Budwig Diet – The Science of a Superfood in the Prevention of Chronic Diseases

Part II – The Science Behind Dr. Johanna Budwig’s Work

The Scientific Discoveries of Dr. Budwig

Portrait of Dr. Johanna Budwig

Dr. Johanna Budwig (1908–2003), biochemist, physicist (photo credit: Cancer – The Problem and the Solution, Nexus GmbH)

Dr. Johanna Budwig, 1908–2003, was a German pharmacist, biochemist, physicist and fats expert. Early in her career, Dr. Johanna Budwig was senior expert for pharmaceuticals and fats in the Federal Health Office, the highest authority in Germany for the approval of medications, where she appraised medicines for cancer therapy. In this capacity, she noticed the use of the sulfhydryl group in the medications and she questioned companies on how this substance could help with cancer. (Also called a thiol group, a sulfhydryl group is a functional group of atoms containing one sulfur and one hydrogen atom: –SH.) There were problems in this issue, but she soon learned that another substance must be present in the interplay with the sulfhydryl group of protein compounds and that fats always played a role.

At that time (1949–50), however, it was not possible to distinguish the chemical differences between fatty acids found in flaxseed (also called linseed), sunflower and olive oils. By 1951, she had developed – jointly with Professor Kaufmann, the director of the German Federal Institute for Research on Grain, Potatoes and Fat, and later extended with several professors and doctoral students – a method of paper chromatography for detecting the differences between unsaturated and highly unsaturated fats. With her new method, she was able to analyze fats precisely and break them down into individual fatty acid components, thus becoming the first person to differentiate the essential fatty acids: linoleic acid and linolenic acid.

Dr. Budwig’s discovery was of great importance because, up to that point, it had been previously known that, in the oxygen consumption of cells, an interplay existed between the positively charged sulfur compounds in protein and a certain undetectable “mystery” fatty substance.

This unknown fatty substance had played a major role in Otto Warburg’s “respiratory enzymes”. Dr. Otto Warburg had discovered, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1931, that cancer cells, malignant growths and tumor cells produce their energy by the fermentation of sugar, as opposed to normal cells, which produce their energy by the respiration of oxygen.{1}Warburg, O. “The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer”. Revised lecture delivered to Nobel-Laureates, June 30, 1966, Lindau, Lake Constance, Germany. Part 1. Cancer cells are cells that have de-differentiated, that is, have lost all their functions (aside from growth) and have reverted back into a more primitive state – thus, tumors are useless growths of tissue that perform no service wherever they are located, yet they consume much energy through fermentation. Normal cells are differentiated cells at a higher state of being with purpose and function. Oxygen respiration causes the differentiation of cells, while the lack of oxygen leads to the de-differentiation of cells. Thus, to prevent cancer, Dr. Warburg proposed introducing more oxygen into the cells using what he called the respiratory enzymes.{2}Warburg, O. “The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer”. Revised lecture delivered to Nobel-Laureates, June 30, 1966, Lindau, Lake Constance, Germany. Part 2.

After experimenting with vitamins as the activator in these enzymes, he surmised that fatty acids must play a role in this process. However, without knowing exactly which fatty acids, he experimented with butyric acid (butter) and coconut acid – but these attempts failed. Although Dr. Warburg was able to discover what characterized cancer cells, he could not find a way to restore oxygen to the cells.{3}Budwig, J. Cancer – The Problem and the Solution, pp. 11-12, 41, 100.

Now, with her new method of fat analysis using paper chromatography, Dr. Budwig was able to identify the unknown fatty substance that had been so elusive to Dr. Warburg, and which was the second partner in the interplay with the sulfhydryl group, the respiratory enzyme responsible for restoring oxygen to the cells: it is the highly unsaturated fats from seed oils that play a major role in the respiratory functioning of the body – in effect, in all vital functions and life processes. When she introduced highly unsaturated linoleic acid, oxidation processes became normalized. Through paper chromatography and the study of native blood, she discovered that electrons built up in the fatty acids restore oxygen when combined with the protein compounds of the sulfhydryl group. The interaction between the two was more of an interplay than a chemical reaction. In 1951, Dr. Budwig’s experiments proved the adhesion of fatty acids with the sulfur-containing protein compounds and the impact of the solubility of fats.{4}Budwig, J. Cancer – The Problem and the Solution, p. 110.

Fats analysis allowed her to prove the metabolism-inhibiting character of denatured fats, including all the trans-fatty acids. Prior to the publication of her study, she was met with much resistance, including offers of hush money. In order to substantiate her work, she continued her research for another year before publishing her scientific findings (March 1952). The paper chromatography method of detecting fats that she developed spread worldwide, aided by publications in journals and at congresses. Consequently, she faced bitter attacks, including losing her job and the possibility to work in another institute, the interruption of her medical studies, and legal actions from corporations and individuals.

Convinced of the validity of her work, Dr. Johanna Budwig would devote the rest of her life to her research, studying both medicine and quantum physics to support her work, in order to pursue truth in science in the service of bringing about a change in the care of human life in medicine, especially in cancer therapy and research.

Three tablespoons of flaxseed oil.

Flaxseed oil. Dr. Budwig discovered that it is the highly unsaturated seed oils, like flaxseed oil, that serve as the activator in Dr. Otto Warburg’s respiratory enzymes.

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