Those that know me, know I regularly rant about the bastion of local journalism that is the Ponsonby News, a whopping 150 page A4 magazine which lands free in my letter box every month (except January when they take a well earned rest…), one of almost 17,000 distributed around Auckland’s inner suburbs. The Ponsonby News is essentially an enormous advertising feature, and being Ponsonby based, a number of the adverts are for alternative therapies. It also has a number of ‘health correspondents’: John Appleton, who has a website selling vitamin and other supplements, ‘Dr’ Ajit, an Ayurvedic practitioner with a couple of spa’s in Auckland, and more recently an estate agent who recommends bleach as a cure all.
Back in the December issue, John Appleton espoused vitamin C while alongside his column ran a full page advert for the book ‘Primal Panacea’ by Thomas E Levy, which claims to explain how shortages of vitamin C can lead to heart disease and cancer and how this ‘panacea’ (available to buy on Mr Appleton’s online store) can be used to prevent and treat hundreds of infectious diseases.
It is interesting to note that Thomas E Levy, who trained as a medical doctor in the 70’s and then qualified as a lawyer in the mid 90’s, states on his CV, which is available to download on his website, that he is currently an Associate Professor at Capital University of Integrative Medicine (CUIM). Turns out that CUIM was founded by a convicted fraudster and closed its operations over five years ago. Furthermore, it was what is known in the industry as a ‘diploma mill’, offering degrees that were not recognised by official educational accrediting bodies. Despite ‘15 years of research’ Dr Levy has not published a single peer-reviewed article on the link between vitamin C and disease.
Renowned NZ physicist Sir Paul Callaghan, who has colon cancer, has recently gone on record as saying there was no evidence high dose intravenous vitamin C did anything for him (story covered nicely by Grant Jacobs over at Code for life). Being a scientist he took a scientific approach to his vitamin C ‘trial’, measuring the effectiveness of the treatment using a blood test for protein carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), which indicates cancer levels.
Much like for dieting, there really is no evidence for any substance being a panacea although acetylsalicylic acid, more commonly known as Aspirin, is probably the closest we have to it. Believing vitamin C can prevent and cure all disease may cause life-threatening delays to people starting genuine medical treatment.