Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Supplement peddlers, supplement peddlers every where, Nor any drop of truth to drink.

In the Rime of The Ancient Mariner, the epic 18th century poem penned by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, there is a famous stanza: 
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The poetry speaks to the frustrations of thirsty sailors aboard a ship surrounded by uncharted waters they dare not drink. Like the craving sailors, I too long to quench my thirst for truth while surrounded by a rising sea of misinformation.

Although I’m not looking to disturb the tranquility of this relaxing 4th of July holiday, I hope you will forgive my trespass as I call out another pill pushing would be health expert adding more confusion to the churning sea of questionable data.

I previously wrote how you can't believe everything you read and I called it Caveat Lector, which in Latin means "Let the reader beware!"  Of course, the obvious question is then how can you trust what I write, and I acknowledge that this is more than a fair question. My forthright response is that I don't have any agenda other than to improve people's health and make the world a better place.

Most people who read my blog will never be my patient for a variety of reasons ranging from they don't live near my office to they already have a doctor they love.  Also, I don't sell anything so I never have to persuade you to buy something from me or extol its virtues for financial gain. Most importantly, I have been blessed that through my hard work, both during my schooling and my entrepreneurial ventures, and a more than a deserving measure of good fortune, I am financially independent.

Finally, I spent many years in schools, both medical and business, and consider myself a life-long learner in search of truth and understanding.  This search for the truth is first and foremost for my own sake, and I often self-remind regarding the dangers of fooling yourself.
But that is not all that drives me. Although not as religiously observant as I was growing up, I still consider myself a religious person.  Accordingly, having studied the Bible extensively when I was young, I remain ever mindful of the biblical prohibition that states "Do not put a stumbling block in front of a blind person." This biblical phrase is jointly understood to mean that one should not deceive someone simply because he or she can and also that one must be mindful of those at a disadvantage as to adjust one's approach and not take advantage of them.

Therefore, it is with great sincerity and purpose that I challenge many people in this country, doctors and laypersons alike, who seek to deceive others into taking action likely to yield no benefit other than to the person pushing the advice or product. Today, I have a case in point.

A patient of mine sent me this morning a newsletter published by a person named Nan Kathryn Fuchs. Fuchs states that she has a PhD, but despite my best efforts, including reviewing her own website, I could not determine the discipline of her PhD and what university granted it. Interestingly, I am not the first to ask this question as the question was previously posted on the internet and it received no response. So I wrote (Dr?) Fuchs today an email asking about the subject matter of her degree and the source of it, and I await her response.  My research in Fuchs did reveal that she is affiliated with an organization called MSIA.

Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia describing MSIA in which Fuchs is quoted.

"MSIA is a nondenominational and ecumenical church, the stated purpose of which is to "teach Soul Transcendence, which is becoming aware of yourself as a Soul and as one with God, not as a theory, but as a living reality. Controversy has surrounded MSIA: it has been accused of being a cult by some former members and by the Cult Awareness and Information Centre and claims have been made that one of its founders Roger Hinkins had unethical sexual relationships with members. MSIA has also been accused of being an "offshoot" of Lifespring, a private, New Age/Human Potential Training company founded in 1974. According to Nan Kathryn Fuchs, a devoted member of MSIA for 13 years and a minister who served on the Ministerial Board for a number of years..."

I respect the full variety of religious perspectives, but this group sounds illegitimate and cultish, and I can't say for certain based on such little detail. 

So why all the fuss then about Fuchs?  Her newsletter with the heading, Women's Health Alert, had a main article titled, "Are the benefits of supplements real?" The article goes on the quote a new report issued by the prestigious and ethical sounding Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) titled "The Benefits of Nutritional Supplements (4th Edition), which found consistent and adequate health benefits from using supplements. 

In fact, here's my favorite quote from Fuch's newsletter.  
 
"For years, conventional medicine has pooh-poohed the need for supplements. They used to say you didn’t need them at all — unless you had scurvy. As people began to see their incredible health benefits, though, the medical establishment had to adjust. But they’ve done so very reluctantly. In fact, some still insist supplements just give you expensive urine.
Well, all the naysayers who insist that nutritional supplements are unnecessary better get ready to make more adjustments in their thinking. The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) has a reply in the form of an updated comprehensive report citing sound scientific studies that prove otherwise."

There is only one problem. By their own description, "The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973 and based in Washington, D.C., is the leading trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers."

Not hard to imagine that the business trade group representing supplement companies would come out with a report stating that supplements have benefits.  Even if accurate, it would be foolhardy to trust such a report under the circumstances. Fuchs, taking cover under this questionable report, and denigrating the reluctant medical profession (why do you think ii is by and large resistant?) in the process, nevertheless uses it to peddle her own supplements.  

What a surprise. Forgive my sarcasm, but it is just incomprehensible to me that any sane person would read this newsletter seriously, let alone buy a product from Fuchs.

There are many such people in this country trying to peddle unneeded and potentially harmful products on an unsuspecting and trusting populace.  I will continue to identify them and call them out as I come across them. If Fuchs writes back, I will in fairness share her reply about her education.  In the interim, whether from Fuchs or other people who write to tell you supplements are good and then in turn, try to sell some to you, I say Caveat Lector and Caveat Emptor, let the reader and buyer both beware!

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