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The Vitamin Hoax: Big Pharma Speaks Through Reader's Digest Magazine

Monday, February 04, 2008 by: Carol L. Ohnesorge
Tags: vitamins, mainstream media, health news

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(NewsTarget) The cover of the November 2007 issue of Reader's Digest magazine makes a strong statement through a featured article entitled The Vitamin Hoax: 10 Not to Take. Written by Reader's Digest Senior Research Editor, Neena Samuel, the article cautions readers not to be duped into purchasing vitamins and supplements. She seems concerned by the gullibility of Americans who are "fooled by unrealistic claims of what vitamins can do to 'increase energy,' 'stimulate brain function,' 'improve sex drive,' 'reverse cancer' and 'remove plaque' from your arteries."

Samuel writes that these "wild claims" help "explain why Americans shell out $7.5 billion a year on vitamins, hoping to prolong life, slow aging and protect against a bevy of illnesses." From her standpoint, it seems that Americans are a desperate, naive bunch, grasping at any snake-oiled promise to avoid the inevitable doom of chronic disease. Confident that the average American will be unable to sort through these "wild claims" about nutritional supplements, Samuel jumps to a list of ten we don't need to bother taking.

While it's true that people suffer illness, age, and die as part of the human condition, does this mean that no one should attempt to prevent, delay or improve the experience? Shouldn't one be able to educate themselves about wellness and try to live a healthier, fuller life through better nutrition and lifestyle awareness without being ridiculed? Studying nutrition and wellness doesn't make anyone more gullible. Major television networks often feature physicians who report on food, diet, exercise, and lifestyle which would appear to encourage people to become informed about healthy choices. No health practitioner would suggest that eating canned or frozen vegetables and highly processed foods will provide the most nutrition in a diet, and people are learning that we can no longer count on our grown and raised food to have all the nutrition it had fifty years ago.

Soils are depleted of nutrients, and an increasing percentage of our food sources are hybridized, genetically modified, and contaminated with hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Given these limitations, how do we ensure ourselves a healthy diet? Samuel herself acknowledges that, "Everyone needs vitamins and minerals, which are crucial for good health and long life" but that "only 3 percent of us eat well enough for that." Maybe Americans who turn to supplements to complete their daily dietary needs, or who want to lessen their suffering and improve their quality of life are actually well-informed. She cites Cleveland Clinic's Chief Wellness Officer, Michael Roizen, M.D. as saying, "No one knows for sure why a food source may be more beneficial [than a supplement], but one theory is that nature provides a perfect balance of compounds that isn't fully replicable in the lab. I take a vitamin and mineral supplement as an insurance policy against a less than perfect diet."

Getting our vitamins from healthful foods would be easier if our foods were of a better quality. The rising demand for heirloom produce, organic produce and free-range meats absent of hormones and antibiotics supports the notion that many Americans have made the connection between diet and illness. Americans who choose to inform themselves about which food sources are today's nutrient-dense options should be able to do so without ridicule. Simply eating the same foods we ate fifty years ago under the assumption that by doing so, we will receive adequate nutrition just isn't borne out in practice - or in fact.

Despite the issues we face today in finding quality, nutrient-dense foods, The Vitamin Hoax: 10 Not to Take confidently proclaims obtaining good nutrition is so simple that taking vitamins is overkill and can lead to toxic overload of some nutrients. Samuel's introduction evokes both skepticism and curiosity in many health-conscious readers. Hoping to rein-in the well-informed skeptics, she hopes to strengthen her argument by basing her claim on the standard Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) guidelines for daily nutrient intake.

Understanding the National Academy of Sciences' intent when the RDA guidelines were originally determined is key to keeping one's perspective in the face of a possible vitamin hoax. The Nutrition Digest of Essential Nutrients is a collection of science-based nutritional information complete with cited studies which provides an interesting look at the history and intent of the RDA guidelines. Compiled by researchers at Enerex Botanicals, Ltd., this digest was published to provide fact-based information about supplements and nutrients. Establishing A Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowance (pgs. 16 - 31 of the digest) discusses the National Academy of Sciences' reasons for establishing the RDAs and the criticisms that arose regarding those guidelines. It also cites university research that led to the creation of alternative nutritional guidelines called Suggested Optimal Nutritional Allowances or SONA. Before we look at Samuel's list of ten supplements not to take, we need to be able to determine if we are getting such ample nutrition from our food that we can forego the supplements.

According to the research collected in the Nutrition Digest, the National Academy of Sciences proposed in 1941 that a guideline of minimum recommended daily dietary allowances be established for the express purpose of reducing the occurrence of diseases of malnutrition. These diseases of malnutrition include scurvy (caused by deficient levels of vitamin C), pellagra (caused by deficient levels of niacin), and beri-beri (caused by deficient levels of vitamin B-1). The RDA guidelines fell under sharp criticism within ten years of their publication because they were based on brief studies of approximately nine months and established only nutrient level minimums.

Maintaining one's health over the course of a lifetime likely requires the intake of daily nutrients at varying levels relating to conditions such as illness, habit, and stage of life. It is estimated that at least one chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or a degenerative disease of the bone or eye, will afflict 80% of the American population over the age of sixty. This wide-spread suffering of chronic disease in the aging may be evidence that the RDAs do not provide the levels of nutrients needed to maintain high quality health over a lifetime. In fact, the RDA guidelines are likened by the researchers to minimum wage rates since they barely sustain life let alone contribute in any meaningful way to improving life quality.

The analysis provided in Establishing A Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowance highlights further flaws with the RDAs. In addition to being established only as nutrient minimums, the RDAs fail to take into consideration the impact of lifestyle. Several studies have shown that behaviors such as regular consumption of alcohol, following special diets, and habitual smoking will lower blood levels of various nutrients. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stated in their own findings that the RDAs "vary greatly in disease" implying that there are circumstances of living that can and do influence and change RDA requirements.

It was not until the 1989 edition, however, more than forty-five years after their initial publication, that the NAS finally acknowledged smokers' need for higher levels of vitamin C to prevent malnutrition. Studies since then have determined that smokers also have lower blood levels of vitamins and minerals including (but not limited to) beta carotene, zinc, vitamin B-6 and vitamin E. These findings indicate that nutrient deficiencies may contribute significantly to smokers' increased health risks. Clearly there are variables the RDAs do not address and which are not reflected in the current guidelines. The NAS has never maintained that the RDAs are optimal nutrient levels intended to promote high quality health over many years, yet The Vitamin Hoax consistently refers to the RDA's numbers as though they were standards for optimal health in all individuals regardless of personal habits and lifestyle.

To gain a better perspective of the inadequacy of the standards which constitute the foundation for Samuel's list, consider the work of two doctors at the University of Alabama School of Medicine cited in the Nutrient Digest; Emanuel Cheraskin and W.M. Ringsdorf, Jr. Given the narrow scope of the RDA guidelines, they attempted to ascertain the actual ideal daily consumption levels for nutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fat that healthy people consume daily and thereby thrive. Cheraskin and Ringsdorf, Jr. hypothesized that people who are more "symptom and sign-free of suffering" are healthier than people who present clinical symptoms and show signs of disease.

Together, they designed a long-term research study investigating daily nutrient intake-levels of healthy people, and whether supplementation was a part of the healthiest lifestyles. This 15-year study collected comprehensive health and diet information on 13,500 men and women living in six different regions of the United States. The standardized information that was collected included "(1) the Cornell Medical Index Health Questionnaire of 195 questions (2) a complete physical including dental and eye exams by medical professionals (3) heart tests including an EKG (4) a glucose tolerance test (5) a complete blood analysis including 50 blood chemistries and (6) a comprehensive daily dietary survey." By analyzing the nutritional intake of disease-free individuals, they hoped to provide a scientifically qualified basis for determining optimal daily nutrient levels.

The Cheraskin and Ringsdorf, Jr. study consistently indicated that the healthiest people were those who had taken supplements and who had eaten a nutrient-rich diet in relation to the number of calories they ate. By comparing the daily intake levels of vitamins in the healthiest subjects, researchers calculated the mean or average amount of each vitamin consumed. Using these calculations, Alex Schauss, Ph.D. developed the Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowances (SONA).

The SONA guidelines do not offer specific claims about nutrient abilities. They simply reflect what nutrient levels were consumed daily by healthy participants in the study and thus suggest that a diet including these nutrient levels each day is part of a healthy lifestyle. For example, the healthiest people in the study consumed approximately 410 mg of vitamin C each day. Analyzing the study data by age and gender determined SONA recommendations of 400mg of vitamin C for men and women aged 25-50, and 800-1000mg of vitamin C for men and women aged 51 and older. By contrasting these amounts to the RDA's recommendation of 60mg of vitamin C daily, it becomes clear that the RDA guidelines could only have been interpreted as the bare minimums.

Samuel's alarmist warnings regarding the dangers of supplementation are incorrectly based on the obsolete RDA guidelines. Such low levels of nutrients could not be considered toxic. After all, the RDA nutrients were only meant to serve as the low-watermark to avoid malnutrition. In the specific case of vitamin C, Samuel claims that there is "no conclusive evidence that it prevents colds, heart disease, cataracts or cancer." However, when Drs. Cheraskin and Ringsdorf, Jr. analyzed the diets of the healthiest, most disease-free people (those people with the fewest signs and symptoms of illness such as colds, heart disease, cataracts and cancer), they found the daily intake of vitamin C was nearly 9 times the RDA guideline level.

The following is Samuel's list of ten vitamins not to take including a side-by-side comparison of the RDA levels and SONA guidelines for each. These are the same vitamins which Samuel asserts people receive ample amounts of by simply following a healthy diet. Sometimes she lists specific food amounts needed to obtain the RDA of a particular nutrient, so the SONA amounts of the same foods have been listed for direct comparison. In the case of Vitamin C, Samuel states, "A glass of OJ will give you almost all you need [to avoid malnutrition]." Yet, achieving the SONA levels for vitamin C with the intention to thrive and live healthfully would require that a person drink at least nine times that amount. How many people actually drink nine or more glasses of OJ every day? And how many people could pass a glucose tolerance test if they drank that much orange juice from concentrate every day?

Contributing to the article's inconsistency, Samuel sometimes suggests eating from a specific food group to obtain the RDA amounts of a nutrient but leaves specific amounts of those foods up to the imagination. She writes simply, "grab a tuna sandwich" or eat "red meat," implying excellent food sources are at arms length, that people eat plenty from these sources every day, and that therefore supplementation is unnecessary. The chart below shows a dramatic contrast between RDA and SONA measurements for daily nutrient intake. The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference was used to create the final column. It specifies how much of a particular food a person would have to eat each day to obtain the RDA versus the SONA measurements for those nutrients. Those who assume from reading The Vitamin Hoax that eating a salad fulfills both a healthy body's need for folic acid and Samuel's advice to simply "find it in dark green leafy vegetables" will see that in fact, it is much more difficult to achieve optimal nutrition without supplementation.

RDA versus SONA Food Amts:

1) Vitamin A: RDA 700-900mcg, SONA 2000mcg (1 medium carrot vs. 4 carrots)

2) Beta Carotene: RDA None Established, SONA 80-100mg (8 cups cooked spinach)

3) Vitamin C: RDA 75-90mg Smokers Add 35mg, SONA 800-1000mg (1-8oz cup OJ vs. 11 cups)

4) Vitamin E : RDA 15mg, SONA 800mg (1oz. roasted almonds vs. 7 lbs. of almonds)

5) Selenium: RDA 55mcg, SONA 200-250mcg (3 oz. canned tuna vs. 1 lb of canned tuna)

6) Folic Acid: RDA 400mcg, SONA 2000mcg ("eat green vegs." vs. 12 cups of broccoli)

7) Niacin: RDA 14mg-16mg, SONA 25-30mg (6 med. baked potatoes vs. 12 baked potatoes)

8) Lycopene: RDA None Established, SONA Not Found (10 cherry tomatoes = 4mg)

9) Iron: RDA 8-18mg, SONA 20mg ("eat red meat" vs. 2 lbs. cooked burger)

10) Zinc: RDA 8-11mg, SONA 17-20mg ("eat poultry" vs. 11 chicken breasts)

The Facts:

Reader's Digest magazine is no trivial publication. The board of directors, so-called the Reader's Digest Association at www.rda.com, states that Reader's Digest is "the world's most widely read magazine." Folio Magazine, at (www.foliomag.com), estimated that in November 2006 there was a "paid and verified circulation" of "more than 10 million" Reader's Digest magazines. It is also a documented fact that many people take daily supplements. Samuel's own article lists the annual amount Americans spend on them at $7.5 billion. While Samuel's research included exactly how much money the American people are spending on supplements, her conclusion is poorly founded and the argument she makes for giving up daily supplements is surprisingly weak.

In the beginning of her article, she presents herself as protector of the meek and naive by pointing out the frivolity of wasting money on supplements when the RDAs are so easily met through diet. Yet upon closer inspection, the lack of accurate information and analysis seems to implicate Samuel as the true peddler of snake-oiled promises by promoting outdated, bare minimum nutrient levels from the RDA guidelines; the same guidelines which admittedly need revisions to accommodate variables such as illness, habit and lifestyle; the same minimal standards which may be contributing factors in the development of chronic illness.

The Questions:

Such a large number of people, both using supplements and reading Reader's Digest magazine, begs the question: Why did RD gamble with readers' loyalty by promoting a poorly researched and negative article? What motivation could there be for the widespread publication of this article? Are there conglomerate entities (such as Big Pharma: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) which might benefit from a reduction of sales in the dietary supplements industry? Are there connections between RD and these entities? Further, are there connections between RD and the political agencies who effect legislation and influence market regulations which, in turn, could restrict the supplement industry's market share?

The answers to these questions require: (1) Knowing who comprises the Reader's Digest Association (the board of directors) along with each member's business affiliations; (2) Understanding the controlling influence of the board of directors on RD's business agenda and on key RD employees; (3) Understanding the influential strength that contribution monies have on the formation of political agendas and alliances of many political figures.

Edgar-online.com provides information on businesses which includes financial information and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, on both a free and paid-subscription basis. By looking at some of the SEC filings submitted over the past five years by the Reader's Digest Association, some of the company's "Corporate Governance Guidelines" along with specific names of several of the board members were compiled in order to gain insight into individual interests and possible personal agendas they bring to the board. "Corporate Governance Guidelines" provide insight into the depth of the board's influence at Reader's Digest as these guidelines were created by the board members themselves. The names of the board members along with their business affiliations follow the guidelines. Taken directly from an SEC DEF 14A filing: "The Board of Directors of Reader's Digest believes that the responsibility of Directors is to oversee the management of Reader's Digest. That responsibility includes":

1) "Promoting the best interests of Reader's Digest and its stockholders in directing Reader's
Digest's business and affairs."

2) "Directors have open access to Reader's Digest's management. Senior management of Reader's Digest routinely attend appropriate portions of Board and Committee meetings and they and other managers frequently brief the Board and the Committees on particular topics. Long-term strategic and business plans are reviewed annually at one of the Board's regularly scheduled meetings."

3) "Selecting, evaluating and fixing the compensation of the Chief Executive Officer and senior management of Reader's Digest and establishing policies regarding the compensation of members of management."

4. "Evaluating the performance of the Company and the Chief Executive Officer and taking appropriate action, including removal, when warranted."

Looking at these guidelines, it seems that: (1) Business affairs including articles and advertisements at Reader's Digest reflect the Board-determined company agenda. (2) The Board ensures that the senior management supports and reinforces the Board's agenda. This agenda should be reflected in Senior Research Editor, Neena Samuel's writings. (3) The Board determines the compensation of senior management. Members who conform and lead by the Board-set company agenda likely get the best compensation packages. (4) The Board removes anyone whose work does not promote and reflect the Board-set company agenda. It stands to reason that any agency (such as Big Pharma) wanting to influence the business agenda at Reader's Digest, would have to gain the support of the Reader's Digest Association and it would have access to the names and affiliations of those board members. Here is a representative number of Reader's Digest Association members compiled from several SEC filings spanning the past five years. Not all names were located. One retirement and one replacement was mentioned in the search.

1) Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice-President, Dick Cheney. Retired from Reader's Digest Association around 2003. Affiliated with American Express and with her husband, Dick Cheney, who was Chief Executive Officer at Halliburton Energy Services (an oil-drilling company). VP Cheney retired from HES in 2000 during the Bush/Cheney Campaign for Presidency.

2) Cecil J. Silas, CEO of Phillips Petroleum (1985-1994). Member of the Board of Halliburton (1993 - present). Member of the Reader's Digest Association (1992-present). Halliburtonwatch.org states that Cecil Silas was the third-largest campaign contributor to Republican campaigns, and that he donated $30,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2004.

3) Herman Cain, Director of Aquila, Inc. (an electric and natural gas company).

4) William E Mayer, Director of First Health Group Corporation (a national managed health care company).

5) Lawrence R. Ricciardi, Director of Royal Dutch Petroleum Company (part of the Shell Group of Companies). Halliburtonwatch.org states that Halliburton and Royal Dutch formed a joint-venture agreement in 2000 to develop and market their oil-and-gas industry-related technologies in the global market.

6) Eric W. Shrier, President of Time, Inc publication called Health. BA in Human Biology from Brown University. CEO of Reader's Digest Association until 2007.

7) John T. Reid, Chief Technology Officer at Colgate-Palmolive, Inc.

8) Ed Zschau, Former Republican Congressman (1983 - 1987).

The Reader's Digest Association is strongly Republican and several members have close ties to acting members in the top levels of the United States Government. The question, now, is to what extent is the drug industry able to effect Republican politics? Earl Lui of ConsumersUnion.org posted a Reuters-based article on November 1, 2006 just before the congressional elections, entitled, Drug Companies Give Big Money This Election. The article discusses Big Pharma's political influence on politicians. "Reuters reports drug companies have spent at least $9 million to keep Republicans in control of Congress," and that "Ahead of the voting, drug makers are giving more campaign cash to Republicans."

Stock analysts sum up the risks the drug industry faces if one or both Congressional Houses are in the Democrats' control. Prudential Equity Group analyst, Kim Monk, is quoted as saying, "The drug industry faces the biggest risk in a change of hands in Congress," and other analysts agreed saying, "Keeping the Senate in Republican control would help protect drug makers by making it tougher for legislation to clear Congress." More recently, MSNBC.msn.com posted an Associated Press report dated November 13, 2007 declaring that "Lobbying Stalls Generic Drug Legislation." It reports that "Legislation aimed at speeding the availability of cheaper generic drugs has stalled in Congress" due to major lobbying by the drug industry. This stalled legislation would ban 'reverse payment' settlements where name-brand drug manufacturers pay generic drug manufacturers to postpone their offering of discounted generic drugs to consumers, thereby allowing Big Pharma to continue receiving its large revenues.

Senator Herb Kohl (D-WIS) who supports the legislation and is frustrated by Republicans who put delays on actually taking a vote states, "Lobbyists have a lot of influence in Washington. If we can just get this to a vote, it will be pretty difficult for people to vote against it. A vote against it would be a vote against consumers." While Big Pharma has won cooperation in furthering their agendas through relationships it has formed with Republican politicians, the drug industry is very fickle; courting both parties and later focusing financial efforts on whichever party comes into power.

Following the November 7, 2006 congressional elections, ConsumersUnion.org posted another article by Earl Lui entitled, Election Results Scare Big Pharma. It discusses news reports from both the New York Times and the Washington Post that a "secret internal memo" was obtained from an insider at drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline that lays out company fears and response plans to win-over support from the new Democrat-controlled Congress. The Post quotes the Glaxo-memo as stating, "We now have fewer allies in the Senate. Thus, there is greater risk over the next two years that bad amendments will be offered to pending legislation." The Post explains, "The company's primary concerns are bills that would allow more imported drugs and would force price competition for drugs bought under Medicare." Continuing quotes from the company memo, The Post states that the defeat of Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) "creates a big hole we will need to fill." Senator-Elect Jon Tester (D-Mont.) "is expected to be a problem," and the addition of "Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Oho) [to the Senate] will strengthen his ability to challenge us."

According to The Post, the memo ends with a brief discussion of relationships the Glaxo-company has been able to forge with Democratic politicians such as Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) stating, "These relationships should help us moderate proposals offered by Senate Democrats." Further demonstrating the drug industry's intent to seduce whichever party is in power, the New York Times reports , "Hoping to prevent Congress from letting the government negotiate lower drug prices for millions of older Americans on Medicare, the pharmaceutical companies have been recruiting Democratic lobbyists, lining up allies in the Bush Administration and Congress, and renewing ties with organizations of patients who depend on brand-name drugs."

As Big Pharma funnels its wealth into buying political support, manipulating the legislature to lean in its favor, the issue of nutritional supplements has not fallen off their radar as a source of lost revenue. Smart-publications.com posts an article that connects this lobbying-strength directly to the nutritional supplements industry in an article entitled, FDA Moving to Dismantle DSHEA. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 as explained in the article, makes supplement manufacturers "responsible for establishing their own manufacturing practice guidelines and making sure a dietary supplement is safe before putting it on the market." This allows the FDA to forego the stringent and expensive testing required of pharmaceutical drugs before new drugs are approved for release to market.

As a way to possibly put supplement makers out of business, the pharmaceutical industry lobbies "for changes in the way dietary supplements are regulated." Suddenly more and more writings from the medical community appear with their focus in line with this agenda. For example, an editorial was published in the Journal of American Medical Association in which "the authors wrote, 'If dietary supplements have or promote such biological activity, they should be considered to be active drugs, [and if they lack this] "biological activity," their claims should be challenged, and their sale and distribution as products to improve health should be curtailed.' " Unfortunately, requiring that nutritional supplements be put under the same safety-testing as pharmaceuticals would cost so much that many nutritional supplement producers would be unable to comply and would go out of business.

Big Pharma's influence was again felt in 2003 when Senate Bill s.722 was introduced by Richard Durbin (D-IL). The Freedom of Health Foundation at (www.thefhf.org) notes this bill stipulates that any adverse reactions attributed to nutritional supplements be reported. The FDA has the authority to take any supplement off the market after receiving only one adverse report. Equal sanctions are not placed on pharmaceuticals despite hundreds of thousands of adverse effects being reported each year regarding both prescription and over-the-counter medications. This focus on supplements and the ease with which supplements could be pulled off the market further raises suspicions that Senate Bill s.722 is a thinly veiled attempt at destroying the nutritional supplement industry through legislative onus. Many vitamins and supplements would quickly become impossible to buy - an unfortunate turn for those without insurance who may rely on supplements for their well-being.

As for the phantom dangers of supplements touted by the pharmaceutical industry, many politicians feel that there's insufficient supporting evidence and no real need for government regulation. In fact, many legislators believe that the supplement industry's record of safety speaks for itself, and already far surpasses that of the pharmaceutical companies'. A transcript from an official hearing record of the Committee on Government Reform regarding the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act quotes Representative Dan Burton (R-IND), "As for the safety of supplements, an interesting comparison was published last year; 106,000 people die a year from prescription drugs; 42,000 a year from automobile accidents. It is more likely that you will be struck by lightening and die in this country than it is that you will die from using a dietary supplement, with just 16 deaths reported from that last year."

Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tx), once an acting physician, considers himself a leader in promoting health freedom for Americans. On his website (www.RonPaul2008.com) he states, "I oppose legislation that increases the FDA's legal powers. The FDA has consistently failed to protect the public from dangerous drugs, genetically modified foods, dangerous pesticides and other chemicals in the food supply. Meanwhile they waste public funds attacking safe, healthy foods and dietary supplements."

Big Pharma's influence at Reader's Digest magazine is not a far stretch of the imagination. In journalism, there exists an "agenda-setting theory" which is described at Wikipedia.com. This theory states that "the mass-news media have a large influence on audiences by their choice of what stories to consider newsworthy and how much prominence and space to give them." It is by this means that the mass media transfers the "importance of items on their mass agendas to the public agendas." Big Pharma is a billion-dollar industry, and it uses this "agenda-setting theory" to its advantage. It gives large financial contributions to politicians who, in turn, use their legislative votes and business clout to promote Big Pharma's agenda.

The Reader's Digest Association has close ties with top-level politicians, and it has complete control over the subject content of articles published in Reader's Digest magazine. This makes transferring the "importance of items on [Big PhRMA's] agendas to the public agendas" just a matter of procedure. Bill Sardi, journalist and consumer advocate, uses his research and investigative talents to speak out on health and nutrition and maintains a website called knowledgeofhealth.com. Regarding the drug industry's published propaganda designed to get supplement users to stop taking vitamins, Sardi notes that hundreds of drug patents on expensive medications are expiring; a fact that could leave the drug industry looking for other cash cows to exploit. "If the public can be frightened into thinking dietary supplements are dangerous, a bought-off Congress, along with popular news anchors and authors [and board members of popular magazines] could orchestrate a groundswell of public opinion to designate dietary supplements as 'drugs.' "

It seems that our current political leaders would gladly trade our constitutional rights for money and power. Therefore, let us remember one of our most important historical and political figures, whose earnest drive and political genius helped establish this country's first freedoms. James Madison, America's fourth President and the man considered to be the "Father of the Constitution," once said, "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives (www.wisdomquotes.com)." Once again Americans need to arm themselves with knowledge and stand against an oppressive government, this time ensuring the preservation of our health freedoms and, hopefully, making it possible to live healthily and to thrive.

About the author

Carol L. Ohnesorge holds a Masters Degree in Counseling and Psychology with an emphasis in Holism. She has spent much of her career working in mental health. Carol is dedicated to increasing public awareness and understanding of holistic therapies.

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