According to US News & World Report (1/23/95) President Clinton recently met with Anthony Robbins at Camp David. Robbins is a motivational speaker best known for his seminars which have people engage in fire walking. Less known is that in his book Unlimited Power Robbins promoted wacky notions about health and nutrition (see side-box).
Robbins' book Awaken The Giant Within brings to mind another title The Bigness of the Fellow Within by chiropractic guru BJ Palmer. The gist is to think and act BIG--a kind of self-imposed grand delusion. We believe that our beleaguered president should search elsewhere for guidance (but, please, not Nancy Reagan's astrologer!).
[Curious about fire walking? See Pankratz. "Fire walking and the persistence of charlatans," Perspectives in Biology & Medicine, 1988; 31:291-8]
On May 23, 1994, three members of the Quebec Skeptics attempted collective suicide by overdosing on homeopathic medicines. They showed no effects whatsoever. We were relieved to learn that a physician was present, because homeopathic products can contain active amounts of drugs. For more information contact Mr. Alain Bonnier 514-668-2131; fax:514-688-5928.
The FDA Dental Products Review Panel is reviewing electronic devices used to diagnose temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Included in the review will be EMG, doppler, ultrasound, TENS, and other devices that lack scientific support. The FDA would like to hear from patients who may have been misdiagnosed and thereby harmed through the use of any such devices. Write: FDA Dental Products Panel, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857
Two world class athletes have learned the hard way not to trust dietary supplements. British sprinter Solomon Wariso reportedly faces being banned from the Olympics after testing positive for ephedrine. He took Chinese herbal pills containing ma huang which he believed to be a health food. (Daily Telegraph [UK], 8/8/94).
Canadian weight-lifter Jim Dan Corbett was stripped of three bronze medals he won at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria in August after testing positive for banned stimulants. Testing done by the Canadian Center for Drug-Free Sports backed up Corbett's claim that his positive test was due to a vitamin supplement that contained three banned stimulants none of which were listed on the label!
Corbett was reinstated as an athlete but will not get his medals back because the drugs may have helped his performance. The supplement involved was Nature's Nutrition Formula 1, which is distributed by Calgary-based Alliance Canada. Dr. Andrew Pipe, center chairman said that Corbett's case put the spotlight on the larger problem of the improper labeling of vitamin supplements.
[Toronto Star, 11/15/95]
A physician who got in trouble for using craniosacral therapy learned from the Upledger Institute sued on the basis that the institute had failed to disclose that the method of therapy was controversial and that what he learned had damaged his practice and private life. The physician lost on the basis that his injuries did not fall within any of the definitions of the claims he had filed. [Dugger v. Upledger Institute, 795 F. Supp.184 (Fed Dist Crt, Louisiana, 7/31/92]
Comment: The loss of this case seems to be based upon legal technicalities and may still represent a viable legal theory upon which to base a lawsuit.
Waldorf schools are run by the international Anthroposophical Society, a cult of Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925) a mystical religious dogmatist who believed his personal revelations to be the only truth. Steiner combined ideas from eastern religion with medieval folklore to create his utopian worldviews.
Dugan and Daar describe how Waldorf schools carry out Steiner's teachings, and explain why nonmembers enroll their children, in "Are Rudolph Steiner's Waldorf schools 'non-sectarian'?" (Free Inquiry, Summer, 1994).
A major concern to the authors is that Waldorf schools are publicly funded in Milwaukee and Detroit. This is seen as a crack in the wall of the separation between church and state because the curriculum includes a heavy dose of Steiner's religious dogma. Waldorf schools in California have had problems with disease outbreaks because of anti-immunization attitudes among parents. Anthroposophical medicine, a branch of the cult, is best known for clinging to the idea that the mistletoe extract Iscador will cure cancer. The reason is that Steiner said so in 1920.
District 7 of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, has adopted a resolution that homeopathy not become a part of pharmacy practice until its efficacy has been proven scientifically. In addition, member boards are reminded to monitor the quality of continuing education programs devoted to homeopathy.
The resolution was developed in response to an increasing number of pharmacies (especially chain pharmacies) promoting the sale of homeopathic products. This resolution will be voted on at the NABP national meeting in May, 1995. Copies of the resolution are available from NCAHF. For more information: Joe Schnabel, PharmD, Oregon Board of Pharmacy, 503-370-5165.
Former Iowa Congressman Berkley Bedell, who was primarily responsible for the establishment of the Office of Alternative Medicine at NIH, was interviewed by maverick physician Jonathan Wright* in Nutrition & Healing (10/94).
Anyone who doesn't realize that rational medicine is under serious political attack in America should read this interview. Bedell describes his beliefs about how a Minnesota farmer cured his Lyme disease by injecting killed Lyme disease germs into a pregnant cow's utter and giving him colostrum from the cow to take orally every 11/2 hours for months afterward. Bedell also describes his experience with the Canadian charlatan Gaston Naessens whose claptrap he swallowed hook, line, and sinker.
Bedell clearly does not understand that it is impossible to know if the resolution of his diseases were simply due to the natural courses the diseases follow, or related to standard treatments he received. It is least likely that the dubious remedies had an effect. Unfortunately, he does not let his ignorance stop him from using his political influence to destroy well-conceived consumer protection policies.
Bedell complains that the lack of proof is due to the high cost of running a drug through the FDAs approval process. He's apparently bought into the lame excuses of organized quackery for not showing evidence for its claims. In reality, although the total approval process may cost millions, the initial evidence to show that a remedy is worth the investment costs very little. Proponents merely need to show that their claims have substance. This can be done by presenting reliable clinical data from work they are already doing. If the results are as spectacular as they make them sound in their promotions, this type of evidence should be easily obtained. Once substantive preliminary evidence of value is presented, access to research grant money becomes possible.
Congress passed the Orphan Drug Act in 1983 to make it easier to have drugs approved. Bedell uses quackery's doublespeak when he condemns double-blind, placebo controlled studies as too complex stating that what "sick people want is effective treatment." Bedell is now lobbying hard to pass a national "medical freedom" act that would allow anyone to obtain any type of medical treatment from any licensed MD, DO, chiropractor, naturopath "as long as there is no evidence the treatment is dangerous, and the patient is informed of possible adverse effects, and advised that the treatment is not approved by the FDA." Such a bill would legalize quackery and strip consumers of protection when they need it the most--when desperate and frightened.
Bedell's desire to open the door to all sorts of pseudomedicine shows that his adoration goes far beyond the milk cow cure and the Canada cancer remedy. He is a true believer using his political connections to destroy responsible medicine.
Bedell's strategy is to flood Congress with mail just as the supplement industry did to have the anti-consumer 1994 Dietary Supplements Act enacted. Step by step organized quackery is using true believers with political savvy to undo consumer protection. Unfortunately, today's "finger in the wind" politicians have demonstrated that they will go along with just about anything that appears to be popular. Senator Lloyd Benson referred to contrived mail to congress as "astroturf, not true grass roots" which fits Bedell's strategy perfectly, but few seem to know or care.
*Jonathan Wright is the Seattle-area physician raided by the FDA for "receiving, using and distributing several unapproved and misbranded foreign manufactured injectable drug products." His public relations flacks have successfully distorted the case to make it sound like Wright was merely distributing "vitamins." For the real story see "Health food industry backs 'persecuted' doctor," Priorities, Winter, 1993. Wright uses a number of nonstandard therapies including chelation therapy, clinical ecology, electrodermal testing, and homeopathy.
Stephen Barrett, MD has filed a Citizen's Petition with the FDA asking the agency to curb the marketing of "sports vitamins" and other alleged "ergogenic aids" (performance enhancers). The petition asks that all such products have premarketing proof of safety and efficacy. The petition includes a copy of the chapter "How athletes are exploited" from The Vitamin Pushers (1994). Yearly sales of such products exceed $150 million.
For an excellent review and evaluation of popular ergogenic aids see Friedl, "Peformance-enhancing substances: effects, risks, and appropriate alternatives," chapter 11 in Baechle, Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Human Kinetics, 1994.
The Congressional Research Service Report for Congress: Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 P.L.103-417, 12/1/94 by Donna V. Porter, Specialist in Life Science, Science Policy Research provides insight to the new law.
Under its discussion of safety, the report states that the FDA will have to use the general food safety provision which requires it to show that an ingredient is "ordinarily injurious to health" meaning it would be expected to harm most individuals who consume it. The FDA can also declare a supplement unsafe if it contains an ingredient for which there is inadequate information to provide reasonable assurance of risk. Future regulatory actions may turn on interpretations of terms "substantial and unreasonable risk" of illness or injury, and the agency's interpretations of these may result in a protracted public and legal debate.
The report notes that "consumers seem to believe that any product that appears in pill form has been reviewed for safety by FDA, which is not true for supplements." Also stated is that it has not yet been determined if the illnesses related to L-tryptophan "were caused by the amino acid itself, contaminants, or a combination of both." The report notes that the courts are charged with being the final arbitrator in determining the safety of supplements if they have not been previously reviewed by FDA putting "the final decision on a scientific matter in the hands of the legal system."
The report also covers health claims, statements of nutritional support, labeling, good manufacturing practices, conforming amendments, and the Commission on Dietary Supplement Labels. A reading provides strong evidence that consumers were the losers with the passage of the DSHEA.
Copies of the 16-page report are available from NCAHF for $3 with double-stamped, self-addressed business-sized envelope, or $5 postage paid.
Physician's Weekly (4/18/94) reported that American Medical Television (AMT) was paid $12,000 to produce an infomercial on CNBC promoting the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), a chain of clinics operated by American International Hospital (AIH) of Zion, IL. AIH has a record of using and questionable promotions and dubious remedies.
Because the American Medical Association owns 53% of AMT many physician viewers were outraged. Victor Herbert, MD,JD wrote a letter of protest noting that CTCA had sued him and others who made critical statements about its practices to the Dallas Morning News (6/21/92). The suit was dismissed, but its filing demonstrated that CTCA wasn't playing by the rules that guide ethical health care providers. Even though Dr. Herbert is not an AMA-member, his letter got action.
The Vitamin Pushers (Prometheus, 1994) by Drs. Barrett and Herbert provides convincing evidence that the health food industry is so deliberate in its deceptive practices that it should be regarded as "a form of organized crime." Computer network messages and strident editorials in quackery's trade publications are on the attack trying to discredit what is seen as a doomsday book for the industry. Thought leaders need to read the book to avoid being fooled by distortions.
In an effort to gain a competitive edge, some employers have implemented training programs with an aim to enhance human potential. Activities such as meditation, guided visualization, self-hypnosis, mass hypnosis, therapeutic touch, biofeedback, yoga, firewalking, and the inducement of altered states of consciousness are taught.
Some employees object to such programs seeing them as attempts to alter their personal belief systems--an invasion of their privacy. A survey of Pacific Bell employees found hundreds furious about a new age training program the company had instituted 
Courts require employers to guarantee the neutrality of the workplace with regard to religion. Several employers have been sued by employees over new age training programs on the basis that employers failed to make a reasonable accommodation to their religious beliefs, or that an atmosphere of religious intimidation existed. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has ruled  that unless the employer can show undue hardship they must accommodate an employee's religiously-based objection to participation in a new age training program by an acceptable substitution, or excuse the employee entirely if a program is based on a concept contrary to his/her beliefs. Techniques derived from specific religious traditions are particularly vulnerable to challenge, and most new age techniques are derived from eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
Therapeutic Touch (TT) is also derived from a specific religion, Wicca, an ancient fertility religion the practitioners of which are called witches (females) and warlocks (males). Wicca is also the root of the word wicked  not only because of its nudity and sex rituals, but the fact that it worships both good and evil (God and Satan) as equal, opposite, and co-eternal. Wicca is enjoying a resurgence as new age ecofeminism. Politically, nursing's infatuation with the female-dominated wicca reflects a deep-seated resentment of males stemming from traditional female RN subservience to male MDs.
Within wicca, TT is called Pranic healing--Prana being the vitalistic life force of Hinduism. Dolores Krieger, RN, PhD, a now retired nursing teacher at New York University who was the main TT proponent, taught that Prana is "at the base of the human energy transfer in the healing act." 
A how-to manual on witchcraft  gives details for the Pranic healing ritual: a circle is drawn around the patient who lies on his back with his head towards the east; and, it is recommended that both the healer and patient be naked (as far as we know, TT nurses and patients keep their clothes on).
Only a small portion of nurses believe in TT, but those who do enjoy positions of power in the nursing hierarchy. Jean Watson, a leading proponent, will head the National League for Nursing in 1995. TT has been imposed upon nursing staffs from above by administrators who are followers of Martha Rogers, a nurse theorist who was once chair of nursing at New York University.
Rogers advanced a theory in which all persons are highly complex fields of various forms of life energy. These fields of energy are coextensive with the universe and in constant interaction and exchange wit h surrounding energy fields. Rogers believed wellness to be a product of the harmonious exchange between an individual's energy field and the environment .
Nurses who object to being saddled with TT can object on the basis of the EEOC ruling. It is doubtful if hospital administrators would tolerate such a divisive practice in their programs. There are also many patients who would be offended by having witch rituals disguised as science-based health care used on them. It is not unreasonable to suppose that emotional harm could come to a seriously-ill patient whose personal religious views have been crossed by having unwittingly submitted to witchcraft at a time when they are trying to get right with their God.
Citations (1) Brierton TD, "Employer's new age training programs fail to alter the consciousness of the EEOC," Labor Law Journal, July, 1992, pp.411-20. (2) EEOC Notice, N-915.022. (3) Webster's New 20th Century Dictionary, Unabridged, World, 1968. (4) Krieger. The Therapeutic Touch. Prentice-Hall, 1979, p.13. (5) Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft, 1986;194-5. (6) Bullough. "Therapeutic Touch: why do nurses believe?" Skeptical Inquirer, 1993;17:169-74.
Chapter X, Unlimited Power, By Anthony Robbins
Chapter ten is titled, "Energy: the Fuel of Excellence." Robbins gives "six keys to a powerful, indomitable physiology." He acknowledges that "much of what I say will challenge things you've always believed. Some of it will go against the notions you now have of good health." But, Robbins says, they have "worked spectacularly for me" and the people he has worked with.
Key #1: The power of breath. Robbins presents ideas on deep breathing that are full of hot air! He rightly says that oxygen uptake is an important physiological feature, but seems ignorant of the fact that it is unaffected by deep breathing. He also promotes lymphology, a utopian pseudoscience aimed at raising up "a Zion people who will conquer disease." 
Key #2: Eat water rich foods (fresh fruits and vegetables). Although good advice in itself, the information Robbins provides contains a lot of bilge water! He says our water is bad because of chlorine, fluoride and minerals, and says that drinking distilled water is the "best idea" which is false. Robbins reveals his ignorance about physiology as he misinforms readers about how the body rids itself of metabolic wastes.
Key #3: Food Combining. Robbins combines misconception, misinformation and misguided advice based upon the crackpot theories of Herbert Shelton, a self-styled "nature doctor" who operated a "health school" in Texas. In 1982, the widow of William Carlton of Los Altos, Calif, who died after 30 days on a diet of distilled water won a $873,000 judgment against Shelton's school that prescribed the diet. Carlton was the sixt h victim in five years known to have died while undergoing treatment at the school . Among Shelton's disciples have been Judy Mazel who wrote The Beverly Hills Diet (1981) which was said to be "ludicrous" and "full of misinformation so strange that it would be funny, except that so many people seem to believe it" ; and, Harvey & Marilyn Diamond, authors of Fit For Life (1985), a book so wrongheaded as to be the equivalent of a geography book teaching that the earth is flat. Robbins reveals that the Diamonds were his former "partners."
Key #4: Control consumption (eat less). Telling Americans to eat less is generally good advice, unless they are anorectic which is not uncommon among health neurotics who follow Shelton's advice. The outstanding error given here is Robbins' statement that animal undernutrition studies are "undoubtedly applicable to humans because it works in every species thus far." The only species studied thus far are rats and mice with comparisons made between caged animals on either restricted or unrestricted diets. Rats and mice are extremely active in the wild wit h voracious appetites. Caging such animals greatly restricts their physical activity. Restricting foods to some while allowing others to overeat results in early death in the overeaters, not exceptional longevity in the restricted animals. Observations of free-living humans supports dietary moderation but not undernutrition. Ascetic people who deny themselves pleasing foods don't live longer, it only seems longer!
Key #5: Effective fruit consumption. Fruit is fine, but following Robbins' advice would be fruitless. He says "fruit is the most perfect food." Not true, no "perfect food" exists. Milk comes closest to being a complete food, but even mother's milk is too low in iron. Robbins unjustifiably condemns milk by quoting anti-milk zealot William Ellis, DO, and misusing information about individual sensitivities such as lactose intolerance.
Key #6: The protein myth. Robbins is right when he says that most Americans eat far more protein than the minimum required, but he is wrong when he says that "nobody has any idea how much protein we need." The amount of protein needed is affected by age, gender, athletic training, pregnancy, wound healing, and other factors, but these are considered and covered by RDAs. Robbins misquotes Dr. Mark Hegstead as saying that humans will adapt to whatever level of protein is available. Kwashiorkor is a protein deficiency disease common in malnourished people who obviously could not adapt. Robbins misrepresents Francis Lappe's (author of Diet For A Small Planet) retraction about the necessity of combining incomplete vegetables to meet protein needs. Her retraction stated that it is not necessary to combine incomplete vegetable proteins at each meal, that suc h combinations are necessary only in the total diet. Robbins is also wrong about meat swarming internally with colon bacteria. His authority was J. Milton Hoffman, ND, PhD, whose degrees were from diploma mills--including the notorious "Donsbach University" (Hoffman wrote a book extolling the now discredited health and longevity of Hunzaland, and selling supplements that supposedly would provide the same for his customers). Robbins extols vegetarianism as essential for good health.
Although there is nothing wrong with smart vegetarianism (versus stupid), but Robbins' nutrition information will not make a smart vegetarian. Robbins' list of great people who were vegetarians omits Adolph Hitler and Charles Manson. He fails to note that other great people, including Jesus Christ and Mohammed, were not vegetarians. Robbins recommends and provides the phone number for the American Natural Hygiene Society which runs the unaccredited school that teaches Shelton's dangerous ideas . Robbins also advances the unfounded notions about diet and crime promulgated by Alexander Schauss.
Citations: (1) Salt Lake Tribune, 6/24/89. (2) Los Angels Daily Journal Law Reports, 9/21/82. (3) ACSH News & Views, Jan-Feb, 1982. (4) Kenney, "Fit For Life, some notes on the book and its authors," Nutrition Forum, 1986;3:57-9.