Trick or Tweet: Dr. Mark Hyman Exposed

Social media has long been a bastion of modern-day snake oil salesmen. Twitter, in particular, is a great marketing tool. When it comes to food and product safety, the app’s 140 character message limit provides more than enough room to scare the bejesus out of the public. From there, it’s just a short hop, skip, and jump to the online store of the person making the frightening tweets. The sad fact is that all too often, the products being sold by the so-called expert contain exactly the same ingredients he/she claims to be dangerous.

Eight-time #1 New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mark Hyman has mastered this “trick or tweet” technique. Here’s a recent tweet hinting at horrifying side effects from a safe food coloring:1

hyman tweet on caramel color

Dr. Mark Hyman’s tweet on the dangers of caramel color. (click/enlarge)

Caramel coloring has never actually been shown to be dangerous to humans.  But let’s debunk Hyman on a different level.  The doctor apparently makes a comfortable living selling expensive dietary supplements via his web site, drhyman.com.  If you’ve read any of his books or blog posts, you know he’s not shy about pushing these supplements as part of his diet plans.

Let’s drop by the Dr. Hyman online store and do some shopping, keeping in mind his claim that caramel coloring “poses a cancer risk to consumers”:

hyman's caramel color neuromins

Pure Encapsulations “Neuromins” via Dr. Hyman’s store. (click/enlarge)

For only $114 (!) we can pick up a 120 count bottle of “Neuromins”,2 a supplement designed (according to Hyman) to assist in the development of mental and visual functions.  I’m all excited!

But wait…  what’s that I see in the Neuromins ingredient list?3

neuromins ingredients

This supplement, sold by Dr. Hyman, contains the very caramel coloring he tagged “carcinogenic”. (click/enlarge)

Yes, that’s right: caramel coloring.  Didn’t Hyman just claim that caramel coloring was carcinogenic?

Is the caramel coloring in Hyman’s supplements the same coloring found in the soft drinks he falsely and irresponsibly links to cancer?  Why yes.. yes it is!

Caramel coloring levels III and IV are most often featured in carcinogen propaganda campaigns run by pseudoscientists because they’re the ones used in the soft drinks, beer, and pumpkin spice lattes being slandered.  I checked with the manufacturer of Hyman’s supplements, Pure Encapsulations, and they confirmed that the coloring they use is indeed level IV.

Dr. Hyman, if you believe it causes cancer, why are you selling it?

We must pause here and point out that while the health benefits of the product being discussed may be debatable (the claims haven’t been evaluated by the FDA), the safety of the product itself is not being called into question.  As the manufacturer of the coloring points out, the coloring itself does have FDA approval (GRAS–“Generally Recognized As Safe”, CFR Title 21, Section 182.1235).

I sincerely hope no one will punish Pure Encapsulations because of Dr. Hyman’s hypocritical stance on a safe food coloring.  This company was most transparent in answering questions about their product.  No guilt by association, please.

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed I highlighted two ingredients on the Neuromins label earlier.  Caramel coloring shared center stage with “carrageenan”.  Why is this significant?

Because of another Mark Hyman tweet:4

carrageenan mark hyman

Dr. Hyman celebrates removal of “controversial” ingredient carrageenan. (click/enlarge)

Not content with putting just one foot in his mouth, the doctor effortlessly inserts the other with this tweet.  Here, Hyman congratulates his partner in nonsense, the “Food Babe”, in her claimed role in the removal of the benign thickening agent carrageenan from a company’s product line. (Hyman wrote the foreword to Food Babe’s ill informed book “The Food Babe Way”, championing her work in removing “toxins” such as this from our lives.)

If you haven’t followed the controversy, carrageenan is a safe, commonly used additive that’s gotten a bad rap because of pseudoscience.  Woomeisters confuse carrageenan with degraded carrageenan.  The latter appears on an IARC list of “carcinogenic” items such as pickled vegetables, coffee, talc body powder, a compound found in dandelion tea, and the profession of carpentry.5 (Read: the demonstrated cancer risk to humans is nil.)

Are you scared yet?  Me neither.

But, to summarize, let’s put the question to Dr. Mark Hyman:  if caramel coloring and carrageenan are “carcinogenic” and “controversial”, why the hell are you selling them?  As I pointed out in the first article in this series, this type of hypocrisy is (sadly) all too common with the snake oil aficionados.  The fact that the seller in this case carries the initials “M.D.” by his name makes the offense all the more egregious.

 

References
(1) Mark Hyman Tweet on Caramel Coloring
https://twitter.com/markhymanmd/status/568754599953244160

(2) “Neuromins” on DrHyman.com
http://store.drhyman.com/Store/Show/SearchResults/533/Neuromins-

(3) Pure Encapsulations Neuromins Product Fact Sheet
http://www.pureencapsulations.com/neurominstm.html

(4) Mark Hyman Tweet on Carrageenan
https://twitter.com/markhymanmd/status/502810272294109184

(5) Agents Classified by the IARC Monographs, Volumes 1–112
http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/ClassificationsGroupOrder.pdf

Image Credits
Dr. Mark Hyman material, Twitter, and Pure Encapsulations screen snapshots are 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.

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Dr. Mark Hyman Selling “Dangerous” Toothpaste

CaptureIt’s not uncommon to find quack doctors contradicting themselves on the internet these days, giving medical advice that directly contradicts facts about products that they’re selling for a profit.  Case in point: Dr. Mark Hyman and his guidance on toothpaste.

First, we get a Facebook post warning us that toothpaste can be toxic.  But never fear, the good doctor links us to an article written by a dentist friend, with instructions on making our own paste, and, significantly, warning us of ingredients to avoid:1

Capture

Dr. Mark Hyman Facebook post on toothpaste

The Hyman Facebook post leads us to “The Complete Guide to DIY Toothpaste2 written by Dr. Mark Burhenne, DDS. I’ve linked the full article here so I won’t be accused of quote mining, but one of the ingredients Dr. Burhenne warns us we must avoid in a toothpaste is:

“Glycerin, which isn’t toxic, but has no place in the mouth as it’s a soap that strips your body’s natural oral mucosa and leaves a film. This film could coat the teeth, messing with the structure of the biofilm which could alter the microbiome in the mouth and impact the natural remineralization process — your body’s natural cavity-fighting mechanism.” 2

It just so happens that rather than make his own toothpaste as he’s just recommended, Dr. Mark Hyman sells a commercial brand in his online store.  It’s known as PerioBiotic, and he highly recommends it.  Let’s take a look at the ingredients in this toothpaste:3

dr hyman toothpaste

Dr. Hyman’s PerioBiotic toothpaste contains some interesting ingredients

Oh dear.  Is that glycerin I see listed there?  Didn’t Hyman just post an article by a dentist telling us that glycerin has no place in our mouth?1,2  Why yes, he did!  The toothpaste Hyman is hawking can, according to his own reference material, dangerously alter the microbiome of your mouth, strip its natural mucosa, and alter the body’s ability to naturally fight cavities.

Ouch!

If you get the impression that woomeisters such as Hyman take a shotgun approach to posting self-contradictory articles, ostensibly to cross promote others of their ilk, then you may be on to something.  Notice that I highlighted the (misspelled) ingredient carrageenan in Hyman’s toothpaste.  No, the dentist didn’t disparage carrageenan in his article, but Hyman and one of his compatriots certainly–famously–have.  Let’s look at a Hyman Twitter post:4

carrageenan mark hyman

Dr. Hyman congratulates Food Babe, celebrates removal of “controversial” ingredient carrageenan/Twitter. (click/enlarge)

Hyman is congratulating our old friend, the Food Babe (Vani Hari) on her purported part in the removal of the “controversial” (hint: it really isn’t) ingredient carrageenan from a certain company’s products.  Yet here we find it in the toothpaste being sold by Dr. Hyman, who wrote the foreword to Food Babe’s book, The Food Babe Way.  Hyman hails Hari as a hero,5 but doesn’t think twice about earning money from a product containing an ingredient she falsely links to cancer.6 He can’t feign ignorance–he tweeted her congratulations on its removal!

This “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” theme runs rampant among the woomeisters currently pushing their pseudoscience on the web these days.  Hyman helps Burhenne and Hari with links and referrals, and they do the same for him7,8–but none of them seem aware of the fact that they’re contradicting each other (and themselves).

Or, as long as the money rolls in, maybe they don’t care.

References
(1) Dr. Mark Hyman “Toxic Toothpaste” post
https://www.facebook.com/drmarkhyman/posts/1040445272652888

(2) The Complete Guide to DIY Toothpaste
http://askthedentist.com/homemade-toothpaste/

(3) Mark Hyman Healthy Living Store: PerioBiotic Toothpaste (Spearmint)
http://store.drhyman.com/Store/Show/ListAlphabetically/827/PerioBiotic-Toothpaste-%28Spearmint%29

(4) Mark Hyman celebrates carrageenan removal (Twitter)
https://twitter.com/markhymanmd/status/502810272294109184

(5) Do You Know What’s Really In Your Food? (Hyman blog)
http://drhyman.com/blog/2015/02/05/know-whats-really-food/

(6) Watch Out For This Carcinogen In Your Organic Food (Hari blog)
http://foodbabe.com/2012/05/22/watch-out-for-this-carcinogen-in-your-organic-food/

(7) Burhenne Tweets Hyman
https://twitter.com/askthedentist

(8) Food Babe’s Special Mark Hyman Section
http://foodbabe.com/markhymanmd/

Image Credits
PerioBiotic, Facebook, Dr. Mark Hyman screen snapshots are 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.