Tag Archives: Dairy

Autism: it’s all in the gut

WDDTY is consistently wrong about autism. From promoting chelation quackery to pretending that recent academic work vindicates Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent attempts to pin autism on MMR, they are reliably incorrect.

This “special report”  is no exception: it appears designed to further the commercial interests of WDDTY’s contributors and advertisers.

The Autism Research Unit (ARU), University of Sunderland, has concluded that autism is not a mental illness, but a metabolic one.

Who said autism was a mental illness? An immense body of recent work points to a genetic causation and objective differences in brain development. The idea that it is metabolic is seductive (that might allow a simple cure, and quacks have been all over that for years with the “autism biomed” nonsense) but there’s no proof that the link between autism and intestinal disorders is as they present it: it is every bit as likely that the stress exhibited by the autistic patient is the cause of the intestinal problem.

And the ARU has not been part of the University of Sunderland since 2009.

ESPA is not, as WDDTY present it, an academic research entity within the university, it is a separate group dedicated to promoting research into metabolic treatment of autism. This may or may not be valid, but in any group that exists to research a single hypothesis, there is an inherent danger of confirmation biasW and even pathological scienceW.

One red flag is the involvement of Malcolm Hooper, who has been involved in attacks on Professor Sir Simon WesselyW by a subset of the ME/CFS community (see here for a discussion of some of this group).

So, this may well be legitimate research and could even lead to some palliative treatments, but it has to be viewed in the wider context of research finding evidence of autism from birth (see for example reports at BBC, LA Times). You certainly can’t say that the researchers have ”concluded” this, since they seem to have started off from the premise that it was the case and looked for evidence to support it.

In their research of more than 1200 children with autism over 11 years, they have evidence that autism is caused by the action of peptides outside the brain and central nervous system. These peptides result in effects which either cause opioid activity or help to break down the opioid peptides that occur naturally within the CNS. Natural opioid peptides, which include the enkephalins and endorphins, play a central role in regulating the CNS, affecting all high cognitive functions, like perception and emotion. Through the action of these peptides, the neuroregulatory role may be altered or intensified to such an extent that most higher processes within the CNS are completely disrupted.This interference would affect perception, cognition, emotions, mood and behaviour, leading to all the diverse symptoms we characterise as autism.

That’s one view. Here’s another:

We have presented abnormal neural connectivity as an explanatory framework within which genetic and neuropathological findings on autism may be unified with neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and behavior. Communication between these levels of analysis promises a greater understanding of mechanisms underlying both normal and pathological development of neural and cognitive systems and has the potential to render a multiplicity of experimental and theoretical approaches more coherent.

And another:

Normal brains, they found, are alike in that for about 500 genes, gene expression in the temporal lobes — which regulate hearing, language, and the processing and interpreting of sounds — is very different from gene expression in the frontal lobe, which plays a role in judgment, creativity, emotions, and speech.

But in as many as 75% of the autistic brains there was very little difference in gene expression between the temporal and frontal lobes.

In the autistic brains, genes related to synaptic function — information sharing between neuronal brain cells — were turned down to low levels of expression.

“This points to a developmental patterning defect,” Geschwind says. “That means the usual patterning of the brain — the way different parts of the brain hook up — might be altered in autism.”

So it looks as if, as usual, WDDTY are cherry-picking their results and representing single striking findings as if they are generally accepted and proven.

Once again we come back to the fact that increasingly autism is seen as likely to be a genetic disorder, with evidence found from birth (before gluten or casein are introduced to the diet) or even in utero.

But where do these extra peptides come from? The ARU believes the culprit is certain foods and the inability of the body to process these foods due to an inadequacy of the enzymes ordinarily responsible for breaking them down. The most frequent causes are gluten from wheat and other gluten containing cereals, like rye, barley and oats, and also milk and dairy products.

Nutribollocks motherlode! Gluten and dairy, two of the things the paleo fools finger for all that ails mankind. In practice, while there may be effects here, the primary difference is unlikely to be related to well-established disorders such as coeliac disease and much more likely to be a co-morbidity of some genetic malfunction.

Genetic factors or nutritional vitamin or mineral deficiencies may be behind the inadequate function of the enzymes involved.

Genetic factors might be, nutritional deficiencies not so much. The autism biomed community has conducted a lengthy albeit uncontrolled and unstructured experiment on this, supplementation does not cure autism.

These rogue peptides make it to the CNS largely due to a damaged gut. Normally, the proteins lining the gut wall are sulphated, forming a protective layer over the gut wall surface. But when the gut doesn’t produce enough sulphation, proteins in the gut wall tend to clump together, causing an uneven gut wall surface and increasing gut permeability. This, in turn, allows foods into the bloodstream (and eventually the CNS).

This sounds suspiciously like that other crank favourite, “leaky gut syndromeW”. Yet another condition that only cranks appear able to identify.

Most of the children examined by the ARU have this abnormality in the gut. These gross gut wall abnormalities appear to be the result of an insult to the body or a toxicity. The ARU has evidence that one of the most common insults is the MMR vaccine (see box, p 3). Gut abnormalities and the onset of autism have also followed a bout of encephalitis or meningitis. Other environmental toxicities, such as pesticides, also appear to be implicated in damaging the gut.

It has been noted elsewhere that one of the symptoms of autism is high levels of stress and nervous energy. This is known to prompt changes in intestinal behaviour. And look, they finger the MMR vaccine. You know, the one that has been extensively examined and found to have no association whatsoever with autism. For example, when Japan went to single vaccines, the autism diagnosis rate did not change at all. And signs of autism begin at birth, not with MMR vaccinations.

Why don’t doctors tell you that autism is caused by the “insult” to the immune system posed by the MMR vaccine?

Because it’s a long-disproven, vicious anti-vaccine lie.

What Doctors Don’t Tell You is wrong about autism

A splendid fisking by Mike Stanton (@Convivir) of WDDTY’s latest nonsensical piece on autism, the quack target du jour for pretty much every jour since Andy Wakefield’s fraudfest. Numerous other hot buttons of the SCAM community are also present.

Reblogged with permission from penumbrage.com

What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY) is a magazine that claims it is “helping you make better health choices.” But it has drawn criticism from those like Andy Lewis who wrote on the Quackometer blog,

this magazine is the latest offering from Lynne McTaggart who produces the What Doctors Don’t Tell You website. It is one of the most consistently misleading health sites in the UK, reveling in misinformation that routinely undermine readers’ confidence in their doctor and to scare them into accepting questionable alternatives, such as vitamin pills. The website and magazine advertise many problematic health products that could harm people if used in place of real medicine.

I have just bought a copy from my local supermarket. It is a glossy magazine with lots of adverts and articles promoting diets, vitamins, supplements, creams and  lotions, super foods, exercise regimes and holistic therapies. There are even alternative remedies for pets. It is not always clear where editorial content ends and advertising begins. The pet therapies are a case in point. Paul Boland contributes a two page spread on veterinary acupuncture. Turn over and there is a full-page advert for Natural Health Vet, a company selling products “developed, used and recommended by …” Yes, you guessed it, Paul Boland. Advertorial, anybody?

The headline story is called, “Reversing osteoporosis. You can rebuild your bones.” It tells us that osteoporosis is “a lifestyle disorder” that is reversible by following a diet, supplement and exercise plan. We are told that Linus Pauling was right. Cancer is curable with high dose Vitamin C. But you have to inject it, not ingest it. An osteopath writes an article claiming you can cure whiplash with osteopathy. Lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of dementia by 60%.

Like most people who pick up magazines in supermarkets I am not a doctor and have no way of evaluating these claims. I have no argument with healthy eating and regular exercise. But I am suspicious of claims that doctors and drug companies are in it together to spread misleading information and promote the use of profitable but unnecessary medications. However this issue does contain an article on autism, which is why I bought it.  And I do know enough about autism to critically read that article. And if WDDTY is wrong about my area of expertise why should I believe them about anything else?

The Autism Explosion

This month (April 2014) the print edition of WDDTY features an article entitled “Autism: it’s all in the gut,” which begins with a familiar claim.

There’s one startling fact about autism that marks it out from all the other chronic diseases of modern times – the explosion of cases over the past 30 years.  Back in 1985, just six children out of every  10,000 were diagnosed with autism; today one in every 88 children has the condition, and some reckon it affects one in 50 children.

I have four problems with this statement, apart from the fact that it is wrong.

  1. If you are going to compare statistics do not make your readers do the math. Make the comparison obvious. 1 in 88 equates to 112 in 10000 which makes for easier comparison with 6 in 10000.
  2. Source your statistics. There are a number of references at the end of this article. But none are given for the epidemiological data. Hence the reader cannot check its accuracy.
  3. Use real statistics. WDDTY is a UK publication and the key data points for autism epidemiology in the UK are 4.5 in 10000 (Lotter 1966); 21.2 in 10000 (Wing and Gould 1979); 116 in 10000 (Baird et al 2006). All these studies are referenced on the National Autistic Society website. None of them are mentioned by WDDTY.
  4. Make sure you are comparing like with like. Wing and Gould found similar results to Lotter when they used his criteria. But a broader definition of autism produced their higher figure. Baird used different criteria again (ICD-10) and found 38.9 in 10,000 for childhood autism, and 77.2 in 10,000 for other autism spectrum disorders. WDDTY use headline figures for all autistic spectrum disorders and pretend they are referring to the narrow definition of childhood autism used by most researchers for 40 years after Kanner’s original description of autism in 1943.

There may or may not have been an actual increase in autism over the last 30 years. But there are alternative explanations for the increase in numbers.

  1. If you go out and look for autism in the general population you will find more cases than if you sit in your office waiting for patients to arrive. Studies that screen whole populations and directly assess individuals identified in that screening process produce higher figures than studies that interrogate patient databases.
  2. If you change the criteria for autism you can engineer dramatic increases as demonstrated by Wing and Gould in their Camberwell study. Using Lotter’s strict criteria they found 4.9 in 10000 which compares well to Lotter’s finding of 4.5 in 10000. But  by including all children identified with the now familiar triad of impairments, regardless of whether or not they met Lotter’s criteria, they found a four-fold increase. This is easy to understand if you compare the criteria. Lotter required “a profound lack of affective contact.”  The triad refers instead to impairments in ability.
  3. The success of  advocacy groups in raising awareness has led to better estimates of the numbers. Autism statistics were just not collected thirty years ago and are still not in many countries. Without numbers there is no impetus to create services. But once services exist they drive the numbers up. California’s autism statistics were used to fuel claims for an autism epidemic until it was pointed out that the massive unevenness in rates within California coincided with the availability of services in affluent areas (high rates) and the lack of services in poorer areas (low rates). Those states in the USA with a reputation for providing good autism services have higher rates than the national average. In the UK 40 years ago autistic children were denied access to education. Now a diagnosis is a passport to special educational provision, albeit of variable quality,

All of which gives me cause to question that sentence at the beginning of the WDDTY article.

There’s one startling fact about autism that marks it out from all the other chronic diseases of modern times – the explosion of cases over the past 30 years.

It’s All In The Gut

WDDTY argues that

New research is narrowing the focus to the gut. Many autistic children have a host of gastrointestinal (GI) problems that carry on into adulthood, and some of the worst symptoms seem to improve if the diet is changed, often to exclude gluten.

The GI narrative has a long history and very little definitive evidence to support it. In 2010 a Consensus Report by 28 doctors and researchers published in Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Association of Pediatrics, concluded that most studies suffered methodological limitations. Small sample sizes, lack of a control group, failure to apply standardized definitions of GI disorders and of severity of autistic symptoms were commonly cited. The consensus was that GI symptoms were probably more prevalent in people with ASD but we did not know for certain and could not say why. Among the 23 consensus statements the following are most pertinent to our present discussion.

Statement 1 (Key Statement)

Individuals with ASDs who present with gastrointestinal symptoms warrant a thorough evaluation, as would be undertaken for individuals without ASDs who have the same symptoms or signs. Evidence-based algorithms for the assessment of abdominal pain, constipation, chronic diarrhea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) should be developed.

This is the key statement. Too often GI symptoms in autistic patients are misinterpreted as behavioural manifestations of autism and treated accordingly. This is most likely to happen in young children and others who are unable to verbally describe their symptoms. The symptoms continue unabated and may worsen. Caregivers then turn to practitioners of alt-med, like the purveyors of WDDTY, who persuade them that these GI symptoms are not the result of autism but its cause. And of course they have the explanation and the cure. But other consensus statements from the AAP undermine this simplistic perspective.

Statement 4

The existence of a gastrointestinal disturbance specific to persons with ASDs (eg, “autistic enterocolitis”) has not been established.

Statement 5

The evidence for abnormal gastrointestinal permeability in individuals with ASDs is limited. Prospective studies should be performed to determine the role of abnormal permeability in neuropsychiatric manifestations of ASDs.

Statement 11

Anecdotal reports have suggested that there may be a subgroup of individuals with ASDs who respond to dietary intervention. Additional data are needed before pediatricians and other professionals can recommend specific dietary modifications.

Statement 12

Available research data do not support the use of a casein-free diet, a gluten-free diet, or combined gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet as a primary treatment for individuals with ASDs.

Statement 18

The role of immune responses in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal disorders in individuals with ASDs warrants additional investigation.

Statement 19

The role of gut microflora in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal disorders in individuals with ASDs is not well understood.

This is serious work. There were seven working parties reviewing the expert literature in their fields: child psychiatry, developmental paediatrics, epidemiology, medical genetics, immunology, nursing, paediatric allergy, paediatric gastroenterology, paediatric pain, paediatric neurology, paediatric nutrition, and psychology.

Antibiotics and Processed Food

Yet WDDTY chose to ignore them completely. Instead they make this claim for a study of 20 autistic children entitled “Reduced Incidence of Prevotella and Other Fermenters in Intestinal Microflora of Autistic Children.”

The findings suggest that an overuse of antibiotics and  the typical Western diet of processed foods could be significant factors in autism.

But the study specifically excluded children who had received antibiotics in the previous month on the grounds that antibiotic usage would have confounded their results. Moreover the study is clear that its autistic subjects do not follow a typical western diet. Five of the twenty were on a gluten-free, casein-free diet at the time of the study compared to one in the neurotypical control group (n=20). 13 were taking additional supplements compared to 5 in the control group. Taken overall the autistic group consumed more probiotics and more sea food than the control group. Nearly all the parents of the autistic reported problems with the amount their child ate and their child’s restricted diet. This data was not available for the control group. From this it is reasonable to assume that their atypical diet was more likely to contribute to their atypical microflora than the “typical western diet of processed foods” consumed by the typically western control group.

While the autistic group did have significantly higher GI symptoms than the control group there was no relation between the severity of GI symptoms and the severity of their autism. All of which gives me cause to question the statement that

The findings suggest that an overuse of antibiotics and  the typical Western diet of processed foods could be significant factors in autism.

Gluten and Casein

WDDTY believes another study supports their suggestion that antibiotics and processed food are significant factors in autism. In fact it does nothing of the kind. It does not mention antibiotics and did not collect data on or control for variation in diet. It included four children on a gluten-free diet “Because the effect of gluten-free diet on antibody levels in autism is not known.”

It tested autistic children for antibodies in their blood associated with celiac disease and compared them with normal controls. Despite higher levels of antibodies to gluten in the autistic group none of them had celiac disease. There are problems with this study. All 37 autistic subjects were recruited in the USA. But 62 out of 74 members of the control group were recruited in Sweden. Why? And there was no data on the GI disorders in the controls despite extensive but incomplete data on the autistic group. I agree with Laurent Mottron who commented on the study.

These data are uninterpretable in their relation to autism without a non-autistic comparison group matched in gastro-intestinal problems, (using the same instrument of course).

But WDDTY did not cite these studies to prove a point. They are included because they bear some relation to the subject and seem to show that WDDTY have done their research. WDDTY rely on their readers not following up on references and reading the actual studies. I very much doubt whether the author read them either.

Meanwhile back in the UK

WDDTY turns to:

researchers at the Autism Research Unit at the University of Sunderland, now working as ESPA Research.

This was an offshoot of the university that now operates under the auspices of ESPA since its driving force, Paul Shattock, has retired from his position in the Pharmacy department at the university. I know Paul Shattock. He has an autistic son and set up ESPA to provide educational services for autistic people in the Sunderland area. For this and other services to autism he received a well-merited OBE. For a while I was sympathetic to his opioid excess theory of autism causation, often referred to as the Leaky Gut Theory of Autism. But other researchers have tried and failed to replicate his findings.

The theory has been around for a lot longer than the fifteen years cited by WDDTY. I bought a copy of the pamphlet, “Autism as a Metabolic Disorder” from Paul Shattock in 2002 when I was in Sunderland to see if ESPA could provide a suitable placement for my son. Mine is the second edition (May 2001) and even then it stated that the Autism Research Unit had been testing samples for fifteen years. But the theory is older than that. According to the pamphlet

This model is based upon acceptance of the opioid excess theory of autism as initially expounded by Panksepp (1979) and extended by Reichelt (1981)  and ourselves (Shattock 1991).

When I first entered the online autism world of newsgroups and email listservs back in 1997 the leaky gut theory was very popular with parents. It went like this.

  1. Some children have difficulty digesting the proteins gluten (found in grains like wheat and barley) and casein (found in dairy products).
  2. This leads to an excess of peptides in the gut.
  3. If the gut wall is damaged these peptides will leak into the bloodstream and cross the blood brain barrier.
  4. Once inside the brain they either imitate the activity of opioid peptides occurring naturally in the brain or bind to the enzymes that normally break down these naturally occurring opioid peptides.
  5. The result is the same: excess opioid activity in the brain.
  6. This explains the “autistic” behaviour of sufferers. They are like drug addicts who swing between being “high” on the peptides or doing “cold turkey” when they need more peptides. This may also explain some of the cravings for dairy and grain based products in autistic children.
  7. Remove gluten and casein from the diet and the symptoms will diminish.
  8. But they may get worse initially when the “cold turkey” phase kicks in.

This hypothesis was attractive to parents because it seemed to fit their experience; children with food fads or a history of being picky eaters, who appeared to suffer from disruptions to normal perceptual, cognitive, emotional and social development with resultant mood swings and behavioural difficulties. But the hypothesis proved rather too flexible.

The initial theory suggested that children who were prone to infections would have their gut damaged by antibiotics which destroyed the good bacteria in the gut and let the bad bacteria take over.  Yeast and other fungal agents were also suggested as potential villains. So you had to repair and restore the gut to good health while removing the gluten and casein from the diet. Vaccines, particularly MMR, were also implicated based on parental reports. The measles virus from the vaccine was supposed to invade the gut and damage it. So was the damage bacterial, fungal or viral? The picture was further confused by arguments that it was the measles virus that invaded the central nervous system and led to  the autistic symptoms by causing encephalitis. Then came attempts to synthesize all this with a hypothesis from the USA that the mercury content in some vaccines was to blame. Either it induced mercury poisoning in vulnerable children which was mistakenly diagnosed as autism or it acted to make the gut more susceptible to damage from the MMR vaccine.

Pick a card, any card …

Real science, when faced with conflicting and sometimes contradictory theories, tries to control for all the variables and test each one in turn. What is the evidence for leaky gut in autistic subjects? Is leaky gut caused by bacterial, fungal or viral factors? Can we detect excess opioid activity in the brains of autistic people? Given that autistic people are supposed to suffer the double whammy of leaky gut and gluten/casein intolerance what is the evidence for a “single whammy” (either leaky gut or gluten/casein intolerance) in the non-autistic population?

WDDTY does not ask these questions. It does not ask any questions. Instead we are asked to accept that all the theories of causation promoted by the alt-med community are equally valid. There is no conflict between them. Choose a theory, any theory. You pays your money (in most cases a lot of money) and you takes your choice. Any number of therapies may help: vitamin D therapy; gluten and casein free diet; supplements; sensory enrichment (which just snuck in with no mention in the main article of the genuine sensory difficulties in autism); chelation therapy – the  removal of toxic heavy metals like mercury that are alleged to be there in excessive quantities in autistic children.

The Bits on the Side

The article includes two sidebars. One is a puff piece for a book in defence of Andrew Wakefield and the role of vaccines in autism by a quacktitioner called Graham Ewing of Montague Healthcare, a one man operation that he runs from his family home in a village near Nottingham, who promotes his own “virtual scanning” technology as a cure-all for most things. If your credulity is already stretched prepare for it to be snapped by Dr Weinberg and his NeuroModulation Technique™ which has reversed autism, cured arthritis, Crohn’s disease, IBS and other inflammatory disorders. Moreover the person being treated does not have to present for the treatment. The therapist can test functioning by muscle-testing their own arm and transmit their therapy by the power of thought. As WDDTY states in its intro to this sidebar

People of a logical, dogmatic or sceptical disposition, please look away now.

Yes. please do. And on this evidence I suggest that we continue to look away and dogmatically insist on evidence based science to guide our health choices rather than the “good old-fashioned medicated goo” on offer from WDDTY.


The February 2014 issue is really one long advertorial for kefir. It’s dairy, Jim, bit not as we know it: while dairy is denounced as “cancer food“, this is, apparently, completely different. Because probiotic.

This is how to make kefir:

Basic kefir
You can use the method below to make any amount of kefir you desire; just keep in mind that a good rule of thumb is to use 1 Tbsp of kefir grains per cup of milk. So if you want to make 1 cup of kefir, use 1 Tbsp of kefir grains and 1 cup of milk. For 2 cups of kefir, use 2 Tbsp of kefir grains and 2 cups of milk, and so on.
Step 1: Place the kefir grains in a glass jar that can be securely sealed. I like canning jars with plastic lids, but you can use any jar that closes securely.
Step 2: Using the 1 Tbsp to 1 cup ratio of kefir grains to milk, add the appropriate amount of milk to the jar.
Step 3: Securely seal the jar, and leave it on your kitchen counter away from direct sunlight or in a cabinet at room temperature for 24 hours.
Step 4: After 24 hours, remove the kefir grains using a slotted spoon or mesh strainer. (The strainer can be stainless steel or plastic.) Add the kefir grains to fresh milk to begin another fermentation or for storage.
Step 5: Transfer the strained kefir to your refrigerator. At this point, it is ready to use. You can keep kefir in your fridge in a sealed container for up to one year. But remember, the longer it’s in the fridge, the more sour it will become because the bacteria eat the lactose in milk.

Eurgh. On to the claims.

Let’s look at one small section:

1 Stimulates the immune system. Peptides formed during fermentation or digestion appear to do the job, at least in animal studies.

Reference 1: J Dairy Sci, 2002; 85: 2733–42; Matar C et al. ‘Biologically active peptides released in fermented milk: role and functions’, in Farnworth ER, ed. Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2003: 177–201

Interestingly, WDDTY appear to be starting to give some full citations, making it much easier to verify whether they have correctly represented the sources. In this case we have a legitimate source, an early study (therefore likely false), but fact-washed via a book by a nutritionist. The claims of nutritionists are, of course, always questionable, and the original source is available; it’s not clear why this indirect sourcing has been done, unless Lynne McTaggart has been reading a book proselytising kefir and is simply regurgitating the nonsense in WDDTY (which on the evidence does seem very likely).

In the last dozen years, why has this finding not been confirmed?

2 Stops tumour growth. Although most dairy products have been implicated in the promotion of prostate and other cancers, a polysaccharide isolated from kefir grains, whether in cow or soy milk, appears to inhibit a variety of tumours, including lung cancer cells and melanoma—again in animal studies.

Reference 2a: Jpn J Med Sci Biol, 1983; 36: 49–53; 

The original paper is hard to trace, no doubt because it is not in translation. It is a 30-year-old animal study. Your starter for ten and no conferring: what is the term for thirty-year-old findings of anti-cancer activity not confirmed in later work in mainstream journals specialising in cancer research? Yes: Likely false.

Reference 2b: Immunopharmacology, 1986; 12: 29–35; Immunopotentiative effect of polysaccharide from Kefir grain, KGF-C, administered orally in mice Mitsugu Murofushi, Junichiro Mizuguchi, Kageaki Aibara, Tyoku Matuhasi.

Reference 2c: J Agric Sci Tokyo Nogyo Daigaku, 2000; 45: 62–70

This source is not PubMed indexed, nor would I expect it to be – medical articles are not commonly published in journals of agricultural science.

All three of these seem to be drawn second hand from Farnworth, as with the first reference. There is a dearth of confirming evidence.

3 Allows better digestion and tolerance of lactose in the lactose-intolerant. Gassiness and digestion has been improved in both animals and humans given kefir.

Reference 3: J Am Diet Assoc, 2003; 103: 582–7  Kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose maldigestion. Hertzler SR, Clancy SM.

Why would this matter? According to WDDTY, dairy (other than kefir) is “cancer food”.

4 Improves digestion generally. Studies in animals show that regularly consuming kefir helps bacteria in the bowel grow significantly.

Reference 4: Lett Appl Microbiol, 2002; 35: 136–40 Dietary influence of kefir on microbial activities in the mouse bowel. Marquina D, Santos A, Corpas I, Muñoz J, Zazo J, Peinado JM

This would not be a surprise (it applies to all probiotics, after all), but why another ancient animal study from a dozen years back?

5 Provides a natural antibiotic. Kefir has been shown to inhibit E. coli and Streptoccocus bacteria.

Reference 5a: J Food Prot, 2000; 63: 364–9; Inhibitory power of kefir: the role of organic acids. Garrote GL, Abraham AG, De Antoni GL.

Reference 5b: Lebensm Wiss Technol, 2004; 37: 663–7; Determination of some characteristics coccoid forms of lactic acid bacteria isolated from Turkish kefirs with natural probiotic. Yüksekdag Z.N., Beyatli Y., Aslim B.

Reference 5c: Indian Vet J, 01/2004; 81: 687–90; 

Again we have studies in vitro and in animals – and from some time back. Why? There is credible evidence that kefir grown on milk infected with e.coli may induce resistance to e.coli, and there are credible reasons why this might be, but there’s no indication that this is inherent to all kefir, only to that grown in an infected medium.

6 May help reduce cholesterol. Small studies show that blood triglycerides are lower and good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol slightly increased in those consuming kefir compared with milk
for four weeks.

Reference 6: BMC Complement Altern Med, 2002; 2: 1 Kefir consumption does not alter plasma lipid levels or cholesterol fractional synthesis rates relative to milk in hyperlipidemic men: a randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN10820810]. St-Onge MP, Farnworth ER, Savard T, Chabot D, Mafu A, Jones PJ.

This has Farnworth as co-author, and it’s in a quackademic journal, so might be expected, from context, to be positive.



Kefir had no effect on total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or triglyceride concentrations nor on cholesterol fractional synthesis rates after 4 wk of supplementation. No significant change on plasma fatty acid levels was observed with diet. However, both kefir and milk increased (p < 0.05) fecal isobutyric, isovaleric and propionic acids as well as the total amount of fecal short chain fatty acids. Kefir supplementation resulted in increased fecal bacterial content in the majority of the subjects.


Since kefir consumption did not result in lowered plasma lipid concentrations, the results of this study do not support consumption of kefir as a cholesterol-lowering agent. [emphasis added]

Cherry picking secondary outcome measures and ignoring the disconfirmation of primary measures is scientific misconduct. Just as well McTaggart is not a scientist and WDDTY is not a science journal. You have to hand it to WDDTY, though – to cite a source in order to support a statement that is flatly contradicted by the results and conclusions of that source, takes balls.

But then, WDDTY is nothing if not a load of balls.


Mediterranean diet

One of the more consistent pieces of advice in WDDTY is to follow a “mediterranean dietW”; it’s recommended over 30 times. Wikipedia describes this as “a modern nutritional recommendation inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of Greece, Spain and Southern Italy” – in other words an idealised caricature of the actual Mediterranean diet, which varies around the region.

Mediterranean Diet
While there were similarities between the countries, there are also important differences in the food habits of the Mediterranean countries. Neighbouring countries’ food habits are closer than those on opposite sides of the Mediterranean Sea…. There is no single ideal Mediterranean diet.

Noah A. and Truswell A. S. (2001), Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 10:2-9.

There is no single diet that could be called Mediterranean, and there are more similarities between the diets of non-Mediterranean countries bordering Mediterranean countries than between the diets of countries on opposite sides of the Mediterranean, and at least one author concludes that:

[I]t appears that currently there is insufficient material to give a proper definition of what the Mediterranean diet is or was in terms of well-defined chemical compounds or even in terms of foods…. The all-embracing term ‘Mediterranean diet’ should not be used in scientific literature….”

A. Ferro-Luzzi, “The Mediterranean Diet: an attempt to define its present and past composition”, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 43:13-29 (1989)

Needless to say, WDDTY is not scientific literature, and neither are the books, websites and journals beloved of “nutritionists”. These seem to broadly agree that a Mediterranean diet consists of:

  • Fruit, especially tomatoes
  • Vegetables
  • Bread
  • Olive oil as the principal source of fat
  • Dairy products
  • Fish and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Some red meat
  • Some wine

Fat forms 25%-35% of the calorific value, with saturated fats below 8%.

A jaunty nautical type demonstrates the Mediterranean diet WDDTY style, with all toxic elements removed, but falls at the last hurdle because it's canned.
A jaunty nautical type demonstrates the Mediterranean diet WDDTY style, with all toxic elements removed, but falls at the last hurdle because it’s canned.

However, WDDTY has a problem with some of these.

  • It recommends against tomatoes (they are “nightshades”, or solanacaeW), a dozen or so separate mentions of this stricture going right back to the early days and continuing in recent issues.
  • It recommends against wheat, and columnists routinely finger wheat as the first thing to cut out of your diet, well over a hundred times; WDDTY goes way beyond the real incidence of wheat intolerance.
  • It identifies dairy as “cancer food”.
  • It recommends saturated fats, even going so far as to advise “don’t limit saturated fats”.
  • It recommends caution when eating fish, because mercury.
  • Eggs are correctly identified as a common source of food intolerance (one of the three of WDDTY’s “big 7” food allergens that actually appears in the top 8 as defined by the reality-based medical community).
  • It recommends against red meat.

So if you try to follow all of WDDTY’s advice simultaneously, you’ll be left eating mainly spinach.


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: http://globocan.iarc.fr/factsheets/cancers/breast.asp#INCIDENCE

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.

Older but not healthier

Older but not healthier
Older but not healthier: Ignore the government’s advice about to what eat if you want live to a ripe old age is an article in the November 2013 issue of WDDTY.

It is written by Robert Verkerk, founder of the Alliance for Natural health, a supplement industry pressure group based in the UK.

It advises readers to ignore government advice on nutrition and take instead the advice of a pressure group. Is this a sound approach?

Older but not healthier: 

Ignore the government’s advice about to what eat if you want live to a ripe old age

Robert Verkerk, founder, ANH Europe

National statistics give us a clue of our predicted lifespan on this planet. Most men and women in the UK are expected to live more than 80 years, but relatively few make it beyond 90. That may be better than we were doing 50 years ago, but recent statistics suggest lifespans might be shortening again.

This is true, and is indeed thought to be mainly due to the effects of diet and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Some contend that those who grew up during and shortly after the war, with rationing, have better health as a result.

But mortality statistics show us just one side of the coin. Possibly the more relevant issue is how long we remain healthy and disease-free. As a society more of us are living longer, but with chronic illness.

This is true up to a point: chronic illnesses such as arthritis are age-related and not really preventable at present, whereas type II diabetes is largely caused by lifestyle. The best advice is to eat healthily and exercise moderately. Give or take the occasional fancy bit of dressing-up, this has been the advice for a long time.

Heart disease and diabetes, two of the big killers, are now developing among children, and few of us make it to 70 without cancer, heart disease, diabetes or dementia. This raises the question: How much control do we have over our destiny?

These are two disjoint statements. Childhood obesity is a significant problem, but is separate from the question of, say, cancer, where it’s widely recognised that improved early diagnosis is a significant driver for increased diagnosis. This is not universally thought to be a good thing: Margaret McCartney’s The Patient Paradox details some of the issues with screening for cancer.

The evidence suggests that while it may be more difficult to dramatically alter our lifespan, we can easily reduce our risk of disease and improve our quality of life. Although Big Pharma and modern medicine have yet to come up with a silver bullet that helps us prevent disease to any significant degree, the science is clear on one factor: our choice of diet and lifestyle is the single strongest determinant—genetics apart—of the health quality we experience during our lives.

Let’s unpack that.

  • The evidence suggests that while it may be more difficult to dramatically alter our lifespan, we can easily reduce our risk of disease and improve our quality of life

Yes, we can reduce risks of some diseases and improve quality of life, mainly by eating less and exercising more. But “easily” is a questionable claim, and still the greatest determinant is income. So you could just as well say that we can “easily” reduce our risk of disease and improve our quality of life by becoming richer.

  • Although Big Pharma and modern medicine have yet to come up with a silver bullet that helps us prevent disease to any significant degree

This is rubbish. Leaving aside the subtext of demonising “Big Pharma”, the elimination and prevention of infectious disease, the ability to treat bacterial and other acquired infections, and improved survival from trauma, have all had a major impact on life expectancy. Nobody has died of smallpox, or even contracted it, since the 1970s. The last large poliomyelitis outbreaks in the West were half a century ago. Vaccines have done vastly more to prevent disease than diet ever has or can.

  •  the science is clear on one factor: our choice of diet and lifestyle is the single strongest determinant—genetics apart—of the health quality we experience during our lives

Debatable. The WHO lists three main determinants of health:

  • the social and economic environment,
  • the physical environment, and
  • the person’s individual characteristics and behaviours

The order in which these are placed is a judgement call, but health outcomes are very strongly correlated with income both within and across populations. Put simply, the rich can afford better choices more easily than the poor, and that is directly relevant to this article.

Given the wealth of evidence on this point, you’d think that governments would be bending over backwards to ensure we make the best possible choices to help reduce the future burden on our already overtaxed healthcare system, but they simply pay lip service to the notion. And sometimes their advice is in conflict with the latest scientific views.

They do. And if the advice sometimes lags the latest scientific views, that is because the latest scientific views are not necessarily the consensus scientific views. Most early findings are wrong, constantly following the early findings is a recipe for constantly see-sawing between potentially contradictory poles.

So government advice tends to be small-c conservative. Following the consensus, not the bleeding edge, is prudent.

Guidance on nutrition, for example, can be found in the form of the ‘eatwell plate’ on the NHS Choices website. But nearly 60 per cent of the food recommended—from starchy carbs, milk and dairy to “foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar”—is unnecessary to health and largely responsible for the current type 2 diabetes and obesity epidemics.

The eatwell plate is designed by dieticians (the trained and regulated health professionals) not nutritionists (who are unregulated and often untrained, and may believe in copromancy). It’s not intended to be the minimum or optimum for health, it’s designed to be an achievable goal that improves on the unhealthy choices that might otherwise be the default.

It is not the be-all and end-all of advice on diet, it is a reasonable, pragmatic guide. And it’s not presented as anything else. There is no real evidence that the composition of the eatwell plate is responsible for the prevalence of diabetes; the small segment for sugary junk is there because people actually like it and want to eat it, so it proposes a maximum that such foods should form as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

In other words, you are letting the best (specifically, your narrow vision of “best”) be the enemy of the good.

Yet the industries that make these foods are by far the dominant ones in the food industry, with the ‘Big 10’— Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Danone, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez International (formerly Kraft Foods), General Mills and Associated British Foods, amidst a sea of 1.5 billion food producers worldwide—controlling around 70 per cent of our food choices.

This packs two fallacies into one: appeal to motives and poisoning the well.  These companies are indeed large and influential, something of which ANH are plainly jealous (see below) but there’s no evidence that their influence guides the health advice produced by the NHS.

It is true that in the matter of promoting abject nonsense in sciencey-sounding language, the likes of Danone acknowledge no master. But since precisely the same rhetoric is used by the supplement industry, as represented by ANH, this is a bit of a pot and kettle situation.

These companies exert their influence in many ways, but lobbying and advertising are two of the most important. They also function under several guises: as themselves through their trade associations; or sometimes via third parties, ranging from celebrities to ‘patient groups’ that supposedly represent the interests of those suffering from a wide range of diseases or conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Bait and switch. They do indeed exert influence, and this is felt in policies. Try to introduce a rule limiting portion sizes of fizzy drinks, and you’ll get an astroturf campaign by return.

But there’s no credible evidence that they use pernicious influence to skew advice given by Alzheimer’s’ patient groups and the like.

The use of celebrity endorsements is of course a staple of the promotion of quackery, too, as we saw with the recent “homeopathy works for me” campaign which aims to use pictures of flowers and butterflies painted onto the bodies of female celebrities, as an alternative to all that tiresome evidence that homeopaths can’t provide.

Most scientists and skeptics would be more than happy to see celebrity endorsement removed from the field of health advice.

There are undoubtedly many behind-closed-doors meetings that few of us ever get to hear about, while the more public interactions are between the large trade associations and both unelected and elected representatives of government—officials and MPs and MEPs, respectively.

Yes, for example the meetings that Prince Charles has had, where he lobbied for alternatives to medicine. And we know that his meetings affected the material published by the NHS, because someone inside the NHS blew the whistle. There’s no evidence that the bogeymen listed above have been doing the same in respect of dietary advice.

One simple rule applies in lobbying: the influence exerted is directly proportional to the size of the company represented. That’s why in the food and natural-health areas, Europe-wide associations like the Association of the European Self-Medication Industry (AESGP), FoodDrinkEurope, the International Life Sciences Institute and Food Supplement Europe, which represent both Big Pharma and Big Food, wield the lion’s share of influence. Smaller associations and groups such as the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (UEAPME), ourselves (Alliance for Natural Health Europe) and the European Benefyt Foundation need to work very hard to even be heard.

So ANH are jealous of the influence of larger lobbies and want the same ability to push their agenda. The alternative – reducing lobbying activity – does not seem to be suggested. Why would it be bad for all special interest groups to be excluded, rather than for the special interest groups you like to get a larger slice of the action? This is not explained.

Many who become aware of this reality feel disempowered. But there are two simple things we can do.

First, we can reduce our dependence on products made by these companies. Put simply, that means avoiding processed foods whenever you can. The size and might of these corporations is maintained only if we support them via our wallets.

Fine if you have adequate disposable income. But WDDTY’s core demographic will already be avoiding “processed foods”. Note, though, that “processed food” is a bit like “toxin”, a word that sounds bad and is easy to pin on the things you don’t like, but meaningless in practice. Bread is a “processed food”. Flour is a “processed food”. It’s hard to see how anything other than uncured meat, raw milk and eggs, and fruit, would qualify as being anything other than “processed foods”.

There’s good evidence that processing can be entirely desirable. Pasteurisation of milk is controversial only with extremists. Preservatives mean that meat is much less likely to contain bacteria such as e.coli or salmonella. Obviously these are entirely natural but most people regard them as undesirable nonetheless.

So without needing to write letters to your MP or bearing a placard in an anti-globalization rally, you can make different choices over the way you feed yourself and your loved ones. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to ‘go local’, or choose wisely when you are doing your weekly shop. Try to buy organic fruit and vegetables as much as you can.

Sorry to rain on your parade, but for urban dwellers there is not much in the way of local produce to be had, and evidence of the superiority of organic produce is sadly lacking.

You can subscribe to an organic-box scheme and have your weekly supply of organic fruit, veg and other produce delivered to your door. And for those of a non-vegetarian persuasion, you can buy locally sourced meats at your local butcher.

Or, you know, don’t. If you’re on a limited income you are almost certainly better off buying fresh fruit and vegetables from your local supermarket, than spending the equivalent sum on a reduced quantity of the more expensive organic produce you recommend.

While you may pay a premium for such foods, many find the net cost is no higher mainly because wastage is reduced and the many temptations in supermarket aisles are avoided.

This is simply wishful thinking. Organic produce is more expensive, and organic produce from farmers’ markets is generally more expensive than the equivalent organic produce from supermarkets.

For those yet to experience the pleasure of becoming independent of the Big Ten, you have almost nothing to lose and so much to gain—not least of all, a healthy long life.

Translation: buy produce from our members not their members, it will make you live longer (terms and conditions apply, value of investments may go down as well as up, objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear, we reserve the right to substitute opinion for evidence as we see fit).

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that eating organic food will make you live longer?

Because there’s no real evidence it does.

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Treating ear infections naturally

Treating ear infections naturally
Treating ear infections naturally is an article from the November 2013 issue of WDDTY.

It offers a number of folk remedies for ear infections of varying advisability, misrepresents the only source cited, sows fear, uncertainty and doubt against antibiotics and includes nonsensical concepts drawn from pre-scientific superstitious medical systems. The author recommends allowing the eardrum to rupture rather than taking antibiotics.

Otitis mediaW is a very common childhood ailment. 80% of cases resolve spontaneously. Complications can include perforated eardrum, acute pain and occasionally permanent hearing loss. The advice in this article is a little worse than useless.

Continue reading Treating ear infections naturally

Edie’s anecdote

We took Edie for treatment twice a week and, within a month, her breast had started to heal. Several months later, Edie’s GP, the one who’d delivered the death sentence, came to examine her and was astonished to see her walking around at all

The November 2013 WDDTY contains in its editorial a touching anecdote about Lynne McTaggart’s mother-in-law, Edie:

About 20 years ago, we had our own experience of looking for answers to cancer when Edie, Bryan’s mother, then 78, was suddenly diagnosed with end-stage breast cancer. She’d privately nursed the cancer for several years without telling anyone, let alone seeing a medical professional. When we finally learned of it and insisted she see her GP, he was shocked when examining her—her breast looked, as he put it, “like raw meat”. So advanced was the cancer that it was too late to try chemotherapy or any other intervention other than powerful painkillers. Edie had three months to live at the very outside, the GP said to us privately. “And if I were you, I’d get her affairs in order.”

To be honest, we were frightened and far from certain we had any answers. Fortunately, because of our work, we were able to contact WDDTY columnist Dr Patrick Kingsley, a medical pioneer in Leicestershire who has helped people with a variety of conditions, including cancer. We didn’t know how successful he’d be with a case of terminal cancer, but we were encouraged to hear that he ran a local cancer group consisting of many other nohopers who were apparently outliving the odds.

His therapy included high-dose intravenous vitamin C and hydrogen peroxide administered twice a week, and a modified healthy diet free of foods like dairy, wheat and sugar, plus a vitamin supplement programme tailored to the purse and tastes of someone reared on standard British fare.

We took Edie for treatment twice a week and, within a month, her breast started to heal. Several months later, Edie’s GP, the one who’d delivered the death sentence on her in the first place, came to examine her and was astonished to see her walking around at all.

He took several tests and was rendered speechless. The cancer which had ravaged her breast, which he’d been so sure was beyond hope or treatment, had completely disappeared. Edie lived on for many more years until her husband died and she, divested of any further purpose, died six months after him.

Cancer staging

A few things about this do not ring true, according to emails sent to us.

  1. A GP typically does not diagnose cancer and apparently typically does not have the conversation about prognosis; this is usually the preserve of an oncologist.
  2. End-stage cancer means metastasis. Nonetheless, the 5-year survival rate for stage IV breast cancer is still 22% – better than one in five patients will still be alive five years past diagnosis.
  3. No details are given of other treatments.
  4. The description sounds like cancer en cuirasse, a rare but terrifying progression of breast cancer that was almost extinct in the West until people started substituting quackery for proven medicines, but there are other potential explanations of the symptoms and McTaggart (characteristically) fails to provide the detail that would establish what was actually going on.

As oncologist Orac notes, this kind of testimonial is typically misleading.

Was Lynne McTaggart’s mother given additional years of life by therapies long debunked as quackery? It seems unlikely, and she has failed to provide sufficient detail to make any objective assessment.

There is a small irony in McTaggart promoting a “cure” that was actually not a cure, in the context of demanding examples of cures other than antibiotics in medicine. A demand which, as it turns out, demonstrates her ignorance rather than a point against medicine.

Why don’t doctors tell you that stage IV cancer can be treated effectively with intravenous vitamin C, hydrogen peroxide and supplements?

Because the evidence says it isn’t true.