The barefaced cheek of these characters will never cease to amaze and delight me.

January 5th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, detox, nutritionists, onanism | 127 Comments »

Greeetings to listeners of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. About 20 minutes ago I was on the show talking about detox nonsense. Nas Amir Ahmadi of denied the rather foolish contents of her own website, and confidently claimed that I must be thinking of the wrong company. I read a quote. She laughed and said I was mistaken.

The audio is here:

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I promised on air that I would double check and post on It will not surprise you to hear that she is completely wrong, and I am completely correct.

EDIT: The Today programme, bless them, share my anality and clarified that I was right and she was wrong.

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nas1.pngHere is Nas Amir Ahmadi, managing director of Detoxinabox (which earns her the soubriquet “MD”):

And this is her webpage. I read directly from it on the air:


One of the most complex detoxification functions is against heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadminum, nickel, arsenic, and aluminum.

As I said, they can’t even manage to spell “Cadmium” correctly. The website goes on to explain that their detox programme will expedite the removal of these nasties from the body, without troubling itself to offer any evidence for these claims. Nas explained that she didn’t need to because it had nothing to do with her.

It strikes me that to confidently deny the contents of your own website can only denote a rather careless approach to the facts, or at worst, we might tenuously speculate, in our darkest thoughts, a rather clumsy attempt to obfuscate when caught out.

I have emailed Nas Amir Ahmadi to inform her of her error, in the hope that she will be able to clarify on this issue, and look forward to her apology for misleading the 2 million listeners of the Today programme, and for incorrectly claiming that my research into her absurd website was mistaken. I’ve also rung the Today programme on the one in 5 million chance that they will clarify this on air, partly because I am the most anal person in Britain, and partly because I think it is important to be clear about these things. If it had happened on any subject I would want them to clarify.

Seriously. The barefaced cheek of these characters will never cease to amaze and delight me.

EDIT: And on that comment they have now changed the text of their website. Heh. Note to Nas: changing your website does not change the fact that you were wrong and pwned.

If you enjoyed this dogged anality in the cause of scientific clarity you may also enjoy my vaguely bestselling book. Ignore Amazon, it’s not out of stock, that was just Xmas, there are zillions arriving there tomorrow or something, and if you’re impatient you can click “More Buying Choices” and buy it from elsewhere through Amazon for the same price.

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! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

127 Responses

  1. superburger said,

    January 5, 2009 at 9:31 am

    save the page before it is changed……

  2. benb said,

    January 5, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I heard it too, and I just *knew* she was wrong when she tried to claim you were referring to the wrong website. Maybe next time it will be possible to have it open in front of you when you’re doing the interview so you can call them on it straight away.

    Hopefully Today will follow it up on their site or something.

  3. bagpuss said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Wonderfully cryptic sounding message just broadcast: “The doctor was right about the website, if you were listening”.

    Somehow I thought you might be.

    For a moment there, though, I thought they were talking about The Doctor. The one that’s about to have a new reincarnation.

  4. Amanda Dickins said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:03 am

    The Detox-in-a-Box website offers some great lessons in how to dress up bad science…

    Lesson 1: Plagiarise someone else’s good science to make your website look authoritative.

    Compare this post on their website (1 August 2008, no source attributed / credit given):

    with this blog entry, posted a little over a week earlier:

    (Anyone else worried about how easily all-too-easy-internet plagiarism lends a veneer of authority to pseudo science webs that mix good science with bad science or non science?)

    Lesson 2: Wear a white coat

    This is obviously an old trick, but worth mentioning here because the D-in-a-B website offers a nice twist on the usual don-a-labcoat tactic:

    Nas Amir is listed as “Nas Amir Ahmadi – MD” on the “team” page on her company’s website:

    When you click through to her personal page it is clear that MD stands for Managing Director, but I wonder how many people will assume that it stands for Medical Doctor and never bother to click through? Funnily enough, the job titles for everyone else on the “team” page are given in full.

  5. Mark said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:03 am

    You got a “The Doctor was right” comment from one of the presenters just before the end of the show.

  6. sdr said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I’ve also emailed today – lets hope for some kind of response….

  7. pseudomonas said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Does the cancer bit not violate the 1939 Cancer Act? Or has that legislation changed?

  8. briantist said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:16 am

    It is rather interesting that the people on the Today programme do not seem to be able to have the fact in front of them on a computer screen.

    The even manage that on the BBC News (TV) channel.

  9. Julia Heathcote said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Even before checking the scientific claims, I would on principle never buy anything from a website with such a poor command of the English language. From the same page you got “cadminum”:

    “However, our bodily functions were designed when the world were less polluted.”

    “Yet we are helping in anyway to our organs and systems to do their job more effectively.”

    I don’t even know what she means to say in that second quote!

  10. briantist said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:16 am


  11. NyeB said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:29 am

    From the 1939 Cancer Act:

    “4. Prohibition of certain advertisements.
    (1) No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement—
    (a)containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof; or”

    As far as I can tell this section of the Act has not been repealed, although there is other legislation covering this area now.


  12. NyeB said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:37 am

    From the 1939 Cancer Act:

    “4. Prohibition of certain advertisements.
    (1) No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement—
    (a)containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof; or”

    As far as I can tell this section of the Act has not been repealed, although there is other legislation covering this area now.

    [ – search for ‘Cancer Act’]

  13. briantist said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:44 am

    NyeB: In fact this does not apply to anything on a website that is not on the home page.

  14. pseudomonas said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:44 am

    I mean, does the website text constitute a remedy or an offer to treat?

  15. gamow said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Anyone else notice the website has changed?

  16. Paul said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Looks like they’ve removed the references to cadmium etc… You can still see it in the google cache though:


  17. Si Ence said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Yes, I noticed the website had changed.

    The claims on weight loss are ‘interesting’:

    ‘Detox-in a box client records show that the average weight loss over a 28 day plan is:

    Women: 10 lbs – 1 stone
    Men: 1 – 1 ½ stone

    We cannot guarantee your weight loss – it depends on the amount of weight you have to lose and whether you cheat (!!) and most importantly whether you start to exercise – even if you just start walking for 20 minutes a day, it will make a huge difference.’

    Most importantly it depends on whether you start exercise, so little to do with the Detox-in a box then!

  18. bazzargh said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:04 am

    She took a bit of a beating over on Radio 5 too (about 10 to 8 this morning). Didn’t catch the name of the lady landing the blows – anyone? Whoever it was did a good job, got their points across succinctly (ie no objection to healthy living, but the ‘detox’ claim is nonsense, anecdotes arent evidence, etc)

  19. Si Ence said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:06 am

    PS This has got me thinking of a new product called BS-in a box. Any suckers like to sign up for it?

  20. Steve Page said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Ooh, I assume that the BS stands for Body Saver, Si Ence? Where do I sign?!

    Good work, Ben. The more that people realise that it’s okay to challenge these sort of pseudoscientific claims, the less credulous we become as a species.

  21. cidarren said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:17 am

    On hearing the interview I was a little worried in the context of mistaken homeopathic miasmas but relieved to read that the world is back as it should be.

    Looking at the sample menu I see also that:

    “½ teaspoon of cinnamon per day helps lower cholesterol!

    Tuna helps lower blood pressure & is a rich source of nutrients!

    Garlic a great antioxidant, helps protect against damaging free radicals!”

    Is there any research around into the use of exclamation marks as a substitute for credibility?

  22. Martinus said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:19 am

    She also took a beating on the BBC1 breakfast show. Probably someone from the “Sense About Science” group promoting their Detox dossier. Good for them!

  23. SMS said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Ben, I’m gutted! I thought you had her on the ropes when you started asking about evidence but it seems that your continued amazement at the barefaced cheek of some people puts you at a disadvantage when in a live debate. Having a rant and giving a clarification on this excellent but, let’s face it, geeky site is all very well but not relevant in terms of communicating your message to a wider public. Please stop being amazed and have more confidence in your research next time!!

  24. cobalt said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I can’t believe she lied in such a barefaced manner, when you read it TO her from the site!!!

    She is clearly a total Charlatan. She may be able to fob people off with blatant lies on tacky chat shows or in cheap magazines, but not on Radio 4.

    Full respect to Dr. Ben. You made her and the detox fad look every bit as stupid as it is.

  25. muscleman said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:29 am

    It works like this, radical needs no exclamation point so when presented with one both the exclamation mark and the free radical are annhilated in a flash of Qi energy (undetectable by science but Janice here can ‘feel’ it).

    Thus it is the packaging of the woo which is the effective agent since it contains the highest concentration of exclamation marks. This is the truth us scientists are missing when we mistakenly analyse the potency of the ‘medicine’.

  26. SimonCox said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:29 am

    From the sample menu, day 5 (

    “Pumpkin seeds are a natural depression cure!”

    “Lemon helps maintain healthy teeth and bones!”

    “Olives help delay the effects of ageing.”

    This stuff is awesome.

  27. Bob Ward said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I know that public humiliation on national radio can be an effective punishment, but it might be even more effective to report the website to the local trading standards department. This might be a good case for testing whether trading standards are effective in tackling inaccurate and misleading claims on these sort of websites, and might prove to be a bigger deterrent against others who make such claims.

  28. le canard noir said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:43 am

    I am sure the ASA have slapped people before for letting the letters MD hang after their name on health related web sites when in fact they mean ‘Managing Director’. We rarely see people in the UK doing this so it is difficult to come to any other conclusion other than it is intended to misrepresent.

    Staggering chutzpah all round.

  29. BobSmirnoff said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I’m not sure the web page will be changed – it is craftily worded as it makes the statement that metal cleansing is an important objective of detox, (apart from lightening your wallet), but doesn’t specifically say their product will do that. It implies it without saying so directly, which makes me wonder if that in itself is misleading advertising? Unfortunately a likely outcome is more people hitting her website; the sceptical to laugh at it, but some gullible to spend cash; any publicity, as they say…

    !! STOP PRESS !!!
    Oh hang on… I just noticed she has removed the specific metals from the list while Ive been typing this up ….. hahaha.
    PS as a new signup let me congratulate Ben Goldacre on his Bad Science book – thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening.

  30. fontwell said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Can’t believe I missed another of Ben’s R4 appearances – thank goodness for the internets. Also, have found the Bad Science v useful as Christmas gift and managed to pass on 4 to surprisingly receptive recipients.

  31. fontwell said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Bad Science *book* of course

  32. gimpyblog said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Bob Ward

    it might be even more effective to report the website to the local trading standards department

    In my personal experience this is a remarkably ineffective tactic, TS take an age to deal with the complaint then often don’t take further action after a slight change of text on the site. I had a complaint recently about a clear breach of the cancer act by a salesman and lecturer at a homeopathy college on a website that was dealt with in this manner. I also got a rather terse response about taking up TS time from the TS officer concerned.

    False alt-health claims are not a priority of TS, presumably they feel there are more pressing concerns.

    In an ideal world claims involving false advertising in alt-med would be dealt with by a regulatory body specific to alt-med. Sadly such so-called regulatory bodies are nothing more than a gloss given to create the appearance of a professionally competent industry.

  33. The Biologista said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:11 pm


    I think a generalised health product/service TS, rather than one specific to alt-med is the way to go. It should warrant that level of attention, isn’t our health at least as important as the rest of the TS issues?

    Well done to Ben for kicking ass this morning- if only the women’s mags were even so minimally sceptical as that radio programme. “The doctor was right about the website” was rather an ambiguous confirmation though, especially since the woo-merchant claims an MD also.

  34. malcolm wilson said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I was also so annoyed by this woman and her comments, that I took a look at her website.
    I was amazed by how “tacky” it looked.
    They also have trouble spelling the lighter “heavy” metal aluminium.

    I can’t believe how anyone would trust their health to such an outfit.

  35. bagpuss said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    LJones, the pricing thing is just another beautifully confusing part of their website. It appears to be £105 for 14 days and £315 for 28 days, but no. That’s *in addition* to the basic price of £105 for 7 days.

    So, unless you read it carefully, you think you’re paying £315 for 28 days, while in fact you’re paying £420. £420 for 4 weeks’ food for 1 person? Ouch. And it’s not as if you’re getting a lot of food for that

  36. whatutalkinboutwillis said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Now there is someone on a 5live phone in extolling the virtues of detoxinabox, and about how his mate did it and “he looked so much healthier, his skin was clearer blah blah ….etc.”

    All seems pretty suspicious to me, I wonder if this guy has any links to the the wondrous MD.

  37. S said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    The pic of the page Ben has posted above is a screenshot, for those interested in seeing even more proof that it really was up there. It’s no longer visible on the Google cached version.

    SMS think Ben’s style of challenging people could be conceived as more effective than the good ol’ rant – like a predator stalking its prey…

  38. bagpuss said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve noticed that, sadly, the Today programme does not appear to see fit to clarify that Ben was right in the section of their website dedicated to this interview, here:

    I’ve emailed them to suggest they add a note to the text on the page.

  39. whatutalkinboutwillis said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    “Thyme is used in a natural medicine connected with chest and respiratory problems!”

    Well my Dad has bad asthma and all these years he has been mucking around with his ventolin and nebuliser. Well no more!!

  40. whatutalkinboutwillis said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    And here is where the expert Nutritional advice comes from:

    Diana Green – Nutritional Therapist

    Hi I am Diana Green, a qualified, associate member of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, one of the leading Nutritional Institutes in the country providing a high standard of education based on up to date scientific research. See my Notes from our Nutritioinst page.

    I am also a member of the British Association for Nutritional Therapy (check out BANT at

    Many people ask what inspired me to study nutrition? Well, fortunatley I’ve had no dramatic life threatening disease or illness that has led me to this field; rather, it is through my lifelong interest in growing and cooking food.

    I have always piled my son’s dinner plate with vegetables, which he ate happily until he was 9 years old when on finding a caterpillar hiding in his curly kale he asked me, defiantly “Why do I have to eat so many vegetables?” It was then that I realised that “because they are good for you” was no longer an adequate answer, so I embarked on a course in Nutritional Therapy in order to be able to give a logical answer to my son.

    Now I can reply that vegetables are packed full of antioxidants and bioflavonoids that protect our bodies from daily exposure to toxins and general wear and tear. That green leafy vegetables such as curly kale are high in magnesium and B vitamins vital for energy production and brain function. And caterpillars recognise this too!

    This is, of course, just one of so many things I have learned.

    I am delighted to be working with Nas and the Detox-in a box team and am keen to support those considering or undertaking any of the great programmes that Detox-in a box offers.

  41. heathwel said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I knew Ben would be right about the contents of the website – I mean, how would he not be able to read what was there? I do object to the BBC allowing free advertising space to promoters of this rubbish – even if they do get a sceptic on for ‘balance’, it gives the false notion that it’s all a simple matter of scientific opinion. The woman representing Detox in a box either lied about her website, or did not know what her own company was saying – either way she should (surely) be blacklisted from appearing again on the BBC.

    Next time, Ben, take your lap top open at the offending page, or take print outs, so you can wave it under the bullshitter’s nose. Or maybe you did that, and she still denied it??

  42. brainduck said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    The Facebook group has a slightly odd post from the founder

    Wow, can’t believe that there really is a company this good!

    sure she’s not trying to pose as a customer?

    Their ‘Weight Loss Coach’ is interesting. Also offers ‘Eating Disorders Recovery Coaching’ (horribly Flash-based so can’t link or copy, sorry)

    Admits to having previously had an ED herself, which IIRC isn’t usually so welcome in ED practitioners (www.europeancoachinginstitute.or … letter.pdf also … ng_ordeal/)

    Qualifications are odd for someone who’s working with a life-threatening illness – she’s mostly a life coach, main specialist q is this: which she hasn’t actually completed yet – some sounds sensible, some ’emotional freedom technique’ are just oddness – note NCED is a lot less grand than the title might sound. The bit she has completed is just an 8-day course: … skills.htm.

    She also offers ‘nutritional counselling’ with no reported Q’s at all, even IoN.

    Not sure why she says her techniques are ‘NICE recommended’ (‘about me’ tab on her website) when only CBT from her long list of interventions is mentioned in the actual NICE ED guidelines (

    Worryingly she appears to be ‘treating’ 16-yr-olds with EDs, & going into schools with younger children (her website > testimonials > more testimonials). Particularly bothered by this quote from a 16-yr-old: ‘Before the sessions… I was regularly bingeing in the evening. Now I eat things like chicken, rice, fruit and green tea… I go to the gym after school sometimes’.
    (more on the schools work: … wise_words)

  43. bagpuss said,

    January 5, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    “Can I drink milk if I’m concerned about calcium?

    Detox-in a box plans are free of dairy products, which can slow down digestion and detoxification.”

    I’m just an ignorant maths geek who gave up biology at the age of 13, so maybe I’m wrong (please tell me if I am) but my woo detectors are working overtime on this one. So, milk impairs liver function, does it?!

  44. igb said,

    January 5, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Optimum Nutrition is, hardly surprisingly, spoken of.

  45. malcolm wilson said,

    January 5, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    “So, milk impairs liver function, does it?!”

    Great! I always wanted to detox my neighbours cat

  46. The Biologista said,

    January 5, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    It’s wall-to-wall unsupported claims on that website. If there isn’t a law against it, there should be.

  47. bagpuss said,

    January 5, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Can anyone recommend any good online resources about the effects that eating certain things really do have on our bodies?

    I’ve been trying to find out if there’s any actual evidence that dairy products are bad for the digestion and liver function and everything that Google finds that’s even vaguely relevant is obviously a woo site.

  48. lasker said,

    January 5, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    It seems a bit unfair to pick on this company “detox in a box” because even if they are overenthusiastic in their use of scientific jargon they are basically promoting a healthy diet. Health behaviour change is difficult to acheive but if you pay a substantial sum of money upfront for four weeks food then you are more motivated to keep to the diet. After 4 weeks without burgers and confectionary you probably feel better and so you may well stick to the diet. Joe public doesnt know the difference between cadmium and cadminium and doesn’t care. But detox is a concept that he wants to beleive in. So why not use it to promote a healthy diet? I think the mighty power of the anus could be better directed.

  49. Dr Aust said,

    January 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    How tediously but thoroughly predictable that the “expert adviser” for these jokers should turn out to be a Holford groupie, oops sorry, IoN-ista, oops sorry, a

    “qualified, associate member of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, one of the leading Nutritional Institutes in the country”

    The underlying principle here is “say something often enough, and with a straight enough face, and people will start believing you, even if you are talking complete **!*”

    Interestingly, a fairly well-known nutritionist turned up on my blog the other day and told us that:

    “the ION diploma is NOT recognized in Germany, Austria and Switzerland”

    Err… does the German-speaking world know something we apparently don’t?

    For anyone who fancies a cheap laugh, can I shamelessly self-plug my rhyme “inspired” by the IoN and its founder, the “First Nutritionista’s Song”? Apologies if you’ve seen it already.

  50. le canard noir said,

    January 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    lasker – I think Ben is quite clear why he thinks approaches like Bolox-in-a-Box are misleading. They over complicate things and, hence, disempower people. Healthy eating messages are distorted by their pseudoscience. If they were truly promoting healthy diets, their website would be rather mundane and they would not be able to charge hundreds of pounds. They also require people to unnecessarily restrict their diets – which may be harmful, and they, as shown, cannot be relied upon not to mislead.

    I notice they claim their advisers are BANT registered. That is the organisation that changed its ‘ethics’ code under pressure to allow members to accept kick backs on the products they sold.

  51. gusfoo said,

    January 5, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    The Biologista said,

    It’s wall-to-wall unsupported claims on that website. If there isn’t a law against it, there should be.

    Actually, there kind of is. Trading standards (rather than the Advertising Standards Authority) do look dimly on false claims being made on web sites; as long as it’s a UK company selling to UK citizens.

    Unfortunately, TS is a local government function so you have to complain to the LA where you live, but there is a good website at which takes most of the pain out of it.

  52. whatutalkinboutwillis said,

    January 5, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    MD (Nas) has been very busy today. Here is a video of her on BBC breakfast with someone from Sense About Science…

  53. Dr Aust said,

    January 5, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    PS Of course, it goes without saying that “Britain’s Leading nutritionist”TM, IoN founder P. Holford Esq., is an enthusiast for “detox”.

  54. niallds said,

    January 5, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    I think it is important to ask for a clarification at the same time as it went out on Today – bear in mind that not everyone will have heard the plug for this site so people checking the other site later in the day will think you are wrong (which I know will annoy you).
    While you at it tell them they should be ashamed at allowing some idiot to suggest how important genesis when it comes to considering creation (now because of its ‘poetry’ – god seems a fairly poor poet). Thought for the day is a disgrace.
    The supersitious with a vested interest will lie and obfuscate and when apparently defeated move the goalposts as you yourself experienced.

  55. zeno said,

    January 5, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Somehow or other, Google’s cache has also changed, but it’s still elsewhere (just in case you thought Ben had ‘Doctored’ the above jpeg image…):

    It’s still in Yahoo’s cache (not sure if the URL will work)

    and in Live Search’s cache:,62db1949

  56. zeno said,

    January 5, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Ah! They have a blog where you can leave comments (moderated, but it was satisfying to post there)). I’ve just left the following under an article on detox (

    “Shameful performance on Radio 4 this morning. Either you were not aware of the ridiculous claims made on your own website or you knew you were lying.

    I note it didn’t take you more than a few hours to remove the offending bit from your website, but it can be seen for all to see on Ben Goldacre’s site at

    Now, what about all the other hype and quack nonsense…?”

  57. tomr said,

    January 5, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Running the quote in question through Google produces an interesting number of results:

    Seems it’s a common, if daft, bit of text. Wonder who wrote it originally?


  58. The Biologista said,

    January 5, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Seems the comments on that site are being strictly moderated. Some well-considered criticisms of the detox concept are in order I think. Perhaps they won’t last though.

  59. mikewhit said,

    January 5, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    No wonder you lose weight, if it gets rid of all those heavy metals …

    PS got BadScience book for Xmas – spotted the deliberate ‘silicon/silicone’ typo – any more ?

  60. EternalOptimist said,

    January 5, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Surely a scientific debate has two sides ? where is the voice supporting detox in a box?

    I for one have found it to be a worthwhile use of my money. Within two days of purchase I found my chi getting stronger and my Ying and Yang were doing well. I found three lumps of cadimum in my undies this morning, but that may have been due to the curry from last night.
    I dont drink any more. Just ten pints a night like I always have done and I really feel the benefit.
    The best part of the product is the box which I found to be very tasty and nutritious.

    E.O. MD VC and bar

  61. mikewhit said,

    January 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Seems like there is ‘publication bias’ on many of these sites. If you disagree your posting doesn’t appear.

    Made me (more) sceptical of recent Barnados press item about references to “feral” children from postings on e.g. Daily Mail website. If you try to post a comment that differs from the p.o.v. of the article it doesn’t seem to appear.

  62. j said,

    January 5, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    I’m sure that – if detoxinabox gives customers small enough portions of food – they’ll lose weight. As has been said, though, their menus don’t even sound all that great – e.g. I eat far more veg, fruit, fresh fish, etc. just in my ‘normal’ diet, purely on the grounds that it is tasty. Though £16/day, for food where the selling point is that you don’t get enough food to maintain your weight, has to be a good business model.

    btw, just listened to this A wonderful alternative to all this nonsense about detox – dripping and doughnuts…yum :)

  63. Murlogue said,

    January 5, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Once again, well done Dr Goldacre! A great expose of these shysters! I’m going to write to the Radio 4 Today programme and ask them what their policies are when some one such as the detoxinabox lady lies so brazenly! Keep up the good work!

  64. nickpullar said,

    January 5, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Ha ha, Victory!

    Grovelling apology received by email just now:



    Thank you for your message regarding the interview on this morning’s Today programme. The company has issued the following statement to the Today Programme:

    Statement reads:

    Following Nas Amir-Ahmadi’s appearance with Dr Ben Goldacre on this morning’s Today programme, the company would like to make the following statement:

    “We acknowledge that Dr Ben Goldacre was correct at the time of interview that the Detox in a Box website did contain the words ‘”One of the most complex detoxification functions is against heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadminium, nickel, arsenic, and aluminum” and apologise for not confirming this at the time. The website has now been amended to avoid any further confusion.”

    This statement also appears on the relevant page of our website.

    Kind regards

    Sig Watkins

    On behalf of


    Although I notice that the website still refers to detox helping with heavy metals, but now they just don’t list them!

    Well done, Ben.

  65. mikewhit said,

    January 5, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    “heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadminum, nickel, arsenic, and aluminum” – Aluminium isn’t exactly a “heavy metal” is it ?
    (OK, I have read the Wikipedia item …)

  66. Muriel said,

    January 5, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    There are at least another 5 web sites for ‘detoxing’ with exactly the same phrase about the dangers of ‘cadminum’:

    Which one of them (or DetoxInABox) came up with it first, and which ones blindly copied it, I don’t know. But it seems there’s a lot of clueless, and shameless, people out there.

  67. HoldThemToAccount said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Julia Heathcote – I totally agree with you on evaluating trustworthiness of websites!

    I’ve emailed the Today programme with the suggestion below. If the Daily Mail can muster 20,000 complaints against the Good Old Beeb, surely we can get a decent number of Friends of the BBC to keep it on the straight and narrow.

    Email text:
    PLEASE follow up on the denial made by the detoxinabox person this morning re the contents of her website. Dr. Goldacre has clearly shown her to be wrong. In the interests of good, transparent BBC journalism, I believe it is important for you to correct the wrong impression she gave.
    I am a passionate supporter of the BBC and the Today programme and I absolutely do not want you to be open to criticism from the usual suspects on this. Make the correction VERY CLEAR please. Broadcast it at around the same time as today’s interview and hold the mumbo-jumbo detox brigade to account! (Ideally – ask her back to find out why she, erm, apparently wasn’t aware of the contents of her website).

  68. nickpullar said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Yes FlammableFlower, I thought that it was funny that they removed the *examples* of what heavy metals are, but left the claim about heavy metals in.

    If I was a cynical person, I might wonder at the sincerity of their apology…

  69. roGER said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Happy New Year, Ben!

    Was delighted to hear you this morning and am just so so surprised and shocked and astonished that a representative of the Detox industry would (gasp!) LIE ON AIR.

  70. Dr Aust said,

    January 5, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    mikewhit wrote:

    heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadminum, nickel, arsenic, and aluminum” – Aluminium isn’t exactly a “heavy metal” is it ?
    (OK, I have read the Wikipedia item …)

    Haven’t you heard, Mike? Aluminium is the new mercury – at least, it is in anti-vaccine loony circles, and hence by a process of “idiot osmosis” in Alt.Health generally. See e.g. the review in Pediatrics that Ben mini-blogged a few days back. the relevant bit is on page 5 / 167e.

    For those not into this argument, the Alt.Reality, sorry, Alt.Health anti-vaccine people have spent years ranting on about “mercury in vaccines”, even when there wasn’t any. Now that absolutely none of the vaccines have even the tiniest amount of mercury in, they have moved on to ranting about aluminium (tiny amounts of insoluble aluminium salts are often present in vaccines as what is called an “adjuvant”).

    Aluminium is, of course, fairly much ubiquitous in the world and not toxic at anything other than enormous levels. But since when did the Alties let the facts get in the way of a good scare?

  71. aliciamoss said,

    January 5, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Errr . . . what is a heavy metal? Arsenic is a semi metal. According to some definitions, iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc are heavy metals. Does one get “detoxed” of those? Bit of a problem if so – anaemia rates would shoot up for starters.

  72. bainesy said,

    January 5, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Nas Amir Ahmadi might have been pwned this morning by Ben, but while we were laughing at that there she was speaking this evening on BBC1 six o’clock news, with her company name in big letters explaining that “it’s all about healthy eating”. No sign of Ben, no indication of the pwning, no suggestion that her firm is one of the biggest offenders. Just some juicy product placement

    Who wins?

  73. The Biologista said,

    January 5, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    The Sense About Science report made the evening news in Ireland. Detoxing “might be bollox” shocker. Today was a good day.

  74. Dr* T said,

    January 5, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Dr Mrs Dr* T asked me the same question this evening. I think the people who would buy Detox-are-for-cocks products would buy them regardless of what some ‘Doctor’ has to say 😉

  75. Dr Aust said,

    January 5, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    The question here is whether we are dealing with lies:

    Thinks: that’s on my website..

    Says: “Oh no, it definitely doesn’t say that”

    …or with “bullshit”, in philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s formulation:

    Thinks: I can’t remember what’s on the website – I’ll just front it out and make something up

    Says: “Oh no, it definitely doesn’t say that”

    We have been debating the momentous “lies, bullshit or delusion?” question in connection with a different bit of Alt.Reality over at Dr Aust’s Spleen

    (NB: that’s a second shameless self-plug on one thread – all that time reading Patrick Holford’s websites must be paying off)

  76. The Inorganic Gardener said,

    January 5, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    It’s about sodding time these absurd kits/lotions/potions got debunked. I mean, if they truly worked, why spend a fortune on chelation therapy for victims of heavy metal poisoning when you can just gobble a few vitamins and be cured instantly? Shame really – it’d’ve made my work with dimethyl mercury just a bit more fun if I’d’ve known I didn’t have to worry about spillage, I could just pop home and have a vitamin and be fine.

    I hope we can get these kits off the shelves along with the rest of the pseudoscience supplements bollox and stop the poor, credit-crunch hit folk of the UK from pouring their money down the drain any longer.


  77. katiefuller said,

    January 5, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Was pleased to hear Dr Ben on R4 this morning. I bought my boyfriend his book for Christmas; he hasn’t started reading it yet, so I have. It’s excellent. Thanks!

  78. andyb said,

    January 5, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    There was limited time and Ben timed his principal thrust perfectly (did I hear the presenter giggling?).

    The abuse of the word “natural” needs to be challenged. Food producers can use it provided that no enzymes where used in the process. Provided it can be done in a kitchen, it can be called natural. There are a few other caveats: no vacuum, no extremely high temperatures etc. “Natural” food is mostly just mass-produced factory junk.

  79. bogmarsh said,

    January 5, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    A bit of background for
    Nas Amir-Ahmadi:

    So it’s just business. No need to know anything, just sell the stuff.

    Elsewhere, Detox in a Box is sold as a weight loss programme. Which it probably is.

  80. Jason S said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    This quote from the same page on their site is also telling, “our bodily functions were designed when the world were less polluted.”, it seems that they are also Creationists.

    Well done on calling her BS on the show. She sounded surprised to be talking to someone who know what he was talking about.

  81. r p mcmurphy said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Hilarious….the retraction on their website is so simpering.

  82. r p mcmurphy said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Yes its under diet and detox, detox benefits.

  83. Jeesh42 said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Why does she keep getting allowed back on the BBC! Fair enough, she gets pwned every time but she still gets to sell her ineffectual, ultra-expensive products.

    Each time she comes back on the TV or radio, she gets an undue clean slate, with the presenter wifully ignoring the rubbish she has already said (and had, er, rubbished) this morning.

    The BBC can be really thick on these things. The Today programme may be anal with these matters, but BBC News in particular is not up to snuff.

  84. Juddski said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    I do not have it in for Nas Amir Ahmadi, but like Dr Goldacre, I am a bit anal about getting the facts right. I checked the linked in page for Ms Ahmadi and she states she attended Bournemouth University between 1987-89. The following is copied from the Bournemouth University website:

    “In 1990, the Dorset Institute successfully met all of the requirements of the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council and was re-designated Bournemouth Polytechnic. Under the Higher & Further Education Act of 1992, the Polytechnic became Bournemouth University with inauguration on November 27th of the same year.”

    It was not a university when she attended. I have nothing against polytechnics having attended North Staffordshire Polytechnic in the early 1980’s, although it is now Staffordshire University. There is no shame in presenting the facts, but then facts don’t always sell products.

  85. sebastian smith said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    And remember everyone the BBC website reported that:

    The Advertising Standards Authority said it would investigate such claims on a case-by-case basis if a complaint was made.

    “If a product is making claims not substantiated by the evidence submitted by the company we would challenge that.”

    Their complaint form is here:

    How about a Bad science evening in seeing how many complaints we can generate?

  86. Emma Welsh said,

    January 6, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Debunking misused/incorrect use of science is always a good thing and Ben Goldacre is becoming a role model for me.

    I have emailed detoxinabox to say that their amendment did not make the website any better – they make the same claim as before but without stipulating which heavy metals.

    The other thing I emailed about was Nas’ statement that the boxes do not contain any sugars or salts. Two items from the day one sample menu are: Potatoes which contain starch which is broken down in the body to produce glucose which is a sugar and capers which are pickled in salt and vinegar – quite a salty taste in my opinion. Ben did not get a chance to pick up on this statement (unfortunately the Today Programme never has enough time for proper debates on any subject)to point out how important salts and sugars are in our diet. Oh dear.

  87. j said,

    January 6, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Thanks – I see the response on their website now.

  88. Betawi Girl said,

    January 6, 2009 at 9:49 am

    to bagpuss:

    “Can anyone recommend any good online resources about the effects that eating certain things really do have on our bodies?”

    There is no single online ref for this, as it all depends on what you wish to know, but you can start your search from “phytopharmacology” and sail on to tailor your inquiries. I live in Indonesia, and it is an interesting phenomenon that some national pharmaceutical companies (national and internatinoal) now have taken some “traditional” remedies (often called “regulators” or “catalyst”) into main-stream commercial products. Some to the dismay of advocacy groups as these companies have patented their “findings” when locals have used them for generations (and now they have to pay these companies).

    But that aside, even sustainable healthy living by eating balanced healthy foods also depends on where the foods were cultivated/raised (as we’ve seen with cases of melamine contamination recently).

    I personally have a favorite healthy food/drink: young coconut milk (juice from inside a very young coconunt). Alleviate cramps during that time in the month, instant high energy drink (probably has lots of fructose/glucose and other electrolytes), filling, has a cooling effect, and so forth and so on. There are probably scientific evidence somewhere, done by nutritionists or pharmacists, or bio-chemists somewhere, but I started liking it only because my late grandmother taught me!

    Other nnatural foods I use for different purposes include: weight loss (read: natural laxatives), young papaya leaves for indigestion (and older leaves in soups before going to malaria-infested areas in the field), ginger drink (also for indigestion, as well as flatulence and colds), cloves and beetle (spelling?) leaves drink for colds (as well as temporary painkiller for toothache, and as antiseptics), nutmeg drink to help me sleep, etc etc. Again, these are just some “old wives” advice given generation to generation without them knowing the scientific data on how these things work.

    Have fun searching on good and sustainable healthy foods! If you can them organic and fresh, go for it! Otherwise, commercially processed ones will have to do if you can’t get the real thing :-) Just don’t forget to read the labels and do your own research.

    As Dr Ben said, spending 400 quids for healthy diet? Probably cost lest to go green, organic, or simply sensible eating (based on your own activities, metabolism, and immune system) in the long run :-)

    Great site! Am glad I found this!

  89. drunkenoaf said,

    January 6, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Ben– top work!

    Interestingly/ oddly, their‘s, er, archives are all broken:*/

    and all from 2003/ 2004

  90. Nigel Holt said,

    January 6, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    How I laughed! Great work once again from Goldacre. Don’t you think Radio 4 needs to give him some serious radio time to humiliate..I mean interview.. some more of these ‘experts’? How about a replacement for that awful thought for the day nonsense. Words of wisdom From Ben. It could be called ‘It’s more complicated than that’ or ‘You’ll NEVER guess what they are claiming now’. How much better would that make everyones morning?

  91. HowardW said,

    January 6, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    It’s interesting to see that, as others have already pointed out, quite a bit of the pseudo-science text on the detoxinabox website is identical to text on other web pages. And that includes the now removed “cadminum” phrase, as well as other bits like “bodily process that transforms health threatening toxic substances”.

    I wonder who the original author of these text snippets was?

    In that respect, you can understand her “Cadminum denial” on the Today programme when she talked about getting confused with other web pages. Like the ones the text was lifted from perhaps?


  92. emen said,

    January 6, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Haha, Ben, I think that excited shouting was quite unusual, probably more effective than any “smugdoctortalk”.

    Heathwel, I agree with you, that

    “even if they do get a sceptic on for ‘balance’, it gives the false notion that it’s all a simple matter of scientific opinion.”

    and that is often the problem with bad science. People are so used to having to accept different opinions about ANYTHING that they don’t seem to realize that there are still such things as facts.

    I don’t know if any of you have seen Dawkins interviewing Derren Brown, they also talk about this:,3414,Richard-Dawkins-interviews-Derren-Brown,RichardDawkinsnet-Richard-Dawkins-Derren-Brown

    About this healthy eating issue: “detox”, really, is just a posh word for trying to lose weight. Instead of implying that you need to lose weight to be more attractive, you do “detox” with “health” being in focus.
    What worries me a little bit is that “healthy eating advice” nowadays consists of not much else than the 5 portions of fruit and veg (NHS websites, schools, supermarket leaflets etc). It is very very important and a good start, but you also need to know a bit about sources of protein (dairy products, meat), fibre etc for a balanced diet. I’m not saying you need to read books about nutrition, I’m just a bit concerned that people will get the message that it’s healthy eating to have a “sausage roll and crisps” lunch if you have an apple with it, as well. And people thinking that they can sign up for a “detox programme” without dairy and wheat for as long as they want, because it has “fruit and veg” in it. And Ben was kind of implying it, too.

  93. williamlees said,

    January 6, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    My prescription for Nas and any other pseudo scientists troubled by BS and spelling problems is a double dose of ETDA Chelation Suppositories from – continue treatment while symptoms persist…

  94. Grumpy Bob said,

    January 6, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    I get a 403 Forbidden error on

    Shame, I quite fancied a peek.


  95. al heeley said,

    January 6, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Detox sounds so much more marketable than For-gods-sake-stop-filling-your-body-with-crap-for-a-while-and-eat-more-sensibly. That will be £105 please. I do enjoy your column, keep up the good work sir!

  96. lasker said,

    January 6, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    “detox in a box” is basically selling food. Healthy food, largely pre-prepared, in quantities that will enable you to lose weight. And its delivered to your door. Its expensive, but then again you will save time on shopping and preparation so, as time is money, depending on your income it may be worthwhile.

    Its a business model. If the product is without worth then the business will fold.

    They advertise it on their website. The rigour of their use of scientific terminology will not equal that of “Nature”.

    “Detox” is not the same as detoxification. Detox is more about lifestyle and aspirations. It may motivate people for good or ill. But this company is basically providing healthy food.

    This is not a battle that can be won. Its not even worth fighting when deadly lies are still being spread about HIV and MMR.

  97. reg tubby said,

    January 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Every morning I listen to Today with a small Goldacre whispering in my ear telling me to cast a cynical eye over all the surveys and reports they talk about.

    When they had their guest editors last week I thought how refreshing it would be to have Ben doing the job instead.

  98. jackpt said,

    January 6, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    There’s no showmanship in quackery these days. No good jingles either. I think, in the case of detox, it’s probably as much about what rhymes with it. The more sciency sounding the quacks get the harder it is to rhyme.

  99. Jellytussle said,

    January 6, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    reg tubby said,

    January 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Every morning I listen to Today with a small Goldacre whispering in my ear telling me to cast a cynical eye over all the surveys and reports they talk about.

    With respect, that suggests either an unhealthy degree of BG fetishisation in which case a holiday is in order, or a Schneiderian First Rank Symptom, in which case you should probably talk to your GP.

  100. Domain Rider said,

    January 6, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I just felt I had to post a comment on the DetoxInABox website ( I know the moderator will delete it, but like Zeno ( I just couldn’t resist:

    “Indeed, taking regular exercise, getting plenty of rest and sleep, and changing to a natural healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and a minimum of processed foods, will give your body and mind optimum conditions to work at their very best and make you feel happy and healthy. However, you can get all this from your local market, greengrocer, and/or supermarket. If you don’t have one locally, you can order fresh fruit and vegetables for home delivery from many suppliers. You don’t need to buy a ‘detoxing’ diet online, you can get as much, if not more benefit from simple healthy foods, and for a fraction of the price. There are no ‘magic’ ingredients or special shortcuts.

    Save your hard-earned money and just eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.”

  101. jonathon tomlinson said,

    January 6, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Housmans, London’s premier radical bookshop (stocking copies of Badscience) is hosting an evening with Herbalist Melissa Ronaldson talking about Detox on Saturday Jan 31st at 5pm. I’ve been to other talks there about the NHS and Anarchism, and though the shop is small and gets quite crowded, there have been stimulating debates.
    p.s. Previously Getonyerbike, my new years resolution is to use my real name whilst blogging.

  102. stinkychemist said,

    January 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    7:30PM their website now also says:

    “Yet we are helping in anyway to our organs and systems to do their job more effectively.”

    Clearly didn’t study English much, then. Last I heard, this usage of anyway would be wrong, even if the rest of the sentences could be understood!

    Man, I am sooooo anal.

    Hey, I did an online IQ test from a a site in America and they sent me a certificate, even though they said they couldn’t send one to non-USA addresses! That’s what I call service. Modesty, of course, forbids me from putting it on the wall or announcing which larger-than-average number it said. Besides, I’d have to chuck one of Mrs. Stinkychemist’s degrees out or buy a new frame and as an honorary Yorkshireman of 32 years’ standing I can’t do that…..

  103. al heeley said,

    January 7, 2009 at 11:46 am
    [quote]So what are the benefits of detox? What does detox actually means? Detox is a bodily process that transforms health threatening toxic substances from our environment, diets, as well as our own bodies into something harmless or excreted.

    One of the most complex detoxification functions is against heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadminum, nickel, arsenic, and aluminum. [/quote]

    Copyright (c) 2006-2008 All rights reserved, no reproduction permitted without permission.

    !) Looks like some blatant plagarism going on between websites here, particularly poignant is the transplanting of the Cadminum typo,
    !!) Important claim above that detox can also rid heavy metals from our environment. This could be an important new discovery. maybe we could hire a team of nutritionists to quietly excrete heavy metals from infected areas around the country.

  104. Jellytussle said,

    January 7, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Why don’t you send that in to Right to Reply? If it gets through then someone from Today will be asked to defend their editorial policy.

  105. muscleman said,

    January 7, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    The reason organisations like the Beeb continue to shamelessly have people like Nas Amir on is because, as Ben has pointed out before, they are run by Arts graduates who think all ‘opinions’ are valid. They don’t recognise that someone can be debunked, after all they only lost an argument, nothing more . . .

  106. ACH said,

    January 7, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    And while Nas, “MD” is extolling the properties of detox for health, elsewhere (following a link from the miniblog), detox is being touted as the reason for Christine Maggiore’s (the HIV/AIDS denier’s) death:

    “She had apparently been on a radical cleansing and detox regimen that had sickened her and left her very weak, dehydrated, and unable to breathe”

    so, detox can either cure or kill.

  107. Dr Aust said,

    January 7, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    First rate letter, “NorthernBoy” / Anthony Potts. You should start a blog!

  108. NorthernBoy said,

    January 7, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I should not have included my name on this post (I copied my entire submission to Today, including my name).

    I’ve asked Ben to remove it from the bottom of my post, and would appreciate it if you could do the same. Sorry, I don’t mean to be anal, but I prefer the opacity that my (now geographically incorrect) pseudonym gives.

  109. rogerhyam said,

    January 7, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    I think Ben’s anal retention may be because he needs to detox. He is probably full of chemicals 😉

  110. emen said,

    January 7, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Muscleman, please.

    The people who think all “opinions” are valid don’t do so because they are arts graduates but because they are wrong.
    Even humanity graduates whose job is to discuss whether “Simone de Beauvoir’s subjective narratism is objective enough to be called subjective” can perfectly understand that things like “antibiotics don’t work on viral infections” or “it is your liver that does the detox” are FACTS, and you can’t have a different opinion about it.

  111. Deborah Powers said,

    January 7, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Perhaps Radio 4 would commision a “Bad Science” series by way of an apology… it has got to be better than “You and Yours”.

  112. Bisto said,

    January 7, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    “The reason organisations like the Beeb continue to shamelessly have people like Nas Amir on is because, as Ben has pointed out before, they are run by Arts graduates who think all ‘opinions’ are valid. They don’t recognise that someone can be debunked, after all they only lost an argument, nothing more . . .”

    This is the one thing that drove me mad about the book!
    For the record I am an arts/humanities graduate and I hate these idiots as much as the rest of you.

  113. The Biologista said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:50 am

    The humanities graduate ragging is a bit much- even science degree students are rather inadequately taught the philosophy of the scientific method and all that comes with it. I had to go figure most of it out for myself during my PhD studies. The extent of just how bad things are in media reporting of science is lost on most people, including a whole load of people with science degrees and probably a worryingly large chunk with PhDs too…

  114. pseudomonas said,

    January 8, 2009 at 10:53 am

    As emen said, there are plenty of people who’ve trained in the Arts and are well-informed and clear-thinking enough that they can handle these ideas. Gullibility isn’t limited by discipline.

  115. NorthernBoy said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I don’t think that we are criticising arts graduates for not understanding that there can be objective truth. Rather, we are(or at least I am) criticising them for not knowing, when it comes to actual examples of science stories, what the objective truth is.

    My letter to Today was taking them to task for not understanding, in this example, what the medical facts are. I genuinely do feel that there is a gulf between the average arts and science graduate when it comes to having the basic intellectual tools to handle this sort of thing.

    One reason for this is that much of the reasoning tools in science actually have to be learned. It took a degree course in physics for me to become very comfortable with the practice of carrying out scientific experiments, evaluating the results, and applying this experience to understanding the meaning and areas of validity, for theories and data from the wider world of science.

    To take one part of this, the propagation of errors matters, whenever any results are quoted. I assume that precious few English graduates will understand how a random error will grow through the processing of a result, and be able to understand exactly what a statistical or clinical significance measure is giving. It is not sufficient that they are intelligent enough to do so, as it is also necessary that they have the learned knowledge.

    It is just the same as asking me to fly a plane. I am doubtless clever enough to fly one, but not having had the training, you’d be better off asking a qualified person to do it. With science stories, it is generally going to be better not to hand them over to a team without any scientists in it.

    Arts graduates are perhaps not going to pass the headline “Half of pupils achieving scores below the national mean”, but I would be willing to bet that they would be happy to print a story suggesting that the LHC might destroy the earth…

  116. NorthernBoy said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    To clarify the above, in my comment on propagation of errors, I am not contending that your average arts graduate will not understand “that” they grow, but rather that they will not actually know by how much, and what the appropriate rules are for combining and propagating them.

  117. Pete Beaudro said,

    January 8, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Northern Boy

    That’s a rather large brush with which you are tarring a substantial proportion of the graduate population, sir. I’m an English Graduate (and, for what it’s worth, qualified – though non-practising – teacher), who doubtless knows considerably less about the calculation of the propagation of errors that you (heck, I couldn’t even fathom the wikipedia summary), but I’m figuring that it relates to a small error at one stage of a process – potentially insignificant in itself and in a specific context – growing exponentially later in the process or when the context is changed. Am I right (I’m essentially rewording your note above)?

    My point is that, as a non-scientist interested in science, I guess I don’t need to understand HOW a random error grows; I mainly need to be aware THAT a random error MIGHT grow; thus to be wary of conclusions given with apparent authority but without clear details of how those conclusions have been reached.

  118. Pete Beaudro said,

    January 8, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    … s o I think we kind of agree, but I’d like you to give us Artists a bit of a break!

  119. muscleman said,

    January 8, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Fine except you do get proud arts graduates crowing about how they don’t understand science and don’t care that they don’t care.

    Michele Hanson in the Grauniad is a case in point:


    It is this which we mean when we refer to ‘arts graduates’ if you do not qualify then well done. Perhaps you could join the scientific types in the comments on pieces like the above.

  120. dr.aardwolf said,

    January 8, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I like this talk of ‘food voodoo’.

    I propose we henceforth dub it; ‘foodoo’.


  121. zeno said,

    January 8, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    What? Foodoo woo woo? :-)

  122. Moganero said,

    January 10, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I just came across the blog on the detoxinabox website at interesting that the need to keep running to the loo is said to be a normal reaction to the diet. I’ve been to curry houses where you could say the same – but I don’t go back!
    I’d have considered reporting them to environmental health.

  123. fontwell said,

    January 10, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    NorthernBoy’s OP: Thumbs up.

  124. Amanda Dickins said,

    January 15, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Please let’s not have a debate about arts vs sciences degrees or caricature “arts graduates”. Those who do so run the risk of provoking precisely the irritating, destructive attitudes that Muscleman highlights (comment 38). I agree that such attitudes should be challenged, but let’s do it without making sweeping generalizations about “arts graduates”.

    I think most of the contributors here are on the same side — at least we’re against the same stuff — and we need a combination of skills to fight it. The most important of those skills — spotting bullshit and then communicating an exposé (succinctly and clearly, with evidence) — are found in people with diverse backgrounds. They can also be lacking in individuals with great paper qualifications in arts — or science.

    So let’s celebrate the contribution that we can *all* make to the hunt for bad science. Ben’s excellent column in the Guardian (10 Jan) appears to draw on comments made by several contributors here — hurray, let’s have more of that!

    (Strictly speaking, I’m neither a scientist nor an arts graduate — I spent most of my first two decades obsessed with physics and most of the rest of my life (so far) studying and researching politics, with occasional forays into philosophy and economics. The latter pursuits have taught me a great deal about reasoning (including the scientific variety) and how to use (and misuse) evidence, including some relatively sophisticated statistical techniques.)

  125. marsprobe said,

    February 14, 2009 at 12:46 am

    I know I am a tad late for the main debate but I have read the previous comments with great interest.
    Yes, she has made some sweeping statements regarding the health benefits of her detox products and yes, she charges like a wounded bull for the privilege, but if people want to buy into this to give them hope, why should we sit in judgement?
    This lady is running a business, a British business and bringing money into the economy. She is tapping into a market that focuses on the people that have reached rock bottom, the people that would pay 16 quid a day to be told what to eat.. these are people that would no doubt cost the NHS a fortune when they seek medical intervention for ‘dietary’ related illnesses. If she can help even one person to review their eating habits and alter them for the better, what’s so wrong with that? Surely we should applaud her for taking a few of these people from the NHS queue. Anything that offers hope and some form of change in people, I am all for, whether they pay through the nose for it or not. At least we, the tax payer are not forking out.
    Who are you all to sit in judgement of nutritional therapy and curl your Eton educated noses up at it? Is this the same medical profession that offered my father a wide cocktail of drugs for type two diabetes and high cholesterol and did not mention his diet once during his doctors appointment? Is this the same medical profession that sent Jade Goody home three times before admitting that yes, actually she had terminal cervical cancer(someone topical, thats all!) and is this the same medical profession that sent my boyfriend home twice from A and E, stating he simply had sinisitus, when he was hours away from death with bacterial meningitis? or is this the same medical profession that sneered at acupunture no more then 20 years ago, dismissing it as mumbo jumbo, but I noticed with interest that it is now offered at my local surgery for depression and a host of other illnesses.
    Please remember that nutrients are still a relatively recent discovery and there are many ways that food interacts with the human body that are as yet, unexplained. I’m sure in the years prior to such discoveries, people would have been just as scathing if someone had questioned their existance.
    Just for the record – before anyone questions it, – I have a degree in biology from one of the top ten universities and a degree in nutritional therapy from one of the bottom ten universities.

  126. wildinvention said,

    October 29, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Unbelievable. For heavens sake though, please add a nofollow to the detoxinabox links. This page has a PR of 4 and by linking to the nutrition site you’ve just raised their Google ranking hugely!

  127. stopbadscience said,

    April 21, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    For anyone who wants to see the original version of the site, cached before changes could be made, I’ve found it! Just click on the link.
    (I know I’m quite late with this comment but thought I might as well post it).