Standard Process=Standard Nonsense

Standard Process is a company that has been selling dietary supplements since 1929. It was founded by a dentist, Royal Lee, who developed a number of unconventional theories about the role of nutrition in health and disease. In essence, Dr. Lee and his successors take rational, scientific principles and extend them well beyond reason and evidence to promote claims that the particular plant and animal extracts they provide have near magical medicinal qualities. This is the very paragon of pseudoscience, the presentation of unsupported, often irrational hypotheses, mingled with scientific terminology and a sprinkling of tangentially related actual scientific facts to create a set of faith beliefs that appear to be scientific but do not actually conform to the philosophy, methods, or data of legitimate science.

It is quite reasonable and demonstrably true, for example, that nutritional deficiencies can cause disease, and that  supplementation with the appropriate nutrients can prevent and treat such diseases. This does not, however, support the generalization that all disease is associated with nutritional deficiencies, or that all disease can be ameliorated with proper nutritional supplementation. Food and nutrients of appropriate kind and quantity are unquestionably necessary for health and even life, but that has very little to do with whether or not the specific theories about the benefits of particular foods and nutrients sold by Standard Process are true.

Of course, Standard Process products are not simple vitamin and mineral supplements. They contain complex mélanges of plant and animal ingredients. The marketing materials talk a lot about the value of “whole foods.” The claim is frequently made that plant and animal tissues contain combinations of chemicals (never called by that dirty word, of course) that provide greater health prevention and treatment benefits in combination that individual nutrients can alone. And it is taken as a given that “processing” of any kind, including cooking, ruins the nutritional and health value of foods. The key to healthful supplements are that they contain whole, unprocessed, natural ingredients, preferably organically produced.

All of these are fairly standard arguments seen in the marketing materials for alternative approaches to nutrition. The evidence does not generally support such claims. Organic food appears to be no healthier than conventionally produced foods, though there may still be some environmental advantages to organic production methods. And while cooking and other kinds of processing do alter the nutrient content of foods, this is a pretty well-understood phenomenon. Some nutrients become more available, and those that are diminished by cooking can be effectively replaced. So the evidence does not support claimed health benefits for raw foods in humans or pets. “Natural,” of course is a meaningless marketing term. Synergy can exist between compounds in a whole plant, but it requires complex, thorough investigation to document that it actually does occur in any particular plant. And finally, the issue of “processing” of foods is a complex mishmash of fact and mythology. In general, “processed food” is used as a synonym for “junk food,” but clearly every time you wash, chop, season, or cook your food, you are “processing” it, and usually improving it. Claims about the nutritional inadequacy or deleterious effects of commercial pet foods are not supported by real evidence.

What is particularly odd about the emphasis in Standard Processes’ marketing materials on natural, unprocessed, whole foods is that their supplements cannot in any reasonable way be described by any of these buzzwords. They are complex mixtures of herbs, plant extracts, vitamins and minerals combined with “Protomorphogen” and “Cytosol” extracts. highly processed substances derived through proprietary processes from animal tissues, These mixtures are then compounded into tablets or powders. So mixtures that would never be found in nature in forms that are the result of extensive technological processing are sold as natural whole foods?

The animal tissue extracts represent another element to Dr. Lee’s unproven, pseudoscientific nutritional theories. It is true that deficiencies in the function of some glands can be remedied by supplementation with relevant substances from the same gland. However, it is usually true that purified isolates or synthetic forms of these glandular products are superior to whole organ supplements, and often the supplement cannot be given orally anyway. And none of this has any relevance to the broader claims that whole gland products or gland extracts prevent or treat disease through the action of numerous, often unidentified substances.

Ultimately, the idea that treating kidney disease by feeding ground up kidneys to the patient, as an example, is not a scientific hypothesis but yet another form of sympathetic magic. This is a descriptive term from anthropology which refers to a form of magical belief found in most cultures, that things which resemble one another in some superficial way can be used to influence each other. Mandrake root must be an aphrodisiac or fertility treatment because the root resembles a human penis; voodoo dolls that look like a particular person can be used to harm them; and diseases that involve a particular organ can be treated by feeding supplements made from that or a related organ.

There does not seem to be any real research evidence to support the claim than glandulars in general, or the “special” gland extracts sold by Standard Process, have any significant health benefits. Those who promote the use of these products support their assertions with clinical experience, case reports and uncontrolled case series, and reference to pre-clinical research showing that some chemicals from some glands have some effects. Much of the supporting research comes from publications devoted exclusively to promoting these products or alternative therapies in general. And, of course, there are plenty of anecdotes and testimonials to miraculous cures brought about by these products, which have their usual lack of probative value. Well-designed and conducted clinical trials published in mainstream peer-reviewed journals do not appear to exist, despite the fact that the company has been producing and marketing supplements for over 70 years.

As is usual with pseudoscience, claims about the products and unsupported theories are mingled with tangentially related facts from legitimate scientific theory and research. One example of the marketing materials for the Standard Process veterinary product line illustrates this technique. The document, published in Standard Process’ own pseudojournal Whole Food Nutrition Journal, begins with a list of known nutrient deficiency diseases. It then proceeds to point out that the transition from “traditional” to “modern” diets is associated with health problems. This has, of course, some truth to it, though it has nothing to do with the claims that will later come about the specific relationship between Standard Process supplements and health, and it ignores the fact that so-called “traditional” diets are themselves associated with nutritional deficiency diseases.

The infamous Pottenger study is mentioned, which is a common warning sign of veterinary nutritional pseudoscience. This is a poorly designed experiment from the 1940s that involved feeding milk and meat, either cooked or raw, to cats. The cats fed the cooked meat developed nutritional and developmental diseases, which is often cited as evidence that raw foods are healthier than cooked foods. Unfortunately, the complete lack of experimental controls or proper evaluation of the subject, and the simple fact that both diets were grossly deficient and utterly unlike the commercial pet foods the study is usually used to criticize, make the results meaningless. Pseudoscience at its best, or worst.

The pattern continues throughout the document, and is characteristic of the rest of Standard Process advertising. A mixture of hypotheses and outright fantasy with vaguely related scientific information to create the false impression that the whole is sound.  What the company is pretty careful not to do is make direct claims that its products prevent or treat actual diseases. Thanks to the ridiculously lax regulation of dietary supplements, it is possible to suggest, imply, and in a multiplicity of clever ways mislead the consumer, and even veterinarians, into believing the products have proven value in disease treatment or prevention. However, straight out claims that the products are medicinal are not allowed. The company and its founder have been sanctioned numerous times in the past by the Food and Drug Administration for illegal claims about their products. The current leadership is now more careful. However, believers in these supplements, primarily chiropractors and naturopaths as well as “holistic” veterinarians, devise and teach each other strategies for deciding which supplements to use when.

Bottom Line
The theories about the relationship between food, nutrients and health invented by Dr. Lee and still promoted by Standard Process are unscientific and not supported by scientific evidence.

The marketing claims that the products are beneficial because they are unprocessed, natural, whole foods are both meaningless and inconsistent with the real nature of the products, which are highly processed, artificial mixtures of compounds.

The promotional materials used to advertise these products to veterinarians and consumers are highly misleading pseudoscience, mixing unproven and unscientific ideas with bits of real science that do not actual have anything to do with the validity of the claims made about the company’s theories or products.

There is no evidence beyond individual opinion, anecdotes, and poorly designed case series to indicate that Standard Process products have any value in treating or preventing disease. More than 70 years after the company began manufacturing and selling supplements, there are still no good quality clinical trials demonstrating that any of their products are effective for the prevention or treatment of any medical condition.

Ultimately, the choice to use these products is a gamble, trusting that notoriously unreliable forms of evidence such as anecdotes can accurately guide us in the absence of any real scientific evidence.

 

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132 Responses to Standard Process=Standard Nonsense

  1. Narda Robinson says:

    And then there’s the special technique called “contact reflex analysis” that employs applied kinesiology (or surrogate applied kinesiology for babies and non-human animals) that tells practitioners which supplements the patient needs based on muscle testing.

    For example: http://www.standardprocess.com/display/3235.spi

    “Vernon Raymond Mannon, DC, opened his first practice in August 1951 in Monmouth, IL….Over the years, Dr. Mannon built two very successful nutrition-oriented practices utilizing contact reflex analysis for determining the needs of his patients.

    http://www.holisticvetpractice.com/VCRA.html

    “For example, if a holistic practitioner suspects low thyroid function in a dog, the thyroid gland can easily be tested by touching the electrical (reflex) point over the gland and pushing down on the surrogate’s arm. If there is an imbalance the arm muscle will suddenly go weak demonstrating weakness of the thyroid gland. Thyroid blood tests are then performed to confirm hypothyroidism.”

    http://www.lifesforce.com/rokdownloads/PDF/Introduction%20to%20Nutrition/A_Look_at_Contact_Reflex_Analysis.pdf “A Look at Contact Reflex Analysis” Alternative Medicine Journal

  2. skeptvet says:

    Yes, Applied Kinesiology and its offshoots represent a particularly egregious example of pseudoscientific nonsense. The fact that someone would believe you can determine what nutrient supplement will benefit an animal by touching the animal while pushing on their owners arm and then subjectively deciding when the person’s arm gets weak is mind-boggling.

  3. Andrew says:

    Skeptvet

    It’s beyond you which is obvious by your user name. Limit yourself the best you can and let the crusaders discover while you safely wait for fro corporate funded blind testing that pushes products in the interest of greed. Have you ever traveled outside the US and witnessed other practices or cultures?

  4. skeptvet says:

    The hodgepodge of silly and complete incorrect assumptions you make show your incredible arrogance. The idea that you might be wrong, or even that someone else might disagree with you out of genuine concern for the truth and a thoughtful evaluation of your claims, requires a humility you clearly lack. My experience travelling in poor countries, including volunteering in community healthcare, has demonstrated that people denied the fruits of science-based medicine suffer far more than those affluent enough to have access to it. Traditional practices are readily discarded everywhere by those who are able to afford scientific medicine because they care more about what works than about the patronizing reverence for and appropriation of the exotic shown by affluent Westerners such as yourself.

    It is also obvious that you must defend your practices by empty personal atacks on critics because you have no evidence of substance to offer. Shallow and self-serving attacks like this fool no one.

  5. Knee a Hurtin says:

    Thanks so much for your aritcle. A doctor treating me for a knee injury is having me take a few products from Standard Process. Me being the research minded type have looked far and wide for the studies on these products especially a product called Ligaplex II. I am all for good science. I cannot find any valid University or independent studies on this product. Science is suppose to be skeptical and experiments should be carefully planned out and controlled. Results should be scrutinized by a wide scientific community. That being said I find myself taking a product that is more like a religion(a matter of faith) and not based in science( a matter of proven fact). I have a problem with this.

  6. tara says:

    Everything you have written could be said about the drug companies.the pottnegers cat study I agree with some of what you say …don’t forget to add that it also was never replicated and it was long before they knew about tarine deficiency and cat health…but the controls were not legit controls…I wished you would talk more about how to make and keep pets healthy and disease free..so far I have not seen you write about health

  7. Florida says:

    Thank you so much for your article. I have been all over the internet researching this product line after my chiropractor gave me a lengthy health questionairre including very personal questions (internal medicine, obgyn, etc). I answered only those questions I thought relevant to his chiropractic care. The following week, he did that kinetic hocus-pocus on me, told me I have a thyroid problem, iodine deficiency, adrenal problem, and liver problems. He sent me home with five bottles of this product line. I was rather too kind, chose to buy it all anyway and not argue knowing I would go home and research it all. This chiropractor played all of this on me knowing my husband is a medical doctor (you know: the kind with MD behind their name, not DC). Needlesstosay, my husband is horrified. This product line caters to chiropractors, they created this health question list, and the chiro then plugs in your answers into their software program to spit out the recommended products. My bloodwork indicates all of my levels are normal, especially my thyroid. However, the “thyroid diagnosis” seems to be their focal point/selling point. The “animal tissues” is disturbing to me. I personally feel the FDA should make this company clearly state on every bottle whether it contains “animal tissues.” This would be most bothersome for vegans.

  8. skeptvet says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. It seems entirely wrong to me that chiropractors feel qualified to move beyond treating musculoskeletal pain and into diagnosing and treating complex endocrine and internal medicine problems. They clearly have none of the appropriate training and knowledge, and it is dangerous to meddle with real health concerns when you don’t know what you are doing.

    Though I know most people would rather not cause trouble, I feel obliged to suggest that a letter to your state board of chiropractic and state medical board describing what happened to you would be a useful way to try and discourage this individual from taking advantage of others in the future. Often, the laws about what constitutes legitimate chiropractic care are quite clear, and I think it unlikely that using “applied kinesiology” to diagnosis thyroid disease is acceptable under the terms of the chiropractic act. It may very well constitute practicing medicine without a license, though unfortunately the laws concerning herbal products are weak and leave a lot of wiggle room.

    In any case, I am glad you were able to find legitimate medical advice to prevent you from being misled by this chiropractor.

  9. J.F. says:

    I would encourage all of you to watch TED Talk’s Defying Disease episode one.
    Nutrition and health, or nutrition and disease undoubtably are linked. Eastern medicine for thousands of years observed a cause and effect between diet and disease. Many of the concepts of good nutrition and health are common sense, and unfortunately not well researched. Standard Process is providing a supplement containing food that most of us don’t think about adding to our diet. It is food, they say it is food, and so I hardly think they are scamming anyone.

  10. skeptvet says:

    For thousands of years, folk medicine made no difference to our health, life expectancy, infant mortality, or any other measure of physical well-being. Then science came along and doubled our life expectancy, wiped out entire diseases, and made us the healthiest generation in the history of humanity. Not a compelling argument for following random trial-and-error folk traditions over controlled scientific research. “Common sense” in my grandmother’s day meant eating a lot of fried meat because protein was “good for you,” and what tasted good must be what your body needed. Not a compelling argument for “common sense” as a guide to what to eat. The bottom line is that these people are making stuff up and there’s no reason to accept it without real evidence.

  11. Skeptical Alchemist says:

    It is common for defenders of CAM practitioners to point out ‘greed’ as a dishonorable part of mainstream medical practice. What they don’t realize is that Standard Process, like many expensive ‘natural’ supplements, goes to great lengths to financially motivate practitioners to prescribe and sell their products. Partly they do this by attempting to prohibit internet sales (and over the counter herb store sales) of their products. This serves to increase conflict-of-interest and keep the price artificially high.
    Most CAM practitioners that I’ve met have virtually no awareness of these ethical issues in medicine and pharmacy practice. They feel entitled to both prescribe and sell multiple bottles of expensive (and unproven) supplements to most patients.
    The Applied Kinesiology crowd really bugs me. Standard Process is currently promoting the “Morphogenic Field Technique” by a chiropractor who diagnoses parasite “energy” in the brain (his book is called Bugs in the Brain). More here: http://morphogenicfieldtechnique.com
    Another major issue with the animal glandulars is that Standard Process for years has included brain, eyes, and spinal cord of cows, which are Specified Risk Materials for BSE. When I looked into it, I just found they said the materials were from ‘USDA registered’ slaughterhouses. Keep in mind that prions are hard to detect, nearly impossible to destroy, and take decades to manifest as neurological disease.

  12. skeptvet says:

    All very good points. Thanks!

  13. v.t. says:

    Wow, good points, indeed!

    Skeptical Alchemist, does that mean as a supplement manufacturer, they are not under the radar, or does the FDA actually know this manufacturer is taking risks with the BSE issue you raise? I don’t expect you to have the answers, but it makes me wonder even IF such issues are on the FDA’s awareness list.

  14. Bernadine Gilbert says:

    I have just been diagnosed with osteoporosis with my doctor prescribing a generic form of Fosenex. I have heard no good things about this medication and am interested in improving my bones “naturally” if at all possible. I have in my hands a pamphlet from Bruce West who claims to have the answer; however, he is suggesting several products made by Standard Process. I decided to research the company before ordering the products. Looks as though I should keep away from the products and find another route. Thanks for the article.

  15. Vogel says:

    Really? Never heard anything good? What about Sally Fields?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KryR45XM7vs

  16. Vogel says:

    Seriously though, Evista would also be a potential alternative. Not easy to restore lost bone mineral density. Bisphosphonates are one way, though not without drawbacks. Might be better than a hip fracture though. Minimize preventable risk factors like smoking and drinking, and try regular weight bearing exercise too.

  17. gerdio says:

    Folks….bottomline, does it work for you or not? For me, SP products helped my toddler with unexplained medical issues that prevented him from playing in the playground for more than 5 minutes at a time. Traditional doctors had no answer and even if they did, their only solution is powerful prescription drugs. Real or not, fact or all in my head, true or make-believe…i don’t care. My boy is now playing T-ball and running around all day like a toddler should. If you’re not happy with your traditional Dr, give the alternative a try until you find whatever it is that gives you peace and good health in your life.

  18. skeptvet says:

    Sorry but “does it work for you” isn’t the bottom line. For thousands of years we used personal experience to decide what worked and what didn’t, and half our children died before they reached adulthood from diseases we now hardly ever see in countries that can afford scientific medicicine. Reliance on anecdotes kills people.

  19. Janet Sunderland says:

    I understand how many scientific people are skeptical of natural healing and remedies that aren’t tested by trials. However, my Internal Med doctor, as well as a my Alternative Medicine practitioner, has monitored my healing after a bad fall. I’ve taken no medications except for pain meds from time to time. Nothing is immediate with alternative medicine; however, after two years of work on my spine, and the Standard Process food supplements and exercise and stretching, (I practice yoga and have worked out in one way or another for most of my life) and regular visits with my non-force practitioner, I’m recovering from a brachial nerve plexus injury. I respect Western Medicine, but I also know that my body responds well to alternative medicine. I’ve also been healing the arthritis in my knee that developed after the fall. Yes. I could have knee surgery and I could have micro-surgery for the brachial nerves, but I choose to follow the slower path and allow my body to heal itself. Along with Standard Process, I also take hyaluronic acid caps. And yes, I could have treatments of hyaluronic shots, but why do that when I can also allow my body to heal more naturally? Healing really is a personal preference. I choose to use the slower alternative medicine route, but I’m 70 now and still active and have clear and firm skin and I choose to be active for a long time. Hope this helps anyone who is wondering/considering a treatment that includes Standard Process. It takes time. It’s effective. It’s not magic. It’s your body.

  20. skeptvet says:

    As always, all I can do is remind people that such anecdotes aren’t reliable, no matter how compelling they may be.

  21. mmram says:

    I was referred to this “medical intuitive” that is out-of-state, in which he uses NMT? and did a “FullBodyScan” for $165 on me from Kansas City, MO and I am all the way in New york. I had to list my symptoms, and then he recommended 4 Standard Process Supplements to strengthen my adrenal glands, balance my hormones, increase my energy levels and to correct B12 & Calcium deficiency. He also recommended
    D-Lenolate (olive leaf extract) and Zeolite-AV http://www.zeolite.com/zeolite-av.php (claimed that I had a stealth virus). Also, Lymph Reflexes http://www.chirobase.org/06DD/cra.html . I also said that I alkalinize my water, so then he said I needed to be more acidic? So he recommended Parasympathetic Diet… then, he recommended to wear a Qlink http://www.qlinkproducts.com/Scripts/default.asp to decrease my EMR stress levels.
    It all sounded good at first until I did some research. I called Standard Process to ask where the animals were located in the world, how they extracted these DNA ingredients that the ex-chiropractor said they did, etc…They could not answer any of my questions, to refer to the website. They also referred me to a local Chiropractor who sells their product. After calling them, they tried to just get me in the door at $140 for the visit. I asked if they can give me the information that I requested at SP and they said that they would call me back. I received no call. The ex-chiropractor recommended for $67 a treatment from him twice a week. He said he uses “conscious intent” through vibrational healing. I have researched online and there is a lack of information everything seems biased towards the SP treatments and seems to be coming from the promoters of the SP product. As well as no information of history on this ex-Chiropractor? NO ratings or history of record? NOt even a webite or google search results? seems weird? was I con’d????

  22. Rose says:

    I am glad to find this website because after taking Standard Process, I felt so so. I then just stopped and gave them to other friend. My doctor who is my close friend is still angry with me for doing that. He believes that it is the best though. I think it is so-so. It”s better than synthetic vitamins and placebo but not better than real food or herbs though. Thanks for sharing again.

  23. confused says:

    I am so confused. I am a Ph.D but unfortunately my specialty has nothing to do with determining whether or not supplementing my diet is necessary and I’m not sure where to start. I have some minor health problems and know that my diet is not perfect (but is improving), but I would love to know if vitamins or supplements are of any benefit at all. i have seen so many mixed reviews that my head is spinning.
    Any advice on vitamins and supplements in general?
    I have already went the chiropractic route and was given the same questionnaire mentioned above, as well as a list of products. It wasn’t pushed on me, nor was there any extraordinary promises. Simply, “from what I’ve seen from your questionnaire, this may be helpful”. I am full of doubt, but would love to know what may actually have some scientifically prove effectiveness or efficacy.
    Thanks for any answers in advance.

  24. skeptvet says:

    The evidence is growing that vitamin supplements are of no value to those without clear, documented deficiencies. And too much of a good thing is as bad for you as too little, so supplements are not without risks.

    Here are a couple of really useful articles on the subject:

    Should I take a Multivitamin?

    Vitamins and Mortality

    Posts concerning vitamins from Science-Based Pharmacy

  25. confused says:

    Thank you!! This is much appreciated! If you ever need any sound psychological advice…shoot me an email! : )

  26. v.t. says:

    Confused,

    Three red flags: 1) a chiropractor 2) recommending supplements 3) based on a questionaire.

  27. v.t. says:

    Ugh, I see the poor pharmacy-based-pharmacy blog has been dealing with the Sandy Courtney/ChristyRedd hit and run trolls.

  28. v.t. says:

    correction: science-based-pharmacy blog.

  29. Don't know what you are missing says:

    I’m sorry that all you people do not find favor with Standard Process. My life has changed tremendously after following this ‘route’..my the quality of life has change, I could go on and on. I grew up with tradition pharmacy and was ‘put’ on prescriptions for years- almost 28 years..one for this then for that then for side effects..then all the time for blood work..I felt like a slave and tried this ‘route’…I was on prescription until I was 38..and now its been 7 years and I have not taken one..And have not needed one…SP has helped me tremendously..I’m sorry you will be missing out….I feel better now than when I was 25

  30. holistic or western medical monopoly . says:

    The medical monopoly or medical trust,
    euphemistically called the American
    Medical Association, is not merely the
    meanest monopoly ever organized, but
    the most arrogant, dangerous and
    despotic organization which ever
    managed a free people in this or any
    other age.
    Any and all methods of healing
    the sick by means of safe, simple and
    natural remedies are sure to be assailed
    and denounced by the arrogant leaders of
    the AMA doctors’ trust as fakes, frauds
    and humbugs.

    Every practitioner of the healing art who
    does not ally himself with the medical
    trust is denounced as a ‘dangerous
    quack’ and impostor by the predatory
    trust doctors.
    Every sanitarian who
    attempts to restore the sick to a state of
    health by natural means without resort to
    the knife or poisonous drugs, disease
    imparting serums, deadly toxins or
    vaccines, is at once pounced upon by
    these medical tyrants and fanatics,
    bitterly denounced, vilified and
    persecuted to the fullest extent.”

  31. skeptvet says:

    Anyone with a genuine interest in the potential value of alternative therapies should ask themselves if this sort of fanatical and paranoid manifesto, which is common in the CAM community, really inspires confidence in the judgment or values of this community. While many CAM proponents are far more reasonable than this, such nonsense is ubiquitous in defense of alternative medicine, and illustrates the kind of irrational thinking that underlies so mch of this movement.

  32. 3Xmom says:

    Under the guidance of a trusted practitioner, alternative medicine can be very helpful. In fact, it can turn a situation around. Yes, it’s anecdotal but personal anecdotal evidence is the most powerful. It may not work the same way for everyone because no two people are exactly alike, but it’s worked for us. I also use Standard Process for the health of my show dogs, one of whom has been on a holistic program for cancer since diagnosis. In December it will be two years and he is still happy and energetic, though beginning to slow down some. However, his quality of life has been excellent, and that is what we aimed for with this terminal illness. Traditional vets and the University Vet school specialists gave him 6-8 months. Again, instead of meeting alternative therapies head-on with angst and what seems to be a bit of arrogance, personal anecdotal evidence is valid and powerful and ought not be dismissed. After all, modern medicine is back to using maggots to clean wounds, and phlebotomy is routine. In some ways, we’re coming full circle and I have seen more good from alternative medicine than I have from medicines that are so fully loaded with high risk side-effects, and some of grandma’s potions and tried-and-true remedies are still good. The fact that the bold and open minded have ventured into improving those remedies and developing new ones is a good thing and ought to be encouraged rather than quashed.

  33. skeptvet says:

    personal anecdotal evidence is the most powerful.

    Unfortunately, it is “powerful” only in the sense of its emotional and psychological impact. In terms of its accuracy or reliability, it is the weakest evidence we have. That’s the fundamental problem underlying most of the conflicts between alternative and science-based medicine. You either are comfortable with an essentially faith-based, first-person method of establishing what works and what doesn’t, or you believe science is more effective and trustworthy. This seems to be a matter of personal belief that doesn’t respond to any argument of evidence.

    As for the therapies you mention, we have certainly not come full circle. Phlebotomy is used incredibly rarely for an extremely uncommon disease, not routinely for every imaginable ill. Most uses of it have been abandoned because they not only didn’t help, they actuvely killed people. Likewise, the use of leeches and maggots, produced in very specific ways to meet very limited medical needs is nothing like the indiscriminate use of such creatures in pre-scientific folk medicine which, once again, actively killed people. The fact that you can’t see the distinction shows that you have constructed a version of medical history quite distinct from the real one in oreder to support a certain world view. That is far more closed-minded a way of approaching knowledge than insisting scientific research is more accurate than personal anecdotes.

  34. Say What says:

    I am a chiropractor. I stick to musculoskeletal conditions. I adjust, do some electric stim, and provide a small amount of physical therapy that patients can continue to do at home. Chiropractors are qualified to give nutritional advice. When my patients ask me about supplements, I tell them to eat more fruits and vegetables. Lay off the McDonald’s. Getting deep into the supplement world scares me because I’m afraid it will hurt my credibility. I send people to their MD if I see they would benefit from medical care. People are over medicated, but i dont blame the MDs. Too many people want a magic fix. I have seen supplements help people many times but it still is not a game I would want to put my name behind. And on Applied Kinesiology: I went to an AK guy while in college, once. I just could not buy into it. A lot of people swear by it, but I could not see myself doing that for a living. I just wanted to respond to this thread to show that there are level headed chiros out there that are not trying to get at your wallet from every angle. Every time I research standard process, I see some negative comments about chiros. It’s understandable, but keep looking. If you think chiropractic can help you, you should be able to find one that you trust.

  35. Diane says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but I understood phlebotomy to be the practice of drawing blood (for tests). Is it used in this context to mean blood-letting?

  36. skeptvet says:

    The word just means to remove blood from a blood vessel. Historically, it was used to describe therapeutic bloodletting, but since that practice is now rare it is usuallly used to refer to drawing blood for other reasons (testing, donation, etc). However, my sense was that the other reader was using it to refer to therapeutic bloodletting. Bloodletting is a treatment from the rare condition polycythemia, and CAM advocates frequently misuse this as a way of suggesting that the historical practice of therapeutic bloodletting has been justified by modern science.

  37. skeptvet says:

    While I agree that there are a handful of chiropractors who limit themselves to treating conditions for which there is reasonable evidence chiropractic may be helpful (such as lower back pain), unfortunately most of the chiropractic profession has earned the negative comments made about them. The mainstream organizations representing the profession continue to promote pseudoscientific and anti-scientific viws and make indefensible claims for chiropractic treatment. And even though you claim to stick to manipulative musculoskeletal therapy, which is perfectly appropriate, you then claim chiropractors are qualified to give nutritional advice. I don’t see how training in a form of manipulative therapy, particularly one based on unsubstantiated theoretical grounds like the vertebral subluxation complex, qualifies one to give nutritional advice. It is this kind of “mission creep” that gets chiros in trouble.

  38. Diane says:

    Thanks for the clarification on phlebotomy. Never knew it could also refer to blood letting.

  39. Kim says:

    A tad bit angry and arrogant, aren’t we? Wow. You seem to know everything there is to know about modern medicine as you sing its praises, yet, more Americans are dying every single day from one disease or another that even numerous costly drugs not only don’t cure, but often cause further illnesses from side effects – not to mention the rampant infections so often acquired inside one of your sterilized miracle chamber hospitals. Really? That’s the answer? Are you serious? I too, say the proof is in the pudding. Those of us who have tried healing ourselves from the inside out with positive results have no reason not to believe it. The human body is designed to heal itself. We are the ones that poison it with man made toxins. A body can only take so many toxins and drugs before it breaks down beyond its ability to heal itself. “Modern” Medicine’s drugs and pharmaceuticals are to a human body, what years of emotional abuse is to the human spirit. They win by wearing down the victim. However, if and when the victim realizes they hold the power to heal themselves, they can and oftentimes, do. I think the idea that more and more people are realizing that disease is something that can be prevented by taking responsibility for themselves is quite threatening to most MD’s. I would imagine it would be quite scary to think that with the growth of “alternative” medicine and therapies, there may not be so many sick people in need of the drugs the pharmaceutical companies push down their throats, which in turn causes more side effects, illness and ultimately, more drugs. It’s a brilliant theory actually, for the pharmaceutical companies and the doctors getting the kickbacks from them. The fact is that healthy people, mean less money and ego for MD’s. Such a tragedy that so many Americans are so naive and trust drugs to cure them, when they ultimately end up killing them. You should look at the positive side of having a healthy America and smile more often. You just sound so bitter and angry.

  40. skeptvet says:

    Sorry, but your attempt to dismiss science and validate your own faith in anecdotes isn’t convincing. Your conspiracy theories are silly, and your desire to write off all of modern medicine as “toxic” and greedy portrays a profound ignorance of history. If everyone could cure themselves naturally, why did we never raise our life expectancy above the low 40s or drop our childhood mortality rates below 50% until we discovered the scientific method and science-based healthcare? We do people wh are too poor or politically oppressed to have access to modern medicine, and who have to rely on folk medicine instead, suffer and die far more than those who can make use of the fruits of scientific health care? You are living in a fantasy world, whihc makes me not angry but sad for all those who buy into such myths and suffer needlessly as a result.

  41. v.t. says:

    Ah, the pharma shill gambit, Kim, unfortunately that doesn’t work here.

  42. Say what says:

    There is much more to chiropractic training than manipulation. I don’t expect to convert you because you have your mind made up. But we are qualified to give nutritional advice. We do take course work in biochemistry, physiology, and nutrition to name a few. Plus many use continuing Ed to focus on nutrition since that is a huge problem in our country. Nutritional advice is not very difficult. When the MD’s in town are obese and smoke and I maintain a healthy weight and fitness level, people notice that and for some reason value my opinion. My reason for my original comment is that i think it is very difficult to recreate stuff in a lab that nature already does. I don’t like supplements and do not personally take any. I have had horrible experience with MD’s in the past but that in no way makes me judge them as a group.

  43. skeptvet says:

    It’s not a question of my bias but of how we define expertise and what qualification one has to give medical advice. As a vet, I’ve taken general nutrition courses as well as a number specific to veterinary patients, but that hardly qualifies me to give humans dietary counseling. A look at typical chiropractic education and training suggests that it is heavily focused on musculoskeletal conditions, and that much of the other education given is in highly questionable methods. The approach of chiropractors to nutrition specifically, often involves nonsense such as applied kinesiology, hair analysis, and other pseudoscientific practices (for examples, see HERE and:

    Chiropractic Education for Primary Care

    The Chiropractic Board of Nutrition includes herbal medicine and homeopathy in its “nutrition” education

    Ultimately, a profession whose primary theoretical rationale, still the core of most schools’ curriculum, is a pseudoscientific concept like the Vertebral Subluxation Complex is not likley to take a mainstream scientific approach to other medical domains, such as nutrition. As for your personal experience of the health practices of MDs in your town, you must recognize that has zero relevance to the qualifications of chiropractors to counsel people about nutrition. It’s juust another anecdotal way to denigrate mainstream medicine.

  44. Say what says:

    Again, I agree, applied kinesiology is very strange. I hate it when I hear someone had a negative experience with a chiro and then find out it was with an AK chiro. Hair analysis. Bogus. I see hair analysis outfits target chiros as a way to justify nutritional advice and as a way to make money. I’m not sure we are on the same page when we speak of nutritional advice. I just offer my patients general healthy eating tips and basic weight loss advice. It’s not something I charge for. Just part of the office visit. It’s amazing how little the general public knows. I do not sell supplements, even though I am asked about them on a daily basis. I don’t have a problem at all with mainstream medicine. My kids are vaccinated. My wife is on some meds. I have never, ever told a patient that he or she should not be on a medication. I work very well with several MDs. Of course many do not accept me as a colleague which is fine. I have even had MDs and dentists as patients in the past. I currently have a vet as a patient. I have a lot of nurses as patients. I get referrals from MDs, NPs, and PTs. Working together is what is in the patient’s best interest. I can tell you are strictly science based and I really do appreciate that. The world needs that point of view. But there also needs to be an option for when the science backed methods for some reason are not working. I know the chiropractic profession is working on incorporating evidence based principles into practice. I don’t knock anybody’s profession. You have to understand why someone would take it a bit personally when their profession dragged through the mud. This is how I feed my family. And I do it the most honest way that I can. There are many patients that I do not even touch because I feel their condition would be better served elsewhere.

  45. skeptvet says:

    Well, as I said before I have no objection to chiropractors who stick with evidence-based practice, which in my reading of the existing evidence is pretty much limited to manipulative therapies for a limited number of musculoskeletal complaints. And I have to objetcion to you offering gratis advice about healthy eating habits, if by this you mean just talking about sharing mainstream dietary information which most people ought to already know, such as this advice from the NIH:

    Healthy eating is not hard. The key is to
    • Eat a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products
    • Eat lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and low-fat dairy products
    • Drink lots of water
    • Limit salt, sugar, alcohol, saturated fat, and trans fat in your diet

    My assumtion you meant something else is simply a response to the large number of chiropractors, and national chiropractic organizations representing your profession, who mdo mean something far different.

    I do understand why it is frustrating to have people denigrate your profession. I face the same criticism all the time, as the recent 20/20 debacle illustrates. However, I think you might direct that frustration more appropriately at your colleagues and professional organizations than at advocates of science-based healthcare. Your approach to chiropractic practice seems far more sensible and appropriate than that of most chiropractors I have met (and I meet a lot, given my public criticism of the profession) or the major chiro organizations. They have earned the reputation that you, unfortunately, have to deal with. If you wish to hear less of this kind of criticism, certainly continuing to practice as you do and represent your “faction” in the profession will help.

    You might also consider the more difficult step of challenging those practices that are widespread in your preoffession which you feel bring disrepute onto it, including vaccine resistance, excessive use of supplements, herbs, homeopathy, and other such remedies, colonic irrigation, AK, and manipulative treatment that is inappropriate (such as adjustments for internal medicine complaints, cervical adjustments, and manipulation of young children). I knwo how difficult it is to take principled stands that ivolve criticizing members of one’s own profession, but I don’t see how else we can expect our respective professional communities to change.

  46. Somewhat confused too says:

    Seems like there have been a few rabbit trails… Was the point (here) that SP makes sweeping health claims about their product?

    I don’t believe an apology is needed from any alternative-medicine or medical practitioners. While there have been great gains in modern medicine during the past 50 years, there have been great losses. The millions of dollars paid out in malpractice lawsuits and countless suits against pharm companies prove that science-based/modern medicine has its’ own flaws. There are many MDs practicing medicine who don’t know (and admit it) what their patients’ issues are , misdiagnose patients, prescribe wrong medicines, etc.
    Pharmaceutical companies, while they do conduct thousands of clinical studies, know some customers will die or have severe side effects from taking their pharm-hence warning labels. To say any of it (various practices) is a cure-all or a certain practice of medicine is more immune because it is “based in fact” is to have false belief. There are many countries, between those that are affluent and third-world, that practice a variety of “health care” disciplines. Our great USA should not be different. Every “health care” practice has its place.

    For example, I am not an advocate for hospital-births, but many women require/need that environment. Midwifery, an “alternative” health practice, has proven to work for me, so I would never consider a hospital birth despite my MD/OB’s disapproval. I am glad I have the option, but some would say home-births are “unsafe”, “spiritual”, “archaic”, or some other stupid comment.

    I’ve already stated that not all medicines are good or will cure every acute/chronic condition; the same is true about supplements. No product or practice will help all people, all of the time. Ultimately, the customers makes the final decision. The outcome of his/her choice should guide his/her evolving journey—respecting the fact that it might be different from his/her neighbors; and that’s okay. Each experience is valid and should not be dismiss as nonsense. That’s just foolish.

    Working in the discipline of product marketing for more than 20 years, the goal has always been and will continue to be is to earn a profit; put whatever name or ingredients on it you want, there’s probably a market for it. Practitioners from all discipline are a tool in the process.

  47. skeptvet says:

    Several fallacies here. The fact that conventional medicine is imperfect is true, and it has nothing to do with the question of whether SP products work or if their promoters are making false and unreasonable claims for them. Either there is good evidence SP works or there isn’t, regardless of any other therapy.

    “Every ‘health care’ practice has its place”
    Nonsense. Bloodletting? Ritual sacrifice? Psychic surgery? The only healthcare practices we should be interested in are those that have been shown to have more benefits than risks or that there is some reason beyond hope and anecdote to believe work. Therapies that clearly do not work (homeopathy) or for which there is no good reason to believe they are safe and effective (SP) don’t deserve the same status as therapies known to be useful (antibiotics, polio vaccine). To refrain from judging the value of different approaches is not open-mindedness, its a complete rejection of the idea that we can ever know anything or make healthcare better.

    “Each experience is valid and should not be dismiss as nonsense. ”
    Actually, that’s nonsense too. Individual experiences are notoriously unreliable guides to what is true about the physical world, and if anecdotes are the sole basis for using a therapy, there is a good chance that therapy doesn’t work and may actually do more harm than good. This has proven to be the case over and over again in the history of medicine, but our inability to accept the limitations of our own observations and judgments is the primary reason people make poor choices about their own health.

    Sure, everyone has the right to make such choices, but that doesn’t mean their choices are actually serving their own best interests. And no one has the right to mislead sick people into buying a therapy that doesn’t actually help them. We tried the “caveat emptor” approach to medicine for centuries, and it served people very poorly. Science has done a far better job, and for all its flaws it’s still the best game in town.

  48. Somewhat confused too says:

    ‘Every ‘health care’ practice has its place’
    “Nonsense. Bloodletting? Ritual sacrifice? Psychic surgery?” <<< I stand corrected. I am not aware of all of these practices. Are you serious? I agree with you on these. I didn’t see all of these mentioned in the thread above. I was speaking to those practices that are recognized by an authentic medical board, i.e., chiropractic, midwifery, etc… These do deserved status among other practices and we can agree to disagree. (Can a person actually get a degree in psychic surgery? Wow. Does that work?)

    'Each experience is valid and should not be dismiss as nonsense.' "Actually, that’s nonsense too. Individual experiences are notoriously unreliable guides to what is true about the physical world…" <<< This is where you are totally wrong. My husband died of sarcoma cancer. We caught the cancer at an early stage, so he wanted to consider the Gerson therapy, but was told that if didn’t start chemo right away the cancer would kill him. He could not handle the chemo therapy and died. Chemo is poison; I’m surprise more people don’t die from it. A year later, I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. I chose the Gerson therapy. I’m still here. It was my choice. I was not intimidated. I knew what my body could handle and its’ ability to fight. I can certainly speak to the benefits of the therapy, but the listening ears will have to make the decision for himself/herself. The Gerson therapy may not be for everyone, but I am glad I had the option.

    "To refrain from judging the value of different approaches is not open-mindedness, its a complete rejection of the idea that we can ever know anything or make healthcare better."<<<I hear you. Why not look at what is working and make it better; midwifery for an example. There should be more homebirths with fewer babies born in hospitals. Do you know America leads the world in hospital births and has a higher mortality rate than those in other affluent countries? Why aren’t more countries doing it?

    “Science has done a far better job, and for all its flaws it’s still the best game in town.” <<<Tell that to someone who just loss a love one from a doctor who prescribed the wrong meds. Tell that to a mother whose daughter died after a routine dental procedure. I’m not okay with the warning labels (i.e., “may cause heart attack or stroke”) on heavily marketed medicines. Really? Do you want to be the guinea pig for modern medicine? Does it bother you that America went from a rate of less than 10 percent of babies born with altruism to now over 600 percent within the last five years? (I think mutation is a cause in this, but that's another topic.)

    I honestly agree with you generally about modern medicine/healthcare. I want the best care possible for acute situations, but I have to believe that the human body was made to heal itself. Many synthetic drugs don’t make our bodies stronger. (I’m not talking about vaccines, antibiotic, etc…) Some retard the natural processes of the body and some drugs even produce malfunction. What is wrong with therapies that promote and strengthen the body’s own natural ability as a first option followed by adding synthetic options, in combating chronic illnesses?

    Additionally, we have to consider what we are putting in and do to our bodies—would you agree that many of our illnesses might be due to unhealthy diets and stress? I want healthcare, like I want my government—less of it in my personal affairs, but there when someone has a gun to my head trying to rob me. (I mean that figuratively and literally.)

    Let's face it. Many people are looking for a magic pill/ miracle cure/therapy. And I know some docs step beyond ethical bounds to play god. I think we need to be cautious with all health care/therapies/practices and hold everything at arm-length, but recognize the body is an awesome and self-sustaining (under the right conditions) machine.

    Thank you for the conversation. I enjoyed this.

  49. skeptvet says:

    I agree with you on these. I didn’t see all of these mentioned in the thread above. I was speaking to those practices that are recognized by an authentic medical board

    You’re missing my point. All of these therapies have had (and some still have) people who are just as convinced of their value as you are of the therapies you recommend. The fact somebody believes in something is not evidence it works. Therapies are entitled to be taken seriously only to the extent that there is real evidence they are useful, regardless of how many peopel do or do not personally believe in them.

    See, your anecdote about Gerson therapy illustrates the point. The clinical study of Gerson therapy for pancreatic cancer found definitively that it did not work. People treated with chemo lived longer AND had a better quality of life than people treated with Gerson therapy. There are a thousand possible reasons why you and your husband had different outcomes, so that experience doesn’t prove anything.

    Looking again at a therapy that we agree is nonsense, consider bloodletting. Hundreds of thousands of peopel were treated with it for thousands of years, and based on these experiences most believd it helped them. It took only a few controlled studies to show that, in fact, it did far more harm than good. Without this science, relying only on anecdotes, we would have continued killing people with this therapy. The same is true of Gerson therapy. Relying ons tories like yours, we will continue to use a treatment that doesn’t work, and people will suffer needlessly because of it.

    All of your complaints against modern medicine involve the individual cases in which bad things happened. As tragic as those are, they ignore the overall effects. On average, we live twice as long as ever before, we routinely expect our children to live to adulthood, unlike all of human history before the 20th century, and we are healthier and suffer less than ever before. The fact that we have not perfectly solved all problems isn’t an argument that alternatives to science-based medicine work or are a good idea. You are suggesting going back to judging medical therapies the way we did for all those thosands of years before science, despite the fact that our lives were shorter and more miserable for all those years than they ar since we found the scientific approach. It simply makes no sense.

    And again, fo rall the complaints you make about doctors, many of which are legitimate, why do you think alternative therapists are any better? Human beings are flawed and make mistakes or make unethical choices. Alternative therapists are no better than doctors in this, but they are less restrained by objective evidence concenring what is true and false. The cult of personality doesn’t work very well in modern medicine, where you need to provide evidence for your claims. But it is everywhere in alternative therapies, where being charismatic is enough to sell books and therapies and TV shows even when what you are selling is unproven, at best, and often clearly quackery (Andrew Weil, Stanislaw Burzinski, Mehmet Oz, etc).

  50. Art Malernee Dvm says:

    Here is a video where “the father of evidence based medicine” talks about blood letting and george Washington.

    http://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=ipad&p=david+sackett+video&pcarrier=&pmcc=&pmnc=

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