Adapted from an article by Hugh C. Sherwood
Discovery of a revolutionary principle promises to help us control blood sugar, blood fats, and meet food needs better than ever before.
For centuries, legions of men have eaten neither too wisely nor too well. Great numbers have suffered from diseases like beriberi, pellagra, rickets, and scurvy as a result of malnutrition.
In the last one-hundred years, a host of facts has been discovered about good nutrition. Books, brochures, magazine and newspaper articles have poured off the presses, telling us of the importance of eating – or avoiding – foods rich in minerals, vitamins, calories, and other elements practically unheard of a few decades ago.
Yet, despite all that has been learned about the subject, scientists have been unable to devise “the ideal diet” – one that would consist of exactly the right nutrients people need in exactly the right amounts. With no underlying theory to guide them, progress has been slow.
But the search for such a principle is growing even more in reach.
Working in his laboratory at the drug firm of Pfizer, Inc., in Brooklyn, New York, and later with other scientists at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, a pharmaceutical chemist, Charles I. Jarowski, Ph.D., has proved that diets can be written that will build bodies more effectively and efficiently than any other known diets.
Additional tests on the validity of his revolutionary principle now are being conducted. If its applicability on a wide scale is confirmed, the resulting benefits to mankind could be both manifold and striking.
Among other things, scientists may be able to (1) formulate an ideal diet for each of us; (2) create diets aimed at control of weight superior to any we now have; (3) write special, highly concentrated diets for astronauts, submarine crews, and other military personnel, as well as for soldiers or civilians in arctic or tropical regions; (4) improve the dietary intake of underprivileged persons and the dietary habits of underdeveloped nations; (5) increase the nutritive efficiency of animal feeds; and (6) provide special, highly effective diets for persons recovering from burns or surgery or suffering from a host of metabolic and nutritional diseases and possibly even certain mental diseases.
To understand Dr. Jarowski’s theory and its practical application, you must first understand something about nutrition in general.
As you know, we regularly ingest a number of nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, minerals, proteins, and vitamins. Although we can get along with reductions in some of these nutrients, we cannot survive without proteins, which build up the body and keep it in proper repair. Proteins, in fact, are responsible for nearly every single chemical reaction that takes place in your body. It is not surprising, then, that the body contains literally hundreds of thousands of proteins, varied in kind and complex in composition.
Yet all of these proteins are derived from relatively simple chemical compounds known as amino acids. In man there are some 22… 14 so-called nonessential acids and 8 so-called essential acids.
Despite the terminology, “non-essential” amino acids are as necessary as “essential” amino acids. The word nonessential merely indicates that the body can synthesize such acids on its own, as part of its natural functioning. Essential amino acids, on the other hand, must be taken orally, and usually are obtained from food.
Obviously, since amino acids are so necessary to growth and health, we must eat protein-rich foods. But we must do more than get some amino acids. We must get them in sufficient amounts and in the proper proportions. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that we won’t eat too many or too few amino acids, either in total or in relation to one another. In fact, it is safe to say that very few people today regularly ingest exactly the right amounts.
The consumption of too many amino acids results in needless expenditure of energy and also places a strain on the excretory organs. Eating too few deprives you of cellular enzymes that are essential for survival. And if the lack is severe enough, death is not just possible, it is inevitable.
Within the last several decades, scientists have been able to determine the minimum amounts of the various essential amino acids that the average man should ingest each day. But the question of amino acids in proper proportion to one another was left unanswered.
It was at this point that Dr. Jarowski stepped in. His theory is this: to utilize protein most efficiently, the amounts of essential amino acids man (or animal) ingests each day should correspond proportionately to the concentration of essential amino acids found in a healthy man’s blood plasma after he has fasted for 18 hours. To take a simple hypothetical example, if a study of a healthy man’s blood plasma shows it contains eight molecules of one essential amino acid, seven of another, six of another, and so on down the line, then, no matter what minimal amounts of amino acids a man may need, he should eat them in the same eight-seven-six-five-four-three-two-one proportion.
The proportions of essential amino acids can be determined, of course, by means of a relatively simple blood test. A small amount of blood is withdrawn from the arm and freed of its red cells and protein. Then, by means of a complicated color test, involving a technical process known as ion exchange chromatography, the concentration of essential amino acids in the plasma is ascertained. Or, as Dr. Jarowski puts it, the fasting blood-plasma profile is determined.
This test is so useful that Dr. Milton Winitz of the National Cancer Institute once correctly predicted that it “will prove to be a very practical diagnostic tool in a very, very short time.” Nonetheless, it is highly unlikely that the test will be given by the typical family doctor, since to determine the results requires both a highly skilled chemist and very expensive equipment. But, says Dr. Jarowski, it can be done in most good hospitals or labs.
Once the test is taken, it may be necessary for follow-up action. If a man is not getting enough amino acids, for instance, a doctor or nutritionist must supplement his intake – make sure, in other words, that he employs an ideal diet.
In conjunction with Dr. Winitz and other scientists at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Jarowski attempted to devise such a diet. Interestingly, researchers at the Institute had been working on an ideal diet for nine years. Using the old trial-and-error method of combining, adding, and subtracting various nutrients, they created more than 10 diets. Then, Dr. Winitz heard of the Jarowski theory and invited him to come to the Institute to test its validity.
In their first joint experiment the Institute scientists fed a group of rats the most efficient diet they had developed. It was known as No. 116 and contained, in an aqueous solution, fats, glucose, salts, vitamins, and, of course, amino acids. Simultaneously, Dr. Jarowski’s assistant, Arthur V. Puccini, Ph.D., fed another group of rats essentially the same diet, except that its content of essential amino acids was based on Dr. Jarowski’s theory. Result: within one month, the rats on the Jarowski diet (No. 154) outgrew the rats on diet No. 116 by better than 15 per cent.
Dr. Jarowski and the scientists at the Institute then had two aims: to perfect diet No. 154 and to prove the validity of the concept on a wide scale. Explains Dr. Jarowski: “At that point we had experimented only with rats and a small number of humans. For this theory to take hold in a big way, we needed to prove it’s generally applicable. So we then had a scientist in California test our special diet on a group of medical students. Also, we had other investigators test specially supplemented diets on animals other than rats. From there we tested further. Clinical proof is still evolving, and it may be several years before the theory is widely applied and people start supplementing their diets the way we think they should.”
Presuming his theory takes hold, in what manner will we supplement our protein intake with amino acids? There are two likely ways, all of which would be quite economical: (1) Specialty foods could be made in the form of powders that are soluble in water. Dr. Jarowski believes that, in this country at least, such foods would be used mainly in hospitals by people who have difficulty feeding themselves. (2) Capsules containing amino acids could be taken just as vitamins are now. Or amino acids could be sprinkled on foods in powdered form. Dr. Jarowski thinks the typical eater would supplement this diet by capsule or sprinkling.
How would these methods of supplementing diets produce some of the benefits mentioned earlier?
• Ideal diet supplementation for each of us. “The evidence we have,” says Dr. Jarowski, “indicates that the average man needs more of some of the essential amino acids than he’s now getting. The evidence also indicates that the fasting blood plasma profiles of most men are fairly similar. Incidentally, we believe most people will always have to supplement their diets. There are two reasons: One, most people don’t get enough of certain amino acids in their diets. Two, the fasting plasma profiles of most people don’t change appreciably from decade to decade.”
• An ideal diet for weight control. “The reason a diet based on the fasting profile would be superior to the liquid diets now on the market is very simple,” says Dr. Jarowski. “Present liquid diets contain too many of some essential amino acids, too few of others. A factory-made liquid food based on the fasting profile would contain just the right amounts, at least for the average person, and therefore would work more efficiently to quell hunger pangs.”
• Special diets for astronauts and other military personnel. In this case, Dr. Jarowski believes, common foods rich in proteins would be specially fortified with essential amino acids and produced in concentrated, ultra-compact form. Such foods could be used not only by the armed forces but also by civilians in case of war or natural catastrophes such as floods.
• Supplementation of the diets of underprivileged persons, especially of those in underdeveloped nations. To cite just one example of the potential benefit, thousands upon thousands of children in Africa and South America are afflicted with kwashiorkor, a disease caused by lack of sufficient proteins and resulting in diarrhea, swollen stomachs, and, eventually, death. The protein-poor diets of such children could be supplemented by any of the three methods.
Nor does the list of potential benefits end here. Improved animal feeds, special diets for burn victims and for women who are pregnant or lactating, and a reduction in various metabolic, nutritional, blood, liver, and kidney diseases undoubtedly will result.
Further testing of Dr. Jarowski’s amazing discovery is, of course, underway. But with proof of its validity we may see a revolution in dietary habits that will benefit the nation – and the world. ■