IN THE MEDICAL publication called Proceedings of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine for the month of July, 1951, B. H. Ershoff, M.D., described a fantastic experiment he performed with rats in order to test an anti-fatigue diet. He had an idea that there is something in liver that might produce energy. He used 3 groups of rats, feeding them for 12 week as much as they wanted of 3 different diets. The first group ate a basic diet, fortified with 9 synthetic and 2 natural vitamins. The second group ate this same diet, vitamins and all, with a plentiful supply of vitamin B complex added. The third group ate the original fortified diet, but instead of vitamin B complex, 10 percent desiccated liver was added to their ration.
Desiccated liver must not be confused with extract of liver which is used in the treatment of anemia. Desiccated liver is the entire liver of selected, healthy cattle -- liver that has been freed of external connective tissue and fat, and dried in a vacuum at a temperature far below the boiling point so as to conserve as much of the nutritional content as possible. The final, powdered or tableted product is about one-fourth by weight of the fresh raw liver.
The first group of rats, which was given the ordinary diet, showed the least amount of growth in 12 weeks. The second group that received the extra B vitamins, experienced a little higher rate of growth in that period. But the third set which, instead of the additional B complex, was given the desiccated liver, grew about 15 percent more than group one.
Then Dr. Ershoff tested his rat subjects for fatigue. They were placed one by one into a drum of water from which they could not climb out. They had to keep swimming or drown.
The rats on the original diet, which was well fortified with vitamins, swam for an average of 13.3 minutes before they gave up. The second group of rats, which had the added fortification of the ample B vitamins of brewer's yeast, swam for 13.4 minutes before giving up. Of the last group of rats, 3 swam for 63, 83, and 87 minutes. The other 9 rats of this group, the ones that had the desiccated liver, were still swimming vigorously at the end of 2 hours when the test was terminated. In other words, the rats that had received desiccated liver could swim almost 10 times as long as the others, without becoming tired.
Liver protein contains all the amino acids, and it helped male as well as female rats to keep on swimming for two hours. Liver seems to be the thing, to be sure, that we should have in our diets in adequate amounts, in order to prevent certain nutritional deficiencies. We know that extract of liver cures anemia. No one can question the value of taking liver. There is nothing harmful about it.
Liver and Cancer
In another experiment it was found that whole beef liver was not as effective as dried beef liver in holding down the cancer. This would seem to indicate that desiccated liver is better than whole liver for this purpose.
Although the experiments described were done with rats, Dr. Sugiura says in the Journal of Nutrition article that, "These dietary influences may prove to play a very large part in the causation, prevention, and treatment of human cancer."
A certain colony of mice was helpful in furthering two kinds of research recently -- research into the value of animal food versus vegetable food, which led into research involving desiccated liver. These experiments were reported in the Journal of Nutrition. They were conducted by D. K. Boshardt, Winifred J. Paul, Kathleen O'Doherty, J. W. Huff and R. H. Barnes of the Department of Biochemistry of Sharp and Dohme, Incorporated, Glenolde, Pennsylvania.
The colony of mice had been fed on a diet of vegetables and cereal grains during the war. Brewer's yeast, a plant, was included in the diet as well as some synthetic B vitamins. After many generations had been fed this purely vegetarian diet, it was noted that the addition of liver to the diet of some of the mice increased their rate of growth considerably over that of the mice which did not receive liver.
After the war was over, meat scraps and dry skim milk were include in the diet. After some time on this diet, which included animal proteins, liver was fed again, and it was discovered that there was then no difference in rate of growth between those mice which had received liver and those which had not. So it was assumed that the mice could store for a certain period of time the "animal protein factor" contained in the meat and milk, and not in the vegetables and yeast.
Animal Protein Necessary
In a third experiment mice from some of the first 3 of these litters (whose mothers had been living on vegetarian diets, remember) were also placed on a vegetarian diet. Then one group of them was given a supplement of desiccated liver. Those offspring from the first litter after this experiment began showed an average gain in weight of 6.05 grams in the mice who had liver in their diet. Those which had the liver gained 10.98 grams in the same time. In the second and third litters there was a weight gain of 2.20 grams and .90 grams for those which did not have liver and 10.43 and 10.40 grams for those receiving liver.
The authors indicate that this experiment shows a definite relationship between lack of animal protein in the diet of the mothers and the very disappointing gain in weight of their offspring. It also shows that some substance in liver corrects this "animal protein" deficiency.
In drawing their conclusions, the authors review other work which has been done on the importance of liver in the diet. As early as 1932 and 1933, L. W. Mapson showed in the Journal of Bio-Chemistry Vol. 26 and 27, that an apparently adequate diet can be improved by the addition of liver. His work demonstrated that liver contains a substance not present in yeast that has a stimulating effect on the growth and lactation of rats. Neither yeast nor wheat germ added to the diet produced this particular result.
Two experiments of B. H. Ershoff and H. B. McWilliams in 1947 and 1948 proved that feeding liver would completely counteract the retardation of growth in rats which had been fed a diet containing toxic amounts of thyroid, which would ordinarily stunt their growth. Wheat germ had no effect; yeast produced a slight effect, but liver supplied some factor which permitted these rats to grow normally even though they were being fed daily a substance which retards growth.
Our authors conclude: "The evidence appears to indicate that liver contains a multiplicity of unidentified growth factors. At least one of these factors is present in wheat and another, or the same factor, is present in yeast. Liver may contain at least two factors not present in yeast." These "factors" are not identical with any known vitamin.
There are so many different kinds of anemia that even the experts get them confused sometimes, so it is not surprising that we laymen find ourselves baffled, if we try to thread our way through the maze of terminology--aplastic, cytogenic, idiopathic, lymphatic, myelogenous, macrocytic, hypochromic. These are only some of the terms used to describe various kinds of anemia. The one we are concered with in this article is pernicious anemia, one of the macrocytic anemias.
Anemia is a deficiency of blood or a deficiency in the number of red blood corpuscles or a deficiency in the hemoglobin (red) content of the corpuscles. In macrocytic anemias, the body, trying desperately to provide enough red blood produces abnormally large corpuscles. Hence the term macrocytic, which means "Large cell." The Laboratory technician, looking at the sample of blood in a microscope, can diagnose the pernicious anemia victim, for the corpuscles are few and very large.
Symptoms of pernicious anemia are: lack of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, an inflamed tongue, and frequently changes in the nervous system all the way from painful neuritis to actual degeneration and destruction of parts of the spinal cord. The pernicioius anemia patient lacks coordination of muscles, sways visibly when he stands with eyes closed, loses his sense of position, may become spastic, or have spasms. In addition, he suffers from upset stomach, extreme paleness, shortness of breath and indescribable fatigue.
Not a pleasant picture, is it, especially when you recall that before 1926 practically all cases of pernicious anemia had a fatal ending? No one knew what to give so that the red blood corpuscles would regenerate themselves and return to normal size. No medicine could relieve the terrible fatigue.
In 1926 researchers Whipple, Minot and Murphy were successful in using liver for pernicious anemia. In some ways this was an unwieldy method of treatment. Patients rebelled against eating the enormous amounts of liver that were necessary; liver extract sometimes caused allergies. There must be something in liver that could be isolated, scientists thought, and used by itself. Years of patient effort brought to light the magic "something"--vitamin B12, which was first tried on a pernicious anemia patient in 1948.
Facts about Vitamin B12
Normal stomach secrete enough of this factor to get the vitamin B12 out of the foods in which it occurs--animal foods, mainly, such as meat, organ meats, eggs, milk. Pernicious anemia patients cannot make use of the vitamin B12 because they lack this mysterious "factor." There seems to be considerable evidence, however, that wrong diet may bring about this lack, just as there is evidence that lack of B vitamins can bring about a lack of digestive juices in the stomach. And that, of course, is one of the symptoms of pernicious anemia.
The main point we want to make about pernicious anemia is simply this -- there is no need for anyone to suffer from this disease these days. And every week we receive letters from readers who are seriously ill from it and whose doctors do not know how to treat it. It seems impossible, after so many long years, that anyone connected with the medical profession shold not know how to treat pernicous anemia, yet this seems to be the case, judging from letters we receive.
Very often, vitamin B12 is injected by the physician because by injecting it he can be sure that it is going to be used by the patient's body. Giving it by mouth may not be successful until, by trial and error, he discovers whether there is any intrinsic factor in the patient's stomach or whether the vitamin B12 is excreted unchanged rather than being used. More often than not, the doctor gives the intrinsic factor by mouth, along with the vitamin. This preparation is made from material taken from an animal's stomach.
Sometimes people who apparently have pernicous anemia do not respond to treatment with vitamin B12 with or without intrinsic factor. In cases like this it seems that another B vitamin, folic acid, will bring results, for this may not actually be pernicous anemia. There are also other kinds of anemia which respond only to folic acid. However, the fact remains that by using any or all of the following: liver, liver extract, vitamin B12 and the intrinsic factor, and folic acid if it is necessary, these so-called macrocytic anemias can be overcome, rapidly, inexpensively and without any danger at all to the patient, for of course liver and the B vitamins are not drugs which may be dangerous in large amounts. They are food, and certainly anemia is a desease of malnutrition.
An article in the South African Medical Journal for November 2, 1957, described a fair proportion of elderly patients who lack that important degestive juice, hydrochloric acid, in their stomach, but show no signs of pernicious anemia, absorb vitamin B12 poorly. (In addition, we believe that elderly people in general tend to get much less food rich in vitamin B12 in their diets.) The editorial said that mild vitamin B12 deficiency is seldom diagnosed properly because there may be other kinds of anemia like iron-deficiency anemia which mask it. The doctor may be giving his elderly patient iron in medicine to correct an anemia but may not notice that the symptoms of vitmain B12 dificiency persist -- such things as a sore tongue, weakness, phychological disturbances, fatigue. "There would be some justification," the editorial goes on, "in occasional cases, for the insistence by practitioners that injection of vitamin B12 has a 'tonic' effect, particularly in elderly patients."
How do you get vitamin B12 in food and how can you be sure that you will
absorb it properly so that you will not become anemic? The answer is
easy. Include liver in your menu at least once a week and oftener if
possible. Take desiccated liver daily.
J.I. Rodale and Staff, "The Complete Book of Minerals for Health", Rodale Books, Inc., 1976, pgs. 696-704 (chapter 148)
Desiccated Beef Liver