Update 20 March 2014: Today the subject of this post was fined £9,000 for nine counts of the Cancer Act of 1939 at Westminster Magistrates Court and handed a total bill (including costs) of over £19,000. He did not attend this final court hearing and did not represent himself.
Musical accompaniment for long post: Prodigy - Climbatize
I used to work at Diabetes UK and one of the things I was often called on to do (along with my colleagues) was provide a fairly low level critical appraisal of unproven claims. This isn't the same as the sort of critical appraisal you'd do on a newly published paper, where you'd consider the type of study, the number of people involved (if it was in people), if the conclusions drawn were appropriate and things like that. This was just looking to see if there was any evidence for the slightly odd claims made by people with very colourful websites or glossy adverts.
Often we were asked, by people with diabetes, to look into things that at first glance looked to be utter nonsense. I don't think it's ever useful to dismiss something as nonsense without giving it a 'fair hearing'. Plenty of the people contacting us about some of these items were pretty convinced that they were nonsense but they wanted to hear (a) why it was nonsense (eg what was the evidence for or against) and they were also interested in knowing why (b) no-one seemed to be able to stop these misleading claims. I've never really got to the bottom of (b), I think that will always be with us.
|A toy microscope, from spike55151 on Flickr|
While I've done some basic microscopy in my time (biology degree, worked in various labs) I'm no expert myself so why do I think I can pass judgement on live blood analysis?
Partly it's that it's pretty implausible, but there's also a bit of 'well that's just not true' in the mix as well, and a good portion of evidence from other sources (and some blogs too) that shows how and why it isn't any use.
The reason I think it's important not to just dismiss live blood analysis out of hand is because it would be wrong to say 'well you can't tell anything just by looking at blood', that's obviously not true. Similarly the practice of iridology is nonsense as well but there are some things you can surmise about some people's health just from looking at their eyes.
|Photomicrograph of red blood cells and bacteria (gonorrhea) - the blood has been stained to pick out the bacteria.|
Picture source: CDC Public Health Image Library ID #15018, taken by Bill Schwartz, CDC.
Basically, you can spot some stuff in blood smears...
For some time I've been a bit troubled by the claims that Errol Denton has been making for his live blood analysis service which is based in Harley Street. He doesn't appear to be a fan of me either and recently tagged one of his blog posts with my name and the words 'racist nazi blogger' (1). That doesn't really strengthen his case much.
I've written before on the nonsense that is live blood analysis, as have others, so I shan't retread those steps. Today I spotted that Errol had written a blog post about diabetes, my post below is about correcting the misinformation in his post.
(1) see tags at the end of his post, which I prefer not to link to directly requiring you to copy and paste I'm afraid: http://erroldenton.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/errol-denton-live-blood-quack-or-super-hero-natural-health-physician/
Incidentally the tags in the original version of another of his posts did not mention either Josephine or me, or for that matter racist nazi bloggers, though it does now: http://erroldenton.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/errol-denton-complaints-about-racist-nazi-bloggers-highlights-big-cover-up-against-alternative-medicine/
Here's a screenshot of the original - click to enlarge. He's insulted us retrospectively ;)
Errol's post can be found here: http://erroldenton.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/errol-denton-solves-another-diabetes-complaint-with-live-blood-analysis-harley-street/
|Duty calls, from xkcd|
"Diabetes is a growing epidemic in the world with over 150 million sufferers worldwide"
Well, we're off to a reasonably good start in that this figure (unreferenced) is roughly within an order of magnitude of being correct. The IDF Atlas for 2012 estimates the figure to be nearer 366 million people with diabetes worldwide in 2011.
"The answer from the medical fraternity is to create more and more drugs for their victims to consume which only suppresses the symptoms."
I suspect anything I say here will only convince Errol further that I'm a big pharma shill (I'm actually paid by the taxpayer) so I will acknowledge that there is indeed a great deal of medication going on of people with diabetes. I'm not sure what he means by 'only suppresses the symptoms' - the drugs suppress symptoms of high blood glucose levels by helping glucose to be taken up and used... I'm not quite sure what is meant here.
"With the NHS spending 3.9 Billion on Diabetes care but yet 24,000 die needlessly each year isn’t it time to look at Errol Denton’s safe natural alternative using live blood testing?"
Goodness me. Diabetes UK's key statistics on diabetes suggests that it's probably nearer £10 billion on diabetes care - it's difficult to know where he's getting his figures from as there don't seem to be any references. I think the 24,000 comes from the York & Humber Public Health Observatory (YHPHO)'s 2008 publication on 'diabetes attributable deaths' which did suggest that, in England "26,300 deaths between the ages of 20 and 79 years in 2005 can be attributed to diabetes" so that's pretty close. The registered deaths for diabetes in England and Wales tend to hover around the 5-6,000 mark but these are an underestimate and only include registrations where diabetes has been listed (diabetes can be a contributory factor but people tend to die of something else, although there is space on death certification to record contributory factors).
Edit: 7 Nov 2012 - pal at Diabetes UK has pointed out that 24,000 is actually a perfectly reasonable figure as it's cited by the fab NHS IC.
The final clause suggesting that it's time to look at his 'safe natural alternative' is not at all contingent on the earlier clauses outlining the scale of the problem. Yes, diabetes is crap, but live blood testing doesn't do anything to help. I'd definitely concede that if someone is given the advice to improve their lifestyle that'll help, but they don't need to spend any money on this (or buy expensive supplements) as that service is available completely free from their doctor or dietitian.
"Errol Denton says this is complete nonsense as Diabetes is not actually a disease it is simply caused by poor nutrition."
I'm not sure if Errol writes his blog in the third person or if someone else writes it but this statement is a bit of an oversimplification. For starters I think the author really needs to clarify that they're talking about Type 2 diabetes as opposed to Type 1 diabetes. But I won't deny that nutrition plays a role - this isn't a big secret and any doctor will tell you that lifestyle (which includes nutrition, though not to the exclusion of physical activity, good night's sleep etc) is important in managing the condition and in preventing the development of Type 2 diabetes.
|Tokyo Tower lit in blue for World Diabetes Day, from Flickr user Clint Koehler|
I think this should be much clearer that it is Type 2 diabetes that's being discussed, not Type 1 diabetes which definitely requires insulin to prevent hyperglycaemia and diabetic ketoacidosis. While people with Type 2 diabetes who have made lifestyle changes may sometimes be able to reduce or stop some of their medications (which is fantastic) this statement is a bit un-nuanced and this won't be the case for everyone.
"He asks when was the last time that we saw a Diabetic animal just to make the logical point that is the diet of humans that is at fault."
I once took a call from a zoo vet asking about diabetes in Old or New World Monkeys (I forget which but that was a fun afternoon looking on PubMed). Possibly Errol won't accept diabetes cases in captive animals as they're fed by human beings. It's probably difficult to get the prevalence of diabetes in animals in the wild - if it's Type 1 diabetes the chances are the animals won't survive for very long, although they can probably survive for much longer with Type 2 diabetes - though I suspect that it is probably pretty rare in wild animals anyway.
In captivity the animals can often live for longer and Type 2-like diabetes is more likely to occur spontaneously in older animals.
The rest of the blog post talks about a case study of a man who, after working with Errol was apparently "able to discard all his medication in a very short space of time as he no longer had blood sugar or cholesterol problems."
I hope the decision to come off medication was made after discussions with the man's own doctor - I hope Errol isn't offering anyone medical advice.
His blog's tagline is "Harley Street Natural Health Physician Getting Results Where Conventional Medicine Has Failed" - bit puzzling to use the word physician.