Vitamin envy and spin doctors

By Darrel Crain, D.C.

In the brave new world of medicine, spin doctors are emerging as the most powerful of doctors. While the clinical doctors are busy trying to stave off the suffering and premature death of their patients using drugs and surgery, the spin doctors are busy capturing market share for their corporate clients.

Vitamins have come under attack again with a new hit piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), January, 2007. According to the article, individual antioxidants are probably less than effective at promoting longevity, and may even shorten your life. Considering that antioxidants can only work well if the whole team is playing, why did they even expect one antioxidant alone to be capable of doing the whole job itself?

Suppose we hired the finest quarterback in professional football to play in a game alone. In a normal game with the whole team playing, the ball gets snapped and he jumps back, fakes left, steps right and then drills a perfect bullet all the way into the end zone. But what if no teammate was in place to catch the ball? Or suppose his wide receiver was there in the end zone but just too tired to remain standing? And would the quarterback even have time to pass the football without a sturdy lineup of well-conditioned teammates blocking for him with all their might?

Vitamin envy, that’s what I call the perennial effort to discredit vitamins. The idea that nutritional supplements as part of a healthy lifestyle can safely provide significant health benefits and actually reduce the need for medical intervention is very unpopular with the pharmaceutical industry.

Speaking of safety, the newly published 2005 report from the American Association of Poison Control Centers once again did not attribute a single death to taking vitamins. This means taking vitamins is safer even than eating food. If you were a drug company executive gazing out of your skyscraper window, would you feel a bit envious knowing that billions and billions of vitamin pills are sold year after year, without causing a single death?

If vitamins could be patented, pharmaceutical companies would be making and marketing vitamins like there was no tomorrow. A doctor’s prescription would be required for the ones at sufficiently high doses, and each pill would go for fifty bucks. Mark my words, when they outlaw vitamins, only outlaws (and doctors) will have vitamins.

In other vitamin news, many of us were surprised this week to wake up and discover that diet soft drinks have magically become health and wellness products, at least according to soft drink industry leaders. Never mind that the artificial sweeteners used in these beverages are known to be potent neurotoxins, or that soft drinks are a major contributor to our epidemic of osteoporosis. Apparently, all it takes is adding a microscopic pinch of vitamins and suddenly the stuff is healthy.

Too bad the word “wellness” gets continually corrupted with corporate marketing nonsense such as this. Medical corporate marketing is even worse, amounting to a mass disinformation campaign that misleads the public into believing that our multiple epidemics of chronic disease are caused by random bad luck, faulty genes, or else a lack of medication.

Chronic disease is lifestyle-induced, and can only be corrected with lifestyle intervention. The development of chronic disease requires years of dedicated self-destructive behavior. In many cases, the individual has been unaware the entire time that they were creating their own health problem. This is why it is so vital that children learn at a young age that lifestyle choices affect their health profoundly.

The principle of wellness is the daily miracle of natural laws in action. Just as the health of a rainforest depends on the health of the individual trees, so does the health of the body depend on the health of the individual cells.

There are three factors under our control that have a tremendous influence on our health. What kinds of thoughts occupy our mind? What things do we eat or otherwise put into our body? How well and how much do we keep our body in motion?

“The evidence is overwhelming that physical activity and diet can reduce the risk of developing numerous chronic diseases, including CAD [coronary artery disease], hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and several forms of cancer, and in many cases in fact reverse existing disease,” according to the Journal of Applied Physiology in January, 2005.

The disorders listed above account for the vast majority of preventable death each year in modern, industrialized countries, and yet modern medicine typically focuses only on treating the symptoms. Such an emergency response is appropriate when the body is broken and failing, but it can be likened to putting out a fire in your house. Here’s the question: the day after the firemen arrived to smash in the doors and windows and drench the whole house with water, should you call them back with their fire hoses and axes to rebuild everything? At that point don’t you need carpenters, roofers, plumbers and painters instead?

I am told that the human species on this planet is collectively so sick with chronic diseases that we belong on the endangered species list, and yet anthropologists who have studied hunter/gatherer societies have documented a universal lack of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and stroke in those populations. Do those people have better genes? This is doubtful, considering that the human genome has not changed in the last 40,000 years.

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness,” wrote Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby.

The latest published “evidence” in JAMA casting doubt on the importance of nutrition supplements only proves that research is neutral, the key is what question is being asked. Suppose they had asked a better question, “Do people who use antioxidants as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise enjoy a higher quality of life and greater longevity with a reduced need for medical intervention?”

The spin doctors will continue to manipulate our fears to sell us a bill of goods, but that does not change the principle that we are genetically designed to create wellness. If our cells are not quite up to optimal health, our body is striving to make it so. The question asked by wellness is this, “What can I do every day to help my cells, tissues, organs and whole body move in the direction of optimal health?”

Dr. Darrel Crain is a Family Chiropractor and Natural Health Writer practicing in San Diego, California. He is the President of the CCA San Diego County District and can be reached at 619-445-0100 @ 6:33 pm | Article ID: 1174451653