The German Medical Association has finally apologized for the profession’s role in the Nazi atrocities, 65 years after 20 physicians stood trial in Nuremberg. During the trial, the Nazi doctors argued that their experiments were not unlike previous studies by researchers in the United States, such as Dr. Strong’s injection of prisoners with the plague. Nazi Docs were hanged; Dr. Strong went on to Harvard.
We were just getting started. The few examples the Nazis cited were nothing compared to what the American medical establishment started doing after Nuremburg. After all, researchers noted, prisoners are cheaper than chimpanzees.
Much attention has focused on our cold war radiation experiments, which remained classified for decades. Declassification, the American Energy Commission warned, would have a “very poor effect on the public” because they were performed on human subjects. Subjects like Mr. Cade, a 53 “colored male” who got in a car accident and ended up in the hospital, where was was injected with plutonium.
Who is even more powerless than patients? At the Fernald School in Waltham, Massachusetts children with developmental disabilities were fed radioactive isotopes in their breakfast cereal. Despite the Pentagon’s insistence that these were the “only feasible means” of developing ways to protect people from radiation, researchers have since come up with a few ways that don’t violate the Nuremburg code, which states that doctors are only allowed to do experiments that may kill or disable people if they themselves are willing to sign up as experimental subjects.
For those interested in the Nuremburg narrative, I touch on other cases of medical mistreatment in:
- Plant-Based Diets For Breast Pain
- Gut Feelings: Probiotics and Mental Health
- Lavender for Migraine Headaches
- Plant-Based Bioidentical Hormones
- Get the Lead Out
One way is to study cells in a petri dish. For example a study I profile in my video Reducing Radiation Damage With Ginger & Lemon Balm entitled “The Protective Effect of Zingerone Against Radiation-Induced Genetic Damage and Cell Death in Human White Blood Cells.” What is zingerone? It’s a phytonutrient found in cooked ginger root. Researchers blasted cells with gamma rays and found less DNA damage and fewer free radicals when they added ginger phytonutrients. They even compared zingerone to the leading drug injected into people to protect them from radiation sickness, and found the ginger compound to be 150 times more powerful—and without the serious side effects of the drug.
The researchers concluded that ginger is an “inexpensive natural product that may protect against radiation-induced damage.” So know that as you’re sucking on some crystallized ginger to prevent travel sickness on an airplane, you may be protecting yourself from the cosmic radiation at that altitude as well.
What else can ginger do? See:
- Plants vs. Pesticides
- Treating Gorlin Syndrome With Green Tea
- Dangerous Advice From Health Food Store Employees
- Amyloid and Apple Juice
Lots of different plant-products have been found to be protective in vitro against radiation damage by a variety of mechanisms. After all, plants have been utilized since time immemorial for curing diseases, so researchers started screening plants and found radiation-protective benefits from other plants one can find at the grocery store such as garlic, turmeric, goji berries, and mint leaves (I now add ginger to my pink juice and hibiscus punch recipes).
But this was all just on cells in a test tube. None had actually been tested in actual people—until now.
How are you going to find people exposed to radiation whom you can test stuff on? Oe group that suffers inordinate radiation exposure is the hospital workers that run the X-ray machines. They have been found to suffer chromosomal damage and higher levels of oxidative stress on their bodies compared to other hospital staff (although X-rays can damage DNA directly, much of the damage is caused by the free radicals generated by the radiation).
So, the researchers asked radiology staff to drink two cups a day of lemon balm tea for a month, an herbal tea known to have high levels of antioxidants (as I showed in one of my favorite videos, Antioxidants in a Pinch). The level of antioxidant enzyme activity in their bloodstream went up and the level of free radical damage went down, leading to the conclusion that oral administration of lemon balm tea may be helpful for the protection of radiology staff against radiation-induced oxidative stress.
This is the final installment of a five-part video series on preventing and treating radiation damage. I started with Fukushima and Radioactivity in Seafood on avoiding radiation exposure in one’s diet and then moved to diagnostic medical and dental radiation in Cancer Risk from CT Scan Radiation and Do Dental X-Rays Cause Brain Tumors?. In the last video, Mediating Radiation Exposure from Air Travel, I reviewed population studies of airline pilots and Chernobyl victims that looked at which dietary components may decrease radiation-induced DNA damage and cancer risk.
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: I bake he shoots / Flickr