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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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A 2007 study conducted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) found that 72 percent of physicians and 89 percent of nurses personally use vitamin, mineral, herbal, and other supplements. Eighty-five percent of these providers recommend supplements to their clients. Among the 28 percent of physicians who don’t personally use supplements, 62 percent recommend them to their patients.

With or without RCTs, both the scientific and clinical evidence— and their own health experiences— appear to be persuasive. Are the parameters for evidence-based medicine expanding, even though some holdouts (like Dr. Offit) haven’t gotten the memo?

“There are no guarantees in medicine. You can do every aggressive treatment for cancer and still die. No one would tell anyone that they have a 100% chance of survival with any treatment,” Maizes says. “There’s a multibillion-dollar industry implanting stents in people when studies show it does not enhance survival.”

Despite the recurrent rallying call to evidence based medicine, less conventional practice is based upon it than people realize. A 2009 study published in JAMA  found that only 19 percent of the most basic cardiovascular treatments (or devices) are based on RCTs.

“There’s a double standard when it comes to integrative approaches, bolstered by the myth that everything in conventional medicine is proven and nothing in integrative medicine is. But the reality is subtler,” says Maizes. “In healthcare, we always need more study. If a study only goes up to people aged 65, is it relevant for an 80-year-old? We can’t say for sure. For years we only had studies on men and told women to do the same thing even though women respond differently. We will never have all the evidence.”

In this context, with plenty of standard medicine used in practice failing to meet this exalted RCT standard, Offit’s demand for it sounds much more like a call to brand loyalty. And if he’s truly interested in seeing more science on nutrients, he can always look into the existing literature.

Alison Rose Levy @alisonroselevy writes on health, food and the environment. Her website is and her weekly radio program on Progressive Radio is Connect the Dots.

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