What’s wrong with Dr Gillian McKeith PhD?

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

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

Ben Goldacre
Monday February 12, 2007
The Guardian

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

The Awful Poo Lady

November 21st, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, channel 4, gillian mckeith, nutritionists | 48 Comments »

Hahahahahahahaa this just off the wires from the MHRA at 00:01am. Busted! Just remember, yer old uncle Ben was here speaking the truth when Channel 4 and the rest were loving her. Surprisingly vicious for an MHRA press release, I have to say. I guess they want to be taken seriously as policing this kind of nonsense, given recent events (on which more soon, heh)… Anyway, here’s what the MHRA sent out on the wires:

MHRA order removal of Gillian McKeith’s illegal products

Dr Gillian McKeith’s organisation has had to Read the rest of this entry »

The Trial That Ate Itself

September 9th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, channel 4, equazen, fish oil, ITV, mail, nutritionists, references, statistics | 121 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday September 9, 2006
The Guardian

Fish oil is clearly a matter of huge national importance. Channel 4 and ITV (and the Daily Mail, and the BBC) all report on a plan by education officials in County Durham to give £1 million worth of omega-3 fish oils, to 5,000 children as they approach their GCSE’s, and see how it improves performance.

http://www.lems.brown.edu/vision/people/leymarie/Images/Paintings/Magritte_pipe.jpg

Contrary to what the pill-peddlers would tell you, the evidence for omega 3 Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t dumb me down

September 8th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, alternative medicine, bad science, bbc, cash-for-"stories", channel 4, channel five, chocolate, dangers, express, gillian mckeith, independent, letters, mail, media, mirror, MMR, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, references, scare stories, statistics, telegraph, times, very basic science, weight loss | 85 Comments »

We laughed, we cried, we learned about statistics … Ben Goldacre on why writing Bad Science has increased his suspicion of the media by, ooh, a lot of per cents

Ben Goldacre
Thursday September 8, 2005
The Guardian

OK, here’s something weird. Every week in Bad Science we either victimise some barking pseudoscientific quack, or a big science story in a national newspaper. Now, tell me, why are these two groups even being mentioned in the same breath? Why is science in the media so often pointless, simplistic, boring, or just plain wrong? Like a proper little Darwin, I’ve been Read the rest of this entry »

Literate Molecules

May 12th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in channel 4, quantum physics, telegraph, water | 7 Comments »

Literate molecules

Ben Goldacre
Thursday May 12, 2005
The Guardian

• Nobody is inviting me to any premieres for the US hit docudrama What the Bleep Do We Know!? — in cinemas next week — so all I know about it is the Telegraph magazine article that reader Ken Joy sent me. The film features the work of Dr Masaru Emoto, who, the article reports, has a PhD from the Open International University; it doesn’t mention that Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

The Bad Science awards

December 9th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, channel 4 | 3 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday December 9, 2004
The Guardian

· We thought it was time for a party, so those of you who like a good bunfight are cordially invited to join us for childishness and chaos at the 2004 Bad Science awards next Monday, December 13, starting at 8pm in the Asylum, 28 Rathbone Place, London W1. All you have to do in order to be invited is to send us your nomination for Bad Science of the year in absolutely any category you can think of, on the usual email address. Current categories include Bad Science product of the Year; Bad Science journal of the year (my money’s on the Daily Mail but it could be a close thing); and Channel 4 Scottish nutritionist PhD of the year.

· TV’s Vivienne Parry, star of Tomorrow’s World (and Life), is our celebrity guest, which excites me more than you could ever possibly understand, and prizewinners will be invited so you may even get to meet some of your nutritionist heroes, although frankly I doubt it. The venue can hold about a hundred, although we’d be astonished if more than 10 of you showed up, and even if you don’t want to come, you’ll be doing us a favour by nominating something, because then we won’t have to think about it too hard.

· Even more excitingly, also joining us will be National Grid, who will perform the kind of live science show you always deserved, featuring big sparks and rhythmic, musical manipulations to the 50Hz oscillation of the National Grid through some large bass speakers, accompanied by an antique static electricity generator, an induction coil, Crookes tubes, and Victorian electromedical violet ray devices.

· The vibrations at their performance in Tokyo brought down parts of the ceiling, but we made friends when they delivered a well-reasoned Bad Science rant about how flaky most art-meets-science projects are, and continued: “Even National Grid is sometimes misinterpreted as a kind of avant-garde protest about the negative health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields. It is, however, conceived from the view that the overwhelming health effect of electrification is to bring light, heat and creative energy into the homes of millions of people (with the obvious ramifications for expectancy and quality of life). When the grid was nationalised in 1926 (by, ironically, Tory PM Stanley Baldwin) the act was described as ‘the most socialist piece of legislation ever known’.” Clearly such heroes of Bad Science deserve a wider audience. Don’t forget the nominations.

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.

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 | 10 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.