In the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date of potential health risks and benefits stemming from diet, a National Research Council (NRC) committee has concluded that the U.S. public could substantially reduce its risk of heart disease, cancer and many other chronic diseases through specific changes in eating habits. The committee recommended that people reduce fat and cholesterol consumption, increase intake of fruits and vegetables and eat protein in moderation. The committee also advised people to balance their food intake with physical activity; either avoid or greatly restrict alcohol use; maintain adequate calcium intake by meeting the RDA; avoid taking dietary supplements, especially in excess of the RDA in any one day; and drink fluoridated water to prevent tooth decay. Copies of the committee's report will become available July 1, 1989 for $49.95 (prepaid) from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Ave, N.W., Washington, DC 20418.
Comment: The NRC report provides a weapon against the misinformation fostered by organized quackery. The promotion of dietary supplements is a major forms of quackery today. Health foods stores derive as much as 50% of their income from this source; multilevel marketers focus on selling supplements; dubious "nutritionists" and nonscientific health care providers depend heavily upon income from supplement sales; and, mega-vitamin "therapies" are inappropriately promoted for AIDS, cancer, colds & flu, diabetes, heart disease, mental retardation, psychological stress, and many other human disorders. The other way the NRC report strikes at quackery is by recommending that people drink fluoridated water. Health pseudoscientists attack and retard the implementation of fluoridation. Interestingly, fluoridation is a form of nutritional supplementation. Fluoride is a trace element which is below par in most natural diets. By ingesting adequate fluoride during the critical years that teeth are forming (birth to 6 yrs-old) teeth are made harder and more resistant to decay. Water fluoridation is the cheapest and most effective way to get fluoride into the diet.
A page-one story in The Spokesman-Review Spokane Chronicle (2/5/89) tells of 44-year-old waitress Gloria Cooper's recovery from "pain and fatigue" following the apparent removal of "tumors" from her stomach, heart and ears by Placido W. Palitayan a visiting psychic surgeon from the Philippines. Cooper is said to be but one of "probably more than 1,000 people...who have come to Colville (Washington) to be treated..." Jan Cox, 50, owner of King Cole's Restaurant has been offering Palitayan's services for the past six years. Cox claims that another psychic surgeon treated her husband's heart condition several years ago. He survived for six years before dying of a heart attack and Cox is convinced that psychic surgery prolonged his life. It is reported that about 130 people had been scheduled for psychic surgery over two days when Stevens County authorities raided the house of Charles and Dorothy Garvey in which the operations were taking place. Palitayan, Cox, and two others were booked on charges of theft and the unlicensed practice of medicine. A bucket with purported blood and tumors removed from patients was found to contain tissue from a bovine animal. Charles Garvey defended psychic surgery by stating that all of the people involved were "consenting adults" who should be allowed to choose for themselves--an argument that can be used to justify drug abuse, prostitution, gambling, as well as quackery.
Note: Information from NCAHF's files indicates that the above case does not involve the same psychic surgeon arrested in California in 1987. His name was "Brother" Joe Bulgarin. It was yet another psychic surgeon, Gary Magno, who was arrested in Arizona in 1986. The psychic surgery scams seem to be a growing phenomenon. For a complete expose of the psychic surgery scam see Flim Flam, by James Randi (Prometheus Books, 1982).
Part of thwarting quackery involves good communication between health professionals and difficult patients who, for one reason or another, seem to resent educated people. "The assessment and treatment of geezers" (JAMA, 259:1228-1129, 1988) by psychologist Loren Pankratz, PhD and Psychiatrist Lial Kofoed, MD, offers a rare and badly needed insight into understanding and dealing with eccentric and often difficult patients. Geezers are likely to be survivors of the Great Depression with little formal education who value life experiences, in which they are rich, over formal education. They are unimpressed with "ologies" and often suffer from "hardening of the categories!" They may fabricate or withhold information for various reasons, talk down to women and much more. This rare gem of reading offers useful information and tools on how to improve the art of patient care in easy-to-read fashion.
Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical Co. of Japan has purchased the Shaklee Corporation for about $395 million, according to a report in The Tribune (Oakland, CA, 3/14/89). The company was founded in 1956 by Forrest C. Shaklee, an Iowa-born chiropractor, and had sales of $627 million in 1988. Shaklee's Japanese unit contributed 28 percent of the company's sales and 48 percent of its earnings. Shaklee has about 6,000 direct-sales representatives in the US, according to the report.
A study carried out in the Netherlands sought to determine the ability of five "leading" iridologists to observe the presence of inflamed gall bladder disease in 39 patients vs 39 controls of the same sex and age. Stereo color slides were presented of the right eye and presented in random order. The iridologists were unable to perform any better than chance in their ability to recognize those with the disease (a test of validity); and, exhibited an inter-performer agreement consistency of 60% which was only slightly higher than chance (a test of reliability). (Knipschild, British Medical Journal, 297:1578-1581, 1988.)
Note: Tests of validity determine the accuracy of a procedure. This is the best type of scientific test. Tests of reliability measure consistency, but may still be invalid. For instance, in the above study, several of the iridologists may have seen a meaningless blip in the irises they examined and erroneously used it as an indicator of disease. This would explain why they were able to perform slightly above chance on inter-performer consistency. However, unless the blip really had clinical validity, it merely indicates that there was something in the irises that most of them could see.
The American Oral Health Institute (AOHI) has published a 2nd edition of the 224-page book Abuse of the Scientific Literature in an Antifluoridation Pamphlet. The book painstakingly critiques the newer antifluoridation pamphlet entitled "Lifesavers Guide to Fluoridation," by John Yiamouyannis, PhD, who is probably the world's leading antifluoridation activist. The book may be purchased or obtained free with a $25 individual membership in the AOHI. Write, AOHI, P.O. Box 151528, Columbus, OH 43215-8528.
Addendum: Congratulations and kudos to public health professionals in Arizona, many of whom are NCAHF members, for their recent victory in fluoridating Phoenix.
A research project conducted at Life Chiropractic College-West helps explain how well-intended clinicians may fool themselves with tests that only provide information on reliability, not validity. Robert Jansen, PhD and Dale Nansel, PhD, who are researchers at the college performed a "Monte Carlo" experiment in order to determine chance concordance rates for multiple test scenarios often encountered in chiropractic diagnosis. In practice, this might involve employing several unvalidated tests on specific vertebral segments to see how many would agree that a problem exists. The Monte Carlo simulation demonstrated that if four diagnostics tests are performed on each patient, each test implicating on average three vertebral segments with the acceptance of a plus or minus one segment margin of error, the chances that any three out of the four will agree is a whopping 89%! Although these findings should shock chiropractors who commonly use unvalidated diagnostic or screening procedures, there is a lesson in it for clinicians in every field of health care to understand the difference between reliability and validity and work very hard on assuring the latter. (Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 11:355-360, 1988.)
Claims that mercury emissions from dental fillings may be harmful are based largely on the amount of mercury vapor alleged to exist in the mouth during chewing. Efforts to replicate the work of researchers claiming to have found excessive mercury vapors found that the methodology couldn't be correct because the intake volumes of air reported were larger than the capacity of the mouth. Two separate efforts independently concluded that the mercury release from amalgams was 16 times less than claimed. (Berglund et al. J Dental Research, 67:1235-1242, 1988.)
In the Sept-Oct NCAHF Newsletter we reported that Iowa Attorney General Thomas Miller had filed a number of complaints against diet products in his state. A settlement has been obtained from Consumer Direct, Inc. of Canton, Ohio, making over 4600 Iowans eligible for refunds of money they spent for "Formula 75", "Fat-Off 75", "Quicktrim II", "Dyna Slim" and "Slim Again." The company also has been prevented by court order from selling diet products in Iowa. Although the defendants did not admit any wrongdoing, they did also agree to pay $15,000 toward consumer education efforts in Iowa and $5,000 for investigational costs. Miller said that "Iowans lose millions of dollars a year on phony diet products that raise their hopes, fail to work, and sometimes threaten their health." He estimated that Americans spend $1-3 billion a year on fraudulent diet products. Miller said that the danger signs for phony diet products include:
(Press release 3/10/89; Contact Bill Roach (515)281-5678.)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now attaching the name "chronic fatigue syndrome" (CFS) to: newly acquired, constant or recurrent tiredness, with a minimum of designated symptoms from a list of 22 subjective symptoms experienced, certain documented medical findings and the exclusion of other clinical disorders. CFS is of interest to NCAHF because it sounds much like a variety of conditions commonly misdiagnosed by fringe medical practitioners (eg, food allergies, brain allergy, hypoglycemia, dental amalgam toxicity, yeast infection, TMJ problems, environmental sensitivity, and so forth (many of these conditions and the tendency toward erroneous self-application are described by Susan Ince in her article "Disease of the month" published in Savvy Woman, February, 1989). Stress seems to play a major role. A discussion of this malady and a list of the diagnostic criteria appeared in Health News, a publication of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, February, 1989 (7:(1):1-5).
A study of 100 adults who were treated at a Fatigue Clinic found that in two-thirds the symptoms were attributable to depression, panic disorder, social phobia or other related mental problems. Chronic Epstein-Barr virus was found in 15 patients but did not appear to cause fatigue symptoms (Manu, et al., Annals of Internal Medicine, 148:2213, 1988).
One hundred consecutive patients with a chief complaint of chronic fatigue were evaluated in a specialty clinic setting at the University of Connecticut Health Center. A complete history was obtained from each patient, plus a 168-item review of symptoms and a complete physical examination were performed. Eight patients believed that their fatigue was due to chronic candidiasis. Of these eight, seven had psychiatric diagnoses that were judged to underlie their fatigue. Of the remaining 92 patients, 59 had underlying psychiatric diagnoses. The researchers were unable to find physical, historical or laboratory differences between chronic fatigue patients who believed that they had the yeast connection. The authors note that patients self-diagnosed as having the yeast connection will only infrequently relinquish their illness. (Renfro et al. The American Journal of Medicine, 86:165-168, 1989.)
Benedich and Langseth present a review of the value and hazards of vitamin A in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (49:358-371, 1989). Readers familiar with the toxicity of this vitamin will be struck by the apologetic tone of this monograph and omissions of adverse reactions to vitamin A published elsewhere. It is worthy of note that one of the authors is a Hoffman-LaRoche employee--a company heavily involved in the promotion of dietary supplements. Victor Herbert has responded to the article with a letter to the editor detailing omissions and significant facts that reveal that the article is biased in favor of Hoffman-LaRoche's financial interest. It is not known at this time if Dr. Herbert's letter will be published. NCAHF will supply copies for $1 and a stamped, self-addressed, business-sized envelope.
A news writer and a dietitian teamed up to survey several California health food stores to determine the kind of advice they would be given on important health matters. On the question about the advisability of a 16-year-old to take dolomite as a calcium supplement, 5 of 9 clerks incorrectly said that dolomite is OK or safe. In fact, the FDA has warned consumers--especially pregnant women and growing children that both dolomite and bone meal are sometimes contaminated with lead. None recommended inexpensive alternatives or good food sources of calcium. When asked: "A friend's blood pressure is 200. What should he do?" 6 of 9 clerks failed to recommend that he see a doctor. The worst recommendation was that he take 1000 mg of vitamin C to build up his immune system! The third question asked involved "seeing flashing lights and halos around lights at night"--the symptoms of glaucoma. In this case, 6 of 9 clerks correctly recommended seeing a physician. One recommended 25,000 units of vitamin A! (Fritz, "Wheat germ, rice flour and nutritional baloney," The Health & Nutrition Newsletter, Winter, 1988/89.)
Knuiman, Beynen and Katan review 24 studies on the effect of supplemental lecithin on serum cholesterol. Most of the studies lacked appropriate control groups, had a small sample size, or had other confounding dietary changes. Only four trials made attempts to balance fatty acid intakes of experimental and control groups. There was no evidence for a specific effect of lecithin on serum cholesterol independent of its linoleic acid content or secondary changes in food intake (Am J Clin Nutr, 49:266-268, 1989).
Gregory E. Caplinger, who claims to be a naturopath, was arrested in November, 1988, and charged with four counts of practicing medicine without a license. During a search of his clinic agents seized some 23 framed certificates, one of which was a privilege license from the North Carolina Board of Naturopathic Physicians, a non-existent group. Other certificates included the "Caribbean International Prize in Medicine," "British Guild of Drugless Practitioners*," "Universidad Mundial Dominicana," JFK College of Nutrimedical Arts (Caplinger was once named "Doctor of the Year" by JFK College), and the American Nutrimedical Association--all unaccredited. Undaunted, Caplinger reopened his office the very next day. Apparently, Caplinger had little fear of North Carolina's laws against unlicensed medical practice which classifies a violation as a misdemeanor with a $100 fine! Caplinger continued practicing until mid-February when he suddenly packed up and left town. NCAHF's source suggests that an investigation by the IRS may have prompted his hasty withdrawal. Charges are still pending against Caplinger, but he cannot be located at this time. Activists hope to bring about legislative reforms that will make it more difficult to practice quackery in North Carolina.
*NCAHF President William Jarvis is also a member of this "guild"-- it came with his $50 correspondence school naturopathic diploma in 1976.
The entire November, 1988, edition of the FDA Consumer is a very timely special report on food safety. Copies are available from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (HFI-40), 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857.
The growing number of strident, unfounded attacks on the food supply system may be more than just a coincidence. NCAHF has tracked political food faddism for many years. Several attempts to get an Organic Farming Bill through Congress seem to have been replaced with a coalition called Americans for Safe Foods. Now we find politically oriented organizations manipulating the media with food terrorist tactics. All of this seems too well orchestrated to be mere coincidence and too well-financed to be based upon mere altruism. Is there an organic foods marketing effort driving these events? NCAHF hopes that some good investigative journalists are also wondering.
Health or Hoax? The Truth About Health Foods and Diets (Prometheus Books, 1986) was written by Arnold E. Bender, PhD, DSc, retired professor of nutrition and dietetics at the University of London and head of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Queen Elizabeth College, London. Although Dr. Bender's prospective is on health foods in the United Kingdom, there are few if any differences between these phenomena there and in North America. The book's style is for laymen, but health professionals will also find it useful because of the insight it provides into the British perspective on these problems. Available from Prometheus Books, 700 East Amherst Street, Bufflao, NY 14215.
Psychoimmunology, or the idea that one's mental state significantly affects the immune system, is one of the popular medical ideas of our time. A study of 91 patients with unipolar major depressive disorder and matched controls failed to find any differences in mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferation, lymphocyte subsets, and natural killer cell activity. There were, however, significant age-related differences between the depressed patients and controls in mitogen responses and in the number of T4 lymphocytes. Controls showed increases in these immune factors with advancing age but depressed patients did not. The researchers concluded that "altered immunity does not appear to be a specific biological correlate of major depressive disorder but may occur in subgroups of depressed patients. (Schleifer, et al. Archives of General Psychiatry, 46:81-87, 1989.)
NCAHF president William Jarvis, PhD, describes a number of unproven and invalid methods currently used to convince unwary consumers that they have special nutritional needs, in the February, 1989, issue of Nutrition & the MD (pp.1-3). Included are the cytotoxic test, yeast test, live cell analysis, Amalgameter, muscle-strength testing, iridology, herbal crystallization analysis, and how they are enhanced by the style of the practitioners. The style is suitable for patient education.
Larry B. Silver, MD, reviews the problem of learning disabilities and the vulnerability of parents to exploitation by promoters of magical cures. Dr. Silver first describes the generally accepted therapies of special education, medication (the psychostimulants), and psychological therapies. He then describes the controversial therapies by categories. Neurophysiological Retraining techniques include "patterning" which is the Doman-Delacato method; "Optometric Visual Training," which involves two different approaches advocated by separate groups of optometrists. Vestibular Dysfunction theories include serious investigations which remain unproven and strange approaches such as chiropractor Carl Ferreri's Neural Organizational Technique which Silver describes in detail. Lastly Silver reviews Orthomolecular Medicine under which he includes megavitamins, trace elements, hypoglycemia, food additives and preservatives (Feingold's theory), and refined sugars. Silver has written this exceptional article in a very readable style, and provides substantive information on both the theories and claims of proponents and their lack of adequate data. (J of Learning Disabilities, 20:498-504, 1987.
Despite the sudden death of Harold Manner in November, 1988, his dubious cancer clinic still is in operation and several hundred of his trainees are still practicing. Jeff South attended a Manner Seminar and reports on Manner's theories and treatment regimen in the December, 1988 issue of Nutrition Forum (vol 5;61-67). This article provides an excellent basic reference source on dubious methods of cancer care.
Verna Wright, MD presents an excellent critique of faith healing from the perspective of a Christian physician. This is the kind of reading that may effectively reach the type of people who need the information the most--the faithful. Dr. Wright explains common sources of error employed by people who may believe they have experienced miraculous healing. She notes that doctors can mislead patients unintentionally by the language they use. What an MD refers to as "miraculous" refers merely to better than average results, not a super-natural event. A patient's perception of his illness can be the source of confusion. There are significant problems associated with evaluating healing, and there are many mistaken diagnoses which can confound people. Dr. Wright points out the variability of the natural courses that diseases may take and the psychological aspects of healing. She then describes the methodology of a popular public faith healer and points out his use of hypnosis and the lack of medical evidence for alleged healing miracles. She also presents critical analyses of faith healing, including examples of fraud. In her final segment, Wright explains the various dangers associated with depending upon faith healing--which she says are not only damaging but often disastrous. The 16-page document is published in the UK by Covenanter Press, Box 48, Strathpine North, Q.4500.
Matol Km and Km are products of Matol Botanical International of Montreal, Canada, being multilevel marketed across the USA. Promotional literature claims that Matol Km can purify blood, improve digestion, aid hair growth, help people sleep better, and more. The company claims that Matol Km is "a rich exotic blend of ingredients selected by Dr. Karl Jurak during his extensive research," and that the 14 herbal ingredients "have been synergistically combined, thus obtaining the optimal value from each individual plant." Promotional literature spins a yarn about how Karl Jurak, PhD, obsessively studied the effect of plant substances on his own blood until he discovered the marvelous formula for Matol Km. The result is a herbal compound consumers are asked to accept on faith as the answer to a wide variety of health problems.
In 1986 the FDA issued an Import Alert for Matol Km on the basis that it was "...violative with the meaning of 801(a)(3) in that it appears to be a new drug without an approved new drug application ..." (Import Alert No.:66-25, dated 4/17/86) directing that shipments of Matol Km be detained. A letter dated 6/30/88 from the Detroit District Director of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration sought information on how bottles of Matol Km found in the USA were being brought into the country.
Km the companion product of Matol Km, may be legally imported. Km's main ingredient is potassium. The recommended dosage is one tablespoon (15 ml) twice daily, or 30 ml. Labeling states that 30 ml Km supplies 585 mg potassium. One bottle of Km contains 946 ml (1 qt) and sells for $32.85 ($.0347/ml) meaning that 585 mg potassium via Km costs $1.04; 237 ml (1 cup) of orange juice has 496 mg potassium and a medium banana supplies 440 mg potassium. Both orange juice and bananas are cheaper sources of potassium and more desirable nutritionally. Km apparently contains the same herbs as Matol Km, plus cascara sagrada. Specific amounts are not provided on labels, and the company would not disclose amounts upon inquiry. Some of Km's herbs are potentially toxic:
Sources: Tyler, The Honest Herbal; Rosengarten, Spices (from: Cox, The Health & Nutrition Newsletter, Winter 1988/89)
The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), in a February 23, 1989 press release, vehemently rejected the conclusions of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to the effect that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) role is inadequate in protecting public health and that pesticide residues pose "intolerable risks" to children. ACSH Executive Director Elizabeth Whelan, DSc, says: "We find the NRDC statements totally irresponsible. We deplore their attempt to raise anxieties about the safety of the American food supply, particularly where they take aim at something we are all deeply concerned about--the health of our children." The ACSH presented five rejoinders to the NRDC report which are paraphrased below with added comments by NCAHF in parenthesis:
ACSH rejects the NRDC report and calls upon the nation's scientific community to step forward and do likewise. "In an age of enormous public health challenges such as cigarette smoking and AIDS, we find the NRDC guilty of nothing short of 'public health malpractice' in pointing to fruits and vegetables as so-called causes of cancer." Whelan concluded.
(Note: When NCAHF first learned of the NRDC report, we took it seriously since it involved a serious public health matter. However, the more we learned the more skeptical we became. The tactics were familiar. This was not a scientific report but a public relations event complete with well-intended but unqualified movie star fronting the effort. We still withheld criticism until we were able to see the NRDC Executive Summary of the report. We now believe that the ACSH assessment is valid and the NRDC report is to be discredited.)
NCAHF has condemned the terrorism inherent in food faddism for years knowing how easily people can be panicked into irrational, self-destructive behavior. Quacks have long used food misinformation and irrational fears of food to promote various diet cures. More recently we have seen the far-reaching economic harm of food faddism. American beef has been rejected by Europeans out of unfounded fears of harmless amounts of hormone residues which are actually non-existent in most of the products. The NRDC's dubious attack on apples needlessly frightened consumers and harmed many growers. The FDA's reaction to adulterated Chilean grapes sent the wrong signal to terrorists who now know how to bring an economic system to its knees. Food terrorists need only to create the perception of a problem to accomplish their purposes.
What will be the effect on the public at large of this multiple dose of fright? Will it lead to a revolution in "organic farming" as food faddists hope, or will there be a backlash? Some may recall the infamous Amchitka Island incident of the early 1970s. Environmental extremists campaigned stridently against the detonation of an atomic device on the small Alaskan island warning that the explosion could "crack the earth," activate the Pacific Ocean's "ring of fire" intercontinental volcanic system, or at least cause the San Andreas Fault to convulse. The Amchitka hysteria attracted national attention and reached a major crescendo, but when the explosion occurred nothing happened. Observers noted that the failure of the event to produce a predicted catastrophe resulted in a ten-year setback for the credibility of environmental movement. This kind of a backlash could happen again in this carefully orchestrated attack on food safety.
It may be that environmental extremism can thrive only among a segment of the population prone to emotionalism. When the extremists finally get the attention of mainstream Americans, hard-nosed realism generally prevails. In the case of food safety, the present system is sound and can stand close scrutiny. The realists have no illusions--only the zealots who believe that the sky is falling are in danger of losing their imaginary worldviews.
Unfortunately, such backlash could be harmful to other segments of society by desensitizing them to real environmental dangers (ie, the "boy who cried wolf" syndrome). People may come to minimize justified warnings about the hazards of tobacco, drug or alcohol use; or, worthwhile lifestyle changes wrongly placing them in the same category as overstatements about food safety.
NCAHF's definition and discussion of "food terrorism" appeared in the Jan-Feb, 1988 newsletter and is available for $1 upon request. Please include a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope to: NCAHF Newsletter, P.O. Box 1276, Loma Linda, CA 92354.