Meeting of the Minds: Dr. Joel Wallach and Dr. Gerhard Schrauzer
By Youngevity Co-founder and CEO Steve Wallach
If you asked me to sum up the story of Youngevity in a few short words, I’d tell you it’s really the story of my father Dr. Joel Wallach. His mission to inform people about the importance of nutrition and its impact on health started long before this was a widely accepted idea. What’s more, his assertion that a nutrient deficiency could actually be linked to diseases and other serious conditions was initially rejected by the mainstream medical community. And like many trailblazers, it took years for his work to receive the validation it deserves.
Along the way, there have been many key figures who share my father’s beliefs and none more important than Dr. Gerhard Schrauzer, who was internationally recognized for his work on vitamins and trace minerals. Among his most important discoveries was the inverse relationship between cancer mortality and the amount of selenium in the national diet. He later became aware of my father’s own research on selenium deficiency in relation to cystic fibrosis (CF), which was the catalyst for their initial meeting.
My father and Dr. Schrauzer would eventually cross paths, forming a strong friendship and professional collaboration that eventually led to the publication of the book, “Epigenetics, The Death of The Genetic Theory of Disease Transmission.”
THE SELENIUM CONNECTION
In 1977, my father made a breakthrough discovery about selenium as an assistant pathologist at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Center in Atlanta. The center was collaborating with NASA on a program that used a colony of monkeys for space research, and that’s how he discovered the first non-human case of CF. Notably, he concluded it was caused by a selenium deficiency, which would later prove to be of historical significance.
But his boss at the time, Dr. Geoffrey Bourne, saw things very differently. He wasn’t just dismissive of my father’s findings, but actually incensed that he would challenge established beliefs regarding the cause of disease. Bourne was far more concerned with how these findings would be met by world experts, who had built their entire careers on the idea that CF could only be transmitted genetically. His parting words to my father were emblematic of a community that had grown far too political and inflexible in its beliefs. After passionately describing how he could prove his findings were true, Dr. Bourne’s response would only strengthen my father’s resolve to publicize his research around the world: “The truth doesn’t matter! No buts, Wallach! You’re fired.”
Fortunately, my father refused to be discouraged and had the presence of mind to retrieve all of his findings, including the tissue and bloodwork from the biopsies he had conducted on the monkey colony. He now had the right materials to go public with his findings and he would soon have his chance.
In 1979, the popular TV news program, 20/20, reached out to interview my father about his CF research. During the actual interview, he was completely open about his findings, which would prove to be a hard but valuable lesson. Once it aired, he was shocked to see the episode took a mostly anti-selenium angle. Much of his interviews had been cut out and replaced with material supporting the idea that CF was exclusively a genetically transmitted disease—a view my father had completely discredited with his recent discoveries.
But despite the negative aspects of the episode, enough of my father’s message cut through the clutter. He received thousands of inquiring calls and letters, because people were thirsty for more information about selenium. He then did a lecture tour in twenty American states and throughout Europe, where he was met with standing ovations. He was finally gaining the respect and accolades he had sought for so long.
THE DOCTORS MEET
After completing his lecture tour and returning home to Missouri, my father received a call from Dr. Schrauzer who at the time was Chairman of the Department of Chemistry at UCSD. My father was familiar with Dr. Schrauzer’s selenium research and his association with Dr. Klaus Schwarz, the scientist who in 1957 had shown selenium was an essential nutrient. So he was all too happy to accept Dr. Schrauzer’s invitation to visit La Jolla, California and speak in front of a small but illustrious international group, including Nobel laureates.
Dr. Schrauzer knew about my father’s CF research at Emory University and his subsequent termination. He was angry that he was treated this way without the opportunity to defend his research. But now my father had a chance to substantiate his findings in front of these renowned specialists. He gave a rousing speech to the most educated, most critical scientific audience, whose expertise spanned the fields of chemistry, genetics, and nutrition. He was encouraged by all in attendance to pursue his work, because “the truth needed to be exposed to the light of day.” This was the beginning of a rewarding and lasting relationship between my father and Dr. Schrauzer.
A PARALLEL PATH OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS
In subsequent years, my father and Dr. Schrauzer remained committed to their respective missions. in 1979, my father attended the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (now called the National University of Natural Medicine). This earned him an ND degree which qualified him to begin treating human patients. It also made him one of the first people with a traditional and formal scientific education to cross over to the new-age approach.
His research led to the publication of more than 75 peer-reviewed articles in veterinary journals, human medical and biochemistry journals, and pathology journals. He contributed chapters to eight multi-author textbooks and has primary authorship of a 1,200 page text on the subject of comparative pathology, entitled “Diseases of Exotic Animals: Medical and Surgical Management.” This text is featured by the Smithsonian Institute as a national treasure.
In 1997 the book “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie” was published, and there are now over 200 million copies of the CD/taped lecture version in circulation worldwide. And in 2018 the biographical film, The Audacity of Health: The Dr. Joel Wallach Story was released, which is now available on demand through Carpe Canum Media. He continues to do speaking engagements, spreading his message about the 90 essential nutrients we all need to live healthier, longer lives.
Like most great minds, Dr. Schrauzer was a man of many talents. He was an inventor, an author, and the founder and editor-in-chief of the noted international journal, Biological Trace Element Research. He was also a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Institute of Nutrition, the American Chemical Society, and a number of other prestigious organizations. He published more than 300 papers and reviews in national and international journals and authored or edited five books.
In 1994, he received the Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet Commemorative Award for Clinical Tumor Immunology, and in 1997 he was named Honorary Professor at Xi’an Medical University. He also held visiting professorships at University of Nanjing, China, Osaka University, and the University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Kitakyushu, Japan. Dr. Schrauzer died in 2014 at the age of 83, leaving a legacy that will have a lasting impact on generations to come.
YOUNGEVITY CARRIES THE TORCH
As you can see from this blog alone, the combined efforts of my father and Dr. Schrauzer continue to advance the cause of better health through better nutrition around the world. But they’ve also been integral to everything I believe in and everything Youngevity stands for as a company. As such, I’ll always feel compelled to carry on the mission they so passionately pursued throughout their lives.
My father’s influence, of course, has shaped my sensibilities since I came into the world in 1966, soon after he began working on Operation Rhino and Operation Elephant in South Africa. But I also had the great privilege of working with Dr. Schrauzer on a weekly basis over a 15 year period of time, as he was the Chairman of our Scientific Advisory Board. Likewise, I regularly spent time with Dr. Edmond Devroey, a renowned nutrition expert and close research associate of Dr. Schrauzer’s. Along with my father, these two gentlemen instilled in me a scientific instinct and aptitude that has served me well both personally and professionally. They taught me much of what I know today, and the passing along of their knowledge is foundational to our core 90 For Life Philosophy (the 90 essential nutrients we all need). Simply put, Youngevity wouldn’t be the company it is today without them.
YOU REALLY SHOULD READ THE BOOK
Ultimately, my father, Dr. Schrauzer, and Dr. Ma Lan would collaborate on a project that truly encapsulates the essence of their careers. In 2014, the book “Epigenetics, The Death of The Genetic Theory of Disease Transmission” was released, placing it among the most important publications of its kind.
Epigenetics is an emerging field of science that studies alterations in gene expression, caused by factors other than changes in the DNA sequence. Central to the book’s theme is the connection between nutrition and so-called genetic disease, which is the direct result of decades of collective research conducted by my father and Dr. Schrauzer.
This book provides new insights into how the human body functions, and it just may change how you view the relationships between nutrition, genetics, and disease. But perhaps most importantly, it challenges the dogma and misinformation spread by medical institutions and doctors resistant to change.
Of course, there’s much more to discuss about this exciting, relatively new field of science, which symbolizes everything my father and Dr. Schrauzer worked so hard to achieve. Stay tuned for a more detailed examination of epigenetics in our forthcoming August blog.