Health requires energy

Health Requires Energy. Energy Requires Nutrients.

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A Fundamental Issue

I was horrified to watch the “60 Minutes” program Sunday, April 12th on television that dealt with the colossal number of Americans suffering from obesity, chronic fatigue and diabetes, both types I and II. About half of the program dealt with the essential consumption of natural food, reminding us that Hippocrates, 400 BCE said “let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food”. This must have been said thousands of times but everything in our modern civilization is totally destructive to the whole idea. I have seen so many hundreds, if not thousands, of people whose illness was caused by themselves. It was treatable by making sure that each individual understood the fundamental issue. So before I illustrate a typical illness situation within my experience, I will try to state what I mean by describing what I consider to be the “fundamental issue”.

“We behave according to what we eat”.

I have stated this so many times but unfortunately the American medical profession is the major inhibitor to its clinical success. When a suffering patient with many symptoms arising from what I call “dietary mayhem”, goes to his or her physician, they simply do not recognize the clinical expression of the popular high calorie malnutrition. The many symptoms are usually referred to as psychosomatic and the unfortunate patient is told that “it is all in your head”. I have witnessed this so many times; I cannot understand why the physicians don’t pay a little more attention to what the patient is trying to tell them. Often the patient has discovered the real cause of the problem but find that her words are considered to be the voice of ignorance and delusion.

Food and Energy

Our food consists of fuel that must be burned (oxidized) to liberate energy. In any text this element of the food is described as “calories”. The energy quality of our food intake is measured in kilocalories and a single one is defined as “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water through 1°C”. Notice the use of the word energy, the result of oxidation. Now, as everyone knows, vitamins and minerals, known as non-caloric nutrients, are vital to the release of energy from the caloric elements. To understand how this combination of chemicals works, there must be a ratio of calories to the noncaloric elements. That is why high calorie foods without vitamins or minerals are known as empty calories. It is the consumption of empty calories across America that has given rise to the idea of high calorie malnutrition. I have actually seen a written statement that this is an oxymoron. “How can excess of calories be considered a form of malnutrition?” It seems that few people understand this vital ratio and they seem to think that as long as you are consuming calories, you will flourish. Also, the food industry fills the grocery store with cartons of temptation and seems to have no regard for the well-being of its consumers. They keep using the term “all natural” so much, it becomes meaningless.

A Typical Case of Energy Deficiency

I was a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic and one of my interests was sudden infant death (SIDS). So one day I was having lunch with one of the surgeons who practised ear nose and throat surgery. He told me that he had been called to the medical ICU because a woman had stopped breathing and he had performed a tracheostomy. He was intrigued by the reason for this disaster and, knowing my interest, he suggested that I should take a look. Pediatricians are assumed to be familiar with diseases of children but ignorant of adult disease and I knew that I was  not welcome. I found a 50-year-old woman who was grossly edematous and unconscious. Without considering the technical details, I proved that she had the vitamin B1 deficiency disease beriberi. With injections of thiamine she became conscious and the edema disappeared. During her recovery she developed a progressive anemia, thought to be evidence of internal bleeding, but all the tests were negative. I took some urine from her and subjected it to a special type of test. It showed that she was deficient in folate, another B vitamin. It is important to note that she did not develop folate deficiency until she began her recovery from thiamine, it was masked by cellular energy deficiency. When she began to receive folate there was an immediate recovery from the anemia but she had been given at least one injection of thiamine by then.

She was discharged from hospital, wheelchair bound, taking both thiamine and folate. When she returned as an outpatient, I found that she had a skin rash and that her legs were, if anything, weaker. It had long been known that anemia would develop from either folate or B12 deficiency, but the folate deficient variety required B12 supplementation as well as folate. If B12 was not provided, the patient would develop paralysis of the legs and I had forgotten this. Also, it is not well-known that vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a skin rash. I gave her an injection of B12 and the rash disappeared. However, for a few days she had muscle aches and fever that I did not understand at that time. Looking back I would now assume that this was what we call “paradox” on Hormones Matter. To those that may not have read about this it is the temporary worsening effect by introducing an essential nutrient to someone who has long been deficient in that nutrient. One of the things that had probably been a serious indictment on self cause was that she was a chronic cigarette smoker, a well-known habit that damages oxidation.

Energy Metabolism

Can we extrapolate from this case any general ideas about how medical treatment should advance? Perhaps the general opinion would be that this is a rare and unusual case, an outlier from the “usual and customary diagnosis”. But if we consider the facts; long-term cigarette smoking, dietary indiscretion and genetic risks appear to be quite common. I treated a 12-year old girl  with a conventional diagnosis of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, using a  nutritional supplement. Without discussing the technicalities of laboratory evidence, it was clear that defective energy metabolism was the underlying cause. The combination of genetic risk, failure to adapt to any form of stress (infection, trauma, chronic useless brain activity etc) and inadequate energy metabolism are the three factors that either collectively or singly lead to breakdown of health. As Selye predicted, energy for adaptation is the essential ingredient.

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Image by Inns-Web from Pixabay


Derrick Lonsdale M.D., is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition (FACN), Fellow of the American College for Advancement in Medicine (FACAM). Though now retired, Dr. Lonsdale was a practitioner in pediatrics at the Cleveland Clinic for 20 years and was Head of the Section of Biochemical Genetics at the Clinic. In 1982, Lonsdale joined the Preventive Medicine Group to specialize in nutrient-based therapy. Dr. Lonsdale has written over 100 published papers and the conclusions support the idea that healing comes from the body itself rather than from external medical interventions.


  1. I have written on another posting about my wife who gets these mysterious headaches every night at 2-4 AM for 10 years. After two months of paradoxing on Lipothiamine she was all better. No headaches, sleeping like a baby. This lasted for almost 3 weeks, then wham she is slammed again. 3 nights of terrible pain and flu like symptoms, something akin to radiation sickness.
    She is a great believer in the Lipothiamine and has kept taking it.200mg with magnesium every day. Can the paradox come and go like that ?
    I know you have had experience where the one lady got better then worse, you added folate, she got better then worse. You added B12.
    My wife takes a B vitamin
    Is this paradox too? Should she add something else?
    You have saved her life. She was so thinking it was going to go on forever now she knows it is and can go away.

    • Well, I suspect (but don’t know for sure) a vitamin imbalance. Try 1. stop B1 and B complex and substitute a well rounded multivitamin. Wait to see what happens. If no resolution 2. decrease Allithiamine to 100 mg and add B complex. Continue multivitamin 3. Try B12 injections. Please understand that this is pure guesswork. It is quite safe but we don’t know enough. I have not come across nocturnal headache before but one of the curious things about sleep is that it requires brain energy consumption.

      • What do you consider is a good multivitamin. We have looked at many and they have more of this one and less of this one. Do you have one that you have had some experience with.
        Your help is most appreciated.
        Again for the last few nights no headache.
        We both think there is something missing.

  2. Is pinching sharp chest pain, inability to sleep, massively increased hunger and palpitations a sign of paradox/refeeding? I’ve also seen other websites state that means you’re taking too high a dose…I’m taking around 300mg thiamin HCL a day. Really struggling here

      • I don’t eat processed sugar. but I do eat things like fruit/dried fruit…vegetables, fish, sweet potatoes, whole grains, nuts my diet is very good I think I’m just eating a lot more from the hunger although I do have 1 coffee a day. the funny thing is if I stop the thiamin the palpitations/pinching stabbing chest immediately goes away in a day or two but then my original symptoms which were digestive issues (gerd/terrible heartburn), fatigue, depression, low appetite come back. I would have waited this out without asking but it’s already been about 7 weeks with no improvement.

  3. Energy deficiency, as in one of its major causes, TD, results in manifestations that are usually thought of as ” a mystery”. The brain reacts in an unpredictable fashion, depending on the deficiency affected area. We may not know the mechanism that is initiated, but if we understand the energy based reason for it, our treatment has to be aimed at restoring the chemistry of energy production. Now, obviously I cannot “prove” it but I have accumulated so much evidence over the years. I started as a pediatrician and I treated the children with megadose thiamine, irrespective of the variable symptoms with which they presented. Since this was clearly an abrupt difference in medical thinking, it is not surprising that I was perceived by my colleagues as, shall we say, “unusual” . Today, it is the reason for the slow but sure development of Alternative Complementary Medicine that is trying to usher in a connection with Hippocrates and the best parts of modern medicine.

  4. Dr Lonsdale my fellow Americans don’t want to give up their bad habits they would rather take a pill and still be able to do the said bad habit. Physician’s don’t help with their attitude that nutrition doesn’t matter, it’s a perfect storm of chronic disease. You are completely and utterly right in everything you say about the reasons behind people suffering,. Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if we got back to food as medicine!!

  5. Dr. Lonsdale, do you think the muscle weakness could have been from a drop in potassium as the B12 allowed aldosterone to be made?

    Was the rash like seborrheic dermatitis? Which could be from too little riboflavin or biotin?

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