Orthomolecular medicine

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Orthomolecular medicine is a form of complementary and alternative medicine with the goal to preventing and treating disease with nutrients, often in the form of dietary supplements. The term "orthomolecular" was first coined in a 1967 letter by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling and later elaborated on in a 1968 paper on micronutrients and psychiatry to express the idea of "the right molecules in the right amounts" (ortho is Greek for right). In this paper, Pauling indicated that the right molecules are "substances that are normally present in the human body". Orthomolecular medicine began with a particular focus upon mental illness, and orthomolecular psychiatry remains a major subdiscipline. Proponents state that orthomolecular treatments are based on patients' personal biochemistries and employ naturally-occurring or bioequivalent biomolecules, particularly nutrients such as vitamins, dietary minerals, proteins, antioxidants, amino acids, enzymes, lipotropes, prohormones, dietary fiber, fatty acids, and other similar substances, as well as various digestive factors.

Othomolecular medicine borrows several treatments and concepts from both nutritional therapy and diet therapy. There is some overlap in these three therapies as far as vitamin, enzyme, and mineral treatments go. Orthomolecular medicine, more so than the other two therapies, stresses the importance of a nutritional balance among the natural substances and the existence of biochemical individuality.(1)

Some megavitamin therapies can be classified as components of orthomolecular medicine. Orthomolecular practitioners often recommend levels beyond the Recommended Daily Allowance, especially for vitamin C, and prescribe the removal of unhealthy foods from the diet. Megavitamin therapies have become relatively popular, with a survey in 2002 finding that approximately one in twenty-five US adults use high doses of vitamins as a form of therapy, with this being particularly common in people diagnosed with cancer.


1. Hoffer, Morton 1978 Orthomolecular Nutrition Keats Pub. Inc., New Canaan, CT, 06840

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