Vitamin A deficiency- the agony of Xerophthalmia

June 1, 2008

If you’ve ever wondered how severe a vitamin deficiency can get, then this is a crystal clear illustration- one that affects millions of innocent children every year.

From Pages 279-280 NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL DEGENERATION. Weston Price 1939. (One of the Founding Fathers of Modern Nutrition)

Another illustration of the wisdom of the native Indians of that far north country came to me through two prospectors whom we rescued and brought out with us just before the fall freeze-up…..(who got stranded and had to abandon their provisions. BB)……. One of the men told me the following tragic story. While they were crossing the high plateau he nearly went blind with so violent a pain in his eyes that he feared he would go insane. It was not snow blindness, for they were equipped with glasses. It was xerophthalmia, due to lack of vitamin A. One day he almost ran into a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs. Fortunately, they did not attack him but moved off. He sat down on a stone and wept in despair of ever seeing his family again. As he sat there holding his throbbing head, he heard a voice and looked up. It was an old Indian who had been tracking that grizzly bear. He recognized this prospector’s plight and while neither could understand the language of the other, the Indian after making an examination of his eyes, took him by the hand and led him to a stream that was coursing its way down the mountain. Here as the prospector sat waiting the Indian built a trap of stones across the stream. He then went upstream and waded down splashing as he came and thus drove the trout into the trap. He threw the fish out on the bank and told the prospector to eat the flesh of the head and the tissues back of the eyes, including the eyes, with the result that in a few hours his pain had largely subsided. In one day his sight was rapidly returning, and in two days his eyes were nearly normal. He told me with profound emotion and gratitude that that Indian had certainly saved his life.

Now modern science knows that one of the richest sources of vitamin A in the entire animal body is that of the tissues back of the eyes including the retina of the eye.

(end of quotation).


  • An estimated 250 million preschool children are vitamin A deficient and it is likely that in vitamin A deficient areas a substantial proportion of pregnant women are vitamin A deficient.
  • An estimated 250 000 to 500 000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight.

Many charities donate vitamin A to poor communities to prevent eye disease and save lives, you can use Google to find them- here are 2 Australian charities:

Reference on Vitamin A deficiency:

Calcium balance and paleolithic diet

May 14, 2008

Would you rather have a $50 pay rise or a $100 tax cut? I know which one I’d prefer. The same goes for calcium. It’s not how much calcium you get, it’s how much you get to keep that matters. What matters most is not your calcium intake (the amount you consume) but your calcium balance (the amount of calcium you consume minus what you excrete in the urine).

While we take in calcium into our diet we also can lose it by excreting it into the urine. After all, most kidney stones contain calcium in addition to other chemicals. Similarly some people eat a lot of calcium but still get osteoporosis as they pass most of it in the urine. Other people eat small amounts of calcium but pass very little into the urine and don’t get osteoporosis. And most of us fall between these extremes.

The main thing that determines how much calcium gets passed into the urine is the ACID LOAD of the diet. Dietary acid must be neutralised to keep our blood and cells pH neutral so that our enzymes can function properly. One of the quickest ways to neutralise acid is to dissolve a little bone. The skeleton has many metabolic roles and one of them is to be the major acid base buffer. Dissolving a little bone releases the alkali and calcium at the same time.

The more dietary acid load, the more bone is dissolved and the more calcium goes into the urine.

Westerners eat a lot of dairy products and so take in a lot of calcium. But the cost of dairy products is that they are very acidic, so much of the calcium gets lost.

Other foods that have a high acid load include:
– cereals
– protein
– soft drink (phosphoric acid or citric acid are used as they hold more hydrogen and thus promote more fizz).
– salt. Through the magic of chloride and how it is metabolised by the kidneys. (ask a builder how good chloride is at causing concrete cancer, via salt spray or magnesite (magnesium chloride)).

Conversely, foods with a high alkali (base) load promote the retention of calcium.
– fruit
– vegetables
– strong mineral waters i.e. most European mineral waters such as Evian. But not Australian mineral waters which curiously have their minerals removed.

Asians and Africans traditionally eat low amounts of dairy products. There are no Paleolithic osteoporotic fractures other than some in Inuit who eat 95% animal calories. The dairy industry would have us believe they should all have problems.Marketing 101= if you repeat it often enough it becomes the truth.

If salt and soft drink were banned, the incidence of osteoporotic fractures would be 50 to 90% less. A 3% increase in bone density= a 20% drop in fracture rate.

And yes, acidic foods promote kidney stones! Acidic foods give us acidic urine which promotes stone formation and it is high in calcium which also promotes kidney stones. In contrast alkaline calcium supplements such as calcium carbonate tablets provide carbonate which is alkaline and helps the calcium to be retained. Also, carbonate is a component of bone which is helpful. I prefer calcium carbonate to calcium citrate as citrate is not a component of bone.

Also look at
Softdrink and osteoporosis

Garcia-Contreras, F. et al., Arch Med Res 2000; 31: 360-365
This is interesting as the rats didn’t get demineralised bones on water plus half rations (thus half calcium magnesium), whereas they did on cola plus half rations (all that they would eat on top of the cola).

You’ll be pleased to know that last week I went to an educational meeting on osteoporosis and had my bone density tested and it was fine!

<SNIP> I found this summary of the 2002 ASBMR meeting by Susan New on Medscape. (medscape is a professional medical site- free and worthwhile) Interesting that the mineral water paper quoted focuses on bicarbonate. Mineral water was mentioned the Lisbon conference but the focus was on calcium sulfate (sic). . is an earlier article by New with a focus on acid base.

There is also info at under “Alkaline For Life”. This website focuses on the therapy of osteoporosis. Dr Susan Brown is a nutritionist with a PhD in bone nutrition.

Dietary alkali loading (within limits) is definitely anabolic and should improve muscle strength. There is data suggesting it may help the brain.

It is an interesting new field and most of the experts are renal physicians. eg Sebastian, Frassetto and Morris.

Ben Balzer


April 19, 2008

The Paleolithic Diet is the only diet that is over 2 million years old. While it is ideal for most people, there are exceptions. It is definitely not suitable for people with iron overload (haemochromatosis, hemochromatosis) as it is very high in iron. It is not suitable at this stage for people with kidney disease as it is high in protein. Its effect on gout is not yet known and it should be avoided in uncontrolled gout.

It is recommended that you have regular checkups from your registered licensed health care provider and follow their advice.

In pregnancy and other situations, care must be taken to observe advice from your registered licensed health care provider- for example to avoid foods that are at risk for Listeria infection in pregnancy.

The information in this website is of a general nature only and may not be suitable for you. It is not a substitute for advice from your registered licensed health care provider. This website is not intended to diagnose treat prevent or cure any illness.

Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of food-borne illness, particularly in the elderly, in children, in pregnancy, and those with immunosuppression or chronic diseases such as gut diseases, diabetes or renal impairment. The risk may be worse in certain countries. If you are unsure, consult your doctor prior to changing your eating habits.

Wishing you the best of health

Dr Ben Balzer

Introduction to the Paleolithic Diet

April 19, 2008

Paleo-basics-handout-2007 Click me

The Real Origins of Diseases- Mainly Nutritional?

April 19, 2008

The germ theory of disease is medicine’s main success area. It lead to immunisation and antibiotics. Besides infections, which diseases do we know the true origin of?

Infective, traumatic, toxic and a handful of the population have significant genetic disorders.
These are the only ones we can prevent and we have good methods of treating. We can also treat deficiencies and surgeons can treat regional complaints (eg kidney stones, appendicitis, gallstones- but as we do not know the cause we can’t prevent them).

This is the true irrationality of health- medicine is in such a primitive state that it only knows the origin of about 15% of disease! If that. We don’t know the true origin of cancer, arthritis, asthma, gallstones, kidney stones, appendicitis, diabetes type 1, autism. Much money is used looking for genetic origins, yet it is unlikely they will be found.

Actually I think they are all primarily nutritional in origin- that’s why I’m interested in nutrition!

Ben Balzer

Australian Schooling System is a major cause of the obesity epidemic

April 19, 2008

I’ll throw in my 2 cents and lay a huge portion of the blame on the school system. The school system (generally) rewards inactivity and provides no reward for activity. There is a solution.

Consider that selective school exams at end of year 4 and 6 are purely academic. In general, no consideration or acknowledgement for sport, dance, music, drama, or any other activity. Similarly for year 12 HSC (NSW at least). The students who haven’t dropped sport generally do so in year 11 or 12. They see it as a threat to their HSC performance and TER and might miss out on their course or university of choice. (Of course for elite athletes there are TER bonuses etc, but I’m looking at the kids in the middle). At the end of the HSC the top TER’s have a lot of kids who have sacrificed a lot, including their fitness to get there. Many have been in coaching colleges from year 4 all the way through. It leaves little time for sport dance music or any other activity. I worry that some of the kids outside our local coaching college look a bit stressed if not traumatised. No wonder some of them seem to have great marks and no communication skills. There are attempts to address this by other tests like the UMAT but it does not address the problem that sport has been dumped.

In NSW at least dropping sport for the HSC is thus almost inevitable. I view the HSC as being like an old car that has had too many accidents, too many repairs.

An alternative curriculum like the International Baccalaureate which is a designed system, is a much better alternative. Sport is compulsory, as is some community service, a language, theory of knowledge and recognition of culture etc. Overall it seems a very superior system. And certainly will produce a fitter healthier student, and hopefully one with a more rounded education. Dare I say a Renaissance person. The IB is available for senior school, middle school and junior school.

Some countries have adopted the IB for all levels of all their schools. It is growing rapidly. Queensland and Victoria have apparently looked at moving their government schools to IB.

I think that education is a nation’s greatest investment. Much of Australia’s current ongoing boom can be traced to the brain explosion of free then affordable universities introduced in 1972 by Whitlam. This got the best people into the hardest courses and we all benefit, even if it has gone of the rails a bit. I hope the 2020 conference looks firmly at providing the best education system for the nation’s future, and one in which sport and recreation has a firm role.

Ben Balzer