A 29-year-old mother of three children died from a stroke induced by a rapid, tilting, lateral rotation neck manipulation by a chiropractor. The woman had complained of increasing radiating neck pain and stiffness of two weeks' duration. The authors theorize that disease of the arterial wall seen at autopsy may have predisposed her to the fatal event. Such a predisposition may explain why some people are affected by neck manipulation while most others are not. Unfortunately, such predisposing disease is not identifiable. The deceased was also a light smoker and took birth control pills, which may have increased her risk.
The Death of Truth (Bethany House, 1996) is written by scientists and theologians from a Christian perspective, but the information that it contains is valuable to anyone who wants to understand the thinking behind much of today's "alternative" and "complementary" medicine.
Donal P. O'Mathuna points out that people who are seeking health care advice from alternative medicine sources "are receiving religious instruction." He says, that "These therapies are spiritually based, and ought to be presented as such. It is unethical for these religious practices to promote themselves as medicine." O'Mathuna hits the nail right on its head when he points out that much of the objection to alternative and complementary medicine, from the perspective of consumer protection law, is that religious rituals are being falsely and misleadingly labeled and advertised as science-based therapies.
The book presents alternativism as a combination of old-fashioned spiritualism and New Age postmodernism. The book lays bare many of the ideas that drive today's intellectual climate which is so friendly to antiscientism. Although the book is clearly directed to the Christian community, its message is important for all of society. Its content is scholarly and academically sound. The book is a project of the Xenos Christian Fellowship in Columbus, Ohio. Order from Bethany Books, Minneapolis, MN.
A recent court order resulted in the destruction of 13,320 half-gallon bottles of Jogging in a Jug--a mixture of grape and apple juices, and vinegar--because the product became an unapproved new drug due to health claims made by promoters. J
ack McWilliams, owner of Third Option Laboratories, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, claimed that his vinegar product had helped him conquer his own arthritis and heart disease, and could reduce the risk of cancer in the internal organs. McWilliams claimed that the reason women craved pickles during pregnancy was because they wanted acetic acid (vinegar). Despite the court- ordered destruction of these jugs, Third Option is still in business and is working with the FDA on ways to market the product legally. Company officials met with FDA in 1992 and agreed to stop making health claims, but complaints continued, resulting in action on May 19, 1994 that led to the court-ordered destruction. [FDA Consumer, Jan-Feb, 1996, pp.35-6] Last year Third Option paid the FTC $480,000 to settle charges of false advertising.[Consumer Reports, July, 1995]
Comment: Apple cider vinegar has a long tradition as a folk remedy. In 1958, Vermont physician D.C. Jarvis (no relation to NCAHF's Jarvis) wrote Folk Medicine, a book which extolled apple cider vinegar and honey as remedies for just about everything, and even hunting dogs were said to perform better if given apple cider vinegar. Jarvis's book did not claim to be based upon science. It was folksy, anecdotal, and opinionated in its tone. Curiously, another health guru, John Harvey Kellogg, MD, taught that vinegar was a poison that belonged only in the laboratory.
A new multilevel firm is promoting itself as a "nutraceutical frontrunner" ("nutraceutical" is a marketing term for foods that favorably alter the structure or function of the body beyond what normal foods can do). The company's lead product, Manapol, is simply aloe vera juice. Promoters acknowledge that many counterfeit products emerged during past aloe vera fads, but this juice is the real thing. The true story on aloe vera is that breaking off a leaf from a living plant and applying the juice to a burn is one of the best first aid measures one can use. Aloe vera juice is also used in burn wards to soothe, protect and moisten wounds.
The problem with marketing the juice is that it doesn't keep well. Processing inactivates the ingredient that produces the desired effects. So, many aloe vera products contain processed juice that has lost the plant's helpful properties. According to Mannatech's own literature, aloe vera expert Ivan Danhof, PhD, MD, warned aloe promoters about making claims, and on the instability of beta-1,4-mannan molecules.
Mannatech says that the "future of aloe vera belongs to those who have the ability to stabilize and standardize (emphasis added) this labile polysaccharide," and that Manapol is the "only commercially processed aloe vera product capable of achieving and make the claim for standardizing betamannans." Mannatech does not claim to be able to stabilize betamannans, which is what is needed for the substance to be effective. Mannatech's wording appears to be clever sleight-of-mouth deception. The whole matter hangs on the question of Manapol's effectiveness, which they also tend to weasel on.
Although it is a separate company, Mannatech has a licensing agreement with Carrington Laboratories, an aloe processor. Carrington has a jaded history on Wall Street in connection with its product Carrisyn. Carrisyn was said to have an Investigational New Drug (IND) permit from the FDA as a topical gel for treating bedsores. Carrington announced that it had filed for patents in 43 countries for Carrisyn on the news that the drug might be useful for AIDS. AIDS is a buzzword that sends stocks flying.
It turned out that there was more hype than reality there, and the FDA denied that it had issued an IND for Carrisyn. It had only assigned a number to Carrington's IND application. All of this produced quite a stink among investment watchdogs, which was detailed in two reports in Barron's (9/22/86 & 9/29/86). NCAHF believes that extreme caution is advised on Mannatech.
The oft-repeated retort as to why herbal companies cannot afford to properly test and market their remedies is that herbs are natural substances and, therefore, cannot be patented. They say without patents to protect their investment, no company can afford the research and development costs.
There is something wrong with this argument. First, we notice in its advertisements that the shark cartilage (a natural substance) supplement Cartilade is patented. Second, vitamins cannot be patented, and yet the last estimate of sales we saw was $4 billion.
Just about anyone who wants to can buy bulk vitamins, package and label them, and sell them to retail outlets (or directly by mail-order). It is catchy product names and creative marketing that makes these products sell. Why can't herbal companies do the same? Developers merely need to standardize their product and sell it in bulk to distributors. Whoever is first marketing ought to be able to corner the market, especially if they beat others to contract with the herb growers. NCAHF would like to hear from anyone who can provide reliable information on this.
Howard Turney has been promoting the use of human growth hormone replacement as a method of rejuvenation for older men through his company the El Dorado Rejuvenation & Longevity Institute. Turney organized a network of 38 physicians who supply the hormone on a referral basis. Julian Whitaker, MD is named as one of these.
Turney also offers the substance at a clinic he set up in Cancun, Mexico. Human growth hormone is a legal, scientifically valid substance that is approved for correcting the growth of growth hormone-deficient children. It is marketed by Genentech, Inc. and Eli Lilly & Company. A Genentech spokesman told the Wall Street Journal (1/10/96) that "At the dosage levels you have to go to get helpful anti-aging effects, it runs amok with side-effects."
The idea that aging men might benefit from hormone replacement therapy of some sort is not far fetched. Just as post-menopausal women can maintain a somewhat younger frame and appearance, and feel a whole lot better, on hormone replacement therapy, so might men. A major difference between men and women is that women have the physiological landmark of menopause by which to gauge their bodily changes. Men can only estimate the point when their bodies make similar changes (such as observing their close male relatives to get an idea as to when they stopped looking relatively athletic and became "grumpy old men").
In the future doctors may be able to analyze a man's biochemistry and come up with a safe and effective hormone replacement cocktail, but right now men who want to get rolling again must play Russian roulette with people like Turney and his associates. We report on a recent study of the effects of human growth hormone on healthy men:
52 healthy men 70-85 years of age with well-preserved functional ability, but low baseline insulin-like growth factor 1 levels, were given 0.03 mg/kg doses of growth hormone or a placebo 3 times per week for 6 months. Body composition, knee and hand grip muscle strength, systemic endurance (VO2max during exercise cycle test), and cognitive function (4 different tests) were measured. The experimental group improved in lean body mass (the placebo group got worse); no differences were seen in knee or grip strength, or systemic endurance between the groups. T he hormone group improved on one functional test, did poorer on another, while there were no differences on the other two. 26 men in the hormone group had 48 incidents of side effects (26 placebo men had 14 side effect incidents). Dose reduction was required in 26% of the hormone subjects. [Papadakis. Annals of Internal Medicine,, 1996;124:708-16]
Pediatricians at the University of Montreal studied the use of alternative medicine (AM) by children attending the general outpatient clinic of Montreal University Hospital. The study covered a 4-month period (Jan-Apr '92). 1,911 questionnaires were analyzed. 208 (11%) children had used one or more forms of AM since birth. Despite the availability of more than 100 types of AM, 84% used only four kinds: chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy or acupuncture.
The following information was presented on the therapies used:
*Administration of trace elements considered to be poorly absorbed by the body.
**Healing system based on the manipulation of bones or other body parts. (Note. Osteopathy has been reformed to a science-based profession in the United States
The conditions for which children were treated by these practitioners by number of visits were:
The main factors that persuaded patents to use AM were:
|Word of mouth||138||32|
|Fear of drug side effects||90||21|
|Chronic medical problem||85||19|
|More personal attention||40||9|
69% of parents of the children who used AM also used it on themselves. Only the child's age (>1 yr) and mother's education (better) were independently related to use (authors speculated that the fact that better educated mothers are more exposed to sources of information could explain this). 59% of parents noted an improvement in their child's condition following alternative treatment.
When asked to compare their experience with regular and AM, 45% rated them equal. However, three times as many parents preferred AM who used it themselves. In Canada, healt h care for children is generally free of out-of-pocket fees, but not all AM is covered. 52% of the AM used in this study was paid for in whole or in part by the parents. 29% was paid for by private insurance, and 9% was given free. The authors admonish physicians to ask their patients about their use of AM, and to be vigilant about possible harmful effects of some forms of AM.
[Spigelblatt, et al. "The use of alternative medicine by children," Pediatrics, 1994;94:811-14]
Comment: We have presented only some of the study's scope and findings. Readers who are interested in probing the psycho-social dynamics of AM use would do well to carefully examine the methodology of this well-conceived study. It provides the kind of information needed to analyze what is happening in this important behavior.
University of Chicago psychologist Bette Bottoms, et al, studied 3 types of child abuse: physical, sexual and medical neglect by religious authorities. The researchers surveyed over 19,000 mental health professionals to identify clinicians who had encountered relevant cases, followed by a detailed survey of 2,136 who reported at least one ritual or religion-related case of abuse; 37% responded. The researchers described "in statistical detail cases involving the withholding of medical care for religious reasons, abuses related to attempts to rid a child of evil, and abuse perpetrated by persons with religious authority such as ministers and priests."
The most frequent type of abuse involved sexual abuse by clergy. Male and female victims were about equally common. The psychological sequelae of sexual abuse are described, with depression being most common in all types of abuse. From the important perspective of consumer protection, researchers state:
Perhaps our most disturbing finding is that cases involving medical neglect were unlikely to be prosecuted even in the face of compelling evidence and the extreme nature of the abuse.
The authors' conclusion included a compelling bit of irony:
Our study leads us to believe that there are more children actually being abused in the name of God than in the name of Satan. Ironically, while the public concerns itself with passing laws to punish satanic child abuse, laws remain established that protect parents whose particular variants of belief in God deny their children life-saving medical care. The freedom to choose religions and to practice them will, and should, be protected by our constitution. The freedom to abuse children in the course of those practices ought to be curtailed. In the long run, society should find ways to protect children from religion-related abuse and to help religions evolve in the direction of better treatment of children.
An article describing the survey's findings and their ramifications is entitled, "In the name of God: a profile of religion-related child abuse." It appeared in the Journal of Social Issues, 1995:51(2):85-111.
Times have changed. Antifluoridationism, which was once the leading bellwether of antiscience terrorism and proquackery sentiment, appears to now have taken its rightful place along side the flat earth society, holocaust deniers, and those who believe that we never actually landed on the moon.
In 1977 a physician wanting to find out more about the laetrile movement went to a rally. To his surprise, instead of boosting laetrile they spent the night bashing fluoridation  A study of the prolaetrile movement by sociologists found that neither "incidence of," or "death from cancer in the immediate family" were useful predictors of either "participation in the laetrile movement," or "the use of laetrile." "Disapproval of fluoridation" was the strongest zero-order correlate of organizational participation in the Laetrile movement, and tied as second strongest factor in the use of Laetrile .
Fluoridation has been at the interface of quackery and public unrest because it was the whipping boy for government intrusion into our lives. In the 1950s fluoridation was said to be a Communist plot to poison America. This sounds silly today, especially since fluoridation is an American idea that has been adopted by many (formerly) Communist countries, but it was taken seriously by some people then.
Today the battle over government intrusion is symbolized by abortion protests, Kevorkian-assisted suicides, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, and the Freemen. In March the LLU School of Public Health staged a fluoridation confrontation as part of its annual homecoming convention. They had to dredge the bottom to find anyone to speak in opposition. They ended up with an "orthomolecular psychiatrist," and a cranky physician from Canada who relied upon discredited antifluoridation propaganda. A clique of supporters in the audience seemed to be patients of the psychiatrist. Antifluoridation spokespersons seem to be an endangered species. No one knowledgeable about fluoride opposes fluoridation, and professional antifluoridationist John Yiamouyannis has lost all credibility.
Since the 1996 California mandate to fluoridate, as expected, there have been a few attempts by the media to exploit the controversial nature of fluoridation by wanting to stage on-air debates. William Jarvis has taught public health dentistry at the LLU School of Dentistry for more than two decades, and is well able to speak publicly on the matter. Nevertheless, he has declined to participate in such events because he believes that the debate setting is inappropriate for addressing the safety or efficacy of fluoridation.
These are scientific questions that can be settled only by evidence. Antis can spread more misinformation in five minutes than can be convincingly refuted in five hours -- if ever. The only way a fair debate could be held would be in the presence of a referee who was so well-informed on the issues that he/she could immediately rule when one side or the other was misrepresenting the facts. Otherwise, factual data are quickly dismissed and mere opinion prevails.
When asked to participate in such events, Jarvis challenges the media to be socially responsible in matters involving public health science. He points out that the debate setting is appropriate for the airing of social issues that are based on opinion, but not science. Debating scientific questions merely confuses the public and causes people to become more fearful of technology. A study of public attitudes on controversial issues (fluoridation and nuclear power) found that the mere quantity of coverage caused the public to become more conservative .3
The power to frighten and stampede the public was demonstrated recently by the "mad-cow disease" panic in England. The media has the duty to report on issues of public interest, but they also have a duty to put their reports into proper perspective. Because of the inordinate amount of effort involved, they often settle for following formulas such as "presenting both sides and letting the public decide." The problem is that the public doesn't have the skill or insight, and the result is more confusion, doubt, and conservatism. The time has come for the media to treat antifluoridationism in the manner that it deserves to be treated--as an aberration that has outlived its time.
Citations. 1) Smith. "Will laetrile be defrocked?" The Bulletin (Australia), 9/14/77; 2) Markle, Petersen, Wagenfeld, "Notes from the cancer underground: participation in the Laetrile movement," Social Science & Medicine, 1978;12:31-7; 3) Mazur, "Media coverage and public opinion on scientific controversies," J. of Communication 1981 (Spring) pp.106-15.
Professor William Jarvis has pursued the idea that "Yesterday's quackery is going to be tomorrow's scientific medicine" for more than 25 years. Nearly every quack invokes "the Galileo ploy" claiming to be an innovator ahead of the times. Jarvis studies the history of medical science as part of his teaching of research methodology and the epidemiology of quackery. He has searched for candidates for a "Galileo Award," but none of the commonly cited examples (eg, Jenner, Semmelweis) can hold up to scrutiny as one-time quacks. But now, because of the accumulating scientific evidence that vitamin E may be protective against heart attacks, the late Evan Shute, MD, is emerging as a possible candidate for a "Columbus Award." (Columbus was laughed at for claiming that the Earth was round. He turned out to be right. Most crank scientists claim to be in the same situation. Few have been. Carl Sagan has noted that they also laughed at Bozo the Clown, and there have been more Bozos than Columbuses.)
Vitamin E was originally associated with the fertility of the Norwegian rat. For many years it was called "a vitamin in search of a disease" because so many attempts to link it to anything other than hemolytic anemia in newborns had failed. The vitamin gained some respectability as a weak antioxidant that may have some value in protecting against the effects of air pollution, but the effect had no practical significance.
Some alarm was expressed when vitamin E was shown to affect fibrocystic breast disease in women. The ability of a substance to affect tissue believed to be more susceptible to becoming cancerous is no small matter. The ability of vitamin E to significantly alter hormonal function meant the nutrient in large amounts acts as a drug.
More recently, vitamin E has been tested for its ability to inhibit the blood-clotting process, which is similar to the effects of aspirin. Vitamin E is more desirable for regular ingestion because it doesn't have the potential to cause stomach bleeding as does aspirin, although the amount of aspirin is small, and usually safe if taken with meals. Both substances increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
Dr. Shute, an obstetrician and gynecologist, his brother Wilfred (a cardiologist), and Dr. Albert Vogelsang claimed in 1946 that large doses of vitamin E were beneficial in four major types of heart disease. Evan Shute's book The Heart and Vitamin E and Related Matters recommends vitamin E for the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure, gangrene, nephritis, angina pectoris, varicose veins, and other conditions. It also claims that vitamin E can heal wounds without leaving scars, and can prevent senility and stroke if taken from an early age. The Shute Institute, managed by the Shute Foundation for Medical Research, began publishing The Summary in 1949 to present the Shutes' ideas because of the admitted "inability of the Shute Foundation to get its presentations published in North American medical journals." Shute's work was not up to standard because he considered controlled clinical trials to be "unethical, illegal and immoral." Wilfred left the Institute in 1957, but Evan continued the fight until his death in 1978. Ironically, he died of heart disease.
Such an award to Dr. Shute is limited by the fact that vitamin E hasn't turned out to be the panacea that he claimed, but it appears to have some definite benefit in preventing heart attacks, a claim that brought much criticism his way. Of course, he deserved criticism because he refused to use the scientific channels available to him. Nevertheless, Shute deserves some acknowledgment for a degree of validity in his premature views on vitamin E and heart problems.