What’s wrong with Dr Gillian McKeith PhD?

February 18th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, channel 4, gillian mckeith, nutritionists, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, stifling criticism | 312 Comments »

For years, ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith has used her title to sell TV shows, diet books and herbal sex pills. Now the Advertising Standards Authority has stepped in. Yet the real problem is not what she calls herself, but the mumbo-jumbo she dresses up as scientific fact, says Ben Goldacre

Ben Goldacre
Monday February 12, 2007
The Guardian

Call her the Awful Poo Lady, call her Dr Gillian McKeith PhD: she is an empire, a multi-millionaire, a phenomenon, a prime-time TV celebrity, a bestselling author. She has her own range of foods and mysterious powders, she has pills to give you an erection, and her face is in every health food store in the country. Scottish Conservative politicians want her to advise the government. The Soil Association gave her a prize for educating the public. And yet, to anyone who knows the slightest bit about science, this woman is a joke.

One of those angry nerds took her down this week. A regular from my website badscience.net – I can barely contain my pride – took McKeith to the Advertising Standards Authority, complaining about her using the title “doctor” on the basis of a qualification gained by correspondence course from a non-accredited American college. He won. She may have sidestepped the publication of a damning ASA draft adjudication at the last minute by accepting – “voluntarily” – not to call herself “doctor” in her advertising any more. But would you know it, a copy of that draft adjudication has fallen into our laps, and it concludes that “the claim ‘Dr’ was likely to mislead”. The advert allegedly breached two clauses of the Committee of Advertising Practice code: “substantiation” and “truthfulness”.

Is it petty to take pleasure in this? No. McKeith is a menace to the public understanding of science. She seems to misunderstand not nuances, but the most basic aspects of biology – things that a 14-year-old could put her straight on.

She talks endlessly about chlorophyll, for example: how it’s “high in oxygen” and will “oxygenate your blood” – but chlorophyll will only make oxygen in the presence of light. It’s dark in your intestines, and even if you stuck a searchlight up your bum to prove a point, you probably wouldn’t absorb much oxygen in there, because you don’t have gills in your gut. In fact, neither do fish. In fact, forgive me, but I don’t think you really want oxygen up there, because methane fart gas mixed with oxygen is a potentially explosive combination.

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Musical accompaniment by Doghorse.

Future generations will look back on this phenomenon with astonishment. Channel 4, let’s not forget, branded her very strongly, from the start, as a “clinical nutritionist”. She was Dr Gillian McKeith PhD, appearing on television every week, interpreting blood tests, and examining patients who had earlier had irrigation equipment stuck right up into their rectums. She was “Dr McKeith”, “the diet doctor”, giving diagnoses, talking knowledgeably about treatment, with complex scientific terminology, and all the authority her white coat and laboratory setting could muster.

So back to the science. She says DNA is an anti-ageing constituent: if you “do not have enough RNA/DNA”, in fact, you “may ultimately age prematurely”. Stress can deplete your DNA, but algae will increase it: and she reckons it’s only present in growing cells. Is my semen growing? Is a virus growing? Is chicken liver pate growing? All of these contain plenty of DNA. She says that “each sprouting seed is packed with the nutritional energy needed to create a full-grown, healthy plant”. Does a banana plant have the same amount of calories as a banana seed? The ridiculousness is endless.

In fact, I don’t care what kind of squabbles McKeith wants to engage in over the technicalities of whether a non-accredited correspondence-course PhD from the US entitles you, by the strictest letter of the law, to call yourself “doctor”: to me, nobody can be said to have a meaningful qualification in any biology-related subject if they make the same kind of basic mistakes made by McKeith.

And the scholarliness of her work is a thing to behold: she produces lengthy documents that have an air of “referenciness”, with nice little superscript numbers, which talk about trials, and studies, and research, and papers … but when you follow the numbers, and check the references, it’s shocking how often they aren’t what she claimed them to be in the main body of the text. Or they refer to funny little magazines and books, such as Delicious, Creative Living, Healthy Eating, and my favourite, Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet, rather than proper academic journals.

She even does this in the book Miracle Superfood, which, we are told, is the published form of her PhD. “In laboratory experiments with anaemic animals, red-blood cell counts have returned to normal within four or five days when chlorophyll was given,” she says. Her reference for this experimental data is a magazine called Health Store News. “In the heart,” she explains, “chlorophyll aids in the transmission of nerve impulses that control contraction.” A statement that is referenced to the second issue of a magazine called Earthletter.

To me this is cargo cult science, as the great Professor Richard Feynman described Melanesian religious activities 30 years ago: “During the war they saw aeroplanes with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head as headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas – he’s the controller – and they wait for the aeroplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No aeroplanes land.”

McKeith’s pseudo-academic work is like the rituals of the cargo cult: the form is superficially right, the superscript numbers are there, the technical words are scattered about, she talks about research and trials and findings, but the substance is lacking. I actually don’t find this bit very funny. It makes me quite depressed to think about her, sitting up, perhaps alone, studiously and earnestly typing this stuff out.

One window into her world is the extraordinary way she responds to criticism: with legal threats and blatantly, outrageously misleading statements, emitted with such regularity that it’s reasonable to assume she will do the same thing with this current kerfuffle over her use of the title “doctor”. So that you know how to approach the rebuttals to come, let’s look at McKeith’s rebuttals of the recent past.

Three months ago she was censured by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for illegally selling a rather tragic range of herbal sex pills called Fast Formula Horny Goat Weed Complex, advertised as shown by a “controlled study” to promote sexual satisfaction, and sold with explicit medicinal claims. She was ordered to remove the products from sale immediately. She complied – the alternative would have been prosecution – but in response, McKeith’s website announced that the sex pills had been withdrawn because of “the new EU licensing laws regarding herbal products”. She engaged in Europhobic banter with the Scottish Herald newspaper: “EU bureaucrats are clearly concerned that people in the UK are having too much good sex,” she explained.

Rubbish. I contacted the MHRA, and they said: “This has nothing to do with new EU regulations. The information on the McKeith website is incorrect.” Was it a mistake? “Ms McKeith’s organisation had already been made aware of the requirements of medicines legislation in previous years; there was no reason at all for all the products not to be compliant with the law.” They go on. “The Wild Pink Yam and Horny Goat Weed products marketed by McKeith Research Ltd were never legal for sale in the UK.”

Now, once would be unfortunate, but this is an enduring pattern. When McKeith was first caught out on the ridiculous and erroneous claims of her CV – she claimed, for example, to have a PhD from the reputable American College of Nutrition – her representatives suggested that this was a mistake, made by a Spanish work experience kid, who posted the wrong CV. Except the very same claim about the American College of Nutrition was also in one of her books from several years previously. That’s a long work experience stint.

She even sneaked one into this very newspaper, during a profile on her: “Doubt has also been cast on the value of McKeith’s certified membership of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, especially since Guardian journalist Ben Goldacre managed to buy the same membership online for his dead cat for $60. McKeith’s spokeswoman says of this membership: “Gillian has ‘professional membership’, which is membership designed for practising nutritional and dietary professionals, and is distinct from ‘associate membership’, which is open to all individuals. To gain professional membership Gillian provided proof of her degree and three professional references.”

Well. My dead cat Hettie is also a “certified professional member” of the AANC. I have the certificate hanging in my loo. Perhaps it didn’t even occur to the journalist that McKeith could be wrong. More likely, of course, in the tradition of nervous journalists, I suspect she was hurried, on deadline, and felt she had to get McKeith’s “right of reply” in, even if it cast doubts on – I’ll admit my beef here – my own hard-won investigative revelations about my dead cat. I mean, I don’t sign my dead cat up to bogus professional organisations for the good of my health, you know.

But those who criticise McKeith have reason to worry. McKeith goes after people, and nastily. She has a libel case against the Sun over comments they made in 2004 that has still not seen much movement. But the Sun is a large, wealthy institution, and it can protect itself with a large and well-remunerated legal team. Others can’t. A charming but – forgive me – obscure blogger called PhDiva made some relatively innocent comments about nutritionists, mentioning McKeith, and received a letter threatening costly legal action from Atkins Solicitors, “the reputation and brand-management specialists”. Google received a threatening legal letter simply for linking to – forgive me – a fairly obscure webpage on McKeith.

She has also made legal threats to a fantastically funny website called Eclectech for hosting a silly animation of McKeith singing a silly song, at around the time she was on Fame Academy.

Most of these legal tussles revolve around the issue of her qualifications, though these things shouldn’t be difficult or complicated. If anyone wanted to check my degrees, memberships, or affiliations, then they could call up the institutions, and get instant confirmation: job done. If you said I wasn’t a doctor, I wouldn’t sue you; I’d roar with laughter.

If you contact the Australasian College of Health Sciences (Portland, US) where McKeith has a “pending diploma in herbal medicine”, they say they can’t tell you anything about their students. When you contact Clayton College of Natural Health to ask where you can read her PhD, they say you can’t. What kind of organisations are these? If I said I had a PhD from Cambridge, US or UK (I have neither), it would only take you a day to find it.

But McKeith’s most heinous abuse of legal chill is exemplified by a nasty little story from 2000, when she threatened a retired professor of nutritional medicine for questioning her ideas.

Shortly after the publication of McKeith’s book Living Food for Health, before she was famous, John Garrow wrote an article about some of the rather bizarre scientific claims she was making. He was struck by the strength with which she presented her credentials as a scientist (“I continue every day to research, test and write furiously so that you may benefit …” etc). In fact, he has since said that he assumed – like many others – that she was a proper doctor. Sorry: a medical doctor. Sorry: a qualified conventional medical doctor who attended an accredited medical school.

Anyway, in this book, McKeith promised to explain how you can “boost your energy, heal your organs and cells, detoxify your body, strengthen your kidneys, improve your digestion, strengthen your immune system, reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure, break down fat, cellulose and starch, activate the enzyme energies of your body, strengthen your spleen and liver function, increase mental and physical endurance, regulate your blood sugar, and lessen hunger cravings and lose weight.”

These are not modest goals, but her thesis was that it was all possible with a diet rich in enzymes from “live” raw food – fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and especially live sprouts, which “are the food sources of digestive enzymes”. McKeith even offered “combination living food powder for clinical purposes” in case people didn’t want to change their diet, and she used this for “clinical trials” with patients at her clinic.

Garrow was sceptical of her claims. Apart from anything else, as emeritus professor of human nutrition at the University of London, he knew that human animals have their own digestive enzymes, and a plant enzyme you eat is likely to be digested like any other protein. As any professor of nutrition, and indeed many GCSE biology students, could happily tell you.

Garrow read the book closely, as have I. These “clinical trials” seemed to be a few anecdotes in her book about how incredibly well McKeith’s patients felt after seeing her. No controls, no placebo, no attempt to quantify or measure improvements. So Garrow made a modest proposal, and I am quoting it in its entirety, partly because it is a rather elegantly written exposition of the scientific method by an extremely eminent academic authority on the science of nutrition, but mainly because I want you to see how politely he stated his case.

“I also am a clinical nutritionist,” began Professor Garrow, “and I believe that many of the statements in this book are wrong. My hypothesis is that any benefits which Dr McKeith has observed in her patients who take her living food powder have nothing to do with their enzyme content. If I am correct, then patients given powder which has been heated above 118F for 20 minutes will do just as well as patients given the active powder. This amount of heat would destroy all enzymes, but make little change to other nutrients apart from vitamin C, so both groups of patients should receive a small supplement of vitamin C (say 60mg/day). However, if Dr McKeith is correct, it should be easy to deduce from the boosting of energy, etc, which patients received the active powder and which the inactivated one.

“Here, then, is a testable hypothesis by which nutritional science might be advanced. I hope that Dr McKeith’s instincts, as a fellow-scientist, will impel her to accept this challenge. As a further inducement I suggest we each post, say, £1,000, with an independent stakeholder. If we carry out the test, and I am proved wrong, she will, of course, collect my stake, and I will publish a fulsome apology in this newsletter. If the results show that she is wrong I will donate her stake to HealthWatch [a medical campaigning group], and suggest that she should tell the 1,500 patients on her waiting list that further research has shown that the claimed benefits of her diet have not been observed under controlled conditions. We scientists have a noble tradition of formally withdrawing our publications if subsequent research shows the results are not reproducible – don’t we?”

This was published in – forgive me – a fairly obscure medical newsletter. Sadly, McKeith – who, to the best of my knowledge, despite all her claims about her extensive “resesarch”, has never published in a proper “Pubmed-listed” peer-reviewed academic journal – did not take up this offer to collaborate on a piece of research with a professor of nutrition.

Instead, Garrow received a call from McKeith’s lawyer husband, Howard Magaziner, accusing him of defamation and promising legal action. Garrow, an immensely affable and relaxed old academic, shrugged this off with style. He told me. “I said, ‘Sue me.’ I’m still waiting.” His offer of £1,000 still stands; I’ll make it £2,000.

But, to me, it’s tempting to dismiss the question of whether or not McKeith should call herself “doctor” as a red herring, a distraction, an unnecessary ad hominem squabble. Because despite her litigiousness, her illegal medicinal products, her ropey qualifications, her abusiveness, despite her making the wounded and obese cry on television, despite her apparently misunderstanding some of the most basic aspects of GCSE biology, while doling out “scientific” advice in a white coat, despite her farcical “academic” work, despite the unpleasantness of the food she endorses, there are still many who will claim: “You can say what you like about McKeith, but she has improved the nation’s diet.”

Let me be very clear. Anyone who tells you to eat your greens is all right by me. If that was the end of it, I’d be McKeith’s biggest fan, because I’m all in favour of “evidence-based interventions to improve the nation’s health”, as they used to say to us in medical school.

But let’s look at the evidence. Diet has been studied very extensively, and there are some things that we know with a fair degree of certainty: there is convincing evidence that diets rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, with natural sources of dietary fibre, avoiding obesity, moderate alcohol, and physical exercise, are protective against things such as cancer and heart disease.

But nutritionists don’t stop there, because they can’t: they have to manufacture complication, to justify the existence of their profession. And what an extraordinary new profession it is. They’ve appeared out of nowhere, with a strong new-age bent, but dressing themselves up in the cloak of scientific authority. Because there is, of course, a genuine body of research about nutrition and health, to which these new “nutritionists” are spectacularly unreliable witnesses. You don’t get sober professors from the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research Unit on telly talking about the evidence on food and health; you get the media nutritionists. It’s like the difference between astrology and astronomy.

These new nutritionists have a major commercial problem with evidence. There’s nothing very professional or proprietary about “eat your greens”, so they have had to push things further: but unfortunately for the nutritionists, the technical, confusing, overcomplicated, tinkering interventions that they promote are very frequently not supported by convincing evidence.

And that’s not for lack of looking. This is not about the medical hegemony neglecting to address the holistic needs of the people. In many cases, the research has been done, and we know that the more specific claims of nutritionists are actively wrong.

I’ve got too much sense to subject you to reams of scientific detail – I’ve learned from McKeith that you need theatrical abuse to hold the public’s attention – but we can easily do one representative example. The antioxidant story is one of the most ubiquitous health claims of the nutritionists. Antioxidants mop up free radicals, so in theory, looking at metabolism flow charts in biochemistry textbooks, having more of them might be beneficial to health. High blood levels of antioxidants were associated, in the 1980s, with longer life. Fruit and vegetables have lots of antioxidants, and fruit and veg really are good for you. So it all made sense.

But when you do compare people taking antioxidant supplement tablets with people on placebo, there’s no benefit; if anything, the antioxidant pills are harmful. Fruit and veg are still good for you, but as you can see, it looks as if it’s complicated and it might not just be about the extra antioxidants. It’s a surprising finding, but that’s science all over: the results are often counterintuitive. And that’s exactly why you do scientific research, to check your assumptions. Otherwise it wouldn’t be called “science”, it would be called “assuming”, or “guessing”, or “making it up as you go along”.

But don’t get distracted. Basic, sensible dietary advice, that we all know – be honest – still stands. It’s the unjustified, self-serving and unnecessary overcomplication of this basic sensible dietary advice that is, to my mind, one of the greatest crimes of the nutritionist movement. I don’t think it’s excessive to talk about consumers paralysed with confusion in supermarkets.

Although it’s just as likely that they will be paralysed with fear, because McKeith’s stock in trade is abuse, on a scale that would have any doctor struck off: making people cry for the television cameras, I assume deliberately, and using fear and bullying to get them to change their lifestyles. As a posture it is seductive, it has a sense of generating movement, but if you drag yourself away from the theatricality of souped-up recipe and lifestyle shows on telly, the evidence shows that scare campaigns tend not to get people changing their behaviour in the long term.

So what can you do? There’s the rub. In reality, again, away from the cameras, the most significant “lifestyle” cause of death and disease is social class. Here’s a perfect example. I rent a flat in London’s Kentish Town on my modest junior doctor’s salary (don’t believe what you read in the papers about doctors’ wages, either). This is a very poor working-class area, and the male life expectancy is about 70 years. Two miles away in Hampstead, meanwhile, where the millionaire Dr Gillian McKeith PhD owns a very large property, surrounded by other wealthy middle-class people, male life expectancy is almost 80 years. I know this because I have the Annual Public Health Report for Camden open on the table right now.

This phenomenal disparity in life expectancy – the difference between a lengthy and rich retirement, and a very truncated one indeed – is not because the people in Hampstead are careful to eat a handful of Brazil nuts every day, to make sure they’re not deficient in selenium, as per nutritionists’ advice.

And that’s the most sinister feature of the whole nutritionist project, graphically exemplified by McKeith: it’s a manifesto of rightwing individualism – you are what you eat, and people die young because they deserve it. They choose death, through ignorance and laziness, but you choose life, fresh fish, olive oil, and that’s why you’re healthy. You’re going to see 78. You deserve it. Not like them.

How can I be sure that this phenomenal difference in life expectancy between rich and poor isn’t due to the difference in diet? Because I’ve read the dietary intervention studies: when you intervene and make a huge effort to change people’s diets, and get them eating more fruit and veg, you find the benefits, where they are positive at all, are actually very modest. Nothing like 10 years.

But genuine public health interventions to address the real social and lifestyle causes of disease are far less lucrative, and far less of a spectacle, than anything a food crank or a TV producer would ever dream of dipping into. What prime-time TV series looks at food deserts created by giant supermarket chains, the very companies with which stellar media nutritionists so often have lucrative commercial contracts? What show deals with social inequality driving health inequality? Where’s the human interest in prohibiting the promotion of bad foods; facilitating access to nutrient-rich foods with taxation; or maintaining a clear labelling system? Where is the spectacle in “enabling environments” that naturally promote exercise, or urban planning that prioritises cyclists, pedestrians and public transport over the car? Or reducing the ever-increasing inequality between senior executive and shop-floor pay?

This is serious stuff. We don’t need any more stupid ideas about health in the world. We have a president of South Africa who has denied that HIV exists, we have mumps and measles on the rise, we have quackery in the ascendant like never before, and whatever Tony Blair might have to say about homoeopathy being a fight not worth fighting for scientists, we cannot indulge portions of pseudoscientific ludicrousness as if they don’t have wider ramifications for society, and for the public misunderstanding of science.

I am writing this article, sneakily, late, at the back of the room, in the Royal College of Physicians, at a conference discussing how to free up access to medical academic knowledge for the public. At the front, as I type, Sir Muir Gray, director of the NHS National Electronic Library For Health, is speaking: “Ignorance is like cholera,” he says. “It cannot be controlled by the individual alone: it requires the organised efforts of society.” He’s right: in the 19th and 20th centuries, we made huge advances through the provision of clean, clear water; and in the 21st century, clean, clear information will produce those same advances.

Gillian McKeith has nothing to contribute: and Channel 4, which bent over backwards to dress her up in the cloak of scientific authority, should be ashamed of itself.

‘With all due respect, you’re wrong': When McKeith put a cabbie in his place

Here is a bizarre story, which McKeith is evidently proud of, because not only does she recount it in her book, she has also recounted it in other published articles. She is in a cab, and the cab driver has spotted her, and tries to spark up a conversation:

“As I sat down to enjoy the ride and sighed a sense of relief in honour of some quiet time, I barely heard some mumbling from Harry to break a much cherished silence. Ignoring it to soak in the rapidly moving scenery, I heard it again … ‘You know, fish has more omegas than flax,’ he stated. ‘I beg your pardon,’ I said. ‘I said that fish has more omegas than flax seeds,’ he re-stated. The only thing I could think of was: ‘Why was this invasive, somewhat jovial, but truly kind man, talking about flax …’ ‘In all due respect, you’re wrong, Harry.

Flax seeds contain far greater levels of the healthy oils (omega-3 and omega-6) in a properly balanced and assimilable form,’ I explained. ‘No, I disagree,’ he argued. ‘What do you mean, you disagree? Have you spent years conducting clinical research, working with patients, lecturing, teaching, studying the omega oils in flax, obtaining worldwide data, compiling one of the largest private health libraries on the planet, and writing extensively on the topic?’ I asked. Not to mention writing this very article on this very day.

‘No,’ Harry feebly replied. I wondered, ‘Are you a scientist, a biochemist, a botanist, or have you spent a lifetime studying food and biochemistry as I have done?’ ‘No,’ he again replied. ‘So, where do you get such stuff? Where is your scientific authority?’ I demanded. Harry proudly announced: ‘Oh, my wife is a doctor – a gynaecologist – by the way.’ ‘Is she a food specialist or nutritional biochemist as well?’ I quickly retorted. ‘Um, ah, well, no, but she is a doctor,’ he offered.”

Charming. But flax seeds contain oestrogenic compounds, and fibre, so they’re not very “assimilable” unless you crush them, in which case they taste foul, and they’re sold as a laxative in doses of 15g. And you will need a lot of them. When you account for the poor conversion in the body from plant-form omega oils to the animal forms that are most beneficial (called DHA and EPA) then flax seeds and fish contain roughly the same amounts.

But in the real world, rather than the raw figures, it’s very easy to eat 100g of mackerel, whereas it’s tricky to get a tablespoon of flax seed into you. (Similarly, parsley is a rich source of vitamin C, but you’re not going to eat an orange sized lump of it.) As for “properly balanced”, I don’t know if she means spiritually or biologically, but fish is much higher in omega-3, which most people would say is better.

So… O frabjous day. And it’s all thanks to a badscience regular who wishes to remain anonymous. We could do with more of your sort, come and play in the badscience.net forums if you’re in a motivated mood, where there are some fun plots being hatched in the new activism room. Hurrah!

McKeith’s responses:

Lots of bits of media from this, the fun ones are where Max Clifford responds to my 4,500 word research-heavy torpedo of her science and bullying by saying I’m jealous of her money. Lots more of these kicking around, I’ll bung them up when I get the chance, this from Irish radio, another from Radio 4.

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Also I see she’s been suggesting the ASA draft ruling was about her being a medical doctor: this is not so, the ASA draft ruling, of which I have a copy, says very clearly: “We considered that people would expect the term “Dr” in the leaflet to refer to a medical qualification, or to a doctorate from a UK university or accredited insitution [my italics].” I’ll be writing about her responses to this episode too, at some stage, so do keep the clippings and mp3’s coming.

news.independent.co.uk/people/pandora/article2334884.ece

Is it a touchy subject? A source at LBC radio tells me that McKeith pulled out of a scheduled on-air appearance yesterday lunchtime after the station insisted she answer one question on her honorific. “She told us to stay away from the story and stick to listener questions about diet instead. We pleaded with her to answer at least one question on it. She pulled out, saying she had ‘too many meetings today’.”

Says her PR at Max Clifford Associates: “It had nothing to do with the Dr thing. She had a meeting at the last minute that she couldn’t get out of. Hopefully she’ll appear [on LBC] soon.”


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312 Responses



  1. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 12, 2007 at 2:22 am

    TV dietician to stop using title Dr in adverts

    Owen Gibson, media correspondent
    Monday February 12, 2007
    The Guardian

    Gillian McKeith, the You Are What You Eat presenter, has agreed to drop the title Dr from her company’s advertising after a complaint to the industry watchdog. She has made millions from book and health food spin-offs, but her credentials have been questioned by some experts.

    After the Advertising Standards Authority came to the provisional conclusion that the honorific was likely to mislead the public, McKeith Research said it planned to drop it from its advertising, obviating the need for a full investigation. The complaint was brought by a Guardian reader who learned of Ms McKeith’s academic credentials from a recent Bad Science column by Ben Goldacre.

    Article continues
    The self-styled health guru has consistently argued she is entitled to call herself a doctor because of her distance learning PhD in holistic nutrition from the American Holistic College of Nutrition.

    It is understood the ASA was minded to rule that the adverts were misleading, because the college was not accredited by any recognised educational authority at the time she took the course, and she does not hold a general medical qualification. While the adverts usually stated somewhere in the text Ms McKeith was not a medical doctor, the initial impression given was that she was, it said.

    According to documents seen by the Guardian, the agreement prevents Ms McKeith calling herself a doctor in any advertising or mailshots relating to her company and its products. They include a Dr Gillian McKeith-branded range of health foods and the Dr Gillian Club, which offers online health plans.

    She told the Guardian she understood the offending ad was a leaflet without the usual disclaimer she was not a medical doctor. She said she understood the honorific had to go from leaflets, but not from all adverts. “As far as I’m concerned, because of the hard work I have done, I’ll continue to put PhD after my name; I’m entitled to use the word Dr as and when I choose.”

    She said she had become a target for critics of her brand of nutrition because of her public profile. “I am on a mission to change this country’s eating habits. I’ve been doing it for 15 years, and I have had amazing results. I believe strongly and passionately in my mission.”

    Her PR representative, Max Clifford, said her degree had not played a part in her career. “Personally, I wish it had never been mentioned. She never needed it, and it’s done nothing but cause her embarrassment.”

    Ms McKeith is on her fourth series of the Channel 4 show.

  2. Vunderbar said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:57 am

    LMAO


  3. Idolator said,

    February 12, 2007 at 3:33 am

    “If you contact the Australasian College of Health Sciences (Portland, US) where McKeith has a “pending diploma in herbal medicine”, they say they can’t tell you anything about their students.”

    Oh! Oh! I’ll be in Portland for a while! Want me to check it out? I could get pictures.

  4. roymondo said,

    February 12, 2007 at 5:04 am

    I really can’t read all that at this time of the morning, but something just popped into my head.

    Think KLF:

    Doctor poo-oo, Doctor Poo.

  5. saifedean said,

    February 12, 2007 at 5:26 am

    As many nerds will agree, this moment has the feel-good-factor of a Hollywood flick ending with the hero vanquishing the evil-doer.

    Thank you, Ben, this is really awesome.

    I truly hope that her show tanks and all her products stop being sold, and then Ch4 will move to give YOU your own show where you can spend 2 hours every week telling people real common sense medicine knowledge, and make millions of it.

    I for one, would not hesitate for a second to spend all my money on Goldacre Club health plans.

  6. jackpt said,

    February 12, 2007 at 5:47 am

    Really good, not a wasted word. Hope to see more feature length pieces in the future!

  7. Bob O'H said,

    February 12, 2007 at 7:09 am

    Ah, so war is declared! I’ll alert the UN security council immediately.

    I do like Max Clifford’s comment: I wonder if the irony was deliberate?

    Bob

  8. DaveB said,

    February 12, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Awesome, splendid, outstanding. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun at breakfast time (well apart from that one time..)

    Well done Ben and well done tehgrauniad for publishing. I can’t wait to see TAPL’s response, if there is one beyond what Max Clifford said.

    Oh, and the chequebook’s at the ready in case there’s a legal defence fund required – but I can’t see how even wor Gillian could complain about such a carefully written and researched piece.

  9. glutam9 said,

    February 12, 2007 at 8:23 am

    Dr pepper must be sh***ng himself

  10. superburger said,

    February 12, 2007 at 8:49 am

    “As far as I’m concerned, because of the hard work I have done, I’ll continue to put PhD after my name; I’m entitled to use the word Dr as and when I choose.”

    Making fatties cry by shouting at them and not giving them pies is not equivalent to working 1000 hour weeks as a nursing auxiliary in a cardiac care ward, and they don’t get to call themselves Dr.

  11. Teek said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:05 am

    bravo Ben, much-needed diatribe against TAPL and all that is wrong with the meeja.

    look forward to the faal-out – will “Dr.” rise to the bait, will she respond by getting Max Clifford to roll out the PR machine…?!

  12. Drew Price said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Ben,

    My congratulations to the individuals who made the effort and took the time to to take this to it’s conclusion! As I said on this site a while back the majority of the nutritionists I know welcome this news.

    Thanks also for a great article I especially enjoyed the final couple of paragraphs. It is unfortunate though that just prior to these you again lump all nutritionists failing again to make distinctions.

    This news course raises a lot of issues again most notably regulation but also the generally very poor standard of scientific reporting in this country, peoples (albeit media fueled) paranoia about general health, the fickle faddish behavior of the general public to matters of health etc.

    In and earlier article you mentioned the fitness aspect of health and fitness. ‘Nutrition for the masses’ seems to suffer from the same problem as exercise/fitness namely that there needs to be a trend every year in order for the large industry behind it to make any money.

    It’s unfortunate we are all dragged down by it but, both the advice given (as well the very need for advice) obviously depends upon the client base or individual concerned. Clearly, when talking about public health nutrition, problems with diet and health for most people are down to issues of socioeconomics and lifestyle rather than whether or not they are buying goji berries. However, it’s worth remembering many nutritionists work with populations (such as athletes for example) where things are a little more complex and where the margin for error is much, much smaller. Here the advice ‘just eat your greens’ may be insufficient.

    Many in our ranks have known this development was coming for some time and again I applaud those people who have managed to push this ruling (I note congratulations seem to be going mostly in your direction, I hope their efforts can be properly acknowledge here at some point – maybe interviews? Blogs? Diaries? Memoirs?!). I would like to also draw your attention to the fact though that we are not all the same as your writing would have us, actually many of us are rubbing are hands with glee hoping this is a step towards tighter regulation.

    Unfortunately it’s suffice to say that as long as there is an appetite for bad nutritional advice then there will always be people willing to make good living writing column inches about it – on both sides of the argument of course.

    Drew Price

  13. Mumble said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Fantastic article, and I really hope John Garrow knows the meaning of the word ‘fulsome’.

  14. MelJC said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Whilst I’m no scientist I recognise blatant quackery when I see it and have spent a lot of time with female mates, and the odd male, pointing out the blatant GCSE-level mistakes this woman makes and asking them why the hell they are falling for it.

    Bloody well done to you Ben and the anonymous complainant – I shall be emailing this link to all and sundry.

  15. popvulture said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Fantastic article. But did anyone see the photo the Guardian chose to use to illustrate it? I swear it gave me a horny goat complex.

  16. Mojo said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:47 am

    I’m glad I didn’t have any breakfast this morning.

  17. mark014 said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:49 am

    Rarely, if ever, have I been left with such a wide grin on my face after reading a newspaper piece as I was this morning after reading your article on the quack McKeith. It’s fantastic that somebody so articulate and so scientifically well educated as yourself is standing up to her ridiculous claims. Superb Ben, keep up the good fight.

  18. helensparkles said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Great article, I am no scientist but even I was highly sceptical of Gillian’s spiel. Is the Guardian preparing a legal team?!

  19. Kleo Papas said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Well done Ben, sorry Dr Ben,

    I have the singular misfortune of working very close to this woman’s home (or is it nest?) as I work in Hampstead. I have bumped into her a couple of times and said “Morning Doc” to her which has caused her to beam broadly. She must suffer from an irony deficiency I guess, probably due to a low chlorophyll count. Joking aside, I think the wider issue is not that this charlatan has made a very tidy living out of making bogus claims – but that Channel 4 has given her the platform to do so. Her programmes should be preceded with the same kind of warnings of “Don’t try this at home” as Jackass or others. I think it’s time we made more noise with the broadcaster and even the regulator.

    Thanks for a great article Ben, my face is now contorted into a happy Botox-like rictus for the rest of the day.

    Kleo Papas

  20. Suw said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Make sure you all visit the Guardian website to view this article there too, for the sake of improving the traffic stats. ;-) The Guardian needs to be encouraged to commission more brilliant writing like this.

    www.guardian.co.uk/food/Story/0,,2011095,00.html

  21. CarlottaVance said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Ben,

    Great article & congratulations to you and your site visitor who got the ASA to see sense. The Channel 4 forum for the ‘holistic nutritionist’s show – (at least Channel 4 have stopped calling her ‘Dr’ – even if her website still does – as this is a form of promotion, will this not too have to change?) even has an article from the Daily Mail putting the boot in – I would not normally post the link, but it is really rather funny:
    preview.tinyurl.com/29aoed

  22. le canard noir said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Well done Ben and all the crew.

    I think the new Activism area on the Forum is a great new step forward. I feel a ‘why don’t you’ moment coming on – I’m going to switch off my monitor, stop blogging, and go and do something more useful instead.

    Showing my age…

  23. Registered Dietitian said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Great – but why is the title of the article in the guardian today “TV dietician to stop using title Dr in adverts” Noone spot the mistake? Dietician is a protected term for legit professionals – McKeith is not one! Annoying for us dietitians fighting for credibility against the pseudo-nutritionists!

  24. Evil Kao Chiu said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:35 am

    “When you intervene and make a huge effort to change people’s diets, and get them eating more fruit and veg, you find the benefits, where they are positive at all, are actually very modest. Nothing like 10 years.” Goddammit – do you mean I’ve been avoiding foie gras for nothing? Years of my gastronomic life wasted…

    Well done. A rare victory for the forces of Good.

    Interestingly, Under section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006, a person commits an offence if:

    he dishonestly makes a false representation; and in doing so, he intends to make a gain (for himself or anyone else) or to cause a loss to another person […]

  25. julie oakley said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:38 am

    I loved the article. Well done for doing such a fantastic job.

  26. Evil Kao Chiu said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:40 am

    The Daily Mail McTeeth shoeing reads… “In the end, I bought two doctorates – one for myself and one for my cat, Tibbles.” A nod to Hettie, perhaps?

  27. bad chemist said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Haven’t got the time to read the full text of this at the moment but congratulations to you and all those who have been hammering at TAPL. Let’s hope similar success is found on the german leg of the onslaught.

    I’ll be smiling all day.

  28. insatiablehee said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:50 am

    Its amazing how she can say the following…
    “As far as I’m concerned, because of the hard work I have done, I’ll continue to put PhD after my name; I’m entitled to use the word Dr as and when I choose.”
    As if you can just choose your own prefixes as you wish- then what am I and the rest of us who are busting their asses out to get those two letters before our names for?
    She is truely undermining the credibility of all Dr.s – whichever field it may be..

    But then again, you might as well consider her in the same line of people such as
    “Dr.” Dre, “Sir” Mix-a-lot … I am sure they have not obtained the right credentials/certificates for their prefixes too.

  29. TimW said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Some useful questions extracted from the above:

    “Have you spent years conducting clinical research?”

    “Are you a scientist, a biochemist, a botanist, or have you spent a lifetime studying food and biochemistry?”

    “So, where do you get such stuff? Where is your scientific authority?”

    Well, at least the taxi driver was *married to* a doctor.

  30. DrSteve said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Great article and I am glad you finally get the real root of preventable health problems: social inequality. A couple of things.

    Food deserts (probably) do not exist. Much evidence in recent years both observational and experimental suggests they probably don’t in the UK, and if they do ,do not impact much on diet (can provide refs if required).

    Health inequality. As an academic in social epidemiology/geography I have always wanted to make a TV programme on health inequality but presented in such a way that it gets people to think about the organisation of society as a fundamental cause of ill-health rather than hectoring the unhealthy….

    PBS/California NewsReel have a series coming out next year about health disparity – about time too! Go here for more info: www.unnaturalcauses.org/

  31. CarlottaVance said,

    February 12, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Gillian McKeith: “a bad joke”: The Stage – plus quite a few mentions for this blog.

    Mr Clifford is slow off the mark today……

    www.thestage.co.uk/tvtoday/2007/02/gillian_mckeith_a_bad_joke.php

  32. Coobeastie said,

    February 12, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Ben, I love you. Fabby article, great smackdown.

  33. Mojo said,

    February 12, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Unfortunately, the ASA only deals with print and broadcast advertising, so her website will remain unscathed. The phrases “Dr Gillian” or “Dr Gillian McKeith” currently appear on its home page 27 times (up from 20 when I last counted in November), not including the five book covers on which the “Dr” is also visible.

    I have no idea why it appears so often if, as Max Clifford says, “she never needed it”.

    I don’t think the ASA can do anything about the book covers either.

  34. TimW said,

    February 12, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Mojo – does that make the website a job for Trading Standards, then?

    And, how about in-print references to the website url – which also begins with “dr”?

  35. wilsontown said,

    February 12, 2007 at 11:53 am

    I also liked McKeith’s comment that “As far as I’m concerned, because of the hard work I have done, I’ll continue to put PhD after my name; I’m entitled to use the word Dr as and when I choose.”

    And there was I, imagining that a PhD had to be a substantial and original contribution to the field, demonstrating competence in research and a knowledge of the relevant literature.

    Hard work alone doesn’t necessarily cut it.

  36. wantonhippie said,

    February 12, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Hello!
    I am one of the other lot; a new age hippie, brought up by wolves and astrologers, and also an evil meeja whore. However, I wanted to let you know that some of us woobie-woobies were also thrilled and delighted by your brilliant, brilliant article. The amount of times I have thrown anything to hand at the telly at that awful, awful woman… (Should that be ‘allegedly awful, awful woman’ since I don’t have a libel account?)
    I’m a journalist who writes articles on mermaids and vampires with a completely straight face. However, this article has made you science geeks seem rather sexy. Phwoar, well done, Dr. Ben.
    Tx

  37. wilsontown said,

    February 12, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Forgot to offer my congratulations on the article…excellent work.

  38. franmeerkat said,

    February 12, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Excellent article, Ben. But never mind her non-PhD – she seems to have trouble recognising vegetables. In one of her early Channel 4 progs she plucked a fennel bulb out of the fridge and said, ‘Wonderful, I see you’re now eating leeks.’

  39. Jennifer Rohn said,

    February 12, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Great article. And Saifedean’s suggestion is excellent, Ben: you should pitch your own tv program – Bad Science would translate beautifully to the small screen!

  40. CarlottaVance said,

    February 12, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Maybe Max is saying nowt as he already just calls her ‘Gillian McKeith’ – no ‘Dr’ on his site, and no fool either:

    www.maxclifford.com/Gillian_McKeith

  41. julie oakley said,

    February 12, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Ha ha listening to Max Clifford trying to defend her on Radio 4

  42. steve_p said,

    February 12, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Excellent Guardian article, Mr. Goldacre.

  43. DS said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    I’m a regular Bad Science reader in the Grauniad and it is usually the first thing I turn to on a Saturday (good article about open journals on Sat, incidentally). Today, however, you really have excelled yourself.

    I’m really glad (at the risk of enjoying the ad hominem stuff too much) that this articel goes some way to deconstructing the vast amounts of verbal and written effluvia that go with her. Unfortunately, it’s very likely that most of the audience that hangs on her every word will never see this. Which is a pity.

    It now gives me the ammo to go around telling everyone I know in a very loud voice that it’s not just me that wonders just how full of “poo” she really is.

  44. Dr Madvibe said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Fantastic, well said Ben and well done “angry nerd”.

    I love your Guardian column and look forward to it each Saturday.

    Dr M

    PS I am not a doctor, I just like the moniker.

  45. helensparkles said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Max Clifford didn’t sound as passionate as he can, I think even he has little faith in the poo lady! I am sure you don’t mind Gillian earning a lot of money, just perhaps not by peddling her quackery.

    Dr Steve, I would be supporting you entirely in the making of your programme, and am heartily sick of all manner of conditions being blamed on the individual. The creation of otherness, that this implies, is a convenient deceit which ignores systemic causes.

  46. MissPrism said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Hurrah!

  47. Ben A said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Has anyone tried complaining to OFCOM?

    If her TV programme is like the extract on chlorophyll, I would hope that it breached Section 5 of the Broadcasting code of conduct, and Channel 4 could at least be prevented from giving her more air time. As non-lawyer there seem to several relevant sub-clauses, e.g.

    “5.7 Views and facts must not be misrepresented. Views must also be presented with due weight over appropriate timeframes.”

    As I’ve not watched the programmes I’m reluctant to complain.

  48. Dudley said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    You can also listen to Ben on the Garudina podcast, at blogs.guardian.co.uk/podcasts/2007/02/newsdesk_notes_for_monday_febr_1.html

    Great article Mr Goldacre, thanks!

  49. Delster said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    nice work… do you need a henchman?

    In other (unfortunatly bad) news, the NHS in northern ireland are now to offer alternative medicine such as osteopathy and homeopathy on direct referral. Osteo i can understand and have personal experience of and can claim (anecdotal) that it does help…. but homeopathy???

    Is it possible to sue the NHS for wasting public funds on treatment’s that are no better than placebo? or would that be wasting public funds?

  50. Dr* T said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    My commute to work this morning has never been so enjoyable. Well done Ben!

    Perhaps the original complainant should also like to bask in some (well deserved) limelight?

    Come on – take yo praise!

  51. Doc_Choc said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Awesome article! Can’t stand TAPL, she makes my blood boil. Take her down! :D

  52. Zebedee said,

    February 12, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Well done Ben, a great grauniad piece! Looking forward to hearing You & Yours on Listen Again. Someone needs to do something about her website now.

    Having taken McK down several pegs, perhaps you can turn your attention to the cargo cult mumbo-jumbo that is antivivisection? It’s an equally deserving case – but the antiviv groups have had so many rulings against them over the years that complaining to the ASA has rather lost its novelty appeal.

    A plug for our blog if anyone’s interested … www.rdsblog.info

  53. roGER said,

    February 12, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks for a brilliant article, Ben.

    I only hope that Ch4 (who should be ashamed of themselves) dump the Poo Lady soon.

  54. bltp said,

    February 12, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    All of the above and more, after years of teeth grating anti science nonsense the juggernaut has been slowed a little. The other day I saw Louise Reddnapp on daytime telly pushing detox chewing gum ! Apparently your teeth are full of dangerous free radicals! The only sadness is that I can guarantee that in next few weeks the guardian /observer will print similar rubbish from it’s own in house new age wing do the editors never read their own articles. But let’s celebrate today while we can!

  55. oosh said,

    February 12, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Hey-ho, the witch is dead!

  56. Davey101 said,

    February 12, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    I posted a comment over at the Daily Mail, at the article linked to above. It went something like this, but they cut the entire last sentence:

    “Nice parody of the Awful Poo Lady! Is the mention of the cat a reference to Hettie, the dearly departed cat who actually does have the exact same doctorate as Ms McKeith? Plenty more on the whole ‘Doctor’ story over at badscience.net

    Shocking censorship over there on the “bad web”!

  57. Mojo said,

    February 12, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    TimW said (#34): “Does that make the website a job for Trading Standards, then?”

    Yes. The problem is that they have a different burden of proof. The ASA can ask an advertiser to substantiate any claim they make, and the burden of proof is on the advertiser to come up with supporting evidence. Trading Standards would (I think) have to produce a case good enough for a prosecution and that means that the burden would be on them to prove that the use of the title is misleading.

    It might still be worth a try, I suppose. I wonder if the ASA’s draft adjudication would be admissible…

    NB: I am not a lawyer.

  58. miked said,

    February 12, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    I’ve just written a complaint to the ASA about her website. I can’t see how she can say she is dropping the title Dr, and then turn around and use it on her site.

    I think her defence is that she is dropping the title from her adverts, and is still entitled to use it elsewhere. But I would argue her website constitutes a form of advertising

  59. doctorcongo said,

    February 12, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    I really enjoyed your article today. Very well written. I do hope some of your research makes it into the Red Top papers, which are her prime constituency. These media-savvy charlatans need to be challenged. Well done to ‘The Guardian’ for hosting a column that regularly speaks out against the mumbo-jumbo merchants!

    A nice follow-up to this article would be to confront the commissioning editors who have patronised her pseudo-science in the past. They need to be exposed as the simpletons or cynics that they really are.

  60. Mojo said,

    February 12, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    The ASA can’t do anything about the website. It’s outside their remit.

    From their website:

    “There are some types of commercial message we don’t deal with; these include:

    Claims on websites
    In general, misleading claims on companies’ websites should be reported to your local trading standards department (www.tradingstandards.gov.uk) but we can investigate website owners’ sales promotions, such as special offers, prize draws and competitions. We can also investigate “third party” advertisements in space the website owner has allocated to other advertisers.”

  61. Bent&Twisted said,

    February 12, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    About ruddy time too!

    Some of what McKeith says when she’s not indulging in Jade-like bullying of some podgy halfwit is basic commonsense. Stop eating so many crisps, chips, biscuits, pizzas and burgers. Cut down your salt, fat and sugar. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Take at least half an hour’s exercise three times a week.

    But that wouldn’t stretch out to a series of half hour TV programmes.

    So she ridicules these poor people by making them take their clothes off in front of the camera, and waves their turds around tauntingly. Then she talks about ‘Wonder Foods’ and detoxifying and oxygenating.

    And it works – she fools people. I’ve given up arguing with otherwise intelligent and rational people about McKeith – they want to believe her. Admittedly, they are all people who eat and exercise sensibly already, so she is preaching to the converted.

    I think it’s just a variation of car-crash TV – lots of middle class people who tune in to see how stupid and revolting the lower orders can be.

    But you’ve got a tough job, Ben. Every newspaper and magazine (including the Guardian) has columnists who repeat the wonder foods/detoxifying nonsense.

    Take a pop at Carol Voordeman next.

    Still, thanks very much for inspiring the complaint to the ASA.

    And keep up the good work.

  62. bevheth said,

    February 12, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    As Gillian McKeiths “You Are What You Eat” was the most borrowed non fiction library book in 2006 I think she probably isn’t crying about the bad publicity too much just yet. This fake doctor story comes out sporadically every few years but she is like Teflon. It needs a more concerted campaign to get her to shut up and go away with her fake qualifications and abysmal people skills – how she became a top media ‘nutritionist’ I’ll never know.

  63. Ciarán said,

    February 12, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    ah man this has made my day!
    well done all esp Ben
    so next is Germany, now this has been done the germans surely have to do something and hopefully they won´t accept a voluntary retraction of the title.

    I hope Channel4 are listening up – like Ben said they have helped propagate a lot of her nonsense and as public service broadcaster they have a responsibility to act. I think this has been asked before but – Can we not get a friendly MP on some committee to ask some questions of channel 4?

    bevheath “think she probably isn’t crying about the bad publicity too much just yet.”
    maybe – but she’ll be pissed at ben i reckon
    put keep pluggin away and you never know

  64. Delster said,

    February 12, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    A little off topic but it’s as good advise as some you get on TV

    THE FINAL WORD ON NUTRITION
    After an exhaustive review of the research literature, here’s the final word on nutrition and health:

    1. Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

    2. Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

    3. Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

    4. Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

    5. Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

    CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

  65. raygirvan said,

    February 12, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    bltp > The other day I saw Louise Reddnapp on daytime telly pushing detox chewing gum!

    Yeah: there’s a celebrity/nutrition/commercial alliance going on. She’s fronting Wrigleys’ promotion for their new Orbit Complete gum. They’ve also got a nutrition consultant, Juliette Kellow, on board: a registered dietician who has written a deal of sensible stuff dissing fad diets such as the Atkins. MInd you, it still strikes me as playing the nutrition card to sell products. Kellow has a similar role for the SUBWAY® sandwich franchise.

  66. kiwihelen said,

    February 12, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Hey if you want to know if the person giving out nutritional advice is a)registered and b) works to a code of ethics, try these websites

    Dietitians
    www.hpcheck.org/lisa/onlineregister/MicrositeSearchInitial.jsp

    Nutritionists
    www.nutritionsociety.org/index.asp?nsm=2&page=34

    If people are using the title of dietitian and are not on the HPcheck then that is illegal!

    Helen

  67. Dave Angel said,

    February 12, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    “As far as I’m concerned, because of the hard work I have done, I’ll continue to put PhD after my name; I’m entitled to use the word Dr as and when I choose.”

    Brilliant. I’ve worked really hard too, Gillian – what shall I be a doctor of?

    So, when are the fraud squad taking her in for questioning?

  68. Mojo said,

    February 12, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    #61: “Then she talks about ‘Wonder Foods’”

    And sells them. See the “health shop” section of her website

  69. Mojo said,

    February 12, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    #67: “So, when are the fraud squad taking her in for questioning?”

    And where?

    badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1808

  70. superburger said,

    February 12, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    I tried some time ago to get McKeith’s products investigated by trading standards.

    They didn’t bite though, I spoke to a woman who said they were looking at her labelling

    McKeith Research ltd is based in Camden btw, so that’s her local Trading standards.

    Good luck.

  71. curranhung said,

    February 12, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    I believe that she – and anyone else who wants to – is entitled to call herself “Dr” – there’s no law against it. She could call herself the “Duchess of McKeith” too – no law against that either. It’s only because she is using the title “Dr” to dupe people into believing that she’s qualified to talk about nutitrion that the Advertising Standards people have stopped her from calling herself “Dr McKeith” to advertise her products.

    You would have thought, wouldn’t you, that she would be a bit embarrassed by the revelations about her “qualifications”, but she seems to be totally without shame.

    And she’s not the only one either – www.ianpaisley.org/. I’ve yet to discover where this man got his PhD.

    As someone who’s working towards a legitimate PhD at an accredited university, I find their pretensions rather sad but it is true that some people are taking in by their “titles”.

  72. CarlottaVance said,

    February 12, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    McKeith has a glowing entry on Quackwatch:

    www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/mckeith.html

    Which also goes into details on her AANC “qualification” – including honourable mention for Hattie:

    www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/Nonrecorg/aanc.html

    And her ‘PhD':

    www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/Nonrecorg/clayton.html

  73. michelledechile said,

    February 12, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    A brilliant article with a heart. A much-appreciated mention of the link between social class and life expectancy/health inequality.

    Been reading BadScience now and then, and I just have to say: You shine. And the ‘www’ needs sound analyses and excellent writers like you. Right on!

  74. MistressofScience said,

    February 12, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    To reiterate what everyone else has said, well done Ben, fantastic article. I have one little comment however. With any health advice I like to check that the person giving the advice is leading by example. My first ever thought when I looked at TAPL was ‘damn, I wouldn’t want to follow dietary advice from her if I ended up looking like that’. Is it my eyes, or my telly, that distort that woman into a pasty skinned woman who is an odd shape? Not attractive.

  75. Jut said,

    February 12, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    bravo! a minor victory for science!
    Now if only channel 4 can drop her program…

  76. randomswitch said,

    February 12, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    The problem with nutritionists is not so much whether they call themselves Drs. when they aren’t or don’t understand about DNA, but when they give out dangerously misleading advice. I have a friend whose pre-pubescent niece is a bit of a fatty, so her mother took her to a nutrionist for advice. Instead of advising the mother to cut down her calorie intake and get her to play more active games, the nutrionist declared the child had a lactose allergy which was making her fat and told her to cut out all dairy, which her mother duly did. I think this is outrageously irresponsible and appallingly arrogant. We all need calcium, growing girls especially, and eating and drinking dairy is the easiest and most effective way to get it into your diet. To risk a child’s health like this on the basis of ill-infomed beliefs, rather than evidence based practice, is disgraceful. Obviously the mother shouldn’t have been so foolish as to believe this rubbish. But people are amazingly ignorant about basic nutrition, partly because of the barrage of rubbish that is written in media. When I said to the friend with the niece that nearly everyone who is overweight is so because they take in more calories than they use up, she said ‘Really? Do you really think so?’. I commonly hear similar comments from my well educated peers. Such a lack of basic kbowledge makes them easy prey for ill-informed nutritionists.

    Or how about the commentator on a previous Food programme who declared that they were distributing homeopathic treatments to travelling people to combat their health problems. The causes of health problems amongst travelling people are well known. Poverty, poor diets, lack of exercise, unemployment. Any public funds pumped into alternative medicines, such as homeopathy, are reducing the funds available to give people properly evidenced and effective interventions.

    I used to think the alterative health bunch were misguided but well intentioned and harmless. I don’t think that any more.

  77. raygirvan said,

    February 12, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    curranhung > I’ve yet to discover where [Ian Paisley] got his PhD

    Not a PhD, but an honorary DD from Bob Jones University, South Carolina.

  78. jasper said,

    February 12, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    Great stuff Ben – marvellous way to start the week. And as for the “angry nerd” – take a bow, whoever you are. Now, any hotshot media lawyers out there with a detailed knowledge of broadcasting standards law who’d like to strike a blow for the good guys? (Er…don’t hold your breath).

  79. coracle said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    Good grief, did you have a pre-penned obit hanging around Ben? That article is massive!

  80. shazia said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Excellent stuff and a v entertaining article to boot.

    What do you feel about organic food? Excellent marketing ploy but not sure it’s all it’s cracked up to be – regardless of what the other pseudo-science bods at the Soil Association say.

  81. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Dear Ben,

    Thank you so much for that article…what an eye opener! I will admit that I have been a fairly avid Dr. McPoo watcher, agreeing with some of her ideas and approaches, of which more later, but had recently started to have wee doubts about her state of mind. Although I don’t have a scientific background, I’m a damn fast learner, and to my shame, never questioned what she was saying, even although I will remind my own customers that they should question everything, eternally, for their own good. Therefore there is a big thank you due to you for waking me up and inspiring me to go and do some homework.
    I do have to add however, that there are certain aspects of Dr. McPoo’s work that I will defend, although sadly this doesn’t extend to her manners (dreadful!) I’ve been strictly vegetarian for 18 years, and I do believe wholeheartedly that we should know EXACTLY what is in our food. When Dr. McPoo shows us what’s really in those cheap and nasty burgers, she really is doing us all a big favour. Actually, I think that the guiltiest culprits in our Crappy Food Lifestyles are M+S, Sainbury’s, and their rivals. Microwave and ready prepped food should be banned! Totally! We should all get huge Coucil Tax reductions for growing our own vegetables,recycling our poops as fertiliser, and having regular rainwater butt (‘scuse the pun) colonic irrigation. And if we were forced to grow and cook the stuff ourselves, just think how grateful and healthy and appreciative we would be….but I fear this makes me as dictatorial as Gillian herself. Sadly, it’s our own choice to be lazy that has done for us….
    Picking up on an earlier point from the Mistress of Science, I was greatly disturbed when I found out the lovely McPoo is barley three years older than I am. And too damn skinny. Doesn’t she know that being as underweight as she appears to be can seriously shorten life expectancy? Thankfully, I have fabulous genes that make sure I don’t look much older than 30, even at 41, and I wish she could see that a little bit of fat under our skins is so much better.
    I will finish with what really set the alarm bells ringing in my head. Her house. Not normal. Quietly disturbing actually. Only the most anal of architects could find that appealing. (Again apologies…and I trained as an architect too, but I’m ok now. Therapy helped a lot.)
    Ben, thank you again for keeping us wide awake on this issue. I will be reading with huge interest from now on.

    Caitlin

  82. Dr* T said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    Indeed Shazia, I for one remember complaining bitterly to the Soil Association for doing themselves no favours in the scientific community’s eyes after this nonsense:

    [url]http://tinyurl.com/28sgc6[/url]

    “Gillian McKeith has won the [Soil Association] Consumer Education Award for the impact she has made in encouraging healthier eating through her Channel 4 series You Are What You Eat.”

    Consumer education! EDUCATION! Lordy locks. It boiled my blood then and does so still.

  83. Dr Aust said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Nice one Doc.

    The pic they started the article with was a shocker… though also hilarious in an emetic way. Nearly made me spill me cappucino.

    Mrs Dr A was appalled by such a shocking waste of good natural produce.

    I have another theory about the media nutritionists, BTW – they are sort of poster children for a culture of total self-regard. The lack of any sense of irony the pic of “Venus in Fruit n Veg” spoke to was pretty mind-blowing all on its own.

  84. CBeeb said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Oh God, this article is just fabulous and an absolute joy to read – I was practically skipping with delight afterwards. Even leaving aside the bad science propagated by the Awful Poo Woman, how on earth can shouting at, harranguing and humiliating obese and unhappy people on prime-time TV possibly be justified in a civilised society? I had the misfortune of seeing a couple of minutes of the most recent programme last week – the bit where she demanded a poo from the poor sods living in her house, and, when presented with one made gratuitously disparaging remarks about its shape, or size, or colour or whatever – because apparantly these poor people who line themselves up for her abuse can’t even shit properly!! Then there’s the other very scientific techniques she uses of laying out everything the person ate and drank in a week in a bid to ‘prove’ just what disgusting fat slobs they are – never mind the fact that you could achieve similar results with the piles of quinoa, porridge, wheatgrass and avocados that she’d prefer they chomp their way through. And did I really hear her tell the woman last week that she *would* die before her son’s 18th birthday? So not only is she a ‘doctor’, she also has psychic powers that allow her to see into the future. No hysterical scaremongering there then…how lovely to see her get what she wanted (a sobbing fat woman convinced she’d be dead in 10 years if she didn’t knuckle down and OBEY). I’m a bit of a sappy arts graduate myself, but even I could see through the whole ‘oxygenate your blood’ stuff – is anybody employed on the programme actually checking some facts? So, in a nutshell – thank you Ben, and let’s hope that this is the beginning of the end for McKeith.

  85. CBeeb said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    Oh God, this article is just fabulous and an absolute joy to read – I was practically skipping with delight afterwards. Even leaving aside the bad science propagated by the Awful Poo Woman, how on earth can shouting at, harranguing and humiliating obese and unhappy people on prime-time TV possibly be justified in a civilised society? I had the misfortune of seeing a couple of minutes of the most recent programme last week – the bit where she demanded a poo from the poor sods living in her house, and, when presented with one made gratuitously disparaging remarks about its shape, or size, or colour or whatever – because apparantly these poor people who line themselves up for her abuse can’t even shit properly!! Then there’s the other very scientific techniques she uses of laying out everything the person ate and drank in a week in a bid to ‘prove’ just what disgusting fat slobs they are – never mind the fact that you could achieve similar results with the piles of quinoa, porridge, wheatgrass and avocados that she’d prefer they chomp their way through. And did I really hear her tell the woman last week that she *would* die before her son’s 18th birthday? So not only is she a ‘doctor’, she also has psychic powers that allow her to see into the future. No hysterical scaremongering there then…how lovely to see her get what she wanted (a sobbing fat woman convinced she’d be dead in 10 years if she didn’t knuckle down and OBEY). I’m a bit of a sappy arts graduate myself, but even I could see through the whole ‘oxygenate your blood’ stuff – is anybody employed on the programme actually checking some facts? So, in a nutshell – thank you Ben, and let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for McKeith.

  86. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Actually, a point I missed earlier….has anyone tasted her “Living Food” bars? I tried them once and was just about sick on the spot. Truly disgusting. As a life long foodie, married to a chef, (and we’re both big girls), famously fussy about what I eat, AND willing to experiment, I simply couldn’t stomach it. On grounds of taste alone, they should be banned.

  87. elpres said,

    February 12, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Read this in The Guardian this morning, excellent article – how do people get to peddle this nonsense on TV?!

  88. evidencebasedeating said,

    February 13, 2007 at 12:47 am

    Well done Ben the BadScientist! another dragon slain. just who is next??

    But just to confirm that Ms McKeith NEVER HAS BEEN or CLAIMED TO BE a dietitian. We dietitians are regulated by law. It’s illegal to call yourself one if you’re not.

    But how to ensure your nutritionist is bona fide? There is a simple test. Avoid any who use the old (Yawn) mantra of Hippocrates (yawn) ‘Let – food – be – thy – medicine – and – let – medicine – be – thy – food’ (yawn). The Hippocratic oath of nutritional amateurs everywhere. Instead choose a dietitian. We’re the legally regulated ones. We like food, and are happily exploiting the national interest in food and the clinical evidence that supports our claims…. and in addition to our RD suffix, have a much more topical mantra, courtesy of Fran Lebowitz, – ‘Food is an important part of a balanced diet’.

    and couldn’t resist a comment re #45, helensparkles
    ‘Max Clifford didn’t sound as passionate as he can, I think even he has little faith in the poo lady!’

    Surely a case of media-savvy, column-inch exploiting meeja personality sucking oodles of money from the gullible and unknowledgeable who believe the meeja hype that “it will make them better”. er, Max or Gillian. you decide

  89. Skeptyk said,

    February 13, 2007 at 1:02 am

    Oh, my goodness! I am delighted. Great article, great little win for reason and health. Thanks!

  90. SophieUK said,

    February 13, 2007 at 1:04 am

    Great work as ever Dr Ben.

    I am very happy to learn that we can all call ourselves doctors as long as we once worked hard at something. I worked very hard to put my new flatpack table together, and although it is still a bit wobbly I shall now be calling myself Dr Soph.

    This really is important stuff though – I run a website for people with health issues and you wouldn’t believe the amount of carp I get sent, all kinds of nonsense claims. Just today I had a lady who was very happy with her allergist’s advice, despite the fact that he just assumed that everyone who worked through the door had “leaky gut syndrome” – no testing, just assumed because past experience told him it was likely. Why on earth do people fall for this stuff?!

  91. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 13, 2007 at 2:15 am

    Leaky gut syndrome? Eeeuuuwwwww…

    Andrew.

  92. jimothy said,

    February 13, 2007 at 4:22 am

    I was just perusing Dr McPoo’s credentials on her site, which now contains an extensive description of her PhD institution. This includes the statements “The College is now accredited by the State of Alabama Department of Post-Secondary Education, a government body” and “The College is also licensed by the State of Alabama Department of Post-Secondary Education”.

    The second of these statements is undoubtedly true as anyone offering educational services in Alabama must be licensed including, from their webpage, Howard’s Driving School of mobile Alabama. Unfortunately the first of these statements seems to be a lie as, from the Clayton College website, “What is your accreditation? Clayton College is accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and the American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board ….. Both are private accrediting associations designed to meet the needs of non–traditional education and are not affiliated with any government agency”

    So, still not accredited then …. poor Gillian

  93. oneiros said,

    February 13, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Re. #33 et. al: It would be great if we could force TAPL to stop using the honourific on her website as well; in fact, a quick ‘whois’ would suggest she doesn’t actually own gillianmckeith.com (without the ‘dr’) so if the action could be applied to the web, we might cause her quite a headache…

  94. Dave Godfrey said,

    February 13, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Well done on the takedown.

    Something I’ve noticed (and I’m sure you’ve proabably mentioned before) with woo sellers is the “blame the individual for the failure of the treatment” mentality. Exactly the same thing is happenning in this case. Its your fault you’re fat, and its you’re fault you’ll die young. Of course having a healthy diet is a good thing, but sitting someone down, having a nice chat, setting achievable goals and reviewing progress doesn’t make good tv. Shout at someone for a week! Commission that!

  95. Mojo said,

    February 13, 2007 at 10:52 am

    jimothy said, (#92) “I was just perusing Dr McPoo’s credentials on her site, which now contains an extensive description of her PhD institution. This includes the statements “The College is now accredited by the State of Alabama Department of Post-Secondary Education, a government body” and “The College is also licensed by the State of Alabama Department of Post-Secondary Education”.”

    “Now accredited”? Surely, as far as TAPL’s qualification is concerned, the important thing is not the college’s current status, but its status when it awarded her the degree?

  96. bloodynicebloke said,

    February 13, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Cracking article, Mr G.

    Ironic also: after all her bluster about awful poo, it seems that she’s the one who is full of shit.

    Keep up the good work.

  97. Mojo said,

    February 13, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Re #92: “The College is now accredited by the State of Alabama Department of Post-Secondary Education, a government body”

    Perhaps it’s just an unfortunate typo, and it’s supposed to say “not accredited”, rather than “now accredited”.

    That’s what you get if you rely on work experience kids to produce your website.

  98. warumich said,

    February 13, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Good point Mojo – by the way, if in doubt, you can always ask the department of education whether a particular college has been accredited. Regarding the AHCNH and the CCNH there is apparently evidence that the college has in the past found guilty of indulging in title-trade.
    I can only recount what a friend told me who has made his own investigation, so I can’t give better references – but apparently an email should be enough to have the official opinion on that college.

  99. pv said,

    February 13, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Well done Ben.
    Just a word or two about that “guru” Max Clifford. He is to public relations what TAPL is to nutrition or food science. Big Max is a “publicist” with a flair for self-publicity via the exposure of his clients. That is, his fields of expertise are publicity management and publicity manipulation. This is not “public relations” as defined by the Institute of Public Relations, which has something to do with “understanding the public” and “public understanding”. What Mr Clifford does is more akin to the world of Josef Goebbels, which was more to do with public misdirection and creating false understanding.

  100. miked said,

    February 13, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    I think we have a bit of an echo chamber effect here.

    Nearly everyone who has commented has rightly congratulated Ben on the article.

    But I don’t think talking amongst ourselves will change anything.

    I urge you all to make a complaint:

    About her website
    via Trading Standards:
    www.direct.gov.uk/en/Diol1/DoItOnline/DG_4018045

    About Channel 4’s website:
    help.channel4.com/SRVS/CGI-BIN/WEBCGI.EXE?New,Kb=C4_Author,Company={2EA1BB9C-510E-44A5-A481-01EB1DDA1669},T=CONTACT_VE,VARSET_TITLE=General

    Lets not forget that the ASA has the full force of the law behind it – McKeith would invite criminal prosecution if she used the title “Dr” in one of her adverts.

    However, she manages to skirt round this and still use the title “Dr” on her website, and on the front cover of her books.

    I really think we should all do all we can to make a fuss about this. It really devalues the hard work of others if anyone can send off for a PhD with a small fee and get it over the internet. The publishers of her book, the people who make the website and all the other people who still let her use the title “Dr” are letting her get away with what would be a criminal act if she were to use it in an advert.

  101. fionnajm said,

    February 13, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Ben, I think you will turn out to be just as arrogant as all the doctors that go before you. Gillian Mckeith, if nothing else, has encouraged people to realise that nutrition has a direct link to their quality of life and health. I would rather trust in good nutrition to prevent me from getting ill than an ever increasing supply of pharmeceutical drugs that cover up symptoms until they get worse. How many people do die each year from side effects of drug intervention? and what exactly was your Hippocratic oath? With all the incentives doctors get from pharmeceutical companies and the huge power those companies wield one could imagine that it was not really in a doctors best interests for a patient to get better. Humans are not machines, we are self-healing organisms and should be encouraged to remember this. Doctors are trained in body mechanics but not in healing or health and most of them are too arrogant to accept that there are other journeys to health.

  102. abahachi said,

    February 13, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Re #101: were this true, you might wonder why TAPL is so desperate to claim the authority of Science for her advice and products. Of course it isn’t true, but it’s a wonderful example of the rhetorical power of false dichotomies and emotive description. He who is not in favour of chlorophyll pills and sprouts is therefore an agent of Big Pharma?

  103. Mojo said,

    February 13, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    #98: “By the way, if in doubt, you can always ask the department of education whether a particular college has been accredited.”

    Which dept. of education? The Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education website says “for accreditation information, you must contact the school directly”.

    www.acs.cc.al.us/privateschool/SchoolList.aspx

    Note the capital letters and underlining they use in the sentence “the license is issued to operate in the State of Alabama AND IS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH ACCREDITATION”, by the way!

  104. used to be jdc said,

    February 13, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    fionnajm –
    “Gillian Mckeith, if nothing else, has encouraged people to realise that nutrition has a direct link to their quality of life and health.”
    At the end of the day, we are dealing with a woman who makes factually incorrect “scientific” statements – are you saying she shouldn’t be picked up on inaccuracies beacause her heart is in the right place?
    I’m pretty sure people do realise that nutrition has a link to disease, not least because it is well publicised in the media both in print and online (Daily Mail, BBC websites do ‘Health & Science’ daily emails, for example). If there is a knowledge gap, then that should be filled – but not with the pseudoscientific crap that nutritionists such as McKeith spout. If you read the advice they give and actually research whether there is any basis in fact for their statements you will be disappointed, I’m sure. I used to read a lot about nutrition (Patrick Holford, Dr Briffa etc…) and it was only when I started looking at the data behind their claims that I realised what a steaming pile of shite so much of it was. And even then, I really didn’t want to actually admit it to myself as it would be so much nicer if the world was like that and you could, for example, prevent /cure diseases just by taking vitamins. Nutrition is a factor in many diseases – but not the only one. Look at the evidence dispassionately, fionnajm – it’s the only way.

  105. helensparkles said,

    February 13, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Dave Angel (67) ““As far as I’m concerned, because of the hard work I have done, I’ll continue to put PhD after my name; I’m entitled to use the word Dr as and when I choose.” Brilliant. I’ve worked really hard too, Gillian – what shall I be a doctor of?”

    I bet our work is really good stuff, which is would be a fine reason for us to deserve a PhD, whereas Gillian doesn’t!

    I am not sure what you mean evidencebasedeating (88) but I think Max & Gillian both qualify as “of media-savvy, column-inch exploiting meeja personality sucking oodles of money from the gullible and unknowledgeable who believe the meeja hype” if that is what you meant.

    Mr. Clifford is quite clever at that thing he does really, but that doesn’t stop me loathing what he does or his indefensible defense of Gillian.

    & good point Miked, I shall go there directly.

  106. Ambrielle said,

    February 13, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Re#101
    “I would rather trust in good nutrition to prevent me from getting ill…”

    Leaving aside the apparent conspiracy of all scientists and doctors to suppress the “self-healing” of human organisms (in league with big bad pharma… I wonder where my cut of the proceeds is…?), we all know (and have for years) that good nutrition is essential for good general health. McKeith is not the first to discover this, as she seems to think.

    Fionnajm puts a lot of faith in food alone to keep her well. Spanish flu was a major killer of people all over the world, and it’s victims were disproportionately young, otherwise healthy people. Does she suggest that eating star fruit and walnuts will really protect her from a pandemic of that sort? I’d like to see her turn down a flu vaccine or anti-virals. Is she also suggesting that people suffering from other illnesses such as genetic disorders and auto-immune diseases need only eat well and the body would do the rest?
    I would also suggest that if humans are “self-healing organisms” then bacteria, viruses and parasites would be as well, and as such, the two types of organsim co-existing is not always compatible… hence infectious disease!

    Btw, great article Ben… I was overjoyed this morning to see there was another dose of you after Saturday’s article. I work in a large research institute, and have told all my collegues about your column. Be prepared for an influx of badscience fodder!

  107. Tessa K said,

    February 13, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    I don’t have time to read through all the comments, so I apologise if someone has already pointed this out, but in Owen Gibson’s article, the headline starts TV Dietician…

    No she isn’t. She can’t be called a dietician unless she has formal qualifications. Gibson should have known better, or at least checked up.

    Has anyone done a follow-up on her TV show victims? It might be interesting to know if they stuck to her ‘advice’ or if they went back to their old ways the minute they were shot of her.

    And, of course, well done Dr Ben.

    On the other hand, maybe I should using my entirely genuine but very much non-scientific PhD to start conning the masses…

  108. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 13, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Having just watched most of tonights Gillian on Channel 4, I can’t help feeling huge sadness that an immense opportunity has been missed here. Although I find her almost complete lack of apparent humility irritating, ( obviously not good telly ) I can see that a lot of what this woman says, in purely practical terms, is correct. Forget the science, which we could argue about and bat back and forth till the aliens land, and look at her approach to food preparation, how we eat, our awareness of it’s contents. As much as I intensely dislike that feeling that I have been duped by her in some respects, I feel that to dismiss her entirely would be a mistake. A lot of what she says is good stuff. I’m annoyed by her carelessness and arrogance. However, I wonder if the best way forward is not to completely excommunicate her, but somehow ( don’t ask me how…I havent a clue!) work with her. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, we all have weaknesses.
    Fionnajm is correct when she says we are self healing organisms….the natural tendency for the human body is to correct and heal itself, given the correct fuel. I don’t believe that she was suggesting that we forsake pharmaceuticals in favour of groceries, although I know from repeated personal experiences how healing the correct diet can be. We’re not talking about Spanish Flu here. If we had that to deal with I’m sure Fionnajm and I would be savvy enough to take the required medication.
    Most “alternative” therapists will actually refer to themselves as complementary therapists, whatever their field, and no-one I work with would very rarely, if ever suggest that medical advice and treatment should be ignored, although in balance, I know of at least one recent case from a regular customer of mine which would demonstate how fallible the medical system can be. My own GP told me 3 years ago that conventional medicine didn’t recognise food intolerances as an issue, so she wasn’t willing to discuss it, while I was really struggling to come to terms with the effects of severe wheat and yeast intolerance. MDs are not infallible. We all make mistakes, and all of us including Dr McPoo, function better from a place of humility.
    Today’s weird science and the stuff we can’t see or measure yet will be tomorrow’s accepted facts, and every scientific “discovery” ( like it didn’t exist till we learned about it!) was an unknown at some point in history.

  109. JLF said,

    February 13, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    Hi all, I have only just become aware of this site (hence first time poster) and am pretty pleased with the content. I haven’t read much of Dr Ben’s stuff but most people posting on here seem to support scientifically proven treatments and that has my vote.

    Really pleased to see that “Dr” G has been given a kick and I agree with Tessa K as I know loads of Dietitians and “Dr” G is not one of them!

    Does anyone have any views on Dr John Briffa (a real doctor) – I myself have big concerns over some of his comments (read his website his blogs, they would be funny is they weren’t scary!).

    Does anyone know anyone who works at the companies who are his clients as listed on his website (www.drbriffa.com/about) they may want to ask why he is being used as a consultant rather than Dietitians? You’ll be told that it’s because he’s a doctor but that’s like going to the dentist with a broken foot.

    Now what about dear Patrick Holford…..Nope can’t fault the man, nothing like taking loads of pills to make a man feel healthy (or even in optimum health)!!

  110. Neil Desperandum said,

    February 13, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    “Forget the science, which we could argue about and bat back and forth till the aliens land”

    No we couldn’t. She’s wrong. The scientists are right. She’s wrong at basic school science. She’s a liar. That’s the problem.

    “I wonder if the best way forward is …to work with her”

    We’re up for it, but I don’t think she’ll want to. Her mistakes have after all been pointed out before and she hasn’t changed. It’s not in her interest.

    “the natural tendency for the human body is to correct and heal itself, given the correct fuel”

    Yes, but the natural tendency for the human body is also to die, given a nasty infection. Natural tendencies aren’t a very useful guide to anything much.

  111. Danivon said,

    February 13, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    “Today’s weird science and the stuff we can’t see or measure yet will be tomorrow’s accepted facts, and every scientific “discovery” ( like it didn’t exist till we learned about it!) was an unknown at some point in history. ”

    Well, some of it might be, but most of the ‘weird science’ of today will either disappear having been shown up as codswallop, or it will hang around along with claptrap like homeopathy.

    The thing is, that since we adopted the scientific method around 2-300 years ago, most discoveries have not come out of thin air, but as a result of rigorous work. Gillian McKeith just makes it up as she goes along, and unless she can see £££ in it, will not change her methods

  112. dissonance said,

    February 13, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    Re#101
    Why is buying expensive “natural” pills/remedies from a nutritionist better than giving the same money to a pharma company?

    I cant see anything in that article that argue that a healthy diet is not a good thing in deed we have “Anyone who tells you to eat your greens is all right by me” however it then points out the various pseudoscience problems including pushing stuff that doesn’t necessarily fall into a healthy diet.
    A good example of someone pushing a healthy diet is Jamie Oliver, simple stuff without pushing his own brand and pseudoscience beliefs.

  113. evidencebasedeating said,

    February 14, 2007 at 12:28 am

    #109 JLF asks about Dr John Briffa. He is registered with the GMC but is not on the specialist register, nor the GP register – so surely that makes him NOT a GP?

    Dr Briffa does a sound job of translating the latest clinical research papers into “Observer” style for the Sunday masses. Difficult to go wrong there – especially when you have a medical education to fall back on…….

    ‘Alt.doc’ John Briffa considers himself a ‘Practitioner of Integrated Medicine’ – whatever that is . ‘Integrated’ – like ‘holistic’ -is one of those false descriptors of profession.
    But it does open all sorts of elite doorways to the monied classes – from royalty endorsed organisations stuffed full of Gillian McKeith type mock-docs representing the holistic rainbow of whatever-you-want-me-to-be therapists (www.fih.org.uk is a good example) to Tatler award for media doc of the year (2005 AND 2006 !!!!)…

    What a pity the medical knowledge isn’t applied as rigorously when he valiantly tries to interpret nutritional research. Arrogance associated with his medical background, or ignorance of nutritional science – its hard to tell why he gets nutrition so wrong. But take it as read that usually 50% of what he writes on nutrition is factually incorrect, or interpreted so badly as to give a different view completely to the conclusions derived by the research. But it adds to the amusement of a working day for dietitians – my how we laugh :)

  114. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 14, 2007 at 12:52 am

    Just lost a whole long post/rant in reply to some of the above points, so now I’m kinda ticked off. Will attempt again tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m really saddened at the complete lack of intellectual curiosity displayed here. How is it possible to comment on a subject without first pulling it to bits a learning it from the roots up? I suspect that the “homeopathy is claptrap” comment wasn’t based on any useful knowledge of the subject. Do you have any personal experience of it (always the best teacher)?

  115. SophieUK said,

    February 14, 2007 at 1:07 am

    Ben clearly addresses the notion that “say what you like about McKeith, at least she makes you eat your vegetables” in the article, and he clearly says that anyone who offers basic, evidence-based dietary advice is fine by him. If Ms McKeith just told people to stop eating pizza and start eating fruit I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t care less.

    But that’s not what she does, and we can’t just “forget the science”, because the science is the only thing that’s gonna heal us, and evidence is the only proof we’ve got. Humans may be self-healing organisms, but tell that to someone who needs insulin injections – sprouts are not the answer.

  116. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 14, 2007 at 7:39 am

    Caitlin — personal experience isn’t always the best teacher, because the thorough investigator never rules out the possibility of unwitting self-delusion. That’s why placebo-controlled, randomised, double-blind controlled trials are the gold standard for evidence in medicine — they exclude the possibility of subjective experience tainting the results.

    Andrew.

  117. bumpkin said,

    February 14, 2007 at 9:13 am

    McKeith clearly doesn’t want us to “forget the science”. If she did she wouldn’t spend so much time stealing science’s clothes.

    It’s important to her credibilty that people think she has been scientifically educated (which she hasn’t) and active in scientific research (which she isn’t), and that her poo-poking and algae-pushing is based on sound scientific understanding of the human body (which it isn’t).

    Like all quacks, she knows she has to dress up her nonsense in the language and outward appearance of science if she is going to fool people for long enough to take their money.

    It’s a kind of back-handed tribute to science’s success, in a way.

  118. Nanobot said,

    February 14, 2007 at 10:10 am

    #114
    “Meanwhile, I’m really saddened at the complete lack of intellectual curiosity displayed here.”

    How can you possibly guage that from the postings of people who are unknown to you apart from on this board?

    ” How is it possible to comment on a subject without first pulling it to bits a learning it from the roots up? I suspect that the “homeopathy is claptrap” comment wasn’t based on any useful knowledge of the subject.”

    You accuse others of jumping to conclusions and of lacking intellectual curiosity without any real evidence to back up your assertion that these comments are not based on an intellectual investigation. Hypocritical?

    You disagree with the opinions about homeopathy, but, at the moment, the default position of scientific skepticism is perfectly valid here based on the literature. Attacking other people’s positions is usually the first sign of insecurity in your own.

    ” Do you have any personal experience of it (always the best teacher)?”

    But we are not talking about teaching, we are talking about science. Objectivism is king in this jungle.

    Anyway, congratulations to all involved in pinning TAPL down about this Dr business. After all the pseudoscientific hocum is what keeps her afloat, remove it and she’s just another TV chef, a bad one at that.

  119. miked said,

    February 14, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Andrew Collins, the author and broadcaster, has a great blog, where he discusses his view on life. His most recent article is quite a strong attack on Dr Goldacre’s article. Now, it saddens me, as he is such an interesting and great writer, and he generally expresses some pretty interesting views clearly and succintly.

    Before I state the link, I musts stress that on one of his recent unrelated posts he received a barrage of abuse from people on the internet. If you feel like commenting on his blog post, please, please be as civil as possible.

    Anyway here is the blog:
    www.wherediditallgoright.com/BLOG/2007/02/eat.html

  120. Min said,

    February 14, 2007 at 10:48 am

    Nanobot – you probably mean “objectivity”, not “objectivism” – leave that cod-philosopher Ayn Rand out of it!

  121. ayupmeduck said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:18 am

    In support of “caitlinthewitch”:

    It’s rather hard on her (him?) to say “She’s a liar”, and I completely understand that she’s “kinda ticked off”. This is a person that it open to discussion, and while this blog is not the best place to attempt some sort of mass education on scientific principles, the “you’re either with us or be damned” approach does not seem very productive, or civil.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  122. Dr Aust said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:27 am

    #114 – caitlinthewitch – re. homeopathy:

    You can read a bunch of extensive threads about homeopathy elsewhere on the blog:

    www.badscience.net/?cat=35

    Some facts:

    The intellectual curiosity of numerous doctors and scientists doing rigorous studies (e.g. Edzard Ernst at Peninsula Med School to name one current example) shows no benefit from homeopathy beyond placebo.

    Small and badly done studies, mostly by committed homeopaths, claim to show benefit.

    Systematic reviews clearly show that the better controlled the study, the less the apparent effect, tending to “none” (beyond placebo) which is therefore overwhelmingly likely to be the true result.

    Homeopathic remedies contain no molecules of anything other than water or alcohol. To think they have a biological effect beyond placebo would mean dumping the whole molecular basis of chemistry and physics. There is absolutely no basis for doing this.

    An opinion :

    Homeopathy as practised medically (e.g. people like Peter Fisher, see threads elsewhere) is effectively a “disguised” form of talking therapy.

  123. Dr Aust said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Sorry, meant post #115, of course.

    And Andrew C’s admirably concise comment #117 says it better than I ever could..

  124. used to be jdc said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:37 am

    #119 – Thanks for the link miked, it made an interesting read. One point Collins made was that having a go at nutritionists is in effect having a go at women. I’m tempted to email him a link to the stuff Ben has done on Holford, but I don’t think it would do any good.
    Andrew Collins probably should have stuck to writing about Tim Burgess and The Charlatans – not Gillian McKeith and the charlatans.

  125. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Dr Aust, I think the numbers keep getting moved around for some reason. I’ve seen posts appear in places other than at the end, and possibly disappear too, my comment you refer to is now 116 not 117…

    A thought: how come CAM types are under the impression that scientists think science is always infallible, when things like double-blinding and placebo controls are an explicit admission that scientists are fallible, and an attempt to take all possible measures to guard against this fallibility?

    While CAM practitioners themselves in fact seem so sure of their own infallibility that they disregard such things…

    Andrew.

  126. kim said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Have read the Andrew Collins blog and was, quite frankly, shocked. I tried posting a reply but nothing happened – the login process was slightly complicated. We’ll see. I may try again later.

    Speaking as an arts graduate, I feel incredibly embarrassed when other arts graduates come out with this kind of thing – in particular Collins’s remark that Ben wouldn’t know much about nutrition because he’d only have spent half a day studying it at med school whereas Gillian, you know, has years of clinical experience.

    It makes me want to weep, actually.

  127. oneiros said,

    February 14, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Hmmn; wonder if Andrew Collins is on Max Clifford’s books too…? ;)

  128. SophieUK said,

    February 14, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Andrew Collins says:

    “‘And yet, to anyone who knows the slightest bit about science, this woman is a bad joke.’ So what?”

    I’m baffled by this kind of comment, by the idea that it’s perfectly fine for someone to make up anything they like and tell people that their micro-spacial goblins are interlinked improperly as long as it ends up with a healthy diet. Does he really think that it’s OK for me to set myself up as a nutritrionist and educated people with whatever claptrap I feel like?

    I’m also baffled by the continual idea that any attack on CAM is the result of conventional doctors being closed-minded and scared. Like John Diamond said in “Snake Oil”, if you can prove that something works as medicine then it’s medicine, it’s not an alternative to it – conventional doctors are open-minded to anything that has been shown to work, and closed-minded to anything that people have made up whilst watching Eastenders.

  129. bumpkin said,

    February 14, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Those geniuses at Spiked (“an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity”, they call themselves, with a straight face) say don’t get so worked up about the whole Poo Lady thing, it really doesn’t matter. They also claim credit for being the first to raise questions about McKeith’s qualifications, so they obviously think it matters a bit.

    www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/2847

  130. Nanobot said,

    February 14, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    Can you see my comments? I can see them on my laptop but not my lab PC?

  131. Mojo said,

    February 14, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Re #128: “I’m also baffled by the continual idea that any attack on CAM is the result of conventional doctors being closed-minded and scared.”

    I think the fear (and the closed-mindedness) is in the minds of the CAMsters. They have often invested a lot of time and money in training in disciplines that are useless. They can’t demonstrate that their treatments are effective, so all they can do is try to rubbish orthodox (and effective) therapies.

    Hence you get people producing conspiracy theories about Big Pharma and doctors who deliberately make their patients ill to make more money (I can’t quite figure out how that works in the NHS where, as far as I’m aware, doctors are paid a salary rather than a fee for each consultation) and saying things like “how many people do die each year from side effects of drug intervention?” Nobody denies that drugs have side effects (well, apart from herbalists, of course). The point is that the benefits of treatment should outweigh any undesired effects. If a treatment is ineffective this will not be the case.

  132. used to be jdc said,

    February 14, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    nanobot – I can see two – 118 and 129.

    #127 – oneiros – nice conspiracy theory. Let’s see if we can find out…

  133. Jaimi said,

    February 14, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    I took A Level Biology half a lifetime ago. I can tell that half of what Ms McKeith spouts is claptrap(someone should send her Crick and Watson’s work). I can also tell that a lot of information TIme Team comes up with is not backed by explanations (although they may have the facts they don’t always share them) and I frequently find myself shouting at experts on TV and in magazines because the advice or information they put forward is not obviously backed with any evidence.
    This makes me doubt any expert on TV, even Antiques Roadshow!
    I can’t trust government, religion, media or TV experts. Who can I trust with my health, wealth, sanity and future?

  134. miked said,

    February 14, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    I wrote some comments on Andrew Collin’s blog in response to article:
    www.wherediditallgoright.com/BLOG/2007/02/eat.html

    to which he said:

    “I don’t need to counter your arguments though, as they are simply Goldacre’s repeated, which you know I disagree with. ”

    So my arguments were just Goldacre’s repeated then? So there is no need to counter what I’m saying? But McKeith’s statements about chloropyhll are so self-evidently farcical that it really does bear repetition.

    He also stated:

    “Oh, and the body McKeith got her PhD from did not award a PhD to Goldacre’s cat. He registered his cat with a body by putting her name down instead of his own, as far as I can see it, and paid the joining fee. So don’t get too excited by his schoolboy prank. Whatever you think of the college she got her PhD from, and whatever you think of her PhD, she’s still got one.”

    I was well aware that Goldacre himself submitted his dead cat for a PhD, and that the cat did not do this itself. The fact is, if an institution is so lax that it allows anyone with an internet connection, a credit card and a few dodgy pages of research a qualification as prestigious as a PhD it devalues the whole system. To argue “whatever you think of her PhD, she’s still got one.”, is to be pretty inaccurate I feel. She does not have a PhD in any real sense of the term. In fact, as I have stated elsewhere, she would invite criminal prosecution were she to claim the title “Dr” in any advertsing.

  135. simongates said,

    February 14, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Re#130. Has anyone ever loked into the side effects from complemetary therapies? I guess they could be quite interesting. CAM enthusiasts are keen to point fingers at how bad “conventional” drugs are but does anyone actually know whether any of the treatments they propose are any better in this respect? At first sight you might expect something like a herbal medicine that contains lots of contaminants to cause more unintended effects than a conventional drug.

    Honourable exception for homeopathic treatments of course, guaranteed to be free of any effects whatsoever.

  136. wilksie said,

    February 14, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    “Collins’s remark that Ben wouldn’t know much about nutrition because he’d only have spent half a day studying it at med school whereas Gillian, you know, has years of clinical experience.”

    This is a remark that I come across again and again when arguing about nutrition with alties. I generally counter with the argument that even basic GCSE or A level biology would disprove most of what is being said but of course, not being a doctor, I don’t know the details of what what medical students study.
    Can anyone clarify this?

  137. Nanobot said,

    February 14, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    I have another long post that no-one else can see! Do posts over a certain length get moderated?

    Anyway, I was under the impression that Ben had bought professional membership to some nutrion society for his dead cat, not purchase a PhD for said ex-feline.

  138. Nanobot said,

    February 14, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    I have another long post that no-one else can see! Do posts over a certain length get moderated?

    Anyway, I was under the impression that Ben had bought professional membership to some nutrition society for his dead cat, not purchase a PhD for said ex-feline.

  139. wilsontown said,

    February 14, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Nanobot:

    Indeed, it wasn’t a PhD that was given to Dr. Goldacres ex-cat, but registration with the American Association of Nutritional Consultants.

  140. Mojo said,

    February 14, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Re #135: “Has anyone ever loked into the side effects from complemetary therapies? I guess they could be quite interesting. CAM enthusiasts are keen to point fingers at how bad “conventional” drugs are but does anyone actually know whether any of the treatments they propose are any better in this respect? At first sight you might expect something like a herbal medicine that contains lots of contaminants to cause more unintended effects than a conventional drug.”

    But it’s NATURAL!!! ;)

    I haven’t really looked for studies on side-effects of herbal remedies, but I know of one on adverse events associated with chiropractic which found 35 incidents fitting the study criteria. The abstract can be found here:

    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=11285788

    Edzard Ernst was one of the authors. He commented on the study in a talk he gave to the Medico-Legal Society last year:

    “Now 35 cases is not a lot, chiropractors would say, and I hope there is a chiropractor here, because I like discussions, and particularly heated ones. I would disagree, because we then looked these cases up and traced them down and found that none of these 35 cases had previously appeared anywhere; nobody knew about these cases; in other words, under-reporting in this series was precisely 100%. Now, if under-reporting is 100%, any estimation of incidence figures is nonsensical and the true incidence of these complications is anybody’s guess. Chiropractors say complications are extremely rare. I hope they are extremely rare, but unless we have proper data we don’t know and, as I said, with under-reporting of 100% estimates are nonsensical.”

    I suspect that there is a similar degree of under-reporting of adverse events in other areas of CAM.

  141. Dr Aust said,

    February 14, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    There is plenty written about the risks of complementary therapy. In particular, herbal medicines undoubtedly have side effects – they contain bioactive chemicals – and really should be assessed exactly as conventional medicines are.

    To give just one example, kava kava is an effective mild anxiolytic but was taken out of the shops because in some people it had the serious side-effect of liver failure.

    Edzard Ernst’s writings are often a good start point for reasoned comment on CAM including the risk-benefit Q: see for instance:

    Diabetes Care. 2001 Aug;24(8):1486-8.

    Complementary medicine: its hidden risks.

    Ernst E.

    care.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/full/24/8/1486

  142. kim said,

    February 14, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Am still having problems commenting on Andrew Collins’s blog. Looking at it again I now notice that he refers to Ben as “the arrogant Oxbridge GP”. Leaving aside the “arrogant”, my understanding is that Ben is a hospital doctor, is he not, rather than a GP? And surely Oxbridge-educated rather than based in Oxbridge…

    OK, that’s probably nitpicking but it doesn’t give you much faith in the care taken in the rest of the piece. I think that what saddens and frustrates me is the implicit assumption that the views of someone who has years of medical training combined with an ability to critically evaluate scientific evidence are worthless compared to the views of someone who has no qualifications but the chutzpah to set herself up in clinical practice as “an expert”. I mean, why bother going through all those years of school and college and training just to earn the pittance the NHS pays when you could just declare yourself a qualified dietitian and make a killing doling out spurious advice?

    You do have to wonder what people like Andrew Collins do when they’ve got a serious illness – use the “arrogant” doctors on the NHS or dose themelves with some flax oil, courtesy of Dr McK?

  143. Ambrielle said,

    February 14, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    I’m sorry, I just have to reply to this Andrew C guy says…namely that yiou can’t overdose on vitamins… eg VitC…
    A simple google search:

    “Using Vitamin C products beyond recommended the limits may cause stomachaches and diarrhea. Even though the body would only use as much as it needs of the vitamin, Vitamin C Overdose can hinder metabolic activities in the body.”

    Other vitamins such as D have their own overdose sideeffects

  144. Seany said,

    February 14, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Big up and ’nuff respect Ben and anonymous angry nerd. Why stop with McKeith though? Surely there are dozens of sCAM-mongers out there who are breaking ASA regs? Anybody got too much time on their hands?

    IIt’s been a day of conflicting emotions, joy (badscience), anger and frustration (Andrew Collins’ blog) and pantwetting laughter (the very idea that there is an organisation called McKeith Research).

    Re: 113. Briffa was an enthusiastic proponent of applied kinesiology. I emailed him to ask whether he also believed in phrenology given that the two had the same basis in fact. He went on about it being a useful diagnostic tool, it worked for him, don’t be closed minded blah blah blah. Which pretty much told me all I need to know about him.

  145. bazvic said,

    February 14, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    b3ta.com have Dr M as this week’s subject for their Image Challenge.

    Enjoy.

  146. SophieUK said,

    February 14, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    I loved the “arrogant Oxbridge GP” comment as well. That definitely convinced me that the person I should trust was the lady who got her qualifications through the post from a non-accredited college and can’t produce her PhD dissertation, rather than the bloke who attended full-time education at one of the finest universities in the entire world. Makes perfect sense.

  147. Seany said,

    February 14, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Just doing a bit of online gloating and stumbled on:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gillian_McKeith

    If I were her I’d retire from public life forever.

  148. pv said,

    February 14, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    I must comment on this extraordinary remark from Caitlinthewitch about homeopathy:

    “I suspect that the “homeopathy is claptrap” comment wasn’t based on any useful knowledge of the subject.”

    Homeopathy has been claptrap ever since it was invent 200 years ago.
    Here is a couple of links to the Australian Society Against Health Fraud detailing exactly why:
    www.acahf.org.au/articles/homeopathy1.htm
    www.acahf.org.au/articles/ausscience0607.htm

    To be honest, back in the 1970s I tried homeopathic remedies on a couple of different occasions with no effect whatsoever. At that time I had no expectation as to whether they would or would not work. They just did nothing. It turns out I could have eaten a truck load of the tablets with no ill effect – apart from the effect of eating a truck load of lactose!

  149. JLF said,

    February 14, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    Seany, nice find!! I assume you didn’t report it (I didn’t)! I thought the picture was a good likeness!

    What I don’t understand is why people think the NHS would be against “alternative” cures. I think Britain is best placed to take advantage of such treatments as they would save the NHS billions (unlike in the US where hospitals make a profit by selling drugs). If a coffee enema cured cancer better than Chemo, I would expect to see a que of people with hosepipes outside starbucks. The fact is such treatments have NOT BEEN PROVED, and as such should not be used in treating the mainstream.

    I think this is most peoples point, scientific study proves things one way or the other. Prove Vit C cures XYZ and it will be accepted. People like “Dr” G and Dr Briffa, make money out of recommending vitamins and having private patients and not out of proving anything. It’s nice to see Dr Ben is working for the NHS.

    Re Dr Ben being arrogant, I wouldn’t be surprised, I thought arrogance was part of the first year training at med school!

    Re the comments on Doctors learning about nutrition, I understand Dr Ben has respect of Dietitians (he must work with some in the NHS) and I expect he interacts with them, hence he should have some understanding on top of his learning at med school, I don’t assume Dr Briffa or “dr” G interact that much with people who are qualified and respected.

    Final point, good to see the Bank of England is listed as a client of Briffa’s, the economy is in safe hands!! Do you think interest rates are raised or lowered depending on the colour of the Committee’s poo?

  150. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 14, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Re 116…Andrew. Perhaps we should distinguish here between medicine and healing, to progress the discussion, which is what I’m trying to do. I find the black and white-ness of some people’s debate very frustrating. The gold standards you talk about are extremely valuable, of course, but not always so precise, I’m sure. The same could be said of personal experience, especially when applied to the more metaphysical and maybe spiritual aspects of wellness, and I have more experience of this than most people. Please don’t tell me it’s irrelevent….that would be nothing less than insulting, and I really would be ticked off.
    I’m trying to stimulate some useful and progressive debate here, and it’s proving harder than I thought.

    Re 118…Nanobot…All I have to “judge” people by are the words they write here. I feel that there is a reluctance to discuss the bigger picture in favour of criticising Gillian, which is deserved in some ways. Blethering about it on a message board is just fine, but it’s not getting us anywhere, is it? There is a much bigger issue at stake here, and many people seem to be missing it. I would much prefer to have the opportunity to talk to you all face to face and see where it gets us, but that isn’t going to happen, so I do apologise if my words seem a little harsh. Yours do too, by the way. Actually, I didn’t disagree with the opinions expressed about homeopathy, just the way those opinions were expressed, in such an unprofessional manner. You jumped to conclusions about MY views on homeopathy, of which you know nothing, perhaps because of my screen name? I can’t think of any other reason. “Claptrap” is not any decent way to describe what may yet been seen to be scientific truth. Things happen many times every day that cannot be “scientifically explained”. Just because we can’t measure it now, doesn’t mean we will never be able to measure it.

    AGAIN! I would like to suggest the distinction between medicine and healing….I would never suggest that someone forego insulin, or any other kind of medical intervention solely in favour of a food cure. This is not what complementary therapists do.

    Re 121…Ayupmeduck…Thank you for the voice of understanding in the darkness! At least one person sees what I’m trying to do. We are absolutley talking about teaching here, Nanobot, teaching and re-educating people how to run their bodies, and supply them with the correct fuel. Most of us don’t know who to do that. THAT is the real issue, not the science that Gillian gets wrong. We know she’s made mistakes. Instead of bitching about it, we should approach her with it. Someone said there was no point as she didn’t take it on board before. So what…we just give up and she wins? We won’t solve that problem talking amongst ourselves. We need to talk to Gillian, if we can persude her to talk to us.

    Re 122 Dr Aust…Thank you for the link, but homeopathy wasn’t my issue. It was raised by someone else, and I picked up on it as an example, but I will follow it up as all information is good information in my book.

    Finally….Sophie UK…I will have to pass on the “made up during Eastenders” remark for now. My post in reply would be miles long, and I think some of my opinions would surprise a few people here.

    Ayupmeduck…”you’re with us or you’re damned” is really getting to me. You’re right…this is not the place to attempt mass re-education, of any subject. Too many egos, too many alleged facts flung about, not enough time or inclination to discuss them. I know what I’ve experienced and taken the time to investigate to be true….the state of our health, which is the real subject here, is vastly more complex than the medical establishment, or anyone in the complementary field, realises yet. We all need to remember the stuff we don’t know yet, including Ms. McKeith. I stand by my suggestion to talk to her directly if we can…or maybe I should referree? There’s that thing about honey and vinegar that works quite well…in my humble experience.

  151. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    PV….If “homeopathy is claptrap” is true, as some people here have suggested, why are some experienced GPs, including my own, now also training to be homeopaths, and using their new skills in their daily medical practice? I would love to hear your views on this.

  152. dissonance said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    re 150: at the risk of getting off subject.

    For things that cannot be “scientifically explained” this is not really applicable for most medical purposes since the effects can still be measured, does it beat the placebo (or current best) This is where homeopathy and the others fall down. They dont perform better hence there is nothing to be explained.

    Complementary therapists have often been shown to advise against standard medicine especially vaccines or for a homeopathical example the malaria investigation last year.

    As for working with McKeith, surely be easier to link up with decent chefs who not only could push for a healthy diet but make it edible as well.

  153. Dr (a real one) Doug said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    The guys and girls at www.b3ta.com are having great phone this week as the weekly challenge is to photoshop pictures of Ms McKeith in the usual humorous manner. Go see…..

    www.b3ta.com/challenge

  154. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    Re 152…With respect, this is not a discussion about homeopathy, and I have no intention or airing my views on that subject here. Which “others” are you referring to? Where do you get your information about complimentary therapists advising against standard medicine? No therapist I know, and I know and work with many, would suggest that. I’m curious about your sources, that’s all. And I didn’t suggest working with Gillian, which I think would be a nightmare, and I doubt she would do it anyway, but talking to her. Which recipes have you tried by the way? Again, just curious.

  155. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:42 pm

    RE 153…Well, Dr (a real one) Doug…is this what the medical establishment thinks is a mature and relevent way to criticise an opponent? To make up pictures of them eating poo? I’m wasting my sweet life trying to further any kind of civilised debate here…and I really wanted to learn stuff from you guys too. Damn shame. It’s the last straw, it really is, and a HUGE disappointment. I shall retire to my little gingerbread cottage and work with my spells and flower essences and crystals and be happy and safe and healthy until I find a medical professional openminded, curious, humble and civilised enough to debate with me. May you all find exactly what you are looking for in the last place you would imagine.

    Nite nite all.

  156. used to be jdc said,

    February 15, 2007 at 8:34 am

    #154 – this might be the kind of thing people are referring to with regards complementary therapists advising against standard medicine:

    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/5178122.stm

    (I hope this link works)

  157. Mojo said,

    February 15, 2007 at 8:48 am

    Re #151: “If “homeopathy is claptrap” is true, as some people here have suggested, why are some experienced GPs, including my own, now also training to be homeopaths, and using their new skills in their daily medical practice? I would love to hear your views on this.”

    If homoeopathy isn’t claptrap, then why doesn’t it work better than placebo under controlled conditions?

    As to why some GPs train as homoeopaths, you’d have to ask them, but I would suggest that it simply shows that GPs are just as prone to gullibility and delusion as the rest of the population.

  158. Big_Les said,

    February 15, 2007 at 9:50 am

    @151 – Two logical fallacies in one there Caitlin; arguing from popularity AND from authority at the same time:

    philosophy.lander.edu/logic/popular.html
    www.fallacyfiles.org/authorit.html

    Homoeopathy should stand on its own data. It can’t. I personally have no problem at al with true naturopathy, but I really think we can do without the superstitious New Age trappings, and I certainly think we can do without self-appointed “nutritionists” peddling a heady mixture of the bleedin’ obvious (eat your greens, eat less fat, exercise) and the kind of pseudo-scientific BS (e.g. cholorphyl in the blood) that McKeith spews.

    BUT you say we can’t ignore the “healing” and “spiritual” sides that would make your new age trappings significant. Why can’t we? If something only works when you’re able to believe in it, what use is it to those who can’t, or won’t? That’s the point of “conventional” medicine; it’s applicable to the vast majority rather than those able to willingly suspend disbelief in your personal spiritual outlook and that of other complementary medicine folks.

    That said, it comes down to what’s being claimed, doesn’t it? If someone like yourself isn’t claiming a certain degree of efficacy, then people like us aren’t likely to get our panties in a bunch over it. After all, each to their own, caveat emptor, whatever “works” for an individual. It’s the greying of the line between alternative medicine (ie what’s unproven in testing) and conventional medicine that most of us gripers are concerned with. As long as people have the facts, and can make an informed choice, that’s all I care about. They need to know what’s “healing” and what’s “medicine”, and in the case of McKeith, what’s utter BS. There’s also the issue of charging of course…

    That’s my take at least. But then my partner is a solitary witch too, and I’m one of Ben’s “humanities graduates”, not a scientist, so I may be more permissive than some.

  159. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 15, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Re 157 At last…thank you…someone I can talk to. I would like to leave the homeopathy debate alone completely. It serves no purpose in this discussion and I’m not interested in discussing it further, as it’s leading us way off track. All I’m asking is for people to be truly open minded, and inquisitive and willing to share information, which I would love to have.
    You hit the nail on the head…whatever works for an individual is what is important here. Openmindedness to possibilities is vital. I’m not saying that my particular path is correct for everyone…far from it. I also know that conventional medicine is correct for most people most of the time, including me. I hate this “you” and “us” approach, but a lot of people seem to thrive on it. ( this comment isn’t aimed at you by the way).

    The healing and medicine debate likewise is in danger of making us lose our way here too, and I’m not sure too many people could grasp what I have to say on the subject, I get the chlorophyll in the blood bit, although I’m still not to sure of the mechanisms at work…will have to do my homework there, but can’t see the other points people are trying to make. Please give me information. I want to understand WHY she is wrong.
    Interesting that you assume I’m a solitary. As for new age trappings and superstitions, they drive me a bit mental too. The whole “New Age” realm( and I hate the term) is a minefied, and littered with rubbish invented by people on huge ego trips. But in balance some of it works brilliantly. That is still a whole other debate. My opinions expressed here were in response to comments made by other posters.

    Clearly, the issue we should be debating, hopefully without getting sidetracked, is why is Gillian’s work “utter BS”? How do you feel about the suggestion that if it works, for whatever reason, than it’s worth doing? (Not neccessarily my view, before anyone asks).

  160. Tessa K said,

    February 15, 2007 at 11:03 am

    I know it’s petty, but…

    b3ta.com/challenge/gillian_mckeith/

  161. Mojo said,

    February 15, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Re #159: “Clearly, the issue we should be debating, hopefully without getting sidetracked, is why is Gillian’s work “utter BS”? How do you feel about the suggestion that if it works, for whatever reason, than it’s worth doing?”

    As the original article says (and I’m sure nobody here disagrees), there is no problem with somebody giving advice about a good diet, excercise etc. This is well established science. But there are at least two problems with TAPL.

    The problem is with the made-up pseudoscience that nutritionists come up with, examples of which are given in the article. The public have a right to the information they need to make informed decisions. If they’re being told nonsense it makes it more difficult to make a properly informed decision. If, for example, people are told that some supplement is a “miracle superfood” that will accomplish what they should be trying to accomplish through diet and excecise, they are to some extent likely to pop the pills and pay less attention to diet and excercise (which do, after all, involve making an effort). The fact that the nutritionists making these claims for “miracle superfoods” or whatever are often also selling them gives rise to a conflict of interest.

    The other problem is that she is using a title out of its proper context, the description of herself as a “clinical nutritionist”, and references to research that she’s apparently continually carrying out but somehow never publishes, to set herself up as an authority in an area for which, judging from the sort of elementary errors she makes (e.g. the claims about chlorophyll), she is apparently ill-qualified.

  162. pv said,

    February 15, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    What’s with the word “healing”. This is another misappropriated word woos like to use and in their context it is meaningless at best, and an outright lie at worst.

    Appendicitis doesn’t heal itself generally. Polio, typhoid, tetanus, diphthereia, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, septicaemia, smallpox… are not the kinds of things susceptible to doing nothing. The human body is more apt to die than heal itself. There are loads of other conditions – bronchitis, pneumonia for example that can kill you if left to their devices. In each of these cases, the only reason we can survive them is because of medicine with active ingredients. No amount of drivel from the shit lady ore case loads of homeopathic remedies are going to save you.

  163. Delster said,

    February 15, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Re a number of post’s by Fionnajm & Caitlinthewitch

    The point of this colum is bad science. We don’t criticise McKeiths main advise of eat better & exercise a bit…this is good advise and most of us could probably do with it to one degree or another. The whole no exercise & easy access to junk food life style is not a good one.

    What we are criticising is the science she tries to back this advise up with. Chlorophyl…. whilst undoutedly containing nutrients that the body can use… is not absorbed into the blood stream intact. It get’s broken down by the digestive system and then absorbed (some of it anyway). Also to the best of my knowledge it does not contain iron….which is what the oxygen transport system of humans relys on (haemoglobin). Added to this it only produces oxygen when exposed to light in the presence of cardon dioxide (the oxygen has to come from somewhere). As the blood stream does not contain free CO2 and it is noticably dark inside blood vessels then we’re not looking at any oxygen production.

    Also re ignoring homeopathy… you brought it up so must be preparred to defend it. You said that homeo therapists would not recommend against “conventional” treatment’s. If you review previous homeopathy threads on here you’ll find investigations where people consulted homeopathists about travel to malaria risk areas and were advised against standard treatmens.

    Now if a study was carried out in a scientific manner that showed homeopathy worked then we’d all be keen to review the data and try to replicate the results to make sure it really did work. Contrary to what Caitlin seems to think about doctors wanting people to not get better i think that if they had another proven treatment method available they would be all for it. Until it can be proven to be better than placebo though it’s not something i’d want to go with.

    Your probably going to say i’m blinkered on alternative treatments but i do use plant extracts for certain things. Juniper & black pepper oils are great for aching muscles for instance but they contain active ingredients where homeopathic treatmetns don’t.

    Herbal medicine is fine as it goes and a lot of convential treatment’s have their origin in plant based medicines…. examples being asprin, quinine & curare off the top of my head. the advantage of the conventional versions is just in purity and accuracy of dosage. If i need to take a medicine (esp internally) then i’d like to know i’m getting the exact required dosage rather than taking a plant which has a varing level of the drug depending on where it was grown, when it was harvested etc.

    To address the last point in Caitlins comment #159 is that it is utter BS because unless you educate people properly then they will make future judgement’s based on incorrect facts. If she stuck to telling people eat better and go for a good fast walk a few times a week we would all be happy.

    Added to that, do you really think that publicly humiliating people on TV is good for them? it may encourage them to lose weight but what is it doing to their self image & inner well being?

  164. Mojo said,

    February 15, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Re #159: “Clearly, the issue we should be debating, hopefully without getting sidetracked, is why is Gillian’s work “utter BS”? How do you feel about the suggestion that if it works, for whatever reason, than it’s worth doing?”

    As the original article says (and I’m sure nobody here disagrees), there is no problem with somebody giving advice about a good diet, exercise etc. This is well established science. But there are problems with “media nutritionists”.

    One problem is with the made-up pseudoscience that nutritionists come up with, examples of which are given in the article. The public have a right to the information they need to make informed decisions. If they’re being told nonsense it makes it more difficult for them to make a properly informed decision. If, for example, people are told that some supplement is a “miracle superfood” that will accomplish what they should be trying to accomplish through diet and exercise, they likely to pop the pills and pay less attention to diet and exercise (which do, after all, involve making an effort). The fact that the nutritionists making these claims for “miracle superfoods” or whatever are often also selling them gives rise to a conflict of interest.

    Another problem is the old “trust me, I’m a doctor” routine. People have a tendency to rely on those who they perceive as an authority. TAPL is using a title out of its proper context, the description of herself as a “clinical nutritionist”, and references to research that she’s apparently continually carrying out but somehow never publishes, to set herself up as an authority in an area for which, judging from the sort of elementary errors she makes (e.g. the claims about chlorophyll), she is apparently ill-qualified.

    And then there’s also the issue of the possible impact of what it beamed directly into people’s homes. Science education is difficult enough without self-proclaimed authority figures promulgating misinformation.

  165. Mojo said,

    February 15, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Sorry, that post didn’t seem to have worked the first time…

  166. Martin said,

    February 15, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    To take this topic in a slightly diferent direction, there’s a story on the ananova news site (www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_2202744.html?menu=) about a man who has eaten nothing but cheese for nearly 30 years (due to a food phobia).

    No nutritionist or dietician in their right mind would claim that this is a balanced diet, but it appears to be working for him.

    I was watching Morgan Spurlock’s excellent film/documentary “Super Size Me” a couple of weeks ago. For those who don’t know this film, Morgan was an extremely healthy person (according to blood tests) who ate nothing but McDonalds, three times a day for a month. During that time his health deteriorated badly: he gained about 15% of his body weight, his cholestrol went through the roof, his liver was damaged and he developed mood swings.

    However, I remember that during the film he interviewed someone who had eaten nothing but BigMacs for years (something like 20,000!), and who appeared to be healthy. Again, the BigMac diet seemed to work for him.

    Ancedotal evidence is fine for individual cases – but shouldn’t be extrapolated for the general population. However, it shouldn’t then be discounted for the individual, either.

    Caitlin, what is about chlorophyll that you don’t get?
    Chlorophyll is the substance which plants use to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen. Chlorophyll needs sunlight to provide the activation energy to perform this chemical reaction.
    Chlorophyll is coloured green and so when you eat your ‘greens’ you are eating a lot of chlorophyll. If we had translucent bodies then chlorophyll could indeed continue to produce oxygen (before it was broken down itself by the stomach acids), but the oxygen would be located in the stomach or intestines, neither of which is good at transfering gases to the blood. However, our bodies are not translucent – there is no sunlight in the stomach – and so therefore chlorophyll will not be able to produce oxygen. When McKeith talks about chlorophyll oxygenating your blood she really is talking nonsense. Chlorophyll is a good source of magnesium, though.

  167. ZombieWomble said,

    February 15, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    “Clearly, the issue we should be debating, hopefully without getting sidetracked, is why is Gillian’s work “utter BS”? How do you feel about the suggestion that if it works, for whatever reason, than it’s worth doing? (Not neccessarily my view, before anyone asks).”

    With regard to the former question – her work is not merely pseudoscience or “interesting interpretations” of some scientific ideas, but flat out incorrect attempts to understand basic scientific facts – indeed, most of them are so obvious that’s it’s quite often possible to work out exactly which bit of scientific trivia she’s misunderstood. (Chlorophyll as an oxygen source for plants, the role of damage to DNA in the aging process, and so forth). Based off this misunderstanding, she then suggests similarly misguided courses of actions (generally based on other faulty ideas, such as the one that you can somehow meaningfully process an algae’s DNA as something other than a tasty source of protein). This is a big, gigantic red flag which indicates that any of her innovative ideas should be taken by a giant grain of salt.
    Going through all of them would probably be prohibatively time consuming, but you get the idea, I trust. The most telling factor, I think, is that noted in Ben’s article, where she outright refuses to subject her ideas to a simple scientific test to see if they perform any better than the most basic nutritional advice which we are all perfectly aware of, even if many of us choose to ignore it, instead tossing out baseless legal threats.

    This leads into the second part, where the question of “whether it works” is not enough – if the person simply ate correctly as indicated by about a dozen different organisations for the last couple of decades, would that not be as good (or better) for them than McKeith’s slightly kooky diet plans backed up by her own brands of special herbal pills and whatnot?
    We’re not sure since she’s so vigorously opposed to properly managed tests, but if the answer is yes, then she’s not only lying to make money, but also potentially putting people’s lives at risk to do so (See, for example, comments on her putting people on massive crash diets, which has long been known to be a bad idea), which is an abhorrent behaviour and something which should be strenuously opposed. I doubt she’s really setting out on such an extreme course of action with full knowledge of the implications of what she says and does, but it’s quite possible that she’s unwittingly doing this out of sheer ignorance.

    With regards to your accusation that scientists in general are not open minded, I don’t really think this is the case – many of the ideas put forward by nutritionists/homeopaths/etc -are- subjected to repeated medical testing to see if they offer any benefit, and the general result is negative (in well-conducted trials, that is. I know this sounds like a weaselly way to put it, but if you’ve read this column for any length of time you’ll know how important that note is). Given that these treatments regularly fail to exceed the placebo effect, to actively support them as a potential “cure” is no better than lying to your patients about some new wonder drug and feeding them sugar pills, something which I’m sure most people would think is morally inappropriate.

  168. malcolm said,

    February 15, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    As an arts graduate, I did study philosophy of science back in the 1970’s. Some of our lecturers took Popper’s view that scientists never try to prove theories, only disprove them; meaning that scientists are not arrogant enough to believe they have found the truth, only that they have found something that works until someone manages to disprove it.

    Popper’s test of a scientific theory was ‘can we design an experiment which could disprove the theory’, and the test of a scientist is someone who will put their theories up to scrutiny by their peers.

    So, if you can’t test it, it ain’t science, just inference (which took Popper on to the problem of induction – why should I believe that the future will be like the past, just because in the past the future has been like the past – but enough philosophy).

    Coming back to the thread, the scientific method is the exact opposite of arrogance, because scientists (including medical researchers practising the scientific method) are continually trying to prove themselves wrong. Can’t quite see McKeith doing this.

  169. Nanobot said,

    February 15, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    “You hit the nail on the head…whatever works for an individual is what is important here. Openmindedness to possibilities is vital. I’m not saying that my particular path is correct for everyone…far from it. I also know that conventional medicine is correct for most people most of the time, including me. I hate this “you” and “us” approach, but a lot of people seem to thrive on it. ( this comment isn’t aimed at you by the way).”

    The problem is that there are two communities here that you seem to be lumping into one – the scientific community and the medical community. For the scientists the fact the homeopathy makes people feel better is of little consequence without the why and how. The why and how are the matters of contention when dealing with people like McKeith.

    “The healing and medicine debate likewise is in danger of making us lose our way here too, and I’m not sure too many people could grasp what I have to say on the subject, I get the chlorophyll in the blood bit, although I’m still not to sure of the mechanisms at work…will have to do my homework there, but can’t see the other points people are trying to make. Please give me information. I want to understand WHY she is wrong.”

    What do you mean when you say you ‘get’ the chlorophyll in the blood bit, i.e. you get that it is wrong? McKeith claims that eating lots of enzymes will make you feel much better, beyond simply the effect of getting your amino acids from these enzymes. What she suggests is that these enzymes (like chlorophyll) survive the transit through the gut and operate in our bodies to provide the effects they did in their natural environments. Now, the gut is a series of extreme physiological environments designed to break down complex molecules into their component parts for use in building the complex molecules in our bodies. The gut contains extremes of pH (amongst other things) that we know, through simple experiments, denature and chemically breakdown many proteins and complex carbohydrates, thus destroying their function. Complex molecules that are not affected by these environments are not adsorbed by the body (such as the complex carbohydrates known as fibre). Thus it appears that McKeiths claims that these enzymes remain intact through transit in the gut and are adsorbed into the body are unlikely at best.

    ” How do you feel about the suggestion that if it works, for whatever reason, than it’s worth doing? (Not neccessarily my view, before anyone asks). ”

    As a scientist this is not of primary interest to me and is really not the problem I have with TAPL. Bad science is bad science, end of strory.

  170. censored said,

    February 15, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    With all due respect, and this is not meant in any way as an insult, Caitlin represents the problems with McKeith.

    She is clearly well meaning and intelligent. She can’t see the problems with McKeith. The stuff about chlorophyll is something she doesn’t understand. It is wrapped in a cloak of science, on the face of it looks plausible (well, it works for plants!), and so it IS quite believable. Same for the ‘full plant in a seed’ stuff. The problem is the continued lack of scientific education and scientific rigour in the media.

    Likewise, people are told homeopathy is safe and effective and natural, with no side-effects. With so many testimonies, is has to be working, right? People believe not what they want to, or what they should, but what is appears to them to be true.

    Same again for “natural = safe”. It kinda follows. With the way science is represented, it feels it should be true.

    It’s not Caitlin’s fault, or any flaw on her part – she simply hasn’t been shown what the problems and falsehoods are. It doesn’t help when you use a phrase like “double-blind control group trial”, we know what that means but most people don’t.

    It doesn’t take much to teach people why these claims are wrong, and in fact the real way plants make oxygen, and the real way they get energy to grow, is pretty amazing. But as soon as the word ‘science’ is mentioned, it’s either a big scary monster or too difficult to understand. And while that’s the case, half-truths and mistaken beliefs will prosper.

    Unfortunately, McKeith will continue to be on our screens: purely because her basic message (eat your greens) is right, and people haven’t been given the information to see the rest is a sham. I’m afraid a couple of articles in the Guardian isn’t going to change that – not until The Sun does a full supplement on how amazing science is…

  171. Ambrielle said,

    February 15, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    I’ve just had my first experience of TAPL’s website and “shop”
    A scary place it is. Again she uses the scientific sounding phrases and words, and if I didn’t know better, I would probably be convinced. I easily found a couple of websites dealing with her claims for various (expensive) products. Maybe this will convince some people … er, Caitlin? …but I doubt it.
    E.g….
    www.wellnessletter.com/html/ds/dsBlueGreenAlgae.php
    www.health-report.co.uk/goji_berry.html
    (go down to the warning section). Oh, and if you are really wanting a goji berry fix, apparently it grows in hedgerows in parts of the UK… go pick some instead of lining the pockets of TAPL!

  172. Mojo said,

    February 15, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Re #135: “Has anyone ever loked into the side effects from complemetary therapies? I guess they could be quite interesting.”

    Here’s one about homoeopathy:

    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15532700

    That’s the problem of relying on the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy for your “successful” cases: if you’re going to be consistent, anything bad that happens after the treatment must also have been caused by it. ;)

  173. Dr Aust said,

    February 15, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Think Censored’s comments on some of Caitlin’s views are very astute.

    Something similar also applies to Andrew Collins’ blog, cited above on this thread. Collins simply cannot see that the essential problem here is:

    McKeith’s ideas = utter nonsense, unsupported by ANY evidence and at odds with

    Science: best current explanation of the actual evidence.

    McKeith and her poo-gazing always remind me of the doctor in “The Madness of King George” continually asking “how are the king’s motions”? The poo-sniffing represents the state of the art of medical diagnosis in about 1770-1810. Not entirely surprisingly, this is also the era that gave us homeopathy.

    Like many non-science based commentators, Andrew Collins is buying this “it’s all just competing interpretations of the unknowable” idea (probably useful in the arts, and maybe in daily life, but bugger all use in science) together with the other ever-misused line of the Alties about “modern medicine and science = monolithic, alternativism = individualised.” So he sees McKeith as an individual expressing a view who is being beaten down by monolithic establishment conformity, rather than “a person lying to and confusing vulnerable people who is being exposed for the charlatan she is”

    To view medical and scientific knowledge as “monolithic” is misleading, as someone else has already said, because the body of knowledge is not static – it is continually being questioned, improved and updated. Scientific and medical knowledge ARE collective undertakings, a bit like an open-source operating system in computing. Think Linux. But monolithic they ain’t, unless in the sense of people gradually moving towards collective agreement on the best current explanation of a phenomenon, and the best currently-available treatment for A.N.Other disease.

    Of course, this medicine = conformity, alternativism = individuality thing is also balls as modern medicine tries hard to give individualized treatments; usually you can try one of a number of different drugs or treatments or even “lifestyle modifications”, each with an evidence-base, and with their individual pros and cons; if X doesn’t work for you, you can try Y. Or maybe Z.

    Note the crucial distinction here that there should be some reason to think all of X, Y and Z might be effective beyond simple random chance.

    In contrast, “treating” people with interventions for which there is not one single believable piece of evidence that they work, while at the same time telling them that these things DO work, is not “complementary therapy”.

    It’s lying.

  174. Mojo said,

    February 15, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Re #170: “I’m afraid a couple of articles in the Guardian isn’t going to change that – not until The Sun does a full supplement on how amazing science is…”

    The Sun has attacked McKeith in the past, but on the basis of her academic credentials rather than her “science”. The story is no longer on the Sun’s website, as far as I can tell, but as a result of McKeith suing them it is preserved in this High Court judgment:

    www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2005/1162.html

    See paragraph 7.

    And see paragraph 15 for some more examples of bad science…

  175. oneiros said,

    February 15, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Heh; couldn’t resist responding to this comment by Andrew Collins: “I personally think there’s something in homeopathy…”

    Just hope I got the maths right. ;)

  176. dixonmoonlight said,

    February 15, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    As an ex participant in the ‘You are what you eat’ show (and may I add very successful participant) I would like to add a few things into the cooking pot, without commenting on the issues surrounding qualifications and their credibility!

    1. The production company through their Directors, Producers and Researchers all through the filming were from my perspective, always mindful of getting basic medical terms correct. Ms McKeith was prompted many times to use correct terminology that had been taken from credible sources. Yes, this may have been motivated by the need to keep an eye on possible negative litigation, but whatever the motives I was satisfied when it came to medical conditions they were as accurate as they could be.

    2. The programme is at the end of the day ‘entertainment’ with a serious message to get over. We are becoming an ever more obese society and anything that makes people look at their weight issue can’t be all that bad.

    3. I have to agree some of the claims seem to be dressed up with physco-babble but I for one just let it pass through from one ear to the other and if you analyse what is said taking away the physco-babble, what you are left with is common sense and blindingly obvious, ‘Eat your greens and an apple a day will keep the doctor away’.

    4. Finally, how often do we ask what the question ‘What are we eating’! If you ask me, not often enough! I’ve always been a lover of sausages but after seeing what part of a pig goes into certain sausages, I now read the labels!

    Let the debate rumble on about titles, claims and counter claims, but don’t forget, a large number of people (including myself) have benefited from the shock tactics of the programme and if it helps others to look towards their diet then it can’t all be bad!

  177. CarlottaVance said,

    February 15, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    As an aside, from Popbitch:

    Gillian McKeith was overheard this week at HSBC
    Hampstead telling a bank clerk that she thought
    she had had money stolen from her account.

  178. pv said,

    February 15, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Has anyone pointed out to TAPL (and Caitlin, for that matter) why we have lungs?
    We humans use our lungs to oxygenate our blood. Funnt that isn’t it. This is one reason why exercise is good for you – it makes your heart work harder to pump the blood around the body and the lungs work harder to provide oxygen to the blood. Regular exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and makes the process more efficient. It follows that if you fill your lungs with smoke, say from cigarettes, the oxygenation process is adversely affected – one’s ability to exercise, and the capacity of one’s lungs to provide sufficient oxygen are reduced.
    You can eat your own weight in clorophyl every day and it will provide no oxygen whatsoever to your blood.
    Meanwhile McKeith’s job is to hugely increase her bank balance by selling a ton of garbage to the credulous on the back of a bit of old-fashioned, sensible advice that no sane person would pay good money for. A nasty, money-grubbing, exploitative woman in my view.

  179. pv said,

    February 15, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    “Gillian McKeith was overheard this week at HSBC
    Hampstead telling a bank clerk that she thought
    she had had money stolen from her account.”

    And there was I thinking stolen money was all she had in her account!

  180. miked said,

    February 15, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    As I noted previously, Ben Goldacre’s column about McKeith inspired a blog entry by the broadcaster Andrew Collins, here:
    www.wherediditallgoright.com/BLOG/2007/02/eat.html

    And you can see his entry in support of McKeith aroused a great deal of criticism, not least from me.

    I mean, yes, Gillian McKeith is someone who falsely claims the title “Dr” when it clearly doesn’t apply to her. And yes, she does cover all her claims in half or not at all understood pseudo-science. And this is true of many in her “profession”

    But I’m trying to see things from Collin’s point of view. I mean, McKeith is probably very unlikely to harm anyone doing what shes doing. Its the same with homepathic medicine – as there is nothing in it, its very unlikely to harm you unless you use it as a substitute for conventional medicine.

    And I think my and Dr Goldacre’s attacks on McKeith’s work were seen as personal attacks on her and Andrew Collins as people, rather than their ideas. My attempts to challenge his views only served to further strengthen his point of view that he was one of a few voices challenging the shadowy establishment, and his views became more entrenched.

    The reason I bring this up is because I wanted to ask people’s views on the best way to challenge someone when they start talking enthusiatically about homeopathy or some other pseduo-science. I met a man recently who was an enthusiastic water diviner who told me he could find water with two metal rods due to the “energy vibrations” coming from the water. He told me he knew the rods would work.

    I told him that it was all nonsense, and tried to explain that it couldn’t work, but it just led him to believe I was close minded, and that I was attacking him.

    It saddens me when sensible good people start believing in irrational nonsense of the type described in Goldacre’s column, but then how do we stop such nonsense? Are we to sit back and be polite and “let everyone have their own point of view”? Or if we are to challenge irrational ideas that conflict with experiment and all evidence, how do we do so without coming across as arrogant?

  181. censored said,

    February 15, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    #180 – I’ve come across much that same thing, not least with my friend who is currently ‘detoxing’. No dairy, caffeine, alcohol or cigarettes for a month.

    Then, of course, back onto Marlboro Lights, Strongbow and the occasional Class A substance…

  182. ZombieWomble said,

    February 15, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    “But I’m trying to see things from Collin’s point of view. I mean, McKeith is probably very unlikely to harm anyone doing what shes doing. Its the same with homepathic medicine – as there is nothing in it, its very unlikely to harm you unless you use it as a substitute for conventional medicine.”

    I still don’t buy this argument. Consider the following, by analogy:

    You feel unwell and go to see a doctor, he examines you, finds an ailment and prescribes a standard antibotic, nothing remarkable. However, he then beckons you closer and adds that, to get -really- better, you’ll need a packet of these special “booster pills”, which you can only purchase from him as he’s carefully put them together over years of experience with his patients, although he’s neglected to have them independantly tested in any fashion.

    Would a doctor doing this last very long if someone turned him in to the appropriate bodies? I doubt it – and yet this is basically the case with many of the nutritionist type people who run their own line of products. They take basic, good advice (Eat your greens, exercise, yadda yadda) but then “spice it up” with their own personal (and often highly scientifically dubious) bits of advice, since that’s where the real profit lies.
    The fact that it causes no outright harm doesn’t make it the right thing to do, it’s still morally wrong to take people’s money based on lies and misdirection (or alternatively, they could be motivated entirely by ignorance of how the body works, but if that’s the case then there is a clear argument for potential harm in the future, so it should be stopped on those grounds at least).

  183. pv said,

    February 15, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    “They take basic, good advice (Eat your greens, exercise, yadda yadda) but then “spice it up” with their own personal (and often highly scientifically dubious) bits of advice, since that’s where the real profit lies.
    The fact that it causes no outright harm doesn’t make it the right thing to do, it’s still morally wrong to take people’s money based on lies and misdirection …”

    In other words, it’s all just one big deliberate scam.

    The “celebrity” aspect of the McKeiths and Holfords of this world intrigues me though. I do think at least some of their success comes because of the people who are celebrity struck, who can’t see through the show biz veneer to the cynical, unscrupulous business parasites underneath. Aren’t they the same kind of people who think the actors who play the Mitchell “bruvvers” on Eastenders are actually like those characters?

  184. Mojo said,

    February 15, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Re #176: “I’ve always been a lover of sausages…”

    I quite like pork pies, but you have to draw the line somewhere. ;)

  185. Delster said,

    February 15, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    #179 PV i think you’ll find there is a difference between stolen money and money obtained through selling basic ideas dressed up in sci-babble. one is illegal and the other is not…. unfortunatly.

    Whilst i agree with prople with phd’s being able to call themselves Dr, i think it would have advantages if there was a distinctive title for for medical doctor. That way people can immediatly recognise somebody who is qualified to practice medicine from those who are not.

    and yes i’m allowed to put DR in front of my name…. admittedly it’s because they are my initials…. which led to some interesting situations when i worked in a hospital :-)

  186. evidencebasedeating said,

    February 15, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    Ms McKeith continues to operate in a parallel media world, where she remains forever a ‘Doctor’ on her website. A curt nod towards the ‘single individual’ who trashed her use of the ‘Dr’ moniker to push products, plus a fulsome note of thanks to the ‘supportive organisations’ who you know – before you check credentials – represent all those who benefit from McKeiths brand of nutritionism. www.drgillianmckeith.com/press_anoteofthanks.php

    What a laugh! The first organisation, Consumers for Health Choice (AKA dodgy nutritionists supported by Solgar to lobby the EU/ UK govts to maintain the status quo and sales targets) states without irony on their website that they “raise (issues) in both Houses through Early Day Motions”.
    Inevitable, really. They obviously kick up as much a stink as Gillian.

  187. Seany said,

    February 15, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    Just in case it doesn’t make it into AC’s blog, this is my latest entry (please bear in mind i have been partaking of Alfred Guiness’s own special blend of nutritional supplements):

    Andrew, ‘props’ again for giving us the space to debate. Can somebody not come up with a young person – older person dictionary? Have I got the right phrase or do I look like my dad at a family wedding having ‘a boogie’. (Cue Homer Simpson style shudder). And you are spot on re. The Wire – it is the reason the scientific method (and crack cocaine) was invented!

    I hear what you say, I’ve got to some work to do too but this is important. Please allow me one more shake of the ‘freedom of AC’s blog’ stick. I’ve got to call you on this and, to use a phrase I’m too old to fully understand, I think I pwn (sic) you on. I’ve made a lot of specific points about a lot of specific issues and you haven’t really answered any of them, but you can answer yes or no to each of these:

    “Vitamin C: It can cure cancer after all”.

    This is wrong, isn’t it? Y / N
    The evidence she cites to ‘prove’ what she is saying doesn’t prove what she is saying Y / N
    This is very poor reporting Y / N
    It is misleading Y / N
    It is a good example of media hype Y / N
    It is the kind of one-sided and biased media reporting that deserves censure Y / N
    It could lead people to make poor health choices Y / N
    She doesn’t know what she is talking about Y / N
    She probably has some kind of agenda (sorry, I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories ) Y / N
    It is unlikely that she has come up with a cure for cancer and a unified theory of the universe Y / N
    Is this the standard of media debate you wish to see on health? Y / N

  188. pv said,

    February 15, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    “#179 PV i think you’ll find there is a difference between stolen money and money obtained through selling basic ideas dressed up in sci-babble. one is illegal and the other is not…. unfortunatly.”

    Habitual facetiousness dear! :)

  189. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 15, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    Re 163 Thank you for the information on the chlorophyll issue…now I understand it. I do have to correct you though on the issue of the homeopathy debate. I didn’t raise it. I just responded to it. For the record, I have no positive experience of homeopathy either, despite having tried it several times. I have never defended it here, if you care to read my posts again. Forgive me if my use of language isn’t as precise as you are all use to, but I work in a completely different world. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong…just different.
    Censored also pointed out that I am typical of the McKeith problem and I have to agree. I don’t have the knowledge to argue with her, and that limits me. It’s part of what I was asking for here, from people who seem to know what they are talking about. But then, how do I tell if your information is accurate? See my dilemma? I also have huge misgivings about how Gilllian chooses to work, but let’s not go there.
    Some posts will have to remain unanswered…I don’t have the space in my life for an incomplete online discussion at the moment, and dismissing me as a “woo” is downright immature. Dixonmoonlight’s post was very enlightening actually…thank you for that.
    One final word…Delster made the point about people making judgements based on incomplete information. I have been asking for as much information as you care to throw at me. I can understand that perhaps you don’t take what I do seriously, but there has been no curiosity about it, just a hopelessly dismissive attitude. I’m quite disillusioned actually at how little sharing of information there has been here. If this thread was open only to medical and scientific people, I would have known to avoid it. I’m tired of having to correct misquotes and explain my use of language. This has been a misuse of time on my part, even although I thought I would get something out of it. It has confirmed a few suspicions I did have about the medical and scientific professions, so I guess it’s not all bad. I will keep them to myself though. No point at all in airing them.

  190. Seany said,

    February 15, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    And my latest, because I’m slightly pissed and very pissed off:

    “Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs”.

    No it isn’t. Or if it is, for which diseases?

    Cholera?
    Malaria?
    TB?
    Yellow fever?
    Rubella?
    Chicken pox?
    AIDS/HIV?
    Yellow fever?
    Chlamydia?
    Leprosy?
    Hepatitis?
    Dengue fever?
    Dysentry?

    We could really help out the 3rd world with a few plane loads of mung beans couldn’t we?

    Or perhaps some some scientifically tested vaccines / antibiotics / anti-retrovirals would be better. What do you think?

    This is not about western neuroses and ideas about ‘choices’ of different types of healthcare. It is about life or death. Which side are you on?

    I hope that this has crystallised your thinking.

  191. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 15, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    This thread was about weigh loss and the science behind food. Gillian has never claimed to cure any of the above diseases with diet. No one here did either. Neither did we “woos” at any point suggest foregoing medical treatment in favour of a food cure. You’re missing the point. My arguement may be limited and naive, I will admit, but at least it’s sober. Maybe you should talk to Delster about basing your arguement on incomplete information.

  192. SophieUK said,

    February 15, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    “Finally….Sophie UK…I will have to pass on the “made up during Eastenders” remark for now. My post in reply would be miles long, and I think some of my opinions would surprise a few people here.”

    Not sure why I annoyed you with that one…some of CAM is about as proven and based in reality as something I could make up in half an hour. Some isn’t. Where’s the controversy there?

    I had a lovely alternative therapist email me once and tell me very confidently that my IBS was caused by “anger within the family”, and literally the desire to “poop on one’s mother”. Yeah, that’ll be it. Of course, he offered to cure me as well. (I was too chicken to ask what the cure involved.)

  193. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 15, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    Sophie…you didn’t annoy me at all with that comment. I’m curious as to why you think you did. I posted before that the whole “new age” thing drives me nuts and is littered with made up rubbishy therapies that are invented by people with madly inflated egos. I have many stories to share, but this is not the place. I guess I’m annoyed that people sometimes seem far to quick to make judgements about my views, and will assume that they know what they are, despite my posting to the contrary. All I have really learned form this experience is not to talk to medical people and scientists about how I work. It’s really fascinating the effect this has had on me, but I won’t bore you with it.

  194. Seany said,

    February 15, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    Sorry for any confusion Caitlin but my post referred to a whole other thread on a different blog that others have been following, it was nothing to do with #189.

    For the record I really admire your attitude. The reason that you have got a hard time here is because this is predominantly a forum for the ‘converted’, i.e. those of us who already subscribe to rationalistic and naturalistic worldview. Given the tide of irrationality and pseudoscience we are swimming against, forgive us if we get too wrapped up in our own exuberance in having found like-minded people and take the easy option in pooh-poohing your queries. I hope this explains, although it will not excuse, our not taking time out to explain our point of view to someone who genuinely wishes to know. Our loss if you ask me.

    Your argument isn’t limited or naive, it comes from a place of genuine curiosity and openness, which is all too rare and thank you for sticking with it on this forum.

  195. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 15, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    ***hugs for Seany even if you are pissed!!*** Was considering changing my name to CaitlinthePitbull to see if that alters people’s opinion of me. What do you think?

  196. SophieUK said,

    February 15, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    Sorry Caitlin if I interpreted wrong, it was just because you said your reply would be miles long, I assumed that that meant you didn’t really agree!

    We can definitely agree that some therapies are full of inventions from people with over-inflated egos, and the problem is of course that they often catch people when they are at their most vulnerable and desparate for a cure.

  197. evidencebasedeating said,

    February 15, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    190 Seany said,

    “Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs”. No it isn’t. Or if it is, for which diseases?

    Answer: Just one…….Anorexia Nervosa

    “Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs”,says nutritional therapist Patrick Holford. Quod me nutrit me destruit.

  198. Seany said,

    February 15, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    OK, I propose a ‘come on in, we don’t bite, ask us what you like and we’ll do our best to answer’ section of the forum, where the genuinely inquisitive can avail themselves of some serious fuck-off rationality.

  199. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 15, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    ok…a wee bit about how I see what I do. I’m leaving myself wide open to more abuse and criticism here, but what the hell. As far as I see it, and I will not assume to represent anyone else here, the work I do is the other part of the jigsaw in helping people to deal with whatever may be wrong with their minds and bodies.

    For me the therapies are always complementary and not alternative. Sometimes medical treatments can be very traumatic and demanding, if not downright toxic, as in the case of chemotherapy. I see it as vital that the patient’s state of mind and connection to their own spirituality, if they are aware of it, is as strong as it can be, although I do recognise that this is an unmeasurable part of the process. It’s my job to help them strengthen this aspect if I can, but only if they ask for it, and are totally comfortable with what I do. Sometimes, it’s incredibly simple, sometimes more complex. Sometimes it’s a matter of spirituality alone that they are dealing with.

    It’s always the patient’s responsibility to ask for help. I do not evangelise, but if I can help, I will. It almost echoes the much earlier point I made about teaching us to be informed and responsible for our food intake, and to ask all the pertinent questions.

  200. HypnoSynthesis said,

    February 15, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    Quick update. The ASA have now posted confirmation of the “informally resolved complaint” on their website,

    www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/public/

    It only lists the company and format really,

    “McKeith Research Ltd t/a Dr Gillian McKeith / Leaflet / Food and drink”

    If ASA had upheld this complaint they would have published full details of their investigation into McKeith’s qualifications online and their criticisms could be quoted by journalists for ever more. (They tend to publish very revealing information in their adjudications.) Hence, I would encourage anyone with a legitimate complaint about misleading advertisements, such as the inappropriate use of “Doctor”, to consider informing ASA. The more people who complain, the more effective the system becomes for preventing this kind of thing. If nobody complains, the ASA do not take action. They cannot deal with claims on websites though, unless they are in paid adverts or promotional offers. Happy hunting!

  201. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 15, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    Ok Seany…ta very much. We’ve nailed the green stuff in plants issue, but I can’t tell from reading Gilllian’s stuff which bits are wrong and which are correct, so I don’t really know *what* to ask.

    Do you have any more examples that don’t involve an A level in Biology? Is there anything that is particulary dangerous or misleading? How about my own situation of gluten intolerance? How about foods that affect female hormones, positively or negatively? I have heard her talk about this in the past, (I also suffer from PCOS) and wondered how much difference it would make.

    Another thing that troubles me…her clients all seem to lose weight at an alarming rate, much faster than with any other method. Is this safe? In her last programme, the two women involved lost 3 stone in just 8 weeks, or about 6lbs a week. How easy is it to keep it off after such a dramatic reduction? Isn’t there a link between yo-yo dieting, as I’m sure happens to some of her clients….(they can’t all maintain their losses surely….or maybe they do….) and osteoporosis in women?

    Have several hundred more questions….lemme know if you run out, eh?! *grin!*

  202. Seany said,

    February 15, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    197: Evidencebasedeating said:

    “Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs”. No it isn’t. Or if it is, for which diseases?

    Answer: Just one…….Anorexia Nervosa

    Dammit, why didn’t I think of that?

  203. Seany said,

    February 15, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Can anyone throw any light on these? I was searching for a ‘Dr’ McKeith advert and came across this:

    www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2004-51,GGLD:en&q=nutrition+gillian+mckeith

    Which linked to:

    www.chillingeffects.org/notice.cgi?sID=973

  204. Seany said,

    February 15, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Am i right in thinking this is an advertisement, albeit not one of her own?

    www.cityspeakersinternational.co.uk/speakers/speaker_gillian_mckeith.php?PHPSESSID=apsf2dvv96m

  205. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 15, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Hmm…it’s an ad for her as a speaker, not for one of her products, but I guess you could argue that she is the product in a way. Perhaps a grey area, perhaps worth investigating.

  206. TimW said,

    February 16, 2007 at 12:16 am

    Seany, re 203 see “Google received a threatening legal letter ” in Ben’s spiel.

  207. bazvic said,

    February 16, 2007 at 7:38 am

    RE: “McKeith Research Ltd t/a Dr Gillian McKeith / Leaflet / Food and drink”

    The important thing here is the” t/a Dr Gillian McKeith”

    That is Dr Gillian McKeith is the the trading name of McKeith Research Ltd. That is Dr Gillian Mc Keith refers to the company not the individual.

    It is not difficult to see why this was a problem for the ASA. Calling a business “Dr something” when supplying health related services without medical qualification may cause confusion.

    This appears not to be a comment on the quality of Ms McKeith’s PhD or indeed any of her qualifications.

    However the question is begged as to why an intelligent person (who has a PhD no less) would choose a trading name that would cause such obvious difficulties.

  208. oneiros said,

    February 16, 2007 at 7:58 am

    LMAO: Andrew Collins is now recommending we all go away and read Holford’s “Food is better medicine than drugs” book. Oh, the irony… :D

  209. wilksie said,

    February 16, 2007 at 9:58 am

    Dixonmoonlight said
    “Let the debate rumble on about titles, claims and counter claims, but don’t forget, a large number of people (including myself) have benefited from the shock tactics of the programme and if it helps others to look towards their diet then it can’t all be bad! ”

    I fully agree that many people need to look at their diet but I don’t agree that McKeith’s advice is much good. I have her diet book in front of me. Never mind the mindboggling supplements. Recommendations to eat strawberries and punnets of raspberries for breakfast, seaweed, quinoa, mange tout, brazil nuts…….how does Mrs X, living on a council estate in Sheffield, 5 miles from the nearest supermarket, find or afford these? Is she going to work out how to adapt her diet and use apples and cabbage or is she going to give up the whole idea of healthy eating because it can’t be for the likes of her?

  210. censored said,

    February 16, 2007 at 11:15 am

    I think the idea for an area of the forum for interested but unscientific people is a great idea. I’ve got a BEng and 2 and a half science A levels at grade A and B and I don’t understand some of the stuff in the forum, particularly statistics. It must be quite off-putting to people.

    There’s no reason why the main forum can’t remain as it is, and have an area for simple explanations and uncritical responses to honest questions in another.

  211. mkp said,

    February 16, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    (sorry for the length).

    The exchanges with Caitlin are interesting (as Seany has said, I admire her attitude). Alt-folk *do* sometimes change their minds: if we want it to happen more often we need to talk to them in a different way. If you haven’t seen it before here’s a link to an article by a former new age healing guru who ‘defected':

    www.csicop.org/si/2004-05/new-age.html

    In response to #180, who asked for ideas on how to challenge friends and acquaintances who enthuse about dodgy altstuff, I’ve been thinking about this myself.

    One approach, I think, is to avoid it sounding like a “challenge” – it could be more an explanation of why you hold a different opinion. On the level of casual conversation we should consider fighting anecdote with anecdote and be prepared to explain the most obvious things in ‘personal’ language. Here are three possible examples:

    1.
    “I know it’s very popular these days, but actually I had some acupuncture a few years ago. I really thought it was going to work from what I’d heard but I was rather disappointed – I really didn’t notice any effect.” [obviously you can’t say this unless you actually have used a CAM in your youthful innocence but you could always cite ” a friend” ]

    2.
    The “Hawthorne effect” (for example) can be explained effectively as a narrative of the experiments at the Hawthorne factory – it’s an interesting story with a rather telling message. On a personal level I add that I’ve become more sceptical of CAM *because* I’ve become more knowledgeable about experimental psychology.

    3.
    Friends can sometimes urge you to “try this and you’ll see for yourself! You shouldn’t be so closed minded! It’s an ‘experiment’ – you should approve!”. Suppose for example, someone raves about taking vit C to prevent colds, you might say: “I don’t see how I could *tell* whether it works. I only get a couple of colds in a year which is not much for a proper experiment and anyway colds are a bit odd – sometimes I think I’ve started one but it doesn’t develop – sometimes I don’t *notice* a cold has started until I find myself with a running nose …” this can be continued into a simple explanation of why we need proper trials – and why you’d trust a good trial over your own partial personal experience.

    ********

    But the real problem is altmed acquiring respectability by being accepted by the NHS. Attempting to enlighten individuals is teaspoon-and-ocean stuff.

    MP

  212. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 16, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    ZombieWomble:

    “generally based on other faulty ideas, such as the one that you can somehow meaningfully process an algae’s DNA as something other than a tasty source of protein”

    Err, DNA isn’t even a source of protein, let alone something other than a source of protein. It contains the instructions to make protein, but it doesn’t actually consist of much more than phosphates, sugars, nitrogen and hydrogen. No amino acids at all.

    Forgive me if I misinterpreted you, and you know this already.

    Andrew.

  213. Jaimi said,

    February 16, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dna#Overview_of_biological_functions

    DNA also isn’t the key to anti-ageing. As the agent of reproduction surely DNA would be irrelevant if the previous (and presumably successful) generation never aged and died?

  214. ZombieWomble said,

    February 16, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    Andrew –

    Yes, you’re quite right, entirely my mistake there. Wanted to make the comparison to a generic food source and my brain performed the DNA->Protein connection without me actually thinking though the nature of the connection while posting. A depressingly McKeithian sort of statement to make, given the context.

    My apologies if that caused confusion for anyone.

  215. Ambrielle said,

    February 16, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    ohhhh, I like that…. McKeithian…. it could be applied to all sorts of kooky, strange, wrong, bad science ideas!

  216. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 16, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    RE 211…MKP…I have to chip in that there really isn’t a hope in any universe, bless you, that I will “defect” as you so delicately put it! I do not see myself. as alternative, but complementary. I did add a wee post earlier about what I do. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, please ask away. I’m interested in finding out where “your stuff” meets “my stuff”….where our talents and work overlap, if you like. I know they do somewhere. I really wish people wouldn’t see this as a battle.

    How do I go about setting up another thread here? Can I do it? I hope I’m not wasting my time and people will actually be willng to supply answers in everyday language. Funny how the posts have dried up a bit since we stared being nice to each other…maybe that’s just a weekend thing though.

    And MKP….why should it matter if complementary therapies are accepted by the NHS? Granted, there is the question of paying for treatment, but most therapies are affordable, even on limited incomes. If they’re not affordable, then the motives of the therapist should be examined very closely, imho.

  217. pv said,

    February 16, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    “How do I go about setting up another thread here?”

    Caitlin this is Ben’s blog so you can’t set up a thread here. You can do that on the forum, at www.badscience.net/forum/

  218. Danivon said,

    February 16, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    It was not caitlin who first mentioned homeopathy, I think it was me. And I had the temerity to call it ‘claptrap’ as well!! Perhaps a little harsh, but I think it appropriate for a ‘medicine’ which is based on outlandish theories with no proven veracity and which has been proven to be no more effective than placebo.

    caitlin – join the Bad Science Forum (the link is on the right), and then you can engage in more debates and, I believe, start a thread there. This site is effectively Ben Goldacre’s blog.

    I see the Alternative / Complementary / ‘Conventional’ Medicine division this way:

    ‘Conventional’ Medicine is what has been proved to work.

    Complementary medicine may work alongside other therapies, but seems not to on it’s own. It may have no effect – it remains unproven. If proven, then it becomes part of ‘conventional’ therapy

    Alternative medicine may work in isolation of other therapies. It may have no effect – it remains unproven. If proven, then it becomes part of ‘conventional’ therapy.

    It’s quite simple, as I see it. If you have a CAM therapy that you think actually works, then prove it. Not through anecdotes, but through proper tests to compare it against:

    1) doing nothing
    2) giving a placebo
    3) other proven therapies

    If it passes the first two tests, then we can work on trying to figure out how it works, and it can be moved into the ‘conventional’ category. The results of test 3 will establish whether it is the first choice of treatment or not. Cost might come into it as well (unfortunately).

    If it fails, then it isn’t medicine of any kind.

    The problem with McKeith et al is that they don’t want to test their theories, they just want to sell them. Holford is just as bad.

  219. censored said,

    February 16, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    Absolutely right. “Alternative” to what, exactly?

    If some sort of spiritual therapy is shown to work, when compared to placebo or no therapy, then I’m all for it. But if it does work, then it should be part of a normal treatment programme – and as much ‘conventional’ than any other branch of medicine.

    The problem is, that beyond anecdotal evidence that some people feel better afterwards, there is no indication that many therapies really work. And in the case of homeopathy and crystal ‘healing’ we’d have to re-write centuries of proven knowledge about materials science, measurable energy and chemistry. Which makes me think that they don’t work at all – you don’t need to throw your car off a cliff to know that it’s not going to fly.

    Does it matter, so long as people feel better? Most would say no. But then, if your doctor tell you that your cancer isn’t terminal after all, you’d come out feeling much better. Until you unfortunately passed away.

  220. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 16, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    Please! Can we drop the Homeopathy arguement. I posted last night about my view on this subject and I am NOT an advocate of this therapy. In the case of crystal healing, maybe we wouldn’t have to re-write everything we accept as fact. Perhaps we would just have to add to it, when dealing with measurable energy for instance, as crystal therapy is essentially a very subtle vibrational therapy. Not sure how you would measure the spiritual content though….would it matter? Does everything have to have a unit of measurement assigned to it to be believed? Dear Hecate, I hope not.

    This is all so far off the point it’s a little frustrating. And I didn’t realise that this was actually Ben’s blog….huge apologies for ranting so much. I was just so engrossed in the debate, and trying to get answers to my queries, most of which still remain unsolved.
    Censored, with respect, if you say that the fact that it may be difficult to measure the results achieved by complementary therapies, makes you think that they don’t work at all, does that mean that you *wouldn’t* investigate, merely because you can’t see how?
    Danivon…indulge me with some time here…will have to go and ponder about the definitions given in your last message.
    And as for the forum. I would be interested in joining, but I have another suggestion that has just occurred to me. My website is due to go live in the next week. Perhaps I should set up a forum there for exactly this kind of debate. Several reasons..

    1. My website is WAY prettier than this one.

    2. I think it would be a very useful thing to do for both communities and in the spirit of education.

    3. I am now obsessed with this topic and want to know more. I want to know why all the stuff I know works, works…if you follow that. ‘Scuse the grammar. I’m hungry.

    What do you think? Interested? You might learn something too.

  221. Xavier Kreiss said,

    February 16, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Ms McKeith doesn’t seem to think the ban on calling herself “doctor ” applies to her website. If it doesn’t, the ban looks pretty meaningless. This is the 16th, four days after the ban – see the site drgillianmckeith

  222. Nanobot said,

    February 16, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    Hi Caitlin me again,

    I’m interested in some of the terminology you have used towards the start of your last post. When discussing crystal healing you talk about “measurable energy” and “subtle vibrational therapy” what exactly do you mean by these terms? I hear the word vibrational used a lot be alt/comp therapists (and by quacksters like McKeith) and I just would like to know what is meant by this term in this context. You see I deal with measurable energy, crystals and subtle vibrations too, but I don’t think we mean the same thing when we use these terms.

    The problem with stuff you can’t measure is that you can’t measure it! You don’t have anything to convince people, regardless of whether it is really the truth or not. Without a measurement you can never say that the naysayer is wrong and you therefore can’t progress beyond that stage towards consensus you are stuck in the argument. Science is about getting that consensus – why is that important? Because without that consensus we wouldn’t have a conventional medical field to bicker about, we wouldn’t have any of the things we consider progress. So, unless your game is Ludditism then scientific consensus is a must.

  223. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 16, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    Had a look at her site again…and I thought I was in luck with the information section. Sadly, I have to be a PAID member to access it and to chat on her forum. Not cheap either, at about £145 per year. It just feels all wrong. Ok, so she says she has one of the most comprehensive nutritional information sources on the planet….I can’t tell one way or the other if it’s any good unless I give her my bank details and my cash. Dont’ worry, I won’t be doing either.

  224. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 16, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    RE 222. Nanobot…I quite agree with you. I would love to know how to measure the effects of crystal therapy. Here’s my problem….I know I can see and feel them, for a fact. This is what I mean about measurable energy. I know the energy is there, I just don’t know to show I know it’s there. I don’t have the science based education to begin to know how to quantify them. It’s incredibly subtle. What if….it’s a question of individual perception. I can feel it, you can’t. Maybe we just havent had the right combination of people to work out the “how to” yet.

    It would be very interesting if you and I could really talk this one out. I suspect you might have the key to what I’m trying to explain. Our two fields may not be as far apart as you think. Is it worth investigating? Or course the true variable is the spiritual aspect…I explain to people that they have to invite the crystal to work with them. Try measuring that! This bit has to be purely a question of faith.

    I would like to suggest that the problem is with the stuff we can’t measure, is that we just havent learned how yet.

    Alt/comp therapists use the term “vibrational” not just in reference to crystals, but also because what they’re usually dealing with is the subtle anatomy, the energy field of the body that extends beyond the skin, and is the energetic template for our physical forms. I will dig out some links for you on this at work tomorrow….some very good stuff has been published, including work done on acupuncture meridians, which were traced through the body using radioactive material. Forgive me if this is fuzzy…I want to ge this right for you and will get back to you asap with the links. I would love to know what you make of it. My game is absolutley not Ludditism. I want to have the measurements and complete understanding, and the strongest arguement possible for what I know to be true.

  225. Barnacle Bill said,

    February 16, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    A nice song about Gillian www.stablesound.co.uk/mp3/drgillian.mp3

  226. censored said,

    February 17, 2007 at 12:12 am

    >Censored, with respect, if you say that the fact that it may be difficult to measure the
    >results achieved by complementary therapies, makes you think that they don’t work
    > at all, does that mean that you *wouldn’t* investigate, merely because you can’t
    > see how?

    I don’t say it’s difficult to measure. If there IS an effect, we would see it. Forgive me if this is patronising, I don’t mean it to be. But from what you’ve said previously I’ll assume you know literally nothing about how medical/science based trials work.

    The way these effects are noted is as follows:
    1. You have three groups of people, all similar in that they have a some sort condition for which you are investigating a treatment, and that there are minimal other factors to consider (i.e. the groups are of similar age range, diet, health etc).
    2. One is the control group. These people do not receive any treatment of any kind.
    3. A second group is given a treatment. However, it is important that they don’t know they are being given the treatment. It is also important that the doctors/practitioners do not know they are administering a treatment.
    4. The third group are given a substitute for the treatment. In medicine it could be a sugar pill, or injections of water. In crystal healing it could be with the ‘wrong’ crystal or an ordinary rock. Likewise, neither they nor the person giving the treatment know that it’s not real.

    If there is any basis whatsoever that the treatment works, Group 2 would do better than either Group 1 on Group 3. It’s simple – we don’t need to measure anything, we don’t need to know how it works or why it works. We would simply see that the group getting the treatment got better, and those given nothing or a fake (placebo) didn’t.

    This is the gold standard of trials, and any treatment that works – be it homeopathy, crystals, prayer, or standing on your head for 20 minutes every morning – will be shown to work. There is no reason why any alternative therapy, if it works, cannot pass this trial.

  227. pv said,

    February 17, 2007 at 12:18 am

    Caitlin, with respect, if you can’t measure it I suggest you don’t know what it is. And If you don’t know what it is then you don’t really know whether what you are describing is actually true or an illusion, or if true whether it can be attributed to something else. As has been said many times in science, the hardest person not to fool is yourself.
    Just the fact that you use words such as “energy” and “vibration” to describe what you mean without the knowledge of the actual meanings of those words casts doubt on your analysis of your experience. This isn’t to say you aren’t being honest – far from it.
    As far as anything “spiritual” is concerned, science has nothing to say about it because spirituality is a subjective concept that means many different things to different people. Also spirituality has nothing to say about science. My own view is that when one speaks of spirituality one is already presenting a subjective and prejudicial view of the world that defies evidence.
    In science, as in law, the onus is on the positive assertion to be evidenced or proved. A negative cannot be proved – or, I should say, can only be proved by providing evidence for another positive assertion that is opposed to the original positive assertion.
    Another thing in science is that anecdotes are not evidence, and goes to the statement that the hardest person not to fool is yourself.

  228. censored said,

    February 17, 2007 at 12:20 am

    Incidentally, you say that you know and feel the energy of crystals. The science-based question would be, do you really or do you *think* you do because everything you believe tells you that crystals have energy?

    If you really can feel the energy from crystals, you’d be able to feel a hidden crystal in a room. Or know the difference, when blindfolded, between a crystal or a rock. You would always and every time know the difference between a rock and a crystal, without seeing or touching it. And you would be able to consistently do that better than I would, given that I have no ability to ‘feel’ them. I would be very interested in the results of a test like that, and very happy to take part.

    All atoms vibrate. All materials are made of atoms, linked together by particular forces. Crystal lattices are basically no different from a lump of coal or a piece of wood. They are atoms bonded into a 3D grid – it just so happens that some crystals are also quite pretty that they have gained a special significance. Why does no-one do crystal energy healing with lumps of salt? That’s a crystal as much as quartz is.

  229. Nanobot said,

    February 17, 2007 at 10:50 am

    I’ve just spent the last 3 years looking at the surface of crystals (gold ones) and I know that to detect the vibrational energy of these crystals you need a vacuum chamber, a source of light (often a multi-million pound synchrotron radiation source) and an expensive and highly sensitive detector. If you can do it with your hands then I’d be very interested to know how, because it would save me and the scientific community many millions of pounds. We can actually use the vibrational frequency of quartz crystals to calculate the thickness of layers of material so thin that they are invisible to the naked eye.

    The thing is that the terms ‘vibration’ and ‘energy’ are well defined in science. The alt/comp meanings are a) not the same, b) much more vague. To a scientist this feels like misappropriation of terms that represent a lot of good work and thought to apply to unrelated, nebulous psychological phenomena.

  230. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 17, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Danivon:

    “It’s quite simple, as I see it. If you have a CAM therapy that you think actually works, then prove it. Not through anecdotes, but through proper tests to compare it against:

    1) doing nothing
    2) giving a placebo
    3) other proven therapies”

    Don’t forget safety/toxicity trials, which should be right at the top before efficacy trials. There’s a feeling among CAM people that they’re exempt from such considerations, usually through some variation on the “it’s natural so it must be safe” or “the ancients used it so it must be safe” arguments…

    Censored:

    “Why does no-one do crystal energy healing with lumps of salt? That’s a crystal as much as quartz is.”

    Err, sady, see www.himalayancrystals.com/ — “How to energize and heal with Himalayan salt crystals!”

    It seems you can put the word “therapy” after any random term these days, whack it into Google, and hit a motherlode of woo.

    Andrew.

  231. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 17, 2007 at 11:16 am

    (sadly, not sady, rather)

  232. censored said,

    February 17, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Ahhh, but that obviously only works on Himalayan salt crystals, which I’m sure are demonstrably more powerful than table salt.

  233. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 17, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I went to see a Himalayan salt healer once but he just kept yakking on.

    Andrew.

    (sorry)

  234. ubik said,

    February 17, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    The stuff they put on roads in bad weather is just as good, apparantly, if you pay enough for it.
    www.awakening-healing.com/Healthy_Products/miracle_krystal_salt.htm

  235. ubik said,

    February 17, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    The stuff they put on roads in bad weather is just as good, apparently, if you pay enough for it.
    www.awakening-healing.com/Healthy_Products/miracle_krystal_salt.htm

  236. censored said,

    February 17, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    No wonder my chakras are much more aligned on icy mornings.

  237. Skeptyk said,

    February 17, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    I am going to post about some of Caitlin’s contributions, as an example of some ways of thinking, which are rather common to many folks who come on to various critical thinking and science blogs, then admonish us as close-minded, incurious and the like. Caitlin is encouraged to take this personally, to call it constructive criticism or call it insults. I have no idea anymore how to tiptoe around second-guessing what will set you off, Caitlin, so maybe you can be gratified that I am going to use your words to attempt to shed some light on communication issues.

    Caitlin says: “I suspect that the “homeopathy is claptrap” comment wasn’t based on any useful knowledge of the subject.”

    Why you had this suspicion is unclear, and a simple glance down the right side of this page would find access to lots of informed discussion of homeopathy. Many folks who regularly post here know more about the science of homeopathy than most of the folks who advocate its use.

    You do thank Dr. Aust for #122, but in many later posts continue to complain that you are not interested in homeopathy just now: “this is not a discussion about homeopathy” “ I would like to leave the homeopathy debate alone completely. It serves no purpose in this discussion and I’m not interested in discussing it further…“Please! Can we drop the Homeopathy arguement.”
    But you are not the only one reading this. Site statistics will likely show that far more folks read this blog and its long comments threads than ever post to it. Regular posters here know that, and many of those writers are terrific at educating and providing links for others, not just for the poster they are directly responding to.

    “Claptrap” is not any decent way to describe what may yet been seen to be scientific truth”. At what point, after how much science, after how much evidence, may one call homeopathy “claptrap”? In what way may homeopathy someday “yet been seen to be scientific truth” ? Will the laws of physics change? Is this an appeal to third-hand readings of Popper and Kuhn, a notion that all scientific knowledge is just waiting to be superseded? If so, you best not hold your breath. Knowledge is cumulative, and, despite the great narrative drama, the Einsteinian revolution did not negate Newton’s equations. There will be no new knowledge that will change the true fact that the earth is very roundish, that the sun is very warmish. And, as rudimentary as is our huge knowledge of medicine, cellular processes, which work in the tiny world of molecular complexities, will not be negated as we learn more about even littler processes (subatomics).

    Caitlin, you admonish folks here to be humble. Well, look in the mirror of your posts. You say you “know” from your experience that crystal energies are subtle but very real and that you can feel them. Even though such claims by others have been tested and disproven, your “knowing” is the winner. In post #220: “I know I can see and feel them, for a fact.” #227 and #228 answered this. May I suggest you read about the ideomotor effect? Here is a nice link to an article by Ray Hyman: www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/ideomotor.html

    #191: “This thread was about weigh loss and the science behind food.” Maybe for you it was, but that is very small part of Ben’s original article, and of the thread. You think that when you jump into a thread after 80 comments that it is suddenly all about you? That the rest of the discussions ongoing in the thread should stop to better serve you?

    Your self-stroking humility glows, and we are too stubborn to bask in it, eh? You keep telling us you are trying “to progress the discussion”, and only a very few grok that: “At least one person sees what I’m trying to do”, “At last…thank you…someone I can talk to”

    Poor dear, that you should have graced us with your presence and we don’t appreciate you sufficiently: #155: “I’m wasting my sweet life trying to further any kind of civilised debate here…and I really wanted to learn stuff from you guys too. Damn shame.……until I find a medical professional openminded, curious, humble and civilised enough to debate with me.”
    #216: “I hope I’m not wasting my time and people will actually be willng to supply answers in everyday language.”

    Debate? You keep saying that word, Vizzini. I do not think it means what you think it means. Just how do you perceive civilized debate? Ideas are open to argument, and to ridicule by argument. My respect for your right to have an opinion does not mean I have to respect your opinion. In fact, it would be disrespectful of me not to call some of your opinions uninformed and untested, since you have explicitly requested a discussion/debate.

    As for “everyday language”, most folks here do a great job of that, (but sometimes it is not possible to understand a thing without significant prior understanding; human knowledge is vast). Ben just won an award for his ability to demystify statistics so we may see how easily they are misused. Here and in so much more, he has used everyday language without talking down to his readers. Well, Ben is a practicing physician. MDs are pretty darn good at explaining things, btw, as informed consent is critical to their vocation, and medicine has, despite persistent old notions to the contrary, left the alt/comp therapies in their dust when it comes to informed consent and patient education.

    #189: “I have been asking for as much information as you care to throw at me. I can understand that perhaps you don’t take what I do seriously, but there has been no curiosity about it, just a hopelessly dismissive attitude. I’m quite disillusioned actually at how little sharing of information there has been here. If this thread was open only to medical and scientific people, I would have known to avoid it…. This has been a misuse of time on my part, even although I thought I would get something out of it. It has confirmed a few suspicions I did have about the medical and scientific professions, so I guess it’s not all bad.”
    #193: “All I have really learned form this experience is not to talk to medical people and scientists about how I work.”

    No comment.

    Be well,
    Skeptyk

  238. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 17, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Skeptyk…good to meet you again…it’s been a long time. Several centuries, I believe. I hope the matches didn’t burn your fingers last time. Lighting bonfires on a windy day can be tricky. Practise makes perfect though, so don’t give up, eh?

    Significant understanding is what I was looking for here. I apologise if I was tugging at your sleeve too much for it. I can’t get any information from Gillian’s site either, unless I pay for it, so in the spirit of the original discussion, I am not much further forward, although I’m sure that you would quite rightly point out that it is not your responsibility to educate me. Incomplete conversations as we have to have on line, with only words on the screen to get out point across, can be difficult.

    I also apologise for the vagueness of my language….I think I was born running on a different programme from other people. The incompleteness of expression on something like this is frustrating for me. Some of the points made today show that, collectively, you have very little understanding of how some complementary therapies work, and no inclination to find out. I can’t compete with that. I don’t ‘have the inclination to continue with this. It has become a pointless and painful excercise.

    “MD’s are pretty darn good at explaining things, btw…” so why is it I can’t seem to get an explanation of why Gillian McKeith’s science is so bad? That was what I wanted. Despite your expertise and education, you seem remarkably unwilling to share what you know. My perhaps naive attempts to open up and explain how I work, and what my views are have gained me nothing but derision apparently. I can’t begin to tell you how bad that feels. Do not, what ever you do, mistake this for self pity. It is not.

    I guess it’s a human failing to attack what we don’t understand, even if it has to be a personal attack. Yes, I was sharp with people here on occasions, which I’m not too happy with myself for. Not nice of me, and I hope that there was understanding of my attempts to put it right, but anything I said pales beside the patronising and insulting tirade you just presented me with, Skeptyk. Again, one of our human failings is to attack what we don’t understand.

    I will leave you, very respectfully, to your science, gentlemen.

  239. Tom P said,

    February 18, 2007 at 3:34 am

    As someone who’s been reading this thread for several days now, caitlin, I have to say that you’ve been given many, many times reasons why McKeith’s science is so bad. Indeed, you’ve acknowledged several times that people have taken time to explain in simple, reasoned, layperson-friendly detail why certain claims she makes are purely nonsensical. There should, surely, be enough here to make you at the very least accept that McKeith is a demonstrably unreliable source of information and advice.

    The trouble isn’t that people have refused to engage with you, or have refused to explain why they hold the views they do. It’s simply that, as you’ve explained more of your current beliefs about the way the world works, people who are honestly engaging with you have had no honest option but to tell you: certain things you are sure you experience simply don’t match with at least a century of repeated, independent, widespread and open investigation of the world, by people who had no greater desire than to find out how stuff works.

    It’s the very basis of science – as has already been said here – that all its practitioners should have an abiding and overwhelming awareness of the fallibility of human perception. It’s the very opposite of arrogance; a constant abiding dread of some underlying basic assumption that turns out to be false, and a distributed methodology designed specifically to render all unconscious biases of the particular researcher irrelevant to the aggregation of knowledge.

    The flip side of that is that all people who deal with scientific knowledge have a very strong awareness of the fact that a lot of “evidence” is simply poor – and personal experience is one of the most easily skewed sources. In the abstract, this is easy to deal with; it’s easy to say, “well, people can be mistaken.” It’s a lot harder to tell people to their face (or their computer screen) they they themselves are almost certainly mistaken. But sometimes, it’s the only honest thing to do, when what they describe is utterly inconsistent with everything that is known about the world.

    It’s not arrogance. It’s not dismissive. It’s not closed-mindedness. It’s not a lack of understanding. It’s just honesty.

    And surely that’s better than a disingenuous, non-confrontational vagueness that lets everybody conveniently ignore for the time being that somebody in this conversation has to be wrong?

  240. Mojo said,

    February 18, 2007 at 8:15 am

    Re #221: “Ms McKeith doesn’t seem to think the ban on calling herself “doctor ” applies to her website. If it doesn’t, the ban looks pretty meaningless. This is the 16th, four days after the ban – see the site drgillianmckeith”

    It doesn’t apply to her website. According to the ASA website:

    “There are some types of commercial message we don’t deal with; these include:

    Claims on websites
    In general, misleading claims on companies’ websites should be reported to your local trading standards department (www.tradingstandards.gov.uk) but we can investigate website owners’ sales promotions, such as special offers, prize draws and competitions. We can also investigate “third party” advertisements in space the website owner has allocated to other advertisers.”

  241. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 18, 2007 at 9:10 am

    Thank you Tom..that was useful. I’m still a little confused about where the information is that people have passed on, but I will look again and try to understand. Your last comment is extremely enlightening….”someone in this conversation has to be wrong”. I guess you mean me and my fellow “woos”. Is there any point in discussing any subject with people who hold such views? I accept that Mckeith’s information is unreliable. I have huge misgivings about her work, on several levels.

  242. HypnoSynthesis said,

    February 18, 2007 at 10:07 am

    >>bazvic said,
    >> RE: “McKeith Research Ltd t/a Dr Gillian McKeith / Leaflet / Food and drink”
    It is not difficult to see why this was a problem for the ASA. Calling a business “Dr something” when supplying health related services without medical qualification may cause confusion.
    >> This appears not to be a comment on the quality of Ms McKeith’s PhD or indeed any of her qualifications.

    I appreciate your comments but you are mistaken about this point. Ben has information from the ASA which proves that they did, as stated in his article, investigate and comment upon the quality and nature of Gillian’s PhD and the legitimacy of her claim to call herself “Doctor.”

    The ASA concluded, after careful examination of the evidence, that her use of the title was likely to mislead. I have to emphasise that by withdrawing the advertisement, McKeith effectively conceded that it was indeed misleading. This creates a glaring contradiction. How could it be seriously misleading the public for her to call herself “Doctor” in one context (on a leaflet) but not in others (on TV, books, websites). She continues to use the title in areas that fall outside ASA jurisdication, thereby taking advantage of a loophole in the self-regulation of the advertising industry. However, she cannot be seen to do so in good faith, as the ASA incident shows that the claim in general was deemed misleading.

    On the positive side, this means,

    1. That future complaints to Ofcom, Trading Standards, ASA, etc., can reference this decision in support of the argument that she is misleading the public.
    2. That journalists like Ben can criticise her use of the title “Doctor” with relative impunity from the threat of civil action, insofar as they are effectively just quoting the ASA’s recommendations and findings.

    It also means that if a second complaint was made to ASA in the future they would (very) probably be forced to publish the full details of their investigation which would be about ten times worse for McKeith as it would (almost certainly) provide journalists with a treasure-trove of quotations, from an industry regulator, condemning her use of title “Doctor” as misleading.

    I observe that because her books, etc., have “Dr.” on the cover, it *may* be argued that any advertisement or point of sale that displays a picture of them showing this wording does fall under ASA jurisdication and could be a second breach of their code. That would need to be confirmed with ASA though.

    I would also like to emphasise again that the more people complain, the more the regulators have to pay attention, and the more precedents are set for sanctions against all the other media gurus who mislead the public in similar ways. If nobody complains, though, the regulations are passive and nothing happens.

  243. Kess said,

    February 18, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Today’s Sunday Times has joined in the put-the-boot-into-McKeith party with an article asking why people suspend disbelief and common-sense when faced with these self-proclaimed “experts” ( www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/india_knight/article1400843.ece ). It gets quite bitchy: “I look at McKeith and I think, “If eating like you means looking as unwell as you, thanks, but no thanks.”” Ouch!

  244. HypnoSynthesis said,

    February 18, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    By the way, now the Sundays are wading in, there’s a summary of various media guru “Doctors” in The Independent that’s worth reading,

    news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2281368.ece

    Could have been a lot more probing, but gives a bit of an overview at least.

  245. Seany said,

    February 18, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Caitlin, we could make a long list of the errors McKeith has made and point out where her science is wrong but this would be a very boring exercise and would not necessarily get to the heart of the matter or, in the long run, have much educational value. I think you need to look at the bigger picture.

    This is very simplistic but – there are lots of people in the world who are happy to lie to us in order to take our money. We don”t let ourselves fall for every scam that comes along because we exercise critical thinking. Even people who believe in reptilian shapeshifters think critically about some things (for instance, they will assess whether they can safely cross a road before a bus hits them).

    We are complicated creatures and sometimes we do not use our critical thinking skills in all situations (i.e. we suspend our disbelief). We do this for a number of reasons, because something sounds plausible, we have a gut feeling it is right, we wish it were true, we trust the person involved or we have heard it is true.

    Science and the scientific method is about critical thinking. It is about testing to get to the truth. And we need to do tests as objectively as possible, i.e. remove all possibility of bias

    An example would be your belief that you can sense energy from crystals. It would be easy to set up a test to show whether you could or coudn’t. Similar tests have been done many times (aura recognition etc) and when there is no chance of the tester / testee / outside agency influencing the results, the results are always negative.

    Double blind placebo controlled randomised trials can be summed up as: common sense. There is nothing so special about reiki, crytsal therapy, homeopathy, Bach flower remedies etc that means they cannot be tested in this way.

    When I was growing up I was instilled with a lot of catholic guilt and taught to accept the implausible. This led to me spouting all kinds of nonsense that I had read somewhere as fact (‘men have a bi-monthly cycle you know, yeah, biorhythms apparently’), despite having a sciency background. I just wasn’t using my critcal thinking skills, instead I was accepting whatever I read in the lifestyle sections of the supplements because they seemed plausible.

    I was reading Stephen Fry’s ‘Paperweight’ when I came across an article he had written about how wrong the ideas of crystalfanciers are and explained why. He also mentioned the Skeptical Enquirer. I was intrigued and did some reading. Then some more. Then some more. Then I statred to understand.

    I think you need to undestand more about critical thinking and less about biology. Start with Snake Oil by John Diamond. Derren Brown’s book Tricks of the Mind is terrific. Ask questions, this is important and is a good attitude to have, but be ready to have your mind changed on the basis of the evidence.

  246. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 18, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you Seany…I will take this on board and investigate the books you mentioned. I think the main point of conflict here is that many people seem to dismiss the effect of mind, emotions and spirituality and our state of health, and are not comfortable with debating it. That’s what I find most frustrating. Critical thinking is important, but maybe not something that we do naturally as humans? We pehaps have to learn how to do that, and maybe it’s a skill emphasised more stongly in the Sciences, at least when it comes down to “facts” instead of “opinions” or “beliefs”. The biology is a good place to start though. I need to have something to think critically about, but I do take your point.

    And maybe you think I don’t excercise this already? I entirely agree with you that many people are willing to scam us for money…I have experience of this also. There is a danger in assuming that we woos accept everything presented to us as “therapy”. We absolutely do not. Our techniques for processing them are just very different to yours.

    The evidence you’re talking about is the “stuff you can measure”. There is a huge amount of hisorical and anecdotal evidence available also. Should that all be completely disregarded? And there is a little hint in what you worte in your last post that you think we get our information from the Sunday Supplements….? Surely not…

    Again there seem to be big gaps in your knowledge of how most complementary therapists work, which is surprising as you seem to be one of the most approachable people here, and are hungry for information, clearly. I won’t bore you with the list, as my list of nit picking points would doubtless be as boring as yours.

    I feel quiet miserable at a very deep level about this whole thread. In some ways, I couldn’t have picked a worst arena. Despite the useful points and the new sources of information, I feel it was a mistake for me to get involved, purely from a personal point of view. If it in some way kicks the debate up a notch, and I can learn a bit, the very personal attacks and the hard time I’ve been given here will be worth it. Maybe, hopefully, it will lead me to new knowledge that I can then share with others.

    I’m still irritated that you expect that if I learn something new, it will somehow change my opinion totally, instead of augmenting what I already know. Please do not dimiss me as a hippy (I’m not), or as some free thinking, cotton wool headed witchypoo. People like me need a little encouragement to tackle complex subjects like this one…like you said, it needs a completely new way of thinking…instead of just a roasting for having developed spirituality first.

    Our original point was Gillian McKeith. I have not suspended my disbelief to accept all she tells me…quite the opposite, as I have said many times. I’m on a near vertical learning curve and it’s a shame really that I can’t get more to fuel my thinking from her side with out paying for it.

  247. Mojo said,

    February 18, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Re #242: “I observe that because her books, etc., have “Dr.” on the cover, it *may* be argued that any advertisement or point of sale that displays a picture of them showing this wording does fall under ASA jurisdication and could be a second breach of their code. That would need to be confirmed with ASA though.”

    The ASA doesn’t cover point of sale advertising. Again, from the list of types of advertising they don’t handle:

    “There are some types of commercial message we don’t deal with; these include:

    In-store advertising
    Misleading claims on posters, shelves or till points should be reported to your local trading standards department (www.tradingstandards.gov.uk). The ASA will look into complaints about any leaflets or brochures that can be taken away from a store.”

    Source:

    www.asa.org.uk/asa/about/Guided+Tours/Consumers/What+types+of+ads+and+promotions+does+the+ASA+look+into.htm

    I think this also applies to claims made on packaging, and probably to claims made on book covers etc.

    Adverts for the books may be covered though. I’ll keep a look out.

  248. Mojo said,

    February 18, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Re #246: “I think the main point of conflict here is that many people seem to dismiss the effect of mind, emotions and spirituality and our state of health, and are not comfortable with debating it.”

    I doubt that this is the case with most people here; posters here tend to be very familiar with this sort of thing, and call it the placebo effect.

    People conducting rigorous trials of therapies, for example, are very concerned about “the effect of mind, emotions and spirituality” on the results of their trials. If they are doing their work properly, they will do their very best to eliminate these effects by the use of a control group and effective double blinding, so that they can be as sure as possible that any difference between the group receiving the therapy and the control group is actually the result of the therapy itself. This applies just as much to “orthodox” medicine as it does to CAM.

  249. pv said,

    February 18, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    “I think the main point of conflict here is that many people seem to dismiss the effect of mind, emotions and spirituality and our state of health, and are not comfortable with debating it.”

    Caitlin, this is simply not true. It is well recognised that one’s emotional state plays a role in one’s physical state. It’s absurd to separate the two states. The placebo effect is well known and well documented in the effectiveness of some therapeutic and medical interventions. However there are some “therapies” and “treatments”, for want of better words to describe, where properly randomised and controlled tests reveal that the sole therapeutic effect is no better or different than that of a a placebo.
    It’s interesting that you don’t define what you mean by spirituality. In my experience it means many things to many people.

    You wrote:
    “I’m still irritated that you expect that if I learn something new, it will somehow change my opinion totally, instead of augmenting what I already know.”

    Do you mind me asking whether you feel you are trying to adjust your view to fit the world about you, or whether you are trying to adjust the world to fit your view?
    Also, do you mean “what you already know” or what you “think” you already know?

    I posted the following link in the main forum yesterday but I think you might find it interesting too. www.ratbags.com/skepticism/index.html

  250. caitlinthewitch said,

    February 18, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Mojo…I’m not sure that we can assume that spirituality and emotions can be equated with the placebo effect. My instincts (unmeasurable I know) tell me it’s not the case. It’s an interesting observation thought, on a more clinical approach. PV…you are exactly right….it is absurd to separate the two states. Whether it’s placebo or spirituality is quite pertinent. Perhaps spirituality works generally on invitation or belief…opening the door to it will allow it to work…how do you feel about this? Placebo pehaps is due to authoritative suggestion? To answer you question, I am tring to expand my view to accomodate what I experience. If we experience something directly, doesn’t it them become a fact, even on an emotional level to us as individuals?

    Thank you also for the link…I will process and digest when I have time. Right now, I’m gutted by belly cramps and need chocolate cake and malachite. I mentioned my website, which will be up and running this week, complete with forum, and I would like to move this discussion there, if you would like to join in. That would please me very much and you would be welcome. I’m a little uncomfortable here, and realise I hijcked someone elses blog.

    My web address will be www.amberemporium.co.uk , and for the moment, I would like to leave you with this to study. I would love to know how you feel about this man’s work www.johnofgod.com.

  251. Seany said,

    February 18, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    skepdic.com/johnofgod.html

    www.randi.org/jr/021805a.html

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo%C3%A3o_de_Deus_%28medium%29
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychic_surgeon

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3RC3M5VKAQdium%29

  252. censored said,

    February 18, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    > people seem to dismiss the effect of mind, emotions and spirituality and our state of
    > health, and are not comfortable with debating it.

    The problem with this is that it lays the responsibility onto the sufferer. Visited the healer and didn’t get better? That’s your own emotions! I find that hugely distasteful, to say the least.

    As I said before, it doesn’t matter *how* a treatment works. If it works, it will be demostrated in a double-blind placebo trial. If it doesn’t, than it’s not worth practising.

    I don’t care whether you can measure crystal energy or not – the fact is that it has no demonstrable effects whatsoever. Couple that with the facts that:

    a) there’s nothing special about crystal structure compared to other materials
    b) everything vibrates on an atomic level, but lumps of concrete don’t heal

    then I think I can safely say that crystal healing doesn’t work. That’s not me being closed-minded, or dismissive or not wanting to look properly. That’s me looking at both a evidence and theory and finding neither.

    There was a recent documentary on BBC2 looking at John of God. It wasn’t the most critical series ever produced, but even compared to the man who claimed around 10% trees actively want to help us, John of God came across as a particularly deluded fraud.

  253. Skeptyk said,

    February 18, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Ah, Joao de Deus. I am appalled by the guy, and by the cynical way the local and state governments in Brazil let him continue. Thanks, Seany, for all the links. Caitlin, the Skepdic link there is loaded with other ways to learn, about John of God and some of the techniques he uses.

    And Randi has two extensive, and fascinating, pieces on him, including a letter from someone scammed and injured, by this Joao group.
    www.randi.org/jr/022505thank.html
    www.randi.org/jr/021805a.html

    Have you read any of James Randi’s stuff? His JREF Million $$ challenge has been an interesting focus for teaching about critical thinking (when I first met him, it was a $10,000 check he carried in his wallet).

    A long, pro-Joao article by the tourguide who runs the site you linked us to:
    www.nexusmagazine.com/articles/miracle.man.html

    It was easy to find sites crystal healers who sells quartz jewelry that Joao has “energized” and authorized. I will not post the links here, just google them: casacrystals and exquisitecrystals. Have fun. Lots of $$$ to be made even on Joao’s coat-tails.

    And Peter Bowditch’s post on him: www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/faithhealer.htm

    From Brazil, a scientific medical team:
    www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0104-42302000000300002&script=sci_arttext
    It would be nice if more extensive, and particularly, more long-term, study were made of this guy and the whole operation.

    And, an aside, I don’t understand this: “Skeptyk…good to meet you again…it’s been a long time. Several centuries, I believe. I hope the matches didn’t burn your fingers last time.” Um, if you get a moment, can you explain? Did we meet on a msg board or forum? Does “several centuries” refer to some cyberspace time frame meaning a couple of years or months? Did I get “burned” by an argument? Seriously, maybe I am just being dumb here, and this is some geekspeak I missed. You don’t mean a past life, do you?!

    Be well,
    Skeptyk

  254. Janet W said,

    February 18, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    re. relationship between life expectancy and income in the UK, can anyone tell me more about what is known of the reasons for this? I’ve heard it variously attributed to smoking, diet (the argument largely rejected by Ben above), and whether or not you feel in control of your own life, and thus able to improve it. Presumably working with hazardous substances, and industrial accidents also play a part, but.. any stats on how much, or is it all speculation?

  255. Nanobot said,

    February 19, 2007 at 12:54 am

    “Mojo…I’m not sure that we can assume that spirituality and emotions can be equated with the placebo effect. My instincts (unmeasurable I know) tell me it’s not the case.”

    You are quite right, yet while you rely on your instincts we scientists actually go off and do some experiments. Experimental pyschology would be another interesting area for you to look into.

  256. bazvic said,

    February 19, 2007 at 9:48 am

    242
    HypnoSynthesis said

    I appreciate your comments but you are mistaken about this point. Ben has information from the ASA which proves that they did, as stated in his article, investigate and comment upon the quality and nature of Gillian’s PhD and the legitimacy of her claim to call herself “Doctor.

    I disagree. The point I was making was that there is a company that trades as “Dr Gillian McKeith” and there is an individual called (calls herself) “Dr Gillian McKeith”. The ASA was commenting on the company.

    All very confusing and not suprisingly, misleading to many. Hence the ASA were correct to act as they did.

    The information Ben has is not accessible to me therefore I cannot not judge it and not make any comments on it.

  257. Tristan said,

    February 19, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Skeptyk said: “And, an aside, I don’t understand this: “Skeptyk…good to meet you again…it’s been a long time. Several centuries, I believe. I hope the matches didn’t burn your fingers last time.” Um, if you get a moment, can you explain? Did we meet on a msg board or forum? Does “several centuries” refer to some cyberspace time frame meaning a couple of years or months? Did I get “burned” by an argument? Seriously, maybe I am just being dumb here, and this is some geekspeak I missed. You don’t mean a past life, do you?!”

    I presume she meant when a past you burned the past her at the stake during the witch hunts.

  258. HypnoSynthesis said,

    February 19, 2007 at 10:13 am

    Bazvic: >>I disagree. The point I was making was that there is a company that trades as “Dr Gillian McKeith” and there is an individual called (calls herself) “Dr Gillian McKeith”. The ASA was commenting on the company.

    With respect, I’m still sure your interpretation is mistaken. Of course, the ASA were commenting on the company, I take that for granted, but they conducted an investigation of the individual (Gillian McKeith) whose supposed “PhD” qualification was being used in the advertisements. We know that for a fact, you can call and check with them if you don’t believe me. The company (McKeith) was threatened with sanction on the basis of an investigation into the use of the title by the individual (McKeith).

    You wrote: “This appears not to be a comment on the quality of Ms McKeith’s PhD or indeed any of her qualifications.”

    That interpretation of things is demonstrably false, as I’ve already said, Ben has quoted from ASA documentation which proves they investigated Gillian McKeith’s personal qualifications and her own use of the title “Doctor”, in the context of the advertising, for which her company were threatened with sanction.

    Best,

    Don

  259. Mojo said,

    February 19, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Re #253: “And, an aside, I don’t understand this: “Skeptyk…good to meet you again…it’s been a long time. Several centuries, I believe. I hope the matches didn’t burn your fingers last time.” Um, if you get a moment, can you explain? Did we meet on a msg board or forum? Does “several centuries” refer to some cyberspace time frame meaning a couple of years or months? Did I get “burned” by an argument? Seriously, maybe I am just being dumb here, and this is some geekspeak I missed. You don’t mean a past life, do you?!”

    Well, obviously, the people involved in witch-hunts are widely regarded as having been paragons of rational thought and having followed the scientific method in everything they did.

    Note for Caitlin: that was sarcasm.

  260. not a nutrition nut said,

    February 19, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    I realise I’ve come rather late to this discussion but I’d like to add a view from a perspective which has been be briefly mentioned. I was so surprised to read Max Clifford’s response to the ASA ruling on Ms McKeith that ,at first, I thought I’d mis read it. He comments on her nutrition related PhD or lack of “I wish it had never been mentioned. She never needed it, and it’s done nothing but cause her embarrassment.”
    Am I missing something here? In almost no other area of healthcare would we allow ourselves to be treated, guided or advised by someone who didn’t need a relevant qualification let alone someone who wasn’t registered and monitored by a professional body. Going beyond healthcare I wouldn’t want my car serviced by a non-mechanic. I wouldn’t even get my legs waxed by someone who wasn’t qualified to do so (mind you I learnt my lesson the hard way with the latter!).

    I was delighted to read by Ben’s carefully researched, timed and written article not least because I have spent the best part of the last 25 years training as, working as and staying registered as, a dietitian. If I expected you to listen to me I’d want you to challenge my hard earned qualifications. I certainly wouldn’t try to make it awkward if you did.

    Even if Ms McKeith had a PhD in academic nutrition from a recognised institution, it still wouldn’t make her best placed to offer individual therapeutic dietary advice. Registered dietitians spend 4 years training to interpret nutritional science and translate it into practical food based strategies. We know how to assess current dietary intake, we are trained in motivational skills and we can help people tailor effective strategies to their current lifestyle and overcome barriers to change.

    Diet related chronic disease is a huge problem but if I want to help you do something about it I wouldn’t bully you until you started sprouting your own mung beans – you don’t need to. Beneficial dietary change is a whole lot more practical, palatable and sustainable than that. Average intake of fruit and vegetables in this county is a paltry 2 portions a day. The World Health Organisation estimates cancer and heart disease could be reduced by as much as 20% by increasing to 5. But it doesn’t have to be alfalfa seeds and fennel . Frozen peas count as a portion , so does orange juice even baked beans. We don’t need to eat handfuls of flax seed – a can of sardines is a really good source of omega 3 fat. Where are those messages on prime time TV? I refuse to believe it’s that they are too boring. Many clients I work with do not realise that eating better doesn’t have to involve expensive or obscure foods and, generally speaking ,TV shows do nothing to correct this. I feel it’s a challenge both scientists and the media, who use often use unqualified and unregulated experts, to find a way to get useful lifestyle advice across in a way that wont make people switch off. After all if (real) Dr. Alice Roberts can captivate prime time TV audiences to look after the anatomy of their major organs surely it’s possible to make “good nutritional science” appetising .

  261. Mojo said,

    February 20, 2007 at 7:25 am

    Re #260: “In almost no other area of healthcare would we allow ourselves to be treated, guided or advised by someone who didn’t need a relevant qualification let alone someone who wasn’t registered and monitored by a professional body.”

    Pretty much any type of CAM apart from osteopathy and chiropractic, which are regulated, fall into this category. Anyone can call themselves a homoeopath, for example.

  262. Rakster said,

    February 20, 2007 at 9:52 am

    TAPL has made it into the hallowed pages of ‘Closer’ magazine, complaining about being bullied intp dropping the doctor title. She seems to think that it’s because she’s not a medical doctor, rather than because she doesn’t have a proper PhD. I’m going to email them when I have a minute and set that one straight!

  263. Mojo said,

    February 20, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Actually, it seems that the ASA thought the use of the title was misleading at least in part because of the possible inference that it is a medical qualification. For example from the Guardian story (reply #2):

    “It is understood the ASA was minded to rule that the adverts were misleading, because the college was not accredited by any recognised educational authority at the time she took the course, and she does not hold a general medical qualification. While the adverts usually stated somewhere in the text Ms McKeith was not a medical doctor, the initial impression given was that she was, it said.”

    It seems to me that the ASA thought that the use of the title was potentially misleading in the context of medical claims (giving the impression that she is medically qualified) as well as because the college was not accredited.

  264. pv said,

    February 20, 2007 at 10:52 am

    “TAPL has made it into the hallowed pages of ‘Closer’ magazine, complaining about being bullied intp dropping the doctor title.”

    She could have carried on using the title if she disagreed with the ruling. The fact is she volunteered to drop the title because she knew she wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, and it would have been much more damaging if the ASA had published its findings.
    In typical showbiz style, she’s trying to make a diversionary drama out of it for her fans by pretending to be the victim. And once again she is either displaying own ignorance, or her own callousness in trying to take advantage of other people’s ignorance.
    Poor thing! She wouldn’t want anyone thinking she gained her fortune by deceit.

  265. not a nutrition nut said,

    February 20, 2007 at 11:27 am

    “Pretty much any type of CAM apart from osteopathy and chiropractic, which are regulated, fall into this category. Anyone can call themselves a homoeopath, for example”.

    Point taken – I suppose what I meant was “conventional” healthcare I’m not really familar with CAM. The point I wanted to make is that there are qualified and regulated nutritional therapists only they are called registered dietitians – and unlike nutrtionists its a protected title .It’s illegal to call yourself a dietitian unless you are registed with the Health Professions Council – neither TAPL nor PH are.

  266. simongates said,

    February 20, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Going way back to #172 – thanks, that’s interesting. Side effects of homeopathy, who’d have thought it?

  267. Rakster said,

    February 20, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    pv and Mojo, you make good points. I’ll word an email carefully. And it did come across as an interview totally intended towards misdirection. She really is all smoke and mirrors.

  268. Mojo said,

    February 20, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Re #266: I hasten to add that the “side effects” are no more effects of the remedies than are the alleged positive effects. Homoeopathy relies heavily on the “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy (the idea that if one event follows another there must be a causal relationship between them) and reporting bias (only cases where the patient gets better tend to be noticed). Even in cases where the patient gets worse, this is termed an “aggravation” and claimed as a sign that the remedy is working.

    In the study I cited above, they studied a group of patients and discovered that (surprise, surprise) some got better, some got worse and some developed new symptoms. Since they are accustomed to regard anything that happens after treatment as being caused by the treatment they decided that the negative outcomes were caused by the treatment.

    Note the lack of a control group, by the way, which means that in fact no conclusions can be drawn as to whether the observed “effects” were actually caused by the treatment.

    It’s still a nice paper to wave at anyone who takes the “homoeopathy has no side-effects” tack. ;)

  269. JupiterPluvius said,

    February 20, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Mojo says in #261: Pretty much any type of CAM apart from osteopathy and chiropractic, which are regulated, fall into this category. Anyone can call themselves a homoeopath, for example.

    Well, by the principles of homeopathy, aren’t we all homeopaths?

    And I’m an “arts graduate” who has taken the trouble to get off my ass and learn enough science, statistics, and formal logic to understand the world around me. There are a lot of smart people writing about statistics for a lay audience–Joel Best and Andrew Gelman come to mind in the US, and I’m sure they have equally good UK equivalents.

  270. Junkmonkey said,

    February 21, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    not a contribution to the debate but you too can be The Awful Poo Lady in the comfort of your own home!

    www.ratemypoo.com

    I’ll get my coat

  271. pv said,

    February 21, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    www.badscience.net/?p=362#comment-10990
    10:54 pm

    “not a contribution to the debate but you too can be The Awful Poo Lady in the comfort of your own home!”

    Wot! No smellovision?

  272. Robert Carnegie said,

    February 22, 2007 at 12:36 am

    Imagine complaining to a local trading standards office about a Web site. But the message there seems to be that as soon as they persuade you to go to their web site, the lying can begin. That applies to the little promotional online films. And they can do all the things with cars that they aren’t allowed to do on British TV in case real drivers copy them and people get killed.

  273. bazvic said,

    February 23, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    The matter of the usefulness of TAPL’s PhD is answered by reviewing its subject, that blue green algae is a health food, indeed a super food. Well the following link debunks this idea quite well:

    www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/algae.html

    In summary blue green algae is a well known contaminant of fresh water. The algae itself is not poisionous, but what it decomposes to is. But you cannot have one without the other especially from wild sources.

    Although TAPL’s PhD was completed in 1997 much doubt about blue green aglae as a food existed many years before then.

    This speaks for itself.

  274. Dudley said,

    February 23, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Re: #250: Caitlin said “I’m not sure that we can assume that spirituality and emotions can be equated with the placebo effect. My instincts (unmeasurable I know) tell me it’s not the case.”

    This is pure solipsism, Caitlin. You are assuming a world in which none of us can ever meaningfully communicate with others, a world in which we all remain locked inside our own skulls – a rather depressing vision. Your faith in your own feelings precludes meaningful debate altogether.

    Wouldn’t it be better to assume that there is a real world, that it does contain facts, that propositions can be tested and found wanting (or otherwise)? If you cannot provide a way in which “spirituality and emotions” can be separated off from the placebo effect, then all you are doing is standing there asking us to believe in something immaterial, for which we have no evidence other than your own unsupported word.

    On which basis, I’d be very happy to talk to you about this great money-making opportunity. Just give me all your money. No, I don’t have any evidence that this will eventually make you money. No, I can’t prove the difference between this and a scheme that will only make ME richer. But I passionately believe that there is one: surely that’s enough?

  275. Nurn said,

    February 24, 2007 at 12:33 am

    re: #266 and #172 – of course, side effects of homeopathy must surely be part of the process of getting better…

  276. inicholson said,

    February 24, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Here’s a Freudian slip from a (favourable) Amazon review of “You Are What You Eat”:

    “Now I know there is controversy over some of Gillian’s claims and her qualifictions..”

    I want some qualifictions!!

    As i teacher I find it heartening that my 4th year class (15 year olds) who are for the most part thick (that’s a technical term we educationalists use) were falling over themselves to tell me how stupid TAPL is because she believes eating green leaves will oxygenate your blood. Finally I’ve found an effective way of teaching photosynthesis! They loved Ben’s searchlight up your bum comment.

  277. Dr Aust said,

    February 24, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Watchers of Andrew Collins’ “Where did it all go right” blog

    www.wherediditallgoright.com/BLOG/

    – (see comments passim) may have spotted that Caitlin has retreated there, where she says that she hopes to find more like-minded people.

    She posted a comment there about this thread – obviously feeling rather bruised by her experiences here and states she is “surprised that such educated people (BadScience posters) would be so closed-minded” (my slight paraphrase).

    I considered posting something pointing out that when an opinion is thoroughly at odds with the scientific evidence, and when the opinion-holder sticks to it even after this is pointed out politely, with chapter and verse, they should not be surprised if people get tetchy……however, it is so fiddly to post to Collins’ blog I’ve given up. Some other more determined people are continuing to argue for evidence-based thinking there, although like Caitlin, Andrew Collins doesn’t seem to get the idea that in science-related areas evidence is taken to outweigh personal “gut feeling”. I think he sees us mainstream science-y and medical types as part of a giant conspiracy of orthodoxy and suppression of dissent .

    Why is it so hard for some people to grasp that LIKING the X-Files (or similar) doesn’t mean you have to think there is some truth to its conspiracy-theorising?

    BTW, Ben’s McKeith piece seems to have been instrumental in causing Andrew Collins to proclaim that he has cancelled his subscription to the Grauniad (he thinks it is biased against alt narratives, which made me chuckle), although the straw that broke the back for Collins was a recent piece about “CAM for babies”:

    lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,,2017092,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1

  278. pv said,

    February 24, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    “I think he sees us mainstream science-y and medical types as part of a giant conspiracy of orthodoxy and suppression of dissent .”

    Surely dissent is the bedrock of science. If only there wasn’t this obsession with testing, observing and analysing the claims of dissenters, and all that evidence stuff, then the McKeiths of this world would have no problem at all with science. They could content themselves, and the world, with making up stuff – just like Newton, Einstein, Rutherford, Curie, Crick and Watson, etc!!! And, I nearly forgot, Victor Frankenstein!

  279. crana said,

    February 24, 2007 at 11:26 pm

    Enough of this!

    Chlorophyll on its own does not make oxygen given light and water. It has to be complexed with proteins attached to a membrane in the specific environment of a chloroplast thylakoid to do this. The entire electron transport chain is needed for oxygen to be generated.

    That system doesn’t actually require carbon dioxide, but CO2 is needed for the Calvin cycle/dark reactions (which fix it). If these reactions don’t happen, the cofactors that accept protons (as in what you’re left with if you start with water and release oxygen) aren’t recycled (by having the protons removed and used in the Calvin cycle). This means that they can’t accept new protons and the whole system grinds to a halt (not immediately, of course, there is a lag – and other metabolic reactions use and contribute to the same cofactor pool).

    It has to be in an intact thylakoid sac. The proteins have to be in the right complexes with cofactors and accessory pigments in the membranes, and the stroma (the fluid inside the sacs) is needed.

    If you put some chlorophyll on its own in a beaker of water and shine some light on it, you’ll get green water but no oxygen produced.

    Ah, plant sciences, so often a neglected area…one that lead three of my friends studying English degrees here to ask me if trees were plants.

  280. evidencebasedeating said,

    February 26, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    #227 Dr Aust

    Caitlin would be better joining the vastly inferior ,ego-massaging blog of Bens Observer-group fellow-medic-but -separated-by-a-vast-difference-in-intellect-and-clinical-knowledge – Dr J Briffa at www.drbriffa.com. Her innocent, but interesting, views on matters nutritional could be fully exploited by the ego-that-is-Dr-Briffa.

    A blog where the miserable combination of self-styled nutritionist combines with stereotypical medical arrogance and a pompous ego that demands dissection of every last comment – however tentatively put – to demonstrate his wit/ intelligence/ knowledge. Medical paternalism at its true worst – unless you’re one of the hapless ION brigade who prop up the website with ego boosting comments, basking in the glow of his support.
    Dr Briffa obviously has too much time on his hands – or a strange compulsion to undermine and ridicule his bloggers. A prime example of medical futility.

  281. danhume said,

    February 26, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Keep up the good work Dr Ben! I have just written the following letter to Selfridges HQ in the hope that it may further help to spread the truth about this fraudulent quack:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Re: “Doctor” Gillian McKeith – Fraudulent Products On Sale

    You will no doubt be aware of the recent publicity surrounding the nutritionist and celebrity, Gillian McKeith, and her voluntary agreement with the ASA to stop referring herself as “Doctor” in advertising materials. In case you don’t immediately recall, this is because she has not in fact received any doctoral qualification, medical or otherwise, from any accredited university.

    Imagine my dismay, then, when I saw a product on sale in your Manchester Exchange Square store last Saturday, labelled as “Dr. Gillian McKeith’s Living Food Energy Cookie Bites”. I believe this fraudulent labelling is misleading to customers and damaging to Selfridges’ reputation for selling quality products. Although I am aware that the ASA agreement does not directly apply to product packaging, it has at least shown that all involved in the promotion and distribution of McKeith’s products have a moral duty not to misrepresent her qualifications. I urge you to withdraw these products from sale immediately in the interests of consumers.

  282. Dr Aust said,

    February 26, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Yes, I have read a few things on John Briffa’s pages, and he is an argumentative so-and-so – even once crossed verbal swords with him in the BMJ electronic letters pages.

    The point about medical paternalism is apposite since, as Ben has often pointed out, the nutritionists and various other Alt snake-oilers use all the old tricks of medical paternalism and Dear Guru-ness to work their tricks on people. What is remarkable is (i) the tricks have hardly changed in a century or more – see e.g. AJ Cronin’s account of working as a Harley Street doctor in the 20s in his autobiography “Adventures in Two Worlds”

    www.amazon.co.uk/Adventures-Two-Worlds-J-Cronin/dp/057500522X/sr=8-1/qid=1172525716/ref=sr_1_1/203-4935047-6376702?ie=UTF8&s=books

    – and (ii) as trad doctors have been gradually encouraged and even ordered to ratchet down the paternalism, the appetite for exactly the SAME kind of paternalism from non-medical practitioners – though based on less actual knowledge and understanding of the body – seems to have burgeoned. Gillian McKeith humiliating fat people by asking “do you want to see your grandchildren?” or showing them tombstones with their name on it – you couldn’t make it up.

    In John Briffa’s case, one suspects his medical degree gives him even more
    “guru-spin” for his clientele.

    The other trad medical degree turned celeb nutritionist that springs to mind is Princess Di’s and Gwyneth Paltrow’s (and sundy other luvvies’) fave nutri-doc, Dr Nishi “Holistic Detox” Joshi of Harley Street:

    www.guardian.co.uk/medicine/story/0,11381,1640765,00.html

    The Guardian article on Dr Joshi is a good read, as the journalist – Simon Hattenstone – actually asks some good sceptical questions. One classic bit (near the end) is where Dr Joshi explains why it was too much hassle for him to actually register with the GMC in the UK as a medical practitioner. “Because you can’t work in a holistic way and in a natural way – they don’t allow that to happen any more.” An alternative view might be that if a GMC-registered doctor put people on barkingly daft evidence-free detox diets s/he might get into trouble and garner negative press…. I’m such a cynic.

  283. JLF said,

    February 26, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Dr Aust

    Funny you should be mentioning Briffa, I (as a layperson) I have been “crossing swords” with him on his website. He appears very rude and unprofessional WITH HIS USE OF CAPITALS and his latest post suggest that even medince isn’t based on evidence (I’m sure his tutors at medical school are proud…. )

    From Dr Briffa…

    “I don’t think nutritionists should not be put under scrutiny. To my mind, though, it’s an easy hit for Ben Goldacre to ‘rubbish’ nutritionists by focusing on the likes of Gillian McKeith.

    And I did find his piece lacked balance.

    If his opinion is that ‘nutritionism’ lacks validity because it is not evidence-based, then he should also be aware that this is true of mainstream practice (including medicine and dietetics) too.

    So, my letter/blog was really an attempt to put some balance back into the debate. All is not completely in order in the world of ‘nutritionism’, but let’s at least level criticism with an even hand.

    Yes, of course I want to see the highest standards of practice in nutritionism. And I’m hoping that this debate will help that in some way. Just as I hope the debate might ultimately have a positive impact on dietetic practice too. We shall see… “

  284. albear said,

    February 27, 2007 at 11:22 am

    As the ASA have now issued a ruling, this will also apply to her web site as its anything wihich you use to advertise.

    She is still using her “Dr” title all over the web site and whats more the ASA have a nice online form to complain..

    www.asa.org.uk/asa/how_to_complain/complaints_form/

  285. iceprincess said,

    February 27, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Right MR GOLDF***ER.

    You are just some little jealous grose man.

    This man is a lier. He gets pay-offs from big corperations to write lies.

  286. Tristan said,

    February 27, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    wtf?

  287. dissonance said,

    February 27, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Iceprincess.
    I am going out on a limb here but i suspect you do not have any evidence to support these pay-offs allegations?

  288. Tristan said,

    February 27, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Am I the only person reading that as: “MR GOLDFINGER”?

  289. dissonance said,

    February 27, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    i am waiting for the next blog entry to be “i would have got away with it if it wasnt for those pesky kids”.

  290. JLF said,

    February 27, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    i would have got away with it if it wasnt for those pesky kids!

    Have I made your day dissonance?

    Anyone know why iceprincess has gone nuclear? Isn’t liar spelt with an a?

    Tristan – I agree, has Ben got a golden gun? (I think we should know the truth!)

    Sorry – late night at work, gone slightly mad!

  291. BelieveTheHype? said,

    February 27, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    …and for my first posting – I think Mr Clifford does refer to Ms McKeith as Dr., even if it is a little obscure! (note to self; get a life)

    www.maxclifford.com/Staff/Lucy_Murphy

  292. Marko said,

    March 2, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    This woman gets on my nerves. Not content with taking the pi$$, she takes the poo too.
    “As far as I’m concerned, because of the hard work I have done, I’ll continue to put PhD after my name; I’m entitled to use the word Dr as and when I choose.”. Well, I’ve worked hard for the last 20 years – unloading ships,in warehouses,in banks and insurance companies….If I write a thesis on the Social Dynamics of the Fag Break, can I give myself a PhD?
    Anyway, I have a Plan (I think it justifies the capital letter) to take down her TV show. I’ve got a bit of a beer belly so I’m going to volunteer for her show. Oh, to face her on telly and say “Actually dear, that’s fennel not a leek”, or maybe “My friend’s 12 year old daughter said you’ve got no idea about biology”. A string of questions, in front of the cameras, about her qualifications and ‘scientific’ claims might shut her up. And if she wants my poo, she can have the results of my famous sprout curry with brown rice.

    Any of you slim & svelte scientists fancy shoving a pillow up your jumper and joining in ? If we could get one of us in each episode ………

  293. big_ee said,

    March 6, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Hmmm , reluctant as i am to kick a millionaire when she’s down but here goes…

    On her mckeithinteractive.com website ( Where she is still Dr, btw) the personal profile offered at a bargain £34.99 purports to give a personal analysis of which Foods, Vitamins, Minerals, Superfoods, Herbs and Spices the individuals body ‘needs’, based on a ‘health factor status’ These factors include Blood Sugar, Thyroid, and ‘male hormones’, and ‘heart and circulation’.

    Now as any diabetic will tell you testing blood sugar levels involves shedding blood. Not answering asinine questions on a website.

    As i can’t really be @rsed, i’m not sure what actual questions the 30-40 minute questionnaire does ask: but i’ll bet a pound to a peanut, that they won’t bear any relation to real blood sugar, endocrinology, or exercise physiology tests that they purport to. Being as they are on a website, and do not involve a lab, needle or complicated exercise equipment.

    I appeal for someone with £34.95 to and time to invest, to take the test, wait for the personal results ‘book’ and then call trading standards!!

  294. b33k34 said,

    March 21, 2007 at 10:43 am

    I’ve a friend who is studying for Nutritional Therapy degree, and is asking for people to attend sessions at the University of Westminster Polyclinic to get some clinical experience. I’m trying to work out exactly what a nutritional therapist is.

    A few websearches aren’t helping. I’m particularly fond of www.nutritionaltherapy.co.uk/ which says in response to “What’s the difference between a nutritional therapist and a dietician?” that “A nutritional therapist uses lots of research from peer reviewed sources. A dietician uses research based on scientific evidence.”

  295. delph said,

    April 2, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    I’m so pleased that there has been some action against Dr McGillian, but there is a long way to go.

    Her success shows that if you are bossy, brazen, pushy, ambitious, shameless, tough, ruthless and arrogant enough, and you have nice hair and teeth and speak confidently on TV, and you are prepared to promote yourself very aggressively and snarl about lawsuits if anyone questions you, you will succeed no matter what. You will be feted by some, will attract a following and become wealthy.

    Let’s not bother trying to “understand” her ideas on acidosis or chlorophyll, people – we all know that these statements are like students’ exam howlers; she just doesn’t understand the biochemistry and physiology.

    Let’s all keep writing – I’m appalled to see how she has bullied people into taking down comments made about her, so let’s step it up – she can’t sue us all, and certainly won’t be successful suing people who write true statements. Her CV is very suspect indeed but if genuine, she could easily have corrected any “misunderstandings”, which would have stopped us all commenting; she knows the best tactic is to prevent too much delving into her education and experience (or Mr Clifford does).
    Hopefully she won’t get away with it for much longer.
    Ben is right, “Channel 4, which bent over backwards to dress her up in the cloak of scientific authority, should be ashamed of itself.”

  296. pcj-the said,

    August 2, 2007 at 1:39 am

    Brilliant set of postings. Congrats on at least a partial victory for the “renaissance” there Ben.
    Couple of points: To Caitlin and Skeptyk
    (Point1) To Caitlin: take it from an “oldie” of 60 years standing Caitlin, that what you are missing is a basic education in the simpler aspects of the sciences. None of the material presented on here has been rocket science (really gives my age away that one doesn’t it?)
    I don’t hold a PhD either, though where I served my apprenticeship (the electronics department of the Nuclear Physics Research Lab at Liverpool University) it was known irreverently to all (PhDs included) as “piled higher and deeper”. :-)
    I hold only a HNC in Electrical/Electronic Engineering (considered the equivalent of a pass degree back then) plus a later Cert Ed in Education and Training. Like most Engineers of the time however, I was taught the scientific method of proving/disproving theories etc (peer review, double blind testing, trying to avoid bias, avoidance of skewing results by deliberately selecting only favourable data and so on). None of it requires Einstinian abilities. What is does require is sometimes getting off one’s backside and doing your own reading, learning and (pardon pun given the subject) digesting the basics of the subject under debate, plus of course the oft mentioned factor on here “critical thinking”. I thank God I had a good general education courtesy of a Grammar School esp in Maths and Science(though not biology: clashed with Geography in the timetable) You don’t have to have gone into a subject to PhD level to argue with someone who has the basics wrong or who is deliberately misrepresenting them.
    Secondly Caitlin you’ll get small change from a lot of people in the “science/engineering” boat if you come over all hurt feelings/sulky “I’m going elsewhere” because (a) you haven’t read the previous posts and/or boned up on the basics (the internet or your local library could solve that) or (b) we don’t take your beliefs as something “complimentary” and therefore by extension ” at a compatible level” with hard-won accepted scientific/engineering reasoning which has to withstand sometimes furious and rigourous debate from others well-versed in our disciplines.
    That was why you didn’t get the point when you were told to be prepared to have to change your point of view if you were to open yourself up to entering into this system.
    Finally you might think “hurt feelings/sulky” doesn’t apply?
    Read my following comment to Skeptyk for his Feb 18th post with its last paragraph referring to his not understanding your “burnt fingers” jibe. I did!

    (Point 2) To Skeptyk for Feb 18th post: Your last paragraph concerning Caitlin’s post:
    Ref the “burnt fingers and not met for centuries/lighting bonfires” jibe from Caitlin: tch tch Skeptyk, you must have been tired there. Regard the lady’s “handle”. Methinks she was ever such a little bit p****ed off with your previous spot on comments: she was hinting at you being a witch-burner in a previous life. Call me cynical (or a taxi if you wish, to quote the old joke) but looking at her replies to other posters I see just a little bit of manipulation/flattery applied from time to time too.

  297. sciencefan said,

    September 25, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Having arrived here today (by an extremely entertaining route, one waypoint being this site: uncyclopedia.org/wiki/Gillian_McKeith) I read with growing appreciation Ben G.’s demolition job on Gillian McKeith – a wonderful read. Better to have come across it late rather than never, even if it is now late September.
    However I would like to comment on Ben’s antioxidant example, which does rely on one significant assumption, which, as he points out, isn’t the scientific way (“Otherwise it wouldn’t be called “science”, it would be called “assuming”, or “guessing”, or “making it up as you go along”.): In his argument he equates antioxidant supplements with the antioxidants consumed via fresh produce. As Ben says, “… when you do compare people taking antioxidant supplement tablets with people on placebo, there’s no benefit; if anything, the antioxidant pills are harmful. Fruit and veg are still good for you, but as you can see, it looks as if it’s complicated and it might not just be about the extra antioxidants. It’s a surprising finding, but that’s science all over: the results are often counterintuitive.” Might it not be about the antioxidants in (fresh) produce coming as part of a larger package, rather than as isolated, perhaps synthetic, antioxidants in pill form? Just a thought! Of course it would be hard to do a double-blind, placebo-controlled study using e.g. lemons and spinach – perhaps there’s a market for genetically modified placebo produce devoid of any nutritional content. Hey, come to think of it, there may be some in my nearest supermarket!

  298. raventattoocare said,

    October 3, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    I do not think it even matters if she has a mail order PHd. What she does is help people who are CRITICALLY OBESE learn about food to become healthy again… why bash someone who is doing good for people and at the same time, entertaining? If this is the ONLY way to get people in tv land to sit up and take notice to the havoc they are wreaking on their bodies, so be it! The show is entertaining and even if she is not a “real Doctor” – does it REALLY matter in the end? If I rescued someone out of a burning car and lied and told them I was a nurse, then they found out I lied, would it matter to them? I think not. I think this is a lot of jealous people going after someone who has been successful. Whether flax seeds are ground or not, okay – does that really matter in the end? The point is – she gets the people EATING flax, which is different than the crisps and chocolate bars they gorged on in the past. At least flax won’t hurt and put all the weight on! Heck, it might even help like she says! Why crucify someone who helps people? Think of all the people out there whose lives have forever changed due to watching her tv show. She may have actually saved hundreds, even thousands of people from themselves. At least she doesn’t advocate the diet pills and dangerous diets rampant in the U.S. (assuming they are in the UK also). She advocates exercise and a healthy lifestyle, so does anyone really care if she is a “legit” Phd? I don’t, and I will continue watching one of my favorite tv shows (which, since watching, I have lost almost 7 pounds due to her brainwashing!!! Yeah!).

  299. madtechie said,

    November 1, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Hmm, voluntarily not calling herself ‘Dr’ any more?

    from:

    www.drgillianmckeith.com/publications-uhpb.php

    we still find:

    Dr Gillian McKeith’s Ultimate Health Plan is your bible to healthy eating, the only health plan you’ll ever need.

    I must have a look to see just how many holes there are in the ASA’s voluntary code of advertising.

  300. emilypk said,

    November 6, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    For those of us who think a PhD is worth years or our life and thousands of our dollars, it sure as hell *does* matter. I means this woman is happy to lie about matters great and small.

  301. keithevco said,

    October 12, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Why don’t we (well, the Guardian maybe) ask her for a refund on the books sold under false pretences – assuming they were?

    Perhaps it will make a good story alongside a Page 3 stunna?

    K

  302. Gobsmacked said,

    October 31, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    I just idly googled “Dr Gillian McKeith” and found this title plastered all over supplements etc still being sold, eg at www.auravita.com/products/AURA/NACH11644.asp

    How long does this stuff stay in date? I wondered, as it’s 20 months since Ms McK agreed to drop the title “Dr”.

    But would you believe it, on her very own site there’s also a bunch of clearly labelled “Dr Gillian McKeith” supplements:
    www.gillianmckeith.info/gillianmckeithshop/gillianmckeithproducts/gillianmckeithsupplements.php

    And come to think of it, funny how googling “Dr Gillian McKeith” brings up her Dr-less website, right up the top of the first page. Even though Google is usually so picky about a wrong title if it’s not embedded somewhere in the site ….

  303. Annoying Twit said,

    December 13, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    I wish to point out that I share Ben’s opinions on Ms Gillian McKeith.

    But I wish to split one microscopic hair concerning this article. Ben points out that chlorophyll won’t make oxygen in your gut and even if you stuck a flashlight up there and made some, you wouldn’t adsorb it, as you don’t have gills up there. He then goes on to say that even fish don’t have gills up there.

    Truly pathetic of me to say this, but quite a few fish, particularly those that live in oxygen poor environments, will swallow air, and extract oxygen from it as it passes through their gut. Some of the South American armoured catfish, including some of the genus Ancistrus, are an example of this. So, some fish do, in a small way, have gills up their arses.

  304. clayton college fan said,

    February 4, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Hey, I’m late to the party, but this is a great discussion.

    I disagree with the negative slant towards Clayton College of Natural Health.

    But I agree that there is a lot of quackery going on the natural health industry.

  305. montyford said,

    April 20, 2009 at 3:31 am

    Dear Dr Goldacre,

    I cannot resist telling you a short story on behalf of a friend I met up with last weekend…

    Every year, him and a group of others meet up for a themed house party in the country.
    The theme 2 years ago was “Baddies”.
    Most people at the party were dressed up as comic hero nasties, Clockwork Orange, horror film baddies etc.

    My friend (a 6 foot, dark haired, bearded male) dressed up as Dr Gillian Mckeith PhD.
    I thought it was perfect!

  306. aqua fanatic said,

    April 22, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Unfortunately I had to stop reading this article at one point – I was at work laughing so hard that I don’t think it would be long before someone called the men in white coats to take me away!
    I particularly love her claims about DNA and algae, it brought tears to my eyes!

    On a serious note though, it angers and frustrates me that frauds such as her get such acclaim and, dare I say it, respect from the naive and ignorant public (and media); making millions from manufacturing “facts”. I have to admit that until reading your article I didn’t realise how bad she really was (I can’t stand watching her programs as it is!). It appears that those who shout the loudest get the most recognition.

  307. diudiu said,

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  308. KellyChow said,

    February 14, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    When McKeith publicly publishes phony materials backed by a designation of “doctor”, it really makes me upset. Obviously the materials that she publishes have not been backed my scientific findings and how these discoveries from her is made up from thin air can really affect the health of others. Many sufferers online are simply attempting to better their health and lifestyle. When they stumble upon what appears to be a trusted source, and follow the materials, it can be quite concerning in what results from that. I am glad people are stepping up to question her validity.

  309. stephen power said,

    July 14, 2010 at 1:09 am

    Hurray for Ben
    I thank you

  310. emidavis1 said,

    July 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I found this on Gillian McKeith’s twitter page (I didn’t know such a thing existed until I read your column.)

    Ben, please enter this competition, – if you win, you will have an INSPIRATIONAL TELEPHONE CALL with the good non-doctor.

    If you were to record this hypothetical conversation, it could be the funniest thing ever!!

    ‘I’m asking for healthy video recipes in my online Club. The winner(s) will get an inspirational Telephone Chat with me! Join Club and enter’

  311. DomElias said,

    January 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Here’s my (hopefully) bestselling article about loosing weight in full length: Eat less! Scientific evidence? – None! But my Bsc is for real! (In music technology since you’re asking…)

  312. spittingbullets said,

    January 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    We have recently reviewed Google Bowel – an Android Smartphone App that would be right up Gillian’s bottom, er, street (sorry):

    www.spittingbullets.com/2012/google-bowel-opens-up-with-2012-android-app/