Atomic tomatoes are not the only fruit

December 16th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, celebs, channel 4, channel five, cosmetics, dna, express, gillian mckeith, herbal remedies, independent, letters, mail, MMR, nutritionists, oxygen, penises, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, quantum physics, references, space, statistics, telegraph, times, very basic science, water | 9 Comments »

This article is a rough transcript of the most excellent Bad Science Awards 2004 that were held in the Asylum Club on Rathbone St W1, a tiny basement club with a fire safety license for 150. We were expecting 20 people but to general astonishment there were queues down the street, and an unruly crowd who were drunkenly, loudly, and at one point quite violently baying for Gillian McKeith’s blood. Also performing were the excellently frightening and dangerous Disinformation presents “National Grid”, performance terrorism with victorian electrical equipment and rubber gloves, featuring Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor and Guardian Far Out fame.

Thursday December 16, 2004
The Guardian

Ben Goldacre on the gongs nobody wants to win…

Andrew Wakefield prize for preposterous extrapolation from a single unconvincing piece of scientific data

With its place at the kernel of Bad Science reporting in the news media, this was bound to be a hotly contested category. Were there any Read the rest of this entry »

Brain sensitising

October 28th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, letters, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, placebo, references | 3 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday October 28, 2004
The Guardian

· Generally, I don’t go for the little guys. But when the seventh copy of the Brain Respiration leaflet arrived in the Bad Science mailbag, I knew it was a serious moneyspinner: a multimillion dollar operation, in fact, with four centres in the UK, and headed by spiritual leader Dr Ilchi Lee, who runs international conferences, attended, he claims, by Al Gore. I don’t know if his doctorate is in neurosciences but he’s certainly made some breakthroughs with his “brain sensitising, brain versatilising, brain cleansing, brain re-wiring, and brain mastering”. Especially since it can “refresh the brain’s energy and help it create new brain cells for stronger brain function”, which is amazing given the conventional wisdom that you don’t make any new brain cells after you’re born. So you might want to protect the few you have left from brain respiration, especially since “this process goes beyond the anatomical layer of the neo-cortex … into the realm of the brain stem (where innate universal awareness is present)… the creativity of the neo-cortex is fully realised through an infinite current of energy”. No way is Dr Ilchi Lee putting an infinite current of energy through my neurons, but he can send me some of those cool brain-shaped gold vibrators off his website for only $90. They’re top of my Christmas list.

· So is there any peer-reviewed journal evidence to back up Brain Respiration? Yes! It’s from the Korea Institute of Brain Sciences (proprietor Dr Ilchi Lee), and it’s published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine. It measured the EEG of children meditating (in the special brain respiration way), and found that meditating kids had EEG findings characteristic of meditation, when compared with a bunch of kids just sitting “relaxing” with some electrodes on their heads, presumably baffled, certainly not meditating, and therefore producing EEG recordings characteristic of kids sitting around in a room. Which goes to show the importance of choosing your control group carefully. There is another paper, which claims to show the effect of brain respiration on stress hormones, but it’s only published in the Korea Institute of Brain Sciences journal, which, little surprise, isn’t carried by my usual academic libraries.

· Just to clarify: meditation is good, Herbert Benson’s excellent papers on the Relaxation Response, the opposite of fight-or-flight, absolutely rule, and you miss out at your peril. But trademarked pseudoscientific nonsense meditation schools are bad, just like all the other backdoors to enlightenment.

Note:

People love to write in and point out that I don’t go after Bad Science in The Guardian, as if I can somehow go over there and force them to publish whatever I want, perhaps following a brief hostage siege. And to the colossal delight of at least 50 people who emailed, Sally Weale, the editor of the Guardian health pages, published the following article a few weeks later:

www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1367824,00.html

Under the headline “It Works!” they gush extensively about how fabulous and scientifically well proven Brain Respiration is, and these ringing endorsements from The Guardian now prominently adorn the advertising material for Brain Respiration. The article includes the memorably untrue line: ” a number of independent studies have also been conducted on BR and the results published in peer-reviewed science journals.”

This, as many of you pointed out, is a demonstrably false fact in a newspaper (rather than, say, a matter of opinion) and deserves a simple correction. I think it’s as weird as you do, I wrote a letter to the letters page, it was ignored. What can I say?

Channel 4’s ‘doctors’ continued

October 14th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, channel 4, gillian mckeith, nutritionists, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, weight loss | 3 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday October 14, 2004
The Guardian

· I’m in a difficult position. You may remember Dr Bannock PhD: he is a Channel 4 TV doctor and a certified professional member of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, like Dr Gillian McKeith PhD (and my dead cat Hettie). In fact, pretty much the only thing my cat doesn’t have is a PhD and a Channel 4 show. Now, I had all kinds of awful things to say about Dr Bannock, but he’s written me such a nice collection of emails, and put such an earnest retraction of hisPhD from the Open International University of Complementary Medicine (OIUCM) on his website (www.doctorbannock.com/about_me.html) after I contacted him with my concerns, that I can’t bring myself to speak ill of him. I honestly think, regardless of the fact that he describes himself as having seven memberships, three fellowships, six diplomas, and eight certificates, the odd lectureship, and isn’t quite sure if he might have claimed for a while to have a PhD from Brunel (which has never heard of him) and continued to call himself a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine even after his membership had lapsed – despite all this (deep breath), despite the fact that he has qualifications in “Scenar” and live blood analysis, both of which I’m looking forward to writing about in the future and despite the fact that he’s been written about positively in the Daily Mail, the Express, the Sunday Times Style, and other repeat offenders … I seriously like the guy. And pseudoscientific new age nonsense aside, I’m sure he’s done a lot for Sting’s wife, Madonna, and all the other celebs he associates himself with. I mean it. It’s not my fault if I have a naturally unearnest prose style.

· But Dr Bannock is important to me for two reasons. First, he’s our second “doctor” on Channel 4 with highly questionable qualifications, and I want to know how many more there are. I thought about asking Channel 4, but the last time I rang its PR department I was treated like a naughty schoolboy. So here’s the deal: just send me the name of everyone on Channel 4 you see who describes themselves as a doctor, and I’ll do the rest.

· Second, and more important, the PhD that Dr Bannock got from OIUCM only costs $850. I’m told there are lots of people on Harley St with OIUCM PhDs. Now listen: the editor of Life is on holiday at the moment, and while he’s away we run the budget. So 850 emails, that’s all I need, and we might just be able to buy a PhD for my dead cat before the boss gets back.

Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD) continued

September 30th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, channel 4, gillian mckeith, nutritionists, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications | 12 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday September 30, 2004
The Guardian

· I once saw a bloke at the opening of a Jackson Pollock exhibition in the Tate, wearing a T-shirt that said: “my cat could do better”. What, you may be wondering, has that got to do with Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD)? Well now. Besides her PhD, which we have already discussed, there were a few other interesting entries on her CV. For example, she is proud to announce under “Professional Associations” that she is a certified member of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC), which certainly sounds impressive. I bet you get a little certificate and everything.

· In fact, I know you get a certificate, because I’m holding it in my hand right now. It’s in the name of my cat, Henrietta. I got it in return for $60, and it’s a particular honour since dear, sweet, little Hettie died about a year ago. So, coming in a bit cheaper than Gillian’s non-accredited correspondence course PhD and Masters degrees (although she will have got a discount from “Clayton College of Natural Health” if she ordered them both at once), it looks as if all you need to be a certified member of the AANC is a name, an address, and a spare $60. You don’t need to be human. You don’t even need to be alive. No exam. No check-up on your qualifications. And no assessment of your practice. I guess that could be embarrassing for some of their certified professional members. Presumably, the diploma is there to certify that you have $60.

· If you know anyone else who is showing off about being a Professional Certified Member of the AANC, I’d like to hear about it. The only one I can find so far is a man called Dr Bannock who presented Why Weight on Channel 4 and Fat Academy on Discovery. No, I’d never heard of him either. He says he is a “Member of the American Association of Nutrition Consultants (Board Certified Nutrition Consultant)”. Glad you added that bit at the end, Dr Bannock. His website mentions his PhD in Nutritional Physiology, but he doesn’t say where it’s from; his website also features the odd photograph of a stethoscope, although to my disappointment, unlike Hettie, he’s not gone as far as dressing up in it endearingly.

· But back to the money: if anybody wants nutritional advice from the decomposing corpse of my ex-cat, I shall be setting up a small shrine at the bottom of the garden, where you can leave chewed mice, ready cash, and offers of a primetime TV series on Channel 4.

Cranial osteopathy

September 23rd, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, gillian mckeith, nutritionists, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, times | 51 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday September 23, 2004
The Guardian

· “Cranial osteopathy – aligning the plates of the skull.” Sounds great. Maybe I can use it to treat my hangovers. The Times certainly likes it, and it even got Dr Toby Murcott to tell us how it works in a box, alongside a case study, called “What’s the evidence?” Toby says: “Can cranial osteopathy treat the brain? Cranial osteopathy is a gentle technique – practitioners claim to feel a subtle pulse in the fluid surrounding the brain. There is some research to suggest that these pulses are related to slow, regular changes in blood pressure in the brain. This has yet to gain wide acceptance and it’s not clear how working with these might lead to health improvements.” Here’s what you need to know.

· First, cranial osteopaths don’t even think the pulses are blood pressure; their theories revolve around the “inherent rhythmic motility” of the brain and spinal cord, mixed with breath and cardiac cycles, causing rhythmic fluctuation of the brain and surrounding fluid, which they think they can feel through the bones of your skull, and fix up with a bit of wiggling. They write long articles about actin and myosin (the things in muscle cells that make them move) being present in brain cells; unfortunately, they always forget to mention that brain cells lack the dense arrays of those filaments which are necessary to generate any significant movement.

· But are there real “cranial pulses” to be felt, however they may be generated? It’s easy to find out: ask a couple of cranial osteopaths to write down the frequency of the pulses on the same person’s skull, and then see if they give the same answer. There have been five papers published doing just this, and in none of them did the osteopaths give similar answers. Which suggests to me that (a) this is not a reliable biological phenomenon, and (b) perhaps these cranial osteopaths are, er, imagining it. So: the discipline is based on a misunderstanding, they can’t measure what they claim to measure and work with, and there’s no evidence to say it works.

· When I see a box labelled “What’s the evidence?” next to a health article by a Dr Toby Murcott, call me naive, but I assume he’s a medical doctor, rather than a science journalist with a PhD. And by now, regular readers must be wondering how I’m going to crowbar Gillian McKeith into this column. Well, what do you know, Dr Toby Murcott was the “science adviser” on You Are What You Eat, the TV show that told us we should eat more dark leaves, because the chlorophyll would oxygenate our blood. Bravo.

The following appeared two weeks later:

Don’t knock it

Thursday October 7, 2004
The Guardian

I don’t care what Ben Goldacre says (Bad science, September 23), after having severe sleeping problems for almost two years due to stress I was referred to an osteopath by my GP. I haven’t needed sleeping pills since (three months now). Bad science? Perhaps, but it worked for me.
E McDonald
Antwerp, Belgium

It’s all in the title

September 16th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, dangers, herbal remedies, nutritionists, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, times | 2 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday September 16, 2004
The Guardian

· It’s hard to know who to trust these days, what with pseudoscientists pretending to have all kinds of qualifications and quoting authorities all over the shop. Susan Clark’s consistently entertaining “What’s The Alternative?” column in the Sunday Times recommends artemisinin this week, as an alternative herbal malaria prophylaxis for someone travelling to Asia. “The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria is funding the shift to artemisinin-based combination therapies in 26 countries,” she says. Sounds good. I’ll do you a favour, and spare you the rant about how chloroquine costs 20 cents per treatment while fashionable ideas like artemisinin cost $2.40, and stick to more important facts. Like: artemisinin is a treatment for malaria, not a preventive measure, because its half-life is too short, and the excellent and sensible Global Fund does not recommend it as a prophylaxis, nor does it endorse anything, as it is just a funding body. Perhaps Susan Clark can’t tell the difference. Here’s hoping her readers are a bit more cautious.

· So who do you trust? What about a “consultant podiatric surgeon”? Sounds a bit like “consultant orthopaedic surgeon”, doesn’t it? Or “consultant vascular surgeon”? Except a consultant podiatric surgeon is just a chiropodist who has decided to charge a bit more. Nice move, but it’s hard to prove that the public have been misled here. Sorry, I mean to say they have “misunderstood” the innocent phonetic coincidence between “consultant orthopaedic surgeon” and “consultant podiatric surgeon”. So the British Orthopaedic Trainees Association has surveyed 262 members of the public, and what do you know: 95% thought that consultant podiatric surgeons had qualified as doctors, while only 9.5% thought chiropodists were doctors. Ker-ching. Mind you, 97.3% thought consultant orthopaedic surgeons had been to medical school, and even a few junior doctors got the answers wrong. In a world full of “Dr Gillian McKeith PhDs”, until the government starts protecting professional titles, and regulating all the people who have popped up to make money out of our obsession with health, I can’t start to think about the financial gain for these wily characters because (holds head sanctimoniously aloft), there are actually rather serious issues about what goes through the heads of people who think they’re giving informed consent to treatment by self-appointed professionals.

Another kind of science fiction

August 26th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, bbc, gillian mckeith, nutritionists, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications | 1 Comment »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday August 26, 2004
The Guardian

· Of course, I write about science fiction every week, although the authors I review somehow manage to get themselves filed under non-fiction. Like the Independent. Just send in your questionnaire and a lock of hair to the company involved, it explains, and the Food Doctor Weight Loss Plan can perform an analysis to reveal “your biochemical composition”. With a big shiny machine covered in flashing lights, I hope.

· The BBC ran a story this week on a company turning waste wood chips into amazing techno fuel pellets. “The pellets can be burned in industrial and domestic heating boilers without creating carbon dioxide, which causes global warming.” For lo, they have cracked the secret of alchemy, reworked the very structure of the atom, and converted long-chain molecules containing carbon into pure hydrogen. Why not gold?

· See if you can guess which sci-fi author was behind this flight of fancy on the health website bonasana.com: “All molecules have an electrical charge and a vibrational energy. Therefore, all foods, which are made up of molecules, contain these vibrational charges. The colours of foods represent vibrational energies … foods which are orange in colour … have similar vibrational energies and even similar nutrient makeup.” Many sci-fi authors like to write under pseudonyms, and Ms Gillian McKeith, you will remember, likes to write under the name “Dr Gillian McKeith PhD”, on account of her non-accredited correspondence PhD. Blue foods are good for “urinary tract infections, kidney problems, fevers”. Do medical doctors agree with colour food therapy, Gillian? “Generally medical doctors are not trained in this area.” How narrow-minded.

· I wasn’t going to write about her again. But, interestingly, Gillian McKeith PhD (who describes people who disagree with her as using bad science, no less) also claims to have “worked with Linus Pauling (PhD), world’s leading researcher in Vitamin C and Nobel Prize winner (New York, USA)”. Her “PhD” course began in 1993. Linus Pauling died in 1994. “He was an incredible inspiration. I was working solidly, but studying for a doctorate is not all sitting in a classroom.” Quite so. Although, of course, it didn’t really involve sitting in a classroom at all. I contacted Max Clifford Associates two weeks ago to ask if this should be filed under autobiography or sci-fi. They haven’t got back to me. Yet. Enough. I promise.

Gillian McKeith, round 2

August 19th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, channel 4, gillian mckeith, nutritionists, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, very basic science | 9 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday August 19, 2004
The Guardian

· Where were we? Oh yes. “Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD)”, who has a peaktime Channel 4 series on “clinical nutrition”, got her PhD from a non-accredited correspondence school in America and has never published any properly evaluated scientific research.

· Several of you are fans of Ms McKeith, and wrote to express how upset you were that I had childishly attacked her reputation, and not her theories. Well. Let’s pick a quote at random. Chlorophyll is “high in oxygen”. And the darker leaves on plants are good for you, she explains, because they contain “chlorophyll – the ‘blood’ of the plant – which will really oxygenate your blood.” Here we run into a classic Bad Science problem. It may be immediately obvious to you that this is pseudoscientific, made up nonsense (and from the TV personality the Radio Times described as “no nonsense”, no less). If it’s not obvious nonsense to you, then, OK, just this once: the real science. Chlorophyll is a small green molecule that uses the energy from light to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen. Plants then use this sugar energy to make everything else they need, like protein, and you breathe in the oxygen, and maybe you even eat the plants. You also breathe out carbon dioxide. It’s all so beautiful, so gracefully simple, yet so rewardingly complex, so neatly connected, not to mention true, that I can’t imagine why you’d want to invent nonsense to believe instead. But there you go. That’s alternative therapists all over.

· It’s very dark in your bowels. There is no light there. Nor are there gills in your bowels. Even fish do not have gills in their bowels. Consequently the chlorophyll will not create oxygen, and even if it did, even if Dr Gillian McKeith PhD stuck a searchlight up your bum to prove a point, you would not absorb any even slightly significant amount of oxygen with your bowel. And in case you think I’m being selective, and only quoting her most ridiculous moments, there’s more: the tongue is “a window to the organs – the right side shows what the gallbladder is up to, and the left side the liver.” Raised capillaries on your face are a sign of “digestive enzyme insufficiency – your body is screaming for food enzymes.” Thankfully, Gillian can sell you some food enzymes from her website. “Skid mark stools” (she is obsessed with faeces and colonic irrigation) are “a sign of dampness inside the body – a very common condition in Britain.” If your stools are foul smelling you are “sorely in need of digestive enzymes”. Again. Her treatment for pimples on the forehead – not pimples anywhere else, mind you, only on the forehead – is a regular enema. Cloudy urine is “a sign that your body is damp and acidic, due to eating the wrong foods.” The spleen is “your energy battery”.

· Now will somebody please explain to me how this woman can be on television, every week, wearing a white coat, talking authoritatively about “treating patients”, sticking irrigation equipment into people’s rectums, and coming out with sentences like “each sprouting seed is packed with the nutritional energy needed to create a full grown healthy plant” which are just simply wrong (the plant gets the energy from sunlight, using chlorophyll, like we said earlier). She is a menace to the public understanding of science, and anyone who gives her a platform should be ashamed of themselves.

Eccentric, brilliant, bollocks

August 12th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, channel 4, gillian mckeith, nutritionists, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, references | 4 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday August 12, 2004
The Guardian

· Right. Who shall we pick on this week? How about Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD): she is number one in the bestseller charts, after all, and she does have a weekly show on Channel 4 where “the eccentric but brilliant doctor”, as her management firm calls her, examines people’s faeces, in test tubes no less, and gives them technical nutritional advice, for dealing with their health issues. “Gillian holds certificates, degrees and a doctorate (PhD) from top colleges and universities,” says her website (www.drgillianmckeith.com). She has claimed to have a PhD from the American College of Nutrition. In fact, she does not have a PhD from there. Her PR says this was an isolated, accidental error and an intern might have got the name of the college wrong. This is not an isolated error: she also claims to have a degree from the ACN in her book, Dr Gillian McKeith’s Living Food for Health. Where is her PhD actually from? The same place as her Masters degree: the Clayton College of Natural Health. The cost of the course is currently $5,300 (nearly £3,000), online or by post. There is, if you’re interested, a discount if you pay for your Masters at the same time. It’s a non-accredited correspondence course, which is not recognised by the US secretary for education for the purpose of educational grants.

· What about the rest of her CV? It has been removed from the web. But, fortunately, you can still see it, in Google’s cache (www.tinyurl.com/6mdvw) or on other sites such as www.womenspeakers.co.uk. How about her research projects? As she says, “Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD), conducts key clinical research, publishes findings.” “Studied effects of aphanizomenon-flos aqua on childhood learning disabilities and behavioural problems (Nebraska, USA; and El Salvador school system)” is particularly impressive. It goes on. “Studied effects of stressors on ageing and immunity with Dr Robert Pollack (MD), Temple University Medical School (Philadelphia, USA).” She may well have published findings, but none of these feature on Medline, the universally-used database of academic peer-reviewed research publications, which also, since you ask, includes alternative medicine and nutrition journals.

· According to her PR (Max Clifford Associates) Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD) is “enormously proud” of her PhD, and feels that it is equivalent to any other PhD. By the way, Channel 4 has commissioned another series from her.

You can still read Dr Gillian McKeith’s original CV here:

web.archive.org/web/20040701020010/http://www.nci-management.com/clients/gillianmckeith.shtml

A number of people have contacted me to suggest I was misrepresenting the contents of the CV. I have no interest in correcting them one by one, so to prevent any confusion, here is Gillian McKeith’s original CV as it appeared on her management site in 2004.

Dr Gillian McKeith is a world-renowned nutritionist with her own range of products, who, from June 2004 is presenting a new prime-time series on Channel 4 called “You Are What You Eat”.

The show literally gets to the bottom of some of the country’s worst eaters as Dr McKeith revamps their eating habits, changes their lives and does for them what “How Clean Is Your House” did for homes!

It will be accompanied by a Penguin book, already tipped to be a best-seller, which will offer non-nonsense nutritional advice by the eccentric but brilliant doctor.
IPrior to this, Dr McKeith presented a TV strand series “Dr Gillian McKeith’s Feel Fab Forever” on Granada TV. She went on to present a strand called “Hollywood Health” on ITV’s “This Morning”. She was then the Healthy Living Expert for two years on BBC1’s “Good Morning”.
She is also widely acclaimed in the United States and she was the Celebrity Health Reporter for the network “Joan Rivers Show” for more than two years as well as being host and Executive Producer of “Healthline Across America”, a nationally syndicated radio show, which aired for five years. On that programme, Gillian interviewed celebrities about their health and lifestyles.

Dr McKeith is a best-selling author. As well as her forthcoming book “You Are What You Eat”, she has also written “The Miracle Superfood: Wild Blue-Green Algae” and “Dr Gillian McKeith’s Living Food for Health”. She is a regular columnist for the magazine “Slimmer, Healthier, Fitter”.

Dr McKeith is a practising Clinical Nutritionist and Director of the McKeith Clinic in London where she conducts key clinical research, publishes findings, and consults with patients at her busy practice. Born and raised in the Highlands of Scotland, Dr McKeith spent more than 15 years in the USA.

EDUCATIONAL DEGREES

* PhD, Doctorate in Nutrition; American College of Nutrition (Birmingham, USA)
* MSc Nutrition, Masters Degree in Nutrition; American College of Nutrition
* BA, Bachelors Degree in Neuroscience Linguistics & Language; University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK)
* MA, Masters Degree in Health Systems Management; University of Pennsylvania – Ivy League (Philadelphia, USA)

CERTIFICATES

*

London School of Acupuncture (London, UK)
*

Kailish Centre of Oriental Medicine – Kampo Herbology (London, UK)
*

East West College of Herbs – (San Diego, USA)
*

Australasian College of Health Sciences (Portland, USA) – pending Diploma in Herbal Medicine

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS

*

American Naturopathic Medical Association (ANMA)
*

American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC)
*

American Herbalist Guild (AHG)

RESEARCH PROJECTS

*

Worked with Linus Pauling (PhD), world’s leading researcher in Vitamin C and Nobel Prize winner (New York, USA).
*

Studied effects of aphanizomenon-flos aqua on childhood learning disabilities and behavioural problems (Nebraska, USA; and El Salvador school system).
*

Studied effects of stressors on aging and immunity with Dr Robert Pollack (MD), Temple University Medical School (Philadelphia, USA).

LECTURES
Minneapolis, USA – 6,000 people in attendance. Sofia, BULGARIA – 7000 in attendance. London, ENGLAND Vitality Show (UK’s largest health conference), which is sold out every year to packed public audiences. Natural Products Europe Expo (Britain’s largest trade event). Invited to speak each year.

AWARDS

*

BRITAIN’S TOP NUTRITIONIST – Here’s Health Magazine
*

UPLIFTING THE WORLD AWARD at Westminster
*

BEST NEW PRODUCT OF THE YEAR for nutritional formulation –Natural Products Europe

JOURNALIST
Dr Gillian McKeith writes regular columns for national health magazines including:

*

Here’s Health Magazine
*

The Health Store Magazine
*

Healthy Magazine (Britain’s largest circulation health magazine)
*

Go Healthy Magazine
*

Natural Lifestyle Magazine
*

Living Food Magazine
*

Slimmer Healthier Fitter

A royal mess

July 1st, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, dangers, death, herbal remedies, nutritionists, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, references, statistics | 5 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday July 1, 2004
The Guardian

· I always thought the monarchy was there to remind us that inherited wealth and privilege are alive and well, and to stop us falling into the American trap of imagining that we live in a meritocracy: but apparently it’s there to set the health research agenda. Prince Charles is keen that we should not ignore the experience of the one person he met who got better with the Gerson nutritional regime for treating cancer. Let’s ignore the fact that the American Cancer Society regard it as dangerous; that in two years San Diego county hospitals treated 13 patients with campylobacter sepsis from the Gerson clinic, probably due to the raw calves’ liver injections; that several patients have been admitted comatose with low sodium levels; and that caffeine enemas are jolly dangerous and have been associated with severe colitis, infections and death. No. Let’s focus on the research already done on Gerson. One long-term study of 21 patients (by a naturopath, no less) found that only one was alive five years after treatment. In 1986, researchers found that despite their claims, some patients from the Gerson clinic were not even followed up. There are papers claiming efficacy for nutritional therapy that find a positive effect, but without bothering to give us the figures. Since then, a handful of studies have been done, suggesting a minor positive effect, but the flaws in their methodologies render them worthless.

· Let’s get this straight: research is not difficult, and it doesn’t need a lot of money. Lots of medical research is done by junior doctors, in their “spare time”. Alternative therapists are welcome to research money, but it would be nice if some of the money they get could go towards keeping follow-up records, which doesn’t cost much, and even do some proper statistics. So if you’re a quack and you’re angry about the lack of evidence supporting your ideas, here are some fun ideas for the holidays. Buy How to Read a Paper: The Basics of Evidence-Based Medicine by Trisha Greenhalgh (BMJ Books), an excellent introduction to how research works. It’s even available free online. Make friends with someone in a university or hospital, and you can use their audit department or statistics advisory service to help you design the study, often for free. But please, at least put the figures in your paper. And register your studies on the national database, so we can have a good laugh when you turn up negative findings.