Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

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Sunday, 20 September 2009

Fun with iridology

Shortened link for this post is http://is.gd/zQcjFk

EDIT: 4 June 2011 - I've added at the end the text from the complaint I've just made about iridology claims on http://www.livebloodtest.com

A local shop, full of undoubtedly kindly hearted people, sells iridology as a diagnostic tool.

"Iridology
Is a diagnostic science which studies the iris of the eye to gain information about the body. Genetic strengths and weaknesses, levels of inflammation and toxaemia, efficiency of the immune and eliminative systems can all be read here."

Further reading (admittedly Wikipedia mostly) suggests the idea that all the organs of the body map onto the iris so that examination of the iris/irises (actually I think it's irides) could tell you about ailments in the various organs. I think this is nonsense. I think the Wikipedia authors do too.

But I have some homework to do on this I think... this is a sort of 'draft post' while I collect some information and check a few things... no rush :)

1. Genetic strengths and weaknesses
I don't doubt that the appearance of the iris is related to a person's genes - heredity plays a role in pigmentation for starters; there are other genetic conditions affecting the iris, for example aniridia.

If someone is born with an error in another organ of the body I can't see any reason why this information would already be available as a marker in the iris... but I suppose I should check!

The iris doesn't appear to change much throughout life so if some other change happens to an organ in the body, during life, it's probably not being reflected in any changes to the iris.

2. Levels of inflammation
They might have a point on this one, provided they limit it to anterior uveitis also known as iritis, which is an autoimmune inflammation of the iris. It affects the whole iris, rather than just a discrete patch of it. Judging from photos on the internet you perhaps wouldn't need to be an iridologist to spot some of the cases...

Possibly there are other inflammatory conditions of the eye but with eye problems I think you can usually tell just by looking at the eye rather than focusing on the iris.

3. Toxaemia
Well I suppose... but I don't think it would be specific to the iris. There are perhaps better clues for toxaemia which in my book means blood poisoning.

4. Efficiency of the immune system
Struggling to see how the iris could tell you much about this. If the iris is inflamed then white blood cells may well be doing their immune 'thing; so at a stretch you could glean some information about the immune system's efficiency. But you can't do this just by looking at the iris, I think some fancy lamps are involved and more high tech equipment.

5. Eliminative systems
Well I think we might be on to something here. Unfortunately I've found only one example - the deposition and buildup of copper in the outer surface of the eye leading to Kayser-Fleischer rings around the iris. This is apparently a sign of Wilson's disease which arises because of a problem with the liver's ability to handle copper.

I don't consider this to be much evidence in favour of iridology though because, again, it affects the whole iris and is not restricted to a particular "liver" section of the iris wherever that might be.

The kidney is also an eliminative system but iridology seems to be useless in detecting problems here...
Ernst, E (2000) Iridology: not useful and potentially harmful. Arch Ophthalmol, 118: 120-121.

------ Other things to consider -------

6. Evidence that iridologists can detect illness from irises
It's not looking good. Asking iridologists to look at people who have a health condition and healthy controls (without knowing who's healthy or not, or what condition they have) results in diagnoses that are no better than chance, or missed diagnoses - false positives and false negatives as well as some 'hits'. Not reliable, not much of a diagnostic tool.

The studies I've found gave iridologists photographs of the eye. I can imagine that in a real world situation an iridologist would see the whole person before looking at their eye, affording plenty of opportunity for cold or hot reading (let's face it you can make some educated guesses about a person's health just by looking at them, perhaps combined with comments made by the person about their health, or their responses to questions or comments).

Of course, if the patient were visiting a doctor then this sort of information would be available to them too, but who has the better record in spotting problems I wonder...

Representation at a distance
The idea of a 'record' of a diseased organ showing up in a different organ - is there a term for that? The concept also crops up in reflexology, a little in palm reading, phrenology to a certain extent - and rumpology (or asstrology).

Can iridologists tell you any information about the health of the eyes?
Let alone any hope of spotting problems in other organs, can iridologists diagnose iritis, Wilson's disease as well as glaucoma, macular degenerative disorders, retinopathy etc.?


--------------------- ASA complaint text --------------------

Dear ASA 

This is a new complaint about claims made about iridology on one of the Fitalifestyle Ltd websites - Live Blood Test. Having looked into the evidence myself I'm certain that it's lacking for all of the claims made. Bizarrely some conditions (cataracts, Wilson disease, uveitis) actually can be detected from looking at the eyes or irises (though other confirming tests might be needed) yet these are mentioned nowhere on the pages. 

All of the following claims were collected from http://www.livebloodtest.com/iridology.php

1. "with the iris revealing information about your entire body"This is untrue. There is no mapping between the iris and the body and I think it's misleading to suggest that the iris can reveal any information about 'your entire body'. Iridology is a bogus diagnostic test.
 
2. "reliable way of obtaining a ‘snapshot’ of your health"As above, it isn't reliable. Appropriate blood tests (not the ones on sale here where blood is viewed under a microscope) and other genuine diagnostic tests can give more accurate and relevant information. 

3. "An iris analysis is a preventative tool offering many benefits"It is not, and cannot prevent disease.

4. "Learning about and understanding your genetic constitution will help you resolve or even prevent chronic health problems, including allergies, arthritis, diabetes, eczema, high blood pressure, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, and many others"By itself this is marginally true - genetic counselling is available for many conditions and knowing your family history for disease risk can change behaviour (unlikely to help 'resolve' conditions though). 

However in the context of this page, the claim follows a sentence about iridology and I can't help concluding that the intention is to imply that iridology is somehow able to give health information about any of the diseases listed, prevent them or 'resolve' them. That's not true. 

5. "After your irises are analysed, you will be given a detailed personalised iridology report with the following information:
· Your genetic iris make-up, including any pre-dispositions to diseases and potential health challenges
· Any inefficient organs and systems in the right and left side of your body
· Nutrition recommendations and lifestyle advice beneficial for your genetic iris type and/or any weakened organ areas."
'genetic iris make up' is pretty meaningless - clearly the colour of the iris has a genetic cause but that's pretty much it. 

Virtually no information can be gleaned about inefficient organs or systems unless the person's irises contain 'Kayser-Fleischer' rings around the iris which indicate Wilson's disease (which is an inherited disorder). This is a condition in which the liver is less able to process copper and this is instead deposited in other tissues including the iris. The rings appear around the whole iris and are not restricted to a particular area, for example an area that is believed to map to the liver. 

Anterior uveitis / iritis can also be seen, an inflammation of the iris and eye can be clearly seen in a photograph of an eye, or the 'live' eye, however neither Wilson disease nor uveitis / iritis are mentioned as conditions that can be detected. From a quick Google the signs seem so obvious that to be honest I think I could probably have a sporting chance of detecting them. 

I do not believe that there is any relevant nutritional recommendation that could be made following an iridology test for the conditions listed. The bit about 'genetic iris type' and 'weakened organ areas' is nonsense. To be fair, if Wilson disease was picked up then the patient would be given nutritional advice as it’s recommended that they avoid high copper-containing foods, such as shellfish or liver. However drug treatment for this condition is apparently necessary as well.

6. "iridology serves as a wonderful adjunct to nutritional microscopy live blood testing"This implies that nutritional microscopy is something other than nonsense. I have already had an adjudication upheld against Fitalifestyle Ltd's claims made about nutritional microscopy on their 'Live Blood Test' analysis leaflet, and a complaint about similar claims on the http://www.livebloodtest.com website is currently under ASA investigation. Both iridology and nutritional microscopy lack evidence for the claims made. 

7. "It not only complements but also enhances and confirms the findings of live blood analysis by providing supporting evidence"~Again, no. 

Claims 8 and 9 are combined. Claim 9 comes from http://www.livebloodtest.com/iridology.php?gid=2
8. "we are able to offer an online iridology service. All you need to do is email us a clear digital image (in JPEG format) of your right and left iris"
9. "Cost £120 payment needs to be paid before detailed report is sent"£120 is an incredible amount of money to charge for something that cannot possibly give you any useful information about your health. 

I'm pretty sure that genuine registered doctors would be in serious trouble if they withheld important information from patients based on a lack of payment. However, since no important information can be gleaned from iridology analysis I'll restrict my complaint to amazement at the price charged for this nonsense.

[signoff]


Also known as live blood test 

3 comments:

  1. Iridology is just another woo that has been good at cloaking itself in sciency sounding words to con the general public.

    If this is just the draft, looking forward to the final post!

    BTW, irises/irides are also used in microwave technology - they are basically just metal plates with specific sized holes in them. Many years ago, I worked with these and one of my technicians had collected various irises into a drawer. Not being sure of the plural, he simply put "More than one iris"!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good luck with the complaint. I can see no way he could substantiate those claims so hopefully you'll get a result!

    ReplyDelete
  3. The difficulty with proving iridology as a science is that there are no studies being accomplished in North America, yet, there are several studies from other countries that show great reliability of iridology as valid diagnostic tool.

    For example, three recent studies showing good success in detecting diabetes:

    Journal Article: Learning to predict diabetes from iris image analysis:
    http://inderscience.metapress.com/content/e3670g62754562pj/

    Journal Article: Early Detection on the Condition of Pancreas Organ as the Cause of Diabetes Mellitus by Real Time Iris Image Processing:
    http://www.iridologyinternational.com/node/1442

    Journal Article: Abnormal condition detection of pancreatic Beta-cells as the cause of Diabetes Mellitus based on iris image:
    http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.jsp?arnumber=6108614

    And some amazing studies accomplished in Russia:
    http://www.iridologyinternational.com/content/russian-iridology-clinical-studies

    ReplyDelete

Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

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