Joseph Mercola is a popular alternative medicine doctor who advocates for many unproven alternate health treatments while making millions of dollars selling the supposed cures to those conditions. His advertising is slick, cleverly misusing and altering information, relying on scare tactics, and always turning to the reliable standby: conspiracy theories. He is the modern day snake-oil salesman who uses devious psychological techniques to manipulate and influence his readers.
1) What Mercola honestly believes causes cancer:
Root canals. Tattoos. Birth control. Bras. Microwave popcorn. The H1N1 vaccine. The HPV vaccine. Actually, most vaccines. Cellphones. Landlines (if they’re cordless). Fructose. Antiperspirant. Tamoxifen (a cancer treatment). Heartburn medications. Tap water. Power lines. Burning incense. Electric blankets. Hair dye. Pringles. Carbs. “Dirty” electricity. Cereal.
2) Mercola: Baking Soda Cures Cancer
Mercola asserts several times in his web site that cancer is a fungus and sodium bicarbonate – baking soda - is the cure. Not one shred of evidence backs this up:
“This ‘theory’ comes from the not-very-observant observation that ‘cancer is always white’. One obvious problem with this idea – apart from the fact that cancer cells are clearly not fungal in origin – is that cancer isn’t always white. Some tumours are. But some aren’t. Ask any pathologist or cancer surgeon, or have a look on Google Image search (but maybe not after lunch…). Proponents of this theory say that cancer is caused by infection by the fungus candida, and that tumours are actually the body’s attempt at protecting itself from this infection.
“But there’s no evidence to show that this is true....... The ‘simple solution’ is apparently to inject tumours with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). This isn’t even the treatment used to treat proven fungal infections, let alone cancer. On the contrary, there’s good evidence that high doses of sodium bicarbonate can lead to serious – even fatal – consequences...... Because the body strongly resists attempts to change its pH, usually by getting rid of bicarbonate through the kidneys, there’s a risk that doses large enough to significantly affect the pH around a tumour might cause a serious condition known as alkalosis.”
3) Mercola Brash on the Gerson Therapy
Mercola is confident and bold in his continuous assertions that the Gerson Therapy cures cancer. He believes the cure is achieved by a diet that is high in potassium, low in sodium, abounding in organic fruits and vegetables, a staggering amounts of vitamin supplements (available from his online store) and coffee enemas. Inexplicably, this flushes out toxins, repairs the liver, and the cancer is defeated. The facts prove otherwise:
“Based on one methodologically flawed retrospective study and several case reports, there is no clear evidence that Gerson therapy is an effective treatment for people with cancer. A small ‘Best Case Series’ review concluded that both physical and psychological benefits appeared to be offered by this regime, but these findings have not been replicated in any acceptable trials. No randomized controlled trials have been conducted on the Gerson Therapy. Attempts to evaluate the Gerson therapy as a whole are problematic due to the complexity of the treatment, time taken for its possible effectiveness and poor record keeping/tracking of previous patients by the Gerson Institute….. A 2010 overview of the Gerson regimen reported that case reviews by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the New York County Medical Society found no evidence of usefulness for the Gerson diet.”
4) Mercola In A Conflict of Interest
Dr. Mercola’s web sites sells hundreds of health products and earns $9.8 million annually. This is medically unethical:
“A characteristic of real doctors and real health care providers is that they usually don’t sell the drugs and remedies that they recommend. Indeed, physicians are generally not allowed to in most states, as it’s considered a conflict of interest. Also, the Stark Law forbids physician self-referral, which is the referral of a patient to a medical facility in which that physician has a financial interest, be it ownership, investment, or a structured compensation arrangement. The reason why it’s considered unethical for physicians to sell the drugs or treatments they recommend or to self-refer is that there is an inherent conflict of interest in such practices, and self-referral in particular encourages overutilization of services and the ordering of tests that might not be medically necessary.”
6) Mercola and Fluoridation
Mercola is a conspiracy theorist who believes the evil US government is poisoning Americans by adding fluoride to drinking water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“Early investigations into the physiologic effects of fluoride in drinking water pre-dated the first community field trials. Since 1950, opponents of water fluoridation have claimed it increased the risk for cancer, Down syndrome, heart disease, osteoporosis and bone fracture, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, low intelligence, Alzheimer disease, allergic reactions, and other health conditions The safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation have been re-evaluated frequently, and no credible evidence supports an association between fluoridation and any of these conditions.”
7) Mercola’s Mercurial Hypocrisy
Mercola has stated and written that mercury is so toxic that "that entire buildings have been evacuated for a mercury spill smaller than a standard dental filling." He also states that: “There Is NO Safe Level of Mercury Exposure”. However, his own product, Mercola’s Himalayan Crystal Salt, contains mercury, as well as other chemicals like lead, aluminum and arsenic, that he considers very dangerous in tiny amounts.
“Mercola doesn’t stop there with the mineral misinformation. ‘[T]he salt industry is successful in convincing you there are actually health advantages to adding potentially toxic iodine,’ he laments. As a doctor, he must know that iodine is a crucial micronutrient in the human diet. First added to salt in the mid-1920s to mitigate the widespread incidence of goiter, an unsightly and life threatening enlargement of the thyroid, it also plays a crucial role in brain development.
“If Mercola is truly so opposed to iodine in salt, we wonder why iodine is one of the 84 elements he claims beneficial in his Himalayan salt, over a dozen of which he has declared unsafe or unsavory in some way, even in extremely minute amounts.
“Perhaps the naturopathic doc doesn’t expect Mercola.com visitors to check the composition of the products sold through his online store, and hopes the misleading rhetoric will convert readers into customers. After a hefty helping of fear mongering, with claims that normal table salt causes everything from “unsightly cellulite” to arthritis, readers are taken to a link to order Dr. Mercola’s own ‘Healthy Chef’ Himalayan Crystal Salt.”
A more detailed analysis is found at:
8) Mercola and Homeopathy
Mercola is well known for his advocacy of homeopathy in curing an almost endless number of ailments and conditions. Professor in law and public health at the University of Alberta and the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, Timothy Caulfield summarizes the pseudo-scientific belief:
“Homeopathy has been around for hundreds of years. The basic philosophy behind the practice is the idea of ‘like cures like.’ A homeopathic remedy consists of a natural substance — a bit of herb, root, mineral, you get the idea — that ‘corresponds’ to the ailment you wish to treat. The ‘active’ agent is placed in water and then diluted to the point where it no longer exists in any physical sense.
“In fact, practitioners of homeopathy believe that the more diluted a remedy is, the more powerful it is. So, if you subscribe to this particular worldview, ironically, you want your active agents to be not just non-existent, but super non-existent.
“The bottom line: For those of us who reside in the material world, where the laws of physics have relevance, a homeopathic remedy is either nothing but water or, if in capsule form, a sugar pill. The very concept of ‘like cures like’ and super dilution have absolutely no foundation in science. There is no evidence to support the idea that the active agents — the herb, root, mineral — correspond in any biologically meaningful way to the particular ailments that the homeopathic treatments are meant to treat.”
9) Mercola the Anti-Vaxxer
Mercola believes in drastically reducing the number of vaccines administered to children. This includes zero vaccines until the child is two years old, which puts babies at risk should they catch a disease like whooping cough. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
“Children are given shots (vaccines) at a young age because this is when they are at highest risk of getting sick or dying if they get these diseases. Newborn babies are immune to some diseases because they have antibodies they get from their mothers, usually before they are born. However, this immunity lasts a few months. Most babies do not get protective antibodies against diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, tetanus, hepatitis B, or Hib from their mothers. This is why it’s important to vaccinate a child before she or he is exposed to a disease.
“Vaccines contain weakened or killed versions of the germs that cause a disease. These elements of vaccines, and other molecules and micro-organisms that stimulate the immune system, are called “antigens.” Babies are exposed to thousands of germs and other antigens in the environment from the time they are born. When a baby is born, his or her immune system is ready to respond to the many antigens in the environment and the selected antigens in vaccines.”
10) Mercola and GMO’s
Mercola loves employing scare tactics. Declaring GMO’s one of the greatest and gravest threat to life on earth is just one example. The evidence points otherwise:
11) FDA Warns Mercola
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has learned that you are marketing the Meditherm Med2000 Telethermographic camera at your Thermography facility in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and endorse for other thermography centers outside of Illinois for uses that have not received marketing clearance or approval, in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act)…… The Meditherm Med2000 Telethermographic camera is not intended to be used as a stand-alone device to diagnose or screen any disease or condition. However, your website makes claims that the Meditherm Med2000 Telethermographic camera can be used alone to diagnose or screen for diseases and conditions…….”
The FDA quotes Mercola and his incredible claims:
“Yes, it’s true. Thermograms provide you with early diagnosis and treatment assistance in such problems as cancer, inflammatory processes, neurological and vascular dysfunction, and musculoskeletal injury.”
Mercola lists other amazing benefits that include the detection of: bursitis, herniated discs, ligament or muscle tear, lupus, nerve problems, whiplash, stroke screening, arthritis, immune dysfunction, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease.
The FDA also issued the following general medical device alert and notice:
“The FDA is issuing this communication to alert the public, including women and health care providers, that thermography is not a replacement for screening mammography and should not be used by itself to diagnose breast cancer. The FDA is not aware of any valid scientific data to show that thermographic devices, when used on their own, are an effective screening tool for any medical condition including the early detection of breast cancer or other breast disease.”
12) FDA forces Mercola to issue refunds for bogus product:
The FDA caught Mercola red-handed in blatant lies and falsehoods made in selling his tanning beds. He was forced to fully refund his duped customers and to terminate the sale of all tanning beds. Below are three examples taken from official complaint filed by the United States District Court, Northern Illinois District:
False FDA Endorsement and Proof Claims
Through the means described in Paragraph 13, Defendants have represented, expressly or by implication, that:
-----The FDA has endorsed the use of indoor tanning systems as safe;
-----Research proves that indoor tanning systems do not increase the risk of melanoma skin cancer.
In truth and in fact, the FDA has not endorsed the use of indoor tanning systems as safe; and research does not prove that indoor tanning systems do not increase the risk of melanoma skin cancer. Therefore, the making of the representations as set forth in Paragraph 20 of this Complaint constitutes a deceptive act or practice and the making of false advertisements….
False or Unsubstantiated Anti -Aging Claims
Through the means described in Paragraph 13, Defendants have represented, expressly or by implication, that the Mercola brand tanning systems with the model names SunSplash Refresh, SunSplash Renew , Vitality, and D-Lite will pull collagen back to the surface of the skin, increase elastin and other enzymes that support the skin, fill in lines and wrinkles , and reverse the appearance of aging.
The representations set forth in Paragraph 23 are false or misleading, or were not substantiated at the time the representations were made. Therefore, the making of the representations as set forth in Paragraph 23 of this Complaint constitutes a deceptive act or practice and the making of false advertisements…..
Failure to Disclose Material Facts Related to Health
Through the means described in Paragraph 13, Defendants have represented, expressly or by implication, that tanning with Mercola brand tanning systems provides various benefits to consumers, including but not limited to increasing Vitamin D and providing Vitamin D-related health benefits. Defendants have failed to disclose that:
-----Tanning with indoor tanning systems increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma skin cancer;
-----It is not necessary to tan to produce Vitamin D
This additional information would be material to consumers in their purchase or use of Mercola brand tanning systems. Defendants’ failure to disclose the information described in Paragraph 31, in light of the representation described in Paragraph 30, constitutes a deceptive act or practice and the making of false advertisements…..
Mercola recently settled his false advertising claim and must refund up to $5.3 million to his customers:
unsubstantiated hysteria and paranoia - anti-vaccine spin or his long list of cancer causes – knowing he can “hook” them emotionally and after a few weeks no one can tell them any different. Pride kicks in and most people will go to any length to avoid admitting they were wrong, especially about such important subjects.
-----Mercola knows people are looking for meaning and purpose in life. Many are spiritually and emotionally bankrupt to some degree. He exploits this by elevating himself as the “truth-teller” and medical hero exposing all the lies of modern medicine. When the target buys in, he or she experiences an existential rush, a of being one of the select few who are “in the know”. All religious cults, conspiracy theorists, and alternative medicine practitioners use this method.
-----This one is subtle. Whether Mercola knows it or not, he is exploiting the prevalent human tendency to feel a need to immediately come to an opinion or conclusion on any subject or issue. If the person is brutally honest, he or she knows the counterpoints have not been examined and evaluated. For many people, this just doesn’t matter.
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