Is the good professor being as objective as he might think he is?

As someone who honed his scientific skills at the same university in which Prof Waxman works (MSc, PhD and a number years as a postdoctoral research fellow), I am left somewhat aghast by many of the statements made in Waxman's 'Personal View'.

Prof Waxman has fallen into the trap of being overtly biased, by criticising a minor element of an industry (eg. "snake oil salesmen") and confusing this with the scientific platform on which this very small minority thrive (eg. clinical nutrition, nutrigenomics, etc.). Prof Waxman would no doubt have some difficulty trying to justify the high level of efficacy of chemotherapy in cancer treatment, when it has been shown to contribute less than 5% to the 5-year survival rates for cancer in Australia and the USA (Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 2004; 16(8): 549-60). Does Prof Waxman honestly believe that chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the sole contributors to improvements in cancer survival rates which can be an order of magnitude greater than this chemotherapy contribution? How can any good scientist rule out the role of altered lifestyles and dietary regimes as potential 'confounding factors' in clinical trials, given the sheer power of the human survival instinct? Ignoring the role of nutrition as a means of increasing survival rates and reducing side effects from chemo- or radio-therapy is also irresponsible (e.g. Cancer 2004; 100: 1967-77).

There are no legitimate food supplements in the UK or Europe sold on the basis of their ability to treat or prevent disease. Such claims for any unlicensed medicine amount to a criminal offence and a very small number of 'snake oil salesman' have been and continue to be prosecuted for this. It seems laws exist for snake oil salesmen, but not for misleading or biased scientists or doctors.

Competing interests: Chair of Scientific Advisory Board, Ultralife (UK) Ltd (a UK-based supplement/functional food company); Director, Alliance for Natural Health, a non-profit campaign organisation working to protect and promote natural health using good science and good law.

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