An editorial by Frank Lampe, Editor of Natural Foods Merchandiser, a health foods trade magazine, calls for readers to recruit customers to compose hand-written letters to legislators claiming that Nutrition Labeling & Education Act of 1990 (NLEA) reforms will deny them choices. NCAHF believes that this is a false claim because committed health food users (the ones most likely to write) hate the FDA and will buy health food products regardless; it is unsuspecting consumers who are protected by reforms.
Letters are to be mailed from companies or stores, and the goal is 200 letters each. The cost is set at $58 postage + $10 for materials. Lampe says that if 5,000 stores submit 200 letters each, the total will be one million pieces of mail to Congress. He says, "Unlike FDA, Congress must listen to the general public."
Comment: The health foods industry is in a tizzy over NLEA. Effective consumer protection spells doom for their lucrative scams and they know it. The public should be made aware that a clear enemy of consumer protection has made itself known by its extreme efforts to stop NLEA reforms.
A coalition of professionals which includes a large number of individuals with a pro-supplementation bias, including many who make money from supplements, have signed on to a position paper U.S. RDA vs RDI: Protecting the Health of Americans Versus Minimizing Nutrient Needs. Coordinator of the paper is Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University. The position paper takes the supplement industry line that using the RDIs (Reference Daily Intake), which are lower than RDAs, will de-emphasize the importance of individual vitamins and minerals in the public's mind. Using the RDAs as a daily intake standard is irrational because it presents the highest end of the continuum as the midpoint. Curiously, the pro-supplement lobby has a history of bashing even the RDAs as too low. RDIs more accurately represent reality. Supplement promoters appear to want larger numbers so that they can overstate a need for their products.
A New York appellate court has upheld a Board of Regents' revocation of the dental license of Dr. Joel Berger for gross negligence, incompetence and fraudulent practices for removing the mercury amalgam fillings of a patient to correct arm and leg pain. The decision was not based upon Berger's belief that mercury amalgams are toxic to patients, but the treatment of the patient's medical problems without further investigation and medical evidence that the procedure was warranted. (ADA News, 2/3/92).
On March 2, an FDA spokesperson stated that nutrient products "with smart drug claims...are illegal and subject to seizure or other actions by the agency to protect the public health." Many alleged smart drugs are nutrients (amino acids, vitamins, choline derived from lecithin), others are herbs, unapproved drugs and prescription drugs. The FDA is working closely with state authorities to prevent illegal sales and distribution of so-called smart drugs. (Food Chemical News,3/9/92)
Consumer's Union has published a much needed article "Can you live longer? what works and what doesn't" (Consumer Reports, Jan, 1992). The article provides a comprehensive review of popular pills and proponents and a useful critique of their lack of evidence. Its message that a prudent diet and exercise program are the best bet for now, but that some future items may be forthcoming is sound. This is highly recommended basic reading.
Km, a product
of Matol Botanical International, Ltd. of Montreal, Canada, is
a popular multi-level product which NCAHF covered Km in
it's March-April, 1989 newsletter. Jack Raso describes how the
product is marketed in the Sept/Oct, 1991 issue of Nutrition
Forum. The bottom line: "Km epitomizes the 'New
Age' quest for a nutritional quick fix. It has never been proven
safe or effective for any purpose except making money for some
of its distributors."
NOTE: Km labeling states that the product has 585 mg of potassium (K) per 30 ml. NCAHF's Merlin Nelson, PharmD, says that the use of mg of K and not meq makes it impossible to know how much K is in the product since many K salts are used. Depending upon the source, possible meq levels of 585 mg/K in Km range from 3.87 to 14.96 meq K+. Most prescription products contain 8 meq K+ per dosage. Too much Km could cause cardiac arrhythmias if someone cannot excrete excess K due to renal failure.
The Ministry of Health & Welfare of Japan's 1990 Health Science Research Report on Medical Research on Manipulative Therapy for Diseases of Spinal Origin was done to clarify the medical validity of the chiropractic theory and other spinal therapies, including both benefits and risks. Like other independent reviews, the Japanese found chiropractic to be outside of the body of knowledge and terminology generally recognized by the health care community worldwide. It notes that "practitioner's methods of examination are not based upon knowledge of human anatomy but are subjective and unscientific." Likewise, "evaluation of effectiveness largely relies upon subjective analysis of the practitioners" making it is questionable. A good deal of the report refers to cases reports of harm done to patients in Japan. Forty-five cases of "active damage" (strokes, fractures, paralysis); 2 cases in which manipulation interrupted natural healing mechanisms, and 7 cases of aggravation of scoliosis were cited. [Note: chiropractic's ready retort that MDs also harm patients won't wash until they can justify harm to patients on the basis of proven benefit (ie, a benefit:risk ratio).] The report stated that chiropractic is not clearly regulated by law in Japan, and that a "chiropractic boom" is due to "commercially based, extravagant advertising and the exaggeration of effectiveness." Apparently reforms will be forthcoming. A copy of the 12-page report is available from NCAHF for $5 postpaid.
Rawpower, a UK company which marketed Healthcrafts Vitachieve (see NCAHF Newsletter Mar-Apr, 1991) pled guilty to breaches of the Trade Descriptions Act. Another company, Seven Seas, was fined in 1991, and a third, Larkhall Laboratories is contesting prosecution, for similar claims. (Brit Med J. 304:337,1992)
According to an evaluation by The Lawrence Review of Natural Products (March, 1992) the popular bee potion, royal jelly, "is an adequate but expensive source of certain B vitamins," but "... does not possess recognizable preventive, therapeutic or rejuvenatory characteristics."
George McAndrews, General Counsel for the American Chiropractic Association, and attorney for the plaintiffs in the infamous antitrust decision (Wilk v AMA, et al), has written an open letter to DCs chiding them for advertisements which make exaggerated claims. He groaned over the publication in American Medical News of a DC's advertisement which discussed how chiropractic care affects the immune system, and how an untreated subluxation can lead to death. McAndrews compared such claims to "stating that leprechauns cause baldness." He blames the newspaper for publishing the ad as representative of modern chiropractic.
Comment: Three things jumped out of the McAndrews article. First, was the hopeful sign that someone highly placed within organized chiropractic was openly criticizing exaggerated advertising by DCs. Second, was the manner in which McAndrews managed to divert blame to the AMA for publishing the ad -- he seems to find a way to blame the AMA for almost all chiropractic problems! Third, was the recollection that the way the Wilk case was won by the AMA, et al. in 1981 was mainly by exposing the jury to DCs who boldly engaged in unfounded practices. It is still my belief that the kind of advertising McAndrews condemns is common practice by DCs.
Send chiropractic ads from your newspapers and yellow pages (be sure to include source and date) to NCAHF. We will pass these along to Mr. McAndrews.
Ira Milner's two-part series on unqualified nutrition counselors (Environ Nutr, Jan-Feb, 1992) does a splendid job of exposing the growing problem of pill salespeople who pose as nutritionists on the basis of diploma / certification mill credentials, chiropractic training, or company training by such entities as multilevel marketing outfits or health food stores. The problem is that such people often engage in pseudo-medical practice along with their pill selling. Nutrition advice can easily become medical advice for many people, but most states are failing to protect citizens from such practitioners. Ira Milner is Coordinator of NCAHF's Nutrition Diploma Mill Task Force.
A Hindu faith healer and his wife pled guilty
to theft by deception and conspiracy for swindling followers out
of more than $246,000 in cash and jewels in Hackensack, NJ. Raman
Bachchan and his wife Deepshika were sentenced to 7 years in prison
for their crimes. Raman also is charged with 2nd degree sexual
assault and 4th degree criminal sexual contact for acts which
occurred during a healing session. Bachchan promoted himself as
a holy man infused with special powers by a Hindu goddess.
(The Record [Hackensack], 3/4 & 21/92)
According to Health Foods Business (March, 1992), approximately 7,300 health food stores did $3.888 billion in business in 1991. The largest category of sales was $1.461.9 in vitamins & supplements. Next was herbs (caps, tabs, bulk, etc.) at $653.2 million, followed by packaged groceries at $416.0 million. Only one other category, bodycare items ($260.5 mil), went above $200 million. It seems abundantly clear why the industry must fight to protect vitamin, supplement, and herbal sales.
The California medical licensing board has pulled the license of Bruce Halstead, 71, after the final appeal of his 1986 conviction for cancer fraud was denied. Halstead continued to practice for 5 years during the appeal process. His practice is now being run by James Privitera, an MD who served prison time for violating the same law under which Halstead was prosecuted. Then Governor Jerry Brown pardoned Privitera.
Jerry Brown apparently still is the same old moonbeamer that he was when he was Governor of California. He was known for having a personal chiropractor instead of a physician, drinking raw milk and degrading science at nearly every opportunity. A bit in the New York Times National (2/16/92) quotes Brown's health care plan as including emphasis upon acupuncture and chiropractic. Hmmm, do you suppose that Brown means to cut Medicare costs by lowering our life expectancy (LE)? In China LE is 66 years, and calculations done on 187 DC deaths reported in the American Chiro Assoc Journal from 1/74 through 10/81 found their average age at death to be 66 years. The current LE of the USA is 75.2 yrs.
On March 2, 1992, Sonja and Khachadour Atikian walked away from a Toronto courtroom free people. They had endured 5 weeks of a third criminal trial having been charged with failing to provide the "necessaries of life" for 17-month-old Loreie who died of bronchial pneumonia complicated by severe malnutrition in 1987. The judge had acquitted them because the prosecution had failed to provide important information which supported their contention that they had honestly believed that they were providing the necessaries of life when they placed their trust in the health information being provided by health food store herbalist Gerhardt Hanswille.
The Atikian's are just plain folks who bought the appealing philosophy and health practices advocated by Hanswille: We should not kill animals. We should not eat animal products. We should use environmentally friendly soap. We should not poison the earth or our bodies with the unnatural products of modern living. True health is to be found in herbs. Herbs for food. Herbs for medicine. This is God's way. Immunization is putting poison into your body. Doctor's medicines are poisons. Choose who you will believe, Hanswille or the doctors. You can't have it both ways.
Sonja followed Hanswille's advice during pregnancy, even though she cheated and had a little fish once in a while. She delivered a healthy 8.2 lb daughter. The baby did all right at first. At 4.5 mos she was still at the 75th %tile in weight, but at 11 mos. she was removed from her only source of animal food (mother's milk). Fed only fruits, vegetables and rice, she eventually stopped growing, slept more and more, and suffered from more and more infections. At death she weighed 11.25 lbs.
As the baby went downhill Hanswille assured the parents that this was merely "the poisons coming out of her body" and that she would eventually become the super baby they desired. Hanswille zapped the failing tyke with his violet ray machine to energize her Life Force, which was part of his mystical, naturalism (you know, the same vitalism that underlies homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, ayurveda, and other philosophical approaches to health care).
I was there to explain to the jury how trust could cause someone to believe such a thing in the face of apparently obvious adverse symptoms. I would have told them that accepting such interpretations from a trusted health care provider is no different than what a cancer patient must do whose hair is falling out, is unable to eat, and who had willingly submitted to mutilating surgery that these were merely side-effects of life-saving therapy. The difference is that cancer specialists are trustworthy, Hanswille was not. His only credentials were from a mail-order diploma in herbology from California's notorious diploma mill, Bernadean University. I would have told them of California's shameful laws that permit such institutions to exist either in the name of buccaneer free enterprise which is so sacred to its conservative free booters, on one-hand, and the libertine philosophy which accepts anything in the name of tolerance on the other. We have both extremes in the Golden State, and both favor quackery. The cancer specialists rely upon science. The free-booters say "let's have health freedom and let the marketplace decide." The anti-trust judges agree; free market competition can cure all societal ills. The libertines go along.
Nothing in Hanswille's teachings differed materially from the litany of the entire health foods industry which he represents (what is frightening are research findings that far more people hold such beliefs than act upon them). The main difference was the degree of commitment on the part of the Atikians. As they walked away from the courthouse, they looked like any ordinary couple headed home after a day of shopping. In fact, they had shopped years before. They had bought the appealing health foods philosophy that extols herbs, vegetarianism, animal rights and super health. They had paid the highest price that quackery can exact. They had unwittingly killed the baby they dearly loved. There was both sadness and relief in their demeanor as they walked away. It was a sight I'll never forget.
Postscript: Two days after the trial ended, the government ordered an inquest on the death of Loreie Atikian. This should result in establishing who was primarily at fault and the filing of charges in this needless tragedy. The conscience of Canadians may well go on trial when the issues are made clear. What is at stake is whether a civilized society will permit pseudomedical health foods gurus such as Hanswille to flourish, or will they demand that people who market misinformation for profit, which can seriously affect health behavior, be held accountable for their misdeeds. Involved will be the most fundamental question of consumer protection which is: who is to bear the burden for the harm done by quacks; the victims or the purveyors?
The world of pseudomedicine has become enamored with two devices created by Raymond Royal Rife, a San Diego man who tinkered with medical devices from the 1930's through the 1950's. Rife's work appears to have been rather obscure during his lifetime, but has been revived by Barry Lynes and John Crane in a book titled The Cancer Cure That Worked. The story is that Rife first invented a powerful light microscope that could "see" disease-causing agents by the color auras that they emitted. The color emitted provided the key to it's vibration rate (ie, radio frequency). Rife also developed a frequency generator that allegedly could destroy the pathogens by sending a powerful blast of energy tuned to the same frequency. Promoters compare the process to an opera singer's voice breaking a drinking glass. Such a parallel is spurious because the voice produces sound waves in the air which can break glass, but radio waves do not work in this fashion. The idea seems to be enough to elicit a "golly, gee whiz" response from the naive, however.
It is clear from descriptions that the Rife Frequency Generator is simply another so-called "radionics" device of the kind invented by Albert Abrams, MD. Abrams was a key figure in the saga of 20th Century quackery. After many years of dabbling with hybrids of chiropractic and prescientific osteopathy, Abrams claimed to have discovered that different diseases emitted different sounds when the abdomen of patients who were naked and facing west. From there he went on to develop his theory that each disease had its own distinct vibrational rate which he dubbed "the Electronic Reactions of Abrams (ERA)." His original radionics device, the Oscilloclast, was the prototype of "black box" quackery which emerged with the electronics revolution. Abrams began training doctors in ERA, and by the fall of 1922 there were some 3500 ERA practitioners. Abrams next claimed to be able to diagnose not only disease but age, character (ie, personality), gender, religion, beliefs and emotions from a patient's blood or handwriting sample. He established a diagnosis by mail business which made him a millionaire. A series of articles reporting on an investigation by the Scientific American exposed ERA as an illusion. Abrams, who died in January, 1924, did not live to see the series completed. Apparently the Oscilloclast could not cure his pneumonia just as it had not been able to cure both of his wives of their cancers previously.
Abrams' death did not mark the end of his influence. He willed his millions to the Electronic Medical Foundation (EMF) for the perpetuation of his pseudomedical ideas. The EMF was operated by Fred J. Hart until finally stopped by the FDA in 1961. Hart had fought consumer protection regulation for years. His legacy was the establishment of the National Health Federation (NHF) as an organization that would unite the purveyors of questionable health products and services with their satisfied customers into a constituency fighting for a caveat emptor (ie, buyer beware) health marketplace. NHF inspired numerous so-called "health freedom" groups which fight for the right of promoters to cheat and customers to be cheated in health care.
The Lynes book tries to persuade readers that Rife's devices worked by publishing letters from physicians who were believers (among Rife's supporters was the late Virginia Livingston-Wheeler, MD, who operated a fringe cancer clinic for years). Given the number of ERA doctors, it is little wonder that physicians could be found who would attest to the value of a radionics treatment. Of course, the reason that the Rife cure wasn't accepted is alleged to be due to suppression ala the grand conspiracy theory. The reality is that the Rife device has not been demonstrated to be safe and effective for any medical condition as required by the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Several devices have been banned recently by the FDA as manufacturers rush to take advantage of the recent interest in Rife (there is even a multilevel marketing program working underground). Most older radionics devices are in medical quackery museums. More than a dozen of the most famous are under the care of William Jarvis at Loma Linda University.
Recommended reading: Staff. "Our Abrams Investigation," Scientific American, October, 1923 - September, 1924; Kaplan. "Doctor Abrams - Dean of Machine Quacks," Today's Health, April, 1966; Bailey. "The Rise and Fall of Albert Abrams, AM, MD, FRMS," Oklahoma State Medical Journal, 71:15-20,1978.
Nutraceuticals is a term proposed to be used to classify foods that "provide medical or health benefits." Its an idea that purports to bridge the gap between foods and drugs. For instance, if broccoli has cancer prevention qualities, promoters would have exclusive rights to make consumers aware of such benefits. The nutraceutical idea has a number of backers including Stephen Felice, MD, of the Biomedical Management Program at Harvard University. Proponents believe that allowing this concept would encourage more research into the special health benefits of foods.
In NCAHF's view the neutraceutical idea has all of the same objectionable features of allowing health claims for foods. The potential of advertising to reach consumers through both psychology and excessive exposure is most likely to distort reality rather than educate. Salesmanship accentuates the positive and eliminates the negative. The popular notion of "if a little is good, a lot is better" can reasonably be expected to lead to unbalanced use. For instance, there is a report on harm resulting from broccoli overdose by two health conscious ladies. The excessive vitamin K interfered with their anti-blood-clotting medication. There simply are better ways of getting dietary information to the public than through advertising. The FDA's proposed plan of allowing limited prescribed health messages seems like the most useful way to get such information to the public.
If food companies want to do some constructive nutrition education on labels, they should supply information and debunk widely-held nutrition misconceptions which undermine confidence in modern foodstuffs (eg, soil depletion, pesticide / herbicide / fungicide use, food processing [additives & deductives], the limitations of nutrition in health, the falsity of the "good" v "bad" foods idea, sugar-behavior myths, and so forth). Wise people understand that misinformation has a way of causing unimaginable harm if left unchallenged.