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Exposť on Joel Wallach's controversial new tape, "Dead Doctors Don't Lie"

See also:
Colloidal Mineral Supplements: Unnecessary and Potentially Hazardous, James Pontolillo, Quackwatch
Joel D. Wallach, "The Mineral Doctor" Robert Todd Carroll, The Skeptic's Dictionary
Dr Wallach EXPOSED, By Stuart Adams

Downloaded 7/30/96 from the Internet, chiropractic list :
From: Steve Cherniske, M.S.
RE: Pre-Launch audio tape by Joel Wallach for New Visions.

I've 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 few tapes that have come across my desk (and no doubt yours) this week: "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 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 a Naturopath (ND.)

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 ones 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, and I think that 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 tapes like "Dead Doctors Don't Lie" are like faulty owners 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.

1. 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. [Wallach claims he was nominated for "his stunning discoveries in the prevention of cystic fibrosis." However, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is oddly unaware of his contribution. (the ed.)]

Impressed? I hope not.

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

3. 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.

4. He states that the average lifespan of a doctor in America is 58 years. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, American physicians live an average of 69.7 years, less than the national average, but certainly more than Dr. Wallach would have us believe. [According to Goodman (1975) and the American Medical Association Center for Health Care Policy (1988), Over the last seventy years, M.D.s of both sexes have consistently enjoyed greater lifespans than the general public. The life expectancy of physicians is somewhere between 75 and 88 years, depending on the age and gender one chooses. See attached literature from the NCAHF. (the ed.)]

5. 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 reasonable to conclude that anyone who takes vitamins A, E and beta carotene will have the same reduction in cancer risk.

6. 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%. Reference: Evans D. et al. Estimated Prevalence of Alzheimers Disease in the United States. The Milbank Quarterly 1990; 68(2): 267-287.

7. 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.

8. Dr. Wallach recommends the use of butter over olive oil for longevity when a virtual mountain of research supports the opposite view.

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

10. His claim that cardiomyopathy is a selenium deficiency is equally absurd, and illustrates a serious error in thinking. Cardiomyopathy is not a single disease, but a group of disorders that involve the heart muscle. (cardio = heart, myo = muscle, pathy = disease). Cardiomyopathy can result from a host of causes including genetic defects, nutritional deficiency, metabolic disease, infection, trauma and alcoholism. Yet Wallach lumps all cardiomyopathy into a single disease with a single cause, selenium deficiency. Even his examples are 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 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 selenium. In fact, Berger regularly took an enormous amount of nutritional supplements, including selenium.

11. 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 all aneurysms are caused by a copper deficiency.

12. He states that male pattern baldness is a tin deficiency. This is entirely incorrect. [Male pattern baldness is, in fact, a familial (inherited) condition influenced by androgen (testosterone) levels. (Merck 1987) (the ed.)]

13. He states that Bell's palsy is a calcium deficiency when in fact it is clearly a 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?

14. 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.

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

16. He claims that sodium intake has nothing to do with high blood pressure, citing the fact that he used to put salt licks out for his cows and they never got high blood pressure. What incredible reasoning! Could it be that cows use the salt lick as needed, while humans routinely consume massive amounts of sodium for taste and as food additives?

In fact, the human body was designed for a high potassium, low sodium diet through 1.6 million years of hunting & gathering. Today's highly processed and refined diet supplies minimal potassium and enormous amounts of sodium, and we suffer as a result.

This is probably my major objection to this tape; the fact that important points like this are over-simplified and exaggerated. If Wallach actually did his homework, he would find that fully one-third of the studies evaluating calcium intake and hypertension actually show no consistent benefit. (REFERENCE: McCarron DA; Hatton D; Roullet JB; Roullet C. Dietary calcium, defective cellular Ca2+ handling, and arterial pressure control, Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 1994 Aug, 72(8):937-44.) This may be due to the fact that calcium supplementation appears to work best for people whose previous intake of calcium was very low.

17. Wallach dismisses the importance of good oral hygiene in preventing periodontal disease (receding gums). Instead, he claims the problem is simply a calcium deficiency. While adequate calcium intake is certainly important for the maintenance of the bone that anchors the teeth (alveolar bone), the deterioration of this bone is a late stage in periodontal disease. The progression of periodontal disease is actually well understood. First there is the accumulation of bacterial plaque, masses of bacteria that are actually visible to your dentist. The infection then spreads to the periodontal ligament which attaches the tooth to the bone, and finally, the bone begins to deteriorate.

18. One of the most simplistic and nonsensical claims made on this tape is that people who live to be a hundred 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 live to be 58) tell you to reduce salt and butter. Wallach then asks "Who are you going to believe?"

First of all, I would like to know where these tea, rock salt and butter consuming people are. I have traveled throughout Asia and have studied longevity at great length, and have never encountered such behavior. And even if there are people with such habits, certainly the vast majority of centenarians do not drink 40 cups of tea each day loaded with butter and rock salt. So I will ask you the same question..."Who are you going to believe?"

19. 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 does Wallach get his figures? Now there is no doubt that many hysterectomies are unnecessary, but a careful study utilizing second opinion data showed that only 8% of elective hysterectomies (eg. those performed because of ovarian cysts) were unconfirmed. REFERENCE: Finkel ML; Finkel DJ. The effect of a second opinion program on hysterectomy performance. Medical Care, 1990 Sep, 28(9):776-83.

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 that these (285,000) hysterectomies are unnecessary, but when I contacted the AMA regarding this, they had no idea what he was talking about. Of course, as you might have guessed, Wallach states that PMS is really just a calcium deficiency.

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

21. 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 in glucose metabolism. It's also true that the medical community in general underutilizes trace minerals in treating diabetes. But I know 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 care community, would love to see his patient records to verify his claims.

22. 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 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).

23. He tells a 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 tableted 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 nutrition as in automobiles, there are the Yugos and there are Rolls Royces.

24. Wallach states: "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.

25. Wallach's calcium lactate story 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 a 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 unsupported.

26. 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 documentation in the medical or agricultural literature to document that. As mentioned in # 22 above, the absorption of minerals depends upon a host of factors, only one of which is the form in which they are delivered.

I am 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 and audio tapes. Mineral absorption is verifiable through scientific experiment. I have such data on the mineral compounds that I use, and I 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. Hmmmm.

27. 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 of calcium or phosphorus. Others are found in compounds with proteins or lipids, or simply components of enzymes and hormones. In found in their free ionic state. Magnesium, for example, is found in numerous body tissues, with only about 30% bound to any type of carrier molecule. REFERENCE: Shils ME. Physiological Chemistry of Magnesium. In: Present Knowledge in Nutrition. The Nutrition Foundation. Washington D.C. 1984. pp 422-438.

28. 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 says, "Are these colloidal minerals important? You bet your life they are." My question is, what colloidal minerals is he referring to?

END OF DOCUMENT by Stephen Cherniske, M.S.

Stephen Cherniske is a nutritional biochemist with 20 years experience in nutritional biochemistry including seven years as a clinical nutritionist, nine years as a university instructor, and ten years of research. Mr. Cherniske has his Masters of Science from Columbia Pacific University. He has served as an advisor to the U.S. Olympic track & field team and has served on the faculty of the IronMan Training Camp and Endurance Sports Center. He is a faculty member of the American College of Sports Medicine, and has periodically provided nutritional consulting for Olympic medal winners, world-class athletes and numerous Hollywood clients. Mr. Cherniske is a frequent guest on radio and television, and has contributed hundreds of pages to a wide variety of print media. He has taught nutrition at UCLA and Chapman College.


National Council Against Health Fraud position paper on Joel Wallach:


Maverick veterinarian Joel Wallach is selling video and audio tapes titled Dead Doctors Don't Lie! proclaiming that physicians have a life expectancy of only 58 years. This sends the message that doctors are so wrongheaded that they themselves live significantly shorter lives than the general population. It is not clear where Wallach gets his data, but it is a lie. Physicians have long had life expectancies that are longer than the general population. Goodman1 reviewed reports on physician life expectancies in 1925, 1938-42, 1949-51, and 1971. His study covered the 1971 population of 344,823 physicians, and the deaths of 19,086 from 1969 through 1973. He found that both male and female physicians had greater life expectancy than the general population. The American Medical Association's Center For Health Care Policy published data on the life expectancies of U.S. medical graduate physicians by specialty in 1988.2 It showed that the life expectancies of physicians is somewhere between 75 and 88, depending upon the age and gender that one chooses.

Wallach also claims to have been nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1991. According to the Nobel Committee, this would be impossible for him to know because the names of nominees areconfidential. Wallach could have been "nominated" by himself or one of his admirers, but that would not make him a serious candidate. The Nobel Committee denies that Wallach has ever been a legitimate Nobel Prize nominee.

NCAHF has been aware of Wallach's activities for many years. In the early 1980s Wallach worked out of the Northcoast Naturopathic Clinic at Cannon Beach, Oregon, where he practiced as a "Manner Metabolic Physician." This designation meant that he dispensed a the unapproved cancer therapy centered around laetrile (cyanide derived from apricot pits). In 1990, Wallach appeared as a naturopathic doctor in an advertisement for Hospital Santa Monica, a clinic inTijuana operated by the notorious Kurt Donsbach. In 1993, NCAHF received a call from a consumer in the state of Virginia who reported that Wallach was involved in the multilevel marketing of vitamins and hydrogen peroxide.

In 1995 NCAHF received a report from a consumer in California who stated that Wallach was dispensing chelation therapy for coronary artery disease at a clinic in San Francisco. The caller was concerned because her father-in-law had died following Wallach's care. He had become very weak, but Wallach had poisoned him against returning to his regular physician, so he did not seek medical help. His wife, who is also a disciple of Wallach's ideas and health care, had the body cremated. The mother-in-law has completed her course of chelation therapy, but still returns every 1-2 months for more. On Wallach's advice, she also ingests a "toddy mix" that looks like "muddy water" [Note: this sounds very much like a Rockland International company product called Body Toddy that was banned by the FDA due to its high levels of toxic substances,3 especially since Donsbach was associated with Rockland].

According to promotional materials, Wallach works with a Dr. Ma Lan who was educated in the People's Republic of China. It is not clear whether or not she is licensed to practice medicine in the United States. Since neither of his credentials as a veterinarian or a naturopath enables him to practice medicine (ie, render chelation therapy) in California, it is unclear whether he is blatantly disregarding the law, or is operating under Dr. MaLan's medical license (if she has one). The mother-in-law seems to be a victim beyond help. She has a diploma from Donsbach University and sold Sunrider products for a while. She quit when she heard about lawsuits against Sunrider, fearing that she might be named as a defendant.

Citations. 1) Goodman, "Longevity and mortality of American physicians, 1969-73," MMFQ Summer, 1975:353-75; 2) "Expected life and work life of active USMG physicians" in Physician Supply & Utilization By Specialty, AMA, 1988; 3) FDA Enforcement Report, 10/4/89.

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