The National Academy
of Research Biochemists

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The National Academy of Research Biochemists (NARB) was a professional-sounding organization whose only requirement for membership was payment of a fee. It is one of several that anyone could join in order to get a professional-looking "credential" to hang on the wall. This article is based mainly on investigations conducted in 1992. Since that time, I have seen no mention of NARB in any of the many "alternative" publications I monitor. However, some practitioners have listed NARB membership among their credentials.

In 1992, NARB's membership application was an 8.5 x 3.5-inch card that asked only for the individual's name, company/organization if applicable, address, telephone number, referral source, and the date of application. Membership, which cost $79, provided a one-year subscription to NARB's "journal" and a membership certificate "to frame and proudly display." [1] The certificate, signed by NARB president James Homer Russell, reads:

"An academy devoted to preserving and dispensing valuable, established and reasonable biochemical research certified that . . . . is an elected member dedicated to untiring research for the truth in behalf of those served in the field of health."

NARB appears to have begun operating in 1981, when it began monthly publication of "The Clinical Nutritionist." In 1986, its publication was changed to "The Journal," which became bimonthly in June 1989. NARB's membership flyer states that, "Every issue brings our members the enjoyment of reading and understanding many truths hidden from most physicians." The 1992 issues—the only ones I have seen—have 16 to 20 pages each (not including their covers) and contain a total of 15 full-length articles, seven by Richard P. Murray, DC, and three by Judith A. DeCava, CNC. Many of the articles make unfounded recommendations for supplements. One article covers the use of tongue and pulse diagnosis for detecting "toxic metals" in the body. Another suggests that the cause of AIDS is not a virus, and several others attack fluoridation and immunization.

The masthead stated that NARB was located in Fullerton, California and that its "owner" was the James Homer Russell Foundation. Three other Russells were listed as journal editors. NARB's members were said to be "osteopaths, naturopaths, medical doctors, dentists, chiropractors, nutritional consultants, nurses, professionals, students . . . and anyone interested in the most up-to-date information concerning biochemical nutrition." NARB is not listed in the 1988 edition of Encyclopedia of Organizations or the 1998 edition of Gale's Encyclopedia of Health Organizations and Agencies.

Murray/DeCava Activities

NARB's most visible member was Richard P. Murray, DC. During the late 1970s, Murray was one of two lecturers at the "Doctors' Seminar on Nutrition," a meeting primarily for chiropractors, at which he taught them how to use dietary supplements to treat disease. Brochures for the seminar said that he practiced "more nutrition than any other doctor in America" and was selling "over $200,000 worth of supplements each year." (It was not specified whether this was a wholesale figure or the price paid by patients.) Murray retired from active practice in 1986, continued to give lectures until at least 1992, and died in 1996.

In 1991, a seminar flyer described Murray as "the dean of contemporary clinical nutrition," an "internationally acclaimed researcher, teacher, and consultant," and a life-long friend and colleague of Dr. Royal S. Lee. Lee was a nonpracticing dentist who co-founded the National Health Federation (a "health food" industry advocacy group), started a food supplement company ((Vitamin Products Company), and organized the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, a prolific distributor of health and nutrition literature. In 1939, he was convicted of misbranding a vitamin concoction (Catalyn) by falsely claiming that it was effective against more than 50 ailments. He was fined $800 and ordered to pay $4,006 in court costs. In 1941, 1946, and 1954, the Federal Trade Commission ordered him and his company to stop disseminating false advertisements for many of their vitamin products. In 1962, he and the company were convicted of misbranding 115 products by making false claims of effectiveness against more than 500 diseases and conditions. Lee received a one-year suspended prison term and was fined $7,000. In 1963, a prominent FDA official said Lee was "probably the largest publisher of unreliable and false nutritional information in the world." Lee died in 1967, but the company (now called Standard Process, Inc.) is still marketing many of the same products—primarily through chiropractors. One of Lee's principles, listed in Standard Process's booklet "Applications of Nutritional Principles for the Chiropractic Profession," was "A fact need not be 'proved' to be useful."

Dietitian Jack Raso, MS, RD, attended a Murray seminar in June 1992. The event, attended by about 50 people, was sponsored by a distributor for Nutri-West, another company that markets mainly through chiropractors. During the meeting, Murray described how he had twisted his ankle while stepping walking on a pile of lumber. After about twelve days of limping around with what he thought was a sprained ankle, he discovered a splinter of wood in the crumpled flesh of his heel. He removed it but soon afterward he became delirious and wound up in a hospital where a diagnosis of gangrene led to amputation of his leg. Murray's lecture was filled with such nonsense as:

Copies of NARB's "journal" and other handouts were displayed on a table at the back of the room. Most of the handouts were 2-page articles written by Murray or DeCava. Murray's articles were headed "Institute of Practical Biochemistry, Educational Division of the Biomedical Health Foundation." DeCava's articles were mainly about products.

DeCava's writings also include The Real Truth About Vitamins and Antioxidants, an anti-immunization book, and Nutrition News & Views, a newsletter that NutriPlex Formulas distributed in 2000 to health professionals who were frequent customers. Various biographical sketches have included "CNC, PhD" after her name and described her as: a "nutritional counselor" who served for many years as chief consultant for R. Murray & Associates; a "regular writer" for the Institute of Practical Biochemistry; and executive vice president of the Biomedical Health Foundation. "CNC" stands for Certified Nutritional Consultant, a dubious credential obtainable for $150 plus passage of an open-book examination.

NARB also offered tapes of several nutritional seminars (most including presentations by Murray) and copies of the "Murray Health Scan," an 8-page form to be completed by clients and sent with $65 to Murray for "complete nutritional analysis."

Other NARB Members

Since 1999, I have searched the Internet and organizational directories for evidence that NARB, the James Homer Russell Foundation, the Institute of Practical Biochemistry, or the Biomedical Health Foundation were still active. I found no such evidence, but various Web sites have contained information about several people who included NARB membership in their credentials.

References

  1. Membership. Undated flyer, distributed in 1992. Fullerton, CA: National Academy of Research Biochemists.
  2. Raso J. Chiropractic nutrition: The "supplement underground." In Raso J. Mystical Diets. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993, pp 213-223.

This article was revised on May 26, 2009.