Please allow me to set a few things straight about your cover story on the Life Extension Foundation ("Weird Science," Michael Freedman, July 23). True, there are a few professions that can lend themselves to caricature and ridicule, and I suppose a vitamin company is up there among the best, perhaps along with ink-stained Woodstein wannabes at provincial alternative tabloids. What can't be ridiculed is the reason nontraditional medicine today is a $12 billion (and counting) business. Organizations and companies like Life Extension, GNC, Bread of Life, Jarrow, and Twinlab speak to some of people's most basic desires: to keep oneself healthy and vital, and to learn enough to take part in one's own medical decisions.
This, along with a growing unrest over the state of traditional health care, forced legislation permitting the proliferation of vitamins and nutrient supplements you see in every drug store today. It also is what prompted physician-subscribers to the Journal of The American Medical Association to cite alternative medicine as their second-most requested topic of interest in 1998.
Your story indulged in dismissing some of the more colorful personalities associated with the Foundation. However, I didn't see any reference to the Foundation's scientific advisors, which include physician-researchers from the National Institutes of Health, McGill University, the University of California, the University of Nebraska, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, UCLA, and the University of Wisconsin. These scientists don't think the Foundation is about "weird science"; they are invaluable contributors to, and beneficiaries of, the Foundation and its publications, including Life Extension magazine.
Not content with errors of omission, your writer wrongly reported that Life Extension publishes information about health, medicine, and nutrition that cannot be verified by consumers. In fact, Life Extension publications are laden with specific references to mainstream, peer-reviewed medical journals, and the science behind articles. The editorial approach of Life Extension is one of "but don't take our word... check out the sources yourself." And that's exactly what our rapidly growing number of members and subscribers do.
Intent on ridicule, your writer prompted negative comments from a health care fraud spokesperson about no apparent source references to a Foundation advisory on AIDS and HIV included in a Foundation-published book. If the writer had chosen, he might have referred the spokesperson to the 220 pages of references printed in the back of the book.
But I'm being unfair. I'm convinced that New Times -- surely a publication that is worth every cent you charge at the newsstand -- can find plenty of things to smear without deliberately misleading a source with incomplete information.
Christopher Hosford, Editor
Life Extension Magazine
Michael Freedman responds: While I saw no reason to list each of the ten members of the Life Extension Foundation's scientific advisory board along with job descriptions, I noted in the story that donations to the Life Extension Foundation (LEF) are used to fund antiaging research conducted by such established scientists as Dr. Roy Walford, a pathologist at the University of California in Los Angeles.
As stated in both the letter and the story, it is true that LEF publications are extensively referenced. In fact, the health expert referred to in the letter, who personally reviewed several issues of Life Extension magazine and one of LEF's books before commenting, also noticed the references. She also noted, however, that without footnotes or some other form of specific attribution within the text of LEF's medical literature, it would make it difficult, if not impossible, to verify any of the health claims that are made.
Web Designing to the Beat of His Own Drum
Being the mother that I am (you may take that literally or figuratively -- your choice), I was delighted with Rich Shea's article on my son Zach Ziskin, and his band, Passion Seeds ("Growing Pains," July 16). I was, however (here's where the mother part comes in), sorry that during the interview we failed to mention the enormous Internet contribution made to the "cause" by the group's incredible drummer, Scott Graubart. Not only is Scott a great musician and possibly the most "together" 21-year-old on the planet, he's also a major computer maven. His design and Web-mastering of the Passion Seeds' Website -- at his own expense I might add -- has been a major factor in helping build the band's recognition. I just wanted to give credit where it's due.