|Linus Pauling. Source|
In this short Science magazine (April 19, 1968, Volume 160:265-271) article, entitled Orthomolecular Psychiatry, two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling outlined the case for treating mental illness through modification of the “molecular environment of the mind” by dietary means.
The paper, written during Pauling’s “crackpot” phase, when his advocacy of Vitamin C as a cure for everything from the common cold to cancer was widely ridiculed, has had little impact on the psychiatric profession, which still relies chiefly, as in the ’60s on talk therapy, synthetic psychotropic drugs, and electroconvulsive shocks.
But as evidence mounts in support of Pauling’s belief in the effectiveness of vitamin C against cancer (and here), his belief in the role of nutrition in the cause and treatment of mental illness seems due for reconsideration.
In Orthomolecular Psychiatry, Pauling discussed among other topics the known and potential benefits of glutamate (glutamic acid, an inessential amino acid) as a dietary supplement in the treatment of mental retardation, which has been reported to achieve increases in IQ of between 5 and 20 points.
What Pauling did not discuss is the effect, if any, of dietary supplementation with glutamate in the case of individuals of high IQ. It has since been proposed, however, that hypersensitivity of glutamate receptors in the central nervous system is a cause of obsessional illnesses, which is characteristic of many individuals of exceptionally high IQ. Isaac Newton, for example, explained his obsessive method of discovery thus:
I keep the subject constantly before me and wait till the first dawnings open little by little into the full light.
Kurt Goedel, whose Incompleteness Theorems are considered among the most significant achievements in logic since the time of Aristotle, had such an obsessive fear of poisoning that he would eat only what food was prepared by his wife. Following his wife’s death he refused all food and died of starvation.
The Russian mathematician, Grigori Perelman, perhaps the greatest mathematical genius alive today, who declined both the Fields Medal (on the grounds that the judges were unfit to evaluate his work) and another million-dollar award, the Millenium prize, is likely a personality of the same kind.
So could the entire range of variation in human intelligence be attributed to a single variable, namely the activity of central nervous system glutamate receptors, which in turn is dependent on either the production of glutamate at the site of central nervous system glutamate receptors, or the the sensitivity glutamate neuroreceptors?
In that case, glutamate is the g in the g-factor, or general intelligence that so many psychologists believe underlies virtually all variation in human intelligence?
If you think this likely, take a spoonful of glutamate and see what happens. Or, alternatively, if you’re inclined to obsessions and compulsions, turn down the amplification on your glutamate receptors by taking a large dose of magnesium and by cutting your intake of milk or other calcium rich sources of nutrition.