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Linus Pauling: A Decade After His Last Interview, His Reputation Continues to Grow


A Decade After His Last Interview, His Reputation Continues to Grow
© By Peter Barry Chowka
Source: Natural Health Line

(April 1, 2004) On August 19, 1994, Linus Pauling, PhD died of cancer at age 93 at his home in Big Sur, California. The only person to win two unshared Nobel prizes (for Chemistry in 1954 and Peace in 1962), Pauling, during the last 25 years of his life, became a vocal and uniquely effective advocate for vitamin C and nutritional medicine. He has been given credit by many people for almost single handedly making vitamin C the most popular and widely used nutritional supplement in the world and for helping to significantly advance the fields of clinical nutrition, primary prevention, and "orthomolecular" medicine (a term he coined).

On April 9, 1994, four months before his death, Pauling gave his last feature-length interview, to this writer. It was the eighth time since 1980 that I had interviewed him. The venue for our final conversation was a live radio talk show in San Diego, California that I was hosting. On that Saturday morning at 9 am, Pauling appeared on the program by telephone live from his ranch in Big Sur.

The anniversary of that interview is April 9, 2004. The decade that has passed provides an opportunity to reflect on both the content of the interview and the fact that a talk radio program provided the context for it.

During the quarter of a century after his involvement with vitamin C and orthomolecular medicine began in 1970, Pauling used the media - particularly radio and TV talk shows - to discuss his work and to spread the gospel of natural healing. Over the years, he was a frequent guest on every kind of program from nationally syndicated television talk shows like the one hosted during the 1970s and '80s by Merv Griffin to radio call-in programs in local markets, like that one I was doing in San Diego in 1994 on station KCEO AM 1000.

As media guru (and later, founder of the Fox News Channel) Roger Ailes explained in his 1987 book You Are the Message, an author or thought leader is only as successful in the media as the reality and legitimacy of his personality and message. Pauling unequivocally embodied the messages he was espousing: independence, empowerment, and health.

In the decade since his death, much of what Pauling pioneered, in terms of vitamin C, the antioxidants, and nutritional medicine, has been validated. For example, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published several articles in its February 6, 2001 issue about vitamin C. The editorial notes, "In the past decade, however, interest in vitamin C has been revitalized with a new understanding of its biochemistry. Ascorbic acid, an antioxidant, is now known to be a specific electron donor for 8 enzymes, and it may have more biologic functions than just preventing scurvy. In this issue, Sebastian J. Padayatty and Mark Levine review these developments and argue that subclinical vitamin C deficiency may be more common than we think (page 353).

"On page 351 L. John Hoffer argues that it is also time to re-evaluate vitamin C's possible usefulness in managing cancer. Pointing out errors in the design of the randomized trials of vitamin C therapy published in the 1970s, Hoffer argues that although there are other possible explanations we cannot rule out high-dose intravenous vitamin C as the cause of the remissions in [Ewan] Cameron's patients. [Cameron, a Scottish surgeon (1922-1991), became Pauling's close collaborator and the medical director of the Linus Pauling Institute for Science and Medicine.] Such a thing is no longer implausible. As science advances, so does the potential for a miracle."

An excerpt from Pauling's last interview is interesting to consider now, a decade after it was first broadcast:

PETER CHOWKA: For many years you and your colleagues faced an uphill battle with the medical powers-that-be in terms of your inability to get a fair hearing for your ideas about vitamin C and for nutritional medicine in general. Has that situation changed?

LINUS PAULING, PhD: Oh I think it has been changing. Scientists have tended to follow my recommendations, but I've had more trouble with the medical establishment--they seem to me to be biased, not to have an open mind with respect to information that becomes available about vitamins and other nutrients in relation to cancer and other diseases.
Recently, in the last year or so, part of my effort has been to counteract a strange stance on the part of the medical establishment: They have now accepted the fact that antioxidants taken in foods cut down on the incidence of cancer. But in their books and articles they still say "but don't take vitamin supplements." This is completely illogical from my point of view. They don't give any arguments at all to support the statement. A paper by James Enstrom, Ph.D., and his associates shows how valuable even a little extra vitamin C in the form of a supplement is.10

CHOWKA: Your comments about the medical establishment suggest another question. In 1982 you said that, in your view, it was the American public that was primarily responsible for the changing face of modern medicine, especially for most of the progressive momentum. Is that still your view today?

PAULING: Oh yes! I think that the public as a whole responded better to the statements that Cameron and I or Hoffer and I were making than the medical establishment. Ten years ago people were telling me, "I told my doctor I was taking a gram of vitamin C per day or three grams of vitamin C per day and he said 'You mustn't do that, that'll kill you, those vitamins are poisonous.'" Five years ago people began reporting to me, "I told the doctor I was taking several grams of vitamin C per day and he said, 'Well, that won't hurt you. Go ahead if you want to. It probably won't do any good. But if you want to take it, go ahead.'" Today, of course, doctors are apt to say "That's fine, perhaps it is doing good for you," especially when the patient shows up in much better shape than the doctor had expected and says, "I think the reason is high doses of vitamin C and vitamin E and so on that I've been taking." Doctors tend to agree with that point of view now. I don't know to what extent doctors take the initiative in prescribing vitamins for their seriously ill patients. But I think many of them are at least open to it now.

Reference (above)
10. Enstrom, J.E., Kanin, L.E., & Klein, M.A. Epidem, 3: 194-202, 1992.

For more information,

Ewan Cameron Papers
Oregon State University

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers
Oregon State University

Vitamin C Foundation

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