Not Really Experts: Big Name Sources of Inaccurate Information

Updated September, 2011

In the world of science, we have what can be described as "notions, "assumptions, inferences, and conclusions." Notions and assumptions are rampant in the world. They are usually knee-jerk reactions that are passed around almost religiously by people. We all have them, and few of us question them when they come our way. They push familiar buttons that feel like they are not only correct, but almost taken for granted because they seem so common-sensical. Marketing people know well how to use them to sell products, and the sales of some of the best selling products in the world are founded on the use of these push buttons. With some frequency, the most popular sources of information are riddled with notions and assumptions that are stated as conclusions.

These are then taken for granted by a majority of the reading public. For instance, when the New York Times features an article on a subject, many people take it as gospel because of the reputation for credibility that the New York Times has. I occasionally find significant errors in articles on nutritional topics that appear in the New York Times. One of my friends who has a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard has the same problem, but in the areas of his expertise.

Inferences come because factual information adds up to a logical conclusion, but the conclusion hasn't been proven yet. Inferences are sometimes shown to be true, although wolves in sheep's clothing can use them to take advantage of less perceptive people by using an inference to get a person to jump to a conclusion, without a conclusion actually having being reached by scientists.

Conclusions are the hardest thing in science to obtain. They come after inferences and hypotheses have been tested, usually in several high quality studies, and groups of scientists evaluate all the information to find out what is true. Below I note some commonly available popular sources of nutritional information that make statements that are sometimes not only not conclusive but actually end up being contrary to the conclusions of quality published scientific data. Unfortunately, this happens a lot in mainstream media and all too often by those who have been blessed by the media as "experts."

Consumer Reports
While I subscribe to Consumer Reports and consider their advice on many purchases I make, I find that what they say about vitamins and other dietary supplements is riddled with misinformation. Obviously, their expert sources are biased against the use of dietary supplements, which is why they do not report in a balanced, accurate manner. They consistently regurgitate negative press and the conclusions of poorly designed studies that cast a negative light on the progressive use of dietary supplements, especially the higher, more optimal dosing that can provide optimal effects in reducing the risks for many diseases.

Dr. Joseph Mercola
The most popular health site on the internet is the one owned by Dr. Joseph Mercola. I used to read his site regularly, but after having discourse with Dr. Mercola about whether HIV causes AIDS - he apparently thinks it does not - and watching his site change into a commercial enterprise, I find little reason to view it and lots of reasons not to.

As to the HIV issue, Dr. Mercola posted a detailed article by someone who was in the school of thought that HIV does not cause AIDS that, to me, could cause incredible harm to people with HIV who believe it and do not seek treatment. When I questioned the author and Dr. Mercola on this issue, the author dismissed most of my questions without really answering me and told me that the article was "peer-reviewed" and that Dr. Mercola was one of the peer-reviewers, as if that made it credible.

I asked how many HIV patients Dr. Mercola, as a "peer-reviewer" had treated and received no reply. I wonder whether the answer is "none."

Promoting the notion that HIV does not cause AIDS and not answering my question makes Dr. Mercola considerably less credible to me. I'm sure his intentions have been good, but he is biased and on the wrong side of truth in this issue.

He continues to have insight into a some useful topics from time to time -- he promoted taking higher doses of vitamin D before it became popular and he promoted taking fish oil supplements. However, the majority of what he puts on his site the last few years is either useless to me or hype - or in some cases it is inaccurate.

Recently, it has degenerated to the point where some articles are just sales pitches for deceptively marketed products. Therefore, I can't rely on him to be a consistent source of accurate information, especially related to things he sells.

Dr. Mercola's Products
As to the products he's selling, our office bought twenty-four of the lights Dr. Mercola recommends as being the best full spectrum lights available. When two of the lights were installed the people that work with me complained that the lights were "cold, harsh and reminded us of the horrible lights we remember in grade school." We returned them.

He also sells his version of "whole-food vitamins," which are a hype-ridden very weak vitamin formula that is based on the notion that putting foods in vitamin tablets somehow makes the vitamins work better. This either bespeaks a very poor understand of nutritional biochemistry or he's just selling this product to sell it because his marketing people told him to, with no real thought on his part. It's a very poorly designed formula. His marketing people know that their customers will buy a product just because he recommends it, because where they used to provide an ingredient list for his vitamins, they do not now. I can't imagine buying vitamins without seeing the ingredients list. Can you?

Then he makes scientific mistakes in creating his fear-based selling. On the page where he's selling his antioxidant formula, never detailing what's in the formula except to tell us there's a tiny 50 mg of resveratrol, he says, "Consumer Alert: Berries are a Great Source of Antioxidants, but Watch Out for the Sugar." This is nonsense. The amount of sugar in fruits like berries is small and harmless compared to any real sugary food offender.

He mentions blueberries as something to be cautious of. "Watch out of too much sugar." ...And buy his product instead. Fresh blueberries only give you 300 calories per pound. This is small compared to typical cake with frosting, that contains 1400 to 1600 calories per pound. The hyped use of fear to sell products works for some people, but I won't buy from companies that use it.

Natural News with the Health Ranger
To give credit where it's due, Health Ranger Mike Adams does come up with some ground-breaking information, such as information on liposomal vitamin C. However, the fact that Mike espouses "whole-food-grown" nutrients and shows a bias towards the companies that sell these low-potency, high priced ultra-natural-appearing products makes me think that he has someone who reads medical journal studies and informs him of interesting data. He doesn't understand some of the basics of progressive nutritional biochemistry well enough to come up with the ground-breaking information he delivers.

His other obvious mistakes occur in a fashion that are easy to recognize. Take note of his fear-based "watch out for lethal toxicity or consumer ripoff that you need me to warn you about, so you'll keep reading my website."

This is graphically illustrated in M.D. Uncovers the Awful Truth about CoQ10. Health Ranger denounces the form of CoQ10, ubiquinone, that was originally introduced to the public a dozen or so years ago as barely absorbing, and then there's a link (above) to a doctor selling the newest version of CoQ10, called ubiquinol.

While it is true that absorption of ubiquinol is superior to ubiquinone, ubiquinone is far from useless. My own blood tests agree with several published studies that confirm good absorption. I was taking 400 mg per day at one point and when my research partner doctor saw that my blood Co-Q10 measurement reading was 307 where the top of normal is 300 he asked the logical questions, "Why?" I had no good reason for an answer except that I wanted to. I then lowered the dose to 200 mg per day and watched my blood test drop to the upper third of normal. CoQ10 as ubiquinone absorbed just fine.

Health Ranger is another media worker who uses hyperbole, shock and "fantastic" statements of possible health hazards to keep readers needing to read his words.

Prescription for Nutritional Healing by James F. Balch, MD, and Phyllis A. Balch, CNC.
Unfortunately, this is the number-one selling book in natural foods storesin the US. The first thing I note is that the notions presented in the book are not accompanied by references to peer-reviewed medical journal studies. In fact, when I went looking at studies that investigated some of the notions in the book, all too often I found that published studies did not support what the book says. Several times I found that quality published studies disagreed with what is contained in this book. In its favor, the bulk of information in this book are simple concepts telling what certain vitamins, minerals and natural products do. This has fundamental value. However, the book makes several recommendations about dosages and diseases that are based on notions and assumptions, not hard science. This book is an example of the "Trust me, I'm a doctor" school of authorship.

I have a saying, "In God I trust. All others must provide references." The contents in this book would change radically for the better if the authors took the time to do their homework and read the studies related to what information they provide. This would cause them to correct inaccuracies in the book, and then provide references that confirm their new-found conclusions.

Dr. Andrew Weil
While Dr. Weil has done much good to increase the acceptance of natural medicine and healthy living by millions of people, he consistently demonstrates a lack of depth in his understanding of nutrient science, nutritional biochemistry and dietary supplements and makes mistakes in his recommendations to the public that can harm great numbers of people because of his international reputation as being an "expert."

For instance, he recommends not taking vitamin A or iron in dietary supplements. He says they are "toxic." Vitamin A and iron are essential nutrients, meaning they are essential for health and life itself. Like many things in nature and in chemistry, there is an optimal effective range where there is neither too much, which might cause problems or too little, which might create observable deficiency syndromes. Vitamin A only creates problems if you have too much or too little of it. No health food store in the United States sells a multivitamin with anywhere near the 21,600 IU per day that the US government calls the "Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level." Every multivitamin I have seen of recent has no more than 5,000 IU per day, which is 1/2 the 10,000 IU per day dose that has absolutely and conclusively been proven to be a safe dose.

The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine says that vitamin A has a Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level (LOAEL) of 21,600 IU, which when taken over a long time period might cause toxicity for some sensitive people. There are no multivitamins sold in the United States that contain this high amount of vitamin A. Therefore, there is no toxic amount of vitamin A in any multivitamin you can buy here.

The Institute of Medicine also says that the LOAEL for iron is 100 mg, when taken over a long time period. There are no multivitamins with 100 mg of iron in the United States. Therefore, notions of toxicity for normally health adults are off-based and Dr. Weil's poorly grounded statement has the potential to harm people who are deficient. Deficiency is somewhat common, especially with iron, which is the number one nutrient deficiency in seniors in the USA.

These are essential nutrients that are required for long-term health and for life itself. Unless you eat a very well-balanced diet, meaning 15 or so servings of fruits, vegetables, and whatever protein and fat sources you choose, the preponderance of scientific evidence shows that it's more likely that you are getting too little of these critical nutrients than too much. And it's hard to get too much of them with the supplements you can buy in health food stores. There are no multivitamins with anywhere near what is known to be too much sold in the marketplace in the USA.
Click here to read about vitamin A.
Click here to read about iron.
Click here to read about nutrient dosing and safety with a table showing US government conclusions about what doses are safe.

Consumer Labs
Read ConsumerLabs' Credibility Challenged.

Are you under the impression that Wikipedia, the internet encylopedia, is a precise reference source? It is not always so.

On inspecting the page on whole food supplements (since removed) I found that anyone can create or edit pages there without any science to support what they say. All a person has to do to put text on Wikipedia pages is type it there. One can attach some kind of reference, even references that have little to do with the text.

Pages that have many people working on them can be quite sophisticated with tremendous detailing. However, on pages that are not popular or watched by people with real scientific accumen, long periods of time can go by before anyone checks the details to confirm that they are supported by science. On pages that aren't watched and edited by many people, Wikipedia's text can be like just a bunch of monkeys typing whatever they want.

Wikipedie especially exposes how "human" it is on its page for "orthomolecular medicine." There is so much venomous bias on this page, that I would be embarrassed if my name were attached to it. So much error. What a shame.

Mayo Clinic Health Oasis Website
Many people turn to internet websites for their health information, and few sites are as highly regarded as the Mayo Clinic Health Oasis site which professes to offer "Reliable information for a healthier life." (

In a recent posting, the Mayo Clinic experts proclaimed, "Whether hens are raised free-range or in cages has no effect on the nutrients in the eggs they lay," and, then later on in the same article, "Feed and yolk color don't alter the nutritive content of the egg."

The experts should be more thorough in their research. From "Why Grassfed Is Best!," eggs from pastured poultry are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin A.

Meanwhile, they are lower in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

In addition, there is a direct relationship between feed, yolk color, and the nutrient content of the egg. The more orange the yolk, the higher the level of health-enhancing carotenoids.

Compared to supermarket eggs, eggs from pastured poultry are a vivid yellow/orange—proof of a richer store of disease-fighting carotenes.

(Bornstein, S. and I. Bartov (1966). "Studies on egg yolk pigmentation. I. A comparison between visual scoring of yolk color and colorimetric assay of yolk carotenoids." Poult Sci 45(2): 287-96.)

With love, care and prudence,
Michael Mooney