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Thread: Was Victor Herbert a reliable B12 information source?

  1. #1
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Apr 2004

    Default Was Victor Herbert a reliable B12 information source?

    Quote veganmike
    Here are some selected articles and letters written by dr Victor Herbert, renowned vitamin B12 expert. Please visit for more articles on B12 (see CV and articles section).


    Dr Victor Herbert was a Quackbuster. According to his web site (click on his picture), at the time of his death, he was "a Professor of Medicine and Chair, Committee to Strengthen Nutrition at Mount Sinai Medical Center and Chief, Mount Sinai Nutrition Center and Hematology and Nutrition Research Laboratory at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y." He has authored several books and some 850 scientific papers. He was an outspoken critic of food frauds, dietary cures, nutrition nonsense, and other questionable medical practices.

    Additionally, according to his site and family and own words, "Victor was a retired Green Beret with the rank of Lt. Colonel and distinction of service in four wars. He was buried, in accordance with his wishes, at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C." Herbert's true claim to fame is his groundbreaking research into folic acid deficiencies. His work described the effects of induced folate deficiency on the central nervous system: irritability, forgetfulness, and progressive sleeplessness. He used a human subject for this experiment. He also reported that the symptoms disappeared within 48 hours of "oral folate intake."

    After he published his findings, many within his circle wondered who would volunteer for this sort of study and what would it take to induce someone to undergo something that could be this dangerous. Herbert avoided answering these questions until he found himself cornered one day and finally had to admit that he, himself, was the guinea pig. Some of his critics still feel that his experiments left him with permanent brain damage.

    According to his critics, Dr Herbert was not much of a scientist, not much of an expert in anything, and not much of a human being. He was also never a Green Beret with the rank of Lt Colonel nor did he serve in four wars.

    What was Dr Victor Herbert? He was a highly paid expert witness who used pseudo science (lies and oversimplification) to trash anyone or anything outside the bastions of conventional medicine. According to Dr James P Carter's fantastic book, Racketeering in Medicine, "His expert witness testimony is either inaccurate, twisted or so overly simplistic as to not represent valid medical fact."

    Dr Linus Pauling, two time Nobel Prize Laureate, said of him, "I have known [Dr Victor Herbert] for about 21 years now. I don't think he is a scientist. It seems to me that he has little understanding of science and little ability in that field. . . . If you can believe what he says, there is no doubt that his beliefs are not based upon facts; that there is some sort of bias; some sort of other activating influence. He is not a scientist in the sense of a person who is able to carry out reliable experiments." [From court transcripts in the trial of Dr Warren Levin.]

    The "activating influence" was money. Dr Herbert was a paid gun for the pharmaceutical and medical interests. As Dr Carter puts it in Racketeering in Medicine, "medicine today is a turf war." Dr Herbert, also an attorney, used the courts system to destroy many physicians who practiced outside the realm of conventional medicine. The state can continue to prosecute for it has deep, deep pockets. Most physicians go broke in the process.

    One of Herbert's first campaigns was against the use of vitamin C therapy. He claimed that large doses of vitamin C led to kidney stones and interfered with vitamin B-12 absorption. His lack of knowledge combined with the clamor he created in the papers he published nudged Professor Linus Pauling to take the next logical step:

    I perhaps owe something in a sense to Victor Herbert. I probably never would have written the several books that I've written about nutrition and health and disease if it had not been for Victor Herbert. I was asked in 1969 - perhaps it was a little earlier even than that - 1969, I think, to come to New York City to give a speech at the opening ceremonies of a new medical school, Mount Sinai Medical School. And I thought I ought to say something medical. I had only ten minutes to speak. So I thought I'll talk about vitamin C and the common cold. And I said, for three years now my wife and I have been taking large doses of vitamin C. Dr. Irwin Stone was the biochemist who suggested that we do it. And there's no doubt in my mind - I've been looking at the literature, too - no doubt that vitamin C can provide a lot of protection against the common cold.

    Victor Herbert wrote to me a scathing letter attacking me, and said, 'Can you show me a single prospective, controlled, double-blind trial where vitamin C is shown to have more value than a placebo?' So I wrote to him and said, 'Well, I've found four trials now and all of them show that it has more value than a placebo.' I said, 'A good one is by Dr. [G.] Ritzel in Switzerland - Basle.' He said, 'I'm too busy to check up on these reports.' So I sent him a copy of Dr. Ritzel's paper. He said, 'I don't believe it. He doesn't say what the sex distribution is or the age.' I said, 'Well, I think he does. He says they were schoolboys - they must be male. But I've written to Dr. Ritzel. He said of course they were all boys, it says so in the paper. And they were 15 to 17 years old.'

    Victor Herbert had encouraged me to look through the literature for these double-blind trials. And here he refused to pay any attention. But I also found that in the medical textbooks, the trials were misrepresented. When a trial got a positive result, the textbooks said that it got a negative result. So I thought this is a pretty serious matter. People suffer from colds. Almost everybody - 90 percent of people - get colds several times a year. If they suffered as much as I suffered, it was quite a lot of suffering. Moreover, the story about vitamin C is a very interesting story. I've learned a lot more about vitamin C than I knew when I began. I'd met Dr. [Albert] Szent-Gyorgyi [the discoverer of vitamin C] in 1937 when he came to visit us in Pasadena. And I knew something about other people - I'd met other people who'd worked on vitamin C.

    I got so steamed up one day, here, in this room, that I sat down and began writing a book about vitamin C and the common cold. I sat down the first of August and finished it the thirty-first of August in 1970. I sent it off to the publisher and it came out the 17th of November in the same year. Most publishers that I've had experience with don't work so fast but this book was available already before the end of 1970.

    And then I started being attacked by the medical Establishment, the medical journals." [Interview with Linus Pauling conducted by Peter Chowka,][/INDENT][/INDENT]
    Herbert ignored Pauling's research, refused to read it, and continued to use the courts to pursue his agenda. In the Dr Levin trial, Herbert states: Mega doses of vitamin C can cause deposits of oxalates in the heart, which among other things can produce first-degree heart block," a condition he refers to as "metastatic oxalosis."

    (Go ahead and google metastatic oxalosis or look it up at WebMD. )

    Dr Levin and his attorney could not find a single reference to metastatic oxalosis in any database. When challenged Herbert claimed, under oath, that he had "dozens of articles" on it. His proof came forward the next day when he presented the court with a book in which the term was found. Herbert was the author of that book. He also pulled out a dictionary and found both terms (though not together) claiming that all you had to do was put them together. This was his "proof" that the term, hence the condition, existed.

    The truth is, Herbert's claims concerning megadoses of vitamin C are unencumbered by both science and reality.

    Much of Herbert's claims can be described that same way.

    He calls acupuncture, quackupuncture, claiming that the only reason it is even used in medicine was that its endorsement was made entirely by "acupuncture profiteers." He also claimed that acupuncture worked because of the mindset of the Orientals; that they responded well to this ridiculous therapy. When presented a study in which animals were treated successfully with acupuncture, Herbert fell back on a quotation by the equally infamous Dr Stephen Barrett: "There may be a placebo effect in animals."

    Herbert claimed that vitamin E led to autoimmune disorders.

    Herbert claimed that "a majority of the gurus of questionable nutrition practices are in fact sociopath/psychopaths, as delineated in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual III)."

    In 1997 John Renner, William Jarvis, Stephen Barrett and Victor Herbert compiled a "quack" list not unlike one of the McCarthy era blacklists. On this list were 2,500 physicians and scientists, including Linus Pauling.

    When the federal government opened the Office of Alternative Medicine, Herbert called it a 2 million dollar rip-off: "They are screening garbage looking for diamonds. There are no diamonds in garbage."

    Frank Wiewel, the head of People Against Cancer, was the first to head the Office of Alternative Medicine. Knowing that Dr Herbert was both a physician and attorney, he once told Herbert he should sue himself for malpractice. On another occasion, Herbert became enraged, jumped off a stage, and began throttling Frank Wiewel. Wiewel took Dr Herbert to court and won. Herbert, being an attorney, filed an appeal, which was promptly thrown out, leaving the judge to reprimand Herbert, telling him he never wanted to see him again in his court.

    Herbert, when cornered, has admitted to being less than honest. He lied on his application to medical school and though he boasts about his service at the Veterans' hospital in Brooklyn, he did, admit under oath, that he had been asked to resign that post.

    However, the lie I focus on now is heinous:
    I love being a veteran's doctor. My mother was an army lawyer and my father was leader of the First Army Band. I served on active duty for five years in three wars and retired as a Green Beret lieutenant colonel.

    Beyond the simple fact that the hospital in which he worked was rated as one of the worst hospitals in the VA system (described as filthy with rats sometimes visible in the wards), is his claim of serving in four wars and his claim of being not only a Green Beret (Special Forces) but a lieutenant colonel.

    As I write these words, it is Veteran's Day (11/11/04). Today we celebrate those who fought for our country. We remember too those who have died in battle, however, their day is Memorial Day, even though to some of us, every day is a memorial day for the buddies we left behind.

    If you ever want to check out someone's military records, write to:
    National Personnel Records Center
    Army Records Center
    9700 Page Boulevard
    St. Louis, MO 63132
    You will need the full name, a birth date, or the last four numbers of a social security number in order to identify the person.

    It took us 5 months to get a return from the center. It was a single piece of paper, mostly white space. We did scan it and thought of putting it on the web, but it was very large and not much on it. I can tell you what was on it.

    Victor Herbert was a private first class in the Army. He attended basic training and then was sent to an Air Assault unit. Air Assault is paratroopers. However, we are not sure if Herbert made any jumps, as his decorations listed are simply two service medals. He did not receive his jump wings. He did not go overseas.

    He reenlisted after medical school in June of 1952 and served nearly two years as a medical officer (rank of captain).

    Yes, Dr Herbert is a veteran. He served during one war, but never saw action. Even the New York Times story written about him after his death got it wrong. They did not check out his story. His family continues to promulgate the myth of his service to his country.

    When our men are fighting and dying in Iraq and so many have fought and died around the world for this country, it is time to uncover the false heroes for what they are.

    Victor Herbert was not much of a physician, not much of a scientist, and not a Green Beret who served in four wars. He was a bully with one purpose: To restrain trade by harming competition to traditional allopathic medical practice. As the anonymous French physician once said: "Medicine has become a whore, and the pharmaceutical industry its pimp."

    Herbert represented this kind of medicine.

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    I don't think it's relevant, really, if he was an active Green Beret who served four wars or not (I hope he contribute to attacking other countries as little as possible), but the article I quoted contains some views on Victor Herberts activities that may bring some perspective on his anti-vegan crusade (and the only way to get permission to reprint the article is to copy the whole article).

  2. #2
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: The B12 research collection

    The late Victor Herbert, described by his family as one who 'was always an outspoken critic of food frauds, dietary cures, nutrition nonsense and other questionable medical practices' is a person who's quotes often occur in discussions (like this one) about vegans and vitamin B12. Herbert was the one who linked anemia to lack of folic acid from leafy vegetables and fruits. He also insisted that the minimum daily requirement for B12 (for 'normal people') appears to be 0.2-0.25 micrograms per day absorbed from food ( Herbert V. 1987. Recommended dietary intakes (RDI) of vitamin B-12 in humans. Am. J. Clin.
    Nutr. 45:671-678. ).

    I have seen several articles suggesting that this amount is pretty equal to what one could find in a vegan diet pr. day, still mr. Herbert is known as the famous 'anti-vegan' doctor. A major reason for this may be his article 'Vegan diets are lethal'.

    Here is an excerpt from the article:

    "As the creator [...] of radioassay for vitamin B12, now used in nearly every vitamin B12 assay laboratory in the Western World, I here reiterate the much-published fact [...] that, while there is vitamin B12 in all animal protein (including eggs), there is no vitamin B12 in any vegan diet. [...] As we, and many other nutrition scientists in just about every country in the world, have reported, every vegan, and their newborns, unless treated with B12, gets progressively worse vitamin B12 deficiency, with slowly progressive destruction of their blood cells, nervous and immune systems, brain, and all other living cells, with eventual death from a total shut-down of DNA synthesis. All DNA synthesis, as we and many others who study the biochemistry of DNA have shown, requires vitamin B12.

    That is one reason why our Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published jointly by our Department of Health and Human Services and our U.S. Department of Agriculture, require that modest amounts of meat and/or fish and/or poultry and/or eggs be eaten daily by everyone."

    First, he claims that there are no B12 whatsoever in plants, which have been proven to be wrong several times. There are discussions about whether there is enough B12 in plants (we know there is very little - but we also know that we need very little B12 daily).

    About B12 analogues, Herbert is aware that 'a typical 'VA lunch' consisting of potato soup, cottage cheese, lettuce, peaches, crackers, butter and milk was analyzed and found to contain 40% inactive analogs' (Herbert 1984b), so the appearance of B12 analogues in vegan food shouldn't in itself scare him away from that diet.

    Let's assume that 40% of the B12 in plant based food are inactive B12 analogues (just like in the lunch above). If a typical vegan B12 intake/day is 0.35 mcg/day, this would mean that 60% ( = 0.21 mcg/day) is the amount of active B12 we can expect to find in a typical vegan diet/day.

    At this point (when Herbert wrote these things) WHO recommended daily intake pr day is 1 mcg daily. Victor Herbert himself wrote that 'the minimum daily requirement (MDR) for vitamin B12 to sustain normality is probably in the range of of ~0.1 mcg. 0.2-0.25 mcg absorbed daily from food is probably adequate for anybody. There are no objective published data that larger amount of vitamin B-12 have any added value for greater health or longer life'. In the same article, 'Vitamin B12, sources and requirements', he also writes that 'We (the 1980-85 RDA Committee) reduced the RDA for vitamin B12 to 2mcg for adults (which is still more than more than anybody needs) because there was no scientific basis for higher amounts. As delineated above, nobody needs that much, there is no evidence that it has any value whatsoever for humans and, as we discover more and more about the excess of any nutrient, we discover harms we did not know existed. It will probably turn out eventually that too much vitamin B12, like too much of everything, is harmful".

    So, essentially he says the MDR for vitamin B12 'to sustain normality is probably within the range of ~0.1 mcg. If it is correct that a typical vegan diet contains 0.21 mcg active B12/day and 0.14 mcg active B12 (based on the assumption that we get an average of 0.35 mcg/day and that 40% of these are inactive B12 analogues, we still consume 40% more B12 (0,14 mcg vs. 0.1 mcg) than Victor Herbert believes that we need. But most of us have a lifestyle that kills B12, eating plants that has been exposed to chlorinated water being one of them.

    "it has been established that inactive B-12 analogs exist in human liver, red blood cells, brain and mineral and vitamin supplements (Kanazawa 1983;Herbert 1982). Normal humans are able to discriminate between the active and non-active forms as both have always been in nature and in foods. For example, the role of the plasma transport proteins transcobalamins I and III are to deliver non-functional B-12 analogs to the liver for discard in the bile (Burger, 1975, Jacob 1980, and Kanazawa 1983b). Moreover, an effective enterohepatic circulation recycles the vitamin from bile and other intestinal secretions accounting for its long biological half-life. During this process, vitamin B-12 analogues are preferentially excreted while human-active cobalamins are largely resorbed (Kanazawa 1983)"

    If this is correct, and if it is correct that we need only around 0.1 mcg/day 'to sustain normality', like Victor Herbert suggests, and we get this amount from plant based food - what is then the problem?

    My reply would be that...:
    1) some people (both vegans and non-vegans) have bo problems with too little B12
    2) it doesn't help if we consume enough B12 if we eat or drink stuff that destroys the B12
    3) the B12 that we normally would have gotten from a plant based diet may not be avilable due to poor soil, water issues etc.

    It is important to distinguish between 'sustaining normality' and curing deficiency or anemia. "In 4 Indian vegetarians with B12-deficient anemia, .10 - .25 g of B12 (through the diet) was not enough to correct anemia, while .3-.65 was enough. Not all patients, however, require so little."

    If 0.3-0.65 mcg even is enough to correct anemia, why are some healthy vegans heading for levels 10-3000 times daily as high when they are not anemic?

  3. #3
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Victor Herbert's articles on B12

    Here are some selected articles and letters written by dr Victor Herbert, renowned vitamin B12 expert. Please visit for more articles on B12 (see CV and articles section).
    For some other perspectives on Herbert (I do NOT agree in or support the way Herbert is attacked here, but it says something about this man, who by many vegans is considered a reliable source of B12 info), look here:

    The interesting thing is that Victor Herbert, who seemed to do whatever he could to damage the vegan movement, meant that the recommended daily B12 amounts some vegan sites are based on are not too low, but way too high. If The-Main-Anti-Vegan-Of-All-Times, Mr. Herbert, was right, these pro-vegan sites exaggerate - a lot.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Victor Herbert's articles on B12

    Quote Korn
    For some other perspectives on Herbert (I do NOT agree in or support the way Herbert is attacked here, but it says something about this man, who by many vegans is considered a reliable source of B12 info), look here:
    What a horrible and tactless paper SAYING A CANCER PATIENT DESERVES CHEMOTHERAPY IS JUST CRASS; IT'S NOT LIKE THE MAN WAS A CHILD MOLESTER!!! (00ps! caps not intended)

  5. #5
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Was Victor Herbert a reliable B12 information source?

    I agree, and that's of course why I wrote what I did. I guess the reason they wrote what they did (not that I defend it) was that Herbert was so active warning against non-tradition cures, he wrote books/article over a long period warning against almost everything that reminded of natural/dietary treatments of various diseases. From what I know about Herbert, he probably would insist on chemotherapy, since he dedicated so much time to fight against alternative methods. He was not a child molester, and even if his anti-vegan activism has contributed to the death of an enormous amount of innocent animals, nobody 'deserves' chemotherapy or radiation. I totally agree that it's tactless and crass.

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