Reprinted by permission of McGill University Office for Science and Society.
I get questions all the time. All sorts of questions. These days they often revolve around some video that claims to have the answer to health problems, no matter what these may be. People want to know, "can this be true?"
Invariably, the answer is no.
In general, there may be a few seeds of truth in the video that are washed away by a tsunami of hype. There are promises of miracles, but of course, you can’t expect miracles for free so there is always a book to buy, a newsletter to subscribe to, or some supplement or gizmo to purchase.
The latest video I was asked about is the handiwork of Dr. Vincent Pedre, a legitimate physician who graduated from the University of Miami School of Medicine. He now advertises himself as a “Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner” and founder of the “Pedre Integrative Health” service in New York City. Both “Functional Medicine” and “Integrative Health” are terms that raise concern because they commonly involve practices and views that are not supported by evidence. “Integrative” usually means integrating some sort of pseudoscience into medical practice. Unfortunately, conferring a medical degree does not necessarily confer wisdom, nor does it guarantee critical thinking ability or adherence to ethics. That is apparent in Dr. Pedre’s video which is, like so many of this type, an advertisement masquerading as evidence-based science.
Pedre introduces himself as New York’s leading physician, apparently no ego-management problem there. He then goes on to claim that he has the answer to all sorts of health issues with a simple formula. Before that is revealed we are treated to the usual demonizing of GMOs, emulsifiers and antibiotics in animal feed. Avoid these and your gut will be on its way to being healthy! Just add some chicory, B vitamins and a blend of the right bacteria and you are on your way to optimal health.
Nothing terribly outrageous so far, although it is clear that Pedre has bought into the anti-GMO dogma without demonstrating a hint of critical thinking. At this point, I was just wondering how long I would have to watch the torturous video before the sales pitch appeared. Turned out to be about forty minutes. Then it came. Heavy-handed.
Pedre’s “research” allowed him to come up with a special pill that has, guess what, chicory, B vitamins and probiotics. Never mind that the amount of chicory is inconsequential, the evidence for B vitamins in gut health weak, and that nobody really knows which bacteria may contribute to a balanced microbiome. We then learn that this wonder supplement is now available at a special price, but we had better sign up quickly because the supply is short. What there really is a shortage of, is any evidence for “Synbiotic 365” living up to the claims of benefit. Unless one considers testimonials such as this as evidence: “I love UN Synbiotic 365!! I was so surprised at my body's reaction — within an hour or so of taking the first pill, my ‘brain fog’ lifted! I never even realized that I had brain fog, but after taking the pill, I began to have more clarity in thinking. I also have more energy now. My cravings have decreased and I was able to lose 6 pounds, which has been very difficult for me to do. Please keep making this wonderful product!” (If I were cynical, I would suggest that such testimonials are actually evidence of brain fog.)
Oh yes. You can also purchase the “28 Day Happy Gut Cleanse Kit.” This goes hand in hand with Dr. Pedre’s philosophy that essentially all disease begins in the gut. While there certainly are many gut conditions, the notion that the gut has to be “cleansed” is not supported by evidence. The Kit can, however, clean out a bank account. It used to cost $499, but apparently, it is now available for the bargain price of $399.
I think viewing such videos is a waste of time and I would stay away from any physician who wants to sell something to patients, no matter what it is. It is unethical for a doctor to do that. Isn’t it strange that any study that has funding from some vested interest is judged to be invalid, yet physicians who sell products from which they profit financially seem to avoid criticism.
The original McGill University OSS post can be found here.