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Letters to the Editor Issue 135

by Letters(more info)

listed in letters to the editor, originally published in issue 135 - May 2007

BCNH response to Roger Highfield’s article in The Telegraph – Alternative Medicine Degrees 'Anti-Scientific’?
As the Principal of BCNH (UK College of Nutrition and Health) I feel I need to respond to these comments and defend my college’s integrity.

Our BSc (Hons) is in Complementary Medicine (Nutritional Health), not ‘Alternative Medicine.‘ Whilst I cannot speak on behalf of other colleges and universities, I would like to stress that the courses at BCNH are scientific and evidence-based.

We are not ‘anti-science’ in any way; we are quite the opposite. Our students are required to have an A-Level, or higher, in Chemistry to enrol. If they do not meet the criteria, they are required to take a Science Foundation Course. Without this, they would not be able to cope with the degree course, which includes in-depth lectures by trained scientists, medical doctors, chemists and dieticians.

Our mission statement includes the following objectives;
•    The teaching of nutritional therapy as a health science rather than an ‘alternative’ medicine;
•    The training of nutritional therapists to demonstrate superior technical knowledge and clinical skills;
•    The promotion of nutritional therapy as a complementary discipline to orthodox medicine.

I would ask how we could be seen as ‘anti-science’ when one of our aims is to work in partnership with orthodox medical practitioners.

As mentioned, several of our lecturers are medical doctors. One of whom was, until recently, in the role of external examiner to the college. He is an Emeritus Professor of Surgery at King’s College London and an Honorary Consultant Surgeon to King’s College Hospital.

I feel that Complementary Therapies have a lot to offer as preventative measures in regards to health. It saddens me that some members of the medical community are dismissing them so lightly.

The NTC (Nutritional Therapy Council), the new regulatory body for Nutritional Therapists, have set standards of education which all colleges will have to comply with in the very near future. We welcome and wholeheartedly support this.

We also encourage our graduates to keep up to date with the latest scientific research and developments in medicine and nutrition.

Working together with the orthodox medical establishment, we could greatly reduce the financial burden of the NHS and, most importantly of all, help the population as a whole to live healthier lives.

Breda Gajsek
BCNH Principal & Founder
Tel: 020-7372 5740; Fax: 020-7372 5789;
BCMA Replies to FIH
‘The BCMA was pleased to see The Foundation for Integrated Health offer its own perception of Voluntary Statutory Regulation (VSR) and in particular, their involvement in moving towards a Federal Regulator as promoted by the Department of Health, and although most perceptive people agree that there will, in the future, be a need for a ‘focus point’ with the growing number of autonomous VSR Councils duly created, as is often the case, the devil is in the detail.

I see no point or gain in your readers, understanding of current events by disputing statement by statement aspects of the Foundation letter other than one interesting quote where Mr. Cambray-Smith states that “The Foundation is not aware of any suggestion that the DH has made it clear it will spend large sums of money educating the public to only use registered practitioners.” It is interesting because the statement in principle was made by the Foundation at the meeting organised by them titled ‘Federal Consultation Feedback’ and held on Wednesday 27th September 2006 which we both attended, as, of course, did many others who will also have heard the DoH PR intention.

Nothing is cast in stone, but, amongst others, a significant worry is that The Foundation persists in referring to the Federal Body as the Federal ‘Regulator.’ Regulator means control. In both their original idea of the structure (re the above September 2006 meeting) and again in the structure suggested as a start point at the initial Federal Working Group meeting in January, the VSR Councils, as created by their peers, have been removed. These councils were created by the associations and therapists (not the Foundation) to lead them into the future with a confidence that comes from working with them throughout the VSR development phase.

Complementary, as opposed to Alternative Medicine is a unique animal, and those passionate about it have serious concerns re its future benefit to the public if it becomes sanitized by remote, bureaucratic control from a body that has little to do with that particular therapy. What is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander, and a statutory system that may work for the Statutory Regulated therapies should not have an automatic head start as the right thing for the complementary fraternity.

I believe the real issue here is quite clear. The House of Lords (2000) and the government were/are quite happy for complementary therapies to self regulate and no therapist worth their salt would want to be anything other than professional and competent in what they do. Also, the BCMA and other logical thinkers recognise that there needs to be a focal point for what will be an increasing number of VSR Councils. The easiest and simplest solution is to have a representative from each VSR Council in an overarching body that monitors the VSR Councils to make sure they do that which their peers agreed they should do, and adhere to that which is built into their constitutions.

Protecting the public is, of course, important, although the ‘risk’ to them is minimal compared to allopathic and alternative medicine complaints and damage to health. At the same time, it is of paramount importance that the quality of the therapy is not undermined, or the flexibility of the practitioner stifled by a body that is more interested in regulation (there, that word again) than the therapy. The BCMA, which is a voluntary organisation, with no political agenda, totally supports and offers this approach to the future.
Terry Cullen. Chairman BCMA
Protecting Patients, Promoting Professionalism

Poor Methodology in Meta-Analysis of Vitamins
Dr Steve Hickey,i Dr Len Noriegai, ii and Dr Hilary Roberts

Scientific papers often reveal more than is apparent from the reported results. A recent review of clinical trials by Bjelakovic et al. claimed to show that certain antioxidant vitamins increased the risk of death.1 Superficially, this study appears to have a degree of scientific rigour because of a detailed and extensive use of statistics.

However, the statistics were inappropriately applied to poorly selected data, thus the conclusions are invalid. Researchers need to remember the fundamentals of the scientific method to avoid introducing experimenter bias. In this case, experimenter bias was compounded by a basic misuse of statistical testing.

Selecting your Data
Bjelakovic’s review was a meta-analysis of 16,111 scientific papers. Meta-analysis is a statistical technique which summarizes the results of several studies, giving a greater weighting to higher quality studies. The problem with Bjelakovic’s review relates to how the studies were chosen for inclusion in the analysis. Of the initial studies, 14,910 (93%) were discarded, with only a brief explanation of the exclusion criteria. Studies were dismissed because they were cancer studies, duplicates, or because they were deemed “not relevant”. However, studies of precancerous lesions2 and skin cancer3 were included in the group designated as having a low risk of bias.

Following the initial selection, 1201 research papers, covering 815 clinical trials, were described as being “reviewed”. It might be more accurate to say these papers were subjected to additional selection procedures: 747 (92%) of the 815 were rejected, for example, because no subject died during the experiment. The remaining 68 studies were included in the analysis.

Bjelakovic’s review states that this decision, to exclude 9 out of 10 studies (i.e. 747 from 815), depended on the judgement of three of the authors. This is a clear indication of potential selection bias, as the reviewers had access to the experimental results in addition to the experimental procedures.

Selection of trials for meta-analysis should be almost mechanical, based on rigorous objective criteria with critical justification. The large number of studies by Bjelakovic himself raises concerns in respect of objectivity, as the probability of trials being selected for inclusion in a meta-analysis can be influenced by knowledge of their results, leading to inclusion bias.4

Two of the researchers in the Bjelakovic meta-analysis further segmented the data into two groups, according to the perceived quality of the experimental procedures. However, once again the selection method did not exclude experimenter bias, as the researchers may have been influenced by the results of the studies. The complete selected data set of 68 trials reportedly showed no effect of vitamins on mortality.

Notably, the group selected for low risk of bias showed an increased risk of mortality with supplements (RR 1.05). A reduced risk of mortality was found in the other group (RR 0.91). These results are consistent with experimenter bias, based on knowledge of outcomes in the selection.

Selection of data is a powerful technique. To take an analogy, imagine we were to survey passenger-carrying vehicles in central London. Unwanted traffic includes bicycles, milk floats and delivery vans, so we exclude vehicles with less than four wheels, without side windows, and quiet ones. Small vehicles have a high risk of bias, since they can be hidden behind other traffic, so we reject any vehicle less than 20 feet long. Dark vehicles are hard to see at dawn or dusk, light coloured ones do not show up well against the local stone, and blue, green or yellow ones are hard to see against the panels of a nearby building site, so all are eliminated from the study. After excluding the groups with a high risk of bias, we count the vehicles and register their type. The survey concludes that all road passengers in London travel by red bus!

Repeated Testing
A critical failing of the Bjelakovic paper is the absence of detail on the number of statistical tests performed on the data. For example, at least two groups of tests reported concerned vitamin A. Vitamin A was tested singly and in combination with other supplements. Both sets of tests showed no significant effects. Then it was multiply re-tested: as a single or combined supplement, or taken with selenium, and again after exclusion of high bias risk. In this second group of tests, vitamin A reportedly increased mortality.

The fact that these many tests were carried out on just one of the supplements investigated suggests the results of the study are unreliable. Conventionally, a single statistical test has a 1 in 20 probability of being significant by chance alone. With 100 such tests, we would therefore expect five ‘significant’ results, just by chance. The equation for computing the probability of a positive result, p, at significance level a, in n tests is: p= (1-(1-a)n)

With a large data set and repeated testing of factors and subsets, several significant results could be attributable to chance alone.5 In this case, the paper gives no indication of the number of statistical tests employed, or justification for the probability values provided.

Nutrition or Pharmacology?
Bjelakovic’s meta-analysis has little biological meaning, because of the large number of ill-defined substances that have been grouped together. The meta-analysis includes a diverse range of doses of the individual supplements, with no concern for the expected physiological effects. In one of the included trials, a single dose of vitamin A was followed up over a period of three months.6

Bjelakovic also analysed studies of ‘vitamin E,’ an almost meaningless term in terms of nutrition or pharmacology. Vitamin E refers to a number of fat-soluble antioxidants, including four natural forms each of tocopherols and tocotrienols. Additional synthetic forms of tocopherol are widely used for vitamin E studies. Thus, it is not clear to which actual nutrient Bjelakovic’s ‘vitamin E’ results would apply.

Moreover, one of the vitamin E studies selected by Bjelakovic, as having a ‘low risk of bias’, has previously been cited by Hickey and Roberts as a prime example of bias in vitamin studies.7

Only studies with recorded deaths were included by Bjelakovic; this was presumably considered necessary in a study of death rates. However, this selection has the potential to increase bias, as it clearly excludes studies where supplements could not be associated with increased mortality. A secondary effect of this selection technique is that the included population tended to be sick, rather than healthy. Although most included studies were on the sick, they used nutritional rather than pharmacological doses. For example, doses of vitamin C ranged from 60 to 2000 mg; these are too small to be helpful against serious illnesses.7 Furthermore, trials on nutritional supplements in disease do not necessarily apply to healthy members of the population.

The paper by Bjelakovic was reported widely by the media but was not subjected to scientific criticism. Media reports gave the impression that scientific evidence suggests vitamins may be harmful. In fact, no evidence has been provided to this effect. The statistics provided were insufficient to support a claim that vitamin supplements will increase mortality. Moreover, the results cannot validly be generalised to a relatively healthy general population.

The design of the study was not consistent with general principles of pharmacology and nutrition. The authors, by not controlling for experimenter bias, have produced a paper that might simply reflect their own personal bias. This bias is scientifically controversial and is, perhaps, in resonance with a similar bias in the media.


1.    Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud L.L., Simonetti R.G. Gluud C. Mortality in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: systematic review and metaanalysis. JAMA. 297: 842-857. 2007.
2.    Correa P, Fontham ET, Bravo JC et al. Chemoprevention of gastric dysplasia: randomized trial of antioxidant supplements and anti-helicobacter pylori therapy, J Natl Cancer Inst. 92: 1881-8. 2000.
3.    Green A, Williams G, Neale R et al. Daily sunscreen application and beta-carotenesupplementation in prevention of basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas of the skin: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 354: 723-729. 1999.
4.    Egger M, Smith GD Bias in location and selection of studies. BMJ. 316 (7124): 61-66. 1998.
5.    Davies OL and Goldsmith PL. Statistical Methods in Research and Production. 4th Edition. John Wiley, New York. 1972.
6.    Murphy S, West KP Jr, Greenough WB III, Cherot E, Katz J, Clement L. Impact of vitamin A supplementation on the incidence of infection in elderly nursing home residents: a randomizedcontrolled trial. Age Ageing. 21: 435-439. 1992.
7.    Hickey and Roberts Ascorbate: the Science of Vitamin C. Lulu Press. 2004.

Author Institutions

i.    Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Technology, Staffordshire University.
ii.    School of Biology, Chemistry and Health Science, Manchester Metropolitan University.
Alliance for Natural Health:

Some Doctors Do Not Fully Protect Against Complications
Dr Edward Yeh

Any cancer drug can cause potential heart damage, even death, and many doctors do not adequately monitor their patients or manage their care to minimize the health risk, according to a study by MD Anderson cardiologists.

“Patients and doctors may not be aware of the spectrum of heart problems that can arise from cancer treatment, or know that many of these problems can be managed,” says the study’s lead author Edward TH Yeh MD, Professor and Chairman of the Institution’s Department of Cardiology.

The study, published in the June 29 issue of the journal Circulation, is the first large-scale review that details:
•    Cardiovascular complications that often occur in cancer therapy;
•    Ways to prevent or treat heart problems resulting from cancer treatment.

Conducted with nine other MD Anderson Cardiologists, the study reviews research on the cardiotoxicity of 29 anti-cancer drugs as well as 30 years of experience at MD Anderson.

Cardiotoxicity can occur in any patient, Yeh says. Generally speaking, however, patients most at risk are elderly and have other illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease. Heart problems can occur during treatment or months and even years after treatment.
Potential problems described for each drug
Even the newest targeted therapies, designed to attack only cancer cells, can cause cardiotoxicity, Yeh says. The following potential problems can exist with these cancer medications:
Monoclonal Antibodies: These substances locate and bind to cancer cells and can be used alone, or to deliver drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to tumour cells.
Toxic effects of these drugs (Avastin, Erbitux, and Rituxin) include:
•    Hypertension (high blood pressure)
•    Hypotension (low blood pressure)

“They seem to have more general toxicity than many other agents, but the problems they produce usually involve changes in blood pressure, which can be easily treated if recognized,” Yeh says.
The monoclonal antibody Herceptin is less toxic than generally believed, although it can cause:
•    Chronic heart failure
•    Dysfunction of the left ventricule, the main chamber of the heart that pumps blood to the body.

Chemotherapy drugs: Heart problems are relatively rare in the “antimicrotubules” class of chemotherapy drugs, of which Taxol is a member. However, several other common classes of chemotherapy drugs can cause potential heart damage:
Anthracyclines/anthraquinolones – (adriamycin). These agents are clearly more toxic to the heart than other medications, especially in large doses. They should be closely monitored because they frequently produce:
•    Irreversible chronic heart failure
•    Left ventricular dysfunction

“This is probably the most problematic class of anticancer drugs, but with experience, cardiotoxicity can be limited,”Yeh says.
Alkylating agents: Platinol and Cytoxan, the most widely used alkylating agents, can produce a wide range of heart problems at higher doses, including:
•    Chronic heart failure
•    Hypertension
Antimetabolites: (which include the widely used agent 5-fluorouracil). Antimetabolites can produce ischaemia, a decreased flow of oxygenated blood to an organ due to an obstruction in an artery, which can lead to heart attacks if not treated.
Non-chemotherapy drugs: Potential heart damage also can occur with:
•    Interleukin-2 – which frequently results in:
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
•    Gleevec – which can cause heart failure
•    Trisenox – which can result from fatal “QT prolongation” (lengthening of the part of the heart rhythm cycle referred to as the QT interval.)
•    Thalidomide – which can produce a variety of serious heart ailments
Yeh says although the potential for heart damage from cancer drugs is
present, complications can be avoided with proper measures.
Possible solutions include:
•    Avoiding certain drugs;
•    Lowering drug dosages;
•    Administering drugs slower and over a longer period of time;
•    Monitoring cardiac health more stringently;
•    Avoiding giving some drugs simultaneously;
•    Treating cardiac risk factors;
•    Use of an echocardiogram during and after cancer treatment;
•    Treating patients with heart failure drugs.

“We found a profile of cardiotoxicity for the most often used anticancer drugs, but it is important to know that every patient has different risk factors that will determine how their hearts handle the treatment,” Yeh says. “Monitoring and management is key to surviving cancer with a good and lasting heart.”
© 2006 The University of Texas MD – Anderson Cancer Center.

Comment Chris Gupta: Cancer Drugs Can Cause Heart Damage

This has been amply demonstrated to me by a number of friends and acquaintances who were told that their type of cancers is of no concern as it can be dealt with standard treatments. Unfortunately, their cancer indeed was temporarily arrested, but one became a total vegetable and others developed serious heart disease… Yet again the treatment is worse than the disease particularly when it does not have to be…

Normally, I don’t advocate any drug unless it is an emergency, but if you are going to take one make sure that you read the monograph yourself; strangely, often even your doctor will not know of many side effects. Go to and review in detail the side effects also.

“Patients undergoing chemotherapy – with their immune systems completely destroyed or compromised – frequently die of pneumonia or common infections. Death from toxicity is also quite common. In one study, 10 percent of 133 patients using the chemo drug 5-FU (5-fluorouracil) died as a direct result of the drug’s toxicity. *Doctors jokingly refer to this popular chemotherapy drug as “Five Feet Under.” Chemotherapy patients come down with the whole range of blood diseases, such as aplastic anemia, in which the bone marrow can no longer make blood cells; leukopenia, an abnormal decrease in the amount of white blood cells; and thrombocytopenia, an abnormal reduction in platelets. The long-term effects of chemotherapy can include heart damage weeks, months, or years after treatment; loss of fertility; and an increased risk of recurrence of cancer.”

*New York State Journal of Medicine, p. 554. March 1971.
Extracted from: Richard Walters. Options: The Alternative Cancer Therapy Book. Avery. ISBN-10: 0895295105. 1992.
Further Information
Source: Chris Gupta:

Water Fluoridation Causes Cancer & Increases Tumour Growth Rate By 25%

“Taylor Study, University of Austin: fluoride concentration of 1PPM (parts per million) increases tumour growth rate by 25%.”

Not only should we be concerned about drinking fluoridated water, but those who have cancer are not likely to contain their cancers over the long term, regardless of treatment should they not stop ingesting fluoride particularly form fluoridated water. We all need to get active in removing this toxin from all water!

See also: Fluoride & Bone Cancer by Dr. Paul Connett, Professor of Chemistry, St. Lawrence University

Fluoride-Cancer Study Cover Up: Dr David Kennedy On The Fluoride Myth
It amazes me that mainstream medicine with its dismal track record is totally oblivious to these facts and simply ignores the originating causes such as depleted and toxic foods; and other environmental impacts including Chemotherapy, Radiation and surgery. If the original cause is not removed and the nutrients needed to repair the damage from disease not available, then how on earth is one to cure or even prevent future recurrences?
Chris Gupta

The most thorough explanation of the origin, action, diseases, and politics of fluoride was presented in a book called Fluoride the Aging Factor by John Yiamouyiannis PhD – This book is the result of 25 years of research and working behind the scenes of the fluoride phenomenon. Big money generally means big monkey business, you may have noticed by now, and fluoride is right up there.
Dr Yiamouyiannis was Science Director of the National Health Federation. He then went on to head the Safe Water Foundation.

No one can comment intelligently about fluoride in the US without dealing with the issues raised in his pivotal book. It is simply a review of the literature on fluoride up to 1994.

Dr Y starts by citing hundreds of international studies of fluoridation that have been conducted all over the world since the 1930s. After awhile, there seem to be just two types:
•    Studies that were really looking to find out about fluoride;
•    Studies that were trying to cover up what had already been discovered.
Examples Of The Former:
Taylor Study, University of Austin: fluoride concentration of 1PPM (parts per million) increases tumour growth rate by 25%.

Note even those cities like London Ont Canada that are using lower amounts such as 0.7PPM need to be concerned, when other sources such as foods, particularly soft drinks, some of them can be as high as 1.28PPM.

See: Assessing fluoride levels of carbonated soft drinks. CG

Fluoride is more poisonous than lead, and just less poisonous than arsenic – Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products – 1984

“A seven ounce tube of toothpaste, theoretically at least, contains enough fluoride to kill a small child.” – Procter&Gamble, quoted in Fluoride the Aging Factor p14.

Fluoride supplements should not be given to children under three years old – 1992 Canadian Dental Association Proposed Fluoride Guidelines, Dr Limeback
Cancer And Fluoride
By now we all know how cancer begins with one cell whose inner blueprint – its DNA – has been screwed with…

…Austrian and Japanese researchers both found that a concentration of 1 PPM fluoride causes disruption of the body’s ability to repair its own DNA. Without this most basic cell function, cancer is promoted, and tumour growth is accelerated.

That’s standard fluoride level in US city water: one part per million.

On p. 65 of his book, Dr Yiamouyiannis provides an amazing chart of some 19 major scientific studies conducted in universities all over the world, together proving beyond a doubt that fluoride causes genetic damage.

End of story.

Except that on p 68, there is another list of world studies proving the same thing with plants and insects – genetic alteration from fluoride.

Chief chemist of the National Cancer Institute, Dr Dean Burk when confronted with mountains of data, stated before Congress:

“In point of fact, fluoride causes more human cancer death, and causes it faster than any other chemical.”
– Congressional Record 21 July 1976
Can That Be Misconstrued?
Burk and Yiamouyiannis completed a monumental research project in 1977 in which they compared cancer death rates in 10 fluoridated and 10 non-fluoridated US cities between 1940 and 1970. The results are on p75 of Fluoride the Ageing Factor.

The unmistakable fact is that the graph shows that for the first ten years (1940-1950), when none of the 20 cities fluoridated, the average cancer deaths were virtually identical. But after 1950, there is a major increase in cancer deaths in every single one of the fluoridated cities, while the nonfluoridated cities remain clustered together at a much lower level of death.

They actually put a number on it:

“ …30,000 to 50,000 deaths each year from various causes may now be attributable to fluoridation. This total includes 10,000 to 20,000 deaths attributable to fluoride-induced cancer every year.”

These findings were first confirmed, then denied by the National Cancer Institute. Finally the research was upheld as valid in two separate state courts, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

Another study by the New Jersey Health Dept, cited by Dr Y, found a 50% increase in bone cancer among young men in fluoridated areas. (Cohn). Dr William Hirzy, an officer in the EPA explains:

“Fluoride is a broad-spectrum mutagen. It can cause genetic damage in both plant and animal cells.”

Once again, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of scientific studies conducted and reported in the most credible universities and agencies throughout the world for the past 25 years have found an unmistakable correlation between fluoridation and cancer deaths. Even the professional opinion makers can’t just make all this data vanish.

All they can do is what they’re trained to do: change the subject. And keep repeating how safe and effective (When it is neither! CG).

Adapted from a must read 3 part series Is Fluoride Really As Safe As You Are Told?


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