Nuclear Fallout: How Can Nutrition Help?

Nuclear Fallout



Iodine and Fallout

Radioactive iodine from a nuclear event is taken up by the body from air, food and water. Preventively consuming normal iodine helps prevent your body from taking up radioactive iodine. I first learned this way back in 1976 from Michael Ash, MD, of Cornwall, UK. More on him later. The United States Environmental Protection Agency basically agrees. (Scroll down at )

Your thyroid gland soaks up most of the iodine it can get, and does not care whether it is radioactive or not. But you do. If the thyroid has ample normal iodine, it is less likely to take up radioactive iodine. A wet paper towel absorbs little water. Excess iodine is excreted in the urine; a saturated paper towel drips. The analogy isn’t perfect, but you get the idea. 

Radioactive iodine has a half life of only about 8 days. That means that a milligram of it will be only half a milligram in just over a week. That half mg decays to one-quarter in another 8 days, and decays to one-eighth in another 8 days, and at the end of just over a month, you’d only have one-sixteenth of a mg left. With radioactive substances, even a little is far from good. A radioactive substance is generally considered trouble for 10 to 20 half lives. But at least this stuff does not endure for thousands or millions of years. As Marty Feldman said in the movie Young Frankenstein, “Could be worse.”

The iodine you take to block radioactive iodine uptake may be virtually any kind, taken any way. You get iodine from sushi, because the “seaweed” wrap, nori, is actually an algae that contains iodine. No, you do not have to eat raw fish. That is sashimi. Sushi can be cooked (in some states, crab and shrimp sushi has to be cooked). You can have vegetarian sushi as well: cucumber, carrot, avocado, celery and such. But then there is an onion in the ointment, so to speak: most nori comes from China and Japan.

Sea vegetables are the foods that are naturally highest in iodine. Kelp and seaweeds are not as bad as they sound. I had a plateful of them at a really out-there veggie restaurant decades ago. I still remember the meal. First of all, it looked weird. Green, brown, and dark red limp leaves filled entirely too much of my plate. But I was with food-fanatical friends, it was a set lunch, and I did not want to be a wet blanket. So I braced myself, closed my eyes, and ate the wet leaves. Surprise: they tasted good. Better than most “normal” American canned vegetables, at the very least. I ate the lot. Cooking does not destroy iodine. Just as well: raw sea veggies is probably best for sea otters. No wonder they are so cute and playful: they aren’t mineral deficient like most Americans are.

Kelp powder, kelp granules, and kelp tablets are also good sources of iodine. Read the label to see how good. 

If you do not want anything to do with any of the above delicacies, you can simply rub tincture of iodine on your skin and take it in that way. My favorite non-tastebud vector for taking in iodine is to put a drop or two of iodine tincture in a half-gallon of juice. Shake and consume as you normally would. Now, you have an iodine-fortified beverage. I drink several glasses daily.

A note on skulls and bones: You have doubtless learned that iodine tincture is a poison. If you drink it straight, it most certainly is. Don’t do it. However, couple of drops diluted in a half-gallon (that’s nearly two liters) is without the slightest danger. And, a mere drop (or two) will do ya. The government says you only need about 150 micrograms per day. A microgram is very tiny: one millionth of a gram, and a gram is about a quarter-teaspoon. The highest health-nut daily iodine recommendation I have seen is 12 milligrams per day. A milligram is one-thousandth of a gram, but a thousand times a microgram. I haven’t lost you yet, have I? This means that 12 mg is 12,000 mcg, and that is 80 times the RDA. I do not know how much iodine is bioavailable from a drop of iodine tincture. It is somewhere in the middle of the range.

Is this worthwhile? Yes. After two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of WW II, there was a lot of radiation sickness. Unsurprisingly, the further away from the blast area, the less severe the sickness. There was one notable exception: people living near or at the seashore had less radiation poisoning than inland residents . . .even if the seaside residents were actually closer to ground zero. Their seaweed-rich diet is likely the reason for their advantage.

Niacin and Fallout

I recall from Dr. Ash’s 1976 lecture that had actually applied for a patent for a “Radiation Sweet” (that’s “candy” to us Yanks). The active ingredients were to be iodine and niacin. Why niacin? Because niacin is needed for your body to make nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). NAD helps protect and repair DNA. Radiation damages DNA, causing malfunction and mutation. More niacin means plentiful NAD, and that is a good thing. NAD helps prevent cancer. There is no debate on that. (Scroll down at )

However, there is debate on just how much niacin is needed to have a protective effect against cancer. The US RDA is less than 18 mg/day. That is almost certainly too little for optimum protection from radiation. I think a minimum of 500 mg/day, in divided doses, is a good idea. Personally, I take several thousand mg/day of niacin, and so did Dr. Abram Hoffer, the world’s premiere niacin researcher. If the customary “niacin flush” bothers you, you can take either niacinamide or inositol hexaniacinate. Neither of these forms causes flushing.

What else?

Vitamin E has been shown to reduce tissue damage from actual radiation burns. This is very different from fallout exposure. I suspect that high-fiber diets would help, and drinking more liquid would as well. Raw fresh vegetable juices provide both, with carotene antioxidants that are almost always protective. Avoiding food from contaminated areas is an obvious step. Eating home-grown organic produce is ideal. Extra antioxidant supplementation, especially vitamin C, would certainly be a good idea.

And now for a reality check.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, governments have conducted over 2,000 nuclear tests worldwide since 1945. ( The United States conducted over 1,000 of them . . . and at least 215 of those were in the open atmosphere. According to the 1995 documentary Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie, the number was 331.

I grew up in the very heart of the times of US atmospheric testing. When I was three years old, the US did 62 atmospheric nuclear tests in just one year. I was eight when Linus Pauling and other scientists finally put a stop to it in 1963.

No one asked me or anyone else if we wanted any of those 215 atmospheric exposures. 215 in 18 years. Hard to imagine, but it happened. Somehow we got through it. We will get through this, too, in part simply because the Ukraine and Japan are so far away. That is not a satisfying answer, is it. With 104 active nuclear power plants in the US, there is one near you. 

If you will pardon me, the real cure, the long-term solution, is solar and geothermic power. But for now, take your nutrients.



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Andrew W. Saul

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