Remembering Dr. Richard Passwater

Publisher's Letter

Longtime WholeFoods Magazine Editor Alan Richman (left) with Richard Passwater, Ph.D., WholeFoods President Howie Wainer, and Mark Blumenthal of the American Botanical Council

I was planning on writing the Publisher’s Letter this month on a very different topic, but life’s circumstances changed my plans. Last week was sandwiched by the loss of two great men who both had a major influence on my career. Saturday night I learned of the passing of Senator Orrin Hatch, who we all know was our industry champion and the father of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). DSHEA was being passed right at the start of my career, and I quickly learned its importance, as well as all that Senator Hatch had done for this industry. I got to meet him a few times, and his passion for dietary supplements was clear. There are many others that knew him far better who have memorialized him, and you can read these comments on page 13.

Longtime WholeFoods Magazine Editor Alan Richman (left) with Richard Passwater, Ph.D., WholeFoods President Howie Wainer, and Mark Blumenthal of the American Botanical Council

Just a few days after Senator Hatch’s passing came the incredibly sad news of the loss of our beloved Richard Passwater, Ph.D. Dr. Passwater, or Dick to those who knew and loved him, was our Science Editor for 36 years, and was already part of the magazine when I joined the company. His column started as Health Connection, and was later changed to Vitamin Connection. You, our readers, continuously thanked us for the column, and in readership surveys Vitamin Connection was always on the top of your list of favorites. My dad, Howie Wainer, tells me the story of how Dick started writing for us. Dad had just purchased WholeFoods Magazine after working for a different publication in the industry, so he knew everyone. He was trying to get advertising from Solgar, and Allen Skolnick said to him, “Howie, I am going to give you something better.” At that point my father needed advertising to survive, and could not imagine what would be better…but Allen’s proposal was truly a gift. He told

Howie, “I am going to give you Dr. Passwater to write for you every month.” From that day forward until he semi-retired in December 2020, Dr. Passwater wrote a column for WholeFoods Magazine every month. His interviews ranged from Dr. Linus Pauling to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, and more recently Dr. Andrew Saul and so many other leading minds of this industry with science to share.

When Dr. Passwater left Solgar, he continued writing for us and covered topics including vitamin C, tocotrienols, grape seed extract, Pycnogenol and his beloved selenium. I think there was a year when we had a column on selenium in every issue. The information was always so useful, and often focused on cutting-edge breakthroughs and emerging science, including during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sometimes, there was controversy. There was a time when ubiquinol was first introduced, and Dr. Passwater disagreed with some of the messaging. Things got a little interesting after that month’s column was published. But all came around and saw the importance of all types of CoQ10. The important thing, always, was sharing information and sparking educated conversation.

Always, we valued Dr. Passwater’s opinion and those of the experts he interviewed. There was no better education. I am told there are filing cabinets so full of his research and interviews that he could have continued reporting and educating for years to come. I am grateful that we get to share his last interview on research related to GG. Dr. Barrie Tan had informed me of the emerging science at SupplySide East in 2021, when we were all just starting to venture out again, after so many industry events had been cancelled due to

COVID-19. I knew Dick would love this topic, and he always had respect for Dr. Tan. So, the two started this interview, and fortunately it got finished and is ready for you to read in this issue, on page 35. We are honored to have one more Vitamin Connection to share with you all. We will miss having Dr. Passwater on our pages.

If you knew Dick, you know he cared for all and had many interests in addition to science and nutrition. Besides his family, his other love was baseball. He enjoyed working with the Orioles minor league team, the Shorebirds. He would always let me know if the Orioles beat the Yankees (which did not happen often) and would share the news when a Yankee player went to the Orioles or an Orioles player went to the Yankees. I luckily did get to enjoy a couple of Orioles games with him and his wife Barbara, but I never got him to go to Yankee Stadium. 

His family and industry friends have shared many memories, and we are so grateful for those. You can read more on page 14. And yes, my dad was always grateful for Allen’s gift, and for the two of them believing in my dad, to have Dr. Passwater grace our pages. We are eternally grateful, and know we will miss Dick dearly. His memory will always be a blessing, and his legacy will live on forever.