Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

Christopher Wanjek reads Kevin Trudeau’s latest book so that you don’t have to

It’s not your Friday Dose of Woo yet, but fear not. You’ll get your weekly dose of woo in due course.

Kevin Trudeau is arguably the most prominent snakeoil salesmen of our time. I’ve leafed through his first book, Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About at the bookstore and recoiled at the conspiracy-mongering, lies, and self-promotion (a lot of discussions in the book urge you to pay for access to his website to get more information). As you may know, he’s now released a followup book More Natural Cures Revealed.

Fortunately, Christopher Wanjek has read it so that I don’t have to.

Among the conspiracy-mongering altie ridiculousness laid down by Mr. Trudeau:

Animals in the wild never get sick. Trudeau and others use this line to imply that heart disease, diabetes, cancers and other woos are not present in the natural world. Two words: Bubonic plague. It has killed a lot of rodents. Then there’s West Nile, Lyme disease, bird flu, the Ebola plague killing mountain gorillas… The list is endless. When animals get sick, they get eaten. They don’t live long enough to get serious arthritis because arthritis leads to either starvation or a predator’s meal. And sharks get cancer, despite the ridiculously titled book “Sharks Don’t Get Cancer.”

Exactly. In the wild, ill animals either recover rapidly, or they die. Chronic diseases are not so much of a problem. Domesticated animals, on the other hand, can get all these chronic diseases.

Bacteria and viruses don’t cause disease, which is why you don’t “catch” cancer or diabetes; disease is caused by an imbalance of vital energy. Here Trudeau mixes the concept of communicable and non-communicable disease. First, Trudeau needs to visit Uganda with his balanced vital energy and avoid malaria. This denial of pathogens as the cause of many diseases is an insult to humanity. Second, it is possible to catch some forms of cancer; the human papilloma virus can lead to cervical cancer.’

Quite a few of Tara’s readers couldn’t believe it when she discussed people who don’t believe that microbes are the primary cause of infectious disease, but here it is in bold for all the world to see in a book that will likely sell millions of copies, as its predecessor did. Disorders in the “humors” or “imbalances of vital energies” were what people believed to cause disease hundreds of years ago, before Pasteur postulated the germ theory of disease. Such “causes” are from pre-scientific societies that haven’t yet uncovered enough of the biology of diseases to learn their causes. The success of modern medicine derives from understanding as much as possible the mechanisms of disease.

The sun doesn’t cause cancer. This is often tied to the claim that microwaves and radio towers do cause cancer. Trudeau appears to have no concept of ionizing radiation, or photons above a certain energy (ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma ray) that can knock loose electrons in a DNA molecule and cause cellular damage. Trudeau claims that the sun keeps you wrinkle-free, draws out toxins from your body through your skin, and can cure the typical list of common diseases of the day, including erectile dysfunction. I have to wonder whether he listens to the radio, despite the cancer-causing waves.

My partner is a melanoma surgeon who does other forms of skin cancer surgery as well. Try telling him that the sun doesn’t predispose to certain types of cancer cancer.

Medical science has completely failed to prevent or cure disease. Well, on average people are living 30-some years longer than people did 100 years ago. I don’t think this has anything to do with reading Trudeau’s book. Small pox is on my short list of scores of diseases cured. St. Vitus Dance is on my other list of diseases with funny names now gone. Whooping cough only appears in groups who refuse the vaccine, which Trudeau is obviously against.

One word: Vaccines. More diseases have been prevented and lives saved by vaccination than probably any other product of modern medicine. Of course, people like Trudeau and antivaccination activists like the mercury militia and Andrew Wakefield would have us go back to the days when diseases now preventable by vaccination claimed many lives. As for curing disease, well, antibiotics still do a pretty damned good job of curing infections that used to kill people, like various community-acquired pneumonias, for example.

In short, the book sounds pretty much as I expected: A rehash of Trudeau’s last book, with all its fallacious claims and shameless hucksterism. It doesn’t even sound worthy of s spot on Your Friday Dose of Woo.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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