Nutrition: Summary of Lectures by Otto Wolff

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By: Unknown Author
Summary Report on the Sixth Annual conference of Doctors, Medical Students and Therapists in Wilton, New Hampshire - June, 1982

The theme of this year's conference was Nutrition. The conference was dedicated to Karl E. Schaefer, M.D., who was the motivating and focal personality who brought together doctors, medical students, therapists and teachers in major yearly conferences and numerous regional conferences on Anthroposophical Medicine over the past decade. Dr. Schaefer died just after Christmas, 1981. Though his physical presence was sorely missed, his spiritual presence was felt by many whose lives he had touched, weaving a remarkable harmony and strength into our work this year.

Mornings began with hygienic speech led by Brad Riley, a speech therapist and artist. The morning core content of lectures was given by Dr. Otto Wolff of Arlesheim, Switzerland. Dr. Wolff covered aspects of nutrition, including the reasons for eating, the role of proteins, fats and carbohydrates in our diet and their correspondence to the members of man's being, the way certain substances are handled by the human organization (such as steroids and endogenous hormones like vitamin D), thereby creating unique substances suitable for the entry of higher soul and spirit activities. Discussions of specific foods and diets -- meat and pork, milk, vegetables, the grains, the differences among plant and animal oils, butter and margarine -- were developed in the context of their roles in healthy and diseased constitutions. The role of sugar in relation to the forces of the ego was stressed. Finally, the proper preparation of foods and the function of vitamins were discussed. In the afternoon sessions for doctors and therapists. Dr. Wolff spoke about dietary therapies for a variety of clinical disorders, including obesity, rheumatic fever, kidney diseases, the cancers, liver disease, sugar craving, arteriosclerosis and the diseases of aging, and diabetes. For those familiar with Dr. Wolff's extraordinary style, this "taste" of his comprehensive knowledge served to whet our collective appetite for the menu of next year's conference (see announcement at end of this Bulletin)!

There were curative eurythmy and therapeutic speech sessions with Ruth Finser and Brad Riley each afternoon. These wonderful artists poured themselves into the healing stream of the conference.

Evening lectures by attending physicians and guests brought a flood of information unknown before this year. Included were presentations by Charles Davisson, M.D., on "The Gerson Cancer Diet as Adjunct Therapy," and by Warren Metzler, M.D. on "Homeopathy and the Use of High Potency Remedies." There were case presentations by Dr. Kaisy Lawrence, and Dr. Richard Fried from Camphill Village at Beaver Run, PA. spoke on the "Attaining of the Therapeutic Moment" when working with children in need of special care. Mark Eisen, M.D. gave a "Review of the Pathophysiology and Rationale for the Treatment vs. Non-Treatment of Fever." Dr. Michael Evans, a guest from the Park-Atwood Clinic in England, spoke on the "State of Anthroposophical Medicine in Great Britain." Professor Maria Linder, a biochemist from the University of California, gave several presentations on the "Role of Cholesterol-like Substances in Human Biochemistry." We were fortunate to have Herr W. Junge, the developer of oil dispersion baths, give a talk on recent experiments documenting the efficacy of the baths.

There were 64 people present at the conference this year, including 27 doctors and medical students, nearly as many nurses, therapists, and teachers, and other interested persons. It is our desire to enhance the scope of these conferences with broad participation by the helping professions.

Summary of Monday, June 21, 1982

There are many controversial theories on nutrition and there are many kinds of therapeutic diets. In practice, they all have success rates. How is this possible? With a closer look we realize that the cure of a patient has come about not only through a change in diet, but also through a change of consciousness, a different attitude towards the food, different ways of preparing the food, etc. If we understand the nature of the food we eat, we can make informed choices without becoming diet fanatics. Carbohydrate, fat and protein (and vitamins and minerals) are the bearers or lire. They also contain a certain number of calories, but to live, we need food which still contains life ("vivum e vivo," Francesco Redi).

What is the essence of protein? The nitrogen (N) which is characteristic of protein, accepts the forces of the astral world. Nitrogen is the main component of air, and for the ancient Greeks "pneuma" meant both "air" and "soul." For astral forces to manifest themselves in a living substance (animals, humans), nitrogen (N) is necessary. Living substance becomes feeling substance by ensoulment through the activity of nitrogen.

Protein consists of four elements, C, N, H, and 0. One could also say the four elements are neutralized here in a unit; they form a compound, not a mixture. The integrating element is sulfur (S) which works as a catalyst. Sulfur (S) represents cosmic warmth and is needed to bring the four elements in protein together. Human protein is specific and each individual has its own characteristic protein, which becomes more individualized with age.

The astral forces work in two different ways:

1. During sleep they give a direction to the etheric body through anabolic processes (upbuilding).

2. During waking they give a direction to catabolic processes and thereby we become conscious.

How can this be followed down into the biochemistry? During the breakdown of proteins the astral forces are freed. This breakdown can happen in two ways. The basic N - elimination occurs via oxydative deamination , where oxygen is added and the corresponding alpha-keto-acid is formed. This is now a deastralized substance belonging to the carboydrate and fat types of metabolism.


Ammonia is then synthesized to urea and excreted via the kidneys. The astralic forces which are freed can work either via the nerve-sense system (that is, catabolic processes downwards, resulting in consciousness) or via "kidney radiations," or anabolic processes upwards.

The other type of protein breakdown is decarboxylation: C02 is removed.

(GRAPHIC PG. 9) In this substance oxygen is lacking and the C - N bond suggests that this substance is on the way to the cyanides, highly toxic substances that block any oxidation. This is a challenge for the organism, and in the process of detoxifying these substances, we become conscious. A typical reaction of this sort is the decarboxylation of histadine to form the potently vasoactive substance, histamine.

Summary of Tuesday, June 22, 1982

Fats are substances that are poor in oxygen (a substance which leads materials into the earthly state). Fats contain light and heat in abundance; 9.3 Kcal/gm vs. 4.1 Kcal/gm for carbohydrates and protein. All light and life originate from the cosmic light of the sun. As such, fats are bearers of higher life (Zoe) which will not readily mix with water, the bearer of lower life (Bios). Emulsification is necessary to Join the two -- bile, a complex fat derivative, serves this function in humans.

Cholesterol is a lipoid, or fat-like substance. It is present in abundance in cell membranes, the brain, the skin, and the adrenal gland; these latter are all of ectodermal origin. In the adrenal gland we see the medulla, which makes biogenic amines (epinephrine, etc.). These substances promote catabolism, which has to do with forces of awakeness. The medulla is surrounded by the cortex which elaborates steroids and other hormones which promote anabolism. The multipotential quality of cholesterol allows it to serve as an "emulsifier" for the lower, biologic life and the higher soul life. Cholesterol is a substance which represents a combination of forces. Its very bulkiness and emphasis on the C-H bond reflects its relationship to anabolic (etheric) forces. Its transformational ability allows it to receive higher, organizing and modeling (astralic) impulses and to carry them right into the life activities, giving the latter direction. The body produces 8-10 gms of cholesterol daily.

In bile, cholic acid is the predominant substance, having a greater affinity for the watery environment of the enterohepatic circulation. If there is inadequate transformation of the cholesterol on the one hand into bile salts and acids, and on the other into steroid and sex hormones (the former to help emulsify the substances man ingests, the latter to "ensoul" the substance man has built as his own), we see the effect in two ways. Locally, we see formation of stones; systemically there is atherosclerosis. The issues is not to reduce cholesterol intake so much as to provide man with the forces which will enable him to enhance the processing of cholesterol!

As mentioned, fats lack oxygen. What is the being, the impulse, or defining characteristic of oxygen? The oxidation process brings substances into relation with the earth (Fe + O2 Fe2O3 <rust>). Oxygen is found bound into the rocks and minerals of the earth, indeed, in all earthly substances. Fats are cosmic substances, standing neutrally between life and soul. They bear light and warmth within and release them to the organism. In ancient times, fats were annointing agents -- they connected kings with the cosmic aspects of their rule, and, used in the last sacrament, prepared one for re-entry into the spirit worlds.

Some fats have double bonds (are unsaturated) and this indicates a more "sulfuric" quality. Seven-dehydrocholesterol, acted on by sunlight, yields vitamin Di, the substance which directs bone mineralization. As magnesium leads light into life (through chlorophyll), so does vitamin D3 lead the light of our higher life more deeply into matter -- to the skeleton!

Examining other hormones elaborated from the cholesterol base, we generally find those with more oxygen (especially at the C3 position) to be related to the male polarity, and those with less oxygen to the female (-OH) at C3 position). It was stressed that it is the soul that determines sexuality, not hormones. The latter are instruments that work for the being who inhabits the body. Cholesterol provides an "emulsifying basis" for ensoulment, to be expressed as sexual differentiation. This is food for deep reflection over the problem of gender identity seen so frequently these days.

Summary of Wednesday, June 22, 1982

Protein bears astralic/cosmic forces on the one hand, and life and individuality on the other. A meat diet may help a person incarnate more fully, but nowadays most people are already too deeply incarnated. If the astral body becomes too strong it can no longer be ruled by the ego. This happens when too much meat is eaten.

Seen biochemically, meatless diets can lead to amino acid deficiencies (in an extreme physical sense, cannabalism would be an ideal diet for humans). From the viewpoint of Anthroposophy it is the forces we take in, not substances that are important. Pork is similar to human substance in many ways, and its forces also bear a resemblance to those of humans. Pigs have hair, not fur; they have molars and incisors like man (cows are all "molar," rodents all "incisor," and carnivores have hypertrophy of the canines); their liver and other tissues are histologically similar to humans, which allows the use of pork insulin, porcine heart values, etc.; pig manure even smells like human waste. Kosher law recognized these "forces" in certain animals and forbade eating of them. More dissimilar foods are "overcome" in the digestive process. We accept pork unchanged, thereby accepting an animal astrality that is not a bearer of ego forces.

What of milk? What is its being? It is made only by mammals and only to feed their babies. In utero, the baby is fed by blood - why should we not continue to do so? Milk is a protein substance that has had all the astrality "squeezed out," leaving it full of life forces. It is remarkable that human milk is very low in iron, protein, and calcium when compared to milk of most animals. Iron is the bearer of activity -- children need to be protected from this until puberty. The more protein in an animal's milk, the faster the animal matures. Calcium helps bring a child more intensely into the earth sphere. In contrast, human milk is unusually high in a unique sugar, lactose. More will be said in later lectures about this.

The human being is appropriately physiologically and developmentally retarded. His sexual development is likewise held back. Any acceleration in development is a process of animalization.

What are fats? They are "typical cosmic substances" according to Dr. Wolff. They are astralized but not like protein. They are similar to milk in that fats are full of life but have no nitrogen. They solidify but never become crystals (that is, earthly substance). Fatty acids range from being liquid or volatile to being waxlike (stearin).

We notice a pattern in the distribution of fatty plant substances from the poles to the tropics. In high latitudes are found oils with decreased saturation, a decreased tendency to solidify, and a decreased melting point (compare with solid palm oil at the equator). Plants which give the oils are physically smaller at the higher latitudes. The "activity," an expression of the unsaturation, is high. The opposite is true near the equator. Too many unsaturated bonds inclines the oil towards instability, oxidizability, and carcinogenicity. Saturated fats are inert, like stones. Alchemically, unsaturated fats are said to contain more warmth, that is, more "sulfuric" substance. Some highly unsaturated fats actually contain sulfur. Hence, unsaturated fats must be stored away from light, heat, and oxygen. Of course, nowadays these more active oils are extracted and clarified with heat, stored in clear glass in the light, and used for frying -- all destructive processes to the oils.

Where "sulfuric" warmth is needed (in the higher latitudes) it is provided by the very active, indigenous oils. In the tropics, where there is already an abundance of heat, the oils are more saturated and inert. Olive oil (from the middle latitudes) was extolled as the ideal general purpose oil -- all others should be thought of as for special diets only. Sunflower oil is similar to olive oil. For frying, the least active oils should be used. They are biologically poor, but safer to use. Formerly, lard was used for cooking. Nowadays, shortenings are prepared by nickel-catalyzed hydrogenation to a mostly trans-state, whereas most naturally occurring double bonds are cis-compounds. These shortenings are very dense and hard.

The historical role of margarine (Greek = pearl) was discussed. It was developed at the request of the French king by Marais. A cheap, non deteriorating fat source was wanted for use in wartime. One of the ingredients, rapeseed oil (a poison in the unsaturated state) is hydrogenated artificially. Early margarine use led to cases of xerophthalmia and blindness due to vit. A deficiency. Margarine is now made with a starch marker (to change color with iodine), and vitamins A and D are added. The hydrogenated vegetable oils used are so hard that nitrogen is blown through and the margarine is whipped.

In contrast, butter is a naturally occurring substance, composed of a broad spectrum of fatty acids, long-and-short-chain, saturated and unsaturated. It is harmonious and balanced -- really the prototype of a versatile substance. It contains its own vitamins A and D. Unfortunately, all butter these days is pasteurized, further destroying its life forces.

Summary of Thursday, June 24, 1982

Dr. Wolff pointed out that man comes to physiological maturity more slowly than any animal, and that the slowness of an animal's maturational process is correlated with the smallness of the amount of salt and protein in that animal's milk. High-protein food is thus inappropriate for human babies. Human milk has the smallest amount of salt and protein found in any milk.

Human fat has the lowest melting point of any animal's (70 degrees F); humans have oil rather than fat, actually, and thus contain more warmth and light than any animal. Saturation of fats gives a hardened, animalic quality. This suggests why the ingestion of hydrogenated fats (e.g. margarine) is nutritionally a poor idea.

Ingestion of meat protein leads to a strong quality of astral selfishness, ingestion of dairy products decreases this quality. In the past, people who aspired to be healers abstained from meat.

Human milk has more sugar (specifically lactose, which is found uniquely in milk) than that of other animals. Glucose is the basis of most carbohydrates (e.g. 2 glucoses = maltose). Lactose, or milk sugar, = glucose + galactose (milk in greek). Galactose is found in cerebrosides (and thus in the brain and the nervous system). It is found wherever there is consciousness interacting with the environment: the brain, roots of plants, nuclei of cells. In plants, one finds galactose in the roots, glucose throughout the plant and fructose in the blossom and fruit. In man, galactose is found in the brain, glucose throughout the body, and fructose in the testes. This is consistent with Rudolf Steiner's description of the correspondence between the threefold plant and threefold man. 3erusalem artichokes have fructose in their roots, an exception that indicates this plant's potential as a remedy.

Sugar is a mineralic substance that is also organic; it requires no preservatives. It gives "energy but not life." The ego organization is the instrument of the ego but not the ego itself. Sugar expresses the forces of the ego-organization, it is not an alive but a crystallized substance and thus fosters the ability to think. One can use sugar as a reducing agent chemically; this demonstrates sugar's acceptance of light. It is crystallized light and brings light into death, Just as the ego-organization does into the body. The ego-organization is a product of the activity of the Elohim (a plural used in the singular in Hebrew); the six-as-a-unit Elohim. The unit in sugars is also six: C6H12O6.

When hypoglycemic, one feels not oneself, not in control of oneself. Sugar gives the feeling of having a strong ego but it does not give a strong ego -- rather, it gives the illusion of one. In fact, it weakens the ego. "One envoys sugar until disaster," says Dr. Wolff: it gives only energy.

One can give sugar intravenously -- and the GI absorption of sugar is so quick -- because it is a dead substance, with no "foreign-ness" to overcome. "Sugar is like a mortgage," says Dr. Wolff, "the energy isn't your energy. The damage is not immediate."

Cleave's The Saccarine Disease describes the problems with bone and tooth formation in animals fed sugar.

Children who have eaten sugar show its effects immediately: the illusion of ego strength, e.g. pushiness.

The liver metabolizes sugar, but the liver, as as etheric organ, needs life, and sugar is dead.

Summary of Friday, June 25, 1982

Why does one eat at all? Not, as one might think, in order to obtain energy - in that case drinking a cup of gasoline would suffice. We need life. In Lemurian times, when the process of nutrition began, man really began to be separated from life. He then needed to take in life from outside, from substances containing it. Substance is a vessel for life -- life can't be stored. Generally one does not eat carnivores -- carnivores don't eat carnivores either. Pigs and man (rarely) are the exception. Lobsters and crabs eat decaying meat; their own meat is poor in vitality, destructive of the human metabolism, full of awful astrality. (Ask people how they sleep after eating lobster.)

The plant, not the animal, is the basis for life; it brings life down to earth. The plant creates new life from light. "Light and life are on the same level." All life comes from the plant (via carbohydrates) and thus from the sun. Animal food is life "second-hand"; some of the life is gone, to give space for the astrality. One should eat fresh food, the more life the better, but one needs to be able to break it down (carbohydrate into glucose, but not farther, i.e., into the products of fermentation).


Note that food breakdown in the intestine proceeds only as far as the "building blocks," not farther; less or more is wrong. These "blocks" we absorb. We need to build up our own protein, to protect ourselves against any foreign life, to transform the otherness into self. These building blocks contain a "certain force" but not the force of another specific (foreign) astrality.

"Only the brain," said Rudolf Steiner, "is made from the substances we eat." ("This statement is a nuisance," says Dr. Wolff.) What's created is a unit, a compound; thus, protein is a unit, too, not really a mixture of amino acids. (The uniting of two amino acids results in a change of structure -- a peptide bond -- anyway). "The origin of protein is protein, not amino acids."

It is difficult to understand what Rudolf Steiner meant by food going through the "zero point"; in all but the food destined for the brain, the food is destroyed in the process of digestion, and all human substance (except the brain) comes from somewhere else. "The material is the end of the way of God." When the spirit is broken, the material emerges.

One cause of obesity is that not enough substance is transformed into warmth; parasitic centers of warmth are created. Eating too much is not necessarily the problem. R. Steiner saw the laws of conservation of mass and energy as real hindrances to knowledge: They are true only in a closed system. In the physical sense only, the human being is such a closed system. Matter more or less precipitates from the spirit: creation of substance is the end product of spiritual processes. To "rederive" these processes is the way of homeopathy (potentizing). To accept these forces is to recreate substance in us. (Angelus Silesius: "Das Brot ernahrt uns nicht wohl.") R. Steiner: "We accept substance through eyes and ears" (our substance is created from cosmic forces). The nerve-sense system accepts earthly substance and cosmic forces (the sense organs); the metabolic-limb system accepts earthly forces and cosmic substances. Only in the brain are there C24 fatty acids (very hardened) -- nervonic and oxynervonic acid -- the only oxidized fatty acids in the body. "The brain is a store" -- it needs to be transparent to thought, as the eye is to light. The brain is a dead substance. Logical thinking is unique to man. "The brain is on its way to bone" (R. Steiner). A blind person's metabolism is different from that of a sighted person; light affects all aspects of metabolism. Cataracts lead to metabolic disturbances that are not found in cortical blindness.

Summary of Saturday, June 26, 1982

Dr. Wolff began by interpreting the Cain and Abel myth from the point of view of the nutritional aspect of the childhood of humanity and of the individual. A newborn eats dairy products (Abel) but should not start meat and vegetables too early or he will be too bound to the earth (Cain's sacrifice was not accepted). In these matters the wisdom of right timing is all-important. Dr. Wolff suggests that we are now so bound to the earth that we should be increasingly turning to plant sources for food (and Steiner suggested that in the distant future we will largely be eating more mineral food).

Most healthy diets include recommendations to decrease meat and fat (which includes dairy products) and to decrease the amount of processed food. Processing raises the issue of cooking, i.e., of killing the food a little. Prometheus brought fire to the earth (man's body has precise temperature regulation), and using fire for cooking or heating is a kind of pre-digestion for man (Gk: "pepsis" - cooking; digestion), so that man does not, like the animal, spend most of his effort finding and digesting his food (with the correspondingly dull animal consciousness). One can use this knowledge when someone lives too much in his nerve-sense system: a raw food diet could help to bring him more into his metabolism. Also, in cases where there is formation of pus, raw food again draws the person more into the metabolism. Cooking releases forces from the metabolic system for a higher life (from Bios to Zoe), but cooking must be an art, on the analogy of the ripening of an apple in the sun. In the apple's ripening there is a change of color, smell and taste, i.e., the astrality of the world working from within the apple after growth has stopped. Ripening leads to a decrease of fruit weight during this partial breakdown of carbohydrates to ketones, aldehydes and softer sugars. Cereals (grains) need to be cooked (except oats) in order to bring about these changes for man.

Bread-baking is also a pre-digestion, using fermentation by the yeasts (found on the skin of any sweet fruit) or lactobacilli. A sourdough is made by letting the dough stand for a day or so then having the dough refreshed by new flour and water; otherwise the lactobacilli produce a bread that is too sour. About 150 years ago yeast was introduced (and wheat began to be used instead of rye) for bread-baking, which makes bread much less nutritious. Dr. Wolff stresses that much home baking, by adding sweetening and oil, makes the nutritive value even worse, and he considers the yeast diseases a consequence of excessive yeast use.

On the subject of vitamins (whose name came from the prevalent search for substances as the source of life; as this search inevitably fails, the name is bound to disappear), Dr. Wolff considers A, D, B, and C to be fundamental. A and D are usually bound together in animals but sometimes separate in plants (e.g., D2 in mushrooms). Vitamin A is found in the livers of animals who live at the earth's poles and who must produce much more life to combat the crystallizing forces. Vitamin A helps to produce life; symptoms of its deficiency are xerophthalmia, keratitis -- drying and hardening -- and night blindness -- lack of regeneration of pigment at night. Hypervitaminosis A can lead to too much organized water, e.g., brain swelling and headaches. Vitamin A, in allowing in the forces of new life, acts like silver. It is useful in squamous cell cancers (hardening of the surface). Vitamin E (similar to vitamin A) works like selenium ("moon metal" in Greek), which acts at a level Just below that of life (which explains the homeopathic use of selenium). The forces of vitamin D are polar to those of A, bringing light forces (D3) into bone formation; large quantities of D are found in deepsea fish. Vitamin D works like lead; it should never have been added without vitamin A to milk, especially since the real "vitamin" people need, as Dr. Wolff put it, is light to stimulate their endogenous vitamin D production.

Vitamin C is found in fruits. It is like life transformed from light. Its C6; structure, the number 6, relates it to light in the sense of the relation of many natural Six-sided forms having close relations to light (e.g., honeycombs, quartz crystals). Vitamin C seems to stimulate the immune system to fight disease and acts like the iron forces. The blood level of iron is related to the higher life (Zoe). The level rises during the day. In infections, the serum level goes down as iron enters the cells, and it has been Dr. Wolff's clinical experience that one should not be intellectually active during a fever.

The B vitamins have affinities with the nervous system. They are like the copper forces which take up the forces of light. Copper prepares us to accept forces of iron. Dr. Wolff has given copper or B vitamins for cramps. As there are varied copper forces, there are also many B vitamins; he suggests that B17 prepares a cancer patient for iron forces to fight his disease. B1 works in the nervous system, B6 in the kidney, and B15 supports the higher functions of the nervous system. Vitamins B and C work more on the level of the higher life (Zoe), and many B vitamins contain nitrogen, whereas A and D seem to work more on the level of the lower life (Bios).

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