~ Superfood is a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits ~
The growing uptake of truly ridiculous (and frankly quite dangerous) super food trends continues apace with much thanks to the internet and increasingly, social media.
Far from a byproduct of the “information super-highway”, the pseudoscience, deception and planned scamming that can be seen today is better considered a byproduct of a wild roller coaster ride through The Twilight Zone.
The humble blueberry is a so-called “superfood”. Nutritional information may be found here. The Wikipedia entry on superfoods notes that Blueberries [are] a so-called “superfood” that actually does not have an unusually dense nutrient content. These berries contain anthocyanin which is a flavinoid with antioxidant capability. Along with the semantics of “wellness” there are many similar miracles supposed to control toxins. It is best to ignore this marketing niche at all costs. Sometimes expensive costs.
Consider this con from a heartless long term offender who has made a fortune from misleading the public with his often very dangerous nonsense.
Imagine a plant that can nourish your body by providing most of the protein you need to live, help prevent the annoying sniffling and sneezing of allergies, reinforce your immune system, help you control high blood pressure and cholesterol, and help protect you from cancer. Does such a “super food” exist?
Yes. It’s called spirulina.
Unlike plants you may grow in your garden, this “miracle” plant is a form of blue-green algae that springs from warm, fresh water bodies.
The “wellness” push for foods that are supposed to be “super” and as such capable of proactive, reactive (or both) types of veritable nutritional magic is consonant with similar and supporting health beliefs and movements. The anti-vaccine movement spends a great deal of time in the superfood/antioxidant driving gear. Uncertain parents are led to believe that vaccines contain untested “poisons… toxins… chemicals” and thus can certainly harm.
The answer – albeit monumentally wrong – is to avoid vaccines and instead pursue all things natural. So too it is with illness and alarmingly, cancer. The author of The View From The Hills, Rosalie Hillman stepped up to the plate and asked some vital questions of a young lady, Jessica Ainscough. It is astonishing Jessica’s claims were going unchallenged. Rather than being challenged for promoting the impossible, she was virtually worshipped as the head of her own “tribe”. Ainscough was being presented as having (and who was basically claiming to have) cured cancer through diet, the well known alternative pseudoscientific and thoroughly discredited Gerson Therapy and positive thinking.
The Gerson Institute claims:
With its whole-body approach to healing, the Gerson Therapy naturally reactivates your body’s magnificent ability to heal itself – with no damaging side effects. This a powerful, natural treatment boosts the body’s own immune system to heal cancer, arthritis, heart disease, allergies, and many other degenerative diseases. Dr. Max Gerson developed the Gerson Therapy in the 1930s, initially as a treatment for his own debilitating migraines, and eventually as a treatment for degenerative diseases such as skin tuberculosis, diabetes and, most famously, cancer.
Basically Gerson approach concludes we are bombarded with toxins and carcinogens over our lifetime. Gerson plays the magic Ace card in claiming to “restore the body’s ability to heal itself”. This message is pushed hard. The body can heal itself. It is this amazing ability we have lost and which apparently demands kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables daily in conjunction with the thrice daily enemas. The infamous coffee enemas ensure toxins will be eliminated from the liver.
Jessica Ainscough passed away from epithelioid sarcoma on February 26th 2015. Her cancer progressed as evidence based medicine would suggest for a woman of her age diagnosed when she was in 2008. Tragically Jessica’s mother, Sharyn, chose to follow Gerson Therapy in an attempt to defeat breast cancer. This meant abandoning radiotherapy.
Addressing both cases the ABC wrote:
Despite Cancer Council advice that Gerson Therapy was not proven to work, Ms Ainscough persisted, embarking on an alcohol-free vegan diet, drinking raw juices, taking vitamin supplements and undergoing coffee enemas daily.
She made videos explaining how to administer enemas and posted them on YouTube, although that video is now marked private.
When Ms Ainscough’s mother, Sharyn, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she followed her daughter’s lead and put her faith in Gerson Therapy.
Sharyn died in October 2014.
Whilst there are many heartless scam artists, such as Hellfried Sartori, aka “Dr. Death” and those genuinely deluded by their beliefs, one person deserves special mention. It appears that Belle Gibson managed to sink as far as one Meryl Dorey in that pleas for money donations from the public accompanied promises donations would be passed to charity. Gibson had named charitable organisations. As with Dorey this was not the case, although now under the glare of media scrutiny she has indicated the promised donations will be paid.
Gibsons The Whole Pantry app made the grade as a permanent app for the Apple Watch. It now seems Apple have pulled the app from Australian and USA app stores,
but it is unclear if it will be and it has also been removed from promotional material as a permanent app from the much anticipated Apple Watch and iPad Air 2.
Sarah Berry wrote in SMH:
Gibson has a top-rating health app that was one of the promoted apps on Apple’s new watch.
Its success and the empire she has built comes from her incredible story of triumph over adversity, of sickness into self-empowered health.
It is a story that we now know was at best embellished and at worst was an outright lie.
Penguin have already dropped her recipe book by the same name. One hopes arrangements can be made so the scam app never sees the light of day as a permanent app on Apple’s watch.
Dangerous Food Fads
As Jenny McCartney recently noted the urge to believe in the magic of change turns consumer gullibility into fertile ground for the absurd claims made by every type of entrepreneur from well meaning fools to cunning scam artists. Gibson is reportedly back in Australia, but seriously who cares?
The damage has been done. Research indicates that even with brutally thorough exposure and follow up high quality debunking of anti-medicine and anti-science lies, the misinformation sticks. In this case it is not the lie of vaccines causing autism. Yet sadly it is a louder echo of a trumpet the antivaccinationists love to blow. Primarily that surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy do little for successful treatment of cancer.
The scale of Gibson’s rort is truly frightening. How many will follow her manufactured rubbish is unknown. But the fact remains that her army of followers and supporters will continue to support her pantry nonsense. Certainly many will realise the scam, but others – particularly the hard core anti-medicine crew – will dig in and find comfort in the usual conspiracies.
Consumers must develop skills in recognising reputable sources. As with the misinformation relating to vaccination and vaccines. Doing “research” just doesn’t cut it. Far better to have the means by which we can identify good, trustworthy material and spot the signs that give away trickery that is simply too good to be true. With cancer time is vital and whilst eating well is in itself not harmful, time spent thinking it is “treatment” is time lost from actual proven treatments.
This handbook from The Cancer Council provides excellent advice and tips on identifying dodgy sources and outright scams. As mentioned in the last post consider, “How will I know if claims of a cure are false?”. On page 39 of this booklet they note that the dishonest and unethical may;
- Try to convince you your cancer has been caused by a poor diet or stress: they will claim they can treat you or cure your cancer with a special diet
- Promise a cure – or to detoxify, purify or revitalise your body. There will be quick dramatic and wonderful results – a miracle cure
- Use untrustworthy claims to back up their results rather than scientific-based evidence from clinical trials. They may even list references. But if you look deeper these references may be false, nonexistent, irrelevant, based on poorly designed research and out of date
- Warn you that medical professionals are hiding “the real cure for cancer” and not to trust your doctor
- Display credentials not recognised by reputable scientists and health professionals
Always speak to your doctor and be aware that even the best intentions of friends can unwittingly disarm you through peer pressure. There is no cure for cancer, but there are excellent treatments.
Avoid food fads as a means to health and beware of the wellness trend.
UPDATE – April 2nd, 2015. Belle Gibson will not be facing police action over fraud. Consumer Affairs Victoria has noted that dishonest and misleading actions of the business, The Whole Pantry, “may constitute a breach of the Fundraising Act 1998 or Australian Consumer Law (Victoria)”. Presently CAV are “ascertaining the facts around Gibson and her companies collection of funds and promises of donations.