, and that was, indeed, the only way to look at it.

Her third and final marriage was to Swedish theater producer, Lars Schmidt. It was probably her most peaceable marital union, but there was still plenty of stress fighting with both her ex-husbands to get access to her children.  And ultimately, Schmidt did the same thing that Rossellini did; he got a young woman pregnant, which led to their divorce. It’s amazing that the actress who, in her prime, was heralded as being the most beautiful in the world was cheated on by two husbands.

And she had other stresses. For instance, her daughter Isabella  (the well-known actress and model Isabella Rossellini) developed a severe spinal scoliosis at age 13. She required multiple operations, braces, casts, etc., and it was an extremely laborious, protracted, and painful ordeal. Ingrid took two years off from acting to be by her daughter’s side.

In her early 60s, Ingrid discovered that she had breast cancer. There is no telling how long she had it because in the early stages it is completely asymptomatic.  She discovered it while reading a magazine article about the importance of doing breast exams.  So, she did one, and she found a rather large lump which proved to be cancerous.  She underwent a complete, radical mastectomy, and then, for some reason, they had to go back in to remove more tissue.  The removal of her lymph glands resulted in severe chronic swelling of her right arm, which was both painful and disfiguring. She always wore a shawl on that side to cover it.

But, she continued working after she got cancer, and she worked up until a few months before her death, her last  project having been a television biopic  about  Israeli  Prime Minister Golda Meir.  Ingrid died in 1982 in Stockholm, Sweden- the same place she was born. And, she died on August 29- which was the same day on which she was born. Imagine that there she was celebrating her birthday, receiving calls of appreciation from family and friends from all over the world, and then, she died.  

But, why did she die so young, especially when she looked so vibrant,  healthy, and all "peaches and cream" when she was young?  

Well, we know that smoking has been tied to breast cancer, and it’s a fact that drinking alcohol is even more strongly tied to breast cancer. And the tie with alcohol is linear, meaning that there is no level of “moderate consumption” at which there is no increased risk. It starts with the very first drink.   One of the largest studies of its kind found that even moderate alcohol consumption, as little as one drink per day, increased the risk of developing the most common kind of breast cancer.  And the more a woman drank, the higher her risk.  Those women taking 3 drinks a day had a whopping 51% higher risk of breast cancer than non-drinkers.

And regarding diet, studies have shown a significant correlation between dairy products and breast cancer. Ingrid ate plenty of dairy- not just her beloved ice cream, but cheese, yogurt, butter, etc.  And, the anti-cancer compounds that we now know occur in plants, particularly fruits and vegetables, she did not eat enough of.  Not a single vegetable was mentioned in the book as a favorite of hers, and the only fruit mentioned was banana- as part of a banana split!

What about all the stress in her life? Did it contribute to her getting cancer? It had to have worked against her.  But, I suspect that the worst thing it did was push her to indulge more in her bad habits.  If you smoke, you smoke more when you are under stress. If you drink, you drink more when you are under stress.  It seems that people treat themselves the worst when they are under stress.

I want to finish by pointing out that Ingrid Bergman was an incredibly nice person.  She was good to everybody. And that included not only her ex-husbands long after they were divorced, but also their children. For instance, she bought gifts for the Indian son of Roberto Rossellini.  And she made it a habit to invite him to family gatherings and treat him like family.  This young man, Gil Rossellini, thought the world of Ingrid Bergman.  Also, in the last year of her life, she tried to make amends with her first husband, Petter Lindstrom.  He was a leading American brain surgeon by then. He had a wife and four children- plus the daughter he had with Ingrid, Pia. Ingrid visited  him and his family in San Diego and brought them all gifts. She knew that the end was near for her, and she wanted to find peace and equanimity with Petter before she died.  Reportedly, he did not respond in kind, but she tried.  And, consider how brilliant she was: she spoke 5 languages fluently: Swedish, German, English, French, and Italian. And, she was an accomplished musician. In her first big Hollywood production Intermezzo, she played the role of a concert pianist, and she did her own playing. The sound that you hear in the movie is that of a professional pianist, but the hands that you see performing authentically on the keyboard are those of Ingrid Bergman.  

I will leave you with some quotes from Ingrid Bergman, who was a great star and an inspiring person.

“Happiness is good health, and a bad memory.”

"A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous."

"I've gone from saint to whore and back to saint again, all in one lifetime."

One of the largest lifestyle studies in the history of medical research was recently completed.  It was sponsored jointly by the US National Cancer Institute (a government agency) and the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (commonly known as AARP).  It involved over half a million Americans who completed surveys and were followed for 9 years.

The results showed that higher consumption of whole grains correlated with a lower risk of dying- from all causes- including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and even respiratory diseases- in both men and women.  Overall, men who ate whole grains regularly had a 23% lower risk of dying than men who avoided whole grains, and women had a 20% lower risk concomitantly.  But concerning cardiovascular disease by itself, men saw a risk reduction of up to 56%, while women saw up to 59% less risk.

The authors attributed the results mainly to whole grain fiber, and they even found that whole grain fiber was more protective against colon cancer than other kinds of fiber, including fruit and vegetable fiber.

They also made note of the high antioxidant content of whole grains, particularly their sky-high polyphenol content.  Polyphenols are protective compounds found in plant foods.  They contribute much more antioxidant activity than the more familiar vitamins, such as C and E.   

The researchers said that their study offered superior statistical integrity, noting that previous studies suffered from small sample sizes, narrow ranges of dietary fiber intakes, and inadequate controls for confounding factors.

What will the grain-o-phobes like Eades, Mercola, Sisson, and Cordain say about this landmark study? I suspect they’ll say nothing, but that won’t be new. They’ve been ignoring the research for a long time. The fact is that every research study on whole grains that has ever been done has been favorable.  I have never seen or heard of a study in which adding or upping whole grain consumption resulted in more disease or earlier death. If you know of one, I sure want to hear about it.  You can contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

I just finished reading a biography of Howard Hughes, and I would like to comment about the health aspects of his life. Unfortunately for him, the health aspects of his life are what people remember most about him- his becoming an eccentric, deranged recluse, obsessed about germs (while paradoxically neglecting his own personal hygiene) and sinking into ever-worsening mental illness. The medical consensus is that he suffered from severe Obsessive/Compulsive disorder, but that medical term did not exist during his lifetime.  And towards the end of his life, he may have become paranoid schizophrenic. But rather than labeling him, it’s more important to figure out why he sank into such severe mental illness.     

Some of it began early. The obsession about germs he inherited from his mother. She would frantically remove him from a school or summer camp because of sudden fear of his contracting polio or other disease.  Some of his early obsessions seemed peculiar, but relatively harmless. For instance, peas were one of the few vegetables he would eat, but he only liked small ones. Large peas he considered inedible, and he invented a device by which he could measure the size of peas and separate the larger ones from the smaller ones, and he carried it with him always.  However, the same obsessive/compulsive nature that sparked his early quirks and eccentricities also drove his larger ambitions: to become the greatest aviator, the greatest industrialist, the greatest film mogul, and the richest man in the world. He succeeded on the grandest scale in becoming one of the most influential and impactful figures of the 20th century, not only in spite of his obsessive/compulsive nature but probably because of it. A normal person would never even have conceived of doing the things that he did.

Howard Hughes was gifted. I would say that he was one in a million, but that would be a gross understatement. He was one in a hundred million, and I am speaking of his ability to grasp and learn and get things done. Formally, he had little education beyond high school. He took a few classes at a Rice University in Houston, and he sat in on some classes at Cal State Poly, but once his father died when Howard was 18, he took control of the Hughes Tool Company and that was the end of his formal education. Yet, he was intricately involved in the technical aspects of his many inventions- as much so as the scientists and engineers he employed. He was truly a genius and a visionary- as much so as Thomas Edison and Nicholas Tesla.  And if his mental illness had not advanced, his productivity would probably have continued for many more years- to his and the world’s benefit.     

So, the question is why did he deteriorate mentally and so badly? Here are the reasons.

First, as a young man, he contracted syphilis. It’s not known for sure how he got it, but he did consort with a lot of prostitutes early on. And it wasn’t the usual kind of dalliance. He hired them, not so much for his gratification, but to teach him sexual techniques. He decided that he wanted to become the greatest lover of all time and bed every beautiful Hollywood star and starlet, and he very nearly did it.  But, without wanting to go off on a tangent, I have to say that syphilis is rather like AIDS in that the exact nature of the disease is controversial. And the treatment of syphilis, even during Howard Hughes’ time, was extremely harsh.  Howard Hughes was treated with mercury and arsenic! Can you imagine? I have to wonder to what extent his brain damage was due to syphilis and to what extent it was due to the treatment he received for syphilis. One thing is for sure: the treatment did not help him.

Second, he suffered a total of 14 crashes, and that's including automobile and airplane. We could add a 15th head injury- the time that Ava Gardner clobbered him over the head with a heavy metal statuette, which landed him in the hospital. His worst accident was the crash of the experimental XF-11 spy plane.  That time, a head concussion left him in a coma for days, and he very nearly died.  He broke almost all his ribs and had other fractures, including a skull fracture, plus a collapsed lung, and he was badly burned over much of his body.

Third, as a direct result of the above accident, he started taking opiates and other drugs for pain, particularly codeine. He resisted it at first. He prided himself on being a clean liver. He never smoked, and he abhorred smoking, even among his women, including Katherine Hepburn.  He drank alcohol socially, but he was never an alcoholic, and he eventually gave up alcohol completely. He never used recreational drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, which were popular in Hollywood, even then.  In the end, codeine addiction debilitated him as much or more than anything else.

Fourth, he was a lifelong insomniac. At first, he did not take drugs for it; he just stayed up.  But eventually, he began taking Seconal (which is a harsh barbiturate, no longer in common medical use) and Librium (which was the very first benzodiazepine).  Howard Hughes is another good example of the fact that, as bad as insomnia is, it’s better to live with it than to take drugs for it.

Fifth, and finally, Howard Hughes deteriorated because of subterfuge and chicanery.  He came to rely on one William Gay who put together the so-called “Mormon Mafia” which comprised Hughes’ inner circle in his final years.  They kept him dangerously plied with Codeine, Librium, and Valium all the time, precisely to control him and his vast empire to their own benefit.  After Hughes' death in 1976, criminal charges were filed against members of the Mormon Mafia by the government of Mexico (where Hughes was living at the time of his death) and by at least one state government (Nevada). But nothing came of it other than some fines. No one did any jail time.  The final coroner’s report revealed that Hughes died of: codeine poisoning (there was enough codeine in his system to kill 5 people) starvation (he was well over 6 feet tall and weighed only 90 pounds) and kidney failure (which was undoubtedly caused by the drugs).

So, what are the health lessons to be learned from the life of Howard Hughes? One, pick your parents wisely because his mother, like him, suffered with mental illness; Two, stay away from prostitutes and unsafe sex; Three, protect your noggin; Four, don't rely on drugs for sleep no matter how bad it gets; Fifth, be wary of doctors, because the fact is that the Mormon Mafia could not have laced Hughes with drugs without prescriptions; licensed medical doctors were involved, just as in the cases of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Judy Garland, Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger, and so many others. And finally, don’t trust anybody with your health. Always be in charge of your own health. Some things you delegate.  Your health, you don’t.     

 

You probably realize that back pain is one of the most ubiquitous complaints, provoking more doctor visits than any other symptom. I have been asked to comment about the role of diet and nutrition in back pain. But first, I want to emphasize the major role of biomechanics in the origin of back pain. The spinal column is a machine, a very complex machine, and like all machines, it has to be used correctly.  Unfortunately, there is very little awareness of the proper use of the back, even among health care professionals.  I was fortunate to be introduced to the Alexander Technique when I was in my 30s, and I feel that it has helped me greatly in my life. I am now 60, and I have no back problems at all- not the slightest bit of pain.  And I am very active, exerting myself in both work and play. So, getting the biomechanics right is the first requirement for a healthy back, and I know of nothing better than the Alexander Technique.

But in regard to diet and nutrition, there are two effects to consider. First is the whole issue of weight.  It’s easy to see how excess body weight can strain the knee joints and lead to premature degeneration of that joint. Well, it’s the same for the back. So, the role of a healthy diet in maintaining a healthy weight becomes paramount.

And the second issue relating to diet pertains to the quality of the circulation. Intervertebral disc degeneration is very common. We hear about “slipped discs” but that is a euphemism. There is no way for a disc to slip out of place. It doesn't slip, rather, it crumbles, much how a rotten tree stump crumbles. It “slips” only because its tissues have degenerated.  You might say that the disc is dying. Why is it dying? It relates to the fact that there is very poor circulation in a spinal disc. It gets most of its nutrition and drainage by diffusion.  The number of blood vessels is so few that as soon as arterial disease sets in, nutrition to the discs suffers greatly.  What I am saying is that just as it is said that impotence may be the first sign of heart disease in a man (even though it is far removed from the heart), likewise intervertebral disc disease may be a sign of cardiovascular disease as well.  It’s easy to see why smokers have a very high incidence of spinal disc disease that is 3X greater than non-smokers.  They choke off the circulation to their discs with every drag of their cigarettes.

So, if you want to avoid back problems, first, learn how to use your back correctly, and the state-of-the-art method for doing that is the Alexander Technique. Second, get lean and stay lean because it reduces pressure on your back. Third, don’t smoke. Fourth, eat a diet that keeps your arteries clear and your blood flowing, which, to my mind, means a plant-based diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes, and not much of anything else.  And let’s face it: if you eat an ample amount of all of the above-mentioned foods, you are not going to have much room left (in your stomach) for anything else.  After all, how much food can you eat?  Maybe occasionally eat a good piece of fish- if you can get it. Maybe, occasionally, have a free-range, organic egg.  But these, and all other animal foods, should be limited. Make plant foods the vast bulk of what you eat.  That’s what I do.  And my back is strong. Strong like bull.     

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