Respectful Insolence

And they say I’m in it for the money?

FBhari

One of the most common criticisms launched at defenders of science-based medicine by believers in pseudoscience and quackery is that we are “pharma shills.” The assumption, or so it would seem, is that no one would defend science, reason, and medicine unless he were paid off by pharmaceutical, chemical, and/or agricultural companies. The further assumption is that, in contrast to our greedy grasping selves, they are not motivated by such base concerns as money. That is their self-image, that of pure-hearted warriors against evil, the evil being big pharma, big agriculture, big chemical, and whatever other demons they can dream up in their fevered imaginations. Of course, no one, least of all I, really claims that big pharma, big agriculture, and big chemical are pure or that they don’t sometimes engage in questionable or even dishonest practices in the name of profit. And, of course, by contrast, promoters of “natural health” would never, ever be motivated by profit.

Yeah, right.

Mike-Adams-Health-Ranger-ICP-MS-lab-tests


As evidence, take Mike Adams—please!—of NaturalNews.com. Remember last Christmas season, when he announced that he was forming the NaturalNews Food Laboratory? Well, he did indeed set up a laboratory early this year in which he used a mass spectrometer to measure levels of various heavy metals in various “superfoods” and supplements, an endeavor that landed him on Dr. Mehmet Oz’s show, where he hyped up fears of toxic heavy metals in a variety of supplements. It was truly depressing to behold, because Oz, as a physician, should understand what a fetid pile of dingos’ kidneys Adams’ “science” is, his ability to throw on a lab coat and look like he knows what he’s doing notwithstanding. His analysis of the mercury in a flu vaccine was hilarious in its cluelessness, too.

All along, I had a prediction, and that prediction was astoundingly obvious. Specifically, I believed that Adams would (1) use his results to attack his competitors (which he has already done) and (2) use his results to sell product, which he hadn’t really done so much, at least not yet. Then I received an e-mail from the NaturalNews.com mailing list announcing this product: Heavy Metals Defense, which is touted thusly:

After months of R&D, testing and regulatory compliance, we are now pre-launching our patent-pending “Heavy Metals Defense” supplement formula to our email newsletter subscribers.

Heavy Metals Defense binds with and captures lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, uranium and even copper.* The following results are laboratory-verified in vitro, using a simulated human digestion protocol and rigorous scientific documentation based on the same ICP-MS instrumentation used by universities and the FDA:

Aluminum reduction: 98.7%
Arsenic reduction: 77.6%
Cadmium reduction: 98.5%
Copper reduction: 95.8%
Lead reduction: 99.9%
Mercury reduction: 92.9%
Uranium reduction: 76.5%

Hilarious! Based on in vitro tests that might or might not be reflective of what’s going on in vivo (i.e., in the gut), Adams touts his magic supplement, which apparently contains a combination of a dehydrated seaweed powder, a seawater extract, grape seed powder, Clean Chlorella and Hawaiian Spirulina. It is true, of course, that extracts from seaweed can contain iron chelating agents and often are touted by people selling alternative medicine and horticulture for such abilities.

Adams claims to have performed “simulated digestion” experiments in vitro in order to measure the reduction of heavy metal captured by his extracts. This simulated digestion is described thusly. Known quantities of heavy metals were added to digestion vials at various concentrations. In the digestion vials was “synthetic gastric acid” and a digestion simulation process “to mimic human digestion as closely as possible.” Then Adams removed the solids from the liquids, stating that the solids “represent what your body eliminates through fecal matter” and that “liquids represent those things absorbed through intestinal walls and into your bloodstream.” He then measured the heavy metal concentrations left over in the liquids.

Do you see the problem with these methods?

I do. First, Adams doesn’t detail the actual methods; so it’s impossible to judge whether his process “mimics digestion.” For one thing, there’s more than just gastric acid to digestion. There are pancreatic enzymes and the mechanical action of the stomach and intestine, for example. None of this was simulated. Pancreatic enzymes are quite able to break down some, if not most, of these solids. Let’s just put it this way. Modeling digestion in in vitro systems is far more complicated than Adams suspects, and the applicability of such models to human digestion is at best tenuous in many cases. A model as simplistic as the one Adams appears to be using would need to be validated. At the very least, animal studies would need to be done to determine whether Adams’ concoction could prevent absorption of lead and various other heavy metals.

Based solely on in vitro results, Adams makes this bold claim:

Heavy Metals Defense is based on a dehydrated seaweed and a seawater extract, and it’s the world’s first supplement designed to be taken alongside foods, herbs and superfoods that you suspect may be contaminated with heavy metals.

As you know, we’ve already documented widespread heavy metals contamination in organic rice protein, herbal supplements, greens powders, cacao, sushi, seaweeds, calcium supplements, green tea, sunflower seeds and much more. This product can help your body capture and naturally eliminate toxic heavy metals found in many different foods, superfoods and beverages, before those heavy metals get absorbed into your blood.*

And that, I suggest, was part of his plan all along. His laboratory was not designed to be a food safety watchdog, as Adams claims. Rather, his laboratory was intended all along as a means to attack his competitors as having heavy metals in their supplements and as a rationale to sell a supplement of his own designed to “protect” you from all those heavy metal toxins he’s finding in his competitors’ products. I have to hand it to him; it’s a beautiful scam. Make no mistake, scam it is.

Then there’s the Vani Hari, a.k.a. The Food Babe. Of course, I’ve written about the Food Babe a couple of times before, once when she pulled an astoundingly dumb attack on the “yoga mat chemical.” It’s not for nothing that I’ve referred to her as the “Jenny McCarthy of food,” because she demonstrates the same sorts of misunderstandings of chemistry regarding food as Jenny McCarthy does for chemicals in vaccines. As Jenny McCarthy used to use the “toxins” gambit to demonize vaccines as having formaldehyde, “antifreeze,” and all sorts of nasty sounding chemicals in them. Similarly, Hari tries to demonize various food products as having the “yoga mat chemical” and, yes, “antifreeze.” Neither have a lick of understanding about chemistry and the basic principle of pharmacology that the dose makes the poison. McCarthy demands that the “toxins” be removed from vaccines, while Hari demands that the “chemicalz” be removed from food, as if food weren’t already made of chemicals.

It turns out that Hari, like Mike Adams, is also quite the entrepreneur. She’s been very savvy at establishing a “brand” for herself, and now she’s using that brand to make money:

In less than two years, Hari, 35, has gotten a book contract with Little, Brown (“The Food Babe Way,” due out in February, on her organic lifestyle), a William Morris Endeavor agent to handle her TV appearances and a website packed with advertising and product endorsements. You can even buy an eating-plan subscription for $17.99 a month.

Like other well-trafficked sites, the Food Babe is an affiliate of Amazon.com: If you click on a product and it takes you to the shopping site, Hari gets a percentage from your purchase as well as a percentage from anything else you buy during the same visit.

Google Analytics shared by Hari show an average of 5.3 million page views and 2.4 million unique visitors a month since mid-March. She logs 600,000 “likes” on Facebook, mostly from women between 25 and 34 years old. Her Twitter page shows 64,000 followers.

And:

Being a consumer advocate, which is what Hari calls herself, appears to be lucrative. While Hari declined to disclose what she makes from the website, she and her husband, Finley Clarke, both left what she says were “six-figure incomes” as technology consultants to work full time for foodbabe.com.

In other words, the Food Babe brand has become very lucrative. Viewed through this prism, Hari’s antics are more understandable. She needs media attention, and she needs to fire up her fans. More importantly, she needs to prove that she’s “somebody,” even better somebody her enemies and the enemies of her followers fear. If she can’t keep demonstrating that the food industry fears her by trumping up false controversy and activism against them, she looses her influence and thus her power and, even worse, her earning potential. Now, I’m not saying that she’s in it only for the money. She’s clearly an ideologue with no understanding of science or chemistry. Worse, she’s a telegenic and charming ideologue. Through a perfect storm forged in the confluence of her ideology, ignorance, and budding media savviness, she’s used misinformation and pseudoscience to become an Internet star and a media sensation. She could even be on the cusp of becoming a real star, given her book deal. Indeed, it wouldn’t even surprise me to see her being offered her own television show, probably on basic cable to start, but it’s quite possible she could use her talent for food quackery in the same way Dr. Oz has used his talent for medical quackery to become a daytime TV star.

Although it has nothing to do with her being, at this point, I can’t help but note a part of the article that particularly amused me:

At South Mecklenburg High, Hari got so serious about debate that she jokes about it being her sport. She went to the University of Georgia as a member of the debate team, but quit after a week. She says her family convinced her it wouldn’t help her earn a living. She transferred to UNC Charlotte, where she got a degree in computer science in 2001.

She quit the debate team after a week? Why am I not surprised? Hari can’t debate, nor can she answer simple criticism with science- and evidence-based arguments because her assertions are so patently absurd from a scientific standpoint that she can’t. For example, as I described before, when she was criticized for claiming that propylene glycol is in beer, even though it is not and is only listed because it’s in the coolant used in beer brewing vats, she countered with what to her was an “Aha!” moment, in which she said, in essence, “Aha! You’re wrong. There really is antifreeze in beer! Look, propylene glycol alginate is used as an agent to stabilize head foam.” The problem, of course, is Hari’s profound chemical ignorance. Propylene glycol alginate is alginic acid with propylene glycol groups attached. Chemically, it bears little resemblance to propylene glycol other than those groups, and is very different in properties.

The funny thing is that even Hari’s supporters clearly cringe at her idiocy with respect to the science, with food policy activists worrying that her lack of rigor in her research (talk about an understatement!) will undermine their credibility and make it harder for them to be taken seriously. It’s certainly a legitimate fear, given the level of ignorance that spews from the Food Babe on a nearly daily basis.

But back to the Food Babe’s business model, which is described in another article, Activist or Capitalist? How the ‘Food Babe’ Makes Money. In this article, E. J. Schultz and Maureen Morrison are more explicit about how Hari monetizes her activities:

Ms. Hari declined to answer a question about why she incorporated in Delaware. She also declined to reveal her annual revenue from the site, including how many food guides she has sold or how many brands with which she has business relationships. “This is information that is not important to my activism and my work,” she said, noting that she discloses partner brands when she mentions them in posts. “In order to be an activist you do need funds to do your work, and this is the most honest way that I think I can do that,” she said.

Part of her business model appears to be rooted in her affiliate-marketing partnerships. One of the companies she has recently plugged on her site is called Green Polka Dot Box, which sells home-delivered natural, organic and non-GMO foods. The company’s affiliate partners can earn 30% of the company’s annual $49.95 per-person membership fee for each person referred, plus $2 for every food purchase that person makes as long as they are a member, according to terms of the program listed on the company’s website.

Obviously, Hari incorporated in Delaware for a very good reason, the same reason many corporations choose Delaware to incorporate in: It’s a corporate tax haven, where corporations are “minimizing taxes, skirting regulations, plying friendly courts or, when needed, covering their tracks.” Delaware regularly tops the list of domestic and foreign tax havens because it allows companies to lower their taxes in the state in which they actually do business by shifting royalties and similar revenues to holding companies in Delaware, where they are not taxed.

Another interesting example is Hari’s relationship with a company called The Maca Team, which sells organic raw maca powder. On her site, Hari wrote that the plant can reduces stress, “improve mental clarity,” and “treat PMS.” It turns out that The Maca Team’s affiliate program lets partners earn 20% on each sale they refer. The Federal Trade Commission requires that bloggers disclose paid endorsements “clearly and conspicuously” on their blogs and websites. Although Hari does generally disclose such relationships, Schulz and Morrison questioned whether she met the “clear and conspicuous” standard.

In any case, whenever I’m accused of being a “pharma shill” or accused of being in it only for the money by supporters of people like Vani Hari and Mike Adams, I take great pleasure in pointing out that, in contrast to me (I don’t make any money for my other blog and make only a relative pittance for this one) Hari and Adams make quite a healthy living selling products and, above all, their brands. They’re not alone, either—unfortunately. They might not be in it only for the money, but they’re definitely in it for the money far more than I am, and both of their business models include, what is essentially blackmail of their competitors or targets.

Comments

  1. #1 Dorit
    July 16, 2014

    You mean there isn’t an Orac supplement brand? What are you thinking?

  2. #2 Dangerous Bacon
    July 16, 2014

    What toxins is Mikey messing around with in the photo, that he needs to wear a full face shield?

    If it’s to protect himself from Toxic Metal Supplements then jeez, maybe we should just eat some nice fruit.

  3. #3 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 16, 2014

    I’m still waiting for the Food Babe to come out against apples. I sent her a tweet pointing out that apples contain formaldehyde. They use that in textile manufacturing! Can you believe that? Do you want to eat textiles? Also, it’s a carcinogen. And yet she happily tweeted her love of apples and apple pie.

  4. #4 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 16, 2014

    Oh, and as I was reading your post, before you got to what his “metal defense” supplement was, I half expected it to be a rebranding of OSR#1.

  5. #5 Chris Hickie
    July 16, 2014

    That’s a very nice white, freshly starched lab coat Mikey has on. Must’ve taken it out of the bag from the cleaners just minutes before and put it on to make it look like he knows what the heck he is doing. Also, he’s got a rack of tubes perched somewhat precariously on the edge of the fume hood to his right in the picture. Also why does he have the fume hood sash so high up? He’s pretty much violating all safety elements of proper fume hood use in this picture (see http://securite.epfl.ch/fume_hoods for referrence).

  6. #6 Helianthus
    July 16, 2014

    Heavy Metals Defense binds with and captures lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, uranium and even copper.

    “even copper”?
    It could be because I’m ignorant of some of the finer points of chelation, but as a biologist I’m used to chelating agents working fine on metallic ions like iron, tin or copper.
    Heck, copper is even the metal used in the example in the Wikipedia article on chelation.
    So I’m a bit surprised he is surprised.

    Maybe he meant no copper can catch him…

    As for naturally chelating heavy metals, including uranium, my own advice is to eat apples (depending on taste, including the cyanide in the seeds).
    Or rhubarb, if you are not afraid of kidney stones.
    Cheaper and tastier than dried seaweed, I would think.

  7. #7 Chris Hickie
    July 16, 2014

    I suspect both Adams and Hari consult with people who know more science in regards to their “projects”. I wouldn’t call those people scientists, but rather mercenaries to woo. Neither Adams nor Hari knows enough to pull off their stunts unassisted. Combine that with the woefully low level of scientific literacy and critical thinking being taught to younger generations and you have the perfect combination of stupid for the rapid business growth of the garbage sold by Adams and Hari. And Hari’s supporters have nothing to fear about her lack of science knowledge because no one else buying her junk knows any science either.

  8. #8 Chris Hickie
    July 16, 2014

    @Helanthis #6–Maybe Mikey is marketing control of copper to the 1 in 25,000 people who have Wilson’s disease…

    And Mikey really should look at whether the reduction in uranium was isotope specific. If so, he’s hit upon a natural means of making weapon-grade uranium without all those centrifuges and distillation set ups that take up so much lab space. I’m sure if he marketed uranium purification to those most interested that they would be more than understanding and nice to him when they realized they’d been scammed.

  9. #9 LW
    July 16, 2014

    “Also, he’s got a rack of tubes perched somewhat precariously on the edge of the fume hood to his right in the picture.”

    There are some bottles on the left that are one careless move away from being knocked off the edge.

    Shouldn’t his classy lab have a little more work space?

  10. #10 Eric Lund
    July 16, 2014

    At South Mecklenburg High, Hari got so serious about debate that she jokes about it being her sport. She went to the University of Georgia as a member of the debate team, but quit after a week.

    One of these things is not like the other.

    Debate skills do help in some fields. Even science.

    As for Mike, I think the following Texas saying applies: If ignorance ever goes to $100 a barrel, I want the drilling rights on that man’s head. I agree with what a couple of posters above imply: that fume hood (as well as the lab coat, gloves, and face mask) is a prop.

  11. #11 Helianthus
    July 16, 2014

    Tangentially, speaking of Dr Oz:

    http://www.vox.com/2014/7/12/5891451/meet-the-medical-student-who-wants-to-bring-down-dr-oz-quackery

    Apparently, some US physicians are fed up with their (ex-) colleague and his promotion of dubious treatments. Still an uphill battle, though.

  12. #12 TBruce
    July 16, 2014

    Wouldn’t Heavy Metals Defense involve a set of earplugs?

  13. #13 Norbrook
    July 16, 2014

    I guess Mikey would be aghast at the use of (shock!) copper pipes for water systems! Obviously the market for his chelation products is vastly underestimated, although I’m willing to help out with a new (expensive) “copper removal system.” I figure I can get an exorbitant price for a few ion exchange filters…

  14. #14 Renate
    July 16, 2014

    At South Mecklenburg High, Hari got so serious about debate that she jokes about it being her sport. She went to the University of Georgia as a member of the debate team, but quit after a week. She says her family convinced her it wouldn’t help her earn a living.

    So everything you do in life should help you make a living? I’m not sure, but to me it is a limited view on life.

  15. #15 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    July 16, 2014

    No need to condemn him because he was photobombed by a rack of test tubes.

  16. #16 Denice Walter
    July 16, 2014

    re ” in it for the money”

    How I wish that someone would compile the photos on the net that lovingly illustrate each and every woo-meisters’ luxe *pied a terre*! At any rate, they’re easy to find.

    Whilst I haven’t yet seen Mikey’s current abode in Austin, there are photos of his *hacienda* and ‘food forest’ in Vilcabamba, Ecuador which listed @ 695K USD ( and that goes a long way in Ecuador’s outback/ possibly try googling ‘Vilcabamba real estate, 695 000′).

    Other lovely manor homes built on woo may be seen:
    the Mercola mansion in Illinois, Dr B’s monogrammed gated fortress in Texas, Dr Oz’s castle on the cliffs of Cliffside Park, AJW’s fab acres in Austin complete with tennis courts ( see Brian Deer’s site for aerial pics) and last , but certainly not least, Gary Null’s properties over the years that metastisd from humble beginnings in NY, NJ and Texas to his present day baroque spreads in Florida and Mineola, Texas ( the former is up for sale @ 4.8 million USD which includes only part: see paradisegardensnaplesfl.com- a real estate broker’s site) which may be all viewed at his eponymous site under photos- the two aforementioned estates are pictured under “retreats’ of the past year or so.

    Don’t these charlatans realise that people can see how loaded down with lucre they are? Or is that part of their appeal: they’re “successful”?

  17. #17 Lancelot Gobbo
    July 16, 2014

    “Dr Orac’s Burning Stupid Remedy Drops: take two with a bucket of water (do not shake or succuss). May also be used in cases of inflamed irony meters. No dingos were harmed in the manufacture of this remedy.”

  18. #18 Denice Walter
    July 16, 2014

    re Mikey’s newest products:
    he also has an “emergency” product to be used to ‘capture’ cesium- it has zeolites and seaweeds.

  19. #19 Shay
    Who married a Bears fan -- pity me
    July 16, 2014

    The season doesn’t even start for another month, but I’m afraid when I read “Heavy Metals Defense” I thought of four big robots in Chicago Bears jerseys.

  20. #20 Calli Arcale
    http://fractalwonder.wordpress.com
    July 16, 2014

    Helianthus:

    No copper can catch him? Well, they haven’t yet, and judging by what’s going on with Burzynski, maybe they never will. :-(

    As for naturally chelating heavy metals, including uranium, my own advice is to eat apples (depending on taste, including the cyanide in the seeds).
    Or rhubarb, if you are not afraid of kidney stones.
    Cheaper and tastier than dried seaweed, I would think.

    I thinking exactly the same thing. Now I have an excuse to make some strawberry rhubarb pie. (Not that I really *need* an excuse, mind you….)

  21. #21 Denice Walter
    July 16, 2014

    -btw- Mikey also has worked with Green Polka Dot Box.

  22. #22 Julian Frost
    July 16, 2014

    A post from Cracked. It is exceptionally appropriate and backs up everything you have said, Orac.
    http://www.cracked.com/article_21341_5-ways-every-conspiracy-theory-makes-world-worse.html

  23. #24 SpaceTrout
    Inna gadda Velveeta.
    July 16, 2014

    I think “Dr. Orac’s Magickal Snark Powder” would be a marvelous product. I’d go Ike Turner on that stuff.

    @Todd W. #3
    How ’bout them apples? Forget the formaldehyde, the new GM Arctic variety is sure to become a target of her wrath, if it hasn’t already.

  24. #25 Chadwick
    July 16, 2014

    Orac, the link you posted to the Vani Hari petition is no longer available. Error 404.

  25. #26 SpaceTrout
    Inna gadda Velveeta.
    July 16, 2014

    Looks like the Food Babe petition is no longer available on the White House page. Shucks.

  26. #27 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 16, 2014

    @SpaceTrout

    Oooh…GM and formaldehyde! Now if it could either singe, dance or act, it would be a triple threat.

  27. #28 Rich Woods
    July 16, 2014

    “In order to be an activist you do need funds to do your work, and this is the most honest way that I think I can do that,” she said.

    I wonder which ideas she rejected as being insufficiently honest?

  28. #29 Sigivald
    July 16, 2014

    When did Aluminum become a “heavy” metal?

    (Jesus, I’m sick of the “aluminum is bad” hysteria, even more than other “toxin” hysteria.

    Trace aluminum isn’t toxic; if it was, we’d all be dead.

    Even “large” amounts of it in food are harmless by any sort of vaguely plausible science.)

  29. #30 Julian Frost
    July 16, 2014

    @Sigivald, you’re right. A banana grown in feldspars has more aluminium than the entire vaxx schedule.
    Saw this on Cheezburger also apropos.
    http://cheezburger.com/8252076544

  30. #31 Eric Lund
    July 16, 2014

    When did Aluminum become a “heavy” metal?

    “Heavy metal” = “bad”. I vaguely recall claims that aluminum was associated with Alzheimer’s disease–AFAICT the association appears to be neither proven nor disproven (aluminum is known to be a neurotoxin, but the mechanism by which it would cause Alzheimer’s has not been established). When I Googled to check the status of that claim, the second link was from Joe Mercola, claiming in a post dated March 2014 that the association was recently proven.

  31. #32 Denice Walter
    July 16, 2014

    How do they woo us: let me count the ways…

    Mikey has quite a few means of earning money:
    -he used to own/ possibly still owns a software company that makes spam easy as pie
    -he sells supplements, foods, filtration systems, survivalist supplies
    -he has a publishing company called ‘Truth Publishing’. Really.
    -he sells adverts on NaturalNews
    -he sells a premium woo network of internet television shows ( the Inner Circle)
    - he earns on products he pushes- such as Big Green Polka Dot Box and supplements/ foods like NZ green-lipped mussels.
    -he occasionally speaks publicly at health freedom events
    - he has a “charity”

    Null sells supplements, foods, devices, books, videos and has a “radio” (internet) network. He doesn’t seem to take ads- altho’ all of his content is- in one way or another- ads.

    He sells “premiums” to radio stations that raise money through the process and he does “retreats” as premiums as well ( I imagine that the retreats will increase as he has a new woo-nitarium in Texas).

    He does public speaking at adult educational events.
    I don’t know if he charges radio shows to appear on his network.
    He works closely with a woo-centric RN and a few doctors who follow his lead and provide treatments.
    He tried starting a home-based business for his thralls to sell his products to their friends and family.

    And he has two recently registered charities in Texas. And a holding company.

    I’m sure that there’s more.

  32. #33 Shay
    July 16, 2014

    “Heavy metal” = “bad”.

    Musically, I would agree with you.

    The aluminum/Alzheimer’s link was based on a very small and inconclusive study of rabbits in 2007, if I remember correctly.

  33. #34 Eric Lund
    July 16, 2014

    [Mike Adams] has a publishing company called ‘Truth Publishing’. Really.

    He (or another prominent woo hustler) should start another publishing company called News Publishing. Then we’d be able to prove an old Russian saying: There is no news in the truth, and no truth in the news.

    (The names of the Soviet Union’s two leading newspapers, Pravda and Izvestiya, literally mean “truth” and “news”, respectively.)

  34. #35 Eric Lund
    July 16, 2014

    Shay @33: The aluminum-Alzheimer’s link goes back further than that: I remember hearing about it circa 1990, and Google claims the notion started as early as the 1970s. Some (but not all) Alzheimer’s patients were found to have elevated aluminum levels in the brain. Some studies since then (including a few recent studies) support the association, but others do not, and the putative causal mechanism is unknown. So my layman’s evaluation of the hypothesis is: probably false but not proven false. (I have low confidence of the latter half, since I don’t know how woo-prone the authors of the studies claiming support for the hypothesis are–that’s in contrast to the “mercury in vaccines causes autism” hypothesis, whose only remaining adherents are deep enough in the woo to be targets of Orac.)

  35. #36 Denice Walter
    July 16, 2014

    There was a long article in the New Yorker about it c. 1990 IIRC.

  36. #37 lilady
    July 16, 2014

    That aluminum causes Alzheimer Disease theory goes way back. I remember my grandmother clipping newspaper articles and sending them to my mother…when I was a teenager.

    Would you believe I was a teenager circa 1990?

  37. #38 Calli Arcale
    http://fractalwonder.wordpress.com
    July 16, 2014

    Sigivald:

    When did Aluminum become a “heavy” metal?

    There’s no formal definition of “heavy metal”; it’s all contextual and depends on who you ask even then. Of course, weight doesn’t determine toxicity; a certain amount of copper is necessary in your diet, and that’s much heavier than aluminum. Heck, copper is so heavy you can’t even make it in a star undergoing normal fusion; it takes a supernova to make it. Which gets to what I find the funniest definition of heavy metal: to astronomers, whose work is overwhelmingly dominated by hydrogen with a smattering of other light elements, a “heavy” element might be anything heavier than helium since fusion of those “heavy” elements indicates a star’s movement off the main sequence.

    OH NOES! WE’RE BREATHING HEAVY ELEMENTS!

    :-P

  38. #39 Mark Thorson
    July 16, 2014

    She’s not the only Delaware corporation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KAOS_(Get_Smart)#KAOS

  39. #40 Beana
    July 16, 2014

    <—————–graduated 1992 . . . . right there with ya, lilady ;) Pretty sure I was getting the same articles from my woo-loving mother.

  40. #41 KayMarie
    July 16, 2014

    Calli – Even worse than breathing them, I seem to be hopelessly addicted to that oxygen one.

  41. #42 lilady
    July 16, 2014

    Ah, the class of 1992 is an extraordinary group of graduates.

    I was a slow learner and I graduated four years after my daughter graduated. :-)

  42. #45 Denice Walter
    July 16, 2014

    In related news:

    Mike is seeking a law firm to persue a class action against Whole Foods Market:
    it seems that he notified the company about their pernicious habit of selling foods contaminated with heavy metals ( as discovered by the NN Food Lab) but they did NOTHING ( Nothing, I tell you! For shame!)

    Thus it’s time to persue legal action in order to protect the public’s health.

  43. #46 Ausduck
    Near the heater with the cats
    July 16, 2014

    I note that ‘Heavy Metal Defence’ contains Hawaiian spirulina (beloved of those who love this green stuff). Spirulina is a blue-green algae iirc, and has the BMAA toxin whose mechanism in interfering in the cellular protein folding machinery in MND was uncovered by excellent research undertaken by Rachael Dunlop and team here in Aus. http://tinyurl.com/ohlfj9y
    The ‘natural’ supplement industry really makes me laugh at times..

  44. #47 herr doktor bimler
    July 17, 2014

    Spirulina is a blue-green algae iirc, and has the BMAA toxin whose mechanism in interfering in the cellular protein folding machinery in MND was uncovered by excellent research undertaken by Rachael Dunlop and team here in Aus. http://tinyurl.com/ohlfj9y

    Ah well, the people who take spirulina-based heavy-metal defense pills are already dosing themselves with BMAA via their anti-cancer anti-arthritis shark-cartilage consumption.

  45. #48 herr doktor bimler
    July 17, 2014

    I think “Dr. Orac’s Magickal Snark Powder”

    Snark Cartilage pills. Make it so!

  46. #49 Militant Agnostic
    July 17, 2014

    Snark Cartilage pills.

    Each pill contains 2.5 Crislips of snark

  47. #50 Rich Scopie
    United Kingdom
    July 17, 2014

    As inspired by Lancelot Gobbo:

    Doctor Orac’s Burning Stupid Remedy Drops

  48. #51 Helianthus
    July 17, 2014

    I thought of something yesterday’s night – just my mind slowly processing the day’s data. My usual over-analysis.

    So Mike is doing this:
    1- he proved (for a minimal definition of “proved”) that organic food, superfood, supplements and other high-quality foodstuff are laced with heavy metals and other horribly-sounding things.
    To emphasize: high-quality, “natural” stuff is contaminated

    2- he is proposing a new “all-natural” supplement to chelate these heavy metals.

    Let’s assume his perlinpinpin powder do have the ability to chelate metals in some notable amounts.

    Since heavy metal contamination of foodstuff is so pervasive, there is a good chance that the algae and plant extracts he is using have been in contact with such heavy metals, the same as the other organic products.
    (actually, algae, harvested from the sea? Yuck, it’s not a possibility, but a certitude)
    And since it is claimed these extracts are good at chelating metals, there is a good chance they are loaded to the stomates with them.

    So, question: has dear Mike done the logical thing and ran some tests on his products to check if they are heavy metal-free?
    His heavy metal defense supplement may actually increase his customers’ intake of heavy metals. (aside from leaching iron and calcium out of their body, like any good chelating agent)

    Silly me, asking if he did try to prove his stuff is safe.

  49. #52 herr doktor bimler
    July 17, 2014

    Mike is seeking a law firm to persue a class action against Whole Foods Market:
    it seems that he notified the company about their pernicious habit of selling foods contaminated with heavy metals

    How much easier it would be if there were a federal agency tasked with removing toxic or contaminated food and drugs and food additives from the market. Perhaps you can enlist Mikey’s support.

  50. #53 keokil
    July 17, 2014

    Hi Ausduck @46,

    I worked in the QC lab of that Hawaiian spirulina company for about a year. AFAIK, we didn’t do any in-house or sendout testing for BMAA. Wikipedia sez that toxin isn’t produced by spirulina, but by a contaminant organism. ‘Course the ref for that is a fairly pro-spirulina book googleable here. Which paean to algae references a study paid for by Cyanotech and Earthrise (two big spirulina growers). Cyanotech’s site says they tested for it in 2005.

    On our reference shelf in the lab was a book printed by the company with lots of the scientific evidence for spirulina and astaxanthin. It was an amusing read. Mostly animal or cell culture studies, human studies were pretty much all low-n, unblinded. Quite a few were research reviews written by either the company founder (a scientist and pretty nice guy) or the PR guy. heh heh.

    A few minutes ago as I was browsing for info I noticed they had PDFs of supporting research. Purely by accident I looked at one called The effects of Spirulina on anemia and immune function
    in senior citizens published in Cellular and Molecular Immunology (2011). I was a little surprised ’cause most of the links I clicked on seemed to be from the 90′s. Read a little. According to the abstract:

    Over the 12-week study period, there was a steady
    increase in average values of mean corpuscular hemoglobin in subjects of both sexes.

    So I looked at the main results table. MCH measured at baseline, 6, and 12 weeks. And the results? 28.8, 28.9, 28.9. Yowza! The other results are similarly impressive.

    As an aside to this aside, they had hired a real analytical chemist to develop ICP-MS methods for in-house heavy metals testing. We used to chat a bit about how susceptible the testing was to contamination, especially at such low analyte concentrations. Mikey’s Let’s-Pretend Lab is haLArious.

    For what it’s worth, they did seem to be fairly on the ball as far as safety and QC issues were concerned. It was still difficult when, at one of the monthly company meetings, the CEO solemnly asked “What are we selling?”. A friend who knew my proclivities immediately put his hand on my shoulder to keep me from standing up and shouting, “Snake oil!” Sure was nice working yards from the ocean, though…

  51. #54 Chris Hickie
    July 17, 2014

    I bid 400 Quatloos for the Snark Powder.

  52. #55 palindrom
    July 17, 2014

    Re the “what is a heavy metal?” question:

    Astronomers sometimes loosely call everything heavier than HELIUM a “metal” (though no one actually thinks, that carbon (for example) is actually metallic).

    The roots of this practice go back to the early 20th century, when all we had were optical spectra, and mostly of cooler stars. Actual metals such as sodium and iron have rich absorption spectra and are obvious in the star’s spectrum, whereas oxygen, carbon, and so on are much harder to detect. despite their substantial abundance. So astronomers tended to just assume that the abundances of C, N, O, etc were simply proportional to the readily measurable iron. This proved to be a reasonable, but not precisely accurate, assumption.

    Class dismissed!

  53. #56 Lurker
    July 17, 2014

    Someone should try asking, loudly and in public, if his seaweed and sea algae come from Japan. Let him fill in the blank with some anti-nuclear nonsense about Fukushima.

    Re. all these quacks eating each other:

    The reason Mikey and the Health Babe et. al. are turning against people in their own neck of the woods is simple:

    Competition for ‘food’ in limited ecological niches.

    This is a sign that their niches have hit the limits to growth, and the only way anyone in any of those niches can continue to grow is directly at the expense of others in the same niche.

    What this suggests is that the market for fetid dingoes’ kidneys has hit its limit, so now the quacks are biting at each others’ tails. It won’t be long before they start denouncing each other to various government agencies. What fun!

  54. #57 Jopari
    July 17, 2014

    If only there was a market for the debunking of these charlattans. Then at least, people like Orac could do this full-time to counter these salesmen/saleswomen.
    As for Hari, debate is very useful for critical thinking, though there are some who can compartmentalize astoundingly. She however doesn’t seem the type to excel in this field, all our debates require actual evidence, so I agree with Orac’s assesment.
    P.s: Orac, How could you not have a supplement brand?! It’s the absolutely new prerequisite to be taken seriously by everyone!

  55. #58 Narad
    July 17, 2014

    Mike is seeking a law firm to persue a class action against Whole Foods Market

    Yah, he’s got the cart before the horse. His reply to Whole Foods, in addition to not having been proofread, doesn’t even state a cause of action except possibly labeling under Proposition 65 (which he might have gotten the idea for from labeling cases such as this), which wouldn’t be a class action.

    The whole thing is phenomenally stupid, but at least he does manage to defame Whole Foods in the hed. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a C&D headed his way.

  56. #59 Narad
    July 17, 2014

    As for Hari, debate is very useful for critical thinking

    Typical (2 on 2) high-school debate teams aren’t doing a lot of critical thinking, since they’re just trading canned points on a single resolution all season. There was plenty of this sort of crap even when I was in high school. Throw them an eephus, and they’re lost.

  57. #60 Shay
    July 17, 2014

    @Narad — I read that as eohippus.

    (I’ll blame low blood sugar).

  58. #61 squirrelelite
    July 17, 2014

    I thought the debate part was sort of interesting, but I sort of agree with Narad’s point.
    I debated in high school and didn’t do too bad. We made it to the state tournament my senior year.
    But high school debate is mainly about quote-mining to support your argument for or against the proposition for that year. Context or consensus doesn’t really matter.
    And I find my writing style still reflects that sometimes.
    I’ll say here’s why you’re wrong and here’s a source that supports it.
    But something that comes out of left field can completely throw you off.
    I remember one debate where the affirmative redefined the terms to drastically change the meaning of the proposition. It made my usual arguments irrelevant. My partner didn’t pick up on the change and we were stuck trying to figure out a defense.
    Now, I’d probably make a show of discarding my usual quote cards and argue from first principles, but I didn’t and we lost.
    Going to the state tournament was a lot tougher, sort of like a college bowl game. The other teams were stacked and waiting for our usual arguments and we got chewed up. We needed something different and surprising, but we didn’t have it.
    I also tried debate in college, but dropped out after one tournament. As the coach explained, at that level it needs to be an almost full time obsession or you’ll get chewed up. And, I wanted time to study for my real science courses so I gave it up.
    I suspect Vana Hari learned the arguing style, but never stepped up to serious critical thinking.

  59. #62 Darwy
    Røde grøde...in Noo Inglind
    July 17, 2014

    Mikey’s wearing a face shield because presumably he’s working with nitric acid.

    Nitric acid is the ‘go to’ reagent for digestion of metal containing samples for ICP-MS analysis.

    Orac’s spot on about the fume hood, Mikey might as well be using an ordinary lab bench for as much good as it’s doing him.

  60. #63 Narad
    July 17, 2014

    But high school debate is mainly about quote-mining to support your argument for or against the proposition for that year.

    Or buying, e.g., the Jayhawk manual, cutting it into pieces, and gluing them onto index cards. I think part of the reason my partner and I were so successful the one year I got drafted into doing it was that we were utterly naive and just winging it. None of this junior-lawyer nonsense with little dolly carts loaded with document cases.

    Philosophical arguments were the eephus.

  61. #64 Jopari
    July 18, 2014

    Debates in my school team were all about point and counter-point, none of it was data-mining. We followed logic to a question, looked up the evidence to see if it was disproved or proved, and were very flexible during the debates. The real trouble was actually finding enough statistics to show what we meant, and also making it accurate and not doing any ‘creative accounting”

    The debates were entirely about critical thinking, one of our first lessons was basically 8 people on each side with 5 minutes to build a whole case with individual points for each speaker, and the whip had a hell of a time rebutting everything. It was incredibly fun.

    I suppose what you have said may happen elsewhere, but if Vani Hari joined our debate team we’d probably kick her out in less than a week./

  62. #65 Jopari
    July 18, 2014

    Debates in my school team were all about point and counter-point, none of it was data-mining. We followed logic to a question, looked up the evidence to see if it was disproved or proved, and were very flexible during the debates. The real trouble was actually finding enough statistics to show what we meant, and also making it accurate and not doing any ‘creative accounting”

    The debates were entirely about critical thinking, one of our first lessons was basically 8 people on each side with 5 minutes to build a whole case with individual points for each speaker, and the whip had a hell of a time rebutting everything. It was incredibly fun.

    I suppose what you have said may happen elsewhere, but if Vani Hari joined our debate team we’d probably kick her out in less than a week./

  63. #66 Jopari
    July 18, 2014

    Sorry

  64. #67 squirrelelite
    July 18, 2014

    Thanks for the comments, Jopari.

    Actually, I think even back then, successful debate was very much about effectively arguing with good logic to support it. You had to be able to think on your feet, or at least in the chair while you listened at the same time.
    And, you had to be ready to either support or oppose the proposition, which I suspect Vana Hari would find very awkward.
    But, I also remember continually digging through the weekly news magazines looking for quotes I could pull out to support an argument one way or the other. The overall content and context of the article didn’t matter.
    I also enjoyed extemporaneous speaking for forensics in the spring.
    But that was long ago; now my consolation is in the typing of a comment…

  65. #68 Jopari
    July 18, 2014

    True, I would’ve gleefully awaited her reaction when she gets topics against her ‘principles’.

    One thing that seems prevalent in these people is the belief that their idea is right without actually knowing why. For an example the guy who believed in the alkaline diet didn’t know how it could’ve worked, though he thought it did. I couldn’t debunk non-existent theories.

    They also have an extreme detachment from reality, I mean, so much of this is unsupported that you’d have to have a syndrome of denial to still support this, or you already know it’s BS and just continue.

  66. #69 Don
    July 24, 2014

    NaturalNews.com is a diabolical business model. Gather millions of credulous fools in one place, and then sell advertising.

  67. #70 Sean
    July 24, 2014

    Unfortunately, many debate organizations are less point-counterpoint than taking advantage of soundbites, and being louder. Kind of like on “debate” shows where no minds are changed. More than anything, such gurus of woo are successful because they are so very good at public relations and marketing, while taking advantage of ignorance (often, they don’t even realize they are doing this, because they themselves are ignorant). Its also much easier for them, for big sounding chemical words can be made to a sound a lot scarier than common names. I can’t help but think of the “dihydrogen monoxide” hoax.