Sunday, January 07, 2007

    The Sunday Books supplement of the Winnipeg Free Press contained a review of 'Natural Causes' (author Dan Hurley) by local writer Don Marks. The book in question is an expose of the American vitamin and herbal supplement industry as its subtitle makes plain: 'Death, Lies and Politics in America's Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry'. Essays in muckraking are long overdue in this field, and Hurley's attempt would make John Steinbeck proud, though it is a sad comment on the decline of "radicalism" (sic) in North America that books such as this inspire at least 100 times as may defenses of an $21 billion (one estimate) amongst "progressives" as it does agreements on the subject. The review of the book is pretty well fair, though Molly could spot some howlers. In general the reviewer agreed with the author that a simple common sense approach to diet and that sick managerial word "lifestyle" is a much more effective way to stay healthy than purchasing miracle cures. The reviewer, however, obviously lacks any general view of the "manipulation and commodification of belief" that would allow him to put the "natural hocus pocus" into some sort of context.
    This can be seen from small things such as the complaint that Hurley's book has an "almost total absence of any effective counter-arguments". Molly suggests that there may indeed be NO such things. But this obscures another and more significant matter of blindness on the reviewer's part. He undoubtedly visits bookstores, and as such the opportunity to count "shelf space" is always open to him. Should he visit even the "better book stores" he should notice that the amount of space devoted to only health quackery is at least 50 times greater than that devoted to all debunking books that deals not just with this matter but matters far afield such as psychic frauds, ufos, etc.,etc.,etc.. I challenge the reviewer to find the great and golden "balanced argument" in any ie just one of the titles that proliferate on the market. Debunking books, of course, are simply not stocked in the majority of bookstores.
    Perhaps the reviewer felt that he had to make some sort of "critical comment" about the book he reviewed, and, even if he agrees with the author's general thesis, he felt compelled to make an even greater howler in the following statement;
    "He acknowledges the powerful lobby that supports the massive pharmaceutical industry in the U.S.. But he also tries to convince the reader that manufacturers and marketers of alternative remedies wield almost as much power."
    Ack, cough, choke !!! There's a dirty little secret hidden here that a little probing can easily uncover, but those who buy into the ideological camouflage of the "new entrepreneurs" will consistently ignore it because of ideology. Nobody ever bothers to look up the market share of the vitamin and supplement market because they are under the magic influence of a mythology of evil corporate dragons versus pure and noble New Age Saints. Some ideology survives all bruising contact with reality ! The evil corporate dragons and the saintly purveyors of "natural cures" are very much exactly the same people. Look it up yourself, but here is a list of the major players in the "neutraceuticals market" in the USA circa 2005. It should be noted that almost all of the market for "functional foods" is monopolized by major international food and drink manufacturers, and that the market for vitamin, mineral and supplements is increasingly dominated by the "house brands" of major retailers. The list:
  • Bayer Corporation
  • GNC Corporation (formerly General Nutrition Companies Inc.)
  • GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals
  • Leiner Health Products Inc.
  • NBTY Inc. (includes Rexall Sundown Inc.)
  • Perrigo Company
  • Pharmavite LLC (Otsuka Pharmaceuticals Group)
  • Twinlab Corporation
  • Weider Nutrition International Inc.
  • Wyeth (formerly American Home Products Corporation)

Doesn't sound like a left wing conspiracy to me. Anyways, if you are curious about the effects of such fad diets you can look to such references as the Merck index or Current Medical Diagnosis where the sections of nutritionally based disease are pretty dependent on food fashion for a lot of their entries. There is an overwhelming amount of pro-food fad material on the market, a lot of it poorly disguised advertising. For the other side try the following references:

Quack Watch

Homeowatch (on homeopathy)

Naturowatch (on naturopathy)

National Council Against Health Fraud


The Skeptics Dictionary

Anti-Quackery Ring

1 comment:

Dr. Rubin said...

I am computer challenged. I would like to say computer illiterate. I can hope you can help me since you are Canadian. I also mispeel so you will have to edit. CBS recently did a story on - actually 2 brief segments on Dietary Supplements on the Evening news. They interviewed Dan Hurley , editor of Natural Causes. As a sufferer of a disorder called Tardive Dystonia, the national Dystonia Research Foundation was originally founded in Vancouver by Sam Belzberg, this Reno resident has tried DMAE, Vitamin E and Brainched Amino Acids without luck to combat his tardive dystonia. Nuerologists have all advocated these dietary supplements in the past 35 years and all have eventually been fdiscredited. When the top people in neurology start publishing papers on vitamin E as a cure ofr tardive dyskinesia- you know traditional medicine has gone south or has become desperate. Same thing applies to Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease. A Reno individual recently took DHEA, a vitamin supplement banned in Canda, the U>K> and Australia but very avaialbe throughout America thanks to the Dietary Supplenet Act where the American people were hoodwinked into think their vitamins would be remioved from the shelves by the FDA. Dhea is considered the most dangerous dietary supplement on the market.All one has to do is google in does DHEA cause hair loss-the individual in Reno is going bald due to a pill that cost him less than 2 cents. the individual in Reno also has hirsutism and other disorder. Only the PUR vitamin Company according to the individual in Reno called DHEA an adrenal steroid and everyone knows steroids are bads for you. Twinlabs and just about everyone else will not use thuis terminology because most people would not buy DHEA. So the individual will have to take propecia for the rest of his life and electroysis. A 2 cents pills will cost him $50,000 lus pain and suffering.He recently saw an article in Ladies Home Journal- called MY Hair, MY Self- the summarry is for men, hair is a deadley serious business.It's at the root ofour self- confidence, sex appeal, security, and self esteem.Just don't expect us to talk about it- by Stephen Fried. I would appreciate it in your blog if you could say a Reno man is trying to get Dhea banned like in Canada.He is seeking to find men and women who have taken DHEA and have had their lives destroyed-by either going hirsuite or going bald- you can email me or e mail Dr. Rubin at I know you are very sophisticated and I believe you could be the point person for seeing DHEA bannedin shitty ASmerica- home of supercapitalism.Attorneys here are in the dark ages- they know about ephedra nbut since DHEA terrifies them- there has never beena major lawsuit as far as I know- you would have to find 100 people in america who says I have been injured by Dhea. Once you have 100 people, we can go to Congress and put pressureon this out of touch Congress. Sure the Democrats have the House but Orrin Hatch has the Senate and he more than anyone is responsible for these drugson the markets- remember he comes from Mormon, Utah whereh e gets his money from the vitamin industry.Also I am a bit scared as people have said to me, are you not afraid someone uis going to do bodily harm to you so when I looked up Dan Hurley- I saw some review and saw your blog. You know something abiout this but you are a blogger and know the internet. You should google in Does Dhea cause hair loss and does DHEA cause hirsutism. People could contact you and you could give them my e mail address because I am fearful thatmy ,ife could be endangered.I gave this DHEA story to a product liabilty attorney in Reno and I think he is scared.I have been seriously depressed for 5 months until I have gotten on propecia and I intend to dedicate my life to getting this banned like in Canda.I hope you can help as I am in an abyss.If I was younger and a computer wizarfd, I woulod have my own blog. Maybe you could set one up for me- I prefer you to act as the intermediary. I guess you have a following- Dr. Rubin