Category Archives: HIV & AIDS

Polio in WDDTY

WDDTY on polio and polio vaccination
According to WDDTY, polio isn’t that dangerous, it’s mainly caused by the oral polio vaccine, the vaccine doesn’t work and it causes other things besides just polio including AIDS, M.E. and autism. Doctors have a safe vaccine but don’t want you to have it because of lobbying from Big Pharma, the prevalence is much lower than governments would have you believe, a baby that’s just been vaccinated should be treated like a biohazard, and polio was dying out anyway before the vaccine was invented.

As an encapsulation of all the things that are wrong with WDDTY, its relentless barrage of polio and polio vaccine disinformation spanning over two decades is a superb study in how to be wrong, and remain wrong in the face of new data.

Cranks and charlatans are accorded equal time with “experts” who aren’t, but whose past employment allows them to be presented as brave whistleblowers. The authority of an anti-vaxer is never questioned. The authority of a scientist defending vaccines is never admitted. Studies showing that vaccination works are presented as evidence that it doesn’t, and that it causes damage. Honesty about the risks of vaccines, openly published, is presented as if it has had to be wrung from the hands of a reluctant establishment.

WDDTY are “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine”. And here we see that this agenda takes precedence over concern for one of the most dreaded of all vaccine-preventable diseases.

Continue reading Polio in WDDTY

Misinformation, Stigma and WDDTY – How not to write about TB

How not to write about TB
For WDDTY, the issue is simple: their freedom to state their beliefs is being suppressed by a small group of skeptics just because we hate natural cures and love big pharma.

In this article @NurtureMyBaby explains, more eloquently than I could, why for her it is not about freedom to state an opinion, but about the pernicious effects of agenda-driven falsehoods and misrepresentations, the false hope of unwarranted extrapolation, and the ridiculous notion that adjunct to antibiotics means better than antibiotics, which don’t work anyway.

This is the third article to expose WDDTY’s worrying denialist approach to antibiotics, one of the most successful health interventions we have. Further research is underway to determine if the editors, by all accounts fervent homeopathy believers, are straying into the territory of germ theory denialism so common among that particular band of charlatans.

Now read on…

Continue reading Misinformation, Stigma and WDDTY – How not to write about TB

The paranoid delusions of Lynne McTaggart

Reblogged from Guy Chapman’s Blahg.

Andrew Neil sums up conspiracy theories as expounded by Alex Jones
Andrew Neil sums up conspiracy theories as expounded by Alex Jones

It’s not news that SCAM believers are also into conspiracy theories. Global epicentre of bullshit The Whale is only the most notorious example of the crank magnetism that draws believers in the unverifiable and implausible together.

Naturally this provides a fertile source of mirth. For example, Lynne McTaggart stated as fact that I am @_JosephineJones, an idea so self-evidently ludicrous that I had no reservations over replying: “Yes, Lynne, you’ve got me: like electrons, there is only one skeptic in the universe, I get about a lot”.

McTaggart believed it! And when @JoBrodie pointed out it was a blindingly obvious piss-take, Tat Maggot deleted Jo’s comment because free speech is so important.

Today, another one:

loon mctagnutYes, according to Loon McTagnut not only am I Josephine Jones, I am also @southwarkbelle. And a Dark Lord of Google (I love this, I am so shit at SEO that I will substitute her reality for mine on this, any time!).

Better still: apparently there are “canaries in [my] midst”, which raises the rather amusing possibility that Lynne is not just making this shit up out of thin air, but being actively and very expertly trolled. Whoever it is, keep it up!

Obviously there’s a serious side. McTaggart seriously believes that there is a sinister conspiracy to discredit her, using such underhand techniques as demonstrating her history of AIDS denialism. The bastards.

Actually of course we suck badly at conspiracy. Rule no. 1 for a successful conspiracy: don’t do it using open social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

And collaboration is not conspiracy. Of course we collaborate and share and talk and joke, we have a lot of interests in common, especially debunking quackery and bigging up SCIENCE, because it rocks.

Get a group of skeptics together you’d almost certainly find we’re all fans of Ben Goldacre and the Infinite Monkey Cage. You’ll also find that we’re very different. The youngest are teenagers, the oldest are retired. There are gay men, young mums, single people, secular Muslims, atheists, even Christians. Most of us have a scientific education, that’s the root of the common ground.

batshitAnd it’s why the cranks will eventually lose. Nothing about SCAM is new, really: the cognitive errors are old, the appeals to fallacious reasons are old, the conspiracy theories are old. Nothing about modern SCAM is in any way qualitatively different from the 19th century snake oil salesman or the bible-belt creationist.

And if you look at the lesson of history, increasing societal education tends to correlate with decreasing belief in gods. The New Age will wane as the religions of old waned. And the public will again move away from belief in nonsense. At least I hope so.

I just hope it doesn’t take a modern-day equivalent of the 1950s polio epidemics to cause people to wake up and smell the bat guano as sold by every woo-monger in Britain.

Treatment wars: Chronic Lying Disease

Chronic Lyme Disease
In 2007, WDDTY took part in prolonging a hoax that is still going on, perhaps unwittingly whipping up support for a condition – and a potentially harmful pharmaceutical treatment – that was legislated into legitimacy by politicians against all available scientific evidence.

“Chronic” Lyme disease is a fertile hunting ground for quacks in the US, and increasingly elsewhere. It has been extensively studied, and there is no credible evidence to support it. That doesn’t stop people from claiming it as the cause of a variety of conditions including – naturally! – autism, and pursuing quack treatments, the most common of which are long-term antibiotics.

Self-diagnosed “sufferers” circulate details of “Lyme-literate” doctors who will prescribe these treatments. And in some places they cannot be stopped, because they successfully lobbied for legal protection.

All this is apparently fine, because it’s alternative.

Continue reading Treatment wars: Chronic Lying Disease

HIV-AIDS and the deadly denialists at WDDTY

Deadly denialists
We take a trip back in time to vol. 5 no. 4 (July 1994) for a look at the article titled “HIV infection: tested to death”, a veritable cornucopia of denialist dross published around ten years after AIDS was properly identified, seven years after AZT was approved, two years after combination therapies were approved – in other words, at a time when “skepticism” about the HIV-AIDS link had already crossed the line from the normal process of questioning emerging science, and into denialism.

Several well-known AIDS denialists are given a platform in this article, at least one of whom was repeatedly rejected as an expert witness in courts due to having absolutely no professional expertise in the subject.

It’s worth remembering that there is no record of WDDTY ever publishing an apology or correction for this offensive bullshit. In fact, there is reasonable evidence that they still harbour at least vestigial AIDS denialism. Indeed, the response “We covered the ‘does HIV cause AIDS’ controversy years ago, but it’s probably time for an update” is pure denialism: the HIV-AIDS link has not been remotely controversial for decades.

HIV-AIDS and the deadly denialists at WDDTY

Reblogged from Plague of Mice by the author, who has generously granted himself permission to do so

People living with AIDS, 2008
People living with AIDS, 2008

A friend sent me a copy of the latest issue of that collection of outrageous and mercenary lies legally registered under the title of What Doctors Don’t Tell You. It looks like we can expect some especially deadly fuckwittery in the near future. This somewhat transparently fake “letter” (read: an obvious plant) appears in the “Have Your Say” letters page.

Keep up the fight—and now onto AIDS


After reading your excellent November 2013 issue, I felt I must write to you all to congratulate you on your achievements. It’s fabulous that this type of information is available in supermarkets, and essential that such a sphere of influence is maintained. Following your brave articles on assessing true causes of cancer, which often go unreported, as well as treatments which can heal, I was wondering whether you had ever considered similar investigation into what I consider the biggest medical fraud of recent history— that of HIV/AIDS.
A dedicated reader

WDDTY replies: We covered the ‘does HIV cause AIDS’ controversy years ago, but it’s probably time for an update. Thanks for the suggestion. Continue reading HIV-AIDS and the deadly denialists at WDDTY

HIV and AIDS: A bizarre letter

According to WDDTY:

  • The HIV-AIDS link is controversial
  • AIDS denialists are worth listening to even if they have no subject matter expertise at all
  • AZT does not cure AIDS, because chemo
  • Mushrooms, oxygen, resonance, vitamin C and homeopathy do cure AIDS
  • AIDS tests don’t work

McTaggart thinks it’s about time she reviewed the subject again. We can hardly wait, and no doubt her advertisers are equally keen.

Continue reading HIV and AIDS: A bizarre letter

‘WDDTY’ about foot-in-mouth syndrome

(Reblogged with permission from Labcoats Unbuttoned)

I was recently (for a short while) involved in posting on the Facebook page for our favourite magazine, ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’. We’ve talked about this rag before, but since then the ‘war’ between the skeptics and the toilet paper has escalated in spectacular style. Rather than try to document this here, it’s probably best to link to the ‘Master List’ drawn up by Josephine Jones on her blog, which is a comprehensive summary of both the dangerous reporting in the magazine along with responses from consumers and retailers regarding the recent attempts to have their ‘homeopathy for cancer’ issue withdrawn from sale in major supermarkets. It’s a fantastic resource, and worth going through.

Now, I WAS engaged in online debate with some of their fans and readers, but this is sadly past tense. Why so? This is because I, alongside several other skeptics, got banned from the page, with our comments deleted leaving embarrassing threads of people who appear to be talking to themselves. From a magazine that cries ‘FREE SPEECH!’ as soon as anyone does something so pesky as I don’t know, ASKING THEM TO BACK UP THEIR CLAIMS WITH EVIDENCE, this is somewhat hypocritical. Apparently we were deleted for (non-existent) ‘personal attacks’, yet a WDDTY supporter who called me a ‘plebeian wage slave’ remains on the page.

One thing that really struck me when talking to people on the page, was the brainwashed, cult-like mindset of some of their ‘followers’. Homeopaths serving up so-called evidence for their claims: that I expected, but what really saddened me was the hero-worship from the general public, who genuinely seem to believe that Lynne McTaggart and her magazine are spearheading a noble crusade against evil Big Pharma. Never mind the dozens of scientists providing concrete evidence to refute their claims-they must all be being paid to do so. It’s classic conspiracy thinking, and very, very similar to what we saw with the Umlingo juice for HIV. Then, as now, the ludicrous claims are so laughably easy to debunk that it is truly exasperating how some people can be so blind. There is genuine ignorance and there is genuine wickedness, and the irony is that while they dismiss their critics as being in the pay of Big Pharma, they publish articles about vitamin C curing all diseases alongside full-page, paid adverts for vitamins. Hypocrisy? Surely not?.

Sometimes Quacks can be somewhat clever. Ben Goldacre devoted an entire book to the clever and subtle tricks that can be used to mislead when it comes to science and in particular healthcare science. Statistics are tricky, and it’s easy enough to manipulate them so that your average untrained (or even trained) eye glosses over the error. What WDDTY do is on a whole other level. It’s so hilariously botched, so pathetically obvious that you almost have to admire their nerve in keeping a straight face as they spout this crap.

Case in point: the most recent post on their Facebook page (and on Lynne McTaggart’s own social media pages):


We’ve been attacked for reporting that the HPV vaccine has been linked to 68 deaths, but our figures now seem too conservative.

An issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (July 26, 2013 / 62(29);591-595), the weekly report prepared by the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that between June 2006 and March 2013, the US’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System has received approximately 1671 reports to be exact – of ‘serious’ adverse events occurring in girls who’d received the HPV4 vaccine. 

Reports are classified as ‘serious’ if they include one or more of the following, said the CDC: hospitalization , prolongation of an existing hospitalization , permanent disability, life-threatening illness, or death.

This relates to a previous article Labcoats Unbuttoned did on HPV vaccines  and we mostly dealt with the actual vaccine in that post. I’m bringing this up again to illustrate a point about how not only does this magazine cherry pick, mislead and manipulate, they very simply flat-out LIE, and that is the only way of putting it.

They’ve often been criticised for not posting their references, well here they did, and thus the egg met the face. Their ‘source’ is this CDC report. I thought I’d go through what they are claiming and compare it to what is in the report. ‘1671 reports of serious adverse effects’ – true, but neglecting to mention that this is out of 56 MILLION doses given from June 2006 through March 2013. They actually received 21,194 reports of adverse effects, 92.1% of these were classified as non-serious. These can include things like fainting (common in people with a phobia of needles) through to hives, slight fever, localised redness or swelling, etc. These adverse effects are seen across all vaccines. In the ‘serious’ adverse effects, the most common included headaches, fever, weakness, nausea and vomiting. Now, as we addressed previously, serious side effects are an unfortunate part of any vaccination program. They do occur, at rates which are clearly defined (by this exact sort of report on the available data) and there is no ‘cover up’. Actually, 1 serious adverse event in approximately 35,000 doses is in line with or slightly better than what you would expect for most vaccines. No health intervention comes without risk.

What is crucial is that the risk is balanced by the reward, and here WDDTY have been very sneaky indeed. They’ve splashed their ‘evidence’ with a misleading headline and a negative spin, completely neglecting to mention that actually, the report then goes on to discuss that there is no good evidence the vaccine is unsafe, and makes strong, unambiguous recommendations that we need to improve the current vaccination program to ensure better uptake of the HPV vaccine. Far from supporting their agenda, this report directly contradicts them – WDDTY says the vaccine is dangerous while quoting a report that says more people need to have it.

Here is the crucial paragraph in the document which WDDTY seem to have scrolled past:

‘Approximately 79 million persons in the United States are infected with HPV, and approximately 14 million will become newly infected each year. Some HPV types can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer among women; penile cancer among men; and anal and some oropharyngeal cancers among both men and women. Other HPV types can cause genital warts among both sexes. Each year in the United States, an estimated 26,200 new cancers attributable to HPV occur: 17,400 among females (of which 10,300 are cervical cancer) and 8,800 among males (of which 6,700 are oropharyngeal cancers).’

That is what this vaccine is trying to protect people from. WDDTY, rather than addressing these statistics, choose instead to stick their fingers in their ears and LALALA, claiming that only 4000 new cases are reported every year. Unsure where they got that figure from – I assume they are capable of reading the paragraph above as well as I can. But I’ve given up on expecting better from them. I’m sad, however, that I’m now banned from the page and can’t call them out on their misguided claims and hypocrisy. One of their supporters, having read the report and as expected, become very confused as to why their claims didn’t match their reference, concluded that it was a ‘CDC’cover up, as it contradicted what WDDTY was saying. If that isn’t worshipping at the altar of a dangerous cult, I’m not sure what is, but for now I’ll sit here and wait, either for Lynne to get back to me on Twitter or for someone to magically produce whatever evidence WDDTY are privy to that the CDC are not. On both counts, I think I might be here for a while.

WDDTY and Tesco’s corporate irresponsibility

WDDTY and Tesco’s corporate irresponsibility

Reblogged with permission from Dianthus Medical

I’ve written before about the magazine “What Doctors Don’t Tell You”, but just to refresh your memory, it is a dreadful pile of nonsense, carrying dangerously misleading health advice. It includes such gems as suggesting vitamin C can cure AIDS or that homeopathy can cure cancer. If you want to know more about just how outrageously irresponsible the magazine is, you might want to visit or look at Josephine Jones’s impressive list of links.

Now, perhaps none of this would matter very much if it were a subscription magazine where alternative medicine cranks could get their monthly fix of drivel and the rest of us didn’t have to worry about it too much. But I think it does matter when respectable high street retailers stock the magazine. That makes it look like a respectable source of health advice, rather than the crazy conspiracy theory nonsense that it is. If someone walking into a respectable retailer saw this magazine in their “health” section, then they might think it is something to be taken seriously. The consequences of that could be tragic. Beyond Positive have written eloquently about the dangers of persons living with HIV being exposed to such dangerous advice.

Sainsburys briefly stocked the magazine, but to their credit, they have since withdrawn it from sale after it was pointed out to them just how dangerous the magazine is. Tesco, however, is another matter. They continue to stock the magazine.

Tesco’s response has been something of an eye opener. They have clearly decided on a position on stocking WDDTY, but do not seem able or willing to explain their position. Their position, as set out in the standard template email that their customer service department has been using to respond to anyone contacting them about WDDTY, reads as follows:

Thank you for your email.

I understand you have concerns over the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and I can appreciate your views on the matter.

We are in the position of offering our customers choice rather than appointing ourselves as censors or moral guardians. The publisher of this magazine prints on page 3 a liability statement advising readers to consult a qualified practitioner before undertaking any treatment.

While we cannot comment on the contents of these magazines, your comments have been duly noted and fed back to our Buying Teams.

One thing to note in passing is that their claim not to act as “censors or moral guardians” is obviously not true. Acting as censors and moral guardians is exactly what they did about “lads’ mags” and a rather offensive Halloween costume. I did try asking them why they sometimes act as censors and moral guardians and sometimes don’t on their Facebook page. They initially replied simply to say that they had removed the Halloween costume from sale (which I already knew) and completely failed to answer my question, which does suggest that the people Tesco put in the position of interacting with the public are not exactly completely engaged in their role. When I pointed out that they hadn’t answered my question, they replied again to promise that they’d get back to me, but of course they never did.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 11:43:47

I also raised my concerns specifically about the magazine on Tesco’s Facebook page, but alas all I got was the same template response that others had got.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 11:49:17

Sound familiar?

Well, I didn’t feel that there was much point pursuing this with Tesco’s customer service team as they were clearly only going to keep parroting the same answer. But I did notice that Tesco claim on their website to have a “Corporate Responsibility” team. So I thought I’d email them and point out the disconnect between selling WDDTY and their corporate responsibility principles, one of which is “Helping and encouraging our colleagues and customers to live healthier lives”. This is what I wrote:

Dear CSR Team

I see that you have a clear policy about helping your customers to make healthy choices. That is admirable, but it seems that one of your purchasing decisions is really not living up to it.

I gather that you sell “What doctors don’t tell you” in your magazine sections. This magazine is dangerous. It consists of much health misinformation (for example, advice to avoid life-saving vaccinations against diseases such as measles or whooping-cough), and if any of your customers were unfortunate enough to believe the articles in it, then their health could be put seriously at risk.

There is a good reason why doctors don’t tell you most of the stuff you read in that magazine, in much the same way that car mechanics don’t tell you to care for your car’s bodywork by regularly driving through salt water.

If you are not familiar with the magazine and would like to read more about just how dangerous it is, there is a useful list of resources here:

I urge you to reconsider your decision to sell the magazine, as it seems to be in clear breach of your CSR policy on helping your customers to live healthy lives.

Kind regards



As I’m sure you’re all too aware, CSR policies are often regarded with some cynicism as mere window dressing, not backed up by any meaningful action. This is your chance to prove otherwise!

Tesco’s corporate responsibility team did not respond.

After a decent interval had elapsed, I asked them on their Facebook page when I might expect to get a response. No reply. So a little while later, I asked again. This time, they did reply. They said they couldn’t find my email, and could I forward it to their customer service department. I did so, making it very clear that it was not intended for their customer services department, but for their corporate responsibility department. This was the response I received:

Dear Adam

Thank you for your email.

I understand you have concerns over the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and I can appreciate your views on the matter.

We are in the position of offering our customers choice rather than appointing ourselves as censors or moral guardians. The publisher of this magazine prints on page 3 a liability statement advising readers to consult a qualified practitioner before undertaking any treatment.

While we cannot comment on the contents of these magazines, your comments have been duly noted and fed back to our Buying Teams.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Kind regards

Rachel Barnes

Tesco Customer Service

Sound familiar?

There followed much frustrating to-and-fro, both by email and on Facebook, while I asked them if I could have a reply from their corporate responsibility department. Mostly, they simply didn’t understand the question. Eventually, however, we seemed to make progress.

On Facebook, I was told that the corporate responsibility team would not reply to me directly, but would simply send the standard response from customer services that everyone else sent, because they like to ensure that their replies are consistent.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 12:16:04

On the same day, I received the following email from someone else in their customer services department:

Dear Adam

Thank you for your reply.

I would like to advise that in order for you to contact our Corporate responsibility team you would have to put it in writing to our Head Office in Cheshunt and the address is as follows.

New Tesco House
Delamare Road

Once again thank you for your reply.

Kind regards

Stephen Horn

Tesco Customer Service

So much for consistent replies.

Well, I did indeed do as Stephen suggested and I wrote an old-fashioned letter on a real piece of paper and put it in the post. That was getting on for 4 weeks ago, and I haven’t had a reply. I don’t honestly expect to get one.

Now, I dare say that Tesco’s corporate responsibility team have other things to worry about. Trying to make sure that not too many of the people who make their clothes in sweatshops in Bangladesh get killed in unsafe working conditions probably keeps them quite busy. They probably also need to spend a certain amount of time figuring out what kind of farm animals are in their ready meals and just how dishonestly to respond when they’re caught selling the wrong kind.

But still, it’s now about 2 months since I first contacted them. Is it really too much to expect a brief reply? Perhaps Tesco don’t see this as a corporate responsibility issue. Well, that’s their prerogative, but I don’t see why someone in their corporate responsibility department couldn’t at least have taken the trouble to spend 5 minutes writing an email to say so. Can we really take Tesco’s commitments to corporate responsibility seriously if their corporate responsibility department so completely fails to engage with members of the public? I do wonder whether their corporate responsibility department even exists. On Twitter, Tesco assured me that it did, but I have yet to see any evidence of that. Certainly never got the promised reply.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 14:36:06

To my mind, this is absolutely a corporate responsibility issue. By selling WDDTY, Tesco are giving it a stamp of respectability. This is not about “free speech” or whether anyone is trying to “ban” WDDTY, despite some folks’ attempts to paint it that way (those arguments have been dealt with comprehensively by Matthew Lamand Andy Lewis). It’s about whether it’s responsible for retailers such as Tesco to give WDDTY an implicit stamp of approval. Anyone taken in by that false impression of credibility could be harmed, and I don’t think that’s a responsible way for Tesco to act.


Is dairy ‘cancer food’?

Is dairy ‘cancer food’?
Is dairy ‘cancer food’? asks WDDTY rhetorically in its “special report” by an unnamed writer.

Based on the opinions of a “cancer expert” who is not an oncologist, is no longer GMC registered and sells supplements, a notorious crank with a history of misleading claims, and arm-waving appeals to “every expert” which are not backed up by evidence of consensus of expert opinion, a favourite bogeyman of “nutritionists” is asserted to be a cause of cancer.

Where sources are cited, they fail to back the text supposedly based on them. For example, a source that states a risk from high but not low-fat dairy intake is stated as evidence that dairy per se increases risk.

2013-11_15Is dairy ‘cancer food’?

Author not identified

“In my view, anyone with cancer should give up dairy completely,” says Dr Patrick Kingsley, British cancer expert and author of The New Medicine. From Tokyo to Arizona, every expert who focused on cancer and nutrition repeated the same mantra: Give up dairy.

Patrick Kingsley is not an oncologist. he is not GMC registered. He is a proponent of his self-originated “new medicine” and a vendor of alternative treatments. Support for his claims to expertise and the validity of his treatments comes primarily in the form of books authored by himself. He appears to have no peer-reviewed publications indexed by PubMed.

Searches of common databases and information resources reveals no consensus n favour of dairy exclusion among dieticians or oncologists. The primary search term linking cancer and dairy is a study finding slightly elevated risk of prostate cancer associated with dairy consumption, which acknowledges that it cannot unpick the effects of dairy from the role of calcium in vitamin D metabolism (see below).

British scientist Jane Plant was 42 years old when she first noticed a lump in her breast; six years later, the disease had spread to her lymph system and she was left with a lump “the size of half a boiled egg” protruding from her neck. Plant’s situation, deemed terminal, rapidly turned around when she decided to cut out dairy.

Within days the malignant lump on her neck began to shrink and, within six weeks, it had vanished completely. That was 25 years ago—it hasn’t returned since.

The idea of a metastatic malignancy that was cured in weeks by simply excluding dairy from the diet, is implausible. No sources are provided for the claim.

Jane Plant is a geologist and geochemist, not a medical scientist.

New evidence From Kaiser Permanente research division, which tracked nearly two thousand breast cancer survivors for up to 12 years, shows that women who continue eating dairy after their  breast cancer has
been diagnosed are 49 per cent more likely to die from their cancer (and significantly more likely to die from any cause) than women who cut such foods from their diet.1

Reference 1: J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 May 1;105(9):616-23. High- and low-fat dairy intake, recurrence, and mortality after breast cancer diagnosis. Kroenke CH, Kwan ML, Sweeney C, Castillo A, Caan BJ.

BACKGROUND: Dietary fat in dairy is a source of estrogenic hormones and may be related to worse breast cancer survival. We evaluated associations between high- and low-fat dairy intake, recurrence, and mortality after breast cancer diagnosis.

RESULTS: In multivariable-adjusted analyses, overall dairy intake was unrelated to breast cancer-specific outcomes, although it was positively related to overall mortality. Low-fat dairy intake was unrelated to recurrence or survival. However, high-fat dairy intake was positively associated with outcomes. 

CONCLUSIONS: Intake of high-fat dairy, but not low-fat dairy, was related to a higher risk of mortality after breast cancer diagnosis (emphasis added)

The claim that cancer outcomes are significantly worse in women who consume dairy products is specifically refuted by this study. It finds, however, an association between high fat dairy (i.e. more of the oestrogenic hormones in dairy fat) and mortality.

This would be a good reason to switch to lower fat dairy products and a terrible reason to exclude dairy, especially for post-menopausal women at risk of osteoporosis.

“There is now consistent and substantial evidence that the higher the milk consumption of a country, the greater their breast and prostate cancer risk,” says British nutritionist and author Patrick Holford.

Patrick Holford qualified as a psychologist, has no legitimate qualifications in diet, is a vendor of supplements, an HIV-AIDS denialist and promotes quack ideas such as hair analysis.

According to 2008 figures, the incidence of breast cancer for women in China was 21.6 for every 100,000 people, while in America the rate is 76, in the UK it’s 89.1 and in France—a country famous for its love affair
with butter and cream—it’s 99.7.2 These differences cannot be reduced to genetics, as migrational studies reveal that when Chinese and Japanese people move to the West, their rates of breast (and prostate) cancer go up.

This is an example of the post hoc fallacy. There is no proven causal relationship.

Reference 2:

Compare this with a list of countries by milk consumption. Fourth highest milk consumption per capita is India. India has well below average breast cancer incidence. While a link is possible, it is not supported by these figures.

Adulterated milk

But the problem may have more to do with the state of today’s store-bought milk, and our obsession with ‘low-fat’ rather than with dairy per se. For instance, when scientists look for the link between dairy and prostate cancer, they find that the risk is higher only with low-fat milk, which delivers too high levels of calcium and strips out the protective anticancer effects of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA),a powerful anticarcinogen.3

Reference 3: Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1147-54. Dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intakes and prostate cancer risk in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Epidemiologic Follow-up Study cohort. Tseng M, Breslow RA, Graubard BI, Ziegler RG.

CONCLUSIONS: Dairy consumption may increase prostate cancer risk through a calcium-related pathway. Calcium and low-fat milk have been promoted to reduce risk of osteoporosis and colon cancer. Therefore, the mechanisms by which dairy and calcium might increase prostate cancer risk should be clarified and confirmed. (emphasis added)

This finding is inconsistent with the breast cancer finding, and is stated by the authors to be a weak finding (“may increase risk”) which requires further analysis to unpick the different factors involved, including the roles of calcium and vitamin D.

Why milk might feed cancer

CLA also protects against the most cancer accelerator: insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. The hormone naturally circulates in our blood and, like cortisol, progesterone and oestrogen, it’s necessary—it’s in mother’s milk to ensure the baby grows, and levels of IGF-1 rise in puberty to stimulate the growth of breasts. As we grow older, levels naturally drop off. That is, unless you’re a dairy lover.

This appears to be addressed by reference 1: it is related to fat content not dairy per se.

“We certainly know that people who consume a lot of dairy products will have higher levels of IGF-1,” says Patrick Holford.

“It simply does what it’s meant to do—stimulate growth. It also stops overgrowing cells from committing suicide, a process called ‘apoptosis’.”

Besides breast cancer, elevated IGF-1 levels have been linked to increased risks of colorectal, breast, pancreatic, lung, prostate, renal, ovarian and endometrial cancer.4 In fact, men with the highest IGF-1 levels quadruple their risk of prostate cancer 5

Reference 4: Recent Pat Anticancer Drug Discov. 2012;7:14–30. Insulin-like Growth Factor: Current Concepts and New Developments in Cancer Therapy Erin R. King, MD, MPH and Kwong-Kwok Wong, PhD

A somewhat puzzling source as it is reviewing patent reports related to IGF-1.

Reference 5: Science. 1998 Jan 23;279(5350):563-6. Plasma insulin-like growth factor-I and prostate cancer risk: a prospective study. Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci E, Gann PH, Ma J, Wilkinson P, Hennekens CH, Pollak M.

“Identification of plasma IGF-I as a predictor of prostate cancer risk may have implications for risk reduction and treatment” – the source mentions dairy only once, as a citation to Am. J. Epidemiol. (2007) 166 (11): 1270-1279. Calcium, Dairy Foods, and Risk of Incident and Fatal Prostate Cancer The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, Park et. al. which states: “Although the authors cannot definitively rule out a weak association for aggressive prostate cancer, their findings do not provide strong support for the hypothesis that calcium and dairy foods increase prostate cancer risk.”

A search for each of the cancer types listed plus dairy, taking the first obvious peer-reviewed study for each:

  • Colorectal cancer: “Milk intake was related to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer” – J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004 Jul 7;96(13):1015-22. Dairy foods, calcium, and colorectal cancer: a pooled analysis of 10 cohort studies.
  • Breast cancer : As above, a risk associated with high but not low-fat dairy produce
  • Pancreatic cancer: “Total meat, red meat, and dairy products were not related to risk” – Am. J. Epidemiol. (2003) 157 (12): 1115-1125. Dietary Meat, Dairy Products, Fat, and Cholesterol and Pancreatic Cancer Risk in a Prospective Study Michaud et. al.
  • Lung cancer: No obvious significant studies, but dairy farmers have lower lung cancer incidence.
  • Prostate cancer: As above, weak evidence of increased risk, uncertain at this stage whether it is dairy specific or related to calcium / vitamin D link
  • Ovarian cancer: “Overall, no associations were observed for intakes of specific dairy foods or calcium and ovarian cancer risk” – Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Feb;15(2):364-72. – Dairy products and ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 12 cohort studies. Genkinger et. al.
  • Endometrial cancer: “Total dairy intake was not significantly associated with risk of preinvasive endometrial cancer. [W]e observed a marginally significant overall association between dairy intake and endometrial cancer” – Int J Cancer. 2012 Jun 1;130(11):2664-71. Milk, dairy intake and risk of endometrial cancer: a 26-year follow-up. Ganmaa et. al.

So the boldly asserted claim of a strong link with numerous specific cancers, not backed by references to sources, is contradicted where sources address the question directly.

However, the claim that dairy increases risks of these cancers is stated as fact (again without sources) by  Vegan International Voice for Animals, and contradicted with allusions to sources but no specific references by The Dairy Council, whose summaries are in line with the studies listed above.

In general, claims that milk is a significant and substantial risk factor for cancers are linked primarily to sites with an ideological commitment to reduced dairy consumption or other alternative diet and health claims.

But what about bones? 

We’ve been repeatedly told that drinking milk builds strong bones, yet clinical research tells a different story. One study, which followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years, showed no protective effect of increased pasteurized milk consumption on fracture risk.

The source of this figure is Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504–511. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women Diane Feskanich, Walter C Willett, and Graham A Colditz. This refers to post-menopausal women; as it notes: “A review of the literature concluded that there is no clear benefit of higher milk or dairy food intake on bone mass or fracture risk in women > 50 y of age but that a benefit is seen in women < 30 (37)”

The WDDTY article appears to be using the bait-and-switch tactic of conflating two cohorts (pre- and post-menopausal women)with different risk and benefit profiles.

Could eating your greens provide better protection?

A report from the US Nurses’ Health Study found that those eating a serving of lettuce or other green leafy vegetables every day cut the risk of hip fracture in half compared with eating only one serving a week.6

Reference 6: Am J Clin Nutr, 1999; 69: 74–9 Vitamin K intake and hip fractures in women: a prospective study. Feskanich D, Weber P, Willett WC, Rockett H, Booth SL, Colditz GA.

CONCLUSIONS: Low intakes of vitamin K may increase the risk of hip fracture in women. The data support the suggestion for a reassessment of the vitamin K requirements that are based on bone health and blood coagulation.

This applies to post-menopausal women, for whom dairy is not found to be protective.

A much later and wider-ranging study is Health Technol Assess. 2009 Sep;13(45):iii-xi, 1-134. Vitamin K to prevent fractures in older women: systematic review and economic evaluation. Stevenson M, Lloyd-Jones M, Papaioannou D.:

CONCLUSIONS: There is currently large uncertainty over whether vitamin K1 is more cost-effective than alendronate; further research is required. It is unlikely that the present prescribing policy (i.e. alendronate as first-line treatment) would be altered.

This suggests that sources may have been selected to serve an agenda rather than on the basis of the best and most current research.

Dark leafy greens not only provide calcium, but are also a potent source of vitamin K, which helps in calcium regulation and bone formation. There’s another benefit to choosing non-dairy foods. “Eating nuts, seeds and greens gives you the right balance of calcium and magnesium, but you don’t get that balance in dairy products,” says Holford. For those considering switching to soy milk, you might be interested to hear how it is made. According to Dr Al Sears, a physician with extensive experience in natural healthcare, it involves “washing the beans in alkaline or boiling them in a petroleum-based solvent; bleaching, deodorizing and pumping them full of additives; heat-blasting and crushing them into flakes; and then mixing them with water to make ‘milk’.”

This rather transparent dig at soya milk is no doubt entirely unrelated to the fact that in the US soya is routinely sourced from GM crops. Surely it would be entirely out of character to attack an entire food source on the basis of an instinctive dislike for genetically modified crops.

Thankfully there is a plethora of options available for the non-dairy consumer today, ranging almond milk to raw truffle chocolate.

Thankfully there is no credible evidence that any such thing is required, as fake milk products tend to be an acquired taste.

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that cutting out dairy will prevent or cure cancer?

Because there’s no good evidence it will.

The WDDTY wars: why they don’t want you to read all about it

tweetLong experience indicates that the reaction of cranks to criticism is very often to reframe it in terms that reduce cognitive dissonanceW, for example by dismissing scientific evidence as coming from “pharma shills”.

On October 3, WDDTY tweeted the following commentary to its followers. Continue reading The WDDTY wars: why they don’t want you to read all about it