Nutrition and Your Mind

Nutrition and Your Mind: The Psychochemical Response, San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1972.


I highly recommend this book. It is one of the best written about this unusual and very important subject, that falls into the category of somatotherapy, that is, the healing of mental illness through physiological and somatic intervention (instead of the use of psychotherapy).

When reading the book and taking the notes that are published further down in this review, I was dumbfounded about the healing examples the author provides and that are convincing even the most critical reader. Cases with no success in healing mental illness by psychotherapy resulted in complete healing by Dr. Watson applying his insights into correct and mineral-rich nutrition.

In accordance with my long-term practice as a book and media reviewer, I will provide quotes from the book that speak for themselves, and I restrain myself from paraphrasing the author’s diction that is perfect and intelligible.



—Is any psychotherapy really effective for mental illness? Controlled studies of the effectiveness of psychotherapies (including Freudian psychoanalysis) have shown that they simple are not an effective treatment for psychological disorders. Patients treated by these methods to not demonstrate that they improve any more than those who have received no treatment at all. For example, Dr. H. J. Eysenck evaluated the results of nineteen studies on more than 7,000 patients and concluded that they failed to prove that psychotherapy—whatever the type—was of any value in helping patients recover from neuroses. He reports that roughly two-thirds of such patients will recover or improve to a marked extent within about two years of the onset of their illness, whether or not they are treated by means of psychotherapy. In other words, while it is indeed true that persons undergoing psychotherapy sometimes improve, such improvement may be merely incidental to the passage of time. They could have improved equally well, as controlled comparative studies show, had they not been treated by psychotherapy at all. /11

—The failure to distinguish between psychochemical behavior and motivated, meaningful behavior is at the bottom of the chaos in psychotherapy. For all of the competing schools base their theories and treatment procedures on the assumption that abnormal mental and emotional reactions are somehow deliberate and purposeful, and thus basically reflect the patient’s ‘real motives.’ The psychotherapists believe that such abnormal acts, in addition to having meaning, have been learned, either directly or indirectly, and thus can be unlearned. In fact, psychotherapy—regardless of the type—is basically an attempt to induce the patient to change his behavior, that is, to learn to act differently. /13

—Instead of trying to find the supposed underlying motives or ‘reasons’ why persons behave abnormally, we must rather seek to understand what they do in terms of the biological malfunctioning of the organism. In general, abnormal reactions can be traced either to a structural failure—a hereditary defect such as a missing enzyme—or to a functional disturbance … /14

—One of the main reasons psychotherapists tried to understand disturbed behavior strictly in mental, rather than in physical, terms was that early efforts to find physical causes were unsuccessful—though they go as far back as the medieval theory of ‘the humors.’ These early negative results led to the belief that mental disturbances were in no way linked to body disturbances, but were purely ‘mental phenomena.’ /14

—This mentalistic assumption, coupled with the introduction of intriguing and mysterious concepts such as ‘id,’ the ‘Oedipus complex,’ and ‘the collective unconscious,’ has had the effect of generating a romantic mystique in the popular mind concerning the origins of normal as well as abnormal behavior. /14

—The creation of this fairyland aura around the psyche has also had the unfortunate result of hiding some of the basic facts of life concerning the physical foundations of behavior. Not only have these facts be obscured from the general public, but they also have been ignored by professional persons who ought to be better informed. /14

—Many years ago a Freudian analyst asked me: ‘What on earth could nutritional biochemistry have to do with mental health?’ He asked the question after I had briefly mentioned some of the effects of semistarvation on personality which were revealed in a study conducted at the University of Minnesota. Since this therapist had never heard of the research, I described it to him briefly as being a six months’ study of semistarvation undertaken by some thirty volunteer male subjects, all of whom were psychologically normal at the start of the test. /14-15

—The semistarvation diet consisted of an average daily intake of about 1,600 calories, mainly carbohydrate, but including 50 grams of protein and 30 grams of fat. Even on this much food, however, which on the surface might not appear to represent a drastic deprivation, the group as a whole showed marked personality changes, both neurotic and psychotic. /15

—In fact, some subjects became so disturbed that they inflicted physical damage on themselves. One of the conclusions offered by the scientists who did this research was that ‘experimental neurosis’ could be induced entirely by nutritional means. Since ‘nutritional means’ are physical and not mental, the basic article of faith of all schools of psychotherapy—that minds must be treated with mental, not physical, techniques—is now in doubt. /15

—From today’s scientific vantage point, the concept of an independent mind is a carry-over from the speculative philosophy of the past. It has been replaced by the brain and the central and peripheral nervous systems—and by the internal chemical environment of the body in which all cells live and from which they obtain the materials that keep them alive and functioning. These materials are nutritional biochemicals, and they come from one and only one source: what you eat. /15

[Psychochemical Reactions in Everyday Life]

—Sulfa drugs can inhibit the growth of bacteria: they are bacteriostatic agents. While taking such a drug it is possible to eat foods and drink liquids that contain otherwise harmful bacteria without suffering the usual stomach and bowel distress. But there is another aspect of this use of bacteriostatic drugs such as sulfa or antibiotics that is definitely undesirable under any circumstance. They not only prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine—they prevent the growth of all bacteria, the good as well as the bad. /18

—For example, when the intestinal flora is not functioning normally, it is virtually impossible to substitute orally administered vitamins such as riboflavin that can adequately compensate for the lack of bacterial synthesis of these substances in the intestines. /19

Explain context …

—Our tests soon revealed why she felt this way. Not only was her blood-sugar level too low, but the rate at which her tissues were turning food into energy—her oxidation rate—was about 30 percent below normal. /20

—The source of all the energy expended by the mind—considered as the function of the brain—is provided by a process called ‘cellular respiration,’ during which complex foods are broken down into simpler substances which are then burned (oxidized) in the individual cells of the brain. The principle fuel of the brain is glucose, a simple type of sugar. This is the material that is carried in the blood, the co-called blood sugar, to all of the body’s vital tissues such as the heart, liver, muscles, and brain. /21

—Among the first things that happen when the blood sugar is too low and sufficient glucose is not available to the brain is loss of normal emotional control. This can take many forms, from simple nervousness, unexplained weeping and depression, all the way to violent impulses, the immediate urge to smash something … /21

—These drastic emotional consequences resulting from impaired brain function are due to a combination of factors. First, the brain derives most of its energy from glucose; second it cannot switch to burning other fuel when sugar supplies are low; and third, the brain consumes up to 25 percent of the total amount of glucose carried by the blood, even though the brain accounts for just a tiny fraction (2 1/2 percent) of the total weight of the body. /21-22

—Although normal brain function depends on getting enough sugar, this involves considerably more than merely eating something like honey which supplies glucose. For under certain conditions, sugar alone may lower the blood-sugar level. In fact, the problem of eating properly to ensure a constant supply of glucose for the blood is quite complicated. /22

—A person weighing 115 pounds stores only enough sugar to last about four hours. /22

—One of the subtler and really ominous types of psychochemical reactions that one sees when essential foods such as sugar and starch are severely restricted in the diet is an alienation from others, a suspicion and distrust of even those who have been closest to you. These paranoid reactions have been universally noted in studies of starvation and of even partial food deprivation, and they result directly from the inability of the brain and nervous system to produce their normal level of energy. /24

—Although it is customary to speak of the oxidation, or burning, of glucose, this is not a direct process. Glucose, as well as other fuels, is transformed into a series of intermedia compounds in an interlocking, step-by-step process, during which energy is formed. In other words, energy is not derived directly from glucose, but from several different substances, called ‘intermediates,’ each of which ultimately has been derived from glucose. The most important of these is acetate (acetyl coenzyme A), from which about 80 percent of the energy produced in the cells is derived. /26-27

—However, the brain’s ability to transform acetate into energy depends on the availability of other substances which are provided principally by the oxidation of sugar. That is, there is an interlocking dependence between the burning of glucose and the transformation of acetate into energy. /27

—The materials required for the continuous renewal of enzymes come from only one source: the food one eats. Although the complexities of this subject need not concern us here, for there are hundreds of enzymes in the body, it is important to point out that the proper maintenance of the various enzyme systems requires a continuous supply of a wide range of nutritional substances (including especially vitamins and minerals). /30

—As for the young man who had been living for several years on hamburger and coffee, we found that his tissues had all but lost their capacity to convert food into energy. When he was placed on a diet containing adequate carbohydrate, fat, and protein, and including fruit and vegetables that normally supply some of the essential vitamins and mineral that the body requires for the renewal of enzymes, we found that he was still unable to utilize these nutrients normally. /30

—This is why high-fat diets have been found to be superior in helping maintain normal body temperature in cold climates. Neither high-protein nor high-carbohydrate intakes can effectively do this. /33

—In addition to those psychochemical responses that result from extremes in temperature, other climatic factors may also influence adversely the production of energy in the central nervous system. Best known among these are weather fronts—storms—and what may be called the ‘electrical’ character of the atmosphere, such as the ionization. /36

—Pregnancy and childbirth present the most obvious example of increased needs for massive biochemical support. Even with the best prenatal nutrition, however, mothers often find themselves emotionally and physically exhausted after childbirth. /56

—Virtually no research has been done on the subject of optimum nutrition. The biochemical studies on which the present recommended (National Research Council) dietary allowances are based have all been concerned with minimums, not maximums. The recommended intake of a given nutrient is usually set about 50 percent above the bare minimum necessary for ‘health,’ which generally means nothing more than the absence of obvious nutritional disease. In this sense, it is quite true that one can achieve such a maintenance level of vitamins and minerals from an average good diet. However, a totally different question is raised when one asks whether some of us can profitably use larger amounts of vitamins and minerals than we normally get in our diet. /67-68

—The following list of contrasting attitudes, feelings, beliefs, and levels of interest and motivation are based on actually measured personality changes in research patients whose nutrition was improved from the average toward the optimum, with consequent changes in personality. Try to look at yourself as objectively as possible, and compare your own attitudes and behavior tendencies with those of both ‘Personality One’ and ‘Personality Two.’


The present test was published by Dr. George Watson, in his book ‘Nutrition and Your Mind: The Psychochemical Response,’ San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1972.

Dr. Watson’s theory is revolutionary in that he bluntly denies the ’psychological’ etiology of so-called ‘mental’ diseases, asserting that there is no ‘mental’ disease at all. He postulates that all disease is a function of wrong nutrition and the acidic character of the blood and body tissues. Dr. Watson thus has anticipated what Dr. Robert Young now called ‘The pH Miracle,’ title of his famed book, which was published more than forty years after Watson’s discoveries.

For better understanding Dr. Watson’s approach to ‘mental disease,’ I will reproduce here the Foreword of the book, written by W.D. Currier, M.D.

“Emotionally disturbed people are perhaps the most difficult patients to treat. In order to give such patients at least temporary relief, doctors prescribe sedatives and other drugs—a treatment that may for a while ease the patient, but doesn’t solve his problem. If the source of the trouble is truly a deep-seated or structural mental disorder, the doctor may not be qualified to tackle it. And a lot of investigation is needed before sending even the obvious candidate to a psychiatrist.

     Freud, who invented the technique of psychoanalysis and is credited with ‘discovering’ the unconscious, insisted that physical examination is the first step in treating emotional illness—a basic premise that was quickly forgotten in the flurry of enthusiasm for the new technique. Although psychiatry is now a highly developed field, very little of its expansion has been directed toward clarifying the physiological aspect of mental illness. In a sense, psychiatric treatment in the hands of grid psychotherapists has been greatly responsible for holding back investigation and therapy in the field of the biochemistry of mental illness. Of course, psychiatrists have a vested interest, emotional and financial, in their particular field of practice, as do all other physicians.

     Every function of the body involves a chemical process, whether it is physical or mental activity, even just breathing and feeling. When we get sick, we are suffering from a metabolic upset—a chemical imbalance. Ultimately, then, we must look to biochemistry for diagnosis and treatment. Sickness may attack only one small area of the body—maybe a cut on a finger—but many biochemical products are mobilized and carried by the blood to the traumatized spot to effect healing. The brain is especially susceptible to changes in body chemistry. And yet psychiatric diagnoses are almost always couched in terms which tell us nothing of the physical state of the patient.

     Our willful ignorance about the sources of mental illness is not new. In the worlds of Henry Maudsley, a pioneering English psychiatrist, spoken in a lecture almost 100 years ago: ‘The observations and classifications of mental disorders has been so exclusively psychological that we have not realized the fact that they illustrate the same pathological principles as other diseases, are produced the same way, and must be investigated in the same spirit of positive research. Until this is done, I see no hope of improvement in our knowledge of them and no use in multiplying books about them.’ Apparently Maudsley was right.

     At present, the biochemical and nutritional aspects of mental illness are almost completely neglected. This newer approach to treatment, as suggested in this book, places in the hands of psychiatrists and other practitioners a tool of utmost importance. It is in addition to their own specialized knowledge and an indispensable adjunct to their modes of treatment. The more secure among them will approach this biochemical and nutritional therapy with an open mind. A whole new field of therapy may be his for managing one of the greatest medical problems on earth, the mentally ill patient.

     Recently, some important studies have been devoted to the effects of deficiency diseases on mental states. In certain instances, retarded children have been found to suffer from a congenitally faulty metabolism in which a particular enzyme is absent or inactive. Even lay people recognize the manifestations of thyroid deficiency in their friends, such as lethargy and dullness, as well as the opposite personality traits of hyperthyroidism: anxiety, excitability, and nervousness. At last, the influence of nutritional deficiencies on psychic functions is beginning to be acknowledged. We now know that lack of vitamin B may lead to such serious diseases as pellagra and beriberi that can affect brain metabolism, producing symptoms of mental disorders. And starvation often brings about radical changes in personality.

     Many of the mentally ill have inborn or acquired biochemical defects. Some adventurous psychotherapists are using what is called ‘mega-vitamin’ therapy, such as the use of B-3 (nicotinic acid). Although this treatment helps many patients, it is oversimplified in using only one vitamin. Mental illness is often a manifestation of elaborately disordered metabolism, especially of the enzyme systems. Glucose metabolism, for instance, has a great influence on nerve tissue, which requires vastly more quantities of properly utilized blood sugar than any other tissue. Dr. Watson rather simply describes the extremely complicated biochemical processes involved.

     It is dangerous to classify mentally disturbed persons solely in psychological terms. They may have the same symptom complex as others but for opposite biochemical reasons. In chemical testing, the normals for a mentally ill patient are not necessarily the norms for a mentally stable person. That is why, when chemical tests are run on patients with mental illness and compared with those for ‘normal’ patients, they are frequently told, ‘There is nothing physically wrong with you. Go see a psychiatrist.’ Such a verdict is a cruel but accepted and medically ethical way of getting a troublesome, emotionally ill patient our of the physician’s practice.

     The old saying ‘You are what you eat’ is not precisely true, although very function of the body, and especially mental activity, is dependent upon the quality and kind of food we eat, as Dr. Watson explains. Our genetic endowment plays a fundamental part in mental health, and some persons may become mentally disoriented when they eat or lack certain foods. Most people believe that they eat well-balanced meals, but routine dietary surveys show that there are frequently important deficiencies in necessary nutritional elements; this is particularly so in the mentally ill. The metabolic profiling Dr. Watson outlines can be used to advantage by any psychiatrist or psychologist to augment whatever technique of analysis or psychotherapy he routinely employs. I am sure that his own experiences will convince him of its value.

     Mental health in general would be greatly advanced if every physician and psychotherapist and every medical student would read this book. In addition to its direct application, some might be stimulated to enter the related research field, for—as with all knowledge—the surface has so far only been scratched.

—W.D. Currier, M.D.



01☐ You tend to settle for security out of lack of self-confidence. You set high—but realistic—goals and have the confidence to take the required risks.
02☐ You hate to admit mistakes; the other fellow is to blame. You readily admit mistakes and take blame.
03 ☐ You are mainly interested in yourself and your own comfort; you respond to almost everything else with indifference and apathy. You have many interests beyond yourself; generally, you have activities planned to look forward to.
04 ☐ You are uncomfortable around others and avoid them; you tend to resent them. You really enjoy people and actively seeks the company of others.
05 ☐ You tend to expect the worst; you dread what the future will bring. You look forward to the good things the future holds in store.
06 ☐ When everything is going well, you can still find something to be pessimistic about. In times of trouble, you can still find something to be optimistic about.
07 ☐ You remember most of the psychological scars of your past and you carry them with you into the future. You tend to recover from and forget emotional blows quickly, leaving the past behind you.
08 ☐ You have few friends, and you can always find something to criticize about everyone. You have many friends, and you accept others for their best qualities.
09 ☐ You feel guilty and helpless about many past shortcomings. You accept past mistakes without feeling guilty, resolving to do better in the future.
10  You tend to think that life is a raw deal, and you wonder why you were born at all. You cherish the life that has been given to you, and you try to make the most out of it.
11 ☐ You feel almost sure you’re going to be cheated. You expect to be treated fairly.
12 ☐ You are resentful, unforgiving, and unforgiving. You forgive quickly and easily.
13 ☐ You are sensitive to real or imagined slights or criticism. Your feelings are not easily hurt and you try to accept criticism objectively.
14 ☐ You are emotionally flat, never really happy even under the best circumstances. You feel cheerful and happy most of the time.
15 ☐ You easily get into arguments, feeling others are ‘picking on you.’ You are tactful and try to avoid arguments.
16 ☐ You continually put things off, and then tend to forget them entirely. You get things done on time.
17 ☐ You easily form rigid opinions without objective evidence. You try to be open-minded until you evaluate all sides of a question.
18 ☐ You have a low opinion about yourself. You think favorably of yourself.


If your honest evaluation of yourself matches fifteen (about 80 percent) or more of the characteristics of ‘Personality Two,’ there isn’t much room for nutritional improvement, for your nervous system is functioning at a comparatively high level. In other words, you are an ALKALINE personality, as your blood and tissues are very likely to be alkaline (healthy).

However, should your own self-evaluation match six (33 percent) or more of the characteristics of ‘Personality One,’ you by all means should see for yourself whether or not better nutrition will bring about a vast improvement. In other words, you are an ACIDIC personality, as your blood and tissues are very likely to be acidic (unhealthy).


I had 10 of ‘Personality Two’ and 8 of ‘Personality One,’ which is two too much, pointing me at an early state of my gout condition to the fact that my pH is not balanced and my body too acidic. Later testing full confirmed this and directed me to leaving out acidic foods from my diet and reinforcing my intake of alkaline foods. I find it really uncanny that a simple question-and-answer game can replace a blood test and tell you about the acidic-alkaline balance of your blood and tissues.

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