Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dr. Mercola

I followed a link on Facebook to Dr. Mercola's web site provided by a relative who was impressed by the claims Dr. Mercola had made as to the true origins of certain "organic" products. The most shocking on the face of it was that Burt's Bees, whose various lip and hand salves were well-known to me, are produced by Clorox. That may seem like a bad thing, but how bad is it really? Clorox makes an excellent product though it is hard to see how one could get Clorox wrong. Add sodium hypochlorite to water and bottle. To its credit, however, during WWII when a shortage of chlorine gas arose, Clorox chose to reduce its production, rather than dilute its product. So, the fact that Burt's Bees is owned by Clorox may not be a bad thing at all.

Dr. Mercola's employs his assassination by association technique by noting that organic Horizon milk is made by the food giant Dean. He does not say what bad practices Dean is employing other than that large scale milk producers commonly feed grain to their cows rather than letting them graze. Dr. Mercola is a big time grass guy. He wants his beef to be grass fed and his milk cows to be grass fed. He makes some claims about the superiority of grass to grain as a feed but sites no solid research.

I invite you to read how Aurora organic milk cows are treated and fed. One thing seems clear and this is that the issues are very complex. The choice is not between grains and grass. In the winter in Wisconsin, there is no grass for cows to graze on so the choices are between hay (i. e., dead vegetable matter) of various sorts and grain.

Dr. Mercola trades on our suspicion of big business. He is right to question whether these large businesses can or even want to maintain high standards in milk production. But, he provides no solid research behind the answers he gives. One of Dr. Mercola's claims is that children should be drinking raw milk. He writes
There is no substitute for clean, raw milk as a food, so far as children are concerned. Science has not yet succeeded in providing, in the pasteurized variety, those essential qualities that are the only real foundation for a healthy child.
He doesn't say how we ensure the raw milk is clean and that's the rub. I have seen dairy cows being milked by hand and by machines and the opportunities for the invasion of bacteria and other contaminants is nontrivial. Dr. Mercola also urges that one buy locally. So, I am to imagine that I should hunt down raw milk that is locally produced. Good luck since it is illegal to sell it. I invite you to read the Wikipedia section on raw milk vs pasteurized milk. I have made cheese and would love to get access to raw cow's milk but any cheese I made would have to age for 3 months (according to my last information).

Dr. Mercola engages in a florid writing style in which careful reasoning doesn't play a part. He says
Much of our nation's nutritional deficiency epidemic is caused by a "Big Business" perceived need for cheap, mass produced, convenient food products.
First, note that Dr. Mercola puts "Big Business" inside quote marks. I just did the same thing in the preceding sentence, but there is a significant linguistic difference between the two. I am using quotes to indicate that I am citing the phrase he used but he is using quote marks as what a philosopher once called "scare quotes." Moreover, in capitalizing the "B's" he further evokes scorn. This use of "Big Business" evokes Orwell's notion of "Big Brother," a notorious political pejorative, typically used by liberals. Conservatives have "Big Government." Dr. Mercola is engaging in an irresponsible practice in what purports to give sound medical and other advice. One wants accurate, unslanted advice from any doctor.

Which brings me to the most damning feature of Dr. Mercola's web site. He is a huckster, who sells a wide array of things from tanning beds, natural foods like raw honey, nutritional supplements, vitamin sprays, and juicers among many other things. Those who find his health warnings persuasive very well may find his nearly hysterical arguments for the purchase of his products and objections to opposing choices will likely find his reasons for buying his products persuasive.

I hope you will read his appeals on behalf of his tanning beds -- why you should use them and why you should use his -- and a few other products to get a taste of his style. You might also take a look at the qualifications of the physicians used in his clinc. My problem is that any doctor who purports to treat patients and offer medical and nutritional across the nation should not be engaged in selling. I have run into this sort of problem with doctors who treat sleep apnea and sell the equipment that patients need. They have access to the data supporting or not supporting the use of the products they sell and few of us could interpret the data by way of checking on his or her honesty. One has to very carefully assess the ethics of your doctor, should you, like I, have sleep apnea in an effort to answer the question whether the doctor, who has a clear conflict of interest, is acting in your best interests. I have absolutely no confidence in Dr. Mercola. I am reminded of Dr. Atkins, who not only had a medical practice and wrote diet books, he also was associated with a company that makes products for dieters.

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