Craig Sams of Green and Blacks gets angry

April 17th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, chocolate, craig sams, gillian mckeith, hate mail, nutritionists, onanism | 104 Comments »

Craig Sams is the founder of Green and Blacks. He made his money from chocolates, ice cream, and biscuits, and he is very angry with me for questioning the science behind Dr Gillian McKeith PhD and their corporate world.

This gem is from Natural Products magazine, the in-house trade publication of the nutritionism industry. I’ve included the original advertising from the page it appeared on, so you didn’t miss out on the context. That’s correct, by the way, your eyes do not deceive you: a whole page of the leading trade publication from this billion pound industry is devoted to me.

My favourite part of his argument is the bit where he says “you’re either for our products, or you’re for thalidomide, vioxx, barbiturates, and burgers”.

“The strange case of Dr Ben Goldacre”

CRAIG SAMS – IN HIS OWN WORDS
“Craig Sams, Organic pioneer”
Craig Sams is president of Green & Black’s, author of The Little Food Book and chair of the Soil Association

Between them research scientists and doctors have condemned millions of people to a lifetime of prescription drug addiction, writes Craig Sams. But Ben Goldacre doesn’t want to write about that.

Perhaps Dr Ben Goldacre needs his head examined. The Guardian columnist appears obsessed with Gillian McKeith and “poo-poo” jokes. The anal-obsessive personality is fastidious about detail and unwilling to look at the bigger picture. Could this be our Ben?

Gillian’s TV series has dramatically raised awareness among the most hapless victims of junk food: adopting a diet based on grains, pulses, vegetables, salads and wholesome foods can be interesting, healthful and lead to dramatic weight loss that gives them a whole new lease on life. Never once has Dr Ben Goldacre, in all his repetitive attacks in The Guardian, been able to mention the beneficial “Gillian McKeith effect” (as health stores call it) on the nation’s eating habits. Yet this is the heart of the matter.

He completely overlooks the reasons for her massive popular success in his pettifogging quest for whether she has the qualifications that he and his fellow doctors flaunt as their passport to being a monopoly gateway between pharmaceutical companies and prescription drug addicts. Those addicts got their first dose of a painkiller, tranquiliser or steroid from a qualified doctor, all based on impeccable research from eminent scientists. Once hooked, they are condemned to a lifetime of repeat visits to their doctor/dealer.

[The image on the right, for your amusement, is the original advertising from the page which Craig Sams article originally appeared on.]

Dr Ben Goldacre’s current beef is with Gillian’s claim to scientific accuracy because her references are not from, what he calls, “proper academic journals”. Funny, isn’t it, how Dr Ben Goldacre has never written about the fact that the world’s leading medical journals banded together in 2005 to tell Big Pharma that they wouldn’t publish any more crap research unless the drug companies also owned up about who funded the research.

After mustering courage for that challenge, they had to do it again, this time to curtail the practice of doing research again and again until scientists got the “right” results, then not disclosing any of the research that had got the “wrong” ones. It’s only since mid-2006, that, for the first time, there are rules that restore trust in the research in “proper academic journals”.

Anyone who has followed the Vioxx scandal will wonder how prescription drugs with dicing-with-death risks continue to be marketed, even after the risks are known. The answer is that the medical establishment are willing accomplices. I had a quick read of Gillian’s book You Are What You Eat – all sensible stuff, the type I’ve applied myself for 40 years – and I don’t see any life-threatening risks to following her advice. I don’t have a degree in nutrition but I know what’s good for me and it isn’t what the peer-reviewed experts periodically recommend (before contradicting each other every now and then).

In Dr Ben’s latest column, he takes a pop at nutritionists like Gillian, who have “appeared out of nowhere, with a strong new-age bent” and laments that she is not one of the “sober professors” from august bodies such as the Medical Research Council.

Might these be the same breed of “sober professors” who, in the 1980s and 1990s, converted an entire generation from butter to hydrogenated margarines, significantly increasing Britain’s levels of obesity, diabetes and cancer? The same “sober professors”, who, when I advertised a non-hydrogenated alternative in 1993, pressured the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban my advertising?

M&S, Tesco and Sainsbury’s all now boast in far more strident terms than I ever did about their hydrogenated fat-free products, so I asked the ASA for an apology. It said it had no records going back before 1994. How convenient.

Or what about the “sober” Professor Arnold Bender, top 1970s nutritionist, who said white bread was better for you than wholemeal because it was more easily digestible? Or the peer-reviewed research that said pesticide residues in our food are harmless? Then the Government quietly bans Lindane, technazene and a host of other pesticides. Hello? Ben?

There is a book to be written about these and many more scandalous misapplications of scientific research in nutrition and medicine, but somehow I don’t think Dr Ben Goldacre will be the one to write it. He’s too busy obsessing over a female (and a blonde) who has dared to intrude on his and his mates’ patch. Ben, people who follow Gillian’s advice are taking the road to personal control over their health. Science and medicine have their uses, but it’s what works best that is important, even if it’s described in unscientific language.

Craig Sams

£££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££

[coughs]

Now in an ideal world, where I cared more about being stylish than informative, I’d leave it there, because I don’t do ad hominem unless there’s plenty of science in it. But there is something about the confectionery industry that I find uniquely offensive.

Craig Sams is a businessman, the founder of Green and Blacks, and he made his money from chocolates, ice cream, and biscuits. Mmmm, yummy yummy.

The premium quality chocolate market has grown fast globally, and Green and Blacks has been the fastest growing confectionery brand, taking confectionery to new and wider audiences than before.

In 2005 Cadbury Schweppes bought Green and Blacks for an estimated £20 million. Very hip, very outsider. As CorporateWatch say:

www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=2296

Buying out ethical alternative businesses, for example Cadbury’s recent purchase of Green & Blacks, supermarket sales of organics, or Nestlé’s move into fairtrade coffee, is one way that companies are able to cement their market position, and also control profits from niche markets.

Good work. But Craig Sams didn’t walk away, in fact he has cheerfully stayed on as president and continued to work for Cadbury’s, whose own confectionery empire includes other familiar healthy brands like Dairy Milk, Roses, Flake, Double Decker, Turkish Delight and Boost.

Cadbury’s share Sams’ interest in promoting and rebranding confectionery, especially to children, distributing a teaching pack which claimed things like “chocolate is a wholesome food that tastes really good… [it] gives you energy and important nutrients that your body needs to work properly.”

They were also the company, you might remember, who famously offered school sports equipment through their ‘get active’ scheme, which was described by the Consumer Association as ‘an irresponsible ploy to encourage unhealthy eating among kids.’

The Food Commission weren’t very impressed either.

www.foodcomm.org.uk/cadbury_03.htm

To save up for the top item on offer – a set of volleyball net posts – a school will need to encourage pupils to spend over £2,000 on chocolate, consuming nearly one-and-a-quarter million chocolatey calories. If British school children purchase all of the 160 million tokens that Cadbury’s plan to issue, they would have to purchase nearly two million kilograms of fat.

A conservative estimate shows that a ten-year-old child consuming enough chocolate to earn a basketball through the Cadbury’s scheme would need to play basketball for 90 hours to burn off the calories.’

The confectionery industry is a menace to public health, even posh confectionery, although the overall effect of being berated for promoting some unspecified health-threatening hegemony by a corporate junk food millionaire is rather warming. I’m not saying his income stream makes Craig Sams a bad person, or that it invalidates his compelling argument that I am an anally retentive personality who should have written about some pesticides which were banned while I was a student (and which he mis-spells) in my column.

But you do have to earn the right to be quite so sanctimonious.

EDIT 18:30 17/4/07

From the comments, I didn’t realise this, but I’ve checked, and it’s true, only one of the 15 chocolate bars in the Green and Blacks range is even Fairtrade. What a hero!

EDIT 08:30 18/4/07

Rather brilliantly this article appears prominently on the website of leading nutrition researcher Dr Gillan McKeith PhD as her top “testimonial” (you have to click on Craig Sams’ name on that page and the text springs up). Still no response to any of my criticisms though. Triste.

www.drgillianmckeith.com/gillianmckeith.php

Dr Gillian McKeith’s Support

Gillian and McKeith Research Ltd would like to take this opportunity to express the utmost gratitude to the public for all their support. We receive so many wonderful emails from the public and health organizations.

If you would like to view some of the testimonials and support Dr Gillian McKeith has received, please click on the links below. The testimonials are particularly heart warming:

Dr Gillian McKeith Testimonials

Craig Sams – Organic Pioneer, Chair of the Soil Association and author of ‘The Little Food Book’

… Gillian’s [Dr Gillian McKeith] TV series has dramatically raised awareness among the most hapless victims of junk food: adopting a diet based on grains, pulses, vegetables, salads and wholesome foods can be interesting, healthful and lead to dramatic weight loss that gives them a whole new lease on life. Never once has Dr Ben Goldacre, in all his repetitive attacks in The Guardian, been able to mention the beneficial ‘Gillian McKeith effect’ (as health stores call it) on the nation’s eating habits. Yet this is the heart of the matter.

He completely overlooks the reasons for her [Dr Gillian McKeith] massive popular success in his pettifogging quest for whether she has the qualifications that he and his fellow doctors flaunt as their passport to being a monopoly gateway between pharmaceutical companies and prescription drug addicts. Those addicts got their first dose of a painkiller, tranquiliser or steroid from a qualified doctor, all based on impeccable research from eminent scientists. Once hooked, they are condemned to a lifetime of repeat visits to their doctor/dealer.

Dr Ben Goldacre’s current beef is with Gillian’s claim to scientific accuracy because her references are not from, what he calls, “proper academic journals”. Funny, isn’t it, how Dr Ben Goldacre has never written about the fact that the world’s leading medical journals banded together in 2005 to tell Big Pharma that they wouldn’t publish any more crap research unless the drug companies also owned up about who funded the research.

After mustering courage for that challenge, they had to do it again, this time to curtail the practice of doing research again and again until scientists got the ‘right’ results, then not disclosing any of the research that had got the ‘wrong’ ones. It’s only since mid-2006, that, for the first time, there are rules that restore trust in the research in “proper academic journals”.

Anyone who has followed the Vioxx scandal will wonder how prescription drugs with dicing-with-death risks continue to be marketed, even after the risks are known. The answer is that the medical establishment are willing accomplices. I had a quick read of Gillian’s book You Are What You Eat — all sensible stuff, the type I’ve applied myself for 40 years — and I don’t see any life-threatening risks to following her advice. I don’t have a degree in nutrition but I know what’s good for me and it isn’t what the peer-reviewed experts periodically recommend (before contradicting each other every now and then) … read more

Consumers for Health Choice (CHC)

Health Food Manufacturers Association (HFMA)

National Association of Health Stores (NAHS)

The Centre for Nutrition Education

Natural Products Magazine

Target Publishing


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If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

104 Responses



  1. Quercus said,

    April 17, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Good. I feel less bad about not liking G&Bs’ chocolate. It is an astonishing ad hom attack, but it is a sign you’re doing something right.

    Incidentally, on the subject of TAPL, the context-sensitve Amazon advert on the right hand side of your article is for Gillian McKeith’s ‘virtual on-line 1-2-1 consultation’. (How do you upload your sample?) Very fair-minded of you, letting her advertise here like that.

  2. Fralen said,

    April 17, 2007 at 10:31 am

    NOOOO

    LIKE BEN SAYS ABOVE, THAT MCKEITH ADVERT IS THE ORIGINAL ADVERTISING FROM THE PAGE THAT oops from the page that Sams’ article appeared on.

    Linking it to Dr Mckeith’s PhD on Amazon I believe is a little joke…

  3. bfwallis said,

    April 17, 2007 at 10:32 am

    I didn’t realize until I read the comments that that *is* a real advertisement. I didn’t look closely enough to see that you hadn’t put a caption under it.

  4. Quercus said,

    April 17, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Fralen: oh blast, you’re right. Oh the shame. *slaps virtual forehead, makes mental note to read Ben’s preamble more closely in future*

  5. Dr Alice Roberts said,

    April 17, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Very strange. I think Craig Sams protests too much, as he accuses Ben Goldacre of obsessing of the blonde Ms McKeith, but it seems that he’s the one that’s infatuated! Perhaps they could join forces and make a Green & Black & McKeith Organic Lover Bar. Do you think the ‘Gillian McKeith effect’ has been a) categorised, b) quantified, c) validated?

  6. Fralen said,

    April 17, 2007 at 11:07 am

    “Do you think the ‘Gillian McKeith effect’ has been a) categorised, b) quantified, c) validated?”

    By her accountant?

  7. sausage_man said,

    April 17, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Very interesting that your response to this somewhat personal attack is presented in a format where people can post comments and discuss it while Mr Sams’ article has no such facility.

    He obviously has not read as many of your columns as I have (I hadn’t heard of you 2 weeks ago) otherwise he would realise that you campaign for fair trials of pharmaceutical products as well as nutritional ones. He would also have spotted that you accept that Ms McKeith may have had a positive effect on our eating habits by reminding people to “eat your greens”.

    Bit of a shame though as, unlike Quercus, I actually like G&B chocolate and now have to find an alternative source.

  8. Evil Kao Chiu said,

    April 17, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Like Dr G, I prefer to avoid ad hominem attacks. But Sams is a schlong.

  9. quark said,

    April 17, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    What a shame. I liked the G&B chocolate and also their dark chocolate ice cream. Maybe I’ve got to swich to some healthy alternatives now…

  10. andrew said,

    April 17, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Divine chocolate and roskillys ice cream both lush, both (mostly) guilt free and independent but you might not find them in tesco’s then again thats a good thing

  11. Evil Kao Chiu said,

    April 17, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    In fact, you will find their ice cream in Tesco. At least the Tesco Metro around the corner from me. Which surely must be a good thing. But I’ve always been more of a Ben & Jerry’s fan, anyway so perhaps I’m missing something.

  12. Ant said,

    April 17, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    I didn’t realise Green and Blacks was such a big bad corporation, pretty niave really. They’ve really put together quite a bind with their soft-selling. You either counter it with science, in which case you’re the big pharma establishment getting all didatic on the little guy or you’re sloppy and unthorough, in which case they’ll accuse you of being unscientific. Battling over a fuzzy grey band rather than accross a thin black line is a lot more complex.

    (Also, Dr Roberts, does watching your program count as medschool revision?)

  13. andrew said,

    April 17, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    i love ben and jerrys but the unilever takeover had me looking for another brand where i don’t have to worry about my ice creams pedigree being overshadowed by the company ethics on …say child labour, plus i’d rather my ice cream only travelled from cornwall rather than Holland

  14. profnick said,

    April 17, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    His piece is full of non-sequiturs, irrelevant invective and disturbing inaccuracies. I had decided to specify them but didn’t have a week to spare. However, the following quote from his linked article about folic acid summarises the point and is my main reason for deciding not to catalogue his errors:
    “could it be that synthetic folic acid added to food is competing for uptake with the folate in vegetables — and that the synthetic vitamin is just not of the same quality?”

  15. Persiflage said,

    April 17, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    OK Dr. Ben, you’ve done it. I’ve been reading for a little while now and have used this site as a reference on many occasions without commenting, although I’ve been tempted.

    When attempting to persuade recalcitrant relatives that weight problems are more likely a consequence of a strong attraction to chocolate coupled with an equal aversion to exercise rather than a lack of “living enzymes” in their diet, you have provided an invaluable resource.

    However you may now consider me hooked, with an option on lines and sinkers to follow, ready to do battle with the forces of vicious opportunism dressed up in New Age hooey. I’ve just had a Popeye moment: “I’ve had all I can stand, and I can’t stand n’ more!”

    **

    “He completely overlooks the reasons for her massive popular success in his pettifogging quest for whether she has the qualifications that he and his fellow doctors flaunt as their passport to being a monopoly gateway between pharmaceutical companies and prescription drug addicts.”

    **

    Whut, I say, WHUT? That’s… that’s so ludicrous I don’t even know where to begin! Firstly, even if you and your fellow doctors were wont to flaunt anything, I’d rather hope that four years’ study at the Academy Of Ultimate Evil would have taught you better than Craig Sams believes. I’d have thought that the 1,000-year-old conspiracy that taught you the black arts and indoctrinated you into the secret Lizard Army would have found some time between “Addicting Babies 101″ and “Being Paternalist and Smug (Advanced Module)” to warn you AGAINST pointing out to the public that you’re basically a drug dealer with an expensive education.

    Secondly, what’s “pettifogging” about pointing out that the woman’s a ####? Is the fact that she isn’t a Doctor and her dumb products don’t do anything somehow immaterial, even if you are a fully-paid-up member of the Medical New World Order?

    “Science and medicine have their uses, but it’s what works best that is important, even if it’s described in unscientific language.”

    But… but… I’m surprised my keyboard hasn’t exploded, frankly. I’m usually a lot more coherent than this. What works IS important, of course, but if you’re using pseudo-scientific language to sell it and to persuade people as to the efficacy of your products and services, claiming as a defence that science isn’t really all that important anyway is feeble, to say the least.

    “Science and medicine have their uses,”…

    Have their USES? Well, isn’t it nice to have endorsement for every major advance for the last two hundred years from an uber-capitalist-in-hippie’s-clothing, perma-tanned freak of nature? Ye gods and little fishes: let me at ‘em, Dr. Ben, let me at ‘em!

    Despite all of the above, however, I’d just like to say that it will be quite some time before I forgive you for pointing out that G&B’s has been bought out by Cadbury’s…

  16. Delster said,

    April 17, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    I have to agree with Sausage_man (despite the strange name )

    This guy has not only not read many of your columns (subjects from HI-FI to H2O) but also not read any of the ones about TAPL properly.

    Not once have you said that her advise is bad (eat your greens)you only poke fun at her science (or lack thereof).

    Who needs somebody like TAPL anyway when your Mum tell’s you the same thing from the first time your old enough to complain about sprouts?

  17. rob said,

    April 17, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    I’ve always had an issue with G&B’s “ethical” chocolate in that, despite their hype, only one of their brands (Maya Gold) is actually fairtrade – virtually all their stuff is no more “ethical” than anything any of the other corporations put out (even before they became part of Cadbury’s). That their founder/chairman has turned out to be a plonker isn’t particularly surprising.

  18. Wonko said,

    April 17, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Okay, but why is this guy making this attack now? What is Cadbury Schweppes interest here? Could it be that as the confectionery industry moves toward the production of “healthy” chocolate and ice cream that they wish to avoid too many questions about whether nano-engineered products stuffed full of additives shouldn’t be required to undergo some kind of safety trials?

  19. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 17, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    hahahaaa I don’t think cadburys is behind any attack, although they can’t appreciate me pointing out those nonsense “chocolate is good for you” stories. I was simply pointing out that some corporate confectionery peddler is hardly the outsider saviour of this situation.

    didn’t know that only one bar was fair trade, that was their only saving grace, is that true? the rest is everyday corporate exploitation chocolate?

  20. ncullum said,

    April 17, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    What is “the nutritionism industry”?

  21. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 17, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    the people who profit financially from nutritionism.

  22. ceec said,

    April 17, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    “He’s too busy obsessing over a female (and a blonde) who has dared to intrude on his and his mates’ patch.”

    Is Sams seriously saying that sexism is the reason that Ben and others (look no Dr) object to McKeith’s rubbish science?

    Maybe Sams thinks that girls are naturally rubbish at science so it’s unfair to criticise? Or maybe he just prefers the snake oil trade to the scientific process (his funeral), but then what does that have to do with the fact she’s female/blonde?

    I am trying hard to think of a more charitable explanation than Sams’ scary sexism but am failing.

  23. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 17, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    yes i was a little surprised by that, i suppose you could ask him yourself? his email address is in the article so he obviously welcomes people getting in touch.

    craig@craigsams.com

  24. Littleshim said,

    April 17, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    “Never once has Dr Ben Goldacre, in all his repetitive attacks in The Guardian, been able to mention the beneficial ‘Gillian McKeith effect’ (as health stores call it) on the nation’s eating habits. Yet this is the heart of the matter.”

    Well… I was going to argue vehemently, but I think this is actually correct. Y’know, if it came to a point of law or something. On the other hand, Ben does point out in several of his GMcK columns that the diets she recommends are fairly healthy and that he’s specifically taking issue with the scientific nonsense she talks.
    The heart of the matter is NOT whether the “nation’s eating habits” have improved – certainly not in a column about, um science. Not, in fact, about health, or diets. Science. The heart of the matter is whether the science is right. Maybe I could improve the nation’s eating habits by persuading them that fatty foods attracted terrible demons and that sugar was actually alien spores, but it doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

    “He completely overlooks the reasons for her massive popular success…”

    What does it matter who’s a massive popular success? LASSIE was a massive cowin’ popular success, but that doesn’t qualify her to give me dietary advice. He wasn’t going on about whether she was as qualified as he was; he was, quite reasonably, pointing out that she wasn’t as qualified as she said she was.

    Now that sentence makes my head hurt.

  25. Mark Wainwright said,

    April 17, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    Poor Mr Sams must be sadly puzzled about one point. If the advice of doctors is so bad for you, why is the sainted Gillian so anxious to pass herself off as one? You’d think she would furtively conceal any doctorates she really had, rather than making up ones she didn’t.

  26. Ant said,

    April 17, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    People used to think cholera was caused by miasma, which caused them to remove the sources of bacteria incidentally. Would anyone argue that its perfectly ok to believe in miasma or bacteria if they both let you do the same thing? The key differences being that one lets you go forwards and the other catchs you in a rut (And that one is the plain old truth and the other isn’t, which must count for something).

  27. simongates said,

    April 17, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    “Science and medicine have their uses, but it’s what works best that is important, even if it’s described in unscientific language.”

    Oh dear Mr (probably not Dr) Sams. Does he really not understand that one of the best uses of science is, er, finding out what works best? I’d be interested to find out if he’s got a better way that doesn’t involve science (might make my job easier or possibly make me redundant).

  28. doctormonkey said,

    April 17, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    Quite a personal attack on our Ben, I think this has been the best way to handle it. It allows all of us to comment on how badly written it is, on our feelings about the GMcK factor etc which means that a) he is not being petty and b) we get to air our views and c) he gets to see our support for him and his general position

  29. TimW said,

    April 17, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    A bit off-topic, sorry. But that advert…

    If it said
    “Gillian McKeith’s online 1-2-1 nutritional consultation”, then I suppose you could expect a 1-2-1 nutritional consultation online with Gillian McKeith….?

    But in fact it says “Gillian McKeith’s virtual online 1-2-1 nutritional consultation”, and slipping the word “virtual” in there means that nobody has got any idea at all what you get. Virtually nothing?

  30. Ginger Yellow said,

    April 17, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    “I don’t have a degree in nutrition …”

    Nor does Gillian McKeith.

  31. BobP said,

    April 18, 2007 at 5:52 am

    The article looks like a bit of a rant; I’m surprised – in order to hold a senior position with a major multinational, you have to know how to build an argument etc. He has his own website www.craigsams.com and comes over in it as a very reasoanlble bloke, with good writing skills – this rant seems out of character.

    Ben – I suggest that you should demand Right of Reply!

  32. Ithika said,

    April 18, 2007 at 8:38 am

    To commenter #2:

    I think TAPL must have shares in Rate My Poo, where you can “upload your sample” for free, and receive a democratic opinion of your movement.

    Regards…

    D.

  33. SleepyHead said,

    April 18, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Mr. Sams’ article is hilarious. I liked it so much I wrote the editor of the online magazine an email detailing its flaws. I won’t bore you with the details as it’s quite lengthy and almost as tedious as the original article. Suffice to say I wasn’t impressed one little bit with Mr. Sams or his arguments.

  34. vinnyr said,

    April 18, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Actually I think he just comes across as arrogant and ignorant. Maybe he does actually believe what he is saying about ‘Dr’ Gillian. There are plenty of people out there who think she is doing good work publicising the “eat your greens” message.

    His arguments are basically just unresearched and unsubstantiated, but apart from that its ok…

  35. NineTailedFox said,

    April 18, 2007 at 10:24 am

    No more Green and Blacks for me! I didn’t realise it had such high stupidium content.

  36. Denning said,

    April 18, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    I don’t think the question was ever “has she contributed anything to society”, more along the lines of “Is she a disgraceful charlatan fraudster”.

    Just as if you randomly hit a ball around the golf course you may eventually find it lands in a hole, I’m sure TAPL sometimes says something that isn’t totally absurd.

    But that doesn’t make up for her lack of medical training nor her use of the term “Dr”, making a mockery of all those who have actually attended a university rather than reading “Hippy Food Monthly”.

    This is the same woman who has been quoted as saying that she would divorce her husband if he ate red meat. Now, if she considers that to be a basis for divorce, one can only marvel at what she probably considers a basis for science.

    I think a Green and Blacks chocolate boycott might be in order in response to such a hight level of absurdity.

  37. Tristan said,

    April 18, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    Emailed him earlier and got a swift response, in which he appreciated my comments “in the spirit of debate”. Didn’t take too kindly to me telling him he’d lost a customer though!

  38. ayupmeduck said,

    April 18, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Is “Warumich” still around? He/She was checking out the use of the Dr. title on McKeiths German Lanuage books – any feedback?. I did a blog on this myself, and got some advise, but mainly complaints about McKeiths X-Factor video:

    www.qnoodle.com/public/blog/1335

  39. hyperdeath said,

    April 18, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    He beats the same strawman as the Brain Gym defenders.

    McKeith gives sensible nutritional advice, but dresses it up in pseudoscientific nonsense. Similarly, the Brain Gym method of performing exercises between classes may be beneficial, but that doesn’t stop the rest of the program from being garbage.

    Unfortunately, such subtlety is lost on the “open minded”. If you criticise McKeith, you must be criticising the whole idea of eating less fat and more vegetables.

  40. AJH said,

    April 18, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Golly! I spotted ad-hominem, and strawman arguments, and of course “appeals to nature”… anyone care to check off any more from this list:

    www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/fallacies.html

    Good riposte, Ben. Unfortunately I too like G&Bs chocs, so now I’ll have to have an internal political debate next time I’m in the corner shop. Thanks.

  41. Denning said,

    April 18, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Also it may interest you to know that Mr. Sams also owns a bakery in Hastings, East Sussex, which sells organic cakes, biscuits and cookies as well as other organic produce.

    However, they are still cakes, biscuits and cookies, regardless of the quality of ingredients.

    Unfortunately it is also my favourite bakery. I’ll now have to have an intense political debate, just like AJH, whenever I fancy a spot of lunch.

    Can absurdity be passed on by eating a product touched by such a person? Since (according to Sams) scientific evidence would be useless in proving this, I’ll take the first five anecdotal ansers as long as they are endorsed by a dead cat.

  42. Wiretrip said,

    April 18, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    So it’s good to eat junk foods as long as they’re a)’Organic’ and b) Made by a pal. She’ll be promoting ‘G.M. foods’ next ;-)

  43. AJH said,

    April 18, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    This put me in mind of Ben’s letter from Milgrom, so I went’ back and checked it.

    The CAM and Nutr people are really into ad-hom aren’t they? Why so, do we think? Is it because genuine scientific and logical arguments are beyond them?

  44. Mojo said,

    April 18, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    ceek said (April 17, 2007 at 6:31 pm):

    ““He’s too busy obsessing over a female (and a blonde) who has dared to intrude on his and his mates’ patch.”

    Is Sams seriously saying that sexism is the reason that Ben and others (look no Dr) object to McKeith’s rubbish science?

    Maybe Sams thinks that girls are naturally rubbish at science so it’s unfair to criticise? Or maybe he just prefers the snake oil trade to the scientific process (his funeral), but then what does that have to do with the fact she’s female/blonde?”

    Well, it could be sexism, I suppose. Perhaps there’s something about Patrick Holford that we’re not being told?

  45. Delster said,

    April 18, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    This quote is good considering what Ben is attacking is her inaccurate use of scientific language.

    “Science and medicine have their uses, but it’s what works best that is important, even if it’s described in unscientific language.”

    BobP Said
    “He has his own website www.craigsams.com and comes over in it as a very reasoanlble bloke, with good writing skills – this rant seems out of character.”

    Most people like this don’t write their own websites. I would doubt that Mr S wrote his.

    AJH post #something3 – I don’t think that their argument style is due to the fact that scientific argument is beyond them… some of these people are pretty clever. The only reason i can think of is that they don’t want to prove themselves wrong.

  46. Delster said,

    April 18, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    hmmm…. just noticed that the posting time on comment’s is still an hour out.

  47. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 18, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    yeah. i can’t design webpages properly because i am sexist and love thalidomide. no hang on. that can’t be right. corporate junk food is webpage because she is blonde? promoting chocolate aggressively to children as nutritious is fine as long as you do it with pseudoscience? i’m completely disoriented now.

  48. amoebic vodka said,

    April 18, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Awww, I had enough trouble feeling bad about buying it already because it’s organic.

    I’ll just have to feed my chocolate habit on something inorganic instead.

  49. pv said,

    April 18, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Ben comes in for ad hominem flak as far as I can see simply because he is making an attempt at informing and educating the public on how to recognise snake oil, its promoters and sales people. Of course the snake oil industry doesn’t like this because Ben is corrupting their market audience. The last thing they need is an intelligent, informed public because you can’t sell anything to them. It’s all about money, not science. Science is only useful to the snake oil industry insofar as it provides a template for the language of the decorative sales literature.
    Mojo’s right in that they can’t offer any real scientific argument against their critics, so they offer the only available alternative – ad hominem insults.

  50. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 18, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    these weak and rather deranged ad hominem attacks are interesting, even leaving to one side the supreme irony of craig sams himself being a corporate junk food peddler.

    i have an academic friend who fairly freely describes himself – albeit with a wry smile – as a fanatical zionist. now clearly i find his politics spectacularly offensive (he is quite nice and funny as a person).

    but it’s really interesting to spectate on the arguments in his world, because you get all the same kind of whininess, and ad hom – on both sides – as craig sams exemplifies above: even as an outsider, looking in on a cultural arena from which you are completely detached, the person doing the whining, issue dodging, and ad hom always looks really bad.

    but maybe that’s just me. i’m sure there are people so stupid that ad hom works a treat. like perhaps the people who prefer to “feel it” instead of thinking about the scientific evidence.

    i would imagine there are also people in the world of pseudoscientific nutritionism who are so stupid they think that mounting clear, reasoned, and evidence-based arguments against the claimsof holford and mckeith constitutes an ad hominem argument.

  51. raygirvan said,

    April 18, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    > Wonko
    > Okay, but why is this guy making this attack now?

    Maybe Judges Bakery is getting hassled by people dissing the [Dr] Gillian McKeith products they stock? (See www.judgesbakery.com/more.php).

    OTOH it’s interesting to zoom back a bit and see what and who else comes into the picture. Like Jo Fairley, Sams’ wife and business partner, with whom he plans to open a woo clinic in Hastings this year doing the kind of stuff Bad Science has criticised (“From Pilates to reiki and cranio-sacral therapy”). I imagine Ben represents a worldview that gets up her nose more than it does his; she’s a major beauty journalist, Beauty Editor for the Mail on Sunday even, with all the endorsement of bad scientific claims that goes with the territory.

    If you wanted to get Freudian, you could read a lot into this quote from the Times article – Fairley and the chocolate factory – that sourced the above: Her father was ITN’s Science Editor, responsible for her love of being ahead of the game. “He enjoyed knowing the news before it happened, as I do,” she says. Apart from that, they were from opposite ends of the spectrum. “Mainly because he believed in science as the answer to everything“.

    You see, Ben, Herr Sams’ criticism of you is a subconscious projection of his vife’s feelings toward ze heavy und allewissende scientifische Vater.

  52. Weirdbeard said,

    April 18, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    I’m on a cardiac rehab course at the moment following a heart attack a few months ago. At the end of each session we have a lecture cum q&a thingie on a specific topic. Today’s was diet and was led by one of the hospital’s dieticians. A number of people said how confusing and contradictory are the messages we get from the media. So I brought up Gillian Mckeith, Patrick Holford and nutritionists in general. The dietician’s response cannot be reported to a family audience but, suffice it to say, most of us on the course are now committed to ignoring advice given by those describing themselves as ‘nutritionists’.

  53. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 18, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    i agree.

    i used to say that this was just about the science, but i think it has now got to the point where these people are so incredibly prevalent and influential in the media, with their overcomplicated self-aggrandising nonsense, that they are genuinely guilty of misleading and confusing people about diet on a massive scale.

    along with their demonstrable inability to engage in any kind of meaningful critical self-appraisal (er, see Sams, above) this is making my opinion of these people far far lower than it ever was.

    i used to think they were a cultural sideshow but they are definitely getting more reckless as they become more powerful.

    this will be bad news for them.

  54. Weirdbeard said,

    April 18, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    Bad news for them in what way? I see them becoming ever more prevalent so that real evidence is pushed out the door in the name of ‘debate’. Sams, in essence, is arguing that his opinions are as valid as those of people who have spent years doing research. It’s the same argument for ‘equal time’ as that made by Intelligent Design proponents or global warming sceptics — stir up a debate where no basis for debate exists.

    For their recklessness to become bad news for them presumably means that one or more or them needs to come a cropper or for someone to come along and knock them off their perches. I see no sign of the former happening and wonder who might do the latter.

    These people are really rather dangerous.

  55. raygirvan said,

    April 18, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    Nor are these people even consistent. Talking of healthy diets, check out Britain’s coolest organic couple, an Observer Food Monthly report on an At Home with Jo Fairley and Craig Sams. The meal: mushroom soup followed by celeriac fritters with Nomato sauce and wholemeal spaghetti with Nomato pasta sauce … followed up by a calorie-laden heart attack of Brownies (300g butter, 300g chocolate, 5 large eggs, 450g granulated sugar, 200g plain flour, 1 tsp salt, 250g dried cherries) with ice cream on top.

  56. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 19, 2007 at 12:06 am

    i’m surprised dr craig sams doesn’t use his honorary doctorate.

    www.kingston.ac.uk/~kx25594/news/news-archive/2006/jan/Green_Blacks.htm

    in business administration.

  57. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 19, 2007 at 12:07 am

    hahaha jo fairley wrote some beauty book with sarah stacey from the mail “you” magazine, who’s obviously not very good at working out who’s friends with who.

    someone very well connected told me about how sarah stacey had been going on about my hassling and persecuting her with emails correcting her, and she didnt mind “but i do wish he’d stop, it’s such a bore.”

    this rather surprised me since i had never once to my knowledge even thought about sarah stacey until the moment i was told that story.

    god, so this is what it’s like to do ad hominem, maybe i should switch tactics and go with it, i’ve got such a gift and i’ve neglected it for so long: the crowd certainly lend themselves to it very easily. i could take a vote on tactics? should i get dirty and ad hominem with the quack posse? or should i continue to only write about science? a tit-for-tat policy perhaps, on an individual basis, if they go ad hominem, factlessly, then i do so in return? i mean it could be funny.

  58. pv said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:37 am

    “these people are so incredibly prevalent and influential in the media, with their overcomplicated self-aggrandising nonsense, that they are genuinely guilty of misleading and confusing people about diet on a massive scale.”

    I’ve had this view for a long time because they sell newspapers and attract advertisers to tv. As I wrote earlier, if the public were sufficiently informed there would be much less of a market for the food supplement and pill pushers. So, of course there’s a continual and concerted effort to mislead and misinform because the financial rewards are high. Also, it doesn’t help the “good guys” that there is so much wishy washy ignorance of science amongst those who make up the press and tv. Sorry to be so cynical but the reason the “media” put so much more effort into the public misunderstanding of science than into public science education is simply because the financial rewards for the latter are paltry by comparison. Why should they care whether Britain becomes a nation of morons? The more frightened, ill-informed people there are, the more they can be “saved” by huge purchases of essential snake oil. All that luvverly dosh for Mr Holford, Ms McKeith and their ilk, and their promoters.
    Btw, I don’t think ad homs is the way to go, as fun and as tempting as it might be. Which isn’t to say they shouldn’t be thoroughly ridiculed.

  59. ayupmeduck said,

    April 19, 2007 at 8:40 am

    @Ben: I guess a personal ad hominem approach could be pretty funny if it’s clearly stated as such – but it’s not without risk, it could come back to haunt you if you get quoted out of context for years to come.

  60. Denning said,

    April 19, 2007 at 8:46 am

    “Like Jo Fairley, Sams’ wife and business partner, with whom he plans to open a woo clinic in Hastings this year doing the kind of stuff Bad Science has criticised (”From Pilates to reiki and cranio-sacral therapy”). ”

    Sams might want to check the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) or NOMIS and look into the economic situation in Hastings before he opens a “woo” clinic. But still, with his honourary doctrate I’m sure he’s already done this.

  61. Persiflage said,

    April 19, 2007 at 9:07 am

    @Ben: Please, please stick with the science. For one thing, the nutri-crank crowd has had a lot more experience with childish attacks and deliberate obfuscation of data in place of reasoned argument. Don’t play them at their own game!

    For another thing, the very difficulty of what you’re trying to achieve – exposing bad science and charlatanry – derives from the fact that science is often harder to understand and more counter-intuitive than bulls***.

    You’re a very effective communicator of relatively complex ideas to a lay public: descending to ad hominem attacks wouldn’t help you, as the snake-oil people would always hark back to the incident as an example of how you “do all the things you’re accusing them of”.

    On the other hand, I’m under so such obligation myself, so…

    @#46: “This is the same woman who has been quoted as saying that she would divorce her husband if he ate red meat. Now, if she considers that to be a basis for divorce [...]”

    …then how come her husband hasn’t taken such an obvious escape route already?

  62. le canard noir said,

    April 19, 2007 at 9:10 am

    Sarah Stacey got the ‘worst health journalist of year, 2006′ on the quackometer after a string of utter rubbish in You magazine. If she had been getting a string of emails from you, the she really deserved them.

  63. Nanobot said,

    April 19, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Ben, it seems your comments have become a bit of a status symbol in this whole industry, doesn’t it? People seem to want to wear your criticisms like a badge on their sleeves.

    ‘I must be doing well because the establishment (in the guise of Dr G) are getting at me’

    It kind of makes me want to cry.

  64. andrew said,

    April 19, 2007 at 10:47 am

    i apologise for an aside but, in an earlier post raygirvan mentioned the article on OFM where it discussed sams and fairleys evening meal and i just thought i’d point out something that is not worth missing, you may notice that he mentions the brand name “Nomato” twice, in a wonderful bit of self promotion this is, of course, sams own brand of “tomato free tomato products” as he considers the tomato (or rather nightshades as a whole) to be a vile fruit not good for giving up the fags anyway. My question is this in these days of glowing research on the benefits of lycopene in tomato is there any scientific truth in the tomato avoidence tactics of “Sadie Frost, Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplays Chris Martin” or is it just more snake oilery?

  65. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 19, 2007 at 11:28 am

    yeah, i dont think i was seriously suggesting i go ad hominem, the duff science is just more interesting, but if i had decided to go that way there is an awful lot of stuff to go with on these jokers.

  66. raygirvan said,

    April 19, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    economic situation in Hastings

    Ah, but it is also becoming one of these “Notting Hill on Sea places” where Londoners are moving in on the basis of the low prices.

    As to Sarah Stacey, oh yes ((Churchill Insurance bulldog voice). Going by the Beauty Bible bio, they go way back, both at the MoS and as co-authors on various books. They’re also mates with Victoria Health, so I don’t suppose Ben’s dig at Susan Clark went down well. As the Black Duck and others noted, Sarah Stacey mentions Victoria Health as often as (if not more than) Clark does, and Fairley is a partner with Stacey in relation to Victoria Health’s Feel Fab Forever Capsule Collection, a £100 package of “the supplements they rely
    on to keep them zinging with health”.

    What this all means I couldn’t say, but if you offend one, it isn’t hard to imagine the kind of
    networking that might go on over the yak-muesli and chocolate pud
    at some Hastings soiree.

  67. Seany said,

    April 19, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    I wouldn’t mind being invited to one of their nutrionista love-in dinner parties. Sounds like you just need to force down a plate of woo spag bol then it’s straight into some serious dessert calories.

  68. jackpt said,

    April 19, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    I think it is very difficult not to go ad-hominem on many media bad science figures because they present themselves as living according to the principles and values they espouse. So attacking the bad science is attacking them as people because that’s the way they claim to live their lives. Especially if they claim authority in the Eric Cartman sense. If someone makes a claim that they do X, but they actually do Y, and that is pointed out, it’s not an ad-hominem attack.

  69. superburger said,

    April 19, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    the personal attacks come because of professional jealousy.

    Get a few A-levels, go to medical school for a few years and you can legitimately call oneself “Dr XXXX” and people will generally respect your opinion/viewpoint because by and large, we’ve come to accept that medics are generally reliable and honest.

    Now, if you’ve set yourself up as a nutritionist you don’t have that automatic air of authority that comes with GMC registration , so you have to gain some respectability by presenting yourself as an outsider crusading against The Establisment (e.g. Holford) or as another scientist who marches to the beat of their own drum (e.g. Ms McKeith) or by slagging of perceived enemies (pretty much all of them)

  70. quark said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Nomato sounds good! I think McKeith has so far failed to tell us how evil tomatoes are. There was another programme on telly a while ago where two women gave diet advice after looking at someone’s tongue. Some of their “patients” weren’t allowed to eat any citrus fruit after this diagnosis…

    What really annoys me is that “nutritionists” try to make healthy eating sound complicated. As a result, a lot of people think that they have to avoid dairy, wheat, yeast, tomatoes, citrus fruit or whatever and spend an awful lot of money on supplements, detox products, special yoghurts and horny goat bars.

    I appreciate that there are people with medical conditions, such as food allergies, for whom finding the right diet can be quite complicated. But for the large majority of humans knowing how to eat healthily should be easy! Unfortunately, it’s difficult to make money out of simply telling people to eat a mixed diet with plenty of fruit and veg. Pseudoscientific waffle is just so much more lucrative!

  71. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    “Get a few A-levels, go to medical school for a few years and you can legitimately call oneself “Dr XXXX” and people will generally respect your opinion/viewpoint because by and large, we’ve come to accept that medics are generally reliable and honest.”

    i actually don’t think that’s why people would trust what i say though.

    i deliberately don’t call myself doctor – i’ve struggled to persuade people not to for a long time – and i deliberately don’t write “as a doctor”. obviously when you do talks abd stuff its insane to actively hide it and exclude it from your bio, but in the normal run of things i think i’ve mentioned it in writing maybe four times in four years?

    (i personally think the major problem with the way science is portrayed in the media is that it’s always about “authorities” “stating” stuff).

    i think what the quacks hate is that they use science as a marketing device, and i come along and take them at their word, at face value, and look at their scientific claims, as scientific claims, just like i appraise scientific claims in the media, or from a drug rep, or an academic paper.

    seems fair enough to you and me, sure: but it literally never occurred to the quacks that this could happen.

  72. raygirvan said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    ad hominem

    Consider it ‘relevant background’. To some extent, ad hominem is a bit of a fetish that applies most as a rule-of-engagement for formal logical discourse. In general discourse, it undoubtedly applies if it’s completely irrelevant: for instance, “Stephen Hawking’s arguments on cosmology are nonsense because he’s a four-eyed Dalek-voiced cripple”. But some kinds of personal detail, such as business interests and relationships, can be pragmatically relevant in assessing someone’s objectivity as a source on a subject.

  73. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    while i agree with that in principle, ray, in general, if someone is making a bogus scientific claim because of a business interest, then you can usually unpick it by looking simply at the bogus scientific claim. eg person X promotes pill Y with duff study, because he profits from sales of pill Y… but the duff study is still duff.

    i don’t think we disagree on that, i’m just using contrasting views as a rhetorical device to maintain interest in the discussion.

  74. Delster said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    PV – you said “Why should they care whether Britain becomes a nation of morons? ”

    just remember… it could be worse… we could be americans :-)

    @Ben I’d say stick with the science. no danger of come back then… or lawsuits for defamation for that matter :-)

  75. jackpt said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    #32, there is also the Mr Apollo school of authrority, where people claim that a particular set of principles they live their lives by are responsible for their success/health. I think it’s trickier than people claiming titular authority, but produces as much bad science.

  76. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    @Ben I’d say stick with the science. no danger of come back then… or lawsuits for defamation for that matter :-)

    you’d be amazed at the moaning minnies who think that questioning their ideas constitutes just cause for a threatening lawyers letter. it’s all about business, and using “science” to sell a product. breadbreadbreadbreadbreadbread.

  77. superburger said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    i didn’t mean that ben flaunts titles to prove a point, more that ‘normal’ science speaks from perceived authority – which is why there’s lots of “Scientists Say” stories in the papers.

    the CAM lot recognise the use in having academic status – otherwise there wouldn’t be so many bogus PhDs and faux Institutes floating about the internet.

  78. raygirvan said,

    April 19, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    evil tomatoes/i>

    See www.tomatoesareevil.com.

  79. pv said,

    April 20, 2007 at 1:37 am

    “just remember… it could be worse… we could be americans :-)”

    Indeed! And armed to the teeth. :(

  80. germslayer said,

    April 20, 2007 at 10:44 am

    I think I am going to choose to interpret Mr Sams attack on the medical profession as an attack on the nursing profession, too. After all we administer the drugs prescribed by the evil pill pushers. So how many nurses do you reckon we can get to boycott G&B??

    Incidentally, did you know that a lot of commercial cocoa beans are harvested by trafficked children?

  81. quark said,

    April 20, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for the link to the website about the evil tomato!
    Of course, it provides a link to the Nomato website: www.craigsams.com/pages/nomato.html
    I feel sorry for the poor Italians…

  82. DavidJ said,

    April 20, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I do wonder whether this chap does or has done any of the following:
    Visited a doctor (of medecine)for examination or treatment
    Visted a hospital as an outpatient or inpatient
    Visted a dentist for examination or treatment
    Visted an optician for testing or treatment
    Bought and used drugs such as paracetamol, hay fever remedies etc
    Bought or used sun block

    Allowed any member of his family to do any of these things or supported them when they did.

    The charge against him has to be one of hypocrisy.

    I wonder whether he will come here and take part in the debate. There’s a challenge to him.

  83. j said,

    April 20, 2007 at 11:24 am

    One thing I was wondering – re. macrobiotic diets, is chocolate acceptable? Or is Sams selling food that he won’t eat himself, for ‘health’ reasons?

  84. raygirvan said,

    April 20, 2007 at 11:55 am

    I don’t think the macrobiotic system has a problem with chocolate itself (ie the cocoa solids), only the refined sugar in the standard choccie bar form. You can get grain-sweetened chocolate, though, which is sweetened with malted grains.

  85. kim said,

    April 20, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    I like this sentence: “Nightshade plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, chili peppers and tobacco don’t agree with everyone.”

    It’s the way it puts tomatoes and potatoes on a par with tobacco. I mean – tobacco? Is there anybody with whom tobacco does “agree”? What’s going on here?

  86. ACH said,

    April 20, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    DavidJ – post x-ty 5 – I think we can safely assume, from the general orange-ness of the photo that he has never used sunblock!

  87. raygirvan said,

    April 20, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    Just reading Craig Sams’ From Tobacco to Tabasco. “They all contain nicotine in some form, although it may be named solanine (potatoes), tomatine (tomatoes), alpha-solanine (aubergine) or solanadine (chillies and capsicums) … So what is nicotine (solanine), the active alkaloid in nightshades?.

    No, it f***ing isn’t. You might suspect them to be a little different even from the basic formulae – C10 H14 N2 vs C45 H73 N O15 – and even a chocolate baron should be able to tell that the structures are very different (see Nicotine and Solanine).

    I can’t decide if this kind of thing is deliberate misinformation, or if people just write whatever half-informed bilge comes their heads to spin the story in the direction they want.

  88. raygirvan said,

    April 20, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    PS A Google on |nicotine solanine “Craig Sams”| finds he’s written the same factoid repeatedly, and it’s starting to spread on the woo circuit. For instance, fNatural Products magazine: Do yourself a favour — go easy on the nightshades. “Under current Novel Foods regulations, it is unlikely that nightshade-based foods would have been permitted to enter the food supply. That’s because they all contain the same glycoalkaloid — in tobacco it’s called nicotine, in potatoes solanine”.

  89. pv said,

    April 20, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Quark said, “I feel sorry for the poor Italians…”

    who eat loads of the things and just happen to live healthier and longer lives than most Europeans – particularly the Brits.
    For heaven’s sake, who is thick enough to believe all this fictitious shite about tomatoes and potatoes being bad for you. One thing occurs to me, most of these high-profile (celeb)nutrition “experts” come from a country with just about the worst faddy attitudes to food and all the consequent health problems. They are the absolute last people to seek out for advice about healthy eating and healthy living.

  90. Nanobot said,

    April 20, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    Oh it doesn’t matter anymore it seems. Why do we bother having chemistry at all?

    God forbid the woomeisters ever get a wiff of chirality.

  91. raygirvan said,

    April 21, 2007 at 3:13 am

    Ah, forgot to point out this is a nice combination of duff science and ad hom. This “nicotine = solanine” guy is Chairman of the Soil Association and, according to his website, a keen hands-on gardener. Amazing that he should be promoting such a fuckwit error about plant chemistry.

  92. raygirvan said,

    April 21, 2007 at 3:22 am

    God forbid the woomeisters ever get a wiff of chirality.

    They have. If we’re worrying about people calling themselves “Dr”, what about this one who aspires to royalty. Check out The Health Queen’s Fountain of Healthy News and “Why is Chirality important to skin care?”.

  93. amoebic vodka said,

    April 21, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    @raygirvan

    By that logic, does it mean water (H2O) and peroxide (H2O2) are also the same thing? After all there’s only one extra oxygen atom in there…

  94. Nanobot said,

    April 21, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    ‘Chiral is a process by which ingredients are purified to their most natural state.’

    Oh

    My

    God

    Run for the hills!

  95. raygirvan said,

    April 22, 2007 at 12:33 am

    BTW, I just posted a blog entry, Bad plant science with pictures of the radically different structures of nicotine and solanine. I’m really interested to know: is this an honest but ill-informed mistake, or deliberate propaganda to misrepresent vegetables as containing nicotine?

  96. Ben Goldacre said,

    April 22, 2007 at 12:58 am

    what i find interesting is that this is the kind of basic error that persists not just in a world that has no interest in real science (it is a marketing tool) but more than that, it persists in a world where there is no possibility for critical appraisal of ideas. we’ve seen above how criags responds to the critical appraisal of ideas.

  97. quark said,

    April 23, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Unfortunately, if people think that solanine is the same as nicotine, they may either conclude that tomatoes are dangerous or that tobacco is harmless.

    On the Nomato website there is a link to the Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation website (www.noarthritis.com/).
    I stupidly thought it may contain some real information.
    The “I tried the Diet and it didn’t work” section is truly funny. It says:
    “You are sensitive to these foods, even though you have gotten a little potato starch or paprika in canned soups (don’t forget to read the labels). Maybe you are still eating yogurt for “good health” (some brands contain potato starch), or margarine (palmitate ester vitamin A), or a little low-fat milk on breakfast cereal every morning (vitamins A and D), or eating a lot of fresh fruits every day (may get a batch with too much synthetic pesticide)… Try canned fruit such as pears and peaches for awhile but be aware that many have corn syrup added as a sweetener and it may happen to contain the Bt insecticide gene (see Bt gene on this website).”

    Oh – I think I’m feeling a bit sensitive to BT today! Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that tobacco salad…

  98. raygirvan said,

    April 23, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    fruit such as pears and peaches

    Not likely. We don’t touch those hawthorn and chokecherry plants with their cyanogenic glycosides.

  99. quark said,

    April 24, 2007 at 9:35 am

    Nicotine is actually quite toxic (the lethal dose is 40-60 mg). Eating tobacco is therefore not recommended. I assume that when tobacco is smoked the dose simply isn’t high enough to cause any accute toxic effects.

  100. j said,

    April 24, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    Thanks – that’s interesting. So smoking tobaco, chewing it etc. limits the nicotine dose?

  101. raygirvan said,

    April 25, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    It’s complicated: down to delivery mechanism. For whatever reasons, smoking X amount of tobacco delivers a much lower dose of nicotine than eating the same amount. There are other subleties: nicotine being an alkaloid, pH controls the chemistry; there’s been a deal of discussion about how many modern cigarettes are tailored to raise the pH to deliver the more rapidly bioavailoable freebase form.

  102. Chris_Ch said,

    October 15, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    The most dangerous thing about these people (as demonstrated here) is, i think, the kernal of truth at the heart of their criticisms.

    I’m a doctor myself and i know it is true that many tens of thousands of people are harmed and even killed by medical science every year , a great deal of those by drugs and may are avoidable. It’s also true that the drugs industry itself does some pretty poor science and has some questionable practices and alot of doctors are not entirely scruitinising of their studies.

    Despite this i believe we (doctors) do far more good than we do harm. (no i haven’t any hard evidence for this).

    It is my opinion that we should be just as hard on ourselves and the scientific community as we are on the alternative practioners and pseudoscientists that are exposed in this blog. I’d like to think Ben would agree with this

    Of course the drugs industry has some pretty powerful lawyers too..

    What i am trying to say is that we should put our own house in order too and it would give these kinds of people less ammunition to pedal their poison / useless remedies and drive people away from medicine and science in general. The general public i’m sure is very aggreived already by the harm medicine and science does to society (which is constantly in the newspapers) and increasingly so i think. Post modernism is very subversive.

    If we demonstrate the way forward, buy being scientifixally rigourous and accountable and perhaps less elitist the we would gain the trust of society at large.
    And that i think is unassailable, even to these fools. As the saying goes people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!

  103. scigeeksez said,

    February 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    This is hilarious- i vow never to buy another bar of green and blacks chocolate ever again (maybe i will loose some weight at the same time without having to follow “Dr” Gillians advice!!) seriously though- just because she doesnt have “qualifications” and doesnt cite “real journals” this is one of the funniest things i have ever read- keep up the good work!

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