Failure to Confirm an Hypothesis Based on Watson’s Psychochemical Typology
David L. Braff, M.D.,1 and Enoch Callaway, M.D.
Many of the theories behind so-called “Orthomolecular” treatment are so complex as to make testing them difficult, if not impossible. By contrast, a theory proposed by Watson in a series of papers (Watson, 1960, 1957; Watson and
Comrey, 1954; and Watson and Currier, 1960) and in a book entitled Nutrition and Your Mind —The Psychochemical Response (1972) is fairly explicit and seems to lend itself to empirical evaluation. On the basis of detailed
metabolic analyses of over 200 patients in the past 20 years, Watson divided his patients into two metabolic types. Watson originally made this distinction on the basis of patients’ responses to various Orthomolecular vitamin-mineral treatment regimens, but retrospectively found that these correlated with determinations of venous plasma pH, CO2 and H2CO3, total lipids, and fasting blood sugar. Watson labels these Psychochemical types as Type 1 with high pH (slow oxidizers) and Type II with low pH (fast oxidizers).
Watson’s theory states that Type I slow oxidizers are supposed to metabolize fats and ketogenic amino acids faster than carbohydrates and glucogenic amino acids. The vitamins and minerals that ameliorate a Type I patient’s symptoms (folic acid, niacin, thiamine) are generally cofactors at key steps in the Kreb’s and Embden-Meyeroff cycles that favor the utilization of the under-utilized carbohydrates and glucogenic amino acids. The pathophysiology of Type II is the reverse of Type I, and the main Orthomolecular treatments (pantothenic acid, choline, nicotinamide) act to increase utilization of fats and ketogenic amino acids. A more complete discussion of these issues is supplied by Watson in his book. Watson further claims that a food preference and reaction list (the
Psychochemical Profile) can generally determine if someone suffers from a Type I or Type II abnormality. The published form of the questionnaire (Watson, 1972, p. 74) was derived from the study of Watson’s series of
200 patients and is a simplified version of the research test, which has not been published.
Conventional metabolic experts raise the objection that venous pH, which Watson claims is the single most important
classificatory test, is an unreliable measure of metabolism. However, the failure to use the most up-to-date techniques does not preclude one from making a valuable clinical observation, and we decided to see if we could
repeat some of Watson’s observations. After we consulted with Dr. Watson, we decided first to determine the frequency of Type I and Type II cases in our clinical population, both by venous pH and by Watson’s published food preference list, prior to considering the possibility of clinical trials.
Of the 81 patients tested over the course of nine months, three were classified as Type I, with pH values exceeding 7.45 (roughly 4 percent), and eight were classified as Type II, with values below 7.35 (roughly 10 percent).
Table 1 summarizes these results.
Next, we examined the Psycho-chemical Profile results of those patients with Types I and II pH values, along with the 20 randomly selected patients with normal venous pH who were given the Profile. The most striking result is that none of the 31 patients, including 11 with clearly aberrant pH’s, was scored as either a Type I or II according to the Watson criteria.
Watson’s claim that his Psycho-chemical Profile distinguishes between Type I slow oxidizers with high pH’s and Type II fast oxidizers with low pH’s receives no support from our study. In fact, none of the patients with clearly abnormal pH’s (less than 7.35 or more than 7.45) was distinguishable from normal pH patients (pH between 7.35 and 7.45) on the basis of Watson’s criteria from his Profile.