Do You Believe In Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of the Supplement Industry.


All you hear about today is how horrible doctors are and how evil the pharmaceutical industry is. They’re making us fat, they’re force-feeding us dangerous pills, they’re keeping us sick, and all the while laughing their way to the bank. And while in a lot of cases this is true, it’s important to remember that there are good doctors out there and drugs that have saved millions of lives.

During the vitriolic anger growing in the general public towards these groups, the “healthy, alternative, natural” supplement industry is rubbing its greedy little paws together in excitement. I can see one of their office meetings playing out in my head right now:

Jane: Huzzah Bob! Finally the tides have turned and we shall make millions selling worthless and potentially dangerous powders, pills, and liquids to the masses! They’re screaming for alternative cures!

Bob: I match your huzzah Jane, and raise you a hundred huzzahs! Because we’re already making millions off of those ignorant fools. But now, we’re going to make BILLIONS.

Jane: Hahahwawrahaha Bob! Good point! Except we’ll look like the good guys the whole time and the stinky FDA can’t do a thing to stop us!

*Bob and Jane high-five each other*

Good lord Jane and Bob are evil. And that’s part of the problem with the feelings generally being held today towards the medicine and the so-called “alternative medicine” camps. We look at one as being evil and the other as being the good guys. Can I just make a logical and fair statement here? Both the pharmaceutical and supplement industry has evil, money-grubbing people working for them, just like they both have good people who honestly want to help and believe in what they do. They both have cures, that I believe, work and they both have potentially dangerous “cures” that don’t work.

And it’s for that very reason that you need to educate yourself so you stop blindly trusting anyone, for whatever reason, ever again. No matter how good their intentions seem. Which leads me to my book review…

The book I highly recommend everyone reads is titled Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, written by Paul A. Offit, M.D.


Let me preface this review by admitting that this guy is totally biased. He claims he’s not and that he’s representing a fair view of both sides of the issue, but he’s not. Sorry I’m not sorry Paul! There were times during my reading, that I threw up my hands in exasperation and thought, “uh, stop being a politician Paul and please represent ALL the facts”. So just a warning, he can be as sneaky as a news source claiming it’s presenting unbiased facts, when in fact, it’s only presenting the facts it wants you to see.

Moving past that one complaint of the book, he sheds light on a side of the “health wars” that you don’t normally hear about these days. The side of just how corrupt, dirty, and horrible the “healthy, natural, alternative” supplement industry can be.

What I loved about this book is how it effortlessly paints the story of how the supplement industry was born, how the richest top dogs in the supplement world completely “neutered” the FDA from regulating their products, and how often uneducated people with good intentions hurt themselves and their loved ones.

Some of the facts you’ll learn:

  • Why supplements are the only digestible products not regulated by the FDA (short of alcohol, but that’s a whole other story). It’s not that the FDA didn’t try or wasn’t interested. It’s that the people getting rich off unregulated supplements spent millions lobbying against the FDA, as well as putting out commercials such as this one to freak out the public (yes that’s Mel Gibson):

  • The reasons behind why the FDA pushed to regulate supplements, such as uncovering disgusting warehouse conditions (rats, rat droppings, mold, etc.), that supplements didn’t actually contain what the companies claimed, and in a lot of cases, that they contained harmful chemicals.
  • How there’s no such thing as “Alternative Medicine”. If it is a medicine and it heals people, it’s just plain ol’ medicine.
  • How sometimes natural supplements and natural alternatives can be just as dangerous as pharmaceutical drugs.
  • How generally there’s hardly any science or valid studies to back the supplement companies’ claims.
  • How the founding fathers behind The National Health Federation (NHF), the lobbying group that played a key role in neutering the FDA and that’s still around today, was comprised of:
    • A man who made his fortune selling arsenic and laxatives to cancer patients
    • A man who sold a tea made up of bacteria found in human feces for $125 per quart, claiming it treated cancer. Eventually his medical license was revoked, was fined $10k, and sentenced to four years in prison.
    • A man who sold a “cleansing program”, comprised of fasting, herbal laxatives, and black coffee enemas. Later he was also sentenced to one year in prison for his false claims.
  • How parents have influenced the death of their children, listening to “witch doctors” who had no understanding of the human body, medicine, or science.

Enough about what’s in it, just trust me, you have to check it out. It is easy to read and extremely informative. The author, though a bit biased, works his facts into a compelling story so it’s not as abrasive as reading a history book.

This book will help you to gain a better and more educated understanding of the pills you’re popping in your mouth. You’ll turn a more wary eye towards your vitamin and supplement choices, able to make better decisions about what companies you can trust and whether you’re wasting your money and/or putting your health at risk.

To quote The X-Files, “The Truth is Out There”. You just need to know where to look!