Quaky Nutritionists Cross the Line

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recently celebrated its 20th birthday at a star-studded gala (and vegan dinner) attended by Alec Baldwin, Alicia Silverstone and Daryl Hannah. Supposedly, they were celebrating the group's record in promoting “preventive medicine, especially good nutrition—opposing unethical human experimentation and promoting alternatives to animal research.” But a closer look at PCRM's record reveals a front for bizarre medical views and perhaps something more dangerous.The group's founder and president, Neal Barnard, M.D., has written several diet books. Both he and PCRM base their diets on the “Four New Food Groups,” which reflect a strict vegan philosophy—grains, legumes, vegetable and fruit. Excluded are the dairy and meat groups endorsed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in its dietary guidelines. The committee claims consumption of meat and dairy products contributes to heart disease and cancer and that the “USDA is ”in the pockets of the meat, dairy and junk-food industries.”In fact, the USDA guidelines reflect the scientific consensus of multi disciplinary research by epidemiologists, nutritionists, geneticists and others who point to “a growing body of evidence, which demonstrates that following a diet that complies with the Dietary Guidelines may reduce the risk of chronic disease.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />



So how does PCRM support its case against consuming meat and dairy? They do so by illegitimately using the research on ovarian cancer by Harvard scientist Daniel Cramer, M.D., to allege dairy products contribute to heart disease, cancer and other illnesses.Dr. Cramer said in 2002 that the real reason for PCRM's attacks on meat and dairy is that the group doesn't “want cows exploited or they want everybody to be vegetarians.” He is not alone in that assessment. The National Council Against Health Fraud, a group that seeks to correct medical misinformation, calls PCRM “a propaganda machine whose press conferences are charades for disguising its ideology as news.”




PCRM has been condemned by mainstream organizations such as the American Diabetic Association and the American Medical Association. The AMA, which denounced PCRM in 1990 and reaffirmed its censure in 2000, is particularly critical of PCRM's virulent opposition to using animals in critical medical research, which, as the AMA points out, enjoys “overwhelming support among practicing physicians in the United States.”It gets worse. PCRM has endorsed the views of Kevin Kjonaas, a director of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, a group that, according to both British and American law enforcement authorities, has used terrorist tactics to shut down the medical research laboratory of Huntingdon Life Sciences. Kjonaas and six colleagues are due to face charges of “domestic terrorism” in federal court next month. In addition, Jerry Vlasak, a surgeon and regular PCRM spokesman, has endorsed “embracing violent tactics as part of our movement.” He even went so far as to say, “I don't think you'd have to kill—assassinate—too many vivisectors before you would see a marked decrease in the amount of vivisection going on.”Such statements should horrify. They represent not a fringe faction of PCRM, but its core. It is no wonder, then, that this group would try to sugar-coat its image by hosting a celebrity-studded gala. PCRM is not a serious medical organization. At best it is a quack organization, pushing a distorted view of medical science in support of an ideology that values animal lives above research that saves human lives.




Now what would <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Hollywood publicists make of that?