New AMA Statement on PCRM and Good Nutrition
In the early 1990s, the American Medical Association was critical of vegetarian diets and of PCRM’s nutritional advocacy. But in February of 2004, the AMA released a new statement saying that those past criticisms do not reflect current AMA policies.
Back in April of 1991, PCRM held a press conference featuring Denis Burkitt, M.D., who was well-known for the identification and successful treatment of what was to become known as Burkitt’s lymphoma and for his later research establishing the value of dietary fiber; T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., of Cornell University and head of the China Health Study; Oliver Alabaster, M.D., a George Washington University oncologist and head of the Institute for Disease Prevention; and Neal Barnard, M.D., PCRM president. The press conference recommended that federal dietary guidelines favor whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes and that other foods be considered optional, rather than required.
Other organizations, of course, have taken favorable stances on plant-based diets. The American Dietetic Association’s position statement on vegetarian diets states, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” The American Medical Association, however, criticized PCRM’s proposal and argued that meat and dairy products should be kept in the diet.
In September of 1992, PCRM hosted a press conference featuring Benjamin Spock, M.D., and Johns Hopkins University Director of Pediatrics Frank Oski, M.D., to discuss new research findings linking cow’s milk proteins and type 1 diabetes. In light of the new studies, the doctors suggested that milk not be recommended or required in nutrition guidelines. At about the same time, an American Academy of Pediatrics work group reported that evidence from more than 90 studies indicated that avoiding early exposure to cow’s milk proteins could reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes. In contrast, the AMA issued a press release arguing that there was no scientific proof to support such a claim.
Thereafter, these criticisms ended. In 1995, the AMA published one of Dr. Barnard’s research articles in the Archives of Family Medicine and subsequently used various PCRM physicians as quotable experts in American Medical News. On February 10, 2004, the AMA issued the following statement:
"In the early 1990s, AMA spokespersons made critical comments pertaining to the dietary recommendations issued by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). These statements regarding diet are no longer current, as the AMA does not have policy specifically addressing vegetarian diets or the inclusion of milk in a diet. The AMA recognizes that a great deal of scientific evidence has been accumulated on nutritional issues over the past decade and supports continued research into the overall relationship between diet and health."
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.