Jan 15 2010

The Nutty Health Teacher

I recently received the following e-mail:

Hi, I just started listening to your podcast and I’m really enjoying it. I noticed one of the things you discuss often is the anti-vaccination movement, and I’m grateful for that because I was able to use the information you guys were talking about to combat some stupidity. I’m a senior in high school and my health teacher is kind of nuts. She was talking about how it’s bad to eat fish when pregnant because of the mercury levels, but then decided to go off about how vaccines cause autism because of the mercury in them. I raised my hand and told her that the levels of mercury in vaccines were lower than in fish comparatively. She waffled a bit and said something about how some studies show different things and whatever. She then went on to talk about how she doesn’t want to vaccinate her kid and that the doctors just want to shove like 100 vaccines in her and get a kick back. I raised my hand again and told her that that’s not really a good idea because diseases like mumps are coming back because people aren’t vaccinating their kids. She misunderstood me I guess and then said something about how it is good to vaccinate in third world countries because of that and I said no, there have been outbreaks of mumps recently in the united states because some dumbasses decided not to vaccinate their stupid kids. She backtracked and said something about how it was good that I was playing the devil’s advocate, pretending like I was agreeing with her or something and completely ignored what I said. She then went on a rant about how corrupt the medical industry is and how doctors are just giving you pills to make money and the pills don’t really work and it’s all just the placebo effect, and then decided to talk about how awesome homeopathy is. I was so angry by then I was afraid if I opened my mouth an unintelligible stream of curses would just spew out. It just makes me so angry that someone like her is not only teaching, but teaching health of all things. She should not be telling people such bullshit, especially when she’s in such a powerful and influential position. She also earlier said some bullshit about how HIV could possibly not be real or something crazy because they’ve never seen the virus under a microscope and the symptoms are just other diseases. Is this like a new crazy thing that I’ve never heard of? She also loves chiropractors. Ugh.
I just really really really appreciate you guys and the sense that you guys make and in assuring me that there are sensible people out there in the world. Your rationality makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside and makes me not want to rip my hair out.

This is, unfortunately, not an isolated example. I frequently receive similar e-mails.

First, let me address some of the factual claims reportedly made by this health teacher, then I will discuss the bigger issue. There is indeed mercury in fish – and the “bad” kind of mercury, methylmercury. The EPA advises that people limit (but not eliminate) their consumption of certain kind of fish and shellfish. Pregnant women especially should avoid mercury.

However, fish is also very healthful, and contains sphingolipids that are critical to brain development. So avoiding fish altogether is not a good idea. How do we balance the risks and benefits of consuming fish? It is not yet entirely clear, but the evidence leans in favor of the benefits of fish consumption, which outweigh the risks of the extra mercury.

Here are the current EPA recommendations:

  1. Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
  2. Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.
    • Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
    • Another commonly eaten fish, albacore (“white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.
  3. Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don’t consume any other fish during that week.

I will add that the study I linked to above only found benefits from eating > 2 servings of fish per week, while the EPA recommends up to two servings. So while further research is needed, it seems the best advice to pregnant women and for growing children is to eat about 3 servings a week of low mercury fish and shellfish species.

That is a far cry from this health teacher’s recommendation to simply avoid fish, and I wonder where she got that recommendation. But then, of course, she heads south from there claiming that mercury in vaccines is linked to autism. Readers of this blog know I have covered this topic extensively, and at present the evidence strongly favors the conclusion that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Further, the routine childhood vaccine schedule (since about 2002) contains only trace amounts of ethyl mercury (ethyl mercury is much less toxic than methyl mercury). So the health teacher’s information is both wrong and outdated.

The teacher also claimed that doctors receive a kickback for vaccinating their patients. This is not true – such kickbacks are unethical and a good way for a doctor to lose their license. In fact, the evidence shows that doctors, if anything, lose money from vaccinating their patients (depending on the insurer). Primary care doctors see vaccines as a money-loser, but vaccinate anyway.

The e-mailer is also correct about there being mumps and measles outbreaks in Western countries, including the US. Most recently there was a mumps outbreak in Brooklyn, New York – the outbreak took place in a community with low vaccination rates – and most of the affected children were not vaccinated.

Conclusion

The health teacher in question is not teaching accurate health information to her classes. Rather, she is spreading her personal ideology, which appears to be a hodge-podge of anti-scientific medicine propaganda. Clearly she has drunk deeply of the “alternative” medicine flavored sugar-drink.

I question whether or not she has the proper background in science and health to teach such a class at all. Further, it did not take me long to find, for example, the EPA guidelines on mercury and fish. Therefore the teacher does not appear to be doing anything resembling due diligence on the information she is passing on to her classes. She is making no attempt to even present both sides or represent the accepted scientific position. She seems content to spread her personal idiosyncratic beliefs.

In this way she is no different than a creationist teaching creationism and anti-evolution propaganda in their biology class.

In my personal response to this e-mailer I offered my advice and help if they choose to make an official complaint against this teacher, which I hope they do. I applaud them – as a high school student – for standing up for science and skepticism in the classroom. That does take a certain amount of intestinal fortitude. But I also hope they take it to the next step. It is definitely time to take action against pseudoscience in the classroom – or otherwise tolerance will be interpreted as acceptance.

37 responses so far

37 thoughts on “The Nutty Health Teacher”

  1. captainrit says:

    I actually got my health teacher replaced for behavior such as this. So please do your best to get her fired, and know it is very very possible.

  2. pedrovigdny says:

    Bravo to your emailer.

  3. Skadorwa says:

    I hope this teenagers parents are very proud of him, I know I am.

    Challenging an authority figure when they are blatantly doing damage to others is difficult as an adult but doing so as a student in high school is exponentially more difficult.

    I applaud them and you Steve for brining this up so that I can be more aware of what my children’s teachers teach in the future.

  4. ADR150 says:

    It seems to me that spouting anti-vax BS and HIV denialism in a public school should be grounds for dismissal. I would suggest the emailer take the issue up with the super-superintendent and/or school board.

  5. titmouse says:

    Because the teacher is proselytizing, the student might want to Google the teacher’s name with various anti-medicine cult terms, e.g.

    Elizabeth Smith homeopathy
    Beth Smith scientology
    Liz Smith mercola
    Elizabeth Smith naturopathy
    Elizabeth Smith reiki

    Also, try looking up the name on the Scientology Course Completions list at http://www.truthaboutscientology.com

    Lulz may ensue.

  6. SOdhner says:

    My brother had a job recently giving vaccines in schools and he said this was a very big problem. He tried to inform them of course, but there’s not a lot you can say – the CDC and everyone else is lying, but some guy yelling in a YouTube video is completely reliable.

    I tried to look into the vaccine thing myself and put it in perspective: http://therestofyourmice.blogspot.com/2010/01/rant-balanced-analysis-of-microwave.html

    Not that it will do anything but preach to the choir.

  7. RenegadeSynapse says:

    I hope this reader has the support of his parents (or perhaps a science teacher at the school). It can be difficult to stand up to those in positions of authority, and even more difficult to be taken seriously, when you’re in school. Or rather, those are my experiences. I would certainly encourage this reader to keep fighting the good fight and maybe seek out some support.

    The nonsense this so-called health teacher is spewing should certainly be grounds for dismissal.

  8. Squillo says:

    Kudos to your young correspondent for standing up against misinformation in the classroom.

    Isn’t this exactly what anti-vax and alt-med devotees claim they want people to do: stand up against authority in the name of truth?

  9. davejm says:

    I agree; behaviour such as this is grounds for dismissal, but it’s likely that the teacher in question is simply naive to these issues and has fallen foul to the propaganda that she’s been exposed to.

    In a situation like this, I’d hope that a word with her superiors (expressing concern) might be enough to stop her teaching pseudo-scientific nonsense in future. If she’s made aware that the line of reasoning she’s taking to the classroom is wrong, and told to read up on proper scientific literature discussing the issues in question; then there may be hope for her yet.

    Being a teacher, you’d like to think she’s wise to these issues; but I personally know teachers that aren’t necessarily as clued up and think as logically as you’d hope. She may just need educating.

    Of course, if she firmly holds onto these belief systems (many do, as we see from day to day) even in the face of facts and peer pressure to re-evaluate her opinions; there’s no place for her in the classroom and it’s shame that people like this can rise to prominent and influential positions.

  10. CW says:

    I’m glad to see that students are listening/reading to you. (Quick Aside: I’m trying to figure out a way to introduce skepticsm to my nephews and nieces without offending their religious beliefs. Maybe you can ponder over a future topic that gives advice/suggestions on how to introduce someone carefully to skepticsm who is otherwise rational and a fan of science, with the exception of religious beliefs)?

    Anyways, I’m wondering if the student should volunteer to do a presentation in class that argues from the evidence? The teacher seemed to relish a devils advocate position, but would this teacher allow it to be formally presented?

    If the student is reading, kudos to you! And definitely file a complaint with an administrator.

  11. banyan says:

    Are sphingolipids the same thing as Omega 3 Fatty Acids? If so, couldn’t pregnant women get the best of both worlds by avoiding fish altogether and increasing their intake of flax, flax oil, and walnuts?

    The Wikipedia article on sphingolipids is unhelpful for answering this question…

  12. sphingolipids are different than Omega 3 fatty acids. They are fats – lipids – but also have other carbohydrate components. They are found in all cells, but the kind specifically found in fish seem to be helpful for brain development.

    I know of no supplement for this – you have to get it from food.

  13. dave – It seems that this particular teacher does not just have a blind spot or is misinformed on one issue – the range of quackery and the specific propaganda points she is making certainly seems like that of a dedicated ideologue. You might as well say that a creationist is just misinformed about evolution.

    But I agree that it should be up to her superiors to decide the appropriate response in this case, based upon details to which we are not privy.

    Also – it occurs to me that the student mid-way through his/her senior year. They probably already have their college applications in. They may have little to lose at this point from making a crusade against this kind of pseudoscience in the school. Getting a science teacher on board would be helpful.

  14. Orac says:

    My recommendation to the student would be to record what the teacher is saying, just like Matt LaClair did:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/11/whats_so_unusual_about_this.php

    The administration is unlikely to believe that she’s saying something that completely wrong without some hard evidence.

  15. captainrit says:

    Orac, that is actually how I got my teacher dismissed. It was a mix of the recording and fellow students and their parents helping. It usually takes more than one student to get something like that done.

  16. kikyo says:

    Sadly, a lot of schools do not have high standards for who teaches specialized subjects and may not have the pool of teachers to choose from even if they did. I know that in California, although there is a glut of teachers, there is a constant shortage of science and math teachers.

    When I was in high school, the school had a policy that any coach of a sports team must also be a teacher in a school. However, rather than hiring teachers first, they hired coaches and then assigned them to whatever class. My best science teacher was a water polo and swimming coach, but aside from him, all of the “coach teachers” were terrible and one of them was a creationist who was assigned to teach biology. Luckily my counselor understood my concern and let me transfer into an honors class with a different teacher even though I was doing poorly in the original teacher’s class. I did well in the honors class.

    Unfortunately, just like in all fields that aren’t traditionally science oriented (like journalism) it’s hard to find the people who have the requisite qualifications that also are interested in these positions that aren’t traditionally science-related. I wonder if designing special basic science surveys for English and Arts majors in college rather than having them choose from assorted general education topics might help with this. I know at UCLA we had special basic English classes for non-English majors, but did not have basic science classes for non-science majors, except in specialized areas (physics is the only one I can think of). I myself might have had a better science education if we had.

  17. zoe237 says:

    I hope he does make some changes with this particular teacher. Health teachers are notorious for this kind of stuff. I doubt he’d face any kind of sanctions in the second half of his senior year (unless he teepeed her house!). Even a letter to his school newspaper or something would do some good.

  18. CivilUnrest says:

    My health teacher in high school was also one of the coaches. While she wasn’t overly savvy about the details of human health, she was wise enough to recognize this fact and pretty much taught us straight from the textbook.

    With the massive shortage of teachers, I am surprised that stories such as this aren’t MORE common.

  19. Calli Arcale says:

    I’ll add another anecedote to the health teachers who were coaches pile. My 8th grade health teacher was the JV swim coach. In Minnesota at least, the law prohibits schools from hiring coaches specifically for coaching. They have to teach a certain number of hours each week to qualify to coach. In theory, this is meant to prevent the diversion of funds to athletics by barring schools from hiring professional coaches in addition to the teaching staff. In practice, of course, it does nothing of the sort and merely assures that schools get some pretty crappy teachers. Those coach-teachers get dumped into whatever course won’t cause too much damage to the school’s reputation by dragging down test scores. Health class, home economics, and shop are pretty common, but even science gets a disproportionate number of these. My 8th grade physical science teacher was the volleyball coach, and it was obvious why she was really there — volleyball.

    Mind you, I did have a few coach-teachers who were excellent teachers. My 9th grade science teacher was the girls’ swim coach. Awesome science teacher, awesome coach. I learned a tremendous amount from him in both areas. One of the two biology teachers was formerly the wrestling coach. He’d since retired from coaching, but kept teaching the advanced biology class. He was *nuts*, but in a good way. I think he’s still teaching, actually. We did some very memorable experiments in that class.

    Then there was 10th grade health class. That was a dreadful class. The teacher was actually not a coach, but she was only at the school for one semester before she was fired. Among other things, she taught that a girl could get pregnant from semen on her thigh. (You can also get struck by a meteorite or win the lottery, but it’s really not worth worrying about either possibility.)

  20. clgood says:

    In this way she is no different than a creationist teaching creationism and anti-evolution propaganda in their biology class.
    </blockquote.
    Yes, in this way. But, to be fair, creationism doesn’t have a body count. This is the greater threat.

  21. ChrisH says:

    It is my experience that the Health classes my kids attended, and the one I took were all taught by PE (physical education) teachers. Even though the classes were seperated by thirty years and half a continent (west coast versus midwest). It seems to be the norm.

    One thing the student can do is bring up the health teachers comments to the school nurse. The nurse could a good ally.

    My daughter’s high school has a full Teen Health Center (it serves other high schools, there are about three or four the school district). It is a full clinic with nurse practitioners and a doctor available (not a dedicated doctor, but one of several who take turns from their own private/group practice), which even provides vaccines. If they heard that a health teacher was spouting that kind of nonsense they make sure that teacher was removed from any health teaching capacity.

  22. bkates says:

    There’s no defending the content of the what the teacher was saying. However, it would be useful to know if she was a health teacher or just someone teaching health class. In my first year of teaching I had to teach a health class. I was an English Education major just out of college hired to teach English classes. I didn’t know much about health education and I had not yet become a skeptic (because I hadn’t started listening to the SGU yet) but teaching health class fell under “other duties as assigned” in the contract so I had to do it. Point being this situation might say more about the state of public education than anything else. Health classes are often mandated but health teachers are not often required or funded. This woman might have been an art teacher or administrator or something. She’s still a nutter but we might be able to forgive her ignorance in the subject she was teaching. This underscores the importance of teacher preparation programs and proper funding of public education.

  23. daijiyobu says:

    ChrisH said: “the nurse could [be] a good ally.”

    Hopefully, the nurse isn’t also a reiki master.

    E.g.: http://www.reiki.org/healing/nursingandreiki.html

    -r.c.

  24. DLC says:

    My 10th grade health teacher was one of those petty dictator types who put out the standard lecture, shouting down anybody who so much as speaks, let alone asks a question. A diversion into Woo-Woo Land would not have happened unless someone substituted his notes and overhead slides. Nothing short of that would have stopped him.

  25. tekromancR says:

    That’s nothing! I got suspended for going off on my health teacher when she tried to explain how “gay” AIDS was worse than “non-gay” AIDS. This was back in 2006, mind you. . .

  26. ChrisH says:

    daijiyobu:

    Hopefully, the nurse isn’t also a reiki master.

    Not very likely. When my son with multiple health issues was at the high school I had lots of contact with the school nurse. She would be the first to scoff at stupidity like “energy” crap.

  27. bennymay says:

    Years ago I read in a medical text book some attacks of acute porphyria were triggered by heavy metals (mercury?).

    [The werewolf and vampire kids made that chapter memorable. That is, photosensitivity reactions of hair growth on foreheads and cheeks of 6 year olds, blistering from minutes of natural UV exposure, excess porphyrins giving teeth that blood-sucker colour etc.]

    Anyway, I’m interested to know what levels of mercury are safe for most of us, and what levels are safe for such persons (e.g. a latent congenital porphyric).

    (sorry, no references. I know little of the medical sciences.)
    http://bennymay.wordpress.com/

  28. K says:

    The teacher was correct to discourage the consumption of fish – but for the wrong reasons.

    From DrMcDougall.com

    “Fish is not health food. The truth is fish is an animal muscle made up primarily of proteins and fats, with no carbohydrates or dietary fibers—fish muscles are nutritionally just like the muscles of cows and chickens. They are all loaded with cholesterol and chemical contaminants, and deficient in vitamin C. Fish-fat easily accumulates in the human buttocks, thighs, and abdomen, leading to obesity and type-2 diabetes. All that excess animal protein will cause bone loss (osteoporosis), and the pharmacological activity of the fats (omega-3) will suppress the immune system (cancer and infection) and cause bleeding.

    Fostering the myth that fish is a miracle food is a slogan many of us grew up with, “better living through chemistry.” In the case of fish, the miracle chemical is omega-3 fatty acids, which have been advertised to prevent and treat diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to strokes. The most thorough review ever conducted (48 randomized controlled studies of 36,913 subjects) of fish and omega 3 fats on health was published in the April 2009 issue of the British Medical Journal and the authors reported, “Long chain and shorter chain omega 3 fats do not have a clear effect on total mortality, combined cardiovascular events, or cancer.” Other research explains the origin of the felonious belief that fish is health food: people who choose fish are the same people who choose an overall healthier diet, consciously avoiding coronary-artery-damaging saturated fats—eating the fish does not prevent heart attacks, it is the not eating beef, chicken, and cheese that saves lives.”

  29. Cryptohominid says:

    I should have chimed in earlier, but with a newborn even typing a two paragraph comment is a bit of a hit or miss proposition.

    I am currently going thorough a bit of a bizzaro-world version of the problem your teenage e-mailer is having. Through a series of events not worth getting into here, I, a skeptic and atheist, wound up teaching Phys Ed at a Waldorf H.S. The school has many good elements and teachers, and the anthroposophical element is kept way on the back burner (at least at the H.S.). I also set my own curriculum. It was probably inevitable that this year they asked me to teach health classes to the 9th and 10th graders.

    Bottom line, I am probably not qualified to teach this subject (no relevant degree, etc…) but I am attempting to do due diligence on every topic, and I worry what they might get (from a ‘true waldorf’ instructor) if I don’t do it. I set my own curriculum here as well, and have put all the sex, drugs, and rock&roll (and nutrition, hygiene, etc…) in the first year and spend the 10th grade year addressing public health issues. I am building the foundation for debate on public health by doing a crash course on logical fallacies, the scientific method, and resource evaluation. I have even shown them Brian Dunning’s “Here be Dragons.’ Then we discuss issues ranging from homeopathy to global warming by using a modified Oxford style debate where students research and then argue for both sides of the issue. Then, rather than shoving the ‘correct’ answer down their throats, I can use the critical thinking we instilled earlier to nudge them toward good, supportable conclusions.

    All well and good, but I worry about conflicts with parents and administrators who don’t like some of their pet ‘woo’ being challenged. I have already had a couple of students get into discussions with their parents over acupuncture and the like, and am just waiting for this to blow back on me. I can’t afford to lose my job right now (see reason above ;)) and am prepared to defend my ’empirical’ position. But, I also refuse to include any pseudo science in my classes.

    I am trying to be as gentle as I can around the sensitive subjects, and I constantly remind the students not to take anything I tell them as gospel until they do their own (proper) research. Is there anything else I can do to protect myself as I continue to refine this class, or am I wandering into a field of landmines with no good way out?

    Ahh, the cognitive dissonance, it burns!

  30. Old Coyote says:

    I was thinking I’d dodged the bullet on this one until my daughter (grade 7) came home on Friday saying her science teacher told the class that food cooked in microwave ovens causes cancer.

  31. Fifi says:

    And DrMcDougall.com is so clearly not all about making a quick buck and is clearly an unbiased source of information about eating fish since he has obviously built an empire on promoting a vegetarian diet for over 30 years. The landing page of his site is nothing but one big commercial for the wide variety of products he sells. There’s nothing wrong with being a vegetarian, of course, but Dr McDougall promotes his products/walks like a duck…

  32. weing says:

    I assume DrMcDougall in his review was able to separate those who ate say, sushi from those who ate fish and chips. A McDonald’s fish sandwich would count as eating fish?

  33. K says:

    # Fifi: “The landing page of his site is nothing but one big commercial for the wide variety of products he sells”

    You mean like the landing page for Richard Dawkins’ site? I really don’t think that takes away from the brilliant content on his site. So if you have legitimate criticism of Dr McDougall’s research you should present that as opposed to an ad hominem attack on his supposed avarice.

  34. weing says:

    Just checked both sites. They are both commercial sites selling whatever appeals to their target audiences.

  35. CodeSculptor says:

    Regarding the various uses of Omega-3 — you could go to the cover-all NIH medline page at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-fishoil.html

    There, they reference these 15 studies (looks horrible in this editor, sorry if it looks as bad on the blog) :
    Berbert AA, Kondo CR, Almendra CL, et al. Supplementation of fish oil and olive oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Nutrition 2005;21(2):131-136.
    Bittiner SB, Tucker WF, Cartwright I, et al. A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of fish oil in psoriasis. Lancet 2-20-1988;1(8582):378-380.
    Bjorneboe A, Smith AK, Bjorneboe GE, et al. Effect of dietary supplementation with n-3 fatty acids on clinical manifestations of psoriasis. Br J Dermatol 1988;118(1):77-83.
    Brouwer IA, Zock PL, Camm AJ, et al. Effect of fish oil on ventricular tachyarrhythmia and death in patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators: the Study on Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Ventricular Arrhythmia (SOFA) randomized trial. JAMA. 2006 Jun 14;295(22):2613-9.
    Burns CP, Halabi S, Clamon G, et al. Phase II study of high-dose fish oil capsules for patients with cancer-related cachexia. Cancer 7-15-2004;101(2):370-378.
    Chan JK, McDonald BE, Gerrard JM, et al. Effect of dietary alpha-linolenic acid and its ratio to linoleic acid on platelet and plasma fatty acids and thrombogenesis. Lipids 1993;28(9):811-817.
    Dry J, Vincent D. Effect of a fish oil diet on asthma: results of a 1-year double-blind study. Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol. 1991;95(2-3):156-157.
    Duffy EM, Meenagh GK, McMillan SA, et al. The clinical effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fish oils and/or copper in systemic lupus erythematosus. J Rheumatol. 2004;31(8):1551-1556.
    Erkkila AT, Lichtenstein AH, Mozaffarian D, et al. Fish intake is associated with a reduced progression of coronary artery atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women with coronary artery disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(3):626-632.
    Fenton WS, Dickerson F, Boronow J, et al. A placebo-controlled trial of omega-3 Fatty Acid (ethyl eicosapentaenoic Acid) supplementation for residual symptoms and cognitive impairment in schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry 2001;158(12):2071-2074.
    Lim WS, Gammack JK, Van Niekerk J, et al. Omega 3 fatty acid for the prevention of dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jan 25;(1):CD005379.
    Mostad IL, Bjerve KS, Bjorgaas MR, et al. Effects of n-3 fatty acids in subjects with type 2 diabetes: reduction of insulin sensitivity and time-dependent alteration from carbohydrate to fat oxidation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Sep;84(3):540-50.
    Olsen SF, Secher NJ, Tabor A, et al. Randomised clinical trials of fish oil supplementation in high risk pregnancies. Fish Oil Trials In Pregnancy (FOTIP) Team. BJOG. 2000;107(3):382-395.
    Stoll AL, Severus WE, Freeman MP, et al. Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arch Gen.Psychiatry 1999;56(5):407-412.
    Su KP, Huang SY, Chiu CC, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder. A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur.Neuropsychopharmacol. 2003;13(4):267-271.

    One thing the studies do help refute is the popular notion that natural remedies are being covered-up by ‘big-pharma’, or that because it’s from nature and there’s no ability to patent it, then there’s no reason for research to be done on it, and no money in it. Clearly those kinds of arguments were bollocks from the start.

  36. CivilUnrest says:

    “So if you have legitimate criticism of Dr McDougall’s research you should present that as opposed to an ad hominem attack on his supposed avarice.”

    Actually, I think the burden of proof falls on Dr. McDougall and/or his supporters to prove HIS claims. Here are some of the statements you quote that set off my BS detector:

    “fish muscles are nutritionally just like the muscles of cows and chickens.”

    A pile of evidence points an increased risk of cancers associated with red meat consumption (Bull Cancer. 2009 Jun;96(6):647-58.). No such risk has been shown for fish. Also, I’m fairly certain that the chemical composition of the muscles in all three animals are vastly different.

    “Fish-fat easily accumulates in the human buttocks, thighs, and abdomen”

    There is no such thing as a food that causes specific and localized fat deposits. This works in reverse — short of surgery, there is no exercise or food that selectively burns fat in a specific location.

    “All that excess animal protein will cause bone loss (osteoporosis), and the pharmacological activity of the fats (omega-3) will suppress the immune system (cancer and infection) and cause bleeding.”

    This is a major salvo of claims that should have, at the very least, a footnote.

  37. CKava says:

    Considering there are cultures were fish forms a major part of the diet, such as Japan, if eating a lot of fish is really unhealthy why don’t we see major health problems in such countries?

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