on June 21, 2013
My answer to this book is : No, I don't believe in magic. I also don't believe in most practices of alternative medicine and wouldn't buy or take most of the herbal supplements and vitamins in the market.
But I also don't believe in Dr. Paul Offit because his book omits essential information from its readers making the book very unreliable and definitely not worth ordering.
Dr. Offit's book, especially when he writes about vitamins and supplements, reads like a high school homework done by a lazy student. If I was his teacher I would give him a F.
One needs to be too ignorant about basic science or too narrow minded and prejudiced to believe in what Paul Offit writes on supplements. I know he is a doctor but, after the publication of his disgraceful book, I find it very hard to call Paul Offit a doctor.
The core of this book is its critic to supplements but the author presents very incomplete and misleading data in
his attempt to discredit supplements whilst praising pharmaceutical drugs.
The author pretends to be some kind of good medical samaritan but the mediocrity of his research and his very misleading information about vitamins and supplements will do more harm than good to people who read this book. Paul Offit's book is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
If you are looking for a book about the safety and efficiency of supplements then try "Complementary and Alternative Health: The Scientific Verdict on What Really Works", by Dr. Steven Bratman. I don't particularly like it but Dr. Bratman's book is much more complete and reliable than this book.
I would also recommend reading the part 4 of the book "Perfect Health Diet", written by Paul Jaminet ( A scientist and economist ) and Shou-Ching Jaminet ( A molecular biologist who is a cancer researcher at Harvard). I don't think it is a "perfect" book but it is certainly a much more scientific, much more informative and much more reliable book than this offitic book.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS ABOUT VITAMIN E AND WHAT THE BOOK OMITS ABOUT IT
Paul Offit wrote that "In 2005, researchers from John Hopkins School of Medicine evaluated nineteen studies involving more than 136,000 people and found an increased risk of death associated with supplemental vitamin E". page 59 of the UK edition paperback. Now, let's see the evaluation with more details. Details that Offit, as always, didn't provide to his readers.
Johns Hopkins Medicine- News & Information Services:
"nine of 11 trials involving high-dose vitamin E (400 IU per day, or more) showed an increased risk of death. The other eight trials involved low-dose vitamin E users.It was unclear whether low amounts (200 IU per day or less) of vitamin E supplements increased a person's risk of death.
""Because most of the patients in all of the trials were over 60, and a majority had pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease, the study's application to younger, healthy adults may be limited, the Johns Hopkins researchers point out."
So, what we really have is a study where most of the patients were over 60 and had pre-existing conditions! They took 400 IU or more. Why Dr. Omit didn't mention that?
Researchers who conducted the review pointed out that they didn't know if their findings would be true for younger, healthy adults. They also said that it was unclear if lower doses ( 200 IU per day or less) would increase a person's risk of death."
Dr. Erase omitted relevant information about those studies and just wrote something like "supplemental vitamin E kills", what was an irresponsible thing to do. Paul Offit would do well as a "journalist" in one of those British tabloids...
I said that Dr. Exclude was less than half correct because, amongst other things, it is very likely that those studies used synthetic alpha tocopherol, the cheapest form of vitamin E which is inferior to natural vitamin E. One example: The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Volume 177, Issue 5, march 2008, published a long term study done with more than 77,000 men and women took vitamin E and other supplements during an average of ten years.
According to the study, "Supplemental vitamin E was associated with a small increased risk" of lung cancer.
Now, the catch: "Because the dl-α-tocopheryl acetate form of vitamin E was used by over 90% of the VITAL cohort, we used dl-α-tocopheryl acetate as the default form of supplemental vitamin E". Translating: More than 90% of the people who took part of the study used synthetic vitamin E ( either individually or as part of a multivitamin).
Natural alpha tocopherol supplements are better than their synthetic form ( for one thing, they are easier to absorb ) but there is more: It seems that gamma tocopherol is the "good" vitamin E, more beneficial than alpha tocopherol. Supplements of vitamin E gamma tocopherol from natural sources are much more expensive than synthetic vitamin E alpha tocopherol, reason why so many studies used synthetic vitamin E. Synthetic vitamin E is made, amongst other things, of petrochemicals. Any surprise that might not be a good thing?
Vitamin E has different chemical forms. The most used in supplements is alpha tocopherol, which is either synthetic or from natural sources. But new studies point out to the gamma tocopherol form of vitamin E as the most important one. Gamma tocopherol is also the most common form of vitamin E that you will find in food. Peanut butter, for example, is an excellent natural source of vitamin E in its gamma tocopherol form.
It seems clear to me that excessive ( or maybe any amount of ) vitamin E, in its synthetic alpha tocopherol form, may raise the risk of cancer and will do people no good. But vitamin E supplements from natural sources, in its gamma tocopherol form, is likely to be a very different story.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS ABOUT MILK THISTLE AND WHAT THE BOOK OMITS ABOUT IT
Dr. Leave Out mentions in his book how a study in 2011 showed that milk thistle did not work with 154 patients with chronic hepatitis C.
He conveniently doesn't mention that those patients, before trying milk thistle, tried the traditional medicine approved drug for hepatitis C and the drug did not work...It is a very irresponsible and unscientific way of presenting data.
He also doesn't mention that four patients did improve with milk thistle whilst only one who took placebo also improved.
What he says is that there was no difference between
the patients who took milk thistle and the ones who didn't. This sounds to me as a lie, nothing else. Unless you think that 150=154.
It doesn't matter if the success of milk thistle wasn't statistically significant because it was certainly "life significant". Say that you have advanced hepatitis C. Say that you tried
an interferon based drug but it did not work. Say that four people who tried the drug without success achieved some improvement with milk thistle. What are you going to do ?
Not try milk thistle because the author of this book says ( or should I say lies? ) that milk thistle doesn't work at all?
I don't think that milk thistle would cure cancer or severe cases of hepatitis, for example, but it does have a detoxifying effect and it does protect the liver.
I take milk thistle myself and it works. It is no placebo effect as I tried several manufactures and only a liquid extract from either Nature's Answer or Nature's Plus was effective for me.
Milk thistle has been used for over two thousand years to protect the liver. Just don't expect good results if you, for example, take only one capsule per day of the cheapest product you could find on the internet.
The parts of the herb used and the method of extraction can make a big difference in the quality of the product. The dosage and the timing ( on an empty stomach ) are also of paramount importance if you want to make good use of this wonderful herb.
If milk thistle is not powerful enough to treat severe liver problems such as chronic hepatitis C that doesn't mean the herb is useless.
Many times the only solution for a health problem will be to take pharmaceutical drugs but, in the case of the study mentioned in this book, not even interferon based drugs worked.
It is just a shame that Dr. Paul Omit, sorry, Dr. Offit forgot to mention that.
He also "forgot" to mention any of the many studies where the use of milk thistle had a positive outcome. One study, amongst many of the studies conveniently ignored by this book, says that "A 4-month clinical trial comprising 51 patients with type 2 diabetes showed that 200 mg of silymarin 3 times daily significantly lowered LDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides, compared to placebo."
I have more: A "2008 Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that hepatitis C patients who used silymarin had fewer and milder symptoms of liver disease and somewhat better quality of life but no change in virus activity or liver inflammation."
Check University of Maryland Medical Centre's website. Yes, a university...It says, in general, that studies about milk thistle show mixed results. It doesn't say milk thistle doesn't work. And it says, for example, that "Based on traditional use, milk thistle has been used as an emergency antidote to poisoning by deathcap mushroom (Amanita phalloides). Animal studies have found that milk thistle extract completely counteracts the toxic effects of the mushroom when given within 10 minutes of ingestion. If given within 24 hours, it significantly reduces the risk of liver damage and death".
Deathcap mushrooms are extremely toxic but they look like many edible mushrooms. Say that you are with a friend that accidentally ate death cap mushrooms. You take him or her to the nearest ER and someone there suggests sylimarin ( milk thistle ). What are you going to do? Say: No, don't do that. i read in a book that milk thistle doesn't work...
Incidentally, milk thistle is approved by the German Commission E, which is a government scientific board, not a group of hippies preaching alternative medicine.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS ABOUT ST. JOHN'S WORT AND WHAT THE BOOK OMITS ABOUT IT.
St John's Wort is widely used in Germany to treat mild depression but, according to this book, the herb is useless. The author of "Do you Believe in Magic" seems to be on a religious crusade against supplements as he is always one sided on his
examples of studies about supplements.
The only study he uses about this herb was conducted between 1998 and 2000 by NCCAM ( part of the US Health Department) with 200 outpatients. According to that study, there was no difference between people who took the herb and people who took placebo. I couldn't find that study but I really doubt it that the result was exactly as Dr. Expunge says, considering how he omitted essential information about the milk thistle study, for example.
But never mind that. Look at what I found on the NCCAM website : "Although some studies of St. John's wort have reported benefits for depression, others have not". This is what a serious book would say but Dr. Elide, whose book is anything but serious, reports just a study that had a negative outcome on the efficacy of St John's Wort.
Now let me show you what I found in the " Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology Volume 25, Number 5, October 2005" : "The total evidence from the accumulated trials in Europe and the United States continues to suggest that St John's wort agents may offer antidepressant efficacy for some individuals with mild to moderate depression". What about that? Can you really take seriously a book that uses one single study from 2000 to discredit the use of St John's wort whilst omitting this kind of information from its readers? The cover of this book, instead of of a magician hat, should be a photo of a duck quacking.
Was his book a reliable one then Dr. Drop would also have mentioned, for example, that in 2008 researchers analysed 29 trials from 1995 to 2006. The studies were randomised and double blinded, involving 5489 patients with depression. Extracts of Hypericum (St. John's Wort) were compared with placebo or standard antidepressants including fluoxetine, sertraline, imipramine and others. St John's Wort was "superior to placebos and equally effective as standard antidepressants". The researchers concluded that the use of St John's Wort as an attempt to try mild to moderate depression was clearly justified" but they didn't have enough evidence to justify the herb's efficiency in the treatment of severe depression. Very different from irresponsibly saying that "St John's Wort doesn't work", isn't it.
And let me repeat a number: 5489 patients...Not the 200 used in the study mentioned by Dr. Miss.
Check the Harvard Health Publications site, from the Harvard Medical School. Once there, look for "Mood and Anxiety Disorders". This is what they say about St. John's Wort:
" Hypericum extract, the active ingredient in St. John's wort, is as effective as a low dosage of a tricyclic antidepressant, according to a study in the Dec. 11, 1999, British Medical Journal. Researchers gave 263 patients with moderate depression hypericum extract, imipramine (a popular tricyclic antidepressant), or a placebo. After eight weeks, the researchers compared the participants' depression rating scores and quality of life scores. They found hypericum extract was just as effective in treating depression as imipramine, and more effective than placebo. In addition, participants taking hypericum extract suffered fewer adverse side effects. St. John's wort products vary considerably in composition, the researchers note, so these results cannot be generalized. They also point out that the dosage of hypericum extract that they tested was higher than recommended."
St. John's Wort interacts with some medication and people on medication should not take the herb without seeing a professional first. But to say that the herb doesn't work at all is quackery medicine.
THE BOOK CONSIDERS SUPPLEMENTS TO BE DANGEROUS. WHAT ABOUT DRUGS?
It is very revealing how the author of this book says that pharmaceutical drugs are safe and more reliable than supplements because they only become available after
the product is proven safe and effective.
Safe? Read this : "Adverse Drug Reactions put 2.2 million people in hospitals and 106,000 died, "making these reactions between the fourth and sixth leading cause of death."
Journal of American Medical Assoc, 4-15-1998.
I have more. I took this one from the website of a Canadian MP. It was posted on january 2012, so it is pretty recent : "Prescription drugs taken as prescribed in hospitals are the fourth leading cause of death in the US and Canada, after cancer, heart disease and strokes. They cause about 10,000 deaths a year in Canada and about 106,000 deaths a year and over two million serious injuries in the US." Safe?
One last one : "Merck & Co.'s arthritis drug Vioxx may have led to more than 27,000 heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths before it was pulled from the market"
Source: The Wall Street Journal, 2004. As a matter of fact, that number increased when more data became available. Twenty seven thousand deaths caused by one prescription medicine only.
How reliable is an author who says that pharmaceutical drugs go through several tests and only become available when they are proved safe and efficient?
I take care of my own health and I do take supplements. They work. I also eat well but am not fanatic and I drink beer, I drink whiskey, I eat processed meat such as frankfurters etc.
I didn't catch even a cold in the past six or seven years although I am not young anymore and don't have the strength I used to have in my twenties.
Supplements work but only if they are from good, reputable manufacturers and if they are taken in the right dosage, right time.
They also need to be the right ones. American Ginseng and Korean Ginseng, for example, work on different health matters.
You need to do your own research.
ABOUT DOCTOR CUT AND ASCH
To better understand "Do you Believe in Magic " it is important to look at the background of Paul Offit. He is one of the senior members of the ASCH,
an American organisation that opposes the Environmental Protection Agency on the regulation of toxic chemicals.
They are also against information about calories in food products and have a softer approach on tobacco smoking than most other medical/health organisations have.
And they are against supplements...
According to the New York Times, "ACSH stopped revealing its donors in the 1990s after it was denounced as a manufacturers' front group.
In the 1980s, it admitted at least a third of its funding came from corporations including Dow Chemical, Shell Oil, Coca-Cola and Eli Lilly"
The executive medical director of this organisation, that Paul Offit proudly belongs to, served time in an American prison and had his medical licence revoked
because of a 8 million dollars Medicaid fraud...Many years later the executive director of ASCH managed to get his licence back. Nothing like being part of a industry friendly organisation, isn't it?
So, how reliable is a book attacking supplements when its author is a senior member of an organisation that is soft on tobacco industry but is opposed to environmental laws and is against precise information about calories in food?
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS ABOUT VITAMINS AND WHAT THE BOOK OMITS ABOUT IT
Let's see some of Dr. Omit's pearls on vitamins and cancer:
" The evidence for supplementing with any vitamin, particularly vitamin E, is just not there". "Those who took multivitamins were twice as likely to die from advanced prostate cancer". "The concept of multivitamins was sold to Americans by an eager nutraceutical industry to generate profits". Page 60 of the UK edition.
Never mind that the vitamin E used in most, if not all, of those studies was only alpha tocopherol, not gamma, and the synthetic one.
I could go there but what I want to show is this excerpt here : "Because many people eat irregularly or do not eat a variety of foods, they may not get enough of some vitamins from foods alone. If they do not get enough, the risk of certain cancers or other disorders may be increased. People may then take a multivitamin. However, for most people, taking multivitamins does not appear to reduce risk of developing cancer.".
Where did I get this from? Some alternative medicine website? Or was it from some celebrity blog?
Nah, nah. The source is "The Merck Manual for Patients and Caregivers". It says there, about the information supplied on the page: "Last full review/revision February 2013 by LEJ, MD, PhD. The website is part of the American company Merck & Co, one the largest pharmaceutical companies in the World.
Merck, Merck, where did I see this name before? Isn't Merck a company with which Paul Offit has a professional relation with? Is that why his book attacks Dr. Weil's sales of supplements, for example, but keeps quiet about Merck's supplements ?
Hey, Saint Offit's disciples, it is right there, black on white: "if they do not get enough ( vitamins ), the risk of certain cancers or other disorders may be increased". I liked "Merck's Manual" website but I am not agreeing or disagreeing with their information about vitamins and I don't take or ever took Dr. Weil's supplements ( I am personally suspicious about the quality of "celebrities" supplements ). I am just shocked to see one more evidence of how, once again, Dr. Omit's book barks to the wrong (and weakest) tree.
Who sells more supplements and vitamins? Merck or Dr. Weil? Saint Offit preaches that vitamins and supplements are dangerous stuff and as efficient as "snake oil". Who is making more profit on "snake oil"? Merck or Dr. Weil?
Why is it that the "American Hero" ( as he was called in one of the most delusional and pathetic five star reviews about this book here) didn't criticise Merck's advice on vitamins or, for that matter, Merck's profits on vitamin sales?
And, please, don't point out to what Dr. Leave Off wrote about Merck's Vioxx as an example of his integrity.
The whole thing is really disheartening because, whatever are the problems with alternative medicine and they are plenty, this book is not the answer. Despite of that, its praisers defend the book with something short of a fanatical religious fervour. They "want to believe", no matter what. They are no different from people on the "other side" who apparently believe in all kinds of alternative medicine and come here to write short one star reviews with nothing but insults.
I don't believe in most kinds and shapes of alternative medicine but I don't think its practitioners are all crooks trying to profit from
innocent people. I also don't believe in most supplements I've seen in the market but I know for a fact that many supplements, much more than just four, do work. I have nothing against pharmaceutical drugs and would took them if necessary, although I don't like the idea of taking even an aspirin. I am lucky and the last time I took antibiotics, for example, was about 12 years ago.
The chapter about supplements, for example, is very dishonest. Dr. Strike Out gives incomplete information about studies where supplements didn't work and he completely ignores studies where those supplements worked. To add harm to injury, many of the studies he ignored were more recent and thorough than the studies he used to discredit supplements. And how can he say that fifty one thousand supplements don't work? Did he test all of them?
Look up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It's Super Offit!
With that established, say that Super Offit could test one supplement per day through a clinical trial. He would need about 140 years to test all of them...
Super Offit's omissions and absurdities in the chapter about supplements have a simple reason: If he was to present a more scientific and complete view of studies on supplements he wouldn't have a "case". As in legal case. The book makes me think about one of those American movies where a dishonest prosecutor hides, illegally, essential information that would help the defence lawyers to prove their client innocent...
You need to be too gullible, too ignorant about basic science or too prejudiced to believe in the chapter about supplements and, for that matter, anything else that Dr. Omit writes about supplements. He might even be more or less right about other matters but the dishonesty of the chapter about supplements brings the whole book down.
One last example about the many omissions of Dr. Fail to Includet : He criticises Linus Pauling's use of vitamin C. I personally think it was an eccentricity but Paul Offit's approach to the matter is just nasty. Linus Pauling was a far better and more important scientist that Dr. Offit will ever be and was he alive Paul Offit wouldn't get away so easily with his remarks about him. To write the way he did about Linus Pauling was a coward and disgraceful thing to do.
Dr. Pass Over mentions how Linus Pauling took megadoses of vitamin C and then, to end a paragraph dramatically, he writes that "In 1994, Linus Pauling died of Prostate Cancer" as if there was a proved, direct association between megadoses of vitamin C and prostate cancer...
There isn't .
Never mind genetic background, dietary habits, lack of exercise, blood pressure, age etc. The one and only cause of Linus Pauling's cancer, as Dr. Offit subtly suggests, was excess of vitamin C...
Dr. Omit once again used a murky filter in order to prove his point and chose not to mention that Linus Pauling was 93 years old when he died of prostate cancer. 93! And he died 20 years ago. Today there is much more that the medicine can do about prostate cancer and he would probably live even longer. Yes, medicine. Medicine are pharmaceutical drugs are, obviously, a good thing. But to think that supplements and some alternative ways of taking care of your health don't work is pedestrian thinking.
How many of us will live until 93 without having a serious disease?
As for that, how many of us will live beyond 90? Hey, Paul Offit: Why you didn't say that Linus Pauling was 93 years old when he died?