I am wondering how Michael Byrne distinguishes between good and bad science – because that seems to be at the crux of his rant against supplements. The assumption seems to be that any research done that supports the use of supplements is bad and anything that supports mainstream medicine is good.
If that’s true, how do we end up with drugs on the market that kill and have to be removed by the authorities?
Those drugs were approved based on the results of good science and foisted onto the public. It was there, after years of use (read: misuse) it was discovered that the good science actually missed some vital pieces, and the drug was actually bad instead of good. I presume those who suffered heart attacks as the result of their arthritis drugs are less upset because the drug was on the market based on good science.
Consumers were actually the long term test animals for all the good science done by drug makers.
Good science alludes to the potential harms that could result from abuse (over use) of supplements. Yet there have been scant reports of actual harm done from using supplements properly.
In fact, the numbers of people seriously harmed (and killed) by drugs that have been approved via the good science approach outweigh those harmed by supplement by figures of hundreds of thousand to one. It takes little research to establish the morbidity and mortality from approved drugs.
What constitutes good science? What’s the dividing line between good and bad? Is it up to Michael Byrne to decide? Like the rest of us, he can be wrong on his judgement. I think the real life evidence says that he is often wrong, especially when it comes to assigning good science to studies about dangerous drugs.
If someone can be wrong on that level he can certainly be wrong elsewhere. It is possible, highly probable in fact, that Michael Byrne is wrong about what he defines as bad science. If he can err about what’s good, he can certainly do likewise about what he calls bad.
Of course, there’s good science and bad science. I personally think most science is incomplete and that people (scientists, the media, the FDA, and the rest of us) draw false conclusions from the scant data we get. In that light, science is often wrong, biased, and bad. The reference to beta carotene in Byrne’s rant is proof of that statement. Because doses of beta-carotene might increase cancer risk does not also mean that beta carotene is a harmful substance.
The basic fact today is that many of our chronic health conditions are associated with bad nutrition. People eat poorly, not because they want to, but because there are few choices to do otherwise. Mass produced “food” lacks much of the nutrition our natural food sources provided just a few decades ago. I once met a scientist who had been collecting data about the amount of dissolved solids in fruit and vegetable juices. He reported that the amounts have fallen by as much as 50% over 50 years. That means the fruits and vegetables contain less nutrition today than they did when I was 15 years old.
Maybe cancer really needs to suck on 50 apples a day, Mr. Byrne.
In addition to reduced nutritional content, “food” today can also be toxic, bearing pesticides and chemicals that were never intended to be helpful for our health. The fact that they increase yields is, of course, sufficient reason to spray them on any and every crop.
“Food” has been enhanced by good science and now we have GMO products. They don’t rot the way food once did – because they aren’t like real food. They look nice and last longer, but where’s the nutritional value?
Now, then, what kind of science would allow that it’s okay to get reduced nutrition from our food? I suggest that neither good nor bad science would conclude that we can survive by consuming depleted food that is also loaded with toxic chemicals.
Good science discovered how to extract sugars from crops and good science has figured out how to incorporate them into practically everything in the grocery store. Massive consumption of sugars deplete important nutrients. Where should those depleted nutrients come from, if not from some form of supplement?
In some small way, however, I am in agreement with Michael Byrne. Excessive supplementation can be unhealthy – just as anything in excess can be harmful. I don’t know what constitutes an unhealthy amount any more than Mr. Byrne can identify truly good or bad science. When you ask, doctors will tell you that we don’t need any supplements as long as we eat a balanced diet. I agree, but show me how a person in 2012 can obtain a balanced diet. No, don’t point me to that ignorant food pyramid or its recent food plate incarnation. The government has always gotten it wrong, and today’s suggestions can be downright deadly.
Like many of us, Michael Byrne takes a position and holds tightly to it and, in the end, tosses out the baby with the bathwater. Sure, there can be mistakes, on both sides, but it borders on hysterical to conclude that there is something dangerous and evil about vitamin and mineral supplements, or that the makers are doing their best to deceive and defraud. I often take that tone when I write about drug makers. The fact is clearly someplace between the extremes. Supplement makers and alternative medicine practitioners have concluded that using supplements is necessary and safe. I concur, but add that too much of anyhthing is inappropriate.
Drug companies are staffed by people who are probably equally convinced that their approach to health is good and appropriate and that the risks of using drugs are acceptable, even when large numbers of users suffer. I don’t side with this view.
Having been on the inside of the health business for over four decades I have concluded that the likelihood for harm when using drugs is far greater and far more harmful than the potential for harm when using supplements (in reasonable amounts). Regardless, my effort here is not to discredit Michael Byrne, but to suggest that he step back and take a more inclusive position, one that accepts the true facts and acknowledges that people can arrive at different conclusion even when supplied the same input.