On April 13th, 2017, Jack Challem, bestselling author and beloved figure in the natural products industry, passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 66. Born May 29, 1950, he will be remembered for many contributions, including ushering in science-based nutrition reporting in the natural products industry.
Armed with a B.A. and graduate work in sociology and psychology from Northeastern Illinois University, some of his earliest reporting work was for the Los Alamos National Laboratory near Sante Fe, New Mexico throughout the 1980s.
His over 20 books, many of which were bestsellers, included Feed Your Genes Right, No More Fatigue, Stop Prediabetes Now, Syndrome X, The Food-Mood Solution, and The Inflammation Syndrome.
“Working with Jack had a powerful impact on my career, and I am very proud of Syndrome X,” Melissa Diane Smith, holistic nutritionist and coauthor of Syndrome X. “Jack was a brilliant researcher and writer who left a lasting legacy with his books and articles that helped countless people. His passing is truly a loss for the natural foods industry.”
A health and science writer for 43 years, Challem launched the eponymous The Nutrition Reporter newsletter in 1992. In recent years, Challem was a personal nutrition coach and recognized fine art photographer in the Tucson, Arizona area.
In a 2011 interview in WholeFoods Magazine, Challem told Richard Passwater, Ph.D., that his original training in sociology and psychology, that training influenced how he approached nutrition. “For example, the way we eat does not exist in a vacuum,” said Challem. “Eating habits are shaped by upbringing, education, peer pressure, advertising, stress and other factors.”
He was a member of the American Society for Nutrition and was a columnist for the journal Alternative & Complementary Therapies, and served on the editorial board of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. His scientific articles have appeared in Free Radical Biology & Medicine, Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Medical Hypotheses, Psychology Today and other journals.
He wrote articles for consumer periodicals, as well, including Alternative Medicine, Better Nutrition, Let’s Live, Modern Maturity, Natural Solutions, and WellBella and was featured or quoted in all major natural products industry magazines.
“Helping to educate others about health was a subject he found endlessly fascinating, but also worthy of making his own life’s work. And for this, we all are grateful. There was no writer I enjoyed working with more than Jack. He was a deeply creative professional writer, and brainstorming article assignments with him was truly a pleasure,” said colleague Beth Salmon, former publisher/editorial director of Basic Health Publications/Basic Media Group, currently a freelance journalist, story strategist for Write Your Life Los Angeles and co-founder of Garage Girls. “Jack was also a beautiful soul, which expressed itself not only through words, and a keen understanding of science, but also through an appreciation for art. I was lucky to be able to watch his growing passion for photography unfold in endlessly beautiful and provocative ways. For all of those who knew him, and those, including millions of readers worldwide (of both his articles and books), Jack Challem will be sorely missed.”
Jack was a frequent speaker at trade shows, nutritional medicine conferences and meetings of consumer health groups. His Expo West lectures were often standing-room-only events.
Close Tucson-area friend, Deb Angel, said: “He was a genius in his field—he understood biochemistry like no one else I have run across, and missed his calling as a physician, which I told him he should have pursued. He recommended products that worked better than prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and the nutrition industry has suffered a huge loss, as I have personally as well.”
He is survived by his son Evan and many cousins.