Respectful Insolence

Legal thuggery threatens another skeptic

I hate to admit it, but I’ve known about this story since Friday night, when I received a couple of e-mails about it. I had meant to mention it here either over the weekend or on Monday, but I’m a bit like Dug the Dog in the movie Up. Think of it this way: Squirrel!

Yes, I’m easily distracted. I shouldn’t have been, but I was this time.

I do, however, usually get back to business, and this is nasty business. In fact, it’s a type of business of the sort that completely enrages me and the sort of thing I’ve blogged about many times in the past, namely the use of legal thuggery by promoters of dubious health claims to try to shut up critics through lawsuits where they can’t win on the evidence. I’ve learned from a couple of sources, including the ever-inimitable Andy Lewis of Quackometer fame, that a skeptic named Kevin Charleston is being sued by a South African company, Solal Technologies for having called it out publicly for its pseudoscientific claims. In fact, it’s instructive to see exactly what Solal states in its lawsuit:

In the article published on the CAMcheck and Quackdown websites aforesaid, the Defendant says of the Plaintiff that it is “… a company that actively promotes pseudoscience …” (“The statement”).

Solal then claims:

The statement is wrongful and defamatory per se of the Plaintiff, and made with the intention of defaming the Plaintiff and injuring its reputation.

Particularly galling to Solal Technologies, apparently, is the subtitle of the CAMCheck website, “A South African Consumers Guide to scams, pseudo-science, and voodoo-science.” The folks who maintain this particular website sound like skeptics after my own heart.

Now, whenever I hear of legal thuggery of this sort, my first reaction is to look into a few of the health claims that resulted in the criticism in the first place. If, as is almost always the case, the claims are without adequate basis in science, I then gleefully pile on, because frivolous lawsuits designed to shut down criticism of quackery gall me. Given that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, naturally, I can’t resist gravitating to breast cancer- and breast health-related claims, which led me to Solal’s Breast Protection Formula, which is billed as containing nutrients and plant extracts that help prevent breast cancer. Looking over the product description on Solal’s website is a lesson in leaping from basic science and preclinical observations to producing a product and making claims for it based on early evidence.

So what’s in the Breast Protection Formula, and what does Solal Technologies claim that it can do? Let’s take a look:

Contains nutrients and plant extracts that help prevent breast cancer: Calcium-d-Glucarate and Broccoli extracts (I3C and DIM) help the body excrete cancerous toxins and hormonal waste by-products. EGCG from green tea helps protect DNA from mutations; selenium, co-enzyme Q10 and vitamin D3 protect and boost immune function and help prevent cancer growth. Breast Protection Formula™ also contains other nutrients that support the liver’s detoxification of environmental and hormonal carcinogens

Oh, dear. The sellers of this particular supplement just couldn’t resist, could they? They just had to use the all-purpose quack catch-all claim, “boosts the immune system” and then add to it the other favorite quack catch-all claim, “supports detoxification,” whatever that means. Of course, Solal doesn’t tell us exactly how this supplement supposedly “boosts immune function,” what “toxins” it helps the liver eliminate, or how it “supports the liver’s detoxification of environmental and hormonal carcinogens,” but that’s no surprise. The claims are so vague as to be virtually meaningless and appear designed to bypass South Africa’s consumer protection laws the way the Quack Miranda Warning is designed to bypass American consumer protection laws.

As a breast cancer scientist and surgeon, I recognized immediately before I even read the rest of the product’s propaganda information sheet main ingredients of this supplement are I3C (indole-3-carbinol), DIM (diindolemethane), and EGCG (Epigallo Catechin Gallate), although there are several other “active” components that supposedly protect against breast cancer. I recognize this because I happen to know an investigator who studies I3C and DIM as potential cancer preventative agents, and EGCG is the main ingredient in green tea that is thought to have potentially protective effects against cancer. And if you do a PubMed search on I3C and breast cancer, it doesn’t take long to find a bunch of articles that suggest that I3C might have anticancer effects. Ditto a PubMed search for diindolemethane and breast cancer. So Solal Technologies has a point, right?

Wrong.

If you examine the PubMed searches, what you will find is that virtually all of the studies that come up are preclinical. They’re either cell culture studies in which investigators put the extract on cells and measured various markers of apoptosis or cell growth and found indications that these compounds inhibit the growth of breast cancer cell lines, or they are animal studies. There are a handful of human studies, but they are pretty much all biomarker studies like this one, which is a biomarker study that looked at surrogate markers for breast cancer risk over the short term and do not show that taking these compounds long term as a supplement actually measurably decreases the risk of breast cancer in normal, otherwise healthy women. Interestingly, I3C is converted to DIM when taken orally. Solal Technologies even points that out in its literature on Breast Protection Formula. What Solal doesn’t point out is that if DIM is a metabolite of I3C and is active, then it’s rather pointless to be including both of them in the same supplement, but it probably seems more impressive. Instead, Solal Technologies throws a lot of impressive sounding science-y jargon at readers:

Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) and its metabolite diindolemethane (DIM) are constituents of cruciferous vegetables. When I3C comes into contact with stomach acid it is converted into diindolemethane and indolylcarbazole. Researchers are interested in I3C and DIM for cancer prevention, particularly breast, cervical, endometrial and colorectal cancer. I3C and DIM has a variety of effects on the liver metabolism of toxins. Researchers believe the I3C and DIM are particularly protective against hormone dependant cancers such as breast cancer. I3C and DIM effects on the metabolism of both 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone and 2-alpha-hydroxyestrone. The 16-alpha hydroxyestrone metabolite has both genotoxic and tumorigenic effects and is thought to increase the risk of cervical and breast cancers. I3C and DIM shifts metabolism of estradiol from 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone to the weaker 2-alpha-hydroxyestrone metabolite, possibly producing a protective effect against hormone-mediated cancers. I3C also induces cytochrome P450 2B1,2B2,3A1,and 3A2,as well as phase II enzymes including glutathione S-transferase (GST), quinone reductase, and uridine diphosphate glucuronide transferase. The phase II enzyme induction seems to have a detoxifying effect by increasing water solubility and increasing excretion of carcinogenic toxins. There is some evidence that I3C might have other protective effects including antioxidant properties and might also cause cancer cell apoptosis and cell cycle arrest.

All of which is a highly convoluted say of saying that maybe I3C and DIM do something, but the evidence is all preclinical, cell culture and animal studies. It’s not ready for prime-time yet, and it’s certainly not ready to be sold as a supplement with the promise that it will decrease a woman’s risk of breast cancer. As Professor Roy Jobson points out, none of this stops Solal Technologies from recommending Breast Protection Formula for women who:

  • Have breast cancer in the family, or
  • drink more than one alcoholic beverage daily, or occasionally binge drink, or
  • are taking oral contraceptives, or have done so within the past five years, or
  • are on HRT (hormone replacement therapy), or
  • eat tinned or canned foods, or
  • are overweight.

Jobson also points out, and I agree, that there is no evidence that this particular witches’ brew of plant extracts and nutrients has any effect whatsoever on a woman’s breast cancer risk. Hilariously (and simultaneously sadly), when asked to support its claims with evidence, Solal Technologies argued that it is sufficient to show that some ingredients used in isolation may have an effect. That’s right: May have an effect. None of this stops Solal Technologies from claiming quite confidently and unequivocally that its product “contains nutrients and plant extracts that help prevent breast cancer.”

No, it does not. It contains nutrients and plant extracts that can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cell lines in tissue culture. That’s a very different thing.

Perusing Solal Technologies’ list of products, I was struck at the sheer range of nonsensical claims the company makes for them. For instance, it markets a product called Craving Control that claims to “reduces addictive cravings for cigarettes, alcohol, recreational medicine and food.” It contains mainly tyrosine, 5-HT, and other nutrients, and the rationale Solal uses to argue for its effectiveness is very much like that used for Breast Protection Formula, only even more tenuously related to reality. Then there’s a product called Stress Damage Control, which claims to “prevent excessive cortisol and adrenaline production when exposed to long term stress” and to “protect the brain and heart from the dangerous physical damage and consequences that stress causes, such as raised blood pressure and heart attack.” The product contains a “proprietary formulation of:
Rosavin and salidroside (extracted from Rhodiola rosea), ashwaganda standardised extract, beta-sitosterol, alpha lipoic acid, thiamine pyrophosphate.” Evidence that it works to do what Solal Technologies claims it can do? None is presented. The list goes on and on, including claims that its products can treat HIV. For instance, its Bitter Melon is claimed to “inhibit the progression of some forms of cancer” and to be “beneficial for the treatment of (AIDS).” If you are at all familiar with South Africa, you’ll know that AIDS quackery has been a particularly vexing problem there, particularly with the influence of HIV/AIDS denialist Peter Duesberg and Matthias Rath’s selling of supplements to treat HIV.

Quackdown gives—if you’ll excuse me—the rundown. Particularly amusing is its “dozen facts” about Solal Technologies, boiling down its dubious advertisements to their essence:

Prof Roy Jobson and I, and others, have examined many of Solal’s claims and products and have found that much of the evidence is inappropriate, often distorted, applicable only to animal models, not reproducible, extrapolated from a specific study population to inappropriate populations, conflicts with many other superior studies. Indeed, their evidence often even flies in the face of consensus reports or evidence from internationally recognised credible experts. I can supply an example for each of these. It is no wonder that the ASA have ruled against many of the claims being made for their products.

In other words, Solal often stands alone in the interpretation of the evidence that they apply in support for their claims. Astonishingly Solal’s claims are often even contradicted by NMCD (Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, a highly regarded review system for authoritative assessment of natural/complementary medicines. Solal confuse an association with a cause. They extrapolate from small studies in Japanese children to the population in general. They apply pseudoscientific arguments. They use methods contrary to the principles of evidence based medicine which are utilised throughout the world by all credible scientific universities and research establishments including all reputable South African centres of higher learning.

In other words, Solal Technologies is very much like the most dubious supplement manufacturers we have in the United States.

It’s also very much like them in its propensity for trying to silence its critics through abuse of the legal system rather than through evidence. For example, it is demanding R350,000 from Charleston. Fortunately, Charleston has help. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) will be supporting him. As Andy Lewis points out, the TAC is a formidable ally that has a history of having helped to ensure that the the people of South Africa continue to have access to proven anti-retroviral treatments “despite appalling opposition from quacks both inside and outside of the government.”

If I’ve pointed it out once, I’ve pointed it out a thousand times. Quacks do not like to be criticized. When they are criticized, particularly on the basis of evidence and science, their first reaction is not to try to refute that criticism with evidence of their own. Rather, it is to attack and smear the person criticizing them. If that fails to silence critics, then the next step on their part is frequently to sue. They are bullies who rely on their superior resources to intimidate and silence. That is why Kevin Charleston is to be commended and supported in his fight against Solal Technologies.

Comments

  1. #1 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    October 16, 2012

    Regarding ‘in vitro’ vs ‘in vivo’ – that’s something the AV nuts have been on a rampage about lately; some astrocyte cell culture that experienced breakage of the mit-DNA after exposure to thimerosal.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22811707

    That’s the study they’re currently beating to death.

    They make the leap that, because it happens ‘like this’ in a cell line culture, it MUST happen ‘like this’ in a whole organism.

    They also have no understanding of the amount of thimerosal being applied to the cell culture – as opposed to the amount of thimerosal being injected by a vaccine.

    It’s enough to give me a headache.

  2. #2 herr doktor bimler
    October 16, 2012

    there is no evidence that this particular witches’ brew of plant extracts and nutrients has any effect whatsoever on a woman’s breast cancer risk.

    Is there any evidence that the scammers are wasting money on brussels-sprout extract and the various other purported ingredients?

  3. #3 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    October 16, 2012

    HDB:

    Doubtful; they’re probably watering down some vitamins and selling that as the ‘extract’ etc.

  4. #4 Krebiozen
    October 16, 2012

    I can’t help being amused by the broccoli extracts. I have long been pointing out that broccoli contains immunomodulatory substances, and asking where the long-term safety studies for broccoli are. Now these people are concentrating the stuff and putting it in tablets. It’s madness I tell you.

    Everyone knows that lots of conditions, including autism, have something-or-other to do with the immune system, and that anything that does something-or-other to the immune system causes these conditions. Solal Technologies seem to have this completely back to front. [/satire]

  5. #5 Todd W.
    http://harpocratesspeaks.com
    October 16, 2012

    Orac,

    I’m surprised you missed this product: HGH Plus. It contains, as the first ingredient, Vegetarian Grade Homeopathic Pituitarum post. 30x. After reading your post, my first thought was, “I wonder if they have any homeopathic products?” and I was not disappointed.

  6. #6 Julian Frost
    Gauteng, South Africa
    October 16, 2012

    WOOOOOTT!!! Thanks for blogging on this Orac!

  7. #7 Cynthia of Syracuse
    October 16, 2012

    OK, leaving aside the homeopathic part for the moment, can somebody please explain how anybody, no matter how wooful, could not notice the problem with the concept of vegetarian human pituitary extract?

  8. #8 Heliantus
    October 16, 2012

    @ Cynthia of Syracuse

    can somebody please explain how anybody, no matter how wooful, could not notice the problem with the concept of vegetarian human pituitary extract

    Well, obviously the people it’s made from were vegetarian.

    It’s the new revolution: organic food made from free-range, veggie-feed humans.

  9. #9 Krebiozen
    October 16, 2012

    Darwy,

    That’s the study they’re currently beating to death.

    Even taking that study on their terms, it doesn’t show what they seem to think it does. Here are a few calculations to put those in vitro results in perspective. The lowest amount of thimerosal that appeared to cause an effect on astrocytes in that study was 5 µmol/L (Fig. 1). Another study, PMID 19560158 looked at mercury levels in premature babies after vaccination with thimerosal-containing vaccines. That study found:

    The highest level detected was 7.6 ng/mL in a newborn 24 hours after receiving a birth dose of HBV vaccine that contained 32.5 μg of mercury.

    We need to convert ng/mL into µmol/L to meaningfully compare this figure with the one in the astrocyte study, bearing in mind that ng/mL is the same as µg/L. The AW of mercury is 200.59 g/mol, so 1 g = 1/200.59 mol = 0.005 mol = 5 mmol, so (dividing by 1000) 1 mg = 5 µmol and 1 µg = 0.005 µmol. The highest blood concentration of mercury seen in that study was 7.6 ng/mL = 7.6 µg/L = 0.038 µmol/L. We can safely compare µmol/L mercury with µmol/L thimerosal, as each molecule of thimerosal contains one atom of mercury.

    So the maximal mean blood mercury level in vaccinated infants was 0.0089 µmol/L and the lowest concentration of thimerosal that affected human astrocytes in vitro was 5 µmol/L.

    In other words, the lowest concentration of thimerosal that affected astrocytes in vitro was 130 times greater than the highest mercury concentration seen in vivo in the blood of premature infants after vaccination with vaccines containing thimerosal. Personally I find that very reassuring.

  10. #10 Krebiozen
    October 16, 2012

    Phew, looks like I haven’t italicized the entire blog. I mean’t to add that because mercury is very dense, you don’t get many micromoles to the microgram, which means that comparing studies that use different units can be very misleading, or can be used to deliberately mislead (yes Blaylock, I am looking at you).

  11. #11 Todd W.
    http://harpocratesspeaks.com
    October 16, 2012

    @Cynthia of Syracuse

    Yeah, I noticed that, too. “Vegetarian Grade Homeopathic Pituitarum post. 30x…it’s people!”

  12. #12 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    October 16, 2012

    @Kreb

    Oh, I know – I did the math earlier and just started to belly laugh because they’re reading things they just don’t comprehend.

  13. #13 Lawrence
    October 16, 2012

    I guess Cannibalism is okay, just as long as you eat Vegetarians or Vegans, right?

  14. #14 T.
    October 16, 2012

    This is not as OT as it should otherwise be.
    Yesterday I went for a talk, in order to get a job in the marketing sector of a big business company in my country.
    While we were speaking, I heard they also market Homeopathic remedies, and other assorted quackeries, and asked me what I knew about the market.
    I swear I froze.
    It was an interesting job per se. Well paid. And I love working in marketing. But then I would have to go and say that those thing work.
    I watched for a couple of second the examiner and said I couldn’t work for them. Then I stand up and saluted politely.

    It was the second interview and I could very well have got that position. Orac, you are to blame for my current unemployment :P

  15. #15 Beamup
    October 16, 2012

    @ T:

    Major kudos for living up to your principles! Hopefully you will soon find a job with a *reputable* employer, rather than one engaged in mass fraud.

  16. #16 Denice Walter
    October 16, 2012

    Most of the nutrients discussed by Orac have been hawked in similar fashion @ PRN, and yes “DIM” is an appropo acronym for more than just that specific compound. ( see Gary Null.com/ store).

    Interestingly enough: while wading through the archives of that quaking bog** of slimily decomposing vegetative material, I heard (on this past Sunday’s Talk Back show) , amidst the prescriptions for ‘natural phyto-nutrients’, a *proscription* against the low-dose aspirin regimen often indicated by physicians for cardiovascular conditions. You know, that which is supposed to combat blood clotting that could lead to strokes and MIs.

    Right, the woo-meister went into a long spiel about the dangers of aspirin: pharmaceutical companies transform the curative willow bark, long utilised by wise, indigenous healers, into an artificial, health-endangering substance. Doctors widely instruct their unsuspecting and trusting patients to take it as a preventive when it is truly HARMFUL and has caused thousands of deaths a year ( 25K?) Don’t trust those doctors! What do DOCTORS know anyway? Aspirin is the spawn of the devil.

    So I suppose we’re to believe that ‘natural’ phyto-chemicals sold by the woos are derived from vegetables and fruits that someone squeezes and dehydrates before shaping them into capsules; I’m sure that that’s correct. Perhaps vitamin D is condensed essence of pure sunshine itself or suchlike.

    The aforementioned computer radio network distributes spurious advice such as that I’ve highlighted on a regular basis: the woo-meister general holds court 20 hours a week for your listening pleasure and education..

    ** fortunately, I have just acquired a brand, new pair of waterproof, sludge-proof rubber boots ..and they’re not just symbolic: I occasionally tread through true muck and puddles in contradistinction to metaphorical muck and puddles..

  17. #17 Denice Walter
    October 16, 2012

    @ Lawrence:

    But don’t you think that they would be all stringy and fibrous? Probably wouldn’t taste like chicken at all.

  18. #18 Lawrence
    October 16, 2012

    As my youngest says when I tell him I could just “eat him all up” – No Daddy, I’m not food!!!!

  19. #19 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    October 16, 2012

    @Lawrence

    Heh, when my son was smaller, if I said, “I’m going to eat you all up!” He’d respond with, “I no has flavor!”

    Yeah, too much Icanhascheezburger in this house…

  20. #20 Denice Walter
    October 16, 2012

    @ T.:

    You might be unemployed but you’re an inspiration for us:

    Tre urra per T.!

    But hey, you can always work in marketting for another useless product that DOESN’T endanger health or waste money..
    Oh wait.

  21. #21 Eric Lund
    October 16, 2012

    @ToddW: You beat me to the Soylent Green joke.

  22. #22 richard77
    October 16, 2012

    T.: Hurrarh for you. I hope you get a job with a respectable company with 3x the wage.

  23. #23 Heliantus
    October 16, 2012

    @ Todd

    It’s made of vegetarian people. We merchant of fairy dust have principles, you know.

    @ Denice

    the woo-meister went into a long spiel about the dangers of aspirin: pharmaceutical companies transform the curative willow bark, long utilised by wise, indigenous healers, into an artificial, health-endangering substance.

    Isn’t salicylic acid (i.e. willow bark’s active compound) more likely to cause stomach ulcer than acetylsalicylic acid, a.k.a. aspirin?
    Not to mention ruining your teeth by chewing on bark.
    Oh, wait, I’m letting facts interfering with my beliefs, again.

    @ T.

    I could have applied to a job with Boiron, a few years back. Not sure they would have actually wanted me, but I decided not to, because, eh, it’s homeopathy.
    I feel sometimes stupid for letting my principles getting in the way of practicability. But at the end of the day, principles and beliefs are what are defining Me, and unless I want to become an empty, soulless shell, I have better cling to a few of these principles.
    So here I am, tipping my hat to you and wishing you good hunting.

  24. #24 Jeff
    October 16, 2012

    Krebiozen: Long-term safety studies for brocolli? You’re kidding, right? This recent article summarizes research on DIM and I3C:

    http://www.wellnessresources.com/health/articles/i3c_and_dim_for_breast_prostate_cancer_prevention/

    For the most part it agrees with Orac’s summary of the research. However it draws a more positive conclusion about the potential for cancer prevention and treatment, especially for people in certain high-risk groups.

  25. #25 Carl
    October 16, 2012

    Solal’s science might scream “bullshit”, but do you have a convincing argument against the authoritative headless lab coat on their home page? I think not.

  26. #26 Shay
    October 16, 2012

    Someone in Scotland is marketing a vegetarian haggis, so why not vegetarian human pituitary extract? Makes as much sense.

  27. #27 Spectator
    October 16, 2012

    Would it not be productive to countersue?

    People or entities which have lawyers on staff can launch these suits at nearly zero incremental cost. If they are simply deflected, they lose nothing and have no disincentive to continue.

    Countersuits are more likely to succeed, as the original plaintiffs have substantial assets from their various scams. If successful, the proceeds of countersuits could go to, say, free public science education.

    thoughts?

  28. #28 Krebiozen
    October 16, 2012

    Darwy,

    Oh, I know – I did the math earlier

    I imagined you would have, That wasn’t really aimed at you, more at the undecided lurkers who might stumble across this thread, or who Google that study.

    Jeff,

    Long-term safety studies for brocolli? You’re kidding, right?

    Of course. It’s my usual response to calls for long-term safety studies of things that we have no reason to suspect are dangerous, and that have been in use with no problems at all for decades, like aluminum adjuvants for example, just to show how ridiculous they are.

  29. #29 Krebiozen
    October 16, 2012

    Spectator,

    If successful, the proceeds of countersuits could go to, say, free public science education.

    I was thinking along similar lines, but putting any proceeds or costs awarded into an international defense fund for bloggers sued by Big Woo.

  30. #30 Beamup
    October 16, 2012

    @ Krebiozen:

    Has anyone you’ve deployed the broccoli argument against ever managed to reply coherently without committing the naturalistic fallacy?

  31. #31 Krebiozen
    October 16, 2012

    Beamup,
    They generally either ignore me or tell me not to be so silly. I hope they at least go away and think a bit about what constitutes being silly.

  32. #32 Krebiozen
    October 16, 2012

    Jeff,
    I just followed your link to that article. Did you notice it was written by a ‘Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist’ (I would believe a dietitian over a nutritionist any day) and is on the website of a supplement company whose sole function is to persuade people that they require supplements? Bleugh.

  33. #33 galaoxides
    October 16, 2012

    @ Kreb
    &
    @ Dawry

    Maybe we’re missing the point? Of course you wouldn’t see an impact on the astrocytes at that lowest concentration. Don’t you need to dilute it further to get a homeopathic effect? Maybe with thimerosal, the big pharmas were conspiring and were actually concealing succussion in their production pipeline?

  34. #34 Beamup
    October 16, 2012

    I’d count those as “incoherent,” so apparently not. I guess that demonstrates it to be a strong argument.

  35. #35 Narad
    October 16, 2012

    Would it not be productive to countersue?

    For what? I don’t know anything about South African law (other than, now, that the defamation construct has a lineage through Roman/Dutch law and doesn’t map exactly to the English common-law version), but one presumably needs a theory.

  36. #36 Denice Walter
    October 16, 2012

    @ Helianthus:

    Oh, I know- it’s worse!
    Unfortunately, several elderly relatives of mine have managed to nearly off themselves by taking aspirin for arthritis: it not only damages the stomach lining but it simultaneously dulls pain and thins blood. Lovely.

    These characteristics precipitated an especially dangerous condition in a relative who- like me- has rather thin blood to begin with..( no relation to Queen Victoria, thankfully). I’ll spare you the gory details but he survived.

    @ Spectator:

    Sure. One of the woo-meisters I survey brags about how many lawyers he keeps on staff and about how he has sued governmental agencies and his critics BUT he obfuscates the *results* of those suits.

    He informs us that he’s going after the quackbusters ( sic) next. So it’s a manoeuvre to scare sceptics and critics, I believe.

    I would love to see one of the victims of these suits counter-sue. Especially in Texas. I would also like to see survivors of aids patients talked out of using ARVs sue the hiv/aids denialists who so entranced their now deceased loved ones
    Lots of things I’d like to see.

  37. #37 herr doktor bimler
    October 16, 2012

    Isn’t salicylic acid (i.e. willow bark’s active compound) more likely to cause stomach ulcer than acetylsalicylic acid, a.k.a. aspirin?
    Not to mention ruining your teeth by chewing on bark.

    I think we all agree that quinine is best consumed in the natural herbal way, as tonic water.

  38. #38 Alain
    October 16, 2012

    Any lawyer here who would confirm that hypothesis:

    If I were to get sued, I could countersue on the basis of a pre-existing psychiatric condition which would result in a heightened stress level and decreased ability to function?

    For reference, my oldest brother got awarded about 5K$ for similar damage for a condition (pathological gambling) exacerbated by a company who sent him a letter awarding him a sweepstake prize when he was registered in a national registry for do not call list (and which applies to mail publicity too).

    He also has other conditions which may have weighted in the outcome.

    Alain

  39. #39 Peebs
    October 16, 2012

    Only with a fine London or Plymouth Gin Herr Doktor.

    I can accept a belief in psychics, homeopaths, even vaccine denialists.

    BUT VEGETARIAN HAGGIS!

    Truly a dark stain on the face of humanity.

  40. #40 Denice Walter
    October 16, 2012

    @ Peebs:

    While I’m totally agreed about the gin**: it IS the nectar of the (non-existent) gods.

    but HAGGIS..?
    seriously! (( shudder))
    so glad I’m not Scottish ( although I love them very much) so that I don’t ever have to ever even SEE haggis.

    ** the production of which helped make some of my ancestors somewhat well-to-do and able to pass money around, fund businesses and projects etc.

  41. #41 Narad
    October 16, 2012

    If I were to get sued, I could countersue on the basis of a pre-existing psychiatric condition which would result in a heightened stress level and decreased ability to function?

    IANAL. You can sue for anything, but intentional infliction of emotional distress is a tough one to show. A nonfrivolous lawsuit isn’t going to cut it.

  42. #42 Marry Me, Mindy
    October 16, 2012

    T.

    For some reason, my response to “what do you know about the market” would be, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

    I’m glad you declined to profit from others’ gullibility.

  43. #43 Shay
    October 16, 2012

    @Peebs

    Haggis, in and of itself, is a dark stain on the face of humanity. I know Scots who won’t eat it.

  44. #44 Krebiozen
    October 16, 2012

    Haggis, in and of itself, is a dark stain on the face of humanity.

    That’s a little harsh. Personally I’m rather fond of haggis, but then I like offal in general – I love liver, kidneys and black pudding – though I draw the line at tripe (and jellied eels, which is not literally offal, just awful).

    If you think Brits each some weird stuff, you should see what Icelanders eat, not to mention the Chinese and the French (though they do manage to make even the most unlikely foods taste delicious).

  45. #45 Denice Walter
    October 16, 2012

    @ Shay:

    Although I do believe that haggis is frightening we should never forget that the Scots are not the only Europeans who create disgusting foods..
    for my first exhibit, I present:
    blood sausages ( black sausages, black pudding et al) which are truly- and unfortunately- produced in many differing regions of Europe- the British Isles, France, Spain, Germany, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia..

    So none of us should talk too loudly unless if we’re from elsewhere but they probably make horrible dishes as well.-
    I won’t even start with China.

  46. #46 MI Dawn
    October 16, 2012

    @HDB and DW: can I have bitter lemon with my gin instead of tonic water? I prefer my quinine that way, thank you. (Blame my doctor grandfather who got all of his kids and grandkids hooked on the stuff – it was a special treat, even without the gin)

  47. #47 thenewme
    October 16, 2012

    Ack. Yet another “breast protection” supplement! As a breast cancer patient (survivor?) myself, these dubious “breast health” formula claims really hit a nerve for me.

    It reminds me of Dr. Isaac Eliaz posting nearly the identical claims about his own special EcoNugenics BreastDefend formula . Or Dr. Christine Horner’s “Protective Breast Formula.” Or breast-related formulas from Neways or Usana or Life Extension Foundation or any of a huge number of other breast-specific supplements touted ad nauseam on breastcancer-dot-org.

    A huge number of breast cancer patients (120,000+) look to BCO as an information and support resource, and there’s never a shortage of people there extolling the virtues of this-that-or-the-other supplement that’s “proven” to support breast health and treat/prevent breast cancer.

  48. #48 Shay
    October 16, 2012

    @Denice:

    I wish I could remember the source of the quote “Most Scottish food is based on a dare.”

  49. #49 kruuth
    October 16, 2012

    So, does SA have a SLAPP-style law?

  50. #50 Narad
    October 16, 2012

    So, does SA have a SLAPP-style law?

    The phenomenon itself seems to be somewhat novel (PDF; I have only read the abstract).

  51. #51 Calli Arcale
    October 16, 2012

    Haggis is wonderful. From my Scandinavian side, I must offer up pickled herring cutlets as en example of cuisine that some may find horrible, but which I think is fantastic. I would definitely choose it over homeopathic human pituitary extract.

  52. #52 Spectator
    October 16, 2012

    @Narad

    ————-
    Would it not be productive to countersue?

    For what? I don’t know anything about South African law (other than, now, that the defamation construct has a lineage through Roman/Dutch law and doesn’t map exactly to the English common-law version), but one presumably needs a theory.
    ———

    My knowledge of legal matters is, ah, slight. If A can sue B based on B expressing their personal opinion of A it seems the bar is rather low. I believe that counter-suits against such bullying have actually succeeded in the US, but I do not know by what legal mechanism either the original or counter-suits found merit.

  53. #53 Narad
    October 16, 2012

    If A can sue B based on B expressing their personal opinion of A it seems the bar is rather low.

    Yah, but “having been sued” isn’t a cause of action per se.

  54. #54 Narad
    October 16, 2012

    Allow me to rephrase that: there is no general guarantee that truth is a defense to libel.

  55. #55 lilady
    October 16, 2012

    @ Krebiozen:

    “That’s a little harsh. Personally I’m rather fond of haggis, but then I like offal in general…”

    Did you say “Offal”? I only barely tolerate Offal when he posts here.

    @ Shay: From the movie “I Married An Axe Murderer”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CloGus131G0

  56. #56 Narad
    October 17, 2012

    WRT truth and SA defamation, “A Man of Bad Character Has Not so Much to Lose” is what I was thinking of, but I was distracted when trying to knock it out of my head. The SSRN download link provided doesn’t work for me, but a title search will get it from Edinburgh if necessary.

  57. #57 Alain
    October 17, 2012

    @ Narad, October 16, 6:59 pm,

    Thanks, I get it and I find that my brother was so lucky to have a judge favorable to his plight that I call that an outlier.

    Alain

  58. #58 idlemind
    October 17, 2012

    You know, at 10^60 dilution (that’s what 30C) it isn’t likely to have any pituitary extract whatsoever in it. So perhaps it really is vegetarian.

  59. #59 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    October 17, 2012

    @Kreb

    Don’t get me started on Iceland and its shark dish. There is no way in hell I will eat shark that’s been salted, buried on the side of a hill for a few months (with stones on it to press out ‘juice’) and then cured.

    I also refuse surstrømmings filet – a popular Swedish dish, which is *fermented* herring.

    Rotting shark:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xhfJRdwHnU

    Surstrømmings filet:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcnfEVqNdoA

  60. #60 herr doktor bimler
    October 17, 2012

    You know, at 10^60 dilution (that’s what 30C) it isn’t likely to have any pituitary extract whatsoever in it.

    The alt-health, anti-vax crowd have major hair-on-fire issues with the involvement of human stem cells or fetal cells in the early stages of creating some vaccines, despite the homeopathic dilutions caused by subsequent stages of manufacturing… it seems that massive dilution doesn’t matter.

  61. #61 herr doktor bimler
    October 17, 2012

    blood sausages ( black sausages, black pudding et al) which are truly- and unfortunately- produced in many differing regions of Europe

    ‘Unfortunately’? I feel a Harumph coming on.
    Just wait until my book comes out on ‘The Hanseatic Diet’ (“Eat your way to natural health the Northern European way!”).

  62. #62 David N. Brown
    October 17, 2012

    I find it ironic that the content which is subject of the suit would include the phrase “voodoo science”, when “voodoo” actually originates from Africa. It makes me wonder, have the witch doctors complained.

    Something else I’ve thought about frequently: Shouldn’t ANYTHING with significant nutritional value improve the functioning of the immune system, to some degree? That would seem to make the boast of “boosting the immune system” pretty close to impossible to refute, unless they actually used something toxic.

    David N. Brown
    Mesa, Arizona

  63. #63 herr doktor bimler
    October 17, 2012

    “A South African Consumers Guide to scams, pseudo-science, and voodoo-science.” The folks who maintain this particular website sound like skeptics after my own heart.

    Perhaps it should be named after Christiaan Barnard.
    I’ll shut up now.

  64. #64 Krebiozen
    October 17, 2012

    Darwy,

    Don’t get me started on Iceland and its shark dish.

    Anything that makes Gordon Ramsey vomit can’t be all bad.

  65. #65 T.
    October 17, 2012

    Thanks everyone who showed support :) I am searching for a moderately honest work :P

    About blood sausage: we in Italy have a wonderful dish made of chocolate and pig blood. Sort of a pudding. It is a sweet and very good!

  66. #66 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    October 17, 2012

    Kreb

    This is true, however having smelled said dish (from a distance), I had sympathy dry heaves when Ramsay lost it.

  67. #67 Krebiozen
    October 17, 2012

    Lest anyone suspect T is joking, a recipe. It sounds intriguing, but I suspect I would have trouble getting hold of a liter of warm pigs blood in my area.

  68. #68 Krebiozen
    October 17, 2012

    Darwy,
    Kudos on getting the spelling right – I seem to have conflated the chef with an incarnation of Bozo the Clown, who is well-known for being laughed at, not so much eating rotten shark fins.

  69. #69 Marry Me, Mindy
    October 17, 2012

    Kreb – note that Andrew Zimmern similarly couldn’t eat lutefisk. He eats beating frog hearts but draws the line at lutefisk.

  70. #70 Todd W.
    http://harpocratesspeaks.com
    October 17, 2012

    @idlemind

    You know, at 10^60 dilution (that’s what 30C) it isn’t likely to have any pituitary extract whatsoever in it. So perhaps it really is vegetarian.

    Except that it’s 30x, not 30C. So we’re talking a 3C dilution, which would potentially have some pituitary gland in it.

  71. #71 Krebiozen
    October 17, 2012

    Isn’t 30x 1 in 10, 30 times (10^-30), whereas 3C is 1 in 100 3 times (10^-6)? This a bit like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, though less useful. That’s not a lot of pituitary extract, whatever way you look at it.

    For some reason I keep thinking about ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ and adrenochrome…

  72. #72 kruuth
    October 17, 2012

    You don’t know what you’re missing. I worked with a fella from Scandinavia and at the xmas potluck he brought something like lutefisk or that shark stuff. Stunk but tasted amazing. Not that I can talk. Span has morcilla, which is essentially pig’s blood and rice.

  73. #73 T.
    October 17, 2012

    Yes, Krebiozen, it is hard to find the warm blood. The law doesn’t allow it to be sold anymore :( You have to buy a pig if you want it (many people around here buy a piglet with a friend, and share the meat and blood when the piglet is grow. We did it a couple of time when I was a child).

    It is all a matter of what you are used at :D

  74. #74 Narad
    October 17, 2012

    Not that I can talk. Span has morcilla, which is essentially pig’s blood and rice.

    Let’s not forget chipirones en su tinta. I somehow find that even more offputting, although that may be because the mess was truly staggering when a friend of mine tried to make it for the first time.

  75. #75 kruuth
    October 17, 2012

    @Narad:

    Why? Squid is tasty. I’ve had it, don’t really care for it but I can see why people like it. Granted, the look can turn a lot of people away.

  76. #76 Narad
    October 17, 2012

    After the home harvesting of the ink, my friend and the kitchen looked as though she had been locked in to do mortal combat with a shoal of man-eating squid. Ink everywhere, bits of squid all over the place, beaks in her hair, etc. Chilling.

  77. #77 Bronze Dog
    October 17, 2012

    Lutefisk. Now I feel obligated to mention Dungeons of Dredmor and the Horadric Lutefisk Cube.

    The internet is a weird place when the topic inexplicably changes to recipes and food. I suppose it was either that or cats.

    Anyway, back on the main topic, I’m glad to hear about this TAC group. It’s good to know they’re supporting a fellow skeptic.

  78. #78 Kevin Charleston
    South Africa
    October 17, 2012

    My thanks to Orac for having posted this information, and for all the commenters who have contributed.

    To those asking: South Africa has no anti-slapp measures; this is a fairly novel area of law. The constitution is fairly strong on freedom of speech – but there are no current limitations on laying vague defamation suits like this.
    Our response is to try and address this gap in the common law – but it involves a constitutional argument (http://www.quackdown.info/media/quackfiles/solalvscharleston-defendantsexception.pdf).

    @Narad – thanks for the SSRN doc, that underlines the point that the common law in respect of defamation has not developed since the adoption of a progressive constitution. It is going to be an interesting journey.

    I don’t believe there is any legal standing for my suing Solal merely because they have sued me. Their legal action can’t be seen as defaming me in any way. I could consider suing them for some of the statements they have made about me in other forums and in their responses to my complaints to the ASA – effectively calling me a fraud.
    But the law, as I hope they will find, is not something that they can bend to their will.

    I have strong support from the TAC and excellent legal support from Section 27 – standing firm is in the public benefit. Suing in response would not harm Solal significantly – it would only potentially benefit myself. The best outcome from this would be for the court to award punitive costs against Solal (as has been done in the Wraypex case outlined in @Narad’s other link – http://cer.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/SLAPP-Suits-public-interest-litigation-in-South-Africa-SAJHR-2011.pdf).

  79. #79 Shay
    getting ready to dig into a dish of kimche
    October 17, 2012

    Sorry about the hijack.

    Whether the bad guys win the lawsuit or not, they’re counting on just the threat of the stress, resources and hassle involved in being sued will be enough to discourage others.

  80. #80 Denice Walter
    October 17, 2012

    A sneak peek at the table of contents of herr doktor bimler’s newly published culinary guide:

    The Hanseatic Diet: Eat your way to natural health the
    Northern European way!

    Chapter 1: We like blood with our meat- I know it’s not kosher but hey, what do you expect- we’re Vikings!

    Chapter 2: Would you prefer your fish rotted, soaked in lye- or both?

    Chapter 3: Pickled fish in jars: a tasty snack for children of all ages

    Chapter 4: Desserts made with suet

    Chapter 5: Alcohol isn’t just for drinking

    The introduction was written by yours truly- an excerpt:

    …Although I like herr doktor very much I must admit that I really didn’t expect him to create delicious, memorable cuisine : and he doesn’t ..AT ALL: instead we are treated to a cornucopia of vile, despicable choices which might have been acceptable if you had been a starving, peasant, farm worker or galley slave 700 years ago. But then of course, some people like that sort of thing and might even pay others to torture them
    *Chacun a son gout*.

    I absolutely wouldn’t eat anything he describes. And a few of the things – gjestost cheese, for example- I don’t even want to view at a distance….

  81. #81 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    October 17, 2012

    Kreb

    I had a friend in Australia ask me to send him ‘something weird from Scandinavia’ – so I sent him a can of surstrømmings filet.

    You know when the can is ‘ready’ as it tends to bulge from the pressure the CO2 generates from the fermentation of the herring.

    So I mailed it regular post to Australia. My friend said that when it arrived, the can was round…all the way around.

    I cautioned him to not open it inside, or in any area he wanted to be able to use again in the near future.

  82. #82 Todd W.
    http://harpocratesspeaks.com
    October 17, 2012

    On the vile and/or disturbing culinary choices front: natto. Nothing like a nice ol’ helping of pungent, rotting soybeans in a viscous, stringy goop.

    Then again, maybe some of that HGH Plus could improve the flavor a little. Just look at some of the other ingredients: rice vinegar and soy seed (wouldn’t that just be a soybean?) oil.

  83. #83 sheepmilker
    Ducking the maggots
    October 17, 2012

    Can I add the world’s most vile sheep cheese? Welcome to Casu marzu, which you must cover with a paper bag before you cut it so that the maggots don’t fly out and hit you!

  84. #84 herr doktor bimler
    October 17, 2012

    Chapter 5: Alcohol isn’t just for drinking

    That changed in the second draft to
    Chapter 5. Beer: It’s not just for breakfast!

  85. #85 Krebiozen
    October 17, 2012

    What humans will do for a little umami (and probably B12)…

  86. #86 lilady
    October 17, 2012

    @ Kevin Charleston:

    I’m sending my best wishes to you for success in that awful lawsuit. Please keep in touch, so that we know how it resolves.

    lilady :-)

  87. #87 herr doktor bimler
    October 17, 2012

    Sort-of-relevantly, the esteemed Dr Edzard Ernst has discovered this “blogging” thing that the kids do.

  88. #88 lilady
    October 17, 2012

    I see all the foodies are posting here. Where is Chris…she has a sixth sense, every time lutefisk is mentioned.

  89. #89 Chris
    Neither here nor there...
    October 17, 2012

    I have been tempted, but I did not want to get too type cast.

  90. #90 Krebiozen
    October 17, 2012

    Sort-of-relevantly, the esteemed Dr Edzard Ernst has discovered this “blogging” thing that the kids do.

    Dr. (is he still Prof.?) Ernst ‘as been dahn wiv de kids on Twitter for yonks, er, blud.

  91. #91 herr doktor bimler
    October 17, 2012

    What humans will do for a little umami (and probably B12)…

    Exhibit A: Marmite.

  92. #92 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 17, 2012

    I’m sorry, I can’t really even pretend to be on-topic; I just want to comment on the “strange national foods” theme.

    Black pudding, at least the Irish kind, is really dang delicious and if you didn’t know what you were eating you’d never think it was anything more than just a rich-tasting sausage. It really doesn’t rank that high on the “you-eat-what” scale.

    As far as weird food, the weirdest food I know of that actually has a very good reason for existing is one I learned about through Japanese manga. In the manga “Moyashimon,” an early plot involves a scientist at an agricultural college producing a traditional dish of the Inuit, made by filling the carcass of a dead seal with the carcasses of dead seabirds, burying it all and letting it ferment. The reason for this, explains the scientist, is that the fermentation actually produces vitamins which people most places in the world get from plants … plants that don’t grow in the circumpolar regions. This dish provides the polar people with nutrients that would otherwise be quite difficult to get in their diet.

  93. #93 lilady
    October 17, 2012

    Okay guys, I posted on Dr. Ernst’s blog (still in moderation).

    @ Chris: I’ll catch you (and Narad), later, when old blinky box is in sleep mode.

    O/T Where is “Dyson”? The (Not An) ASD Researcher Troll is busy spamming on Michael Winfry’s Opinion Piece/blog re: the Deer-Wakefield “non-debate” at the LaCrosse Tribune:

    http://lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/michael-winfrey-former-doctor-was-not-invited-to-uw-l/article_77a7ee6a-13ea-11e2-9389-001a4bcf887a.html

  94. #94 Krebiozen
    October 17, 2012

    I’m glad Dr. Ernst has his own blog now. From time to time I used to comment on Dr. Ernst’s section of the ‘Pulse’ (UK healthcare professionals) blog, which had regular infestations of indignant homeopaths and chiropractors almost as entertaining as those we see here. I found something very satisfying about witnessing such people being provoked into virtually frothing at the mouth by Dr. Ernst’s unrufflable reason and evidence.

  95. #95 Krebiozen
    October 17, 2012

    AF,

    This dish provides the polar people with nutrients that would otherwise be quite difficult to get in their diet.

    That would include the B12 I mentioned. Tangentially related to that, I wondered a while ago about Inuit and others living in polar regions, and where they get their vitamin C from. It was a sort of epiphany when I remembered that most animals synthesize their own vitamin C, so fresh meat and fish are moderately good sources – raw whale skin contains up to 36 mg/100g vitamin C, compared to oranges with about 50 mg/100g. We tend to think of vitamin C as only being from fruit and vegetables, but that’s not necessarily true.

  96. #96 Krebiozen
    October 17, 2012

    Actually, thinking again, Inuit must get plenty of B12 from their diet. That fictional Manga scientist must have had something else in mind.

  97. #97 sheepmilker
    October 17, 2012

    But of course, anyone eating polar bear liver is likely to have FAR too much of a good thing.

  98. #98 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 17, 2012

    Krebiozen -

    I looked it up, and it was slightly different than I remembered it. The dish is called “kiviak” and according to the manga scientist, the vitamins it provides are ones that used to be provided by raw meat but are now less plentiful in the normal diet because most meat is cooked now. I can’t speak to the accuracy of any of that, of course. (Warning: anyone who thinks black pudding qualifies as gross does not want to look into how kiviak is consumed.)

  99. #100 MI Dawn
    October 17, 2012

    @DW: re: gjestost cheese: it’s actually quite awesomely good. We had a Norwegian exchange student who brought us some. I was dubious about it at first, but agreed to taste it and promptly fell in love…

  100. #101 Narad
    October 17, 2012

    I think it’s well past time that the Weston Price types started competing with each other on this kiviak front. Enough with the sauerkraut-on-the-back-porch posturing, ladies.

  101. #102 Sid Offit
    October 18, 2012

    Nothing more legally thuggish tan forced vaccination, so no sympathy here

  102. #103 Narad
    October 18, 2012

    Nothing more legally thuggish tan forced vaccination, so no sympathy here

    Put down the Sterno, Sid. This has nothing to do with vaccination.

  103. #104 Julian Frost
    NOYDB
    October 18, 2012

    Nothing more legally thuggish tan forced vaccination, so no sympathy here

    Riiight. It’s not like apartheid or the Nuremburg Laws or communism were legally enforced thuggishness.
    Oh wait.

  104. #105 Daniel
    October 18, 2012

    Orac mentions the TAC and its fight against HIV quackery briefly.

    The full story about Matthias Rath, Anthony Brink, Zackie Achmat, Thabo Mbeki, and the appalling HIV/AIDS quackery in South Africa that cost 300,000 lives can be found in the “missing chapter” of Ben Goldacre’s book “Bad Science”.

    The chapter can be downloaded for free from his site:

    http://www.badscience.net/2009/04/matthias-rath-steal-this-chapter/

  105. #106 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 18, 2012

    Nothing more legally thuggish tan forced vaccination, so no sympathy here

    You say “no sympathy here” as if it was a function of the issue, rather than a constant of your stunted character.

  106. [...] Legal thuggery threatens another skeptic Orac, Respectful Insolence, 16/10/12 [...]

  107. #108 Jon
    October 20, 2012

    Sometimes I’m convinced that South Africa is the hotbed of CAM thuggery.You could say these exploiters have *puts sunglasses on* earned my Rath.

    YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!

  108. #109 Scottynuke
    A place without cookies
    October 20, 2012

    Don’t mind me, just setting a cookie. :-)

  109. [...] Last month, linked to Breast Cancer Awareness month, I emphasised a local South African product called Breast Protection Formula™ and its claim that it contains nutrients and plant extracts that help prevent breast cancer. As the US surgeon and breast cancer scientist David Gorski (MD, PhD) stated in commenting on the product: [...]