Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Danger, Will Robinson!

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was Lost In Space, a science fiction series about a family shipwrecked in the cosmos. The family is accompanied by a robot who acts like a surrogate guardian to Will Robinson, the youngest member of the family. When ever the robot senses that Will is unaware of impending danger, he alerts Will with the catchphrase "Danger, Will Robinson!"

I subscribe (for free of course; no one should pay for such rhetoric) to a newsletter published by Dr. Joseph Mercola who I consider one of the stars of supplement pushing. I read the newsletter to stay aware of the latest pill that people like him are advocating. In my opinion, Dr. Mercola does a wonderful job virtually every day of weaving fact and fiction together to make an argument for taking this pill or another. Today was no different.

In today's email newsletter, Mercola tells a lengthy story of how doctors have gotten out of hand with prescribing powerful anti-psychotics that were developed to treat extreme cases. There is no doubt that there is far too many prescriptions for behavioral related issues prescribed in America. These include pills for depression, anxiety, insomnia, attention deficit disorder, etc. Although some people clearly benefit from these medications, far too many others receive themt. So when Dr. Mercola discusses the issue, he establishes the foundation to make the argument that there is a better alternative. For him, the alternative of poly-phramacy and misuse of prescription drugs for mental health issues is to replace them with Niacin.

The premise behind this is absurd. If people need an anti-psychotic they should take it. If they don't, they shouldn't be on their own willy nilly taking something else like Niacin. In addition, Mercola praises a new book coming out titled, Niacin: The Real Story: Learn about the Wonderful Healing Properties of Niacin. This book describes itself as part of the "Orthomolecular Science" field, also sometimes referred to as Megavitamin Therapy. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia that I think does a fine job of summarizing the validity of this pseudo-science:

"Orthomolecular therapies have been criticized as lacking a sufficient evidence base for clinical use: their scientific foundations are too weak, the studies that have been performed are too few and too open to interpretation, and reported positive findings in observational studies are contradicted by the results of more rigorous clinical trials. Accordingly, "there is no evidence that orthomolecular medicine is effective"."

The authors of the Niacin book, one of which wrote a similar book about Vitamin C, are proponents of orthomolecular theories and want you to believe that megadosing with Niacin is a cure all for psychotic and cardiovascular illness. Although Niacin is known to decrease blood cholesterol, it is hardly a cure for heart disease or mental illness. In fact, there is little to no validity to the claim that mega-dosing with Niacin has any noteworthy effects for psychotic illnesses.

So when it comes to buying books written by orthomolecular theorists propagating mega-dosing with Vitamins and other supplements, as one that will serve if you let me as your surrogate guardian, I respectfully cry "Danger, People!"

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