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The Vitamin Pushers (Consumer Health Library) Hardcover – October 1, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a trenchant, authoritative expose based on extensive research, psychiatrist and consumer advocate Barrett, and Herbert, a professor at New York City's Mount Sinai School of Medicine, accuse the health-food industry of scaring the public into purchasing vitamins and other dietary supplements, which, they contend, are not only unnecessary but often dangerous. They cite the 1989 outbreak of a disabling disease (EMS) traced to the amino acid L-tryptophan, used as a supposed cure for multiple sclerosis, now banned by the Food and Drug Administration. The authors decry alternative medicine and debunk myths such as that mega-protein makes better athletes. They explore the role of powerful lobbies and industry associations like the National Health Alliance-which, they say, regularly defy the FDA and other government agencies-and list 30 ways to spot "quacks and pushers." Also useful are some simple truths about nutrition, including advice for those on the run that a balanced meal takes no more time to prepare and eat than an unbalanced one. Illustrations.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

"Having observed the health-food industry for many years, we consider it a form of organized crime." With this as their ruling belief, Barrett and Herbert amass case studies, statistics, and reports to make an overwhelming argument against the production, marketing, and use of vitamin supplements and therapeutic health foods, scoring such current useless or harmful fads (they say) as antioxidants and extra proteins and vitamins for athletes. Well known for their battles against quackery, Barrett and Herbert don't shrink from naming individuals and businesses--Adelle Davis, Earl Mindell, and Kurt Donsbach, for example, and Enzymatic Therapy, Shaklee, and Sunrider International, all of which are subjects for dissection and exposure. In addition, Barrett and Herbert turn the spotlight on such organizations as the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the National Health Federation. Anyone who eats a balanced diet has no need for supplements, they say: "If humans needed to eat pills for nutrition, pills would grow on trees." William Beatty
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Product Details

  • Series: Consumer Health Library
  • Hardcover: 543 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1 edition (October 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879759097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879759094
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,578,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The only thing that could possibly make them wrong would be for them to admit it.
.
It is not bad to skim, but there is too much heated rhetoric to bother spending the time for a thorough read (which I found out the hard way).
Charlie
It is contrary to accepted scientific thought that a substance that is essential in food would be deadly when put into a pill.
Rodney Mansfield

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charlie on February 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
To begin with I am a medical doctor who enjoys reading books that debunk bogus new age claims. I am also a scientist who has read compelling studies that support some "way out" claims. This said, I would like to share my perspective on The Vitamin Pushers.

As you may notice from the reviews, this book is either loved or hated. This generally means a book has some valid and useful points and also has some glaring omissions and/or flaws. The Vitamin Pushers fits this characterization perfectly. The book makes several valid points. In particular, it uses a scientific approach to present some important questions to ask when considering how to approach vitamin usage. However, it blatantly neglects a scientific approach in the way it lambasts and dismisses claims of vitamin proponents. So, if you want to get some decent food for thought based on a single perspective, you may enjoy this book. If you want a book with conclusions you can believe in or trust, then pass because there is no balanced perspective to give legitimacy to its conclusions. It is not bad to skim, but there is too much heated rhetoric to bother spending the time for a thorough read (which I found out the hard way). Would I buy it now that I know what to expect? No, but I did get some things to think about, so it was not a total waste of time. If I had to do it again, I would simply talk with someone who had read it to get the useful points. I hope this review is useful.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Wary Consumer on April 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am not, nor have I ever been, involved in a health-related profession. I am in technology by training and career. So, I don't have a dog in this fight, as it were.

What I do know, though, is that there is a "standard of truth" -- the double-blind study.

If the modality is valid, if the benefits real, then they should be able to be demonstrated. Line up 1000 folks in one group and offer the remedy. Line up 1000 folks in a second (control) group, and offer them the fake (placebo is the operative word). Then, let the experiment run....

In three years, five years, ten years, the group receiving the remedy should be able to show quantifiable, statistically significant, differentiation. ("X" percentage less of occurrences of cancer, "Y" percentage less incidence of diabetes, or whatever outcome.) Elsewise, there is no basis whatsoever to claim a "cause" leading to an "effect".

Without this, we are at liberty to disregard the claims. This is COMPLETELY lacking in the "Health Food" industry. As I have read their, yes, I will say "so-called" research; it is anecdotal at best, relying on a small group of people relating how they "feel," possibly a result they "want", with no documentable, measurable outcome. It is academically dishonest at best. For some people making a ton of money on these products, one would expect someone, somewhere would be forwarding the cash to actually conduct the definitive study, subject their findins to critical, juried review, as I've laid out in the paragraphs above. Then, we can plant the flag and claim "truth". But, still, we hear nothing but crickets chirping.

As I have read Dr. Barrett in this treatise, he simply points this out. Nothing more.
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22 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Baye on June 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book debunks a lot of popular myths and misconceptions regarding fad diets, supplements and related quackery, and provides sensible information on nutrition. As a personal trainer, this information has been of trementous value to me for helping my clients avoid being suckered into wasting money on worthless diet supplements and compromising their health with unbalanced fad diets.
I'm not surprised that a lot of people have given the book very poor reviews. A lot of people stand to lose a lot of money if the public becomes educated about such things, and it is natural that they would become defensive and hostile towards something that threatens their livelihood or beliefs. However, ignore the bad reviews, and buy this book. Better yet, buy two copies, because you'll find yourself lending it out often.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andy C on February 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
As a retired psychiatrist, Stephen Barrett knows a thing or two about techniques used in advertising and marketing. As a result, he spends an inordinate amount of pages in this book tearing apart and analyzing the advertising methods used by various manufacturers of vitamins. Just putting this out there.

There were also certain passages in which he committed logical fallacies and relied on empty rhetoric to make his argument--I don't remember any specific examples though, it has been a while since I skimmed through the book.

Also, his website [...] is full of trash articles. Be forewarned prior to reading this book.

By the way, psychiatrists aren't really scientists, so the title of this review is true.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Janet from another planet on November 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I own this book and it has saved me from falling into the health food trap. If you want to learn the truth about the health food industry read this book.
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28 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Americans have been indoctrinated by the media to believe the preposterous claims of thousands of quacks now running amok and exempted from anti-fraud laws by corrupt, incompetent and ignorant legislators and regulators. This book is a terrific antidote to the title wave of nonsense presented in the hundreds of hoax books that have turned libraries and bookstores into minefields of misinformation. The book is disturbing to many in the same way that telling a child Santa Claus is a myth is disturbing to a young child. But the truth will free them from the shackles of quackery with all its dangers and expenses.
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