PABAble Cause: A “Carcinogen” From Dr. Axe

axefeature copy

Author’s note:  Sometime between the publication of this article (December 2015) and April 2018, Axe’s manufacturer quietly changed the formulation and relabeled the product reviewed here.  Axe has repeatedly ignored requests for comment since I wrote this piece, including blocking me on his social media pages, so I’m unable to say when the changes took place.  The screen snapshots of the product/ingredient labels stand testament to what was being sold.  I leave this article, with this correction, as a record of what took place.  In the meantime, Axe continues to sell products that contain the same ingredients he claims are harmful.  Just type his name in the search box in the upper right corner of BadScienceDebunked.com and enjoy the reading. — Mark Alsip, 04 Apr 2018, Lexington, KY

Original article follows:

When we last visited our good friend Josh Axe, he was hard at work selling antimatter-laden miracle dirt to unsuspecting customers, with the claim it would sweep toxins out of their bodies while simultaneously delivering vital nutrients. (Yes, I was confused too.)

Today I’d like to take a look at another product being peddled by “Dr.” Axe. If you read to the end, I can guarantee you’ll be outraged.  The hypocrisy could not be more blatant.

The topic of the day–and don’t be scared by the long words–is para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA).  Let’s start off with Josh Axe giving us a quick backgrounder on PABA:1

“A recent study published in Environmental Science Technology has also shown the common sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone, methoxycinnamate, and PABA are estrogenic chemicals linked to cancer. That’s right, I read the labels on not only my food products, but on anything I’m putting on or near my body, and you should too.” 1

(Emphasis mine.)  So PABA is an “estrogenic chemical linked to cancer”, Josh?  Hold that thought, and let’s go shopping at draxe.com.  You might want to put on some older clothing. This is going to get messy.

Here’s a nice vitamin B supplement:2

dr axe vitamin b

Dr. Axe Vitamin B supplement. (click/enlarge)

If you’ve read my blog before, having seen me highlight Josh’s disdain for PABA followed by a screen snapshot of a product he’s selling, you’ve probably guessed where this article is heading.  You won’t be disappointed.  Time to have a look-see at what’s actually in the supplement Axe is hawking:2

paba in dr axe vitamin b complex

Dr. Axe’s supplement contains PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), the very same compound he just linked to cancer. (click/enlarge)

Oh, good grief…  this supplement contains PABA!  Para-aminobenzoic acid.  The cancer-causing boogeyman of Josh Axe’s nightmares: on sale now for only $39.99 on the Dr. Axe web site (you save $11.25!).

This would almost be comical if not for the fact that in the same sentence in which Axe attacked PABA, he said:

“That’s right, I read the labels on not only my food products, but on anything I’m putting on or near my body, and you should too.”1

So there you have it.  Here’s a chiropractor/”natural medicine doctor” who warns his followers to avoid putting a chemical on their bodies due to cancer concerns, sells them that very same compound in a supplement they’re supposed to ingest, and in the same breath tells them he reads product labels to avoid putting dangerous product on or in his body.

The mind boggles.

 

Image Credits
Josh Axe product and website screen snapshots 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.

Axe “look at that” parody by the author.  Created and used under parody/education/public health knowledge provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”).

References
(1) 75% of Sunscreens Are Toxic: What To Do Instead
http://draxe.com/75-of-sunscreens-are-toxic-what-to-do-instead/

(2) Dr. Axe Vitamin B Complex
Organic Vitamin B Complex

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“The Natural Society” Fails At Biology, Math

Slimfy Stage 1 from Natural Society

The Natural Society lambastes cellulose as cheap filler that can’t be digested. Perhaps that’s why they use it in their diet foods? (click/enlarge)

Hypocrisy, thy name is The Natural Society.

In the short time I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve caught some of the bigger names in woo in embarrassing acts, such as food/product safety “expert” The Food Babe selling pesticides and coal tar dyes to children.  But small-time player “The Natural Society”, with their “Slimfy Nature and Science” diet foods, takes the cake.  You just can’t get any more obvious than this:

“Fifteen Companies Whose Products Contain Wood Pulp”,1 penned by Natural Society co-founder Anthony Gucciardi, counts fifteen companies who use an ingredient that, according to Gucciardi, is “wood pulp”:  a useless filler that can’t be digested by humans.  Gucciardi’s shaky biology aside (cellulose is an important biological component found in plant cell walls), it’s obvious the man has trouble counting.  He missed the sixteenth company selling cellulose in its food products: his own.

Yes, like most pseudoscience sites, The Natural Society has an online store.  How better to market alternatives to the products they’re demonizing?  One of the offerings from these snake oil salesmen is “Slimfy”, a diet supplement.  Anyone care to guess what’s found in each and every bottle of Slimfy?  If you said “cellulose”, you’re correct.  Extra credit to those who answered “microcrystalline cellulose.”

What does Gucciardi himself say about the cellulose in his products?

“Cellulose can be found in products under ingredient listings such as cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, and more.” 1 (emphasis mine)

Yes, yes. We saw the Natural Society play the name game on its own labeling. Your point is, Mr. Gucciardi?

What many do not realize, however, is that cellulose is actually wood pulp. Unable to be digested by humans due to the lack of necessary enzymes needed to break the ingredient down, cellulose has been deemed ‘safe for consumption’ by the FDA.” 1

Ah… imply cellulose isn’t safe to eat by putting “safe for consumption” in quotes… clever!  So why are you selling it as an edible product then, Anthony? (May I call you Anthony?)

But what you really have to applaud is the cajones of a company that takes an ingredient they claim can’t be digested by humans, places it in a bottle, and sells it as a diet aid–for $37.50 per jar of 60 capsules ($225 for a buy 3, get 3 free deal)!

Well, that’s one way to lose weight.  Aye, carumba!

 

Image Credits
The Natural Society and Slimfy product snapshots 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.

References
(1) Fifteen Companies Whose Products Contain Wood Pulp Cellulose
http://naturalsociety.com/15-companies-whose-products-contain-wood-pulp-cellulose/

Hyman’s Sugary Hypocrisy

Mark Hyman’s “Ten Rules To Eat Safely For Life And What To Remove From Your Kitchen”1 has been an absolute gold mine of debunking material.  Never have I found so much hypocrisy in one article.  Nearly every paragraph Hyman writes demonizes an ingredient that he then pushes in his online store.

We’ve already looked at Hyman simultaneously vilifying and selling xylitol and miracle-cure foods in his “ten rules” article.  But he’s not done yet.  Not by a long shot.  Tell us how you feel about sugar derived from cane, Dr. Hyman:

“If sugar (by any name, including organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses) is on the label, throw it out.” 1  (emphasis mine)

(Sigh).  Off we go to Mark Hyman’s online store.  How about a tasty nutritional shake?2

pure lean powder with hyman cane sugarI can hear the skeptics in the crowd shouting, “show me the ingredients!”  I’d be happy to:2

mark hyman cane sugarOrganic cane sugar.

Organic. Cane. Sugar.

But… but… Hyman wrote:

“If sugar (by any name, including organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses) is on the label, throw it out.” 1

 

[Drops microphone.  Leaves stage.]

800px-Microphone

Image Credits
Mark Hyman and Pure Lean Powder product snapshots 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.

Microphone by Chris Engelsma, from Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Artist does not necessarily endorse or agree with the viewpoints expressed in this article.

References
(1) Ten Rules To Eat Safely For Life And What To Remove From Your Kitchen
http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/02/02/10-rules-to-eat-safely-for-life-and-what-to-remove-from-your-kitchen/

(2) Dr. Mark Hyman’s Pure Lean Powder: Chocolate
http://store.drhyman.com/Store/Show/Nutritional-Shakes/739/Pure-Lean-Powder%2c-chocolate

Xylitol, Warrior Princess: Mark Hyman Debunked

XENA

I’ve always wanted to include Lucy Lawless in one of my articles. “Xenatol” sounded like “Xylitol”. Yeah. It’s pretty bad word play. Sorry. Hey, how much did you have to pay to read this stuff? 😉

I thought my debunking of Dr. Mark Hyman’s “10 Rules to Eat Safely for Life)would be a one off job, but the deeper I read, the more nonsense I found.  There’s enough material there for a half dozen articles, and Hyman commits some real howlers.  If there was ever evidence that these snake oil salesmen don’t actually read the labels of the overpriced products they’re selling, Hyman’s “Endefen” supplements is it.

I’d like to start with this pearl of wisdom from Dr. Hyman:

“Throw out food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds  (aspartame, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols—any word that ends with “ol” like xylitol, sorbitol). They make you hungrier, slow your metabolism, give you bad gas, and make you store belly fat.”–Mark Hyman on artificial sweeteners 1  (emphasis mine)

So Dr. Hyman claims that the sweetener xylitol will make us hungrier, slow our metabolisms, cause us to “tootle melodiously through our sphincters” (I’m embarrassed by the word “fart”), and store belly fat?

My grandfather had an old saying from which Hyman would benefit: “a closed mouth gathers no feet.”

Here’s an interesting product sold in the Hyman store: “Endefen”: 2

Mark Hyman Endefen

Mark Hyman’s Endefen product. Wonder what’s inside?  (click/enlarge)

 

The full ingredients list is available at this link,2 but let’s zoom in on that suspicious-looking additive trying to hide behind sunglasses and false wig.  You!  I say!  You there sir!  You with the red circle around you!  Can you stand up and identify yourself please?

hyman is selling xylitol

Bless his heart! Dr. Hyman is selling xylitol, the very additive he says to avoid!

Why it’s Xylitol!  Hyman is selling the very sweetener he says to avoid!1,2  To add the icing on the cake (no sugar pun intended), once you’ve finished all twenty-eight servings of Endefen, you will have consumed 26.6 grams of xylitol. Just under seven percent of the entire 420 gram bottle is xylitol by weight.

And oh, dear friends… I wish we could drop this and move on.  But did you notice the “Mannose” above the “Xylitol” in the Hyman’s Endefen?  Shouldn’t someone with a medical degree know that mannose a sugar monomer, especially if he’s going to preach about sweeteners as if they’re bringing on Armageddon?

“If sugar (by any name, including organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses) is on the label, throw it out.”–Mark Mark Hyman

Add in the mannose and Dr. Hyman’s product is now 8% sugar by weight.

Golly Gee.  Should we tell somebody about this?  Dr. Hyman?  Are you there sir?  Hello?

Nobody seems to be picking up…  hello?  Dr. Mark Hyman!  Paging Dr. Hyman…

 

d-xylito

I *love* PubChem. The naming section for compounds is particularly helpful in trying to determine if Hyman’s “D-Xylitol” is xylitol.  Chemists say it is.

 

Image Credits
Mark Hyman, Endefen, and PubChem snapshots 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.

Xena Warrior Princess meme by the author, used under parody provisions 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.

References
(1) 10 Rules to Eat Safely for Life (and What to Remove from Your Kitchen)
http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/02/02/10-rules-to-eat-safely-for-life-and-what-to-remove-from-your-kitchen/

(2) Endefen Supplement on Dr. Mark Hyman’s Online Store
http://store.drhyman.com/Store/Show/Healthy-Fiber/449/Endefen

(3) PubChem Compound Summary for CID 6912: Xylitol
https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/xylitol#section=Top

Dr. Mark Hyman Wants You To Throw Out His Own Food Products

Dr. Mark Hyman’s literary masterpiece “10 Rules to Eat Safely for Life (and What to Remove From Your Kitchen)”1 contains this bit of sage advice:

“If a food has a label it should have fewer than five ingredients. If it has more than five ingredients, throw it out.”1

Really? More than five ingredients qualifies the product for a trip to the waste basket?  Obviously when the good doctor wrote these lines, he wasn’t paying attention to what was on the shelves of his own online store–or hoping his followers would be too blind to notice.  Dr. Hyman, have you ever heard of “GlycemX360 Chocolate Shake Mix”?  I hope so, because you sell it:

dr mark hyman nutritional shake(drum roll please…) Let’s bring up the ingredient list.2

Ingrediens in GlycemX360-Chocolate

Dr. Hyman’s chocolate shake contains over 45 ingredients. (click/enlarge)

 

Over 45 ingredients!  So by Hyman’s own \logic, you should thrown this product out (assuming you wasted money on it in the first place).  But wait!  There’s more!  Again from the doctor:

“Also beware of food with health claims on the label” 1

Well doctor, let’s look at your labeling:

GlycemX360 labeling

“Also beware of food with health claims on the label” says Hyman. Pot. Kettle. Black.

An “advanced medical food” with more (unsubstantiated) health claims than I can shake a stick at.

The cynical side of me feels that if people are so easily deceived by snake oil salesmen like Mark Hyman, they deserve what’s coming to them.  The compassionate side overcomes that, however.  I truly feel sorry for those wasting hard-earned cash on this nonsense.  The fact that a man with the letters “M.D.” after his name is pushing the pseudoscience makes it all the more offensive.

End rant.

Image Credits
Mark Hyman product 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.

References
(1) 10 Rules to Eat Safely for Life (and What to Remove From Your Kitchen)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/healthy-eating_b_1250939.html

(2) GlycemX360 Chocolate Shake on Dr. Hyman’s Online Store
http://store.drhyman.com/Store/Show/Nutritional-Shakes/774/GlycemX360-Chocolate

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.

Better Than Chemo, or a Modern Snake Oil Sale?

10521653_321437268041626_5162872763813194094_n

Today’s Bad Science post comes our way via the “Institute for Natural Healing” (INH), which promises a miracle cancer cure that’s better than chemo and “doesn’t attack non-cancerous cells”.

Not surprisingly, no medical research exists to back up these claims and the owner of the institute, Angela Salerno, has no medical education. According to her LinkedIn bio, she’s worked mainly in marketing. Ah… marketing… just a few clicks past the INH’s plea to drop just short of $100 on a membership to learn about these miracle cancer drugs are page after page of advertisement for “natural” supplements that will cure… well, just about everything.

Salerno’s “evidence”? A few people claiming they’ve been cured of cancer after taking her supplements. Sorry, that’s not scientific research, and she should be heavily criticized for claiming such research exists and never presenting it.

There’s even a promise of dropping 20 years from your age in 6 months! You can’t make this sh** up…. check out their web page.

Of course, we get the standard disclaimer, which you’d be well advised to pay attention to: ” The FDA has not evaluated these statements. None of the information or products discussed on this site are intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate or cure any disease.”

Damn straight!

Salerno and her institute have been accused of running scams on innocent cancer patients for quite some time now. A few links to ChicagoNow articles, which I think are particularly revealing, are at the end of this blog post.

Cancer is a very serious and danger group of diseases that aren’t going to be cured with unproven quackery. Please, if you or a loved one have cancer — or suspect you have — see a doctor immediately. Regular screenings for at-risk groups are important.

Further Reading

http://www.chicagonow.com/cancer-is-not-a-gift/2014/05/cancer-fraud/

http://www.chicagonow.com/cancer-is-not-a-gift/2014/05/president-of-institute-for-natural-healing-responds-to-her-advertising-being-described-as-a-scam/