Supernutrition is a concept developed by Roger J. Williams, PhD.
Dr. Williams was one of the preeminent research scientists of the 20th century. His work is regarded as one of the pillars of functional medicine. His idea of supernutrition as a strategy for disease prevention dates to the 1960s, but is increasingly relevant in view of the horrendous soil depletion so prevalent today. The concept of supernutrition seems largely forgotten today. Googling the term supernutrition produced only one item, a paper entitled ” Supernutrition” as a Strategy for the Control of Disease. My personal and clinical experience convince me that this concept is extremely important. Therefore, I have decided post the entire paper, rather than a link which might disappear.
“Supernutrition” as a Strategy
for the Control of Disease
Roger J. Williams, PhD
Aside from the frank starvation there are three
levels of nutrition that human beings have
experienced: poor, fair and good. “Supernutrition”
(total nutrition in the most sophisticated sense) is
above and beyond all these. It is concerned with
the quality of nutrition, and is antithetical to
Poor nutrition brings about in human
populations severe underdevelopment of the
young as well as deficiency diseases: beriberi,
scurvy, pellagra, rickets, kwashiorkor and all the
ill-defined combinations and variations of these
Fair nutrition is good enough to prevent the
well-recognized deficiency diseases but is not
good enough to promote positive good health and
excellent development. Certainly our present
nutrition is not above suspicion when an official
government report indicates “one of every two
selective service registrants called for preinduction
examination is now found unqualified,” (OneThird
of a Nation1
). Mediocre nutrition is
unfortunately the kind which medical practitioners
have generally been taught to regard as
satisfactory. Many nutritionists have tended to
accept the same doctrine, namely, if everyone gets
the minimum daily requirements of certain
specified nutrients (“recognized by the U.S.
This paper was presented at the National Academy
of Science, October, 1971.
Dr. Williams is with the Department of Chemistry,
Clayton Foundation, Bio-Chemical Institute, University of
Texas, Austin, Texas 78712.
and are free from overt deficiency diseases, the
major aims of nutrition have been achieved.
Good nutrition is best exemplified by what
we often give our cats and dogs, as well as
chickens and pigs being raised for the market.
Such nutrition provides the animals not only
with energy but with an abundance of protein
of high quality, as well as a good assortment of
minerals and vitamins far above the danger
line. In accordance with extensive evidence
presented in a current book (Williams2
nutrition is probably experienced by no more
than a minority of the population such as ours
in the United States; for many are satisfied if
their nutrition is fair and the physicians, who
are typically ill-trained in this area (Williams3
Supernutrition exists at present only as an
idea—a potential strategy for promoting health
and preventing disease. It is a valid concept
because there are many loopholes even in good
nutrition. If all individuals had perfect digestive
systems and about average needs in every
respect, then the loopholes would be minimal;
but such individuals are probably so rare that
they need not be considered, Burton.4
medical education had not been remiss in its
attention to nutrition during the past six or eight
decades, supernutrition would not by now be a
strange idea, nor would seeking to attain it be
an unusual goal.
SUPERNUTRITION IN CONTROL OF DISEASE
The idea of supernutrition is based on two
biological observations which can hardly be
challenged: First, living cells, in our bodies and
everywhere, practically never encounter perfect
optimal environmental conditions; second, living
cells when furnished with wholly satisfactory
environments, including the absence of pathogenic
organisms, will respond with health and vigor.
An ideal optimal environment for the cells in
our bodies would include not only water and
oxygen and a suitable ambient temperature but
also an impressive team of about 40 nutrients all
blended in about the right proportions and working
together. It is no wonder that cells usually have to
put up with environments which fall short of ideal.
If living cells commonly lived under optimal
conditions, with no room for substantial
improvement, then there would be no room for
supernutrition. As it is, there is vast room for a
serious attempt (which has never been made) to
provide the cells and tissues comprising our bodies
with highly favorable environmental conditions.
One of the crucial factors involved in any
attempt to give our cells and tissues something like
optimal environments is the teamwork which has
so often been neglected, Williams.2
If any link in
the environmental chain is weak or missing, then
the cells cannot remain healthy. The weak link
may be something well-recognized like oxygen,
tryptophan, thiamin or iron or it may be something
more obscure like molybdenum, folic acid or
selenium. The result is the same: an impoverished
environment which leads to functional
At one time nutritionists used to speak of major
and minor nutrients and of the major and “lesser”
vitamins. It is true that some nutrients and some
vitamins were discovered before others but once a
nutrient is found to be indispensable, it can no
longer be regarded as minor or “lesser.” Any nutrient
which is absolutely indispensable is a link in
a chain and is a major nutrient regardless of
Another factor which may be crucial in
attempting to give every cell and tissue what it
needs is the existence of many barriers within our
bodies. It cannot safely be assumed that the mere
presence of a nutrient in our food insures its
delivery to the cells and tissues that need it.
Digestion, absorption and transportation are not
automatic processes that always take place with
perfection. Even if certain nutrients get into the
blood, this does not mean that all cells and
tissues automatically receive an adequate
supply. As Pauling5 has pointed out, the “bloodbrain
barrier,” for example, not only may
protect the brain cells against unwanted
metabolites, but it may also act imperfectly in
the direction of excluding needed nutrients. For
all we know, there may be in our bodies other
barriers comparable to the “blood-brain
A complicating factor, which makes it not a
simple matter to provide human tissues with
optimal environmental conditions, is the
consistent presence of microorganisms in
intestinal tracts which may help (or hinder) the
attainment of the goal.
Another complication is the high probability
that human needs are distinctive and
appreciably different from those of other
animals. The detailed needs of different species
are not well-enough known to yield a definitive
and adequate answer to this question.
Still another complication is the undeniable
fact that each individual human being has
nutritional needs which, from the quantitative
standpoint, are distinctive, Williams.6
of biochemical individuality point to the
possibility that computerized techniques will
have to be employed before refined
supernutrition can be 99
applied to individual human beings, Williams
It becomes obvious in the light of these
observations that scientific expertise has not
arrived at the point where we know definitely
how to provide any human being (or animal)
with supernutrition. This is clearly no
playground for amateurs. If supernutrition is to
be used to combat disease, experts must be
engaged in the undertaking.
Raise the Quality of Nutrition
Despite the inherent difficulties which make
attainment of the goal difficult or impossible,
there are many measures which can be taken to
help raise the quality of nutrition up toward the
“super” level. First, we can be as sure as possible
that every recognized essential nutrient is
supplied in something like suitable amounts.
This can be accomplished with a measure of
success by consuming milk, eggs and the cells
and tissues of other organisms. The same building
blocks—the amino acids, minerals (including
trace minerals), and many of the
vitamins—are universal and present in the
metabolic machinery of living cells regardless of
their origin. The energy storehouses (e.g.,
degerminated grains, fats, oils, sugar) of plants
and animals are different; they do not contain all
the nutritional essentials, and if we depend
largely upon them for nutrition, the result will be
an impoverishment of the environment of our
cells and tissues.
We cannot safely assume that furnishing
high-quality nutrition to an individual will
inevitably provide adequate amounts of all the
essential amino acids. There are numerous
enzymes in our digestive juices, and strong
evidence indicates that the patterns possessed by
different individuals are distinctive, Williams.2
Feeding amino acids as such would be a
reasonable move in specific cases to help insure
the adequacy of the amino acid environment of
the cells and tissues.
Providing suitable minerals is difficult, partly
because, as was shown in the investigations of
, mineral balances are highly distinctive
for different healthy young men. As shown by the
research of Schroeder and others (Schroeder9
Schroeder et al.10), the trace element situation is
complicated in that the amounts needed are
imperfectly known and the supplies are uncertain.
Consider All Known Vitamins
One relatively easy step which may be taken to
move in the direction of supernutrition is to
provide generous amounts of all the vitamins,
especially those which have been demonstrated to
be harmless at higher than usual levels. This is
relatively safe because in general vitamins which
are provided in moderate excess are physiologically
inactive. This is less true in the case of
amino acids and minerals. Trace minerals in
general cannot be tolerated at high levels.
Supernutrition assuredly involves not only
supplying enough of every nutrient but also
avoiding excesses and imbalance, Williams.2
Several years ago in a different context we
carried out an experiment (Pelton and Williams11)
related to “supernutrition.” A group of mice
already receiving a commercial stock diet
(supposedly well-supplied with all nutrients,
including pantothenic acid) were given an extra
supply of calcium pantothenate in their drinking
water. The result was an increased longevity of
about 19 percent. If this result is achieved by
strengthening only one link in the chain, one can
legitimately expect the result to be even more
striking if one attempted to strengthen all the
Every Link In Environment Essential
Secondly, in addition to furnishing all the
known nutrients, we must have concern for those
nutrients which are presently unknown. That such
exist is evidenced by the hard fact that cells in
tissue culture cannot in general be cultivated in
“synthetic” media. The presence of significant
unknown nutrients in uncooked food has long
SUPERNUTRITION IN CONTROL OF DISEASE
suspected, and Schneider1
– has partially
isolated an unusual unknown nutrient for mice.
An attempt to supply supernutrition would
involve a deep concern for all unknowns.
Scientists whose work impinges on medicine
need to identify these unknowns because they
may constitute indispensable links in the
nutritional chain. If so, their inclusion in
attempts to supply supernutrition will spell the
difference between success and failure. Every
link in the environment is essential.
A third step in the direction of supernutrition
is to supply nutrients which ordinarily
are of endogenous origin but which, under
some circumstances, are produced
endogenously in Suboptimal amounts. The list
of such substances may be long. Certainly to
be considered are inositol, gluta-mine, lecithin,
lipoic acid and coenzyme Q.
What can we hope to accomplish by attempting
to supply supernutrition? The results
will obviously depend on how successful we
are in reaching for the goal. It is equally
obvious, if we assume that healthy cells and
tissues spell healthy bodies, that the
potentialities are vast.
Critics may immediately point out that there
are genetic as well as environmental (including
nutritional) factors to be thought of. This
limitation becomes less severe when we
realize, for example, that PKU babies have a
genetic defect which, however, can be
corrected at least to a considerable degree by
special nutritional measures. Rats may have a
genetic defect (it causes severe inner ear
difficulties) which involves defective
manganese utilization. The symptoms can be
duplicated in other rats by depriving them of
manganese, and can be eliminated from the
afflicted rats if the animals having the genetic
defect are given an abundant supply of this
element, Daniels and Everson13, Hurley and
Everson14, Hurley.15 These observations
exemplify the genetotrophic concept which
was set forth in 1950 (Williams et al.16) and in
more detail in 1956, Williams.17 The possibility
that genetic defects may be involved does not
cancel out the potentialities of supernutrition.
It seems unthinkable that medical science will
be inclined to reject, without trial, the hypothesis
that promoting the health of all body cells and
tissues will result in general health and that the
total environment of these cells and tissues is of
far-reaching significance in connection with
maintaining their health. There may be cells and
tissues that are so defective genetically that they
cannot be reached by environmental (nutritional)
means but this should not be assumed to be true
until serious attempts have been made to reach
them by this means.
A Preventative Approach
I have presented elsewhere evidence, hitherto
unassembled, which supports the conclusion that
supernutrition, or something approaching it, has
the capability, if expertly applied, of preventing,
1. The birth of defective, deformed and mentally
2. The development of cardiovascular disease
and premature aging.
3. The high incidence of dental disease.
4. Metabolic disorders, obesity, arthritis, etc.
5. Mental disease with all its accompanying
A Challenge to Medical Science
All of the stresses to which we as human beings
are subject can be withstood with far greater ease if
all our cells and tissues, including those in the
brain, are provided with excellent environments.
This is a hypothesis eminently worth extensive
It seems probable that even “incurable” diseases
such as muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis
can be prevented by expert application of
if it could be started with vulnerable individuals
at an early age.
An Unparalleled Opportunity
This evidence offers an unparalleled opportunity
to the medical profession. To the
comment “it is all untried,” my retort is a
legitimate one: “Why hasn’t it been tried?” I
believe it will be and that the result will be even
more impressive than that suggested by the
physician, Frank G. Boudreau18, who said in
1959, “If all we know about nutrition were
applied to modern society, the result would be an
enormous improvement in public health, at least
equal to that which resulted when the germ
theory of infectious disease was made the basis
of public health and medical work.”
It is my considered belief that medical science
has taken an extremely important and
unfortunate wrong turn in its neglect of nutrition
and that this wrong turn is evident in connection
with the thinking about all diseases, including
Cancer is very much in the public mind these
days and in the area of medical science
treatments and cures are of the utmost concern.
Prevention draws little attention and is thought
of in a very restricted way.
Here again supernutrition merits serious
consideration. There is certainly room for the
hypothesis that cells will not go wild (become
cancerous) if they are continuously supported by
strong environmental conditions. Several studies
have shown that cancer incidence in animals is
decreased when their nutrition is improved in
specific ways, Engel et al.19; Antopol and
Unna20; Sugiura21; Kensler et al.22 No one has
taken the trouble to see whether attempts to
strengthen every link in the nutritional chain will
result in the decreased incidence or
disappearance of cancer. This seems a lot to
hope for, but available evidence points to the
conclusion that if supernutrition can be
successfully furnished, cancer initiation may be
stopped. Friction, light, carcinogens and viruses
are all environmental agents which cause cells to
become cancerous. There is an excellent
possibility that cells which are provided excellent
environments will increase their resistance to all
these outside influences, Williams.2
If we spend money on cancer research wisely,
we will certainly not forget about the ounce of
I most respectfully urge that every section of
the National Research Council which has to do
with human health join with the leaders and
investigators in the National Institute of Health
and the National Cancer Institute in giving more
than cursory study to “supernutrition” and its
possibilities. The biological principles on which it
is based are, I submit, irrefutable.
1. One-Third of a Nation: A Report on Young Men Found
Unqualified for Military Service. Compiled by the
President’s Task Force on Manpower Conservation, Jan.
2. WILLIAMS, ROGER J.: Nutrition Against Disease:
Environmental Prevention. New York (and London),
Pitman Publishing, 1971.
3. WILLIAMS, ROGER J.: How can the climate in medical
education be changed? Perspectives in Biology and
Medicine, 14:608, 1971.
4. BURTON, B. T., Executive Editor: The Heinz Handbook
of Nutrition. New York, McGraw-Hill, pp. 137, 1959.
5. PAULING, LINUS: Orthomolecular psychiatry. Science,
6. WILLIAMS, ROGER J.: Biochemical Individuality. New
York, John Wiley & Sons, (Science Editions), 1963.
Austin, Tex., Univ. of Texas Press, current paperback
7. WILLIAMS, ROGER J. and SIEGEL, FRANK L.:
“Propetology,” a new branch of medical science? Am. J.
Med. 31:325, 1961.
8. SHIDELER, ROBERT W.: Individual Differences in Mineral
Metabolism. Doctorial Dissertation. Austin, Tex., Univ.
of Texas, 1956.
9. SCHROEDER, H. A.: Losses of vitamins and trace minerals
resulting from processing and preservation of foods. Am.
J. Clin. Nutr. 1971.
10. SCHROEDER, H. A., BALASSA, J. J. and TOPTON, I. H.:
Essential trace metals in man: Manganese: A study in
homeostasis. J. Chronic Dis. 19:545, 1966.
11. PELTON, R. B. and WILLIAMS, R. J.: Effect of
pantothenic acid on longevity of mice. Soc. Exp. Biol.
Med. 99:632, 1958.
12. SCHNEIDER, H. A.: Ecological ectocrines in
experimental epidemiology. Science, 158:597, 1967.