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Joseph Mercola

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Joseph Mercola
Dr. Mercola - International Vaccine Conference 2009 Speech.jpg
Born (1954-07-08) July 8, 1954 (age 66)
EducationUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (BS)
Midwestern University (DO)
Medical career

Joseph Michael Mercola (/mərˈklə/;[1] born July 8, 1954) is an American alternative medicine proponent, osteopathic physician, and Internet businessman, who markets dietary supplements and medical devices,[2] some of which are controversial. Until 2013,[3] Mercola operated the "Dr. Mercola Natural Health Center" (formerly the "Optimal Wellness Center") in Schaumburg, Illinois.[4] He wrote the books The No-Grain Diet[5] (with Alison Rose Levy) and The Great Bird Flu Hoax. On his website, Mercola and colleagues advocate a number of unproven alternative health notions including homeopathy and anti-vaccine positions which have faced persistent criticism.[6] Mercola is a member of the political advocacy group Association of American Physicians and Surgeons as well as several alternative medicine organizations.[7]

Mercola's medical claims have been criticized by the medical, scientific, regulatory and business communities. A 2006 BusinessWeek editorial stated his marketing practices relied on "slick promotion, clever use of information, and scare tactics."[4] In 2005, 2006, and 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Mercola and his company that they were making illegal claims of their products' ability to detect, prevent, and treat disease.[8] 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."[9] Of Mercola's marketing techniques, oncology surgeon David Gorski says it "mixes the boring, sensible health advice with pseudoscientific advice in such a way that it’s hard for someone without a medical background to figure out which is which."[10]

Life and career

Joseph Mercola was born July 8, 1954 in Chicago Illinois.[2] His mother, Jeanette Aldridge (née Freeman)[11] was a waitress and his father, Thomas Nicholas Mercola, was an Air Force veteran who worked for Marshall Fields.[12][2] Mercola attended Lane Tech College Prep High School and went on to study biology and chemistry at the University of Illinois, graduating in 1976.[2][13] In 1982, he graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (now Midwestern University).[13] According to Mercola's website, he is a former Chairman of Family Medicine at St. Alexius Medical Center. He stopped seeing patients in 2009 to work full-time on his health products and vitamin supplements business.[10]

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).[14][15] In the bird flu 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.[16] Mercola has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show[17] and The Doctors.[18]

Views and controversy

Mercola operates, which he has described as the most popular alternative-health website on the internet.[4] Aside from the main site, it also hosts various blog subsites, like Healthy Pets and Peak Fitness. 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.[2] 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.[2] The site promotes a number of alternative health ideas, including the notion that homeopathy can treat autism, and that vaccinations have hidden detriments to human health.[2] An article in BusinessWeek criticized his website as using aggressive direct-marketing tactics, writing:[4]

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 as an example of websites "likely to mislead consumers by offering one-sided, incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading information."[19]

In 2016, Mercola agreed to pay up to $5.3 million restitution after federal regulators complained that he made false claims about tanning beds that he sold.[20]


Mercola has been highly critical of vaccines and vaccination policy, claiming that too many vaccines are given too soon during infancy. He hosts anti-vaccination activists on his website, advocates other measures rather than vaccination in many cases such as using vitamin D rather than a flu shot despite the data not being conclusive[10][21] and strongly criticizes influenza vaccines. Mercola is viewed by many as an anti-vaccine propagandist.[22] As of 2019, he has donated at least $4 million to anti-vaccine groups though his Natural Health Research Foundation, including more than $2.9 million to the National Vaccine Information Center, amounting to about 40 percent of that organization's funding.[10] He co-funded an anti-vaccination ad in Times Square in 2011.[22]

Mercola has asserted that thimerosal, a vaccine preservative, is harmful due to its mercury content.[23] Thimerosal has been removed from most vaccines given to young children in the U.S., with no effect on rates of autism diagnosis.[24][25] Extensive evidence has accumulated since 1999 showing that this preservative is safe,[26] with the World Health Organization stating in 2006 that "there is no evidence of toxicity in infants, children or adults exposed to thimerosal in vaccines."[26][27]

Other views

Other controversial views Mercola supports include:

  • Dietary recommendations on food consumption that often put him at odds with mainstream dietary advice.[19]
  • Advocacy on the labeling and health of genetically modified food,[28] as well as for their elimination entirely from the market.[citation needed]
  • Claims that microwaving food alters its chemistry,[2] despite consensus that microwaving food does not adversely affect nutrient content compared to conventionally prepared food.[29][30][31][32]
  • Opposition to homogenization, claiming that homogenized milk has little nutritional value and contributes to a variety of negative health effects,[33] despite scientists considering that belief "tenuous and implausible",[34] stating "Experimental evidence has failed to substantiate, and in many cases has refuted, the xanthine oxidase/plasmalogen depletion hypothesis."[35]
  • 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.[citation needed] The scientific community considers the evidence that HIV causes AIDS conclusive.[36][37][38][39] has also featured positive presentations of the claims of AIDS denialists, a fringe group which denies the role of HIV in causing AIDS.[2]
  • Claiming cancer risks arise from mobile phone radiation,[40] which is pseudoscientific.[41]
  • 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.[2] 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."[42]
  • In 2020, Mercola claimed that inhaling 0.5-3% hydrogen peroxide solution using a nebulizer could prevent or cure COVID-19.[43][44] A tweet from Mercola advertising this method was removed from Twitter on April 15, 2020, for violating the platform rules.[44]

FDA warning letters

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.[45]
  • 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.[46]
  • 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).[47]
  • 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.[48]


  1. ^ As he pronounces his name on his own videos, e.g. [1].
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Smith, Bryan (January 31, 2012). "Dr. Mercola: Visionary or Quack?". Chicago magazine. Retrieved 2020-03-08.
  3. ^ "Dr. Mercola's Natural Health Center". Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Gumpert, David (May 23, 2006). "Old-Time Sales Tricks on the Net". BusinessWeek. Archived from the original on July 6, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  5. ^ "Doc's got odd appetite". Chicago Tribune. May 25, 2003. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  6. ^ Satija, Neena; Sun, Lena H. (December 20, 2019). "A major funder of the anti-vaccine movement has made millions selling natural health products". Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-03-08.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ Tsouderos, Trine; Tribune reporter. (April 26, 2011). "FDA warns doctor: Stop touting camera as disease screening tool", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  9. ^ Barrett, S (2011-05-26). "FDA Orders Dr. Joseph Mercola to Stop Illegal Claims". Quackwatch. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  10. ^ a b c d Satija, Neena and Lena H. Sun (2019-12-20). "A major funder of the anti-vaccine movement has made millions selling natural health products". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  11. ^ "Jeanette Aldridge Obituary". Chicago Suburban Daily Herald. July 10, 2017. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  12. ^ "Thomas Nicholas Mercola Obituary". United States Obituary Notices. 2018-04-05. Retrieved 2020-03-08.
  13. ^ a b Mercola, Joseph (2007). Take Control of Your Health. ISBN 9780970557414. Retrieved 16 October 2018. Joseph Mercola was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 8, 1954. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine - Midwestern University.
  14. ^ "Paperback Best Sellers: May 18, 2003, How-to and Miscellaneous: Hardcover". The New York Times. May 18, 2003. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  15. ^ "Paperback Best Sellers: October 22, 2006". The New York Times. October 22, 2006. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  16. ^ Mercola, Joseph (2009-03-15). About 'The Great Bird Flu Hoax'. ISBN 9781418534905.
  17. ^ "The Alternative Health Controversy". The Dr. Oz show.
  18. ^ "Health Investigation: Artificial Sweeteners". The Doctors. 2010-09-24.
  19. ^ a b Entis, P (2007). Food safety: old habits, new perspectives. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 300. ISBN 978-1-55581-417-5.
  20. ^ "An Anti-Vaxxer's New Crusade". The New Yorker. 2018-11-27. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  21. ^ Gallgher, James (16 February 2017). "Vitamin D pills 'could stop colds or flu". BBC. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  22. ^ a b Platts, Mary (2011-04-18). "Doctors demand the removal of anti-vaccine ad from Times Square". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  23. ^ Arthur, Donald (2016-11-16). "Negative Portrayal of Vaccines by Commercial Websites: Tortious Misrepresentation". University of Massachusetts Law Review. 11 (2).
  24. ^ "Autism: Removing Thimerosal From Vaccines Did Not Reduce Autism Cases In California, Report Finds". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  25. ^ "Thimerosal in Vaccines Questions and Answers".
  26. ^ a b 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:10.1517/14740338.5.1.17. PMID 16370953. S2CID 25916348.
  27. ^ Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (2006-07-14). "Thiomersal and vaccines". World Health Organization. Retrieved 2007-11-20.
  28. ^ The Atlantic Want to Know If Your Food Is Genetically Modified? By Molly Ball MAY 14, 2014
  29. ^ 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. hdl:2097/9372. PMID 7047080.
  30. ^ O'Connor, Anahad (October 17, 2006). "The Claim: Microwave Ovens Kill Nutrients in Food". New York Times.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ "Microwave cooking and nutrition". Harvard Medical School. 2008. Retrieved August 20, 2010.
  33. ^ Mercola, Joseph (June 3, 2010). "Why You Shouldn't Drink Pasteurized Milk". Huffington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ 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. doi:10.1093/ajcn/38.2.327. PMID 6349321.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ "The Evidence that HIV Causes AIDS". National Institutes of Health. 2010-01-14. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
  38. ^ Cohen, J. (1994). "The Duesberg phenomenon" (PDF). Science. 266 (5191): 1642–1644. Bibcode:1994Sci...266.1642C. doi:10.1126/science.7992043. PMID 7992043.
  39. ^ "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."
  40. ^ New York Times The Health Concerns in Wearable Tech
  41. ^ Margaret Sullivan on the New York Times' Public Editor's Journal Opinion Pages Blog . March 19, 2015 A Tech Column on Wearable Gadgets Draws Fire as ‘Pseudoscience’
  42. ^ Photococarcinogenesis Study of Retinoic Acid and Retinyl Palmitate Archived 2011-10-23 at the Wayback Machine, draft technical report, National Toxicology Program
  43. ^ Merlan, Anna (2020-04-22). "The Coronavirus Truthers Don't Believe in Public Health". Vice. Retrieved 2020-04-28.
  44. ^ a b Garcia, Arturo (2020-04-15). "Will 'Nebulized Hydrogen Peroxide' Help You Avoid Contracting..." Truth or Fiction?. Retrieved 2020-04-28.
  45. ^ "Ref. No. CL-04-HFS-810-134" ("archived; not necessarily up to date"),, February 16, 2005.
  46. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-29. Retrieved 2013-10-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)WarningLetters
  47. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-22. Retrieved 2013-10-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)WarningLetters
  48. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-06. Retrieved 2013-10-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)WarningLetters

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