Serious Nonsense

cancer wellness program“We’ve had more people reverse cancer than any institute in the history of health care, so when McGill fails, or Toronto hospitals fail, they come to us. It can be stage 4 cancer and we reverse it.” You can imagine why that quote caught my eye. Both McGill and University of Toronto have world-class cancer treatment centers, but unfortunately, when it comes to stage 4 cancers, which are the most deadly, the chance of successful treatment is low. So, who is it that claims success where the latest evidence-based treatments fail? “Dr.” Brian Clement, who runs the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, apparently has the answers that have evaded mainstream researchers. What sort of doctor is this fellow? One who has some sort of accreditation as a “nutritionist” from a diploma mill where they apparently teach some, let us say, “interesting” science. I’m judging by the following rather fascinating outpouring of nonsense-bedecked drivel from the Hippocrates Health Institute.

“Based on modern biophysics and ancient Chinese medicine, color frequencies are applied to acupuncture points using a light pen and crystal rods. This promotes hormonal balance, detoxification, lymph flow and immune support while reducing headaches and sleeplessness. Working on cellular memory where the cause of disease resides, color puncture promotes healing from within.” And all you have to do is shell out $120 for a 50 minute treatment. All this of course is laughable, but when it comes to claims about curing cancer, the humour quickly vanishes with the realization that it is real people with real cancer who are being duped. And going by the following asinine promo, that is just what is happening.

“One of the major treatment goals of The Cancer Wellness Program at Hippocrates Health Institute is to strengthen the basic vitality, flow, and coherency of a person’s BioEnergy Field upstream to affect and change their downstream physical mass. The changes in a person’s vibrational frequency or bioenergy field, once stabilized, changes the electrical/chemical milieu in their body so that it is more difficult for their cancer or tumor mass with its own specific vibrational frequency to be sustained.”.

This is inane claptrap is far from the only type of cancer treatment Hippocrates offers. Intravenous vitamins and wheat grass implants are standard fare. Implanted where? Well, let’s just say in areas where the sun doesn’t shine. Clement maintains that “every disease known to man, plus premature aging, can be successfully dealt with on a diet of organic plant based foods.” Apparently not mental disease, given that Clement surely follows this diet. Patients are also told to give up meat and dairy, and are asked to swallow some rather bizarre ideas. Genetics don’t matter much, Clement says, and what doctors say about the BRCA gene predisposing to breast cancer is false. On his regimen, this mental wizard claims, tens of thousands of people have reversed the final stages of cancer. I would love to see the evidence for that. This charlatan is in Canada right now, giving talks, mostly to entice First Nations people to visit his Institute in Florida for treatment. Just like that given to the unfortunate 11-year-old Ontario girl who suffered from leukemia. That had a very sad outcome. Let’s just say she was not one of the tens of thousands of patients that Clement claims to have successfully treated.

Joe Schwarcz PhD

Cancer Charlatans

photodynamic therapyWhat makes people defend the indefensible? A prime example of this conundrum is the case of Antonella Carpenter, a 71 year old “alternative practitioner” who was convicted of conducting a fraudulent scheme to cure cancer in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is likely looking at spending the rest of her life in prison. She is not a physician but has some training in physics and claims that she can cure cancer by injecting a tumour with a saline solution of food colouring and walnut hull extract followed by heating the area with a laser. She calls her treatment “Light Induced Enhanced Selective Hyperthermia,” for which she claims 100% efficacy without any side effects. Any claim of 100% efficacy is a hallmark of quackery since no drug of any kind works in such a foolproof fashion. Even worse, she sometimes told patients they had been cured. As is often the case, quacks unearth some legitimate process and then twist it out of proportion to hatch a money-making scheme.

In this case, the legitimate process is “photodynamic therapy.” The treatment of cancer involves some process by which cancer cells are destroyed while normal cells suffer less damage. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to avoid collateral damage completely and cancer treatment via radiation or drugs is always burdened with side effects. In photodynamic therapy the idea is to introduce a chemical, known as a photosensitizer, that when activated by light interacts with oxygen to convert it into a very reactive form known as “singlet oxygen” that then attacks any organic compound it encounters with the result being cell death. The photosensitizer can be introduced intravenously followed by the tumour being exposed to long wavelength light via optical fiber. Alternately, the photosensitizer can be injected directly into a tumour and then the area exposed to light. In either case singlet oxygen is produced only within the tumour, minimizing damage to normal tissue. The process is applicable to certain types of tumours and is certainly not a cure-all for cancer.

It is this therapy that has been mentally mangled by Antonella Carpenter, who according to investigators cheated cancer patients out of their money and gave them false hope. In spite of any evidence of her treatment having any efficacy, supporters have sprung to her side, claiming that she was wrongly convicted by a kangaroo court. Here are some of the phrases they are pumping out: “The greedy and vindictive genocidal maggots who control the Cancer Industry and have the FDA and courts in their back pocket”…. “the medical mafia is hard at work twisting the truth and vilifying Dr. Antonella Carpenter and any other non-Allopathic practitioners and natural or alternative treatments as quackery”…. “Dr. Carpenter was vindictively targeted by the Medical Mafia and their Gestapo goons at the FDA for successfully curing dozens of cancer patients.” No. The truth is that she was targeted for subjecting cancer patients to a treatment that had no chance of working and was claiming she had cured them. That is evil.

Joe Schwarcz PhD

Murky Mercola

mercolaIf you haven’t heard of Joe Mercola, you have not been surfing the waves of health advice on the web. He is an osteopathic physician whose practice now is limited to offering mostly iffy medical advice on his website and selling a variety of questionable products. He claims his website “is not a tool to get me a bigger house and car, or to run for senate.”. He says he funds his site and therefore, is not handcuffed to any advertisers, silent partners or corporate parents and profit generated from the sale of the products he recommend goes right back into maintaining and building a better site, “ a site that, startling as it may be with all the greed-motivated hype out there in health care land, is truly for you.” Gee, that sounds like motherhood and apple pie. It seems though that not every penny earned goes back into the managing the website. Mercola lives high on the hog in a multi-million dollar estate in Chicago. That wouldn’t be objectionable if the edifice were built on gains from promoting sound science. But that is not the case.

Besides being critical of vaccination, calling microwave ovens dangerous, questioning whether the HIV virus is the cause of AIDS, opposing homogenized milk, claiming that sunscreens increase the risk of skin cancer, Mercola hypes and sells a variety of pseudoscience-laced products. Let’s start with “Dr. Mercola’s Earthing Universal Mat,” which is described thus: “When you walk barefoot on the Earth, there’s a transfer of free electrons from the Earth into your body that spread throughout your tissues. The effect is sufficient to maintain your body at the same negatively-charged electrical potential as the Earth. This simple process is called ‘grounding.’ If you constantly wear materials like rubber or ‘plastic’ shoes, which are both very effective insulators, you’ll be disconnected from the natural energy that flows from the Earth.” Well, in my view, the only thing you will be disconnected from is science. This business of improving health by walking barefoot or by using Mercola’s Earthing Mat is nonsense. But Mercola tells us that his mat “is a great way to complement any outside ‘barefooting’ you might be able to fit into your busy schedule. It’s a quick and easy way for you to get started grounding whether at home, at the office, or almost anywhere you go.” I prefer to get my grounding from science not fairy tales.

Dr. Mercola also sells books such as “Dark Deception” in which he describes how we need sun exposure for health. But he would prefer to expose you to the tanning beds he sells, the same ones health experts agree are dangerous and increase the risk of skin cancer. There is also Dr. Mercola’s “organic deodorant” with “baking soda as the “active ingredient.” Except that it isn’t very active. There are also supplements galore. Like “breast health formula,” “mushroom complex” and “silver solution,” none of is a solution to anything. His bamboo toilet paper I’m sure does as good a job as any other, but the claim that it is better because it is free of toxic BPA can be safely flushed away.

Dr. Joe Schwarcz

Kicking at the soapbox

The Madness Of The Food Babe – Is It Time To Stand Up To Bullying Quacks?

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Taking a Bite out of Crocodile Hype

Crocodile Blood CapsulesYou’ve got to give it to the quacks. They are often clever people. And very adept at making mountains out of molehills. One of the latest miracles out there is, believe it or not, crocodile blood. Well, not exactly crocodile blood, but a substance supposedly isolated from it, which they have named “The Antidote.” Antidote for what? They certainly are not shy about the claims they make. The Antidote works against bacteria and viruses as well as against AIDS, SARS and of course cancer. Where do they get such ideas? Pull’em out of a hat? No, in this case out of a BBC documentary.
Jill Fullerton Smith, a producer with the BBC, was filming a documentary on crocodiles in Australia. She noticed that many of the crocodiles had horrific injuries caused by biting each other. Crocs apparently are not particular about what they bite into. Cannibalism is fine by them. But why were these wounds not getting infected, Fullerton Smith wondered? That’s when she looked around for someone who had expertise in this area and contacted Dr. Gill Diamond at the New Jersey College of Dentistry. Diamond had already done some work on antibiotic peptides in the skin of winter flounder and of frogs and the saliva of Komodo dragons. So he certainly seemed to be the man for the job when it came to crocodile bites. Dr. Diamond began to investigate the blood of the crocodiles and did find some peptides, basically short chains of amino acids, that had antibiotic activity in Petri dishes. One in particular, termed crocodillin, proved to be interesting. But there is absolutely no evidence that this can be used as a drug. But that of course does not bother the quacks. They don’t care that peptides are broken down in the digestion process, they just want some effect in the scientific literature they can point at.
When they are challenged on such matters they hide behind the usual verbal shield: the information is being stifled by the drug companies because if this product were on the shelf next to their major brands, they would lose billions every day. I don’t know what actually is in The Antidote, but it surely is not crocodillin. This peptide is extremely difficult to isolate and requires a lot of crocodile blood. It is very doubtful that these hucksters are trudging around the swamps of Australia trying to poke needles into crocodiles capable of biting large chunks out of their bodies. Instead, they concentrate of taking large bites out of people desperate enough to plunk down lots of money for a totally useless product. Finally the FDA has gotten into the game and has warned to operators of the website to stop claiming that The Antidote can fight all known human viruses and bacteria and is effective against cancer, AIDS and SARS. Unfortunately such warnings do not have much of an effect. Biological Miracle, the company that markets this stuff still features the claims on its website. As you can imagine, this horrifies Dr. Diamond, whose serious research has been usurped by the charlatans.

Joe Schwarcz

Joe Schwarcz: Clairvoyant’s diagnosis of me: ‘treatable’

psychic diagnosisIt seems I am infested with little insects that are dining on my bones and muscles.

Apparently, they invaded my body from animals or from dirt. They used to eat plants; but because the plants have been genetically modified, the bugs now eat us. I also have a type of worm in my blood vessels. These creatures come in couples — with the female living in the male body. What’s more, I have an overabundance of vitamin C in my kidneys and an inflammation of the sciatic nerve caused by a plasma virus. Plus, my prostate gland is infected by a brown mushroom and my red blood cells are a little too big because of microbacilli released by plants in my office or from eating fruits that weren’t washed properly. I also have a viral infection in my right eye and my muscles don’t work properly because mushrooms have grown roots and tangled the muscle strings.

I guess it’s a wonder that I’m still alive.

I’m not too worried, though. These worms, bacteria, mushrooms and viruses were not revealed by blood tests or CT scans. I was informed of all this nasty action going on inside of me by a clairvoyant/parapsychologist/naturopath who had scanned me from top to bottom with her eyes closed, sensing, as she claimed, “life frequencies.” Needless to say, my problems were “treatable.”

Let me rewind a little here. This little adventure started with an email I received: “In the past those like me,” she wrote, “were called witch, saint, gifted, mutant, freak and more … but I have an extraordinary ability at being able to find elements and microscopic life such as bacteria, viruses, worms, parasites and algae in the human body, the earth’s crust and so on.”

The writer assured me that this was not a hoax and was looking to be tested in exchange for a document attesting to her ability. I was game.

“When looking through a human,” she claimed, “I see chlorine as yellow bubbles, radon as pale blue, accumulation of copper as white.”

These claims really weren’t testable, but we did hit on something with her claim that she could “see” germs in water and was able to distinguish between tap water, bottled water and lake water. We settled on a challenge that involved randomly filling each of 15 glasses with one of these waters. She actually identified eight correctly, short of the 10 that we had agreed would constitute a meaningful result.

I thought we were done with the experiment, but my guest now declared that her main talent actually lay in sensing what was going on inside a body. She was quite willing to demonstrate this ability. Her first words were, “This is for entertainment purposes only,” which was fine with me, as I did think this would be quite entertaining. “There’s a lot of carbon in your system,” she began, “especially in the liver and the blood.” She got that right! All the proteins, fats, carbohydrates and nucleic acids that make up our tissues are organic compounds, meaning their basic structure is composed of carbon atoms. I don’t think, however, that this was what she had in mind.

Next I was told that I have a lot of heavy metals in my lungs, like machinists who solder a lot. I think I soldered once in my life. I must have smoked in the past, she went on, because I have a lot of “old” carbon in my lungs. I have never smoked. She also diagnosed schistosomiasis, an infection with a parasite that she speculated was making my legs itchy. For the record, schistosomiasis is an infection widely seen in Africa and Asia, never in North America. And my legs do not itch.

I was also told that I have a purplish colour in my liver. That’s because, as she put it, “What you eat dyes your body,” and so I “must have been eating beets.” Nope. Can’t remember the last time I ate this vegetable. Then I was informed that the pain in my rib area was from coughing, or from rotating movements, but that I should not worry “because a chiropractor can easily fix that.” I have no such pain, and should I encounter any, my choice of treatment would surely not be a chiro. After scanning me, she did the same with two colleagues of mine, both of whom she found were also filled with mites, insects, “phages” and “microplasm infections.” In one case, she even claimed to see a tumour, specifically in the left testicle.

While performing these scans, my guest also revealed that she had the ability to contact “the other side” and volunteered a demonstration for the three of us. It was amazing! Mostly because virtually nothing rang true! My grandparents, whom she supposedly had contacted, made no mention of the fact they died in Nazi gas chambers, and my father must have been vigorously exercising on the other side because I was told he was a large muscular man. Actually, he was smaller than me. I was also told that the reason I’m constantly searching for my keys is that the mischievous spirit of a girlfriend I left for my wife was hiding them. Nope and nope. No such girlfriend — and I don’t lose my keys.

Up to this point I had been sitting straight-faced without making any comment, since I’m quite familiar with “cold reading,” and the ability of “psychics” to capitalize on any reaction from their subject. But now I suggested we discuss the happenings, and I told her that she had been way off-track.

At this point, my visitor became agitated and asked why we had invited her, if we were just going to waste her time. She had apparently forgot that it was she who had waggled the invitation! In any case, she then muttered something about her failure being the result of my skepticism blocking her abilities, and she walked out in a huff.

We never did get around to treatments, which I suspect were of the herbal variety. Next time, she said, she would seek out a microbiologist with more of an open mind.

Anyone with a scientific background, of course, would recognize the garbled rhetoric we got from her as being off-the-wall claptrap, albeit somewhat entertaining. But I suspect this clairvoyant/naturopath has clients who accept her abilities as more than just fun. And that isn’t funny.

Joe Schwarcz

Quack, Quack, Quack!

Water Quackery

H20Water is essential to life. We all know that. But did you know that it can also cure all kinds of disease? Not ordinary water of course, the magic lies in drinking “clustered water.” This huckster concept is so bizarre that it is difficult to explain. The claims go along the following lines. “When we are young, our bodies are full of clustered water,” so the quacks say, “and as we grow older, our clustered water becomes physically bound to other molecular structures and becomes unable to move freely through cell walls.” This is a real problem, they explain, because it is clustered water that delivers oxygen, nutrients, proteins and enzymes to a cell and removes toxins. Needless to say, this is preposterous gobbledy gook. But, let’s go on. So what, according to the charlatans, are we to do? Fortify ourselves by drinking clustered water! Luckily for us, these good Samaritans have invented various devices that can take ordinary water and rearrange its molecules to form the healing clusters. Sometimes it is some sort of filter that is “packed with bioceramic beads which emit far infrared rays that vibrate and energize the water,” sometimes it is a magnetic device, and sometimes it is laser technology with a “Template Induction Process.” My favorite water cluster hucksters are the guys who say they have succeeded in adding “the energy signatures of argon, krypton and xenon to the formula…the energy from the very center of the inert gas atom is of several natures at once, providing aetheric energy, the same that is produced by the life force in the human body. What mindless twaddle! But it is not harmless fuddle-duddle. Why not? Because there are claims that clustered water can treat real diseases, such as kidney problems.

Well, clustered water is about as effective as the “kidney-healing Australian crystals” hawked by Ray Black a hundred years ago. This comical snake oil salesman took advantage of the gullible by claiming that he had an answer to kidney problems, which he explained often manifested themselves as low back pain. He had found the secret in Australia, the clever pitchman claimed, where some birds lived up to 500 years. Lacking birth certificates for the birds, the public had to take Black’s word for this. These birds, he blathered on, lived by springs which were lined with crystals and these crystals were responsible for their longevity. And he had managed to get a supply of these miraculous crystals, which he sold for a dollar a box. A hefty price in those days for Epsom salts, which Black had purchased for a few pennies. Sales were brisk because Black’s stories of miraculous healing went on and on, until his listeners developed a back ache from standing for such a long time. That’s when with perfect timing, Black revealed that the first sign of kidney disease was back problems. Although illiterate, Black liked to pretend he could read. But one day a passer- by saw him holding a newspaper upside down. “Don’t you know the paper is bottom side up” he asked? The ingenious huckster was not phased one bit. “Any damned fool can read a paper right side up,” he retorted. “Reading it this way exercises my eyes and my brain.” Maybe so, after all he was smart enough to sell ineffective remedies to the public for diseases they did not have. Just like the clustered water charlatans.

Joe Schwarcz

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