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A Scientific Critique of "Dead Doctors Don't Lie": A cassette tape of a talk given by Joel Wallach, DVM, ND

A Scientific Critique of "Dead Doctors Don't Lie": A cassette tape of a talk given by Joel Wallach, DVM, ND

The following article (unfortunately the author is unknown) is a transcript of information presented on the Internet sometime in February 1996. Some excellent points are made. We thought you might want to decide for yourself which information is valid and which is not. The transcript is as follows:

I have received calls from CEO's of various network marketing companies complaining that my reviews "make the industry look bad." "No," I reply, "it is the hype-ridden baloney that many network marketing companies are foisting upon the public that threatens this industry." Then they advise me to "paddle my own canoe" instead of trying to sink others, and I explain that I'm not out to sink anyone. It's just that nutrition is a science and it steams me to see the science I love perverted into a circus side-show. Someone has to blow the whistle sometime; otherwise, the industry will collapse from the weight of unfounded, insupportable gobbledygook that spews constantly from fax machines all over the world.

Sorry, I just thought it best to explain myself before giving you more evaluations. Let's look at a tape that has come across my desk (and no doubt yours) -- "Dead Doctors Don't Lie," by Joel Wallach, DVM, ND.

Background: It's becoming common for emerging network marketing companies to send out audio tapes in advance of their launch to generate excitement and visibility. The tape by Dr. Wallach is very effective because it is extremely controversial. The title, Dead Doctors Don't Lie gives you an idea and Dr. Wallach is a very compelling speaker. His Midwest accent and down-home manner comes across as believable and straightforward. He is a veterinarian (DVM) by training and also received a Naturopathic (ND) degree.

And now the news; as I listened to the tape I became more and more annoyed by the doctor-bashing. Keep in mind that I have no love affair with the AMA; but, I have worked very closely with many physicians over the years and took offense at Wallach's cynical generalizations and unfair exaggerations. This was especially bothersome because of the one-sided format. Taking pot-shots at an adversary when he (or she) has no opportunity to respond is unprofessional to say the least. So I see this review as an effort to "keep everyone honest."

Let me begin by saying that I agree with Joel Wallach's basic position, that nutritional supplements are an effective and reliable way to improve one's health. I also think that it is best to minimize one's intake of drugs and reliance upon hospitals and surgery. But, I believe that Wallach goes off the deep end in condemning the entire medical profession end I think much of his information is dead wrong.

Imagine you just purchased a brand new car and as the salesman shakes your hand he informs you that roughly 50% of the information in the owners manual is incorrect. How would you feel?

First of all, it would be impossible for you to take care of your new car because you wouldn't know what information was true and what was false. The manual, in other words, would be useless and your investment would be in jeopardy.

I think that tapes like Dead Doctors Don't Lie are like faulty owner's manuals. The vehicle in this case is your body, which is far more valuable than any car and when learning about it, you have to determine if the material is accurate. Following are my points of disagreement with Dr. Wallach. Judge for yourself.

- He is listed on the tape as a 1991 Nobel Prize nominee for medicine. While that sounds impressive, you have to understand that anyone can nominate anyone for a Nobel Prize. I would like to know what accomplishment he was nominated for and what level his nomination reached. After all, I have been nominated for President of the United States. Impressed? I hope not.

- Dr. Wallach claims to have performed over 3,000 autopsies on humans. When I called Bastyr University, the nation's foremost naturopathic school, they informed me that ND's are not licensed or trained to perform autopsies.

- Dr. Wallach states that pica is a disorder in which a person craves sweets. In fact, it is a hunger for non-food substances such as soil or metal.

- He states that the average lifespan for a doctor in America is 58 years. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, American physicians live an average of 70 years; less than the national average; but, certainly more than the 58 years Dr. Wallach would have us believe.

- Dr. Wallach states that an anti-cancer diet has been discovered. But, his data is derived from a Chinese study in which a large proportion of the participants were seriously malnourished. It is not unreasonable to conclude that anyone who takes vitamins A, E and beta carotene will have the same reduction in cancer risk.

- He states that 50% of 70 year-old Americans have Alzheimer's disease. In fact, careful research shows that the incidence of Alzheimer's disease in Americans 65 to 74 years of age is approximately 3.9%.

- He talks of preventing Alzheimer's disease in pigs with vitamin E and a low vegetable oil diet. In fact, pigs don't get Alzheimer's and there is no evidence that this approach has any benefit for humans with this disease.

- Dr. Wallach recommends the use of butter over olive oil for longevity when a virtual mountain of research does not support this view.

- He states that gray hair at any age and face wrinkles are due to a copper deficiency. This is absurd and insupportable.

- His claim that cardiomyopathy is a selenium deficiency is equally absurd and illustrates a serious error in his thinking. Cardiomyopathy is not a single disease; but, a group of disorders that involve heart muscle (cardio = heart, myo = muscle, pathy = disease). Cardiomyopathy can result from a host of causes including genetic defect, nutritional deficiency, metabolic disease, infection, trauma and alcoholism. Yet Wallach lumps all cardiomyopathy into a single disease with a single cause, selenium deficiency. Every one of his examples is dead wrong. He goes on and on about Stewart Berger, a doctor who died of cardiomyopathy, yet Wallach knows nothing about this doctor. If he had bothered to do even a little research he would have learned that Berger had a life-long weight problem (weighed over 300 lbs. when he died) and may also have abused drugs. Either of these factors can cause cardiomyopathy; but, according to Wallach, Berger was simply deficient in the mineral supplement selenium. In fact, Berger regularly took an enormous amount of nutritional supplements including selenium.

- He makes the same mistake when talking of aneurysms, the bulging of an artery. Although medical texts list some 40 different types of aneurysm, with a variety of causes including atherosclerosis, cancer, bacterial infection and hypertension, Wallach claims that all aneurysms are caused by a copper deficiency.

- He states that male pattern baldness is a tin deficiency. This is entirely incorrect.

- He states that Bell's palsy is a calcium deficiency when in fact it is a clear neurological disorder. Many individuals have suffered from Bell's palsy (interruption of a facial nerve resulting in partial paralysis of the face) after trauma or injury. Did these people all suddenly become calcium deficient? And if the disorder is a calcium deficiency, why is Bell's palsy so rare?

- He states that sugar metabolism disorders (diabetes and hypoglycemia) are a vanadium deficiency when vanadium has not even been recognized as an essential nutrient for humans.

- He states that arthritis is osteoporosis of the joint ends of the bones. This is incorrect.

- Wallach dismisses the importance of good oral hygiene in preventing periodontal disease. Instead, he claims the problem is simply a calcium deficiency. While adequate calcium intake is certainly important for maintenance of the bone that anchors the teeth (alveolar bone), the deterioration of this bone is late stage in periodontal disease.

- One of the most simplistic and nonsensical claims made on this tape is that people who live to be 100 years old drink 40 cups of tea every day and put rock salt and two pats of butter in each cup. On the other hand doctors (who Wallach claims only to live to be 58) tell you to reduce salt and butter. Wallach then asks "who are you going to believe?"

- Then there's the hysterectomy issue. Wallach states that "the medical treatment of choice for PMS is a hysterectomy." This is utter nonsense. He also claims that doctors perform about 285,000 unnecessary hysterectomies each year in order to make their Mercedes payments. This borders on hate mongering and once again is a gross exaggeration. The total number of hysterectomies performed in the US in 1993 was 560,000 and the vast majority of these were performed because of ovarian cancer or other disease. Where did Wallach get his figures? Now, there is no doubt that many hysterectomies are unnecessary; but, a careful study using second opinion data showed that only 8% of elective hysterectomies were unconfirmed. If you take the approximate number of elective hysterectomies (124,000) and multiply by 8% you get 9,920, not 285,000. Wallach further states that the AMA says these 285,000 hysterectomies are unnecessary; but, when I contacted the AMA regarding this, they had no idea wha t he was talking about. Of course, as you may have guessed, Wallach states that PMS is really just a calcium deficiency.

- Wallach states that low back pain, "whether you work on a computer, unload hay or drive big trucks" is due to osteoporosis. This is absurd, most low back pain is cased by muscle or ligament strain.

- Wallach states that he has seen diabetes cured in "hundreds and hundreds" of individuals simply by taking chromium and vanadium supplements. Again, it is well-known that these trace minerals are important to glucose metabolism. It is also true that the medical community under-utilizes trace minerals in treating diabetes. But, I know of dozens of doctors who include trace minerals in their treatment plans and not one of them would agree with Wallach. They, along with the entire health community, would love to see his patient records to verify his claims.

- Wallach's treatment of colloidal minerals is also filled with errors. While any organic chemist knows that soil-based compounds can be divided into metals and non-metals, he calls all of these "metallic minerals." He claims that these metallic minerals are only 8 to 12% absorbable and after age 35 to 40 that drops to 3 to 5%. Where does he get these numbers? What happens at age 35 that reduces mineral absorption by 60%? Whenever I hear ridiculous numbers like this thrown around I challenge the speaker to provide documentation. No one ever has.

In reality the absorption of minerals depends on an enormous number of variables, the most important of which is physiologic need. Someone who is deficient in calcium will absorb a great deal more of the mineral (in any form) than someone who is adequately nourished. Another variable is vitamin D status. Someone adequately nourished in vitamin D will absorb far more calcium (in any form) than someone who is deficient in vitamin D. Other variables include nutrient form (calcium citrate is absorbed much better than calcium phosphate) and meal composition (vitamin C helps the absorption of iron and zinc.)

- He tells the story of a man who owned a portable toilet company finding hundreds of intact vitamin tablets in his toilets. Wallach uses that story to prove that you can't absorb metallic minerals. In fact, all that proves is that some vitamins are tabulated improperly. To make the sweeping statement that all vitamin tablets are unabsorbed is like saying that because Yugos break down all the time, all automobiles are unreliable. In nutritional supplements, as in automobiles, there are Yugos and there are Rolls Royces.

- Wallach states that "if you read the labels on those multiples, they say your iron comes in the form of iron oxide. What is iron oxide? Rust! While this point is dramatic, it is also patently false. In the last ten years, I have reviewed more than a thousand different multi-mineral formulations and not one of them used iron oxide.

- Wallach's calcium lactate stow also contains multiple errors. He states that in a 1,000 mg tablet, 250 mg is calcium and the remaining 750 mg is lactose or milk sugar. In fact, calcium lactate is an organic compound of calcium and lactic acid, which is an organic acid found in apples, tomatoes and other fruit as well as beer and wine. He then states that you'll only absorb 10% of the calcium in such products; but, that claim is false and unsupported.

- His claim that colloidal minerals are 98% absorbable is probably the most important statement on the tape (since he is selling colloidal minerals); but, I could find no documents in the medical or agricultural literature to document that. As mentioned above, the absorption of minerals depends upon a host of factors, only one of which is the form in which they are delivered.

I'm not saying that colloidal minerals are not valuable. They are probably a very good mineral source; but, in order to evaluate their worth to human health, we need more than just' claims on audio tapes. Mineral absorption is verifiable through scientific experiment. I have such data on the mineral compounds that I use and would expect that Wallach or anyone making these claims should be able to do the same. As of this writing I have not seen a single study comparing the absorption of colloidal minerals vs mineral salts or chelated minerals in humans.

- Wallach states that the human body stores, uses and transports minerals in their colloidal state. This is not true. Most minerals are stored as salts. Others are found in compounds with proteins or lipids, or simply components of enzymes and hormones. In fact, minerals in the human body are often found in their free ionic state.

- More colloidal confusion. Wallach notes that all of the long-lived cultures drink glacier water which contains ground up rocks in solution. But, these are simply metallic minerals, the very compounds he previously stated were unabsorbable. I don't get it. Then he asks "Are these colloidal minerals important?" "You bet they are." My question is, what colloidal minerals is he referring to?

The above is the end of the information found on the Internet -- We would like to add a few comments of our own

If Dr. Wallach is interested in preventing Alzheimer's disease in humans, why does he suggest a colloidal mineral formula(s) that assay high in aluminum (the assay was provided by one of the companies producing a multimineral formula from colloidal mineral-plant-source geological deposits). A quick review of the peer-reviewed literature will reveal multiple studies that implicate aluminum as one of many possible causative factors with Alzheimer's disease. The analysis we reviewed (again provided by the manufacturer) revealed that the product not only contains aluminum; but, also strontium at fairly high levels. When confronted by this information, several doctors who were providing this product to their patients, either ignored this issue or advised that the aluminum was not a problem because it was "colloidal aluminum." We may have to apologize to a great many people when and if we eventually find out that aluminum and strontium are essential to human life; however, at this poi nt in time we believe they should be avoided. It makes no sense to us how a doctor can on the one hand tell his patient to avoid deodorants containing aluminum, aluminum pots and pans, aluminum containing antacids, etc., and then give them a trace mineral supplement that contains assayable levels of this metalloid. It would seem to us that if aluminum is good for you, it can be achieved from all the sources we are avoiding at significantly less cost than the colloidal mineral product(s) that Dr. Wallach is advertising.

In the previous review, the Internet author from above indicates that there is no proof that vitamin E and a low vegetable oil diet will prevent Alzheimer's disease in pigs. He indicates that pigs don't get Alzheimer's disease. Irrespective of this, with the pig still alive, how would you determine if the pig had Alzheimer's disease? Pigs are very intelligent animals but, are not very communicative.

Dr. Wallach states that male pattern baldness is a tin deficiency. The Internet-author of the above review indicates this is entirely incorrect; we tend to agree. Tin is considered by many experts to be a conditionally essential element and there is no question that genetic predisposition can be modified by certain nutrients; however, with all of the money that has been spent by both the manufacturers and consumers of the "miracle cures" for baldness, surely someone would have produced a tin-based formula by now and be the "J. Paul Getty" of the cosmetic world.

Dr. Wallach states that metallic minerals are only 8 to 12% absorbable and after 35 to 40 years of age this figure is reduced to 3 to 5%. We agree with the Internet-author that these figures are ridiculous; however, a great deal of literature does confirm that as we grow older our ability to break down and absorb minerals is reduced by the normal reduction in our ability to produce hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes.

The Internet-author's assessment of calcium absorption is correct as far as it goes. We would add that it is also dependent upon digestive function, unsaturated fatty acids, iodine and most certainly the utilization of calcium is endocrine dependent (parathyroid gland).

Wallach states that low back pain "whether you work on a computer, unload hay or drive big trucks" is due to osteoporosis. The Internet-author of the review feels this is absurd, that most low back pain is caused by muscle or ligament strain. We concur with the author; however, we also believe a myriad of other factors can be involved in low back pain.

The Internet-author indicates that vanadium has not been recognized as an essential nutrient for humans and this is a true statement. Wallach indicates that all sugar metabolism problems are due to vanadium deficiency. Obviously this is incorrect; however, the developing clinical evidence and peer reviewed literature does indicate that vanadium deficiency (irrespective of its status as an essential element), can be locus to some sugar metabolism problems.

Wallach indicates that PMS is just a calcium deficiency. If this statement was only true and it was that simple, then every doctor we know who includes calcium in a supplemental program for their patient with PMS would have new patients lined up down the block waiting to get into their office. Perhaps they have not been successful because the calcium was not colloidal calcium (i.e. absurd).

We would tend to take a view somewhere between the Internet-author's numbers on unnecessary hysterectomies and Dr. Wallach's. Certainly less than Wallach's number; but, we believe higher than the author's numbers.

Lastly, we feel there is no question that plant-based minerals are extremely well-absorbed; however, to indicate that other forms of minerals are not absorbed because they are not plant based is entirely incorrect. In conclusion we feel that all things considered, the author did a wonderful job of, as Paul Harvey would say, "giving you the rest of the story."

Article copyright Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients.

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There are some clips available on the Net. I'll try to clobber something together when I get a chance. The clips deal with nutrition and a prevention, treatment and many cases, cure, for chronic diseases.

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