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36 Given Feingold’s desire to make his theory respectable, it seems strange that he chose to publicize his idea not through articles in leading medical journals, such as JAMA or Pediatrics, but in a popular book aimed at parents. Prior to his work on hyperactivity, Feingold had published regularly in medical journals. Feingold’s flea bite allergy research in the 1960s, for example, was accompanied by ten articles he wrote or coauthored in scientific journals ranging from Experimental Parasitology to the Journal of Immunology. Feingold’s initial observations about the reactions triggered by food additives were also published in Annals of Allergy in 1968.1 Moreover, Feingold was keen to submit his hypothesis about food additives and hyperactivity to the scrutiny of his peers, and proceeded to do so at the 1973 and 1974 meetings of the AMA in New York. Why then, did Feingold compromise the respectability of his theory, not to mention that of his public identity, by publishing his ideas in Why Your Child Is Hyperactive? Feingold’s decision to write for a popular audience was not entirely his own. Instead, it was a reaction to circumstances thrust upon him between 1973 and 1975 by an ambivalent medical community, by parents of hyperactive children who were frustrated with current explanations and treatments for hyperactivity , and by a media alarmed about the safety of the food supply, industrial threats to the environment, and the manner in which most physicians treated hyperactive children. Feingold’s choice would have significant repercussions on the reception to his diet. While physicians were unimpressed by Feingold’s decision to write a popular book instead of publishing a series of academic articles and were unmoved by, if not resentful of, his emerging celebrity, Feingold Goes Public Chapter 3 Feingold Goes Public 37 parents and the media were captivated. Why Your Child Is Hyperactive introduced Feingold’s ideas to millions of parents not only through book sales but through television and radio interviews and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles that discussed his new theory during the 1970s. Although Why Your Child Is Hyperactive was aimed partially at convincing physicians that Feingold’s theory was accurate, it was essentially a popular book published by a major publisher for a broad audience consisting largely of parents. By the time of its publication, it was evident to Feingold that the path to legitimizing his hypothesis did not necessarily involve running the gauntlet of the medical approval process, consisting of double-blind trials and peerreviewed articles, but instead meant connecting with families via newspaper articles and television interviews, helping to launch Feingold Associations across North America, and consulting with individual parents. Feingold would eventually exhibit little discrimination with regards to which newspapers and magazines he would give interviews; parents would read about the Feingold diet not only in respected newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post but also tabloids such as the National Enquirer and even the pornographic men’s magazine Penthouse.2 He had come a long way from trying to convince his medical peers. Mixed Messages from the AMA One of the striking aspects of how the Feingold diet spread across the United States is how quickly this process took place. Feingold began treating hyperactive children in San Francisco with his elimination diet in the middle of 1972, and by the autumn of that year he had prescribed the diet to a mere twenty-five children, only fifteen of whom experienced improvements in their behavior.3 A year later, however, Feingold had reported his clinical findings about hyperactivity and food additives to the AMA and the Royal Institute in London, had spoken to the international media about his hypothesis, had the manuscript of his London presentation submitted into the U.S. Congressional Record, and was the subject of numerous magazine and newspaper articles.4 The explosion of interest in 1973 was not so much due to Feingold’s active promotion of himself or his diet, however, but rather the public’s and, initially, the medical community’s receptivity to his theory. Although Feingold would become a willing and eager participant in such publicity and media attention, he was not the instigator of it. Instead, Feingold proceeded cautiously with regards to his thesis and attempted to gain the support of his medical colleagues prior to making conclusive claims. Feingold’s hesitation was reflected in the language he used initially to describe his 38 Chapter 3 hypothesis to his fellow...


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MARC Record
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