Respectful Insolence

First, Mitchell and Webb took on homeopathy. This week, it’s bogus (word choice intentional) “nutritionists“:

Comments

  1. #1 TGAP Dad
    July 14, 2009

    Great post! Thanks for mustering the energy to return to the blog so quickly. BTW if I could have afforded to go to TAM, I would have had you on my “must meet and get picture/autograph” list.

    Cheers

  2. #2 The Science Pundit
    July 14, 2009

    These guys are brilliant!

  3. #3 Grendel
    July 14, 2009

    These guys are rapidly turning into the best skeptical entertainment on the net!

  4. #4 Rogue Medic
    July 14, 2009

    Humor is the best antidote to anti-science. After all, if you could reason with them, they probably never would have fallen for the nonsense to begin with.

  5. #5 Magnus
    July 14, 2009

    Mitchell is a frequent guest on Stephen Fry’s QI as well. You might want to check it out. It’s a funny show where many of the show panellists are outspoken sceptics.

  6. #6 Prod to be a Merkin
    July 14, 2009

    I’ve often wondered what tiny percent (if any) of the many people I’ve met who say they’re allergic to wheat and/or dairy (many of them of standard Indo-European stock – i.e., thousands of years of wheat farming and dairy animal product consumption have gone into the development of their gene pools) have actually been tested by a real doctor with actual training in nutrition. Most likely they’ve been persuaded instead by the sorts depicted here – or simply self-diagnosed, encouraged by something they read.

  7. #7 Prod to be a Merkin
    July 14, 2009

    I’ve often wondered what tiny percent (if any) of the many people I’ve met who say they’re allergic to wheat and/or dairy (many of them of standard Indo-European stock – i.e., thousands of years of wheat farming and dairy animal product consumption have gone into the development of their gene pools) have actually been tested by a real doctor with actual training in nutrition. Most likely they’ve been persuaded instead by the sorts depicted here – or simply self-diagnosed, encouraged by something they read.

  8. #8 G.Shelley
    July 14, 2009

    I think they got a dig in there at Gillian McKeith, or “The awful poo lady” as Ben Goldacre insists on calling her

  9. #9 eddie
    July 15, 2009

    I’m ashamed to say that, due to time constraints, I’ve missed almost all of That Mitchell and Webb Look on TV, despite loving That Mitchell and Webb Sound, the radio precursor. That had an awesome series of sketches culminating with Lions In Snooker.
    David M also has a radio show The Awful Truth that’s well worth chasing down.

  10. #10 Jeff Read
    July 15, 2009

    Prod to be a Merkin:

    Or they could have crashed on wheat or dairy when they got muscle-tested for it at their friendly ND’s office.

  11. #11 Steve Page
    July 15, 2009

    Eddie, it’s “The Unbelievable Truth”. http://www.spannerwercs.co.uk/unbelievable_truth/index.htm

  12. #12 Steve Page
    July 15, 2009

    Eddie, it’s “The Unbelievable Truth”. http://www.spannerwercs.co.uk/unbelievable_truth/index.htm

  13. #13 Scott
    July 15, 2009

    They missed one big bet.

    “She wants to get her nutrition from eating fruits and vegetables!”
    “What, does she think humans evolved without taking supplements or something? Nutrition can only be obtained from the pills we sell – at a large profit, let us remember.”

  14. #14 DebinOz
    July 15, 2009

    Speaking as someone who has her original science degree in microbiology, immunology and nutrition, and a subsequent MPH and PhD in epidemiology, I shudder with a combination of shame and annoyance that human nutrition is being subsumed within the woo-world.

    Yep, the majority of the worried-well must be lactose and gluten intolerant – NOT! Every single naturopath tells every single client that they must be intolerant to lactose and gluten, condemning the client to being a pain in the arse in restaurants! And then every single client must take a bizarre concoction of supplements (that have no effect but cost big bucks, and must be bought from that naturopath).

    I should have been a botonist. No nutter argues with you then.

  15. #15 Andrew Dodds
    July 15, 2009

    DebinOz-

    This is true.

    Medics get the whole alt-med shebang to cope with.

    Geologists get the whole creationist thingie.

    Physicists get the use of the word ‘quantum’ before absolutely everything.

    Chemists seem fairly lucky, homeopathy aside. Oh, and cosmetics adverts to cope with.

    Botanists.. yes, thanks for pointing that out, I think we are going to have to invent a whole new insane belief system just to annoy you..

  16. #16 DebinOz
    July 15, 2009

    Cringe at me typing ‘botonist’ :( I’m in Australia where it is past midnight!

    I guess the point is, how do we, as real sciency-types, reclaim our science from the woo-meisters? My own personal victories have been ludicrously pathetic. Family members have consulted homeopaths, much to my chagrin. They have been given supplements and instructions on low lactose and low gluten diets, as per usual. Needless to say, there would be no change in whatever it is that they are seeing the naturopath for, such as, anxiety, asthma, etc.

    Truly, I am the older family member, in the white coat who has actually used test-tubes (and forget about that PhD from UC Berkeley), who is a skeptic. This gets translated to ‘cynical’ and therefore disbelieved.

  17. #17 Ranson
    July 15, 2009

    I guess the point is, how do we, as real sciency-types, reclaim our science from the woo-meisters?

    I’m partial to chainsaws and dynamite, myself, but society tends to frown on such measures.

  18. #18 Kim
    July 15, 2009

    @Prod: My understanding is that celiac is under-diagnosed. Of course I’m not sure what the overlap is between people claiming to have a wheat issue of some kind vs. people who actually have one. No one is harmed by cutting out wheat products, so it’s not really a big deal IMO. Certainly no skin off the nose of a random unaffected onlooker.

  19. #19 Djinna
    July 15, 2009

    Wow, the new season (pardon, series) of Mitchell and Webb is showing up all over the place in different clips on all my favorite blogs, each one perfectly skewering something that greatly deserves it. Anyone seen any rumors anywhere about when it will show up on BBC America, or any other american network? The web site doesn’t have any info, and nothing on a quick google.

    Don’t remember how we got into it, must’ve been a promo during Graham Norton, but it was a damn funny show, even when the highlight of the show for us was just Numberwang.

    Oh, and speaking as a chemist, it’s not just the homeopathy and cosmetics ads that make me cringe, but the way things are advertised as being “all natural – chemical free!” is a pretty big teeth gnasher. Granted, it now seems to present itself as more “without harsh chemicals” which I guess is at least theoretically possible, though makes me wonder what would be the point of cleaning with chemicals that AREN’T “harsh”. Am I supposed to tickle the mildew out off the shower walls? But, of course, it still leaves the impression that all chemicals are “harsh” – ok, rant mode in full swing, what on earth does that mean? Must have missed that week – I mean, spend a month going over all the different types of acid/base pairs, didn’t leave a lot of time for harsh/perfectly natural pairs. Though, you would think they would have made time at some point, ok, maybe not in general HS chemistry, but certainly in AP, and then it should have shown up at least one of the elective courses in college and/or grad school. And, um, since everything is made of chemicals, that would imply that there are some that are not “harsh” – what are those called? Chemists love their naming pair conventions, can’t think of any category that has a name that doesn’t have a name for things that are not in that category.

    That being said, I’m ok with the use of the word organic, even though from what I understand, the word isn’t quite as specific in advertising use as in the chemistry textbooks, and has great variation between certifying agencies. Though, I wonder, would calling a product “chemically organic” fly, since you would clearly be referring to the carbon-containing meaning?

    Though, anything to do with all the wonderful benefits of “negative ions,” since it’s generally impossible to create one w/o also creating a positive ion. And, if you do manage to surround yourself with enough negative ions to have any major perceived benefit, wouldn’t that just turn you into a giant positive-ion magnet?

  20. #20 DebinOz
    July 16, 2009

    I recently had to explain to someone that ‘organic solvents’ can be really, really nasty! I am just waiting for the day that some woo-peddler markets a concoction extracted using organic solvents, as if it was a good thing.

  21. #21 Ab_Normal
    July 17, 2009

    delurking late to say: as a realsie-trusie diagnosed celiac, I benefit from the increase in “gluten intolerance”, as it’s greatly expanded the foods I can buy and the places I can eat out… Sometimes I feel a little dirty, but then I have something that’s real food and I get over it.

  22. #22 eddie
    July 17, 2009

    Oops, My bad. I was awful. You were amazing.

  23. #23 Dr. Matt
    July 19, 2009

    Apparently there are a lot of folks here who are too busy being skeptics to actually read any medical research such as this article stating that undiagnosed celiac disease is on the rise. . . of course the study was conducted by those quacks over at the Mayo Clinic. . not that anybody would take THEM seriously. . . ‘

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/156401.php

  24. #24 ted
    August 3, 2009

    Yeah, I took this a little personal. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease by a gastroenterologist, using the proper tests. Unfortunately, it took many years to even be considered as a diagnosis. I think a little more public awareness is a good thing.

    Of course, the quacks should still be corralled, but you could at least mention that there are real (peer-reviewed, bona fide) conditions that result from gluten sensitivity, instead of leaving it to the comments.

  25. #25 Joseph C.
    August 3, 2009

    Yeah, I took this a little personal. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease by a gastroenterologist, using the proper tests. Unfortunately, it took many years to even be considered as a diagnosis. I think a little more public awareness is a good thing.

    Of course, the quacks should still be corralled, but you could at least mention that there are real (peer-reviewed, bona fide) conditions that result from gluten sensitivity, instead of leaving it to the comments.

    Well, it’s comedy. The purpose is primarily to entertain, not to present a balanced argument.

    I don’t think M&W were poking fun at your condition as much as the quack tendency to oversimplify and use catch-all explanations.

  26. #26 houston nutrition
    March 23, 2011

    Mitchell is a frequent guest on Stephen Fry’s QI as well. You might want to check it out. It’s a funny show where many of the show panellists are outspoken sceptics.