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Editorial Issue 176

by Sandra Goodman PhD(more info)

listed in editorial, originally published in issue 176 - November 2010

One of the original reasons which propelled me to start Positive Health magazine PH Online in 1994, with my partner, was a general 'perception' of a lack of published research regarding natural - rather than drug-based - treatment approaches to health conditions and illnesses, ranging from the seriously life-threatening including cancer and heart disease to the more chronic everyday ailments including back pain, allergies, headaches, etc.

The existence of a huge body of published research literature in all fields of health became obvious to me while researching and building during the early 1990s a considerable research database regarding nutrition and cancer for the then-called Bristol Cancer Help Centre (BCHC), now called Penny Brohn Cancer Care. The rationale for that project stemmed in part from the damage done in the early 1990s by the published paper by Chilvers et al [1] which concluded that women visiting BCHC were more likely to die from their cancer than those women receiving standard medical treatment.

"For patients metastasis-free at entry, metastasis-free survival in the BCHC group was significantly poorer than in the controls (relapse rate ratio 2·85). Survival in relapsed cases was significantly inferior to that in the control group (hazard ratio 1·81). For cases metastasis-free at entry to the BCHC there was a significant difference in survival between cases and controls, confirming the difference in metastasis-free survival. There was no significant difference in survival or disease-free survival between the cancer hospital controls and other controls."[1]

The impact that this research had upon not only Bristol, but many hundreds, even thousands of cancer sufferers and indeed the entire holistic medical community can not be underestimated. The original announcement was the lead story on the BBC1 News on the day and literally sent shock waves around the world.

"It appeared that Bristol women were three times more likely to suffer spread of the cancer than Marsden patients, and twice as likely to die once it had spread. It was suggested that the Bristol therapies, especially the diet, were to blame."[2]

How indeed could healing and good nutritional counselling produce a worse outcome for breast cancer sufferers who had also received 'orthodox' medical treatment?

"The episode is probably one of the most embarrassing in British medical research history and the study has been used by one university statistician as an example of how not to do it. In May 1991 it was formally abandoned but the findings have never been fully retracted, nor has anyone admitted responsibility for the catalogue of errors and mismanagement on all sides that led to its 'hyped' publication, less than halfway through the agreed five year study period. A suspicion that the medical establishment was 'out to get' Bristol for daring to challenge the orthodoxy has never receded - although it was strongly denied."... the legacy of that infamous study has been a terrible one for all concerned. Professor Tim McElwain, the most outspoken member of the research team, committed suicide. Pressure of work was blamed.[2]

Out of that catastrophic research blunder was born my projects of formulating a Consensus Document Nutritional and Lifestyle Guidelines for People with Cancer[3,4] and the building of the Cancer and Nutrition Database for the Bristol Cancer Help Centre.

However prior to the BCHC debacle and subsequent Cancer and Nutrition database, I had written the book Vitamin C the Master Nutrient, published by Keats in 1991.[5]  And it is the content from my Vitamin C book which brings me back to the present, this Nov Issue 176 of PH Online to the letters pages regarding so-called "objections" to Vitamin C Therapy.  

These so-called "objections", including myths of kidney stones, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis referred to in this letter from the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service (OMNS)  trawl the literature even back to the 1940s when vitamin C was discovered to clinically improve heart disease.[6]

When I researched the published literature while writing my Vitamin C book in the late 1980s, I discovered material even dating from the 1930s, exhorting doctors to use Vitamins C and E for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes.[5]

"And are you aware that way back in the 1930s, that's 50 years ago, a link between Vitamin C and arteriosclerosis and heart disease had already been established(151,174,205)? Are you also aware that by 1953, 35 years ago, an intimate relationship between Vitamin C, cholesterol synthesis and atherosclerosis had already been documented(18,163,235), and that by 1957, it had been shown that atherosclerosis is reversible by Vitamin C(149, 236-9)? Even as early as 1947 it was suggested in a clinical article(211) that Vitamin C be used for treatment of heart disease. Furthermore, Vitamin C also possesses significant therapeutic impact upon diabetes and hypoglycemia. But is Vitamin C being widely dispensed by cardiovascular specialists and hospitals(76)?" [5]  

That was my rant prior to 1990, before the Bristol Cancer Help Centre research scandal, before the launch of Positive Health PH Online; it is still the subject of letters such as the one published in this issue of PH Online by OMNS regarding "Objections to Vitamin C Therapy".

How many decades have to pass between the publication of non-drug oriented, therefore non profit-making research and its appearance into clinical practice, or even its acknowledgement by the medical profession and media? When the slightest drug discovery is announced which may take decades to apply in practice, it makes headline news; when have you heard about the revolutionary findings with Vitamins C and E that the doctors of the 1930s and 1940s were discovering, unless you are a research historian about Vitamin C.

It appears that when it comes to research, if it is the wrong kind of research, i.e. not  a randomized controlled trial (rct), then it is thrown out, discarding perhaps the majority of the entire body of medical research. A bit like leaves or snow on the line when trains aren't on time. Research in all its forms are a very precious commodity; pity that the media don't appear to appreciate its value when it comes to natural treatment approaches.


1. Prof CED Chilvers MSc, Bagenal BSc, DF Easton MA, E Harris MSc and Prof TJ McElwain FRCPc. Survival of patients with breast cancer attending Bristol Cancer Help Centre. The Lancet Volume 336, Issue 8715, Pages 606-610. 8 September 1990. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(90)93402-B
2. Liz Hunt. News of death greatly exaggerated: The report on the Bristol Cancer Help Centre was damning. It was also highly inaccurate. These ex-patients want the world to be told, and they are tired of waiting. The Independent Life & Style. 15 Nov 1993.
3. Sandra Goodman PhD. Bristol Cancer Help Centre Nutrition and Cancer Database. Journal of Nutrition and Environmental Medicine. Vol. 4, No. 2 , Pages 131-132. 1994.
4. Sandra Goodman Phd, John MacLaren, Walter Barker Phd.  Nutrition and Life-style Guidelines for People with Cancer. Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine. 4(2): 199-214. Jan 1994.  
5. Goodman S. Vitamin C the Master Nutrient. Keats 1991.
6. McCormick WJ. Lithogenesis and hypovitaminosis. Medical Record, 159:7, July, p 410-413. 1946.


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About Sandra Goodman PhD

Sandra Goodman PhD, Co-founder and Editor of Positive Health, trained as a Molecular Biology scientist in Agricultural Biotechnology in Canada and the US, focusing upon health issues since the 1980s in the UK. Author of 4 books, including Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art, Vitamin C – The Master Nutrient, Germanium: The Health and Life Enhancer and numerous articles, Dr Goodman was the lead author of the Consensus Document Nutritional and LifeStyle Guidelines for People with Cancer and compiled the Cancer and Nutrition Database for the Bristol Cancer Help Centre in 1993. Dr Goodman is passionate about making available to all people, particularly those with cancer, clinical expertise in Nutrition and Complementary Therapies. Dr Goodman was recently featured as Doctor of the Fortnight in ThinkWellness360.

Dr Goodman and long-term partner Mike Howell seek individuals with vision, resources, and organization to continue and expand the Positive Health PH Online legacy beyond the first 30 years, with facilities for training, to fund alternative cancer research, and promote holistic organizations internationally. Read about Dr Goodman and purchase Nutrition and Cancer: State-of-the-Art.  She may be contacted privately for Research, Lectures and Editorial services via:   and

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