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Some Notes on David W. Rowland

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

David W. Rowland, "Ph.D., R.N.C" is one of Canada's leading promoters of nutrition nonsense.. He gives lectures and appears often on radio and television shows and at alternative health fairs and supplement trade shows. Rowland is a frequent and outspoken critic of mainstream medicine. His writings and speeches advocate "freedom of choice" and decreased government regulation of the health marketplace. His entrepreneurial activities have included practicing as a "nutrition consultant," writing articles and booklets, publishing a magazine, operating a correspondence school, and issuing "credentials" for "nutrition consultants." He has also been involved in formulating and marketing dietary supplement products. The biographical sketch in his recent booklets states:

For the first 30 years of his life, David suffered from repeated bouts of respiratory infections, gastrointestinal disturbances, and malaise. His ill health was really a blessing in disguise that set him on a course of learning natural methods of healing. In the process of curing himself, David discovered his deep love for helping others.

David's personal path to full health led him to undertake extensive training in nutrition,m eventually leading to a PhD degrees in this field. All that he has learned through studying, practice, and teaching he readily shares with his readers -- in a clear, direct writing style.

Credentials

Rowland's "Ph.D. degree" was obtained from Donsbach University, a nonaccredited correspondence school operated by Kurt Donsbach, a chiropractor who has engaged in so many health schemes that nobody -- including himself -- can document all of them with certainty [1]. Among other things, he has: (a) violated state and federal laws against marketing products with unsubstantiated claims; (b) been convicted of practicing medicine without a license by prescribing vitamin products for the treatment of serious disease; (c) operated nonaccredited "nutrition" schools, one of which he used to award himself a "PhD degree"; (d) marketed a computerized "nutrient deficiency test" that was programmed to recommend supplement products for everyone.

During the mid-1980s, Rowland also acquired a Doctor of Nutritional Medicine (N.M.D.) "degree" from the John F. Kennedy College of Nutrimedical Arts & Sciences (American Nutrimedical University), a bogus "school" that was part of the paper conglomeration of the American Nutrimedical Association (ANMA). Rowland has said that the credential was "an honorary one awarded me by a professional association . . . for my contribution to the field." However, ANMA documents I collected during the mid-1980s make it clear that the primary requirement was payment of a fee. ANMA's 1986 directory lists Rowland as a "regional director" of ANMA.

Curiously, Rowland seldom mentions his two reputable credentials: a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Toronto.

Organizations

Like Donsbach, Rowland has developed training programs, credentials, and political support for "nutritional consultants" who advocate dubious practices. In 1983, he founded the Nutritional Consultants Organization of Canada (NCOC), a nonprofit association claimed to "help inform the public about nutritional consulting and to provide standards of practice for Nutritional Consultants." Rowland has stated that he served as "elected president" from 1983 to 1988 and as one of ten directors after that. In 1991, NCOC's seven-person "advisory board" included: Linus Pauling, Ph.D.; Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D. (a proponent of megavitamin therapy for schizophrenia); Morton Walker, D.P.M. (a nonpracticing podiatrist who writes about questionable health methods); Lendon Smith, M.D. (who surrendered his medical license rather than face charges of insurance fraud); Maureen Salaman (president of the National Health Federation); and Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D. (who subsequently was charged with false advertising by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission). All six had the letters "R.N.C." after their name on NCOC's letterhead, even though I have never seen these initials displayed by any of them.

In 1983, Rowland also launched the Canadian Nutrition Institute, a nonaccredited correspondence school whose principal course was a "certificate program in holistic nutrition." The application form noted that credit might be given for equivalent studies or related work experience such as owning or operating a health food store or selling supplements. The brochure stated that the course, which could take from six months to two years or longer to complete, would "enable a self-motivated person to acquire knowledge beyond that presently available in traditional approaches to nutritional training." The textbooks listed in the brochure included: Superhealth by Kurt Donsbach; Psycho-Nutrition by Carlton Fredericks (convicted of practicing medicine without a license); Nutrition from Tots to Teens by Emory Thurston, Ph.D. (convicted of offering laetrile to treat cancer); and the Vitamin Bible by Earl Mindell, whose Ph.D. was from the nonaccredited University of Beverly Hills. Canadian Government education officials have stated that the Canadian Nutrition Institute was not a recognized degree-granting body and had no standing whatever in Canada's academic community [2].

The institute's brochure also stated that successful completion of the course was "one of the ways of meeting the professional requirements for the professional designation Registered Nutritional Consultant," which allows the recipient to "legally use" the letters "R.N.C." The credential is obtained from NCOC. In 1991, the R.N.C. designation was said to be "registered" or "certified" by the Canadian Council of Professional Certification. However, like Rowland's school, this council had no academic standing. Government records indicate it was incorporated in 1975 for the purpose of giving certification to unrecognized professions [3].

Rowland also founded and is educational director of the Edison Institute of Nutrition, a nonaccredited correspondence school that operates in Canada, the United States, and European countries. The school's offerings include a "practitioner program" that meets the educational requirement for "R.N.C." status and bachelor and master's degree programs in "applied science in nutrition."

In 1983, Roland founded Creative Nutrition Canada Corp., which imported and distributed nutritional supplement products. He has also been a senior partner in Nutripower, a California company that manufactured and distributed supplements. I don't know if he has a current financial interest in any supplement products.

Publications

Rowland's biographical sketch on Amazon Books states that he has written 20 books. Amazon sells eight items by Rowland, but all are self-published booklets and some are expanded versions of previously published booklets. The 1987 and 1991 editions of Books in Print list no titles under Rowland's name, which makes me think that all of his "books" were booklets. The eight that Amazon markets are:

Rowland began publishing a quarterly newsletter for R.N.C.s (Nutrition News) in 1983 and published a bimonthly magazine (Health Naturally) from 1992 through 1999. The magazine's purpose was said to be "to inform you about your health choices." [5] It contained many articles that gave unsubstantiated advice and many ads for dubious products and services.

Several "nutritional consultants" offer advice based on Rowland's "Nutri-Body" questionnaire, which can be ordered online for $55 (Canadian). The questionnaire contains about 600 questions about diet, nutritional supplement use, and "possible symptoms that can relate to nutritional imbalances" in 55 different areas. It states that the higher the score for each section, "the more likely it is that nutritional imbalance may be related to the bodily signs indicated." Rowland's "Listen to Your Body" booklet claims that a score of 40 to 60 indicates that score of 40 to 60 is "almost certainly" due to nutrition imbalance of the factor involved," a score of 20 to 40 is "probably due to nutritional imbalance of the factor involved," and zero to 20 "will only possibly be due to the nutritional factor in that section." [6]

Questionnaires covering symptoms, illnesses, health habits, and other lifestyle factors can be a valuable part of a comprehensive medical evaluation. However, most of Rowland's test questions ask about symptoms that have nothing to do with dietary or nutrition adequacy. Rowland advises readers to "consult a Registered Nutritional Consultant or other qualified practitioner who can help you work out a specific program based on what you have discovered by yourself." [6] You can bet your life than any pracitioner who uses the questionnaire as a basis for giving advice will recommend supplements inappropriately.

The "R.N.C." credential does have one valuable aspect. It can tell you who to avoid.

References

  1. Barrett S. Kurt Donsbach sentenced to prison. Quackwatch Web site, revised May 23, 2000.
  2. Benedetti P. Donsbach's Canadian connection. Nutrition Forum 8:30-31, 1991.
  3. Avoid "chelation therapy" pills. FDA Consumer 19(7):34, 1985.
  4. N.Y. sues to stop Orachel firm. FDA Consumer 19(10):34, 1985
  5. Rowland D. Vegetarian or carnivore? Health Naturally Aug/Sept 1999, p 3.
  6. Rowland D. Listen to Your Body: It Can Tell You What You Need. Parry Sound, Ontario: Health Naturally Publications, 1999.

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This article was revised on June 6, 2000.