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Excerpted from the May 1st, 1998 issue of Smart Life News. Copyright (c) 1998-1999. All rights reserved.

Question: Yesterday, there was a story about a recommendation by the National Academy of Sciences that “large segments” of the American public should take vitamin supplements. Today, there’s a story that 500 mg vitamin C can cause genetic damage. Is this science or politics? ——PJ

Answer: In this US version of the story, the helpful voice of Victor Herbert, M.D., was added to those of the British researchers who did the study. For those unfamiliar with Dr. Herbert, he is a notorious “quackbuster” fostering vehement anti-vitamin rhetoric in the United States about any danger — real or perceived — from dietary supplements. The eminent Dr. Herbert’s involvement hints that there may be an overt political agenda behind the publicity. In other words, why would a relatively obscure indeterminant finding generate such massive world-wide publicity? The answer may be found in the article in the London Times which stated, “The government has moved to limit the use of vitamin B-6 because of safety concerns. Jeff Rooker, the Food Minister, had already announced that vitamin C was his next target.” Aha! The Food Minister needs a perception of danger to justify his policies. If danger is not an issue in real life, extrapolate from a superficial and inadequate scientific finding to create some perceived danger. As long as the public is scared, they will let politicians and bureaucrats do anything.

The political alignment between Jeff Rooker, the vitamin-prohibiting British Food Minister, and Victor Herbert, the quintessential US quackbuster and anti-vitamin ideologue, provides a clear rationale about how this minor study was transformed into worldwide news.

Years ago, Victor Herbert hit the news with warnings about the dangers of vitamin C towards vitamin B-12 absorption. Extrapolating from test-tube experiments, Herbert postulated that high-dose vitamin C supplements would interfere with B-12 assimilation and function. He was wrong. People taking high-dose vitamin C, even for multiple years, did not show any signs of B-12 deficiency. Such is Herbert’s track record crying “Wolf, wolf!”

Test-tube experiments and unassociated metabolic measurements are a far cry from real life. Extrapolate such results at your own peril. ——SWF