The Tomato Effect, Part 2

The resistance of American academic medicine to the concept that micronutrient supplementation might have health benefits was discussed by James Goodwin and his colleague Michael Tangum in Archives of Internal Medicine 1998; 158:2187-2191. The medical community excoriated Linus Pauling was for his work on Vitamin C. He was an outsider, and he published books for the lay press, much like Galileo who was beheaded for publishing his writings about the world being round and revolving around the sun. Copernicus said the same thing years before; yet he wrote it in Latin so that only the academics would read it.

Dr. Goodwin reviewed dominant textbooks of academic internal medicine from 1948 to 1995 and found that the quotations were not just skeptical of vitamin supplements, but selectively skeptical and showing obvious emotion, standing out from the usual boring style of writing.

Harrison’s early edition of his Textbook of Medicine in 1950, “The present custom of massive vitamin supplementation on the part of the American public may lead to carelessness in the selection of foods with resultant amino acid or mineral deficiency. Failure to understand these principles has resulted in much useless supplementation of patients with a great variety of preparations containing vitamins. False reliance on vitamin therapy has sometimes resulted in delayed institution of effective therapies.”

Cecil’s textbook of medicine in 1960 states, “In a normal diet, supplements are not necessary. The use of preparations containing not only vitamins but several minerals is poor medical practice.”

Harrison’s textbook in 1970 states, “Multivitamin therapies are readily available. Physicians may be tempted to prescribe them because they are thought to be harmless or because he looks upon this as a simple way to protect patients from the small chance that they may develop deficiency states. This practice is undesirable in 3 counts: 1.) It is wasteful. 2.)Unnecessary medicine is to be deplored. 3.) It may lull doctors into neglecting needed studies. There is no justification for the widespread marketing of multiple vitamins for families for their purported value of preventing colds or infection. This effect cannot be documented. The tendency among food merchants to increase the vitamin content of breakfast cereals to therapeutic levels is an insidious marketing device that cannot be justified.” This paragraph obviously has an angry tone, unusual to find in medical textbooks about other subjects.

Dr. Goodwin goes on to explain that nutrient supplementation has not fit in to the current paradigm of medicine which sees disease as an active agent that needs to be combated, not a condition in which a deficiency or imbalance occurs. Common terminology currently includes “fighting … disease.” Therapeutic modalities are often considered weapons against disease, and are commonly spoken of as “part of your armamentarium.” So, disease as caused by a deficiency, (negative causality) is an alien concept.

Doctor concludes with a warning that anyone is susceptible to this faulty type of thinking, not just conventional medicine.

Many things in alternative medicine are promoted because of a theory about how it works. He says that health care practitioners, doctors especially, should not pretend to be scientists, should not use a particular therapy because they think it does such and such.

The only tests to consider when deciding whether or not to use a treatment should be, according to Doctor, 1.) Does it work? 2.) Is it toxic? 3.) How much does it cost?

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