3 Responses to Natural Causes: Death, Lies and Politics in America’s Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry

  1. A reader
    A reader August 13, 2011 at 4:59 am | | Reply
    16 of 23 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A Much Needed Book, April 12, 2007
    By 
    A reader (San Diego, CA) –

    This book should be a must read for anyone interested in alternative health. Before reading this book I thought that the herbal and vitamin industry was full of health minded individuals that wanted to help people avoid using prescription drugs. This book shows that the herbal and vitamin industry is as much about profit as any other business including the pharmaceutical industry. The author clearly points out that herb, vitamins, and supplements are almost totaly unregulated, that the ingredients labels on them are a joke, and anyone interested in using them should be sure to educate themselves about what they are using, how it was manufactured, and who is selling the product.

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  2. Robert M. Languedoc
    Robert M. Languedoc August 13, 2011 at 5:30 am | | Reply
    3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Documented Investigative Journalism on Political and Industrial Exploitation, January 18, 2007
    By 
    Robert M. Languedoc (Lebanon, CT USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This book provides a historical perspective of the supplement industry from the snake oil of the 1800′s to the thousands of supplements and herbs presently on the market. The author chronicles the rise of regulation in response to dubious claims and adverse reactions over the course of a hundred years leading to the present day oversight by the Food and Drug Administration. Each chapter concentrates on a particular supplement that was later found to be detrimental to public health. The events unfold in the form of personal stories of consumer suffering and deception, marketing strategies of companies and research studies indicating that the substance is ineffectual and often harmful. The book is well researched and organized having over thirty pages dedicated in the back of the book to notes comprised of the details of the sited research as well as the author’s comments as to the source and means by which he arrived at the content.

    The author describes how the Nutrition Health Alliance (NHA), a group of major supplement manufacturers and industry organizations with the help of Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Bill Richardson, wrote and passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, (DSHEA), a backlash to FDA regulation. Among the provisions of the law is the allowance for supplement manufacturers to make qualitative “structure/function” statements in regards to product performance. That is, a product could be said to improve the function of the heart or build strong bones as long as it wasn’t said to cure heart disease or osteoporosis. The author states that this “was a distinction without a difference” since most consumers can not differentiate curative from qualitative statements. Supplement companies may declare virtually anything concerning their products without scientific confirmation as long as they don’t claim to treat, cure or prevent disease.

    Under DSHEA supplement manufacturers are not required to prove that products are safe prior to marketing to the public. In fact, DSHEA prevents the FDA from prohibiting the sale of supplements unless the agency can prove that a product is dangerous when used as directed. The author recalls the odd fact that under the current law in order to ban a supplement the FDA is required to conduct expensive, long term safety studies at tax payer’s expense, amounting to millions of dollars. Essentially we pay for our own protection from an industry making plenty of profit.

    The author presents the legal paradox that a naturally occurring substance is classified as a supplement while the active ingredient contained is classified as a drug. Such is the case with the supplement ephedra, a plant, containing ephedrine, a chemical classified as a drug. Ephedra was used in supplements marketed for weight loss among other things until the FDA banned the substances after extensive and expensive scientific studies as well as legal and political maneuvering necessary to overcome the inertia of DSHEA. The ban was in response to over two thousand adverse reports including heart attacks, strokes and seizures and nearly two hundred deaths. Other chapters recollect the rise and fall of various supplements such as stephania, L-tryptophan and shark cartilage.

    The author writes extensively in Chapter 9 about shark cartilage and the coverage it received on the news program, 60 Minutes. The report created an overnight demand for supplements containing shark cartilage primarily due to the credibility offered by the media even though no study indicated that shark cartilage did anything when ingested. In this chapter the author offers theories as to why so many people are willing to trust the unsafe, unregulated products manufactured by the supplement industry over traditional medicine. He covers the supplement industry’s “persuasive use of misleading and downright illegal advertisements”, multi-level marketing tactics employing independent distributors who evoke inflated product performance and success stories, and of course conspiracy theories against the medical establishment.

    The author is not sympathetic towards the pharmaceutical industry as anyone who actually read the book would have noted. In the prologue on page six, he recalls the story of an internet company selling a product touted as a topical treatment to remove skin cancer. The substance actually contained a corrosive dermal irritant. The author indicated that the website proffered the now familiar conspiracy theory that the FDA was in league with the big pharmaceutical companies to suppress life saving compounds allowing the drug companies to reap profits from second rate drugs. The author states, “there is a great deal of truth in the company’s harsh indictment” and continues by expressing concurrence that many companies exploit the citizenry with exorbitantly priced medicines.

    In a factual manner, the author indicates that…

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  3. D. Rail "music nut, history buff"
    D. Rail "music nut, history buff" August 13, 2011 at 6:05 am | | Reply
    5 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Very startling portrayal of a deceptive industry, June 26, 2008
    By 
    D. Rail “music nut, history buff” (Port Richey, FL) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This book begins with the story of a woman whose nose was eaten off when she used a bloodroot paste sold by Kevin Trudeau’s former company. Think about that the next time you see his infomercials on television. You will never look at a vitamin store the same way again. People have a mystical image of supplements, a highly dangerous view when you consider that they are almost unregulated and only ‘tested’ by the developers who profit from selling them. Naivete is very dangerous, and it’s often emotion, rather than knowledge, that governs people’s acceptance of supplements. Read this book and learn–even if it is uncomfortable, it’s better to be honest than to pretend ignorance is bliss.

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