Please visit the new home of Majikthise at

« Tea Party protesters demand Rep. Perriello move his office for their picketing convenience | Main | Copenhagen: A death panel for countries like Tuvalu »

December 12, 2009

Naturopath tells Fox viewers that coffee will make them fat

In other woo news: Fox News invited Ann de Wees Allen to tell its viewers that black coffee will make you "fatter than a pig." This segment is a textbook example of how not to do science journalism. The voice over identifies de Wees Allen as "Doctor"--without mentioning that she claims neither a medical degree, nor a doctorate. Her website says she's a doctor of naturopathy. Fox also neglects to mention that Allen appears to have a sideline selling something called "Skinny Coffee"--an alternative to that fattening old joe.

The segment gives roughly equal time to a real dietitian who explains that coffee can't cause weight gain on its own, on account of it having no calories. Besides, she says, if plain coffee were causing massive weight gain, dietitians would have noticed by now.

Obviously, if you drink cream and sugar with your coffee, or use it to wash down cookies, those calories add up the same as any others. And there's evidence that even non-caloric sweeteners can stimulate the release of insulin, which in theory could make some people hungrier and/or more likely to store extra calories as fat--but that hypothesis hasn't been proven. But if coffee is "worse than five hot fudge sundaes" as "Doctor" Allen claims, there are a suspiciously large number of skinny coffee drinkers out there.

There are equally plausible mechanisms by which coffee might contribute to weight loss. Caffeine is, after all, a stimulant. As such, it tends to increase activity and boost metabolism.

I couldn't find much evidence that coffee consumption affects body weight either way.

By putting Allen up against a real dietitian, Fox News is inviting the inference that her views should be considered on par with those of a licensed health care professional. Like quacks throughout history, naturopaths have schools that hand out credentials, but naturopathy is pseudoscience. It is irresponsible of Fox News to give this quack a platform.


I watched the video without sound, and I swear I thought I was looking at an Onion parody. They only way this isn't horribel journalism is if "Doctor" de Wees Allen paid Fox to run this, and they ran the paid advertisement disclaimer at the beginning of the segment.

While I'm waiting for professionalism on the part of FOX news I think I'll go outside and shoot a flying pig.

It's not that we expect responsibility from Faux News but I'm a bit surprised by this.

My experience has always been that alt-med is the domain of new age hippie types, who tend to be left leaning. Wingnuts tend to have their own brand of medical BS in the form of faith healing. It's strange to me that Rupert's cronies are pushing something that so reeks of granola.

On the other hand, it is making money by selling people absolutely fucking nothing so I guess that they'd be in favor of it for that reason.

Actually, with any type of doctor type (allopathic, homeopathic, naturalpath, acupuncture, etc.) there are quacks. Generalizing in your article that all naturalpathic (or naturopathic) doctors are quacks is as bad journalism and fact checking as the interview with Fox. Do your homework. Please don't join Fox in ineptitude.

Why, is there any homeopath who isn't a quack?

Per: "naturopathy is pseudoscience". Hugely.

Great post.


Thomas: "My experience has always been that alt-med is the domain of new age hippie types, who tend to be left leaning..."

But alt-med crosses paths with multi-level marketing, and I think that connects it with evangelical christians. I've met conservative supplement promoters and chiro's. Libertarians are also often into alt-med. Whether it seems left wing depends in part on the community you're in.

The evangelicals, alt-med types, and post-modernists have in common an antipathy towards the scientific community, which they resent for putting constraints on what they can defensibly believe.

Actually, the pomo people I know don't have any antipathy toward science. They hate economists with passion, and some also hate analytic philosophers, but they actually like math and science. They find the Social Text people an embarrassment to the profession.

Susie, you give the game away by describing medical doctors as "allopathic," a term invented by Samuel Hahnemann, the great lord of modern quackery. But I'm curious to know how you'd argue that naturopaths *aren't* quacks. They rely on a vitalist theory of health and disease that's refuted by organic chemistry; they push contradictory "therapies" that lack any scientific basis; and they urge patients to avoid medical practices (like vaccination) that prevent actual diseases and save lives. "Quack" isn't a synonym for "inept"; there are indeed inept doctors, but medicine itself -- unlike naturopathy -- is not a form of quackery.

>Alon Levy said...Actually, the pomo people I know don't have any antipathy toward science...

Well, that hasn't been my experience. I've met many grad students and those with undergrad humanities degrees, who have great hostility towards the elightenment and the scientific method, citing po-mo philosophy and using the methods of deconcostruction when debating. The debating points also come up consistently while debating alt-med etc people. It's possible that the academic core of the po-mo movement has matured though.

I listen to right wing hate radio and hallelujah Jesus stations fairly regularly. (For the same reason anyone one should have listened to radio in Rwanda in the early 90's, Yugoslavia post Tito, or read the Voelkisher Beobachter in Germany in the 20's -30's. Also because on long drives it keeps me awake better than the dreary crap that constitutes most American radio.) The advertisements for quack medicine and snake oil remedies have been going on there starting about ten years ago.

I think it's part of the mindset that doesn't trust establishment eggheads like the scientists who the wing nuts believe are scamming them with global warming. Regular medicine is incomprehensible to the intended audience (and probably also to the owners of the stations), so why not turn to warm and fuzzy woo which sounds just as logical and is sold with a faux but seemingly plausible sincerity. Plus, as Thomas says above, quackery generates easy cash.

Gotta go. I have to take my royal jelly capsules that I bought for $49.99 after hearing about them plugged during the Glenn Beck show. It's cured my acne, impotence, hair loss, and halitosis, given me huge amounts of energy, and it also seems to be preventing the leprosy and malaria that's been going around.

The one time I listened to Rush in a taxi, a couple of weeks ago, the commercials were full of advertisements for buying things that were stimulus-subsidized, with the reminder, "Obama's stimulus is making it easier for you to buy this." So it's not clear that the dittoheads control the commercial content.

Naturopathic Medicine taught in accredited, 4 year medical schools is an evidence based science. In some cases the 4 year accredited colleges actually teach more core science hours than mainstream allopathic medical schools ( Check out National College of Naturopathic Medicine's curriculum for the ND degree and tell me this field is "woo" ( Naturopathic medicine is rapidly becoming a viable alternative for many in our broken "sickness" care system.

Quackery is a cancer in many professions. Let's not indict the entire field of Naturopathy by one inept quack.

Naturopathy is not based on a coherent underlying theory like modern medicine. "Natural" isn't a useful scientific construct. The field is basically a grab bag of remedies borrowed from modern medicine, folklore, and pseudoscience.

So what is the underlying philosophical and scientific basis of naturopathy? What is the evidence base? I'm involved in several medical studies, looking at the effectiveness of various interventions, one of which was shown ineffective, as well as some basic studies (as in: what the hell is going on here?).

What has naturopathy contributed that has made its way into mainstream medicine? What have naturopaths stopped doing, because it doesn't work? If they haven't demonstrated something doesn't work, it's quackery, because it means they accumulate stories, they don't test them. You can accumulate a lot of stories, and spend a lot of time teaching them, but when they're crap, so what?

@ Susie & Clark

In parallel to what steward said above, simply because a large or devoted number of people believe it, doesn't make it so. Evidence makes it so. Moreover, one can found a school that teaches something untrue, that doesn't cause that false thing to become true. There are many such places and they're not all seminaries. Look up Life University if it suits you.

Millions of words were written on geocentric theory and serious, articulate people with the best educations of their time pushed it with great vigor. The problem was, it wasn't true. Evidence, rigorous, reproducible evidence proved it not to be true.

The vast bulk of the rigorous evidence surrounding virtually all alt-med shows that it offers little or no benefit beyond the placebo effect. Whereas scientific medicine must be backed up by a preponderance of evidence before it can be implemented.

Show me a preponderance of disciplined, falsifiable, double-blind, peer-reviewed papers that indicate that homeopathics, colonics, probiotics or color therapy consistently produce measurable results, that vaccinations actually harm children or that putting quartz crystals under one's pillow cures nightmares and I'll happily believe it.

Until then it's bullshit and anyone pushing it as an actual cure, rather than the voodoo that the evidence suggests that it is, is a sham artist.

Must be comforting to hear it's the coffee and not the Jimmy Dean pancake-wrapped sausages dipped in baconnaise making the retard viewers obese.

Jimmy Dean pancake-wrapped sausages dipped in baconnaise

I'll eat that in a cholesterol-soaked heartbeat. And I'll take the coffee with sugar and half and half please.

Although I highly doubt caffeine alone will make you fat, in combination with foods that do make you fat, caffeine may decrease insulin sensitivity and thus is likely to increase weight gain over eating the same foods without caffeine:

"Conclusion: The ingestion of CC with either a high or low GI meal significantly impairs acute blood glucose management and insulin sensitivity compared with ingestion of DC. Future investigations are warranted to determine whether CC is a risk factor for insulin resistance."

Hysteria aside, this study suggests caffeine should definitely be avoided by diabetics and probably by dieters as well.

Actually, I think it's a good thing that Fox presents this kind of stuff. It matches the "science" presented by their tobacco-funded expert Steve Milloy. At least if they present pseudoscience across the board, it's clearer what they are up to.

So, the medical "science" that produces thalidomide babies, that produces heart attacks from cholesterol medicine, and death from chemotherapy is preferable to what we evolved with over millions of years? Our chemical medicine is killing us and we follow the hype like buffalo over a cliff. Start thinking about what realities are and how we find them. An ND is an MD plus nature. Calling it pseudo-science is ridiculous. AMA using FUD is what you are repeating.

FUD stands for Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. No one is afraid of naturopathy and there is zero uncertainty or doubt that it is bogus.

Naturopaths are not MDs who use herbs--those are called "MDs who use herbs." MDs go through accredited medical schools and internship/residency programs. They must take rigorous national exams on their path to becoming licensed doctors. Some MDs also have naturopathic training, but most naturopaths are not medical doctors. Depending on the state, they may have licenses and even very limited prescribing rights. But at best, they are like physicians' assistants "plus nature."

Before Bush left office, I never watched Fox News. Now I watch nothing but, for the obvious reason: only contrarians are interesting.

A coherent underlying theory: like, blow a big bowl of MD prescribed "Blue Dream" & turn on Dr. Phil for a dose of intellectual scientific rigor. Your distinctions between health care businesses is arbitrary & your analysis flawed; if not downright hypocritical & mean. Your critique of terms is fairly valid but that you would even bother to call Fox irresponsible is lamer than calling chimps ugly. Jazz is not music; photography is not art; web footed sceptics quack pseudoscience loudest.

M.O. - eloquently said. Incoherent, but eloquent s a kind of free form poetry. I'll experiment with the line breaks to see if I can extract the rhymes.

The comments to this entry are closed.