Natural Causes: Death, Lies and Politics in America's Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry

Overview

A riveting work of investigative journalism that charts the rise of the dietary supplement craze and reveals the dangerous—and sometimes deadly—side of these highly popular and completely unregulated products.

Over 60 percent of Americans buy and take herbal and dietary supplements for all sorts of reasons—to prevent illness (vitamin C), to ease depression (St. John’s wort), to aid weight loss (ephedra), to boost the memory (ginkgo biloba), and even to cure cancer (shark ...

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Overview

A riveting work of investigative journalism that charts the rise of the dietary supplement craze and reveals the dangerous—and sometimes deadly—side of these highly popular and completely unregulated products.

Over 60 percent of Americans buy and take herbal and dietary supplements for all sorts of reasons—to prevent illness (vitamin C), to ease depression (St. John’s wort), to aid weight loss (ephedra), to boost the memory (ginkgo biloba), and even to cure cancer (shark cartilage, bloodroot)—despite the fact that few of these “natural” supplements have been proven to be safe or effective. The vitamin and herbal supplement industry generates over $20 billion a year by selling products that promise to cure or fix, but are produced and marketed essentially without oversight. And while the media has been quick to sensationalize the benefits of supplements, few have taken a hard look at the dangers posed by many of the remedies flooding the market today. Award-winning journalist Dan Hurley breaks the silence for the first time in Natural Causes.
From the snake-oil salesmen of the early twentieth century, to rise of the health food movement in the sixties and seventies, Hurley charts the remarkable growth of an industry built largely on fraud, and reveals the backroom politics that led to the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which effectively freed the industry from FDA oversight. In unprecedented detail, he shows how supplement manufacturers have concealed the truth about dozens of untested treatments and the shocking rise in deaths, disfigurements, and life-threatening injuries caused by products deceptively promoted as “safe and natural.” Most importantly, he provides a telling look at why, in an age of unprecedented scientific advancement, we continue to buy and believe in remedies for which little evidence exists—and why the supplements we take to promote our health may be doing far more harm than good.
As Hurley shows, the dietary supplement craze may be one of the greatest swindles ever perpetrated on the American public—one that feeds billions of dollars each year into the pockets of lobbyists, politicians, and any charlatan who wants to slap a label on a bottle and tout it as the next big “natural cure.” Blending hard facts with spellbinding personal stories, Natural Causes is a must-read for anyone who has ever popped a multivitamin or an herb, and provides a hard-hitting, frightening look at a cultural trend that is out of control.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A well-written and detailed expose. . . A strident wake-up call.”— Business Week

“Highly readable . . . [Hurley’s] crisp narrative will shock many Americans.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“An engrossing book [and] a much-needed corrective to the promotion of so-called natural treatments . . . [Natural Causes] deserves a wide audience.” —New England Journal of Medicine

Publishers Weekly
In his lively debut, health and medical journalist Hurley takes aim at the $21 billion supplement industry and its potentially injurious "natural" products. He critiques its strong-arming of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act through Congress-a law that rendered the FDA virtually powerless to regulate these remedies-and observes the FDA's "coziness" with the industry it regulates. From snake oil and shark cartilage to ephedra, Hurley consistently animates patches of dry legal and medical material with harrowing case studies. Sue Gilliatt, for example, burned off her nose when she used the Native American herbal remedy bloodroot to treat her skin cancer in 2001. When Dorothy Wilson's doctor prescribed L-tryptophan for her insomnia in 1988, the over-the-counter amino acid triggered a mysterious disease that left her painfully incapacitated by nerve damage. Although Hurley presents scanty evidence regarding vitamin C's inability to prevent colds, his claim about the criminal backgrounds of several supplement manufacturers is alarming. Hurley wraps up with a refreshingly tough-love conclusion: the bamboozled have to accept some of the blame themselves for wanting a quick-fix promise of good health without having to do the work of a salubrious lifestyle. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
From snake-oil salesmen in the late 19th century to infomercial hucksters on cable TV, health and medical journalist Hurley (the New York Times) traces the growth and persistence of the multibillion-dollar supplement industry in the United States via the people in industry, politics, and science who have played important roles. Hurley credits Stephen Barrett, M.D., the retired psychiatrist behind the nonprofit corporation Quackwatch Inc. (www.quackwatch.org), whose purpose is to combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct, for steering him toward the topic; the author's view, not surprisingly, is decidedly skeptical. He examines the scientific evidence, shows the political machinations that freed supplements from the kind of the evaluations of safety and efficacy faced by pharmaceuticals, and attempts to explain their largely unquestioning acceptance by consumers. Using interviews with people from all sides of the story, plus other primary and secondary sources, Hurley presents a highly readable and convincing narrative. More narrowly focused than Wallace Sampson and Lewis Vaughn's Science Meets Alternative Medicine: What the Evidence Says About Unconventional Treatments. Recommended for public and medical libraries.-Dick Maxwell, Porter Adventist Hosp. Lib., Denver Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767920438
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/26/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 790,276
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Hurley

dan hurley is an award-winning journalist specializing in health and medical writing, and a regular contributor to the New York Times. His work has also appeared in the Houston Chronicle, Men’s Health, Psychology Today, and many other publications. He lives with his wife and daughter in New Jersey.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1
THE RATTLESNAKE KING

There really was a snake oil. A hundred years ago, during the great patent medicine era, American consumers could buy Tex Bailey's Rattle Snake Oil (made not in Texas but in Troy, N.Y.); Tex Allen's Rattlesnake Essential Oil Compound, recommended for “rheumatic pains, back pain, strains, sprains, bruises, sores, aching feet, stiff joints, sore muscles, throat irritation, headache, earache, and more” (manufactured in Newark, N.J.); Rattlesnake Bill's Liniment, “made from the fat of a real diamondback rattlesnake” (manufactured in exotic Belleville, N.J.); the Great Yaquis Snake-Oil Liniment; Blackhawks Indian Liniment Oil; Monster Brand Snake Oil; and Mack Mahon the Rattle Snake Oil King's Liniment for Rheumatism and Catarrh.

Far from having the negative connotation we give it today, snake oil in those days was sold on the basis of Americans’ infatuation with cowboys, the Old West, and Indians. No one better exploited that fascination than Clark Stanley, another self-crowned “Rattle Snake King.” In a fifty-page booklet he published in 1897, Stanley gave the first twenty–five pages over to the colorful life of cowboys before devoting the remaining pages to the wonders of snake oil. With handlebar mustache, goatee, broad–brimmed hat, boots, kerchief, and jeans, he certainly looked the part of a cowboy. The story he told of his life was a compelling one: Born in Abilene, Texas, around the time of the Civil War, he lived the life of a cowboy from the age of fourteen to twenty–five. Then, in the spring of 1879, he followed some of his father's friends to Walpi, Arizona, to see the snake dance of the Moki (now known as the Hopi) Indians.

“There I became acquainted with the medicine man of the Moki tribe,” Stanley wrote in his booklet, “and as he liked the looks of my Colt’s revolver and asked me to show him how it would shoot, I gave him an exhibition of my fancy shooting, which pleased him very much; he then asked me how I would like to stay there and live with him, I told him I would stay until the snake dance.” After witnessing the dance, his father's friends left, but Stanley decided to stay on, and he lived with the Moki for two years and five months.

“I learned their language and dances and the secret of making their medicines,” he wrote. “The medicine that interested me most was their Snake Oil Medicine as they called it. It is used for rheumatism, contracted cords and all aches and pains. As I was thought a great deal of by the medicine man, he gave me the secret of making the Snake Oil Medicine, which is now named Clark Stanley's Snake Oil Liniment. Snake Oil is not a new discovery, it has been in use by the Mokis and other Indian tribes for many generations, and I have made an improvement on the original formula.”

There are no independent historic documents attesting to how much, if any, of Stanley’s story is true. But he certainly seemed to know a great deal about the cowboy life, and it is accurate that the Hopi Indians held snake dances in Walpi, Arizona; President Teddy Roosevelt would attend one in the summer of 1913. But in any case, Stanley's story continued with the turning point that stories such as these almost always have: he tried it on some friends and neighbors back home, and it was such a great cure that soon he was manufacturing it and selling it with great success. By his account, Stanley traveled the West and Southwest for some ten years, selling his snake oil “with unbounded success.”

Then came the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago—the largest public event in the history of the United States to date, where President Grover Cleveland threw an electric switch to open it, the Ferris wheel made its international debut, and more than 25 million people attended during its six–month course. Here, dressed in his colorful cowboy outfit, Stanley made a show of handling snakes.

In the only surviving interview of Stanley conducted by an independent source, he described his routine this way: “The audience see [sic] me kill the snakes, draw out the oil and put it into a glass dish. Then I walk down among them and show it to them. Then, I go back and here is a big glass jar, like you make orangeade in. First, I put the snake oil in, and then I put nine other oils in which have previously been mixed in a can, so that they don't see all of what my formula is. I pour that in on top of the snake oil, turn the mixture around, and if it doesn’t mix thoroughly, looks a little cloudy, I stir it again. Then I let it set for just a moment, and it becomes clear.”

Then he would sell the freshly prepared snake oil liniment, along with many other bottles previously made. As the months passed, he met druggists from across the United States, including one from Boston who persuaded him to move there and open a manufacturing plant.

So it was that, according to a copy of a Boston Transcript article reprinted in Stanley’s booklet, a reporter found him at his office at 67 Park Street in nearby Beverly with a house full of snakes. “The snake man took the reporter up to his bedroom, and opening a light wooden box, with a wire window in the side, dove his hand into it with as much unconcern as if he were taking an egg out of a basket, and brought it out again with a snake seven feet long writhing in it.” Eventually he pulled out two more large venomous snakes and allowed them to twine themselves around his body, their forked black tongues flicking in and out against his skin.

“The bite of any one of these snakes is absolutely deadly,” Stanley told the reporter. “No, I am not the least afraid of being bitten. In fact, I have been bitten hundreds of times. Look here!” He showed his hands, which were covered to the wrists in tiny white scars. Not all were from poisonous snakes, he said, but he continued, “I have also been bitten by snakes which had their glands full of poison, and meant business. The reason I am not dead is because I have what I believe is the only remedy for snake-bite, and there is no question that it is a perfect one.”

While it is possible that Stanley gradually built up a limited immunity to venomous snake bites, as other snake handlers have done, there was not any effective “remedy” for such bites in those days. Today, the only treatment is antivenom, made by injecting small amounts of venom into an animal and then harvesting the immune cells that the animal's blood generates.

By 1901, Stanley had moved to a bigger manufacturing plant in Providence, Rhode Island, where he claimed to have killed three thousand snakes for his snake oil the previous year, as well as two thousand more at his “snake farm” in Texas. "In covered pens may be seen thousands of snakes fattened ready to be killed for their oil,” a reporter wrote. “Clark Stanley says that the world is just beginning to realize the actual value of snake oil and that there are hundreds of uses to which it might be applied that are not yet recognized.”

His labeling, as well as the accompanying booklet, attempted to scratch the surface of those hundreds of uses: “For Rheumatism, Neuralgia, Sciatica, Lame Back, Contracted Muscles, Sprains, Swellings, Frost Bites, Chilblains, Bruises, Sore Throat, Bites of Animals, Insects and Reptiles. Good for Man and Beast. A Liniment that penetrates Muscle, Membrane and Tissue to the very bone itself, and banishing pain with a power that has astonished the Medical Profession.” Two figures illustrated the “best method for curing Partial Paralysis of the Arms.” Another figure illustrated “the way to bathe the head for Neuralgia, Headache, Tic Douloureux.” For the bites of animals, insects, or reptiles, Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment was to “be applied as soon as possible. It kills the poison, relieves the pain, reduces the swelling and heals the wound.”

On the day Columbus first set foot in the New World at San Salvador in 1492, he wrote in his journal, “The natives brought fruit, wooden spears, and certain dried leaves which gave off a distinct fragrance.” The dried leaves, it turned out, were tobacco, the first pharmacologically active herb (due to its nicotine content) brought back to Europe—not that tobacco would ever be regulated as a drug, despite being an addictive stimulant.

“When we discovered the New World, the Old World was looking for cures for diseases,” says Michael R. Harris, who served as the historian of pharmacy at the Smithsonian Institution for twenty-six years before becoming the historian and curator at the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum. He also consulted as a historian to the television show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Beyond cures, Harris says, people wanted stimulants. That’s why when tobacco, coffee, and tea all hit world markets in the sixteenth century, “they became instant hits worldwide. No drugs, except later for the amphetamines, have spread around the world so quickly.”

In 1632, Catholic Jesuits who had gone to Peru brought back a powder from the cinchona tree, which natives used to bring down the fevers of malaria. In Europe, no effective treatment had been known for malaria, and physicians were soon calling the “Jesuit bark” as important a development in medicine as gunpowder was to warfare. The powder, French scientists would determine nearly two centuries later, contained quinine. When it cured the malarial fevers of King Charles II of England, it confirmed the view that great medicines could be found in the forests of the New World.

Indeed, today it is estimated that more than one fourth of modern medicines are derived from botanicals, including aspirin, from willow bark, and the cancer-fighting compound paclitaxel (Taxol), from the Pacific yew tree. Digitalis likewise is derived from foxglove, but the plant was originally used for everything from treating wounds to, as one herbalist put it, curing a “scabby head,” and had developed a reputation by the eighteenth century for being poisonous. Then, in 1775, the Scottish physician William Withering was asked his opinion of a folk remedy for “dropsy,” what is now known as congestive heart failure, a condition for which mainstream medicine then had no cure. Dr. Withering described the remedy in his 1785 book, Account of the Foxglove and Some of Its Medical Uses: “I was told that it had long been kept a secret by an old woman in Shropshire, who had sometimes made cures after the more regular practitioners had failed. I was informed also, that the effects produced were violent vomiting and purging… This medicine was composed of twenty or more different herbs; but it was not very difficult for one conversant in these subjects, to perceive, that the active herb could be no other than the Foxglove.”

As a medical student, Dr. Withering had hated his classes on the identification and preparation of herbs, thinking them dreadfully boring. But he developed a passion for them after meeting the beautiful Helena Cooke, who just happened to be an amateur painter of botanical specimens; they married in 1772. After witnessing a patient's remarkable recovery from dropsy after taking the old woman's remedy, Dr. Withering proceeded to test different formulations of foxglove extract on 158 patients, settling on a green powder made from the dried flowers harvested just before blossoming. Although only 101 of his patients experienced relief after receiving the foxglove treatment, Dr. Withering described all 158 cases in detail. As he wrote: “It would have been an easy task to have given select cases, whose successful treatment would have spoken strongly in favour of the medicine, and perhaps been flattering to my own reputation. But Truth and Science would condemn the procedure. I have therefore mentioned every case…proper or improper, successful or otherwise.” Even then, he emphasized the provisional nature of his observations, insisted that doctors use care in selecting which patients to treat with it, and gave instructions on how to titrate the dosage. The synthetic versions, digitoxin and digoxin, remain widely used to treat heart failure to this day.

With the New World’s medicines, however, came the snake oil. In 1630, Nicholas Knapp of Massachusetts Bay was sentenced to pay five pounds, or be whipped, for selling a would-be cure for scurvy that turned out to be nothing more than “a water of no worth nor value,” which he “solde att a very deare rate.” But it was often difficult to tell mainstream doctors from the quacks. Ben Franklin’s own mother–in–law developed a salve for lice and itching called Widow Read's Ointment, which Franklin advertised before the Revolution in his Pennsylvania Gazette. And George Washington himself died in 1799 after a throat infection led his doctors to bleed him—a practice dating back to Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C.—reportedly draining about half of the seven liters of blood in his body in twenty-four hours, which, in the view of some doctors, may be what actually caused his death. Even in the nineteenth century, while the emerging science of chemistry gave medical doctors an aura of respectability, precious little of value made its way from the laboratory to the bedside. The most eminent physician of the early 1800s, Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia, developed a theory that the cause of fevers and most other illnesses was “excitability” of the blood vessels, or high blood pressure. He lowered the pressure by bleeding patients, removing up to 80 percent of their blood, and purging their bowels. His purgative of choice was calomel, or mercury chloride, a tasteless mineral so powerful that patients sometimes ended up losing their teeth and jawbones. Even a useful remedy like quinine was turned into an all–purpose “tonic” and used for just about anything. The other two popular tonics of the nineteenth century were iron and—in small amounts—strychnine, derived from the nux vomica plant, and better known these days as a poison.

With “cures” like these, it isn’t surprising that other theories no odder than those of mainstream medicine's would arise and find support. One came from a German chemist, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, who in 1796 developed his hair–of–the–dog–that–bit–me theory. “Let likes be treated with likes,” he said, proposing that a substance causing certain unpleasant symptoms in a healthy person could, if given in minuscule amounts, cure a person who was suffering those very same symptoms due to an illness. He called his method homeopathy, from the Greek homoios (similar) and pathos (suffering or disease). Another of his counterintuitive beliefs was that the less of a substance he gave to patients, the more powerful it became. In fact, he claimed, the substances worked best when diluted until no discernible trace remained. A spiritlike essence, he believed, was left behind that would revive the body's vital force. Although not supported by modern science, homeopathy did have one great thing going for it: it didn't injure patients like bloodletting and calomel did. Many doctors began using homeopathic treatments, and eventually many schools of homeopathy were opened in the United States.

Another challenger to what passed for mainstream medicine was an unschooled frontier farmer, Samuel Thomson, who attacked the doctors’ harsh medicines and championed the healing qualities of simple herbs, particularly lobelia (its prime effect implied by its folk name, pukeweed). His theory was that all illness was caused by “cold,” and that the cure was “heat,” which he achieved with steam baths, sweat–inducing herbs like red pepper, and other herbs that would cause people to vomit or move their bowels in an attempt to remove “obstructions” to the body's natural heat balance. Doctors derided his simple theories and overemphasis on lobelia, and he was jailed on murder charges after one of his patients died. But Thomson succeeded in setting off a historic cultural swing away from “scientific” medicine overseen by experts who emphasized chemically derived medicines to “natural” medicine overseen by individuals using herbs on themselves.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2007

    Natural Disaster

    This is my personal review of the book Natural Causes. To those deciding whether this book is worthy of purchasing, I find that many of the author's claims are overblown. Some are demonstrably untrue. Mr. Hurley's inflammatory rhetoric is at odds with official FDA statements, because on its website and in Congressional testimony the agency has repeatedly stated that it has adequate power to regulate dietary supplement safety and quality. DSHEA (the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act) is NOT a deregulation bill. It took a safe food category and elevated its regulation to almost that of pharmaceuticals, allowing the FDA to ban drug and disease claims, control manufacturing quality through mandatory Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), have veto power over authorized label claims, and make manufacturers bear responsibility for mislabeled, adulterated or unsafe products which the agency has the power to ban. Dietary supplement plants are FDA inspected, while also under the sanitation and health laws of local and state governments. Other quality inspectors keep manufacturers honest for example, GMP, organic and kosher certifiers. A documented paper trail is required for every step in the production of products. The FTC also regulates dietary supplement advertising, including monitoring Internet websites. The dietary supplement industry strongly supported the recent Adverse Event Reporting Act that requires manufacturers to report all serious adverse events to the FDA. Some manufacturers have already been doing this voluntarily, but receive very few. This evidences their commitment to safety. Dietary supplement industry associations have quality programs that require registration and random testing for active ingredients in products, so member companies provide a significantly higher level of quality assurance than other manufacturers. Of course, not all natural products are 100% safe or 100% effective for every person. But, checking poisoning death figures from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, I see that supplements are safer than most other products: there were only 5 accidental deaths linked (reported as possibly due) to dietary supplements over a 3-year period. In the same 3-year reporting period, there were 67 deaths from plain aspirin, 50 from aspirin combinations, 48 from pesticides, 7 from cosmetics, 66 from household cleaners, 171 from plain acetaminophen, and 446 from acetaminophen combinations. The medical journal JAMA reports that there are over 100,000 deaths a year from pharmaceutical drugs that are used as directed, and many more from misprescribed drugs. How many have died from using the FDA-approved drug Vioxx? How many from mood altering and cholesterol lowering drugs? How many from cardiovascular disease aggravated by synthetic hormone replacement therapy? Compared with the admitted shortage of essential nutrients in the American diet and the dangers of prescribed and OTC drugs, most people feel better about the relative safety and utility of dietary supplements. Greater than RDA levels of vitamins are NOT automatically toxic. Safe upper levels exist, set by the Institute of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and are often far higher. Medical professionals frequently use mega-doses of biotin, folic acid, and vitamins C, D, E and B12 with no serious adverse effects. Natural products companies exist because of a strong commitment to natural health, including product safety. Most natural products manufacturers would rather go out of business than harm their customers. Many people believe that natural products are more health promoting than synthetic drugs because the nutrients and gentler therapeutic agents are better tolerated by the body and encourage healing not merely controlling symptoms like so many toxic drugs. And, yes, dietary supplements are backed by tens of thousands of published research papers showing th

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2007

    Biased writing clouds facts

    Natural Causes To those deciding whether this book is worthy of purchasing, I find that many of the author's claims are overblown. Some are demonstrably untrue. Mr. Hurley's inflammatory rhetoric is apparently at odds with official FDA statements, because on its website and in Congressional testimony the agency has repeatedly stated that it has adequate power to regulate dietary supplement safety and quality, which the author denies is true. DSHEA (the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act) is NOT a deregulation bill. It took a misunderstood food category and elevated its regulation to almost that of pharmaceuticals, allowing the FDA to ban drug and disease claims, control manufacturing quality through mandatory Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), have veto power over label claims, and make manufacturers bear responsibility for mislabeled, adulterated or unsafe products. What was stopped by DSHEA was inexplicable FDA harassment of supplements, stopped only by outraged federal judges. DSHEA was the compromise bill that gave more power to the FDA while preventing the grossest abuses of its power. Dietary supplement plants are FDA inspected, while also under the sanitation and health laws of local and state governments. Other quality inspectors keep manufacturers honest for example, GMP, organic and kosher certifiers. A documented paper trail is required for every step in the production of products. The FTC also regulates dietary supplement advertising, including monitoring Internet websites. The dietary supplement industry strongly supported the recent Adverse Event Reporting Act that requires manufacturers to report all serious adverse events to the FDA. Some manufacturers have already been doing this voluntarily, but have received very few, to date. This evidences their commitment to safety. Dietary supplement industry associations have quality programs that require registration and random testing for active ingredients in products, so member companies are of a significantly higher level of quality assurance than other manufacturers. Of course, not all natural products are 100% safe or 100% effective for every person. But, checking poisoning death figures from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, I see that supplements are safer than most other products: there were only 5 accidental deaths linked (reported as possibly due) to dietary supplements over a 3-year period. In the same 3-year reporting period, there were 67 deaths from plain aspirin, 50 from aspirin combinations, 48 from pesticides, 7 from cosmetics, 66 from household cleaners, 171 from plain acetaminophen, and 446 from acetaminophen combinations. The medical journal JAMA reports that there are over 100,000 deaths a year from pharmaceutical drugs that are used as directed, and many more from misperceived drugs. How many dies from the FDA-approved drug Vioxx? How many from mood altering and cholesterol lowering drugs? How many from cardiovascular disease aggravated by synthetic hormone replacement therapy? The tryptophan that caused deaths in the late 1980's was reportedly produced by a pharmaceutical company using a prototype/unproven genetically engineered bacteria for the first time to produce the amino acid, which was then prescribed by a physician. How do dietary supplement companies get all the blame for this? While Mr. Hurley is correct that, normally, food is the best source of nutrients, there are some that are shown to be better absorbed from supplements than food, such as certain B vitamins. Compared with the admitted shortage of essential nutrients in the American diet and the dangers of prescribed and OTC drugs, most people feel better about the relative safety and utility of dietary supplements. Greater than RDA levels of vitamins are NOT toxic. Safe upper levels exist and are often far higher. Medical professionals frequently use mega-doses of Vitamin C, biotin, folic acid, vitami

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2007

    'A must read'

    Dietary supplements is a $20 billion+ industry preying on the fears of those who want a quick fix. Admittedly, any drug prescription will have side effects, but the bottom line is that prescription drugs do help those with life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, cancers and heart disease. Our own daughter wouldn't be alive were it not for her seizure medication, nor would my sister-in-law be here were it not for the medications she takes for brittle diabetes. The drug companies do publish all the known side effects either on the label or on a separate piece of paper within the packaging. Plus they go through years of testing and approval by the FDA. Thus the consumer can weigh whether the benefits outweight the risks. Doctor's can write a prescription, but it is still your choice to buy and take them as prescribed. Where is the testing of supplements? Sadly, I lost a dear friend to ephreda. Another friend's mentally challenged son went into a coma after being convinced that a dietary supplement could replace his insulin injections.Another friend suffered irreversible heart valve damage for taking fenfluoromine (phen-fen)for weight loss. I could go on and on. Thank you Dan, for opening our eyes. Just because supplements are touted as 'natural', don't assume they are safe! Arsenic and mercury are considered 'natural' (i.e. found in nature), yet who would ever think of consuming those?! I will highly recommend this book to others.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2007

    Inacurate and misleading

    For those of us who are knowledgable about this topic, the book would be laughable if it didn't have the potential to disuade people from taking vitamins that can keep them healthier. One of his main interview subject's name is wrong (Elliott, not Mitchell - jeeze louise!), and if he can't get such basic facts right how can the rest of his information be trusted? His selective review of clinical studies on supplements make it clear he has an agenda. The authors retelling of how legislation impacting supplement regulation was passed is fiction, probably because the actual key players wouldn't talk to him. There are so many holes in this book that the title should be 'Swiss Cheese and Fish Net Stockings.'If you are looking for an authoritative book on supplements, this is not it.

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