Feed Your Head: The Legacy of Dr. Abram Hoffer

Feed Your Head: The Legacy of Dr. Abram Hoffer

The offices of Nutristart are located beautiful Victoria, B.C. Our town was also the home of the famed Dr. Abram Hoffer, one of the founding fathers of natural healing movement, who established the field of Orthomolecular Medicine.

Recently I ran across an interview with Dr. Hoffer (from 2008), in which he (at that point 90 years old) describes his daily multivitamin regimen. I will end this two-part newsletter with this information, a fascinating insight into the regimen of a nutritional pioneer. (Much of this newsletter is based on Dr. Hoffer’s interview with Dr. Andrew Saul, who co-authored a few books with Dr. Hoffer.)

Dr. Abram Hoffer
November 11, 1917 – May 27, 2009)Born in Saskatchewan, Hoffer relocated to Victoria, British Columbia in 1976, and continued with his private psychiatric practice, until his retirement in 2005. Known as the founding father of “Orthomolecular Medicine” in 1994 Hoffer founded the International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine, based on the principles of high dose nutrient therapy.

While Dr. Hoffer, over his lifetime, cured thousands of people in dire straights, wrote 30 books and 600 scientific papers, he is still disparaged by conventional medicine. (For evidence of that check out his Wikipedia page.)

Orthomolecular Medicine
When asked to define Orthomolecular Medicine, Hoffer stated: “Orthomolecular medicine restores natural metabolism with nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, in optimum quantities. This means much more than the RDA or DRI.” Today most of the vitamin industry is based on those principles.

Next to Hoffer, the other renowned father of Orthomolecular Medicine is Linus Pauling, the man who put vitamin C on the map. And it was Hoffer that brought Pauling into the fold. Pauling knew two people that Hoffer had treated successfully, and that association peaked his interest in nutritional medicine. He later read Hoffer’s book (co-authored with Dr. Humphry Osmond), “How To Live With Schizophrenia”. According to Hoffer, “That book convinced him that there was some merit to the idea of vitamin therapy.”

Asked in what cases high dose nutritional therapy prove to be most effective, this was Hoffer’s response: “It has been most successful for treating the walking wounded, that is, for those with arthritis, neurological conditions, and virtually all the psychiatric diseases. Orthomolecular medicine can be utilized within the whole field of medicine, even for patients whose primary treatment is surgery.

“Critical of psychiatry for its emphasis on psychoanalysis and for a lack of adequate definition and measurement, Hoffer felt that biochemistry and human physiology may be used instead. He hypothesised that schizophrenics may lack the ability to remove the hallucinogenic catecholamine metabolite adrenochrome from their brains. Hoffer thought niacin could be used as a methyl acceptor to prevent the conversion of noradrenaline into adrenaline and that Vitamin C could be used to prevent the oxidation of Adrenaline to Adrenochrome. Hoffer called his theory the “adrenochrome hypothesis”.  (Source)

Dr. Hoffer treated his first schizophrenic patient (a 2 year old boy) in 1960, successfully (the boy grew up to be a research psychiatrist), and since then he has treated approximately 5,000 schizophrenic patients with niacin.

According to Dr. Hoffer: “For schizophrenics, the natural recovery rate is 50%. With orthomolecular medicine, the recovery rate is 90%. With drugs, it is 0%. If you use just drugs, you won’t get well. This is because mental illness is usually biochemical illness. Mental illness is a disorder of brain dysfunction. Schizophrenia is vitamin B3 (niacin) dependency. Not a deficiency, a dependency.”

Margot Kidder
The most famous instance of Hoffer’s work with mental disorders occurred in 1997, when he was given credit by actress Margot Kidder (“Lois Lane” in Superman movies) for helping her recover from bipolar depression. (This after her 1996 publicized breakdown in Los Angeles.)

In 1998, Kidder was asked to narrate a documentary about Dr. Hoffer’s work, and the field of Orthomolecular Medicine. Her response was, “Hell, I don’t want just to narrate; I want to be in the film. The man saved my life.”

The completed documentary is called “Masks of Madness: Science of Healing”. It examines the “experiences of patients and doctors who went beyond conventional psychiatry to find answers in orthomolecular medicine. Margot and other patients discuss their mental illness, their difficulties in getting answers and their final recoveries using diet, vitamins and a minimum of pharmacological intervention.”   (View Documentary)

When Dr. Hoffer was 90 years old he was honored at the Lifetime Achievement Gala, there Kidder gave the following tribute: “Like thousands of others, when I experienced a mental breakdown I was unable to find the help I needed from mainstream psychiatry. I was so fortunate to find you, Dr. Hoffer, and to discover Orthomolecular Medicine; you have been an inspiration to me for ten years. Your pioneering spirit and deep humanity have sustained and driven this most important approach to healing. It has been an honour for me to work with you. Thank you!” (Source)

Feed Your Head
There is another documentary (45 min.), more exclusively about the life and work of Dr. Hoffer, called “Feed Your Head”. “Shot across Canada from 2006 to 2009, the film tells the story of Dr. Hoffer and Humphry Osmond, who met in 1951 and embarked on a quest to find a cure for schizophrenia. They showed that mental illness could be controlled with natural foods, a healthy lifestyle, and optimal doses of vitamins. Two-time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling defined the concept as ‘orthomolecular’ psychiatry. More than fifty years later, millions of patients have improved their mental health using these heretical ideas.”  (View documentary)

Alcoholics Anonymous
I was surprised to find that Dr. Hoffer had a working relationship with Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact, his book (co-authored by Andrew W. Saul) “The Vitamin Cure for Alcoholism”, is based on his experiences treating Wilson. Dr. Hoffer cured Wilson of his life-long depression, tension, and insomnia, with niacin, allowing him to be “comfortable in his sobriety”. Wilson, following Hoffer’s protocol, took 3,000 mg of niacin daily.

Dr. Hoffer took great pride in the fact that Wilson went on to organize AA and establish fellowships that helped millions to stay sober. As well Wilson introduced the concept of Orthomolecular Medicine to countless AA members. Hoffer also firmly believes that AA works most effectively when it is combined with a total nutritional approach.

Niacin is one of the safest alternatives to statin drugs for lowering cholesterol, and balancing out HDL and LDL levels. Hoffer and his fellow researchers proved this effect of niacin in 1954. The three colleagues combined their work, and in 1955 produced a paper entitled “Influence of nicotinic acid on serum cholesterol in man.” The paper summarized their research showing high-dose niacin significantly lowered cholesterol in both high cholesterol patients as well as low cholesterol control subjects. The results were replicated by researchers at the Mayo Clinic and in Germany the following year.

However, as Dr. Hoffer stated, “…of course, niacin is not a drug and cannot be patented, and therefore our discovery remains mainly a major irritant to the drug companies who have not been able to discover anything as safe and as effective. It is remarkable that niacin is the best for blood lipid levels and also for the psychoses. Nature is not dumb.”

Next week we will take a closer look at vitamin B3 and find out what supplements Dr. Hoffer used on a regular basis.

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