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Natural Causes


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About the Author

dan hurley is an award-winning journalist specializing in health and medical writing, and a regular contributor to the New York Times. His work has also appeared in the Houston Chronicle, Men's Health, Psychology Today, and many other publications. He lives with his wife and daughter in New Jersey.


In his lively debut, health and medical journalist Hurley takes aim at the $21 billion supplement industry and its potentially injurious "natural" products. He critiques its strong-arming of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act through Congress-a law that rendered the FDA virtually powerless to regulate these remedies-and observes the FDA's "coziness" with the industry it regulates. From snake oil and shark cartilage to ephedra, Hurley consistently animates patches of dry legal and medical material with harrowing case studies. Sue Gilliatt, for example, burned off her nose when she used the Native American herbal remedy bloodroot to treat her skin cancer in 2001. When Dorothy Wilson's doctor prescribed L-tryptophan for her insomnia in 1988, the over-the-counter amino acid triggered a mysterious disease that left her painfully incapacitated by nerve damage. Although Hurley presents scanty evidence regarding vitamin C's inability to prevent colds, his claim about the criminal backgrounds of several supplement manufacturers is alarming. Hurley wraps up with a refreshingly tough-love conclusion: the bamboozled have to accept some of the blame themselves for wanting a quick-fix promise of good health without having to do the work of a salubrious lifestyle. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

From snake-oil salesmen in the late 19th century to infomercial hucksters on cable TV, health and medical journalist Hurley (the New York Times) traces the growth and persistence of the multibillion-dollar supplement industry in the United States via the people in industry, politics, and science who have played important roles. Hurley credits Stephen Barrett, M.D., the retired psychiatrist behind the nonprofit corporation Quackwatch Inc. (, whose purpose is to combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct, for steering him toward the topic; the author's view, not surprisingly, is decidedly skeptical. He examines the scientific evidence, shows the political machinations that freed supplements from the kind of the evaluations of safety and efficacy faced by pharmaceuticals, and attempts to explain their largely unquestioning acceptance by consumers. Using interviews with people from all sides of the story, plus other primary and secondary sources, Hurley presents a highly readable and convincing narrative. More narrowly focused than Wallace Sampson and Lewis Vaughn's Science Meets Alternative Medicine: What the Evidence Says About Unconventional Treatments. Recommended for public and medical libraries.-Dick Maxwell, Porter Adventist Hosp. Lib., Denver Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"A well-written and detailed expose. . . A strident wake-up call."-- Business Week "Highly readable . . . [Hurley's] crisp narrative will shock many Americans." -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch "An engrossing book [and] a much-needed corrective to the promotion of so-called natural treatments . . . [Natural Causes] deserves a wide audience." --New England Journal of Medicine

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