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The Health Supplements Information Service (HSIS) is a spin organisation for the supplements industry. I came across them when they attempted to discredit a report that supplements could actually increase mortality. In that case Ann Walker spoke for HSIS.

The same Ann Walker wrote an editorial for the British Journal of General
Practice (January 2007), “Potential micronutrient deficiency lacks recognition in diabetes”. The conclusion is “Although still considered to be controversial by some, taking a daily multinutrient supplement would bridge the gap between intake and requirements and ensure that nutrient target intakes are met”. The affiliation given is senior lecturer in nutrition at the University of Reading, where she has a one-tenth full time appointment. No competing interests are declared. The University of Reading tells me that she has “consultancies for two supplement companies and for the Health Supplement Information Service. Dr Walker has also declared a private patients clinic”.

Ann Walker is also course director for an organisation called New Vitality. And she “operates a Clinic from her home on two days a week, using a combination of nutritional therapy and herbal medicine to treat patients with a wide variety of conditions.” All this sounds rather less academic.And so it is. Take red clover. New Vitality’s view is shown on the right What on earth is a “blood cleanser” or a “cleanser of the lymphatic system”. This is so much meaningless gobbledygook. The term “blood cleanser” means nothing whatsoever.

An enquiry about what “blood cleanser” means has yet to produce a reply.


The description of red clover on the New Vitality site



And is red clover really good for “symptoms of the menopause”? There is quite a different view on Medline Plus. This is an information service run by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. They say, of red clover for menopausal symptoms,

“most of the available human studies are poorly designed and short in duration (less than 12 weeks of treatment).As results of published studies conflict with each other, more research is needed before a clear conclusion can be drawn.”

Medline Plus lists six other indications for red clover that have been suggested
by herbalists. The conclusion in all seven cases is “Unclear scientific evidence for this use”

Likewise, New Vitality says of elderflower

“The primary use of elderflowers is for colds and influenze where its anti-viral properties come into play.”

But Medline Plus says

“it remains unclear whether there is truly any benefit from elder for this condition. Additional research is needed in this area before a firm conclusion can be reached. Elder should not be used in the place of other more proven therapies, and patients are advised to discuss influenza vaccination with their primary healthcare provider. It should be noted that the berries must be cooked to prevent nausea or cyanide toxicity.”

Thia item was posted originally on the old IMPROBABLE SCIENCE page

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