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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, May 18, 2019

Jack Challem, a Nutrition "Great"

by Ralph K. Campbell, MD

(OMNS May 18 2019) My childhood was spent in a fast-moving era. Vitamins had only recently been discovered and were being studied in the early 1930s. My father taught me to read at a tender age, and my mother somehow knew I would have a deep interest in how the body worked. She gave me a two-volume book entitled "Man in Structure and Function." The first book contained an extensive section on vitamins. The topic of vitamins was the buzz word of that time. It seemed that practical knowledge of vitamins was spreading rapidly. My uncle, on a very limited income, decided to save a little money by switching from butter to cheaper, newly developed, margarine. He developed a corneal ulcer and self-diagnosed that he had a vitamin A deficiency that could be corrected by returning to butter, making it less costly, in the long run, than the margarine. I was impressed and went on to become interested in nutrition and curing disease.

I got next to zero nutrition training in medical school. I found, with my fellow pediatric interns and residents in 1954-57, that they had experienced a similar lack. It seemed a paradox to find, when I became a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1966, that their journal, Pediatrics, was chock full of informative nutrition articles. So I began to dig in and try to make up for lost time.

In 1996 I got on the internet and wrote an article, "Bugs That Bug Us," about the problem of bacteria becoming resistant to commonly used antibiotics. These resistant bacteria became known as "superbugs." I was dismayed about how long it took for the concept to gain attention, since more than 40 years earlier I had real personal experiences with the problem. Somehow my article must have found its way into the ether, and Jack Challem must have seen it, for out of the blue, a copy of his "Nutrition Reporter" ended up in my mailbox. What a blessing. I was amazed to see that someone could write with such clarity and thoroughness. He was a wonderful model for any writer trying to express complicated issues in simple, easily understood language. I had always felt that my pediatric patients and their parents were not overly impressed with Greek or Latin words that describe a condition; so I always tried to convert "medicalese" into simple English---"erythema multiforme circumscriptum" could just as easily be called "many red spots of different but distinct shapes". But Jack was at ease with either interpretation. If he wanted to impress a doctor, he could. If he wanted to furnish a reader with useful information, he could do that, too. His strong curiosity for wanting to know how nutrients worked, seemed to be a driving force.

We "talked" back and forth, by e-mail. He introduced me to the concept of orthomolecular medicine. We met for the first time at the Orthomolecular Medicine Today conference in Vancouver B.C., Canada, (close to home) at which he delivered a section of the program. With this being the only time we met in person, it was amazing the way our friendship developed through back-and-forth e-mail messages.

Over 200 issues of Jack Challem's NUTRITION REPORTER newsletter are now posted for free reading at

Jack teamed up with Hugh Riordan, MD, of the Riordan Clinic in an ambitious project to determine the optimal levels (orthomolecular levels) of individual nutrients ---no easy task since nutrients work in concert, making the study of a single nutrient's effect in isolation difficult.

I recall only one instance in which the student (me) was able to teach the instructor, and this was only a reminder of what I had learned from him years earlier. He was suffering from nerve entrapment in his arm. Treatment involved administrating pyridoxine (B6), 100 mg twice a day along with a multiple B vitamin complex preparation, which includes some riboflavin, or B2, to activate the B6.

Whenever I saw someone I knew wearing the typical carpal tunnel syndrome wrist splint, I would tell them about this far-out treatment of vitamin B6 without surgery. I have often found this treatment very beneficial. If they felt this advice seems unacceptable to their doctor, my advice is to ask him/her what objection there might be to a trial of an essential nutrient, generally free from side-effects, and proceed with its use. Even though these individuals were not officially my patients, I was comfortable giving this advice, because I would do no harm.

Jack was also a very accomplished fine art photographer, but his enthusiasm for this field of endeavor made it difficult to know whether to call photography a hobby or a profession. Unfortunately for us all, Jack suffered a bout of a cancer that seemed unrelated to known causes of cancer. Nevertheless he continued to work with his photography -- and fearlessly and energetically in the nutrition field.

Ron Hunninghake, MD, of the Riordan Clinic offered a memoriam ( /08/jack-challem-memorium/) concerning Jack that expressed so well what I found in this great man. Ron praised Jack's tremendous knowledge, his curiosity, and sincere interest in people. He pointed to the fact that Jack had gained this knowledge without the benefit of having obtained a degree in any health related subject. He too emphasized Jack's ability to make complex issues understandable, thus being of great benefit to his readers.

My feeling is that attempting to stay within the perimeters of a medical specialty can limit imaginative thinking about practical solutions to medical challenges. Jack Challem's ability to explain a wide variety of medical conditions and their solutions using nutrition in clear language prompted many of us to think "out of the medical box." In my life, Jack was an excellent mentor for an aspiring nutrition writer. His writing -- over a period of several decades -- continues to be of great value and inspiration for us today.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Vitamin therapy is of proven benefit to real patients with real illnesses. If your doctor, family member, or local internet troll disagrees, then they don't know Jack - - Jack Challem, that is: bestselling author, and late publisher of The NUTRITION REPORTER newsletter. Jack Challem helped so many, many people. His newsletter set high standards for popular nutrition education. As an orthomolecular advocate, and a just plain great guy, Jack was and will remain tops in my book. In fact, my own books first got published because Jack connected me with one of his own publishers. He graciously sent me a marvelous compilation of 19 years of his Newsletters to assist me, and my daughter, in the writing of our books. I think he'd like you to be able to learn from them as much as I have. They are now posted for free reading at Thank you, Jack.

(Andrew W. Saul, Editor in Chief, Orthomolecular Medicine News Service.)

Jack Challem's publications:


Challem JJ. (1999) Toward a new definition of essential nutrients: is it now time for a third 'vitamin' paradigm? Med Hypotheses. 52:417-422. .

Challem JJ, Taylor EW. (1998) Retroviruses, ascorbate, and mutations, in the evolution of Homo sapiens. Free Radic Biol Med. 25:130-132. .

Challem JJ. (1997) Did the loss of endogenous ascorbate propel the evolution of Anthropoidea and Homo sapiens? Med Hypotheses. 48:387-392. .

Challem JJ. (1997) Re: Risk factors for lung cancer and for intervention effects in CARET, the Beta-Carotene and Retinol Efficacy trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 89:325-326. .

Challem JJ. (1996) Teratogenicity of high vitamin A intake. N Engl J Med. 334:1196-1197. . See: [Comment on "Rothman et al (1995) Teratogenicity of high vitamin A intake." N Engl J Med. 334(18):1202-3, June 1996. ]


Challem J, Berkson B, Smith M.D. (2000) Syndrome X: The Complete Nutritional Program to Prevent and Reverse Insulin Resistance. Wiley, ISBN-13: 978-0471398585 Reviewed by Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD at (scroll down) or download review at . Also reviewed by Andrew W. Saul at

Challem J. (2006) Feed Your Genes Right: Eat to Turn Off Disease-Causing Genes and Slow Down Aging. Wiley; ISBN-13: 978-0471778677 Reviewed by Richard Huemer, MD, at

Challem J, (2008) The Food-Mood Solution: All-Natural Ways to Banish Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Stress, Overeating, and Alcohol and Drug Problems--and Feel Good Again. Wiley, ISBN-13: 978-0470228777 Reviewed by Andrew W. Saul at

Challem J, Hunninghake R (2009) Stop Prediabetes Now: The Ultimate Plan to Lose Weight and Prevent Diabetes. Wiley, ISBN-13: 978-0470411636

Challem J. (2010) The Inflammation Syndrome: Your Nutrition Plan for Great Health, Weight Loss, and Pain-Free Living. Wiley; 2nd ed. ISBN-13: 978-0470440858 Reviewed by Richard Huemer, MD, at

Challem J. (2011) No More Fatigue: Why You're So Tired and What You Can Do About It. Wiley, ISBN-13: 978-0470525456 Reviewed by Andrew W. Saul in J Orthomolecular Med, 2011. Vol 26, No 4, p 190-191.

Challem J. (2003) Users Guide to Nutritional Supplements. Basic Health Publications. ISBN-13: 978-1591200673

Jack was also editor of the Basic Health Publications "User's Guide" series of some two dozen short books. The titles he personally authored or coauthored are:

Challem J, Smith M. (2002) User's Guide to Vitamin E Antioxidants. Basic Health Pub. ISBN: 9781591206002

Challem J, Moneysmith M. (2005) User's Guide to Carotenoids & Flavonoids: Learn How to Harness the Health Benefits of Natural Plant Antioxidants. Basic Health Pub. ISBN-13: 978-1591201403

Challem J, Alfieri RG. (2004) User's Guide to Anti-Aging Nutrients: Discover How You Can Slow Down the Aging Process and Increase Energy Antioxidants. Basic Health Pub. ISBN-13: 978-1591200932

Challem J, Block M. (2005) User's Guide to Antioxidant Supplements. Basic Health Pub. ISBN-13: 978-1591201342

Challem J(2009) [editor] The Fountain: 25 Experts Reveal their Secrets of Health and Longevity from the Fountain of Youth. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications. ISBN: 978-1-59120-248-6.

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Editorial Review Board:

Ilyès Baghli, M.D. (Algeria)
Ian Brighthope, M.D. (Australia)
Prof. Gilbert Henri Crussol (Spain)
Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. (USA)
Damien Downing, M.D. (United Kingdom)
Michael Ellis, M.D. (Australia)
Martin P. Gallagher, M.D., D.C. (USA)
Michael J. Gonzalez, N.M.D., D.Sc., Ph.D. (Puerto Rico)
William B. Grant, Ph.D. (USA)
Tonya S. Heyman, M.D. (USA)
Suzanne Humphries, M.D. (USA)
Ron Hunninghake, M.D. (USA)
Michael Janson, M.D. (USA)
Robert E. Jenkins, D.C. (USA)
Bo H. Jonsson, M.D., Ph.D. (Sweden)
Jeffrey J. Kotulski, D.O. (USA)
Peter H. Lauda, M.D. (Austria)
Thomas Levy, M.D., J.D. (USA)
Homer Lim, M.D. (Philippines)
Stuart Lindsey, Pharm.D. (USA)
Victor A. Marcial-Vega, M.D. (Puerto Rico)
Charles C. Mary, Jr., M.D. (USA)
Mignonne Mary, M.D. (USA)
Jun Matsuyama, M.D., Ph.D. (Japan)
Dave McCarthy, M.D. (USA)
Joseph Mercola, D.O. (USA)
Jorge R. Miranda-Massari, Pharm.D. (Puerto Rico)
Karin Munsterhjelm-Ahumada, M.D. (Finland)
Tahar Naili, M.D. (Algeria)
W. Todd Penberthy, Ph.D. (USA)
Dag Viljen Poleszynski, Ph.D. (Norway)
Jeffrey A. Ruterbusch, D.O. (USA)
Gert E. Schuitemaker, Ph.D. (Netherlands)
Thomas L. Taxman, M.D. (USA)
Jagan Nathan Vamanan, M.D. (India)
Garry Vickar, MD (USA)
Ken Walker, M.D. (Canada)
Anne Zauderer, D.C. (USA)

Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D. (USA), Editor-In-Chief
Editor, Japanese Edition: Atsuo Yanagisawa, M.D., Ph.D. (Japan)
Robert G. Smith, Ph.D. (USA), Associate Editor
Helen Saul Case, M.S. (USA), Assistant Editor
Ralph K. Campbell, M.D. (USA), Contributing Editor
Michael S. Stewart, B.Sc.C.S. (USA), Technology Editor
Jason M. Saul, JD (USA), Legal Consultant

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