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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, July 17, 2017

Much More Than "AGEING"

Commentary by Ralph Campbell, MD

(OMNS July 17, 2017) The recent Orthomolecular Medicine News Service publication about iodine [1] reminded me of the wealth of knowledge among the contributors to OMNS. Many are capable of doing a detailed research that uncovers every nuance of nutritional deficiencies or excesses as they relate to disease, while backing statements with citations from the nutrition literature.

As I read about the signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency, I was struck by the fact that many of them were also similar to those of what we call "ageing." Like passing off a death as "due to natural causes," I am afraid that "ageing" is another convenient category to collect conditions for which we have little curiosity about their true cause.[2-6] Chronological age doesn't describe an older person justly. An improvement might be a description of the different aspects of ageing, much like the way we recognize different types of genius. An older person may have a lousy body along with a brilliant mind, or the opposite may be true. There may be several overlapping causes that do not originate directly from ageing. Let us compare the signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency with those of ageing. Since there is such an overlap, I fear that the older reader will conclude that their symptoms suggest a diagnosis of iodine deficiency.

Low energy or depression: Even when physicians provide a diagnostic label, such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, they usually can offer few suggestions of what might be the underlying causes. Both are related to muscle weakness, and may have more than one cause. [7] An older man may suffer from low testosterone levels as well as muscles atrophying from disuse. Declining ATP (a core of the energy cycle) production has been shown to improve by taking a creatine supplement. Degrees of depression vary from just feeling low, or discouraged to "clinical depression" which is taken seriously by the medical establishment. Both low energy and depression are subjective -- the opposite of feeling up-beat. Trying to process the craziness in this world as depicted in the evening news, coupled by a feeling of frustration from lack of control over such matters, feeds depression.

Memory loss: There is a wide range of severity.[8] Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the big ticket item so that slow recall of names, so common in older folks, is either considered a part of normal ageing or a precursor to AD. When AD was first defined, it was thought that a brain biopsy that revealed "tangles" was needed to differentiate it from dementia due to atherosclerotic cerebral or carotid arteries that supply the brain. Most related studies simply define this group of signs and symptoms with the buzz words "Alzheimer's disease." Prescribed medications can provide no more than "may slow the progression of," something that vitamin E, niacinamide and B-12 have been shown to do with no side effects.

The B vitamins, vitamins C, D and E, calcium, and magnesium are necessary for the brain. In older people, these nutrients are often absorbed at a lower rate by the gut, leading to AD, dementia and other symptoms such as depression, numbness, low energy and memory problems. Intelligent supplementation with these essential nutrients can slow, prevent, or reverse these problems of brain function.

More on how vitamins prevent and reverse Alzheimer's Disease:

Reduced alertness, fatigue, apathy, insomnia are often lumped together. As a rule in older folks, alertness "ain't what it used to be." [9] The exceptions are a wonderful thing to behold. I am surprised at finding a number of people as young as being in their fifties, who share with older folks the poor recall of names. If you think of the brain being like a computer, it is if something happened to the address book. You can't put names to the faces. Mental stress is a big contributor to the development of feeling fatigued. Multitasking is a problem. Not being able to breeze through tasks, as one did in mid-life, can prove very frustrating and stressful. Realizing that one person has little impact on the world's problems, leads to apathy or to continue seeking solutions when in the "twilight zone" of sleep.

Dry skin: A universal problem in older folks -- made worse from exposure to dry inside, winter air. [10] Moisturizing lotions seem to be the only remedy, but even with their use, break-through itching followed by malignant scratching can pose a problem. Cretinism, mentioned in the article, is a term describing those suffering severe iodine deficiency in an area where soils and the food supply have markedly low levels of iodine. [11] It may exhibit dry skin. However, a severe iodine deficiency is likely to cause in addition other much more striking symptoms. Age-related dry skin might respond to megadose vitamin A, which encourages the growth of healthy epithelial cells. This has proven to be a life-saving measure for children who are victims of measles epidemics in third-world countries, by promoting a healthy lining of the bronchial tree, thus preventing deadly pneumonia from measles.

Cold hands and feet: Very common in ageing. May cause a social problem of withdrawing from a handshake to avoid hearing the old "cold hands; warm heart" reaction. One of the coldest hands I have shaken belongs to a young marathoner who is always in tip-top condition, so "poor circulation" hardly applies in his case. Poor circulation due to atherosclerotic femoral arteries can be so severe that the condition is given the medical title intermittent claudication. With exercise, the leg muscles cry out in pain for more oxygen. Blood supply to the hands and feet is partly under the control of signals from the autonomic nervous system that controls the dilation or constriction of arteries through the release of catecholamines, adrenalin being the best known. Blood sluggishly remaining in capillaries can make the hand or foot look blue when its oxygen is consumed. This symptom can often be prevented with supplements of magnesium, which helps the peripheral arteries to relax, reducing their constriction to increase blood flow.[12] Not everyone knows that, for over 45 years, high doses of vitamin E have been used to successfully treat intermittent claudication. [13-15] Supplements of vitamins C and E taken in adequate doses over months to years can also help prevent atherosclerosis.

Rather than passing off these conditions as just being a product of ageing, how much better it would be to find more tangible causes. Certainly, iodine deficiency may be one cause among many. As we age, absorption of essential nutrients from the gut generally suffers. Supplements of essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals including iodine taken in adequate doses can prevent or reverse many of the symptoms associated with age.

(Editor's Note: OMNS Contributing Editor Ralph Campbell, MD, will be 90 years young on July 29th. Readers wishing to offer an email greeting may do so sent to .)


1. Rychlik W. (2017) The need for iodine supplementation.

2. Wang JC, Bennett M. (2012) Aging and atherosclerosis: mechanisms, functional consequences, and potential therapeutics for cellular senescence. Circ Res. 2012 Jul 6;111:245-259.

3. Larson EB, Yaffe K, Langa KM. (2013) New insights into the dementia epidemic. N Engl J Med. 369:2275-2277.

4. Sowell ER, Peterson BS, Thompson PM et al. (2003) Mapping cortical change across the human life span. Nat Neurosci. 6:309-315.

5. Hearing loss and older adults.

6. Smith RG, Penberthy T. (2015) The Vitamin Cure for Arthritis. Basic Health Pub. ISBN-13: 978-1591203124

7. Walston J, McBurnie MA, Newman A et al. (2002) Cardiovascular Health Study. Frailty and activation of the inflammation and coagulation systems with and without clinical comorbidities: results from the Cardiovascular Health Study. Arch Intern Med. Nov 11;162:2333-2341.

8. Light LL. (1991) Memory and aging: four hypotheses in search of data. Annu Rev Psychol. 42:333-376. and

9. Carriere JS, Cheyne JA, Solman GJ, Smilek D. (2010) Age trends for failures of sustained attention. Psychol Aging. 25:569-5674. doi: 10.1037/a0019363.

10. Ambrose CT. (2017) Pro-Angiogenesis therapy and aging: a mini-review. Gerontology. 2017 Jun 1. doi: 10.1159/000477402.

11. Zbigniew S. (2017) Role of iodine in metabolism. Recent Pat Endocr Metab Immune Drug Discov.

12. Dean, C. (2014) The Magnesium Miracle (2nd ed) Ballantine Books, ISBN-13: 978-0345494580.

13. Williams HTG, Fenna D, MacBeth, RA. (1971) Alpha tocopherol in the treatment of intermittent claudication. Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics 132:4, 662-666, April.

14. Haeger K. (1974) Long-time treatment of intermittent claudication with vitamin E. Am J Clin Nutr. Oct;27(10):1179-81.

15. Saul AW. (2003) Vitamin E: A cure in search of recognition. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine 18:3&4, 205-212. and also

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