A doctor who ate his patients’ feces found the cause of a terrible epidemic and changed the way we eat


Nutrition, the obsession of today, has been a neglected field of medicine for too long.

Surprising but true: Research on the relationship between diet and health has been remarkably slow, And a significant part of the knowledge was gained thanks to the doctors who conducted experiments on themselves, putting their lives at risk.

He loves doctors Joseph Goldberger, a Jew from New York who in 1914 came to the southernmost point of the United States.

There, he made an intellectual leap that led him to solve a mystery, save tens of thousands of lives, and force governments, for the first time, to meddle in what people ate.

He had been sent by the US Surgeon General to investigate an epidemic in the southern states of the country.

and that isPellagra was a terrible disease.

known as The ‘Farmers’ Plague’ started with what looked like a mild sunburn on the backs of the hands.

It will develop into a butterfly-shaped rash on the face.

Then came depression, confusion and dementia.

and in 40% of cases ended in the death of patients.

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A girl in a London workshop suffering from chronic pellagra. Watercolor by AJE Terzi, 1925.

It was killing thousands of Americans every year and infecting tens of thousands more.

It was Goldberger’s job to track down the cause.

Crucial details

It came out of nowhere, and in homes where one person was infected, there was an 80% chance that others would catch it.

Not surprisingly, it was considered highly contagious, and those who suffered from it were excluded from leprosy.

Goldberger had the support of the Surgeon General, but as the son of immigrants, he always saw himself as an outsider, a maverick.

“during his life, Joseph Goldberger was fascinated by the American West and the West. Much of his work is medical investigation and combating the epidemic. Dr Alan Kraut, author of Goldberger’s War, told the BBC it was an extension of that desire to be an adventurer who achieves something worthwhile.

He partly saw himself as a lonely cowboy who went against the grain, scientific shotGoldberger’s grandson, Dr. Don Sharp, confirmed.

Flat back and pellet tray

The key was in this food tray.

Goldberger toured the southern United States, tracking the disease in prisons, orphanages, and nursing homes.

And he noticed something surprising.

affected by pellagraOppa For guests, but not for staff.

He realized that it could not be a contagious disease, as most of his medical colleagues had insisted.

It must be something else.

He soon became convinced there was something in the diet causing pellagra.

But Goldberger knew that criticizing southern food as northern wouldn’t make him popular.

“In order to convince scientists to support his conviction that pellagra was a dietary deficiency rather than a bacterial disease, he needed evidence,” Kraut said.

So he created a controversial experiment.

Front page of the Jackson Daily News

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The press reported on the controversial experiment: “Dr. Goldberger produces pellagra among convicts.”

He decided he was going to take 12 healthy men and give them pellagra.

And the “volunteers” will come from the Mississippi prison.

at that time, Many people, especially the poor, ate what was considered a typical southern delicacy, And nothing more.

They ate something called Fatback Or lardo, which is a layer of fat under the skin of the pig’s crispy back, grits and molasses.

His grandson explained that “all the prisoners had to do was eat normal food, without fresh meat, eggs or vegetables.”

“At first, the participants thought it was great.”

But after six months all of the prisoners developed pellagra, so Goldberger canceled the experiment.

He is now fully convinced that nutritional deficiency is the cause of pellagra.

But the scientific community disagreed..

“They criticized his methodology and the results and insisted that no matter what Goldberger showed, it was a bacterial disease, and he didn’t find the germ,” Kraut said.

Joseph Goldberger (1874-1929), physician and epidemiologist for the US Public Health Service.

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Nothing convinces his peers. (Image from “The Adventurer Goldberger” by R.P. Parsons, 1931)

Goldberger angerAs for.

“Those blind, selfish, jealous, and prejudiced donkeys bray their supposed criticisms.”

I was now so desperate that I was willing to do almost anything.

To silence his critics and prove beyond reasonable doubt that pellagra was not a contagious disease, he decided to do something even more controversial: an experiment on himself.

“I imposed no restrictions of any kind… no attempt was made to prevent ‘natural infection’,” he wrote.

The first thing he did was go to the local pellagra hospital and use a cotton swab Collect mucus from patients’ nosesand put it in nostrils.

The time between collection and inoculation was less than two hours.

“By the way, perhaps it should be noted that some of the secretions applied to the nasopharynx must have been swallowed up in the end,” he said.

Then I collected Urine, skin and stool samples.

“The patient supplying stool was having a heavy stool and had four loose bowel movements a day.”

He mixed those ingredients with wheat flour to make a pill… and swallowed it.

Dirty parties

Recreation in his lab with several doctors taking pills

He wasn’t the only one who took the dirty pills.

“There is certainly a revolting quality to the idea of ​​eating other people’s feces and skin,” Kraut stressed, likely echoing your thoughts.

“In the family, we always found it shocking that he would put himself in danger in this way. Often when we talk about this with family or friends, it makes us feel overwhelmed,” said Dr. Sharp.

Goldberger even persuaded his colleagues to join the experiments, which he called “dirty parties.”

s As if stool and urine weren’t enough, Goldberger had one last surprise: blood.

He collected some blood from a patient to inject into each of the volunteers, including his wife, Mary.

“I think my grandmother wanted to do everything she could to help silence her critics,” Sharp said.

Mary wrote: “The men did not consent to me swallowing the pills, but they gave me an injection into the belly of the blood of a woman dying of pellagra.”

Any kind of disease could have been transmitted on that needle.

FIt was my act of faith.I didn’t needIt’s bravery.

Mary Humphreys Farrar, Goldbinger's wife since 1906 and mother of four.

Mary Humphreys Farrar, Goldbinger’s wife since 1906 and mother of four.

Mary’s faith was rewarded.

None of the volunteers became ill.

My grandfather was so excited and happy that none of the people who participated in the filth parties suffered from anything serious other than simple diarrhoea.

“And certainly none of them got pellagra.”

Goldberger thought he had finally done it: He had all the evidence needed to prove that pellagra was not contagious.

It must have been caused by some elements that were missing from the southern diet.

His case was completely bulletproof.

It’s time to turn to the audience and accept the applause.

What he received was a fierce and bitter storm Critics from the southern audience.

His and an advertisement for the pelegra cure:

He had to wait but eventually he would be proven right. (Pictured, he and an advertisement for a cure for pelegra: “Start with the wrong diet.”)

“Regardless of whether he was Jewish, a New Yorker and a Federal Reserve official played a role in how he was treated and reprimanded or whether it was because of what he was saying, we will of course never know,” Sharp said.

Goldberger knew that he would never convince doctors that pellagra was caused by a deficiency in the diet unless he found a simple and cheap treatment.

After a few years…

In 1923, Goldberger finally found what he was looking for, and the discovery came in a strange way.

He was experimenting on dogs to try to get them to get pellagra by having them eat a Southern diet.

The problem was that dogs didn’t want to eat this food.

So he added what he described as an appetite stimulant.

Months passed and the dogs are still doing well.

Goldberger finally catches up what was the activator I was protecting themkisa: This was what I was looking for all those years ago.

And it is.

One tablespoon of natural yeast

Getty Images

It is not animal, not vegetable, and not mineral.

It’s yeast.

In 1927, Goldberger’s time finally came.

The floods caused a new outbreak of pellagra.

Goldberger brought yeast to the refugees.

It was amazing. Just a few teaspoons a day was all it took to treat them.

Goldberger is finally declared champion.

A few years later, the chemist finally isolated a pellagra-preventing agent in yeast.

It’s a vitamin called niacin.

The US government has ordered mills to fortify their flour with niacin.

Other countries followed suit, and pellagra quickly became a medical rarity.

We now know that niacin is essential for healthy skin and for a well-functioning digestive system and nervous system.

But what Goldberger really showed was the close connection between food and health.

There is a direct relationship between what we eat and how we live with what makes us sick, and heAs for is exactly toAs for What Dr. Joseph Goldberger wanted the world to understand.

* This article is excerpted from part of the BBC series “Mavericks Medical“.

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