Hans Nieper was born in Germany in 1928 and died in 1998. He did his premedical studies at Johann Gutenberg University in Mainz, his medical studies at the University of Freiburg, and he received an M.D. degree from the University of Hamburg.
As an undergraduate, Nieper developed a fascination for theoretical physics – especially for the theories of gravitation, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics. Once he realized that all biological phenomena (including medical phenomena) are manifestations of the behavior of the elementary constituents (molecules, atoms, electrons, etc.) that organisms are composed of, he began to weave theories of medicine in which health and disease are defined and explained in terms of the physics of elementary particles. Unfortunately, Nieper’s exposure to physics seems to have consisted of taking just one undergraduate physics course and then doing a great deal of reading over the years – an approach that seldom leads to excellence in such an intellectually demanding field. Thus, despite being very intelligent and having a fine memory, Nieper did not reach a deep or correct understanding of theoretical physics. In fact, his views on physics were superficial and naive, and the medical theories he tried to derive from them were rightly considered by physicists, biologists, and medical researchers to be errant nonsense.
On the other hand, Nieper’s true accomplishments were the outcome of his clinical experiments, not of his musings about theoretical physics, even if his fascination with physics did influence his choice of medical problems to investigate clinically. Nieper is remembered chiefly for his work with mineral supplements as treatments for cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems. With the help of various colleagues, Nieper developed a series of ‘mineral transporters’ – substances that he believed would increase the bioavailability of minerals in tissues and cells. The principal transporters he used were AEP (2-aminoethylphosphonic acid), aspartic acid, arginine, and orotic acid. Each of these transporters can be combined with certain minerals to form organic salts – such as magnesium AEP, magnesium aspartate, magnesium arginate, or magnesium orotate. Of these, Nieper favored the orotates for most applications.
Nieper had fairly definite opinions on how the orotates and other artificial transporters are able to deliver minerals to cells. He stated that when an AEP transporter reaches the outer membrane of a cell, the organic part of the transporter becomes trapped in the membrane, and the mineral ion that it carries is released when the transporter eventually gets metabolized. The aspartic acid transporter, Nieper said, gets past the outer cell membrane but becomes trapped in the inner cell membrane (which is located just inside the outer membrane), and releases its mineral ion when the aspartic acid molecule gets metabolized. The orotates, however, according to Nieper, pass through both cell membranes into the interior of the cell, and only get metabolized once they reach the membranes of structures within the cell, thus leaving the mineral ion in or near these structures.
Were these explanations of Nieper’s – of the molecular mechanics of these transporters – based on any real evidence, or were they just speculation on his part? While they sound plausible, there is essentially no published research that confirms or refutes them. Unfortunately Nieper developed a reputation for failing to distinguish between speculation and hard evidence. Consequently his ideas were shunned by mainstream medicine and have largely gone uninvestigated to this very day. That being the case, Nieper’s explanations, being the only ones we have, must serve as conceptual models. Even if they turn out to be wrong, what counts most for patients is the clinical results of using these transporters – not the explanations of their molecular behavior.
So! what about Nieper’s clinical observations? These are the ultimate source of people’s enthusiasm about mineral orotates and other mineral transport supplements. How believable are Nieper’s glowing reports of the effects of these supplements on his patients? Nieper seldom published in scientific journals; instead, most of his reports took the form of anecdotes about specific patients or selected groups of patients. He usually presented these observations in talks, books, or informal papers. Here are several examples:
“The [multiple sclerosis] patient receives 2-3 vials (10 ml/400 mg) of Ca-AEP in a carrier solution like Ringer, combined with K-Mg-aspartate and Ouabain in order to enhance the retaining of the Ca-EAP on membranes. – If this therapy be started within the first months of the onset of the disease the disease will apparently be wiped out for a foreseeable future.”
“The rate of new cancerous diseases with long-term magnesium orotate therapy is perhaps less than 20% of the frequency otherwise expected, at least for the first 10 years of the observation period.”
“We found that calcium orotate has no side effects at all. It is more successful than sodium fluoride in the calcification of bone metastases and we had excellent and reliable success in about 40% of all metastatic disease in the bone system.” 3
Given Nieper’s propensity to substitute speculation for evidence, and intuition for rigor, it is hard to give much credence to his claims of remarkable cures and benefits. That is not to say that he falsely reported his patients’ improvement – just that he cannot justifiably claim that the improvements he saw were due to specific causes. Since Nieper did not perform controlled studies of his treatments, his clinical observations cannot be used to prove or disprove efficacy.
The best we can do is to judge Nieper’s work on the basis of independent studies that have been performed on orotates and other transporters. When we search the medical literature for such studies, however, we find many studies of mineral aspartates, but only a handful of orotate studies, and virtually no studies of AEP or arginates. The aspartates have been used effectively for a variety of purposes, including tissue protection during radiotherapy, treatment of lung damage, Alzheimer’s, zinc deficiency, and mushroom poisoning, to name only a few.
As for the orotates: Magnesium Orotate has been shown to have significant benefits for patients with coronary heart disease and in competitive endurance athletes. Lithium Orotate showed benefit in treating alcoholism. Some Russian studies of Potassium Orotate found benefits in wound healing and in treating mood disorders. Zinc Orotate showed protective affects against alcohol damage to the liver and against radiation damage to the blood.
Nieper’s work has been widely denounced, especially by the U.S. government and by medical groups such as the AMA and the National Cancer Institute, all of which conducted vigorous campaigns to discredit his ideas and to discourage patients from going to Germany to be treated at his clinic. On orders from the FDA and other governmental bodies, physicians who prescribed the treatments advocated by Nieper were arrested and fined, and had their medical licenses canceled. U.S. manufacturers and retailers of similar supplements were raided by Federal agents, their assets were confiscated and the owners of the companies arrested. The U.S. Customs Service routinely seized the prescribed medications and supplements brought back from Germany by Nieper’s patients for their own use. In Nieper’s own words:
“…many critically ill cancer patients returning home from my clinic in Germany were detained by U.S. Customs agents on FDA orders. Their prescribed nontoxic medications, minerals, and nutritional supplements were seized, and my patients were made to feel like criminals. Thus, they were stripped of their essential medical supplies, stripped of their dignity and freedom of choice, and most importantly, stripped of their chances for survival. This was how the FDA ‘protected’ American citizens from my therapeutic treatments.”
Police-state actions like these eventually prompted Congress to strip the FDA of its authority to regulate nutritional supplements. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 was enacted, and Nieper himself had a significant influence upon its content. Nevertheless, FDA harrassment of Nieper and his patients did not end – the agency continued to update its “import alerts” directed against all substances associated with Nieper’s clinic, the most recent update occurring on November 29, 2000. It is amusing to find Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) listed in this import alert as one of the ‘Unapproved New Drugs Promoted By Dr. Hans Nieper’.
Ultimately the value of Nieper’s work on mineral transporters does not depend upon whether his theories and explanations were valid, or upon whether his observations were biased, or upon the rulings of the government or the medical cartel. It depends only upon whether the transporters work when you use them. Many users are quite convinced that their lives or health have been rescued by these supplements, and this alone justifies their existence in the marketplace.