Is It Really Just Snake Oil?

by Rebecca Huber

How many of you saw 60 Minutes Sunday night? I've always enjoyed the candid reporting of news broadcasts­­ 60 Minutes, Dateline, 20/20, and by their ratings, especially the long running 60 Minutes program, most of us do. I don't think any of us really want to see these shows censored in any way. In spite of the fact that some of it tends to be sensational, it makes us aware of issues we may not have otherwise known about. Stories about the underdog are always popular.

Andy Rooneys' spot this week focused on health food stores, vitamins and supplements. There wasn't much­­ if anything­­ positive in his report. I often think, especially in a spot like Andy's, that it's what the reporter wants to go after. Is it possible that because he doesn't personally believe in supplements and their benefits that the report was slanted against their use? True, many individuals Andy's age who grew up in a more innocent time with cleaner air, water, and soil find they don't necessarily need supplementation in their diet­­ or they don't realize how much better they could feel. He usually doesn't have guests or experts on his spot, but he had an MD (being an MD unless the doctorate is in clinical nutrition does not make him an expert in this area) state that he did not believe in them and the good was by faith only.

We're too gullible! MDs are not the gods many of us have made them! Any honest physician doesn't want or need that pedestal.

There was one glaring error in his report. Rooney indicated that he was reading health claims on the labels of some of the supplements. A new law created by the FDA, known as "The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act," forbids manufacturers from making any health claims for their products.

So if Andy and his doctor friend are right, why is the health food and supplementation business booming? And why did so many of us take the time to write and support the new laws that kept the FDA from taking our supplements off the shelves? Is it because they really do work?

We as Americans are sadly behind in the area of alternative or complimentary medicine. As far as I'm concerned, and I assure you I'm not alone, this only shows our stubborn ignorance. We are not the healthiest country on the planet and we have the most expensive health care system in the world. What does that say?

Anyway, I actually like Andy's reports and although he's a burr under some peoples saddles that's what his reports are meant to do­­ make us think. Besides, I think he's a man who likes people. This thing with the vitamins and health foods will play itself out and if it's a passing fad that works by faith only so be it.

"You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." A. Lincoln.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Copy to Andy Rooney, 60 Minutes, 524 W 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

This article posted to Zephyr online April 3, 1997
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