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Mike Adams on Dr. Mehmet Oz’s colon polyps: “Spontaneous” disease?

Given that it’s a holiday and I debated whether or not I even wanted to post anything today, I think I’ll keep things light and uncharacteristically brief today. After all, not every post can be like last week’s epic on Avastin or the week before’s epic on peer review. That’s a lot of work, and it is a holiday, after all. Besides, sometimes a perverse mood overtakes me, and I feel the need to go slumming.

Bring on Mike Adams.

Mike Adams, as regular readers may know, runs the website NaturalNews.com from deep in the jungles of Ecuador. His website is a one-stop shop, a repository if you will, of virtually every quackery known to humankind, all slathered with a heaping, helping of unrelenting hostility to science-based medicine and science in general. True, Mike Adams is not as big as, say, Joe Mercola, whose website, as far as I can tell, appears to draw more traffic than NaturalNews.com, but what Adams lacks in fame he makes up for in sheer crazy. If you don’t believe me, check out his latest hip-hop video Vaccine Zombie:

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Personally, if I had anything to do with the Michael Jackson estate, I’d be suing for copyright infringement. Still, grudgingly, I have to admit that the animation is pretty good, although when Mike Adams raps, “‘Cause livin’ without a brain ain’t half bad,” I don’t think he realizes that he is apparently living proof of that. In fact, so full of crazy is Mike Adams, that there has even been disagreement among SBM bloggers over whether we should lower ourselves to deal with some of his loonier stuff. Guess which side I took?

The reason I argue that, even at the risk of wrestling the proverbial pig in mud, we should not shy away from taking on some of Mike Adams’ lunacy from time to time is because he illustrates certain aspects of the mindset that allows unscientific so-called “alternative” medicine to remain popular. Sometimes, articles on Adams’ website bring up the question of whether Adams really believes the utter nonsense he lays down or whether he is simply a scammer, much like Kevin Trudeau is a scammer, and doesn’t believe a word of it but has such contempt for his followers that he thinks nothing of lying to them to sell them whatever nostrums he’s hawking on his website. You’ll see what I mean in a minute. I hope.

On Friday, Adams decided to attack “America’s doctor” and a promoter of woo whom we have from time to time taken on here at SBM, Dr. Mehmet Oz because, of all things, Dr. Oz apparently underwent colonoscopy and was found to have a precancerous polyp. That this might have happened to him is not at all surprising given that Dr. Oz recently turned 50 and current guidelines recommend commencing screening by colonoscopy at age 50. Indeed, I’m only a couple of years from needing to submit to the same screening myself. In any case, Adams decided to write one of his patented screeds, entitled, Dr. Oz colon polyps raises question of “spontaneous disease” without cause. In it, he inadvertently reveals a lot about alt-med thinking, making it worth a brief discussion.

Adams starts out:

Dr Oz was recently found to have a precancerous colon polyp which was surgically removed. Following this experience, he appears to be surprised and confused about the origin of the condition, and he credits colonoscopy screening with saving his life.

Dr Oz even seems to think he has a perfect health record, saying, “I have done everything right. I don’t have any family history, and yet I’m high risk now.” His personal physician, meanwhile, is implying that even though Dr Oz’s “healthy” diet was perfect, it wasn’t enough to prevent colon polyps, and therefore you might get them too. (And therefore everybody should get screened…)

All of which is more or less correct. Everything in medicine is a matter of balancing risks versus benefits, and it is impossible to lower your risk of a disease as prevalent as colorectal cancer to zero. I don’t care how “correct” your diet is or how “healthy” your lifestyle is. Diet and lifestyle can lower the risk of colorectal cancer, but they can’t eliminate it. In this case, as in many cases (at least where he doesn’t indulge his love of mysticism and pseudoscience such as reiki), Dr. Oz is being quite reasonable. Disease risk falls on a continuum that depends on genetics, environment, diet, and lifestyle. Not to Mike Adams, though. Mike Adams, like so many who promote “alt-med” and non-science-based thinking, cannot deal with ambiguity:

Colon polyps, in other words, appear without any cause! Mainstream medicine, you see, believes in the theory of “spontaneous disease” that “strikes” people at random.

Sort of like disease voodoo.

No matter what you do, they say, you can’t be totally sure that you’re disease free. Therefore, you need all their disease screening protocols, mammograms, and CT scans (which irradiate your body and can actually cause cancer, by the way).

What a bunch of nonsense. As any real scientist knows, everything that happens in our universe has a cause. It’s a cause-effect universe, and unless you’re God or can magically change the laws of the universe, you can’t alter the laws of cause and effect.

Mike Adams is, of course, applying a flame thrower to a straw man of Burning Man proportions. Science-based medicine actually tells us a lot about how polyps form, what genes regulate the process, and how polyps can progress to outright colon cancer. There is the famous Vogelstein sequence of genetic alterations that lead to polyp formation and progression to dysplastic polyps and ultimately colorectal cancer. We know a fair amount about the contribution of genetics and diet. Do we know all the answers? Obviously not, but we do know quite a bit.

What I find most revealing about Adams’ rant is the inability to deal with probability and even the slightest degree of randomness. The idea that there is a stochastic component to disease is completely beyond him. Either that, or he full well understands that there is a random component to many diseases, including cancer, and intentionally creates a straw man that misrepresents the stochastic component of disease to mean that scientists are telling us that disease is completely random. The reason is that there is definitely a strain of magical thinking in alt-med, namely that of complete empowerment. That concept makes itself known in germ theory denialism, as I discussed previously, in which it is believed that, if you just eat the right foods, take the right supplements, and keep yourself “healthy” enough through exercise, infectious disease cannot strike you down.

Similarly, here Adams is peddling the idea that, if you only eat the right diet, you will never, ever develop colon polyps or colon cancer. He drives that point home by castigating Dr. Oz as not being sufficiently pure:

Now, Dr Oz says he eats a “healthy” diet, but he’s from the world of mainstream medicine. Even though Dr Oz has undoubtedly given a lot of really positive dietary advice to a lot of people, and even though his diet is no doubt far healthier than what most people eat, from the point of view of us who focus on superfoods nutrition, Dr. Oz is not really that deep into cutting-edge healthy eating.

He’s not an advocate of raw foods or veganism, for example, and while he smartly teaches people to avoid high-fructose corn syrup and sugar, he’s places very little emphasis on avoiding other harmful ingredients like MSG, aspartame and artificial colors.

He doesn’t strongly advocate organic foods, either, and eating pesticides from conventionally-grown produce is certainly one way to aggravate your colon. Nor does Dr Oz talk much about avoiding genetically modified foods (GMOs), which we now know may actually result in pesticides being manufactured and released directly in your gut. (He did, however, interview Jeffrey Smith on his Oprah radio show, to his credit.)

You see, Dr Oz is only considered really healthy by mainstream people who are ridiculously unhealthy by comparison. Sure, compared to what most people eat — or even what most doctors eat — Dr Oz has a fairly clean diet. But I don’t know anyone in the world of natural health who is really that impressed with Dr Oz’s dietary advice — most of which seems “watered down” to make it more acceptable to a mainstream television audience. People like Dr Mercola no doubt follow far healthier diets than Dr Oz, and raw food gurus like Dr Gabriel Cousens will probably never be diagnosed with colon polyps.

In other words, it’s all about orthodoxy. It’s about faith. It’s not about science; it’s about hewing to a dogma every bit as onerous as fundamentalist religion. In Adams’ world, the reason Dr. Oz developed a premalignant colon polyp is not because he may have a genetic predispostion or because he was simply unlucky. Oh, no. Like a three year old, Adams believes that everything must have a discrete cause. Probabilities and stochastic events are beyond his ken. He simply can’t imagine them because to him it’s not enough to be, as he disparagingly calls it, “mainstream healthy.” Oh, no. You have to go beyond that. You have to be “cutting edge healthy,” and the only way you can achieve “cutting edge healthy” is to start eating a radical raw food diet and taking supplements–supplements that Adams recommends, of course. To Adams’ way of thinking (if you can call it thinking), the reason Dr. Oz developed a premalignant colon polyp is because he was not sufficiently “virtuous” in his diet.

As I said before, according to Mike Adams and his ilk, you must hew to a fundamentalist religious dogma. Do so, he assures you, and you’ll be super-healthy, veritable super men and women immune to the ravages of disease, be it from germs (no vaccines necessary for Superman!), the common chronic and degenerative diseases to which we are all prone as we age (such as hypertension, heart disease, type II diabetes, arthritis), or other common diseases of aging that result in large part from accumulated “damage” to our cells and DNA (i.e., cancer). In other words, you have to listen to him as the prophet of health. Adams promises you perfect health, perfect “wellness,” but there is a price, and that price is to follow slavishly the advice that Mike Adams or other “alt-med” health gurus lay down. Worse, if you are unfortunate enough to become ill, it is because you didn’t follow Adams’ advice, and if you become ill while following Adams’ advice it means you didn’t follow it closely or radically enough. In other words, it’s all about accepting Adams and his fellow woos as your leader Don’t believe me? Adams makes it explicit here:

But don’t confuse Dr Oz with someone who has attained a state of perfect human health. Whatever polyps appear in Dr Oz’s colon are being predominantly caused by Dr Oz’s food choices. That’s because the body of Dr Oz follows the laws of physics, just like yours and mine. There is no law of the universe by which Dr Oz could follow a diet of perfect health and yet somehow a colon polyps would spontaneously appear in his body without cause.

If you believe that, you believe in magic. Or voodoo. Or luck. Heck, if you believe that disease is spontaneous and appears without cause, then you might as well just eat whatever you want and pray to the spontaneous disease gods that they don’t strike you down with some random affliction like diabetes.

Of course, science-based medicine does not deny that lifestyle, diet, and environment have effects on human health. Huge amounts of money and large groups of researchers are devoted to studying these very things, identifying risk factors for diseases, and determining strategies to overcome them using lifestyle and/or pharmacologial interventions. The difference between SBM and Adams, however, is the magical thinking that permeates everything Adams sells. SBM may tell you, for example, that certain diets may decrease your risk of, for instance, heart disease, but accept that it’s all probabilistic and that no diet will decrease your risk to zero, particularly if you are unfortunate enough to have a significant genetic predisposition. In Adams’ world, “the laws of physics” themselves–which Adams wouldn’t recognize or even be able to articulate were Newton himself to rise out of his grave and reconstitute enough of his corpse to bite Adams on his posterior while shouting “F = ma“–tell Adams that it’s easy to avoid these chronic diseases by following his diet, taking his supplements, in general doing whatever he advocates, and, above all, avoiding “chemical” or “conventional” medicine as though it were Satan itself (which, to Adams, it is). Particularly ironic is how in the video above and on his website, Adams represents following his dogma as “thinking for yourself” and “standing up to The Man” (as represented by the “zombie doctors” of the CDC), but in reality all he is doing is substituting himself for the usual set of medical authority figures, and he does not base anything he says on science.

In the end, I still don’t know whether Adams really and truly believes in the nonsense he promotes. I really don’t and still can’t tell. For example, did Adams’ relocate to Ecuador because he really believes in the “natural” lifestyle or did he do it to escape those pesky laws in the U.S. that frown on selling unproven remedies. I do know, however, that Adams appears to have an utter contempt for his own readers, as evidenced by his repeating outrageous straw men such as the claim that SBM says that susceptibility to disease is totally random and that there’s nothing anyone can do about it and bizarre falsehoods like his claim in the Vaccine Zombie video above that vaccines can make your testicles fall off. So, yes, taking on Mike Adams is, in a way, slumming a bit; he provides too easy a target. On the other hand, I look at him in the same way I look at parody. His version of “alt-med” thought is so exaggerated that it makes it easier for me to show you just what is wrong with it. I wouldn’t want to provide my readers with nothing but a steady deconstruction of various Adams bon mots. As amusing as that could be, it would rapidly grow tiresome. On the other hand, it is useful from time to time to take on certain particularly egregious or representative bits of nonsense that Adams lays down.

Which reminds me. None of us has gotten around to this bit of Adams’ misinformation. Maybe next week; that is, unless one of my partners in crime wants to take it on first.

Posted in: Cancer, Health Fraud

Leave a Comment (23) ↓

23 thoughts on “Mike Adams on Dr. Mehmet Oz’s colon polyps: “Spontaneous” disease?

  1. Militant Agnostic says:

    I find it hilarious that “Mr Natural News” recommends a highly unnatural (on both counts) raw foods and vegan diet. Maybe he should tell the San Bushmen of South Africa they are doing it all wrong. Somehow they manage to remain healthy to a ripe old age (provided they don’t succumb to infections, snakebite or irate rhinos) with little access to modern medicine (although they probably get vaccinated if they have the opportunity) and no supplements or woo.

  2. Eric D says:

    The only thing I don’t agree with you on is that the animation was good. Perhaps in an amateurish, pat yourself on the back kind of way, but like the majority of animation today, it’s an almost complete abandonment of the animation principles developed in early to mid 1900′s. To me, that video was pure crap on every level. Sorry for nerding-off.

  3. Quote from Mike Adams “There is no law of the universe by which Dr Oz could follow a diet of perfect health and yet somehow a colon polyps would spontaneously appear in his body without cause.”

    Well, I’m not a scientist, but the law of my universe is ‘after a while moving parts start breaking and wearing out’.

    Mike Adams doesn’t seem to understand that ultimate truth. Living is what’s killing us.

    And of course he doesn’t have much respect for his readers. It seems that sensible readers would soon recognize the lack of reality in an idea that says ‘If you live a cutting edge perfect healthy lifestyle you won’t get sick and die’. Once you’ve lost all the sensible folks…

    I might add, that was not a particularly short article. I’m just say…

  4. David Gorski says:

    It is for me–about half my usual post length. :-)

  5. rtcontracting says:

    There is another vaccine song at:

    http://www.thevaccinesong.org/

    The animation isn’t quite as fancy as Mike Adam’s, but at least it is reality-based.

  6. ejwillingham says:

    As someone who developed a large tubulovillous adenoma discovered (and removed) when I was 38, I also aver that Adams is doing damage similar to that of the antivax brigade. He’s trying to convince people that dietary orthodoxy will preclude their developing colon polyps regardless of family history, genetics, or “randomness” (as scientists, we call it “random” when we haven’t quite yet figured out how it got there–it’s not really “random”). In other words, his writings will convince some people *not* to have recommended screening, and as a result, some people will die of preventable cancer. Will he also be legally accountable, as it’s been argued that antivax public figures could be? He should be, the bastard. I eat a healthy, organic diet but have a family history. Had I relied on dietary orthodoxy and not been screened, according to my GI doc, I’d've been dead by…right about now. Yes, people are responsible for sifting the woo for themselves, but when a public figure has presented themselves as an “expert” meting out advice, that figure should be held responsible for the consequences.

  7. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    The variables that constantly affect our health, be it diet, genetics, environment, etc., are complex and for practical purposes, innumerable. If one develops an adenomatous polyp, it is not just random luck as Adams seems to think doctors are advocating. However, we are not capable of tracking every single variable that interacts and has influence over our health. Things appear random, not because they are, but because we are not able to account for all of the events that interact in a causal cascade.

    We know about certain risk factors. We can try to minimize risk. We cannot account for all variables and their interactions.

    To think that one can reduce risk to zero if a fool’s paradise. But it is good for selling woo products.

  8. windriven says:

    So let me be certain that I understand Mr. Adams’ theory: if one adheres strictly to his particular brand of woo and avoids mechanical injury (i.e. being hit by a truck), one should live forever. Is that more or less it? Since disease cannot appear spontaneously and considering that in order to die, one must die of something, the logical assumption is that immortality can be had on the cheap.

  9. E says:

    So, one ass is fretting over what another…

    Oh, never mind, I’ll be nice. I’ll be nice and mention how for once Dr. Oz is actually sounding like an average human being – the kind dealing with stuff life unpredictably throws in their way.

  10. splicer says:

    “None of us has gotten around to this bit of Adams’ misinformation. ”

    —(NaturalNews)Do you smell some quackery at work yet? This is precisely the kind of pseudoscientific gobbledygook you might hear from some mad Russian scientist who claims to have “magic water” but you can’t test the magic water because the mere presence of measurement instruments nullifies the magical properties of the water.

    —(NaturalNews) Homeopathy was successful in treating the flu epidemic of 1918 and can provide answers to questions about the 2009 Swine Flu.

    Sorry it’s too easy.

  11. pmoran says:

    I share your puzzlement as to what people like Adams truly believe, deep down.

    Some of what they say is so obviously out of tune with observable fact that one feels it has to be some kind of half-belief, or pretend stance, adopted for the purposes of the moment, but probably not even applied in practice themselves. As an example, one of the leaders and strongest critics of the mainstream on one alt.cancer site has just now admitted to having radiation and chemotherapy, with the excuse that he needed a quicker result than was feasible with the alternatives that he expected might actually cure him in the long term.

    Adams could easily have observed that hardly a week goes by on such mailing lists without an alt.med believer complaining that they thought they had always done everything right, diet-wise (vegetarian, raw food etc), and STILL got cancer.

  12. trrll says:

    I think what drives the popularity of this kind of nonsense is fear of the randomness of the universe. It is frightening to think that you might develop cancer because you walked in front of the wrong high energy cosmic ray particle, or because a single molecule of a free radical produced as a byproduct of normal metabolism happened in its Brownian perambulations within a cell to bump into your DNA in exactly the wrong point. Adams’s brand of quackery offers the illusion of control. All disease is due to dietary sin. The people who got sick were asking for it. If you follow the teachings of the prophet you don’t have to worry about all of that scary randomness going on both inside and outside you

  13. Does he believe it?

    We have a saying in our family. (probably pretty common) “The scariest people are the ones who believe their own bullshit.”*

    That is, they make it up and then somehow manage to convince themselves it true. Some people seem to have a natural talent for completely suppressing self-doubt. Or maybe they just were born without it.

    trll “It is frightening to think that you might develop cancer because you walked in front of the wrong high energy cosmic ray particle,”

    Yes, that is frightening. Now I’m going to be dodging particle for the next few days. Thanks for that. :)

    *sorry to be crude, just doesn’t sound right with a euphemism.

  14. overshoot says:

    as scientists, we call it “random” when we haven’t quite yet figured out how it got there–it’s not really “random”

    No, it really is random. Most cases of cancer are quantum mechanics showing up at the macroscopic level. Ionizing radiation induced mutations are an obvious example, but the last time I checked simple thermal noise is still the dominant cause of mutations. The elaborate chemical dance that replicates DNA, like any chemical reaction, is just a case of “this reaction path is more likely than that reaction path,” even assuming that the raw materials are present at the time they’re required — and that presence is strictly a matter of diffusion, which is itself just a preponderance of probabilities.

    Nope — random is precisely accurate.

  15. Shannon says:

    These health zealots definitely believe what they’re selling, at least while they are healthy. I’ll be curious to see how quickly Mike Adams avails himself of Ecuador’s free healthcare should he ever find himself truly ill.

  16. JMB says:

    Mike Adams also demonstrates a failure to learn a most basic principle of science. In order to demonstrate cause and effect, we must design an experiment to control all variables except for the experimental variable. Since we understand that we cannot know and control all possible variables (or be perfect in our observations), we end up with statistical measures of the results that support or reject our hypothesis. Since our results represent averages (and other central tendencies) of groups, there is always some uncertainty (or randomness) that we cannot eliminate. Therefore we cannot predict with absolute certainty what will happen to one individual, or what the precise result of an intervention in a population will be. It is ironic that Mike Adams places absolute faith in some scientific studies that show diet is a contributory factor in colon cancer, but fails to understand the basic scientific concepts. Randomness does not exclude determinism, but affects our ability to predict. “Spontaneous” in medical practice means that we cannot identify with reasonable certainty the cause of the disease (uncertainty that may result from the limitations of our scientific knowledge about disease, or the unpredictable environmental variables such as the high energy particle or errant free radical escaping from the mitochondria damaging the nuclear DNA as mentioned by trrll).

    Perhaps we need an internet grading system for healthcare blog sites, sort of like:

    Not smarter than a fifth grader
    Smarter than a fifth grader
    Smarter than a tenth grader
    Smarter than a high school graduate
    Credible science (warning – current scientific credibility does not guarantee future scientific credibility)

  17. JMB says:

    I would also add overshoot’s observations about quantum mechanics effects of uncertainty in errors of DNA replication as being the most significant random source of variation.

  18. Maz says:

    The people who REALLY and TRULY believe their own bullshit don’t last very long. Take, for example, the editors of an AIDS-denialist magazine…who all had HIV…who all died of AIDS. The “toxin” crowd who inevitably die of cancer when they refuse treatment. You get the idea.

    If Mike Adams really has no doubts about his diet-induced superman abilities, he’d prove it to the world by playing with lepers or letting malaria-infested mosquitoes feast on him.

    It’s just like how if Peter “I’m a Bastard” Duesberg actually thought HIV was a harmless passenger virus, he would inject himself with a whole syringe of it to prove his point.

    No, at some level these worthless pieces of filth can smell their BS, they just enjoy the stench.

  19. red rabbit says:

    Holy cringe.

    Did he really imply that his testicles would dry up and fall off if he got vaccinated? I *must* have imagined that part, right?

    Though why I would imagine that doesn’t bear thinking about….

    I’m just going to sit here and cringe a little longer.

  20. BillyJoe says:

    overshoot,

    “quantum mechanics showing up at the macroscopic level”

    Actually quantum mechanics does not show up at the macroscopic level. Its effects do. Which is, of course, what you meant.

  21. Prometheus says:

    I think that Mike Adams is simply terrified of the inherent randomness of much in biology (and the Universe).

    By making Mehmet Oz (and everybody else who gets precancerous polyps, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, etc.) the author of his own disease (i.e. if he had followed “…a diet of perfect health…” he wouldn’t have developed polyps), Mr. Adams can reassure himself that since he is following “…a diet of perfect health…”, he will never get cancer or have a stroke or heart attack.

    On the other hand, if there are certain conditions that are either random (like mutations, asymmetic mitosis, viral infections, etc.) or are inherited, then there is nothing Mike Adams can do to fend them off.

    That – apparently – is too frightening for Mr. Adams to contemplate, so he fools himself (and, apparently, hundreds of other people) into believing that if he follows a mystical regimen – revealed to him by….? – that he can live without disease.

    Of course, what will Mike Adams say to himself – not to mention his followers – when he does eventually have some sort of medical problem? If he’s lucky, he’ll have something (stoke, MI) that is immediately fatal, so he doesn’t have to face the collapse of his entire belief structure.

    It is the randomness in the world that – in my opinion – led to the development of religion. Early humans, facing disease, accident and Smilodon attacks that were essentially random in nature, created a mythology to turn random events into acts of capricious and cruel gods who could be appeased, flattered or bribed. This continues to the present day.

    Humans seem to have an innate abhorence of the random and will often accept any explanation – no matter how fantastic or ridiculous (Mr. Adams fits the latter description) rather than face up to randomness.

    While I have no respect for Mr. Adams and find his exploitation of the desperate and gullible despicable, I pity him for his obvious terror of reality. It takes courage to face the truth, and Mr. Adams just isn’t up to the challenge.

    Prometheus

  22. h-bomb says:

    Really looking forward to seeing what this guy dies of…I can wait.

    /hopes it’s not a bus – he needs to die of irony

  23. threelittlepigs says:

    Otherwise intelligent people do read and believe what Mike Adams says, so I am glad that you sometimes “go slumming.” Three of my facebook friends posted his article on why Similac should be recalled (it contains corn syrup). One is a nurse (and also married to a nurse) and all three have college degrees. I don’t have any advanced scientific training, so I had to go to the university of google to respond to their ridiculousness. So even though this may be easy for you, some of us readers are still beginners.

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