What started the scare of vitamin D supplementation? It was a fear campaign that was started by doctors from worry of vitamin D causing mental retardation. It was just bad science, and worse, it was extremely bad medicine. Dr. Robert E. Cooke, Pediatrician from John Hopkins, seems to have been at the lead of making the announcement public. This bit of bad news may be solely responsible for the suffering and deaths of millions of people from 1964 until the present day. Consider this summary paragraph at the end of the article in the Spokane Daily Chronicle: “In addition to mental retardation, Dr. Cooke said, an excess of vitamin D apparently causes narrowings of major vessels of the body, kidney ailments, heart murmurs, and high blood pressure.” This last sentence makes me think that the good doctor knew better. This sounds like someone just throwing out fear statements with an agenda. Of course, modern research has shown just the opposite of everything that was stated except you may get heart arrhythmias if you are not getting enough magnesium.
I am sure that the thalidomide scare of birth defects also drove the misinformation of Dr. Cooke about vitamin D. Huge numbers of mothers had been misinformed about thalidomide. There were many cases of birth defects and lots of pictures in the press of malformed babies. No one wants malformed babies! The drug was used as a sedative for anxiety and morning sickness – ouch. There were over 10,000 cases of malformed babies around the world. Pictures of babies with missing limbs were horrific.
This was the end of the use of cod liver oil, CLO, as a supplement on a scale of any size. I was thirteen at the time and was a happy guy because I did not like the taste of the cod liver oil. I remember well my mother remarking that it was odd that she had been told all those years that the CLO was good for you and now the medical profession was telling us to stop. Sound familiar? It is no wonder the public does not know who to trust when we have been told lies for over fifty years for profit in the name of not harming the population. If you don’t believe this is still going on, consider the three billion dollar fine that GSK just agreed to pay for misrepresenting drugs. Of course in those days, there was more trust of the medical profession than today. The public has become weary.
The question becomes, how close was Dr. Cooke tied to politics? He was friends of Eunice and Sargent Shriver. Mrs. Shriver is the sister of President John F. Kennedy. I am sure there was some good that came from this relationship. The Kennedy institute that was formed for children with developmental problems. And then there was the Wisconsin connection as he married a colleague from there. The University of Wisconsin is ground zero for the science of vitamin D and analog development. There has even been admission by UW researchers that beneficial vitamin D science was withheld to prevent the competition from beating them to drug development.
I am not saying there was anything out of the ordinary in these relationships, but it seems odd to me. I am sure the press put extra emphasis on his announcement because of his relationship with the Kennedy’s. With one statement, Dr. Cooke changed the face of medicine. And now, it will take decades to correct. Dr. Cooke is enjoying his retirement in the sun in Florida – odd. I hope his grandchildren don’t spend too much time in the sun, we wouldn’t want them to get all those illnesses he described.
To keep alive a Coppertone slogan from that time – ‘Don’t be a Paleface’. – Pandemic Survivor