|Joseph M. Mercola|
Joseph Mercola, 2009
|Born||July 8, 1954|
|Known for||Running mercola.com, an alternative medicine website|
|Institutions||Natural Health Center|
Joseph M. Mercola (born 1954) is an alternative medicine proponent, osteopathic physician, and web entrepreneur, who markets a variety of controversial dietary supplements and medical devices through his website, mercola.com. Until 2013, Mercola operated the "Dr. Mercola Natural Health Center" (formerly the "Optimal Wellness Center") in Schaumburg, Illinois. He wrote the best-selling books The No-Grain Diet (with Alison Rose Levy) and The Great Bird Flu Hoax. Mercola criticizes many aspects of standard medical practice, such as vaccination and what he views as overuse of prescription drugs and overuse of surgery to treat diseases. On his website mercola.com, Mercola and colleagues advocate approaches including magnetic healing, psychic powers, spiritual healing, and homeopathy. He is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons as well as several alternative medicine organizations.
Mercola has been criticized by business, regulatory, medical, and scientific communities. A 2006 BusinessWeek editorial called his marketing practices as "relying on slick promotion, clever use of information, and scare tactics." In 2005, 2006, and 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Mercola and his company to stop making illegal claims regarding his products' ability to detect, prevent, and treat disease. The medical watchdog site Quackwatch has criticized Mercola for making "unsubstantiated claims [that] clash with those of leading medical and public health organizations and many unsubstantiated recommendations for dietary supplements."
Mercola is a 1976 graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago and a 1982 graduate of the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (now Midwestern University). According to Mercola's website, he is a former Chairman of Family Medicine at St. Alexius Medical Center. He has written two books which have been listed on the New York Times bestseller list: The No-Grain Diet (May 2003) and The Great Bird Flu Hoax (October 2006). In the latter book, Mercola dismisses medical concerns over an avian influenza pandemic, asserting that the government, big business, and the mainstream media have conspired to promote the threat of avian flu in order to accrue money and power. Mercola has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors.
Views and controversy
Mercola operates mercola.com, which he has described as the most popular alternative-health website on the Internet. The site and his company, Mercola LLC reportedly brought in about $7 million in 2010 through the sale of a variety of alternative medicine treatments and dietary supplements. An article in BusinessWeek was critical of his website's aggressive direct-marketing tactics and complained of Mercola's "lack of respect" for his site's visitors, writing:
Mercola gives the lie to the notion that holistic practitioners tend to be so absorbed in treating patients that they aren't effective businesspeople. While Mercola on his site seeks to identify with this image by distinguishing himself from "all the greed-motivated hype out there in health-care land", he is a master promoter, using every trick of traditional and Internet direct marketing to grow his business... He is selling health-care products and services, and is calling upon an unfortunate tradition made famous by the old-time snake oil salesmen of the 1800s.
Phyllis Entis, a microbiologist and food safety expert, highlighted Mercola.com as an example of websites "likely to mislead consumers by offering one-sided, incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading information."
Mercola has also received three warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for violations of U.S. marketing laws. The first two letters, dated 2005 and 2006, charged Mercola with making false and misleading claims regarding the marketing of several natural supplemental products, which violated the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. In the most recent letter, sent in March 2011, Mercola was accused of violating federal law by making claims about the efficacy of certain uses of a telethermographic camera exceeding those approved by the FDA concerning the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of the device (regulation of such claims being within the purview of the FDA). Dr. Mercola has challenged the FDA's order stating "We believe that the FDA's warning letter is without merit and is an attempt to regulate the practice of medicine, which the agency does not have the regulatory authority to do. Our use of the thermography device is consistent with its 510(k) clearance for use by health care professionals in their diagnosis and treatment of patients."
Mercola advocates a diet consisting mostly of unprocessed foods. He sees value in paleolithic diets and advocates metabolic typing, and is a proponent of vegetable juicing. Mercola argues fervently against over-consumption of sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup, which is the predominant sweetener of many commercial sodas and soft drinks in the US, and processed flour and grains, which the body rapidly converts into sugar. He has also been an advocate of increasing the consumption of omega-3 fats and of strategies to greatly increase blood levels of Vitamin D3.
Mercola's dietary recommendations often put him at odds with mainstream dietary advice. Mercola encourages the ingestion of unprocessed saturated fats, including unrefined coconut oil in place of polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable, corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and canola oils.
Mercola's website has called microwave ovens dangerous, claiming both that they emit dangerous radiation and that microwaving food alters its chemistry. In contrast, academic reviews have concluded that "no significant nutritional differences exist between foods prepared by conventional and microwave methods." Other studies have suggested that food cooked in microwave ovens can be more nutritious than conventionally cooked food. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide states that "as a general proposition, cooking with a microwave probably does a better job of preserving the nutrient content of foods because the cooking times are shorter."
Mercola opposes homogenization, saying that it leads to xanthine oxidase absorption and oxidative stress. This idea has been described as "tenuous and implausible" in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that "Experimental evidence has failed to substantiate, and in many cases has refuted, the xanthine oxidase/plasmalogen depletion hypothesis."
HIV and AIDS
Mercola has questioned whether HIV is the cause of AIDS. He says that the manifestations of AIDS (including opportunistic infections and death) may be the result of "psychological stress" brought on by the belief that HIV is harmful. The scientific community considers the evidence that HIV causes AIDS conclusive. Mercola.com has also featured positive presentations of the claims of AIDS denialists, a fringe group which denies the existence of AIDS and/or the role of HIV in causing it.
Drugs and supplements
Mercola opposes the use of most prescription drugs and immunizations, favoring better food choices, especially unprocessed, organic produce and elimination of most sugar and grains from our diet; lifestyle modifications, especially regular exercise, better sleep, and removing household toxins from cleaning supplies and cosmetics; and energy psychology tools to address emotional challenges. He promotes and sells numerous dietary supplements, including krill oil, vitamin K, probiotics, and anti-oxidant supplements.
Mercola has also said that the use of many commercial brands of sunscreen increases, not decreases, the likelihood of contracting skin cancer with high UV exposure. He advocates the use of "natural" sunscreens, some of which he markets on his website. This view is not held by mainstream medical science; in 2011, the National Toxicology Program stated that "Protection against photodamage by use of broad-spectrum sunscreens is well-documented as an effective means of reducing total lifetime UV dose and, thereby, preventing or ameliorating the effects of UV radiation on both the appearance and biomechanical properties of the skin".
Mercola has been highly critical of vaccines and vaccination policy, claiming that too many vaccines are used too soon during infancy. He hosts vaccine critics on his website, advocates preventive measures rather than vaccination in many cases, and strongly criticizes influenza vaccines. During 2011, he reportedly donated $1 million to organizations that oppose vaccination.
Mercola says that thimerosal, previously widely used as a vaccine preservative, is harmful. Thimerosal is no longer present in most vaccines given to young children in the USA, though it is still present in some vaccines approved for adults. Extensive evidence has accumulated since 1999 showing that this preservative is safe, with the World Health Organization stating in 2006 that "there is no evidence of toxicity in infants, children or adults exposed to thiomersal in vaccines."
In his book The Great Bird Flu Hoax, Mercola appears to take a stronger anti-pharmaceutical industry stance by accusing them of a fear-mongering marketing campaign against the public. In supporting this stance, Mercola often has wholly critical views of those working in governmental health care, as well as towards international health organizations. He argues at length that concern over swine flu and the resulting immunizations were actually false alarms put forth to terrify the public. The World Health Organization reports that by August 1, 2010, about 18,500 deaths have been caused by the H1N1 pandemic influenza.
FDA Warning Letters
Dr. Joseph Mercola has been the subject of a number of United States Food and Drug Administration Warning Letters related to his activities:
- 02/16/2005 - Living Fuel RX(TM) and Coconut Oil Products - For marketing products for a medical use which classifies those products as drugs in violation of 201(g)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
- 09/21/2006 - Optimal Wellness Center - For both labeling and marketing health supplements for purposes that would render them to be classified as regulated drugs as well as failing to provide adequate directions for use on the label in the event that they were legally sold as drugs.
- 03/11/2011 - Re: Meditherm Med2000 Infrared cameras - For marketing for medical purposes a telethermographic camera that has not been FDA approved.
- 12/16/2011 - Milk Specialties Global - Wautoma - Failure to have tested for purity, strength, identity, and composition his "Dr. Mercola Vitamin K2" and other products.
- Smith, Bryan (February 2012). "Dr. Mercola: Visionary or Quack?". Chicago Mag.
- "Dr. Mercola's Natural Health Center". www.natural-health-center.com. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
- Gumpert, David (May 23, 2006). "Old-Time Sales Tricks on the Net". BusinessWeek. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
- "Doc's got odd appetite". Chicago Tribune. May 25, 2003. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
- articles.mercola.com, 2008/01/22.
- articles.mercola.com, 2006/12/16.
- articles.mercola.com, 2008/05/29.
- articles.mercola.com, 2008/07/24.
- "Who Sits at the Clintons' Table, and Who Picks Up the Tab?". Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. 1994-04-01. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- Professional Organizations, from mercola.com
- Barrett, S (2011-05-26). "FDA Orders Dr. Joseph Mercola to Stop Illegal Claims". Quackwatch. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- My Education, from mercola.com
- "Paperback Best Sellers: May 18, 2003, How-to and Miscellaneous: Hardcover". New York Times. May 18, 2003. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
- "Paperback Best Sellers: October 22, 2006". New York Times. October 22, 2006. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
- About 'The Great Bird Flu Hoax'. Google Books.
- "The Alternative Health Controversy". The Dr. Oz show.
- "Health Investigation: Artificial Sweeteners". The Doctors.
- Entis, P (2007). Food safety: old habits, new perspectives. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 300. ISBN 1-55581-417-4.
- "FDA warning 1: Living Fuel Rx, Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil, and Chlorella" (PDF). Food and Drug Administration. 2005-02-16. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- "FDA warning 2: Warning Letter: Optimal Wellness Center CHI-7-06". Food and Drug Administration. 2006-09-21. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- Silverman, S (2011-03-22). "Warning letter from Center for Devices and Radiological Health". Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- Tsouderos, T (2011-04-26). "FDA warns doctor: Stop touting camera as disease screening tool". Chicago Tribune.
- Mercola, Joseph (2003). The No-Grain Diet. USA: Dutton. p. 292. ISBN 0-525-94733-7.
- mercola.com, 2010/10/22.
- Wayne A, Newell L.The Hidden Hazards Of Microwave Cooking, mercola.com
- The Proven Dangers of Microwaves, mercola.com
- Cross GA, Fung DY (1982). "The effect of microwaves on nutrient value of foods". Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 16 (4): 355–81. doi:10.1080/10408398209527340. PMID 7047080.
- O’Connor, Anahad (October 17, 2006). "The Claim: Microwave Ovens Kill Nutrients in Food". New York Times.
- Hoffman CJ, Zabik ME (August 1985). "Effects of microwave cooking/reheating on nutrients and food systems: a review of recent studies". J Am Diet Assoc 85 (8): 922–6. PMID 3894486.
- "Microwave cooking and nutrition". Harvard Medical School. 2008. Retrieved August 20, 2010.
- Don't Drink Your Milk!, mercola.com
- Milk May Worsen Heart Failure, mercola.com Jul 10, 2002
- Bierman EL, Shank RE (November 1975). "Editorial: Homogenized milk and coronary artery disease: theory, not fact". JAMA 234 (6): 630–1. doi:10.1001/jama.234.6.630. PMID 1242197.
- Clifford AJ, Ho CY, Swenerton H (August 1983). "Homogenized bovine milk xanthine oxidase: a critique of the hypothesis relating to plasmalogen depletion and cardiovascular disease". Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 38 (2): 327–32. PMID 6349321.
- Mercola, Joseph (January 2, 2008). "Can AZT and Other "Antiretrovirals" Cause AIDS?". Mercola.com.
- "Confronting AIDS: Update 1988". Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. 1988.
…the evidence that HIV causes AIDS is scientifically conclusive.
- "The Evidence that HIV Causes AIDS". National Institutes of Health. 2010-01-14. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- Cohen, J. (1994). "The Duesberg phenomenon" (PDF). Science 266 (5191): 1642–1644. Bibcode:1994Sci...266.1642C. doi:10.1126/science.7992043. PMID 7992043.
- "Denying science". Nat. Med. 12 (4): 369. 2006. doi:10.1038/nm0406-369. PMID 16598265.
To support their ideas, some AIDS denialists have also misappropriated a scientific review in Nature Medicine which opens with this reasonable statement: "Despite considerable advances in HIV science in the past 20 years, the reason why HIV-1 infection is pathogenic is still debated."
- Al-Bayati, Mohammed (September 5, 2001). "HIV Does Not Cause AIDS". Mercola.com.
- Al-Bayati, Mohammed (July 11, 2001). "The Real Cause of AIDS?". Mercola.com.
- Mercola, Joseph. "Death by Medicine". Retrieved 2003-11-26.
- FDA is "Virtually Incapable of Protecting You From Unsafe Drugs", mercola.com
- How Supermodel Gisele Bündchen "Infuriated Cancer Experts", mercola.com, April 22, 2011. (Scroll down to avoid registration popup.)
- Photococarcinogenesis Study of Retinoic Acid and Retinyl Palmitate, draft technical report, National Toxicology Program
- A User-Friendly Vaccination Schedule, mercola.com, December 2004
- Groopman, Jerome (March 5, 2015), There’s No Way Out of It!, The New York Review of Books, retrieved February 15, 2015
- How the Mercury in Vaccines Can Kill Your Baby, J. Mercola
- Proof That Thimerosal Induces Autism-Like Neurotoxicity , J. Mercola
- "Thimerosal in Vaccines Questions and Answers".
- Clements CJ, McIntyre PB (January 2006). "When science is not enough - a risk/benefit profile of thiomersal-containing vaccines". Expert Opin Drug Saf 5 (1): 17–29. doi:10.1517/147403126.96.36.199. PMID 16370953.
- Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (2006-07-14). "Thiomersal and vaccines". World Health Organization. Retrieved 2007-11-20.
- J. Mercola, The Great Bird Flu Hoax: The Truth They Don't Want You to Know About the "Next Big Pandemic,"Nelson Books, September 19, 2006, ISBN 0-7852-2187-5
- "Major Expose on Swine Flu by 60 Minutes".
- Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 - update 112 World health organization August 6, 2010
- WarningLetters, fda.gov, 2005.
- WarningLetters, fda.gov, 2011.
- WarningLetters, fda.gov, 2011.
- Mercola.com: Joseph Mercola's website