Howard Straus: The Beautiful Truth

By Tamara Palmer

Jan 16, 2009

In the 1920s, Dr. Max Gerson developed the Gerson Therapy, a methodology of boosting the immune system largely led by an organic diet that has been at controversial odds with conventional medicine for decades -- despite a difficult-to-ignore track record of helping people survive cancer and other terminal illnesses.

The Beautiful Truth is a documentary which explores this treatment regimen. It was directed and shot by Steve Kroschel, an accomplished wildlife cinematographer and natural history filmmaker. This is his third film about the Gerson Therapy, but this time his subject hits closer to home; Garret, the 15-year-old boy who serves as the film's central figure, is Kroschel's son.

Garret's research for a home school project leads him to learn about the Gerson Therapy. The film documents his real life quest to learn why the therapy has been systematically suppressed. The camera follows Garret as he meets with those charged with the Gerson Therapy legacy: Charlotte Gerson, daughter of Dr. Max Gerson, and her son Howard Straus, who is Max's official biographer as well as the founder of the Cancer Research Wellness Institute.

Speaking with Howard Straus illuminates not only the people behind and in front of the camera in The Beautiful Truth, but also how we are quick to put our trust into corporations and agencies that might not exactly have the public health as their top priority.

Tamara Palmer: This film is so beautifully shot that the cinematography might draw some people in sooner than the actual health information that's being presented.

Howard Straus: Steve [Kroschel] lives in Alaska, which is cinematography heaven as far as beauty is concerned. He's been doing wildlife and landscape cinematography for many years. He did a lot of the mountain photography in [feature films] Vertical Limit and 7 Years in Tibet and he also worked on Cry Wolf. So he's worked on a lot of beautifully shot films, he's very artistic.

TP:  Was that the first project that you know of where he really turned the camera inward and showed something of his own family?

HS:  Actually, this is his third Gerson documentary. His first, The Gerson Miracle, won Best Picture at the Beverly Hills Film Festival in 2004.

TP:  I guess what I mean to ask is: In The Beautiful Truth, you see him behind the camera and I'd imagine in some of his other work, you don't see him at all?

HS: One does see him, not in the big budget movies but in some of his documentary work. He also specializes in avalanche photography for [science TV program] Nova and for advertisements and sometimes you do see him in front of the camera doing the avalanche work. He's quite a fascinating guy. I call him the Energizer bunny. He never stops moving, which in Alaska is, I think, a requirement, or otherwise you'll freeze solid!

TP:  Exactly! So it sounds like his son Garret has a good foundation for being inquisitive and exploratory, then?

HS:  Oh yes, and even more so, Steve runs a wildlife ranch and raises everything from wolverines and grizzly bears to caribou and lynx and foxes and so forth and uses them for cinematography. He also runs educational wildlife tours for tourists. Now, you must understand that a caribou doesn't eat the same thing as a wolf or a porcupine or a grizzly bear, so they have to understand the nutritional needs of the animals in order to keep them not only healthy but viable. They're very attuned to nutrition and its connection with health, and that's what led them to the Gerson Therapy in the first place.

TP:  So they didn't have somebody in their family who had cancer?

HS:  No, it was Steve's mentor, who is known as one of the steadiest hands on a camera in Alaska: Bill Bacon. He's famous in Alaska for a cameraman and used to work for Walt Disney. One day, Steve was expressing his concerns about being alone and being a single father and running this huge operation all by himself and getting on in years. And his friend said, "You know what? You oughta look at this," and he handed him a book by Dr. Max Gerson, my grandfather.

Steve read that and it just jibed with everything he knew about keeping healthy with nutrition. That's when he started to live according to the Gerson Therapy, not to cure cancer or some awful disease, but just to maintain his health at an optimum level. He got such good results that after a couple of years, he just felt impelled, he said, "I want to pay back, I want to somehow bring this information to the world." How does he bring this information to the world? He uses a camera.

TP:  He's also using the perspective of his son to make some complex issues easier for normal people viewing the film to be able to digest.

HS: Not just normal people, but even teenagers and younger people who are starting to wake up to these issues. They can identify a little more with Garret than they can with some of these scientists who are talking about nutrition.

TP:  To that end, it's also something that could be shown in the classroom as an alternative.

HS:  It definitely should be. Kids need to know about this stuff. Everybody needs to know about this stuff. If you believe what the FDA is telling you, you're going to die. They are not out for your health. They are out for the financial health of the pharmaceutical companies and that is evident in just this last week. Are you aware that the FDA reversed its former stance warning pregnant women and infants to stay away from mercury? They reversed that. They turned around and said, "No, no - mercury is perfectly safe." No upper limit for the dosage, with no upper limit!

Now, everybody knows that mercury is the most toxic, non-radioactive metal there is. It's a potent neurotoxin. It used to drive hatters crazy, you know, "Mad as a hatter?" The Mad Hatter was a cultural icon back in the Elizabethan and Victorian days. Because hatters, the people who used to make hats, used to work the mercury into the felt with their fingers, liquid mercury. Therefore, they absorbed huge amounts of it and they went mad and had to be institutionalized. But as far as the FDA is concerned, there's no upper limit for giving mercury to infants.

TP:  This is an extreme of what's demonstrated and described in the film, when experiments on amalgam fillings in a tooth are performed so that we can see mercury vapor come off the tooth, and we also learn that dentists are pressured to say that it is safe.

HS:  The reason is that it's so incredibly profitable for these companies to make mercury amalgam fillings that they don't want that source of profit to go away. And since they own the FDA, the FDA must do what they tell them. I must tell you this: For 30 years, Congress has been demanding, requiring, mandating, repeatedly requesting the FDA to do safety tests on mercury amalgam fillings. For 30 years, the FDA has been lying, obfuscating, stalling and just not doing it. And so in the last 30 years, the FDA has still not tested according to the Congressional requirement the safety and effectiveness of mercury amalgam fillings.

TP:  Is it so low on the list of Congressional priorities that nobody is around to enforce it?

HS:  Who is more powerful, the lobbyists for the drug companies or the Congress people? Apparently, it's the lobbyists. And so the Congress people are literally selling out our health and our sanity for campaign contributions. But that's not a surprise, is it?

TP:  Well, I hope none of them have mercury in their mouths.

HS:  I hope they all do! That's karma, right? The problem is, even if everybody around you has mercury and you don't, the mercury in their mouths is outgassing. When they inhale, they put it into their lungs. When they exhale, they put it out into the air. So when you're in an elevator with 20 people and each of the people has 10 mercury fillings, the air is filling up with mercury vapor whether or not you have fillings. You absorb it anyway.

TP:  So I'm powerless no matter what? It's like dying of secondhand smoke?

HS:  That's exactly right. And the FDA is telling us don't worry, it's perfectly safe, no upper limit to it. Pretty scary.

TP:  Where do we go from here?

HS:  Ha ha ha! Where do we go from here? Well, every single one of the substances that we talk about in the film, from aspartame and MSG to the mercury, they're all perfectly legal and perfectly well approved by the FDA to put in our food, and they're lethal. GMOs, there's one for you: Genetically modified organisms. Those are lethal, and the animal tests that have shown them to be carcinogenic and lethal have been suppressed by the GMO manufacturers, who say it's a trade secret. Trade secret? Your trade secret is that you're killing people? I should think they'd want to keep it secret but I should also think that any reasonable government wanting to protect its people should say, "No, you can't keep that information secret. That's killing people."

TP:  Even when ingredients are clearly labeled on a package, people still buy it because they're looking increasingly at price and not content.

HS:  They're not even looking at the warning labels, are they? Let me ask you something: Do you brush your teeth?

TP:  Of course.

HS:  Okay, and you brush it with some toothpaste that you get at a supermarket?

TP:  Most of the time.

HS:  Okay, and you don't think about it more than once. You just go and get what you always get at the supermarket. But if you turn it over and you look at the back of that toothpaste label, it says, "Do not let children under six use this product unsupervised. If you swallow more than you use to brush your teeth, call your doctor or a poison control center immediately." Every single brand of toothpaste you get at the supermarket says that, every single one.

TP:  So what's the best toothpaste? Is the best toothpaste no toothpaste?

HS: You'd be almost just as well off brushing your teeth with a dry toothbrush to get the mechanical action of it. All toothpaste foamers are sodium lauryl sulfate, which is an engine degreaser and not something you want in your body, but they all have it in there. And many of them have bicarbonate of soda, baking soda, which itself is sodium and cancer needs sodium to grow. It's amazing, it's like a minefield out there. No matter where you put your foot, no matter where you breathe, or what you drink, eat or anything, they're slowly stealing your health from you. But if you remember that the FDA just said that if you are an infant or pregnant that you can have as much mercury as you can and there's no danger to it, then you must also understand what their declaration of safety for all the other ingredients out there means.

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