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Chocolate Still Won’t Help You Lose Weight: How a Fake Scientific Study Fooled the Media

Chocolate Still Won’t Help You Lose Weight: How a Fake Scientific Study Fooled the Media

Chocolate can help you lose weight? It sounded too good to be true, and it was. John Bohannon, science journalist and molecular biologist, set out to prove the power of junk science by making up an official-sounding scientific institution, reporting the results of a study based on what he calls “terrible science,” and authoring the aforementioned study with a false name and PhD (Johannes Bohannon instead of John, and a nutritional biology degree instead of a molecular bacteria biology degree). Many media outlets were fooled by the story.

Earlier this year, Bohannon created a website for something called the “Institute of Diet and Health” and submitted a study to the International Archives of Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal, claiming that “consumption of chocolate with a high cocoa content can significantly increase the success of weight-loss diets.” The study was real — it compared three small groups of people: a control group that made no diet changes and two variable groups. One group consumed a low-carb diet, and another group consumed the same diet but added a 1.5-ounce bar of chocolate. After three weeks, the chocolate group lost weight 10 percent faster overall. But getting “scientific results” does not necessarily make a study accurate, claims Dr. Bohannon.

“Here’s a dirty little science secret: If you measure a large number of things about a small number of people, you are almost guaranteed to get a statistically significant result,” Dr. Bohannon wrote in a post on i09. “Our study included 18 different measurements — weight, cholesterol, sodium, blood protein levels, sleep quality, well-being, etc. — from 15 people. That study design is a recipe for false positives. We didn’t know exactly what would pan out — the headline could have been that chocolate improves sleep or lowers blood pressure — but we knew our chances of getting at least one statistically significant result were pretty good.”

The International Archives of Medicine agreed to publish the study without any semblance of a rigorous peer-review process, says Bohannon. After publication, as predicted, dozens of well-known publications were duped: Shape Magazine devoted a column to the study, while the Irish Examiner, Cosmopolitan’s German publication, and The Daily Star also reported on it.

“If a study doesn’t even list how many people took part in it, or makes a bold diet claim that’s statistically significant but doesn’t say how big the effect size is, you should wonder why,” Bohannon explained. “But for the most part, we don’t. Which is a pity, because when we fail, the world is awash in junk science.”


Does Jenny Craig Work? It Sure Does. Here's How.

Beginning a weight loss journey is often the hardest part. A million thoughts rush through your head: Which diet is best? Will I like the food? Will it work long-term?

If you’re considering the Jenny Craig diet, you might have searched, “Does Jenny Craig work?” Spoiler alert: The answer is yes!

Of course, we might be a little biased, but with good reason: For nearly 40 years, we’ve been helping people reach their goals with our science-backed weight loss program. With Jenny Craig, you’ll have all your meals covered, the guidance of a personal coach, and a supportive community cheering you on from day one.

So how does Jenny Craig work? Find out.

Remember to always consult your physician before starting a weight loss program.


What is BioFit?

BioFit is a weight loss probiotic by Nature’s Formula with seven clinically-studied ingredients found online exclusively at GoBioFit.com.

During the official presentation led by Chrissie Miller, the BioFit probiotic supplementation program claims you can eat brownies, ice cream, pizza, and other favorite foods while losing a significant amount of weight due to the seven gut healing strains ability to work on digestive issues. In fact, the sales page for BioFit claims you can “stuff your face” and still “lose weight” because of this formula’s unique ability to naturally balance the good bacteria in your gut.

BioFit’s website is filled with positive testimonials and user feedback from people who lost 30 to 70 pounds by following the BioFit probiotic program. Viewers are told they can lose 3 pounds per week while following the program and alleviate digestive disturbances like excess gas, bloating, or constipation.

BioFit by Nature’s Formula is presented by a 43-year old mother named Chrissie Miller. For the record, Chrissie is not a doctor or a nutritionist: she’s a real woman with an ordinary background. She gained about 20 pounds of weight for each of her three kids, and she lost that weight with simple strategies. Today, Chrissie wants to share those strategies with the world through BioFit and how the weight loss probiotic formula can help heal and provide relief for four major areas of health, including immunity, burning fat, digestive efficiency, and bloating release.

Obviously, many of us would like to eat whatever we want while losing weight. Let’s take a closer look at how BioFit works and how it helps you lose a significant amount of weight.


Spot &rsquoem &mdash Fake Trade Reviews

Moving into a different sector, if a product or service is not from a provider you already know and trust, you will need to conduct additional due diligence before even looking at the product itself.

&ldquoMaking money,&rdquo along with pain, illness, weight loss, diet and some other categories are where you&rsquoll find vulnerable consumers, and that&rsquos where you&rsquoll also find the most dishonest affiliates. The worst view these consumers as &ldquosuckers,&rdquo nothing more.

These types of people used to take advantage of people through direct mail, offline. They have all moved online, along with hundreds of thousands of others who either have no conscience or who re-draw the &ldquogood-bad line.&rdquo

They have turned to the dark side of affiliate marketing to make a buck at the &ldquosucker&rsquos&rdquo expense.

Here are some pointers to calling out the dodgy players in this part of the marketing world.

  1. Research the trader: Don&rsquot rush into buying a product because it sounds good. No marketing department writes about their product to make it sound bad. Take time to investigate the company first.
  2. Check the domain name on whois.com. Make sure the owner&rsquos full address and contact details are listed. If not &mdash beware.
  3. Are the business a member of a trade body? For example, is that package tour with such great reviews protected by the Air Traffic Organizer&rsquos Licence (ATOL)?
  4. Check approved provider status: Are companies selling financial products on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (USA) or Financial Conduct Authority (UK) register of approved providers?
  5. Security: If you&rsquore buying online, is the website secure? Look for &ldquohttps&rdquo in the URL and a green padlock in the address bar.
  6. Products: Once you start looking at products the company is selling, the same issues apply as to the &ldquoproducts&rdquo group above.

Alitame (E956) – AVOID

Brand Names: Aclame

Calories: 0 calories per gram

Glycemic Index: 0

GMO Concerns: No
Alitame is formed from the amino acids aspartatic acid and alanine. There is cause for concern because it is very chemically similar to aspartame, which has many known negative health implications. Therefore, I would avoid it. Developed by Pfizer, alitame is an artificial sweetener 2,000 times sweeter than sugar. It is so potent that only a tiny amount of the sweetener is needed per serving. The amounts really are miniscule and unlikely to cause any side effects. Due to very high production costs, manufacture has recently ceased. Not yet approved in the USA. Approved in the EU, Mexico, China and Australia. The FDA is delaying approval pending further safety studies.


Programs like Optavia Fuelings aren’t typically the subject of clinical research – so there’s no definite answer to the question – does Optavia Fuelings work? However, we know that eating healthy foods and providing your body with good nutrition is a massive step toward healthy living – and that includes weight loss.

Optavia Fuelings Pros

  • Fuelings are ready-made foods, so you don’t have to cook much.
  • You can join as a consultant to save money on the products and sell them to others if you want.
  • You can order directly from the official website.

Optavia Fuelings Cons

  • A little expensive – around $20 for 5 to 7 servings of a single Fueling. You can expect to spend around $350 a month with this approach.
  • Only 60 or so Fuelings to choose from means you’ll eventually tire of eating the same things over and over.

Nutrition & Health “Experts” You Shouldn’t Trust

Misinformation on nutrition and health seems more prevalent than evidence-based information. And it’s becoming more challenging to figure out just who the experts are.

Misinterpreted science, cherry-picked studies, conspiracies, and alluring anecdotes are the tools that many use to sell their stories. Below you will find some of the more popular people or websites that do not provide evidence-based advice, along with links to articles that explain their lack of credibility or point out the misinformation.

You will often see some of the following in their narratives:

We’ve been lied to . . .

Decades of nutrition research are wrong . . .

I am focusing on the more popular trends/fads, and some of the more persuasive “experts” (often celebrity doctors or journalists) who cite scientific evidence to back up their stories. This is just a start, and a full list of sources with misinformation is beyond the scope of what I can do, but check back because I will be expanding this list.

For a comprehensive and excellent list of purveyors of misinformation, see Michael Hull’s Nutrition Sources You Should Avoid.

Also, here is good information on how anti-science forces spread on social media. The article also mentions popular anti-science websites and individuals who provide pseudoscientific health information that is widely shared.

To help you figure out health & nutrition resources that you CAN trust, please see How to Identify Evidence-Based Health & Nutrition Information

Alejandro Junger

Doctor to celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and author of Clean: A Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself, Alejandro Junger is a big fan of detox diets and a good snake oil salesman. His “Clean” 21-day program will cost you $475 in useless supplements and shakes. He preys on fear and convinces many that they are consuming and surrounded by harmful toxins.

As there is no evidence for any of his treatments, he relies on colorful stories and convincing anecdotes. Junger created Gwyneth Paltrow/goop’s Why Am I So Effing Tired pack: expensive supplements ($90 for a 1-month supply) designed to treat “adrenal fatigue” a condition not recognized by any endocrinology society and a syndrome that experts have confirmed does not exist.

Aseem Malhotra (Pioppi Diet)

Aseem Malhotra is author of the Pioppi Diet, a low-carb high fat diet, that tells the reader they’ve been lied to about saturated fats, that dietary guidelines made us fat and sick, and that carbohydrates are evil. Angry Chef Anthony Warner has a good interpretation about the absurdity of this narrative:

It’s a bizarre and ahistorical conspiracy theory which, as Anthony Warner says in The Angry Chef would require ‘paying off the medical establishment, the World Health Organisation, numerous charities, public health bodies and nutrition researchers around the world, and keep producing systematic reviews that show links between consumption of saturated fats and increased risk of heart disease.’ The idea that millions of people have been killed by guidelines which (a) were never followed, and (b) clearly discouraged sugar consumption, is one of the strangest memes in the world of nutritional woo.

Malhotra enjoys butter and coconut oil in his coffee (bulletproof coffee) and promotes high intakes of saturated fat. While it’s one thing to say we need more research on saturated fat, it’s another to promote their intake: there is no evidence showing saturated fat is good for health, and considerable evidence showing saturated fat is associated with heart disease and some cancers.

Malhotra does cite specific studies to back up his story. But as journalist Christopher Snowdon explains in his review of the Pioppi diet, it’s easy to cite what you want to suit your story and sell your book . . .

“The reader should not have to look up the references in a book to find out what is being concealed. The nutritional epidemiology literature is enormous. Thousands of studies have been conducted and they do not all agree with one another. If one ignores the totality of the evidence and cherry-picks a handful of studies, it is possible to argue almost anything. If the reader cannot trust the author to play with a straight bat, he might as well save his money and go on a Google binge.”

A recent opinion piece by Malhotra exonerating saturated fat in the British Medical Journal (a journal renowned for it’s pro low carb/high fat stand and opinion pieces masquerading as research) was widely and falsely reported as a new study saying that saturated fat has no role in heart disease. Many cardiovascular disease experts weighed in, criticizing the BMJ and Malhotra for the cherry picked data and lack of scientific rigor. Among other critics, Professor Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University of Glasgow, commented:

“Malhotra and colleagues question saturated fat and suggest the LDL-cholesterol hypothesis is over emphasised. They could not be more wrong.

“To make their arguments they cite observational data – which is bizarre, since not only are such findings prone to many biases such that the results can often be incorrect, but more importantly plentiful randomised trial data (gold standard evidence) show lowered saturated fats lower cholesterol and risk of heart attacks. So the evidence to lower saturated fat is robust . . . “

    (Association of UK Dietitians) (Christopher Snowdon) (Nick Harris Fry, Coach Mag) (British Nutrition Foundation) re: Opinion piece authored by Malhotra in the BMJ (Science Media Center) (Dennis Campbell, The Guardian) (Christopher Snowdon) (Joel Kahn, MD)

Aviva Romm

Aviva Romm is an integrative physician, midwife, and herbalist. She strongly defends goop doctors and their practices, contributes to the misinformation on the goop website, and like other goop doctors, her advice is not evidence-based. Her website and Facebook page targets pregnant women, busy (and tired) women, and parents.

She sells her line of herbal supplements, books, and online courses (e.g. Heathiest Kids University – Natural Medicine for Children). Much of her information uses the appeal to nature logical fallacy, that something “natural” (like herbal remedies) are good for you because they come “from nature.”

Just because a product is “natural” does not mean it is healthful, effective, or safe.

How much do you need to worry about “Toxins”?

Toxins are prominent in Aviva Romm’s fearmongering.

Romm makes this sweeping statement

many health conditions that are adversely affecting children today can be traced back to environmental toxin exposure.

Environmental exposures are important. The field of environmental health trains many public health scientists in a variety of areas to study how environmental exposures influence health. These experts and their research play an important role in setting guidelines and standards that consider the body of scientific evidence (and not just isolated studies). Should we be listening to these scientists – environmental epidemiologists, toxicologists, and others – and trust them to protect public health, or rely on individuals like Romm, who often only present one side of the issue, instill fear, and sell products and supplements to help you get rid of “toxins”?

For example, Romm advises women to refuse glucola (a standard sugar drink to screen for diabetes), calling it a “toxic cocktail.” She credits the chemical-fearing Food Babe for alerting her to these toxins. . .

Should pregnant women be worried about glucola? No. Gynecologists Jen Gunter and Amy Tuteur explain that you would be better off fearing toxic advice of people like the Food Babe or Aviva Romm.

Aviva Romm’s Supplements and Products

Dr. Romm’s website sells books, online courses (e.g., herbal medicine for women, adrenal thyroid pro training), and her online “dispensary” (via Fullscript) offers hundreds of high-priced supplements by category such as “Natural Detox Support” or “Adrenal and Thyroid Support” that include bogus health claims like “replenish adrenals,” “detox” “rejuvenate liver function” and “boost immunity.”

Her website includes many posts and tips (often herbal medications) for preventing and dealing with “adrenal fatigue” – a made-up medical condition that is not recognized by endocrinologists. She has created her own line of women’s herbal products to help “replenish and restore the adrenals and counteract the effects of an overwhelmed stress response system.” The products are adrenal nourish, adrenal soothe, and adrenal uplift, and cost $27.50 for 2 oz. ). There is no rigorous scientific evidence showing that these products will do anything beyond give you false hope and drain your pocketbook.

One of her top recommended herbal supplements for women is curcumin (found in turmeric) – she recommends it for “leaky gut” (no quality research supports leaky gut syndrome) and “detoxification from environmental chemicals” – a nonsense statement. Curcumin supplements are a waste of money: a recent comprehensive research review shows that they lack sufficient evidence of efficacy.

Should children use unregulated dietary supplements? Dr. Romm’s website guides you to a “Natural Children’s remedies” section, which has 20 supplements, including “Calm Child” designed to “support calm, focuses attention in children.” Her online course “Super-Charge Your Children’s Health and Immunity with Natural Remedies” lesson material includes “toxins in vaccinations” and a section on herbal medicines.

Aviva Romm claims to be offering the “evidence-based alternatives” that women are desperately seeking. She masquerades as a trusted source of health information, yet sells dubious herbal treatments for which there is no good evidence.

WHAT YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT HERBAL AND DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
Many people believe that herbal supplements are safer than prescription drugs because they are “natural” and they don’t consider them “drugs.” But, as Steven Novella, academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine, explains,

herbs and plants that are used for medicinal purposes are drugs – they are as much drugs as any manufactured pharmaceutical. A drug is any chemical or combination of chemicals that has biological activity within the body above and beyond their purely nutritional value. Herbs have little to no nutritional value, but they do contain various chemicals, some with biological activity. Herbs are drugs. The distinction between herbs and pharmaceuticals is therefore a false dichotomy.”

Before a prescription and nonprescription drug is on the market, it undergoes years of research and rigorous testing for safety and efficacy and needs FDA approval to be sold. In contrast, herbal medicines and dietary supplements are not well tested for efficacy or safety (if they are tested at all) also, they are poorly regulated and often make outlandish and unfounded claims. There are many good reasons to be skeptical of the multi billion dollar herbal and dietary supplement industry and individuals selling herbal products.

John Oliver offers an entertaining account of the poor regulation of the dietary supplement industry . . .

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield is a successful marketing guru of hyped-up health products. But he goes beyond promoting nutrition and health products and advice that have no robust scientific grounding. . . by many accounts some of his advice could be dangerous if followed. Unfortunately he has a wide influence as author of 13 books, and, according to his website, Greenfield was one of the world’s top 100 most influential people in health & fitness in 2013 and 2014.

He has a popular website, articles, podcast, and coaching business and sells many unfounded expensive dietary supplements and his own “Kion” products.

He is into extreme biohacking (Steven Novella, clinical neurologist and assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine, calls biohacking “a rebranding of the usual self-help pseudoscience“). Greenfield’s recent “at home” stem cell injections was televised on a Science of Sport Ad by Sportsnet (a Canadian sports network) – a testament to Greenfield’s worrying popularity and appearance as a fitness expert. This caused a furor among sports science experts who called the segment “disgusting,” “unscientific,” “unsubstantiated,” “dangerous” and “potentially liable.” Finally Sportsnet removed the Greenfield segment, but it is worrying that the fitness community sees Greenfield as an expert.

He sells a magic “power bracelet” that is better than all the other power bracelets out there because it uses Piezoelectricity to bring your body into a “state of cohesion. ” At least this snake oil will simply cost the user money, and they may benefit from a placebo effect . . .

Exploiting Illness for Profit. A look at Ben Greenfield’s Cancer Resources is an example of his misinformation and very concerning: topics include “Why You’ve Been Lied to About Cancer and What You Can Do About It” with information from quack Dr. David Minkoff, who promotes bogus cancer treatments including metal detoxification and metal chelation. Beyond these therapies being expensive and useless for the patient, it is plausible that cancer patients would delay or forgo conventional treatment in favor of this quackery. And we now have good data showing that cancer patients who seek out alternative and complementary cancer treatments are more likely to refuse conventional cancer treatment, and with a 2-fold greater risk of death compared with patients who had no complementary medicine use.

His podcast guests would all be excellent candidates for this page of “experts” you shouldn’t trust (including anti-vaccine advocates, breatharianism proponents, supplement salespeople, biohacking experts) and I’m sure they are happy to have a platform to promote their pure opportunistic snakeoil.

Here is a sample podcast title:

Deer Placenta Smoothies, Smearing Colostrum On Your Face, How To Use A Clay Mask & Much More

Ben Greenfield’s site is a cesspool of pseudoscience. He promotes anti-vaccine propaganda, his nutrition ideas are not supported by robust science, his podcast guests are quacks, his advice to cancer patients dangerous, and his biohacking experiments are often ridiculous.

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.

    (Yvetter d’Entremont) (Badsciencedebunked.com) (Scienceblogs.com) (Dan Broadbent, AScienceEnthusiast.com) (Dawn Pedesen)

David Perlmutter (Grain Brain)

Overview: Grain Brain, along with Wheat Belly, is a popular diet based on the premise that wheat and other grains are responsible for a myriad of health problems. The books urge readers to eliminate wheat to lose weight and prevent disease.

Problems with Grain Brain: There is no good evidence that wheat causes disease or weight gain, but actually very good evidence that WHOLE grains are health promoting . Some of the claims in these books are borderline ridiculous (Grain Brain links grains to various conditions including depression, autism, tourette’s, and ADHD, while Wheat Belly links wheat to j ust about any ailment you can imagine ). The diets are very low in carbohydrates, so if you’re an athlete you will have a hard time on these diets. Experts at Red Pen reviews extensively evaluated all of the scientific claims in Grain Brain and write:

Although Grain Brain describes itself as “undeniably conclusive” (p. 10), and parts of it are informative and even insightful, most of its key claims are highly speculative. I evaluated three of the book’s central claims and found them to be poorly supported, and in one case potentially dangerous (high blood cholesterol is good for the brain and readers should stop worrying about it). References cited in the book tend to support its claims about uncontroversial topics, but they tend not to support its more unusual claims.

    (Red Pen Reviews) (Colby Voland, Nutritional Blogma) (The Science of Us, Alan Levinovitz) (Diana Chard, RD) (John McDougall) (Nash DT, Slutzky AR. Baylor University. Medical Center 201427(4):377-378.) (Consumer Reports) (Micheal Specter, the New Yorker)

Dave Asprey – Bulletproof Executive

Dave Asprey, 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 Asprey 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.”

“Biohacking” is another favorite marketing term of Asprey’s, and includes advice as ridiculous (and potentially harmful) as injecting your own urine into yourself to relieve allergy symptoms.

Dwight Lundel

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.

Eric Berg

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.

Patient Complaints:

Erin Elizabeth (Health Nut News)

Erin describes herself as Dr. Mercola‘s better half, so this should make you doubt before you trust her advice. Erin’s information and Health Nut News website is well described by Stephanie M. Lee in this article (excerpt below).

“Erin Elizabeth is a self-described journalist and the creator of Health Nut News, which, at three years old, has over 447,000 followers on Facebook and regularly racks up likes on stories such as “Infant Twins Die Simultaneously After Vaccines, Medical Board Rules ‘Just a Coincidence’” and “Renowned Holistic Doctor Found Stabbed to Death in Her Palo Alto Home.”

She and Adams have found fans in people not unlike them: anti-establishment, self-styled crusaders who value “health freedom” above all and deeply distrust the mainstream.”

Gary Taubes

Gary Taubes argues that the main cause of obesity is eating too many carbohydrates. He talks about the insulin-carbohydrate hypothesis of obesity as if it is fact. In reality, numerous studies don’t support this hypothesis. Obesity researcher Stephan Guyenet does a nice job explaining the insulin-carbohydrate hypothesis and outlines why you should question this reasoning .

The insulin-carbohydrate hypothesis is an important theme in Taube’s anti-carb campaign and his books “Good Calories/Bad Calories” (you’ll find an excellent critical review here ) and “Why We Get Fat.” Obesity expert Yoni Freedhoff provides an excellent and detailed review of Why We Get Fat .

In his book “The Case Against Sugar” Taubes asserts that removing sugar from our diet will eliminate obesity, diabetes, cancer, and most chronic diseases (if it were only that simple!). Harriet Hall reviews the book here, and Seth Yoder shows how the book is a rehash of Good Calories/Bad Calories with the theme that dietary guidelines encouraged refined carbohydrates (untrue) and made people fat and sick. Seth shows Gary Taubes’ cherry picking and misinterpretation of the research here.

More reading:

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow’s pseudoscience reaches far and wide. Tim Caulfield, professor of law and health policy at the University of Alberta, has critically debunked many of her practices in his book about celebrity health misinformation “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything?”

    (Independent UK) (Vocativ Health) (Julia Beluz, Vox.com) (Business Insider)
  • Here is a video by AJ+ that highlights some of her health nonsense.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s brand has been criticized by doctors for promoting inaccurate medical advice. pic.twitter.com/3sryYsvxHW

— AJ+ (@ajplus) June 9, 2017

Habib Sadeghi

Dr. Sadeghi, who has been called Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Quack in Chief,” is another goop doctor who contributes a fair share of fearmongering pseudoscience to the goop website. His misinformation includes a lengthy article resurrecting a myth that underwire bras cause breast cancer. Trying to sound legitimate, he selectively cites what he deems as “research” to support his case.

A common tactic of goop doctors is to foster a distrust in mainstream medicine or research that doesn’t support their ideas. In rebuking a rigorous trial showing no link between bra wearing and breast cancer by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (a world leading institution in Cancer Research), Sadeghi brings up the ridiculous notion that these researchers may have falsified study results because they have a fundraising fun run called the Bra Dash. Unbelievable, but true.

He has many unfounded tips to reduce cancer risk, including such nonsense such as taking an epsom salt and baking soda bath soon after a flight to remove toxins from the body and reducing intake of grain products (because of the proteins lectin and gluten) – there are no studies linking intake of either of these proteins to cancer.

Sadeghi is founder of Be Hive of Healing, which offers a host of bogus treatments, and a Wellness Store with an overabundance of products and supplements with no convincing evidence to support their use.

If is frightening that Sadeghi advises cancer patients about their treatment, and irresponsible of goop to publish his nonsense.

Lifestyle factors can play a role in some cancers, but goop or Habib Sadeghi are not good resources. You can find evidence-based information on lifestyle tips for cancer prevention at AICR.org.

Joseph Mercola

Some call Joseph Mercola the “Internet Supplement Salesman.” He tells his audience that his supplements can heal almost any condition. This dangerous practice exaggerates any harms of evidence-based medical treatments while promoting unproven supplements and therapies. His website is full of one-sided, often inaccurate, and misleading health advice. Some of his claims include HIV not being the cause of AIDS, microwave ovens emitting dangerous radiation, and sunscreen causing cancer. His website is one of the most popular health websites on the Internet, suggesting that his pseudoscience has great influence.

    (Joe Schwartz, McGill Office for Science and Society) (Gizmodo) (The Cut) (Steven Salzberg, Genomics, Medicine, & Pseudoscience)
  • Joe Mercola: 15 years of promoting quackery (Respectful Insolence) (Stephen Barrett, Quackwatch)

Kris Carr

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.

Marika Sboros

This low-carb high-fat evangelist, endorser of a ketogenic diet for health, and vaccine skeptic uses her position as a journalist to promote her erroneous health and nutrition views as science-based to a wide audience. She is also an overly outspoken cheerleader for Tim Noakes.

Marika Sboros portrays carbohydrates as evil and harmful for health, which is not in line with the body of evidence. I describe much of the controversy and confusion in my article Fats vs Carbs: Clarifying Conspiracies, Controversies, and Confusion, detailed below, which clarifies many of Sboros arguments.

More Reading:

Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman’s pseudoscience includes popular detox diets (which also means buying his questionable – and expensive – detox supplements ), giving health advice that is not backed by the body of scientific evidence, and promoting a bogus autism cure. He also propagates the false belief that vaccines are related to autism, and false information about heavy metals. He recommends bogus testing for heavy metals and expensive “chelation” therapy (a test that may be harmful) that he has ordered on “tens of thousands of patients.”

Harriet Hall, MD has a excellent pieced about Mark Hyman and functional medicine that includes the following:

“He sells dietary supplements and detox cleanses. He has said that the law of thermodynamics doesn’t apply in living organisms, and that current medicine is as obsolete as bloodletting or phrenology. He says diseases don’t exist. He is essentially a germ theory denialist, saying it’s the terrain, not the germ.”

“Hyman includes standard advice about a healthy lifestyle, but he mixes it indiscriminately with advice that is based on speculation rather than on credible evidence. And he makes claims that defy belief (curing autism with cod liver oil) and many that are demonstrably not true.”

Hyman is listed on Quackwatch as an author whose books promote misinformation, espouse unscientific theories, and/or contain unsubstantiated advice. He also advises GOOP, and his advice seems to be in line with other GOOP Doctors.

When scientific experts reviewed evidence on fats and cardiovascular disease and it didn’t align with Hyman’s own ideas, he endorsed an article by “RebootedBody.com” promoting the idea that the American Heart Association is a terrorist organization.

Here’s another example of his misinformation (and fear-mongering) from Mark Hyman’s twitter account, a comment about wheat and sugar that does not make biochemical or nutritional sense.

    (McGill Office on Science and Society) (Mary Hyman video series) (Science-based medicine) (Dr. Jen Gunter) (Kavin Senapathy, Forbes) (Yoni Freedhoff, Weighty Matters) (Bad Science Debunked) (Sciencebasedmedicine.com) (ScienceBlogs.com) (ScienceBlogs.com)

Mehmet Oz

    Excellent piece on “the most influential health professional in America” (how unfortunate) by Julia Beluz. (Vox.com) (Vox.com) . Nice timeline by Peter Janiszewski, Ph.D. (Obesity Panacea) . You are better off flipping a coin (American Council on Science and Health) Half of it was baseless or wrong (Vox.com reporting on BMJ 2014 349) (Julia Beluz, Vox) (David Gorski, Science Blogs) (The Atlantic)

Mike Adams (Natural News)

Mike Adams (AKA the Health Ranger) is creator of the disturbingly popular website Natural News, a blatantly anti-science website widely criticized by many for health misinformation, anti-vaccine advice, conspiracy theories, and pseudoscientific claims. The FBI has investigated Mike Adams for supporting the assassination of scientists. According to Joe Schwarz, one of this latest “ludicrous” claims is a “Nutrition Rescue” program for cancer patients. This includes his expensive “non-GMO” vitamin C that can counter “poisoning” by chemotherapy (high dose vitamin C may in fact interfere with chemotherapy).

Thankfully in June 2019, Facebook removed the popular Natural News website (almost 3 million followers).

“You might never have clicked on a Natural News article, but you’ve probably felt its influence. The site is one of the largest brokers of far-right conspiracy theories, including disinformation about vaccines. Natural News has spent the past 10 years moving from relatively innocent claims about the benefits of herbal remedies, to full-blown culture war, with a side business of selling survivalist gear.” Kelly Weill, Daily Beast

    (Kelly Weill, Unplugged, Daily Beast) (Sharon I Hill) (Science Blogs) (Genetic Literacy Project) (Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine) (Wikipedia.com) (RationalWiki.com) (Big Think) (Grist.com)

Nina Teicholz

Nina Teicholz, author of “The Big Fat Surprise,” is a journalist who believes that nutrition scientists are all ignoring research showing that saturated fat is good for us and she erroneously states that it plays no role in disease. She cherry picks studies that support her stories and works at great lengths (and stretches of the data) to convince us that the US Dietary Guidelines are the cause of the obesity epidemic .

Here is one of her many tweets blasting the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. She clearly did not read the study (or even the abstract) and does not understand the study design but uses this an opportunity to misinform readers about the study findings:

This study is clearly NOT investigating weight loss, but weight-independent cardiometabolic effects: researchers want participants in both arms of the study to maintain weight so if the diet produces health changes they can be attributed to the diet/foods and not to weight loss (weight loss on it’s own leads to improvements in many health markers which can confound study findings). Unfortunately most people will not read the study, which did note that the Dietary Guidelines group showed an improvement in systolic blood pressure, but did not change glucose homeostasis or fasting lipids (note that reduced body fat plays a role in improving glucose and fasting lipids and may explain these results. Also, the study did not include the physical activity Dietary Guideline recommendation, which would influence glucose homeostasis and fasting lipids.

Most evidence-based reviews show that Teicholz lacks the appropriate nutrition expertise to critique studies and put decades of research in context. Many experts question her credibility and you should too.

Here is a detailed scientific critique that fact checks Teicholz’s Big Fat Surprise text and outlines the many errors and biases (see The Big Fat Surprise: A Critical Review ( Part 1 Part 2 ).

Pete Evans

This celebrity chef is a proponent of the unfounded health benefits of a paleo diet, (which he states can prevent autism). Though this diet isn’t in itself harmful, it excludes many health-promoting foods for reasons that aren’t well-supported by science. His dietary advice is extreme, he labels many foods as “toxic” and regularly comes out with nutrition “statements” that are plain wrong. His websites and books will tell you not to trust the advice from health professionals, dietitians and public health institutions. His cookbook for toddlers was widely criticized as being potentially harmful to the health of infants.

Peter D’Adamo (Blood Type Diet)

Peter D’Adamo is a naturopath who has written several books promoting the blood type diet (e.g., Eat Right 4 Your Type). The blood type diet recommends eating based on your blood type — O, A, B, or AB — to help you lose weight, have more energy, and prevent disease. The idea is that you will digest foods more efficiently if you eat foods designed for your blood type (the author claims that the foods you eat react chemically with your blood).

The blood type diet did undergo scientific investigation, but researchers found any health improvements were not linked to blood type. Micheal Klapter has taken the time to debunk many of the claims made in Eat Right 4 Your Type here.

D’Adamo also makes ridiculous claims that blood type influences personality.

Rocco DiSpirito

You’ll find plenty of misleading health and nutrition advice in ‘Cook Your Butt Off!’ with Chef Rocco DiSpirito, that has been featured of all places on the New York Times health pages. The book boasts the following:

  • lose up to a pound a day (dangerous and doesn’t lead to sustainable changes)
  • fat-burning foods (don’t exist)
  • gluten-free recipes (because they help you lose weight?) They don’t
  • recipes designed to burn more calories than they contain! Sorry.

In the New York Times video chef DiSpirito explains that we shouldn’t use kitchen appliances and do cooking tasks by hand as a form of exercise to burn more calories (he claims this can burn up to 400 calories an hour – doubtful – unless you’re somehow running around or doing exercises at the same time). I’m all for saving energy, noise, and doing some things by hand, but this doesn’t make sense in terms of diet or nutrition advice. In fact, the reason most people don’t cook is because they don’t have enough time – so it would make more sense to encourage time-saving devices. Also, although health experts are unanimous in encouraging exercise for better health, when it comes to using exercise to burn calories that leads to weight loss there is some debate . It’s disappointing that the New York Times Health Section is promoting such a book.

Steven Gundry

Steven Gundry is a goop contributor, author of several books overloaded with misinformation on diet and disease, and runs the website gundrymd.com. If you sign up for his newsletter, you will immediately be presented with an offer for one of his many supplements – Gundry MD Vital Reds, for a discounted $254.70 (for 6 jars, which is what Gundry recommends): and it’s also recommended you buy Dr. Gundry’s book Diet Evolution (to supercharge the benefits of Vital Reds).

According to the website, MD Vital Reds will

help reduce the fatigue and energy dysfunction which act as warning signs for much more serious health problems. I’ve combined the power of 25 polyphenol-rich superfruits with dozens of natural fat-burning ingredients to help your body maintain higher energy levels and fast metabolism.”

Save your money – there is no good evidence to back up any of these claims.

And Vital Reds is just the beginning!

You can spend a lot more money on unproven supplements at Gundrymd.com. These include “Lectin Shield” ($75) – to protect yourself from the “toxic” lectins (proteins in some plant foods), which Lundry states are the #1 biggest danger in the American diet. Gundry has even written a book about lectins (to convince you that you really do need Lectin Shield). In The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in Healthy foods that Cause Disease and Weight Gain, he claims that lectins are the cause of almost all diseases. The fact that Dr Oz has endorsed the book is a good clue to the pseudoscience within.

The book promo has the familiar popular line that introduces much pseudoscience . . .

Is it possible that everything you’ve heard about diet, weight, and nutrition is wrong?

There is no good evidence showing that lectins cause disease

Avoiding lectins means missing out on many nutritious foods, including whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, dairy, eggs, and fruit. The Atlantic’s James Hamblin has an excellent commentary on the Gundry’s book, including this observation:

“In fact, the book seems to be a sort of culmination of a long-percolating hypothesis about the imminent dangers of lectins. It’s especially common among purveyors of dietary supplements. The story goes: We need nutrients to survive, but many plants makes us sick, so synthetic supplement pills and powders are the prudent approach. The idea is based in just enough evidence to be seriously convincing in the right hands.”

“…Book publishers are rarely held accountable for publishing invalid health information. Rather, there seems to be an incentive to publish the most outlandish claims that purport to upend everything the reader has ever heard. This is a problem much bigger than any plant protein. Cycles of fad dieting and insidious misinformation undermine both public health and understanding of how science works, giving way to a sense of chaos.”

Other ridiculous health claims by Gundry on the goop website include that eating out-of-season fruit is one of the biggest modern health hazards (because “fruit promotes fat storage”).


What Prüvit Is and How Does It Work?

Prüvit, a play on the words prove and it, cites research that includes articles, studies, and clinical trials, but quickly adds that it’s not responsible for inaccuracies in the data. Not the first in the ketosis or ketone-diet zone by a long shot, nonetheless Prüvit says it’s tackled the “supplement world by creating the world’s first consumer-based ketone supplement drink, KETO//OS ® .” [4]

Described as a beverage blend of “advanced macro nutritionals (that) promotes optimized cellular regeneration, energy and longevity,” it comes in flavors like Maui-Punch, Chocolate Swirl and Orange Dream that range from $75 to $130 for 20 servings. Another product, KETO/KREME, “derived from the heart of the coconut, is one of the healthiest natural fats known to the world. Our bodies convert fat into energy quickly giving you a powerful mental boost—we call it brain fuel,” Prüvit says. This is $75 for 20 servings.

The primary ingredient is Beta-hydroxybutyrate, which “puts ketones in your blood.” Mayo Clinic medical laboratory scientists describe beta hydroxybutyrate as being the greatest of the three ketones found in the blood and is present during “carbohydrate deprivation.” [5] In theory, Prüvit says, “even those who don’t change a thing, will still experience the benefits. However, it is encouraged that you slowly begin to follow a lower carbohydrate diet.”

So unless you’re already close to an acceptable and healthy weight with normal to or near-to-normal body fat, adding the supplement alone won’t cut it. In other words, you cannot take this supplement and then continue Netflix/pizza and expect any benefit. You’d have to do a low-carb diet.

About low-carb diets: It’s not news that seriously cutting or eliminating sugars and other bad white stuff—simple carbohydrates found in processed and refined sugars—can mean dramatic weight loss, though it’s a rough ride for carb-loving people (most of us!). Anyone who’s been on Atkins knows this to be true. The problem is sticking with it.

When you eliminate carbs dramatically your body goes into ketosis, where there’s not enough glucose for fuel so your fat is burned and ketones are built up. For some there are side effects, like fatigue and headaches, and for others none. So if you move that bod at all fat starts to melt away, beginning with belly fat, and hunger pains begin to fade. So if you adhere strictly, a very-low carb diet will reduce blood sugar, send your HDL—the good kind of cholesterol—up, send triglycerides down, and kick-start your metabolism all of which means you’re at lower risk for heart disease. But Prüvit thinks you should go a step further.


1. What is a keto diet?

The keto diet is a very low-carb, higher-fat diet. It’s similar in many ways to other low-carb diets.

While you eat far fewer carbohydrates on a keto diet, you maintain moderate protein consumption and may increase your intake of fat. The reduction in carb intake puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis, where fat, from your diet and from your body, is burned for energy.

You can quickly learn more about the basic ideas behind the keto diet in this video course:

What “keto” means

A “keto” or “ketogenic” diet is so named because it causes your body to produce small fuel molecules called “ketones.” 5 This is an alternative fuel source for your body that can be used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply.

When you eat very few carbs or very few calories, your liver produces ketones from fat. These ketones then serve as a fuel source throughout the body, especially for the brain. 6

The brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose – or ketones. 7

On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat all day long. When insulin levels drop very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. 8

This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there can also be other benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy — without the sugar peaks and valleys that often occur when eating high-carb meals. This may help keep you alert and focused. 9

When the body produces ketones, it enters a metabolic state called ketosis. The fastest way to get there is by fasting – not eating anything – but nobody can consistently fast forever. 10

A keto diet, on the other hand, also results in ketosis and can be eaten indefinitely. It has many of the benefits of fasting – including weight loss – without having to fast long term. 11

Who should NOT do a ketogenic diet?

There are controversies and myths about a keto diet, but for most people it appears to be very safe. 12 However, three groups often require special consideration:

  • Do you take medication for diabetes, such as insulin? More
  • Do you take medication for high blood pressure? More
  • Do you breastfeed? More

For more details about pros and cons in different situations, check out our full guide: Is a keto diet right for you?

Are you a doctor or do you need your doctor to help you with medications on a keto diet? Have a look at our low carb for doctors guide.

This guide is written for adults with health issues, including obesity, that could benefit from a ketogenic diet.

Controversial topics related to a keto diet, and our take on them, include saturated fats, cholesterol, whole grains, red meat, whether the brain needs carbohydrates and restricting calories for weight loss. Learn more


To benefit from the proven DASH eating plan, it is important to limit daily sodium levels to 2,300 mg, or 1,500 mg if desired, and to consume the appropriate amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if needed.

Ways to Control Sodium Levels

The key to lowering your sodium intake is to make healthier food choices when you’re shopping, cooking, and eating out.

Tips for Lowering Sodium When Shopping, Cooking, and Eating Out

  • Read food labels, and choose items that are lower in sodium and salt, particularly for convenience foods and condiments.*
  • Choose fresh poultry, fish, and lean meats instead of cured food such as bacon and ham.
  • Choose fresh or frozen versus canned fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid food with added salt, such as pickles, pickled vegetables, olives, and sauerkraut.
  • Avoid instant or flavored rice and pasta.
  • Don’t add salt when cooking rice, pasta, and hot cereals.
  • Flavor your foods with salt-free seasoning blends, fresh or dried herbs and spices, or fresh lemon or lime juice.
  • Rinse canned foods or foods soaked in brine before using to remove the sodium.
  • Use less table salt to flavor food.
  • Ask that foods be prepared without added salt or MSG, commonly used in Asian foods.
  • Avoid choosing menu items that have salty ingredients such as bacon, pickles, olives, and cheese.
  • Avoid choosing menu items that include foods that are pickled, cured, smoked, or made with soy sauce or broth.
  • Choose fruit or vegetables as a side dish, instead of chips or fries.

*Examples of convenience foods are frozen dinners, prepackaged foods, and soups examples of condiments are mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, and salad dressings.

Most of the sodium Americans eat comes from processed and prepared foods, such as breads, cold cuts, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches and burgers, cheese, pasta and meat dishes, and salty snacks. Therefore, healthier choices when shopping and eating out are particularly important.

Ways to Control Calories

To benefit from the DASH eating plan, it is important to consume the appropriate amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight. To help, read nutrition labels on food, and plan for success with DASH eating plan sample menus and other heart-healthy recipes.

The DASH eating plan can be used to help you lose weight. To lose weight, follow the DASH eating plan and try to reduce your total daily calories gradually. Find out your daily calorie needs or goals with the Body Weight Planner and calorie chart. Talk with your doctor before beginning any diet or eating plan.

General tips for reducing daily calories include:

  • Eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
  • Reduce the amount of meat that you eat while increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or dry beans.
  • Substitute low-calorie foods, such as when snacking (choose fruits or vegetables instead of sweets and desserts) or drinking (choose water instead of soda or juice), when possible.