Frontline Scandal

by Steven Carney on February 10, 2016

This is post #127 on the site, about a highly biased, deceptive and misleading Fronline/PBS program that unfairly attacked supplements on January 19, 2016.

The PBS program called, Supplements and Safety demonized the supplement industry, offering a one-sided view with glaring omissions, deception and manipulation. Because the Ombudsman’s response was to whitewash the program’s significant errors, it’s now a scandal!

Frontline followed this typical media script throughout:

1. Collect a small number of fringe, attention-grabbing stories where people were potentially harmed (while omitting critical context, exculpatory details, test results, or actual proof). Innuendo is sufficient. Remember, for most media outlets, negative, fringe stories drive content and ratings!

2. Take those fringe examples and segments and exaggerate them well beyond their meaning or value to tarnish an entire industry, ignoring thousands of ethical, well-run, supplement companies who base their products on many thousands of supporting studies. Media loves to hype fringe stories, claiming dangers, harms, lack of regulation, and a lack of supporting evidence for supplements (claims that are largely false, but repeated endlessly like political talking points).

3. Spice up your hit piece with quotes and talking points from biased, well-known industry critics like vaccine-pushing, Dr. Offit (rhymes with profit); Offit has received millions from drug maker, Merck and as no discernible education in the nutrition or supplement industry besides his biased book and attack articles), Dr. Cohen (who’s anti-supplement bias is well known to many in the health field), Preston Mason (who does research for a pharmaceutical fish-oil company and advises on similar anti-oxidant drugs), the AG of NY who is clearly no scientist but seems to relish media attention, and someone I would call a bad actor in his industry dealings. The AG seems to follow the often biased and misleading articles of Anahad O’Connor at the NY Times (lots of debunking links and info below).

4. Include just a sprinkling of pro-industry quotes to offer faux balance (most articles are heavily slanted toward one side these days), while cutting their supporting comments short, leaving them looking as foolish and incompetent as possible (the only 2 supplement proponents in the program complained of this exact issue on other sites before and after the program ran).

These anti-supplement, media claims form a distortion wave of exaggerated and dishonest proclamations, but if they get you to click on a video or read a story (or like, follow, comment, post, tell a friend, etc.), it’s a win for them! Media’s goal is to get you to react and pull you in, then use you for their marketing, and monetize their content at every opportunity. They rely on overblown claims and exaggerated content to trigger your emotions and pull you in, then expose you to ads, videos, content and subscription offers. They are focused on their own gain by manipulating your feelings daily (viewers, listeners, readers and online clicks).

None of the critics showcased in the Frontline program have a credible, working knowledge of the supplement industry (I know their work and their well-worn talking points). None of them are experts in nutrition, disease prevention or health optimization (including O’Connor, who’s NY Times articles and favorite quotesters were apparently used throughout the program). Several critics, like Offit and Mason have conflicts of interest but the show never disclosed them, refusing to address those issues credibly in my criticisms (I will debunk the shallow Frontline gang’s response at the end).

From numerous FDA supplement regulations (I predict none of the critics Frontline used has read or reviewed the hundreds of pages of FDA supplement regulations to know what they say), to handling, testing, quality control, manufacturing protocols and standards (cGMPs), labeling and nutritional content, allergen listings, adverse event reporting and FTC advertising regulations, the show clearly demonstrates that this gang of producers and critics have no working knowledge of the supplement industry and its regulations. If they had sufficient industry knowledge, they would never have become involved in the show (See FDA regulations and numerous debunking links below)! They would have already known the vast majority of show’s claims were false!

In short, the Frontline program was a veritable sleaze-fest of bias, distortion, scientific ignorance, deception, self-promotion, and scandal (the scientific details and numerous debunking links below will expose Frontline’s misleading, deceptive show, including their childish and dismissive responses to numerous complaints). The Frontline gang skillfully avoided any real accountability and I condemn Frontline’s bottom-feeding antics and anti-supplement deception!

As this debunking unfolds, you will clearly see how each segment was layered with deep bias, one-sided views, critical omissions and manipulation. The gang at Frontline consistently demonstrated sweeping ignorance of science, ignored conflicts of interest, and used segment manipulation and worst practices at both Frontline and PBS. I’m not exaggerating! Read this whole post with all the source links and you will be shocked by the intentional deception and dishonesty perpetrated by the program and their media partners, including the NY TImes.

Even Getler, the PBS Ombudsman (and claimed impartial watchdog for PBS’ journalistic integrity) showed obvious bias and scientific ignorance in his report (I’ll dissect and expose his bias and cheer-leading later). He also ignored the list of 5 industry experts I sent him, experts who could have offered him real balance, expert perspective and useful context about the program. I predict he didn’t bother.

I also told Getler that I had over 20 pages of content and dozens of credible links to send early on (he apparently sent my offer to Frontline too). No matter, Getler (who seems more like a neutered lap dog) and Frontline chose continued scientific ignorance and bias over dialog, open-mindedness and journalistic integrity, refusing to look at my rebuttal evidence (which forms the basis of this detailed post).

They all participated in a skillful whitewash and cover-up. Shame on them all for their unprofessional, sheepish responses to these serious issues (hence I started this post the day I saw their whitewash report, feeling overwhelming disgust).

Supplements dangerous?

Unfortunately, I’ve seen mass-media deception about supplements grow and expand over the last decade. When it comes to supplements vs. drugs, their biased, ignorant narrative is tired and entrenched: Supplements are unproven and dangerous while drugs are miracle cures. Neither claim is truthful, but almost every story you read in mass media will follow that simplistic, childish narrative. Anahad O’Connor, the gullible, anti-supplement writer for the NY Times follows this rule religiously (more debunking of his bogus, self-serving, deceptive articles below).

And in spite of Frontline’s sinister drumbeat of accusations and repeated claims of danger and harm for supplements, FDA adverse-event reports for drugs run about 400:1 compared to supplements: For each supplement report the FDA receives (they are often assumed but unproven), the FDA gets about 400 more for drugs (on an annual basis, it’s about 3,000 for supplements and almost 1,300,000 for drugs and rising, with many estimates running far higher, see last links below).

This shocking reality has been ignored by mass-media hacks for a decade or more, partly because their outlets are eager for income from drug ads. Even worse, prescription drugs, when taken as directed, kill well-over 100,000 annually (almost 125,000 last year). Supplements have killed zero (0) or potentially a few people in 30 years, while drugs have killed over 3 million in that time! But no outrage for those millions of needlessly lost lives from mass-media and the biased, manipulative gang at Frontline.

Here are a few teaser links about the safety issues raised (note that Anahad O’Connor and that crack team at Frontline never once mentioned the startling issues raised from the following links, demonstrating how deep their bias and ignorance runs): 

A Research Primer

Because so many mass-media writers and the gang at Frontline are such obvious research amateurs, I feel a need to cover some basics of science and research. A Primer of sorts. It will provide necessary context and perspective to explain why so many mass-media writers are so ignorant and misinformed, and why the Frontline program was so packed with misinformation! Everyone should know this critical information. Your life depends on it.

One of the hallmarks of mass-media, junk articles and writers like O’Connor is to breathlessly write about a steady flow of nutrition and anti-supplement studies based on colorfully-worded press releases they are sent. But like most, mass-media hacks, O’Connor has no formal education or training in nutritional science, medical research or supplements. He studied psychology and clearly has little working knowledge of science or research.

Single studies prove nothing

Here is a fundamental, disqualifying error, common in mass-media stories that attack supplements: science is a process, it’s ongoing. Single studies, so breathlessly covered with deceptive headlines, prove nothing. Any conclusions drawn are highly  preliminary, limited to the specific subjects and study parameters (design, methods, analysis, length of time, limitations, caveats, etc.). The findings are not broadly applicable! Not sometimes, not ever! It takes multiple, independent replications (I look for at least 3, large human studies) before a pattern can emerge and an early consensus forms. Even then, it can all change again because science is a process (this applies to all scientific research, including all pro-drug, nutrition and anti-supplement studies). 

This first principle is one that all ethical, professional health writers, doctors and supplement critics like Offit and Cohen should know and follow, but it’s a principle they often ignore, undercutting their bold claims based on single, unreplicated studies. Here are some links for this very issue (look beyond the obvious here for some additional revelations about pervasive, modern-medical research failures after they are all breathlessly reported on):

As you can see, research needs to be replicated before findings are credible, and often, medical and health studies are never replicated. But in our scientifically ignorant, attention-seeking culture, this inconvenient reality is pushed to the side daily.  If it was followed, the number of overly-dramatic research claims made by mass media would plummet by 50% or more, to perhaps a handful per year (and no anti-supplement studies would survive credible replication, see list below).

Single studies often conflict, because of differences in design, execution, subject selection, confounder tracking, time-frame, analysis, limitations, drop-outs, etc. Replication means the study needs to be reproduced nearly identically. But often, studies vary greatly in design and analysis and their conclusions don’t match.

No matter, biased writers like O’Connor write about numerous, health and anti-supplement press releases journals send them, knowing the hot-button stories are effective at manipulating your emotions, driving fear and anxiety. The result? Coffee is good for you this month, bad the next (coffee has some healthy anti-oxidants so it always had some health benefits if used in moderation). Same for eggs, fats, sweets, fast food, soda, supplements, etc. Ask yourself, how sleazy and unacceptable is this system of media manipulation and the resulting misinformation it generates?

But there is no need to be confused, simply ignore the ignorant, self-serving, media noise from all those biased, non-scientific writers, including the non-scientists at Frontline. Much like a 6-year-old, media organizations want your attention 24/7. They want it constantly (along with clicks, likes, follows, comments), never waiting for studies to show replications and similar results before they leap into the abyss.

This failure to understand the most basic tenant of science renders almost every mass-media, anti-supplement article written in the last 10 years moot, including O’Connor’s anti-supplement articles and Frontline’s failed program from January 19, 2016.

As I write this post, I can’t name a single mass-media writer (or supplement critic like Offit or Cohen) who really has their science act together, and who presents a credible, balanced POV based on actual knowledge. In fact, I‘ve taken on several of these wanna-be amateurs before.

Here are some recent links to review. The first link offers a detailed debunking of the AG of NY’s herb adulteration claims, along with detailed debunkings of trials that Offit and other supplement critics love to quote: the biased, unreplicated ATBC and SELECT trials (you will see an ocean of pseudo-science from the hack writers at Forbes, CNN and the NY Times in these links, demonstrating their shocking bias, ignorance and incompetence):

Forbes Bias and Misinformation

Dr. David Seres Debunked Again

Supplement studies designed to fail 

Another area where writers like O’Connor show their considerable scientific ignorance and gullibility is that the vast majority of anti-supplement studies, given all that breathless coverage and hype, are poorly designed and doomed to fail. O’Connor and those idiot, non-scientists at Frontline grasp none of these problems as they wallow in their ocean of scientific ignorance, deceiving the public at will, accountable to no one. Here’s why:

1. Supplements are often treated like drugs by medical researchers when they are not (the double-blind, placebo-controlled drug approach is often a mismatch for nutritional supplements). Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, anti-oxidants, omega-3 fats, etc., support optimal nutrient intake; they work synergistically, as co-factors and in groups. They also require proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates to work effectively. Isolating single nutrients, often in too-high, or low, synthetic doses, cause imbalances in their co-factors and they will often be ineffective. Yet, the vast majority of anti-supplements studies, so breathlessly covered by journals and media are designed exactly that way. The ignorance is inexcusable!

2. Many health and medical experts agree that chronic diseases like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, back pain, mood disorders, cognition problems, etc., take decades to develop, driven by lifestyle choices and epigenetics about 80% of the time (not age, inherited genes or fate). But when a few, synthetic supplements in isolation don’t cure high-risk, elderly, sick patients in a short time, they are trumpeted as failures by medical journals and hack writers like O’Connor (ironically, no drugs cure those chronic diseases either, they only treat symptoms). Media consistently ignores this entrenched bias and double standard, while they perpetuate false claims for supplement failures.

3. Many pro-drug and anti-supplement studies use math manipulation like Relative Risk to generate exaggerated headlines, where meager outcomes in a small group of subjects are given an additional ratio to pump up the numbers, like an oversized party balloon ready to explode. RR is used to create dramatic study claims and headlines. This manipulation is used in the majority of studies now (both pro-drug and anti-supplement), but the numbers are highly deceptive. If Absolute Risk (AR) goes from 2 per 100 subjects (or 2%) to 1 per 100 (or 1%), you have a meager, but honest 1% AR reduction in risk. The Relative Risk Reduction (RRR)? It’s a deceptive 50% (see 3 links above for more detailed analysis).

Again, mass-media writers like O’Connor and gullible producers at Frontline (along with critics like Offit and Cohen) demonstrate their ignorance of common research manipulations (and I predict they don’t care to learn about them either). Those RR numbers are real exciting aren’t they? The numbers prove the effect! But they quickly forget that those numbers may only represent several-dozen subjects from a larger study based on hundreds of subjects. Did you know? Most statin drugs only show a 1-2% difference in AR outcomes. All-cause mortality for statin users is the same as non-statin users, but the reported RRR (Relative Risk Reduction) is often 20%, 30%, even 40%! That’s the number the journals and hack writers will breathlessly give you. But they’re clearly dishonest, designed to mislead you to drive sales.

Remember, it’s attention, attention, and more attention for mass media and programs like Frontline; deceiving you is not a problem (see links above if you have not). And here’s a survival hint: Any headline that has big numbers for drug miracles or supplement failures/dangers (say 20% or more), is likely a RR number. Don’t be fooled! Ignore it!

4. Actual research studies often run 15-20 pages, and they are filled with critical design and methodological details, along with charts, graphs, footnotes, subject data, analysis, similar and conflicting studies, specific end points and other important details. You need to read and understand ALL of those study details, formats and math conventions to decipher the study’s credibility and true meaning (the abstract mass-media hacks tout is used to sell the study to the media and abstracts are often an exaggerated, overly simplified version of the actual study’s details).

Credible studies also include limitations, caveats and drop-out rates. Often, subjects who drop out early comprise a larger group than the numbers of subjects used to calculate RR findings! When I see that reality (often located near the end of the study), I know the study is flawed with unreliable findings and not reproducible. All of these study details are critical and will elucidate important findings, but again, most hack writers and the staff at Frontline are grossly ignorant of these important details and conventions. In truth, most doctors never read or analyze the details either, putting your life at risk every day!

5. Most anti-supplement studies are published (often gleefully by medical journals in a childish ploy to undermine the perceived competition), while failed drug studies are routinely withheld from publication. That long-term, double standard and biased practice adds more layers of deception and distortion to the scientific record and mass-media articles. Yes, mass-media writers like O’Connor deceive you every day, because again, those writers (most are not journalists or reporters any more, they rely on a press release to create their articles), simply paraphrase the embargoed press release the journal sends them. That’s why these stories often hit everywhere on a single day. Add a few biased quotes from Offit or Cohen and presto! You’ve created a dramatic, misleading, attention-grabbing article!

Medical journals plan and market these studies heavily, using an abstract pumped up with RR numbers to attract more medical and media attention. These misleading and unscientific campaigns (again, either pro-drug or anti-supplement) have gone on for more than 10 years. And the oft-quoted ATBC, CARET and SELECT studies, used by anti-supplement amateurs like Offit and Cohen, have never been replicated. Those studies include all 5 of the worst practices I listed above. More shocking is that all of those studies have been debunked long ago, but continue to be touted by Drs. Offit, Cohen, Seres and other medical and anti-supplement hacks)!

Here are a few of many links that expose the fallacy of RR covered in item 3 above:

I’ll make this prediction: If I took a research study like ATBC, CARET or SELECT (or most other anti-supplement studies used in the Frontline program), and I made a test based on the study, O’Connor, Offit, Cohen, the AG of NY, his staff, and the entire gang involved with the deceptive, manipulative Frontline program, including Getler, would all fail miserably! So much for the claims of expert status I was told!

Ghostwriting, money and agendas abound

It’s estimated that over 50% of all studies are ghost-written by people employed directly by a drug company or a sub-contractor acting on their behalf (there are hundreds of those companies now). And anti-supplement research is often run by biased, pro-drug researchers, eager for grant money and media buzz. Most are clearly ignorant of nutrition and the supplements they study, creating studies that use all 5, worst practices listed above as they hunger for attention and career mobility. The result is that research has become corrupted in many ways and on multiple levels (see previous links and information/links below).

At this point, I would like to remind you of something I’ve included in many posts over the years:

NEVER get your health or medical information from a mass-media source like a newspaper (including O’Connor and the NY Times), TV news, radio, cable news or any of their online sources. All of those terrible, worst practices of mass-media covered above means you will get deceptive and misleading information daily. No other outcome possible. Those media hacks are simply too ignorant to know what they are talking about and are unfazed by their ignorance. And they will never be accountable for deceiving you.

Debunking Frontline

Now that you know some basics of research and science, it’s time to debunk Frontline’s terrible program. I tried to grab some key points from their video to make a summary. The Intro asks, “How can you sell something without any evidence that it’s safe and effective” showcasing the sweeping bias and deception that gets a pass from everyone at Frontline (there are thousands of studies showing benefits for vitamins, minerals, amino acids, anti-oxidants, omega-3 oils, herbs, etc.), but clearly omitted by the gang at Frontline. I don’t think they included a single, positive study.

Findlay questions the Purity First founder if she had any background in pharmacology or medicine or any expertise in this area. Ironic because I posed the same issue to the Frontline staff early on, sickened by their own scientific ignorance and deception. I explained to Frontline in my first message that if they really understood the supplement industry, they would never have done the show!

During the Purity First segment, Findlay says there are an estimated 85,000 dietary supplements for sale today. Ironically, the show undercuts its own claims because they only include a tiny fraction of those many thousands of supplements in their biased program, significantly exaggerating how broadly-based the problems are (remember that formula for mass-media stories above where the fringe exceptions prove the rule?).

If the show’s premise was remotely correct, you would have tens of thousands of problem reports annually and hundreds or thousands of deaths (the FDA is only getting a few thousand supplement reports annually, often vague and unproven; proven deaths are rare or zero (0) annually).

Findlay also deceptively claims that supplements don’t need to get approval before going to market but this is a misleading statement (see FDA regulations below, you do have to submit information about your products and follow numerous regulations). She also claims that products don’t have to be proven effective or safe, offering more misleading, false claims. Again, see info and FDA quotes below (companies are responsible for marketing safe products with accurate labeling). There is also a reason why supplements are not treated like drugs (see below).

So early on (this is only about 5 minutes in), Frontline offers a constant drumbeat of bias, exaggeration, talking points and misleading, even false claims. It’s hard to watch because the bias is literally breathtaking and relentless. Overall, the program presents a deeply dishonest picture of the entire supplement industry and the regulations that exist. You will see that every segment is filled with forms of exaggeration, manipulation, pseudo-science, faulty testing and important omissions. Distortion, deception and falsehoods are everywhere as Frontline skillfully creates an alternate reality.

These links strongly debunk the overblown claims that O’Connor and critics like Offit and Cohen love to tout about supplement dangers and ER visits, adding shocking context to this kind of serial exaggeration and anti-supplement propaganda they often spew (be sure to look at the chart in the first link to see if you can spot the claimed 23,000, barely-visible supplement cases compared to all the other reasons for ER visits): 

During the entire Frontline program, no credible attempt is made to distinguish between nutritional supplements like vitamins, minerals, amino acids, anti-oxidants or fish oil, and supplements like weight loss or fitness products, where more problems show up (and often because people took more than the recommended amounts as required by supplement labeling laws).

The only supplement manufacturing companies investigated for the whole show are Purity First (now closed), USP Labs (lots of details the show omitted below), plus a few unspecified supplement companies for fish oil and for herbs. Only a few dozen supplements out of 85,000? That’s a tiny fraction of 1% with problems, exaggerated to tarnish the entire industry.

Cohen claims that the FDA doesn’t do any review of dietary supplements before they come to the market. The implication is that it’s the wild west and anything goes. But the FDA’s definition for supplements is that they are vitamins, minerals, amino-acids, herbs, plants, etc. In other words, they are naturally-based substances to supplement the diet, often derived from food or plant sources (see full FDA definition in quote below).

Supplements often have a history of use. They are not made-made chemicals (although some nutrient forms are synthetic now, based on their existing chemical structures). Nutritional supplements are not patented chemicals like drugs (and most drugs are researched by the drug company that sells them, creating a strong financial bias for positive outcomes that independent researchers have verified often).

These critical distinctions for supplements vs. drugs are ones that Offit, Cohen, O’Connor and Findlay routinely exclude from their overblown attacks. And for them not to understand this fundamental difference again demonstrates their significant ignorance of FDA regulations! Because that distinction is important.

Food or plant sourcing is the reason why the supplement industry is inherently less dangerous than drugs. Drugs are man-made chemicals that are often alien to the body’s physiology (hence the significant side-effects people get as some normal processes or gene functions get disrupted). Here are some links showing how drugs interfere with normal physiology: 

Here are some important quotes from the FDA website (but completely excluded from the Frontline show):

FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients. FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering “conventional” foods and drug products. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA):

Manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients are prohibited from marketing products that are adulterated or misbranded. That means that these firms are responsible for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing to ensure that they meet all the requirements of DSHEA and FDA regulations.

FDA is responsible for taking action against any adulterated or misbranded dietary supplement product after it reaches the market.

Those paragraphs are key. Even the FDA states that supplements and their ingredients are regulated in that first sentence! They outline an approach that is similar to the way drugs are handled (drug companies are supposed to prove the safety and efficacy of their drugs, but the research is often manipulated as outlined above and drugs are often pulled after many more injuries and deaths). Remember the NSAID Vioxx disaster? It caused about 100,000 heart attacks and killed 40,000-50,000 people.

Well over 100 drugs have been pulled from the market because of significant injuries and deaths, something mass-media routinely ignores (so much for their proof of safety and regulation as Frontline and supplement critics often proclaim during the show)! For O’Connor and Frontline, that’s clearly just a yawn! No supplements ever made have caused anywhere near the level of injury and death from Vioxx alone, and that’s just a single drug of hundreds pulled from the market because of thousands of serious health risks and deaths: 

Here are more important quotes from the FDA that define what dietary supplements are, and why they ARE NOT drugs, based on their food or plant-based sources. Frontline again excluded all of this critical information from its program as did their constant critics, again showing how ridiculous and obvious the program’s bias was (there are many hundreds of pages of FDA regulations and requirements for supplements, see link below and info/links in the CHOP segment):

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act defines a dietary ingredient as a vitamin; mineral; herb or other botanical; amino acid; dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake; or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of the preceding substances.

Unlike drugs, supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases. That means supplements should not make claims, such as “reduces pain” or “treats heart disease.” Claims like these can only legitimately be made for drugs, not dietary supplements. 

Now ask yourself why supplements are used to treat chronic diseases in drug-type research? The answer is that a few supplements taken for a few years will rarely cure any chronic disease. The goal of those studies is often failure (see 1-5 above). But ignorant media people like O’Connor and those at Frontline are captivated by those negative, often phony findings. See O’Connor’s ridiculous articles for more proof.

Now back to the Purity First company where Frontline claimed that some products were “laced” with steroids (implying intent, like intentional poisoning), but offering no test results or quantitative analysis whatsoever (the owner said only trace amounts were found).

I thought some of the symptoms were disparate and made little sense. They mentioned 20 patients with little detail or info, such as age, health status or amounts taken. These cases also seemed localized (most people saw the same doctor), but Findlay and Frontline predictably ignore those details too.

Frontline and Findlay offer no follow-up to tell us what happened. Did all their symptoms resolve? Those important details were omitted (I found some info later that most problems did apparently resolve). The “Alien in my Cheerios” comment about FDA personnel is clearly included to heighten the bottom-feeding theatrics, but no one actually said it! Irresistible for the gang at Frontline!

There is lots of opinion and conjecture included in that Purity First segment. I don’t condone what happened but I’m also not sure what happened in any detail. I rely on quantitative details, which Frontline didn’t provide here, relying heavily on anecdotes and dramatic, unchallenged claims. Findlay’s calling the whole supplement industry a “troubled world” is classic fear mongering. For Frontline, 1 = 1,000.


Then Frontline shifted to a segment from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), again based largely on fear and conjecture. No actual patient numbers were included for their colorful claims of “shopping bags full of dietary supplements” and I predict that those patients are are tiny fraction of their 20,000 weekly patients (again, a few fringe examples prove the rule for media). Note to CHOP: Dietary supplements are not medications nor can they claim to be. But thanks for the great theater and straw-man arguments!

Also, no brands were mentioned for Offit’s COA (Certificate of Analysis) testing claims, although he requires that the COA comes from an independent testing entity, which I could see some companies saying no to. What’s the upside for them? They have to pay for independent testing and go through the process even if they have their own COA. Does Offit demand that every drug they dispense have an independent lab do testing first? The answer is no, even with millions of annual injuries and 125,000 deaths from drugs! How’s that for bias?

BTW, Offit’s background is in pediatrics, infections diseases and vaccines. His bio indicates no education or training in supplements, supplement manufacturing, nutrition or related areas. But as a known supplement basher, he’s made quite a name for himself, and media appears to love Offit’s aggressive bombast!

So again, good theater but not a material issue if a company doesn’t want to have independent tests run on all their supplements to please the great Offit. Plus, neither Offit nor Frontline tell us which companies were contacted, who was contacted, what was said, when, or how for any company. Again, this one-sided section was long on dramatic claims, theater and anecdotes, short on any quantitative details or proof (See any irony? These are the very things Findlay and Frontline claim supplements don’t do, even as Frontline feels exempt from those same standards of proof or accountability).

The single example of high vitamin D is troubling but was the test accurate? They claim that the actual dose is 217% of labeled value. I question this example for many reasons. We didn’t see the whole testing page or COA. It is only one example. Tests can often vary. Who did the test? What methods were followed? Different labs often use differing testing methods with different reference ranges. Was there any attempt to verify or validate the test?

Once again, Frontline offers no verification or validation, no information on who the company was, how the drops were handled, how old was the sample, and on and on. I predict this is a fluke because no supplement company gives away a double dose for free! No matter, it’s clear that Frontline really has no validation standards for their claims. If the tests have negative findings for supplements in some way, they get included. That pattern of persistent bias continues throughout the program (and often the tests cited are bad or inappropriate).

Just for a bit of fun, I’m including a link to the FDA’s pages of exhaustive cGMP requirements here, including regulations for COAs in section 21 CFR 111.75 (yes, supplement companies do have to have them on file):

Supplements are required to have COA’s for their ingredients, either their own or those from ingredient suppliers. So Offit’s claims seem reasonable until you realize that companies need COAs but not extra tests done by independent testing labs per his demands. So again, great theater but highly misleading.

And since we’re on this subject of FDA regs, here is a link to the main page for supplement regulations. Each link goes to numerous pages based on the topic, with hundreds of pages total (I read them when I worked for a supplement company years ago, doing all of their submission-package research based on human studies for over 100 ingredients. Be sure to scroll down for all of the numerous sub-links): 

Table of Contents

1. Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP)
2. Warning Letters & Safety Alerts
3. Labeling and Regulation
4. Correspondence, Statements, and Agreements Related to Policy
5. Health Claims
6. Qualified Health Claims
7. Adverse Events Reporting
8. General Compliance and Inspection Information for Industry
9. Codex Activities

Again, the Frontline program offers lots of opinion and conjecture during the CHOP segment using some staff and Offit, a long-term critic of supplements and proponent of vaccines (he’s apparently made millions over the years and has ties to the drug company, Merck). A staff person proclaiming supplements are a “complete unknown” is a gross exaggeration and a disproven claim. The FDA does require accurate labeling as shown above (click on some of those links, there are pages and pages of specific requirements).

BTW, Offit has claimed that infants could respond to 10,000 vaccines without any negative effects! How ridiculous is that? This is your Mr. Scientist (more about this in Frontline’s lame responses to the complaints later)?

For some broader perspective, here are some links that debunk Dr. Offit’s book and supplement claims, and how he cherry-picks a few studies to support his bombast, while he ignores thousands of other supporting studies for supplements that undercut his serial exaggeration (remember these for later when Offit returns to the program to offer up more theater): 

Black Cohosh

Then Frontline jumps to a segment on Black Cohosh, claiming a gynecologist named Dr. Baker ran tests on various cohosh brands using DNA testing on finished supplements (and O’Connor covered this odd study with his usual breathless excitement in a previous article). Remember my comments about independent replication in the Primer above? Findlay laments that Baker received little attention for his unreplicated study (the answers lie below).

First of all, since when does a gynecologist do DNA testing on plants? This is a big red flag for me, but not for the biased, non-scientist gang at Frontline! The journal Baker published in? It’s an obscure journal called the Journal of AOAC International. They offer an open-access, author paid submission (sometimes called pay-to-play). This DNA work is from several years ago but even now, the testing is still unreliable because of a lack of accuracy or established protocols (initial debunking links below).

Second, I have many links that debunk the reliability of DNA barecode testing which the FDA doesn’t accept as part of their cGMP regulations. Those expert debunkings go back almost 2 years (many additional links below in the AG of NY section). I continue to cringe as I go through this incredible deceptive Frontline program.

Third, DNA barcode testing might look great on CSI but it’s never been authenticated for finished herbal supplements. Even raw herbs are iffy because entire libraries and data bases must be built and validated! Yep, that’s how real science works. In spite of that unreliable testing method, Frontline never got any outside expert opinion, so it’s more theater and manipulation (the Dr. David Seres Debunked link above has multiple links on this DNA barcode issue for herbs). DNA testing for herbs might be valid in 10 years or more, but not now.

Forth, there’s an even more fundamental and disturbing problem with this segment! Baker claims that 30% of his black cohosh samples had ornamental plants from China. His actual study indicates that 75% of the samples did have Black Cohosh and the remaining 3 listed in his 25% subset appear to be versions of black cohosh as well (see second link below for a 1999 paper from the American Botanical Council), which includes a detailed history of botanical names, geographical locations, variations and proposed names for his claimed adulterants: A. cimicifuga, A. dahurica, and A. simplex. You can find them in that detailed, Black Cohosh botanical review below, although his testing method could have easily caused some errors. Again, independent replication is required before bold proclamations about findings can be made.

So once again, Frontline’s theatrical claims and exaggerations for adulteration and fraud appear to wilt under detailed scrutiny and actual scientific analysis. And just maybe, a gynecologist lacks sufficient botanical expertise to do DNA tests on plants? So far, I think Frontline has interviewed about 6-7 critics with only Fabricant as a proponent (yes, that’s lopsided and biased). Then, Frontline finished with more wild accusations and claims, but Baker’s DNA science is based on unproven, unreliable DNA testing and his apparent lack of botanical knowledge is exposed in that second link.

Now remember my Primer on studies and research? Remember that independent replication is required before conclusions can be drawn? Frontline offers none, and in this case, Baker seems to not know or understand the complex botanical history of Black Cohosh. A true amateur!

As I mentioned above, the FDA does NOT accept DNA testing for herbal supplements to comply with their cGMPs! Do you think Frontline cares? I predict that they don’t (their response to my and other complaints was to dismiss most of them). All media is focused on their need for attention, career moves and money, not accuracy, truth or integrity. By now, it’s also clear that Frontline has failed numerous tests and standards for accuracy, fairness and integrity, but my debunk is just beginning.

Here’s a recent link that offers some expert views of the magical thinking behind DNA tests for supplements and plants, in response to Frontline’s exaggerated, even false claims for the tests (I’ll include many more DNA barcode links below in the AG of NY’s herbal segment): 

At this point I can make a prediction: Frontline spent far more time digging into the negative, anti-supplement stories, including the backgrounds of proponents like Dan Fabricant and Adam Ismail, but apparently never attempted to verify a single claim or test offered by their gang of misinformed, supplement bashers. This really shows how deep and structural the program’s bias is, and how little journalism the show demonstrates. This debunking also shows how poorly the PBS Ombudsman performed (and the debunking will continue to expose his lack of objectivity). He failed to investigate any independent sources. The program is already a dereliction and a travesty on every level, with more to come!

Frontline goes to Washington

Then Frontline indulged themselves in some heavily-edited history and theater about the political system, DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health Education Act) and the FDA. Findlay is flying high again, with all of her dramatic language and nonsense. She oozes conspiracy and corruption because so many consumers wanted access to supplements? How dare people speak up! Here, again, the program’s propaganda message is unmistakable and crystal clear.

David Kessler’s old-style comments do not reflect the current regulatory system for supplements so his overly simplistic comments ring false (remember all of those FDA links above)? Dan Fabricant of the NPA (Natural Products Association), and former FDA Dietary Supplement Programs Director made a few good points in this segment but Findlay continued to bring up more problems and perceived failures. He tried to explain that some non-compliant companies were shut down. No matter, Findlay’s mission was to satisfy her bias and need for theatrics as she mentions 4,000 supplement manufacturers. He tried to make a joke to lighten the mood. She didn’t show any real interest in getting his POV. Her mission was clearly to undermine him.

Findlay continued to push more claims of danger and fear mongering. Her claim that drugs have to prove their products are safe and effective is simply laughable. Remember all of the early links, showing how often drug studies are not replicated, and later links showing millions of injuries, deaths and information about ghost writing? Her extreme bias, delusional proclamations and ignorance of the real world are all breathtaking!

Cohen adds his biased and ignorant talking points, again claiming you can sell supplements that aren’t safe or effective, offering no detail (feel free to re-read the FDA quotes and regulations above for a reality check for his deceptive claim)!

Powerful lobbying?

Then Frontline really gets carried away, as they trot out even more absurd, biased claims of supplement-industry lobbying and influence peddling. Findlay boldly proclaims “The supplement industry is a powerful force in Washington.” As before, Frontline’s bias forms a parade, as more false claims and comparisons stream by, again proving that exceptions and opinions prove the rule for biased media hacks! How about a lobbying reality check Frontline?

Big Pharma runs the largest lobbying army in the world, with about 1,200-1,300 highly paid lobbyists who work tirelessly on a federal and state level to influence government every day on every level. Pharma routinely spends over 200 million on lobbying annually, totaling over 2 billion in the last 10 years, and almost 3 billion since the late 1990s. Here is a site that tracks drug and some device lobbying: 

The supplement industry? Their “powerful” lobbying force spends about 2-4 million annually. Give me a break Frontline! Over the last decade, the supplement industry spent about 1% of what Pharma spends annually (2 million vs. 200 million)! Over about 10 years, supplement lobbying totals about 30 million, which is less than 15% of 1-year’s worth of lobbying for big pharma. It’s not even close! Here is a link for supplement lobbying:

Yet Frontline is outraged, simply outraged by the stunning corruption and lobbying power of supplement companies and consumers! It’s shocking, just shocking that supplement companies lobby, even as they are under relentless attack by ignorant doctors like Offit, Cohen, hack writers like O’Connor, and shows like Frontline! These Frontline claims are preposterous. How deceptive and corrupt does Frontline look now? Is their extreme exaggeration, bias, and dishonesty hitting home yet? If not, no worries. Many more falsehoods are exposed below! 

The government and DSHEA segment also included a false claim that supplements can’t be regulated (remember all those links to FDA regulations for supplement above)? Supplements are regulated and they have been for decades. Plus several new laws and regulations have been passed since DSHEA, like adverse event reporting. But the ever biased, misinformed Frontline gang glosses over all of the existing regulations, again showcasing their own ignorance and failure to investigate truth or reality.

Ephedra dangers?

The Ephedra segment dredged up from a decade ago offered no proof, testing or substantiation for the claimed 100 deaths and, as usual, Frontline included no dosages and or patient health information (health status, prescription drug use, street drug use, etc.). In fact, Bechler’s admittedly tragic death in 2003 (more than 12 years ago), was attributed to a whole combination of problems from the corner, including heatstroke during training on a hot, humid day, being overweight and out of shape, not eating for 2 days to lose weight, and his ephedra use to help lose weight.

As usual, the amount he took is not disclosed, but blood testing apparently showed somewhat high levels and his team mates said he was taking more than recommended. The medical examiner said it was not possible to define the proportion of each factor’s contribution to his death, so proclaiming that ephedra killed him is both unproven and false. No matter for Frontline as ephedra is implied as the sole cause of his death! See their extreme bias and deception on display again? Like the Eveready bunny, Frontline keeps going and going as they bang their noisy symbols relentlessly!

Here is a very detailed, expert analysis from Baylor University PhD researchers (none of the authors has ties to ephedra or supplements), offering thought-provoking insights and perspective on Bechler’s death (do you think baseball was willing to take blame for their own training, heatstroke and fitness failures?): 

As usual, Frontline doesn’t look into any of these exculpatory details in their obsessive drive to bash supplements. In fact, as these stories have unfolded over the years, I have occasionally found details that people taking a supplement often take more than recommended, especially for weight loss. Because the FDA label regulations require companies to specify a suggested or recommended intake and how to take, taking more than recommended is not advised. Unfortunately, some people do it anyway.

Drugs (both prescription and street drugs) cause far more injuries and deaths in a single year than supplements have caused in the last 30 years, but because of ongoing media bias and double standards, supplement overuse is blamed on the supplement, whereas drug overuse is blamed on the patient. And again, media outlets like Frontline almost never provide that critical dosage and health information, consistently positioning supplements as inherently dangerous. In fact, hack writers rarely ask about the dosages or overuse issue. When media does an anti-supplement story, it’s not the customer’s fault, it’s the supplement’s fault. And Frontline carries that biased narrative proudly.

Liver damage from green tea?

Then Frontline rolls out claims of harm and liver injury from supplements, citing a dramatic tripling of cases from an analysis by Dr. Bonkovski (I’ve debunked these claims before in that post called, Dr. David Seres Debunked), so I knew about these deceptive claims. This is O’Connor’s handiwork and predictably, it’s ridiculously slanted and deceptive again! So here is some initial debunking for my special, biased, non-science friend, Anahad O’Connor and the NY Times:

1. The moment I clicked on the O’Connor story taken from Bonkovski’s analysis, I remembered the Times’ story and classic tale of woe about a high-school kid who took that weight-loss supplement (the dosage is again, undisclosed). The Times story exactly follows the mass-media script I outlined at the beginning of this post.

O’Connor uses that teenage boy to heighten the dramatic claims of his victim status for the analysis. The claim Frontline and the Times tells us is that supplements are causing a dramatic rise in liver damage. The story focuses on that really scary stuff made from green tea called green-tea extract (sarcasm alert). Lock your doors tonight, green tea extract is gonna get ya (yes, more sarcasm)!

2. This entire nonsense claim is based on conjecture, bias and great theater again, but with no real evidence or testing to support the claim that green tea extract, when taken as directed, causes any harm whatsoever (see several debunking links below). But that won’t get your attention, clicks or create any buzz will it? The car crash that didn’t happen is not covered!

3. The 2013 analysis and story manipulate the findings in obvious ways, to only focus on the 20% of cases that come from supplements (cleverly ignoring that fact that 80% of cases of liver damage are cause by OTC or prescription drugs)! Funny how no one ever noticed that majority share are for sources other than supplements. Nicely done O’Connor and Frontline!

Bonkovsky’s claim of a 3-fold increase is based on a 10-year span, where population growth is not considered, and also based on a small number of cases, just 130 out of 839 from 8 hospitals (remember, these cases span 10 years, adding more years is a classic way to increase the numbers and apparent dangers), but their 130 cases averages only 13 cases annually for supplements. See how biased math works?

So about 13 cases per year are potentially caused by supplements (but often unproven and without disclosing dosages or other health status, confounders, etc.), then extrapolated to everywhere? And it’s telling that the analysis intentionally excluded injuries from acetaminophen (AKA Tylenol), which the FDA approved as an OTC drug many years ago. Acetaminophen is by far, the most common cause of liver damage and liver failure, accounting for about 50% of all cases annually (see shocking quote below)! Those FDA-approved drugs sure are awesome, aren’t they Frontline?

4. By excluding those many thousands of cases from acetaminophen (see shocking quote below), the analysis shrinks the total available pool of numbers for drugs, leaving the remaining cases, like those claimed for supplements, to become a much larger share of the group! Cleaver, huh?

Can you again see how consistent and deep the media deception and bias is in their so-called reporting? Of course, O’Connor and Frontline probably know none of this critical information. It probably goes right over their heads! Neither questions those study claims as they offer few details demonstrate no real understanding of the bigger picture and context I’m giving you here.

This shocking quote from Life Extension collects data for acetaminophen and it will blow your mind (citation numbers removed to avoid confusion, see link below):

Many drugs can cause liver damage, liver failure, and death. Yet, acetaminophen prompts the most calls to poison control centers—more than 100,000 per year. Each year, acetaminophen accounts for about 56,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalizations, and more than 450 deaths from liver failure. Acetaminophen causes more cases of acute liver failure than all other medications combined. 

No matter, Frontline happily goes along with this grossly-slanted O’Connor report which actually has only about 13 cases per year from supplements (simply shocking, while the tens of thousands of annual cases caused by a “regulated” drug, not so much). Again, like the lobbying and all the other segments above, the bias, distortion and misinformation is relentless.

Frontline also failed to disclose Bonkovski’s extensive ties to numerous drug companies and their research grants/cash; he has done research for numerous drug companies. His pro-drug, anti-supplement bias is predictable and should have been disclosed as another conflict of interest.

But again, Frontline only showcases the anti-supplement claims and consistently takes anti-supplement claimants at face value without questioning them. Bonkovski also called supplements the wild west (we also heard that earlier, remember), a common talking point and colorful reference often used by supplement critics (see the political campaign similarities where candidates often use the same talking points and repeat them over and over)?

BTW, the supplement harms in the analysis were often unproven, based on opinion and conjecture. As usual, O’Connor and Frontline omit critical details of dosages, health status, testing results for blood levels and other critical health and medical information. O’Connor’s also fails to investigate any of those basic questions in his biased, pseudo-science work.

The rest of O’Connor’s article is filled with statistical manipulation and the oft-repeated claims that supplements are largely unregulated while drugs are. We know better. See the constant theater here? See any science or tests for these recent claims?

Do you see any balance to Frontline’s or O’Connor’s claims for liver damage or injuries? The answer is simple: There is no real science, balance, fairness, or integrity at work here. All of the material is again, misleading, deceptive and dishonest. See why I said the Frontline show should be retracted? If not, more to come!

Dr. Navarro, who also worked on the study O’Connor wrote about, made the following comment in an article on Science Daily (linked below):

Our study group is specific to DILIN centers and therefore we cannot conclude that liver injury due to herbals and dietary supplements in [is] on the rise in the U.S. Further population-based study of liver injury due to herbal products and dietary supplements is needed. 

And this quote from the link below on another drug-induced, liver damage study is telling and not included in O’Connor’s or Frontline’s stories:

Researchers identified 61 different agents that, alone or in combination, could cause liver injury and failure in the study population. Anti-microbial agents were found to be the most common cause of DILI ALF cases and included anti-tuberculosis drugs (25), sulphur-containing drugs (12), nitrofurantoin (12), other antibiotics (7), antifungal agents (6), and anti-retroviral drugs (4). Patients who develop ALF after taking these drugs typically do not experience a spontaneous recovery — the transplant-free survival rate in this study was 27%.

This link shows that about 50% of all DILI is in fact, from acetaminophen:

Here is a 2013 quote from Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D, from the link below (lots of good analysis) that undercuts both O’Connor’s and Frontline’s overblown, deceptive claims for both liver damage from green tea extract and claims that supplements are unregulated:

Blumberg noted, “While some rodent studies suggest high dose, life-long intake of green tea extracts can produce some toxicity (though not necessarily hepatotoxicity), randomized clinical trials (often with supradietary doses) have always shown green tea extracts to be safe.”

Here is O’Connor’s biased, narrowly-constructed article on liver damage and supplement claims (see the bias now?): 

Notice that he doesn’t include the comment from Dr. Navarro that I included above.

Liver damage from the real product?

Now, Frontline brings out their Oxy Elite Pro segment (also included in O’Connor’s biased article covered above), complete with ambulances, flashing lights, quick news cuts, etc. Again, lots of theater but no tests that conclusively linked the product to liver damage, it was largely assumed as it so often is. And again, they never disclose any dosages so we have no clue if people took more than recommended. In this case, we can’t even be sure that the product was the real product!

Frontline failed to investigate or mention that both the company (USP Labs) and the FDA believe there were counterfeit versions of the supplement on the market in 2013 (the company found lot numbers that were not part of their system, wrong expiration dates and different packaging), indicating a high probability of counterfeit products. And before these cases, the supplement had been sold without reports of adverse events.

No matter! Frontline chose to exclude all of that history and focus on an ingredient called, aegeline (see links below for the history of this plant and fruit’s use). Why were the liver problems mostly limited to Hawaii for the Oxy Elite Pro supplement? Again, it was sold for many years with no adverse reports or problems. Lots more implication from Frontline but little testing or proof. Conjecture is fine for Frontline. Claiming there were 56 cases of liver damage with no testing or proof again shows their lack of standards or detail (Fabricant mentioned there were 20 cases when the product was removed).

But the cluster of cases in Hawaii should have been a tip-off to any true journalist. Why the localized cluster of cases there for a nationally-distributed product? What testing was done to find objective evidence that the product was the cause? The show omitted all of that exculpatory and investigatory information and never mentioned the possibility of counterfeit products, showing their consistent tendency to leap before they looked. This segment was also filled with extra dramatics and personal stories.

Even now, in 2016, Frontline can’t prove that any of their claims or theater are a result of the actual supplement or company’s products. Then again, it should be clear by now: media requires no proof. Conjecture, innuendo, anecdotes and self-serving claims, all designed to push your emotional buttons and get a reaction out of you is basis enough!

The following links are to articles that explore the many shades of gray of probable counterfeit of Oxy Elite Pro and the unproven connection to liver problems in Hawaii (only 14 of 20 were actually traced to the supplement, another important detail left out of the Frontline program), plus most people recovered, which Fronline also omitted, as they have consistently done throughout their program (see second article for numbers).

Once again, we have no information about any dosing and who might have taken more than recommended. Do you see how consistent the bias runs through every detail of this trashy program? Can you see how deeply and consistently Frontline manipulates every line, segment and element, as they continually reject integrity, balance, fairness or accuracy? Again, this is why I told Getler the show should be retracted!

These articles call into question the bold and confident claims Frontline makes about aegeline and Oxy elite Pro causing liver damage, which remains unproven to this day: 

And those links also show that, once again, the FDA did take action to recall those products and the company cooperated. And let me be clear. I have never condoned any product adulteration or deceptive labeling. I condemn any company that doesn’t follow the FDA and FTC regulations or ignores customer health and safety.

But unlike Frontline’s biased and deceptive program, I also know those bad actors are a small minority, perhaps a few percent of all the thousands of ethical and compliant supplement companies that we have today. My perspective is much broader, and clearly includes significant knowledge in the areas of research, studies, bias, drugs and related injuries, etc. Frontline clearly is ignorant of all of these details, and they should never have run this program!

Supplements useless?

Findlay then offers more overblown and exaggerated claims that many supplements don’t work or cause harm, claiming the hype is there but not the science (it often is, she is grossly ignorant of it and yet, so confident of her false proclamations).

Now back to Dr. Offit! Remember all his ties to drugs, vaccines and those CHOP links that expose his glaring manipulation when he quotes studies? Frontline returns to more of his supplement bashing. This time he obsesses about some formulas having greater amounts than the daily allowance but he is again, not very specific, and fails to mention that many of these levels are set at a very low level to simply avoid diseases like scurvy or rickets, not set to levels needed for optimum health, growth, prevention, individual needs or other health areas! He does say that a multivitamin is probably okay (a rare acknowledgement indeed).

He quickly returns to la-la land with more antics and pseudo-science, showing that it takes large amounts of food to achieve his perception of mega-vitamin doses (like 1,000 mg of vitamin C). This is another highly manipulative segment, because a serving of cantaloupe only has about 1/2 the vitamin C of other good (and smaller) sources like citrus, peppers or kiwi, so of course, it takes many cantaloupes to reach 1,000 mg! At the same time, the RDA for vitamin C is really low at 90 mg for an adult male (again, simply set for disease prevention, not optimum health, disease prevention or healthy aging).

Levels for a range of needs, from optimum health, to protein digestion, brain and mood function, immune function, stress management, gene function, heart health, BP, blood vessels, stroke prevention, skin, tendon and cartilage health, and anti-oxidant needs, higher levels are often needed and recommended. For my needs and many others, 500-1,000 mg daily in divided doses is more realistic and beneficial for many adults (see second link below). But again, Offit has little nutritional training as he touts the old-fashioned ideas and simplistic thinking he probably learned 20 or 30 years ago, seeing little beyond his myopic views (it’s ironic that he wears glasses, no?).

Please look at the vast amount of detail in this article on vitamin C, including numerous research citations and links, showing many additional benefits besides avoiding scurvy (these are all things Offit, O’Connor and the Frontline gang seem wholly ignorant of, and there are similar studies for most vitamins and minerals):

Offit and Frontline quickly move to his favorite (now debunked) citations (yes, those studies I mentioned previously: ATBC, CARET and SELECT) for some big claims of danger for vitamin E and antioxidants. This section started with a highly exaggerated vitamin E supplement with 1,000 IU, which is close to the maximum upper limit of around 1,500 IUs (remember, for media, the fringe and extreme prove the rule)!

I’ve never met anyone who takes a dose of vitamin E that high (common intakes are closer to 50-400 IUs)! But when theater, antics and ratings drive your decision-making, you do ridiculous crap like this and put it on TV! Then you tell us how dangerous it all is! It’s exactly the same way politicians operate.

I have to say this whole segment is just so specious! Frontline again highlights ridiculous, fringe situations (notice they never once mention how many people take 1,000 IUs of vitamin E or how many people have vitamin and mineral deficiencies, covered in many of my previous posts)! After that vitamin E comparison to 1,600-plus almonds, Offit confidently proclaims:

If you take large quantities of vitamin E as a supplement, you clearly and definitively increase your risk of prostate cancer.

Really Doc? Your proof is weak and deceptive. Remember those studies I’ve mentioned earlier, especially SELECT? If so, you should doubt his bold claims. And you would be right! His claims are misleading and deceptive (I still cringe when doctors over-simplify “vitamin E” because it’s actually a complex vitamin with 8 different forms, something any nutritionally-trained person should know and recognize)!

Remember my early information about independent replication? The SELECT study has never been replicated! Oops! Remember, single studies prove nothing! They are not broadly applicable beyond the specific subjects, ages, genders, study design, methods, analysis, and all the rest of those pesky details I covered earlier. He is again showing us how little science he really knows and understands. Exaggerating the findings from a single, biased, unreplicated study that used RR is what amateurs like O’Connor, Offit and Frontline do.

Can you see how untrustworthy Dr. Offit’s bold claims are? Notice too, he and the rest of this Frontline gang never once account for individual health needs or circumstances, just blanket supplement claims for everyone (because that’s how simplistic amateurs see the world, in black and white)!

Like many doctors, Offit consistently undercuts any claims that he is “scientific” or knowledgeable about supplements. Any trained nutritional person knows that individual circumstances need to be accounted for, based on variables like age, gender, activity levels, weight, stress levels, pregnancy, overall lifestyle, etc. (ask yourself if sedentary office workers have the exact same nutritional needs that runners, swimmers or professional sports players have)? Of course not! It’s absurd on its face!

And SELECT doesn’t prove Offit’s exaggerated claims at all! There are numerous studies showing important benefits for vitamin E, the ones he and Frontline never read or included in their fraudulent program!

Here are just a few quotes from that Dr. David Seres Debunked post I wrote last year debunking SELECT and vitamin E claims (see link below quote for full debunking post):

SELECT trial: more bad science

But there’s more! The original SELECT study on selenium and vitamin E has also been discredited for its obvious bias, poor methodology and exaggerated claims (remember that there are many other studies that show positive benefits for vitamin E, especially more balanced forms). And in SELECT, the actual risk of prostate was under 1%, but exaggerated with Relative Risk to pump up small findings into much larger numbers, common in drug and anti-supplement research. SELECT is a very similar situation to the smoker’s study I just debunked [ATBC].

For example, it’s known by many nutritional experts (unlike most doctors and researchers), that isolating nutrients like a vitamin or mineral and placing them in the role of a drug is often doomed to fail, especially with high-risk or sick patients. As I said above, nutrients work synergistically, with food, lifestyle and other factors. They don’t work well in isolation, something a proclaimed “nutrition expert” doesn’t know?

SELECT also used older males (some over 75), many were former smokers, the allowable PSA was high (healthy levels are 1-3 ng/mL), and the authors didn’t have good tracking of critical lifestyle confounders like diet, exercise, alcohol intake, genetics, etc., factors that are known to contribute to cancer development. Again, cancer is a multi-factorial, long-term disease, and prostate cancer is especially slow growing for most men (see link after SELECT links below).

This is also critical: various forms of nutrients also have differing bioavailability and effectiveness. Natural vitamin E has 8 different forms (something Dr. Seres never mentions and seems not to know or care about), similar to vitamin B and its multiple forms. The forms of vitamin E need to be ingested in relative balance, as a high dose of one form might compete with other forms or disrupt the efficacy of others (the alpha, delta and gamma forms of vitamin E are known to interact this way). Dosages can also be too high or too low (in SELECT, the synthetic alpha-tocopherol vitamin E dose was very high at 400 IU per day, normal intake is closer to 20-30 IU/day). These are but a few reasons why studies like SELECT, on high risk or sick people might seem to fail. 

Here are some additional links from my SELECT debunking from my post (many more in that post):

Vitamin E and Prostate Cancer study – Unnecesary Hype 

Remember my Primer with 5 points to design a supplement study to fail? I mentioned SELECT early on, because it includes all 5 of those worst practices, including RR to boost media coverage and exaggerated headlines. And SELECT was never replicated.

Offit and Frontline go on to claim that study after study shows problems for anti-oxidants, never offering a single-study reference, but I predict that they are the ones I already mentioned (ATBC, CARET and SELECT). Offit is providing us a steady-stream of misinformation, and Frontline is his chief enabler. I give this entire segment a top score of 10 points for offering up total BS and misinformation to the American public.

So Offit’s comparisons to large amounts of food are all removed from modern reality, with no references to decades of soil depletion, GMOs, processed foods, stress, the SAD, etc.

Then Frontline moves to the 2013 editorial that has also been debunked by many health experts, including by me, as the breathtaking bias and selective quoting and editing continues without end (see many links below).

An editorial becomes fact?

Findlay then quotes that nonsense 2013 editorial (merely an opinion piece) in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM), introducing it as “One of the worlds most important scientific journals.” It’s an embarrassing, drama-queen performance, as she reads the editorial’s conclusions as though it’s a replicated study (it’s clearly not), proclaiming that “The case is closed” and other drivel the editorial included about supplements’ having no benefits and might be harmful. Remember, science is a PROCESS; it’s ongoing. It’s a total falsehood to claim that the case is closed for any area of science or research, including supplements!

Findlay apparently doesn’t realize that the AIM, like JAMA are part of the AMA’s publishing empire, known for anti-supplement studies that consistently follow my 5 worst practices in their anti-supplement research! I doubt that she cares.

Findlay tells us about this editorial with her usual confidence and swag, offering us another mouthful of misinformation. That editorial was debunked by numerous health experts years ago, including me. The review was a bizarre mishmash of previous studies, mostly with older subjects, some with health problems and diseases, and often using cheap, synthetic vitamins (remember those 5 points I covered early on)? This kind of BS is exactly why I included those 5 points early on, so you could see how pervasive the anti-supplement, propaganda campaign is, working day and night. Even now, more bogus studies are being prepared, with their associated marketing campaigns in the works.

I won’t add quotes as this debunking is already so long, but here are several debunking links that easily pick apart the weak, biased studies used for the AIM editorial, riddled with the usual methodological errors and false claims.

Most of the studies used are ones I’ve already addressed and debunked before, and most had all of those 5 problems, but again, when you are as ignorant as the gang at Frontline, and you have no background in the field of nutrition, supplements, health or research, and you pick ratings over truth, you are easily swayed by pseudo-science and anti-supplement propaganda:

Multi Vitamins Worthless. Not So Fast. Case NOT Closed.

This link is more general, showing many of the same research tricks I covered earlier, but is even more detailed:

I also decided to add this comprehensive post, supported by 100 quotes and 200 source links. It exposes numerous myths and falsehoods that form the very foundation of modern medicine, including how little nutrition or prevention education most doctors receive, how few drugs and procedures are actually supported by evidence, and the long history of fraud and corruption in medicine: 

Offit and the Frontline gang should all be in jail at this point. I’ve documented and debunked the program to here and it’s clearly filled with pseudo-science, misinformation, bias, deception, and dishonest claims! Sadly, there is more to come. I already know there is more of the same incompetent, deceptive, dishonest, unprofessional nonsense ahead.

Vitamin D 

This segment showcases more bias, nutritional ignorance and misinformation. About 50% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D (with insufficiency adding additional cases), a vitamin that is not common in foods. Once again, Frontline omits that basic information as they go for the fringe, mega-dosages to exaggerate claims of danger, again showing how far the Frontline gang is willing to go to create a straw man they could then be shocked, shocked about!

Per the standard media script, they line up more critics who then lament the claimed dangers for the large dosages Frontline decided to showcase! See how that works? Clearly, Frontlne built these mega-dose antics with intent, continuing to showcase the fringe dosages while ignoring regular dosages and omitting any mention of deficiencies and the broader harm those cause (many studies demonstrate harms for vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency)!

And again, Frontline offers no numbers for people taking 4,000 IUs, no brands or websites mentioned for those higher dosages. Most doses for vitamin D3 are balanced by frequency of intake, another obvious omission from the Frontline gang. A dose of 1,000-2,000 IU is often a safe daily amount, but higher doses are usually recommended less frequently, such as weekly or monthly (again, Frontline ignores this practice).

So again, this segment is big on theater but offers little science, balance, fairness or accuracy. The segment continues the same antics and theatrics of the previous mega-dose segments in a very formulaic way. It’s consistently misleading and deceptive, skipping all coverage about common vitamin D deficiencies and what beneficial levels are. I always recommend that clients get a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test to find out their blood levels, and usually recommend 40-50 ng/mL.

Vitamin D is actually a pro-hormone (Frontline seems not to know this basic nutritional science). It has been researched hundreds of times, showing important benefits for immune function, inflammation, bone health, heart and circulatory health, disease prevention, hormone levels, gene function, etc. Frontline mentions not a single study for one of the most studies vitamins around!

Here is a link to the Vitamin D counsel for some details on upper limit:

This link to Pubmed has more than 250 studies for the search term: “vitamin D benefit human trials” (not one was mentioned in the Frontline segment):

Just for fun, here are several links to detailed articles I’ve written about vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, nutrients that overlap and work together (many anti-oxidants are vitamins and minerals), the benefits of which Frontline and their critics largely skipped over during their biased, deceptive program. I include common deficiencies, how they work together, and other details, things O’Connor and the show never addressed:

This link covers a post about how little education most doctors get for nutrition. It’s shocking, but also explains most doctor’s lack of nutritional and supplement knowledge and understanding, and includes some information about more biased, anti-supplement research: 

Fish oil Bias and deception

Here, Frontline starts with some comments from Adam Ismail of the GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA), but his comments are immediately challenged and cut short (cue Findlay and Preston Mason, a researcher who works for Amarin Pharmaceuticals), a company that makes a competing drug version of fish oil called Vascepa (of course, that conflict of interest was never disclosed by Frontline, and they defended his appearance in their response to that legitimate criticism).

In a well-staged segment, Mason has Findlay smell his fish oil and compare it to an unnamed supplement brand. Findlay goes right after the oxidation claim, largely exaggerated and debunked by actual human studies (see numerous links below).

The segment looks rehearsed as Findlay reacts, immediately claiming that the supplement smells like it’s going bad. They don’t tell us what brand the supplement is, how long it’s been around, when it was produced, or how it was handled (most fish oil companies know about these potential oxidation issues and have for a decade or more).

And I predict that Mason and Findlay already knew that the supplement fish oil was potentially oxidized or that it simply had a fishy smell. As I mentioned to Frontline and Getler (the Ombudsman for PBS), this is not a scientific way to predict quantitative levels of oxidation! Give me a break! It’s again, pure theater, planned, rehearsed and acted out!

Then more claims that oxidized fish oil is (shock) harmful, offering theories but no proof. Mason’s study (not a real study), appears to be just a paper presented at a symposium but never published in a journal: Analysis of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Dietary Supplements with Respect to Content: Are They Appropriate for Patients? The title doesn’t show up at Pubmed or on Google and doesn’t appear to be published at all. His study was tiny, based on just 6 fish oils (remember, he works for Amarin, a pharma fish-oil company). Again, Frontline omits all of these important details, conflicts of interest and deceives the public again! (again, see links below).

And get this, Amarin started a marketing campaign the day after the Frontline program ran, using Frontline and PBS in their marketing, indicating they had a “heads up” and insider information about the show’s supportive and positive segment for Mason, an even bigger conflict of interest. Here is a link to the initial marketing piece I saw on their site (click on PFD link): 

Amarin PBS pop-up PDF R

Frontline then goes to New Zealand (hint: A bogus, unreplicated study was published using some non-standard tests, and Frontline was excited to tell us all about the erroneous proclamation that 80% of samples were oxidized)! It’s dramatic, isn’t it? Of course, the details of how much oxidation the samples had was again omitted by Frontline (I predict that samples with even slight, harmless oxidation were included to reach that 80% number). We also don’t know what brands, how they were handled, when they were made, etc. So again, big theater and big, dramatic claims but no details, objective evidence or proof!

But here’s the real kicker: The unreplicated study was quickly debunked at the time! Once again, non-standard, unreliable tests were used to arrive at those ridiculous numbers. That crack team at Frontline never attempted to investigate or validate the testing used or the results claimed. Additional tests found high compliance levels for both labeling accuracy and oxidation levels in NZ and AU, which were within normal limits (again, see links below). 

BTW, an issue that can skew these types of tests is that some brands use citrus flavorings that can interfere with some types of testing. No surprise Frontline didn’t tell us any of these issues because the single tests Frontline uses throughout the show are consistently non-replicated, unproven or disproven by following the actual process of science I covered early on (again, can you see the deep, sweeping bias in every single segment, and their relentless agenda to attack supplements?): 

This article covers how flavored oils can skew test results for oxidation, giving false positives when there is potentially none:

And this detailed paper from the GOED covers the issues and claims about fish oil oxidation in detail (debunking Frontline’s and Mason’s claims):

Again, these scientific details and important nuances are consistently skipped, omitted and ignored by Frontline and their biased critics! Then Findlay questions the science behind fish oil by highlighting a Research Letter (not an actual study), by Andrew Gray in March of 2015 (remember my caveat about independent replication?). And here again, we have O’Connor’s work at play, titled: Fish Oil Claims Not Supported by Research in yet another overblown claim of his! Isn’t it exciting to be so influential? O’Connor’s bold claims about fish oil are again biased as his article claims:

But there is one big problem: The vast majority of clinical trials involving fish oil have found no evidence that it lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.

This claim is a total exaggeration and falsehood! O’Connor isn’t telling you about all the other studies that support fish oil’s cardiovascular benefits, such as lower BP, triglycerides and inflammation, see many links below! Here again, he seems not to grasp what I mentioned in my 5 worst practices, especially #2, basing anti-supplement studies on high-risk, elderly or sick patients and expecting a supplement like fish oil to work better than a drug and cure a long-established disease like heart disease in a short time (which again, no drugs cure either)! How absurd is all this?

Fish oil, like most supplements, is best for PREVENTION. See how the relentless bias and double standards play out in every segment and sub-section of this Frontline program, along with the rest of the biased, ignorant media?

Gray’s quasi-study was a kind of informal review of older studies and news reports (some going back a decade), and the studies had many differences in design, methods, dosages, time-frames and all those other things I’ve mentioned above. So making a mishmash of older studies and news reports emphasizing cardiovascular disease will often build in bias, poor design and non-credible conclusions (remember my early caveats about using supplements to treat long-term diseases for short periods?).

And it’s telling that O’Connor and Gray tied these boldly-proclaimed findings to increased sales of fish-oil supplements! That shows me there was an agenda at work. BTW, Gray is an Associate Professor in Auckland, NZ, and his specialty is metabolic bone diseases like osteoporosis. His jump to fish oil and heart disease is questionable at best, as he has little expertise in those areas. I see no real background in nutrition or supplements either.

This is a common pattern with how Frontline created their biased program where critics were consistently given a full voice, consistently unchallenged in their unfounded claims and attacks. No problem for O’Connor or Frontline though! If the study or critic attacks supplements, it must be right! That is literally how this absurd program was created.

God! This is where Findlay shows her true, amateur status as she reads from a few study abstracts for fish oil, all based on heart attacks and death (remember how I laid out the importance of all of the study elements and details, including design, methods, limitations, caveats and other information?).

I can’t stress it enough. Findlay is beyond naive and childish when she says, “The conclusions are the conclusions!” Remember, the abstract is used to sell the study to the media, to gain new journal subscriptions and sell article reprints (ever notice that journals want $50-$80 for a study reprint?). These revenue sources bring millions to journals annually!

I could go on for many pages but instead, I’m including a series of debunking links here:

Omega-3 Madness: Clarifying Recent Fish Oil “Research”

This link is to an article by Adam Ismail (he was quoted a few times in the program), called, What Frontline didn’t say about omega-3s, debunks what O’Connor and Frontline distorted and omitted. He cites numerous studies that show benefits for fish oil and he mentions that there are more than 1,150 studies that show health benefits (compare to the handful Gray and O’Connor relied on to make their bold claims):

This link brings up hundreds of human studies and benefits for fish oil:

This link has at least 20 study links that show both lower inflammation from fish oil, and a batch of studies that debunk the oxidation claims for fish oil (scroll down for both). Plus I included industry content and links about their manufacturing practices, testing, and standards, including oxidation prevention (largely shredding Frontline’s false proclamations):

More Peskin Fish Tales

This link includes information about fish oils and their ability to prevent angiogenesis, critical in keeping cancer growth and tumors at bay: 

The above links (I could literally put up dozens more) totally debunk O’Connor’s and Frontline’s pseudo-scientific claims for no benefits, oxidation dangers, while ignoring many proven benefits for fish oil. I can’t condemn Frontline enough for the corrupt, dishonest and fraudulent program they ran.

I had to skip some of Frontline’s endless bogus, false proclamations as it doesn’t ever stop and this post will never get finished.

Unproven DNA tests media hacks love

I’m finally up to that section of bogus, nonsense, DNA-herb testing that O’Connor was so excited to tell us about in 2013 (then picked up by the grandstanding AG of NY that herbs were adulterated or fake). The test used on finished products is inherently inaccurate and unreliable. The science of DNA barcode testing for supplements is in its infancy and the scientific studies and tools are years from being applicable!

No matter, Findlay rides high again, and again shows her substantial ignorance and lack of science savvy (in truth, she comes across like an 8-year-old child: naive and gullible, showing so little understanding about the real world of science, research, testing protocols, etc.) Again, we get big, bold claims based on using the wrong test methods and Frontline gets totally carried away (the overconfidence is again, cringe worthy)!

As this post is already so long, I’m going to add some quotes, links and some closing information about the unprofessional response from Getler and Frontline below the links.

Here are some quotes from 2013 when Newmaster did his first study, showing significant problems with the DNA technology (see link below). The first is from Kelly Reins, a VP from Alkemists Labs (see links below for full details):

Currently, the DNA methods are not robust,” said Reins. “There are no formal validation protocols for the equipment being used. I spoke at length with several equipment manufacturers and they stated the instruments cannot be validated/qualified and they are meant for R&D use only at this time.

Since there are no standards for authentication of herbal products this is interesting science at best,” she added. “Years of research and cross functional involvement are needed before this approach can be considered scientifically valid. Unfortunately this article has been spun in the industry and for those lacking a clear understanding of DNA testing weakness they now have a fear factor based on an incomplete picture.

Once again, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Mark Blumenthal, Executive Director and Founder of the American Botanical Council said this (again, see source links in link below for full details):

DNA-based analysis is not appropriate when used in some of the ways that the authors appear to have done so, i.e., when trying to use DNA to determine the identity of commercial herb products that may contain plant extracts. It is not clear from the DNA paper whether some of the commercial herb capsules analyzed by the Canadian researchers contained dried powdered herb extracts or not. If they did, then DNA sequencing would not reveal the identity of the labeled plant extract, and might provide confusing results based on other excipient [an inert substance added for taste, consistency, etc.] and ‘filler’ ingredients, or contamination with other DNA that also may be in the capsule.

The link with those quotes is an article I wrote in late 2013, after the media went wild for several biased, bogus anti-supplement stories during the November Sweeps (an all-too common practice). Feel free to review them all, the process is unchanged (and O’Connor wrote some of those stories I debunked: 

Just for fun, this link also shows how ignorant media and biased researchers are, done during the July sweeps in 2013, showing how the claims for fish oil and cancer from that same SELECT trial are a total fraud, nevertheless reported breathlessly by mass-media hacks around the U.S.: 

Findlay started her biased, misleading presentation right at the start, claiming Newmaster tested 44 samples (BTW, these supplement were mostly from from Canada, and once again, we don’t know any brand names, details, or which supplements came from the U.S.).

O’Connor took up the charge in November, 2013, writing a classic, overblown, ignorant and biased article, laced with negativity. As usual, it was long on theatrics and short on details or science. I predict that O’Connor, like Findlay, has little or no grasp of how complex this unproven science is, or what’s required before it’s reliable for finished products (it will be many years before this method will work for finished products).

Newmaster bought various supplements but not 44 different herbs, because multiple samples were bought for each. I predict Findlay wanted to pump up the numbers again. Some common herbs were: Echinacea, St. John’s Wort, Gingo Baloba, Cohosh, Yarrow, Cinnamon, Walnut, Celery, Oregano, etc. Representing 12 companies.

These links from more than 2 years ago, show that industry experts initially debunked the use of DNA barcode testing because it was (and is), an unproven method in it’s infancy:

Unfortunately, the AG of NY read O’Connor’s biased, misinformed, junk article and that’s what precipitated his sting in February, 2015, also coordinated and reported by O’Connor in the NY Times. The AG’s sting on a handful of herbs triggered an even stronger industry response. Here are numerous debunking links for how poorly the AG handled the situation:

New link to article on new AG agreement showing both GNC and Walmart passed their approved QC testing for their herb products (the media never reports these updates):

This link describes the common use of excipients for supplements and drugs, and why the tests were also misleading because of these added ingredients:

Here is a detailed complaint sent to Margaret Sullivan, the NY Times Ombudsman and Public Editor from the Jarrow supplement company. It debunks O’Conor’s biased work on the 2015, AG’s herb sting (note, the NY times never responded):

The whitewash

Within days of the program, I began to send messages to Frontline. Initially, they gave me a polite, largely boiler-plate response (all of the detailed issues I raised about their staggering bias, manipulation and deception were ignored in that message, which ran about 6 paragraphs)! I replied to their largely boiler plate response (we value your feedback nonsense) and added some new details and links. They never responded. Transparency? Accountability? Fairness? It’s a joke!

I then found the PBS Ombudsman. He has his own site, which claims:

As ombudsman, Getler serves as an independent internal critic within PBS, receiving and dealing with commentary and criticism from viewers and seeking to ensure that PBS upholds its own standards of editorial integrity.

PBS has lengthy standards for things like fairness, honesty, transparency, accuracy, integrity and objectivity. I bet you agree with me that this highly biased, misleading, deceptive show failed to meet any of those basic standards.

So when I first sent a message to Getler on January 22 (raising several important issues again), I hoped he would provide an objective, fair and accurate investigation into the show. Apparently, many other complaints had reached him (I found out later in his report posted February 4, 2016). Alas, he was unmoved and actually helped to support and cheer-lead for the show’s biased and false claims. I ended up sending 4-5 messages total.

Getler never responded to my complaints directly, and at one point, sent me a link to an auto magazine test drive report for a Mercedes. Apparently, Getler is pondering a new car or helping a friend explore that new Mercedes? Talk about tacky! All he said was that it sent by mistake. Duh!

Getler’s report was weak, offering little indication that he was there to uphold high standards for journalism at PBS. After offering an initial summary of the show, including some of its overall claims, such as supplements don’t get any FDA review (we know that’s false), his initial comments stated:

I should say at the outset that I am not one of the critics. I felt this was a valuable and cautionary presentation and public service; better to know than not to know and that-in the absence of regulation-common sense, consumer diligence and your doctor’s advice is a reasonable way to proceed. I do feel, however, that, given the enormity of routine use of vitamins and supplements by perhaps 100 million or more Americans-and the degree of mistrust by many of the pharmaceutical industry-greater context should have been provided that made clear that, despite some serious examples of bad outcomes on the program, this is not a public health calamity.

It seems, like most in the media, he has so little background in science, research, FDA regulations or the supplement industry, including the other areas I debunked, that he is not a critic of the show (because he is so blind to the truth). He ignorantly repeats the same falsehood showcased throughout the show about an “absence of regulation” and that we should see our doctor for advice. But we know that the FDA does regulate supplements and that they are generally derived from food or plant sources, something most doctors get no significant training in.

For him to say we should seek a doctor’s advice is misguided and in fact, he had no business offering it! Getler happily shows his industry ignorance again; he is a part of the same biased system, not an objective observer of it! He was mostly concerned that the show lacked context but little more. Do you agree after seeing all of the major mistakes, constant manipulation and non-stop bias that it was only a matter of context?

He then goes on to criticize Dr. Mercola, who wrote an insightful, at times critical article about the program (and rightfully so). Getler highlighted Mercola’s status as a DO (many ER docs are also DOs), and criticized Mercola’s article and claims ( Mercola made many legitimate points in his detailed, debunking article which like my points, Frontline and Getler largely ignored). Talk about bold and arrogant! See the sheepish defense of the program from the so-called watchdog again?

Getler does include a few critical letters in his report, but offered little in response. He turned the main comments and defense back over to Frontline! And shock, Frontline mostly re-stated many of the program’s well-worn talking points, heard throughout the show. Here is their initial response (see if you heard these throughout the program or my debunking):

Millions of Americans use health supplements every day and swear by the benefits. Our documentary, Supplements and Safety, takes a hard look at this multi-billion dollar industry – specifically examining the risks and consequences associated with supplements’ limited regulation and oversight. It was done in partnership with The New York Times and the CBC news program, Fifth Estate.

Early in the film, the acting FDA commissioner offers this warning: “The FDA does not do any review of dietary supplements before they come to market, and I think that all consumers need to understand this.” With this lack of regulation as the backdrop, the film reported on cases of contamination and serious health problems, and the many credible calls for more rigorous testing and standards on what is actually in supplements, and how they are labeled and advertised. It also examined the health risks associated with taking high doses of vitamins, heavily marketed by the industry and its gurus but contested by many doctors.

Following the broadcast we heard from viewers thanking us for focusing on this aspect of the industry; many told us they were taking steps to get more information about the supplements they take. As expected, we also received criticisms, much of it either referring to or repeating a critique from Dr. Joseph Mercola, a popular supplement advocate and retailer, who would not speak to our reporters and producers.

See the, “aren’t we awesome” perspective? And see the same talking points and hot-button themes used in the show? Remember, I offered to send Getler and Frontline 20 pages of debunking material, along with numerous debunking links. Not interested and never asked for.

Then Frontline also goes after Mercola, to attack someone who called out their bias and erroneous claims (sorry, but attacking critics who offer legitimate criticisms is immature and trashy)! My favorite part of the Frontline response was to claim that they used a group of experts (we know all about their “expert status” above as most are clearly regulatory and supplement-industry amateurs! Frontline’s cringe-worthy response continued:

A few critics took another equally dubious tact: suggesting the film was produced by a bunch of “amateurs” who know nothing about nutrition or science. Our team included a veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker and a New York Times science writer [yep, O’Connor] who has covered the field for years. And the film relied on the work of public health officials, voices from the industry itself, and numerous bona fide scientists, most considered leading experts in their field, as well as peer-reviewed studies in publications such as the “Annals of Internal Medicine,” “The New England Journal of Medicine,” “The British Journal of Medicine” and others.

While three of the most celebrated names in supplements, including Dr. Mercola, would not speak to us, the critics went on to attack those who did participate in the film. Dr. Paul Offit, author of the book on supplements, “Do you Believe in Magic,” was dismissed as in the pocket of Big Pharma (just like FRONTLINE). And Dr. Preston Mason, Ph.D., whose study on over the counter fish oil was cited in the film, was accused of having a conflict of interest – which we think he is on very solid ground rejecting. His study showed that some fish oil was oxidized, very much in line with other peer-reviewed, published studies. These are ad hominem attacks, and suffice to say, we feel these experts have a valid and important place in the story.

This is so pathetic! Do you see how shallow and manipulative the unnamed Frontline gang is? Like the wizard behind the curtain, we know that the show’s so-called experts are nothing of the kind, yet they dominated throughout the program. The Frontline gang puts on some good swag but again shows that they have no real understanding of these so-called experts’ actual backgrounds!

Most are all well-known, long established, supplement critics, consistently biased and unbalanced in their views and comments. They mostly presented their well-worn, political talking points, one’s I’ve heard for many years and one’s that permeated the program. Naive Getler also found the talking points and false claims convincing (especially the bogus claim of no regulation). The debunking above exposes their consistent bias, ignorance and exaggeration.

Frontline’s swag about medical journals exposes their sweeping ignorance of the field again. All of those studies held up with such pride have been debunked for many years and throughout this post! Frontline’s response amounts to little more grandstanding and name-dropping, all to skillfully avoid any real accountability.

Their claim of using bona fide scientists is equally laughable and bogus. I clearly exposed the constant bias, research ignorance and erroneous claims of Offit, Cohen, Mason, Baker, Newmaster, the AG of NY, etc., including O’Oonnor as the “science” writer with no related or credible science background or training.

Getler and Frontline’s tactic is to create a smokescreen: We used these awesome people so the program must be true! Their overall response supports what I’ve I said throughout this debunking: They are scientifically ignorant, with no credible FDA or industry knowledge or expertise whatsoever! They can’t address or rebut a single criticism or debunking with actual science, detail or credible expertise. Getler and Frontline simply dismiss the criticisms and the never really address them fairly, resorting to attacking me in several places (not by name) and Dr. Mercola.

In short, Getler and Frontline made no attempt to see beyond their small, narrow, ignorant world view, attempting to cover-up what is one of the most biased, slanted, dishonest and fraudulent shows I’ve ever seen. Hence, we have the Frontline Scandal!

Here are some additional debunking articles for the entire show:

Closing thoughts

The Frontline anti-supplement program is by far, the most breathtaking example of bias, deception and dishonesty I’ve ever seen. It should never have been run, and must be retracted, along with a public apology issued around the globe, outlining the show’s numerous errors, manipulations and mistakes. People should boycott Frontline and PBS and stop giving them money. Enabling Frontline and PBS will only continue this kind of misleading, dishonest programming. 

The whitewash of the programs major flaws and false claims only worsened what was an unacceptable production. Getler had a chance to right the wrongs of the show, but chose to ignore and dismiss my offer of debunking information, along with sending the names of 5- industry experts:

1. Adam Ismail of GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA), partially interviewed for the show)
2. Dan Fabricant of the NPA (Natural Products Association, and former FDA Dietary Supplement Programs Director), also in several segments
3. Duffy McKay or Steve Mister of the CRN (Council for Responsible Nutrition)
4. Mark Blumethal of the ABC (American Botanical Council)
5. Michael McGuffin of the AHPA (American Herbal Products Association)

The show consistently presented the following qualities:

Relentless bias

As a result, I hereby induct the following names into my Hall of Shame, where the worst of the worst are placed:

Michael Getler
Anahad O’Connor
Dr. Paul Offit
Dr. Pieter Cohen
Dr. Baker
Dr. Preston Mason
Dr. Newmaster
Gillian Findlay, and everyone else who contributed to the most biased program I ever saw!

NOTE: If I have any updates, I’ll include them here:

2/26/16: Although I didn’t include this info in the initial post, I also contacted the CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) Ombudsman, named Milton Coleman. I waited longer because he was newly appointed last year. I sent him many of the same messages I sent to Getler, the PBS Ombudsman (5 total) and I outlined many of the serious issues in this article.

Coleman never once responded nor has he issued any kind of report. It’s been more than a month since I first contacted him and his last report goes all the way back to December 22, 2015! It’s quite the job when you are essentially off for over 2 months! So I condemn him as well for being so unresponsive to the serious issues of dishonesty, deception and fraud included in this article.

Meanwhile, the deceptive and dishonest Frontline report has spread like a cancer, as more websites repeat the show’s false claims: “Supplements are unregulated,” “Supplements are dangerous,” and “Supplements are a scam,” as the fraudulent report’s false claims spread ever wider.

This is a true atrocity for any network, let alone one that receives public tax dollars. No matter, honesty and integrity have been blocked at every turn (Frontline even refused to approve a short comment I made about the thousands of studies that support the effectiveness of supplements and I included the title of this article). Still, the fraud, repression of truth and the dishonesty grows as PBS and the CPB sweep the entire deception under the rug. No one should give PBS another penny until they address this dereliction properly.

© 2016 by Steve Carney/End Sickness Now


kai janney February 11, 2016 at 12:48 AM

I emailed this post to all my friends! I hope they read it.

modesto February 11, 2016 at 12:54 PM

Good article. I know about many of these supplement issues as well…

aiden February 11, 2016 at 3:31 PM

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Again, awesome site!

Steven Carney February 11, 2016 at 6:14 PM

In truth, I haven’t worked with outside writers. So few people have enough background. Plus, I require that many supporting studies and experts are used, which many bloggers skip. what subjects do you have expertise in?

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I am really impressed with your writing and the structure on your blog. Was this a paid topic or did you compose it all yourself? Keep up the quality writing and great detail…

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cleo February 14, 2016 at 2:58 PM

Thank you a lot for sharing this with everyone. You actually know what
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Steven Carney February 14, 2016 at 3:22 PM

I do get asked about links sometimes, but I don’t really have a spot to put them! I also tend to avoid links to any products, that way, I remain an informational site only (no government regulation if I don’t sell or endorse any products).

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carey February 15, 2016 at 10:03 PM

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Nadia February 16, 2016 at 11:09 AM

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christie February 16, 2016 at 8:00 PM

I really think this article will make everyone think hard about Frontline. Also, thanks for allowing comments!

merle February 17, 2016 at 7:28 AM

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