November 2002    Vol. 1   No. 11

The American Heart Association Continues to Harm the Public

Thanks to your help, the editor of the official American Heart Association journal, Circulation, published my second letter to the Nutrition Committee in the November 12, 2002 issue of the journal  – rather than bury it in the internet on-line correspondence section of the journal as they had originally planned, where no one would see it. Unfortunately, they were not willing to make Barbara Howard PhD, the spokesperson for the American Heart Association Science Advisory Committee, answer my questions and tell the truth.  See the August 2002 Newsletter for a complete chronicle of letters and events leading up to this one.

After reading the letter that follows that I wrote, you should come to the conclusion that I left her no way out.  So I thought.  But by using a writing style that I described to the editor as overabundant verbiage diluting the issue for the casual reader to a level of "politically correct confusion," she was able to avoid answering my specific question --  and as a result, correcting a wrong that has the potential to harm millions of people.  Egos can be powerful and dangerous human flaws.

My Letter:

Here is my letter that appeared in the November 12, 2002 issue of the journal and a summary of her response:

Misinformation on Plant Proteins

(Printed in the November 12, 2002 issue of Circulation – Volume 106, page e148.)

To the Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart Association

Dear Sirs:

The June 25, 2002 issue of the journal Circulation (105:197) printed a letter of mine in which I corrected a statement made by the Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart Association (Circulation 104:1869-74, 2001).   This report states, “Although plant proteins form a large part of the human diet, most are deficient in 1 or more essential amino acids and are therefore regarded as incomplete proteins.”  This statement is not correct, as I have clearly shown in my letter.

Accompanying my letter was a response from Barbara Howard, PhD, who I assume represents the Nutrition Committee.  Her letter was confusing and undocumented by a single scientific citation.  However, rather than admit the Committee’s report was in error, she reaffirmed their previous position by writing “…we did carefully state that ‘most’ are deficient in one or more essential amino acids…”

Failure to resolve the truth about the adequacy of plant proteins threatens the health of millions of people seeking better guidance for proper nutrition; therefore, my efforts will not be dismissed with a careless response from the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association.  Please grant me the courtesy of a professional and honest answer by either:

1)  Showing me that I am incorrect by citing scientific research that contradicts my position and the studies I have provided.  These scientific papers accompanying my letter represent the original experiments performed to determine human protein needs.  I will not accept someone else’s professional opinion on this issue – because, as you know, even the “best experts” can be wrong.  Show me the basic research -- as I have done for you.

2) Admitting the article by the Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart Association contains incorrect information concerning the adequacy of plant proteins (Circulation 104:1869-74, 2001).  And giving this matter the serious, open attention it deserves.

Nutrition Committee Response:

I do not have permission to print her response but here is a summary:

1)  The AHA is not opposed to vegetarian diets

2)  More research needs to be done (so how can she make her claims?)

3)  She cites three recent research papers that she must have failed to read, because they all support my position that single sources of plant proteins are complete proteins:

Young VR.  Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1994 May;59(5 Suppl):1203S-1212S.

Millward DJ . Human adult amino acid requirements: [1-13C]leucine balance evaluation of the efficiency of utilization and apparent requirements for wheat protein and lysine compared with those for milk protein in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jul;72(1):112-21.

Free access at:

Millward DJ.  The nutritional value of plant-based diets in relation to human amino acid and protein requirements.  Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 May;58(2):249-60.

The concluding sentences of Millward’s paper state, “However, whatever the inadequacies of such diets (vegetarian diets), amino acid supply should not be used as the argument to promote increased intake of animal foods.  Calls for lysine fortification and increased animal production to specifically supply more animal protein are certainly unjustified.”

4)  She failed to cite any research that shows a single source of plant proteins fail to supply all of our essential amino acids.  How much more plain can I ask her in the above letter?  Tell me I’m wrong or admit that you are.

5) She writes in her letter that animal proteins are necessary to obtain calcium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.  This statement is completely false.  Any dietitian stating otherwise should be stripped of his/her license.

6)  She states “…it is possible to achieve adequate nutrition on a vegetarian diet, but it requires careful planning to include plant sources that provide adequate amounts of all amino acids and the above listed micronutrients…”  This statement reaffirms her original position that because plant sources are inadequate, you had better be careful if you want to be vegetarian – because you can only safely meet your nutritional needs if you are an expert in dietetics.

So What’s Next?

Barbara Howard obviously lacks the integrity to correct her mistake.  She leaves me little choice but to pursue these matters by other means.  I have already informed the editor of the journal Circulation, James T. Willerson, MD, in a letter that, “Barbara Howard's handling of this matter should call into question her competence to head the AHA Nutrition Committee.”  She should be fired.

I have consulted with an attorney and I am pursuing any legal avenues that might be open to me in order to bring the truth to the public.  The American Heart Association has a moral, if not a legal, obligation to properly represent the health interests of the American public – and in this mater of human nutrition they have failed us.

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