Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Health food store hosts vitamin advocate (Earl L. Mindell)

Health food store hosts vitamin advocate
Author to sign his book; detractors aren't convinced of benefits of what he promotes
November 4, 2005

Victoria Advocate

Best-selling author and self-proclaimed vitamin guru Earl L. Mindell is coming to Victoria for a book signing and a presentation Saturday.

Earl Mindell, author of "Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible," which has sold more than 10 million copies in 30 languages since being published in 1979, is making an appearance Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Health Food House on North Ben Jordan Street and from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Victoria Community Center.

But traditional medical professionals warn that science doesn't always support Mindell's theories, and some go so far as to say those theories amount to quackery.

Mindell's most well known book, "Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible" has sold more than 10 million copies in 30 different languages since being published in 1979.

He will hold a book-signing session at the Health Food House from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, followed by a presentation at the Victoria Community Center from 7 to 9 p.m.

The book arose from a dissertation Mindell wrote to earn a doctorate in nutrition from the now-defunct University of Beverly Hills, according to Jay Kenney, who acted as faculty adviser to Mindell. There is no mention of the UBH doctorate in Mindell's curriculum vitae or his Web site

Kenney said via e-mail, that Mindell "had some bizarre ideas."

Mindell submitted a dissertation to Kenney, who said that he went through it and gave Mindell a long list of errors, about 400 of which he considered "major mistakes regarding the claimed health benefits of a large array of supplements."

Kenney said that Mindell's dissertation was later published as the "Vitamin Bible" without any of the errors Kenny cited being corrected.

"From my perspective," Kenney wrote in an e-mail, "it is clear that either I was a very poor nutrition instructor or Earl was not much of a student."

Mindell pointed out that Kenney signed the dissertation, which would signify Kenney's approval of the contents of the paper.

"If he finds something he doesn't believe, then he shouldn't have signed it," said Mindell. "Did he sign it or didn't he?"

Kenney said he did sign the dissertation, but only because Mindell promised to correct the errors. "Lesson learned: Never trust someone promoting nutrition quackery," Kenney said.

On Saturday, Mindell will be making a presentation on "the health secret of the Himalayas" - berries of the goji plant, also known as Lycium barbarum.

Mindell attributed to goji juice an array of health benefits: "Look and feel 20 years younger in 30 days," he said.

He says goji juice produces more energy, better sex, better vision, better digestion, better immune system, more efficient intercellular communication, and an increase in the secretion of human growth hormone, "if needed."

Mindell attributed the effectiveness of goji to its unique polysaccharides and hailed goji as the biggest health discovery in the past 100 years.

Becky Reeves, a registered pharmacist and dietician who is president of the American Dietetic Association, said that there was no mention of either goji juice or Mindell at the ADA's annual meeting held recently.

John Beutler, staff scientist at the National Cancer Institute, said, "Polysaccharides have an effect on the immune system, which is not terribly specific. Polysaccharides will rev up the immune system in certain scientific experiments, especially if you inject it into mice.

"Whether that happens when you drink the juice, however, is really up in the air," he said. "I'm pretty skeptical on that."

Texas Dietetic Association President Shalene McNeill said that she had never heard of goji and that her biggest concern is possible interactions between goji juice and medications a person is already taking.

Mindell said, "If three so-called experts haven't heard of something, something's wrong somewhere."

Ray Sahelian, a California medical doctor and an advocate of natural supplements, said he is familiar with Chinese wolfberries, which he believes to be a close relative of Tibetan goji berries.

"Incorporating or adding wolfberries to one's diet is a good thing to do," Sahelian said. "But then again, one can say that about the majority of vegetables, fruits and herbs that we consume."

Mindell has a bachelor's degree in pharmacy from North Dakota State University and is a registered pharmacist in the state of California. In his curriculum vitae, Mindell claims a 1985 doctorate in nutrition from Pacific Western University, where he also is a professor of nutrition. PWU's Web site is It is not an accredited higher education institution.

Mindell stated in his resume that he earned from Dominion Herbal Colleges in Surrey, B.C., Canada, the distinction of being a master and chartered herbalist.

John Mancini, a physician and director of the Continuing Medical Education Program at the University of British Columbia, said, "I'm not aware of any credible herbalist accreditation in the province."

Retired psychiatrist Stephen Barrett maintains a Web site, dedicated to combating medical fraud and myths. Barrett's site - which has garnered honors from the Journal of the American Medical Association, U.S. News and World Reports, Brittanica, Forbes, and MD NetGuide - contains several articles on Mindell.

"Basically, what (Mindell) tries to do, and what all people like him try to do is say: Here I am; I have special knowledge; the reason you haven't heard from other sources is they want to make money," Barett said.

Mindell dismisses his critics. "I will be successful with you or without you, with or without Steve (Barrett) or Jay (Kenney) or the ADA," he said.

Beutler said Mindell may be right.

"Caveat emptor," he said, which is Latin for "buyer beware."

"It's a free country. People are free to give talks on anything, whether they know anything or not."

For more information on Mindell's book signing and presentation, contact Sam Jarrett at the Health Food House at 4206 N. Ben Jordan St. The telephone number is 361-573-4711.

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