Kevin Trudeau is still a liar

One of the most popular (i.e. the most clicked on/referred by google/etc) post I ever did was also one of my first. It was Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures: Part 1 and it easily has the most comments. My old blog at Blogger is still getting hits & comments all the time. Here’s the latest (in italics below with my responses in bold):

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well I am outraged. I personally went through a battery of tests in my 20’s and went through 5 heart specialists, was misdiagnosed, missed two months of work, and finally diagnosed with mild MVP!

I’m very sorry to hear that.

So yes, it is possible for the “medical” specialists to be idiots and completely miss something as simple as MVP.

I’m always fascinated that those that cannot meet the expectations of some are automatically idiots, regardless of the issue at hand.

And as for the injection of cellular material, I dont know much about that but what the heck do you think is in vaccinations????? Chicken embryos, monkey livers ect….Doesnt the medical community claim this is a perfectly safe procedure to inject our children with?

Are you suggesting that vaccinations are “chicken embryos” and “monkey livers?” Vaccinations are comprised of vaccines, which are killed or otherwise inert forms of microorganisms like bacteria or viruses. They “teach” the immune system what the actual virus looks like so that it might be recognized and more easily defeated during phagocytosis and other immune responses to foreign invaders. There are no chicken embryos and monkey livers involed except perhaps in the cultivation or collection of the microorganisms.

How much longer can they continue to deny that they are causing our children to have autism and other diseases with these “recommended” vaccinations.

Why should they do anything *but* deny it? Why would medical professionals admit to an assertion based on hysteria, ignorance, poor education, and out-right confabulation and fear-mongering? There isn’t a single bit of scientific evidence which suggests that vaccines have anything to do with “autism and other diseases.”

You should do a little more research before you bash alternative treatments.

And you should obtain an education before you take a stand based on ignorance. It makes you look foolish. And, for that reason, it is perhaps wise that you chose to be anonymous in leaving your comment. But please: cite a source of information that should have been included in my “research.” If you reply to that at all, I’m sure it will be the standard woo retort, “why should I do your research for you,” given whenever said research doesn’t really exist except in the imagination.

Why not try acupuncture-you will find yourself in better shape for having had a treatment.

I might as well try eating deep-fried bannana peels and smoking cattail leaves. There’s precisely the same amount of evidence that they have any redeeming value in putting one in “better shape” as acupuncture.

I for one, after reading Kevin’s books, am happy to say, my family is drug free, healthier, and better for having been given Kevin’s powerful and true information.

Kevin Trudeau is a con artist. He’s a quack. A hack. He’s an asshole out to rip good, hardworking Americans off -stealing there money by making them fear medicine and doctors. I hope you don’t have to find it out the hard way.

Good luck to you and good health to you and your family.

To all else that read this comment, this is a good example of why science education and critical thinking skills should not be neglected in America to the extent that they are. I’m not a fan of “big pharma” and other corporations that are willing to profit on the misery and needs of hard-working people. Kevin T. has made himself out to be a “champion” of the underdog and the people, but he’s really out for #1. Himself. The guy *is* the establishment he pretends to warn others about. He exploits the fact that science education and critical thinking skills are not at a premium and that he can scam his marks into “buying” a book that doesn’t actually reveal any information about “natural cures.”

There is no substitue for scientific medicine. There is no “alternative” to it. Its either scientific or it isn’t.

Kevin Trudeau: Pseudo-Advocate for the Consumer

Kevin Trudeau has been a topic of concern since my very first post here at Hot Cup of Joe. I’ve received lots of e-mail and comments and Trudeau continues to be one of the most consistent search hits from places like Google. All this in spite of the fact that my blog is mostly an archaeology and anthropology blog, though I try to concern myself with skepticism from time-to-time.

That being said, I received a recent comment on Part 1 of my Natural Cures review that I wanted to put on the front page. Kevin Trudeau is a self-labeled “consumer advocate” and, as the anonymous commenter below points out, this is naught but a deception to make money. I’ve edited Anonymous’ post for spelling and grammar, but the rest is his/her original words, which you can find in the comments linked above. Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing this with us, and read the rest below the fold:

Listen to all of you who swear by Kevin and his stories are lame there are so many people he has ripped off and continue to rip off I aught to know I worked for his company selling his books. I believed in him until I went into customer service and actually saw how the people that believed in him were treated by the company that does his distribution and shipping


I thought that if I got into the customer service part of the company I could actually help people and that is totally wrong his newsletter cost people a bunch of money all at once and the thing is that half of them never knew it until they had an over draft charge. Their way of dealing with the customers is to have us reps tell them that they will be receiving their refunds in approximately 60 days and you don’t know how many time I had to calm customers down because they were ripped off and there was nothing I could do to help them.

He is the biggest scam artist ever. he prays on old people and poor people that are looking for some cure that his infomercials claim are in the book Yes, if you have a computer and the resources there is some good things in there, but most of it is garbage because I have looked it up on line myself because I refused to order his book which seeing as I worked there I could’ve gotten it for free. I didn’t want it because it is useless.

Don’t get scammed by the new book on weight loss. Please take my advice and don’t bother especially if you have the CD because they are the same with just a hair of different info in them.

I am also going to find the web page for all the complaints against him and post an apology to all the customers I promised I would help because I was never allowed to call them back by company policy -I would’ve had to do it on my own time even though the supervisor tells us to tell them we will call back with info when received she never gets back to rep to do cb even when reminded she is not a bad person either just doing her job

Thank you, Anonymous, for coming forward with your story. Doubtless, there are many die-hard Trudeau followers (he really does have a cult following) that will label you a “heretic” and discount your story as that of a disgruntled employee, but you’ve characterized what I’ve been saying about Trudeau all along: he’s a con man praying on the weak, needy and desperate. He’s not a consumer “advocate” at all, but rather a leach, sucking money from them where he can with his fangs of deception. Trudeau successfully deceives the public into thinking that he’s their advocate and that he’s protecting them against the “establishment.”

The reality is that Trudeau is exactly the problem he claims to be an advocate against: corporate theft of consumer capital with regard to health concerns.

Other Posts on Trudeau, the con-artist:
Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 1
Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 2
Yet Another Kevin Trudeau Con
The Pseudoscience of an “Infomercial” Conman

Yet Another Kevin Trudeau Con

Kevin Trudeau is in the news for shenanigans other than the ‘alternative medicine’ scams he’s associated with. The Philippine Daily Inquirer ran an article on October 27, 2006 that exposes his involvement in organizing the International Pool Tour, which included a $3 million World 8-Ball Open in Reno, NV. Unfortunately, for the players, not all is on the up-and-up:

Six weeks after the IPT Open in Reno, Trudeau has yet to pay the winners. He has apologized for the delay, saying he fully understood and acknowledged the players’ frustration and concern.

“Critics quickly alerted players and industry reps about Trudeau’s controversial past,” Panozzo recalled. (Trudeau had spent 24 months in federal prison for credit card fraud and larceny.–MRI)

Of course, Trudeau responded with the same easy rhetoric that he offers critics of his pseudoscience claims in infomercials and books:

“When you create something new, like the IPT, the first reaction isn’t ‘Great!’ It’s ‘Witch! Charlatan!’ That’s what happens,” Trudeau said.

He pointed out that the opening quote in his best-selling book, “Natural Cures They Don’t Want You To Know About,” is by Albert Einstein who said, “Great spirits always get violent opposition from mediocre minds.” His book, which has so far sold more than three million copies, espouses cures and remedies that don’t require drugs and surgery. A pioneer of infomercial, Trudeau is now worth more than $2 billion.

$2 billion!? If you flip open the front cover of his Natural Cures book, you see the announcement that he makes no money from his work, but donates it all to furthering the cause of alternative medicine and ‘natural’ cures. $2 Billion?! I wonder what funds he’s given to whom for the good of alternative medicine?

Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 2

Previous entries about Trudeau:
Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 1
The Pseudoscience of an “Infomercial” Conman

In Part 1 of my review of Trudeau’s Natural Cures (linked above), I spent a bit of time examining his claim that he “should be dead” and that his mitral valve prolapse was cured by a “dermatron.” I also commented on his claims that cellular injection therapy are legitimate. The post continues to draw quite a few hits and there are several comments made by some significance-junkies and Trudeau followers that are offended that someone would dare choose science over quackery.

I’ll continue the series with a bit more brevity.

In chapter 2 of his book, “what’s wrong with health care in America?,” Trudeau continues with logical fallacy after logical fallacy and with his refusal to cite any sources of verifiable information. He states that the medical establishment is “absolutely, 100%, failed in curing and prevention of illness, sickness, and disease.” Not a single source for his information. Not a single statistic cited. Nada.

Obviously this is completely and utterly false. One need only think of diseases such as polio and small pox and realize that it is medical science that eradicated these from most of the world. A casual look at a biology book or text on sociology that examines global trends and it becomes clear that where western medicine is prevalent in the world, infant mortality declines and longevity increases. Such data is so easy to come by, I’ll not even bother to link or cite it. Of course, the significance-junkies and conspiracy-nutters that see Trudeau as a hero turn blind eye to any facts that don’t already fit their conclusions.

Trudeau continues his chain of logical fallacies by stating in this chapter that more people get “X” than ever before. For “X,” simply insert whatever disease or condition you prefer: MS, cancer, diabetes, lupus, asthma, acne, dandruff, etc.

This is actually true. More people today *are* afflicted with these diseases than, say, 100 years ago. Of course, the population in the United States has more than tripled since 1900! So it shouldn’t even be surprising that more people are also being treated medically than “ever before.”

The gist of Trudeau’s 2nd chapter is that medical science has failed “absolutely, 100%.” Yet he fails the reader by at least this same measure since he utterly refuses to show how he arrived at that conclusion, an insult to the intelligence of the reader as it seems that such a failure assumes them incapable of understanding the reasoning. Or, more likely, because the data exist only in Trudeau’s head, invented and concocted for the sole purpose of appealing to popularity in making himself appear as though he’s a voice for the people, fighting against the “establishment” bent on keeping us all sick and in need of medicine.

I’ll not pretend that there are no problems with the the health care industry. There are. Trudeau may even be right about some of them. However, one cannot solve real problems by lumping the entirety of medical science in with those that engage in price-gouging, monopolistic control of specific drugs, pressuring physicians to back specific drugs, convincing the public they need unnecessary drugs for vague symptoms advertised on television, etc, etc

Trudeau’s exploits the natural frustrations that people have with health care to make a dollar. He’s a criminal.

Review: Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures, Part 1

As many who are critics and fans alike are aware, Kevin Trudeau, scam artist extraordinaire and mongrel of multi-level marketing, has a new book out, which is titled, More Natural Cures Revealed: Previously Censored Brand Name Products That Cure Disease. This one is a follow-up to his previous work of pulp fiction, Natural Cures "They" Don’t Want You to Know About.

I wrote a critical review of Trudeau’s infomercial in which he provided some very bogus information (known by critical thinkers as "lies"), which you can find at this link.

I thought it prudent to review his first book, Natural Cures, especially since in his latest work of admitted fiction, Trudeau instructs his readers to read it if they haven’t already. I spent the better part of two or three afternoons in my local Barnes & Noble, sucking down coffee (of course) and making notes from their copy of Trudeau’s nonsense. I refused to actually pay for it.

The following is my brief review on Natural Cures "They" Don’t Want You to Know About.

Trudeau structures his book in 15 chapters and three appendices:

  1. I should be dead now
  2. What’s wrong with health care in America?
  3. It’s all about money
  4. Who are "they"?
  5. Why are we sick?
  6. How to never get sick again
  7. Why people are fat
  8. How to lose weight effortlessly and keep it off forever
  9. How to read food labels
  10. Not convinced?
  11. Frequently asked questions
  12. Still not convinced?
  13. "Natural" cures for specific diseases
  14. Naturlcures.com
  15. The Solution

Appendix A. Free Bonus Materials: Newsletter articles
Appendix B. No-Hunger Bread: a true FDA horror story
Appendix C. How to find a health care practitioner

 

As is the case with all con-artists that wish to avoid legal problems due to their bogus "self-help" books, Trudeau begins with a disclaimer:

Before you read this book you had better check with your medical doctor, your friends, your politicians, your priest, your rabbi, your psychic, and anyone you feel is smarter than you, and see if you can get permission to read what I have to say.

Trudeau sets his tone of the book right from the beginning. He seeks to appeal to the natural human tendency to root for the underdog, but I hope, as I construct this criticism of his work, that it will be revealed that Trudeau is anything but an underdog. He is a con-artist. A fraud. Indeed, his "books" are frauds perpetrated on the real underdogs: the consumers that Trudeau pretends to be and advocate for. Trudeau is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, which seeks to fleece the pocketbooks of people with a genuine need to find solutions in healthcare.

And so the tone of the book is begun, the affronted underdog, oppressed by "the establishment" who is restricting his rights to free speech. He then goes on to impart that everything in the book is his "opinion" and anything done by the reader without medical supervision is done at their own risk. The book, he maintains, is for "educational purposes only" and only a medical doctor can prescribe medications, punctuated by Trudeau’s commentary of "how sad!"

The "educational purpose" of Natural Cures would seem to be on how a con-artist is able to appeal to hopes and fears of his mark in order to get them to spend $30 on a book and potentially hundreds more on junk newsletters and a subscription website.

Kevin Trudeau Should be Dead.

Or at least that’s what the title of his first chapter would indicate. In it, Trudeau begins with a personal anecdote of being diagnosed with a heart problem: mitral valve prolapse (MVP). This heart condition, which Trudeau calls a "severe" condition, took days to get diagnosed by "three of the top heart specialists in America" who used "the most advanced medical diagnostic devices" was discovered by a single new age nutbar (Dr. Yiwen Tang of Century Center in Reno, NV) with a magical meridian energy device (the "Dermatron ") was able to find his MVP in just a few seconds! Moreover, it was a "natural, inexpensive, quick and painless" treatment that cured him. A "treatment" so secret and "forbidden" in America, that it is illegal!. But Trudeau claims that just two months after his "treatment," further diagnosis by doctors (real ones, apparently) revealed no heart problem.

Folks, this is how the book begins, and it continues in exactly the same bullshit fashion throughout. Let me explain:

Mitral valve prolapse is a common heart condition which affects up to 25% of the population. Those that have MVP typically have a minor problem with their mitral valve that allows small amounts of blood to leak back in the heart when the valve doesn’t properly close. Even the most novice of nurses trained to listen for it can hear the tell-tale "clicking" that accompanies the normal heartbeat and certainly any medical doctor could diagnose the condition in only a few seconds with a simple stethoscope (simple but definitely the only "advanced diagnostic device" needed!). You see, mitral valve prolapse is also known by its more common name: heart murmur; a late-systolic murmur to be exact.

]

CORRECTION: I’ll leave the incorrect information in the paragraph above intact. Wondering if I was right about the ease with which MVP is detectable (I based my assumption on a conversation I recall with a nurse I once worked with a few years ago), I asked a pediatrician to fact check for me. That pediatrician is Clark Bartram over at Unintelligent Design, and I owe him a big thank you for setting me straight. I should have asked him sooner!

As it turns out, MVP is bit more complicated than most heart murmurs: “There are a number of cardiac issues that can lead to a murmur and not all murmurs are pathologic. Also the click is not always present, nor is a murmur. It is often an incidental finding with no significance (Clark Bartram).” He also noted that, while even skilled nurses and doctors might not be able to diagnose MVP with a stethoscope, as I so wrongly stated, the condition is easily detected by echocardiogram, which still makes Trudeau’s anecdote of taking weeks to be discovered through the most advanced diagnostic equipment a bit of balderdash.

Also provided was a new source of information, eMedicine, which notes: “In the US: MVP can be identified by echocardiography in 3-4% of the general population, and it is identified in 7% of autopsies.” The MV Prolapse site I linked to above gave a figure of 5-20%.

Trudeau says that physicians told him that the condition was "incurable," which is true if what is expected in the definition of "cure" is something that can be ingested or consumed to change the body’s physiology. But in cases that are serious, the mitral valve can be operated on, replacing the valve itself, thus "curing" the individual. The valve itself is faulty and a hereditary condition. Yet Trudeau claims to have a magical cure that he refuses to share with the world.

This magical cure is as much bullshit as the diagnosis he alleges to have received from the new age nutbar. Trudeau claims that the "Dermatron Machine" was able to diagnose his MVP. The only truth Trudeau offers in this chapter appears to be that the "Dermatron " is illegal and so is the treatment he claims: cellular injection therapy. There are good reasons.

The Dermatron

A good source of information on this quack device can be found at QuackWatch.com (Barrett 2005). From Dr. Barrett’s article there:

Proponents, claim these devices measure disturbances in the body’s flow of "electro-magnetic energy" along "acupuncture meridians." [1] Actually, these devices are little more than fancy galvanometers that measure electrical resistance of the patient’s skin when touched by a probe. The device emits a tiny direct electric current that flows through a wire from the device to a brass cylinder covered by moist gauze, which the patient holds in one hand. A second wire is connected from the device to a probe, which the operator touches to "acupuncture points" on the patient’s other hand or a foot. This completes a low-voltage circuit and the device registers the flow of current.

The information is then relayed to a gauge or computer screen that provides a numerical readout on a scale of 0  to 100. According to Voll’s theory: readings from 45 to 55 are normal ("balanced"); readings above 55 indicate inflammation of the organ "associated" with the "meridian" being tested; and readings below 45 suggest "organ stagnation and degeneration." The size of the number actually depends on how hard the probe is pressed against the patient’s skin.

Such devices aren’t complicated or magical. Nor do they do what their proponents claim. Not a single valid study has been conducted that demonstrates that they work. And it would be a simple experiment for the proponents to validate. Simply set up a double-blind experiment using both ill and non-ill subjects of whichever disease or ailment the proponents of the device are most comfortable with and record the results. Either it will detect and cure or it won’t.

Trudeau’s fans will doubtlessly note that he doesn’t indicate in chapter one that the device "cures" but others do elsewhere, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that the con-artist Trudeau is willing to support these claims if it furthers his own agenda –which, clearly, is to pad his wallet.

Devices similar to the Dermatron are used and claimed by other alternative medicine nutbars such as Hulda Clark, author of The Cure for All Cancers, and the idea was born of Reinhold Voll, a 1950s acupuncturist. The circuitry of modern devices of this sort are simple square-wave oscillators with a one or two resisters and capacitors and a potentiometer to give an oscillation, all running on a small battery of, perhaps, 9-volts. Clark’s claim is that such a device is able to cure cancer and provides instruction in her book to build such a device for minimal cost.

One wonders why there are no documented cases of cured cancer. That is, unless you buy into Trudeau’s crap. Trudeau uses a logical fallacy (among many, many others) called poisoning the well by setting up the reader to believe that the reason such claims aren’t validated is because "Big Pharm," the government, and medical doctors are suppressing it. And he expects you to believe it.

Never mind that going public with verifiable evidence for cures that can cheaply and quickly solve problems like cancer and MVP would make instant heroes and celebrities out of the doctor, government official, or pharmaceutical engineer that can validate them. Never mind that there are peer-review and oversight entities that would prevent such things. Never mind that even if most of the thousands of people who work in these fields were actually dishonest, that there would be almost zero chance that all of them are. Surely one of the "honest" government, pharmaceutical, or medical personnel is able to go public with evidence that a simple, $15 square-wave oscillator can dowse or divine what ails you and even cure you of cancer!

Cellular Injection Therapy

Yes. It’s illegal. And for good reason since the concept involves injecting cellular material from other species of animals into people.

Again, Dr. Stephen Barrett (2003) offers some well-researched information, useful to the lay-person who may be deceived by con-artists and fraudsters who care about your money and not your health as they claim. I’ll include Barrett’s citations.

  • A 1957 survey of 179 West German hospitals revealed 80 cases of serious immunological reactions, 30 of them fatal, in cellular treatment recipients (Gelband et al 1990).
  • In 1975, the AMA’s consumer magazine Today’s Health described how two men died from gas gangrene following injections of fetal sheep cells at the New Life Clinic near Fort Meyers, Florida, operated by Robert A. Peterson, Jr., D.O. The article noted that: (a) Peterson falsified the cause of death on the death certificate in an attempt to conceal what had happened, and (b) in Germany alone, 35 deaths had been traced to practitioners who had tried to use Niehans’s technique; and (c) Peterson subsequently had his license revoked and was indicted for mail fraud and tax evasion (Lindemann & Cubbison 1975)
  • In 1981, allergic reactions to calf thymus tissue derived from 5-day-old animals were reported in a study of patients with histiocytosis X (Osband et al 1981).
  • During the 1980s, cases were reported of polyradiculitis, leukoencephalitis, Guillian-Barré syndrome, immune complex vasculitis, encephalopathy, and a blistering skin disease resembling bullous pemphigoid (de Ritter et al 1987; Goebel et al 1986; Bohl et al 1989).
  • In 1987, the British journal Lancet reported on the death of a popular female athlete who had received several hundred injections of various cell preparations. She had developed a painful nerve condition, had been given dipyrone (a dangerous drug), and had gone into fatal shock (Lancet 1987).

In closing of this portion of my review, I’ll add that there are good reasons why the Dermatron and "cellular injection therapy" are both illegal. They’re harmful. They’re sole purpose is to deceive those that are desperate for health care and take their money, regardless of the risks to their health or the shams they’re based on.

Throughout his book Trudeau condemns modern Western medicine and uses another logical fallacy, which is the appeal to the ancients or tradition. Trudeau maintains that alternative treatments, cures, and lifestyles are healthier and more advantageous and gives whole lists of "problems" with modern medicine, health and hygiene (many if not most items are simply wrong, out of context, or out-right lies). No one can deny that there are improvements that can be made in modern healthcare, and let us hope this will always be the case… who would want to live in a society where healthcare and medicine are rigid and unchanging where progress is absent? But it cannot be overlooked that modern Western medicine works. The average lifespan of cultures where Western medicine has not been introduced is far, far less than that of Western societies. Anthropological and archaeological evidence is very clear. Earlier humans had lifespans of about 40-45. In some African nations where Western medicine has yet to be consistently introduced, the average lifespan is about 35 even today.

I’ll continue this with additional parts, reviewing other chapters of Trudeau’s book of pseudoscience, lies and deception if this one gets a lot of hits and comments (good or bad).

 

References:

Barrett, Stephen (2003). Cellular Therapy. QuackWatch.com

Barrett, Stephen (2005). Quack "Electrodiagnostic" Devices. QuackWatch.com

Bohl J et al (1989). Complications following cell therapy. Zeitschrift fur Rechtsmedizin 103:1-20.

Gelband H et al (1990). Cellular treatment. In Unconventional cancer treatments. Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, pp 97-98.

Goebel HH et al. (1986). Fresh cell therapy followed by fatal coma. Journal of Neurology 233:242-247.

Lancet (1987). Cell therapy suspended. Lancet, Aug 29, p. 503.

Lindeman B, Cubbison C: (1975). Cellular therapy: A shabby clinic offered rejuvenation but delivered death. Today’s Health 53:36-41.

Osband ME et al. (1981). Histiocytosis-X. Demonstration of abnormal immunity, T-cell histamine H2-receptor deficiency, and successful treatment with thymic extract. New England Journal of Medicine. 304:146-153.

de Ridder M et al. (1987). Two cases of death following cell therapy. Deutsche Medizinische Wochenshrift 112:1006-1009.

 

 

 

 

Health Facts and Fears: pseudoscience from a pseudo-skeptic?

Most skeptics have no real agenda beyond truth. Sure, they’re often passionate about their doubts of UFOs, Uri Geller, Kevin Trudeau, Don Lemmon (hello Orac!), cold fusion and the like, but the bottom line is always the truth. A true skeptic won’t say “there’s no such thing as alien spacecraft” or “cold fusion is impossible.” Instead, they’ll say, “there’s no evidence that aliens are visiting,” and “cold fusion hasn’t been demonstrably feasible.”

But there is a class of skeptic, a pseudo-skeptic if you will, that crops up here and there. Bjørn Lomborg and Steven J. Milloyare two that come to mind as those that seem willing to play around with statistics until they get the effect they want. In other words, they seem to have desired results and look largely at the data that are supportive. I’ve read much of what both Lomborg and Milloy have to say in their books and agree with some things and not with other things. They raise good questions here and there, but I’m consistently left with a bad taste -a flavor of an underlying agenda that suits their politics. Are they really skeptical, or are they just wearing skeptics’ clothes to get in the door?

I have Google News set for one or two topics that are sent to me when they become news and, in my inbox tonight was a link to an article by another apparent pseudo-skeptic: Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H., founder and president of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Whelan is a contributor in the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer and, in the article she wrote, she raised some very sensible questions regarding a couple of legitimate issues. But, again, is she donning a mask to get her foot in the skeptical door to further another agenda? She’s the apparent editor of the ACSH page titled Health Facts and Fears and the writer of an article called Environmentalists’ Quest to Ban Life-Saving Flame-Retardants.

As is typical with conservative pseudo-skeptics, she includes much gloom and doom about how the environmentalists are out to destroy us all with their tree-hugging ways. I certainly don’t agree with every environmentalist position, but in this case I think Whelan is overreaching a bit. In this article, she makes use of several logical fallacies, perhaps most chiefly the non sequitur. Whelen says:

What is now coming into clear focus is a band of anti-chemical advocates who have no concern that their agenda is contributing to the human death toll around the world.

She goes on to say:

The most obvious historical example of this life-threatening advocacy is the banning of DDT — a chemical that curtailed the spread of malaria by killing the vectors of that disease, mosquitoes.  Following the environmentalist-inspired banning of DDT in 1972, the death rate from malaria soared in countries around the world.  People died because a life-saving chemical was removed.

Except DDT isn’t banned in nations where malaria is still problematic. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) gives a specific exemption for the use of DDT in public health programmes. It is, however, banned in the United States, where malaria isn’t an issue. Her argument is: because environmentalists were against DDT that they’re for malaria. It’s the same debunked argument she used in the past and is now recycling (pun intended) for a new non sequitur. The article above suggests that the same environmentalists are now responsible for the continued deaths of 4,000 Americans by fire in their homes because they seek a ban on flame-retardant chemicals:

Incredibly, as a result of pressure from environmentalists in recent years, most flame-retardant chemicals have been banned both in the United States and Europe, and those remaining are very much under assault.  Why?  Because activists — and their surrogates at the Environmental Protection Agency — argue that the chemicals can be found in blood and breast milk samples and may cause cancer in laboratory rodents.

It isn’t the activists that are saying this, it’s the U.S. government. But, more importantly, Whelen is clearly misleading her readers. Indeed, I say she is out-right lying:

As the EPA regulates against flame-retardants, Americans die and suffer.  Banning the very few flame-retardants now left on the market will have the dire consequence of increasing the risk of fire injuries and death here and around the world.

Either she is stupid or she is lying. Could someone who so proudly adorns her own name with so many obscure trailing letters of accomplishment really be stupid? Perhaps. But the fact is that there exist no bans on polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) that are affecting the safety of Americans. There are two types that have been shown to be more likely to cause health effects, which are pentaBDE and octaBDE (Zhou et al 2002). They’ve been banned in only six states and only penta- and octa-BDEs were affected. Deca-BDEs were not. And the only company that makes them has voluntarily discontinued them. According to the Great Lakes Chemical Corporation press release on 11/3/03:

…citing years of research, advances in technology and a favorable environmental assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of what the company calls the “new generation” of flame retardants, today announced that it will voluntarily cease production of two widely-used flame retardant chemicals, penta- and octa- polybrominated diphenyl ether, by the end of 2004. Great Lakes will replace Penta-PBDE with a new product called Firemaster® 550.

But that doesn’t stop Whelen from closing her pseudoscientific article with this:

Until consumers, scientists, and policy makers make a commitment to confront these activists with facts — and hold them responsible for the consequences of banning life-saving technology — pseudoscience and the precautionary principle will continue to prevail in regulatory policy, and all of us will suffer.

Should we be at all worried about PBDEs? The results aren’t conclusive, but whether you accept rat studies or not, the fact remains that PBDEs are showing up in humans. This is a synthetic organic chemical that has as yet unknown effects. Whether you subscribe to the “precautionary principle” or not, it has to give one reason to pause just knowing that it is showing up in breast milk and it is being fed to infants. Questioning the applicability of rat studies is good science; dismissing their results simply because people aren’t rats is foolish. Moreover, there is growing evidence that these PBDEs are showing up in wildlife in significant quantity.

The presence of PBBs and PBDEs in sperm whales, the high levels of particularly PBDEs in seals and dolphins, and the on-going industrial production of these compounds suggest that an environmental problem may be on its way (de Boer et al 1998)

But then, why listen to activists like the Netherlands Institute for Fisheries Research? More research clearly needs to be done, but the doom and gloom of pseudo-skeptics is out to prevent the critical eye from looking too close. Being environmentally friendly and exercising proactive behavior is costly in the short-run for industries like chemical manufacturers. The pseudo-skeptics tried the same tactics with chlorofluorocarbons when it was discovered what their effects were on ozone production in the stratosphere. Luckily, science won the day; restrictions were placed on chlorofluorocarbon manufacture and use; and the ozone levels over Antarctica have improved.

Maybe I’ve missed the mark with regard to Whelan (maybe with Lomborg and Milloy, too). Maybe there are legislations that planned that threaten Deca-BDEs and other flame retardants. Maybe there are EPA regulations that prevent manufacturers from using existing PBDEs that have not yet been banned. Maybe every state in the union is planning bans. But I didn’t notice any such legislations, regulations or plans in the brief literature review I did. Nor does Whelan include a single source of information that a true skeptic could follow up with.

As a skeptic, I have to question both her motives and her logic.

References

de Boer, J; Wester, P.J.; Klamer, H.J.C.; Lewis, W.; and Boon, J.P. (1998). Do flame retardants threaten ocean life? Nature 394, 28 – 29

Whelan, Elizabeth M. (2006) Public health’s credibility crisis. Skeptical Inquirer, 30(3), 14-15.

Zhou, T.; Taylor, M.M.; DeVito, M.J.; et al (2002). Developmental exposure to brominated diphenyl ethers results in thyroid hormone disruption. Toxicol Sci 66:105-116.

Chiro-Quackery? Is Chiropractic Care Science or Pseudoscience?

ChiroQuackery? Is Chiropractic Care Science or Pseudoscience?

There’s a great discussion going on at Anne’s Anti-Quackery & Science Blog between a pediatrician and a chiropractic “professional” that calls himself a “doctor.”

Clark Bartram of the blog, Unintelligent Design, posed the question, “how organs systems continue to function after transection of the spinal cord due to trauma” in response to Anne’s entry that questions the chiropractic industry with some well-known problems like the “fantasy” of subluxation and the occasional stroke that can result from simply cracking a neck. The “doctor of chiropractic,” Steven L. Vanden Hoek, responds to Bartram’s questions and criticisms with a list of studies and texts. This was about a month ago and Bartram hasn’t responded yet, but, as busy as he seems in the blogsphere, I can see how he may have forgot it.

Still, I’m eager to see what his response(s) may be. I’m not a medical professional and at the mercy of those with educations in the field when it comes to understanding the chiropractic industry and whether it’s just flim-flam or if there’s something to it. My gut tells me it’s poppycock, since there seems to be so much snake oil and salesmanship associated with it. Vanden Hoek’s own website looks like an advertisement more than a place to get information. Moreover, I’d trust a spinal manipulation to a medical professional that actually had to spend a significant chunk of his life educating himself (or herself) in the field of medicine. But I can’t say that I’d have as much confidence in someone that went to a trade school and came out in a few short years with a diploma that said “doctor.”

Maybe there’s a time and place to have a spinal manipulation, but chiropractors seem to be hobbyists compared to physicians; businessmen compared to actual doctors.

Skeptical links to chiropractic “medicine.”

Chiropractic’s Elusive “Subluxation”
Chiropractic’s Dirty Secret: Neck Manipulation and Strokes
Steer Clear of “Chiropractic Nutrition”
Chirobase – Your Skeptical Guide to Chiropractic History, Theories, and Practices
Operated by Stephen Barrett, MD, and Samuel Homola, DC
Improper Claims on Chiropractic College Web Sites
Skeptic’s Dictionary Entry
Do Chiropractors Treat Anything? Chiropractors claim they allow the body to heal itself. Medical professionals say that’s nonsense.
Subluxations not backed up by proof. Chiropractors still can’t prove that the misalignment” they claim to treat even exists.

The Pseudoscience of an "Infomercial" Conman

Kevin Trudeau is the author of several “self-help” books, including Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About and Mega Memory. Trudeau also has “starred” in several Infomercials in which he advertised one or more products, pretending to either be a journalist interviewing a proponent of the product or a proponent of a product pretending to be interviewed by an actor/journalist. He was penalized heavily by the Federal Trade Commission in 2004, restricting his marketing via the pseudo-news shows called “infomercials” and requiring him to pay $2 million to settle his false-claim charges.

Flipping channels on a Saturday morning, avoiding silly cartoons and infomercials in search of something interesting or informative, I came across an interview that I didn’t initially identify as an infomercial. I quickly figured out it was a paid advertisement, but the format of the show was very much like that of Charlie Rose or a PBS talk show.

The topic, however, was the first clue: natural cures suppressed by the government and food and drug industries. The person being “interviewed” was Kevin Trudeau, the author of Natural Cures They Don’t Want You To Know About.

As I listened, I was astounded at what Trudeau was saying. Not that I believed him, but that he had the audacity to make the claims he did. In the first 5 minutes of the show, Trudeau had said that there existed cures for cancer, attention deficit disorder (ADD), herpes, diabetes and acid reflux and that the Food and Drug Administration along with the food and drug industries are suppressing this information. Of course, he didn’t list specific cures by name, instead citing the risk of doing so is to evoke the wrath of the government, namely the FTC and FDA. Apparently, Trudeau feels that the laws that prohibit making claims of “cures” without scientific evidence to support the claims and having the drug approved is part of the conspiracy of the government entities and industry controls to suppress homeopathy.

The FDA is in cahoots with the drug industry

Trudeau stated in this pseudo-interview that the “FDA works with the drug industry to prevent alternative, natural remedies” from being marketed. Indeed, he argues that the definitions that the FDA has established are themselves designed to favor the drug industry.

Well being critical of the drug industry is probably a healthy stand and that the FDA isn’t completely competent in both its enforcement and control of safety and expense associated with the drug industry is probably accurate.

But Trudeau argues that the FDA’s definition of conditions such as acid reflux, obesity and ADD as diseases is erroneous and misleading. Trudeau also is critical of the FDA’s definition of a “drug,” since it limits the ability of homeopathic remedies to market their products.

A Brief History of Homeoapathy

Over two hundred years ago, German physician Samuel Hahnemann developed the hypothesis that like cures like and this is the basis of modern homeopathy. In a nutshell, the idea is that symptoms of conditions can be treated with natural substances that produce similar symptoms (the “law of similars”), but because many of these substances can be toxic, even lethal, Hahnemann used a principle of dilution that he declared the law of infintesimals to make the substances safe for consumption. 1

Final dilutions in homeopathy can often produce results that have 1 part medicine to 10 29 parts of water. In a dilution like this, one would have to drink 7,874 gallons of water to consume just one molecule of medicine. Some homeopathic remedies are diluted to 10 400!

Trudeau doesn’t mention this in his “interview,” but maintains his criticism of the FDA. The definition of a drug, he says, is such that “only a drug can cure a disease,” an inference that the definition is omitting the possibility that other substances, namely “natural remedies” can “cure a disease.” The FDA defines a drug 2 as: “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals.” Clearly this isn’t stating “only a drug can cure diseases,” but rather that which is intended to cure a disease is a drug. If something is a drug, then it falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA and must be regulated as well as approved.

That really only leaves Trudeau with the criticism that natural remedies cannot get approval due to the bias against them by the FDA, the drug industry, and science in general. He doesn’t consider that this bias is legitimate. Not even close.

Trudeau’s wild and dangerous claims: the worst 10

During this infomercial / pseudo-interview, Trudeau says or argues the following. If it is in quotes, it is as near to his exact words I as I can recall. I took notes during the broadcast, but could only get some of the key points.

1. He argues that acid reflux, ADD, and obesity (among others) are not diseases.
2. He states that the drug industry is the “most profitable industry in the country.”
3. He stated that there exists a natural remedy which can “cure a migraine headache forever.”
4. He stated that there exists a natural remedy which can “cure arthritis forever.”
5. He stated that a cure exists for cancer
6. He stated that a cure exists for types I and II diabetes.
7. He stated that “if your body’s pH is alkaline you cannot get cancer,” and that the “body pH” of all cancer patients was acidic.
8. He stated that the food manufacturers intentionally “put ingredients in food into make you fat [...] because fat people eat more.”
9. He stated that a recent study that concluded St. John’s Wort to be ineffective was based on flawed methodology because each of the other drugs tested likewise resulted in being largely ineffective to treat depression.
10. He stated that there was a cure for multiple sclerosis, which was caused by a “food additive” that gave the symptoms of MS.

I expected that Trudeau would live up to my expectations of typical pseudoscience bull and present us all with “sworn testimonials” as to the effectiveness of the natural remedies. This is a characteristic of a bogus product that should make anyone immediately suspicious, since it’s the best way to establish a belief system: get a bunch of people to swear it’s true or real.

But Trudeau surprised me with his “testimonial” segment! He basically listed two or three non-specific ailments and stated that they each were better after they tried a natural remedy. The only remedy he would mention specifically was to take a tablespoon of vinegar to counteract acid reflux. He begged away from being specific citing the risk of action from the FTC or FDA if he were to divulge the actual substance used.

Acid Reflux?

Amazingly enough, Trudeau’s explanation of acid reflux was that it wasn’t acid that is the problem, but the gas created by the foods that are eaten. Trudeau is highly critical of the established medical knowledge on the topic and makes clear implications that the medical establishment, undoubtedly in cahoots with the government and the drug companies, are deliberately misleading the public about acid reflux disease. Indeed, Trudeau claims it isn’t a “disease” at all! Instead, Trudeau claims that acid reflux is caused by not enough acid in the stomach and that the gas emitted from food digested only partially because of this lack of acid is the cause of the symptoms. That’s where the “tablespoon of vinegar” comes in: it adds acid to the stomach.

However, if we want to take a medical opinion (Trudeau is not educated in medicine), acid reflux, otherwise known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), affects up to 36% of otherwise healthy Americans in the form of heartburn. While the symptoms are typically treated with over the counter remedies such as Pepto-Bismol™, there can be some serious or severe problems: “Hoarseness, chronic cough, asthma, laryngitis, recurrent pneumonia and ENT infections, nocturnal choking, sleep apnea, loss of dental enamel, bad breath and globus sensation.” It has even been implicated in connection to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.3

Medical authorities have a very different view of what causes acid reflux/GERD. Among them are relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), decreased LES resting tone, impaired esophageal clearance, delayed gastric emptying, decreased salivation, and impaired tissue resistance. Other indirect causes include lifestyle factors such as “smoking, large meals, fatty foods, caffeine, pregnancy, obesity, body position, drugs, and hormones.” 4 Clearly, Trudeau is misinformed at the least. He offers no sources for his information and only the brief testimonial of his friend who drank a little vinegar to add some acid to his stomach. In all likelihood, the friend’s consumption of vinegar acted to both reduce the acidity (thereby increasing the pH) of the reflux in the esophagus and rinse it back to the stomach since the pH of vinegar is 3 and the diluted HCl of stomach acid is generally between 1 and 2, perhaps as high as 3.5.

Responding to Trudeau’s other quack claims

1. Diseases that Aren’t: Trudeau argues that acid reflux, ADD, and obesity (among others) are not diseases.

The CDC defines disease as a “sickness; illness; an interruption, or disturbance of the bodily functions or organs, which causes or threatens pain and weakness.” The Midwest Institute for Biological Control calls it a “departure from the state of health or normality.” One can only wonder what definition that Trudeau uses. Type “define:disease” in Google and a plethora of definitions arise from many reputable sources such as those I just mentioned. None of them would exclude conditions such as acid reflux, ADD and even obesity.

2. The drug industry is the “most profitable industry in the country.

No argument there. This is probably the one true thing Trudeau said throughout the entire commercial. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation and Sonderegger Research Center, the pharmaceutical industry has outdone every other from 1995 until 2002, when it began to slip. In 2003, mining and crude oil production outpaced it. 5

3. – 6. He stated that there are natural remedies that will cure: migraine headaches, arthritis, diabetes (I & II), and even cancer.

The only legitimate answer one can give this type of quackery is, “whatever.” Trudeau is lying. Period. If he can demonstrate that these cures exist in rigorous, clinical tests, I’ll print this essay and eat each page. If such cures existed, scientists and researchers would not sit on them. They would share them with the world. And, in answer to the argument that scientists are people and just as susceptible to greed and jealousy as the next man, I submit to you that if this is so, then the first one to write the paper and attach his or her name to the discovery will be immortalized and, perhaps, rich. The drug companies and the government could neither suppress the altruistic scientist nor the greedy one.

7. He stated that “if your body’s pH is alkaline you cannot get cancer,” and that the “body pH” of all cancer patients was acidic.

It is true that cancer cells cannot survive in an alkaline environment. But what Trudeau either is ignorant about or omits from his claim is that no cell in the body can survive in an alkaline state. The functions of enzymes in the body are to begin chemical reactions. Enzymes only function in a narrow range of acidic pH. If the pH balance of one’s blood is affected to increase or decrease, then the body acts quickly to correct this to prevent sickness or death. Trudeau’s claim of eating certain foods to increase alkalinity is bunk. All foods that go into the stomach will become acidic, after all, HCl is produced there. From the stomach, they go to the intestines and are neutralized by secretions from the pancreas. At that point, the food is alkaline. 6

8. Food manufacturers intentionally “put ingredients in food into make you fat [...] because fat people eat more.”

While that is a possibility, I wouldn’t put much credibility in it. I think it’s a safer bet to believe that the food manufacturers manufacture and package foods in ways that consumers have indicated they want it. The driving principle in the last two decades has been “quick,” “easy,” “fast,” and “fun.” Microwave meals have far surpassed the “TV diners” of the 1970’s in both content and speed of preparation; McDonalds has streamlined and set the standards for drive-thru method and the “Happy Meal” dominates the market in fast-food sales to kids. But this is what the consumer wants. If it wasn’t, McDonalds would offer an alternative, like healthy meals with bottled water and fruit instead of cola and hot, apple pie. In fact, they are doing this due to recent public acknowledgement of the fast-food culture as being a bad habit. Trudeau would be more believable if he would simply name the “ingredient(s)” and which food companies were adding it. He also says that the United States is not able to export food, yet we had $62.3 billion in farm exports for 2004 and only $52.7 billion in agricultural imports. 7 Again, Trudeau appears misinformed.

9. St. John’s Wort study had a flawed methodology because each of the other drugs tested likewise resulted in being largely ineffective to treat depression.

Trudeau is quick to point out that the study was flawed because the sertraline, which was the comparator drug didn’t outperform the placebo. But neither did the St. John’s Wort. He’ll tell us the “study was flawed,” but won’t tell us how. The fact is that there needs to be more study done in order to fully evaluate whether St. John’s Wort has any real effectiveness in treated depression. What is known, however, is that it has some potentially serious side effects for pregnant or breast-feeding women as well as when used in conjunction with other drugs, such as AIDS remedies such as indinavir.

10. He stated that there was a cure for multiple sclerosis, which was caused by a “food additive” that gave the symptoms of MS.

I really have to quote Stephen Barrett, M.D. in regards to this claim:

“MS’s extreme variability makes it a perfect disease for quacks. The only way to know whether a treatment is effective is to follow many patients for years to see whether those who receive the treatment do better than those who do not. Quacks don’t bother with this kind of testing, however. They simply claim credit whenever anyone who consults them improves. And since the majority of attacks are followed by complete or partial recovery, persuasive quacks can acquire patients who swear by whatever they recommend.8

Listed by Quackwatch as a “cure” to avoid when treating MS is “coral calcium.” Interestingly enough, it just happens to be a product that Trudeau was fined $2 million by the FTC for making false and misleading claims about. Trudeau and his accomplice, Robert Barefoot, made an infomercial from the same ad agency as the Natural Cures book, only Trudeau played the part of reporter interviewing Barefoot. The interviewer for the Natural Cures show was Pat Matthews.

Kevin Trudeau is a fraud. A scam artist. A con man of the worst kind. He seeks to make money off of schemes that take advantage of those that are in need of true medical assistance and those that are hopeful that they’ll be able to stay healthy. But if Kevin Trudeau truly believes the bunk and baloney he writes and says, then he is merely pathetic.

- Carl T. Feagans

References:

1 Park, Robert (2000). Voodoo Science. Oxford University Press: Oxford. pp. 52-58.

2 FDA (2002) Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Title 21, Section 201(g)(B)

3 Minocha, Anil (2001). How To Stop Heartburn: Simple Ways to Heal Heartburn and Acid Reflux. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

4 Fennerty MB, Sampliner RE.(1993) Gastroesophageal reflux disease. Hospital Medicine. 29(4):28-40.

5 Kaiser Family Foundation (2004). Trends and Indicators in the Changing Health Care Marketplace, 2004 Update, found at http://www.kff.org/insurance/7031/ti2004-1-21.cfm

6 Mirkin, Gabe (2003). Acid/Alkaline Theory of Disease Is Nonsense. Quackwatch.org. Found at: http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/DSH/coral2.html

7 Witte, Griff and Henderson, Nell (2004) U.S. Food Imports Increase, May Match Exports This Year. The Washington Post. Thursday, November 25, 2004; Page E01

8 Barrett, Stephen (2003). Be Wary of Multiple Sclerosis “Cures.” Quackwatch.org. Found at: http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/ms.html

——————————————————————–

UPDATES

I recently found another source by Dr. Stephen Barrett in which he directly addresses the same infomercial that I viewed. The piece is especially informative because it includes the Transcript of the show with Barrett’s comments in red. I recommend it to all who have read this article as Dr. Barrett does a far better job than I in criticizing Trudeau’s “work.” You can find it at InfomercialWatch.com: http://www.infomercialwatch.org/tran/trudeau.shtml

BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU EXPERIENCE:

It would appear that the Better Business Bureau has had some experience with Kevin Trudeau. I recommend anyone interested in dealing with Kevin Trudeau, Shop America, NaturalCures.com, TruStar Marketing, or any of the other companies that Trudeau creates when one gets a bad rap, to visit their report on Trudeau’s Shop America.

According to the Better Business Bureau, “this company has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to unanswered complaints. However the business has resolved most complaints presented by the bureau.”

And, “this company has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to a pattern of complaints. Consumers allege dissatisfaction with the Natural Cures book and/or being solicited to purchase information from the company website that is not included in the book as advertised.”

These complaints concerned:
10 Advertising Issues,
22 Selling Practices,
60 Delivery,
3 Service / Repairs,
4 Warranty / Guarantee,
25 Product Quality,
179 Refund Promised,
2 Unfulfilled Contract,
38 Customer Service, and
54 Credit or Billing Issues.

They were closed as:
102 Resolved,
111 Assumed Resolved,
1 Unresolved,
2 Administratively Judged Resolved, and
184 No Response.

Source: Better Business Bureau Report can be found at: http://www.chicago.bbb.org/commonreport.html?bid=73001973

Direct email Feedback I’ve received regarding this article on my website.

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