Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

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

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 19 March 2016

The intersection of live blood analysis, pH quackery, cancer cures, fraud and criminal convictions

I've just been reading one of Orac's recent blog posts on the fate of American naturopath Robert O Young (ROY), currently awaiting trial for more charges of fraud relating to medical quackery.

Bad news continues to accumulate for “pH Miracle Living” quack Robert O. Young (16 March 2016) Respectful Insolence blog

Orac mentioned he'd been aware of ROY for about nine years and I realise I've probably been aware of him for a few years less, but still a good long time. He first came to my attention while a science information officer at Diabetes UK as someone who was making claims to cure diabetes (and all sorts of other conditions) by advising people to follow his pH miracle diet plan. We got a few enquiries from people wondering if it was something they should try and, having never heard of it, I investigated. I couldn't quite believe that his stuff had been printed and advised anyone who asked to (a) get proper advice from a doctor or proper dietitan and (b) to save their money on Young's books and related supplements.

He is probably the main proponent of the idea that the acidity ('pH') of your blood is related to your health. That in itself is uncontroversial - your body regulates blood pH extremely tightly and you'd be spectacularly ill if it wasn't able to. But eating particular foods doesn't make any difference to your blood's pH, in the same way that eating sugar or drinking water (both contain oxygen) don't help you breathe any better.

Live blood analysis (LBA) / nutritional microscopy

I've pinched the text below from ROY's Wikipedia page and pruned out some of the links and references -
"Young bases some of his theories, research, and written works on the alternative medical approach of live blood analysis. Young teaches microscopy courses in which he trains people to perform live blood analysis as well as dry blood analysis. Young has stated that he teaches live blood analysis solely for research and educational purposes, and not for use in diagnosing medical conditions, which the San Diego Union-Tribune characterizes as "a legal distinction that some might find elusive in practice".

Live blood analysis is used by alternative medical practitioners, who claim it to be a valuable qualitative assessment of a person's state of health. Live blood analysis lacks scientific foundation, and has been described as a fraudulent means of convincing patients to buy dietary supplements and as a medically useless "money-making scheme". Live blood analysis has been described by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as an "unestablished laboratory test", or test that is not generally accepted in laboratory medicine."
He's apparently taught live blood analysis to a number of people who've since tried to practice it in the UK, hopefully with decreasing success.

Live blood analysis is utter nonsense but we've recently had some success with (a) convictions (particularly in the UK relating to the Cancer Act 1939) and (b) regulatory action from the Advertising Standards Authority and the Committee for Advertising Practice who produced a specific guidance document relating to the way it's advertised to consumers.

The best bit about that document is that it's not permitted for someone to advertise that live blood analysis or nutritional microscopy can DO anything, they can only mention that they offer it without saying what it's for (it's not for anything).

"...CAP is yet to see any evidence for the efficacy of live blood analysis as a diagnostic tool or treatment therapy and so without rigorous evidence to support it, it should be advertised on an availability-only platform."

This is a very good thing, but we've not wiped LBA from the UK, but one can dream.

Further reading (and listening)

1. The recent regulatory action 
Harley Street practitioner claimed he could cure cancer and HIV with lifestyle changes and herbs, court hears The Telegraph (11 December 2013)

'Cancer cure' alternative health practitioner appears in court Trading Standards Institute news (~December 2013)
• "Westminster Trading Standards has instigated legal proceedings against an alternative health practitioner who uses a room in London’s Harley Street, for making various claims contrary to the Cancer Act 1939. "

2. Audio clips on some of the ASA's adjudications
Blood tests BBC You and Yours (11 March 2013)
• The ASA upholds more complaints against a man offering ‘live’ blood tests.

Live Blood Tests BBC You and Yours (15 March 2012)
• "Why adverts for a test which lets you see your own 'live' blood cells on a computer screen have been criticised for failing to prove claims they have the potential to prevent illness or disease."

3. The ASA adjudications against claims made about live blood testing
• ASA (24 April 2013) ASA adjudication on Live Blood Test
• ASA (27 February 2013) ASA adjudication on Live Blood Test
• ASA (6 March 2013) ASA adjudication on Steps to Perfect Health
• ASA (16 January 2013) ASA adjudication on the Natural Health Clinic 
• ASA (2 November 2011) ASA adjudication on Fitalifestyle Ltd: Fitalifestyle Ltd
• ASA (19 October 2011) ASA adjudication on Optimum Health UK
• ASA (7 September 2011) ASA adjudication on MyCityDeal Ltd: MyCityDeal Ltd t/a GrouponUK
• ASA (1 June 2011) ASA adjudication on Fitalifestyle Ltd t/a
• ASA (13 October 2010) ASA adjudication on Live Blood Test

4. ASA Non-compliant online advertisers offering live blood analysis
ASA (12 March 2013) Live Blood Test - this person has since removed their misleading website claims and so has now been removed from the non-compliant list
ASA (15 February 2013) The Natural Health Clinic - this person has since complied too
ASA (26 June 2012) London Natural Therapies - this person has since complied too
ASA (15 November 2011) Fitalifestyle (claims about blood-cleaning properties of chlorophyll) - this person has since complied too

5. Background reading on live blood analysis as a bogus test
• Edzard Ernst (2005) A new era of scientific discovery? The Guardian
• Mark Crislip (2009) Live Blood Analysis: The modern auguries Science Based Medicine blog 
Wikipedia's article on Live blood analysis
• Thomas Patterson (2012) The Pseudoscience of Live Blood Cell Analysis Skeptical Inquirer
• Zachary Rubin (2009) Live Blood Analysis: New Diagnostic Method or Quackery? Case report and Review of the Literature UCLA Department of Medicine
Posts tagged with Live Blood Analysis on Josephine Jones' blog 

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