With the growing amount of misinformation on nutrition and health, it’s getting more difficult for people to figure out what is based in good science. And if you’re wondering if a certain individual, program, or website is legitimate, it is not straightforward to find out . . .
The prefix “Dr” can’t be trusted (hello Dr Oz, Perlmutter, Davis, Lundel, Berg . . . ). Many of these health gurus cherry-pick studies – that is, they cite the research that supports their opinion without considering the body of scientific evidence. Also, they often promise their diet/supplement/program will cure whatever ails you and provide alluring anecdotes to sell their stories (and often dietary supplements . . .). Another common narrative is a conspiracy focus, or telling readers that decades of nutrition/health research is wrong . . .
Check here for my growing list of Nutrition & Health Experts You Shouldn’t Trust. Here are some of the latest additions . . .
David “Avocado” Wolfe
This pseudoscience peddler has a thing for names – beyond using “avocado” as his middle name (which places him above David Perlmutter on my list), he calls himself “the rock star and Indiana Jones of the superfoods and longevity universe.” If that is not enough to get your pseudoscience spidey senses tingling, there is plenty more. His stories and scams prey on science illiteracy and he makes plenty of money from his followers. For example, he claims that high frequency radio waves are “unnatural” and dangerous (but you can buy expensive pillow cases and sheets at his online store to protect you); and invents food scare tactics so that you can buy his “superfood” supplements; and discourages vaccines and effective cancer treatments in favor of his woo. He is very good at marketing and draws people in with cute memes – he has a popular facebook page (723K fans) and at least seven different websites.
- David Avocado Wolfe Page on Bad Science Debunked (Badsciencedebunked.com)
- How is it that I’ve never heard of David Avocado Wolfe before? (Scienceblogs.com)
- The David Avocado Wolfe Effect (Dan Broadbent, AScienceEnthusiast.com)
- Ten Facebook Pages You Need to Stop Sharing From Part 2 (Dawn Pedesen)
- David Wolfe Page on Rational Wiki
Dave Aspey – Bulletproof Executive
Dave Aspey, the bulletproof executive, is an entrepreneur, blogger, and paleo proponent who is good at selling things but doesn’t know much about health or nutrition (but tries to sound sciency by citing cherry picked studies to back up his dubious claims). His main claim to fame is Bulletproof® coffee, which I wrote about here. Claims for bulletproof coffee include that it helps burn fat, provides lasting energy, improves focus, helps gain muscle, increases mental acuity, helps digestion, and improves heart health.
But . . . you need to buy his special Upgraded™ coffee that is low in mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are a form of mold found on coffee beans and in greater amounts on many other foods (e.g., raisins, peanuts, beer, wine, pork, corn, sweet potatoes): most mycotoxins on coffee beans are destroyed by roasting, and there is no evidence that low levels are harmful to health.
Bulletproof coffee is not a healthy breakfast: it provides about 460 calories and about 47 g fat (mostly saturated), taking the place of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. There is no good evidence that a breakfast of coffee with large quantities of saturated fat (butter and oil) delivers any of the laundry list of benefits beyond potential short-term cognitive or long-term health benefits of coffee.
Why stop at coffee when you can make so much money? Beyond his bulletproof coffee Aspey sells books and a variety of products (supplements, foods, technologies, coaching) claiming to improve health. And of course, there is the bulletproof diet (a “revolutionary” weight loss plan. . . but works best with his products), described so well by health and science writer Julia Beluz as follows:
“The Bulletproof Diet is like a caricature of a bad fad-diet book. If you took everything that’s wrong with eating in America, put it in a Vitamix, and shaped the result into a book, you’d get the Bulletproof Diet.
The book is filled with dubious claims based on little evidence or cherry picked studies that are taken out of context. The author, Dave Asprey, vilifies healthy foods and suggests part of the way to achieve a “pound a day” weight loss is to buy his expensive, “science-based” Bulletproof products.”
- The Bulletproof Diet is everything wrong with eating in America (Julia Beluz, Vox.com)
- Why BulletProof Diet/Coffee is based on a fraud (Steve Magness, Science of Running)
- Bulletproof Coffee: Debunking the Hot Buttered Hype (Gizmodo.com)
- Bullshitproof Diet (SciBabe)
You may have seen a viral post “World Renowned Heart Surgeon Speaks Out On What Really Causes Heart Disease.” In the post Lundell proclaims that decades of research and guidelines for heart disease prevention are wrong (the “we’ve been lied to” narrative that is so popular . . .) , and the he has the answer in his books “The Cure for Heart Disease” or “The Great Cholesterol Lie.”
Heart disease is complex, as is the science of how different kinds of foods affect our bodies and the role that different kinds of fats play in disease. The evidence-based to date does not support Lundel’s oversimplified ideas.
- A Heart Surgeon’s Viral Confession (James Hamblin, The Atlantic)
- A Skeptical Look at Dwight Lundell, M.D. (Quackwatch)
Eric Berg is a popular health and wellness “expert” (actually a chiropractor who has ventured beyond his realm of expertise). He has a website and many videos promoting unscientific health advice, and books including The 7 Principles of Fat Burning: Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Keep it Off! and Dr. Berg’s Body Shapes Diets. Some of his bogus health and wellness treatments have included Body Response Technique, Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique, Contact Reflex Analysis, and testing with an Acoustic Cardiograph. His unsubstantiated claims for his therapeutic treatments have been the subject of disciplinary action by the Virginia Board of Medicine. Some of his treatments relate to “adrenal fatigue” – a term not recognized by any endocrinology society and a syndrome that experts have confirmed does not exist.
Some of his diet advice is extremely and unnecessarily restrictive (anti-wheat; anti-carbohydrate); he advocates weight loss based on a bogus hormone body type (adrenal, ovary, liver, thyroid); talks about “fat burning” hormones (they don’t exist); and includes a “detox phase” in his diet plan (a term that should raise your quack alarm).
As typical with many of these so-called health experts, his website includes a shop with unproven supplements (e.g. adrenal body type package, estrogen balance kit) that beyond being a complete waste of money, could quite possibly do you more harm than good.
Kris Carr is a self-proclaimed cancer-lifestyle guru with a very large following. She is not an oncologist, an expert in nutrition, or a scientist who knows how to interpret research. All cancers are different and respond to different treatments. Her advice about diets is not accurate, and she recommends detoxes and cleanses.
For example, she advocates juicing because ” alkaline juices help to detoxify your body. They raise your pH and help pull out old waste from your colon and tissues.” First of all, detoxing is a myth, as is the influence of acid or alkaline foods on health. The environment in which foods are digested is complex, and many scientists question the accuracy of methods used to calculate the acidity of foods (more about alkaline diets here). She recommends fasting because it “removes stored toxins and excess waste” a statement that makes no sense.
Lifestyle habits and nutrition can certainly play a role in the incidence and survival of some cancers, but Kris Carr is not a good source for this information. For terrific free science-based information on this topic, visit the American Institute for Cancer Research.
- The Weekly Woo: Crazy, Sexy Bullshit (Scibabe)
For more Nutrition & Health experts you shouldn’t trust, see this page or the list below.
I will keep adding, but am limited because . . .
“The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” – Alberto Brandolini
- David Avocado Wolfe
- Dave Aspey – Bulletproof Executive
- David Perlmutter (Grain Brain)
- Dwight Lundel (The Cure for Heart Disease, The Great Cholesterol Lie)
- Eric Berg
- Erin Elizabeth (Health Nut News Facebook Page)
- Gary Taubes (Good Calories Bad Calories; Why We Get Fat)
- Gwyneth Paltrow
- Joseph Mercola
- Kris Carr (Crazy Sexy Cancer)
- Mark Hyman
- Mehmet Oz
- Mike Adams (Natural News Website)
- Nina Teicholz (Big Fat Surprise)
- Pete Evans (The Paleo Way; Bubba Yum Yum)
- Rocco DiSpirito (Cook Your Butt Off)
- William Davis (Wheat Belly)
- Tim Noakes (The Real Meal Revolution)
- Vani Hari (AKA The Food Babe)