Saturday, April 24, 2010

More Mercola B.S.

I hate to be a One-Note Whatever, but my friend Stroke posted another Mercola article, this time about cosmetics, milk and beef, on FB, and it was so filled with questionable shit (and I say that with the utmost civility) that I decided it deserves its very own blog post.

I think it's likely that there is some, possibly even a lot, of truth in some of Dr. Mercola's claims. However, I think the truth gets obfuscated by misdirection, exaggeration, and deception, and that really bothers me.

Probably I should just let this go, but I just can't. It bugs me that you can't really tell who or what Mercola is quoting, or what the original source is. It looks like he's quoting a NY Times editorial, but he's not. I checked. It looks like he's quoting Dr. Epstein, but he does not cite the source of the quote. Did he interview Dr. Epstein personally, or did he just borrow quotes from Epstein's Huffington Post piece dated April 13? Because much of Dr. Mercola's material appears to be lifted virtually verbatim from the Huffington piece.

Mercola's article also makes it look like he's quoting Epstein's book, published in 2006, but the part he quotes makes reference to the NY Times editorial published in 2010. Draw your own conclusions.

Epstein himself is a questionable source. In his Huffington Post article, he uses himself (as the Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition) as his own source for his claims rather than citing independent sources and studies. He claims that

Increased levels of IGF-1 have been shown to increase risks of breast cancer in 19 scientific publications, risks of colon cancer in 10 publications, and prostate cancer in seven publications.

but he does not cite even one specific source, nor does he indicate whether the studies have been replicated. He does not give the reader any way to check his data; we're supposed to trust him. I looked on his website to see if he names the sources there, but I could not find them listed. Epstein did link to two scientific articles, both of them written by himself on the topic of growth hormones in milk, published in The International Journal of Health Services in 1990 and 1996.

Additionally, Epstein wrote that "the Cancer Prevention Coalition, endorsed by five leading national experts, petitioned the FDA in May 2007 to label rBGH milk with an explicit cancer warnings." I checked the Cancer Prevention Coalition website again to find out who those five leading experts are, but all I found was this press release which listed three organizations with a vested interest in the outcome.

The sad thing is, I think it's entirely possible that there is validity in at least some of Dr. Mercola's and Dr. Epstein's claims, and that the general public could benefit from knowing and understanding the truth about the effects of hormones and other food additives on our health. I also am not a huge fan of multi-national corporations because I don't want the profit motive to influence public health policy, which it likely does.

But this kind of self-interested, hyperbolic, misleading, and un-sourced reporting does not help or protect consumers, it does not get policies changed, and it does not lend credibility to the cause of consumer protection. In fact, because it it so blatantly self-promoting and profit-driven, those who take this path are just smaller and more ironic and hypocritical versions of Monsanto.

I also wonder about this: from the comments I discern that many who are attracted to Mercola's brand of maverick medicine are conspiracy theorists who don't trust traditional medicine, big corporations and the government. But what makes them trust Mercola? Do they think he's just a simple country doctor who's not making a mint from his website, products, books and articles? Why don't they apply the same skepticism to Mercola and Epstein that they do to the CDC?

OK, I'm done with the E. Peevie, investigative reporter bit. Thank you for letting me have my little rant. I'm going back to my schtick as a slightly nutty but devoted mother and teller of stories about poop, broken bones, soup, and other vicissitudes of Life in the Peevie Homestead.


Anonymous said...

I hear ya

Steve said...

Thanks for making this known. Did you listen to Mercola's audio interview of Epstein on the same page? I'm listening to that now, and part of what Mercola quotes in the text is from that. It would be nice if he had citations.

Steve said...

Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), . This is worth reading, IMHO, signed by over 800 scientists.

Steve said...

When the regulators come from the companies whose actions they are regulating, and may someday return to those companies, and when corporations are essentially allowed to buy elections, what's a poor public to do? Those looking to make a quick buck will always outrun the public's ability to keep up with even the basic facts of it all. And the MORE things there are like that--GMOs, nano particles, climate change denial--the more likely people will throw up their hands and ignore these things, and the corporations damn well know that. Clearly what we have is government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations, and it is utterly out of control.

Do you have any suggestions for reforms that would ensure disinterested yet competent regulators?

E. Peevie said...

Steve--now that's a source! thanks for the link.

Too bad the letter claims to be signed by 800 "scientists" when at least some of the people on the list are just regular folks like "Sean Lyman, student" and "Heidi Horn, interested in what I eat, USA."

But many are real scientists, which ain't nothing.