© Whole Foods Magazine

November 2003

An interview with Dr. Roger Kendall

Dimethylglycine (DMG): Part 1

The Health Benefits of Dimethylglycine (DMG)

By Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D.

Dimethylglycine (DMG), has been available for many years to the health consumer. Although DMG is an effective energy booster, stamina-enhancing and cardiovascular-building nutrient, many people looking for better health and wellness today either have never heard of it or are not aware of the many incredible benefits and healing potential of DMG. In the recent past, there has been little publicity or public knowledge available for the health-conscious consumer to read about DMG.

But that has now changed. A new and well-documented book on DMG has now been written, which for the first time will tell the complete and accurate story of the research, history and extensive use of DMG by physicians, athletes, nutritionists, and everyday people who have discovered the wide-spectrum healing properties of DMG.

Although I lectured and wrote extensively about DMG in the 1970s, I have never written an article entirely devoted to DMG in this column which I have been writing since September 1984. So you know that I am pleased to finally have the opportunity to talk with an expert about the latest research on this powerful substance. You can see that I have a lot of catching up to do, so please allow me to weave together three stories—the health benefits of DMG, the athletic benefits of DMG and how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempted to ban DMG as the start of their campaign to ban all non-essential nutrients by erroneously calling them "unapproved food additives." I will try to intertwine these three stories by beginning with my experience using DMG with athletes, then moving to the FDA ban and finally showing that the science behind DMG has triumphed and this nutrient is available today to help many people. If you aren’t interested in the background, then please just skip ahead to the interview with Dr. Kendall to learn about the new research on the health benefits of DMG.

In the early 1970s, sports reporters used to write articles about my success with athletes with what was called "vitamin B-15" or "calcium pangamate." I had especially good results with "aging" or "over-the-hill" athletes such as George Allen’s Washington Redskins and Muhammad Ali.

No one has been more surprised than me that a simple laboratory researcher became an adviser to Olympic greats, world-champion body-builders, Super Bowl champions and the heavyweight champion of the world. It certainly was weird to see my photo with sports greats such as Ali in national magazines and newspapers. I guess it evolved from the athletes or their trainers reading about my anti-aging research; this had often been described in magazines ranging from Prevention to Ladies’ Home Journal to Chemical & Engineering News beginning in 1970. The Washington Post and other major newspaper carried stories about my results with both the Redskins and Ali, and national newspapers carried several of these stories involving athletes and "vitamin B-15."

At age 34, Ali was having trouble training for his April 30, 1976 bout with Jimmy Young in Landover, MD. He was sluggish, unmotivated and getting a little flabby. I was contacted by one of his associates, Gene Kilroy. A blood test revealed that he was low in iron, but not yet anemic. Chelated iron, multivitamins rich in the B-vitamins and extra antioxidant vitamins quickly normalized his blood chemistry, but it wasn’t until I put him on "vitamin B-15" that he fully regained his stamina and drive.

During an internationally televised interview in Ali’s dressing room just before his May 24, 1976 bout with Richard Dunn from London, the champ held up a bottle of "B-15" to show the world his "secret weapon." As reported in National Medical Bulletin in 1978, "Muhammad Ali took pangamate during his five consecutive victories over Young, Dunn, Norton; Evangelista and Shavers, he stopped taking it before his recent defeat by newcomer Leon Spinks. Ali’s trainer was on the phone to the doctor shortly after the Spinks fight." Well, Ali did beat Spinks in the rematch on August 15, 1978 and then fought only exhibition matches until announcing his retirement on June 27, 1979. About this time, the FDA banned "vitamin B-15," claiming it was an unapproved food additive. Ali returned from retirement to fight Larry Holmes on October 2, 1980 to lose by a TKO in the 11th round. He attempted another comeback on December 11, 1981 against Trevor Berbick and took another beating.

I had learned about B-15 during trips to the USSR’s leading heart institute in Moscow in the 1970s. They were researching the "oxygenating" actions of B-15 in treating angina and other heart diseases. I learned that Soviet Olympic athletes were also using B-15 to improve their endurance. My Soviet hosts saw my interest in B-15 and since I was their invited guest of the heart institute, they were pleased to present me with books and articles on the subject, along with translations. This became the basis for many lectures and articles on B-15 during the 1970s.

Since that time, a lot has happened, but not much has been publicized recently. The nutrient formerly known as "vitamin B-15" is now more accurately known as DMG. There was a precedent-setting action in which the FDA tried to enforce its desire to have all non-vitamin nutrients classified as unapproved food additives and not be allowed to be made available to the public. If the agency had been successful, many of our most important supplements would not be available today—coenzyme Q-10, SAMe, NAC, or anything else that was not an essential vitamin, mineral or fatty acid. In the meantime, researchers at U.S. universities were attacked by a zealous anti-supplement personality who wrote behind-the-scenes letters to the researchers’ colleagues, trying to defame and demean these nutrient researchers.

Nevertheless, truth and science prevailed, and important articles were indeed published in the scientific literature about the health benefits of DMG.

Now, we have a new book, Building Wellness with DMG, authored by Dr. Roger Kendall, who is considered the most authoritative researcher on the nutrient. Dr. Kendall, who holds a Ph. D. in organic biochemistry from Penn State University and has held teaching positions at the University of Bridgeport and Ambassador University, and his co-author Adena Therrien, have written a comprehensive but very readable monograph that covers in 15 chapters dozens of therapeutic and health-building applications, many of which have never been released before. This is the first authoritative text on DMG and is a must-read for all those who want to remain on the cutting edge of preventative and therapeutic nutrition. It is the type of book that will definitely bring new understanding of how to protect and heal the body from the modern upsurge of degenerative and infectious diseases that are assaulting our health. The book provides real answers and definitive support and help to the many who are searching for solutions to their health problems.

If you know someone with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, AIDS, respiratory disease, autism or immune dysfunction, do him or her a favor and recommend this book.

Passwater: Dr. Kendall, I am so pleased that you wrote Building Wellness with DMG. Perhaps I should scold you for not writing it earlier. Why didn’t you write it sooner, and is there a special reason for writing it now?

Kendall: Writing a comprehensive book on the health benefits and therapeutic uses of DMG has been a personal goal of mine for many years, and since no book had ever been written on the subject, I felt the time was right to set down a record of my experiences and the experiences of many others who have worked with this valuable nutrient. I have been involved in doing research on DMG for nearly 25 years now, and I wanted the opportunity to record in one place a complete summary of the DMG story that would cover the many individuals and related discoveries surrounding DMG. I especially wanted the current generation to understand the truth behind this marvelous nutrient, which many people in the late 1970s and 1980s had experienced. For the most part, such knowledge has been lost over the past 15 years or so. Some recent discoveries about DMG’s mode of action and health benefits also has added to our knowledge of why this nutrient can be such a valuable component of a person’s nutritional program.

The book brings to life, for the professional health provider as well as for the lay person, the many potential benefits of DMG. I myself over the years have been simply amazed at the wide scope of nutritional applications that apply to DMG, and I wanted to share this valuable information in an easy-to-understand style for those who are seeking a higher level of health. The book is not overly technical, but each chapter is fully referenced and presents enough science and biochemistry to explain what DMG is, how it works in the body and what health benefits it provides. My co-writer Adena Therrien and I wanted to produce a book that could be used as a hands-on reference manual on how an individual can use DMG to build greater wellness, improve physical and mental performance, and overcome many degenerative conditions facing people today. I truly believe that most people can benefit from reading this book simply because they will find DMG-related solutions to many of their health problems.

Passwater: We’ve known each other for a long time, but I never asked you this before: Why did you choose to become a nutritional biochemist?

Kendall: That is a very good question. I knew since I was a junior in high school that I waned to be a chemist because of my fascination with and desire to know how and why things worked in the physical world. When I first got out of graduate school, I worked for several years as a synthetic organic chemist in the agricultural division of American Cyanamid Company. Over a period of four years, I produced over 300 new compounds for their drug testing programs. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to discover a new successful pesticide product that would boost food production or find some new animal drug. But an event occurred in 1974 that would lead to a change in my career aspirations. I had a very close friend who within a few months after being diagnosed with leukemia died from the disease. I then began a serious study of the causes of cancer and what one could do to protect oneself from getting cancer.

My wife was the one in the family who had been reading on health issues for years and she provided me the link between poor diets, toxic chemicals in the environment, stress and cancer. My friend had worked in the chemical industry and I realized that producing pesticides in the lab was not the best environment to be in. In 1974 I joined the faculty of Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, and began to teach chemistry. I spent my research time evaluating the role of diet, environmental pollution, stress, free radicals and a weakened immune defense on cancer and other degenerative diseases. I began to find that certain nutrients like vitamins C and E, selenium, and zinc and the eating of certain diets could reduce the threat of free radicals, improve immunity and reduce the risk of degenerative diseases like cancer. You could say that this personal study over several years and after reading of the classical works of Weston Price, Linus Pauling, Abram Hoffer, Hans Selye and Roger Williams, I then started my pursuit as a nutritional biochemist. The work of these pioneers in orthomolecular medicine and nutritional research proved to me that not only could a person reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and aging through right nutrition, diet, and consuming appropriate levels of antioxidants, immune enhancers, and detoxifying nutritional supplements but could also use nutrition to heal the body of disease as well.

Passwater: How did you first become interested in DMG?

Kendall: My first contact with DMG was really quite by accident. It resulted from two key events that happened in 1977. In the DMG book, I report that in the spring of ’77, after deciding to return to my home state of Vermont, I attended a nutritional convention in Pasadena with the intent of making contact with nutritional companies who might be looking for biochemists to head up their research and product development department. By chance I happened to attend your lecture on the wonderful health-building properties of what was known then as vitamin B-15.

I was fascinated by your lecture and wanted to know more about this nutrient. I came across an article on a company in Vermont, FoodScience Laboratories, that was marketing a product which they called Anngamik 15, which contained the building blocks of Calcium Pangamate or the so-called vitamin B-15. DMG just happened to be one of those building blocks. I decided I would seek employment with FoodScience on my arrival in Vermont. It was the following April, in 1978, that I joined the company as its director of research and development; this was just as the company was beginning a battle with the FDA over Anngamik 15.

FDA had seized the product, claiming that it contained a new vitamin and that the product contained an unapproved food additive, which was illegal. I went into an in-depth study and research program on Calcium Pangamate and DMG in preparation for the FDA trial that was to take place in December of 1979. What my research proved was that DMG was not just a component of the so-called vitamin B-15 but was in fact the active known metabolite and real nutrient behind what was called vitamin B-15.

Passwater: Would you please review for our readers the reasons that DMG was thought to be a vitamin? Also, what is the connection between DMG and what the Russians called Calcium Pangamate or B-15?

Kendall: In the classical sense, DMG is not a vitamin—although there may be individuals who require DMG in their diet in order to prevent the onset of a physiological or metabolic dysfunction. An example of this may be individuals like the person in the New England Journal of Medicine report who could control his seizures by taking DMG. As soon as he stopped taking it, his seizure activity would shoot back up again.

By definition, a vitamin is an organic substance required in the diet in order to prevent the onset of a deficiency disease from occurring. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is absolutely required in the diet in small amounts; say around 10 to 25 mg daily, in order to prevent scurvy. Most people of course take anywhere from 10 to 50 times more than this daily because of the many other benefits vitamin C provides as an antioxidant, detoxifier, and healing agent.

Just as vitamin C can be used as a preventative or therapeutic agent against degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, liver degeneration, and against infective agents, DMG also appears to serve this same function as a nutrient that protects the body against degenerative diseases, aging, infections, and the like while at the same time optimizing physical and mental performance during times when the body is under metabolic stress or is out of balance, deviating from the normal ranges of the physiological and metabolic markers.

Dr. Jerzy Meduski was the first to call DMG a metabolic enhancer or catalyst which would aid the body in overcoming multiple stress responses caused by low oxygen availability, weakened immune system, lactic acid overload, low methyl group availability, and poor stamina. DMG is an anti-stress nutrient or an adaptogen, which, when provided in optimum levels, will enhance the ability of the body to perform at peak levels without breaking down. It also may help restore the body back to homeostasis or balance. DMG, as the dimethylated derivative of the amino acid glycine, has amazing power to change and improve the health, well-being and vitality of most people, regardless of age or physical condition.

 

The connection between DMG and what the Russians called Calcium Pangamate or B-15 is easily understood. DMG is part of the molecular structure of Calcium Pangamate as seen by the Russian patents.

If a person takes Calcium Pangamate, it breaks down quickly in the digestive tract to give Dimethylglycine (DMG) and Calcium Gluconate. After being broken down, the DMG is absorbed into the body and enters the metabolic pathways in the same way as if a person took DMG.

Put in another way, Calcium Pangamate acts as a carrier for the DMG. As it turned out, in the seventies there were many products on the market here in the U.S. that were called Calcium Pangamate but they were actually made from a mixture of the DMG and Calcium Gluconate. This has caused a lot of confusion about what the real structure was behind the so-called vitamin B-15.

 

 

Passwater: What are some of the specific health benefits of DMG?

Kendall: DMG gives a wide range of specific health benefits, provides protection against infectious agents, and can optimize performance whether you are an athlete or have an active lifestyle. DMG aids cardiovascular function by improving oxygen utilization, reduces elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreases angina pain and high blood pressure. It possesses anti-cancer activity while preventing metastasis. DMG modulates the immune system including antibody production, T and B cell proliferation and cytokine regulation. Work with autistic individuals has shown it to be very helpful to improve verbal communication, social interaction and emotional control. We believe it also works well to support neurological function and mental clarity.

In addition to presenting the science behind the nutrient, the book contains many testimonials from people who have seen some pretty remarkable results and gives strong credence to the scientific studies we have been doing over the years. DMG can reduce fatigue and boost energy production; this is an area that many people report back to me on. The individual chapters give much more detail than I can possibly relate in this interview.

 

 

Passwater: Why is it that DMG seems to be beneficial for such a broad range of health problems?

Kendall: This is something that has impressed me over the years. It looks like DMG can cure what ails you. DMG is not a cure-all agent, but it apparently occupies a key spot in the metabolic pathway, which makes the cells of the body work more efficiently. Our immune response studies seem to indicate that DMG improves cell-to-cell communication as well. Like a catalyst, it enhances the body’s functions at the cellular level. We don’t know all of the specific metabolic interventions DMG can produce, but it may be that by providing a high level of transmethylation to the body, DMG can promote the cellular production of hormones, antibodies, neurotransmitters, nucleic acids, glutathione, creatine and SAMe. One may expect that there would be a broad impact on health.

Passwater: Please tell our readers a little about the biochemistry of DMG and how it functions in the body?

Kendall: From a biochemical perspective, DMG is a key intermediate in the choline/betaine one carbon cycle, whose principal function appears to provide adequate methyl group production via transmethylation reactions for modifying, rebuilding and detoxifying many components in the body. Our research has shown that DMG is especially important as a nutritional supplement for the reduction of stress, improved cardiovascular health, immune response, mental function and even overcoming auto immune diseases and cancer. DMG breaks down to produce methyl groups and other derivatives of glycine. That is why we say in the book that DMG breaks down so you don’t have to.

The question of how DMG works in the body as an intermediary metabolite was worked out a number of years ago by du Vigneaud, MacKenzie and Frissell, who published a series of papers on the subject. DMG is produced in the body from choline and betaine or can be supplied in the diet from certain foods like beans, seeds or liver. DMG is taken up by the body and transported to tissues or organs for further metabolic reactions or direct use by the cells. It can act as a mineral transporter and enhance cellular communication as we have seen in our work on the immune system. DMG activates T and B lymphocytes as well as macrophages to produce antibodies and cytokines as part of an immune response to an immune challenge.

In the mitochondria of the liver, DMG is acted upon by dehydrogenase enzymes and in a step-wise process gives up its two methyl groups into the methyl pool via a process known as oxidative demethylation to yield glycine. Folic acid as tetrahydrofolate (THF) picks up the methyl groups to produce methyl-THF. This intermediate in turn reconverts homocysteine back into methionine. In this fashion you can say that DMG acts as a methionine pump and consequently aids the body in producing SAMe. SAMe is the body’s active transmethylating agent responsible for producing a wide range of important bio-molecules ranging from hormones, antibodies, neurotransmitters and nucleic acids.

DMG acts on the body to reduce the effects of hypoxia (low oxygen availability in the tissues) and reduces lactic acid buildup. This explains DMG’s ability to increase stamina, endurance and muscle recovery after heavy workouts. Our work \shows that DMG can help normalize high blood glucose and cholesterol levels, although we don’t yet understand the mechanism of these effects. DMG is an anti-stress nutrient that can help the body overcome various stress factors in a positive way. Much research still needs to be done to better understand some of the specific ways that DMG aids the body in overcoming a wide range of degenerative conditions including cancer.

Passwater: Dr. Kendall, this might be a good time to take a breather from our conversation. In next month’s column, we can discuss some of the important new discoveries that you have made about DMG concerning the immune system and cancer, as well as other research on heart disease, autism, sports performance and veterinary uses. WF

© 2003 Whole Foods Magazine and Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D.

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