At the same time, in April 1992, Time Magazine, one of the journals with the greatest impact on public opinion in the US, published the title story ‘The Real Power of Vitamins – New Research Shows They May Help Fight Cancer, Heart Disease and the Ravages of Aging.’ This lead story of Time Magazine signified a turnaround in the anti-vitamin position upheld for almost a century by mainstream media influenced by pharmaceutical interests. But the US media were not the only ones reacting to this scientific breakthrough. Here are some reactions by international organizations – starting the very same year, 1992: In spring of this year, the government of Canada, together with few other organizations, launched an international project called ‘Micronutrient Initiative.’ It was later joined by UNICEF and other international organizations and became known as the ‘Vitamin Mineral Deficiency’ Initiative. In December 1992, the World Health Organization and the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) held an International conference in Rome and issued a comprehensive ‘World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition.’ In 2009, the WHO published a ‘United Call to Action on Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies’. In 2015, the US National Institutes of Health published a document entitled ‘The epidemiology of global micronutrient deficiencies’ recommending that ‘multidimensional, coordinated, and sustainable strategies are needed to combat micronutrient deficiencies’. You can get full access to these documents, too, via the website of our foundation. Over the past three decades, similar national programs to combat micronutrient deficiencies were announced in many countries. It is, however, noteworthy that none of such international programs to combat the global epidemic of vitamin deficiencies had been launched prior to the publication of our scientific discoveries on the role of micronutrients in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
In the early 1990s, the desire of tens of millions of people in the US to take full advantage of this new health information on the natural prevention of cardiovascular disease reached the level of the US government. Little more than two years after the publication of these breakthrough discoveries, US Congress unanimously passed the ‘Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA)’ of August 1994. This federal act lifted a century-old legal ban that largely blocked the dissemination of the health benefits of vitamins and other natural therapies. This ban had been imposed by the political stakeholders of the pharmaceutical investment business to protect its monopoly on human health with patented drugs. This US legislation, also known as the ‘Vitamin Freedom Act,’ allowed for the first time scientifically proven health information in relation to vitamins and other natural therapies to be freely published. The decades-long censorship on the health benefits of vitamins and other natural therapies had been broken. Significantly, this new legislation triggered an explosion of micronutrient research at universities and research centers around the world over the following decades.
In 2004, UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, joined by other international organizations, took their global ‘Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency Initiative (VMD)’ to a new level. They drew attention to the fact that one-third of the world’s population – at that time more than two billion people – suffered from chronic micronutrient and mineral deficiencies. These deficiencies, the VMD policy paper notes, sentenced hundreds of millions of children, especially in developing countries, to grow up with preventable physical and mental deficiencies, many of which would cripple them for life.
This call was heard across the globe. On September 3, 2004, the Chinese government issued an official response to this initiative entitled ‘Vitamins and minerals for children fortifies economic development in China,’ predicting that “The protection of 250 million people in China from ‘hidden hunger’ could boost the Chinese gross domestic product by USD 86 billion over 10 years.” The joint press statement by the Chinese Ministry of Health and UNICEF further read: ‘China’s massive drive to reduce the damage done by vitamin and mineral deficiency, particularly to children, is paying rich dividends for its economy. Food fortification is an internationally recognized means of bringing vitamins and minerals to the majority of a country’s population. In poor communities, providing supplements via low-cost vitamin and mineral capsules, syrups or tablets can be a critical tool to bring down child mortality and improve quality of life for millions.’ In retrospect, these public health strategies announced in 2004 sound like a prophecy about China’s economic development over the forthcoming decades.
The global call to fight the so-called ‘hidden hunger’ – that is, vitamin and mineral deficiency – was also heard in the developing world. A policy paper developed specifically for the countries of sub-Saharan Africa was entitled ‘A Partnership Drive to End Hidden Hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa.’ The title page emphasized: “Vitamin and mineral deficiency affect a third of Sub-Saharan Africa’s people—affecting minds, bodies, energies, and the economic prospects of nations.” Unfortunately, in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions, these well-founded health initiatives were soon abandoned due to a lack of funding and other constraints. In many cases, the logical approach to providing basic health to millions of people through effective, safe, and affordable vitamins and micronutrients was sacrificed under the growing influence of the multi-billion-dollar interests of the pharmaceutical export business with patented drugs.