Pharyngula

A fondness for quacks.

Fox News brought on a naturopath to peddle a random bit of nonsense, that coffee makes you fat. Any drug that tinkers with your metabolism can have some unexpected effects, but to claim that a cup of black coffee is “worse than five hot fudge sundaes” is irresponsible insanity.

In other woo news: Fox News invited Ann de Wees Allen to tell its viewers that black coffee will make you “fatter than a pig.” This segment is a textbook example of how not to do science journalism. The voice over identifies de Wees Allen as “Doctor”–without mentioning that she claims neither a medical degree, nor a doctorate. Her website says she’s a doctor of naturopathy. Fox also neglects to mention that Allen appears to have a sideline selling something called “Skinny Coffee”–an alternative to that fattening old joe.

Meanwhile, the HuffPo continues its adoration of homeopathy. No, not homeopathy: the quacks have come up with a new, impressive, pseudoscientific term for it now. It’s Nanopharmacology. It’s all wrapped up in a primer on quackery.

Homeopathic medicines are made through a specific pharmacological process of dilution and vigorous shaking. However, when skeptics say that there is nothing but water in homeopathic medicine, they are proving their ignorance, despite the incredible arrogance in which they make these assertions.

The skeptics aren’t making arrogant assertions: the homeopaths who are bilking people with useless nostrums are. Here’s a good reply to homeopathy:

i-f0338d1ce7b214dd2baf4ba0638cd672-homeopathic_webcomic.jpeg

Comments

  1. #1 Glen Davidson
    December 14, 2009

    Oh lord, some appetite suppressants have actually included caffeine. I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard that one study claimed that caffeine decreased appetite in males, not in females.

    I don’t doubt that what many eat along with black coffee makes many people fat, but it’s almost certainly not the coffee itself.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  2. #2 ckitching
    December 14, 2009
  3. #3 redmonster
    December 14, 2009

    specific pharmacological process of dilution and vigorous shaking

    This is supposed to make them sound knowledgeable? They’re not even trying, the ridiculous quacks.

    Alyson Miers

  4. #4 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 14, 2009

    Homeopathic medicines are made through a specific pharmacological process of dilution and vigorous shaking.

    Well thank goodness the shaking is vigorous. I would hate to take a fake an amazing treatment what was not treated to lackadaisical shaking.

    That would be terrible.

  5. #5 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 14, 2009

    not

    grumble

  6. #6 daveau
    December 14, 2009

    I had to stop reading here:

    Perhaps these silica chips may help to store the information in the water…

    Or, perhaps not.

  7. #7 Sven DiMilo
    December 14, 2009

    because arithmetic is just so arrogant

  8. #8 Ol'Greg
    December 14, 2009

    Ugh. Nano. You know there’s always some word that people borrow to use as a marketing gimmick. My old stove says “solid-state” on it. Was there a time when stoves had vacuum tubes or something? My hair dryer is marked up with slogans about “infrared heat waves” and now I guess I can put a tag that says “nanotech” on my kitchen sink.

  9. #9 cervantes
    December 14, 2009

    There are two institutions in the United States, alas, that offer degrees called Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND). The Executive Director of an agency I used to work for has one, and he had himself introduced as “Doctor X” when he spoke publicly. What can you do? Quackwatch has good info on the Bastyr University scam.

  10. #10 t3knomanser
    December 14, 2009

    It’s a simple matter to silence the skeptics once and for all: demonstrate that a homeopathic treatment is more effective than a placebo is a controlled, double-blind study.

    There’s no need to appeal to emotions, no need to decry the evils of the establishment. Just design a basic experiment, ensure that the controls are sound, and execute it. There are established protocols and best-practices for medical trials that should make it easy to design this process.

    As it says on the Missouri license plate, Show Me.

  11. #11 nejishiki
    December 14, 2009

    “HOMOEOPATHY, n. A school of medicine midway between Allopathy and Christian Science. To the last both the others are distinctly inferior, for Christian Science will cure imaginary diseases, and they can not.”
    Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)

  12. #12 destlund
    December 14, 2009

    Nanopharmacology? I thought they were arguing that their medicines worked on a quantum scale. Still the “pharmacological process of dilution and vigorous shaking” line gave me a good chuckle. I don’t think they understand the meaning of “pharmacological,” or “pharmaceutical,” for that matter.

  13. #13 Greg F.
    December 14, 2009

    PZ, how could you be so close-minded? There’s a homeopathic doctor who explains exactly how water retains the medicinal properties put in it. It’s just radioactive nano-crystals…

    http://worldofweirdthings.com/2009/11/28/homeopathic-physics-abuse-take-two/

    Duh! So basically homeopathy is just deadly hazmat which turns beneficial when it comes in contact with your auras and flows around your quantum chakras.

    Oh you arrogant scientists you with your big words and biology, and chemistry, and chemistry…

  14. #14 Traveler
    December 14, 2009

    The least they could do is give an accurate description of the preparation of homeopathic medicines. There’s more to it than just dilution and shaking! They forgot to mention thumping it on a leather pad! You’d have to be soft in the head to think that just dilution and shaking would have any effect.

    I wonder if there are vegan-safe alternatives that use some sort of simulated leather in their preparation?

  15. #15 Strangest brew
    December 14, 2009

    This stenches quite nauseous of Creationism tactics.
    When called on their utter stupidity and they finally noticed a sceptical attitude to their severe inanity, an attitude that has all but affectively ruled it out of science lessons, they called it ID!

    The moral of this story kiddies is when a claim is comprehensively and completely debunked…just change the title of the premise!

    Lots of folks fall for that ruse and it remains a religious stock in trade!

  16. #16 Victor
    December 14, 2009

    Well, if the black coffee claim were true I would weigh in around 500 lbs. As it is, I’m about 150. Now, if they include Grande Mocha Latte Frappacino with extra whipped cream and a side of fudge brownie as “coffee”, then maybe they have something.

  17. #17 Greg F.
    December 14, 2009

    Whoops, pardon the lack of proofreading skills at the end of my earlier comment. Or you can just pretend it’s an echo… =)

  18. #18 realinterrobang
    December 14, 2009

    I thought caffeine was supposed to make you lose weight.

    On the other hand, if your version of coffee is so freighted down with cream and sugar and stuff it’s the caloric equivalent of a couple of Big Macs, then perhaps, but that’s not the coffee itself making you fat…

  19. #19 gadfly47
    December 14, 2009

    But Billy Joel’s daughter is alive today because of homeopathy. She was quite lucky she didn’t swallow a handful of “real” medicine. ;)

  20. #20 ritebrother
    December 14, 2009

    Caffeine (and other metylxanthines, like theophyline) are phosphodiesterase inhibitors, and as such can prolong hormone responses that function through the stimulation of cAMP production. The phosphorylation of multiple metabolic enzymes (which controls their activity), is mediated by protein kinase A, which is activated by cAMP. As a specific example, caffeine prolongs the window of activation of glycogen phosphorylase, and thus glycogen catabolism, in the fasting state. So, there is a grain of truth to the fact that caffeine can affect metabolic flux, but the extrapolation noted in the post is preposterous. In fact, the effect would likely be catabolic overall.

  21. #21 Caine
    December 14, 2009

    Homeopathic medicines are made through a specific pharmacological process of dilution and vigorous shaking.

    I hate to break this to them, but dilution and shaking (no matter how vigorous) ain’t exactly rocket science. Or dragon magic, for that matter.

  22. #22 Michelle R
    December 14, 2009

    I laughed at the homeopathic comic! It really DOES work!

  23. #23 Joshua Zelinsky
    December 14, 2009

    I really am thankful for Huffington Post. It is an excellent example for the fact that no end of the political spectrum is inherently better about science. It is a convenient coincidence that on many issues today the science happens to support the more progressive ideologies. But if that were not the case, we would likely simply see a support on which ideologues objected to science.

    I’m sure James Bond is happy about these remedies. He prefers his homeopathic medicines to be vigorously shaken, not vigorously stirred.

    I like the random claim about silica also. There’s an obvious way to test this: See if homeopathic remedies which have been prepared in other containers (such as plastic ones) are less or effective. I wonder why they won’t do this? Ok. I’m not actually wondering…

  24. #24 Greg F.
    December 14, 2009

    @Victor, #16:

    “…if they include Grande Mocha Latte Frappacino with extra whipped cream and a side of fudge brownie as ‘coffee'”

    The drink mentioned above is not as much coffee as it is an abuse of confectionery ingredients and perfectly good espresso. Don’t get me wrong though, lattes are just espresso with some steamed milk. But when you start throwing in flavorings, chocolate and other overpowering sweets, you’re killing the coffee. And if you chill the resulting mess down you might as well just get some ice cream instead.

    On a serious note, if you drink that on a regular basis, I would not be surprised to see it trigger heart disease somewhere down the line because that’s got to be around 600 excess calories…

  25. #25 tsg
    December 14, 2009

    It’s a simple matter to silence the skeptics once and for all: demonstrate that a homeopathic treatment is more effective than a placebo is a controlled, double-blind study.

    It’s been done. It failed. And the first thing the homeopaths did was concoct a bunch of excuses why homeopathy is ineffective in a double-blind study. Oh, and blamed “Big Pharma”.

  26. #26 SplendidMonkey
    December 14, 2009

    Coincidentally, Science Friday last week had a segment on research showing that coffee drinking seems to help prevent prostate cancer. The more coffee you drank the more protection you got, decaf or regular.

  27. #27 chrispatil
    December 14, 2009

    Did you hear about the guy who forgot to take his homeopathic remedy?

    He died of an overdose!

    .

  28. #28 Lynna, OM
    December 14, 2009

    In Ann de Wees Allen’s bio, I found this gem:

    Developed and patented the first low glycemic Edible Computer Chip

    See http://www.ediblecomputerchips.com/

    She also has done work for the World Health Organization in develovping a gylcemic index and guidelines.

    She holds a bunch of L-arginine patents, and also holds a patent for “Thermogenic adipose tissue fat-burning coffee”

    Here is the multi-level-marketing scheme related to Wees Allen:
    Jaguar Enterprises

    Dr. Allen is also a survivor of stomach and esophageal cancer following surgical removal of her distal esophagus, stomach, rib cage and diaphragm sections. This particular form of cancer has a less than a 2% chance of survival rate, however with Dr. Allen’s own knowledge, expertise, and protocols in conjunction with Dr. Linus Pauling/Dr. Ewan Cameron therapies, her progress was followed and monitored by Georgetown University Hospital and was successful. Dr. Allen’s L-arginine patent is considered the breakthrough product of the Century, and is currently valued at 100 million dollars. …
         Since the Nobel Prize was awarded for Nitric Oxide/L-arginine, the Pharmaceutical and Nutraceutical industries have rushed to bring L-arginine products to market. According to scientists, the problem is that no-one appears to know enough about L-arginine to produce a product that is both efficatious and safe for human use. …
         Dr. Allen states, “You cannot simply place L-arginine in a capsule or spray, or in a formula that does not contain the proper co-factors, and expect it to work. That won’t happen. L-arginine is both dose-dependent and timing-dependent, and it is very selective about crossing the blood-brain-barrier, where it releases anti-aging-hormones.”
         Researchers agree that L-arginine formulas containing Lysine, sucrose, maltodextrins, and any other competing agent, does not work. L-arginine produces nitric oxide (NO), which can cause severe free radical damage. The methodology utilized in producing an L-arginine product that does not carry these side effects was developed by Dr. Allen.

  29. #29 InfraredEyes
    December 14, 2009

    Completely off-topic, but you gotta see this: Octopus Snatches Coconut and Runs.

  30. #30 https://me.yahoo.com/a/CjyxAD4Sjc53ciVrOA5n_bsv2Pg-#3be60
    December 14, 2009

    I didn’t see humor in the comic at first–then I picked up the monitor and shook it vigorously and the hilarity ensued!

  31. #31 Dania
    December 14, 2009

    Precisely how homeopathic medicines work remains a mystery…

    Not at all. It’s called… placebo.

  32. #32 Lynna, OM
    December 14, 2009

    Quantum Chocolate also comes from Wees Allen. [Warning: website may cause dizziness.]

    Quantum Chocolate is mentioned in the list of major achievements on Wees Allen’s website, under the heading “Alpha Scientist”.

  33. #33 drbobironic
    December 14, 2009

    And, to tie the two together, it is — ISYN — naturopaths at fully regionally accredited colleges and universities (see aanmc.org) who label their ilk “health science” (see nuhs.edu) and specifically label homeopathy a “clinical science” (see nabne.org).

    -r.c.

  34. #34 Josh
    December 14, 2009

    Completely off-topic, but you gotta see this: Octopus Snatches Coconut and Runs.

    The .pdf can be accessed:

    http://download.cell.com/current-biology/pdf/PIIS0960982209019149.pdf?intermediate=true

  35. #35 Sven DiMilo
    December 14, 2009

    I hate to break this to them, but dilution and shaking (no matter how vigorous) ain’t exactly rocket science.

    That’s just arrogant! It’s precise hyperdilution and a special shaking that only a trained and experienced shaker can shake.

  36. #36 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 14, 2009

    PHARMA SHILLS, THE WHOLE LOT OF YOU

  37. #37 blf
    December 14, 2009

    PHARMA SHILLS, THE WHOLE LOT OF YOU

    Not anymore. The buggers haven’t sent me a cheque in ages… I’m on strike!

  38. #38 Pareidolius
    December 14, 2009

    Just left this comment to a comment lamenting the credulity of both the left and the right:

    The Law of Crank Magnetism shows that the further you move from the political middle ground, there is a corresponding decrease in the ability to think critically. It doesn’t matter if you’re going left or right on the spectrum, in order to achieve high levels of magical thinking (conspiracies, aliens, homeopathy, yogic flying, teabagging and birthing) you have to shut down your critical thinking faculties. I believe that the far left and far right eventually meet in a sort of Crank Ultima Thule on the opposite side of the spectrum . . . where Dana Ullman has a clinic.

    Of course the end of the article is replete with links to all of “Dr.” Ullman’s books. Huffpo=Daily Mail.

  39. #39 Killer of Peaceful Dreams
    December 14, 2009

    I think you have to have a nanoeducation to think homeopathy actually works.

    KOPD

  40. #40 Carlie
    December 14, 2009

    Caffeine definitely decreases my appetite.
    (Look! I’m an anecdote!)

    How, exactly, did she determine that a cup of coffee was worse than five hot fudge sundaes? Why not four? Or six? I’d like to see this “study”.

  41. #41 Caine
    December 14, 2009

    Sven DiMilo @ 35:

    That’s just arrogant! It’s precise hyperdilution and a special shaking that only a trained and experienced shaker can shake.

    And here I thought the Shakers were dying out…

    ;)

  42. #42 Ms. Crazy Pants
    December 14, 2009

    Actually, sitting on your butt watching Fox News is what makes a person fat.

  43. #44 Nemo
    December 14, 2009

    The only time I ever lost weight was when I was popping caffeine pills. Not exactly the same as coffee, but still.

    I’ve been tempted to take it up again, but I didn’t like what it did to my personality, or my heart.

  44. #45 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    December 14, 2009

    Nano… pharmacology..

    But… that doesn’t make sense as a word on its own. Is it pharmaceuticals for organisms less then a nanometer in size?

    At least Dr. Drakken used the word to refer to very small things, if not necessarily things that were less then a nanometer big..

  45. #46 Sastra
    December 14, 2009

    Trqaveler #14 wrote:

    The least they could do is give an accurate description of the preparation of homeopathic medicines. There’s more to it than just dilution and shaking! They forgot to mention thumping it on a leather pad! You’d have to be soft in the head to think that just dilution and shaking would have any effect.

    You still forgot the most important factor. According to homeopaths, the purpose of all the shaking and thumping is so that the person holding the bottle may impart their intentionality into the remedy. That’s how the water knows which molecules it’s supposed to remember. Your intentions — your needs — effect matter and energy, and change them.

    See? The universe really does care. The laws of chemistry and physics are bent according to what we think and feel. Thoughts are forces.

    Homeopathy isn’t just bad science: it has that necessary factor of supernaturalism which makes it genuine ‘woo.’ Once you run across the explanations about intentions-effecting-reality, it all starts to make sense — in a way. It’s pulling its model out of religious intuitions of the moral cosmos: in other words, it’s normal, familiar bullshit.

  46. #47 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 14, 2009

    I’m a tea drinker and haven’t had a cup of coffee in over a month. So why am I still fat?

  47. #48 Diomedes
    December 14, 2009

    Ah “intentions”, so that’s why we can dismiss contamination of any kind from before and during the recycling of the water.

    Like this Mr. Imouto or what was his name who thought good thoughts at water which then when frozen formed only symmetrical crystals (he sells that water too, you know).

    But when a homeopathic believer once asked me “where does the information go?”, I couldn’t answer anything but “when the agent is not detectable it has no effect. It’s no longer present.” which doesn’t answer the question precisely. Homeopaths probably have their own special definition of what information means. But does this question have a meaningful answer?

  48. #49 VentureFree
    December 14, 2009

    I can imagine some believers out there pointing to that comic as proof that homeopathy works. I for one think it’s quite funny, and I’m sure that they would say that it’s precisely because it follows the methodology of homeopathy.

  49. #50 Vashti
    December 14, 2009

    Lynna, OM – you are so deserving of that OM!

    In Ann de Wees Allen’s bio, I found this gem: Developed and patented the first low glycemic Edible Computer Chip See http://www.ediblecomputerchips.com/

    If you can wade through the utter crap, hilarity can be found:

    If it enters the mouth, it is an Edible Computer Chip®.

    A banana is an Edible Computer Chip® [Is Ray Comfort aware of this?]

    One of the most exciting new developments in Edible Computer Chip® technology is Chocolate Computer Chips?.

  50. #51 Cowcakes
    December 14, 2009

    Oh my Squid, that link to Huff Po on Nanopharmacology overloaded by bullshit meter and started a fire in the office.

    Beind a masochist I then went to http://www.anndeweesallen.com/ and discovered that “The medical and research community states that Dr. Allen’s science and technology is “Twenty years ahead of everyone else.”

    and that she is “Known in the industry for her bold stance of setting high standards in scientific accuracy,”

    At that point the bullshit meter exploded and several people in the building needed to be medivaced suffering extreme woo exposure.

  51. #52 Traveler
    December 14, 2009

    Sastra @46,

    You still forgot the most important factor. According to homeopaths, the purpose of all the shaking and thumping is so that the person holding the bottle may impart their intentionality into the remedy. That’s how the water knows which molecules it’s supposed to remember. Your intentions — your needs — effect matter and energy, and change them.

    I know that some homeopaths subscribe to the “intention is everything” idea. I’ve heard of some that claim that the preparations themselves are unnecessary: writing the name of a preparation on a piece of paper, and carrying that in your pocket is enough. But do you know if that’s generally accepted as “good homeopathy”? I was under the impression that most of them believed it was some sort of physical magic, not a form of spiritual magic.

  52. #53 Carlie
    December 14, 2009

    I’m a tea drinker and haven’t had a cup of coffee in over a month. So why am I still fat?

    Because you haven’t also cut down to under five hot fudge sundaes a day, right?

  53. #54 atomjack
    December 14, 2009

    Black coffee makes you fat?
    Dayamn, peops are ignorant. My dad had only black coffee when he drank it, and he was 6 foot one inch and about 160 pounds. Then again, I’m only 5 foot ten, and drink only black coffee and weigh 190. But I can run faster, jump higher and lift more. Right. So, it’s a trade.

    btw, I DID lose ten pounds within a month when I quit putting creamer in said coffee.

  54. #55 MosesZD
    December 14, 2009

    Wow. I drink two-to-four cups a day. I’m 5′ 11″ and I weighed 179lbs as a HS Senior. I weighed 182lbs as a 28-year-year-old college Senior. I weigh 185lbs now and I’m 48.

    If this woman is right, why don’t I weigh 400lbs?

    Oh yeah, a cup of black coffee has 4 calories. A cup of coffee with cream and one sugar, like I take it, has 50 calories.

  55. #56 Pierce R. Butler
    December 14, 2009

    … to claim that a cup of black coffee is “worse than five hot fudge sundaes” is irresponsible insanity.

    Speak for yourself, Professor Myers!

    If offered that choice, I for one would unhesitatingly park my skinny butt in the seat before the five hot fudge sundaes, spoon in hand, leaving that cup of coffee to any of you caffeine fiends who wants it.

    Thus, if the one is better, the other then is worse.

  56. #57 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawncr0FDc8gdl7yJBz0SJ15D0etcTIOtL0s
    December 14, 2009

    Sastra in 46: According to homeopaths, the purpose of all the shaking and thumping is so that the person holding the bottle may impart their intentionality into the remedy.

    Waitwaitwait. They make this crap in serious quantities, no? I mean it’s an industry. Somehow I’d always pictured a series of something like teeny little paint-can shakers with bottles of water in them… You mean it’s people??? It’s actual humans with containers of water (adulterated with, well, approximately nothing) sitting around all day and shaking them???! By hand??!

    Um.

    Um.

    What do they pay these people? Do they get RSIs after a year or so? Can they chat while working or do they have to keep count? Can they shake two at a time?

    Can they work better if they drink lots and lots of black coffee?

    Dammit, where are the media in all this? Where’s OSHA?? I want to know!

  57. #58 Janine, She Wolf Of Pharyngula, OM
    December 15, 2009

    Drinking black coffee, black coffee, drinking black coffee, staring at the wall

    Maybe that is why drinkers of black coffee gains weight.

  58. #59 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawngrONk9mzwC93GngHJFvpqsQcpq7z8uSI
    December 15, 2009

    (Sorry about the identity – google sign in doesn’t seem to work brilliantly…)

    Anyway, what worries me is what size these five fudge sundaes are, and whether or not there is some kind of metric standard of sundaes. If so, that’s presumably five standard chocolate fudge sundaes, but just two mega chocolate fudge sundaes, but several thousand millisundaes?

  59. #60 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 15, 2009

    Heh, when I was in university, I weighed between 125 and 135 lb. at 5 ft 11 in. Yeah, I was pretty scrawny. Good thing I was drinking coffee by the quart, otherwise I would have disappeared.

  60. #61 thadd
    December 15, 2009

    That comic is a problem, it is actually really funny, which seems to prove homeopathy works.

  61. #62 Tom
    December 15, 2009

    Greg F, that’s not “perfectly good espresso” you’re talking about. The reason big chain coffee houses drown their wares in refined sugar and milk fat is because the actual coffee it’s based on, due to the cheapness of both ingredients and preparation, is simply vile. Nobody who’s even once tasted a real espresso made by someone who actually gave a crap would ever voluntarily drink chain store espresso neat.

  62. #63 eddie
    December 15, 2009

    that’s a great web comic. One of the many classics from www. .com.

  63. #64 eddie
    December 15, 2009

    Re squiggle @57; “Can they shake two at a time?”

    Hehehe They can, but it may be dangerous. Instead of failing to treat one condition, they may accidentally fail to treat something else. And someone claimed on here that homeopathy didn’t have side-effects…

  64. #65 allen
    December 15, 2009

    this post reminded me that I had a pot of coffee brewing, and that I needed to drink it.

  65. #66 Dark Matter
    December 15, 2009

    So Troglodyte TV is running a hit piece on coffee?

    Hmmm…Here’s a nice breakdown of coffee exporting countries…

    http://www.ico.org/prices/m1.htm

    How many of these countries are expressing discontent with the War on Terra?

    How many of these countries would take a economic
    hit with a piece of ill-informed garbage like this flying around the net?

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