On this page, I often tell you about the recent accomplishments of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which publishes Nutrition Action. This month, I’d like to honor two people—one still with us and one, sadly, not—whose dedication and leadership helped make those achievements a reality.

“Queen of Wellness” Deborah Szekely, who turns 100 on May 3, was raised as a vegetarian and learned organic farming in the 1930s, when fresh produce was scarce. In 1940, Szekely and her husband, Edmond, who was fleeing conscription into Hitler’s army, founded a health camp in Mexico where guests worked in the vegetable garden for two hours a day.

Deborah Szekely
Deborah Szekely
Monique Feil.

Rancho La Puerta was a sensation, attracting names like Burt Lancaster and Aldous Huxley. It’s now rated number one among the world’s destination spas.

Szekely’s relationship with CSPI began in the 1980s, while she was serving as president of the Inter-American Foundation in Washington, D.C. That began a four-decade partnership with us, both as a supporter and board member.

“Nutrition Action is a treasured resource I’ve been drawing on for decades,” she once said. “It truly has influenced the way I’ve run Rancho La Puerta.”

We wish Deborah a happy 100th birthday and offer our sincere thanks for her many years of leadership.

Jeremiah Stamler, who died at age 102 in January, was a trailblazing researcher of remarkable vision, perseverance, and courage.

Known as the father of preventive cardiology, Stamler was the founding chair of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and was still involved in research at 102.

Jeremiah Stamler
Jeremiah Stamler
Northwestern University.

His work in the 1970s helped identify the key risk factors for heart disease: high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes.

He heartily endorsed—and enjoyed—a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish and low in saturated fat, salt, and sugar.

“We can end the heart disease epidemic in the U.S.,” Stamler told Nutrition Action in a 2003 interview. “The science is no longer in doubt.” The problem, he argued, wasn’t a lack of evidence; it was the food industry’s influence.

“The government doesn’t spend enough money to counter the marketing, advertising, and politicking that industry uses to promote products,” he said.

Stamler’s impact went beyond health. In 1965, he was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), made infamous by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Instead of appearing, Stamler and a colleague sued, arguing that the committee was unconstitutional. In 1973, the committee dropped its contempt charges against him, and in 1975, HUAC disbanded.

Stamler served on Nutrition Action’s Science Advisory Board since the 1980s. We are grateful for his wise, inspirational, and unwavering guidance.


Peter G. Lurie, MD, MPH, President, CSPI


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