Tag Archives: Harald Gaier

July 2015 in review: part 1

There have been a good number of tweets on the #WDDTY hashtag highlighting bonkers claims in the July 2015 edition of WDDTY, so lets take a quick whistle-stop tour through its pages.

We dealt with the cover stories yesterday. Page 2 is (as usual) a full-page “we’ll never take advertising” advert for Altrient, which appears to be in competition with homeopathy as their strapline is “nothing compares to Altrient”. They lead with a “33% increase in skin firmness” cream, high dose vitamin C (perfect for enriching your urine) and “high performance” glutathione, which, you will be pleased to hear, may support optimal overall health (quackvertising code for: there is no credible evidence that it does), supports a number of fad diets, and contains no gluten or GMOs. WDDTY seems quite happy for the drugs it likes to be oversold with vague and inflated claims, it seems. Continue reading July 2015 in review: part 1

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

Leaky gut syndrome

Leaky gut syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome is a condition invented by nutritionists and sold by sciencey-sounding nonsense.

As we shall see, the diagnosis of “leaky gut syndrome” is a convenient catch-all to offer an illusion of knowledge to patients suffering from medically obscure symptoms. This is particularly pernicious, since in many cases such conditions have a psychosomatic component: the illusion of diagnosis is almost its own cure.

A competent and ethical health publication would urge caution around unproven diagnoses that make claims which should be verifiable from pathology, but aren’t.

WDDTY of course supports the nutritionist industry agenda.

Leaky gut syndrome

Leaky Gut Syndrome
‘Leaky gut syndrome’ is a proposed condition some health practitioners claim is the cause of a wide range of long-term conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis.

Proponents of ‘leaky gut syndrome’ claim that many symptoms and diseases are caused by the immune system reacting to germs, toxins or other large molecules that have been absorbed into the bloodstream via a porous (‘leaky’) bowel.

There is little evidence to support this theory, and no evidence that so-called ‘treatments’ for ‘leaky gut syndrome’, such as nutritional supplements and a gluten-free diet, have any beneficial effect for most of the conditions they are claimed to help.

While it is true that certain factors can make the bowel more permeable, this probably does not lead to anything more than temporary mild inflammation of an area of the bowel.

NHS Choices

The world of alternative medicine has a certain fondness for inventing conditions in order to be able to sell a “cure” that medicine cannot offer. morgellonsW and chronic Lyme diseaseW are two of the better known. Another, particularly beloved of nutritionists, is leaky gut syndromeW.

Often there is an overlap with reality: in morgellons the condition is delusional parasitosisW, patients preferring the alternative because they repudiate the psychological cause; in chronic Lyme there is a genuine condition (post-Lyme syndrome) though many self-diagnosed sufferers show no evidence of borrelia burgdorferi, the cause of Lyme disease.

Other genuine disorders such as infectious mononucleosisW (also known as glandular fever) have lasting effects similar to chronic fatigue syndromeW (CFS).

In the case of “leaky gut syndrome” there is some substance to the idea that the gut wall can become more permeable in those suffering from inflammatory bowel diseaseW but the crossover between this and the alternative diagnosis of “leaky gut” happens early. However, the idea of a leaky gut syndrome, particularly as the cause of autism, CFS and even multiple sclerosisW, is entirely speculative and not supported by credible evidence.

Nutritionists typically pin the blame for “leaky gut” on whichever idée fixe they happen to hold: gluten is a frequent target, milk and candida overgrowth are also fingered.

leaky gut As an example, the website leakygutcure.com uses the illustration at right. This shows: top left, a normal gut wall; top right, villous atrophy, a diagnostic sign of coeliac diseaseW, and bottom, vague references to food and unspecified “toxins”.

I am not aware of any credible pathological findings of undigested food in the blood, as this suggests, nor is any such objective test proposed for “leaky gut”. Instead the diagnosis is one of – well, guesswork: usually exclusion diets, but with the nutritionist’s favourite bête noire always in the mix, and (it seems) always found to be the One True Cause.

Comparison with coeliac is illustrative. Coeliac is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the gut wall where the proteins in gluten are absorbed. Diagnosis is by blood tests for tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibodies, possibly confirmed by duodenal biopsy, which typically shows exactly the features seen at top right in the picture: blunting of the villi, enlargement of the crypts and invasion of the crypts by lymphocytes (white blood cells).

Candida overgrowth

Candida overgrowth
Alternative therapists love nothing more than an alternative disease. “Mainstream” medicine can’t detect it, so can’t cure it. The more nebulous the symptoms the better! Many quacks specialise in diseases of the worried well, but some seek out those whose symptoms are debilitating and medically unexplained. While medicine seeks a cause and a cure (often focusing on possible autoimmune disorders and cognitive behavioural therapyW to help patients manage the symptoms in the mean time), quacks are absolutely sure they have the One True Cause and therefore the One True Cure.

Naturally patients will seek help when their symptoms are at their worst. Naturally, regression toward the meanW and the natural history of the condition mean that they will improve anyway. Naturally the quacks claim to be responsible for this improvement. Naturally the lack of empirical validity of their treatment is proof positive of medicine suppressing “natural” cures.

Continue reading Candida overgrowth

Evolution schmevolution

Crank magnetism. The force that draws believers in all forms of nonsense together, united against the common foe: reason.

A keyword search in the back-catalogue flagged up a word I wasn’t really expecting to see. A word that most woo-peddlers steer clear of (one of the rare exceptions is Chris Beckett of CureZone, seen here as “chrisb1” using the classic crank epithet “scientism” to describe anyone who prefers empirical evidence over faith; he also advocates colloidal silver, Budwig, Gerson, Gonzalez, Burzynski… but I digress).

Two pieces show tantalising hints of this most deeply-rooted of anti-scientific beliefs: denial of evolution by natural selection.

Mythical Monkeys
qotm“In the US, campaigners against evolution have won another small victory: next year school textbooks in Alabama will have to describe evolution as ‘a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things’ (Science, 1995; 270: 1305). ‘No one was present when life first appeared on earth,’ says the preferred text, ‘so any statement about life’s origins should be considered as theory, not fact.’”–BMJ, 1995; 311: 1650. (vol. 8 no. 1 April 1997)
Harald Gaier
The accumulating evidence means that, in today’s toxic conditions, we need to be especially vigilant not only for the sake of our own health, but for that of our children and their children, too. It also means that we need a radical rethink of how heredity and evolution work, integrating Lamarckian mechanisms into the theories of Darwin and Dawkins. Harald Gaier (vol. 19 no. 8, August 2008)

LamarckismW is of course wrong. Lamarck was right about evolution happening, but wrong about the mechanism. The correct understanding of the mechanism of inheritance is afforded primarily Mendelian geneticsW. Lamarckism suffered a bit of an image problem, having been the root of LysenkoismW, the disastrous Soviet policy, but it was 99% bunk before Lysenko and remained only 99% bunk afterwards.

Some people think that epigeneticsW somehow rescues Lamarckism from the scientific rubbish pile, but it doesn’t. Epigenetics is very restricted in scope and Mendelian genetics accounts for the vast majority of evolutionary behaviour. Lamarck was, basically, wrong; the fact that a few examples unknown to him have displayed a superficially similar effect, is coincidence.

There’s no outright evolution denial in WDDTY that I can find so far, but with its support for prayer, meditation and other trappings of the religious mindset, it’s not a stretch to believe there might be an undercurrent there.