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America’s quack: Dr. Mehmet Oz

Dr. Mehmet Oz used to be a rising star in academic surgery, a highly skilled cardiac surgeon with a strong track record of publications in the peer-reviewed literature. Then he met Oprah and became America’s quack.

Sometimes, when you’re blogging, serendipity strikes. Sometimes this takes the form of having something appear related to something you just blogged about. Yesterday, I discussed one of the biggest supporters of quackery on the Internet, Mike Adams, a.k.a. the Health Ranger, proprietor of NaturalNews.com, one of the quackiest, if not the quackiest site, on the Internet, NaturalNews.com. This time around, I was simply using one of Adams’ wonderfully incoherent defenses of alternative medicine thinking to demonstrate how much magical thinking exists at the core of alternative medicine and how akin to religion those beliefs can be.

Here’s where the serendipity comes in. Yesterday morning after I got up, as is my wont I checked my e-mail to see what had arrived overnight. Because I subscribe to a number of quack and antivaccine mailing lists to provide me with blog fodder, I happen to subscribe to Mike Adams NaturalNews.com mailing list. What to my wondering—a better word is probably “despairing”—eyes should appear but this: “Health Ranger appearing today on famous TV doctor’s show to discuss toxic heavy metals,” which lead to this: Health Ranger appears on Doctor Oz show to discuss toxic heavy metals in superfoods.

My jaw dropped. My eye started twitching. Just when I thought that Dr. Oz couldn’t go any lower, couldn’t invite a bigger quack on his show to fawn over and publicize, couldn’t sell out more to the forces of quackery, he does. I mean, seriously. Joe Mercola, who’s been on Dr. Oz’s show on multiple occasions, has nothing on this guy, and at least Joe Mercola has an actual medical degree. True, that could make Mercola more dangerous in the long run, but he’s got it. Indeed, when Dr. Oz first invited Mercola on his show, as quacky as Mercola is, I figured he’d never invite Mike Adams on his show too, because Mercola can at least walk the walk of seeming to be medically authoritative while Adams is an out and out conspiracy loon. How wrong I was! In fact, when I recently quipped that Dr. Oz’s evolution into Mike Adams was continuing apace less than two weeks ago, never did I imagine that the two would be teaming up to promote Adams’ mercenary attack on his competitors in which he tests their products for “heavy metal” toxins and then publicizes the results in order to undermine their sales in favor of his own “clean superfoods.” But Oz did.

So, my heart was heavy and my brain dreading what I knew I would have to do last night. I would have to watch the Mike Adams segment on a DVR’d Dr. Oz Show, because I didn’t want to wait a couple of days for the segment to show up on Dr. Oz’s website. (Fear not, when the link goes live I’ll add it to this post. ADDENDUM: The links are live. See ADDENDUM.) And watch it I did. Fortunately, it was relatively brief, but sometimes the briefest pain is the most intense. As expected, it was a fawning puff piece, painting Adams as a “whistleblower” (he’s nothing of the sort; he’s a supplement entrepreneur), as someone who “bucks conventional wisdom” and “researches the truth” in his “quest to be ahead of the curve.” We also learn that Adams is someone whose website gets 7 million unique visits per month, which makes Mike Adams the Dr. Oz of the quackosphere. Adams is even described—with a straight face, even!—as an “activist researcher,” complete with background shots of him allegedly working in his laboratory. Truly, Dr. Oz has become America’s quack.

Somehow, I can’t help but mention at this point this video of Adams in his lab that he released a couple of days ago in an article entitled Health Ranger releases expanded video tour of ICP-MS food research lab and shares passion for Clean Food Movement. The link can also be accessed here, as it has been pointed out to me that there seems to be some sort of redirect funkiness going on such that clicking on a link to NaturalNews.com from here results in a different page coming up, even though the URL is correct.

This video is hilarious in that Adams seems to be practically screaming, “Hey, look at me! I’m not a fake! I’m a real scientist! There’s no green screen here!” Seriously, he takes half the video demonstrating that he isn’t sitting in front of a green screen and that his scientific instruments are real. Of course, no one’s really questioned whether his instruments are real. We question whether he has the first clue how to use them properly, and certainly there’s nothing in the video to suggest that he does. Hilariously, he goes on and on about how he has a “real lab,” at one point saying that, if this wasn’t a real lab, then his numbers wouldn’t be real. Of course, he seems oblivious to how much of a non sequitur that is. That could certainly be a real lab, and Adams’ numbers could still just as easily not be real.

In fact, looking at him fumbling with various instruments, I asked myself why Adams went to all the trouble to put a lab together like this when it would have been a lot less trouble and almost certainly a lot cheaper just to send the samples he wanted to test to a reputable lab to do the mass spectroscopy. The answer that seems most likely to me is that all that equipment (which is really not very much) is all there for show, and that the show is far more important than actually getting accurate measurements. If Adams wanted to convince me that he could run an actual mass spectroscopy assay and produce accurate results, he could accomplish that by videotaping a real analytical chemist watching him do a complete assay, from start to finish, from sample preparation and the running of standards to running the samples and analyzing the data. I predict that Adams will never show us this. Instead we get silly videos in which he throws things around to prove there’s no “green screen” and says that “everyone who’s tried to refute our numbers has failed, which is funny because I haven’t seen any independent laboratories confirming Adams’ findings.

In any case, the contempt Adams has for his audience is palpable, as he shows rows of sample tubes as though that would be enough to show that he knows what he’s doing, while blathering on and on about doing “real science.” In reality, even if he is getting numbers that are accurate he’s functioning as no more than a technician doing measurements, not a scientist designing experiments to test hypotheses. He’s also apparently working with nitric acid, which is a scary thought. I certainly wouldn’t want to be anywhere near him when he’s “working,” having once accidentally splashed myself with aqua regia (1:3 ratio of concentrated nitric and hydrochloric acids) in college. Even though it was just a couple of tiny drops, it ate right through my lab coat, and I still bear two small scars on my arm from the burns. I learned my lesson, and nothing like that ever happened again, which is why I won’t go near someone who is working with dangerous chemicals but clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing.

In any case, a lot of nonsense and kissing of Adams’ posterior are packed into Dr. Oz’s brief segment with him. I never knew Oz could do a colonoscopy with his face, but he’s certainly made sure that Adams doesn’t have a single suspicious polyp all the way up to his terminal ileum. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. That’s doctor humor there.) Oz begins by pointing out how he frequently gets an “earful” from his mother-in-law about what the “Health Ranger” wrote, which is unfortunate. Adams is very popular. The segment then goes on and on about how Adams is adored by the alternative health set but “reviled” by scientists. Given how far down the rabbit hole of quackery Adams has gone, it’s not surprising that it never occurs to him that there are very good reasons why scientists and physicians who support science-based medicine revile Adams. He promotes pseudoscience. He’s the Kevin Trudeau of his generation, now that Kevin Trudeau is going to jail. His business model is basically the same.

What’s not known by many people is that Adams got his start selling a Y2K scam, basically a “preparedness site.” Indeed, it’s been a consistent pattern throughout his entire misbegotten “career” to use fear mongering to sell product or to sell himself. He did it with Y2K. He did it with Fukushima. Oh, and he also made a lot of money selling spam software.

Obviously, Adams’ next money making scheme is to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about supplements, the better to sell his “clean” superfoods, supplements, and other products. His appearance on Dr. Oz’s show is clearly designed to promote his brand, and promote it he did, with Oz’s enthusiastic help. The segment had a scary title about “poison in America’s food.” There was plenty of conspiracy-mongering about companies trying to shut him down and the FDA being clueless, with Adams finding cadmium, tungsten, lead, and arsenic in all sorts of samples. Perhaps the most hilarious part was when Oz included aluminum in a list of metals that “shouldn’t be in food.” I thought Oz was supposed to be a doctor, and a doctor should know that aluminum is ubiquitous in the environment. Of course it’s in our foods. There’s lots of aluminum in food, and at the levels typically seen it’s safe. Surely, as a doctor, Dr. Oz should know that, shouldn’t he? But instead, he lumped aluminum in with cadmium, lead, and tungsten. In fact, we need certain metals to survive, like iron, for instance.

Perhaps the key example of how intellectually dishonest Dr. Oz’s approach is comes later in the segment when he discusses how Adams has analyzed various protein powders derived from rice. To be fair, Adams did say something that is probably true, namely that metal levels in such products that come from China were much higher than in products from the US. In any case, these rice protein extracts were said to contain “alarming levels” of lead, cadmium, and tungsten, and Dr. Oz stoked alarm almost as well as Mike Adams can by telling his audience that there are no standards for cadmium in food. It’s not true, of course. The FDA does have guidelines for lead and cadmium (among other metals) in foods, and the FDA has established Provisional Daily Total Tolerable Intakes (PDTTI) for several at risk groups. What Oz decides to focus on is the legal limit for lead declared by California Proposition 65, which is 0.5 μg/d. This is shown graphically, with Oz standing in front of two bars declaring that the rice protein powder is 20 times higher. What does that mean? Who knows? One can assume that he means that if one were to eat a certain amount of rice powder considered a day’s intake you’d get 10 μg of lead, but it’s not at all clear.

Oz finishes the segment by referring viewers to Mike Adams’ test results. Naturally, I couldn’t resist moseying on over to take a look. For lead, I saw concentrations ranging from around 0.05 ppm to 0.533 ppm. For comparison, the action level for lead in drinking water is 0.15 mg/L, or 0.15 ppm. Of course, food and water aren’t exactly comparable. So some of those powders have concerning levels of lead? Probably. That’s assuming you trust Adams’ numbers, which I do not.

In any case, by having a scammer like Mike Adams on his show and representing him as some sort of “whistleblower” and “food safety activist” is akin to having Andrew Wakefield on a show and portraying him as a “vaccine safety activist.” Adams is no such thing. By supporting Adams, Oz has become a scammer himself. I highly doubt that Oz’s producers are so ignorant or incompetent as not to be aware of Adams’ background, his appearances on Alex Jones’ network, and his conspiracy mongering rivals that of Jones himself. They didn’t care and chose to ignore the blindingly obviously unsavory elements in Adams’ past and present schtick, all in search of providing bread and circuses to their readers and thus bringing ratings to the show.

You might wonder what Dr. Oz thinks of all the criticism. In fact, I wondered the same thing myself last year when Michael Specter wrote a highly critical article for The New Yorker about Dr. Mehmet Oz. Of course, Oz doesn’t care about what a nobody blogger like myself or even P.Z. Myers (who, as popular as his blog might be, is still small potatoes compared to Oz’s reach with his television show) might say about him. But apparently he does care when a major magazine says something bad about him. I learned this when I found out over the weekend that Dr. Oz had been interviewed by Larry King for Ora.TV:

So that’s where Larry King ended up. Who knew?

In the segment above, King asks Dr. Oz how he would respond to the criticism Specter leveled at him in his article. Although he takes pains to say that parts of the article were “fair” and reasonable, Dr. Oz doesn’t look too happy about the question. In response, he then goes on to construct a false dichotomy, portraying Specter as “biased” in favor of the position that you should have strong scientific evidence to support a medical statement before making it in front of millions of people—as if that were a bad thing. Oz then tries to take the high ground by claiming that there are a lot of things that we don’t have a lot of evidence for (true) and that all he does is to do what every doctor does and extrapolate, “jumping to the next level” to give you “advice you can use.” Oz claims it’s the “extrapolation” from where “we know we are safe to where you need advice” that defines the art of medicine. As far as it goes, that’s not entirely unreasonable. The science of medicine is the scientific body of knowledge that tells us what treatments work, which ones do not, and which ones are uncertain. The art of medicine is applying that science, that knowledge base, to individual patients in order to treat them. That is the real personalization of medicine, not the “integration” of quackery like naturopathy, homeopathy, or traditional Chinese medicine into science-based medicine. In his response, Dr. Oz reminds me very much of Dr. David Katz.

I recently described how David Katz posits a false dichotomy: Either embrace quackery or be less than a “holistic” physician. In other words, the argument is that a doctor must embrace the quackery that is “complementary and alternative medicine” or “integrative medicine” if one wishes to take care of the “whole patient.” In just the same way, Oz is more than implying that one can’t properly extrapolate scientific evidence and clinical trial data to patients who might not “fit” without embracing quackery. Let’s put it this way. Dr. Oz has aired shows in which he has promoted quacks like Joseph Mercola (and now Mike Adams), enthusiastically recommended The One Quackery To Rule Them All (homeopathy) to his viewers, promoted faith healing quackery, and even suggested that faith healers like John Edward and the “Long Island MediumTheresa Caputo can be therapeutic counsellors after losses. More recently, Oz has tried to fan the flames of a discredited link between cell phones and cancer. If there’s a quackery out there, Dr. Oz has probably embraced it on his show, the only exception being (mostly) antivaccine quackery, and even then he’s definitely a bit squishy on the issue, thanks to his reiki master wife. Dr. Oz would have you believe that these are “extrapolations” but the only thing they are “extrapolations” from is reality—in exactly the wrong direction.

King finishes by asking Oz to respond to the idea that doctors should be optimists and that no doctor should tell a patient that he is terminal, because “no one knows.” To this, Oz responds that we “actually have to be more than just optimists, but irrational optimists.” Well, Dr. Oz has the irrational part down cold, at least when he’s on his television show. Sadly, my original quip about him becoming more like Mike Adams turned out to be more true than I could ever have imagined. Dr. Oz was once a rising star in academic surgery, with a growing list of strong publications in the peer-reviewed literature. Then he met Oprah Winfrey and morphed into America’s quack.

ADDENDUM: Holy hell. The links to the Mike Adams segments, The Whistleblower Who Found Poison in America’s Food are live (part 1, part 2, part 3). I warn you. It’s truly painful to watch.

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]

262 replies on “America’s quack: Dr. Mehmet Oz”

No metals in food? But…but…not long ago, I was forced to listen to Oz in a doctor’s office waiting room when he was extolling the virtues of cooking food in cast iron, because it would cause more iron to be present in one’s food. So….which is it? Metals or no metals?

I know it’s too much to ask that this will be the death knell of Oz’s show, but I’m still going to hope for it. I mean, COME ON.

Oz made the top row of this quackery poster: http://sci-ence.org/red-flags2/.

Quack MDs are damaging in two ways. They give false credibility to those like Adams, who have absolutely no training in healthcare or science. They also, however, cause others to doubt if MDs are really serious about science-based medicine, and in doing so, give the public a reason not to trust us. Shamefully state licensing boards and organizations like the AMA aren’t willing to do anything when a physician goes to quackery.

Sooner or later Oz will likely start selling his own line of supplements like other quackery promoters – at which point he’ll regret giving credence to people like Mercola and Adams (they have a big jump on him even without being hyped on Oz’s show).

I’m personally slightly surprised that Oz still involved himself in the whole “unsavory things in your food” tests – given that when the infamous “arsenic in applejuice” experiment went south, Oz actually was on the receiving end of a well-deserved verbal spanking from the FDA. It seems he has learned very little. But that probably speaks to the intelligence of his supporters, as well.

We use MS/MS every day in our lab. It’s not an easy thing to learn how to do procedure wise and it’s probably even harder to learn how to interpret the data. Oh well, I’m sure Adams has the owner’s manual somewhere in his lab.

Being relativity new to this blog community, I haven’t really looked around here (or elsewhere yet) to figure out what happened to Oz. When does someone like him, a seemingly once respected surgeon, jump the shark to peddling these wacko guests? Perhaps more importantly, how and why?

Mikey is doing this for The People’s benefit: he informs us that he could easily have used the money ( 300K USD) to buy himself a “nice house” but he DIDN’T!

From what I can ascertain, he *already* has a nice house and a huge property outside Austin: he shows videos of the wooded areas and animal life in ponds there. When he lived in Ecuador, he has a “food forest” surrounding his hacienda which he had on the market for 600K USD or so.
That was *in Ecuador*.

Thus, the amount of money invested in the lab probably is small change to him but a large amount to most of his audience. Like other woo-meisters, he attempts to portray himself as a regular guy- altho’ a genius or whatever- unlike those over-compensated doctors and professionals-
BUT in reality, he makes much more money than most all people including doctors- perhaps being on the same level as the CEOs and “banksters” he reviles.

The dirty little secret is that he and the other supplement gurus ARE Big Business. They earn boatloads of money by selling highly marked-up products of dubious value. Their avowed expertise is spurious at best and fraudulent at worst.

Adams’ lab is an expense necessary for creating advertising: it enables him to rook people into believing that he is a scientist and he knows better than they – and their doctors- do.

“…it would have been a lot less trouble and almost certainly a lot cheaper just to send the samples he wanted to test to a reputable lab to do the mass spectroscopy”

But there’s no guarantee a reputable lab would report the results Adams is looking for.

I think this quote from Roger Ebert about the film “Freddy got fingered” sums it up.
“This movie doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.”

My undergrad research was in a human metals nutrition lab. I can describe to you in great detail what happens to animal cells deprived of essential micronutrients. It ain’t pretty.

Essential “heavy metals” in diet:
Iron
Copper
Zinc
Molybdenum
Cobalt
Manganese

I would add selenium, which is a semi-metal but often lumped in. Without selenium, you can’t make selenocysteine, which is the 21st essential amino acid .

Mikey has an expensive toy but that doesn’t make him a scientist. In fact, being an activist disqualifies one from being an effective scientist. The fact that he’s also an entrepreneur makes him doubly unable to do real science. In short, this is the very definition and type of what Richard Feynman called “Cargo Cult Science”. He’s dancing around his wooden model of what a research lab look like, but is amazed when the science doesn’t come. He’s missing the heart and soul of research: ruthless and objective inquiry. He dare not expose his readers to anything that might make them question the conclusions he wants them to reach. His very livelihood depends on coming to certain conclusions… I would no more trust his results than I would research on smoking by Big Tobacco.

Mike Adams is something to be pitied. He’ll never see himself for what he truly is, because he doesn’t live in reality.

@ c0nc0rdance:

Today Mike discusses a few products of which he approves: are you telling me that those conclusions aren’t entirely based on his *research*?
NO!!!

Who wants to join me in doing a few exposes on idiots like Mercola, Adams, Chopra, and co.?

Maybe take the dirt we dig up on t.v. will help get the gullible to stop buying?

Good Morning c0nc0rdance.

in your post above (#10) – which I enjoyed to the degree that I’d bet I would enjoy speaking with you IRL – you’ve brought my attention to something I’ve not thought about, or that I have noticed being discussed; comparing being a scientist and being an activist…

“In fact, being an activist disqualifies one from being an effective scientist.”

I’m left to wonder, is this true?

Perhaps it is already well accepted here (I only discovered Orac’s blog this morning) and/or in the Real Science vs pseudoscience community at large. If so, before I shut up I’ll ask; has the term ‘activist’ been vulcanized to the concept of an ineffective scientist, bonded to the notion of Inquiry done Inappropriately?

If not, I’d like to suggest that the definition of an ‘activist’ not include, or imply, some inability to be objective, or to suggest that one who is ‘motivated to act’ necessarily has an agenda beyond developing and testing a hypothesis.
(Oh, and then, of course, being honest in assessing the results)
Cheers,

Not exactly on topic, but it fits here as well as any other recent post.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/13/why-primary-care-physicians-need-a-minimum-wage.html

A very interesting analysis of medical costs.

However, the math is simple. The average PCP has 2,500 patients and supposedly makes $180,000 a year. Therefore, the insurer is paying your primary care doctor $72 a year per patient—out of the $7,200 a year paid to the insurer. That’s 1% of the insurance premium. It works out to $6 a month (19.7 cents a day!) to have a highly trained professional overseeing your care.

We happily pay more for Netflix and consider it one of the best values around. Is your doctor worth less?

Even if you quibble with these numbers, consider that physician temp jobs pay $70 to $80 per hour—and doctors will see four patients an hour. That works out to $17.50 per visit, less than most co-pays. (Therefore, in many cases the insurer pays the physician nothing out of your insurance premium.) As for the $17.50 for the physician—that’s about $10 after taxes.

Given the amount of work that primary care doctors do, it’s simply inadequate compensation. And it shows. Physicians feel overworked and patients feel “under served.” So much so that plenty of patients are seeking out concierge physicians—and voluntarily paying extra cash—just to have an attentive doctor. If we continue this way, we run the very serious risk of having a two-tiered health care system—and anyone unable to pay cash will receive increasingly substandard care.

So, people are willing to pay more to get an attentive doctor, even if he’s a quack, than the medical system is compensating a real doctor.

A few weeks ago, Dr. Oz did a segment on outbreaks of measles and whooping cough and how they are ‘making a frightening comeback.’

He actually gave a good demonstration, putting little ‘m’ stickers on chairs in the audience to show how they could all get measles after someone had sat in the seats before the show.

He even talked about getting vaccinated.

It seems like he knows how to do worthwhile segments…

he could easily have used the money ( 300K USD) to buy himself a “nice house”

Depends on what Mikey considers a “nice house”, and where it is (the three most important things in real estate are location, location, and location). In a place where land costs are low (which includes most of Texas but not necessarily Austin), you can get an upper midrange home (but not luxury as it’s usually defined) for that kind of money. Where I live, you could buy my house, which is solidly midrange. In expensive real estate markets like NYC or coastal California (which I’m guessing are home to a sizable fraction of his customers, supplement costs being what they are), $300k might be enough to get you a postage stamp lot (sans house) in the bad part of town, if you are dealing with a motivated seller. That he was selling a house in Ecuador for north of $600k suggests that he’s looking for something beyond upper midrange.

Note also, in the still from the video that comes up when I load this page but before I play the video, he is standing next to two grocery bags from Whole Paycheck. Unless those bags contain samples, he’s violating a cardinal rule of lab safety: No Food or Drink in the Laboratory.

Oz’s primary professional responsibility isn’t dispensing sound health advice to his viewing audience: it’s generating maximal advertising revenue for his network. He does that, he gets paid, and I’m willing to bet that on average fewer viewers tune in to watch Dr. Oz repeat conventional wisdom (such that vaccines provide protection against infectious diseases like measles) than they do to watch him interview ‘mavericks” like Mercola and Adams, or bravely “buck the system” by promoting alt med like homeopathy.

King finishes by asking Oz to respond to the idea that doctors should be optimists and that no doctor should tell a patient that he is terminal, because “no one knows.” To this, Oz responds that we “actually have to be more than just optimists, but irrational optimists.”

That comment alone- in my eyes- proves that Oz is an *ss. While I grant that “no one knows”, science can give you room for a good guess.

I lost my husband to extensive non-small cell lung cancer. Fortunately for us both, I assumed that the doc was an idiot and did extensive research on my own, reading the same medical journals that one would reasonably assume the doc had access to. It was through this that we were able to surmise what we were probably up against.

Having this knowledge enabled us to make intelligent decisions about his care and about his life. We were empowered to have difficult discussions about things that no one ever wants to discuss- what he would like to do at the end of his life, what care he thought he would like to have, and more. We got our legal house in order as we got our emotional house in order.

I thank God every day that I chose to learn difficult facts and take appropriate action. What the doc was too chicken-sht to do- tell us the truth- could have been disastrous for my husband and I. Choosing to be aware of the whole picture insured that we didn’t squander the last precious days we had.

While optimism is a great and wonderful thing, reality has to be acknowledged at a minimum. Otherwise the patient can be denied the ability to make decisions that work for THEM. What works best for the doc shouldn’t be a consideration at all.

re: activist as scientist.

I’m not sure c0nc0rdance used the correct word in describing Mr. Adams when he described him as an activist. But the question “can an activist be a good scientist?” is a reasonable one. And the answer is yes, but …

As has been discussed before, when evaluating research (not replicating it) it can be important to do so in the context of the researchers’ conflicts of interests. These not only include financial interests but philosophical ones as well. Thus one might be more skeptical of studies showing, say, the levels of contaminants in herbal supplements if they were funded (or conducted) by people who sold an alternative line of herbal supplements; one might also approach the study with a jaundiced eye if the study was conducted by a person with a grudge against a particular herbal supplement company (even without a financial interest) or one who disapproves of farming/harvesting practices for the herbs in question. There is the possibility of confirmation bias at the very least.

However, it is perfectly possible to conduct valid work while believing very strongly that a particular outcome is desirable. If the actual facts support your views, it’s known as being right.

This is why replication of results by independent teams can be so important.

It’s unfortunate that Dr. Oz didn’t refer to himself as a cockeyed optimist, as that would have been a great song cue.

In the linked video, I found it amusing that all the benches were on wheels, and all the power was low to the ground. There are no sinks or hard-mounted safety equipment. That means that the “lab area” was repurposed office space (or a break room). The floor is even wood or wood laminate, which is rarely used in a research setting because the the little cracks between planks or sheets create biological and chemical hazards when things drip.

The MS and attached autosampler seems to be the only capital instrument he owns.

To “Dead Ernest” in #13, you ask a very good question for discussion: could an activist ever do good research in their area of activism? I would propose that the answer is no, not when the experimental design doesn’t include blinding and pre-registration. Science is a flawed human enterprise, but what it gets most right is that it is set up to avoid self-deception. You don’t have to look any further than my recent video on Andrew Wakefield to see how that honesty can be easily compromised by bias (or fraud).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXtANMp3wok

I also noticed how the whole thing is shot pretty much from one camera angle, except for brief exceptions. Indeed, I find it very odd how great care was taken not to show anything to the right of the mass spec or to the left of the fume hood. Even when there’s a closeup of the mass spec, it’s as if the camera person was trying very hard to show only the left side of the machine and not to let the right side show.

It makes me wonder what’s on the other side of the lab, the part other than the tiny area of bench space that Adams takes so many pains to show. Your speculation that it’s a refurbished office sounds plausible, but maybe all Adams has is a corner in a larger room that he has to share, or something like that. Or maybe there are windows that show something that would reveal where the building is. Who knows? I just found it odd.

As a reminder, if you need to report lab safety violations like:
1. lack of safety equipment in the facility (eye wash, chemical shower)
2. disposal of hazardous wastes like nitric acid or hydrofluoric acid into residential waste streams
3. operating a lab without adequate personal protective equipment (say, not using gloves, eye protection and fume hood when using nitric acid)
4. not storing chemicals in approved chemical cabinets, or using a fume hood without the door lowered.
5. inadequate documentation of safety guidelines, including improper labeling of containers.
6. Electrical fixtures that don’t meet code for hazardous substances (like being below bench level)

If you observe any of these violations, you should report them to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, whether you observe them in a research lab or a converted break room with inadequate ventilation, no safe storage of hazardous waste streams and a complete lack of safety protocols.

For example, here’s the OSHA office closest to me:
Austin Area Office
La Costa Green Bldg.,
1033 La Posada Dr. Suite 375
Austin, Texas 78752-3832
(512) 374-0271
(512) 374-0086 FAX

Or you can contact their tip line:
1-800-321-OSHA

@ R. w. Foster:

We expose quackery, hardsell woo and assorted under-handed schemes *everyday* on the internet.

HOWEVER if you want to expose alties, go right ahead: I’d suggest you take a look at earnings figures and palatial estates owned by woo-meisters.

I really like the idea of reporting all of his lab safety violations. 😀

It makes me wonder what’s on the other side of the lab, the part other than the tiny area of bench space that Adams takes so many pains to show.

Maybe this is his basement, and he doesn’t want to give away the unused Bowflex being used as a coat rack? Maybe there’s a huge pile of gym socks that are going unwashed since the housekeeper quit? 😛

On a more serious note, the unsafe lab does make me think that sooner or later he’s gonna hurt himself. He’ll have only himself to blame, of course. I just hope he doesn’t take some poor flunky with him when he ends up with a hypergolic mixture in his sink trap or something like that.

I was just about to post a link to c0nc0rdance’s excellent YouTube video on another thread. Just yesterday, I viewed the video “Wakefield’s Smoking Gun” on the Just the Vax blog.

There are a couple of ignorant trolls who keep posting off-topic comments on Emily Willingham’s Forbes blog and I have been posting comments back at them. Early this AM I posted a reply, and linked to the video.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2014/04/30/blame-wakefield-for-missed-autism-gut-connection/?commentId=comment_blogAndPostId/blog/comment/2416-2422-7558

as if the camera person was trying very hard to show only the left side of the machine

Perhaps, being vain, it only wishes to be filmed on its good side. It may well think that pictures of its right side make it look fat.

I love the idea of a complete video from start to finish of an assay, but even if he DID decide to do that I’m sure we can agree that it would be heavily edited.

The really unfortunate thing however, is that this is the kind of video that impresses (sways?) the general public more or less. It’s not clear at all that he knows anything about these machines aside from how to connect and disconnect tubing or naming the parts listed in the instruction manual.

If anyone’s interested in more general ICP MS methods, here’s a link to an EPA “procedure” that’s chock full of information that infers the importance of multiple standards, controls, calibrations, and analysis. As the analytical chemists in my department say, MS can tell you anything you want it to tell you. Makes you wonder how his analyses are done. Anyhow, that’s where my brain went on this one.

http://www.epa.gov/osw/hazard/testmethods/sw846/pdfs/6020a.pdf

@Orac #23 Maybe his ‘lab’ is just a fixed set on a soundstage somewhere. I bet if you were to pull the camera back a bit you would see the director’s chair, the cue-cards, the stage lights and what’s basically a sweatshop full of underpaid workers packing supplements into boxes bound for gullible fools around the world.

@ Jamie G:

No, the sweatshop’s probably in Taiwan; the Austin location must be filled with underpaid telephone clerks taking orders of supplements from said gullible fools.

@ Denice W:

You’re probably right, but how would you go about editing out the background noise from all those phone calls? Is each clerk encased in a cone of silence? 😉

He goves them their weekly 20 minute break whenever he films.

Oh, that hurt me in the science feels. Doesn’t Mikey know one of the first rules of the lab is don’t throw things, and especially don’t throw things at equipment?

Like many here, I’d like to see a tour of the complete lab. If he’s working with strong acids, I really hope he’s got the correct storage and waste systems to handle that.

To “Dead Ernest” in #13, you ask a very good question for discussion: could an activist ever do good research in their area of activism? I would propose that the answer is no, not when the experimental design doesn’t include blinding and pre-registration.

I only partly agree with this statement. It’s possible to go from being a good researcher to being an activist. Depending on your definition of “activist”, Orac is arguably in this category. The climatologist James Hansen is definitely in this category. But I agree that it is almost impossible to go the other direction. The key is whether your science informs your activism, or vice versa. The latter scenario is what leads to the kind of self-deception that you (and Feynman) correctly note is antithetical to scientific progress. And if I were being charitable, I would put Mike Adams in this category.

@ lilady:

To answer the question you posed at Keith’s place:

Mike claims he has a BS in “science” from a large university in the midwestern US ( see Health Ranger.com/ bio) HOWEVER he doesn’t say what type of science and, based upon what he writes about his childhood and his software empire, I venture that it might be computer science.

Please, please read the bio in its entirety- you will, most assuredly, thank me for this advice.

@Denice

Maybe he thinks that a having a Bachelor of Science means he has a science degree.

Activism, research and effectiveness

The biggest problem with being both a researcher and an activist, no matter which comes first, is that it reduces the effectiveness of both your advocacy and your research. People disinclined to believe will become more disinclined to believe if the researcher and activist are the same person. In this way the researcher/activist becomes less effective than if the researcher was not an activist.

I worked with farmers from the extension side. I could do research and present the results to the farmers. But if I became an activist and tried to push them to change, they would be less likely to make the change than if i had just stopped after presenting the research results.

I haven’t seen any independent laboratories confirming Adams’ findings.

His arsenic results for Lundberg rice don’t exactly jibe with theirs. For short-grain brown, Mikey comes up with 11.1 micrograms per serving, 129% of their upper sample range.

That “Forensic Lab” site is incredibly poorly organized; it took a while to ferret out those “results” again.

@Orac

My jaw dropped. My eye started twitching.

Which eye? Since you have been working on a grant application, I hope your right hand is itching as well.

When my right hand itches, I gets money for sure
When my right hand itches, I gets money for sure
But when my left eye jump, somebody got to go

Willy Dixon – I Aint Superstitious

Mike – When you educated the farmers about your results, were you not involved in a form of soft activism – something more than letters to the editor, something less than a sit-in.

bs-ing degree perhaps? that lab is excellent example of the hundred year old ploy of well off con men. is’s called “big store.” i believe you have seen the movie about a fake wire agency / betting arlor, “The Sting”? some cheaper examples are imressive but hollow web sites.

Orac, does he have some funky filter at his website which misdirects based on the referrer? I noticed the link from your post goes to some wrong page whereas the link from Google goes to the correct page even though both appear to be the same link.

Well, that is odd. I added a link from Do Not Link to the post. Let’s see if it works. Adams won’t escape me that easily.

As if Mike were not hilarious enough…

Today he posted a new video** that advocates for science education because so many of us are scientifically illiterate.

The world must appear quite intriguing to creatures who aren’t possessed of even a minuscule amount of self awareness.

** 22+ minutes of it yet.
What I do for scepticism.

If he’s working with strong acids, I really hope he’s got the correct storage and waste systems to handle that.

Why?

Dead Earnest — Your name is the same as that of my M.D. friend’s med school cadaver.

He told people he was working in Dead Earnest.

Genghis @47 — not only is sodium a metal, but it EXPLODES if you put it in water! Ay-yi-yi!

@TBruce

It’s not his safety I’m worried about. He says he understands the hazards of strong acids, so if he does something stupid, that’s on him. It’s the rest of Texas and it’s environment I’m concerned about. They’ve already got the drought, they don’t need this pant load throwing gas (or nitric adic) on the flames.

Orac, does he have some funky filter at his website which misdirects based on the referrer? I noticed the link from your post goes to some wrong page whereas the link from Google goes to the correct page even though both appear to be the same link.

I think it’s (or was) something broken on his end. I got the right page the first time with the referrer forged to be his own site, but then subsequent loads went to the “encyclopedia” page, but with that page’s address and window title.

Then turning off RefControl and flushing cookies gave me the errant behavior consistently. Doing the same with nambla.org as referrer produced the first-case behavior.

BTW, everyone, the links are live, and I’ve added them to the end of the post. I warn you, though: It’s even more painful than I describe to watch.

Who says Adams does anything at all in his “lab”. I built a “studio” out back, filled it with all sorts of stuff, made lots of plans, but mostly sit out there with a beer. I, too, take cropped shots and send them to friends when they ask about my studio business model. At least I don’t ask them for money–yet.

One question for Mike, Dr Oz and his guest:
Why do you need rice** protein powder anyway- can’t you just eat foods that are high in protein?

** notice how Mikey manages to slam China (which he hates) when he discusses contaminated rice vs *Caliifornia* rice.

For my own sanity I don’t follow Mike Adams unless he draws the notice of Orac, but have we ever seen shots of his lab from another camera angle? I’m beginning to believe that the entirety of his work space is that shot plus a few extra feet for the rest of the fume hood.

Mith Adamth is NO WAY anything close to a scientist. This is one of the funniest commentaries ever… keep up the good work.

Yeah sorry – Mikey’s no scientist.

If he actually has any chemicals in his ‘lab’ there, he’s in serious violation of a shitpile of laws regarding their storage and proper handling.

I have a B.S., too – in education. It doesn’t always refer to “scientific” endeavors.

“colonoscopy with his face.” I don’t think that’s in the CPT manual. Maybe you should propose it for the next edition. You can call it an Oz colonscopy.

It’s pretty simple — again she is trying to bluff the audience of how much she does (NOT) know. I recall her “interviewing” someone once about vaccines. She had the gall to ask what environmental exposure was! She also loves to throw around the words, “I don’t want to get too technical.” She can’t get too technical because she hasn’t a clue about what she is saying. I mean just a big bag of HOT AIR. Just a moron that wants to be recognized for what she is not. A wind bag. Hence all of the vagueness.

Mith Adamth used to appear on the Alex Jones show. I think she got thrown out of there. It seems to make sense that she moved there to do some coat tailing. She made some huge errors on the air, including things about supplements. Also some gross misstatements about certain companies being “organic” and she never did her homework. Someone else had picked up on it and called her bluff — she wound up instead saying that she was urging the companies to sell organic products. I mean she can’t even keep her lies/BS straight.

I’m wondering if anyone here knows where that “lab” is? It might be funny to call OSHA? And I mean who knows what she is toying around with over there? It looks like she went past her Hasbro microscope…

Wonder if he’s created a site specific hazard Communication Plan, Chemical Exposure Plan, if he provides and documents required training for employees at risk of exposure, etc.

My guess is he’s under the impression that all he has to do is buy the equipments and some reagents and he can run his own ‘lab’ (“Let’s put on a show! We can use my dad’s barn!”).

OSHA et al would beg to differ…

Aside from their flakiness, there are some interesting issues Oz and Adams raise, if the lab results are to be taken as valid (and some of his testing is supposedly corroborated by independent submission through Consumer Labs, an unbiased 3rd party lab, you’ll have to look through the Health Ranger website to find that info). Rice protein is less contaminated depending on where it is sourced–some sources have no contamination in certain metals. Some manufacturers are not testing their products and no one is requiring them to do so. Heavy metal accumulation is known to be a health concern. Those are things consumers are concerned about.

My guess is he’s under the impression that all he has to do is buy the equipments and some reagents and he can run his own ‘lab’

Forget it, Jake, it’s Texas.

Recall that the state of Texas was fine with having a fertilizer plant next to a school, a bit up the road from where Mike lives, at least until the plant exploded last year. So at least as far as state law is concerned, he’s probably right. OSHA is so chronically understaffed that it would take years if not decades for them to get around to inspecting his lab. Thus I would expect him to play the martyr card if OSHA springs a “random” inspection on him. And that act would probably work on his audience, facts notwithstanding.

I am suddenly reminded of MST3K: The Movie, where they riffed on “This Island Earth.”

“Increase the Flash Gordon noise, and put more science stuff around.”

MDG: “I think she got thrown out of there. It seems to make sense that she moved there to do some coat tailing. She made some huge errors on the air, including things about supplements. ”

Who is this “she” person? I believe the discussion is about Mike Adams. If you think it is funny deciding to change genders, it is not, though it is insulting to every female. It is just very confusing.

Also, as a parent of someone with a severe speech disorders, you aren’t gaining any brownie points with the written “lisp.”

have we ever seen shots of (Adams’) lab from another camera angle? I’m beginning to believe that the entirety of his work space is that shot plus a few extra feet for the rest of the fume hood.”

Maybe he doesn’t want people to see the old Chinese food takeout containers and unwashed plates in the rest of the NN break room.

@Chris 70,
Thank you!

I was too puzzled by what MDG was saying to figure out if it was based on something earlier.

But, both points needed to be made.

From the great man himself…

“In 2013, Adams announced he was heading up the Natural News Forensic Food Laboratory, a food investigations lab located in Central Texas. It is believed that Adams has partnered with a private lab to use their facilities which are then re-branded the “Natural News Forensic Food Lab.”

Interestingly, Adams conducts all the research himself and has attained training and certification to operate a growing list of laboratory testing equipment, including ICP-MS, HPLC, digital microscopes and other instruments. Adams is trained in so-called “EPA methods” for sample preparation, digestion, dilution and quality control calibrations for testing equipment.

Adams has promised “astounding” new findings from the Natural News Forensic Food Lab by the end of 2013.”

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