Dr. Daniel Saltzman does not seem like your typical fruit and berry guru.
The chief of pediatric surgery at the University of Minnesota, Saltzman also runs the school’s surgery bioengineering lab and works at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. He’s conducting research into developing a bacteria that can literally eat cancer cells.
Yet Saltzman has another job that requires every bit of his scientific acumen. He’s chief medical officer and the primary scientific face for Botanical Oil Innovations in Spooner, Wis., a company that sells natural food supplements. Saltzman’s job is to convince people that nutrients found in fruits and herbs can help prevent heart disease, boost the immune system, and improve joint flexibility.
How did this respected surgeon come to hawk dietary supplements?
“Surgery is very pragmatic, very black and white,” Saltzman said. “I was interested in overall health from a higher physiological perspective.”
Through Dr. Arthur Leonard, another well-respected surgeon at the university, Saltzman came across Botanical Oil Innovations. The company had developed a way to better extract oils from fruit and herb seeds, purer oils that contain higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
A wide body of research shows that omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, improve heart health and help prevent cardiovascular disease by slowing the plaque buildup in the arteries.
Saltzman, who owns equity in the company, has spent a great deal of time validating Botanical Oil Innovation’s contention that its supplements can do everything from lower blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol.
“My job is to prove that scientifically [the supplements] promote better health,” he said. “There’s a lot of scientific rigor behind our products.”
But there lies the contradiction. For all of the research and enthusiasm Saltzman has invested into the supplements, he’s careful to say what they can actually do. Sometimes, the lines aren’t so clear.
And for good reason. Although the Food and Drug Administration approved a qualified claim on how omega-3 fatty acids can aid cardiovascular health, a number of companies over the years have landed in hot water for making what the agency deemed were bogus claims about dietary supplements and their benefits.
“We have to be careful not to make medical claims,” Saltzman said. “That would be just irresponsible.”
Still, Saltzman says he is a true believer.
“This stuff works,” he said.
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