Even the most outrageous quacks sometimes end up as prophets when many years later, a scientific study supports theories that were previously scorned. An article from respected researchers in Berlin showed that cod liver oil helped to relieve pain and suffering in some people with rheumatoid arthritis. This is the same remedy proposed by Don Dale Alexander in a best-selling book in the 1950s.
In this study, 43 patients with rheumatoid arthritis took one gram of cod liver oil daily for three months. Fifty-two percent had less morning stiffness, 42 percent had less pain, and 49 percent had less swelling, Sixty-five percent felt that the cod liver oil helped relieve their pain, and 98 percent felt that they could take it in spite of its awful odor.
In the 1950s, Dr. Don Dale Alexander’s book, Arthritis and Common Sense, sold more than a million copies and delighted talk show hosts. He would tell listeners that his mother had such severe arthritis that she squeaked when she walked. When a door or wheel squeaks, you oil it. He claimed that joints are like wheels. He told people with arthritis to eat huge amounts of oils. He proclaimed that oil passes from intestines, into the bloodstream, and then into joints to lubricate them and stop the joints from squeaking and hurting. But the human body doesn’t work that way. Before fatty triglycerides in oils can be absorbed into your bloodstream, they must be broken down into their building blocks, called glycerol, fatty acids and monoglycerides. Then these building blocks circulate in the bloodstream and are reassembled only after they enter each cell. Oil cannot pass from food into joints.
Another of Dr. Alexander’s claims was that people should never drink water with meals or eat fatty oils with water because oil and water don’t mix. He claimed that water should be taken only when the stomach is empty so it won’t wash the oil from the joints. In September 7, 1956, the Federal Trade Commission charged that the ads for Alexander’s book were “false, misleading, deceptive.” At that hearing, Alexander’s education was exposed for public scrutiny. He attended high school at Norwich Free Academy and graduated 313th in a class of 353 in 1937. He went to Trinity College of Hartford, Connecticut, but did not complete even one semester. He then wrote his book and introduced himself as Dr. Don Dale Alexander. He claimed that his PhD was from St. Andrews Ecumenical University in London. But the FTC said that Alexander had never been there. He also claimed that he had a Doctor of Arts and Oratory from Staley College of the Spoken Word in Brookline, Massachusetts. The FTC said this was an outright purchase since he made a contribution of $1000 to the college prior to conferment. The hearing examiner at FTC decided that the Alexander’s book “is but a thesis by Alexander predicated on unsupportable and unprovable postulates. and amounts to nothing more than a collection and summation of the author’s theories concerning arthritis, rheumatism and related diseases, all of which are pure theory.” But the report in Advances in Therapy showed that a quack may sometimes be a prophet.
Effect of cod liver oil on symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Advances in Therapy, 2002, Vol 19, Iss 2, pp 101-107. J Gruenwald, HJ Graubaum, A Harde. Gruenwald J, PhytoPharm Consulting, Inst Phytopharmceut, Waldseeweg 6, D-13967 Berlin, GERMANY