A LITTLE ITEM FROM THE LOCAL PRESS:
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:
Homeowatch (on homeopathy)
Naturowatch (on naturopathy)