SELENIUM: Mainstreamers again follow rethinkers as to dietary supplements
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/07/14
“Anecdotal” reports that “HIV-positive” people experience improved health from dietary supplements have long been pooh-poohed by the Pooh-Bahs of the HIV/AIDS Establishment. Periodically, however, mainstream journals publish “scientific” reports that “micronutrients” improve the health of “HIV-positive” people, see for instance WHAT’S IN A NAME? VITAMIN THERAPY BAD, MICRONUTRIENT THERAPY GOOD, 16 May 2008; David Rasnick, “The AIDS ribbon is a noose around the neck of Africa”, at www.dipmat.unipg.it/~mamone/sci-dem/sci&dem.htm, posted 9 May 2008.
This month, Dr. Barry Hurwitz of the University of Miami reported a placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of selenium supplements stretching over 9 months and enrolling 262 HIV-positive people [“Selenium for HIV”, WFTV.com, 1 July 2008]. Selenium controlled or even lowered viral load, there was a positive dose-response correlation, and selenium also led to higher CD4 counts. According to Hurwitz, “I liken the effect of selenium to a lion tamer in a zoo. . . . What it tends to do is make viruses more docile and they are less likely to replicate. The effect of selenium appears to be acting directly on the virus”.
In April, a 5-year study from Tanzania reported that “micronutrient supplements appeared to decrease the risk of early tuberculosis recurrences among HIV-positive patients”; and there was “significantly decreased… incidence of peripheral neuropathy, regardless of HIV status”. Details are in articles by CS Benn et al. and by E Villamor et al. in Journal of Infectious Diseases, vol. 197 , 1487-9 and 1499-1505 respectively (available free online).
Neither of the latter articles, nor the media reports, mentioned the name of Harold D. Foster, who has been amassing and disseminating information about the benefits of selenium supplements for AIDS patients (among others). In numerous articles and a book, “What really causes AIDS” (download available at Foster’s website), Foster brings together a wealth of sources that report a significant correlation of availability of selenium with a better prognosis for AIDS patients as well as with a lower frequency of positive HIV tests. A recent concise summary is in “Nutrients used in AIDS cases offer hope”, Well Being Journal, May/June 2008, 14-19.
Like Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath, Foster is an enthusiast for his cause who may lapse into over-enthusiasm. His website offers several other books, he considers selenium to offer benefits also in treating schizophrenia, and he seems in general an advocate of the orthomolecular approach to medicine. He is therefore readily found guilty by association with unorthodox views; but his claims are fully documented, often from mainstream sources; and, as noted above, mainstream researchers who happen to look in similar directions as Foster come to similar conclusions, albeit they fail to credit him for being there before them.
Foster makes a number of sound arguments against current standard practices in treatment of AIDS patients, but he accepts the theory that HIV is the cause of AIDS. However, all his data are equally compatible with the view that selenium is a necessary trace element, that its deficiency makes people more vulnerable to a range of illnesses and infections, and that remedying the deficiency makes for generally better health and ability to fight off infections.
Foster’s work is well worth attending to because it is so determinedly EMPIRICAL. One can learn from the evidence he cites and the sources he references, whether or not one ultimately draws the same conclusions as he does. Those of us who know that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS can still recognize the value of providing malnourished people with dietary supplements, and we can accept comfortably that “AIDS” patients benefit from such treatment, possibly even more than people who are less ill to begin with.