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Health Claims for Vitamin

June 24, 1993

* In response to "A Healthy Dose of Science," editorial, June 17:

The Food and Drug Administration's plan to have vitamin and supplement sellers document their health claims on the basis of "significant scientific agreement" has been too long in coming.

As a family physician in practice for over 30 years, I've always been aware of the value of vitamins and food supplements and recommend them when indicated. But I've been frustrated by the unfounded hype which encourages people to spend their hard-earned money on pills when they can get the same benefits, at less cost, from ordinary foods.

Ordinary foods, including fresh fruits, cereals and vegetables, supply all of the daily vitamins most of us need. Many processed foods, bakery goods and dairy products are vitamin enriched--read the labels. Our decision to take additional vitamins, food supplements or minerals should be based on scientific fact, not "hype."

MELVIN H. KIRSCHNER MD

Van Nuys

* In The Times' blanket endorsement of the FDA's position on nutritional supplement regulation, Commissioner David Kessler is quoted as saying, "Hype cannot overwhelm science." There is a reverse side to the use of hype that has been overlooked by The Times. For many years hype from the FDA and its allies has "informed" the public that supplements are unnecessary and a waste of money. There is now a great volume of science showing that this is not true--so much that even the FDA is forced to consider it (as with folic acid and neural tube defects). But years have been lost for many individuals who were fed the FDA's brand of hype.

A case in point with a local flavor: Research going on since the early '70s has shown a protective effect of Vitamin E against lung damage from oxidative smog components. Much of this work has been done at USC and UCLA, for obvious reasons. Is there consensus among scientists and clinicians or even "significant scientific agreement" about use of Vitamin E supplements for lung protection? Perhaps not, but most joggers, bicyclists, and even most of those in our air district who only breathe normally have been denied access to information about this research by the FDA's brand of hype. Most of this research, by the way, has been performed on taxpayers' dollars. Why is access to the results denied to the sponsors?

BURTON KALLMAN

Director, Science & Technology

National Nutritional Foods Assn.

Costa Mesa

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