I’ve been at this skeptical blogging thing for over a decade now. I realize that I periodically remind you, my readers, of this and that perhaps I do it too often, but my reminders generally serve a purpose. Specifically, they serve to put an exclamation point on my surprise when I discover a new purveyor of pseudoscience and/or quackery that I had never heard of before but who is apparently fairly well known in the quackosphere. Such is what happened this week, when I learned of a man who appears to be challenging Deepak Chopra and Bruce Lipton for the title of most annoying mystical quack in the world. He’s yet another example of the old adage, “Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t.” I’m referring to a guy who calls himself David Avacado Wolfe, who’s shown up in a couple of posts at another blog collective. The only difference is that this guy is not a physician, which, embarrassingly to me, Chopra is, and he hasn’t tried to turn his woo into a clinical trial yet, which Chopra has done. Yet he still manages to crank up the pseudoscience to 11 selling everything from a juicer to dear antler extract as magical ways of improving your longevity.
First, let’s take a look at David Wolfe’s website. If you think Deepak Chopra has a big ego, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Just take a peek at Wolfe’s biography:
David “Avocado” Wolfe is the rock star and Indiana Jones of the superfoods and longevity universe. The world’s top CEOs, ambassadors, celebrities, athletes, artists, and the real superheroes of this planet—Moms—all look to David for expert advice in health, beauty, herbalism, nutrition, and chocolate!
David is the celebrity spokesperson for America’s #1 selling kitchen appliance: the NUTRiBULLET™ and for www.LongevityWarehouse.com. He is the co-founder of TheBestDayEver.com online health magazine and is the visionary founder and president of the non-profit The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation charity (www.ftpf.org) with a mission to plant 18 billion fruit, nut, and medicinal trees on planet Earth.
With over 20 years of dedicated experience and having hosted over 2750 live events, David has led the environmental charge for radiant health via a positive mental attitude, eco-community building, living spring water, and the best-ever quality organic foods and herbs.
Heck, it’s tempting to wonder whether Wolfe is trying to out-do even that legendary master of quackery and conspiracy theories, Mike Adams, a.k.a. The Health Ranger, who only fancies himself a real scientist and computer genius. Not only is he a rock star, but he’s the “Indiana Jones” of superfoods and longevity! Of course, my first thought on reading this sentence—actually, my second thought after, “Man, is this guy a self-obsessed tool!”—was, “What the heck does Indiana Jones have to do with superfoods and longevity?” Is Wolfe picking up a whip, putting on a Fedora, and invading ancient tombs looking for new superfoods and herbs to increase your longevity?
Of course, a man is known by the company he keeps:
David is a highly sought after health and personal success speaker. He has shared the stage with success and business coaches like Anthony Robbins, Richard Branson, Brian Tracy, John DeMartini, as well as acclaimed doctors and health researchers including: Dr. Bruce Lipton, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Sara Gottfried, Dr. Lissa Rankin, Dr Dave Woynarowksi and many more.
Bruce Lipton and Joe Mercola, “acclaimed doctors and health researchers”? What is this guy smoking? I want some. (Actually, I don’t. As I’ve said many times before, I can’t inhale. I start coughing too hard.) You get my point, though. I’ve documented time and time again what utter and complete quacks these guys are.
Yes, it’s infant reflexology! For those of you not familiar with reflexology, it’s a form of quackery where it is claimed that different organs map to different parts the soles of our feet and the palms of our hands. It’s based on a prescientific idea of how the body works, complete with vitalistic references to “energy” flowing through the body between the feet and various organs as the “mechanism” by which massaging the feet will somehow result in a therapeutic effect to specific organs, depending on what part of the sole of the foot is massaged.
Much of the rest of what’s on his page tend to be content-free platitudes about being “natural” and the power of positive thinking, but sprinkled in among the feel-good nonsense are occasional chunks of pure pseudoscience. Anti-GMO nonsense? Check:
“Appeal to nature” fallacy? Check.
You get the idea. I actually thought this guy’s name sounded vaguely familiar; so I looked to see if I had ever blogged about him before. I hadn’t blogged about him per se, but I had mentioned im in the context of the paean to raw food woo, Simply Raw, where he appeared in one of the accompanying featurettes with Joe Mercola touting some sort of “super immunity” program involving “detoxification” to promote longevity. This trailer for Best Day Ever gives you a taste of what I’m talking about:
I think the end of the trailer tells it all, where Wolfe asks, “Is it possible to never feel bad ever, to never feel sadness, to never feel depression ever, to remove those emotions from our psyche totally? And the answer is yes.” To which I respond: Even if that were possible (it’s not), why would anyone want to do that? Sadness is part of life. Is he saying that we shouldn’t feel sad when, for example, a loved one dies, something each and every one of us will experience at least several times during our lives?
The woo gets more intense in this excerpt:
Notice that right away the segment starts off with a quack Miranda warning in very tiny print (for a video) in which the viewer is reminded that none of the products being touted has been approved by the FDA and that you should consult with your doctor. In fact, it’s one of the more impressive quack Miranda warnings I’ve ever seen, far more detailed than the usual ones I encounter. Then he goes on about how:
Energies are flowing out of the cosmos—or they’re flowing out of the earth and up—and they’re being concentrated in certain substances, like a deer’s antler. So when you take a deer antler product, that’s not soms eort of joke, that’s not “oh, we’re taking some sort of supplement now,” that’s a very deeply intuitive read that many sages in the history of our planet tuned into, because they know the prana is concentrated right there.
And for some reason this “life energy” doesn’t concentrate in lettuce, but does in deer antlers and shagas, which makes no sense. None of which stops him from saying:
Dear antler is not a product. It’s a cosmic substance. And it’s an androgenic substance, by the way—very androgenic. And it needs to be taken with respect and understanding, which is why we’ve been getting into this whole thing about estrogenic forces and then androgenic forces. You gotta know that deer antler is an androgenic force. And why? Because it’s cosmic in nature. It’s elevating. It’s levitational in nature. Which actually makes you younger. The forces of levity make you younger. Rudolf Steiner said that we gradually age due to substances in our body that are seized by the earth’s gravity. He could have said anything. He could have said anything at all, but he said that. That’s amazing. Then he said that you want to use the force of levity to drive the force of levity into your body. Then he talks about silica, that silica can be made to be levitational again.
Like, wow, man. But, wait. I still don’t get it about the deer antlers, other than that apparently David Wolfe sells deer antler extract, from the red deer, specifically. He sells them for quite a pretty penny, too, $75 for a mere 2 oz. bottle of deer antler extract. And, wow, the pseudoscience doth flow in his description of the product:
Deer Antler is considered to be one of the “big three” ultimate herbs of China – Ginseng, Reishi Mushroom and Deer Antler. All three are tonic herbs that have been used since pre-historic times to prolong life, improve energy, to protect the body and to promote wisdom. Deer Antler is a Yang Jing herb, but it also tonifies Yin Jing, Qi, Blood and Shen.
Huh? Deer antlers are not herbs.
The actual “science” used to justify ingesting deer antler extract is even more risible. I wish I had found this right off the bat, rather than when I was halfway done with the post, because I could have done a whole post just on this one product. Here’s just a taste, though. Wolfe notes that deer antler contains insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which, by the way, is a real growth factor:
Deer antler extract provides minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients including insulin-like growth factor IGF-1.
Clinical trials have shown IGF-1 to:
- Promote immune functions
- Increase muscular strength and endurance
- Possess anti-inflammatory properties
- Possess growth-stimulating properties
- Help regulate low and high blood pressure.
- Promote sounder, more refreshing sleep.
- Improve eyesight, including night vision.
- Reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.
IGF-1 is causing a great deal of excitement among bodybuilders. According to researchers, IGF-1 increases lean body mass, reduces fat, builds bone, builds muscle, and builds nerves.
IGF-1 is also an important potential nutrient for people interested in reducing the symptoms of aging and for those people interested in living the longest, healthiest, and most active life possible.
“One of the most exciting uses for IGF-1 is that it can repair nerve damage that occurs in injury or illness. These nerves can regenerate to some extent. Severe damage of more than one-half inch may result in permanent injury. However, IGF-1 has repaired and reconnected severed nerve endings up to a distance of six millimeters. This has never, heretofore, been done.” This may explain part of Deer Antler’s ability to regenerate nerve tissue in deer.
Also, IGF-1 Plus “contains a small-molecular-weight protein that has the unique ability to modulate the immune system. This means that if the immune system is depressed, this protein can dramatically improve it. And if it is overactive, it can reduce it into a normal range.”
Anyone know the problem with this? Yes, IGF-1 does a lot of these things, but there’s no evidence that supplemental IGF-1 will produce these results. In fact, even if IGF-1 supplementation did these things, consuming it orally wouldn’t do a damned thing because IGF-1 is a protein and your digestive tract would break the protein down to its constitutive amino acids long before it could get to any of the receptors that it might bind to in order to exercise its biological effects. As is the case with so many of these sorts of supplements, they include proteins whose biological activity (assuming that supplementing them would even do the things claimed) is destroyed by digestion.
If you want to get an idea of just how dumb the sort of stuff Wolfe is peddling really is, check out this compilation video of his “greatest hits”:
I do rather like the part, right at the beginning, where he talks about how chocolate “lines up planetarily with the sun” and “chocolate is an octave of sun energy.” What the hell does that even mean? I like chocolate as much as the next guy, but this is inanity. But that’s not enough. There’s another bit of him saying that it’s “same octave” as serotonin, the sun, a smile, and gold.
There’s lots more where that came from. (“Bacteria are exceptionally advanced consciousness”?) In fact, I encourage you to listen to the entire thing—if you dare. You might not make it through, because it’s nearly 15 minutes of a litany of Deepak Chopra-grade woo. On the other hand, maybe this guy isn’t on Deepak Chopra’s level. Snake oil salesman that he is, Chopra can at least make his woo sound somewhat plausible to the lay person. I doubt too many fail to recognize this stuff as pure, grade-A nonsense. Unfortunately enough do to keep this guy in business selling deer antler extract.