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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Snake Oil doesn't cure H1N1

A friend sent me a YouTube video featuring alternative medicinal advice from Dr. Joseph Mercola regarding how to fight the H1N1 flu virus. I could explain everything he said, but it's best you hear it straight from the source:



This video concerns me because I'm certain a lot of people take it seriously. While I'm sure Dr. Mecola is serious, his advice is at best misguided and at worse, potentially detrimental to your health. Sure, there are a lot of everyday things people can do to help stay healthy during the flu season like washing your hands, but to suggest that flu vaccines are a scam and that all you need is vitamin D is very, very bad advice.

First off, saying that people get the flu but actually die of pneumonia is like saying people get HIV but actually die of AIDS. The flu virus attacks the lungs and causes pneumonia. How is this an argument against getting vaccinated? Would you tell a woman she shouldn't be vaccinated against HPV because people who get it actually die from cervical cancer, not the virus itself?

Naturally there are some strange theories from supporters of this type of alternative medicine, ranging from the insane (the government creates clouds to block the sun so our bodies won't produce Vitamin D naturally) to the common (vaccines cause autism.)

The vaccines/autism debate is too lengthy to get into now, but suffice to say there are mountains of evidence against any connection between the two. However, Dr. Mercola does bring it up in the video, building on misguided fears. It's easy to throw out numbers to back up your argument, but saying the EPA and CDC report vaccines are only safe for people 550 lbs or heavier is just plain wrong.  A vaccine that contains about 50 micrograms of thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines) only contains about 25 micrograms of mercury. Meanwhile, studies suggest, on average, people ingest between 8.3 and 8.6 micrograms of mercury daily in their food.  So a vaccine contains less mercury than you get through dietary sources over the span of 4 days (less if you are a big fish eater.) This information comes from a report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an agency of the US Department of Health, just like those CDC guys Mercola claims say this is toxic to anyone who isn't morbidly obese. Of course, Mercola suggests everyone do the research themselves, and so do I, which is why I provided the links.

Mercola also states that ethylene glycol (aka "antifreeze") is present in the H1N1 vaccines which is just not true. It is used in the manufacturing process, a big difference that experts like Mercola and Jenny McCarthy seem to gloss over. So please... do the research yourself, especially on the numbers.



I'm sure it's not a coincidence that  Dr. Mecola sells vitamin D supplements and books about Vitamin D on his website (only $14.95 for a months supply). Of course, he doesn't just say Vitamin D can cure H1N1, he lists a whole variety of things it's needed for with the implication being you should be taking his supplements year round for the bargain price of $180 plus shipping. But why stop there when Dr. Mecola also sells his own TANNING BEDS (only $3,000 a piece) to boost your body's natural Vitamin D production?

Obviously I'm not suggesting that vitamins are a waste of time. Our bodies use vitamin D for a lot of things, but saying it will stop a flu pandemic is going too far. You shouldn't be taking my opinion any more seriously than Dr. Mecola's though. You should see a doctor. My concern with seeing a video like this go viral is that if someone shows signs of the flu, this might cause them to head for a tanning salon over a doctor's office.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Monkey said...

Taking daily vitamin supplements for your health and/or as a precautionary/preventative measure is a fine idea, but it's not going to keep you 100% healthy 100% of the time. If that's all it took there'd be no excuse for anyone to be sick ever. What makes me sick is when a person or persons exploit the fears of others... hold that thought... I have a headache... I'd better order my $3,000 tanning bed before I get worse!

And, this seems relevant:

http://xkcd.com/552/

October 21, 2009 at 3:50 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a bit of a skeptical person so when I saw this report of Dr. Mercola's, I decided to do some more research on the matter. Based on his and other reports that I have read, I do believe that Vitamin D can go a long way in preventing the H1N1 flu. I am not so naive as to think that I should buy a tanning bad instead of going to the doctor, (I think it is a little insulting to imply that people are stupid would actually do that. Most people do have some common sense.) but I do think Vitamin D goes a long way in protecting us from certain illnesses. My family and I have been taking higher doses of Vitamin D since the end of summer and not one of us has has had the flu or a cold since we started. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but it certainly won't hurt anything (as long as we get our levels checked every so often to prevent our levels getting too high.) I live in a town in Central Illinois that has 150,000 people in it. We have not seen ONE does of H1N1 vaccine here. That is a far bigger problem than a doctor who touts the benefits of Vitamin D. There are other communities who are already on their second or third vaccination clinic and people who aren't high risk have readily admitted to "cheating" and getting the vaccine. Where is it in my community and the many other communities who have seen none of it?? I am pregnant and I have 3 other small children who have no protection whatsoever other than washing our hands. I am grateful to Dr. Mercola for making me aware of Vitamin D's benefits because right now that may be the only think saving me and my family from getting the flu.

October 30, 2009 at 6:27 PM 

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