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Letters to the Editor Issue 27

by Letters(more info)

listed in letters to the editor, originally published in issue 27 - April 1998

Background to Vitamin B6 Fiasco

The British government is enacting legislation to reduce the level of vitamin B6 on sale in health food stores to 10 mg per tablet or capsule and additionally, in an endeavour to prevent consumers from simply taking several 10 mg doses to achieve a higher intake, it has been proposed that any dietary supplement containing vitamin B6 should carry a warning referring to "the risk of harmful effects at intakes above 10 mg per day." Hitherto vitamin B6 has been available at 50-100 mg levels, not only as an isolated nutrient, but also in vitamin B-complexes and multivitamin products.

Vitamin B6 has always been a popular vitamin, and is well known for its effects in ameliorating pre-menstrual tension, asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, sickle-cell anaemia, nausea of pregnancy, depression associated with oral contraceptive usage, hyperactivity, autism, diabetic neuropathy, epilepsy, kidney stones, Chinese restaurant syndrome, and a host of other conditions. Vitamin B6 is necessary to detoxify homocysteine, which is an unwanted by-product of protein metabolism and strongly implicated in causing atherosclerosis - a furring-up of the arteries with fatty plaque, which leads to heart attacks and strokes, and is the leading cause of death in the West. In fact the realisation that vitamin B6 (along with two other B vitamins, folic acid and vitamin B12) can prevent homocysteine from accumulating and thus reduce the risk of heart disease was hailed as one of the ten greatest medical advances of 1996.

Irate Letter to Tony Blair

The Health Food Shop
665 Ecclesall Road, Hunters Bar, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S11 8PT.
Tel: 0114 266 5984 Fax: 0114 266 5984

The Right Hon. Tony Blair MP,
10 Downing Street,

22nd January 1998

Dear Mr. Blair,

I own a Health Food Shop, and have been regularly appalled by the blatant and unscientific attacks on my trade over the last ten years (melatonin, being the latest example). When you were in opposition I took heart from noises heard; that reason would prevail, that rational decisions would at last be made, etc.,

After a scant few months of your government, I have never been so scared in my life. As the owner of a health food shop, I would be the first person to remove a substance from the shelves that I considered dangerous to my customers. To then have my livelihood and that of my wife and three young children further threatened without reason is extremely frightening.

Not only do we have the spectre of unjustifiable legislation against the most innocuous of vitamins - B6, but we have a Minister, Jeff Rooker, comparing this essential nutrient to the thalidomide, and asbestos tragedies. Whether there is a problem with B6 or not, the above comparisons (made during a recent Radio 4 interview) beggars belief. I am in serious doubt as to Rooker's sanity, or perhaps I simply do not understand who his real paymasters are.

When I hear that the government is intending to apply similarly draconian legislation to natural products on a wholesale basis, you will understand that my thought processes lead me to a simple conclusion. That the present government is more concerned with protecting the interests of the pharmaceutical companies than it is the welfare of the populace.

The above may seem, at first glance, to be a bold paragraph, but you only have to compare the safety records of the two industries to see that natural products simply do not have a problem, especially when compared to pharmaceutical drugs. Unlike the pharmaceutical industry, the health food trade is perceived to be of little influence to the national economy – perhaps this is of relevance?

Of course, every world expert in vitaminology decries your government's position, vilifies the Dalton report – upon which the COT rely so heavily, and wonders as to the real motivation behind this latest attack on a harmless industry. You have recently received an utter rebuttal of the COT report on B6 signed by 200 scientists and doctors. What is your response to this unprecedented document?

Recently, on Radio 4, Professor Woods has stated that "we are of the opinion that there is useful information in the Dalton paper, irrespective of the design of the study." I am appalled that any study can be considered valid when it is universally condemned by experts in the field, when no other researcher appears to have had access to the original data, or blood samples, on which the study is based and even the COT have reservations about the design.

For any scientist, especially Professor Woods, to state that the design of a study is an irrelevance to conclusions that can be drawn from it makes one wonder whether he is now disguising a political decision, rather then justifying a scientific one. If his comments are from a political viewpoint, and one wonders where else that they can have come from, then he should be summarily dismissed from his post. If on the other hand Professor Woods attempts to defend his comments, and the position of the COT, on the grounds of science, then the aforementioned document (co-signed by 200 scientists and doctors) warrants precise and comprehensive answering.

It certainly seems to this voter that the present government is more concerned with face-saving, egoism, and back-handers, than it will ever be in the truth. Please allay my fears, and ensure that this government's decisions will be based on solid evidence, and reputable science. I trust it is not necessary to remind you that incumbent governments are obliged to be accountable to the populace in accordance with the Wendsbury Rules.

I look forward to your early and
specific reply.

Yours sincerely,

Nature's Trail.

* Richard Allen MP
* Other participants of the Radio 4 programme;
* Professor Beckett
* Jeff Rooker MP
* Alan Simpson MP
* Professor Woods
* Sue Croft
* Alistair Stanford

Update on Water Fluoridation from Dr Sheila Gibson

I have had a very positive response to the article. It has come out at a good time, with the Government's green paper on the health of the nation imminent. I got a recent (1997) article in the British Dental Journal faxed to me last week which found that 34% of children in Birmingham, in their study at least, had dental fluorosis. This is quite appalling when you consider that the Americans in 1993 were quoting around 22% dental fluorosis in areas fluoridated to 1 ppm, as Birmingham is supposed to be. What is interesting about Birmingham is that they never seem to fuss about their increasing dental costs, high infant death rate and now, high incidence of dental fluorosis. I reckon that Dr Mullenix and the rest are right when they say that fluoride affects the brain!


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