Synopses & Reviews
Medical expert and health advocate Dr. Paul A. Offit offers an impassioned and meticulously researched exposé of the alternative medicine industry.
A half century ago, acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, Chinese herbs, Christian exorcisms, dietary supplements, chiropractic manipulations, and ayurvedic remedies were considered on the fringe of medicine. Now these practices—known variably as alternative, complementary, holistic, or integrative medicine—have become mainstream, used by half of all Americans today seeking to burn fat, detoxify livers, shrink prostates, alleviate colds, stimulate brains, boost energy, reduce stress, enhance immunity, eliminate pain, prevent cancer, and enliven sex.
But as Offit reveals, alternative medicine—an unregulated industry under no legal obligation to prove its claims or admit its risks—can actually be harmful to our health. Even though some popular therapies are remarkably helpful due to the placebo response, many of them are ineffective, expensive, and even deadly. In Do You Believe in Magic? he explains how
- megavitamins increase the risk of cancer and heart disease—a fact well known to scientists but virtually unknown to the public;
- dietary supplements have caused uncontrolled bleeding, heart failure, hallucinations, arrhythmias, seizures, coma, and death;
- acupuncture needles have pierced hearts, lungs, and livers, and transmitted viruses, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV;
- chiropractic manipulations have torn arteries.
Dr. Offit debunks the treatments that don't work and explains why. He also takes on the media celebrities who promote alternative medicine, including Mehmet Oz, Suzanne Somers, and Jenny McCarthy. Using dramatic real-life stories, he separates the sense from the nonsense, showing why any therapy—alternative or traditional—should be scrutinized. As he advises us, "There's no such thing as alternative medicine. There's only medicine that works and medicine that doesn't."
"According to infectious disease specialist Offit (Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure), half of Americans believe in the 'magic' of alternative medicine, fueling a billion-a-year business that offers treatments that are at best placebos, and at worst deadly. He blasts untested, unregulated, overhyped remedies like anti-autism creams and bogus cancer cures using 'antineoplastons' and dares to berate celebs like 'America's Doctor,' Mehmet Oz, who 'believes that modern medicine isn't to be trusted'; alternative treatment superstars Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra, proponents of the natural world and wisdom of the ancients; and former Three's Company star Suzanne Somers, who crusades for unproven menopause treatments, including her daunting regimen of 'bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.' 'There's a name for alternative medicines that work,' one McGill professor notes: 'It's called medicine.' Offit insists that 'making decisions about our health is an awesome responsibility. If we're going to do it, we need to take it seriously.' With a fascinating history of hucksters, and a critical chronology of how supplements escaped regulation, Offit cautions consumers not to 'give alternative medicine a free pass because we're fed up with conventional medicine.' His is a bravely unsentimental and dutifully researched guide for consumers to distinguish between quacks and a cure. Agent: Gail Ross, the Ross Yoon Agency. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Offit is a rare combination of scientist, doctor, communicator and advocate. . . . What is needed is more people like [him] willing to engage the skeptics in a debate that just will not go away.” < i=""> Financial Times <> , on < i=""> Deadly Choices <>
“Few scientists are willing to touch this third rail of science publicity; Offit grabs it with two hands.” < i=""> Newsweek <> , on < i=""> Autism's False Prophets <>
“An invaluable chronicle that relates some of the many ways in which the vulnerabilities of anxious parents have been exploited.” < i=""> Wall Street Journal <> , on < i=""> Autism's False Prophets <>
“A fascinating history of hucksters, and a critical chronology of how supplements escaped regulation. . . . A bravely unsentimental and dutifully researched guide for consumers to distinguish between quacks and a cure.” < i=""> Publishers Weekly <> (starred review)
“A rousing good read, strong on human interest and filled with appalling and amazing data.” < i=""> Kirkus Reviews <> (starred review)
“Offit is a wonderful storyteller who makes his message come alive. Each chapter is a story that grabs the readers interest and holds it.” < i=""> Skeptical Inquirer <>
“This excellent, easy-to-read look at the alternative-medicine industry is highly recommended.” < i=""> Library Journal <> (starred review)
“Do You Believe in Magic? is a briskly written, entertaining, and well-researched examination of those whom Offit considers ‘unclothed emperors: purveyors of miracle cancer cures, fountains of youth, and the theory that vaccines cause autism.” < i=""> Boston Globe <>
“Convincing.” < i=""> Forbes <>
“Over the last decade [Offit] has become a leading debunker of mass misconceptions surrounding infections and vaccines, and now he is taking on the entire field of alternative medicine, from acupuncture to vitamins.” < i=""> New York Times <>
“Lively. . . . Informative and well-written, the book deserves a wide audience among the general public, scientists, and health care professionals.” < i=""> Science <>
“Important and timely . . . Offit writes in a lucid and flowing style, and grounds a wealth of information within forceful and vivid narratives. This makes his argument - that we should be guided by science - accessible to a wide audience.” < i=""> New Republic <>
In Do You Believe in Magic?, medical expert Paul A. Offit, M.D., offers a scathing exposé of the alternative medicine industry, revealing how even though some popular therapies are remarkably helpful due to the placebo response, many of them are ineffective, expensive, and even deadly.
Dr. Offit reveals how alternative medicine—an unregulated industry under no legal obligation to prove its claims or admit its risks—can actually be harmful to our health.
Using dramatic real-life stories, Offit separates the sense from the nonsense, showing why any therapy—alternative or traditional—should be scrutinized. He also shows how some nontraditional methods can do a great deal of good, in some cases exceeding therapies offered by conventional practitioners.
An outspoken advocate for science-based health advocacy who is not afraid to take on media celebrities who promote alternative practices, Dr. Offit advises, “Theres no such thing as alternative medicine. Theres only medicine that works and medicine that doesnt.”
About the Author
Paul A. Offit, MD, is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as the acclaimed author of Autism's False Prophets, Vaccinated, and Deadly Choices.