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on June 21, 2013
This latest offering by vaccine maven Paul Offit, takes us on a world tour of alternative medicine hucksterism featuring a variety of suspects. Suzanne Somers, Dr. Mercola, Oprah, Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra and many others get the star treatment here. While I read this book in just two days - it's easy to read and Offit is a good, even witty writer - my overall view is that Offit presents a lot of overblown, specious straw man arguments that ignore much larger issues. I would argue that he doesn't just ignore an elephant in the room, he manages to ignore a big chunk of the zoo. The unhappy result that I fear is that more people will blindly embrace American medicine in all its gory glory and assume it's all scientific and guaranteed to work. He might even convince the feds to require prescriptions for many essentially harmless supplements, putting them in the same class as some deadly prescription drugs. All of this would be a public health disaster.

Let's go through the various large animals in turn:

The Elephant: The harm done by alternative medicine, by so-called "natural" remedies, and vitamins and minerals and other supplements is dwarfed, by many orders of magnitude, by the harm done by conventional medicine as it is practiced in this country. Let's start with standard chemotherapy, which even most oncologists will admit does not work very well for most cancers (except maybe Hodgkins, testicular cancer, Wilm's tumor and a few others). Yet incredibly, Offit trashed actor Steve McQueen for seeking alternative remedies after a diagnosis of mesothelioma, for which American medicine can do absolutely zip, nada, nothing. That's right, fuhgeddaboutit!! McQueen actually lived somewhat longer than expected, but I am sure Offit would have loved to torture the poor guy with chemo until he died a miserable death, perhaps even sooner than he actually did. Of the half million or so poor souls that die of cancer every year, a good fraction of them actually die from the chemo. But even more incredibly, Offit actually praised (yes I said PRAISED!) the FDA for how it handled the Vioxx mess, in which more than 50000 died of heart attacks. At the time I recall that the head of the agency said that they were powerless to stop another Vioxx. Oh, yeah, and about 100000 a year die from prescription drugs every year, but only a handful from supplements.

The Hippopotamus: American conventional medicine is not very scientific either. We go back again to Chemo, which is impossible to double-blind test because the side effects are so obvious. But it mostly doesn't work anyway. But never mind that - what about the fact that many drugs are prescribed "off-label"? That means that the doctor prescribes it because he thinks it "might work". No science there, just a wild guess. That includes millions of kids on Prozac, which has never been formally approved for children, and is known to sometimes actually cause suicide. Actually, all the antidepressants, anti-psychotics and other mind drugs have net-net actually added to the disability rolls over the last 40 years. Did anyone actually show scientifically that these medicines would improve public mental health? I doubt it. And of course, bypass operations are done in tens of thousands of people annually who are not in the categories proven to benefit. And statins don't benefit women. And the PSA test doesn't save lives, and probably neither do mammograms. On and on and on......

The Gorilla: It's nice to say that there is no alternative medicine, only medicine that works or medicine that doesn't. Catchy, huh? But in this country that's total malarkey. There are in fact many treatments that have rigorous hard data behind them but for some reason have not become mainstream. I cite two: prolotherapy for joint problems, and EECP (an FDA approved treatment, invented at Mass General no less!) for heart disease. I always wonder if a friend of mine who had no symptoms of heart disease but lots of blockage, might have benefited from EECP rather than being railroaded into a bypass operation that messed up his eyesight. Prolotherapy can provably CURE arthritis permanently in many people, and no less a person than Everett Koop, former surgeon general, sung its praises and used it to improve his life. I am not a big fan of conspiracy theories and I don't know why some doctor on every block doesn't practice at least one of these, but someone ought to advocate for non-invasive but effective treatments like this. No point in asking Paul Offit to do that, though.

Leaving the big beasts aside, Offit makes a lot of other statements that I would laugh at if I didn't think they were so damaging. He actually claims that there are safe levels of mercury, the only person I know who has ever done that. In talking about supplements that might work, he gives short shrift to vitamin D, which is probably the best way to lower the risk of cancer that we have. Way, way better than vitamin C for that. But you need to take a lot more than he suggests. Some recent, large studies show that rigorously, but Offit says not a word about it. He is actually steering people away from 10 years of lifesaving information when he claims that D3 is only good for bones and we should not take more than 400-600 IU. He also lumps curcumin in with the trash heap of worthless supplements, but forgets to mention that the MD Anderson cancer center in Texas showed that curcumin could kill cancer cells as well as many forms of chemo, without the side effects of course. And while we're at it, let me mention also that the widely quoted meta-analysis of vitamin supplements that showed a large increase in overall mortality from taking certain supplements actually left out a bunch of studies where no one died. Put those back in, and suddenly the supplements are still perhaps not useful, but not really harmful either.

Also some of the "dangers" of supplements and foods are wildly overstated. Sorry Paul, stevia does NOT cause infertility. That was a tiny animal study - never been shown in people. Liver problems from green tea have occurred a handful of times. People fry their livers every day just by taking Tylenol but don't expect Offit to tell you that. Favism is a real (though rare) problem with fava beans, but you can prevent it with a simple blood test - if you make enough of the right enzyme, you can basically eat all you want.

This used to be a two-star review until another reviewer convinced me to think better of that. That was because Dr. Offit actually did land a few punches here and there, and it was mildly amusing to watch him do it, even though my overall feeling about the book was quite negative for the above reasons. At the end of the day the book really doesn't deserve the extra star above the minimum. But I always had a bad feeling about Stanislaw Burzynski, and now I know why. And yes, Steve Jobs was a moron for not ripping that slow-growing neuroendocrine cancer out of his gut while he had the chance, and so were the foolish parents at the beginning who wouldn't let their kid get chemo for Hodgkins. Chemo actually works for Hodgkins - Hello!! If I had Hodgkins, I would sign up for chemo in oh, about 2.5 seconds, and that's way too long. I also can't get worked up about vaccines - I don't think they cause autism, and other than not being too wild about thimerosal, I think vaccines are generally a huge benefit, and that's probably the only area Paul Offit has any business writing about. I don't get flu shots, though - I prevent flu and colds with vitamin D. Works like a charm, or maybe like a placebo. Sorry, Paul, I couldn't resist that one.

But despite my general openness to western medicine (I have taken many medicines in my day and I stopped counting my surgeries long ago), I am not letting this guy off the hook. Modern American medicine has light-years to go before it can claim, scientifically, to be optimizing public health, and by making much ado over the wrong things, Paul Offit is doing what he can to stop it from getting there. That's why this book is dangerous. Maybe more so because some people find it entertaining. But don't be fooled - if people actually continue to buy it and believe in or worse, act on, any of this junk, this book will wind up hurting and even killing more people than almost any other "health" book ever written. Don't buy it, and even libraries shouldn't buy it.
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on August 17, 2013
Before reading this book, I had read some articles condemning the author and the book, so I expected the worst. Of course, those who condemned this book were involved in the alternative medicine business, so could hardly be expected to be objective.On the other hand, I use a lot of nutritional supplements myself, and have been writing about nutrition and exercise for over 30 years. I was pleasantly surprised in reading this book to find that, contrary to expectations, the author was not out to blindly attack alternative medicine. In fact, the book is well researched, and the author's conclusions make a lot of sense. I agree about the importance of scientific, or "evidence-based medicine" in determining the ultimate value of any particular therapy, supplement, or treatment.The best parts of the book to me were those in which Dr.Offit exposes the greedy charlatans who take advantage of the desperation of people who seek out the way cures when conventional medicine cannot help them.But as Offit correctly points out, none of these modern day snake oil salesman can relieve their pain, either, although they will empty their bank accounts.I also like the way Offit exposes their frequent attacks on the money-hungry medical/drug company establishment, while conveniently not mentioning how they are getting rich off the money of trusting suckers.I would have given the book a 5-star rating save for one major fault. His chapter on vitamins was the weakest and most inaccurate portion of the book. Offit only suggests using four types of nutritional supplements: fish oil, vitamin D, calcium, and folic acid. The amount of vitamin D he suggests is fine for helping to build bone mass, but doesn't come close to the amount of vitamin D shown to have other preventive effects. Offit's advice to go in the sun for 15 minutes a day only applies to those in which the sun provides enough UV radiation year-round. But what about those who don't consume balanced diets? Where are they supposed to get the required nutrients if they avoid supplements? Offit doesn't deal with that aspect. Also, the studies he chooses to underscore his contention that food supplements are dangerous were cherry-picked to prove his point, since there are countless other well-designed studies that show opposite effects,i.e, the nutrients are protective against disease. But other than his nutritional advice, Offit's other points are sound, and his expose of such media pundits as Dr.Oz and others is commendable. I never expected to enjoy reading this book, but I did.
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on April 22, 2015
Offit is good at cherry picking data and making very unscientific claims. Offit claims “a baby’s immune system could handle as many as 10,000 vaccines.” No science to back it but if true could easily handle any childhood disease so why vaccinate? His bank account for one. Over 100,000 people die every year from the effects of pharmaceutical drugs and I can’t find a single death per year from supplementing with vitamins and minerals. Our bodies need them and it’s impossible to get them from our diet due to the depletion of nutrients in soil. There are supplement manufacturers that don’t meet the high standards that others do and I’m not going to advertise either side.

Another Offit belief: “Aluminum is considered to be an essential metal with quantities fluctuating naturally during normal cellular activity. It is found in all tissues and is also believed to play an important role in the development of a healthy fetus.” If you know anything about biochemistry you know injecting and ingesting are far different in how the body handles aluminum. Dr. Chris Exley is one of the world’s experts on aluminum and couldn’t disagree more with Offit because there’s no biochemical necessity of aluminum in the body; it can only do damage. Offit defends a mass murdering industry while shining a light on one that works when you’re educated on effective “alternative” treatments. From everything I've read America is one of the most pharmaceutical laced populations and remains one of the sickest so it's clear drugs don't work or once we started we'd be taking less not more drugs. Or are you going to argue Americans are genetically inferior and we can't help but take drugs and the more the better? Pure lunacy and a healthy lifestyle is one of the only ways of avoiding the pharma mafia.
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on July 2, 2014
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? THE SENSE AND NONSENSE OF ALTERNATIVE MAGIC (Harper Collins) by Paul A. Offit is a book that will get you thinking about an industry that’s virtually unregulated.The author, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, examines numerous treatments that don’t work–and explains why. He also gives his opinion on media celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, Suzanne Sommers and Dr. Oz.Among the many tidbits that I found interesting:* Although mainstream medicine hasn’t found a way to treat dementia or enhance memory, practitioners of alternative medicine claim that they have: ginkgo biloba. As a consequence, ginkgo is one of the ten most commonly used natural products, netting hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the manufacturers. Unfortunately, sales exceed claims. . . . In 2012, a study of more than 2,800 adults found that ginkgo didn’t ward off Alzheimer’s disease.* One popular homeopathic remedy is oscillococcinum, promoted for the treatment of flu. Homeopaths make oscillococcinum by homogenizing the heart and liver of a Burberry duck, diluting it in water one-hundredthfold, and repeating the hundrethfold dilution two hundred times. A solution this dilute doesn’t’ contain a single molecule of the Burberry. In fact, the preparation is so dilate that not a single molecule of the duck would be found if the final volume were that of the universe. The duck is one. From a scientist’s standpoint, oscillococcinum is one gram of sugar.
And especially this passage:

* In the end, if a medicine works (like folic acid to prevent birth defects), it’s valuable, and if it doesn’t work (like saw palmetto to shrink prostate), it’s not. “There’s no name for alternative medicines that work,” Says Joe Schwarcz, professor of chemistry and the director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University. “It’s called medicine.”

I strongly recommend DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?, especially if you’re open to analyzing claims that have no medical basis to back them up.
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on June 29, 2013
Dr. Offit's new book examines different ways Americans try to promote their health outside traditional medicine. He examines the use of vitamins and supplements, telling the story behind their (lack of) regulation, carefully analyzing the studies done on them, and addressing whether any vitamins are useful (and which) as well as potential dangers from mega doses. He examines alternative treatments for autism and cancer, among others. He addresses well known alternative healers and celebrities. He discusses why do some alternative treatments work in spite of the fact that they do not work empirically, detailing the studies of the placebo response. He discusses the relative spheres of alternative medicine and well, medical medicine, and suggests in what situations alternative medicine becomes problematic (for example, when alternative healers urge patients away from life-saving traditional medicine solutions, harming their health). He addresses empirical studies of all of the above and what science knows. And he does all that in an accessible, engaging, occasionally funny and always interesting style. The book brings to life interesting characters, tells tragic stories, and does not hesitate to criticize where justified. I learned a lot from this book and enjoyed it. I recommend it.
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on October 2, 2014
This book is essential for anyone who has, or ever will, spend wasted money on pseudo-medical practices with no proven efficacy - aside from placebo effects - such as acupuncture, supplements, and whacky cancer treatments.
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on January 28, 2015
This book is incredibly one-sided. There are plenty of studies that prove alternative methods work, but the author conveniently chooses to not include them. So glad I didn't spend money on it and instead read it at Barnes and Noble. Of course the healthcare system doesn't want to credit alternative and complementary methods - it cuts into their profit margin. You can keep your gazillion drugs, and I'll keep going to acupuncture.
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on July 5, 2013
There are many parts of this book that are interesting and Paul Offit writes well and can tell a great story. As a book that documents aspects of medical history it was enjoyable.

But then I got to the section on vitamins and supplements. I have followed the research in this area closely for personal reasons. Dr Offit's puts on his "dogmatic" hat and forgets his role as a critical scientist, putting great weight on studies that support his theory that vitamin supplementation is bad and ignoring other current and more rigorous studies that show vitamin supplementation can be helpful and even be an alternative to more damaging pharmaceutical interventions. He does exactly what he criticizes those who are looking at complementary and alternative therapies of doing. He quotes studies without looking closely at them to see if they were well designed and ignores criticisms of those studies by other scientists in the field. Linus Pauling's story is quite interesting and it speaks to the importance of not just assuming that because something is natural it is safe or even effective at treating something. It would be nice if Offit used this story to support the need for more research into how our bodies deal with nutrients and what role various nutrients play in our health, rather than have him just conclude, and wrongly, that no public health organization supports vitamin supplementation.

Here is an article that addresses the controversy of supplementation for anyone who is interested

More importantly there is an important book that needs to be written on this topic. It is a book that explores the complexity behind those who want to look for scientifically sound solutions that are perhaps not going to result in a patent or new medical product. What is the role of the FDA right now? What research standards are applied to alternative therapies? How easy is it to get funding to do that research? What does a good research study look like? How do you account for the placebo effect, which is real? What resources can a patient trust when considering nutritional and lifestyle advice as they work to improve their health? What happens when bad advice or advice that is harmful to the public, such as the anti-vaccination movement, gets traction?
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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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?
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on June 18, 2013
The saying goes that "alternative medicine" that works is known as medicine. Everything else is no better than placebo, and may even be dangerous to your health. Have you ever wondered why commercials on television and radio give you the "Miranda Quack Warning" that their products are not "intended" to treat, cure, or prevent a disease, but then they sell it to you with the promise of treating, curing, or preventing a disease? It's because, despite the millions of dollars that alternative medicine pulls in, the industry lacks the evidence to be licensed by the FDA, a process that, albeit is time consuming, is easy to do if you have the cash and the data.

In his book, Dr. Offit lays out the evidence for and against the use of alternative medicine, vitamin supplements, and the like. Yes, it's not all a "hate fest" against SCAM (Supplementary and Complementary Alternative Medicine). Dr. Offit lays out how some alt med became regular medicine once it was shown to work. Everything else remains SCAM.

Of course, there will be those who, even without buying let alone reading the book, will tell you that it's "crap" or that it's "awful" or that Dr. Offit "makes millions" from the vaccine he co-designed. If you do proper and responsible research into his actions (let alone his intentions) throughout the years, you will come to the rational agreement that he is a man in defense of science, medicine, and truth. On the other hand, if you have gone far deep into the rabbit hole of homeopathy, acupuncture, and megavitamins, then this book is not for you. It will give you an allergic reaction. Then again, maybe just the letter "F" cut out of the book and put into a gallon of water then shaken up real well will protect you from the truths and evidence in the book?

Overall, a great read, with plenty of personal stories interwoven in a narrative suited for everything from light reading to academic discussions. A must read.
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