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Mitchell and Webb strike again…this time, bogus nutritionists!

First, Mitchell and Webb took on homeopathy. This week, it’s bogus (word choice intentional) “nutritionists“:

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

26 replies on “Mitchell and Webb strike again…this time, bogus nutritionists!”

Great post! Thanks for mustering the energy to return to the blog so quickly. BTW if I could have afforded to go to TAM, I would have had you on my “must meet and get picture/autograph” list.

Cheers

Mitchell is a frequent guest on Stephen Fry’s QI as well. You might want to check it out. It’s a funny show where many of the show panellists are outspoken sceptics.

I’ve often wondered what tiny percent (if any) of the many people I’ve met who say they’re allergic to wheat and/or dairy (many of them of standard Indo-European stock – i.e., thousands of years of wheat farming and dairy animal product consumption have gone into the development of their gene pools) have actually been tested by a real doctor with actual training in nutrition. Most likely they’ve been persuaded instead by the sorts depicted here – or simply self-diagnosed, encouraged by something they read.

I’ve often wondered what tiny percent (if any) of the many people I’ve met who say they’re allergic to wheat and/or dairy (many of them of standard Indo-European stock – i.e., thousands of years of wheat farming and dairy animal product consumption have gone into the development of their gene pools) have actually been tested by a real doctor with actual training in nutrition. Most likely they’ve been persuaded instead by the sorts depicted here – or simply self-diagnosed, encouraged by something they read.

I think they got a dig in there at Gillian McKeith, or “The awful poo lady” as Ben Goldacre insists on calling her

I’m ashamed to say that, due to time constraints, I’ve missed almost all of That Mitchell and Webb Look on TV, despite loving That Mitchell and Webb Sound, the radio precursor. That had an awesome series of sketches culminating with Lions In Snooker.
David M also has a radio show The Awful Truth that’s well worth chasing down.

Prod to be a Merkin:

Or they could have crashed on wheat or dairy when they got muscle-tested for it at their friendly ND’s office.

They missed one big bet.

“She wants to get her nutrition from eating fruits and vegetables!”
“What, does she think humans evolved without taking supplements or something? Nutrition can only be obtained from the pills we sell – at a large profit, let us remember.”

Speaking as someone who has her original science degree in microbiology, immunology and nutrition, and a subsequent MPH and PhD in epidemiology, I shudder with a combination of shame and annoyance that human nutrition is being subsumed within the woo-world.

Yep, the majority of the worried-well must be lactose and gluten intolerant – NOT! Every single naturopath tells every single client that they must be intolerant to lactose and gluten, condemning the client to being a pain in the arse in restaurants! And then every single client must take a bizarre concoction of supplements (that have no effect but cost big bucks, and must be bought from that naturopath).

I should have been a botonist. No nutter argues with you then.

DebinOz-

This is true.

Medics get the whole alt-med shebang to cope with.

Geologists get the whole creationist thingie.

Physicists get the use of the word ‘quantum’ before absolutely everything.

Chemists seem fairly lucky, homeopathy aside. Oh, and cosmetics adverts to cope with.

Botanists.. yes, thanks for pointing that out, I think we are going to have to invent a whole new insane belief system just to annoy you..

Cringe at me typing ‘botonist’ 🙁 I’m in Australia where it is past midnight!

I guess the point is, how do we, as real sciency-types, reclaim our science from the woo-meisters? My own personal victories have been ludicrously pathetic. Family members have consulted homeopaths, much to my chagrin. They have been given supplements and instructions on low lactose and low gluten diets, as per usual. Needless to say, there would be no change in whatever it is that they are seeing the naturopath for, such as, anxiety, asthma, etc.

Truly, I am the older family member, in the white coat who has actually used test-tubes (and forget about that PhD from UC Berkeley), who is a skeptic. This gets translated to ‘cynical’ and therefore disbelieved.

I guess the point is, how do we, as real sciency-types, reclaim our science from the woo-meisters?

I’m partial to chainsaws and dynamite, myself, but society tends to frown on such measures.

@Prod: My understanding is that celiac is under-diagnosed. Of course I’m not sure what the overlap is between people claiming to have a wheat issue of some kind vs. people who actually have one. No one is harmed by cutting out wheat products, so it’s not really a big deal IMO. Certainly no skin off the nose of a random unaffected onlooker.

Wow, the new season (pardon, series) of Mitchell and Webb is showing up all over the place in different clips on all my favorite blogs, each one perfectly skewering something that greatly deserves it. Anyone seen any rumors anywhere about when it will show up on BBC America, or any other american network? The web site doesn’t have any info, and nothing on a quick google.

Don’t remember how we got into it, must’ve been a promo during Graham Norton, but it was a damn funny show, even when the highlight of the show for us was just Numberwang.

Oh, and speaking as a chemist, it’s not just the homeopathy and cosmetics ads that make me cringe, but the way things are advertised as being “all natural – chemical free!” is a pretty big teeth gnasher. Granted, it now seems to present itself as more “without harsh chemicals” which I guess is at least theoretically possible, though makes me wonder what would be the point of cleaning with chemicals that AREN’T “harsh”. Am I supposed to tickle the mildew out off the shower walls? But, of course, it still leaves the impression that all chemicals are “harsh” – ok, rant mode in full swing, what on earth does that mean? Must have missed that week – I mean, spend a month going over all the different types of acid/base pairs, didn’t leave a lot of time for harsh/perfectly natural pairs. Though, you would think they would have made time at some point, ok, maybe not in general HS chemistry, but certainly in AP, and then it should have shown up at least one of the elective courses in college and/or grad school. And, um, since everything is made of chemicals, that would imply that there are some that are not “harsh” – what are those called? Chemists love their naming pair conventions, can’t think of any category that has a name that doesn’t have a name for things that are not in that category.

That being said, I’m ok with the use of the word organic, even though from what I understand, the word isn’t quite as specific in advertising use as in the chemistry textbooks, and has great variation between certifying agencies. Though, I wonder, would calling a product “chemically organic” fly, since you would clearly be referring to the carbon-containing meaning?

Though, anything to do with all the wonderful benefits of “negative ions,” since it’s generally impossible to create one w/o also creating a positive ion. And, if you do manage to surround yourself with enough negative ions to have any major perceived benefit, wouldn’t that just turn you into a giant positive-ion magnet?

I recently had to explain to someone that ‘organic solvents’ can be really, really nasty! I am just waiting for the day that some woo-peddler markets a concoction extracted using organic solvents, as if it was a good thing.

delurking late to say: as a realsie-trusie diagnosed celiac, I benefit from the increase in “gluten intolerance”, as it’s greatly expanded the foods I can buy and the places I can eat out… Sometimes I feel a little dirty, but then I have something that’s real food and I get over it.

Apparently there are a lot of folks here who are too busy being skeptics to actually read any medical research such as this article stating that undiagnosed celiac disease is on the rise. . . of course the study was conducted by those quacks over at the Mayo Clinic. . not that anybody would take THEM seriously. . . ‘

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/156401.php

Yeah, I took this a little personal. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease by a gastroenterologist, using the proper tests. Unfortunately, it took many years to even be considered as a diagnosis. I think a little more public awareness is a good thing.

Of course, the quacks should still be corralled, but you could at least mention that there are real (peer-reviewed, bona fide) conditions that result from gluten sensitivity, instead of leaving it to the comments.

Yeah, I took this a little personal. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease by a gastroenterologist, using the proper tests. Unfortunately, it took many years to even be considered as a diagnosis. I think a little more public awareness is a good thing.

Of course, the quacks should still be corralled, but you could at least mention that there are real (peer-reviewed, bona fide) conditions that result from gluten sensitivity, instead of leaving it to the comments.

Well, it’s comedy. The purpose is primarily to entertain, not to present a balanced argument.

I don’t think M&W were poking fun at your condition as much as the quack tendency to oversimplify and use catch-all explanations.

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