Letters to the Editor – July/August 2013

Dr. Rona to the Rescue
[Re: “Thyroid Rescue” by Dr. Rona; June 2013]
Wonderful article, thank you so much for making this information available. I will definitely take note of these recommendations. Much appreciated!
More like these from Dr. Rona, please.
L. Rosenblitt, Toronto

Bees Dying by the Millions in Grey-Bruce
[Re: “Woodford Files” by Julia Woodford; June 2013]
I would like to begin by thanking Vitality Magazine for all the wonderful articles over the years. I look forward each month to picking up a copy and extras for my friends up here in the Grey-Bruce. It is a much-needed voice that provides a breath of sanity to so many readers far and wide.
I also just read an article entitled “Bees Dying by the Millions” that was in a recent issue of The Post here in the Grey-Bruce. It is now posted online.
According to the article, the hives of local beekeepers have been decimated and the culprit appears to be neonicotinoid pesticides [as discussed in Woodford Files] which is used to coat the corn seed as it is planted. Apparently, there are new air seeders that blow the pesticide dust into the air at planting time. Truly, something must be done.
I live in the small town of Durham in the middle of the Grey-Bruce. There are no farms around me but I am stunned by how few insects are in the gardens! Usually my comfrey flowers are full of energetic bumblebees. This spring, I could count the bumblebees on one hand. How will this affect other species including humans?
One reason I moved to Durham was to indulge my passion for organic gardening. This spring I will have to focus on herbs and root crops because of the disappearance of pollinators. Yes, it is a silent spring. Rachel Carson, we need you!
Karen King, Durham

Happy Customer
Every time I read your magazine, I silently say my thanks to you. Because of your vision we can enjoy Vitality Magazine, and real wellness seekers have a common ground to share our passion.
This magazine means a lot for me. My business grows with it, and we make new friends through it. Your magazine has lifted us all up and lightened people’s health wisdom. We are lucky to have you and your magazine. Thank you!
Jenny Shi, MSc, CMAAC (416) 707-7552

Carnitine: Good for You – Or Not?
[Re: “News Briefs” by Michael Downey; June 2013]
I am writing in reaction to the June 2013 edition of Vitality and Michael Downey’s “News Brief” regarding “Scientists Identify Artery-Clogging Compound in Meat.” My concerns are several. The summary is not a critical review of the “science” and promises a future edition of your magazine will carry a copy of the study presumably without comment. Let me set out my concerns in more detail.

I am always concerned when the media carries articles of research that are critical of supplements. Without exception, in due course, one learns all of the problems with the research and its conclusions. I consider this one no exception.

Dr. Julius Whitaker, MD, director of the Whitaker Wellness Institute in California and author of the magazine, Health & Healing, has critiqued the research in his June 2013 magazine edition. He questioned the findings that is the TMAO, and not the saturated fat, that is the main problem with meat. If it is the carnitine in meat, why did the researchers not consider fish as a source since they contain up to four-times the carnitine of steak? Carnitine supplements cause arterial blockages in mice fed the human equivalent of 26,000 mg of carnitine per day where as the normal supplemental dose is 500-1,000 mg.
He also had harsh words for the New York Times, which broke the story and along with other media that gave it a big play. He noted that a few days thereafter the Mayo Clinic Proceedings published a meta-analysis (13 studies) involving 3,629 patients who had suffered heart attacks. Surprise, surprise, supplemental carnitine, in comparison to placebo, reduced angina by 40%, dangerous arrhythmias by 65% and deaths by 27%. So why was this important news now covered by the media? It is obvious to me… it found the use of the supplement for heart attack victims saved lives… but no one reported it as it does not fit the current attack on supplements.

I also subscribe to Alternatives by Dr. David Williams, MD. In his latest edition of June 2013, he too took aim at this research. The study only involved six people and some mice that were genetically bred to develop heart disease. He reports that a previous study had found that common fruits and vegetables had produced as high or higher levels of TMAO than beef. He also noted that fish produce high TMAO levels than beef with halibut producing over 100 times as much TAMO as beef! His conclusion is that if eating red meat is a danger, it is from the contaminants and residues like hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. The researchers, according to Dr. Williams, also recommended that meat eaters should be give antibiotics to kill off the L-carintine metabolizing bacteria. Given what we now know about the important role of gut bacteria and how killing off all the bacteria opens the door for colonization by dangerous bacteria, I consider that recommendation to be stupid and dangerous.

Both Drs. Whitaker and Williams have no respect for the research, its findings and recommendations. I take my cue from them and trust that when you reprint the research you will also print the research’s limitations and urge your readers to exercise caution in accepting any of the research that claims that supplements are dangerous.
Yours truly,
Paul Siemens

Author Michael Downey responds:

Dear Paul:

Let us correct you: no media received or summarized this study earlier than Vitality. But unlike the New York Times, which you credit with “breaking this story,” we go to press monthly, not daily. In any case, if we didn’t report a new study — because you feel it “conflicts” with some earlier studies, or perhaps, your beliefs — that’d be unscientific.
Let us correct you further: this News Brief did not promise to make the full study available at a future time in Vitality. It indicated that the full study would be published in a future issue of the journal that — at the time — had just released an abstract online. We provided a link.

Too few readers appreciate that every study is newsworthy when first journal-published. Each is just a single piece of the puzzle. Each contributes — whether reporting “negative” or “positive” findings — to an ever-evolving understanding of the whole picture. We can’t report only the older studies (likely already reported by us) that you support or agree with (or that match your beliefs) and still retain our credibility.

You’re correct: this is “not a review of the science,” and it’s unreasonable to expect that from an up-to-the-minute News Brief. Want a review of the science? Read our full-length features. Few magazines’ articles so comprehensively review all past studies (pro and con) to arrive at overall recommendations — based on a roundup of all the evidence to date, both pro and con and even contradictory. But news is news. And News Briefs is no place to dredge up all past studies for a “review of the science.”

Frankly, there is a too-common misconception about the true meaning of new studies and evolving evidence — one that has done far greater damage to public perception of natural health than any “attack on supplements.” Take carnitine for instance. Common dosages are 500-1,000 mg a day, and at these levels, studies have shown a variety of benefits. But at 3,000 mg a day, studies have shown some people experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and a fishy body odour. (See references 1, 2, below.) When we report the positive effects, no letters — but if we report the negative effects of higher dosages, some people object. Both reports are news, and both can be equally true. Neither contradicts the other, and neither suggests carnitine is not a useful supplement. However, when some natural health supporters continually complain about any hint of “negative” evidence, we give the more mainstream public the impression that we seek only confirmation of our beliefs, not the truth. And to some extent, that then becomes an accurate impression.

In any case, Paul, you’re arguing against your own assumptions of the study implications here. You complain that we reported the latest study that suggested negative effects from meat-based carnitine, because you support carnitine supplements. Where’s the conflict? This study suggests that meat is not the best source of carnitine. Surely you agree that this suggests, by extension, that supplements are a better source of carnitine than meat.

Michael Downey

Rebouche CJ. Carnitine. In: Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 9th Edition (edited by Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross, AC). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, New York, 1999, pp. 505-12.
Editors. Carnitine: lessons from one hundred years of research. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2004;1033:ix-xi.

Recent Responses to Vitality’s Earlier Articles
Editor’s note: More than 10 years worth of articles on natural health and wellness are available FREE on Vitality’s website – and people are still reading them and responding…

[Re: “Homeopathic Medicine for PMS and Menstrual Discomforts” by Miriam Malevris, June 2008]
I read this article, which will be helpful for my study and practice. Thank you.
Dr. Swati, India

Wow, this information is extremely interesting and will help so many. Much safer to take this homeopathic natural route I feel, rather than all the NSAIDS that get prescribed which can lead to eventual organ damage and severe side effects. Thank you!
Nikki, England

[Re: “Sepia: Homeopathy’s Wise Woman” by Miriam McCrea Malevris, Dec­ember 2008/January 2009]
Very insightful article into a ‘sepia’ personality.
Amnah, Calgary

Really informative and helpful article. I wish I was in Toronto to visit you!
I’m peri-menopause and starting to have terrible night sweats. I’ve taken Sepia 6c and Belladonna before bedtime and they stopped immediately! I still wake up at 3 am, but I’m only hot, not soaking wet. This is the best and most in-depth Sepia profile I’ve read and fits me exactly. Thank you again.
Deirdre, Ireland

This article describes me exactly. Thank you for the insight!
Mary Ellen, Rochester

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