Kelly Brogan, MD: A-Salt With A “Deadly” Weapon (Part Two)

kelly brogan fluoride hypocrisy

In part one of this series,1 it was revealed that Kelly Brogan, M.D., sells an aluminum-laden health supplement while simultaneously (falsely) linking small amounts of aluminum to myriad serious health problems, and fear-mongering the population at large into avoiding safe, effective vaccines.  Here, in part two, we’ll look at a second “toxic” ingredient found in the same Brogan supplement.  It’s particularly important to point out Brogan’s hypocrisy and questionable medical practices at this time, as she’s been named to the advisory board of the popular SXSW Conference, taking place March 9-17, 2018,  in Austin, TX.2,3

At question in part two of this series is fluoride, an anion of the element fluorine.  Kelly Brogan, without evidence, links fluoride to depression, low IQ, labels it an endocrine-disrupting poison, and implicates it in birth defects.6,7,8,9

Sigh. Alex, I’ll take “Products Sold in Kelly Brogan’s Online Store,”10 and make it a true Daily Double:

kelly brogan fluoride real salt resources

A two-image composite of the Real Salt sold by Kelly Brogan via her online store. The salt contains fluoride, which Brogan links to birth defects, depression, and neurological disorders. (click/enlarge)

Real Salt.  That’s certainly better than fake salt!  Allow me to point out an ingredient of particular interest for you (click image to enlarge):11

Kelly Brogran SXSW fluoride image

Kelly Brogan’s Real Salt contains fluoride, an anion she falsely links to a plethora of diseases, even when used in small amounts. Why then is she selling it? (click/enlarge)

Do you see it?  Fluoride! I’ve highlighted it for you (click the above image to enlarge).  Yet wasn’t Doc Brogan just this very moment warning us that fluoride caused health problems?    Now, 0.0193mg per serving (13.8 parts per million) might not seem like a lot, but let’s see what Kelly Brogan herself thinks about the presence of wee amounts of an element she’s linked to birth defects:6,7,8,9

We thought that chemicals were only dangerous in big doses.

An entire burgeoning field of toxicology now endorses the role of the endocrine system in the toxic effects of even small doses of chemicals, which can synergize together to wreak havoc in dose ranges as low as parts-per-billion and which regulators still don’t consider in toxicological risk assessments.” (emphasis mine) –Kelly Brogan 12

 

So Kelly Brogan, Medicine Woman, apparently would agree that the small dose of fluoride in her product is enough to be dangerous.  But wait, it gets worse: when Brogan speaks of “synergy”, she’s referring to the concept that the outcome of mixing two chemicals is greater than the expected sum of their parts.  If you’re into tropical drinks, think of synergy like this… it’s the “lime in d’coconut” moment your tastebuds experience when you realize your beverage is fruitier than either the lime or coconut itself could provide on their own.  If you don’t like lime or coconut, and the purists will forgive me, think of synergy as sort of 2 + 2 = 4½.

Why does synergy matter in this discussion?  Because in this same supplement we’ve already caught Brogan red-handed selling more aluminum than can be found in the vaccines she wrongly demonizes.1 Now she’s added fluoride to the mix. If, according to Brogan, small amounts of aluminum are linked to Alzheimer’s,1 and fluoride to birth defects,6,7,8,9 and synergy comes into play when combining even small amounts of “toxic” chemicals such as these, what are we to say then when we find fluoride and aluminum together, locked in a tender embrace, in aisle three, row five, shelf number four, of her online store?

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”   In selling her followers a combination of a dose of chemicals (aluminum, fluoride) she claims will  put them at risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine system disorders, and birth defects, while in her own mind believing that synergistic effects could compound the problem, Dr. Kelly Brogan abandons all claims to the aforementioned honesty.  In hosting her on their medical advisory board, the SXSW Festival has thrown Jefferson’s metaphorical book of wisdom onto the bonfire of ignorance.  SXSW draws thousands of journalists and, in 2016, nearly 100,000 attendees,4,5 giving Brogan, an AIDS and germ-theory denier who spreads falsehoods on life-saving vaccines,13,14 fertile ground to spread misinformation that could literally cost human lives.

There is a growing online protest against Kelly Brogan’s presence at SXSW. If you’d like to join in (politely, please), consider tweeting this article (or part 1).  Suggested Twitter handles and hashtags are:

@SXSW @KellyBroganMD #SXSW #BumpBrogan

 

References
(1) Kelly Brogan, MD: A-Salt With a “Deadly” Weapon (Part One)
https://badscidebunked.wordpress.com/2017/12/18/kelly-brogan-md-a-salt-with-a-deadly-weapon-part-one/
Retrieved 19 Dec 2017

(2) SXSW Home Page
https://www.sxsw.com/
Retrieved 06 Feb 2018

(3) Meet the 2018 SXSW Wellness Expo Advisory Board
https://www.sxsw.com/news/2017/meet-the-2018-sxsw-wellness-expo-advisory-board/
Retrieved 06 Feb 2018

(4) SXSW Facts, Figures, Quotes
https://www.sxsw.com/facts-figures-quotes/
Retrieved 06 Feb 2018

(5) (CNN) South by Southwest Fast Facts
https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/13/us/south-by-southwest-fast-facts/index.html
Retrieved 06 Feb 2018

(6) 7 Facts About Depression That Will Blow You Away
Warning: not a scholarly article.  Contains false and/or misleading information.
http://kellybroganmd.com/7-facts-about-depression-that-will-blow-you-away/
Retrieved 18 Dec 2017

(7) Are You Fluoridated?
Warning: not a scholarly article.  Contains false and/or misleading information.
http://kellybroganmd.com/are-you-fluoridated/
Retrieved 18 Dec 2017

(8) Birth Defects From Contaminated Water
Warning: not a scholarly article.  Contains false and/or misleading information.
http://kellybroganmd.com/birth-defects-from-contaminated-water/
Retrieved 18 Dec 2017

(9) Thyroid Symptoms? Q&A with Dr. Amy Myers
Warning: not a scholarly article.  Contains false and/or misleading information.
http://kellybroganmd.com/thyroid-health-qa-dr-amy-myers/
Retrieved 17 Dec 2017

(10) Real Salt (Kelly Brogan Online Store)
http://kellybroganmd.com/resources/
Retrieved 11 Dec 2017

(11) Real Salt Chemical Analysis
http://realsalt.redmond.life/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/05/Real-Salt-Analysis.pdf
Retrieved 04 Feb Feb 2017

(12) The Brain Does Have An Immune System
Warning: not a scholarly article.  Contains false and/or misleading information.
http://kellybroganmd.com/the-brain-does-have-an-immune-system/
Retrieved 27 Dec 2017

(13) (Newsweek) HIV Doesn’t Cause AIDS According to […] Kelly Brogan
http://www.newsweek.com/hiv-doesnt-cause-aids-according-gwyneth-paltrow-goop-doctor-kelly-brogan-735645
Retrieved 04 Feb 2017

(14) Immunity: The Emerging Truth
Warning: not a scholarly article.  Contains false and/or misleading information.
http://kellybroganmd.com/immunity-emerging-truth/
Retrieved 04 Feb 2017

 

Image Credits
A small section of the textbook “General Chemistry 101: 607 Pages of Notes Covering All High School and College General Chemistry” by Professor Chemistry, available on Amazon at
https://www.amazon.com/General-Chemistry-101-Covering-College/dp/1979048754/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1513472704&sr=1-2&keywords=chemistry+101, was used in the cover art under provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

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Kelly Brogan, MD: A-Salt With a “Deadly” Weapon (Part One)

kelly brogan real salt aluminum vaccines header

The takeaways:

  • Kelly Brogan, M.D. claims aluminum is toxic to all life forms1 and falsely links it to a plethora of diseases.
  • Brogan’s fear mongering re: aluminum includes steering patients away from life-saving vaccines that contain small amounts of the element.
  • Via her online store, the doctor sells aluminum via a health supplement, in amounts that equal or exceed the aluminum found in the vaccines she wrongly vilifies.
  • Ominously, the 2018 SXSW Festival is offering Dr. Brogan a popular platform to further her dangerous and hypocritical “medical” views.

You can’t swing a virtual dead cat on the internet without hitting a doctor who has an online store, and Kelly Brogan, M.D., is no exception.  While Brogan tirelessly campaigns against aluminum in vaccines, foods, and beauty products, ironically, she sells a health supplement that contains as much or more aluminum than is found in the safe, critical vaccines against which she fear mongers.

Dr. Brogan peddles Real Salt2, touted to contain more than sixty essential trace elements that promote health and well being.3  Unfortunately for the good doctor, one of those elements is aluminum, which she falsely links to a wide range of problems, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, neurological disorders, ADHD, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and others.1,4,5,6,7,8,10

In the following images, we can see Real Salt for sale at KellyBroganMD.com,2 as well as an elemental analysis of the salt provided by the vendor.9  Please click each image to enlarge.

kelly brogan resources: real salt, contains aluminum

A two-image composite from Kelly Brogan’s online store highlighting the “Real Salt” sold by the doctor. (click/enlarge)

Kelly brogan sells as much or more aluminum than can be found in vaccines and products she vilifies

Analysis of Kelly Brogan’s Real Salt reveals as much or more aluminum than can be found in the vaccines she wrongly vilifies.  See references for full list;9 this screen snapshot has been altered by the author to highlight the aluminum.  No changes to elements or quantities have been made.  (click/enlarge)

 

It must be strongly stated that the dangers posed by aluminum, and in particular Real Salt, the product sold by Ms. Brogan, exist solely in her mind.  The Real Salt brand is as safe as any item you’d find on your store shelf.

Route of administration (e.g. ingestion, injection, inhalation, absorption via the skin) matters in the real world, but you won’t find Kelly Brogan living in such a place.   She’s an equal opportunity alarmist, damning aluminum whether its injected as a vaccine, ingested as an antacid or baking soda, or rubbed on the skin as an antiperspirant.5  Fine.  Let’s play by her rules.  Since vaccines are arguably one of the most important advancements in recent human history, I thought it would be instructive to compare the amount of aluminum found in Brogan’s own product against that found in some of the essential vaccines she wrongly condemns.

Nothing but the Facts, Ma’am
As we can see in the previous table, Real Salt lists an average of 0.1946mg of aluminum per serving in their product,** where a serving size is 1.4 grams (approximately one quarter teaspoon).  By comparison:

  • The HPV vaccine is indicted by Brogan for alleged biotoxicity.6   It protects against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV), and contains 0.5mg/dose of aluminum.11,13  This is equal to just  2.6 servings of Kelly Brogan’s salt.

 

  • Regarding the 0.125 mg/dose of aluminum in the Pneumococcal vaccine,12,13 the aluminum in Brogan’s salt exceeds the vaccine’s by 36%.   That’s right, you’ll get more aluminum from the doctor’s Real Salt than from the vaccine.  Yes, I know it’s ingested rather than injected here, but remember, Brogan damns aluminum regardless of route of administration.5   Dr. B. wrongly links the Pneumococcal vaccine’s aluminum to autoimmunity, long-term brain inflammation, and associated neurological complications.7  The vaccine is an important protection against diseases such as pneumonia and bacterial meningitis.
  • Dr. Brogan weaves a very tangled tale in regard to the DTaP/inactivated polio/Hib vaccine, which contains 0.33mg/dose aluminum.13,14  The upshot of her article, which you’ll find linked here and in the references, is that this vaccine is somehow partly responsible for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).10  A terrifying claim, especially when you consider that two servings of her salt, at 0.1946g aluminum each, provides 16% more aluminum than the vaccine.

Good Enough to Eat?
So far, we’ve limited our investigation to vaccines, which are injected. But, as I said, Brogan doesn’t want you ingesting aluminum either.  One of her prime targets is antacids because they contain, (sigh), aluminum.  How much?  Well, according to the Centers for Disease Control, you can find 104 to 208 mg/tablet of aluminum in off-the-shelf antacids.15   Doing our math from earlier, assuming a buyer of Dr. Brogan’s Real Salt used one serving per day, every day for a year, we’d end up with:

0.1946mg Al/serving/day * 365 days = 71mg of aluminum per year

Hmm.  71mg from Brogan falls a bit short of the 104mg minimum from the antacids she eschews.  And you’d think that as the year went on, you’d be clearing some of that aluminum from your body, right?  Au contraire mon frère, says Kelly Brogan:

Aluminum stays in the body for several years” –Kelly Brogan, “Special Report, Vaccines and Brain Health”4 (emphasis mine)

So, by the doctor’s own assertions, the supposedly-toxic element in her product will stick with you, dose-by-dose, for years.   We’d need 534 servings, or just about one and half years (one serving per day) of Dr. Brogan’s Real Salt to reach the “poisonous” (wink wink, nudge, nudge) levels in her ostracized antacid tablet.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, Real Salt is completely safe.  The trace amounts of the elements found therein not at all harmful.  It is my hope that an honest company won’t be held responsible because a questionable doctor tried to make money hawking their products.

You have to ask yourself: is Kelly Brogan really worth her salt?

 

If Dr. Brogan says aluminum is toxic to all life forms, perhaps she shouldn't be selling it to the life forms who follow her on social media.

If Dr. Brogan says aluminum is toxic to all life forms, perhaps she shouldn’t be selling it to the life forms who follow her on social media. (click/enlarge)

 

Oh, if it only ended there.  Not only does the distinguished doctor sell you greater quantities of an element she claims will put you in an early grave, she strongly encourages you to obtain it naturally.

Milk, anyone?

 

“Milk is for babies.  When you grow up, you have to drink beer.”–Arnold Schwarzenegger
When she isn’t busy selling aluminum to her followers, Brogan is hard at work encouraging breastfeeding.17,18,19  This is particularly unfortunate for her anti-aluminum argument.  According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, breastfed infants receive approximately 7mg of aluminum naturally from their mother’s milk during the first six months of life, compared to only 4.4mg from vaccines.13  So, Brogan is directly encouraging the consumption of aluminum (via breast milk).

Babies won’t be directly ingesting Brogan’s salt of course, but I can’t help but compare aluminum in breast milk to the additional amount a new mother would add to her diet if she used just one serving of Brogan’s salt, one serving a day, over six months:

(0.1946mg aluminum/serving Brogan’s Salt * ~30 days/month * 6 months = 35.028mg aluminum/six months)

Via the salt she sells, Brogan would be dosing our unsuspecting mother with five times the amount of aluminum naturally given to the baby via breast milk, and nearly eight times the aluminum that baby would receive from vaccines in the first six months of his/her life.  The amount of  salt-based aluminum that would actually pass to the baby would be function of many factors including the mother’s metabolism, renal function, etc.

But, isn’t it interesting that Kelly Brogan’s Real Salt doesn’t come with a warning to nursing mothers?

Wrapping It All Up
At this point, I was tempted to pick on the irony of Dr. Brogan’s apparent aversion to wrapping food in aluminum foil, and point out that the manufacturer of her salt proudly proclaims their salt mine is wrapped in a layer of bentonite clay.  Bentonite, if you remember your college chemistry, has the formula Al2H2Na2O13Si4.  See the aluminum in there?  Brogan’s aluminum-laden salt is itself quite literally wrapped in aluminum.

But pedantics aside, let’s focus instead on the fact that the World Health Organization, the CDC, and medical consensus contradict Dr. Brogan in every way possible.13,15,16  Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the crust of our planet and you’d be hard pressed to avoid it in the food you eat, the air you breath, and the water you drink. According to the CDC, an average adult in the United States eats about 7–9 mg of aluminum per day in their food.15  The World Health Organization concurs, saying that aluminum intake from foods represents the major route of aluminum exposure to the general public.16

Most aluminum in food, water, and medicines leaves your body quickly in the feces. Much of the small amount of aluminum that does enter the bloodstream will quickly leave your body in the urine.15   The human body evolved to handle the amounts of this element we encounter on a daily basis quite nicely, thank-you-very-much, and unless you have a medical condition such as impaired renal function, Dr. Brogans tirades against aluminum aren’t worth their salt.  I encourage you to ask a real doctor.

Epilogue: SXSW
Sadly, as I go to press with this article, I’ve learned that the annual SXSW festival has named Kelly Brogan as a consultant to their advisory board.20  Giving an HIV/AIDS denialist who sells her patients the very products she says will kill them is unconscionable, and in this author’s opinion, should be met with firm, polite suggestions to the festival that they seek medical advice from better vetted sources.

This quote SXSW is particularly puzzling:

While SXSW strongly disagrees with many of Kelly Brogan’s controversial opinions, we do believe that inclusion of a variety of viewpoints from a diverse group of people is important to creating a dialog for the community represented at the SXSW Wellness Expo20–via Kavin Senapathy/Forbes

Suppose this came from NASA instead?

“While NASA strongly disagrees with many flat-earther controversial opinions, we do believe that inclusion of a variety of viewpoints from a diverse group of people is important as we complete the Near Earth Object survey that will protect our round (or is it flat?  Hey, it’s just an opinion!) planet from a potential extinction level event”

SXSW’s comments reek strongly of the plague of “alternate facts” that have, sadly, gained traction in our country.  I’m sorry, but in science, there are no alternate facts.  Dr. Brogan’s $4,000 consults for coffee enemas, AIDS denial, and selling her patients ingredients that she herself labels toxic do not constitute “controversial opinions”… they constitute what this writer believes to be medical malpractice, and should be investigated.

If you agree, and would like to make your voice heard, you can tweet to @sxsw.  The hashtag #BumpBrogan is trending.  You may wish to take a moment and make it even trendier!

 

Footnotes
** Salt analysis was performed by Advanced Laboratories, Inc. of Salt Lake City, UT, who notes that because the product being tested is a naturally occurring product that
has not been refined, actual elemental results of any specific lot number will vary slightly. Please click here to return to the article.

A typo in the “Good Enough to Eat?” section swapped units of measure and has been corrected.

References
(1) “Aluminum is Toxic to all Lifeforms” (Kelly Brogan Facebook Post)
https://www.facebook.com/KellyBroganMD/posts/366045836935604
Retrieved 10 Dec 2017

(2) Real Salt (Kelly Brogan Online Store)
http://kellybroganmd.com/resources/
Retrieved 11 Dec 2017

(3) Real Salt (FAQ)
https://realsalt.com/faq/
Retrieved 15 Dec 2017

(4) Vaccines and Brain Health (Kelly Brogan)
Warning: not a scholarly article
https://kellybroganmd.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/VaccinesandBrainHealth.pdf
Retrieved 12 Dec 2017

(5) Detox–Why You Need To (Kelly Brogan)
Warning: not a scholarly article
http://kellybroganmd.com/why-detox/
Retrieved 10 Dec 2017

(6) The Truth is Out: Gardasil Vaccine Coverup Exposed (Kelly Brogan)
Warning: not a scholarly article
http://kellybroganmd.com/truth-out-gardasil-coverup-documents-exposed/
Retrieved 12 Dec 2017

(7) Psychobiology of Vaccination Effects:
Bidirectional Relevance of Depression (Kelly Brogan)
Warning: not a scholarly article
http://kellybroganmd.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Psychobiology.pdf
Retrieved 12 Dec 2017

(8) Hepatitis B Vaccine – Is it Safe for Your Newborn?
Warning: not a scholarly article
http://kellybroganmd.com/hepatitis-b-vaccine-for-your-newborn/
Retrieved 15 Dec 2017

(9) Real Salt Elemental Analysis
http://realsalt.redmond.life/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/05/Real-Salt-Analysis.pdf
Retrieved 14 Dec 2017

(10) Could this be Driving the Epidemic of Sudden Infant Death (SIDS)?  (Kelly Brogan)
http://kellybroganmd.com/driving-epidemic-sudden-infant-death-sids/
Retrieved 15 Dec 2017

(11) GARDASIL® Package Insert
[Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent (Types 6, 11, 16, and 18)
Vaccine, Recombinant]
Suspension for intramuscular injection
https://www.fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/ApprovedProducts/UCM111263.pdf
Retrieved 13 Dec 2017

(12) FDA Approved Vaccines (UCM201669.pdf:  Prevnar 13)
https://www.fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/ApprovedProducts/UCM201669.pdf
Retrieved 14 Dec 2017

(13) Vaccine Ingredients–Aluminum (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)
http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-ingredients/aluminum
Retrieved 11 Dec 2017

(14) Pentacel Package Insert
https://www.fda.gov/downloads/biologicsbloodvaccines/vaccines/approvedproducts/ucm109810.pdf
Retrieved 16 Dec 2017

(15) CDC: Public Health Statement for Aluminum
https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=1076&tid=34
Retrieved 10 Dec 2017

(16) Aluminum in Drinking Water (World Health Organization)
http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/water-quality/guidelines/chemicals/aluminium.pdf?ua=1
Retrieved 14 Dec 2017

(17) Breastfeeding: A Reproductive Right (Kelly Brogran)
Warning: Not a scholarly article
http://kellybroganmd.com/breastfeeding-a-reproductive-right/
Retrieved 15 Dec 2017

(18) Baby and Breast: Perfect Together
Warning: Not a scholarly article
http://kellybroganmd.com/baby-and-breastmilk/
Retrieved 15 Dec 2017

(19) Natural Birth and Breastfeeding: Replaceable?
Warning: Not a scholarly article
http://kellybroganmd.com/natural-birth-breastfeeding-replaceable/
Retrieved 15 Dec 2017

(20) SXSW Festival Slammed For Including HIV/AIDS Denialist In 2018 Wellness Expo
Kavin Senapathy/Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kavinsenapathy/2017/12/11/sxsw-festival-slammed-for-including-hiv-aids-denialist-in-wellness-expo/#6c8d8c576174
Retrieved 11 Dec 2017

 

Image Credits
Real Salt Logos, product imagery, and ingredients analysis snapshots are all used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Kelly Brogan, M.D. web site screen snapshots, facebook posts, and images are all used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Science Moms (Movie Review)

Science Moms Banner

On a hot summer day in the not-too-distant past, I made a small contribution to a Kickstarter project for a film known as “Science Moms.”  As time went by, the pressures of daily life pushed the movie to the back of mind, along with that promise to my wife to mow the lawn, and something about an engagement party we were supposed to attend on Saturday.  Regarding the film at least, my memory was jogged last weekend, when directors Natalie Newell and Brian Newell saw to it that a copy showed up in the inboxes of the documentary’s supporters.  I was delighted.

Science Moms1 is thirty minutes of entertainment and science wrapped around a hard hitting message: celebrity-driven misinformation on issues such as vaccines and GMOs is making life miserable for parents, who don’t know where to turn for advice–and often end up making costly decisions.

image of baby in sink. Babies are precious to their parents

Children are obviously precious to their parents, who will go to great lengths to protect them. Good advice is critical. It won’t be found in the fear-driven Facebook posts of celebrities. (Photo: © 2017 Miranda Lynn White.)

Five mothers who just happen to be three professional scientists or science writers/communicators were inspired, in part, to make the film after one of their heroes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar, made an ill-advised and scientifically inaccurate video on GMOs.  (Yes, scientists love Buffy too!)

The movie is loaded with witty animations, facts that hit home but don’t overwhelm, and, my favorite, touching personal stories from each mother.  The most poignant moment for me was the story of a neuroscientist who reflected that views of the polio vaccine are so different now than they were in her own mother’s time.  This echoes my own mother’s recollections of losing grade school friends to the dreaded disease, and her nightly prayers that she wouldn’t end up in an iron lung herself.  The polio vaccine was/is a Godsend, yet we live in an age where parents are frightened away from safe vaccines by Hollywood stars whose science education is, to be kind, lacking.  Such are the lessons of this wonderful documentary.

I doubt that Science Moms will change the minds of any of the virulent anti-vaccine, anti-GMO, anti-science crowd, but I don’t believe that’s the film’s target audience.  The Science Moms are speaking to other mothers out there who are just as confused and frightened by misinformation as they once were.  I’ve always likened good science communication to vaccines: once someone like Gary Ruskin or Carey Gilam (USRTK) has been infected by anti-GMO propaganda, or Andrew Wakefield’s shameful vaccine lies, there’s probably no chance of saving them.

But there are countless parents who have yet to be infected by the diseased words of the Sarah Michelle Gellars, the Jenny McCarthys, and the Gwyneth Paltrows of this world.  Science Moms is the ideal vaccine for these parents.  To be forewarned is to be forearmed.  Information antibodies introduced into the brain by this $4.99 (downloadable) film could be just the thing to save a confused mother (or father) who comes up against the dangerous, pseudoscientific nonsense of a Vani Hari or David Avocado Wolfe sales pitch.

Curious?  You can learn more about Science Moms at  http://www.sciencemomsdoc.com

 

Disclosures:  I donated to the Kickstarter fund that helped make this movie possible, but I have no financial interest in it whatsoever, including compensation of any type from sales, promotion, etc.  I speak favorably of the film because I believe in it.  I once played hooky from physics class and went fishing. Now you know. [End of disclosure]

 

Image Credits
Science Moms logo copyright (c) 2017 Natalie Newell and Brian Newell/ScienceMoms. Used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law,” distributed without profit, for the purpose of review, education, and increasing public knowledge.

Baby in sink copyright © 2017 Miranda Lynn White, all rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Remote control image by Santeri Viinamäki, used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

References
(1) Science Moms
http://www.sciencemomsdoc.com
Retrieved 17 Nov 2017

Naturally Nicole’s Elderberry Flu Treatment Debunked (part 1)

naturally nicole elderberry syrup

What the heck is “evidence based” proof? Is there another kind?

So many snake oil peddlers, so little time.

In “Evidence Based Proof Elderberry Syrup Is Better Than The Flu Shot”,1 Facebook saleswoman “Naturally Nicole” offers up more misinformation on the flu shot than can possibly be debunked in one sitting.  In the interest of time, I’ll take on two of the three “scientific studies” she cites to support her flu cure, then come back for more in future articles.

Fasten your seat belts; make sure your tray tables are in a locked and upright position. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Claim #1
An extract of black elderberries has natural antiviral properties in vitro, and reduced flu symptoms in 3-4 days2

We have an epic failure right off the bat.  In layman’s terms, in vitro means the study was performed in a glass test tube or petri dish, not a live human.  So how did the elderberry extract reduce flu symptoms in humans?

Answer: it didn’t.  This study wasn’t performed on humans, and Nicole & the abstract essentially tell a bald-faced lie.  Here’s what happened:

Nicole starts you off with this abstract2 which describes a study performed courtesy of twelve volunteers who donated blood that was treated with elderberry extract in vitro.  The humans didn’t have the flu.  They didn’t have symptoms.  The test was simply to determine if the elderberry triggered an immune response in the extracted cells.  If you don’t read the paper behind the abstract, you never learn this vital fact.

It’s only when you read the full text of the study3 that you see the abstract’s reference to a reduction in symptoms isn’t for the study actually being done.   This mysterious second paper and the reduction in symptoms in humans is never even mentioned anywhere but the abstract.  I have to repeat myself, because it’s so important: the study cited by Nicole never tested a single flu patient, yet she and the abstract claim it reduced symptoms in humans in 3-4 days.  Pretty amazing since it was an in vitro test only! (wink wink, nudge nudge.)

I’ve laid it out graphically for you below, and you can follow the results yourself via the hyperlinks in the article to see for yourself how you’re being misled:

bait and switch study

Figures lie and liars figure.  The study cited by Nicole didn’t actually test patients who had the flu, even though it seems to claim a reduction in symptoms. It slyly refers to ANOTHER study in the abstract.  You have to actually read the paper to figure this out.  Nicole makes a false claim because of this.   (click/enlarge)

 

As for in vitro testing… that’s a necessary first step, but pushing it as a “cure” as Nicole does is dishonest.  My wife and I have a great in vitro germ killer under the kitchen sink:

an in vitro germ killer another in vitro germ killer

 

Claim #2
A “complete cure” was achieved in 2-3 days in 90% of patients receiving elderberry syrup.4

At least we’ve switched to live humans (an in vivo study).

I think the most damning indictment of Nicole comes on the second page of the study that this vehement anti-vaxxer once again apparently didn’t take the time to read:

“Vaccinating those at high risk of influenza-related complications before the influenza season each year is the most effective and most commonly used ways [sic] of reducing the impact of influenza.” 4

That’s right. The very paper Nicole cites recommends the flu vaccine as the most effective way of combating influenza.  (This is going to come back to haunt her, because the lead author of this study is also the lead author of the third paper she uses to prop up her product.  You’ll never guess what he does for a living!)

So how was this study conducted?  Did doctors do something objective, like, I don’t know… record the patients’ temperatures every day?  Maybe some bloodwork?

No.  Test subjects were asked to record in a diary how they felt.  How well did they sleep?  Were they coughing more or less?

I’m not making this up.4

from the study

(From the paper) That’s it?  Couldn’t you go even to the trouble of taking their temperature?

Look, I get it: you can’t measure a body ache.  But checking for a fever?  And Nicole glosses over some facts.  Twelve of the patients receiving the elderberry syrup (almost half!) needed a rescue medication during the study, because the syrup wasn’t working for them.  It’s true that those in the control group (receiving a placebo) needed the rescue meds at a higher frequency, and recovered somewhat more slowly.  But some recovered completely with no elderberry syrup at all, just as fast as those receiving the syrup.  So what can you conclude?  Well, the authors thought maybe they had something, maybe not, and said:

“These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study” 4

Nicole seems to have missed all of this.

 

OPUS2

 

Coming Up Next Time
In part 2 of this series, we’ll look at Nicole’s third study, a “switcheroo” piece that would have made Harry Houdini proud.  Our Doctor of Syrup quotes from the abstract of a $51 per-view paper hidden behind a paywall–a paper that has some hidden surprises in it.

A paper Nicole very clearly didn’t read.  It looks like this:

image

Coming up in part two of this series: why it’s always a good idea to read the papers you cite.

 

Image Credits
Naturally Nicole screen snapshots and product image captures are used in strict compliance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Bloom County/Opus image is used within parody constraints of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Obfuscated image in closing sequence of “Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama.  J Altern Complement Med. 1995 Winter;1(4):361-9. Zakay-Rones Z1, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, Manor O, Regev L, Schlesinger M, Mumcuoglu M.” used to provide commentary, review, and increase public health knowledge as provided under Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”).

 

References
(1) Evidence Based Proof, Elderberry Syrup Is Better Than The Flu Shot
http://naturallynicolexo.com/evidence-based-proof-elderberry-syrup-is-better-than-the-flu-shot/

(2) The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. (ABSTRACT)
Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6.
Barak V1, Halperin T, Kalickman I.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518

(3) The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines.  (FULL TEXT)
Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6.
Barak V1, Halperin T, Kalickman I.
http://www.jle.com/fr/revues/ecn/e-docs/the_effect_of_sambucol_a_black_elderberry_based_natural_product_on_the_production_of_human_cytokines_i._inflammatory_cytokines_90261/article.phtml?tab=texte

(4) Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections
The Journal of International Medical Research
2004; 32: 132 – 140
Z ZAKAY-RONES , E THOM , T WOLLAN AND J WADSTEIN
http://imr.sagepub.com/content/32/2/132.long

 

Vaccination Op-Ed (Lexington Herald Leader 05 Feb 2015)

I’m grateful to the Lexington Herald Leader for publication of an op-ed piece I wrote on Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s uninformed comments on vaccinations.  Both Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have made potentially damaging comments on the topic this week.

In the face of a burgeoning measles outbreak, there are countless Americans who would love to take advantage of vaccines but cannot because of their age or existing medical conditions. They are relying on the rest of us to make unselfish decisions in the interest of public health.  We in turn need to be able to rely on representatives like Senator Paul and Governor Christie, who are in unique positions to shape health policies.  Given the statements they’ve made recently, I’m not so sure that we can.

You can read the op-ed here.

herald