Saturday, 24 November 2012
Fearless anti-racism campaigner Errol Denton has been hard at work this past week promoting his new pressure group CARBS (Campaign Against Racist Bloggers).
The group's launch hasn't exactly been a roaring success. Thousands of people were invited to 'like' a Facebook campaign page but, as of today, only a smattering of them have expressed their support.
As reported in an earlier post, Errol's attempts to attract signatures to a mass petition have also faltered. His early efforts, posted on a popular petition website, were repeatedly removed by the site's administrators (presumably for breaking their Terms and Conditions).
A neat solution to this little problem would, of course, be to start your own petitions website.
Step forward www.thepetition.co.uk !
UPDATE, 28 Nov: Shortly after this article was published, Errol's petition site was taken down.
The site - which was created on the 14th November, remarkably on the same day that yet another of Errol's petitions had vanished in a puff of smoke - is nothing if not ambitious.
"thepetition.co.uk aims to be the UK’s most respected and influential online petition website... At thepetition.co.uk we harness the power of the internet in a bid to transform society and place this power in the hands of the masses... This public forum is privately sponsored and we reserve the right to refuse submissions. Petitions do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of thepetition.co.uk or our sponsors..."
Like Errol's abortive Facebook campaign, the site has been slow out of the blocks. There are twelve petitions, most of them struggling to attract support:
Nationalise the energy section in Scotland after independence (2 signatures)
Return VAT on Air Ambulance fuel payments (3 signatures)
Give funds for Microarray testing in Wales (2 signatures)
Save the UK Film Council (2 signatures)
Unreasonable increases in Utility prices (2 signatures)
Stop betting shops taking over our high streets (4 signatures)
Support pensions for pre-1975 veterans (2 signatures)
Protection of the Cliffe historic and Archaeological landscape (2 signatures)
Save Our Welsh Cats & Dogs from Death on the Roads (2 signatures)
We are against Westminster City Council’s new parking regulations (2 signatures)
Upgrade the UK Party Political System to a Modular Democracy (2 signatures)
It's interesting to note that, just six hours ago, these eleven petitions had attracted only 6 signatures in the space of 10 days.
This profound lack of interest among the general public was discussed on Twitter earlier this morning and - hey presto! - the number suddenly swelled to 25 signatures in just five hours.
A suspicious reader might wonder whether some of these petitions were fake, created solely to lend credibility to Errol's own petition (which has attracted 58 signatures).
And they'd be right!
The Westminster Parking Regulations petition has been copied word-for-word from a different petition hosted on a different site.
Nothing suspicious about that - campaign groups routinely cross-post their petitions across many different sites - until you notice that the original petition was closed after its real authors received some happy news.
"Thank you to everyone who signed this petition, I am sure you are all aware that we were victorious in our campaign and the new parking regulations have been rescinded by Westminster City Council."
It's also noticeable that the parking regulations were due to be introduced in 2011 - in other words, the petition was closed at least 12 months ago!
It would seem reasonable to assume, until we hear otherwise, that www.thepetition.co.uk exists solely to promote Errol Denton's bizarre fixation with his critics, and that many of the "petitions" hosted on the site are not genuine.
Wednesday, 14 November 2012
If you're not familiar with it, an excellent introduction - written by a real scientist - appeared in the Guardian a few years back. Here's a quick a summary.
"The principle of LBA is fairly simple: a drop of blood is taken from your fingertip, put on a glass plate and viewed via a microscope on a video screen.... Proponents believe that the method provides information 'about the state of the immune system, possible vitamin deficiencies, amount of toxicity, pH and mineral imbalance, areas of concern and weaknesses; fungus and yeast", as another website puts it..."
Despite its popularity, there's not a jot of evidence that LBA can diagnose anything at all. In one fascinating test (published in German), a professional Live Blood analyst was challenged to spot which of a set of blood samples had been gathered from cancer patients - and failed miserably.
Like many other quacks, LBA practitioners employ bait and switch sales tactics. The test itself is inexpensive (or free), but you'll pay through the nose for the "cure".
"The bulk of [the] money is made... by selling expensive nutritional supplements to the patient with the promise that these will correct whatever abnormality has been diagnosed... In other words, patients are potentially cheated three times over. First, you are diagnosed with a 'condition' you don't have; then a lengthy and expensive treatment ensues; and finally the bogus test is repeated and you are declared 'improved' or 'back to normal'." [Source]
And with that, it's time to introduce our titular quack. Meet Errol Denton!
Don't be fooled by the lab coat and the cheeky smile. Denton doesn't seem to have any legitimate medical or scientific training, yet he describes himself as
"...now the UK's expert live blood analyst..."
...which is akin to describing yourself as "the UK's leading safe-cracker" or "the UK's most successful mugger". For it can be stated, with utmost confidence, that Denton is breaking the law.
Working from premises in London and the Middle East, Denton's "clinic" promotes itself with a glossy website which claims
"Live blood analysis is for everyone that really cares about their health overall wellbeing [sic]. The test is suitable for young children right up to mature people in their seventies or above... As 'prevention is better than cure' it is not just for people who have health problems; it is equally beneficial to very healthy people... because it acts as an early warning system..."
Denton is not at all shy in listing the "health problems" for which LBA is "beneficial".
"Healh Conditions Treated: Allergies/Intolerances - Arthritis - Autoimmune - Back and Joints [sic] Pain - Bad Sleep Patterns - Blood Pressure - Candida/Thrush - Celiac - Cholesterol - Cold Sores Mouth Ulcers - Crohn's Disease/IBS - Depression - Dry Skin/Rashes - Eczema Psoriasis/Acne - Fatigue... Gout - Hair Loss... Hormonal Imbalances - Infertility - Insomnia - Lupus - Migraines/Headaches - Menopause/Hot flushes - Mental fogginess - Overactive Thyroid - Parasites/Urine Infections - Skin Challenges - Stroke - Smoking - Training Endurance - ...Diabetes - Water/Fluid Retention/Bloating - Yeast - Weight loss and weight gain..."
All of this is, it goes without saying, illegal.
Most of the health claims are supported only by anecdotes from "satisfied customers". Here's one, picked entirely at random. It's the story of a Mr Derrick Brown of Luton (which makes us near neighbours!)
"After two knee operations I had endless trouble with my knees. I was also overweight... My sister said to go and see Errol Denton.
"I visited him in June 2008 for a live blood analysis, the results of the test showed I had too much acidity in my blood, Errol explained to me as to what I was seeing on the monitor. Errol advised me that I needed to change my eating patterns to produce a more alkaline blood flow, in which would help my knee problems (arthritis) and help me lose weight...
"...by October 2008 I had lost 28lbs I've never drank [sic] so much water in my life which hydrated my body and I felt a lot better as a result of seeing Errol."
Denton is notable not for his law-breaking activities - there are hundreds more like him - nor is he particularly unusual in running a quack medicine business from Harley Street.
What sets Denton apart is the, errr, unusual way in which he responds to criticism.
And there has been plenty of criticism. Two bloggers in particular - Josephine Jones and Jo Brodie - have been subjecting Denton and his fellow Live Blood Analysts to close scrutiny for some time now. Here's a short taster of their articles.
"In addition to making misleading claims in his advertising, one practitioner, Errol Denton, has even - according to comments made online - been treating customers appallingly, resulting in a 'mass refund' from Groupon, as well as an adjudication by the Advertising Standards Authority against the original ad." [Jones]
"There have been three Advertising Standards Authority adjudications against misleading claims made by Errol Denton's... two websites, one from me and two from someone else. The entire premise of nutritional microscopy [LBA] is nonsense." [Brodie]
It's instructive to compare the nasty, vindictive tone of these writers with the carefully-considered and rational responses from Denton. (I've taken a few screenshots to prove I'm not making this up - click to enlarge.)
"RACIST bloggers why do you lie so much? Why do you pretend that your RACIST attitude is not true? These are your expected responses you filthy RACIST COCKROACHES lowest vermin on the earth. Sociopathic RACIST Bloggers you can be read like a book... You are RACIST, RACIST, RACIST SCUM... RACIST blogger bitch you have certainly past [sic] your prime. RACIST, RACIST BITCH YOU ARE LOWER THAN A COCKROACHES' [sic] BELLY. RACIST coward scum never start what you cannot finish. Playing with fire gets RACISTS [sic] thugs burned with the truth." [Denton, 'KKK RACIST Bloggers Are Lower Than A Cockroaches' [sic] Belly', 10 Nov]
"RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST Bloggers you are like serpents slithering with lies but the subject will not change. You are Sociopath RACISTS no better than the RACISTS that murdered Stephen Lawrence. They too denied they are RACISTS... What is you next move Sociopath RACIST? Is it more lies?... The truth is getting out there about your filthy RACIST agenda just like Adolph [sic] Hitler and your pathetic attempts to cover it up." [Denton, 'KKK Racist Bloggers The Subject Is Always You Are RACIST Bloggers', 10 Nov]
"The problem with such cowards are [sic] their mindset will never admit to the fact that they are filthy Sociopath RACISTS so the truth will have to be repeated day after day until they get the message.... The war chant is: RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST, RACIST... Adolph [sic] Hitler was a bully and a coward just like these filthy RACIST bloggers..." [Denton, 'Understanding The Brain Computer Mindset Of Sociopathic Racist Bloggers [sic] Jo-Jo', 10 Nov]
Most bizarrely of all, Denton recently put up a petition calling for the "Sociopath RACIST RACIST [etc]" bloggers to be held to account. Before being removed, the petition had attracted an impressive 36 signatures, among them noted anti-racism campaigners such as, errr... Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini!
Are the accusations fair? Are Jones and Brodie motivated not by an altruistic search for truth, but by racial prejudice?
Let's use science to find out!
A thorough analysis Jones' blog reveals articles criticising Robert Young (who is white), Keith James Russell and Ian Clifford Garbutt (both white), Jackie Reader (genetic heritage unknown), Guenther Enderlein (white), David Parker (white), Brina Eidelson (white), Ross Bridgeford (white), Ruth Daber (white), Gareth Edwards (white), Stephanie Morgan (white), Andrew Wakefield (white), Colette Haydon, Martin Kelly, Natascha McElhone, Patrick Mallucci, Norman Waterhouse and Simon Withey (all white), Gill Hart, Peter Horlock and Nick Varey (unknown), Charles Buck (white), Peter Smith (white), Nina Knowland (white), Joan McKerron (white), Phillipa Craske, Cheryl Cox, Izabella Perry, Elizabeth Barber and Tracey Hudson (all white), Marie-Claude Lambert (white), Matt Traverso (white), Janette Warren (unknown), Julie Delaney (unknown), Matthew Moat (white), Michelle Zielinski (white), "Neil" (white), Merlee Harris (unknown), Brian and Celia Wright (white), Jane Thurnell-Read (unknown), Andrew Bell (white), Jeff Hope (white), Ben Katz (white), Mike Wilson (white), Gillian McKeith (white), Samantha Pearce (unknown), Allan Sweeney (white), San Gogana (unknown), Stanislaw Burzynski (white), Hilary Jones (white), John Matthias (unknown), Gloria Gilbere (white), Ruben Bartolo (white), David McGlown (white), Ian Marber (white), Kate Winstanley (white), Dessi Bell (unknown), Stephen Hopwood (white), Tullio Simoncici (white), Barbara Wren (white), Matthew Manning (white), Alan Papier (unknown), John Hagger (unknown), Robert Verkerk (white), Hedda Kraker von Schwarzenfeld (unknown), Sarah Myhill (white), Claudius Van Wyk (white), Kevin Wright (white), Robin Daly (white), Marianne Greenwood (white), Peter Ebdon (white), T. Colin Campbell (white), Charlotte Gerson (white), Marc Stephens (unknown), Katrin Hempel (white), Max Gerson (white), David Beckham (white), Dana Ullman (white), Chris Woollams (white), Rosy Daniel (white), Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson (both white), Michael Dixon (white), Michael Driscoll (white), Michael Gove (white), Patrick Holford (white), Boo Armstrong (white), David Bellamy (white), Jerome Burne (white), Monty Don (white), Susan Greenfield (white), Peter Hain (white), Patricia Peat (white), Rupert Sheldrake (white), David Tredinnick (white), Jeremy Hunt (white), Lynne McTaggart (white) and HRH The Prince of Wales (some kind of alien lizard, apparently).
Besides Errol Denton (whose Facebook page describes him as a "Black Microscopist"), Jones also mentions Mukesh Batra (Asian), Surinder Sandhu (Asian), "Mr Fakole" (presumably black), Andre Young-Snell (black) and another Live Blood analyst, Stephen Ferguson (black).
Totting up these figures reveals that, of 107 identifiable individuals who are criticised on Jones' blog, 83% are white, 12% are of unknown race, 3% are black and 2% are Asian. (The list includes every named person I could track down, but omits several companies whose owners can't easily be found.)
Totting up these figures reveals that, of 107 identifiable individuals who are criticised on Jones' blog, 83% are white, 12% are of unknown race, 3% are black and 2% are Asian. (The list includes every named person I could track down, but omits several companies whose owners can't easily be found.)
It's interesting to compare these results with the "case studies" published on Denton's website.
We have Pansy Knight (black), Frances McLean (black), Simeon Ndimele (black), "Anne" (black), George Matsas (white), "Anonymous" (unknown), "Anonymous" (unknown), Maria Chus Molina De Aragon (unknown), Catriona Grove (white), Dora Steinborn (white), Lorraine Clarke (black), Anjalee Bhurton (Asian), Hilary Banks (black), Kintu De Coninck (black), Lynton Noel (black), Eli Anderson (black), Margaret Guillen (white), Nates Nalbantoglu (white), Moira Swayne (white), HRH Sultanah Pahang Kalsom Shah (Asian), Steve Pope (white), Fiona Harvey (black), Homer Campbell (black), Ruth North (black), Andrew Prodromou (white), Derrick Brown (black), Angela Cowan (black), Fergal Collins (white), Elaine Jackson (black), Mark Warmer (white), Helen Dixon (white), Dion Lawrence (black), Genni Rigoberts (black), Gwendolyn Walker (black), Nygen Robinson (black), Ricky Smith (white), Margaret Groom (white), Jenni Williams (black), Vanessa Harris (black), Jason Stephens (white), Robert Rollins (white), Karen Lovett-Hurran (white), Anthony Houghton (white), Olive Cowan (black), Laura Gilbert (white), Desline Shoultz (black), Cathriona Powell (black), Carol Bishop (white), Ray Marshall (white), Frances Fraser (unknown), Adam Dixon (black), Heena Vekaria (Asian), "Janice" (black), Shahidah Annahs (black), Ndela Phola (unknown), Sofeta Jackson (black), Cathleen Coleman-Cooke (white), Tracey Butler (black) and Heather Woodward (white).
This works out as 49% black, 37% white, 8% unknown and 5% Asian (from a group of 59 patients).
Of course, only a man with a brain the size of a pea would argue that, because half of Denton's patients are black, he must be some kind of racialist.
Quacks get most of their business from word-of-mouth, and it's quite conceivable than Denton is recruiting his victims from among his own friends and family, or maybe even from his church (if he belongs to one).
But Denton's contention that Jones is a "RACIST, RACIST BITCH" who is "LOWER THAN A COCKROACHES' [sic] BELLY" begins to lose its credibility when we consider that the vast, vast majority of people criticised in her blog are white. (A comparable spread of ethnicities can be observed in Brodie's blog.)
It's a sad fact that female sceptics are routinely subjected to the most repugnant streams of abuse, far in excess of anything that is propelled at me. Denton's vile output - ten blogposts in just under a month - is a particularly horrifying example of accusations and threats.
Besides a weird fixation with the Nazis (11 mentions), Adolf Hilter (10 mentions) and the Klu Klux Klan (5 mentions), Denton uses the terms "racist" or "racism" an astonishing 143 times, the terms "sociopath or sociopathic" 37 times, the terms "bullies", "cyber-bullies" or "bullying" 14 times, "cockroaches" 5 times and "vermin" 4 times.
There are also two charming incidences of the word "bitch" considerately presented in CAPITAL LETTERS. (These figures would probably double if we took into account Denton's various tweets, Facebook pages, petitions and hashtags.)
With assaults like this, it's little wonder that bloggers like Josephine Jones prefers to write under a pseudonym. The tone of Denton's posts is steadily becoming more and more deranged and has now descended into thinly-veiled threats such as
"However this time it is too late and there is nowhere left for them to hide even behind a fictitious pseudonym..." (Source)
"Run for cover RACIST Blogger Cockroaches with your filthy spawn the darkness is where you operate best..." (Source)
"RACIST coward scum never start what you cannot finish. Playing with fire gets RACISTS [sic] thugs burned with the truth...." (Source)
It seems unlikely that Jones or Brodie are ever going to reveal their real identities with a crazed madman like Denton trying to hunt them down, but I'll make it easy for him.
I don't write under a pseudonym and my address is widely known in the alternative medicine industry. (If that's not good enough, my details are available to Denton's solicitors, should they care to get in touch.)
Errol Denton, you are a fraud.
You happily promote your bogus Live Blood Analysis service as a "treatment for all diseases" although there is not a jot of evidence that it can diagnose any disease, much less suggest an appropriate treatment. Your marketing methods are illegal and you profit from misleading your customers. You pose as a respectable health professional in a lab coat from premises in Harley Street, yet it appears you have absolutely no legitimate medical training.
To the untrained eye, your blog most closely resembles the work of a man with an undiagnosed mental health problem. You make at least one hundred and forty-three accusations that your critics are racist, a claim that is supported only by a vicious tirade of abusive invective. In reality, there is only one racist in this conversation - and that person is Errol Denton.
1. My claim that Errol Denton is a fraud is based on this promotional article which contains a claim to treat cancer (contrary to the Cancer Act 1939) and innumerable claims on Denton's blog and company website to treat other named diseases (contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008).
2. I have never met either Errol Denton, Derrick Brown, "Jo Brodie" or "Josephine Jones".
3. The authors of the "Jo Brodie" and "Josephine Jones" blogs are both fully-qualified scientists, unlike Errol Denton (and me).
4. The statistics used in this article were compiled with pen and paper, not with an appropriate software package. I'll be happy to make corrections if anyone can spot errors in my arithmetic.
Monday, 15 October 2012
Does anyone remember Jeff Hope, the man with the most outrageous marketing claim ever to hit my inbox?
"Any sort of disease whatsoever - physical or mental - will be rapidly curable, simply and cheaply. It will be possible to reverse aging and rejuvenate the person. It will be possible to re-grow limbs and straighten misshapen spines - and directly remove the causes of mental diseases and cure them as well. Lifespan will be staggeringly increased, without 'old age's debilitation'. AIDS, cancer, leukemia [sic], and genetic diseases will be completely conquered..."
The device in question - the Quantumwave Laser - was so staggeringly successful in curing AIDS and cancer that it, errr, doesn't appear to be for sale any more.
"The Wellness Tree (Wellness) said... on reflection, the leaflet could have been taken out of context and there should have been more checks made before it went to print. Wellness said they would no longer distribute the leaflet and had engaged an advertising agent and legal advisor to ensure that all their advertising material complied with the CAP Code in future."
This "advertising agent" and "legal advisor" - if, indeed, any such person was ever engaged - seem to have been asleep at their desks.
Jeff's latest advertisements, which have been appearing in Nexus magazine throughout the year, are full of claims for a device which might be used to treat... errr, AIDS and cancer!
The Elanra, pictured above, is claimed to be
"THE ONLY patented device out there which makes negative ions of OXYGEN!"
Anyone who has been to their local Homebase, Argos or Wilkinsons recently might dispute that finding, but let's get down to the nitty-gritty.
"Let us now explore the primary benefits gained by using the Elanra... In 1992, NEXUS even paid for the world's leading researcher into oxygen therapies, Ed McCabe, to fly to Australia [where Nexus is published] to display documentation of people cured of AIDS and cancer via oxygen therapies..."
The Elanra is pretty good for cases of delhi belly, too, as Nexus magazine's editor Duncan explains.
"Josh and Nina had brought along their portable version of the Elanra ioniser, and not only were they the only ones NOT to get sick [from diarrhaea], but when they kindly loaned it to others with the bug, they soon recovered! Those on the special tablets we were given for such bugs, remained glued to the toilet."
Jeff's company, the Wellness Tree Group, have learned from their brush with the authorities and are now producing "evidence" to support their claims. Not, it must be said, with unqualified success.
"An independent survey of Elanra users by Osborne International in 2009 reported these impressive results: 91% Less Hayfever/Allergies... 95% Less Cols & Flu... 89% Faster Illness Recovery..."
The world's universities and research companies must be kicking themselves having spent trillions of dollars on research, when a customer satisfaction survey - yes, a customer satisfaction survey - will do the job just as well!
Jeff, don't you think it's time to stop breaking the law, and go straight? Meanwhile - ASA complaint follows!
1. I'm writing to complain about two advertisements for Wellness Tree Group which appeared in the October-November 2012 issue of Nexus Magazine. The advertisements promote the "Elanra", a "Medical Negative Ioniser" device as a possible treatment for several serious medical conditions.
2. Near-identical adverts also appeared in the February 2012 issue (p2 & p28), the April 2012 issue (p2 & p62), the June 2012 issue (p2 & p19) and the August 2012 issue (p2 & p22).
3. I'd like to challenge whether the following health claims are misleading, and whether they can be substantiated:
(i) "Josh and Nina had brought along their portable version of the Elanra ioniser, and not only were they the only ones NOT to get sick [from diarrhaea], but when they kindly loaned it to others with the bug, they soon recovered! Those on the special tablets we were given for such bugs, remained glued to the toilet."
(ii) The world's "leading research into oxygen therapies" is Ed McCabe, even though McCabe describes himself as a "journalist"  with a degree in "Educational Media" , not a doctor, medical researcher or scientist
(iii) Ed McCabe has "display[ed] documentation of people cured of AIDS and cancer via oxygen therapies"
(iv) "We have lost count of the people who claim that they cured themselves of cancer, herpes, candida and a myriad of other diseases, all by increasing their oxygen level"
(v) "...this machine [the Elanra] is THE ONLY patented device out there which makes negative ions of OXYGEN!"
(vi) "...the Elanra also literally cleans the air, eliminating odours, germs, fungi, moulds etc etc..."
(vii) "Every health practitioner's waiting room should have one of these devices. They would improve the health of people waiting, as well as kill germs and bacteria coughed and spluttered by those waiting."
(viii) "...and by programming the microprocessor, [the Elanra] could produce frequencies that had proven beneficial effects on the human body"
(ix) "I have sighted the results of scientific tests conducted by Japanese scientists. Within two seconds of the Elanra being switched on, the brain (3 feet away) switched to match the Schumann Resonance!"
(x) "Helps with: Sleep problems - Allergies/Hayfever - Skin complaints - Chronic fatigue - Breathing difficulties... Weak immune system - Chemical sensitivity... flu..."
4. The advert on p2 quotes an "independent survey of Elanra users by Osborne International in 2009", which apparently produced "impressive results".
5. I'd like to challenge whether the use of this survey is misleading, because health claims are normally substantiated by rigorous clinical evidence published in medical journals, not by customer satisfaction surveys.
Lutonians, browsing the papers on a Sunday morning after a hard week's work in the hat factories, have found themselves besieged by adverts for a revolutionary new weight-loss treatment.
UPDATE, 17 Oct: An ASA adjudication this morning, in response to someone else's complaint, ruled against the Slimline Clinic's health claims.
By focusing a beam of ultrasonic energy on those hard-to-shift fat deposits in the belly, the adverts (available here, here, here and here) boast that
"Fat will leave your body naturally after being broken down by Ultrasound, which is targeted on the area of the body you want to change. Treatment is FAST, EFFECTIVE & PAINFREE [sic]"
Furthermore, the treatments appear to be proven:
"3.5 INCHES can be lost from your waist after 12 sessions, recent studies have shown!"
How reliable are these "recent studies"? We need look no further than that esteemed medical journal, the Daily Mail, who carried an article on so-called ultra-sonic liposuction just two days ago.
"Plastic surgeons, the doctors who carry out liposuction, are also sceptical. Bryan Mayou, one of the country's top plastic surgeons, introduced liposuction to the UK almost 30 years ago. He has tried non-invasive machines but abandoned them because he says the results are so poor. 'The main failure is that these treatments do not remove significant amounts of fat. Big claims are made but the clinical trials are not properly conducted."
Using the Daily Fail as my principle source of evidence is a risky tactic, but times are hard. ASA complaint follows!
1. I'm writing to challenge three promotions for The Slimline Clinic - two appearing in the Luton on Sunday newspaper (October 7th and 14th, 2012), and a third appearing on the company's own website, www.theslimlineclinic.co.uk
2. The promotions make claims for the efficacy of a weight-loss treatment, "Non-Surgical Ultrasonic Liposuction". The treatment is described on the advertiser's website :
"The consultant glides the ultrasonic probe over the targeted area, such as the stomach and short pulses of ultrasonic energy are delivered into the subcutaneous fat cell... Each pulse breaks down fat in the cells, without affecting areas such as blood vessels, nerves or connective tissue... When treated the membranes of the fat cells are disrupted and the fat content (triglycerides) is dispersed into the fluid between the cells and then transported to the veins and lymphatic system to the liver. The fat is then excreted via the bodies natural mechanisms."
3. I'm concerned because I understand the evidence base for these kinds of treatments is weak. In addition, although the treatment appears plausible, there seem to be some worries that the body can't remove the treated fat cells in the way the adverts claim.
4. Just this weekend, the Daily Mail quoted  two UK-based doctors:
"Plastic surgeons, the doctors who carry out liposuction, are also sceptical. Bryan Mayou, one of the country’s top plastic surgeons, introduced liposuction to the UK almost 30 years ago. He has tried non-invasive machines but abandoned them because he says the results are so poor. ‘The main failure is that these treatments do not remove significant amounts of fat. Big claims are made but the clinical trials are not properly conducted.’"
"Dr Mike Comins, a top cosmetic doctor... still believes that at some point, fat needs to be sucked out for patients to see long-term results. He offers his patients a gentle form of liposuction under local anaesthetic, using tiny tubes to suck away the fat... ‘I would love my patients to have walk-in, walk-out fat removal with no down-time. But with my hand on my heart I could not say that is the case with the new machines. There is a massive variable in how the body breaks up the fat and results could be inconsistent from one patient to the next.’
5. With that in mind, I'd like to challenge whether the advertisers can substantiate the following claims with rigorous clinical evidence:
(LoS, 7th October)
6. "Studies show that a 12 session course can result in a reduction of 3.58" around your waist!"
7. "Slimline have helped thousands of people achieve the size & shape they desire over the last 2 years!"
8. "Fat rapidly leaves your body after each targeted session of Non-Surgical Ultrasonic Liposuction"
(LoS, 14th October)
9. "Achieve the body you dream of with revolutionary Inch-Loss treatment. Fat will leave your body naturally after being broken down by Ultrasound, which is targeted on the area of your body you want to change. Treatment is FAST, EFFECTIVE..."
10. "Our non-surgical Ultrasonic Liposuction makes losing inches from areas of your body such as your belly, hips, arms, legs and back easy!"
11. "As the Ultrasound passes through the fat cells inside your body it causes the fat inside to change from a semi-solid state and to become a liquid. Once liquefied, the fat will begin to drain from the cell. The fat then passes through the lymph node system and exits the body through the digestive system in the normal manner. All you need to do is consume equal to or less energy than what you burn on a daily basis. The fat will continue to drain from the body for the next 72 hours."
12. I'd also like to challenge whether the claim in the 14th October advert that the treatment is the "No 1 SLIMMING TREATMENT IN THE USA" is misleading, because I understand that the American Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved "ultrasonic liposuction" treatments for general use.
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Lynne McTaggart is the publisher of What Doctors Don't Tell You - the trashy, nonsensical magazine about which you definitely shouldn't complain.
Now the defenceless victim of a torrent of twitter rage, Lynne has tried to take the moral high ground by accusing her detractors of behaviour akin to "schoolyard bully boys" and challenging them to "debate the issues like grown-ups".
The kind of debate Lynne envisages, it goes without saying, is one in which only her supporters are allowed to take part.
These were my questions, which I've now mailed to Lynne directly. I wonder how long it'll be before I get a response?
I asked these questions on Facebook, but I think my post was drowned out by the trolls. Perhaps you might permit me to ask them here?
1. Can you provide a source for the BMA figures which show only 13% of standard medical treatments actually work?
2. Can you provide a source for the AMA figures which show prescribed medicines are the cause of 33% of deaths in the western world?
3. Can you provide a source which shows more people go to 'alternative' practitioners than go to GPs?
4. Which part(s) of the Guardian article do you think were made up?
5. Which person at Comag (if any) was responsible for the libel threat?
6. Can you tell us some more about the vetting procedures you use for your advertisers?
7. If your advertisers were to be making false health claims, they would be breaking the law (CPR 2008). Do you have any plans to assist advertisers in future issues of WDDTY to avoid a prosecution?
Monday, 1 October 2012
UPDATE, 4 Oct: A major multiple complaint has been submitted and a number of individuals have also been hard at work, so there's no need to submit any more ASA complaints.
Please continue contacting the high-street shops which stock the magazine - their contact details are at the bottom of the article. Don't forget to tell them about the kind of misleading advertisers their customers are being subjected to.
Making its debut on the high street recently has been What Doctors Don't Tell You, a magazine containing the most amazing collection of conspiracy theories, quack remedies and wacky medical advice ever to hit the news-stands.
Its appearance has generated a chorus of revulsion and disbelief in sceptic-land, but not everyone seems sure which parts of the magazine can be challenged, and which can't.
This is a short guide to nearly nearly all the advertisements in the October edition of the rag, with a special focus on which parts of the advertising codes might have been breached. (Details of how to complain, and to whom, can be found at the bottom of the article.)
Since I'm neither a doctor nor a lawyer, none of the opinions expressed here should be taken as fact; as with everything you read on the internet, check the research for yourself.
The front cover of a magazine or newspaper doesn't usually fall within the remit of the advertising codes, with the exception of the 'front page flash' - a promotion appearing at the top of the page, above the title - which sometimes does.
The WDDTY flash reads:
"Discover treatments that are safer and more effective"
A brief examination of the magazine suggests that this claim might not, strictly speaking, be true. According to lab tech and blogger Jaycueaitch,
"Another health issue of the middle-aged which is addressed is hearing loss... Among the remedies suggested on page 41 is... the herb gingko biloba to “improve blood circulation to the ears” which alleged effect allegedly restores hearing loss and we are further told that the “higher the dose the better the result”. No mention of potential problems is made..."
That list of potential problems should concern anyone suffering from diabetes, seizures, infertility or bleeding disorders, as well as anyone who is planning to have surgery, give birth or breast-feed a child. Worse still, Gingko Biloba interacts with many other medicines, including some in widespread use such as Xanax, Prozac and Ibuprofen. (The herb is probably safe for the general population and its effects on blood-clotting have been challenged in recent research.)
Disregarding the potential hazards, WDDTY offers this astonishing advice:
"Can your hearing be restored? Although doctors tell you that a hearing aid is the only recourse for age-related hearing loss, a wide range of herbs and supplements may be able to restore your hearing... Try the herb Gingko biloba, which helps to improve circulation to the ears. Take 30-200 mg daily; the higher the dose, the better the result... "
The ASA does rule on front-page flash promotions (see this example), so it might be worth challenging the one on the front page of WDDTY one. But even if not...
Although the front cover itself isn't complainable, the advert on page 17 for an annual subscription most certainly is - and it contains all of the same claims!
"Discover treatments that are safer and more effective... Reverse bone loss for good - The secret your doctor doesn't know... Asthma exclusive - End your child's wheezing without drugs... Sunbathe your diabetes away... Natural botox - Safer ways to beat wrinkles... 'How I avoided a hysteroctomy through diet'... Rock'n'roll dads - You can regain your hearing... Unsteady gran? It's drugs that cause the falls, not old age..."
You might also challenge whether the caption at the bottom is misleading, because it appears to offer advice on the treatment of cancer (risking a contravention of the 1939 Cancer Act):
"CERVICAL CANCER ALERT - What every mother (and daughter) should know about the new jab [HPV vaccine]..."
I would also challenge the text apparently lifted from the Guardian at the bottom of the page. Even if the text is genuine and not quoted out-of-context, is WDDTY misleading when it claims to present "information that is scientific"?
Brandon Bays is one of those feel-good-about-yourself speakers from the US.
"Research by the American Center for Disease Control states that 85% of all illness is emotionally based."
Naturally, Brandon can't find the space in her full-page advert to provide a citation of this claim, but "85% of all illness" doesn't leave much room for the kinds of medical problems caused by germs, bacteria, ageing, environmental causes and unwise lifestyle choices.
Brandon might not be able to do anything about that tiny assortment, but she can certainly help with the remaining 85%!
"Discover the radiant essence of your own being and the incredible - even miraculous - healing potential of your own body... The Journey Intensive Seminar WITH BRANDON BAYS, London, 19-21 October 2012..."
The claim that "85% of all illness is emotionally based" is not likely to be sustainable, and should be challenged. (The advertised seminar is a snip at £495.)
BEET IT SPORT take out a full-page ad to promote their organic beetroot juice, which they claim can
"...Increase exercise efficiency... Enhance oxygen utilisation... Speed muscle recovery..."
Health and nutrition claims for foodstuffs are not allowed unless they've been specifically authorised by the European Commission (CAP Code 15.1). I can't find any reference of an authorisation for BEET IT SPORT's organic beetroot juice, so it's quite possible these advertisers are being naughty.
Q-Link are the "Developer and Manufacturer" of the Q-Link CLEAR device. An advert for their products appearing in WDDTY is alarming:
"The electronic devices you use and depend on each day generate electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Research shows these EMFs may undermine performance and well-being and have a biological effect on the body... The Q-Link (R) CLEAR (TM) utilizes [sic] Sympathetic Resonance Technology (SRT) which acts as a tuning fork for your body resonating with and reinforcing your own electrical fields. The result is a super powerful [sic] antidote to stressful EMFs that allows you to take control of your well-being."
The best word that could be used to describe these claims is bullshit, and the ASA have ruled several times before on people who thought they could protect us against harmful rays (see here and here; also see this, this and this.)
Amazingly, among the most prominent critics of the claims is... errr, Q-Link themselves!
"What our science tells us is that SRT™ in the Q-Link CLEAR does not act as a shield against EMF, nor does SRT™ impact the physical body, but rather works in support of the natural energy systems that support the human body's healthy function."
"The Future of Supplements has arrived", according to Lypo-Spheric Nutrients, who are promoting a Vitamin C supplement that takes no prisoners.
"Lypo-Spheres (R) are nano particles [sic] of encapsulated Vitamin C or GSH that give 98% delivery directly where it's needed - into the cells themselves... Leading expert Dr Tom Levy MD estimates that Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C is x10 more powerful than intravenous Vitamin C!"
In response to your ASA complaints, the advertisers will have to produce evidence that these claims are true, as well as showing that they've received EC authorisation for them.
There are several implied claims, too, that should be challenged as potentially misleading - the implied claim that Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C is the "best antiviral agent now available" as well as the implied claim that Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C might help with "liver and immune dysfunction, heart disease, premature aging [sic] and death".
The advert cites a study by Yokoyama et al. The study was not performed on Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C, nor indeed on any kind of vitamin C supplement. It would be easy to make the case that a mention of the study in this kind of advert is highly misleading.
Lazy slobs are the target market of FlexxiCore's "Passive Exerciser" device, a sort of wibbly-wobbly-shakey-wakey exercise machine that
"...combines the energising effects of this invigorating exercise with therapeutic back care benefits of CPM - at a fraction of the cost."
That "fraction of the cost" is a mere £192.92 - a special discount for loyal WDDTY readers, which even so may seem a little steep for what looks like a simple motor in a plastic casing.
The advertisers are keen to make a show of their good faith:
"We cannot claim that every one [sic] with a bad back will get a quick fix. Or that everyone will sleep deeply after the very first use [of the device]. The results are individual..."
The advert is still complainable, though. The CAP Code makes it clear that anecdotal claims have to be backed up by scientific evidence; without it, the anecdotal evidence shouldn't be used at all. Here are the anecdotes that should feature in your ASA complaints.
"...However, Case Studies from Practitioner Trials have confirmed how much it can help with a broad range of physical conditions, ages, and fitness levels. Try it out for 60 days - find out for yourself how effectively and deeply it works!"
"'I have been using FlexxiCore for about 18 months and I noticed the benefits the first time I used it... frequent use has really helped me to function better pyshically. I have also found that I have more energy and am able to get more done.' Eric Moore, WGTF Golf Coach..."
"It has loosened up the spine really well. On a recent visit to my own osteopath she remarked at how much more free my thoracic spine now feels..."
"GARRY SAYS: BEST LUXURY OPTION: Great for back maintenance... The effect stimulates the circulation... [Quote from Daily Mail article]
"The FlexxiCore has been trialled by over 200 Healthcare Practitioners with consistently positive results. These included Case Studies with some of their clients. A broad range of benefits were reported, including: ... Improvements in back, neck and shoulders... Improved mobility..."
An advert from Medical Thermal Imaging Ltd promotes a novel breast-cancer screening service.
"100% Safe BREAST SCREENING Plus Full Body Screening for all the family... Thermography can detect active breast abnormality before its [sic] possible with mammography... Suitable for all age groups - No Radiation - Non-invasive - No Contact - Medically Recognised - Full Medical Doctors [sic] Report..."
The principle problem with these claims is that, according to the scientific evidence available to us, they simply can't be true. In fact, the ASA has already ruled on a comparable thermography device:
"We noted that the NHS considered thermography to still be very experimental, and therefore did not use it as a screening tool. We understood that view was based on recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer Screening and the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). We also understood that other health authorities around the world also considered that there was no current, valid, scientific evidence that supported the use of thermography in the early detection of breast cancer. We therefore considered that, in order to substantiate the claims made in the ad, we would need to see a robust body of scientific evidence that demonstrated that thermography was an effective screening tool in the early detection of breast cancer. Because we had not we concluded that the ad was misleading."
This is a revolting advertisement from a reprehensible company which fully deserves the ASA-bashing they are inevitably going to receive. Boo! Hiss!
PAGE 59, PAGE 81
Quacks who feel that homeopathy just isn't crazy enough often choose to become a naturopath instead.
An advert from the General Naturopathic Council - which sounds like some kind of statutory body, but isn't - offers this remarkable "Naturopathic Case Study":
"Patient - 43 year old [sic] female... Symptoms - Initial digestive system felt locked up and nauseous... quickly followed by trembling fingers, night sweats, significant weight loss with muscle wasting, raised blood pressure, fatigue and insomnia... Diagnosis - autoimmune hyperthyroidism (Graves Disease)... Medication advised for minimum of 18 months. The patient asked her GP for 6 months to try naturopathic approaches..."
The advert doesn't record the GP's response to this dangerous suggestion - presumably the Council felt that so many repetitions of the word "fuck" wouldn't fit in a half-page advertisement - but the patient's treatment is lovingly detailed in the next section.
"An iris analysis suggested sub-optimal function of the pituitary gland, influence on the spleen emanating from the liver, subluxation of 4 cervical vertebrae that could be impinging nerve supply. Protocol - herbal support for liver, spleen, pituitary and thyroid, plus osteopathic adjustements to vertebrae..."
An "iris analysis" (better known as "iridology") is a brilliant piece of pseudo-science which claims to detect health problems by looking at patterns on the eyeball. (Think of it as palm reading, but without the same level of scientific credibility.)
It can be noted, too, that even those wacky chiropractors don't believe in the existence of subluxations any more.
It can be noted, too, that even those wacky chiropractors don't believe in the existence of subluxations any more.
As mentioned above, health claims like these must be supported by rigorous scientific evidence or they can't be made at all. This whole "Case Study" (and the matching one on p81) is misleading unless it can be substantiated.
Your complaint will also want to challenge whether naturopathy can really "identify the root causes of [health] problems":
Your complaint will also want to challenge whether naturopathy can really "identify the root causes of [health] problems":
"A naturopathic assessment investigates the biochemical, structural and emotional strengths and weaknesses of the client, taking into account the web-like interconnection of the body's organs and systems. A Naturopath will aim to identify the root causes of problems..."
Alan James Raddon, a purveyor of hand-made shoes at the eye-watering price of £495 (the same price as a 3-day seminar with Brandon Bays, incidentally!) reckons his products are worth every penny:
"Weakened under-used muscles are exercised, so strengthen... My Shoes and Shandals have profound healing properties for those with damaged feet. Hammer toes have a chance to straighten. Corned, squashed little toes heal. The circulation improves... Those that walk, skip and dance in my Shoes and Shandals, do so with great strength and agility. This strength is reflected and strong ankles and legs..."
The claim that Alan Raddon shoes can heal medical conditions and strengthen the muscles in the legs and feet is a health claim that needs to be substantiated.
I can't find any mention of our Alan in the medical journals and, as a point of comparison, the ASA has already ruled against several companies making comparable claims (see here, here and here.)
"Earthing (R) - Nature's Solution to Health" - so says that esteemed medical journal, the Daily Mail.
What sort of product is being advertised is not clear - it looks to me like a big rubber mat - but the health benefits purchasers can expect are laid out across the advert in loving detail.
"How can Earthing help your health and wellbeing? You can connect to the Earth with bare feet- or- [sic] with indoor Earthing sheets and mats. The Earth then shares it [sic] antioxidant, anti-inflammatory anti aging [sic] electrons from its inexhaustible store. The Earth also stores natural rhythms - day/night, and reconnection supports sleep."
Quacks are wising up to the evidence game and often try to support their claims with their own research, but invariably get it all wrong. The research quoted in this advert are from something called the "Earthing Institute" which, for some reason, doesn't yet have the same academic reputation as (say) the Royal Academy.
Links to the "studies" can be found on the advertiser's website. For those without the time to read them, the advert provides a helpful summary:
"Earthing Institute studies show: 100% of people woke feeling rested - 85% of people fell asleep faster - 93% experienced better sleep - 78% experienced better well being - 82% reported reduced muscle stiffness/pain... Sokal study reports benefits in blood sugar regulation, thyroid hormones, osteoporosis, metabolism... Sinatra study shows blood thickness reductions and circulation benefits..."
Do clinical studies really support the claims made for Earthing? Why, I'm glad you asked!
"Do clinical studies support the claims made for Earthing? Robust studies show significant improvements in sleep, vitality, rebalancing of key hormones... improvements in circulation and reductions in blood pressure. Extensive case studies on reduction of inflammation (associated with any -itis medical conditions such as arthr-itis) were accompanied by reduced sensation of pain."
Hopefully your ASA complaint will challenge whether "Earthing" can actually treat any condition whose name ends with -itis - don't forget to challenge every other claim, too!
The British Institute for Allergy and Environmental Therapy specialise, so they would have us believe, in
"The Identification and Treatment of Allergic Disorders"
Furthermore, they boast that
"Many therapists who are working effectively in the field of allergy today have been trained by the Institute... The Institute offers: ... Safe Effective Relief for Allergy sufferers without drugs or diet"
The therapists who signed up to work with the "Institute" were evidently unaware of the ASA's opinion of them:
"Because we considered we had not seen suitable evidence to substantiate the claims made by BIAET that their product could treat hay fever, we concluded that the ads were misleading..."
"We considered that consumers would understand the claim to imply that there were no side effects from taking the remedy because the remedy was natural, and that it was therefore safe to use. Because we considered the ad implied that the remedy was safe merely because it was natural, we concluded the ad breached the Code..."
"We considered that the ad made medicinal claims for an unauthorised product and that it failed to carry the appropriate warning. Because of that, we concluded the ad breached the Code..."
No doubt a dim view will be taken over at Mid-City Place of the continuing use of these banned claims for hayfever treatments.
P.S. Don't forget to ask whether the homeopathic products advertised here are licensed medicines - if not, their sale is an offence.
A suspicious-looking "colon conditioner" called OxyTech is advertised by Dulwich Health. The ASA complaint practically writes itself:
"OxyTech is a uniquely formulated colon conditioner which is fast acting and is scientifically designed to work gently, safely and effectively... For candida, bloated stomach, irrititable bowel [syndrome], leaky-gut, skin disorder, continuous constipation or diarrhoea..."
Can any of these claims be substantiated with rigorous evidence? Furthermore, is the following claim misleading - has OxyTech's safety actually been tested - and if not, is the advice irresponsible?
"Can I take OxyTech with such and such medicine, antibiotics, steroids, homeopathic remedies etc.? ... It can be taken with everything and is particularly good if you take antibiotics..."
Is the following advice also irresponsible?
"If I get food poisoning? Take a large dose of OxyTech (say up to 10 capsules) as soon as possible..."
Don't forget to send a copy of your complaint to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). I haven't been able to find anything which suggests OxyTech isn't an unlicensed medicine.
The Quantum Laser Shower-Head featured in the ad is an old favourite of this blog.
"FREE YOURSELF FROM THE ALLOPATHIC MEDICAL SYSTEM! We believe that the power to heal belongs in your hands! Not in the hands of a corrupt system. We believe in freedom!"
The "corrupt system" presumably refers to the ASA who banned this company's earlier adverts and took the unusual step of naming their website as non-compliant.
Your complaint should of course challenge whether the shower-head really offers "treatments" for
"Allergies, Arthritis, Asthma, Autoimmune, Blood, Bones, Cystitis, Dental, Diabetes, Eczema, Glands, Immune System, Injuries, Ischemia, Joints, Kidneys, Mastitis, Muscles, Neurology, Organs, Osteoporosis, Skin, Stress, Strokes and many more..."
You should also challenge whether the "Free Yourself" quote could discourage the public from seeking help with an urgent medical condition - after all, that approach worked last time!
(P.S. The Quantum Laser Shower-Head is available from my mate Oliver Mueller for £2995. A very reasonable price, I think you'll agree; but if it's beyond your means, I'll build you a fake version for a fiver.)
Dr Walter Pierpaoli offers his "Melatonin Zn Se" tablets for the bargain price of £39.99 to anyone who's willing to join his "private buyers club".
The advert describes the product as "pharmaceutical grade melatonin" - in which case it's possibly an illegal unlicensed medicine in the UK. Get writing to the MHRA!
CLASSIFIED ADS, P94-95
As discussed, there's as yet no evidence that phones emit dangerous radiation, or that devices like the SAFER-WAVE product can protect against them.
The claim that the goodhealthnaturally.com product is "900% better than tablets" could easily be challenged, as could the implied claim that it can be used to improve eye health.
The "Buteyko Method" claims to be a better and more effective method of controlling asthma than a standard inhaler. The research evidence available to us suggests that claims like these are nonsense, as the response to your ASA complaint will quickly confirm.
The "Tooth Wizards" ad seems to suggest that dentists have been derelict in their duties towards patients. Can they prove it? Ask to see the evidence!
Serrapeptase is a "Miracle Enzyme", apparently.
"Serrapeptase is making headway in the natural health industry as the 'must have' dietary supplement. May help to support healthy: Joints and Tendons - Bronchial and Lung Function - Veins and Arteries - Digestive System and Colon - Heart and Circulation - Relief from Trauma, Swelling (eg post operative [sic] and Sports injury..."
Once again, food products can't be advertised with health claims unless those claims have EC approval. I haven't been able to find the documents confirming that this advertisement is legal - I wonder if anyone can help?
WH Smith Customer Services: Customer.Relations@WHSmith.co.uk
Waitrose Customer Services: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sainsbury's Customer Services: email@example.com
Tescos Customer Services: Complaint form
Other blogs discussing WDDTY: Tessa Kendall, Hayley Johnson, "Labcoats unbuttoned" , The 21st Floor, Andy Lewis, Hayley Stevens and Popehat. Josephine Jones has been keeping an updated list. Thanks to Josephine Jones and Hayley Stevens for finding the links above.