George Watson: Nutrition for "Optimum You"

Part 1 of the series,
Mineral Balancing Giants

by Jon Sasmor RCPC (Mineral Guide, MinBalance LLC)
Updated October 6, 2021

Personality Blooms with Optimum Nutrition

We seek our best performance in life — what George Watson, Ph.D. (1912 - ?) called "optimum you."

Dr. Watson studied philosophy, psychology, and nutrition. He saw that, without addressing nutritional imbalances, various psychological therapies could keep a person going in circles for years. In contrast, Dr. Watson could make rapid — sometimes immediate — progress, improving mind and personality, by providing personalized diet and nutritional supplements.

Dr. Watson discovered that personalized nutrition addressed the underlying "psychochemical" causes. He left his position as a professor at the University of Southern California to devote himself full time to his personalized nutrition research clinic.

Dr. Watson realized that people differ in their speed of oxidative metabolism at the cellular level. Dr. Watson identified the fundamental oxidation biotypes. Fast oxidizers, slow oxidizers, and sub-oxidizers each benefited from specialized diets and nutritional supplements. By experiment, Dr. Watson established the optimum foods and nutrients for each oxidation speed.

Dr. Watson personalized diet and nutritional supplements to enhance mind and outlook. He saw that positive personality traits could bloom with optimum nutrition.

For example, when compared with a person with average nutrition, someone approaching optimal nutrition will tend to feel and act: more confident, grateful, agreeable, optimisitic, forward-looking, social, interested, open-minded, responsible, and happy.

Dr. Watson's 1956 paper, Is Mental Illness Mental?, is highly recommended reading! You might especially like this paper if you're thinking about the nutritional roots of mental illness and personality, or about the body-mind connection.

Both of Dr. Watson's books (Nutrition and Your Mind, and Personality Strength and Psychochemical Energy) include fabulous stories of case studies, are easy to read, and also are highly recommended.

Annotated References:

Watson, George, Ph.D. (1972). Nutrition and your mind: The psychochemical response. New York: Harper & Row. Amazing, easy-to-read case studies from Dr. Watson's research clinic. He induced dramatic mental changes by diet and nutritional supplements personalized to his research subjects. Dr. Watson distinguished metabolic types: slow oxidizers, fast oxidizers, and sub-oxidizers. He did so with blood tests and questionnaires.

  • For "optimum you" quoted above, see page 66.
  • Dr. Watson's chart on pp. 69-70 compares what one's personality is like with average vs. optimum nutrition.
  • For optimum nutrition, Dr. Watson suggests one "chooses the foods he eats for their performance value, and not for any other reason." (p. 85).
  • Opposite nutritional imbalances may nonetheless produce identical symptoms. However, each oxidation type requires opposite nutritional steps to improve. And indeed, Watson dramatically turned around severe mental imbalances and undesired personality changes in research subjects. He did so by food and supplements appropriate to the individuals' oxidation type. (pp. 142-5).
  • Watson discovered by his research with odors, serendipitously, that nutritrients (such as vitamin B1) profoundly affect mood and energy (in addition to odor perception). Watson began clinical research, starting at the university where he taught, continuing at a private laboratory, and then at a dedicated foundation. By trial and error, he identified the oxidation types, as well as the foods and supplements that worked well for each. (pp. 141-5).
  • By Watson's method of nutrition alone, he achieved a rate of improvement of about 80% "among those suffering from virtually every kind of mental illness". Watson suggested that "mental illness is a reflection of disordered metabolism", often or usually due to nutritional imbalances, but sometimes for other reasons too. Dr. Watson saw the implications — his research broke down the theroretical barrier between mind and body that had pervaded much of the Western study of psychology. (pp. 1-15, 142-5).

Watson, George, Ph.D. (1979). Personality strength and psychochemical energy: How to increase your total performance. New York: Harper & Row. More amazing stories of case studies from Dr. Watson's research clinic. Personalized diet and nutritional supplements resulted in turnarounds in mental function, new drive in life, positive outlook, and social connectedness.

  • Dr. Watson adds a fourth oxidation type: the variable oxidizer, who rapidly cycles between fast and slow oxidation on a day-to-day basis, or sometimes even more often (ch. 2). (The other three types are fast, slow, and sub-oxidizers.)
  • Dr. Watson introduces the Psychochemical Odor Test (ch. 3). Fast and slow oxidizers perceive certain specific smells differently, Dr. Watson found. After testing hundreds of different sniff samples, Dr. Watson selected the following six as sufficient to distinguish between fast and slow oxidizers: Torula yeast, dried alfalfa, mammalian liver, beef liver, dried cabbage, and citrus bioflavinoid complex (p. 34). For each of the six, a person can smell the tablets in a bottle, and match the smell to multiple choice questionnaires provided by Dr. Watson, containing lists of descriptive words that might describe the odor (pp. 35-40). Odor testing like Dr. Watson's may be especially helpful for variable oxidizers (rare) who change more frequently than hair testing will show.
  • As of Dr. Watson's publication (1979), fast oxidation was more common than slow oxidation (pp. 66, 75). We see the opposite today (four decades later), probably due to many declines in nutrient content of the food supply and added environmental toxins.
  • Dr. Watson's research involved 358 subjects. "All of these volunteered for the study because of vague symptoms of malaise for which ther doctors could find no medical reason: they were all medically 'healthy.' Still, in the face of this opinion they all expressed the general feeling that 'something must be wrong, and I'm not imagining it—regardless of what my doctor says.'" (p. 134). The subjects each acted as their own controls, starting on placebo first until reporting "no progress." The followup montioring period ranged from three months to two years; shorter periods occurred when subjects figured out how to maintain optimal function without further assistance (pp. 134-5).
  • Dr. Watson observed statistical significance (P<0.001) for improvements in both fast and slow oxidizers under his personalized nutrition programs. The statistical significance (P<0.001) occurred whether progress was measured by blood tests (fasting blood sugar, plasma pH, dissolved CO2+H2CO3), personality ratings, or the Psychochemical Odor Test. (pp. 135-9).
  • Dr. Watson's persistent research for more than two decades yielded his oxidation types and Psychochemical Odor Test (pp. 141-4):
    • In the late 1940s, Watson conducted postdoctoral research in odor theory. Watson noticed that his perception of the smell of thiamine (vitamin B1) changed after ingesting 100 mg of thiamine, and his mood and energy level changed too. He repeated his research with others. He observed two contrasting biotypes of how people respond to ingesting thiamine. (pp. 141-2).
    • From 1948 to 1954, as professor at the University of Southern California, Watson studied the effects of individual nutrients on odor response and oxidation types. He classified the vitamins and nutrients into two groups, based on how they affected a person of each metabolic type. He began clinical research on the connection between mental illness and nutritional biochemistry. (p. 142).
    • From 1955 to 1961, working at W.C. Kalash Laboratories, Dr. Watson formulated vitamin-mineral formulas for fast and slow oxidizers. He also refined the methods for classifying the oxidation types. (pp. 142-3).
    • Starting in 1961, Dr. Watson worked full time at the Lancaster Foundation for Scientific Research, where he was able to organize and analyze his research data. He ultimately obtained remarkable correlation of blood tests, personality tests, odor tests, and degree of improvement with personalized nutrition. (pp. 143-4).

Comrey, A. L., Klein, E., & Watson, G. (1958). The effect of thiamine on thiamine sniff thresholds. Journal of General Psychology, 59(1), 105-109. Dr. Watson and colleagues' initial research. Thiamine (vitamin B1) ingestion reduced sensitivity to thiamine's odor.

Watson, G., & Comrey, A. L. (1954). Nutritional replacement for mental illness. Journal of Psychology, 38(2), 251-264.

Watson, G. (1957). Vitamin deficiencies in mental illness. Journal of Psychology, 43(1), 47-63.

Watson, G., & Currier, W. D. (1960). Intensive vitamin therapy in mental illness. Journal of Psychology, 49(1), 67-81.

In these three papers, Dr. Watson and colleagues present their clinical research. Many subjects with functional mental illness made great progress with Watson's nutritional program. The papers include case studies, experimental method, the nutritional formulas used, and statistical analysis of improvements using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.

Watson, G. (1965). Differences in intermediary metabolism in mental illness. Psychological Reports, 17(2), 563-582. Reprinted as Appendix in "Nutrition and Your Mind" above. Dr. Watson's clinical research improved the nutrient formulas by dividing patients into two biotypes, slow and fast oxidizers.

  • Nutritional formulas appropriate to the oxidation type led to improvement in all 20 research subjects, including clinical remission in 11 subjects, marked improvement in 5 subjects, and noticeable improvement in the remaining 4 subjects.
  • Slow oxidizers require nutrients that support carbohydrate and glucogenic amino acid metabolism. Fast oxidizers require nutrients that support lipid and ketogenic amino acid metabolism.
  • Blood measurements (pH, bicarbonate, and dissolved CO2+H2CO3) correlate with the oxidation rate of carbohydrates.
  • Dr. Watson emphasized that a single mental illness, such as schizophrenia, could occur in a person who was either a slow or fast oxidizer. The division into types was necessary to obtain meaningful statistics for blood tests; otherwise fast and slow oxidizers might cancel out each other's data. The oxidation type was critical to identify which nutritional supplements would help (or harm) each person.

Watson, G. (1956). Is mental illness mental?. Journal of Psychology, 41(2), 323-334. In this little-known gem of a paper, Dr. Watson presents his research into the body-mind connection:

  • At least sometimes, mental manifestations have biochemical causes which can be relieved by appropriate nutritional means alone.
  • Ancel Keys' semi-starvation experiments induced healthy volunteers into a state indistinguishable from psychoneuroses. In particular, depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis increased in subjects under nutritional stress. Normal personalities returned upon resuming accelerated food intake. (pp. 324-5).
  • Watson and W.D. Currier, M.D. researched subjects with mental and personality disturbances. Some could be restored to positive state of mind and improved personality through nutritional supplementation and diet alone, without needing psychotherapy. Median improvement was 22 points on the MMPI scale in the experimental group, versus 1 point in placebo. (pp. 325-6).
  • Freud and others set forth theories about origins of functional mental illness. They believed the mind was a separate entity from the body. Mental illness arose from conflicts within the subconscious, which required psychoanalysis to resolve. According to Watson, the response of some subjects to nutritional measures alone disproves the possibility that mind and body are disconnected. (pp. 323, 326-33).
  • A case study is given of a young lady who has suffered for seven years with depression, withdrawal, suicidal feelings, reliving family traumas from childhood, and revulsion toward her father for mistreating her and causing her mother's death. Within months on Watson's nutritional intervention, the depression disappeared, her attitude toward her father normalized, and she stated she felt well. She soon married. Though her symptoms and story fit perfectly with a Freudian repressed unconscious internal conflict involving her father and childhood, however, the symptoms resolved on their own with nutrients, and without any need for psychoanalysis. "Not one word was ever said to her in the context of psychotherapy; she was simply told the number of capsules and tablets to take each day." The cause, in her case, was biochemical. (pp. 327-8, 329, 332).
  • Nutritional therapy can bring about "spontaneous personality regeneration." In another case study, a subject's report was typical: "My likes and dislikes have changed. I like different music; I wear different clothes; my business associates say 'you are a different person.'" (p. 329).
  • "The research on nutritional replacement appears to support the view that psychological stress causes nutritional stress, and that nutritional stress causes mental illness." Psychotherapy could indirectly help relieve the nutritional stress if it reduces psychological stress on the individual; however, Watson found that psychotherapy often requires much energy and itself increases the psychological burden. (pp. 328-9).
  • Once a person reaches nutritional imbalance, quantities of nutrients far exceeding normal healthy diet may be needed to restore optimum function (p. 330).
  • Where poor digestion causes nutritional stress, a digestive aid is preferable to giving up healthy, unprocessed foods that are difficult to digest (p. 331).
  • Many different conditions may play a role as stressors triggering sub-clinical malnutrition. The particular causes cannot be inferred from the emotional state, which will appear the same regardless of various possible causes. (p. 331).
  • "[I]n cases of emotional illness resulting from sustained psychological stress which in turn causes nutritional displacement, knowledge of the precise traumas and conflicts involved is of little interest. It is of incidental importance only that some particular trauma or conflict occurred in the subject’s past. What is of interest is the biochemical result of such stress, since this is what must be known if help is to be given." (p. 331).
  • "For some reason, however, there seems to be a natural propensity in some to wish to explain 'like by like,' as well as to treat 'like by like.' For example, subjects who are just beginning to feel the effect of nutritional stress, and who are consequently becoming upset emotionally, have a strong tendency to look for the cause of their upset in the immediate area of their interpersonal relations. Instead of saying, 'I am upset, what is wrong with my body chemistry' (in terms of what elements are needed to restore normal emotional balance), they are apt to say, 'I am upset, what did you do to me, and why did you do it.'" (p. 331).
  • "Judging clinically, the greater the degree of nutritional deficiency, the greater the tendency to withdraw socially and to relive past conflicts. Withdrawal and the tendency to perseverate on what happened yesterday are among the first signs of undue nutritional stress." (p. 332).
  • "On the other hand, where a very high level of nutritional replacement is maintained, even rather great emotional shocks can apparently be absorbed with relative ease. Great nutritional displacement due to severe shocks should immediately be compensated for in added replacement. If such displacement is not compensated for, then the subject keeps thinking about the event for days, weeks, or months, until, by delayed replacement through normal diet, he slowly recovers, if he ever does." (p. 332).
  • "On the hypothesis that nutritional stress plays a part in the origin of functional mental illness, the psychological past has a new significance. What the past apparently means is this: If a subject is primarily concerned with past events, perseverating on 'what happened' to him, this is evidence that he is to some degree emotionally disturbed and nutritionally displaced. A person who is emotionally 'healthy' is one who is not concerned with the traumas and conflicts of the past, but is one who looks ahead with optimism and confidence. In order to do this, however, he must be restored by adequate rest and nutrition each day from the physical and psychological stresses of the previous day." (pp. 332-3).

Currier, Wilbur D., M.D. (1968, October 31, part 1). Nutritional aspects of stress. Martha R. Jones Lectureship in Nutrition. Lecture conducted at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY. [Sound recording].

Currier, Wilbur D., M.D. (1968, October 31, part 2). The chemistry of our emotions. Martha R. Jones Lectureship in Nutrition. Lecture conducted at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY. [Sound recording].

Dr. Currier, Medical Director for Dr. Watson's research, gave a 2-part lecture, now available online. Around 18 minutes into the second part, Dr. Currier begins describing the research of Dr. Watson and himself:

  • The nutrition research of Martha R. Jones, Ph.D. into alkaline versus acidic body chemistry provided the foundation for Currier and Watson's oxidation biotypes. Slow oxidation (higher pH) indicates an alkaline state of the body; fast oxidation (lower pH) indicates an acidic state.
  • Dr. Currier recounts case studies from research by him and Watson. Subjects dramatically improved with personalized nutrition.
  • Currier also describes a case study from the research of Ancel Keys: a healthy, optimistic, idealistic young man, was subjected to semi-starvation for 20 weeks. He became not only physically weak, but also mentally inactive, grouchy, depressed, unable to concentrate, nervous, obsessive, and neurotic in several ways. 33 weeks of a normal diet largely returned him to his former state, but not as cheerful, and with a heightened concern about health. Thus, mental illness could be induced in a healthy person by poor nutrition alone, and mostly improved by nutrition too. Dr. Currier notes that 100 million people were subjected to starvation in World War II.
  • "Now we're not going to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. We're not going to remake people. We can help them a great deal. And rehabilitate them to a very large degree. But we're talking about extreme cases here. What about the rest of us who just are out of sorts, you know, and we're just not working up to our capacity? It is estimated that most of us work to about 1/4 or 1/3 of our capacity. And it isn't just the psychological or emotional blocks that prevent that. It's also biochemical blocks that prevent it." (Part 2, 29:45).