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The Medical Establishment's "Favorite" Doctor and His Crusade Against Supplements and Alternative Medicine

Paul Offit's new book and media blitz pretend to be objective, but really offer one-sided bashing of natural healthcare.

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This is due in part to conventional agricultural practices. “In hundreds of studies, scientists have shown that incrementally higher levels of fertilizer negatively impact the density of certain nutrients in harvested foodstuffs, hence the name, the ’dilution [of nutrients] effect,’" said Preston Andrews of Washington State University in a 2009 presentation on the impact of conventional agricultural practices on food quality.

Alan Gaby, an expert on supplementation and the author of The Natural Pharmacy: Complete A-Z Reference to Natural Treatments for Common Health Conditions, says that “people who consume foods grown on deficient soils may not obtain sufficient amounts of trace minerals like selenium, iodine, chromium, or manganese in their diet.”

Gaby further points out that many common foods contribute to nutritional depletion. (So do drugs.) According to several studies, caffeine consumption can contribute to calcium loss. which can be mitigated by calcium supplementation other research found.

High sugar consumption prompts urinary excretion of chromium, one study found, while a USDA study found that chromium intake helped to improve glucose tolerance in people with diabetes.

These are just a few examples of the extensive literature that reveals both the reasons many may have nutritional deficiencies, and the benefits of using micronutrients from foods to correct them.

Who Takes Supplements

In 2008, the CDC and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) found that that natural nutritional products are the most commonly used “integrative” health approach. A 2007 Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) survey found that 68 percent of adults (over 150 million Americans) report taking nutritional or dietary supplements.

Medical opinion has converged on some supplementation as essential. “For women of childbearing age, every single national medical organization agrees,” says Maizes. “The US Preventive Task Force, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology all advise that women of childbearing age should be taking a multivitamin with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, heart defects, skeletal defects, and cleft palate.”

According to Maizes, who is also the author of Be Fruitful: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Fertility and Giving Birth to a Healthy Child (Scribner, 2013), “The Nurses’ Health Study found that among those taking a multivitamin six times per week, there was 41% less infertility, fewer miscarriages, and less cancer in their children.” She points out that, “The CDC says that 75% of Americans don’t get enough folate. Dr. Offit is out there countering a science-based public health message.”

What causes Offit’s disquiet? He quotes Yale neurologist Steven Novella on herbal remedies: “Herbs are drugs and can be studied be studied as drugs.” He would like to see supplements studied and regulated as drugs.

The FDA does regulate supplements as food products, and they are currently the most highly regulated food products. The FDA cannot regulate either BPA or mercury because they are “grandfathered” into use. The FDA chooses not to regulate personal care products or cosmetics. The FDA does not bother to study the safety of GMOs, or the chemicals used in fracking, but according to Offit’s book, certain FDA officials are miffed that they can’t regulate vitamin C, a component of food found in many fruits and vegetables, as a drug.

Before conferring the special status of drug-hood on an herb (or other food ingredient), it’s fair to ask whether drugs and nutrients are equivalently dangerous and therefore require the same extensive and costly drug trials to assure their safety for use.

Take too much vitamin C and you might get a loose bowel movement. Take too much of a statin drug and you might get liver damage or kidney failure. That’s just one example of the difference in risk between high-harm and low-harm ingredients. Drugs are heavily studied and regulated because they are high harm— highly toxic single novel chemicals devised in a lab for a high-potency targeted use with mechanisms of action and side effects new to the human organism. Basic nutrients from foods and plants are low-harm because they are natural complexes of ingredients with long histories of biological compatibility with humans.

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