Leading Doctor Rebuts Professor Ernst On Avian Influenza Claims That Natural Products “Worthless”

Leading Doctor Rebuts Professor Ernst On Avian Inf...


24 February 2006

Dr Damien Downing, President of the British Society for Ecological Medicine, Medical Director of the Alliance for Natural Health, Editor of the Journal of Nutrition and Environmental Medicine and practicing medical doctor and clinical nutritionist said today that claims by Professor Ernst that “complementary medicine has nothing in terms of protecting us from bird flu” were irresponsible and a danger to public health. 

Dr Downing went on to say, “I welcomed Professor Ernst’s acknowledgement of the point made by the Alliance for Natural Health over a month ago that genuine caution should be exercised when using certain herbal remedies, such as Echinacea, in bird flu, but I am amazed that Professor Ernst appears to have no knowledge of the extensive literature on the essential nature of zinc and vitamin C, for example, when the body is dealing with infections.”  

The UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey of 2002, showed that less than 10% of adults take in enough zinc in their diet even by the Government’s current questionable RDA standard, which is lagging behind the latest scientific findings on immune system function. It is well established that zinc is essential for normal immune functioning and that correction of zinc deficiency helps people to cope with and recover from respiratory and other infections.  This is not just relevant to children in developing countries; studies have clearly shown this effect on European adults of all ages. 

Despite repeated attempts to discredit it, there is also clear evidence that vitamin C is essential for the immune system – at intake levels well above those found in typical western diets.  A systematic review of 12 studies by Hemilä (2004), demonstrated that vitamin C supplements are capable of reducing the risk of developing pneumonia by a staggering 80-100%.  Hemorrhage is a recognized symptom of scurvy, a disease caused by severe vitamin C deficiency.  Supplementation with vitamin C at doses higher than can be achieved through the diet alone, will be vital in protecting against the hemorrhage that is such an important and damaging component of human infections by the avian flu virus. 

Downing added, “Why is Professor Ernst ignoring the extensive evidence base on the use of nutrition to prevent and relieve viral infections?  Also, when it is self-evident that supplies of vaccines and anti-viral drugs will be too little, too late, it is alarming that no global or national health authorities have broached the subject of how people can support their immune system through the use of diet and food supplements in the event of a pandemic.”    


For Dr Damien Downing, please contact:

Isobel Bradley, Campaign Administrator
Alliance for Natural Health
Tel: +44 (0)1252 371 275
Email: info@alliance-natural-health.org

Alternate contact:

Dr Robert Verkerk, Executive & Scientific Director
Alliance for Natural Health
Direct tel: +44 (0)1306 646 550
Mobile/Cell: +44 (0)771 484 7225

For further information, including reference to peer reviewed scientific research, please contact the Alliance For Natural Health Avian Influenza Expert Committee via tel +44 (0)1252 371 275 or email info@alliance-natural-health.org


Professor Ernst


  • The British Society for Ecological Medicine is the professional body for medical doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals in the areas of allergy, environmental and nutritional medicine. See www.ecomed.org.uk
  • The Alliance for Natural Health is a key UK-based, international campaign organization, comprised of doctors, scientists, practitioners, lawyers, innovative companies and consumers, dedicated to protecting and promoting natural healthcare worldwide through the use of ‘good science and good law’. See www.alliance-natural-health.org
  • The Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine is a peer-reviewed journal published by Taylor & Francis, established in 1990. See http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/13590847.asp

Research studies

Join Thousands of People & Receive - Advanced Health & Wellness Monthly Newsletter
Join Our Wellness Newsletter!