What is it about woo-meisters that makes them think they are the best person to give advice on anything health-related? I can (just about) understand why a homeopath would think they were able to advise on homeopathy, but what makes them think they are qualified to, say, diagnose or to give advice on diet? There is a homeopathy forum named after the Organon and the person who runs it, Dr Organon, has been dispensing advice to all comers. Someone has posted that they have been suffering with the following symptoms: “very tired, lower back in pain, headache, frequent urination at night. Appetite good. Hand and feet clammy, skin and hair dry, ringing in ears”. On asking the client (Milli) about diet, Dr Organon received the reply that Milli was a non-dairy raw foodist. Dr Organon then decided that Milli needed food supplements. Dr Organon followed this advice by stating that “very few leading nutritional experts now believe all our nutrients can be obtained from diet alone, as our need for these have increased exponentially in direct relation to nutrient leaching substances and situations in our environment and lifestyles”. The fact that some people with an interest in nutrition believe this (and broadcast this belief) is perhaps what led to the EU including the following clause in a recent directive: in the European Union, it is illegal for food supplements manufacturers/retailers to suggest on their packaging that a balanced diet cannot provide sufficient nutrients (Article 7 of Directive 2002/46/EC) – 2002/46 PDF. Dr O advises Milli to take a supplement containing “at least 25mg of all 11 B-vitamins (except of course those measured in micrograms)” and also says “I would also include at least 250-500 mg of Vitamin C, and some fish in your diet”. Dr O states that the 11 B Vitamins include choline, inositol and PABA (well they’re not in the 2002/46 Annex showing permitted vitamins and minerals, so I don’t know why Dr O feels they are necessary – presumably he knows better than groups such as EFSA or the FSA’s Expert Group on Vitamins or…).
Dr O then advises eating fish (my emphasis). “Any fish will suffice, although of course fresh is always best”. The Food Standards Agency does advise the consumption of fish – but with caveats. There is a page on mercury in fish, and a page on the ‘Eat Well’ site, fish and shellfish. FSA advice is that:
We should be eating at least two portions of fish a week including one of oily fish.
Dr O hasn’t: stated what their qualification in nutrition is; advised Milli to see a GP or other appropriate health professional (dietitian, anyone?); linked to any respectable sites that provide responsible advice based on the best available evidence (such as the FSA); mentioned that one of your recommended portions of fish should be oily fish; or made any reference whatsoever to the mercury in fish (not that mercury in fish is that big a deal for most adults – as long as they’re not pregnant of course).
Dr O has: advised the use of high dose vitamin supplements without providing any rationale (if you want to know about the benefits and risks of high dose supplements, why not try a Quacksafe search? Or try the FSA website); advised the consumption of fish (any fish) without giving any guidelines or providing links to reliable information; and moved from giving advice on homeopathic woo to giving advice on nutritionista woo.
Dr O occasionally veers off into digressions such as talking about the knowledge of “the ancient Chinese”. Woooo. I’ve included a quote:
food is one of our main sources of heat, especially in the cold winter months, and even the ancient Chinese, who had the most incredible knowledge when it came to medicine and health, advised against the ingestion of cold foods in winter, which is still included in their system even today.
Which is weird – because I thought that the temperature of food had little to do with how much warmth the food provided. According to my encyclopaedia, Antoine Lavoisier carried out respiration studies with Armand Seguin in the 1780s. Lavoisier and Seguin found increased expiration of carbon dioxide during physical work and concluded that it came from the oxidation of body fat, which was the source of animal heat. From trials with guinea-pigs they concluded that the heat produced by a living system was the same as that produced by external combustion of the same amount of carbon. Of course, the definition of a Calorie (Kcal) given by Wikipedia is “the amount of digestively available food energy (heat) that will raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Celsius”. Wiki_Food_Energy. The Ancient Chinese may well have advised against consumption of cold food in winter and Dr O may believe that this is good advice, but – personally – I’ll be stuffing my greedy fat face with both hot and cold food in an effort to keep warm.*
I suppose if bullshit is your stock-in-trade then you could argue that it doesn’t particularly matter which field of woo you apply it to. The offending thread is here.**
*According to this site, “Keeping your body hotter than the environment requires a constant use of energy and mammals can use up to 80% of their food in this way.” I found this site because I remembered the 80% quote from David Attenborough’s recent documentary on lizards (Life in Cold Blood). Attenborough had quoted the 80% figure for humans and compared it to the percentage of calories from food that lizards used for maintaining body temperature (and when was the last time you saw a lizard using a microwave?).
**Edit: Here, on PDF: Dr O – dietitian and homeopath? for those who can’t view the Organon forum.