Consumer Health Digest #13-04

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 24, 2013


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.


Harkin exposé published. A detailed investigative report has been published about the financial and political connections between Senator Tom Harkin, his wife Ruth (a Washington-based lobbyist), Herbalife International, and other components of the dietary supplement industry. [Patch J. Sen. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Herbalife) gets cash for institute after legislative favors. The Iowa Republican, Jan 25, 2013] Among other things, the report notes how money has been funneled into the Harkin Institute of Public Policy at Iowa State University. Harkin was largely responsible for (a) establishment of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, (b) passage of the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994 (which undermined FDA enforcement), and (c) provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 ("Obamacare") that may force insurance companies to cover unscientific health care practices. Dr. Stephen Barrett believes that Harkin has done more to promote quackery and undermine scientific health care any other legislator in U.S. history.


Naturopathy encyclopedia makes unwarranted "toxicity" claims. The third (2012) edition of the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine contains several claims that illustrate why naturopaths should not be trusted:

Most people have trace amounts of lead and mercury circulating harmlessly in their blood stream. In challenge testing (also called provoked testing), a chelating agent is administered that temporarily increases excretion. The resultant test report typically suggests abnormalities for which the practitioner recommends "detoxification." The Encyclopedia, which is the most comprehensive naturopathic guidebook for the general public, is written by the same naturopathy educators who edited the textbook that is the backbone of naturopathic education. A Google search for "naturopath + metal toxicity" yields 30,300 hits. "Naturopath + amalgam" yields 3.4 million hits.


JAMA debunks common arguments against flu vaccine. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association has explained why five common arguments about influenza vaccine are unfounded:

The authors also advocate basic preventive measures such as hand hygiene, cough control, and exposure reduction. The full article, Influenza prevention update: Examining common arguments against influenza vaccination, can be viewed online free of charge.


Antiquackery course available. Dr. Steven Novella's 24-session "Great Courses" lecture series on Medical myths, lies, and half-truths: What we think we know may be hurting us is availablein four formats: downloadable video (59.95), downloadable audio ($34.95), DVDs ($69.95 + shipping), and CDs ($49.95 + shippiing.


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This page was revised on January 25, 2013.