While Science Sleeps – A Sweetener Kills
By Woodrow C. Monte, PhD
The title of the book summarizes my impression that except for a few isolated points of light, North America is a dark continent as far as honest, rigorous science is concerned. Science snores away while corporate conmen who worship money scatter their pretend science everywhere, robbing Americans of their health and their wealth. This book carefully examines one particular contaminant in the food supply.
Dr. Monte quickly identifies the culprit he is going after and then builds an extensive case against this culprit, accumulating evidence from real science, chemistry, history, statistics and personal observation. The final result is quite convincing. The villain is methanol, also known as wood alcohol. Methanol easily converts to formaldehyde in the body and then the real damage begins. Most people know that drinking a glass of straight wood alcohol will end badly, but they don’t know what happens with smaller exposures. Because formaldehyde is a very tiny molecule, it is not visible under a microscope and our technology could not detect it in tissue samples until recently. Detection is still very expensive and difficult.
Animal and human enzymes contain a subtle difference that changes how methanol is metabolized. The result is that animal tests can “prove” it safe when it is not. Therefore the only true way to test for toxicity is to test it on humans, which should raise some obvious ethical questions. Unfortunately, human testing has in fact been carried out on a very large scale on uninformed subjects.
Until the early 1800s there was very little human exposure to methanol, particularly in the food supply. Then Nicolas Appert invented canning. The process of canning fruits and vegetables, whether done at home or in a factory, creates small amounts of methanol. Canned meats may have other problems but do not have methanol. So what happened? A detailed search of history reveals no mention of multiple sclerosis before the 1800s. The first case appeared after canned goods had become available among those who could afford them. Monte goes on to elaborate in detail the chemistry and biology of the causative factors. He also points out that this could explain what is really happening with autoimmune diseases in general.
Formaldehyde damage to proteins and DNA can be almost impossible to detect, even with modern day technology, as previously mentioned. But our immune system does detect it and responds to it. So at least in the early stages of autoimmune disease, when the immune system appears to be attacking perfectly healthy cells, it is attacking formaldehyde-damaged cells. Perhaps our immune systems aren’t behaving so stupidly after all.
One of the next major sources of methanol exposure was cigarettes, which became more widely available in the late nineteenth century with the invention of automatic machines to mass produce cigarettes. As we know, diseases of civilization climbed rapidly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and methanol was probably a factor. Getting back to multiple sclerosis, that disease increased rather explosively starting in the 1980s which corresponds with when one of the largest sources of methanol was introduced to the food supply—aspartame, also known as Nutrasweet.
The evidence against aspartame was clear from the beginning, and the FDA originally had no intention of approving it. FDA resistance to aspartame mysteriously disappeared almost literally overnight when Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, erstwhile president of the firm that produced aspartame, found himself well connected to top levels of government under Bush the First. Not only did FDA resistance disappear but a lot of evidence against aspartame disappeared as well.
Despite their well-documented corruption, the FDA and CDC can do a fine job of collecting data when agendas are not involved. Dr. Monte provides many charts plotting the rise of methanol sources like aspartame to the rise of several diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and coronary disease. He suspected a relationship between birth defects, especially neural tube defects, and methanol exposure but the data didn’t seem to confirm it. Then he realized there was a lot of missing data. The many abortions or miscarriages due to neural tube defects were not included in that data. When that oversight was corrected the correlation became clear.
Digging further, Dr. Monte caught another whiff of corruption when he scrutinized the recommendation that pregnant women take folic acid. His research indicated that folic acid itself can be somewhat dangerous as an isolated supplement. One possible use for folic acid is to neutralize the effects of methanol and formaldehyde. I think there is a better option that requires no money, no government bureaucracy, and it’s easy. Stay away from methanol.
Other investigations showed that school teachers had higher levels of cancer than the general population. While the old fashioned ditto machine may be almost obsolete, it was still common in many schools up until the 1990s and some schools may still have them. The liquid or “toner” they use is anywhere from 40 to 100 percent methanol. Reading this book by itself may give one the impression that methanol is at the root of all modern disease. I still think there are other culprits, other toxic chemicals, malnutrition, radiation, and so on, that must be considered especially with cancer, but Dr. Monte makes a convincing case that methanol could be a major factor.
An interesting footnote caught my attention. The caduceus—a winged staff with two snakes spiraling around it—is the symbol used by much of the pharmaceutical medical establishment. You might not know that this symbol only came to be used a little over a hundred years ago. The original symbol, which is still used elsewhere, was the rod of Asclepius, which is a rod without wings and only one snake. The winged rod with two snakes belongs to the mythological god Hermes, who, among other things, was the protector of merchants and thieves. I leave it to the reader to decide how appropriate that symbol is for modern medicine. My thumb is UP for this book.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2012.