Sarah Hershberger and Zija MLM

Like many cases of children with cancer whose parents tried to deny them curative therapy in the past that I’ve written about, I’ve become intensely interested in the case of 10-year-old Amish girl with lymphoblastic lymphoma. Her name is Sarah Hershberg, and, in a rare instance of the state actually stepping in to protect the life of a child whose parents choose quackery over effective therapy, the court actually named a guardian to make medical decisions for her, leading the quacks and quack apologists to lose their minds. Sadly, the Hershbergers have reportedly fled the country, although, curiously, no mainstream news outlet has reported this, only quack-friendly sources, such as Chris Wark.

As I’ve mentioned before, the outraged pro-quackery contingent has been flooding the Facebook page of Akron Children’s Hospital with their anger. The messages have a very depressing similarity. The parents’ rights are being trampled. Sarah Hershberger is being poisoned by fascist jackboot pharma shill thugs. Yada yada. Interestingly, however, a man named LeRoy Keim, who is apparently related to Isaac Keim, Sarah Hersberger’s grandfather, who gave an interview to Chris Wark over the weekend in which a number of highly dubious claims were made, made an appearance on the ACH Facebook page touting the interview with Chris Wark. In response, a “friend” posted a link to a fairly comprehensive post about the Sarah Hershberg case, which led LeRoy Keim to respond:

As i said before those that are ignorant abut natural healing and health are the once that will suffer for it ! Its interesting to see the perspective from someone with a different view and does not know the people involved ! if there is any child out there that was diagnosed with exactly the same kind of cancer that Sarah had and they did the full 27 mo chemo or are still in the process of doing it i would like to know how she is doing and see which one has the best quality of life , just a thought . I will leave a link to my website and if you check it out that is why I believe in the benifit of getting the right nutrition !

No one’s arguing that quality of life isn’t important. However, an even better question to ask is this. Out of children diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma, the type of cancer that Sarah has, how many of those treated with the full 27 month course of chemotherapy are alive after five years compared to the number alive who were not so treated? The answer is: A lot more. As I’ve explained many times before, back in the early days of chemotherapy for pediatric malignancies, doctors would stop the chemotherapy after patients went into remission after the first induction round of chemotherapy. The cancers invariably came roaring back. That’s what Sarah’s doctors fear will happen if she doesn’t complete her course of chemotherapy, and that’s why ACH sued to appoint a medical guardian for her after her parents stopped her chemotherapy.

What’s more interesting to me is Mr. Keim’s website. I had never heard of Zija before; so I did a bit of investigating. Perusing the website, I learned that Zija is some sort of “natural” weight loss system that claims:

Designed to work with your body’s natural abilities, Zija’s Weight Management System utilizes the amazing health benefits of Moringa to deliver maximum nutrition all day and night. Each product provides a healthy dose of 90+ verifiable, cell-ready vitamins, minerals, vital proteins, antioxidants, omega oils, and other benefits. Our unique system focuses on balance and energy, including healthy eating, consistent exercise, and restful sleep. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to meet your weight management goals with nature on your side!

Based on what? Apparently this:

Our story begins with one man viewing a documentary about a plant grown in far away lands. His interest piqued as he observed people being sustained by consuming small amounts of this “miracle tree”, which is being called “the most nutrient-rich plant ever discovered.” This man was Ken Brailsford, a pioneer in the nutritional supplement industry, the “Father of Herbal Encapsulation”, and the Founder of Zija International.

Ken began asking the right questions and learning as much as he could from scientists, biochemists and pharmacologists the world over. He worked closely with Monica Marcu, Ph.D., a highly respected botanical researcher and clinical pharmacologist, as well as the author of “Miracle Tree”, a book about Moringa’s qualities and benefits. He also enlisted the help of Russ Bianchi world-renowned Scientist and Food Formulator, to develop new ways to maximize Moringa’s amazing health benefits. The result is Zija’s collection of Moringa-based products including nutritionals, natural energy drinks, a weight management system, and a line of skin care products.

Ongoing Moringa research has been validated with hundreds of thousands of positive individual experiences. Moringa is changing lives every day, and Zija is positioned to deliver it to the world!

If you search for “Moringa tree” on Google, you’ll find a plethora of health benefits claimed for it, ranging from weight loss to all sorts of health benefits, such as controlling hypertension, improved digestion and mood, and, of course, the ubiquitous “boosting of the immune system.” If Mike Adams’ says it’s true, it must be true, right? Well, not so much. As Botswana Skeptic points out, there has actually been a fair amount of research, done on various Moringa products, with 313 entries on PubMed. However, there are no randomized controlled studies, other than for a veterinary study and as a means of assisting the purification of drinking water. There are all sorts of suggestive preclinical studies, but nothing definitive.

It’s also obvious that Zija is a multilevel marketing (MLM) company very much like a depressingly long line of MLM “opportunities” that supplement manufacturers promote. It’s basically the Herbalife that I hadn’t heard of before.

So what does this all mean? Who knows? However, it is rather interesting that Sarah Hershberger’s family believes in “nutritional healing,” while having a relative who is a distributor in an MLM scheme that sells supplements using overblown health claims. Clearly, there is a contingent of the Hershberger family that is steeped in woo, with one family member a distributor in an MLM system to sell supplements and “natural” weight loss products. Unfortunately, that belief in woo could cost a little girl her life.