According to a recent
article in the New York Times, ACSH receives its funding from
food and chemical companies. So it may come as no surprise
that ACSH always ends up championing "science" which promotes
the products sold by their corporate sponsors, while casting doubt
on research identifying health risks associated with those products.
An example of how DrKoop.com
is now helping ACSH in its mission to carry water for big business
is the lead story on the list of ACSH-supplied "health" articles
on DrKoop.com, entitled "Red
Meat Can Come Off the Forbidden List."
The article is written
by an ACSH staff writer who proclaims excitedly that "new research"
suggests Americans do not have to avoid red meat for fear of raising
blood cholesterol and increasing heart disease risk. The article
scorns advice from what it disdainfully terms "self-styled
dietary experts" to avoid red meat for a healthy
heart. Such recommendations, the article asserts, are "outdated"
The article stops short
of touting red meat as the cure for coronary heart disease, but
judging from the article's unabashed pro-meat spin, you might conclude
it was written by a meat industry publicist.
Given that it came from
ACHS, in essence it was.
For Sale: One Former
Comparing the ACSH/DrKoop.com
article with mainstream news media articles on the same study, Dr.
Koops sellout becomes unmistakable.
First, unlike other news
stories, the ACSH/DrKoop article fails to disclose one important
fact: the study in question was funded by the National Cattlemens
Beef Association (NCBA). Further, the article's writer failed to
disclose that her own salary is also paid by the same food producers
who desperately want the public to buy into the study.
Would Dr. Koop publish
an article about a study that "proved" cigarettes were
not in fact addictive, and then fail to mention the study was devised
and paid for by the tobacco industry? Would he allow the article
to be written by someone affiliated with tobacco, and let that fact
to be concealed? And would he permit the article to be 100% cigarette
industry spin? Obviously he wouldn't; he's not for sale to the tobacco
So why then has he allied
himself with ACHS, an organization which assumes the role of beef,
dairy, and pharmaceutical industry flack?
Why is DrKoop.com --
whose slogan is "Your Trusted Health Network" -- now offering
readers unbalanced, biased "health" articles which are
little more than thinly disguised attempts to help the food industry
sell products known to cause health problems?
Journalism or sales hype?
may be too kind a word for the red meat article on DrKoop.com. After
all, it simply transmits the conclusions purchased by the Cattlemens
Association, devoid of comments from any independent sources. The
article does quote another food industry-paid ACSH staff member
who, not surprisingly, interprets the study results as advice for
consumers to eat red meat.
In contrast, news organizations
covering the same study sought out and published comments from experts
with no ties or financial interests with the beef industry.
article on the study, for example, stated, "Although researchers
found cholesterol levels went down a small bit, some say for those
at high risk of coronary heart disease, the amount of saturated
fat in lean red meat is still too high."
Contrary to ACSH/meat
industry spin on DrKoop.com, CNN reported that the Beef Association
findings "in reality are nothing new."
CNN quoted Dr. Ronald
Krauss of the American Heart Association, who said, "These
are very, very small effects and should not be used to say that
we are changing our assessment to dietary approaches to reducing
cholesterol. These very small changes match very closely the results
that would have been predicted from the formulas that have been
developed over many years of research."
CNN put the study in
correct perspective by noting that the "chief culprit in raising
blood cholesterol is saturated fat, which is found mostly in foods
that come from animals, such as meats, poultry, fish and dairy products."
Suspiciously absent from
the ACSH/DrKoop.com article, but included by CNN, was the fact that
participants in the Beef Association study -- put on a low-fat,
low-cholesterol diet and eating small portions of lean red meat
or fish and poultry -- experienced an average of only 2% decrease
in total cholesterol over 9 months. By comparison, patients in studies
such as those by Dean Ornish, MD, where all meat was eliminated,
realized an average decrease of 15% of cholesterol in just two weeks.
Long considered the staunchest
defender of the peoples heath and welfare, Dr. Koop once wrote
that "sixty-eight percent of all diseases in the US are diet
related." (Surgeon Generals Report on Nutrition and Health,
Pub. #88-50210, Washington, DC: US Dept. of Health and Human Services,
Perhaps Dr. Koops
new quote should be that 100% of fortunes in the US are made by
getting lots of money. And what better place to find that
money than the food and chemical industry, whose only requirement
seems to be that you assist their sales force by using spin and
factual omissions when reporting on their products?
with a business advocacy/lobbying organization like ACHS means he'll
have to back down from positions taken by DrKoop.com prior to selling
For example, previously,
DrKoop.com maintained that due to cholesterol concerns, a healthy
individual should curtail his intake of eggs to "no more than 2 per week."
Now that ACHS is handling
the good doctors "health" news, the health standards
give way to advice
clearly favored by the egg industry: "The impact of dietary
cholesterol on blood cholesterol is relatively small compared with
the effects of saturated fat and total calories. Most healthy people
don't need to rigorously restrict their intake of eggs."
Gee, Dr. Koop. Thats
quite a switch!
has advised consumers to reduce their intake of trans fatty acids,
noting a USDA study showed they raise cholesterol as much as saturated
fats do, and may also reduce HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
and raise Lp (a form of bad cholesterol).
Now that ACHS is handling
"health" news for DrKoop.com, here are excerpts from the
new corporate line Dr. Koop will be regularly touting:
- that in fact there
evidence" consumption of trans fatty acids has any significant
impact on heart disease, and that organizations advising consumers
of such risks are attempting to "scare consumers" and
drum up "publicity" for themselves (presumably including
- that organic farming
be opposed for a variety of reasons;
- that irradiation is
solution to food contamination;
- that injecting dairy
cows with growth hormones is
desirable to increase cows milk production;
- that genetically engineered
foods are the ideal
solution to the planets food needs which come with no
risks which would warrant safety studies.
"Food Police Are Wrong"
Another ACSH article featured on DrKoop.com spotlights a study
no doubt paid for by another funder of ACHS -- the junk food industry.
study was a truly moronic experiment, a dispicable, sick mind
game played by "researchers" on very young, impressionable
3 to 5 year-olds.
The researchers in this study forbade children from eating a particular
junk food that the kids liked, while taunting the children by letting
them see the food they couldn't eat. No educational information
was provided to the children that eating the food in question might
compromise their health or was otherwise undesirable. Shockingly,
the study found that after five days having the food put before
them but not being permitted to eat it, the children really wanted
ACHS and DrKoop.com use this study to conclude
that the "food police" are wrong to deny junk food to their kids.
Parents must in essence cede control of their children's desires
to their children, otherwise they risk creating more desire
on the part of the children for the unhealthful foods, and the kids
will only end up eating more junk, not less.
DrKoop.com's advice, in other words? Let them
Obviously, these people have never lived with a three year old.
It doesn't take a study to know that small kids will take a chair
and climb up onto a cabinet and do anything in their power to get
at something Mommy and Daddy told them they couldn't have.
It also seems obvious researchers would get
the same results if they had used a toy, a drug or a weapon. Had
the researchers found that children's interest in toys, drugs or
weapons increased when taunted in this same way, would their advice
be "not to restrict" chidren's access to these items either?
Conflicts of Interest
A clear problem emerging
for the meat, dairy and processed food industry is a staggering
body of scientific evidence pointing to qualities in whole plant
foods which can protect against a wide array of common illnesses,
such as heart disease and certain cancers. At the same time, consumption
of animal products is repeatedly implicated in a host of the same
Common sense and reputable
science (science not paid for by the food industry) tell us to eat
more fruits and vegetables, and fewer animal products and refined
foods. So where does that leave a "health organization"
which must, for it's own survival or enrichment, promote the consumption
of the animal products and refined foods sold by their funders and
advertisers? In a tight spot.
A professor and chairwoman
of the department of nutrition and food studies at New York University,
Marion Nestle served on the USDA panel when the last revisions to
the USDA food pyramid were made in 1995. Ms. Nestle recently said
the food industry traditionally has driven government nutritional
guidelines by successfully pressuring the USDA to dilute health
experts recommendations and weaken or omit nutritional guidelines
advising consumers to eat less meat and dairy products.
Like the USDA, which
is charged with helping the meat, dairy and processed food industries
flourish -- but also commissioned with protecting the health of
consumers -- DrKoop.com finds itself trying to strike a balance
between the interest of website profits and public health interests.
And just as with the USDA, the wealthy corporate food interests
are winning out at DrKoop.com.
It seems rather clear
from the ACHS record that if one of their donors decided to make
chocolate ice cream from cow dung, ACHS and DrKoop.com would begin
touting the health benefits of manure. It is no mere coincidence
that the ACHS "scientific" stand on any given issue just
happens to coincide with the best financial interest of the meat,
dairy, processed food, chemical and pharmaceutical industries who
ACHS, which could not
sanction smoking and expect to be in business with Dr. Koop, took
a hit when they came out against tobacco: tobacco industry subsidiaries
pulled funding, underscoring just how tenuous ACHS' position is.
ACHS lost the funding even though they provided some limited tobacco
industry cover by asserting that second hand smoke poses no health
threat. In any case, one thing is obvious to ACHS: it can't
afford to bite many of the other hands that feed it or it will cease
If the majority of positions
ACHS regularly asserts were true, then Americans would have few
health problems today. After all ACHS is largely advocating
the status quo of the standard American diet, heavy in meat, dairy,
eggs and processed foods, and saturated with hormones, antibiotics,
chemicals and pesticides.
Koop For Sale?
The real question is
whether Dr. Koops alliance with ACHS spells the end of the
former Surgeon Generals sterling reputation. Obviously, ACHS
needs Koop a lot more than he needs them. Koops site is rated
by Netscape as 963 in popularity of all sites on the Internet, while
ACHS is barely making a blip at 67,433.
Prior to his association
with ACHS, nutritionists at DrKoop.com took a reasonably unbiased
and moderate hand at evaluating the relationship between diet and
disease, going so far as to recommend
Dr. Dean Ornishs vegetarian lifestyle program to reverse heart
disease, noting that it has a "proven track record"
of doing so.
The ACHS website, on
the other hand, contains numerous pieces of what can only be described
as anti-vegetarian propaganda. In
one of several examples, ACHS acknowledges that several large
epidemiologic studies suggest that the death and chronic-disease
rates of vegetarians are lower than those of meat eaters. ACHS then
immediately asserts that health can still be maintained while consuming
its funder's product -- meat.
There is a defensive
aspect to the ACHS reaction to vegetarianism, evident when they
conjecture that the admitted superior health of vegetarians over
nonvegetarians may be in part because many vegetarians are simply
more "health-conscious" and have a healthier lifestyle
in general. Although ACHS acknowledges most studies of vegetarians
have taken such factors into account in their analyses, ACHS speculates
that maybe, just maybe the studies were not adequately controlled
for nondietary effects.
For an organization which
claims to pride itself in being rooted in science and existing to
combat "health scares" and "distortions," it
seems particularly odd that ACHS would raise fears around research
on vegetarianism based on no evidence of any kind. Odd -- but of
course not unexpected.
ACHS also sponsors purely
emotional pieces exhorting readers to believe that vegetarianism
riddled with delusional thinking," and asserting that vegetarians
are in fact "extremists" and "anticarnivorists"
with "hidden agendas."
What You Won't Hear About
Perhaps when ACHS begins
receiving money from the natural foods industry rather than the
meat and dairy industry, their anti-organic, anti-vegetable scare-mongering
In the meantime, dont
head for DrKoop.com to read pieces like the recent New York Times
article, reporting that "dietary choices are linked to 70 percent
of all diseases affecting Americans, yet only 30 of 125 U.S. medical
schools require doctors to take a nutrition course. In four years
of school, the average physician gets only 2.5 hours of nutritional
There is little funding
motive for ACHS and DrKoop.com to present other information in the
New York Times article, like:
If the food and health
connection were better known, more people might be aware that
maitake and shiitake mushrooms stimulate immune function; selenium,
a mineral found in grains, seeds and garlic, induces cancer
cell death; antioxidants in turmeric, an herb in curry powder,
prevent DNA damage and block tumor growth, or that there is
actually twice as much calcium, which protects against osteoporosis
and colon cancer, in a cup of spinach as a cup of milk.
Academia is digging
deep into the powerful efficacy of everyday foods like broccoli,
mint, even honey. The American Institute of Cancer Research
recently reviewed over 4,500 such studies and filtered them
into a single comprehensive report, "Food, Nutrition and
the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective." The bottom
line? "Cancer is a preventable disease."
we live in a society where one in three people will hear the
words 'You have cancer,"' says Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, director
of medical oncology at the Strang Cancer Prevention Center.
"But the good news is that cancer is usually the result
of a decades-long process and nutrition is a way of thwarting