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Fast-forward information

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:16pm

The internet has accelerated the conversation in health . . . enormously.

The discussions we have in Blogs, places like the Track Your Plaque Forum, and websites have accelerated the exchange of information and ideas so much that it is making traditional "official" sources of information IRRELEVANT.

Dr. John Cannell's unfailingly interesting and insightful comments in his most recent Vitamin D Newsletter brought this issue to mind. In his discussion of the vitamin D needs of pregnant women and his frustration with the failure of the National Institute of Health to take action despite the evidence, he states:

Whenever you see a child with asthma, diabetes or autism, just think: American Medical Association, American Pediatric Association, Institute of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, or Food and Nutrition Board.

Dr. Cannell is upset with the misguided advice of these agencies for mothers and babies to totally avoid sun while failing to provide advice on vitamin D supplementation, a combination of unhealthy factors that will increase the incidence of both type I and II diabetes, childhood asthma, and perhaps even childhood autism.

But this got me thinking: Here we are listening to a very credible source in Dr. Cannell, who has proven a discriminating judge of the evidence, along with vitamin D experts like Tufts University's Dr. Michael Holick, who has written a book on vitamin D ( The UV Advantage: The Medical Breakthrough that Shows How to Harness the Power of the Sun for Your Health ) ; University of Toronto's Dr. Reinhold Vieth, whose wonderful webcast on vitamin D was certain to convince you of many aspects of this nutrient's vital importance in health (unfortunately, it must have been taken off the hosting server, since I can no longer locate it); among others.

We all have access to this information. They are providing discussions on the topic that have long ago made the comments of "official" agencies like the FDA or the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board (charged with setting RDA's for vitamins) irrelevant. While information is conveyed at lightning speed through internet media sources, discussion boards, and chats, the committees of "experts" often sit on their hands, fearful of speaking out, often themselves unfamiliar with the scientific literature or the conversations being conducted, not uncommonly having hidden agendas of their own that might interfere with their impartiality.

Information on health (and other subjects, as well) is being conveyed to the interested public faster and faster. The FDA, the USDA, the Food and Nutrition Board, the American Heart Association are increasingly being viewed as behind the times. They often also provide tainted information. Among the most glaring examples of biased information is the Heart Association's endorsement of "heart healthy" products in its Heart Check Mark program, including Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisp cereal, and Berry Kix, pure unadulterated junk foods thinly veiled with the Heart Association stamp of approval. Or the American Diabetes Association failure to speak out on the increasing penetration of carbohydrate and sugary junk foods in the American diet, while maintaining relationships and funding from its number one financial contributor, Cadbury Schweppes, the number one candy, soft drink, and snack manufacturer in the world.

The collective knowledge we are gaining through our own efforts will supplant the mis-information provided by official agencies. Just as Wikipedia represents collective knowledge on a broad range of topics, such a collective wisdom will develop in health, as well.

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