Dr. Aviva Romm: Distancing herself from Goop after defending it

It's been over a month now since I started paying real attention to that wretched celebrity hive of scum and quackery founded by Gwyneth Paltrow known as Goop. It was a long time coming, and I feel a bit guilty for not really paying much attention to the "wellness," "lifestyle," and, of course, expensive quackery being sold by Paltrow and her minions through Goop. It began when Goop caught flack for selling pricey magic energy healing stickers. Well, it wasn't so much for that as much as for the amusing intervention of NASA, which slapped down Goop's claims that these stickers were made with a carbon compound that was developed for use in spacesuits used by astronauts.

Then it was a mere three weeks later that Goop decided to strike back against Dr. Jen Gunter, one of its most persistent and effective critics. Basically, Goop's editors published a tag-team article introduced by an unnamed editor and then featuring "rebuttals" by two of Goop's doctors, Dr. Steven Gundry and Dr. Aviva Romm. While Dr. Gundry's response was condescending as hell and full of tone trolling and appeals to his alleged authority based on his history (like Dr. Mehmet Oz, he was once a respected academic cardiothoracic surgeon before he turned to woo), Dr. Romm's response was a bit more low key. Unlike Dr. Gundry, in her defense of Goop she didn't directly attack Dr. Gunter, and, to be honest, she basically admitted that a lot of what Goop publishes isn't based in science but invoked this excuse:

In a time when women are desperately hungry for safe alternatives to mainstream practices that too often fall short of helpful for chronic symptoms, and in the setting of a medical system that is continually falling short of providing lasting solutions to the chronic disease problems we’re facing: I prefer, rather than ridiculing vehicles that are actually highly effective at reaching large numbers of women who want to be well, to seek to understand what women are looking for, what the maintstream isn’t providing; and how we can work together to support those vehicles in elevating their content so that women are receiving the meaningful, and evidence-based answers, they want and deserve, whenever possible.

This would have been well and good if Goop ere actually producing evidence-based answers to anything. In any case, I bring this up because yesterday an interview with Dr. Romm by Megan Thielking was published by STATNews, entitled Goop promoted her as one of ‘our doctors.’ But Dr. Aviva Romm is concerned the site is becoming a caricature. When I saw the title, I couldn't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, Dr. Romm is figuring out that Goop has gone so far down the rabbit hole of quackery that it might just be rubbing off on her. Her statements sure read that way, but they also read as a doctor who is trying to have it both ways. Clearly Dr. Romm is trying to put some distance between her and the unsavory expensive pseudoscience being peddled by Goop and Paltrow while not alienating Goopies (my new name for Goop fans who are happy to hand Paltrow their money for such ridiculous nonsense.). Hilariously, Dr. Romm claims that she doesn't even read Goop, that she's shocked—shocked, I say!—that there's quackery being sold there:

But one of those physicians, Dr. Aviva Romm, told STAT that she doesn’t see herself as Goop’s doctor at all. She hasn’t read most of the content on the site (which promotes things like goat’s milk cleanses, energy healing stickers, and “brain dust” to “align you with the mighty cosmic flow”). She can’t give it a scientific stamp of approval. And she’s wary of anyone who automatically endorses products or therapies simply because they’re branded as “natural.”

In fact, she said she’s advised Goop that if it wants to be more than a “caricature of everything alternative health for women,” the editors need to do an audit of all their content, in consultation with physicians.

“I don’t think everything in there is necessarily evidence-based or effective,” said Romm, who lives in Massachusetts and runs a small practice in New York City.

She added: “I’m not one of these integrative doctors who basically just because it’s alternative thinks it’s safe and good. I try to keep my doctor thinking cap on as well.”

I laughed out loud when I read one statement there. "I don’t think everything in there is necessarily evidence-based or effective"? Ya think? What was your first clue, Dr. Romm? In fact, I was chuckling heartily throughout large swaths of this interview. For one thing, Dr. Romm is correct to characterize Goop as a caricature of everything alternative health for medicine. No, wait, on second thought, no she isn't. This is what "alternative health," be it for men or women, is. It's some uncontroversial advice on diet and exercise, with a whole lot of woo, quackery, pseudoscience, and mysticism slathered on liberally. Goop isn't a caricature. It's the epitome of "alternative health," and Dr. Romm helped make it that way.

Particularly amusing was her claim that she's an integrative doctor who tries to keep her "doctor thinking cap on as well." She really, really could have fooled me. Remember. I perused her website. Remember how I not infrequently say that a very good indication that you're dealing with a quack is if that doctor advocates "detoxing." Well, Dr. Romm's blog is full of articles with titles like How to Detox Every Day: Top Ten Foods & Herbs, Detox Immunity, The Easiest, Most Effective Spring Detox Ever, and Detoxing Before Pregnancy. (That last one sounds like a really, really bad idea to me.)

Here's a taste of what I'm talking about:

So you can imagine by the time you hit your 20s and beyond, our bodies have been steeped in environmental chemicals!

These chemicals come from herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and artificial ingredients in our foods. They exist as pollutants in our air, water, cosmetics, medications, vaccinations, household cleaners, furnishings, cars – there are literally tens of thousands of them.

Not only that, we create toxic chemicals in our bodies from the process of breaking down the hormones and stress chemicals that our own bodies produce.

This is nothing more than a variant of a very old idea that isn't science-based, namely autointoxication. The idea behind autointoxication is that the colon is leeching "toxins" into our body that must be purged for optimal health. Of course, as I've pointed out before, by the time a colon becomes "toxic" because of what's in it, it's called toxic megacolon, and it's a surgical emergency, usually associated with sepsis. No, the colon is quite capable of eliminating all the "toxins" thrown at it, as is the liver. Dr. Romm has just changed the source of the "autointoxication" from teh colon to the body "breaking down hormones and stress chemicals." This is just as nonsensical an idea as the idea that "death begins in the colon" because the poo in it is slowly poisoning us.

At some level, Dr. Romm even appears to realize this:

The good news is that your body is amazingly equipped with detoxification systems that have been evolving and improving over millions of years. Most of these are in your liver, but also require that you keep your bowels moving well each day to “take out the garbage” that the liver has processed. Your body has the mechanisms in place to keep you healthy – vibrant, in fact.

The bad news is that never before in the history of humanity have we been exposed to so many different individual and combinations of chemicals at once. You know how you can feel overwhelmed by life sometimes? Well, our bodies are overwhelmed by toxic loads and need some extra daily detox help.

How do I know this? As a Yale-trained MD and an environmental health scientist, one of my key areas of research is women’s and children’s health and environmental toxicity.

Oops. I spoke too soon. She did indeed invoke a more direct variant of the old idea of autointoxication. Of course, it's utter nonsense that never before in history have we been exposed to so many different individual and combinations of chemicals at once. Anyone who studies history and understands how much more polluted our world was throughout the industrial revolution will realize that. Indeed, if anything, the environment we live in is almost certainly much cleaner, with many fewer environmental threats than even 50 years ago, although Donald Trump is sure enough trying to take us back to the bad old days. (If you're a Trump supporter and don't like me injecting politics here, guess what? I don't care!)

I also love Dr. Romm's invocation of her authority. She's not just an MD. Oh, no. She's a Yale-trained MD. Well, Yale is, unfortunately, a bastion of quackademic medicine. Remember Dr. David Katz and his more "fluid concept of evidence"? I sure do, and Dr. Romm strikes me as the epitome of what Dr. Katz was talking about someone so open-minded that her brains fell out. As for Dr. Romm being an "environmental health scientist," I searched Medline for her publications resulting from environmental research. To my surprise, I found one article in the New England Journal of Medicine. Actually, it wasn't an article. It was a letter to the editor questioning an article about prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. (Gynecomastia is abnormal breast growth in males.) The letter is ten years old, and the only thing I could find in the peer-reviewed literature by Dr. Romm on environmental determinants of health or "environmental toxicity" in children. There's also an "ask the experts" article in Explore, which, as you might know, is one of the more "out there" alternative medicine publications.

And I haven't even gotten into Dr. Romm's embrace of functional medicine, which basically combines the worst aspects of conventional medicine with the quackery of alternative medicine, her "adrenal thyroid revolution," which basically posits that Epstein-Bar Virus is the cause of Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and also the cause of...just about every chronic health problem. Then there's her flirtation with antivaccine ideas, which, as far as I know, she has not rejected.

So we've established that Dr. Romm is not nearly so evidence-based as she claims to be, which is a reason why her proposal that Goop institute a medical advisory board made up of physicians cracks me up. There's no reason to expect that such a board would make any difference, not if it's made up of Goop physicians like Dr. Romm and her fellow Goop doctors.

Of course, Dr. Romm can't be too critical of Goop. After all, she got involved with Goop when her publicist thought that writing for Goop would help her "expand her audience" (translation: sell more books, supplements, and stuff), which is probably why she was willing to do it for free, while claiming she has no idea what's published there. (I really do call BS on that last part, but maybe she really doesn't read anything in Goop except for her stuff.)

Here's how she came to write part of the response to Dr. Gunter:

Romm got roped into the Goop fight after Dr. Jen Gunter — a longtime critic of the site — lambasted the lack of scientific evidence behind Goop’s recommendations in a widely shared post on her blog in May.

“When the Goop hit the fan, let’s say, with the Jen Gunter piece, it was just kind of in the early stages of my writing for them,” she said.

Goop asked her to submit a quote addressing the criticism. She responded that she couldn’t endorse the site, but she could share her thoughts on women’s wellness. That’s how she came to write the open letter which Goop later published as “A word from our doctors.”

If Dr. Romm wasn't comfortable writing the response to Dr. Gunter, then she should have politely declined. However, she knows what side her bread is buttered on; so she didn't. And she's still defending Goop:

But, Romm said, it’s not just celebrities and alternative medicine providers who are making money off patients. She pointed to the billions drug companies spend on TV ads.

“Let’s not be misled here,” she said. “Those drug company commercials are making lots of people millions. So it’s not just one isolated situation with Goop.”

I love the smell of pharma mongering in the morning. It smells like...false equivalence! Yes, pharmaceutical companies make lots of money selling drugs. The difference, of course, between pharmaceutical companies and Goop is that pharmaceutical companies have to do the scientific and clinical studies to show their products work before they can market them. As a result, most drugs do what their manufacturers say they do. In contrast, Goop (and, truth be told, Dr. Romm) can make any claim they want to sell their product—and they do. I'd also wonder if Dr. Romm really wants to compare Goop to pharmaceutical companies. As I'm sure she'd agree, pharmaceutical companies have done some bad things over the years, and she basically defended Goop by comparing it to pharmaceutical companies.

One wondes how much longer she'll be writing for Goop. Or maybe she's just part of Goop's pivoting.


More like this

Like 99.9% of quacks Dr. Romm as likely to be found commanding a nuclear submarine as she is to be in a hospital treating sick people. What does that say about her? But she is happy to shill her products to strangers and patients alike. The quote below is from her website:

At Thrive you are not paying a premium on lab tests or supplements, which can save you literally thousands of dollars in office and monthly costs. In fact, with Thrive Health you will receive:

All lab testing at direct labs costs – not the typical expensive functional medicine lab prices you’ll find in many practices.

20% off of all retail prices on any supplements in my patient supplement store

Oh my god...here's the end all be all response to "big pharm" accusations.

Making money does not automatically mean sinister motives or dishonesty!

It's called effin' capitalism, and without a profit motivation most companies would stop trying to make cancer drugs, AIDS medications etc and would instead focus on hair loss and erectile disfunction with all available resources.

From the bottom of the Romm web site:

Copyright 2012-2017 Aviva Romm All material provided on this website is provided for informational or educational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your healthcare professional or physician

I remain amazed at how people will ask me about nonsense peddled by quacks like Romm during office visits and then seem flabbergasted when I state bluntly that what they've read online is bunk (and yes, I will refute point by point after stating that). At least they ran it by me, but I can always tell very quickly whether they will go for the flashy web site or the "advice provided by their healthcare professional". Sadly, the flashy web sites win about 2/3 of the time.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 28 Jul 2017 #permalink


On the subject of "Pharma makes a lot of money", I would like to point this out from recent news:


In short: LKK Health Products Group spent £1.3Bn to acquire a large office building in the City of London, where all large finance companies like to have their HQ.

LKK is a "herbal medicines" company from Hong Kong.

From the press release:
"This is the largest-ever office complex property transaction in the United Kingdom for a stand-alone office building. 20 Fenchurch Street is an iconic building prominently situated in London's financial district, with uninterrupted 360° views across Central London. [...] The acquisition enables the Group to not only achieve a reasonable return from rental income, but also extend its property portfolio to a major overseas financial center for sustainable and stable capital appreciation. As such, the property will be held by the Group as a long-term investment."

What does LKK sell?
"In 1992, LKKHPG established the brand “Infinitus”. With the mission of “advocating the premium Chinese health regimen and nurturing healthier lives with balance, affluence and harmony”, Infinitus is devoted to providing the public with high-quality Chinese herbal health products and services."

I'll take Big Pharma over Big Woo everyday.

Shouldn't pick on Dr. Romm.

She offers discounts at her online supplement store (betcha Orac doesn't do that), has lots of nice white teeth and likes begonias.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 28 Jul 2017 #permalink

Maybe it's time to slow down medical pseudoscience.

Q. Would a true flat-rate tax be useful.

In the short term, tax deductions allow life-style organizations like Goop to metastasize.

Companies (e.g., pharmaceutical) that provide health & wellness products that have FDA approval would be exempt from the true flat-rate tax system.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 28 Jul 2017 #permalink

@Chris H
That quack Miranda is the only thing needed to tell you to run away. Quickly.

Sadly, most site visitors ignore it. 20% off!!!!!!

The bad news is that never before in the history of humanity have we been exposed to so many different individual and combinations of chemicals at once. You know how you can feel overwhelmed by life sometimes? Well, our bodies are overwhelmed by toxic loads and need some extra daily detox help.

Dr. Romm, sure knows little about how ancient humans (my first B.S. is Anthropology) lived. The types of chemicals used may have changed somewhat but in reality the dose levels now are much lower than in the past. One theory of why Caligula was so insane was lead poisoning from lead wine goblets. Bacterial loads of foods has decreased just by how food is preserved.

The myth that a cannibal from a 1000 years ago would die from eating a modern human is just that a myth.

Rich Bly (#8) writes,

(my first B.S. is Anthropology)

MJD says,

In a Wikipedia profile for Gwyneth Paltrow it is written, "Later, she briefly studied anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, before dropping out to act."


I wonder how many anthropology college-credits the GP in GOOP received?

Although, she gave a great performance in the movie "Proof" showing that she is a very special actress.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 28 Jul 2017 #permalink


Isn’t that Arianna Huffington’s new gig?

Yesterday, in Montana, I picked up a couple of backpackers (it was 99 degrees) who almost immediately announced that they didn’t use fluoride toothpaste because “it’s toxic to your pineal gland” and then one asked if we could stop for “smokes”--oh, the dissonance, it hurts!. I threw them out after two (futile) attempts at reason. Oh yes, they are “anarchists” and have no need for cars--but they don’t mind me having one. o_o

By darwinslapdog (not verified) on 28 Jul 2017 #permalink

CAM has developed a certain 'buzz' within popular culture, resulting in the proliferation of a number of buzzwords – which is to say terms that have a certain cache despite having no fixed meaning or maybe no real meaning at all. 'Integrative Medicine' is one of these, and 'detox' surely seems to be another, as it gets used for approaches as disparate as weird and possibly dangerous enemas to what amounts to potentially sensible dietary advice. Based on the above, Romm seems to be closer to the later end.

We might refer to some of these 'detox diets' as figurative quackery. The definitions of 'toxin' and 'detox' are so loose as to be more metaphoric than literal: no cures for real illnesses are promised, just some elevation of "wellness", and the diet guidelines proffered are not in and of themselves harmful. Basically, then, we have your basic standard popular diet book wrapped up in a superficial gloss of CAM 'detox' hype. Which helps boost sales, generate TV appearances for the author, possibly up to genuine celebrity status.

But as Kurt Vonnegut said, 'We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.' Whether or not Dr. Romm is a true quack, or just another diet doctor wrapping herself in a faux-quack cloak, she winds up feeding the detox hype as much as she feeds off it, and it's no surprise then that she finds herself traveling alongside the goat’s milk cleanses, energy healing stickers, and “brain dust to align you with the mighty cosmic flow”.

So now Dr. Romm may eliminate the goop from her diet of professional associations and activities, but I doubt that will be enough to return her to medical wellness. I think the whole discourse of "detox" she's been promoting is toxic, and she could use a good thorough cleanse.

"In a time when women are desperately hungry for safe alternatives to mainstream practices..."
I was in the line at the local grocery and Macleans magazine had an article defending goop and Gwyneth saying basically that it is no wonder that women look for alternatives to the male dominated (and centric) women-hating health professions. Quote: Gwyneth should be praised for figuring out how to take care of herself.
Macleans has run some good articles on Paltrow-based quackery, too bad they had to run this one.

'Goopies'. I love it

I bandied the idea out to my nineteen year old stepdaughter who has a strong interest in medicine. She thought the whole thing was bullshit. So there is hope that the coming generation will be as sceptical as we are.

I wonder how much people come to believe their own BS, and apparently the answer is: Quite a lot, but not without some conflict

By Chet Morrison (not verified) on 28 Jul 2017 #permalink

I might be late to call them "Goopies." I see on the website that sometimes Goop uses "Goopy" as an adjective to describe its fans and, at other times, various interventions.

Speaking of Celebrity Quackery, did you catch the one earlier this week where Angelina Jolie claimed to have successfully beaten her Bell's Palsy with acupuncture?

I threw them out after two (futile) attempts at reason.

I think the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers had a panel on this topic. Anyway, while I'm free-associating after dozing off at the library,

But as Kurt Vonnegut said, ‘We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.’

"[T]he lesson I see in his experience for myself and most others is 'the same old one': MAKE UP A GOOD STORY ABOUT YOURSELF, OR NONE AT ALL."

@ Richard Bly:

Unfortunately, even legit anthropology can be co-opted by woo-meisters...
IN FACT today Mercola ( see Mercola articles) features an article about the fabulously diverse microbiome of hunter gathers. An anthropologist eats with indigenous people and his microbiome improves etc.
So suppose that porcupine and baobab will be featured next at hip natural food joints.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 28 Jul 2017 #permalink

Mr Woo recently did a cleanse (a website assured him this specific cleanse would cure T2 diabetes by allowing his liver to eliminate his excess visceral fat). I keep waiting for him to have as much skepticism for woo as he seems to have for reality. When there is no logical mechanism of action, how in the world does someone even fall for this stuff?

I might be late to call them “Goopies.”

"The Gooped"?

Denice, do not eat porcupine. Porcupine is the worst tasting meat that I have ever tried. Remember they eat the inner bark of pine trees. If you have smelled turpentine; that is exactly what the meat tastes like. I guess it would be a great woo food item.

not the typical expensive functional medicine lab prices

"Functional-medicine lab tests are a worthless stupidity tax. Come to my practice, get your functional-medicine lab tests without the mark-up!"

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 28 Jul 2017 #permalink

Porcupine is the worst tasting meat that I have ever tried.

Someone must like eating them or they wouldn't need ALL THOSE PRICKLY BITS.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 28 Jul 2017 #permalink

If you have smelled turpentine

Have you ever smelled moth balls??


How did you get their little legs spread apart????

Rich, no worry about me eating porcupines.

Interestingly, woo-meisters seem to either totally despise meat
( vegans) or relish exotic, natural choices ( Paleos- which Mercola is/ Adams like natural grass fed or suchlike,meat ).

I wonder how far the Paleos go towards what some older cultures do- ie. do they go as far as grubs or only grasshoppers?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 28 Jul 2017 #permalink

If you have smelled turpentine; that is exactly what the meat tastes like.

So, don't pair it with retsina?

Someone must like eating them or they wouldn’t need ALL THOSE PRICKLY BITS.

Some dogs. The local bartender[1] had a dog who had a fixation on porcupine and never learned.

close to two decades ago, I was living at an uncle's place and one of the dogs managed to catch a skunk and HOLD on to it to bring it back home...The skunk, still alive and angry.

I never knew if the dog was ever allowed to get back in the house. Ever.


[1] == and yup, even though I did alcohol rehab, I still go to my local bar because according to a number of specialists, alcohol was never my problem. Me? maybe, maybe not but I'm figuring it out.

Yesterday, in Montana, I picked up a couple of backpackers (it was 99 degrees) who almost immediately announced that they didn’t use fluoride toothpaste because “it’s toxic to your pineal gland”...

If you had actually read about fluoride and the pineal gland, you wouldn't have put scare quotes around that.

viggen: I saw it. I read stuff like that and despair for journalism. You know they could simply have reported on the Bell's Palsy and left out the woo, or pointed out that it's usually a self limiting disease anyway.

When it comes to cognitive dissoance, I can think of no better example than this. Here's a woman who had a double mastectomy and oophorectomy because she has the BRCA1 gene, which could very well have been a smart decision considering her mother's health history. And this same woman turns to accupuncture for a disease that's typically self limiting.


Lentz: lots of things accumulate in the pineal gland besides flouride, so his use of "scare quotes" was quite appropriate.

Panacea: Oh, the pineal gland's an actual thing? I assumed it was made up by the hippy-dippy crowd, just like oxytocin was made up and then used as a hammer by the right wing.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 #permalink

@ # 20 et al

. . . do not eat porcupine. Porcupine is the worst tasting meat that I have ever tried. . . .

Having grown up in a rural area and time of not wasting potential edibles, even acquired via pest control measures, I can join in that advice. Despite my mother's skills in cooking game animals, even young groundhogs soaked in buttermilk were too strong a taste. We normally passed groundhogs to neighbors or farm workers who liked or were more willing to eat the meat. Porcupine had been sampled by some of these stalwarts, resulting in warnings to anyone who cared to listen in language not to be repeated even by drunken sailors or sober drill instructors.

Something is wrong with your website. New postings are occurring in bursts, usually a few days late. I clear my cache and reload, but I don't see new stuff until later. Somehow, other posters are able to see them a day or more before I do. I don't know what the problem is, but it didn't used to be like this.

By Mark Thorson (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 #permalink

PGP: Yes, it's a real thing. It's a tiny little gland in the brain that doesn't get a lot of attention. It produces melatonin and probably has a role in sleep regulation. Possibly in sexual development as well. There's a lot we don't know about this gland.

However, it is highly vascular and accumulates a lot of deposits, including fluoride and calcium. Some woo inclined call it "the third eye". The anti flouride crowd hang their hats on the flouride deposits as proof that flouride is toxic. There's no evidence that's the case, but they keep trying.

Totally OT: I cannot read this blog if there's a Teavanna ad running (video). The page keeps scrolling up to where the ad is. It doesn't happen with any other product ad. Anyone have a suggestion for me? And sorry for the OT question.

Cognitive dissonance....

An Australian quote on FB that soy was a cancer causing food from hell (slight exaggeration on my part). The Japanese eat the stuff morning, noon and night and have a lower cancer rate (in general) than both the UK, USA and Australia. Its not even hard to look up.

By NumberWang (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 #permalink

Lentz: lots of things accumulate in the pineal gland besides flouride, so his use of “scare quotes” was quite appropriate.

I would be more inclined to believe you if you had spelled fluoride correctly.

Some woo inclined call it “the third eye”.

Comparative anatomists call it a "third eye". It's called an "eye" because, like the eye" it is a photoreceptive organ. It is also similar in biochemistry: " The pineal
cells of the chicken and fishes contain a series of components found in the retinal phototransduction pathway, such as opsins, transducin (12–14), cGMP phosphodiesterase (15), cGMP-gated cation channel (16) and interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (14,17). These observations suggest that the pineal photoreceptor cells share a similar phototransduction mechanism with the retinal photoreceptor cells (18). This fact supports the idea that the mammalian pinealocytes have evolved from photoreceptor cells (Fig. 1), although the physiological relevance of the remnant expression of these genes remains unclear." –Dr. Mano

Many lizards have a "third eye" between their two primary eyes which is visible. This is called a parietal eye, and is analogous to the pineal.

You sound like an evolution-denier. Do you think "god" placed a photoreceptive endocrine organ in our heads as a joke? Or do you think that it is an evolutionary vestige of the reptilian parietal eye like most scientists?

The anti flouride crowd hang their hats on the flouride deposits as proof that flouride is toxic.

They have much better evidence for that than pineal calcification. This does occur however, as the blood that supplies the pineal lies outside the BBB.

There’s no evidence that’s the case, but they keep trying.

I see you haven't even bothered to do a Google Scholar search. The pineal hydroxyapatite ("brain sand") has actually been measured for fluoride concentration (via electrode). The concentration is much greater than in bone and increases with age, making the pineal gland the single organ with the highest concentration of fluoride (as hydroxy-fluorapatite).

" By old age, the pineal gland has readily accumulated F and its F/Ca ratio is higher than bone." –Dr. Luke

Fluoride Deposition in the Aged Human Pineal Gland
Caries Research

Ellie: If you have adblocker software, turn it on. Or switch to a different browser.

Panacea: Oh, thanks for clearing that up.

Alain: My grandpa trapped skunks for a while and claimed to be possibly the only man who had ever been sprayed by all three North American species of skunk in a 24 hour period. I suspect he spent the rest of the week sleeping in the yard.

Now I wonder how platypus tastes. I suspect not great, even if one manages to avoid the spurs.

sirhton: I had squirrel once, and that was pretty awful. Rodents were not meant for human consumption. I've heard cavy is good, but I kept guinea pigs as pets for years, so I could never eat it.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 #permalink

And, on cue, one live hippie-dippie shows up.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 #permalink

Something is wrong with your website.

It's been like that for at least a couple months now. I *think* it may have to do with 'load balancing' and the comments being spread out amongst different servers which take a while to filter down.

The strange thing is I can reload the site from bookmarks and see that I and others have made a comment only to click it and have it not be there.

Reloading by clicking on ORAC acts more like you describe.

TIL that certain people still think oxytocine is a right wing conspiracy. I'll remember that the next time I knock a girl up and the doctor wants to give petocine to induce labor.

Dr Luke's work was on a small number of cadavers, & claims such as Lentze's conveniently ignome the fact that the pineal calcifies with age; fluoride follows.

The parietal eye of some reptiles is not analogous to the pineal gland as they have that too. It appears to play a role in circadian rhythms.

If you had actually read about fluoride and the pineal gland, you wouldn’t have put scare quotes around that.

Don't worry, there's always the Schumann resonances to fall back on for defense.

"Then you'd notice about six huge hairy tits swelling up on your back."

I see you haven’t even bothered to do a Google Scholar search.


Lentz: when the woo inclined call it the third eye, they erroneously mean it is the "seat of the soul", and attribute all kinds of mystical BS powers to it. And you knew what I meant, but you just had to go all off half cocked.

Thank you for your argumentum ad nauseum. It's so much better than my simple misspelling. It makes me understand why Orac hates pedantry so much.

Lentz: when the woo inclined call it the third eye, they erroneously mean it is the “seat of the soul”, and attribute all kinds of mystical BS powers to it.

That doesn't mean that darwinslapdog's backpacker's were imbibed with such woo.

Melatonin is very important and there is tons of research on that. By converting serotonin to melatonin, the pineal effectively lowers blood pressure during the PM and early AM hours. This increases brain perfusion allowing CSF to cleanse the brain.

People with cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's Disease have been shown to have reduced melatonin levels.

Perhaps the backpackers were merely thinking about melatonin production. There is no reason to beat them with the "woo stick" for avoiding fluoride toothpaste. There are many good reasons to avoid avoid sodium fluoride, it's toxicity is well established (although, admittedly, it's effect on the pineal outside of its effect on mineral composition is less well-studied. The best evidence in this seems to be from a 297-page PhD dissertation from the University of Surrey.)

A closing quote from "Mechanisms of Fluoride Neurotoxicity A quick guide to the literature."

Fluoride is a developmental neurotoxin that has been linked to human brain damage since the 1920s when Fluoride induced cretinism was investigated and confirmed with animal studies. With advances in imaging, chemical analytical techniques including proteomics, detailed molecular mechanisms of Fluoride damage to the brain, spinal cord and nerve networks have been investigated with ever increasing levels of detail. The current peer-reviewed scientific publication rate regarding Fluoride neurotoxicity is about one paper per week. This literature guide provides a snapshot of the science as easily obtained in early 2017, to help inform those interested in the depth of knowledge and where the ongoing studies are directed.

Come on, most intelligent people know this stuff. How many people here actually use fluoridated toothpaste?

"Allowing CSF to cleanse the brain"?

Dr Luke’s work was on a small number of cadavers, & claims such as Lentze’s conveniently ignome [sic] the fact that the pineal calcifies with age; fluoride follows.

I don't usually ignome things.

Lentz: "I would be more inclined to believe you if you had spelled fluoride correctly."
Lentz: "ignome" (sic)
Lentz: "There are many good reasons to avoid avoid sodium fluoride, it’s toxicity is well established"

Yes, kiddies, another example of Gaudere's Law in action (those who point out spelling and/or grammar mistakes in others' posts invariably are guilty of spelling and/or grammar mistakes themselves).

I actually use fluoridated toothpaste and I've got the biggest, most bodacious pineal gland in the county.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 #permalink

Fucklesworth, that you?

PGP, thank you for the browser suggestion.

“Allowing CSF to cleanse the brain”?

Yeah. Search for the article called "Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance from the Adult Brain" and read it.

Yet despite its high metabolic rate and the fragility of neurons to toxic waste products, the brain lacks a conventional lymphatic system. Instead, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) recirculates through the brain, interchanging with interstitial fluid (ISF) and removing interstitial proteins,
including amyloid β (12, 13).

We used in vivo two-photon imaging to compare
CSF influx into the cortex of awake, anesthetized, and sleeping mice. The fluorescent tracers were infused into the subarachnoid CSF via a cannula implanted in the cisterna magna for real-time assessment of CSF tracer movement.
Electrocorticography (ECoG) and electromyography (EMG) were recorded in order to continuously monitor the state of brain activity (Fig. 1A and fig. S1).

Our analysis indicates that the cortical interstitial space increases by more than 60% during sleep, resulting in efficient convective clearance of Aβ and other compounds (Figs. 2 and 3).

The blood pressure raising effects of serotonin are well known, and its very name derives from this action.

Tim: It's pitocin, and you, like most of Reddit, are unlikely to ever be that close to a woman. Now go back to your snake pit, and let the adults talk.

Lentz: Or do you think that it is an evolutionary vestige of the reptilian parietal eye like most scientists?

A lot of vestigial organs are common throughout genomes. Doesn't mean they serve any purpose. When was the last time anyone's appendix did anything for them? Go back to your John Birch meeting, bub.

Ellie: You're welcome, glad I could help. I've learned that certain sites do not play well with certain browsers. Disqus in particular gives my Mozilla browser hiccups. (I have Explorer too, speaking of vestigial organs, which doesn't work with anything at all.)

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 #permalink

Much of the time, quotation marks are used to indicate an actual quote. It's only in odd corners of the Internet that italics are preferred for that purpose, perhaps in reaction to people using quotes for emphasis, a use where italics would be more appropriate.

I'd recommend the Pale Moon browser (a Mozilla fork) with the Adblock Lattitude addon -- It really works a treat.

PgPig (#49) asks,

When was the last time anyone’s appendix did anything for them?

MJD says,

John Floyd was the only member of the Lewis and Clark expedition that lost his life, probably from appendicitis.

The expedition named the location Floyd's Bluff in his honor.


Hope this answers your question, PgPig.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 #permalink

Doltchik: Point went whoosh over your head as usual. Why do we consider the pineal gland as a double-plus good when it hardly does any thing at all?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 #permalink

Lives in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and has a small practice on 40th street in NYC?

That's not really an easy commute, 2:30, so she must not be there much. She must have some deep-pocketed woo customers in NYC to support the expense of an office there.

For example, wisdom teeth and the appendix aren't a double plus good, so why is the pineal gland, a leftover like the rest , worshipped?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 29 Jul 2017 #permalink

PgPig (#56) asks,

...why is the pineal gland, a leftover like the rest , worshipped?

MJD says,

Propagation of the species?

The pineal gland produces melatonin, which helps maintain circadian rhythm and regulate reproductive hormones.

For many reasons, humans often worship reproduction.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

Above melatonine, the pineal gland produces Dimethyltryptamine -- involved in religious experiences and dreaming.
It has been postulated that the appendix acts as a storehouse for gut flora in the event that the supply is wiped out; from, say, diarreah or antibiotics.

Doltchik: For many reasons, humans often worship reproduction.

Another example of humans being stupid. Have you really not noticed how all your fellow travelers in the Autism-is-a-plague group hate their kids? Why have kids in the first place if they're never going to be good enough to love?

Tim: The world would be a better place if there were no religion. God is just an excuse to wreck everything and be a bully- just take a look at Congress!

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

Tim:It has been postulated that the appendix acts as a storehouse for gut flora in the event that the supply is wiped out; from, say, diarreah or antibiotics.

It's not doing a very good job then if it gets infected so often that most adults have to have it removed. Or you know, if it keeps killing people. Also diarhea doesn't work that way.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

Elie, your suffering may soon be over.
Yesterday,I read in Newsday that Starbucks is closing all 379 Teavana stores.
From what I can see in a short search, it will continue online and Teavana-branded products will be available in Starbucks locations, so I wouldn't get too excited over it just yet.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

Sadmar: "If you overstimulate the pineal gland, things can get weird with that third eye:"
Racists, of which H.P. Lovecraft was one, often believe a lot of other crap beside their particular racial views.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

There's still a lot we don't know about the pineal gland, like why it's outside of the blood brain barrier. Speculating that it has or has not an essential use is pretty pointless since we can't resolve the issue on a blog. Ditto the appendix, which may serve a use and most people go through their entire lives never having it removed.

But to claim the pineal gland is harmed by fluoride requires a little more evidence than the development of brain sand, since no one has ever shown it actually does anyone any harm.

And yes, Lentz, I brush with fluoridated toothpaste every day, and it's a good thing too since years of taking Depakote as migraine prophylaxis softened my teeth to the point where I now have five crowns. I haven't broken a tooth since I quit taking Depakote, and fluoride is likely why. We give it to people to harden their teeth and prevent cavities.

Tim: re Dimethyltryptamine. Citation needed.

Certainly, Panacea; but with the caveat that I only point out that the various flavors of the alkaloid are endogenous:


In 2013 researchers first reported DMT in the pineal gland microdialysate of rodents.

A study published in 2014 reported the biosynthesis of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in the human melanoma cell line SK-Mel-147 including details on its metabolism by peroxidases.

In a 2014 paper a group first demonstrated the immunomodulatory potential of DMT and 5-MeO-DMT through the Sigma-1 receptor of human immune cells. This immunomodulatory activity may contribute to significant anti-inflammatory effects and tissue regeneration.


@ PGP:

If I may venture a guess about
why woo-meisters and their compadres/madres have focused onto the pineal gland:
- there's not as much SBM being written about it**
- there's some mystery about its fxs**
- Cartesian myths about the soul etc
- it isn't represented on both sides of the brain so hey man it must some kind of unifier
- third eye myths

** So they have a somewhat blanker place to project their fantastical notions
although they also make up stories about things we do know much about.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

the pineal calcifies with age; fluoride follows

Obviously it's the body's reservoir of calcium and emergency back-up halogens.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

@Denice Walter #68: The third eye of Eastern traditions is nothing more than the mind's 'eye' or the ability of visualization.

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink


I've never read Lovecraft, and have no interest in his schtick. I just know the 80's 'cult' film From Beyond, which is a hoot. I doubt the filmmakers took Lovecraft seriously, or considered the pineal gland anything besides a MacGuffin on which to hang "a funny, horrific grossout" (G. Siskel), with "gross sexual excess" that apparently displeased "hardcore Lovecraft fans" (Wikipedia).

Dr. Katherine McMichaels: If there is a statistical correlation between schizophrenia and the pineal gland, they may be feeling or seeing what we saw.
Bubbae: Well, what about the hard on I got? Is there a statistical correlation for that too?

BTW: Tim knows the movie is a joke, and as usual I think, he's gently yanking the chains of minions who take what he writes too seriously.

I doubt the filmmakers took Lovecraft seriously
Next you'll be telling me that Reanimator is not a documentary.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

[The appendix is] not doing a very good job then if it gets infected so often that most adults have to have it removed.

From Wikipedia:

About 327,000 appendectomies were performed during U.S. hospital stays in 2011, a rate of 10.5 procedures per 10,000 population. Appendectomies accounted for 2.1% of all operating-room procedures in 2011.

Doesn't sound like "most adults" to me.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

Since the thread has once again devolved into discussing films, I need to ask a question.
Valerian and the City of a thousand planets is in cinemas. The reviews have been scathing, but one found the film to be unintentional comedy, i.e. "so bad it's good". Has anyone seen it? And if so, should I go and watch it?

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

About 327,000 appendectomies were performed during U.S. hospital stays in 2011, …
Doesn’t sound like “most adults” to me.

I had one of those 327K appendectomies in 2011, for my seventieth birthday. Are you trying to tell me I'm not "most adults"? ;~Þ

By Se Habla Espol (not verified) on 30 Jul 2017 #permalink

@Lentz: I've used fluoride toothpaste all my life, and grew up with fluoridated water. My children have, also. We all have really good teeth, and as far as I can tell, my pineal gland is working just fine. Like most "antis" you don't seem to understand the dose makes the poison so fluoride, in the doses I've been getting it in my 50+ years isn't neurotoxic.

@ Julian Frost 74

Valerian and the City of a thousand planets

I'm French and a fan of the comics version, so my own opinion is highly biased...

On the minus side:
I haven't seen the movie yet, just the trailers, and I developed strong misgivings. It seems too far away from the comics. I was already disappointed by the TV cartoon adaptation, back in the 90's, so maybe I'm just giving up.
Also, the author of Schlock Mercenary, whose movie opinions I tend the value, wrote an abysmally negative review about one week ago. He confirmed my suspicions about the movie.

On the plus side
Colleagues saw the movie this week-end. A bit long, especially the romance bit, but plenty of nice special effects.

Judging by the relatively good critics in French news, I feel like, if you are looking for an American sci-fi movie (or for a French movie), you will be disappointed.
If you are looking for an American movie done by a French, you may be alright.

Uh, sorry I cannot be more helpful...

By Helianthus (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

Next you’ll be telling me that Reanimator is not a documentary.

No. I might try to convince ORD of that, but I know you know better.

Julian Frost: That few? I was under the impression appendectomies were much more common than that. Next you'll be telling me most adults still have their tonsils.

JF: I'd go and see it. The Fifth Element got fairly scathing reviews, but it was such a pretty movie. I think this one will be the same, so if you want to get the full advantage of the visuals, see it in theaters.
(Also, if you haven't seen it, Midnight Special, speaking of gorgeous movies. Who-a.)

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

Lentz @43: "Come on, most intelligent people know this stuff. How many people here actually use fluoridated toothpaste?"
::raises hand::
I used to be rabidly anti-fluoride, ever since the 1970s or so. I used all kinds of herbal-based and 'natural' toothpaste. When I did use toothpaste, that is; I reasoned that brushing your teeth wasn't really natural (truth be told, I was just to lazy to brush regularly). I never bothered to really examine the fluouride contreversy, just accepted the "it isn't natural!" argument.
Then, about three years ago, I found myself at the dentists having a mouthful of horribly rotten teeth attended to. At the end of six sessions of removals and fillings, the dentist handed me a prescription for double-strength fluoride toothpaste, with instructions to use it twice a day until it ran out, then use normal fluouride toothpaste twice a day from then on. When I looked doubtful, she promptly launched into a mini-lecture explaining in some detail how fluouride reminaralises worn-down tooth enamel - and the enamel on my remaining teeth was *very* thin, as simply looking in the mirror showed.
I went on the internet when I got home and checked what she'd told me, had the "Why didn't I bother to find this out before??!!?" revelation, been using fuoridated toothpaste ever since. Never had any more dental/gum problems, teeth are now quite sparkly and fit to show!
And that's my story.

By Mrs Grimble (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

re the film, Valerian....

I suppose I am so steeped in woo/ herbalism that as soon as I saw the title** I thought about the herb's sedating qualities so you can insert your own snark about the film..

** I wasn't aware of previous sources like comics

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

@PGP #79, I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic or not. South Africa has the highest number of tonsillectomies performed (1 888 per 100 000 people under the age of 19) in the world. Most adults have their tonsils.
Over the last 30 years, the number of tonsillectomies worldwide has fallen significantly.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

Re Valerian: when it comes to movie adaptations of novels or comic book, I remind myself that film is a completely different medium, and adjust my expectations accordingly.

From what I saw of the trailers, I wasn't impressed by what the story seemed to be about. I have never read the comic.

But the landscape visuals are gorgeous, and I may go see it for that and no other reason . . . . to appreciate visual artistry on the big screen, and see if the score is any good (if it is, I'll get it; plenty of bad movies have great scores)

And who knows. I may even enjoy the ride if I don't get my expectations too high.

I hated the 5th Element when it first came out, and I saw it in theatres. Thought it was awful. But I do like Gary Olman (not his best role), and the film is worth watching for Ruby Rod and the Diva alone. So maybe I'll get lucky and there's a character like that in Valerian that'll make the film worth the bucks.

But I'll see a matinee.

Julian: 50% sarcasm, 50% honest query. I will say that 'do you have your tonsils/ appendix' is not something I've ever asked my friends, though one did mention her tonsillectomy at one point. Due to the high prevalence of both in the media I assumed that their rate of occurance was much greater than it appears to be.
Though pericarditis, apologies for the spelling, is in fact probably as rare as I thought it was

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

Lentz, this is kinda late in the day, but as I’m traveling, I haven’t checked in that much, but for what it’s worth at this point, the “scare quotes” weren’t that at all-- they were there to quote the hitchhikers exact words. Isn’t that what “...” are actually for?

Secondly, the hitchhiker was definitely deep into the woo, or I wouldn’t have bothered to relate any of the experience.

By darwinslapdog (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

I use prescription fluoridated toothpaste, because I didn't get enough as a kid (non-fluoridated water), and now my enamel is soft and fragile.

But no one is forcing you to use it, so please feel free to skip it. Just know that not having your own teeth takes years off your life expectancy.

Re: Valerian: the reviews I read were not good, but several friends said they enjoyed it, so maybe it's more fun than good?

By JustaTech (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

Re Romm and Yale - Yale Med School may offer some form of so called "integrative" classes as part of their overall curriculum but last time I looked Yale was considerably more highly rated in the US "league" of med schools than Case Western, and remains considerably harder to gain admission to. I'd like to see how many of the numbskull commentators here would succeed in getting into top schools like Yale/Harvard/Stanford/Johns Hopkins etc after all the highly credentialled (and highly opinionated) Orac did not make it to a top ten school, while his own (rated 77/100) alma mater is also offering "quackademia". Logical criticsm is one thing, below the belt insolence is arguably disrespectful and smacks of sour grapes. Like the old joke - what do you call a doctor who came bottom of the class? Doctor.

Actually, I graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, silly, ?

Of course, other than in selecting residents, nobody cares what medical school you went to. Seriously, within a couple of years of graduation, no one cares any more.

I had steroids and an anti-viral course. I suppose massage might help, but I chose not to do that. (Also, do not EVER mix puerh or dark tea with steroids. I spent about thirty minutes thinking I was gonna die, my heart was going so fast.)

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

Sara: Well, if you're a child and you EAT toothpaste, or drink a rinse with fluoride in it, toxicity can happen. The dose makes the poison.

You're talking about an acute episode. You have to drink or eat a lot of fluoride to get there.

However, we know that poor oral hygiene is directly related to endocarditis. And that we know takes years off your life expectancy. It's why people with high blood pressure must have it controlled before dental work. It's why people with really bad teeth have to take antibiotics before dental work.

jonno: Wow. The appeal to authority fallacy. Sort of. Where you went to school isn't a direct reflection of your expertise. It's how you get your foot in the door. What you do after that is all on you.

That's why Orac said that literally no one cares after a few years. No one does.

But you do remind me of an ER physician I used to work with who used to brag about how he graduated from Stanford. It got so annoying I told him one day, "I graduated from nursing school before you even started at Stanford."

Surprisingly, it shut him up. At least, when I was in the room.

"Acute Fluoride Toxicity from Ingesting Home-use Dental Products in Children"

Recommendations from that report: "Dentists and other health care providers should educate parents and child care providers about the importance of keeping fluoride products out of reach of children. Manufacturers should be encouraged by the ADA and the FDA to use child-resistant packaging for all fluoride products intended for use in the home."

Wow, what controversial ideas. :)

I suspect there's a risk of toxicity when kids get into lots of different sorts of drugs and supplements. Maybe even vitamins?



Guess we should ban vitamin pills.

Confession: My medical school was not a top tier institution. I use snark to make up for my feelings of mediocrity. :(

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

I’d like to see how many of the numbskull commentators here would succeed in getting into top schools like Yale/Harvard/Stanford/Johns Hopkins etc

Just out of curiosity, "jonno," where are your postsecondary degrees from?

Sara: Well, if you’re a child and you EAT toothpaste, or drink a rinse with fluoride in it, toxicity can happen.

You misspelled "Fucklesworth," BTW.

Valerian -totally lame and cliched. Trailers better than movie.very disappointed..

Jonno - you dumba$$ - many people go to the medical school or university they can afford. Like, local, live at home, minimal debts, etc.

Welcome to the real world.

By Jane Ostentatious (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

Jonno, I graduated in about the middle of the pack of a Guggenheim School of Aeronautics. My class started with seventy students, and about half of that graduated. I was in the middle of the pack.

One of the graduate who graduated a bit higher than me was actually fired by a large aerospace company. Something that rarely happened there. Usually they reduced head count by lay offs. The difference with being "fired" is that they will never hire them again.

It turned out that he cheated through out the program. I always wondered why he made sure to sit next a certain student. Apparently he copied what that guy wrote.

A really nice guy who drew fantastic artwork on the black boards, who came from a working class family and was very modest about his achievements. He had to convince his parents that he was not throwing his life away by going to community college instead of going directly to the factory floor as a mechanic. He was featured a few years ago on a company publication as a brilliant technology fellow.*

So apparently the other guy who was fired from the same company could not find anyone to cheat off of when he was employed.

By the way, I am old enough to have worked with women who became engineers after being human calculators. You can read about them in Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars and Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. Both are good reads. (My favorite anecdote from the first book is that one the women who did not finish her college degree was downgraded from "engineer" to "technician"... which meant in rules of employment for JPL/NASA that she had to be paid overtime for any week over 40 hours of work, that turned out to be very expensive, so she was reclassified as an "engineer" ;-) )

So, yeah. Don't rely on college/department rankings for much after a few years past graduation.

Oh, crud... I did not delete the asterisk. I was going to mention that he and I were in the same discipline (structural dynamics and loads), but in different company divisions.

If I had a choice I would have loved to work in his group. He was, and I assume, still a cool guy.

Jonno: You do know that a lot of people who get into Yale or Harvard do not get in on their own merits, right? Even the medical programs are susceptible. (Really, I haven't taken Yale seriously since 2000.)

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

Valerian and the City of a thousand planets
I’m French and a fan of the comics version, so my own opinion is highly biased…

Heavy Metal printed a couple of the story-lines, many decades ago. I remember them as being rather fun.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 31 Jul 2017 #permalink

@ Panacea:

Interestingly, alties/ woo-meisters often trumpet either the schools they attended or the degrees they attained EVEN when they studied an area totally unrelated to what they discuss ( Mike Adams, Louise Kuo Habakus, Mark Blaxill, Heckenlively, other anti-vaxxers like the MIT computer maven or the Thinking Moms) or when their degree is unrelated to reality ( mail order or worse).

HOWEVER they often criticise universities and academic standards as being corrupted by outside influences and money. I find it hilarious when a web woo-meister talks about reforming educational systems because students' abilities are so abysmal.

You can't have it both ways.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 01 Aug 2017 #permalink

Denice: good point. Very often when people attack academic standards, it's code for "schools aren't teaching students my point of view."

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the creationist movement. But you see it in conservative attacks on "liberal" college campuses (my students have a wide spectrum of political views), attacks which came fast and furious long before someone told Milo he wasn't welcome at Berkeley and he got all butthurt about it.

When the experts don't tell you what you want to hear, attack the experts. A lesson Michael Mann learned the hard way.

@Orac #89 Apologies for the misattribution. I guess you are right to some extent about the receding importance of one’s original school and its hard to “top” an onc.surgical residency/ fellowship AND PhD in cell biology for relevance to the critical project of your blog. In a way, all the more reason for you to uphold the “respectful” part of your “insolence” - some of the commentators on this blog remind me of Trump supporters at an election rally - smearing Romm because Yale has (sadly along with most upper echelon med schools) has an “integrative”dept is the kind of logical sleight of hand that you are usually quick to identify and take down when employed by others. Many of your readers comments here are rather less nuanced than they might be. (welcome to the internets:)

I share your dim view of so called “integrative” medicine and I guess that even the better schools feel obliged to offer such because the mindset of the top percentile of today’s MCAT scorers is nonetheless befuddled enough to think it a relevant factor in deciding where to get their medical training…its as much about marketing as anything else.

Finally, FWIW, Dr Romm, along with for example Dr Tieraona Low Dog, are fairly rare examples of individuals who were deeply involved with herbal medicine for many years prior to their MD training - which they presumably undertook because of the medical shortcomings of "herbal medicine”. I would suggest this is “transdisciplinary” rather than integrative, but if more “alt-med” types knuckled down to learn real clinical medicine we would perhaps be dealing with less pervasive woo/alt BS .

Transdisciplinary is just another buzzword for alt med, integretive medicine, or CAM. If it doesn't work, it's quackery.

My beef with Dr. Romm is not where she went to school. It's what she's doing with her training. I don't care if she was involved in herbal medicine "before" going to med school. Do you really think it makes it better to think she went to med school because of the "medical shortcomings of herbal medicine?" To think she got an MD to benefit from the imprimatur of that training would be the rankest form of cynicism in terms of her motivations.

I prefer to think she just got stars in her eyes over the money.

It turned out that he cheated through out the program. I always wondered why he made sure to sit next a certain student. Apparently he copied what that guy wrote.

Wow. I'm glad he got fired.

@panacea #105. Confounding the issues I think. On semantics - using herbals that may “work” for certain indications is neither herbal medicine nor biomedicine these days. E.g. ginger root can be (and is) regarded/classified variously as a food, a dietary supplement, a traditional herbal medicine, or a prescripton medicine depending who prescribes or recommends it for what. Context is key and this is all enshrined in regulatory terms. If a licensed provider suggests a patient try ginger for N&V of pregnancy ( a supported indication) you can of course “pretend” that is an rx drug because it “works” per trial data - i’d prefer to use a descriptor that reflects the multifaceted multi-context uses of such a material. Of course it either will either help or not, but ginger was being used in herbal medicine for centuries before trial data became available to support its potential rx by modern day licensed healthcare professionals.

You are pretty much exemplifying what I referred to as “lack of nuance”with the simple smear “its quackery” if it does not “work". The discussion of what “works” is too involved for commentaries in other people’s blogs, but again, its actually a fairly complex subject that can be addressed at various levels - if one is so inclined. The Science Blog staffers have touched on several aspects of this over the years. The point here is what do you call it if it does “work”? Ideally I suppose nothing :) but we seem to need to name & classify stuff. Give me an alternative that works for you.

The question is what are we discussing and why? If you are happy with your soundbytes - that’s your right of course. If a cancer patient experiencing chemo induced N&V asked if ginger might help I would say try it, it might. Zofran is hardly a panacea after all and can actually make those sx worse in some instances. What would you say? Quackery because there is no trial support for ginger in CINV? Maybe these questions do not come up in your world, but things are rarely conveniently black and white….

As for Romm, I frankly have no idea what she typically recommends, (although she appears now to not recommend goopdom) but I hesitate to presume that its solely financially motivated; finances necessarily affect the majority of medical practice in our culture. And It was not my point re Orac’s post.

I just ran across a woomeister who makes Dr. Romm look like a sober and rational practitioner.

Dr. Karen Kan bills herself as an "Earth Angel Starseed" physician. According to her website: "Her empathic specialty is sensing and clearing Dark Spirit influences from her patients and clients from all timelines and dimensions and helping people navigate the Ascension with greater ease."

Dr. Kan sells a bunch of nifty supplements and other products on her site, including a line of audios and videos of which the following is my favorite:

"Ascension 1 All-in-One: Removes negative energy including curses, entities, negative cords, energy weapons, implants from all time lines and dimensions at the speed that is perfect for you or the person/place/thing you target. It also downloads the Universal shield to protect you from negative energy."


Dr. Kan (who has a radio show) is also an "award-winning" acupuncturist and an antivaxer. Who'da thunk it?

I'm sure Dr. Kan won't mind a little snickering at her brand of bizarre woo, since she no doubt has a Universal shield deployed to protect her from negative energy.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 01 Aug 2017 #permalink

Sara: "Wow. I’m glad he got fired."

Oh, so was I. He was an insufferable twit. The polar opposite of the dude he copied off of... a guy that I would have gladly worked for.

jonno: " Ideally I suppose nothing ? but we seem to need to name & classify stuff. Give me an alternative that works for you. "

What do you call "alternative medicine that works"? We call it "medicine." See this:

By the way, the most recent cancer breakthroughs are way over in the fringes of the imagination. Some actually work. So there is actual value in real scientific research.

Because the "fringes of the imagination" are only in the minds of those who do not actually understand the science. This is what we in the autism community find when several genetic sequences have been found to cause the behaviors, but the "vaccines cause autism" and "this will cure it" folks refuse acknowledge that research.

All I say to them is to get their family as participants of https://sparkforautism.org ... become part of the solution, and stop being part of the problem.

@jonno: your examples of ginger aren't really good ones. Most people - physicians as well as lay - know that ginger *may* help with mild nausea and vomiting. However, if you try to tell someone who is vomiting uncontrollably to try ginger instead of Zofran, you'll probably get laughed out of the room (or vomited on). I love ginger and use it for mild nausea. However, since I tend to vomit uncontrollably after anesthesia, I make sure any doctor is aware of that and get Zofran instead of ginger ale.

Also - you have to understand drug interactions. If the ginger is going to react negatively with a patient's medication, then maybe you DON'T want them using it.

If the ginger is going to react negatively...

Gingers are negative about everything, with the sole exception of this guy.

"helping people navigate the Ascension with greater ease"

I prefer GPS.

Dangerous Bacon:Wow. all the woo in one handy package. I am so tempted to submit her site to a podcast I know of.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 02 Aug 2017 #permalink

"Her empathic specialty is sensing and clearing Dark Spirit influences from her patients and clients from all timelines and dimensions"

I'd really like to meet some patients from other timelines and dimensions.

While driving home from work today I was treated to an ad for "Juice Beauty" cosmetics featuring Gwyneth Paltrow. Checking into one type of goop this company recommends applying around your eyes, I was shocked to see the following ingredients:

"sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, ethylhexylglycerin, panthenol, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, tocopherol, sodium hyaluronate, stearic acid, butyrospermum parkii, allantoin."

Those are CHEMICALS!* And as the Food Babe has told us, there is no safe level of any chemical in our bodies. Also, many people can't pronounce those words, so they must be especially dangerous chemicals. Shame, Gwyneth.

*malic acid, citric acid, stearic acid and tartaric acid are also listed components of Juice Beauty's products. ACIDS to put on your skin, and (shudder) around your eyes? What was she thinking?
**even more shockingly, one of the company's anti-wrinkle "eye care" concoctions contains "fruit stem cells". What if these are absorbed into the bloodstream and become differentiated fruit cells in your body, causing you to start budding, leafing and fruiting? This could be worse than anything Monsanto has done. :(

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 04 Aug 2017 #permalink

It is sad to see quality adhesives like Shoe Goo and Gorilla Glue suffer guilt by association with these profoundly goofy patent medicines and the carnies that hawk them.

It is sad to see quality adhesives like Shoe Goo and Gorilla Glue suffer guilt by association with these profoundly goofy patent medicines and the carnies that hawk them.

My thoughts exactly!!! (Ahemm...I sold-short Goop™ hand cleaner a few weeks ago and I'm making a killing.)