Quack Busting and “Junk Science”

Dr. Stephen Barrett is the top “quack buster” of the quackwatch website. Back in August, 1985, he published a “study” he did on hair analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

He did his study of “commercial” hair analysis by cutting shoulder length hair from two 17 year-old girls. Despite this shoddy methodology of using shoulder length hair instead of the first inch to inch and a half from the scalp (the proper sampling method), when I looked closely at his hair analysis results, they showed that the two girls were both copper toxic as one might expect. The two teen girls had high calcium and magnesium and high copper. If anything, his own data validated and supported hair mineral analysis. But, Barrett had no idea what his own data really revealed because he has virtually no experience with hair mineral analysis or basic understanding of what if really reveals. It should also be noted that his study was immediately accompanied by quite a slick PR and media campaign reporting his study as if it had Nobel prize-winning value. This 1985 JAMA publication made Barrett an overnight “expert” in hair analysis.

Years later, in January, 2001, another “study” of hair analysis was published in JAMA, citing Barrett’s 1985 JAMA study as a major reference. This latter JAMA study in 2001 was based on hair samples from one person! Again, the January, 2001 JAMA article was accompanied by a big PR and media campaign putting hair analysis in a very negative light. I wrote a detailed critique of this “junk science” and published it in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine in the 2nd quarter of 2001.

I note a pattern with this kind of junk science attacking hair analysis or even vitamin E. Junk science is used to give a scientific aura to a strong attack on something related to nutrition, whether it is a nutritionally oriented lab test like hair analysis or a nutritional supplement like vitamin E. These slick PR and media campaigns are well designed and well placed in order to put nutrition and alternative health approaches in a very negative light. These PR and media campaigns do great damage because they strongly influence the public and health care professionals before the published JAMA articles can be critically reviewed and rebutted. It usually doesn’t matter that these negative hair analysis and vitamin E studies can be easily criticized and rebutted. As you can tell by your mother’s skepticism, the PR and media campaigns as well as the quackbuster web site create a very skeptical and negative attitude regardless of how bad the so-called science really is. At the end of my article critically reviewing the junk science attacking hair analysis, I raise the question of how many heart attacks over the past 20 years could have been prevented with the use of hair analysis to detect a serious magnesium deficiency that is known to be related to heart attack risk? Magnesium supplementation based on the hair analysis results then could prevent the sudden fatal heart attack.

The main threat to the obscene profits of the drug companies that peddle their toxic concoctions known as “medications” is nutrition and food supplements including hair analysis. A combination of junk science, PR, and media campaigns are skillfully used to knock out the nutritional competitors to toxic drugs.

As is so often the case, I wind up having to go into a detailed explanation of the situation because just a few words are insufficient to counter these malicious attacks on nutrition that pose as “scientific” studies.

There are other books and articles besides my own that support hair analysis. I hope this is helpful to you.

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