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The Cure in the Code by Peter Huber

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19

THE END OF SOCIALIZED MEDICINE

A DOCTOR GOING door-to-door on New York’s Lower East Side in 1911 could have cured rotting gums, grotesque swelling in the legs, brittle bones, noxious skin ailments, and a thick catalog of other debilitating diseases by distributing a pill—just one—that’s now cheaper than candy, and so familiar we no longer view it as medicine. But a century ago, these terrible diseases killed and crippled so many people—tens of thousands of Americans every year—that many doctors viewed them as contagious. They weren’t: industrial processing was stripping nutrients from the food that fed the city. Kids needed Flintstones.

The first vitamin was isolated in 1912. Others followed, and chemists soon found ways to extract or synthesize ...

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