The first course I ever taught was entitled “Forgotten Research in Medicine.”
by Andrew W. Saul
The first course I ever taught was entitled “Forgotten Research in Medicine.” That was in 1976. Even by that time, there had been a strikingly large number of impeccably qualified researchers and physicians who had left drug-and-cut medicine behind in favor of a naturopathic approach. I had seen so much well-documented evidence for the safety and effectiveness of therapeutic nutrition against major chronic diseases that I figured it must presently be self evident to everybody. Surely, I thought, it could only be a matter of time (say twenty years at most) until all doctors shifted to natural healing, because word would spread like wildfire and all their patients would demand it of them.
I’d read a variety of articles documenting an incredibly bitter controversy which raged throughout the 1950’s over the use of vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) for cardiovascular disease. Drs. Wilfrid and Evan Shute were at the center of this storm, which encircled their work in Ontario, Canada. They were among the very first medical doctors to clinically employ large doses of the vitamin in place of conventional drug therapy. Like many pioneers, they caught all the arrows. Almost all of the positive articles I saw were based on case histories and came from the popular press. Almost all of the criticism seemed to come from the medical press, which seemed singularly resistant to even try the Shute’s approach, let alone endorse it. Yet, somehow, their unwillingness to test the Shute’s high-dose, natural vitamin E protocol did not seem to prevent them from dismissing it.
In the early 50’s, Canada was a hotbed of leading-edge nutritional research. Maybe there is something in the water up there. In Saskatchewan at about the same time, Dr. Abram Hoffer and Dr. Humphrey Osmond found that niacin was the best way to treat psychosis. The Shutes found that vitamin E was the best way to treat heart disease. One might think that the only possible professional response to such important discoveries would be grateful acceptance and widespread journal publication.
Just the opposite occurred.
For decades it has been said that pharmaceutical medicine has little to gain from a cheap vitamin cure that cannot be patented and exploited for high profit. Observers have also witnessed what happens to medical doctors that have defected to drugless healing: they gain many grateful patients, and lose a lot of research funding. Few pharmaceutical companies willingly contribute to the competition.
The Shutes saw early that such would be the case, and paid their own way. They created their own research foundation and treatment facility (The Shute Institute), created their own journal (The Summary), and in so doing, some would say, created their own trouble.
The Vitamin E Story is Dr. Evan Shute’s first-hand, ring-side account of the discovery that high-dose d-alpha tocopherol cures serious disease. It is also an unusually interesting autobiography of an unusually interesting man. Evan Shute, an obstetrician by training, was a poet by inclination. He once delivered 25 babies in 17 days, yet he also wrote children’s stories and published ten volumes of verse. Dr. Shute’s professional character is perhaps best illustrated by his repeated efforts to credit medical student Floyd Skelton with major contributions to the development of vitamin E cardiovascular therapy. The Shute’s personal integrity is demonstrated by their maintaining a non-commercial stance and never profiting from the sale of the vitamin. Oddly enough, in 1948 they actually advocated making vitamin E a prescription item.
Perhaps this is understandable, given the spectacular, wonder-drug-style patient recoveries that the Shutes had already seen by mid-century.
TWENTY YEARS OF IGNORED SHUTE VITAMIN E RESEARCH: A Timeline
1936: Vitamin E-rich wheat germ oil cures angina.
1940: Vitamin E suspected as preventive of fibroids and endometriosis, and curative of atherosclerosis.
1945: Vitamin E shown to cure hemorrhages in skin and mucous membranes, and to decrease the diabetic’s need for insulin.
1946: Vitamin E greatly improves wound healing, including skin ulcers. Also demonstrated effective in cases of claudication, acute nephritis, thrombosis, cirrhosis and phlebitis. Vitamin E strengthens and regulates heartbeat.
1947: Vitamin E successfully used as therapy for gangrene, inflammation of blood vessels (Buerger’s disease), retinitis and choroiditis.
1948: Vitamin E helps lupus erythematosus and shortness of breath.
1950: Vitamin E shown to be effective treatment for varicose veins, and in cases of severe body burns.
1954: The Shutes’ medical textbook, Alpha Tocopherol in Cardiovascular Disease, is published.
1956: The Heart and Vitamin E is published.
It is not overly easy to see how such promise could be ignored for long. But it was. Dr. Shute’s frustration with an unnaturally stubborn medical profession comes starkly through his text.
“It was nearly impossible now for anyone who valued his future in Academe to espouse Vitamin E, prescribe it or advise its use. That would make a man a “quack” at once. This situation lasted for many years. In the United States, of course, the closure of the J.A.M.A. pages against us and tocopherol meant that it did not exist. It was either in the U.S. medical bible or it was nought. No amount of documentation could budge medical men from this stance. Literature in the positive was ignored and left unread. Individual doctors often said: “If it is as good as you say, we would all be using it.” But nothing could induce them as persons of scientific background to make the simplest trial on a burn or coronary.” (p 146)
The American Medical Association even refused to let the Shute’s present their findings at national medical conventions. (p 148-9) In the early 1960’s, the United States Post Office successfully prevented even the mailing of vitamin E. (p 166)
Linus Pauling wrote, in the book’s 1985 forward:
“The failure of the medical establishment during the last forty years to recognize the value of Vitamin E in controlling heart disease is responsible for a tremendous amount of unnecessary suffering and for many early deaths. The interesting story of the efforts to suppress the Shute discoveries about Vitamin E illustrates the shocking bias of organized medicine against nutritional measures for achieving improved health.” (vii)
O that things were truly better today, but they are not. Yes, the American public can and does buy vitamin E (even by mail) without a prescription. Still, I am unaware of any burn clinic using topical vitamin E as their primary treatment. I am yet to see “megadose vitamin E cures cardiovascular disease” commercials on TV. I have never seen a bottle of vitamin E in an intensive care unit. It has now been nearly 60 years since vitamin E was seen to greatly help diabetics and cardiovascular patients and only very recently has medical research “discovered” a glimmer of the value of this vitamin. For half a century, vitamin E has been an available specific for intermittent claudication, angina, prevention of and recovery from heart attack, thrombophlebitis, and a wide variety of other serious conditions.
Aye, there’s the rub.
Vitamin E is entirely too good for too many purposes. Consumer Reportstrashed it in back in 1972, and often since. It didn’t help matters that Evan Shute was “only” an obstetrician. (This obstetrician was, however, made a Fellow of the American Society of Angiology in 1969.) And today, vitamin E’s very availability, and exceptional safety, seemingly render it unattractive for hospital use as the spectacular therapy that it is.
The Vitamin E Story surprised me with Chapter 12, a collection of rather funny real-life obstetrical experiences that Dr. Shute evidently just had to put down on paper. I’m glad he did, as the stories are both delightful and bizarre. There is the account of proof of ovulation in a 102 year old woman. There is the case of “cranial nerve neuralgia cured for two years by a hemorrhoidectomy. This shows the suggestive power of the knife.” Then there is the surgeon who smoked during operations, the cigarette ash getting into the wound. And let’s not overlook the marriage ceremony performed during labor. “Uterine contractions imposed an odd punctuation to the responses, but the minister did most of the talking, fortunately.”
But this book is mostly the story of the Evan Shute who published over 120 medical papers; the doctor who was opposed to circumcision; the doctor who treated tens of thousands of patients with large amounts of vitamin E.
Tocopherol has been known and studied since the 1920’s, generally in small quantities as a means to ensure a full-term pregnancy. Without the Shute brothers’ high-dosage clinical work, especially in cardiology, no one at all would be megadosing with vitamin E today. We owe them our thanks, and our lives.
The Vitamin E Story, by Evan Shute, M.D. James C. M. Shute, editor. Forward by Linus Pauling. (Burlington, Ontario: Welch Publishing, 1985. 219 pages, softcover.) ISBN 0-920413-04-8 This book is available for US $14.00 (postpaid to US addresses) from the Shute Institute, 367 Princess Ave., London, Ontario, Canada N6B 2A7. Canadian and international ordering information may be obtained from
(My review, above, also appeared in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Vol. 17, No. 3, Third Quarter, 2002, pages 179-181. It is reprinted with permission.)
A bibliography of the Shutes’ principal written work is posted at
For specific vitamin dosage information on CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE, Angina, Hypertension (High Blood Pressure), Congestive Heart Failure, and other heart-y topics, try a site search for “Shute” or for “heart” from the top of the main page at
http://www.doctoryourself.com Do so, and there’s going to be a whole lot for you to look at . . . for which I make no apology whatsoever. Cardiovascular disease remains our number one enemy, the biggest killer of men AND women.
This review is copyright C 2002 by Andrew W. Saul, Number 8 Van Buren Street, Holley, New York 14470 USA.