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Who’s Afraid of Supplements? “Do You Believe in Paul Offit?”

by Alison Rose Levy

The Medical Establishment’s “Favorite” Doctor and His Crusade Against Supplements and Alternative Medicine

Paul Offit’s new book and media blitz pretend to be objective, but really offer one-sided bashing of natural healthcare.

Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at? Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia? has authored a new book, Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine (Harper, 2013 ). Now on the stump, he encourages thinking more critically about healthcare treatments. Too bad his is a one-sided view. And that his intended audience is unlikely to be convinced because health information has been increasingly available over the last 25 years. Nor do many physicians and prominent medical organizations subscribe to his views (although a few legislators do).

“People are systematically choosing to manage their own health in a way that is unprecedented,” points out James S. Turner, chairman of Citizens for Health, a health advocacy group with over 100,000 members. “The conventional treatments that Offit champions are often very helpful. The problem is that the industry has oversold them, and more and more people see that now.”

If Offit’s book had aimed to explore all health options even-handedly for their upsides and their downsides, it might have truly advanced the conversation about how to better health and lower healthcare costs. (And ranking below 16 developed nations across the lifespan and for all income levels, while stuck in the midst of a polarized debate over costs and coverage, the U.S. sorely needs that conversation.) But instead, in his book and media tour, Dr. Offit plays the predictable role of debunker, single-mindedly championing his own medical brand. Unfurling an arch skepticism about the use of herbs and other nutritional supplements, for example, Offit presents himself as the stalwart for science. But it’s instructive to see what happens when he encounters someone conversant with the health literature.

Making the World Safe for Cancer

By Alison Rose Levy via www.healthjournalist.com

When it comes to increasing cancer rates, we’ve done everything right. We couldn’t have done it better if we’d actually planned it.

That’s the takeaway from the President’s Cancer Panel. Legislatively mandated back in 1971, this prestigious panel just issued its 2009 report. Reading it is an eye-opening experience. I’ll synopsize the basic findings here (along with others from other sources) so that if other societies (or other planets) want to replicate our outstanding results in making the world safe for cancer, they can roll up their sleeves and do just what we’ve done:

• For 35 years, pour billions of dollars into vested institutions aiming to self-perpetuate via a perennial “war on cancer” featuring intense and costly treatments, which, according to a GAO report, failed to substantively increase actual survival rates once you factor in reductions in lung cancer deaths thanks to smoking cessation

• Run massive P.R. campaigns to distract the gullible public (with more birthday cake?) until that lucky day when a “cure” is found. (According to AdWeek, the American Cancer Society, which disputes the Panel Report spends $17 million annually on ads.)

That’s just for starters. Then the next step is to:

• Fail to look for causes

• Invoke “prevention” as a buzzword while doing nothing substantive

It takes a little work, but if dedicated to the cause, one can:

• Overlook numerous studies that reveal a wide range of cancer causative factors, including pesticides, toxins, metals, pollutants, food additives, industrial chemicals, endocrine disruptors and other carcinogens–80,000 of them in wide use (PCP)

• Allow widespread exposure to these carcinogens (PCP)

• Rather than concede the overall weight of both research and empirical evidence, quibble over a study detail to assure an implacable entrenchment in treating the problem when it’s too late

• Pay for your own study if your company has deep pockets. Then play “dueling studies.”

A Guide For The Perplexed On Vaccinations: What The Coffee Jitters Tell Us

By Alison Rose Levy via The Integrative Health Outlook


In following the vaccine debate, I’ve observed what seem like two completely different versions of reality. For those perplexed by this, here’s a brief guide to a basic issue underlying this long-standing controversy: biological individuality. If properly understood, it can create the ground for reconciliation.

Have you ever noticed that feet come in all shapes and sizes?

Why do you adore spicy food while your beloved hates it?

How come your friend can handle a lot more alcohol than you?

So whence cometh the assumption that we’re all completely unique on the outside, but exactly the same inside?

Most people don’t even react to coffee the same way!

If my calm and collected pal Charlie drinks any caffeine whatsoever, he morphs into a jittery Mr. Hyde–complete with road rage. My friend Lynn sleeps like a baby even after an evening expresso. Me? If I drink caffeine after lunch, I’m up watching Sex and the City re-runs until 1 A.M.

Our differing reactions to coffee are just one of thousands that reveal that what’s going on inside of each one of us is just as distinct as our outer appearance. Scientists call this biochemical individuality.

Excepting water, no food, drug, or substance is good for all of the people all of the time. What’s helpful for some, can be useless or harmful for others. Yet medical research tends towards majority rule. If it’s statistically proven to work for some, then we leap forward to assume it must be great for everyone–despite all the common sense evidence about how totally unique each one of us is.

Their Money, Our Health: Andrew Weil Leads The Health Revolution


By Alison Rose Levy via The Integrative Health Outlook

Dr. Andrew Weil’s new book, “Why Our Health Matters” is a must read for anyone wondering why health care reform is in gridlock or what to do about it. In this book, Weil offers solid, original, clear-minded, and impeccably caring solutions for our health care conundrum.

“I am sure you or people you know have had disastrous interactions with our so-called health care system, resulting in physical, emotional, or financial harm,” Weil writes. “Most of us feel as if we are up against implacable forces and institutions that are beyond our influence.”

Apparently, even the President feels that way. In his campaign, he promised to get the money lenders out of the temple of health care, but so far–no good. He is being outplayed. The ongoing debacle over insurance reform unveils the unmediated power of health care infrastructures bent on self-perpetuation rather than public health. Corporate bottom lines dictate health care policy thanks to campaign finance laws that permit those with the deepest pockets to buy legislators.

“The capitalistic free market system often works well and fairly for both buyers and sellers,” Weil points out. “However when the products that an industry sells are meant to save lives and relieve suffering, free market forces are easily skewed… If you need a product or a service to help control cancer, the seller can demand an unfair price (operating) in a free market run amok.”

As a result, both profits and power have concentrated in the health care sector as the rest of the economy tanks.

Yet even with many other options in health care, options brilliantly detailed in “Why Our Health Matters”, many people still cling to high cost medicine even when it performs poorly for their specific health care needs.


Robert Thurman: The Sacred Cows in the Health Care Debate

By Alison Rose Levy via The Integrative Health Outlook

Sacred Cow

Studies show that over half of all Americans are interested in promoting wellness and preventing disease. But some people are terrified that the food Nazis will come running after them and force feed them spinach.

In a series of upcoming blogs I’ll be speaking with thought leaders in integrative medicine and allied fields about the cultural divide on health care. For this blog, I spoke with Columbia University, Professor Robert Thurman, the leading U.S. scholar of Buddhism with a background in Tibetan Medicine.

Alison Rose Levy: Americans have poorer health outcomes than any other developed nation. That must be coming from how we approach health care. What are the blindspots that prevent us from recognizing and getting the health care we need?

Robert Thurman: It’s not a matter of fixing this or that institution or changing how we pay for health insurance. It requires a social movement. In Tibetan medicine and most other world medicines, when someone is unwell, they first look at lifestyle and diet because those two things are the major poisoning and major healing of people.