Review of Clinical Experience with RNA
By Ward Dean, MD
For nearly twenty-five years—from the mid 1950s to the late 70s—New York physician Benjamin Frank, M.D., pioneered the use of nucleic acids in the therapy of aging and chronic degenerative diseases. Dr. Frank reported the results of his research and clinical experience in four books published during this time (Fig.1).
His experiences were reviewed in two previous articles in Vitamin Research News that described the life-extending effects of RNA given to experimental animals, and the proposed mechanism of action for RNAs anti-aging effects.1-2
Dr. Frank found that RNA had a number of profound effects: 1) anti-aging (including reduced skin wrinkling and increased skin elasticity); 2) energizing; 3) anti-anoxia (oxygen sparing); 4) anti-low temperature and freezing (as evidenced by increased survival of experimental animals subject to low temperatures); 5) anti-viral; and 6) cognitive enhancing.
This third article describes a number of conditions that are helped by RNA therapy, and some specific RNA protocols Dr. Frank used for these conditions.
Atherosclerosis, Coronary Artery Disease
Dr. Frank was one of the first researchers to recognize that carbohydrates-especially refined carbohydrates (i.e., sugars)—are major contributing factors in elevating trigylcyeride levels and the progression of atherosclerosis. Dr. Frank also believed that the high concentration of nucleic acids found in fish-especially sardines-were the primary reason for the coronary-artery-disease-preventing effects of a high-fish diet. This view ran counter to the prevailing theory of the time that attributed these benefits to the high concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish.
Consequently, Dr. Frank routinely prescribed high-dose nucleic acids for atherosclerosis. Doses were varied, depending on the severity of the condition, and the response of a given individual to the treatment. Dr. Frank often treated patients with doses as high as 10 grams per day, up to three times per week, although in mild cases he observed positive effects with doses as low as 500 to 1,000 mg per day.
The first benefit commonly noted by his patients was increased exercise tolerance, along with decreased shortness of breath with exertion and the disappearance of heart (anginal) pains. These effects were usually reported within two weeks of supplementation.
Dr. Frank observed that patients diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia experienced a significant lowering of their blood cholesterol after one or two months of supplementation with nucleic acids, with little or no change in other dietary habits. He believed that lipid abnormalities involved in atherosclerosis were due to mitochondrial dysfunction, caused by a dietary deficiency of nucleic acids.
Further, he believed that the cholesterol-lowering effect of nucleic-acid-rich diets was due to increased ATP formation, enhanced electron transport chain activity, increased CoQ10 and cytochrome oxidase synthesis, and increased NADH oxidation.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
Dr. Frank reported that nucleic acid supplementation resulted in the relief of shortness of breath and edema of the legs and ankles, and normalization of breathing sounds. Those who required three or more pillows to sleep were able to sleep on only one or two pillows. Most patients were able to reduce their dependence on digitalis and other drugs. Doses of RNA in excess of 2 grams daily were generally required to bring about these changes, though in one case he reported that an elderly patient required 9 grams of RNA daily.
At this dosage, Dr. Frank urged the patient to maintain an alkaline urine pH of 7.5, and to consume 400 mg of magnesium per day to prevent calcium kidney stone formation.
Emphysema and Obstructive Lung Disease
Dr. Frank reported that the marked oxygen-sparing (anti-anoxia) effects of nucleic acids played a very important role in the therapy of this crippling disease. In severe cases of emphysema, doses of RNA up to 15 grams three times per week were used. Dr. Frank noted that such high dosages of RNA often made the patient quite comfortable and greatly alleviated the feeling of breathlessness. He claimed that after several weeks on this regimen, bronchodilators could often be reduced or eliminated, and that once the antianoxia effect had been established, the dosage of RNA could be reduced to a maintenance dose of roughly half the initial dose required.
Dr. Frank believed the two actions of high-dose RNA—i.e., its mucolytic and antianoxia effects—might also be useful in the treatment of other pulmonary diseases, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis.
The major problem facing diabetics is that the disorder greatly accelerates virtually all of the diseases of aging, leading to serious complications of retinopathy, neuropathy, and nephropathy. The peripheral neuropathy often seen in diabetics results in severe pains, loss of vibratory sensation and touch, as well as disturbances in the motor nerves and autonomic nervous system. Dr. Frank was himself a very brittle, severe type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetic. To control diabetes Dr. Frank recommended a standard therapy of diet, exercise, insulin, and oral hypoglycemics. He was also aware of the use of biguanides (the class of drugs to which Metformin belongs)—specifically, Phenformin (which was available in the U.S. until the late 1970s).
While Dr. Frank believed that RNA therapy could potentially benefit diabetic patients, he was concerned about using nucleic acids in severe cases that involved kidney dysfunction. This concern may explain Dr. Frank’s premature death, as his diabetes-induced nephropathy limited the dosage of RNA that he otherwise would have been able to tolerate (and which would probably have improved his diabetes-related symptoms).
Dr. Frank recognized the high prevalence of thyroid disease in the elderly, and considered that this might be due to a chronic deficiency of dietary RNA. It is well known that the metabolic rate (and body energy production) declines with aging.
Many symptoms of hypothyroidism are consistent with age-related changes. RNA therapy causes a rise in body heat production (and presumably, the metabolic rate), and Dr. Frank attributed this to a normalization of thyroid function by RNA.
Resistance to Fatigue and Anti-Anoxia Effects
Dr. Frank conducted a number of animal experiments to evaluate the oxygen-sparing effect of nucleic acids. In one simple experiment, he placed mice in sealed jars to determine if RNA would affect the length of their survival. He found that RNA-fed experimental animals survived 48 percent longer than those on the control diet. In another experiment, he placed control and RNA-fed rats in a water tank to evaluate their swimming endurance. The RNA-fed rats averaged 15.6 minutes before sinking, versus 11.3 minutes for the control group. In other experiments, he demonstrated that nucleic acids enabled animals to perform more work using less oxygen than control animals, and to survive cold temperatures longer.
To his surprise, Dr. Frank found that the anti-anoxia effect of RNA was long lasting, in that the effect persisted for weeks after cessation of nucleic acid therapy. He believed that these long-lasting effects were due to enhanced CoQ10 synthesis, which helped maximize the energy production in the electron transport chain, resulting in more efficient oxygen utilization, greater energy formation, and more efficient ATP synthesis. He even speculated that it might be due to an increase in the number (as well as the efficiency) of the energy-producing mitochondria.
Dr. Frank believed that this anti-anoxia effect had profound anti-aging effects. He theorized that with increased nucleic acid intake, less oxygen was needed for a given amount of work, resulting in decreased oxidative damage. Thus, he believed that in addition to their other roles in aging and metabolism, nucleic acids were also very potent antioxidants. Nucleic acids clearly energize people-not the way drugs do, but by enhancing normal energy metabolism.
In addition to alleviation of chronic fatigue, Dr. Frank reported that RNA supplementation resulted in increased exercise tolerance and muscular strength, improvements in EKGs, normalization of liver enzymes, and increased mental acuity.
Dr. Frank stated that in most of his patients suffering from fatigue or low- level vitality, as soon as even 100 mg of nucleic acid were taken daily for a week or two, the patients felt noticeably better, although he conceded that these effects occurred more rapidly when higher doses were taken. With higher doses, he reported that these effects were seen as early as the second or third day. In some cases of chronic fatigue, he used dosages in the range of 5 to 20 gm of RNA three to five times weekly.
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and Glaucoma
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP), though rare, is a significant cause of blindness. No treatment has been consistently successful in this disease. Dr. Frank reported a 35-year-old male with RP who achieved normal vision after one month of RNA therapy, consisting of five grams of RNA per day plus a serving of fish for lunch. Despite the improvement in vision, however, no retinal changes were observed.
Dr. Frank also treated three cases of glaucoma with this regimen, in which the patients were able to discontinue their medication (pilocarpine).
Narcotics and Alcohol Addiction
Dr. Frank treated a number of patients suffering from heroin or alcohol addiction.
For alcoholics, he used 7-15 grams, twice weekly. He reported that they generally showed improvements in strength, well-being, and facial skin color. Tremors decreased markedly, and mental clarity was much improved.
In several heroin addicts, he prescribed 2-5 grams of RNA three to five times weekly. The response was dramatic. The weakness and general haggard appearance became more normal, and the facial skin showed a ruddier complexion. Skin infections decreased, vitality returned, and the patients expressed an increased feeling of well-being.
Cancer is the number two killer in the U.S., ranking behind only cardiovascular disease. Cancer cells are known to have a generally lower level of energy than normal cells, and to have a predominantly anaerobic metabolism. Enhancing the efficiency of oxidative phosphorylation and the citric acid (Krebs) cycle were of capital importance in Dr. Frank’s approach to treating and preventing cancer. Dr. Frank claimed that formulations which promote significant Krebs cycle metabolism in tumors (and the host) cause tumor regression. In addition to RNA, Dr. Frank found that histidine and carnosine were very potent anti-tumor compounds.
Dietary Sources of RNA
Foods rich in RNA include seafood (especially sardines), fish, beans, mushrooms, beef broth and vegetable soups. Nucleic acids can also be obtained from fish and nuts, as well as from many health foods. For dietary nucleic acids, Dr. Frank preferred sardines, claiming that therapeutic effects could be obtained by consuming one or two cans of sardines each day. Sardines contain 1.5 percent nucleic acids, whereas red meat (muscle) contains a paltry 0.05 percent.
Nucleic Acid Therapy-Dosage and Cautions
Dr. Frank recommended dosages of RNA across a wide range, starting at several hundred milligrams every day, and going up to 20 grams, taken three times per week. Dr. Frank’s dosages varied with individual tolerance, based on serum uric acid and BUN (blood urea nitrogen, a test of kidney function), as well as the clinical needs of the patient.
Although other scientists have found virtually no side effects from taking doses of 5 to 15 grams of RNA daily over prolonged periods of time, Dr. Frank erred on the side of caution, recommending dosages of 1.5 grams per day for the large majority of adults, and offering several precautions for those taking higher amounts.
Dr. Frank always recommended that a high-potency multinutrient formula be taken along with RNA, with a special emphasis on B complex vitamins and magnesium (400-500 mg per day). He also recommended drinking copious amounts of fluids (up to 8-10 glasses per day) when higher doses (more than 5 gm) of RNA were taken.
Contraindications and Side Effects
Dr. Frank believed that gout, high serum uric acids, and impaired kidney function were relative contraindications to high-dose RNA supplementation (more than 5 grams per day). He warned that high-dose oral RNA may cause uric acid deposition in the kidneys, leading to kidney stones.
He recommended that fasting blood uric acid level be determined prior to initiating high-dose therapy. He stated that those with uric acid of 2 or 3 mg could take much larger amounts of nucleic acid than those with levels of 5-7 mg. If BUN levels rose more than 5 mg% after initiation of therapy, he recommended that RNA intake be stopped for one to two weeks, fluid intake increased, and urine pH maintained above 7.5.
Dr. Frank also recommended maintaining urine pH in the alkaline range (i.e., 7.0 or above); pH is an indicator of the acidity/alkalinity of the urine. A neutral pH is 7.0, less than 7 is acid and greater than 7 is alkaline. Urine pH can be monitored using Nitrazine pH paper. If necessary, an alkalinizing agent like Alka Seltzer can be used two or three times per day to maintain pH in the alkaline range.
I think that Dr. Frank’s cautions are overly conservative, and that the large majority of people will not have any problems with increased dietary nucleic acid intake.
Despite Dr. Frank’s all-over-the-ballpark range of dosage recommendations, I believe that a reasonable dosage is a minimum of 1.5 gm per day for basic supplementation and preventive purposes, and that higher doses (5-15 gm per day) can be taken for therapeutic/anti-aging purposes.
Generally, younger people tolerate larger amounts than older people, although paradoxically, it is older people who need the highest dosages. Although Dr. Frank’s cautions listed above should be kept in mind, I believe he greatly overestimated the potential for adverse effects, because of his own diabetes-induced impaired kidney function (which may have restricted the amount of RNA he was able to consume).
Those with normal kidney function can take higher doses of RNA without problems. This is exemplified by the fact that the two teams of researchers described in the article about RNA in the October 2003 issue of Vitamin Research News took dosages of RNA of 5 to 15 gm per day for prolonged periods-without following Dr. Frank’s cautions-and without any adverse side effects reported.
Furthermore, the experimental animals took a human equivalent dose of 50 gm per day(!), without side effects, other than improved health and extended lifespans (Fig. 2).
In the 25 years of follow-up of Dr. Frank’s patients, his associate, Carmen Fusco, RN, reported that she has not observed a single case of RNA-induced kidney problems. Dr. Frank summed up his general recommendations for RNA supplementation:
- Administer RNA with a multinutrient formula (especially, high dose B complex) and 400-500 mg of magnesium
- Drink at least 8-10 glasses of fluid
- Watch urine pH-maintain in the range of 6.0-7.5.
I think RNA is one of the most under-utilized and most cost-effective anti-aging supplements there is, and should be an integral part of a comprehensive anti-aging regimen.
The Lasting Legacy of Dr. Benjamin Frank
Dr. Frank believed that because of the very pronounced anti-aging effect seen with increased nucleic acid relative to his own intake, he could live considerably longer, perhaps to near 150 years of age. He admitted that he had done no studies in humans of intakes of very large amounts of nucleic acids for prolonged periods of time.
It is apparent that aging itself is now a treatable disease. These results help ensure that a lifespan of more than a few centuries will before too long become a potential reality. — Benjamin S. Frank, M.D., November 1, 1978
Ironically, in less than a year after making this bold prediction, Dr. Frank had passed away at the age of 57-a victim of type 1 diabetes, a severe, age-accelerating disease which he had battled since childhood. It is a testimony to Dr. Frank’s brilliance that he survived as long as he did, suffering from as severe a case of diabetes as he had.
1. Dean, W. A highly effective anti-aging supplement-Ribonucleic Acid. Vitamin Research News, 2003, 17: 10, 1-4, 11.
2. Dean, W. Review of potential anti-aging effects of Ribonucleic Acid. Vitamin Research News, 2003, 17: 1-3, 14.
3. Frank, B. Nucleic Acid Therapy in Aging and Degenerative Disease-A Metabolic Approach with DNA, RNA and Related Metabolites. Psychological Library, New York, 1968.
4. Frank, B. Dr. Frank’s No Aging Diet. The Dial Press, New York, 1976.
5. Frank, B. Nucleic Acid and Anti Oxidant Therapy of Aging and Degeneration, Royal Health Books, Ltd., Long Island, NY, 1977.
6. Robertson, T. On the influence of nucleic acids of various origins upon the growth and longevity of the white mouse. Australian J Exp Biol Med Sci, 1928, 5: 47-67.