Sunday, July 30, 2006

Neil E. Levin

My letter published in the Daily Herald today

Click on headline above (My letter...) to go to the newspaper's web site to read my letter. Or else click here: Printable version: Published 7/30/2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

FDA Scientists Report Political Interference in Their Work

FDA Scientists Report Political Interference in Their Work By Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA 7/26/2006 The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released the results of their latest survey of FDA scientists last week, their third such report. About one out of every six of the 5,918 scientists contacted returned their completed surveys. The results are disturbing. Over 18% of the responders indicated that they "have been asked, for non-scientific reasons, to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information or their conclusions in a FDA scientific document." Forty percent of responders expressed fear of bringing up safety issues publicly for fear of retaliation, with over 33% of responders even afraid to bring up safety issues privately within the FDA itself. Sixty-one percent knew of cases where political appointees from the FDA or its parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, “inappropriately” tried to influence agency decisions about scientific issues. This indicates that, of those FDA scientists brave enough to even return the survey, a significant number report that unbiased science is not always encouraged or accepted. This belies the public image of the FDA as an unbiased arbiter of public safety, based strictly on science. The “revolving door” of FDA employees and administration officials to and from the pharmaceutical industry apparently allows biased individuals to try to influence official reports. Pure political pressure from above is reportedly sometimes applied in attempting to produce desired results, regardless of the science. The FDA is supposed to be an impartial arbiter of science that protects the safety of Americans by identifying and regulating potentially unsafe products. The reality is that it is a troubled agency which does not always live up to these ideals. The UCS recommends more transparency and accountability in the agency, with additional protections for scientists who simply want to do their work without being told in advance what their reports are supposed to say. You can inform your federal Representative, Senators and the President if you want to voice an opinion on the independence of FDA scientists. To find them start at To read the report, go to the UCS website where it is currently posted on their homepage: or use this link to go directly to the report:

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Vitamin E Safety

Please see these links, where I am quoted on Vitamin E safety:

Use of Dietary Supplements During Cancer Therapies

Please see these links for more information:

Beta Carotene "risks" proven false!

Beta-carotene: Myth and Fact Revised 12/19/2006 Some years ago an antioxidant study in Finland was halted early because of a widely reported increase in cancer rates among male smokers taking beta-carotene. 1 Headlines associated this supplement with cancer risk. Despite objections that the study was flawed, beta-carotene use dropped. A later analysis published in July 2004 took another look at that same Finnish smokers' study data, but now taking into account total antioxidant intake, which clears away the scientific controversy. The smokers’ risk of getting lung cancer was inversely associated with total antioxidants in the diet, with more total antioxidants meaning fewer cancers. 2 A composite antioxidant index was generated for each of the 27,000 men over 14 years. The calculated amounts of carotenoids, flavonoids, Vitamin E, selenium and Vitamin C were compared to actual lung cancer rates, with a clear result: the combination of antioxidants lowered lung cancer risk in male smokers. Another large study has noted that high carotenoid intake, confirmed by measures of blood levels, was associated with lower mortality rates among the elderly over a ten year period. 3 The dietary level of antioxidants is an independent predictor of plasma beta-carotene, especially in moderate alcohol drinkers. A recent study reports, “This may explain, at least in part, the inverse relationship observed between plasma beta-carotene and risk of chronic diseases associated to high levels of oxidative stress (i.e., diabetes and CVD), as well as the failure of beta-carotene supplements alone in reducing such risk.” 4 Still, news reports continue to refer to beta-carotene as harmful, largely because of the original study reports. The “media myth” continues long after the science has moved on. REFERENCES: 1. The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group. The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. 1994 Apr 14;330(15):1029-35. 2. Wright ME, et al. Development of a Comprehensive Dietary Antioxidant Index and Application to Lung Cancer Risk in a Cohort of Male Smokers. July 2004 American Journal of Epidemiology 3. Buijsse B, et al. Plasma carotene and alpha-tocopherol in relation to 10-y all-cause and cause-specific mortality in European elderly: The Survey in Europe on Nutrition and the Elderly, a Concerted Action (SENECA). Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:879–886. 4. Brighenti F. The total antioxidant capacity of the diet is an independent predictor of plasma beta-carotene. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007) 61, 69–76. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602485; published online 12 July 2006. Supported by the European Community IST-2001–33204 'Healthy Market', the Italian Ministry of University and Research COFIN 2001 and the National Research Council CU01.00923.CT26 research projects. Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA Certified Clinical Nutritionist Diplomate in Advanced Nutritional Laboratory Assessment

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Links to articles mentioning Neil

The Natural Health Research Institute (NHRI) is an independent and pro-active center that aggregates, generates and communicates quality research and educational information based on natural concepts that clearly benefit the public interest. The Conference on Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements and Chronic Disease Prevention held by the National Institutes of Health in May 2006 illustrates the problem of using selective scientific information to arrive at one-sided conclusions that misinform the public about the risks and benefits of taking multivitamins. ************************** A recent scientific meeting reviewed the science of Vitamin E amid consumer confusion following media reports of risks.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Vegetarian Diet - A personal and scientific analysis

There were no vegan societies in history. "Vegetarian" ones all had some form of dairy, eggs, fish eggs (fresh or fermented), fish, poultry, etc. Just as eclectic as today. All provided adequate B12, which incidentally can also be supplied by fermented foods and gut bacteria. B-complex vitamins are abundant in green leafy vegetables and whole grains. Organic/biodynamic ones have the benefit of healthier soil and soil bacteria, boosting the B12 content. B12 is only made by bacteria. Meat has it only if gut or soil bacteria provided it, which may not be the case with commercial meat. Anyway, anemia is rare, even among vegetarians. Selenium content also depends on soil content. Food values today are not what they were 50 or 100 years ago: "The nutritional content of U.S. fruits and vegetables has declined over the past 50 years, according to a researcher at the University of Texas. Cited in an article by Scripps Howard News Service, biochemist Donald Davis said that of 13 major nutrients in fruits and vegetables tracked by the Agriculture Department from 1950 to 1999, protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and vitamin C all showed noticeable declines. Declines ranged from 6% for protein, 20% for vitamin C, and 38% for riboflavin. Davis discussed his findings at the February 2006 meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science (St. Louis). He suspected the decline was due to the trend toward encouraging crops that grow the fastest and biggest." See also: I am a vegetarian but not a vegan, largely for practical reasons. But I do not kill animals nor pay others to do so on my behalf. It's an ethical thing just like honesty, recycling & waste stream reduction, having well and septic versus sewage flowing into rivers, having enough trees to supply my oxygen, letting cars cut in front of me in traffic, etc. Compassion and consideration. Yet I take friends and relatives out for meals and buy whatever they want, including meat. I do what I feel is right, compassion above all, which sometimes means not judging your friends. In any case, I get invited to a lot more Thanksgiving meals that way, versus criticising my hosts' diet/meal. Certainly it is far easier to be a vegetarian or vegan today than in our day, when it took 24 hours to make soyburgers, starting with the cleaning and soaking of the beans. Flax meal and flax oil is available almost everywhere to supplement the fish oil type fatty acids, and there are simply not enough fish left in the world for everyone to use fish oil. Supplements help a lot. I do use whey protein isolate for smoothies, too. While range fed beef has some anti-cancer properties, partially due to the omega-3 and CLA fats that are largely absent in today's commercial beef and poultry, the presence of free (heme) iron is often a pro-cancer, pro-infection nutrient without adequate plant pigments, dairy proteins, and antioxidants to bind and control the iron like the forms found in fruits and vegetables. There is the energy efficiency argument, that you have to feed many times as much plant food to a cow and many times the water versus what it would take to produce and eat the produce, grains and beans. Still, marginal land may be best for grazing rather than agriculture. Agriculture was originally about controlling the food supply by collecting, selectively planting and protecting a crop. This led to divisions of labor, economies of scale and ultimately beer. This was more efficient than migrating to follow herds of wild game in much the same way that a beekeeper improves the honey crop over what a wild hive might produce and shares the surplus. What followed from agriculture was lengthening life spans, development of writing and other attributes of modern civilizations, specialists having time to develop new technologies, etc. In the last ice age it was certainly advantageous to eat meat. In a warmer climate with modern grocery stores it is not as necessary. Fresh, local and variety is actually more important for nutrition than a low-fiber, meat-heavy diet.