|Joseph M. Mercola|
Joseph Mercola, 2009
|Born||Joseph Michael Mercola
July 8, 1954
|Known for||Mercola.com, an alternative medicine website|
|Institutions||Natural Health Center|
Joseph Michael 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 a number of unproven alternative health notions including homeopathy, while promoting anti-vaccine positions. Mercola is a member of the political advocacy group 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 stated his marketing practices relied 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."
Life and career
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. Traffic counting from Quantcast shows the site receives about 1.9 million novel visitors per month, each returning almost ten times each month; the number of views are roughly equal to those received by the National Institutes of Health. The site and his company, Mercola LLC, brought in roughly $7 million in 2010 through the sale of a variety of alternative medicine treatments and dietary supplements. The site promotes a number of alternative health ideas, including the notion that homeopathy works, that Vitamin D is a "silver bullet" cancer treatment, and that vaccinations have hidden detriments to human health. 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 been highly critical of vaccines and vaccination policy, claiming that too many vaccines are used too soon during infancy. He hosts anti-vaccination activists 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.
Other controversial views Mercola supports include:
- Dietary recommendations on food consumption that often put him at odds with mainstream dietary advice such as encouraging the ingestion of unprocessed food, including unrefined coconut oil containing saturated fat in place of polyunsaturated fats.
- Advocacy on the labeling and health of genetically modified food.
- Food preparation claims that microwaves emit dangerous radiation and that microwaving food alters its chemistry, despite consensus that microwaving food does not adversely affect nutrient content compared to conventionally prepared food.
- Opposition of homogenization, claiming it leads to xanthine oxidase absorption and oxidative stress, despite scientists considering the belief "tenuous and implausible", stating "Experimental evidence has failed to substantiate, and in many cases has refuted, the xanthine oxidase/plasmalogen depletion hypothesis."
- Questioning whether HIV is the cause of AIDS, claiming 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.
- Opposition to U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommendations, such as the use of most prescription drugs and immunizations for managing illness, and instead recommending consumption of unprocessed organic produce, elimination of most sugar and grains from the diet, removing household toxins from cleaning supplies and cosmetics, and energy psychology tools to address emotional challenges while also selling and promoting numerous dietary supplements.
- Claiming cancer risks from radiation from mobile phones, which is widely considered to be a pseudoscientific view.
- Claims that many commercial brands of sunscreen increase, rather than decrease, the likelihood of contracting skin cancer with high UV exposure, and instead advocating 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."
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 - 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).
- 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.
- "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.
- Barrett, S (2011-05-26). "FDA Orders Dr. Joseph Mercola to Stop Illegal Claims". Quackwatch. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
- "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.
- Groopman, Jerome (March 5, 2015), There’s No Way Out of It!, The New York Review of Books, retrieved February 15, 2015
- "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:10.1517/14740322.214.171.124. 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
- Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 - update 112 World health organization August 6, 2010
- The Daily Caller Politcs, Anti-Science? Democrats Push Food Labeling Campaign Backed By Vaccine Skeptic Anti-Science? Patrick Howley 10:14 PM 02/17/2015
- The Atlantic Want to Know If Your Food Is Genetically Modified? By Molly Ball MAY 14, 2014
- The Huffington Post Eating This Could Turn Your Gut Into a Living Pesticide Factory Dr. Joseph Mercola Physician and author 01/29/2013
- Organic Consumers Association eeds of Evil: Monsanto and Genetic Engineering February 10, 2014 by Dr. Mercola
- Epoch Times The Best Fish for Your Health and the Earth By Joseph Mercola, www.mercola.com | June 8, 2015
- 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.
- 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.
- "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."
- New York Times The Health Concerns in Wearable Tech
- Margaret Sullivan for the New York Times' Public Editor's Journal. March 19, 2015 A Tech Column on Wearable Gadgets Draws Fire as ‘Pseudoscience’
- Photococarcinogenesis Study of Retinoic Acid and Retinyl Palmitate, draft technical report, National Toxicology Program
- "Ref. No. CL-04-HFS-810-134" ("archived; not necessarily up to date"),fda.gov, February 16, 2005.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-29. Retrieved 2013-10-09.WarningLetters
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-22. Retrieved 2013-10-09.WarningLetters
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-06. Retrieved 2013-10-09.WarningLetters
- Mercola.com: Joseph Mercola's website