The Truth About Nutritionists…

January 12th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, homeopathy, nutritionists, patrick holford | 57 Comments »

…is the title of a stage show I’ve written with a friend. Amazingly it looks like it might also be commissioned elsewhere (for Radio 4, in different form) and really I’m just showing off. But that was the least interesting thing in my email this week. Because people have started to lobby me.

Firstly, some publicist who thinks they’re a bit clever has sent me a copy of a bonkers book by a bonkers pseudoscience author, with the clear intent that I will mock it and so donate publicity. I’ve never felt so dirty, and if you look around their iffy literature, PR companies calculate “advertising equivalents” for the exposure they manage to get a given brand for free in the media (Holford’s people, for all their Wiki shenanigans, are clearly very good at this). But I can’t help wondering, how often do I do more harm than good? I mean, I thought I might have been giving the Microfascist posse a bit more airtime than they deserved, but then they did recently get quoted favourably by the ex-head of NIH…

Meanwhile the abuse from the electromagnetic hypersensitivity lobby continues to pour in: 7 (seven) huge, lengthy emails sent at 5am from one person who then, at midday the next day, writes again to say: “Ben you did not respond to what i sent you. There is overwhelming proof about the problem. Catherine”

I’ve had challenges from American homeopaths to debates – backed up by an email campaign (moi?), more abuse from homeopaths, demands that I write about some pressure group that nobody has heard of, more abuse from senior homeopaths, still more abuse from the MMR people, and even more abuse from homeopaths.

I only mention this because recently it has started to get really quite seriously out of hand. Some of them imply violence. Some of them threaten – angrily – that I cannot quote their abuse or their name, and by implication that I must endure their personal, abusive vitriol in silence. Let me be very clear: your names are all going into a very big list, and I shall be forwarding it to Santa.


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57 Responses



  1. used to be jdc said,

    January 25, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Well worth a read. Not only have I found out that you have “an ego the size of a mountain”, but I now know who the ‘bleeding man’ from Breakfast News is.

  2. Ben Goldacre said,

    January 25, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    heh it’s true, and i am disgusting. actually, on a serious note, rod read’s emails are so disjointedly abusive that even his fellow campaigners have said they think he’s a bit of a liability, so i always smile when a journalist manages to make him sound like the voice of reason in their articles. maybe he can switch it off, in which case there’s little excuse.

  3. ToeKnee said,

    January 26, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Taken from the front page of www.electrosensitivity.org.uk...

    “Bewildered individuals with reddened skin, eye irritation, tingling, stinging or pricking sensations, swollen mucus membranes, headaches, fatigue and cardiac palpitations were pestering university scientists and commercial electromagnetic shielding experts for advice and help with their symptoms and their causes.”

    I think he simply took this from the screenplay for “Dawn of the Dead”.

  4. TroyKnight said,

    April 18, 2007 at 4:54 am

    Wow I seem to have caught onto this thread a little late. Just a quick response to Chrichmond, who said this:

    “I’d guess that some/all of the people who think they are electromagnetically sensitive probably have schizophrenia, and outing them might be ethically iffy.
    But the peddlers who collude with them deserve no such courtesy. ”

    Perhaps you do not realise that:
    1) The World Health Organisation admit that Electrosensitivity is a real condition:

    “EHS [ElectroHyperSensitivity] is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms that differ from individual to individual. The symptoms are certainly real and can vary widely in their severity. Whatever its cause, EHS can be a disabling problem for the affected individual.”

    2) The UK’s own Health Protection Agency admit that it is a real condition.

    3) In Sweden, Electrosensitivity is officially regarded as a Physical Impairment and 250,000 people are registered as being sensitive to electricity (that’s 3% of the Swedish population).

    4) Gro Harlem Brundtland, voted in 2004 as the 4th most influential European in the last 25 years behind Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher, suffers from electrosensitivity:
    “I am convinced this has to be taken seriously. Some people develop sensitivity to electricity and radiation from equipment such as mobile phones or PCs. If this sensitivity can lead to adverse health-effects as cancer or other diseases, we do not know yet. But I think we should follow the precautionary principle, especially with regard to our children.”

    She is also a trained physician.

    With regard to ElectroSensitive people sending angry emails – clearly this will only put people’s backs up and turn people against it. However, I have never known people with a Physical Impairment to receive such blatent abuse as they do when they have sensitivities to certain electromagnetic fields. Perhaps the closest thing to it would be sufferers from Chronic Fatigue in the 80’s when they were told they were lazy or had ‘Yuppie Flu’. It’s not suprising that people get angry when their condition is not accepted by society, particularly when it has such profound effects on their ability to lead a normal life.

  5. TroyKnight said,

    April 18, 2007 at 4:55 am

    Wow I seem to have caught onto this thread a little late. Just a quick response to Chrichmond, who said this:

    “I’d guess that some/all of the people who think they are electromagnetically sensitive probably have schizophrenia, and outing them might be ethically iffy.
    But the peddlers who collude with them deserve no such courtesy. ”

    Perhaps you do not realise that:
    1) The World Health Organisation admit that Electrosensitivity is a real condition:

    “EHS [ElectroHyperSensitivity] is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms that differ from individual to individual. The symptoms are certainly real and can vary widely in their severity. Whatever its cause, EHS can be a disabling problem for the affected individual.”

    2) The UK’s own Health Protection Agency admit that it is a real condition.

    3) In Sweden, Electrosensitivity is officially regarded as a Physical Impairment and 250,000 people are registered as being sensitive to electricity (that’s 3% of the Swedish population).

    4) Gro Harlem Brundtland, voted in 2004 as the 4th most influential European in the last 25 years behind Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher, suffers from electrosensitivity:
    “I am convinced this has to be taken seriously. Some people develop sensitivity to electricity and radiation from equipment such as mobile phones or PCs. If this sensitivity can lead to adverse health-effects as cancer or other diseases, we do not know yet. But I think we should follow the precautionary principle, especially with regard to our children.”

    She is also a trained physician.

    With regard to ElectroSensitive people sending angry emails – clearly this will only put people’s backs up and turn people against it. However, I have never known people with a Physical Impairment to receive such blatent abuse as they do when they have sensitivities to certain electromagnetic fields. Perhaps the closest thing to it would be sufferers from Chronic Fatigue in the 80’s when they were told they were lazy or had ‘Yuppie Flu’. It’s not suprising that people get angry when their condition is not accepted by society, particularly when it has such profound effects on their ability to lead a normal life.

  6. TroyKnight said,

    April 18, 2007 at 4:56 am

    Wow I seem to have caught onto this thread a little late. Just a quick response to Chrichmond, who said this:

    “I’d guess that some/all of the people who think they are electromagnetically sensitive probably have schizophrenia, and outing them might be ethically iffy.
    But the peddlers who collude with them deserve no such courtesy. ”

    Perhaps you do not realise that:
    1) The World Health Organisation admit that Electrosensitivity is a real condition:

    “EHS [ElectroHyperSensitivity] is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms that differ from individual to individual. The symptoms are certainly real and can vary widely in their severity. Whatever its cause, EHS can be a disabling problem for the affected individual.”

    2) The UK’s own Health Protection Agency admit that it is a real condition.

    3) In Sweden, Electrosensitivity is officially regarded as a Physical Impairment and 250,000 people are registered as being sensitive to electricity (that’s 3% of the Swedish population).

    4) Gro Harlem Brundtland, voted in 2004 as the 4th most influential European in the last 25 years behind Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher, suffers from electrosensitivity:
    “I am convinced this has to be taken seriously. Some people develop sensitivity to electricity and radiation from equipment such as mobile phones or PCs. If this sensitivity can lead to adverse health-effects as cancer or other diseases, we do not know yet. But I think we should follow the precautionary principle, especially with regard to our children.”

    She is also a trained physician.

    With regard to ElectroSensitive people sending angry emails – clearly this will only put people’s backs up and turn people against it. However, I have never known people with a Physical Impairment to receive such blatent abuse as they do when they have sensitivities to certain electromagnetic fields. Perhaps the closest thing to it would be sufferers from Chronic Fatigue in the 80’s when they were told they were lazy or had ‘Yuppie Flu’. It’s not suprising that people get angry when their condition is not accepted by society, particularly when it has such profound effects on their ability to lead a normal life.

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