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The Vitamin Pushers: How the "Health Food" Industry Is Selling Americans a Bill of Goods

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Victor Herbert, M.D., J.D.

Contents

Foreword by Gabe Mirkin, M.D., vii
Preface, ix
Acknowledgments, x
About the Authors, xi
Important Definitions, xii
1 Some Simple Truths about Nutrition, 1
2 Thirty Ways to Spot Quacks and Pushers, 15
3 "Nutrition Insurance," "Stress Formulas," and Related Gimmicks, 37
4 More Ploys That Might Fool You, 63
5 Spreading the Word, 73
6 Dubious Credentials, 93
7 Phony Tests, 123
8 Promises Everywhere, 139
9 The Ultimate Fake, 169
10 The Multilevel Mirage, 187
11 How Athletes Are Exploited, 221
12 Dubious Doctoring, 239
13 Nutrition-Related Cultism, 265
14 Maharishi Ayur-Ved: TM Goes "Health Food", 275
15 "Chiropractic Nutrition", 285
16 "Passive Greed": The Pharmacy Connection, 305
17 The Endless Parade of Gurus, 321
18 Further Thoughts on Quackery and the Media, 369
19 Elaborate Marketing Schemes, 385
20 "Vitamin Wars" and Related Mischief, 415
21 How Much Can the Law Protect You?, 437
22 Where to Get Reliable Nutrition Advice, 453
23 How You Can Avoid Getting Quacked, 463
Appendix A: Guidelines for Healthful Eating, 469
Appendix B: The New Food Labels, 477
Appendix C: Supplements and "Health Foods", 481
Appendix D: One Hundred Companies That Have Marketed Illegally, 493
Appendix E: Recommended Reading, 505
Index, 513

About the Authors

Stephen Barrett, M.D., a retired psychiatrist who practiced in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for more than twenty-five years, is a nationally renowned author, editor, and consumer advocate. He edited Nutrition Forum Newsletter for nine years and has contributed frequently to Priorities Magazine, Healthline Newsletter, and Consumer Reports on Health. He is a board member of the National Council Against Health Fraud and chairs its Task Force on Victim Redress. He is a scientific and editorial advisor to the American Council on Science and Health. His 42 books include The Health Robbers: A Close Look at Quackery in America; Health Schemes, Scams, and Frauds; Vitamins and "Health" Foods: The Great American Hustle; Reader's Guide to "Alternative" Health Methods; and five editions of the college textbook Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions. In 1984, he won the FDA Commissioner's Special Citation Award for Public Service in fighting nutrition quackery. In 1986, he was awarded honorary life membership in the American Dietetic Association. In 1987, he began teaching health education at The Pennsylvania State University.

Victor Herbert, M.D., J.D., F.A.C.P., is professor of medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and chief of the Hematology and Nutrition Laboratory at the Sinai-affiliated Bronx V.A. Medical Center. He is a board member of the National Council Against Health Fraud and a member of the American Cancer Society's Committee on Questionable Methods. He has served on the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences and its Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) Committee. He consults in nutrition to the World Health Organization (WHO), has been president of the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, and was chairman for five years of the American Bar Association's Committee on Life Sciences and the Law. He has received the FDA Commissioner's Special Citation Award for Public Service in fighting nutrition quackery and is an honorary life member of the American Dietetic Association. He has written more than seven hundred scientific articles and received seven national awards for his nutrition research. His books include The Megaloblastic Anemias; Nutrition Cultism: Facts and Fictions; Vitamins and "Health" Foods: the Great American Hustle; The Mount Sinai School of Medicine Complete Book of Nutrition; Genetic Nutrition: Designing a Diet Based on Your Family Medical History; and Total Nutrition: The Only Guide You'll Ever Need.

Foreword by Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

Do you get angry when someone tries to hustle you? Would it bother you if someone promised you something and took your money, but gave you nothing in return? Do you think you have ever been hustled without realizing it?

What goes through your mind when you see an ad which suggests that a pill can help you lose weight permanently without dieting or exercising? If it doesn't strike you as phony, you don't know the facts. There is no such pill.

How about a magazine article which claims that a "dietary supplement" can make you a better athlete, help you live longer, or cure heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a host of other ailments? If you think any such remedy exists, you had better read this book.

Do you take vitamin pills? Has it occurred to you to question whether you really need them? You should. Most of the hundred million or so Americans who take them are merely nourishing their toilets and making vitamin manufacturers rich.

But the issue is not simply one of wasted money. Each decision you make about your health must be based on an underlying judgment about whom to trust for advice. If you cannot tell the difference between an expert and a hustler, you are likely to be misled.

One of the factors that makes America great is our freedom of speech. To maintain this freedom, we must also run a risk. False prophets can get up on pedestals (such as radio and television talk shows) and tell you almost anything they please.

Such prophets abound in the field of nutrition. One reason they succeed is that too many people who know better are afraid to become involved in controversy.

The people who wrote this book are involved. Dr. Herbert has attacked nutrition frauds more forcefully than any other person in America. He has testified before legislators and in courts. He has spent his own money seeking justice. He is one of the most knowledgeable and respected nutrition scientists in the world-one to whom other experts turn frequently for advice. Dr. Barrett has investigated and written about quackery in more and different fields than any other living American.

This is one book you should not ignore. It is one of the most amazing investigative reports in the history of American journalism. It is likely to save you money. It can help you protect your health. It might even save your life!

--Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

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