From 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.)
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*Starred Review* Hurley maintains that the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 is one of the worst laws on the books. Shielding vitamins and herbal concoctions from FDA testing, it requires only that no curative claims be made for such "dietary supplements." In the prologue, Hurley shows that curative claims are made, anyway, and the users of an herbal salve were able to sue when the stuff ate their flesh. Subsequent chapters cite cases that also show that per-dosage amounts of dietary-supplement ingredients are often improperly listed; that greater than standard recommended daily amounts of most vitamins wreak havoc in the body; and that natural
doesn't mean safe or effective. He notes the high proportion of convicted felons in the supplement industry, sketching the careers of several of the most egregious, including best-selling self-help health author Kevin Trudeau. He points to research that nullifies common knowledge about the effectiveness of virtually all dietary supplements; food, not pills, is the optimal and probably the only means of properly ingesting vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and so forth. He puts all such substantive information in the context of plenty of absorbing and moving stories of death, deceit, and political chicanery. Truly a good book that is good for you. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved