Poppa was a Rolling Stone...who likes homeopathy?

Old fart that I am, I’ve been a fan of The Rolling Stones since the mid-1970s, when I was in junior high school. Over the years, I’ve accumulated pretty close to all of their studio albums—and even bought multiple remastered versions of classics like Exile on Main Street and Beggar’s Banquet—and got access to the rest when I discovered the joy of streaming through Apple Music. Granted, the Stones went through a rough patch, creatively speaking, in the 1980s (the less said about Under Cover and Dirty Work, for instance, the better) and nothing they’ve done since the late 1970s has lived up to their glory days, but, damn, if I wasn’t surprised that their latest album of blues covers Blue & Lonesome released on Friday is really good.

Ron Wood: This is the "picture of health" due to alternative medicine? Ron Wood: This is the "picture of health" due to alternative medicine?

Of course, all of the members of The Rolling Stones save Ron Wood are now well into their 70s, and one wonders how they manage to keep going. Touring, for instance, is very hard work, and I couldn’t imagine traveling the world like that for many months in a row when I’m in my 70s. Keith Richards, in particular, has famously abused his body with all manner of substances, licit and illicit, over the years. So it was that I happened across an article in—where else?—the Daily Mail that asks: "How has Ronnie Wood's drink and drug-addled past not affected his health? His model daughter Leah says it's all down to alternative medicines." I groaned as I read:

At the ripe age of 69, Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood still manages to tour the world, raise his baby twin daughters and keep up with a third wife who is half his age.

His drink and drug-addled past appear to have no effect on his health. How does he do it?

According to his daughter, model and personality Leah, the family secret is healthy eating, happiness and alternative health remedies.

In an exclusive for the MailOnline, Leah reveals that the Wood family are big supporters of complementary medicines and will not see a doctor if they can find a natural alternative.

Yes, when I saw this article, I knew I had found a topic for the blog, something straightforward and annoying to me: Another celebrity know-nothing whose belief in pseudoscience and quackery is promoted credulously in a tabloid. Unfortunately, Edzard Ernst beat me to my best snark in one point. Wood claims that alternative medicine and healthy living kept her father young. Now take a look at a photo of Ron Wood. At 69 years old, he’s the youngest member of The Rolling Stones, and he looks every minute of it.

Mick Jagger: Lookin' good, too. Mick Jagger: Lookin' good, too.

If anything, Ron Wood looks possibly even older than Mick Jagger, who’s 73, but maybe not older than Keith Richards, who will turn 73 in a couple of weeks.

Keith Richards: You'd look like this too, if you lived the way I did for all those decades. Keith Richards: You'd look like this too, if you lived the way I did for all those decades.

OK, OK, I know. Just because Ron Wood doesn’t appear younger than his biologic age (and arguably appears a few years older) doesn’t mean that he isn’t as healthy as his daughter claims. Snark aside, I also have to point out that, contrary to what Prof. Ernst says, Leah Wood never actually said that her father looked young, just that his long history of smoking, drinking, and using illicit substances in his younger days doesn’t appear to have affected him and also:

'Dad is superfit, but he has to be with the two new babies. There's no great secret to it, as a family we always try to laugh and be happy, even though things can be tough.'

Leah, who is Ronnie's eldest daughter, says that the family preoccupation with alternative medicines means that they have shunned conventional medicines in the past.

All of which is great for Ron Wood, if true. If, as his daughter claims, he gets regular exercise and eats a healthy diet, that’s great. So is his quitting smoking this year after 50 years, comically angering Keith Richards, who says Wood looks ridiculous because he has switched to e-cigarettes instead. It’s also good that Ron Wood has given up drinking and drugs. It’s never too late to clean up your act, and the health benefits of giving up smoking and drinking are clear, even if you’ve been abusing them for five decades. Unfortunately, his daughter Leah goes beyond that to credit more than a newly healthy lifestyle, free of health-damaging indulgences like tobacco and alcohol. She credits the woo along with the lifestyle changes:

'As a family we have always been bought up with alternative medicines and homeopathy and have been taught the importance of eating well,' Leah says.
'You are what you eat.

'I try and stay healthy, I go to the gym, I run, I take vitamins. You can often heal yourself through diet and lifestyle.

'I think it is important not to overmedicate. I use homeopathy a lot with my kids and alternative remedies.

And:

Leah, who is Ronnie's eldest daughter, says that the family preoccupation with alternative medicines means that they have shunned conventional medicines in the past.

Given my readership, I find it hard not to emphasize yet again what we all know. Homeopathy is The One Quackery To Rule Them All. Of all the quackery out there, with the possible exception of reiki, homeopathy is the one that is most obviously quackery, to the point that it’s one of the easiest forms of quackery to educate people about. Its two main “Laws” are so clearly pseudoscience that you’d think it incredibly unlikely that anyone would fall for such nonsense, but fall for it they do. Indeed, most people think that homeopathy is nothing more than herbal medicine.

I’ll briefly show you what I mean. That I can do so this briefly should show those unfamiliar with homeopathy how ridiculous it is. All I have to do is to describe the Two Laws of Homeopathy. The first is the Law of Similars, which states that to relieve a symptom you must use a substance that causes that symptom. Not only does this law make no sense on an intuitive level, but there is no biological or medical basis for it. Of course, the Law of Similars doesn’t really matter, because the second law of homeopathy renders it completely irrelevant. The Second Law, the Law of Infinitesimals, states that diluting a remedy makes it stronger. That’s not nearly enough pseudoscience, though. Because of this law, homeopaths often dilute remedies to, in essence, nonexistence. For example, a typical 30C dilution (where C=100) means thirty 100-fold dilutions, which, if you do the math, you’ll find to be a 10-60 dilution. Avogadro’s number is only on the order of 6 x 1023, which means that a 30C dilution is at least 1036-fold higher than a dilution where we’d expect to see a single molecule of the original substance; that is, if you start with what chemists call a mole of starting compound. No wonder homeopathy is considered the king of pseudoscience, and that’s not even considering that some homeopathic remedies (like Oscillococcinum, the infamous homeopathic flu remedy) use starting ingredients like extract of duck liver and heart—and at 200C (10-400), yet! Not surprisingly, rigorous clinical trials show that homeopathic remedies do not work better than placebo.

Unfortunately, odd quirks in the history of regulation of homeopathy have led to its acceptance and continued existence despite its being completely vitalistic pseudoscience. In the UK, certainly, the popularity of homeopathy among the royal family and its support by Prince Charles in particular have contributed to its continued acceptance. In the US, although homeopathy is not as popular here, baked into the 1938 revision of the law authorizing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was a provision that defined anything in the Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS) as a drug. Unfortunately, the FDA has always interpreted that to mean that anything in the HPUS didn’t need to go through rigorous testing to be approved, although that might be on the verge of changing. The FTC, for instance, recently came out with new regulations on the advertising of homeopathic remedies that in essence tells manufacturers that they have to tell customers there is no scientific evidence that such remedies do anything for any medical condition. What the FDA will do after having begun the process to revamp its regulations with respect to the approval of homeopathic treatments remains to be seen.

It wasn’t Leah Wood’s promotion of homeopathy, though, that irritated me the most. Homeopathy is dangerous, yes, when used instead of real medicine to treat serious medical conditions. However, Wood also took the opportunity of her interview to promote dangerous cancer quackery, complete with an anecdote about her mother:

She even discloses that her mother, TV personality Jo, helped her Grandmother beat cancer with apricot seeds.

And, more:

She explains to MailOnline:

'Nan had breast cancer and mum, who is a big proponent of alternative medicine as well, said "mum, we are going to help you so let's investigate and get some advice".

'Nan had different treatments and ate an organic diet including apricot seeds and cured herself.

'She had chemotherapy once and that's when mum said "no more, we can do this ourselves", much to the dismay of the doctors.

'Conventional chemotherapy just breaks down your immune system and makes you weaker so I don't understand the point.

'You should be building up your immune system and fighting the cancer.'

Yes, we’re talking a really old form of cancer quackery, Laetrile, here. Now, here’s a test for regular readers who’ve read a few of my discussions of alternative cancer cure testimonials. What is the first question that comes to mind after reading the story of Leah Wood’s grandmother and her rejection of chemotherapy for her breast cancer? Come on. You should know by now. That’s right! Did she have surgery for her breast cancer?

As I’ve explained since very early on in the history of this blog, one of the most common forms of alternative medicine testimonials involves cancers that can be cured by surgery alone but are treated with adjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiation in order to decrease their chances of recurrence. Breast cancer is very often treated this way, with the local excision of the tumor ± lymph nodes under the arm, later followed by chemotherapy and/or drugs that block estrogen action, depending on whether the tumor is estrogen-sensitive or not. So, me being me, I immediately started Googling to see if I could find out what sort of treatment Leah Wood's grandmother underwent. It didn’t take me long to find this interview with her mother Jo Wood from 2015:

In the past year alone, however, Wood has lost her mother (“a few weeks ago, which was very sad but it was her time”) and been helping her little sister Lize through breast cancer. Which is why when Breast Cancer Care asked her to join Asda’s Tickled Pink campaign to raise awareness and funds for the charity, Wood immediately pledged her support. “When they asked whether I had experienced any breast cancer in my family, I told them my grandmother and mother had had breast cancer (although after a lumpectomy my mother was clear for the rest of her life) and that my sister had had a double mastectomy earlier this year. So it couldn’t be more personal and important to me.”

Yep. Leah’s grandmother had surgery. The chemotherapy was being used in an adjuvant manner, in order to decrease the chance of cancer recurrence. In other words, the surgery is what cured Leah Wood’s grandmother (Jo's mother) of her disease, and she got lucky that she didn’t have a recurrence after chemotherapy. That means that, not only is Leah Wood peddling dangerous cancer quackery through testimonial that, whether she realizes it or not, is deceptive, but she is also making videos like this to “free the world from pharma control” and promoting changing the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in order to allow more “natural” medicines and, of course, “health care choice,” otherwise know to skeptics at the freedom to choose quackery:

To be honest, I was rather shocked at just how bad Leah Wood was at reading cue cards for a video like this, given how long she’s been in the public spotlight. Be that as it may, her statement is riddled with common pro-alternative medicine and anti-pharma tropes. One charge that she makes, in particular, is that there are pharmaceutical executives on the MHRA board. That seemed to me to be an easy enough claim to check out; so I did more Googling and quickly found a list of the MHRA board members. I didn’t find anyone who currently works for pharma, although there were a couple of members with pharma experience; e.g., Dr. Ian Hudson, who worked in the pharmaceutical industry in clinical research and development between 1989 and 2001, and Stephen Lightfoot, who is a former general manager of GE Healthcare’s global medical diagnostics division, managing director of Daiichi Sankyo’s UK pharmaceutical business and commercial director of Schering Healthcare’s UK pharmaceutical business. That’s two out of nine members with some pharmaceutical experience, and only one with any recent experience. None of them are currently “big pharma directors,” nor is any evidence presented on the Reform MHRA website that pharma has undue influence in MHRA.

Another thing that neither Leah Wood nor the Daily Fail tell you: The group backing this “reform” effort (the National Health Federation) is, as Prof. Ernst puts it, a lobby group for alternative medicine. Indeed, on its website it declares in its “Declaration of Health-Freedom Rights” the rights “to receive alternative medicine and treatments (such as those provided by chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors, massage therapists, and clinical nutritionists) without government restrictions” and “to supplement our diets with vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and enzymes without government restrictions.” It also proclaims the “right of alternative medical practitioners to determine and use those treatments best suited for their patients without government restrictions.” In other words, it’s another “health freedom” group, where “heath freedom” really means the freedom from pesky regulations and laws restricting the ability of quacks to fleece their marks. Indeed, the most recent issue of its quarterly magazine, Health Freedom News, features antivaccine articles, articles promoting fear mongering about fluoridation, the “latest methods of alternative healing,” and, of course, mercury fillings woo.

As a Stones fan, I’m happy to see the boys (now old men), including Ron Wood, still doing well and hanging in there. I was happy to fire up Apple Music on Friday as I worked on my grant in my office and hear that the Stones could still tear it up through some tasty old blues numbers. I’m not, however, happy to hear that Ron Wood is into alternative medicine or to see his daughter promoting dangerous quackery like Laetrile and homeopathy, as well as donning body paint to promote the cause of a quackery-promoting “health freedom” organization.

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This blog seems too quick to equate the homeopathy quotes with pure water rather than re-labeled nutrients without more careful investigation.

As for many utilities of high potency nutrients, this blog is famous for its gross misunderstanding on many subject areas. Just because the unwashed, the brainwashed and various forms of ignorant don't know how to do them correctly doesn't make it crazy, or many here, any less ignorant.

prn

Is it a ploy of yours to mash together some verbiage which doesn't make sense? You're trying tire out the opposition with figuring out what you could possibly mean, without having to deal with a serious point yourself?
Or are you really incapable of logical thought, and of expressing yourself in coherent English?

By Peter Dugdale (not verified) on 11 Dec 2016 #permalink

prn,

The reasoning in your comment is too dilute to detect. Try shaking your device vigorously to see if it helps.

The business of celebrities claiming "homeopathy cured X" in support of some homeopathy, etc cause and the reality turning out to be different has been documented in several places.

By Malleus Homeop… (not verified) on 12 Dec 2016 #permalink

Well, of course homeopathy is real!
Why, water stays in cubic form in my ice cube trays after I remove them from the freezer for a few hours, all due to water memory.

Oh, wait...

Mssrs Wood, Jagger and Richards are perhaps even worse off than they presently appear because they are wealthy celebrities with ALL of the advantages that medicine, plastic surgery and expensive skin care provide.

Don't think that they shy away from such vain procedures:
- they were/ are married to models who know this stuff
- they have had expensive dental care ( unlike in their youth)
- they have expensive haircuts and dye jobs.
- they're all achingly thin ( which usually betrays effort)

I imagine that Richards is the most natural looking of the trio.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 12 Dec 2016 #permalink

"Just because the unwashed, the brainwashed and various forms of ignorant don’t know how to do them correctly"

Oo, this is one of my woo favorites.

Quackery is never quackery, it's that You Did It Wrong. ;)

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 12 Dec 2016 #permalink

Yes, the Daily Mail seems to have declined over the past five years or so since they lost their core focus on lesbians, Tesco, and Suri Cruise. About all that's left of the old Daily Mail is their enduring fever in all things Hitler. On the plus side, they've cultivated an intense interest in female American schoolteachers having sex with teen boys -- something which apparently doesn't happen in the UK but is rampant here.

By Mark Thorson (not verified) on 12 Dec 2016 #permalink

"Try shaking your device vigorously"

Please do this in private.

Mark @10: You'll forgive me for being less than impressed that a man has become parent to an 8th child. It's not exactly the same amount of work as it is for the mother.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 12 Dec 2016 #permalink

Really, is this the best the Mail can do? A spokeswoman for an Alt-Med lobbying group whose credentials are the DNA of a guy who became second guitarist for the Stones after they stopped mattering (i.e. well after "Exile on Main Street") and had become a nostalgia act top 40 hit machine ("Miss You" "Beast of Burden", "Emotional Rescue' "Windows '95") and haven't charted a top ten single since 1989?

What tossers those Brits are at pseudo-science. No way they can compete with us. We have an ex-General incoming head spymaster who thinks Hilary Clinton just might have been running a child-sex-slave-ring operating in catacombs under a pizza parlor named Comet Ping Pong. We've got more climate change deniers than we can keep track of entering Interior, EPA, Energy, State... And we're going to have a SeaSteaer Renwick running the FDA!!

Ron Wood's kid is all you've got, UK? C'mon! Get with the program. Tell you what, we'll take pity on you. We'll trade you a crazy ex-General and a climate-change-denier to be named later (you can pick!) for Leah Wood. We'll make her Secretary of Defense. (The NSA is too secretive for a Mail favorite like Ms. Wood). If we're going to send troops to help our new BFF Vlad swat down those terrorists in the Ukraine, we might as well have a Pentagon who''ll look good in camo body paint, testifying before Congress on The Fox News Channel.

Oh, come on, sadmar, the UK has an actual prince, mangled royal DNA and all, who believes in homeopathy and sold a line of herbal products that were cited for misleading advertising by his government's regulatory agencies. I believe his line is called something like "Douchey [sp?] Originals (but if it isn't, it probably ought to be).
Incidentally, if you want evidence that the royals are not shape-shifting space lizardonians, just look at their faces. If you could look like anyone in the world, would YOU choose to look like Prince Chuckles?

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 12 Dec 2016 #permalink

Oh no, it wasn't homeopathy, it must have been some combination of drugs they did in the seventies that changed their epigenetic programming. They all look the same. Homeopathy ? No way.

Go on then, prn #1, enlighten us about homeopathy actually does whatever it is that it does...I'm all ears...

It is obvious that homeopathic pills which are diluted versions of, er, something or other have about as much effect on the body as a butterfly sneezing on the other side of the planet. Claiming that the molecules in the tiny pills, having undergone a 100-fold dilution somehow remember what things were like back in the good old, undiluted days is plain silliness.
However it has been demonstrated that the nature of the patient / practitioner relationship can have a tremendous impact on how the patient feels.
Since serious homeopathic (forgive the oxymoron) practitioners begin their treatment with a lengthy consultation, between 1.5 and 2 hours, it is unsurprising that some patients start feeling better, probably because swallowing the pills daily has the Lourdes effect. Lighting a candle in Lourdes means that you can light a candle, say a prayer, and for as long as the candle continues to burn, the prayer in prolonged while you go away to watch a match.
Each pill is a reminder of the time that somebody took an interest in you for 90 uninterrupted minutes.
You can check my book, "Help! OK." for an explanation of how this all works. Once the critical thinking faculties hard-wired somewhere in the prefrontal cortex are by-passed, all kinds of weird and wonderful things can happen. Feeling better is one of them.
Sometimes.

By Richard Morgan (not verified) on 13 Dec 2016 #permalink

Actually, I don't entirely despise British royals. The late Queen Mum was a bit of a character. Elizabeth and some of her young friends also in uniform sneaked out to celebrate VE Day in the streets, though it was probably her last act of rebellion ever. HRH Prince Phillip has a little quirky streak of rebellion that pops up from time to time; as an example, his trip to Israel for his sister's funeral despite HM Government's disdain for most things Jewish.
They're also pretty good about ;putting on the uniform and acting as high-priced cannon fodder.
Beyond that, there's not much else to praise. The royal record on Hitler and the Nazis during the '30s was dismal, movies about speech therapy notwithstanding.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 13 Dec 2016 #permalink

ORD: You have to remember that Edward inherited the throne, originally, and he was a slimeball.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 13 Dec 2016 #permalink

ORD

The late Queen Mum was a bit of a character.

I think you misspelled odious fascist - she was BFFs with Oswald Mosley

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 13 Dec 2016 #permalink

PGP & Militant Agnostic:
I did bring up their record of Nazi sympathizing.
Edward was far from the only one. George was just as bad, the world having the misfortune of having him on the throne in 1939. He was involved in creating the wartime government, and strongly favored Lord Halifax, another Nazi appeaser before the war, but he was in the House of Lords, therefore unelected to Parliament. The king abhorred Churchill ("The King;s Speech" movie notwithstanding) but Churchill had been elected to Commons and if a unified wartime government was to be chosen, at least it would have a leader who had been elected (apart from a lot of other reasons why he was a better choice).

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 14 Dec 2016 #permalink

It's good to see that apricot seeds are still in the Woo Materia Medica. It must be 45 years ago that you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing someone extolling the virtues of laetrile, or to give it its 'scientific' name, vitamin B17.

I'm expecting psychosurgery to make a come-back too.

By John Owen (not verified) on 14 Dec 2016 #permalink

John Owen, I am always amazed how teh internets echo all of the nonsense my aunt used to tell me forty five years ago. It included the Trilateral Commission, laetrile and having a daily tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. ;-)