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Defending Isagenix: A Case Study in Flawed Thinking

The Internet is a wonderful new medium for communicating ideas and information in a rapid and interactive way. Many articles are followed by a “comments” section. Like so many things in this imperfect world, comments are a mixed blessing. They can enhance the article by correcting errors, adding further information, and contributing useful thoughts to a productive discussion. But all too often they consist of emotional outbursts, unwarranted personal attacks on the author, logical fallacies, and misinformation. They provide irrational and ignorant people with a soapbox for promoting prejudices and false information.

To illustrate, let’s look at the responses to something I wrote about a weight loss product called Isagenix that is sold through a multilevel marketing scheme. To quote the website,

The Isagenix cleanse is unique because it not only removes impurities at the cellular level, it builds the body up with incredible nutrition. Besides detoxing the body, Isagenix teaches people a wonderful lesson that they don’t need to eat as much as they are accustom to and eating healthy choices are really important and also a lot of the food we are eating is nutritionally bankrupt. [errors are in the original]

I didn’t set out to write an article about this. It started when I received an e-mail inquiry about Isagenix. I posted my answer on a discussion list and it was picked up and published on the healthfraudoz website.  Sandy Szwarc approved of it and kindly reposted it on her Junkfood Science blog

As I write, the comments on the healthfraudoz website have reached a total of 176. A few commenters approved of what I wrote, but the majority of commenters tried to defend Isagenix. Their arguments were irrational, incompetent, and sometimes amusing.

It was as if no one had actually read what I wrote. No one bothered to address any of my specific criticisms. No one even tried to defend Isagenix’s false claims that toxicity accounts for most disease, that the body protects itself from toxins by coating them with fat, and that internal organs become clogged and deteriorate if you don’t “cleanse.” No one offered any evidence that “detoxification” improves human health. No one tried to identify any of the alleged toxins or show that they are actually removed. No one tried to provide any rationale for the particular combination of ingredients in Isagenix products (242 of them!). No one questioned my assertion that “no caffeine added” was inaccurate because green tea was added and it contains caffeine. No one commented on my observation that the amount of vitamin A in the products was dangerous and went against the recommendations of The Medical Letter. No one offered any evidence that more weight was lost by adding Isagenix to a low calorie diet and exercise. I offered some alternative explanations that might account for people believing it was effective when it wasn’t; no one commented on that. The medical advisor on the Isagenix website argued that at $5 a day Isagenix is less expensive than open heart surgery. I pointed out that that was a laughable false dichotomy: it’s not a matter of choosing between open heart surgery and diet supplements. No one commented on that. Instead of rational responses, we got …

Testimonials

The greatest number of comments were testimonials: “I took it and I lost weight.” They claimed not just weight loss, but a variety of improvements. It allegedly cured fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and hemorrhoids. It facilitated getting off sleeping pills and caffeine, balanced brain chemistry (what does that mean?), improved focus and mental clarity, allowed running longer marathons with less fatigue, saved a failing marriage, stopped irritability and crankiness, kept arm from getting sore after pitching, “Made my son interact appropriately with peers, take care of himself, and want to be hugged and kissed,” and “I made money selling it.” One said, “My out of control Irritable Bowel Syndrome disappeared and I had the healthiest BM in about 6 years! … you can’t brainwash POO!!” Two commented that the Isagenix program provides motivation; one said he needs “structer” (structure?) to stay on a diet.

The plural of anecdote is not data. Two commenters appropriately objected to all this testimonial evidence. They pointed out that testimonials are unreliable and subject to post hoc ergo propter hoc errors, that all the “it works for me” comments can be attributed to low calorie diet and exercise, and that the testimonials are almost exclusively from people who are selling the product.

Anti-Testimonials

Quite a few commenters reported that they had tried it and it either didn’t work or caused side effects such as 5 days of violent diarrhea. One reported gaining a lot of weight while taking it; many reported losing weight just as well without it. Several reported credit card disputes with the company and failure to get their money refunded. One reported that his parents are using it and it seems to be slowly killing them: they have decreased energy, declining health, mood swings, and poorer control of diabetes.

Rebuttals to Negative Testimonials

Supposedly the people it hasn’t helped haven’t been following the program right.
Apparent bad reactions are just signs that it is working: “When one is cleansing out years of accumulation of toxins, chemicals, jet fuel, gasoline, arsenic, heavy metals, radiation poisoning – one will have reactions.”

“Evidence” that it works:

One commenter heard a doctor speak who cited all kinds of studies to support the theory behind Isagenix — environmental toxicity, depletion of nutrients in the food supply, malabsorption, our incessant food cravings, and how Isagenix cleansing could supposedly solve these problems.

A former Hare Krishna was impressed by the array of nutrients in the products and believed that the doctor on the website had integrity and cared about her patients.

Several people claimed that we need nutritional supplements because the ground has been depleted of nutrients.

“There have been many valid scientific research [sic] to back the claims of Isagenix.” [I couldn’t find any, and they provided no clues as to where to look.]

Lots of MDs are recommending Isagenix, and they can’t all be quacks.[Apparently they can. And lots of MDs recommend homeopathy, and some of them believe in astrology.]

Isagenix has paid for independent studies [Where are they? What did they show? If Isagenix was paying, were they truly independent?]

Mainstream physicians are starting to realize cleansing is important.[Not any of the ones who practice science-based medicine.]

Cleansing makes sense because one of the main ingredients of pesticides and insecticides is estrogen. It makes women fat and causes ED in men. Toxicity is a bigger cause of obesity than most people realize.

These products are “designed and formulated by professionals and advocated by professionals.”

One MD commenter claimed “I have the before and after pictures and the lab tests to prove it.”

“Most people only absorb 8% to 12% of what we eat – the rest is waste which we flush down the toilet. With Isagenix we can absorb up to 94% of what is ingested with less waste going down the toilet. Isagenix is full of good probiotics which help rebuild our digestive systems, fights candida. Isagenix also helps the body become alkaline, which is a healthy body. John Hopkins 2008 Cancer Report stated that cancer cannot live in an alkaline body only acidic bodies. Processed food makes our bodies acidic — thus the epedemic [sic] of cancer and diabites [sic] in the USA along with heart disease.” [This is all nonsense.]

Isagenix is food. Regular food is from depleted soils. Organic food made children behave better at lunch in a school study. Genetically modified food is lacking in nutrition. “The majority of people fill their stomachs with foods void of natural nutrition and the evidence supports that they behave poorly, learn less, mis-behave more and commit more crimes than those who fill their stomachs with highly nutritious organic produce and meats.” [Wow! Instead of the Twinkie defense, criminals can claim their non-organic lunch made them do it!]

“Isagenix is a divine blessing in this toxic sick world.”

These people apparently expect us to believe unsubstantiated assertions. They have no concept of what constitutes scientific evidence or why controlled studies are needed.

Defense of Multi-Level Marketing

“MLM is not a scam, but one of the last bastions of free enterprise.” MLM is good because FDA products don’t work. MLM is “the most legitimate business out in the world today.” All corporations are a pyramid, anyway.

But one commenter called it an “exploitative business model” and pointed out that the average yearly income for Isagenix distributors is only $116.87. And another pointed out that 97% of MLM schemes fail.

Personal Attacks on Me

“A Dr Harriet Hall wrote a very funny one sided arguement [sic] against it (Isagenix) but omitted to inform the world how much money she has made conning patients into taking drugs she should know are harmful to you.”

I am arrogant: “If it were up to know-it-all MDs like Harriet Hall, I’d still be in chronic pain.”

“To [sic] bad when you look up Dr. Hall in Washington no such person is licensed to practice medicine. Sad day when you have to lie to get people to pay attention to anything you say…” (It took me about one minute to locate verification of my license at https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/providercredentialsearch/SearchResult.aspx.)

One commenter questions whether I am really a doctor and says I have a small brain and a big mouth.

I only write to feed my ego.

I shouldn’t make comments without doing any research.

I should try it for myself.

I should have learned more by attending a meeting for the product, talking to company representatives or talking to the press.

Instead of writing for the public I should have contacted the doctors at the company and discussed my concerns with them.

Don’t try to convince us, Dr. Hall, that you necessarily have “the answer.” [Did I say I did?]

One alleges that I came to a conclusion without any research whatsoever: this from a doctor who says “Cleansing is now my first choice for my patients.” One wonders what research he did to reach that conclusion.

“Going out of her way to trash Isagenix this way is pathetic.”

“PS ‘Dr.Hall’ your little family practice designation really doesnt buy alot of cred.”

“Real doctors don’t waste their time sitting on the internet making bogus posts about different health products….I could sign as doctor and no one would know.”

“this article is and the author is full of crap. I know it and he knows it.” [I know I’m not a “he.”]

I don’t know anything and I should just shut up.

“This is just another doctor that stands to loose [sic] their income by the masses becoming healthy.” “What ever Dr. Harriet Hall is selling, I’m not interested.” [For the record, I’m retired and the only thing I’m “selling” is critical thinking. Profit margin? Low.]

I probably drink Diet Coke and eat at McDonald’s.

Just because I went to medical school doesn’t mean I’m a smart person.

Kudos

A few commenters offered agreement and praise, pointed out that no one had actually addressed any of the points I made, much less offered any evidence that what I wrote was wrong, and reprimanded other commenters for resorting to ad hominem attacks.

Attacks on the Medical Profession

Doctors know nothing about nutrition. They put band-aids on problems. They sell pills that mask symptoms and wreak havoc on your body instead of treating underlying causes. There are lots of malpractice suits. They only want to make money. They want to keep people sick so they won’t lose their kickbacks. [What kickbacks? Where are my kickbacks?!]

“Most MD’s will not even take the death dealing treatments they inflict upon the rest of the population.”

If evidence showed it worked, conventional medicine still wouldn’t adopt it because of competition from drugs. Many doctors are out of shape. The majority of ER doctors are lacking the skills in emergency procedures.

MD’s keep American’s addicted to drugs! MD’s also fancy themselves as God like. They think that being an MD allows them to keep American’s [sic] from seeking nutrition.

Doctors are typically overweight.

Our medical doctors have failed us.

“So sad that people in our medical profession have no idea what they are talking about!!!”

Attacks on Science

Instead of listening to science, one should listen to one’s own body.

Even if it’s only a placebo, why not use it?

Western medicine is trying to squash Eastern Medicine

“Things work for different people. Chiropractic and acupuncture work. If you ask for everything to be backed by studies, they just tailor the studies to benefit industry. Research things for yourself and don’t be a sheep taking pills from an MD.”

Two commenters attacked the scientifically impeccable website Quackwatch, asserting that Stephen Barrett is paid by Big Pharma and the AMA and the FDA to say those things, literally funded by them to produce dis-information aimed at discrediting alternative health. [He has no ties to any of those organizations.]

“See how herbs can treat people, not drugs.”

“Did any of you see Sicko? If you did how could you possibly take one physicians [sic] ‘opinion’ about something she didn’t even try over the many testimonials.”

I choose to observe how my own body feels and reacts to what I ingest.

If you think it’s going to help it will.

The real answer is to integrate Eastern with Western medicine.

Prayer helps.

It is unfair to say Isagenix is making unsubstantiated claims and then to make the unsubstantiated claim that it doesn’t work. [I didn’t claim that it didn’t work: I said there was no evidence that it did, and no reason to think it would.]

Attacks on FDA and Big Pharma

The FDA disclaimer is meaningless.

We shouldn’t take FDA warnings seriously: “it is a terrorist organization that lies, cheats steals, and intimidates anyone who stands between them and the targets of their wrath.”

Dr Hall if you think the FDA is doing a good job you must love some of the poison they approve, such as Aspartame.

Doctors get commissions for prescribing drugs.

A conspiracy of JD Rockefeller is behind the pharmaceutical industry: many prescriptions are made from manipulation of petroleum.

People die from drugs.

“My doctor wanted me to start beta blockers, after much investigation I decided that I was to [sic] young to have my liver contaminated by these pills…”

Natural remedies work just as well and are safer than prescriptions.

Pharmaceuticals are the ultimate money-making scam.

Off-the-Wall False Claims

“The FDA (yes, those great friends of ours) just recently put a new advisement out there [It did not!] that we will soon be required to irradiate ALL raw vegetables and fruits. Do you all know what irradiation does to food? It not only kills “bad” things like e. coli, but it kills nutrients from your foods as well.”

Try It for Yourself

Numerous commenters seemed to think the best way to determine if a treatment works is to try it yourself. But one commenter rightfully pointed out that the try it yourself argument was fallacious and condescending. “One does not have to experience snake venom to know to stay away from snakes.”

Haven’t Tried It But Plan To

Several were planning to try it after reading the article and comments. One of these said he knows firefighters who use it and he “would rather have one of the firefighters doing brain surgery on me, than let the average physician tell me what is going on in my body.” [Wow! Does this guy even have a brain to operate on?]

It’s a Scam

Quite a few people agreed with what I wrote. Several were outspoken in calling Isagenix a scam.

“People would rather rave about this crap than admit that they were fooled into wasting their money.”

“Without even considering the science, common sense helped me spot this as bullshit.”

“Isagenix is a freakish cult perpetrated on the uncritical, by the unscrupulous, using the desperate search for the ever-elusive ‘easy solution.’”

One reported that a cousin and her boyfriend are “making a TON of money selling this stuff to all of you morons stupid enough to buy it and make them rich. ISAGENIX only “works” for the people selling it. Diet and exercise WORKS for everyone!”

Concerns

A few commenters expressed concerns about the product. The Isagenix rep couldn’t answer questions about origin of ingredients and quality control. There have been no controlled studies. Where is the evidence? How do we know it is safe? Long-term results remain to be seen. How many can maintain this restrictive lifestyle for years? Why isn’t it being regulated by the FDA?

“I am a little concerned about the way some people discuss this product in almost cult-like fashion. It makes me wonder if there are mind-control drugs in this stuff.”

2 Jokes

“I got a refund check from IRS after starting Isagenix.”

“I have some magic beans for sale. Try eating right and exercising instead.”

Funny, Unhelpful, and Bizarre Comments

“Who cares whether it works or not. This stuff tastes like 9-day old garbage mixed with water from a sewer.”

One man took it on the recommendation of his chiropractor; he now distrusts both Isagenix and his chiropractor. “I have been feeling better ever since I stopped having my head wrenched and being put on a rack and practically decapitated week after week, except for the apparently permanent click in my neck that wasn’t there before.”

“We fertilize our soil with fake nutrients and usually do not replace with all 60 nutrients the plants need to be healthy so they are prone to diesease [sic – a disease that they die from?] and incests [sic].” [Gotta watch out for those incestuous plants!]

“I never hear anything from the medical field about elevating the PH level in the human body to keep in from being to acidic. That study was done by Dr Lioness Paulings medical reseacher and nobel prize winner.” [Yet more amusing errors in original. Lioness?!]

“Whoever started this blog is an idiot.”

“I am amazed at the amount of ingnorance [sic] on this Blog. Whom [sic] ever allows this should be ashamed.”

My favorite comment of all was “Dr Harriet Hall is a refrigerator with a head.” I don’t know what that means, but its whimsical imagery appeals to my sense of humor.

In looking back at this whole kerfuffle, it became clear to me that there had been a colossal barrier to communication. The person who originally asked me about Isagenix and the blog owner and I were all operating in the arena of science and evidence. Most of the commenters were operating in a whole different universe of discourse based on belief, hope, hearsay, and personal experience. Science is like a foreign language to them, and they were incapable of understanding my points. Pearls before swine…

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements

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48 thoughts on “Defending Isagenix: A Case Study in Flawed Thinking

  1. SD says:

    “It was as if no one had actually read what I wrote. No one bothered to address any of my specific criticisms.”

    Welcome to my world.

    *sigh* Well, having read what you wrote, in all fairness, here’s how it looks:

    “blah blah blah no evidence blah blah no rationale blah blah blah science blah”.

    I leave it to the reader to determine how engaging this is to the general public. From a purely scientific perspective, yes, you’re right, but merely being right is not the way to make friends and influence people. Being *gloriously*, *amusingly* right, on the other hand, still usually doesn’t accomplish that particular goal, but at least offers you a way to vent your creative impulse.

    How I’d have phrased it:

    “Huh. Sounds like it does wonderful things. Of course, anything involving multilevel marketing is a scam by definition – I’ll bet it even gives you longer, stronger erections, too, like all those emails I keep getting. Of course, they don’t actually tell you what’s *in* it… That jumped right out at me on the Website, no way to get a list of what was supposed to be in there. I guess maybe if they laced it with amphetamine or jimsonweed it’d do the same thing. Gotta be careful of these pills, never can quite tell what’s in ‘em… See, now, at least the other stuff – real vitamin pills, pharmaceuticals, whatever – they list what’s in ‘em on the label. I’d maybe buy one bottle, then go to the local university and ask a chemist to do the CSI workup on it, see what he pulls out. He might do it just for laughs, but bring a case of beer anyway. At least you have some idea what’s in the beer.”

    When they observed that they lost sixty pounds while taking it:

    “Okay, dude. I get that you lost weight. But it’s hard to point at one thing and say it was the cause. Like, let’s say your car doesn’t start. You replace the battery, alternator, and distributor before trying to start it again. Then the car starts. The problem is, you don’t know which one of those pieces was broken, right? Or, maybe it wasn’t any of them, and it was just a loose wire that you accidentally tightened up while replacing everything. It’s kind of like that.”

    A storehouse of aphorisms and analogies are indispensable for explaining some of this shit to people. Learn to come up with some on the fly. Snarking about “them not understanding you” doesn’t accomplish anything – learn to communicate with them in a way they *do* understand.

    By the way, the technical term for, ahem, “non-identified sponsored testimonials” is “Astroturfing”. (And, technically, the people that claimed that we need nutritional supplements owing to depletion of elements are not wrong – iodine and selenium deficiencies in particular are endemic in some parts of the globe. Not here, of course.)

    “fnord fnord fnord”
    -SD

  2. kristen says:

    Dr. Hall,

    I very much liked your quote “the plural of anecdote is not data,” and I believe I have seen it in another post of yours. I just wanted to know if that is an original thought, because when using that in the future (as I expect I will, given all the woo supporters I know), I would like to give credit where credit is due. Thanks!

  3. TimonT says:

    Thanks, Harriet. This was lots of fun as well as a sad reminder of how ignorant many people are.

    My favorite comment was this one: “Most people only absorb 8% to 12% of what we eat – the rest is waste which we flush down the toilet. With Isagenix we can absorb up to 94% of what is ingested with less waste going down the toilet.”

    It would be great to spend less time in the bathroom. But just imagine the weight gain!

  4. Composer99 says:

    I like this comment:

    saved a failing marriage

    I’d wager that was because the commenter was pulling enough income from this scam to actually pull his or her weight in the marriage.

    But really, that list of ‘miracle cures’ that Isagenix apparently wrought is a sign enough that it is quackery.

  5. MOI says:

    This is most excellent. Thank you!

  6. rork says:

    I agree: Excellent.

    Made me wonder if general level of education (and via it to expose people to critical thinking) is the basic problem. If even a few more people had a clue, sanity might prevail more.

  7. Oh dear, are we going to start making hypothesis on our educational system based on a survey of comment boxes?

    Perhaps we should consider that the numerous people who received a good education and are putting it to good use actually have a life* and are not sitting around hawking the benefits of some diet program.

    150 comments in a comment box is not scientifically indicative of anything, except for 150 comments in a comment box (and the functionally of the website code.)

    I mean what is the goal here? That people never make idiot comments? Good luck with that.

    I mean, there are quite a few people online these days.

    *unlike me, apparently

  8. You can rate what kind of mood I’m in by the redundancies of my “I means”.

    I must take my daughter to Chuckie Cheese now. So, if I’ve aggravated you, you can consider that Karmic revenge.

  9. rork says:

    “Oh dear, are we going to start making hypothesis on our educational system based on a survey of comment boxes?”

    Sorry to waste space being defensive, but this was hardly the only basis for my concern. It’s an epidemic.

  10. Scott says:

    @ kristen:

    “The plural of anecdote is not data” is a very old and widely used saying.

  11. Kylara says:

    I sincerely hope that “You can’t brainwash POO!!!” becomes a part of daily discourse. Best phrase ever.

    (The soil nutrient people are half-understanding some agricultural studies about uptake of soil nutrients in organic vs. conventionally farmed food. Fertilizers deal in NPK; intensive conventional farming over time exhausts nutrients in the soil that the PLANTS need to grow; fertilizers replace the “three big nutrients” (NPK) but not the micronutrients (which include iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc and molybdenum). In some situations this can cause oddities in plant growth — zinc deficiencies can lead to chlorosis, for example. Recently there’s been some interest in whether a lack of micronutrients in the soil means humans who eat plants grown in micronutrient-rich soils get “better” nutrition than humans who eat plants grown in micronutrient-depleted soils. Of course there are many, many questions, including whether most first-world humans eat a varied-enough diet for it not to matter if their corn products have too-little copper in them. Anyway, it’s something of a political issue since “Big Ag” typically opposes claims that organic farming produces “better” food crops than conventional farming, and all these issues come down, eventually, to how you’re allowed to label the food for consumers, so there’s been a lot of argument about it w/r/t eventual food labeling if the science ends up supporting micronutrient claims. (Which is all a little silly; “Big Ag” has already begun producing “micronutrient fertilizers” as the issue has gotten more press; even if never comes to labeling, there will be farmers and consumers looking for “micronutrient enhanced” plants or whatever they’ll call it.) There’s been considerably less research than there has been political debate!)

  12. MKuhl says:

    Re: Brainwashing Poo.

    Working on it. Hoping to submit a paper soon.

    Early indications are that it is possible, depending on the intelligence of the poo.

  13. vannin says:

    Harriet, i’ve read many of your pieces before and clearly you are more than capable and tough. But this was a wall of negativity and i’m sorry that anyone would have to deal with this. This raises the issue for me of how skeptics keep going. Every time i’ve raised my own head i’ve found the barrage very uncomfortable, and i don’t always handle it well. Any tips? How do skeptics keep going in the face of such poorly reasoned comments?

  14. rork – I’m sorry to jump on your post in particular or be attacking. I could have shown more tack.

    It’s only that I find comment box reading is often the antitheses of finding perspective, in that you can see such deeply unsettling beliefs, that our (or my) brains want to generalize to a broader population. But, in reality, it offers such an incredibly limited sample of public opinion.

  15. Harriet Hall says:

    SD,

    I was amused that you criticized my style as not likely to “make friends and influence people,” since your own style, specifically the references to “Cde. Gorski” has made me stop reading your comments in other threads.

    And perhaps you failed to notice that what I wrote was not originally intended for publication but was written as a straightforward answer to the inquiry of an individual who understood science and simply wanted the facts.

    And if you think a humorous approach would have helped convince any of those “true believer” commenters, I fear you are sadly mistaken.

  16. Harriet Hall says:

    “The plural of anecdote is not data” has been said many times by many people in different words. Its origin is attributed to economist Roger E. Brinner.
    http://www.causeweb.org/cwis/SPT–FullRecord.php?ResourceId=1233

  17. Harriet Hall says:

    vannin,

    How do skeptics keep going? “Sticks and stones can break my bones,” but words are only hurtful if the hearer allows them to be. I consider criticism like that the highest form of praise. It means I am so right that my critics have nothing substantial to say in answer. They can’t answer any of my points with logic or evidence, so in their intellectual bankruptcy they can only resort to ad hominem attacks and nonsense. It means I have hit a nerve. And there are always a few others who recognize the inadequacy of their responses and call them on it.
    I will forever treasure the “refrigerator with a head” comment just as I treasure the comment by a chiropractor that I was “AN IGNORANT HO.” :-)

  18. marcalbe says:

    All I can say, Harriet, is that for slogging through all of this you must be a saint. In the secular sense of the term, naturally.

  19. jimroche says:

    What can we do? On my own blog about ADHD and autism I have reposted several articles from Science-Based Medicine. As a practitioner who provides diagnostic services and treatment I think it’s important that families have science-based information. The results have been late night nasty phone calls from anti-vac people and death threats at 3 am. I sometimes wonder where we are going as a people.

  20. David Gorski says:

    Of course, some cranks go way beyond just ad hominems. Just look over at Age of Autism if you don’t believe me.

  21. catalystic37 says:

    My Dad is one for these get rich quick schemes. He was in deep with Amway back in the day, and now he is into Isagenix pretty hard. Years ago when he first started the Isagenix MLM (multi level marketing) program he said that this was going to finally make us rich and he could lose weight and be healthy. He spent more on this trying to lose weight while not making the necessary lifestyle changes to actually become healthy. He smokes, drinks (often), eats crap still, and smokes dope. After about 5 years or so he is more overweight, he spends more on the Isagenix garbage then anyone really should, and still he believes that this can turn his life around. He’s a pretty positive thinker, and failing for so long doesn’t get him down. In fact there is always a convenient answer, things will get better just after I sign up a few more people. When we were living in a basement apartment 5 years ago, and he was going on about how this will make money and was the miracle cure to , I damn near dumped all his product down the drain when he went out. The only reason I didn’t was because I knew it wouldn’t have made a difference in his behavior.

    One day I asked him to see peer reviewed evidence on the claims Isagenix made of it’s products. I was not surprised to see that after literally hours of searching their website, general searches in journals, and plain old Google, I could not find a single piece of evidence other then the all powerful and science-trumping anecdotal ‘evidence’. Dad would take the word of a couple of ‘doctors’ which talked about how it changed the lives of all her patients over many more doctors and researchers which say that cleanses don’t work (in the way Isagenix claims). It’s funny how some commenters noted that Isagenix has an almost cult like following, since every time he came home from a meeting -which he heavily insisted I should go, I refused because I was almost convinced they spiked the punch :P- he would go off about how this was so amazing and sad to see that I would let my science hold me back from seeing that this is actually true!

    I actually did try one of the 9-day cleanses from Isagenix after years of nagging. And to be perfectly honest I did feel better and lost weight. I am not overweight by any stretch, so that wasn’t a goal, I was just going to finally see what he went off about all the time. For those that don’t know, the 9 day cleanse consists of:

    -Exercising everyday for at least 20 minutes and ‘natural accelerator pills for weight loss’

    -Days 1-2 you don’t eat a damned thing, drink lots of water and ‘nutritional syrup’

    -Days 3-7 slim-fast-like shakes for breakfast and lunch, with a small salad low calorie meal for dinner.

    -Days 8-9 repeat days 1-2.

    I lost about 5 lbs and felt pretty good.

    So with this as a reference I developed my own sort of ‘cleanse’ which basically consisted of eating nothing but a small amount of fruit and vegetables, drinking lots of water, and exercising at least 20 mins a day. I mirrored the time schedule like the Isagenix cleanse and low and behold I felt just as good without the Isagenix products.

    Cutting out the junk, eating less, and exercising are common knowledge of a healthy lifestyle. Binge diets do nothing for the body in the long run since right after both the Isagenix and ‘home made cleanse’ I had the urge to eat more almost to compensate for the time I didn’t eat. The one big problem with the cleanses that no one addresses is the hormonal system. When you don’t eat your body thinks something is wrong, and then boosts your appetite when you’re done the cleanse. So every time my dad did a cleanse which would help him lose weight he would put it right back on within two weeks.

    People in the case of Isagenix, from my experience in dealing with them, are just sold on the idea. If they just used a little critical thinking skills they would see that the tactics being used in the health and wellness industry are the very same which every other company uses to instill a NEED for their product to save their lives or make them (finally) happy. However these people will always view science in a negative way and look to the organic, eastern, all natural, chemical-free, alternative, non-pharmaceutical solution, and revel in the ‘take THAT science’ mindset.

    I don’t think you can really do anything for those people, just let them be and try to keep pointing out their logical flaws and hope that some of them realize that they have been duped in the same way which they purport to be against.

  22. catalystic37 says:

    ^ In my big comment the sentence

    “When we were living in a basement apartment 5 years ago, and he was going on about how this will make money and was the miracle cure to , …”

    (Insert ailment) should be beside to, but it was inside arrows and didn’t show.

  23. DonSelgin says:

    I particularly enjoyed one of the commenters referring to Johns Hopkins – that we must eat a diet to produce a more alkaline body to fight cancer – this is a known fraud, easily checked at

    http://www.snopes.com/medical/disease/cancerupdate.asp

  24. weing says:

    I’m not surprised at the reaction. These people, already con men if not self-deluded, have their livelihoods threatened by such posting. How else do you expect them to react?

  25. SD says:

    Harriet:

    “I was amused that you criticized my style as not likely to “make friends and influence people,” since your own style, specifically the references to “Cde. Gorski” has made me stop reading your comments in other threads.”

    See? Amusing.

    Besides, if he’s going to *act* like a damn Communist…

    “And perhaps you failed to notice that what I wrote was not originally intended for publication but was written as a straightforward answer to the inquiry of an individual who understood science and simply wanted the facts.”

    Rule Zero: *EVERYTHING* you write is ‘meant for publication’.

    “And if you think a humorous approach would have helped convince any of those “true believer” commenters, I fear you are sadly mistaken.”

    Might’ve done. What you get is a big hateball consisting of most of the chorus line laming about how evil you are in perfect unison, along with one or two “Huh, that’s interesting”‘s, maybe a supporter or two, along with a few lurkers that are solidly convinced.

    Go ahead, ask me how I know that this is the distribution of responses. >;->

    But seriously, bridging the gap with someone is important; might be a worthwhile exercise to intentionally attempt to “turn” one single member of the hateball. Tough to do, but it can be done.

    “done dirt cheap”
    -SD

  26. lexicakes says:

    “My favorite comment of all was “Dr Harriet Hall is a refrigerator with a head.” I don’t know what that means, but its whimsical imagery appeals to my sense of humor.”

    This reminds me of the line from the song Roller Derby Queen by Jim Croce: “And the roller derby program said / She was built like a refrigerator with a head.” Perhaps the commenter is implying that you’re a roller derby queen?

  27. tanha says:

    Refrigerator with a head? Bahaha. That’s messed up and so funny all at the same time.

  28. Adam_Y says:

    Go ahead, ask me how I know that this is the distribution of responses. >;->

    Because you are a troll who engages in the exact same behavior that you are complaining about. Its another case of cognitive disonance.

  29. woofighter says:

    There is a similar argument occuring on Matt Lauer’s facebook wall. Ever since he interviewed Wakefield and didn’t let him come out looking like a saint some rapid anti-vaxers have been posting gibberish on Lauer’s wall urging others to not vaccinate. When pro-science, pro-vax people comment or post, it’s an ad hom, irrational free-for-all.

  30. Sastra says:

    vannin wrote:

    How do skeptics keep going in the face of such poorly reasoned comments?

    Well, in my case, when I encounter a “wall of negativity” in response to some reasoned skeptical cautions, I try to keep in mind that the same sort of silly, unreasonable, vindictive, and pointless remarks are even thrown towards people like Harriet Hall. This soothes me, because I worry less over whether it’s me. Harriet is not only the epitome of the well-informed Voice of Reason, she’s as nice and polite and likable as cherry pie with ice cream.

    If they’re whining about her — well, there’s obviously just no pleasing some people. So I take it less personally.

  31. Ken Hamer says:

    To understand the rabble I highly recommend a movie called “Idiocracy.” It will make you laugh and cry, particularly when you realize how close to the mark the movie really is.

    But I’m pretty sure that Dr. Lexus would just tell you you’re “tarded.”

  32. SikozuS says:

    Thank you, Dr. Hall – refreshing and accurate as always!

    I haven’t heard of “Isagenix” ever before but that name caught my eye – as a German native speaker it looks like the Austrian/Bavarian dialect version of “I sag eh nix” (Ich sage ohnehin nichts) – “I don’t say anything, anyway” to me.

    Revealing, isn’t it?

  33. Si says:

    As a fairly new reader of SBM I’d just like to say thanks for your excellent posts – I really enjoyed this one.

    I wish you had warned me to put down my drink before I read the refrigerator comment though! Hilarious, but nearly very messy…

  34. BillyJoe says:

    Actually the silliest comment I read was from Silly Dude.

    The guys completely unreadable, totally unfunny and irritatingly narcissistic. And he presumes to tell Harriet how to communicate.

  35. Mojo says:

    Apparent bad reactions are just signs that it is working: “When one is cleansing out years of accumulation of toxins, chemicals, jet fuel, gasoline, arsenic, heavy metals, radiation poisoning – one will have reactions.”

    Ah yes, the “healing crisis”, a concept from the 18th/19th century heyday of “heroic medicine” which nowadays is only used by homoeopaths and the like.

  36. Sastra says:

    Mojo wrote:

    Ah yes, the “healing crisis”, a concept from the 18th/19th century heyday of “heroic medicine” which nowadays is only used by homoeopaths and the like.

    I encountered one proponent of alternative medicine who told me that sometimes part of the “healing crisis” is “death.” We pass through various spiritual stages as we journey along our life line, and sometimes our spirits need to cleanse themselves of the world, that they may continue onward.

    Talk about moving the goal posts on how we judge success. Fortunately, it seemed to me that this particular rationale was only to be invoked after the fact — and not employed as an active treatment. At least, not deliberately.

  37. mikerattlesnake says:

    So, the way SD knows he’s right is that the vast majority of commenters vehemently disagree with him and have taken to just ignoring his multi-page monuments to himself (devoid of actual substance as they are), while every once in a while some other moron will mistake him for someone intelligent and pat him on the back? Sounds like that’s pretty much in line with the rest of his logic.

  38. TsuDhoNimh says:

    He’s a pretty positive thinker, and failing for so long doesn’t get him down. In fact there is always a convenient answer, things will get better just after I sign up a few more people.

    That’s gone beyond positive into full-blown denial.

  39. antipodean says:

    Harriet

    Being called the refridgerator with a head is actually a complement to your debating skills.

    Ever tried to tackle a refridgerator? Not that easy.

    -antipodean

  40. JamesR says:

    A Refrigerator with a head? Damn! The best I’ve done is to have been called a “smug Elitist”.

    I find it absolutely fascinating that people will defend this scam. On one hand they are buying and using a product that is supposedly founded on scientific principles. Yet when the real scientific principles are explained and exposed to them they resort to subterfuge and dishonesty.

    Reports like this make me wonder what a generation of people will be like after going to school in Texas where they have rewritten science and history texts.

    Sastra
    The goalposts have been moved to ‘The Twilight Zone”

  41. “O ye of little faith.” Thats in the Bible, so dont argue. Its Gods word.
    I have a inside source and got the next improved product of Isagenix. Its called Ituenix. I took it and had the best BM in 5 years. All the toxins were cleaned out.
    But now listen to this. Remember the lady that had the grilled cheese sanwich poppin outof her toaster and the cheese looked like the Virgin Mary ? And she sold it to a casino in Vegas for 25 thousand $ and they put it under glass ?
    Well, believe it or not my BM stuff looks like mother Theresa kneelng down. I just about feinted. So I put it in the freezer and Im going to put it on ebay.
    I know what I know and what I believe. Science cant change that. And thats a testimonal of a man of faith. Ituenix does it.

  42. rokujolady says:

    Forums in order of soul destroying stupidity of posters, with 10 being “sweet Jesus humanity is doomed” and 1 being the sanity sucking black hole created by a white hot supernova of stupidity.

    1.CNN
    2. General interest health blogs


    10. 4chan/b

  43. rokujolady says:

    Oh. And the reason I included 10 was to illustrate that the banal maliciousness of the idiocy in 1 and 2 outdoes one of the most offensive twisted and morally wrong corners of the Internet. At least there you expect sociopathy and weapon grade stupidity so you don’t get the impression that it’s pervasive in society like you do when you read the comments on CNN.

  44. Marsha says:

    For truth on the writings of Harriet Hall, see Matt Lauer from NBC, see his Facebook wall in the discussion section @ http://www.facebook.com/NBCMattLauer

    Scroll this infamous wall & see the storm that’s brewing. See the facts & evidence people like Harriet work to cover up. Many, many angry parents & citizens of the world are there setting the record straight & they are not going away. This is war & our children’s well being & very lives are at stake so beware those complicit in these crimes against humanity.

    “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
    Abraham Lincoln

  45. jplechago says:

    Yes, I think that the “Refrigerator with a head” means you’re cool!

  46. ebohlman says:

    JamesR: What you’re seeing is a classic manifestation of cognitive dissonance. When someone has invested a lot of time/money/emotional commitment in something, he’ll come up with the wildest rationalizations to convince himself that it was worth it. The alternative is just too psychologically painful.

    It’s the same phenomenon that results in “throwing good money after bad.” Carol Tavris and Eliot Aronson wrote a whole book, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) about it.

  47. JJ from Cowtown says:

    Wow.. Marsha’s link there showed off quite a firestorm. Anti-Vax “facts and evidence” (aka wall-o-text) and a couple poor souls trying to hold their own in the face of “I have more text than you, more emotion than you and more links than you, I’m obviously right!”

    Only made worse because the citations mostly lead back to vaclib.org, which may lead you to germ theory denier websites, HIV/AIDS denier websites, etc… Quotes that go back to quote lists, not the source.

    Sort of worries me, what the average reader takes away from those exchanges.

  48. Dr Benway says:

    Astroturfing. It’s all over the webs.

    Any way to get a list of the IPs of the people posting on that mailing list, Dr. Hall? Not that the IPs would rule out astroturfing, but you might glean a few helpful clues about the people behind the campaign.

    In the real world people actually live in, vaccines and the latest diet thing are meh.

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