Consumer Health Digest #15-09

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 1, 2015


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.


NAS says chronic fatigue syndrome should be considered a valid diagnosis. The National Academy of Sciences has released a book-length report that discuses chronic fatigue syndrome, also called myalgic encephalitis, or ME/CFS. The report notes:

The report proposes renaming the condition systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEIF) with four criteria that must be satisfied to make the diagnosis:

  1. Substantial reduction or impairment in the ability to engage in pre-illness levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities, that persists for more than 6 months and is accompanied by fatigue, which is often profound, is of new or definite onset (not lifelong), is not the result of ongoing excessive exertion, and is not substantially alleviated by rest
  2. Post-exertional malaise
  3. Unrefreshing sleep
  4. Cognitive impairment; orthostatic intolerance (symptoms when standing upright that are relieved when sitting down again); or both

The full text of Beyond Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Redefining an Illness can be downloaded free of charge from the National Academy Press Web site.


"Food Babe" severely criticized. David Gorski, M.D., has posted a lengthy analysis of the activities of Vani Hari, a 35-year-old North Carolina woman who has developed a large following—including more than a million Facebook followers—despite her lack of relevant scientific training or credentials. Her targets have included flu vaccine, microwave ovens, and various food chemicals she claims are toxic. [Gorski D. Vani Hari, a.k.a. "The Food Babe," finally responds to critics. Science-Based Medicine Blog, Dec 8, 2014]


Article tells how Congress weakened the FDA. Quackwatch has expanded its article about the health-food industry campaigns that weakened the FDA's ability to regulate dietary supplements. The 1976 Proxmire Amendment prohibits the FDA from regulating dosage, and the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA) prevents the banning of useless ingredients and enables sellers to make misleading "structure/function claims" with impunity. Both campaigns generated huge amounts of "grass-roots" mail to Congress that appeared to be from consumers but actually came primarily from sellers. The article also links to the full texts of relevant Congressional hearings.


Full text of classic vitamin book posted. The full text of Charles Marshall's Vitamins and Minerals: Help or Harm? has been posted to Nutriwatch. The book, which was edited by Dr. Stephen Barrett, won the American Medical Writers Association's award for best book of 1983 for the general public and was republished in 1985 by Consumer Reports Books. It focuses on nutrient discoveries, functions, food source, toxicity, and myths. Despite the book's age, most of what it says is still valid.


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This page was posted on March 1, 2015.