Good science always generates more questions than it answers. That is part of its charm. The problems arise when leaders in science fail to fully reckon with the pressing questions of the day.
I believe this is very much the case in holistic health care. How can it be that in a time when untold numbers are experimenting with diets, botanical medicines, nutraceuticals, and therapies from ethnic medical traditions, that the biomedical research establishment has so little to offer in the way of guidance?
A strong case in point is supplement use in children, the subject of a special report in this issue. We who grew up during or after the baby boom were taught as children to "take our vitamins," and since then, childhood use of supplements has exploded. It comes as a shock, then, to find out there is so little consensus among our national institutes and leading academic medical centers regarding the nutritional needs of the nation's children.
The same holds for popular diet regimens. The "Blood Type" diets, explored on page 6, are perhaps the most recent to grab headlines. But many of these approaches, like the Atkins' regimen, have been around for decades and tried by millions. How is it that none of them have ever been seriously studied beyond the work of their founders?
Of course there are methodologic issues: complex holistic approaches do not fit neatly into the research protocols developed to test pharmaceuticals. And as is clear in UCSF's study of Tibetan medicine for breast cancer (page 11), a trial design that is not in accord with the principles being tested will have limited practical utility.
But sending men to the moon surely had its methodologic challenges, and in an era when the best scientific minds are rapidly untwining the very code of life, it seems suspicious that science has so little to say on such basic questions as what to eat, and how people can best take care of themselves. It begs the question of "Why?" I welcome your thoughts on the subject.
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Erik L. Goldman
Editor in Chief