Trick or Tweet: Dr. Mark Hyman Exposed

Social media has long been a bastion of modern-day snake oil salesmen. Twitter, in particular, is a great marketing tool. When it comes to food and product safety, the app’s 140 character message limit provides more than enough room to scare the bejesus out of the public. From there, it’s just a short hop, skip, and jump to the online store of the person making the frightening tweets. The sad fact is that all too often, the products being sold by the so-called expert contain exactly the same ingredients he/she claims to be dangerous.

Eight-time #1 New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mark Hyman has mastered this “trick or tweet” technique. Here’s a recent tweet hinting at horrifying side effects from a safe food coloring:1

hyman tweet on caramel color

Dr. Mark Hyman’s tweet on the dangers of caramel color. (click/enlarge)

Caramel coloring has never actually been shown to be dangerous to humans.  But let’s debunk Hyman on a different level.  The doctor apparently makes a comfortable living selling expensive dietary supplements via his web site, drhyman.com.  If you’ve read any of his books or blog posts, you know he’s not shy about pushing these supplements as part of his diet plans.

Let’s drop by the Dr. Hyman online store and do some shopping, keeping in mind his claim that caramel coloring “poses a cancer risk to consumers”:

hyman's caramel color neuromins

Pure Encapsulations “Neuromins” via Dr. Hyman’s store. (click/enlarge)

For only $114 (!) we can pick up a 120 count bottle of “Neuromins”,2 a supplement designed (according to Hyman) to assist in the development of mental and visual functions.  I’m all excited!

But wait…  what’s that I see in the Neuromins ingredient list?3

neuromins ingredients

This supplement, sold by Dr. Hyman, contains the very caramel coloring he tagged “carcinogenic”. (click/enlarge)

Yes, that’s right: caramel coloring.  Didn’t Hyman just claim that caramel coloring was carcinogenic?

Is the caramel coloring in Hyman’s supplements the same coloring found in the soft drinks he falsely and irresponsibly links to cancer?  Why yes.. yes it is!

Caramel coloring levels III and IV are most often featured in carcinogen propaganda campaigns run by pseudoscientists because they’re the ones used in the soft drinks, beer, and pumpkin spice lattes being slandered.  I checked with the manufacturer of Hyman’s supplements, Pure Encapsulations, and they confirmed that the coloring they use is indeed level IV.

Dr. Hyman, if you believe it causes cancer, why are you selling it?

We must pause here and point out that while the health benefits of the product being discussed may be debatable (the claims haven’t been evaluated by the FDA), the safety of the product itself is not being called into question.  As the manufacturer of the coloring points out, the coloring itself does have FDA approval (GRAS–“Generally Recognized As Safe”, CFR Title 21, Section 182.1235).

I sincerely hope no one will punish Pure Encapsulations because of Dr. Hyman’s hypocritical stance on a safe food coloring.  This company was most transparent in answering questions about their product.  No guilt by association, please.

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed I highlighted two ingredients on the Neuromins label earlier.  Caramel coloring shared center stage with “carrageenan”.  Why is this significant?

Because of another Mark Hyman tweet:4

carrageenan mark hyman

Dr. Hyman celebrates removal of “controversial” ingredient carrageenan. (click/enlarge)

Not content with putting just one foot in his mouth, the doctor effortlessly inserts the other with this tweet.  Here, Hyman congratulates his partner in nonsense, the “Food Babe”, in her claimed role in the removal of the benign thickening agent carrageenan from a company’s product line. (Hyman wrote the foreword to Food Babe’s ill informed book “The Food Babe Way”, championing her work in removing “toxins” such as this from our lives.)

If you haven’t followed the controversy, carrageenan is a safe, commonly used additive that’s gotten a bad rap because of pseudoscience.  Woomeisters confuse carrageenan with degraded carrageenan.  The latter appears on an IARC list of “carcinogenic” items such as pickled vegetables, coffee, talc body powder, a compound found in dandelion tea, and the profession of carpentry.5 (Read: the demonstrated cancer risk to humans is nil.)

Are you scared yet?  Me neither.

But, to summarize, let’s put the question to Dr. Mark Hyman:  if caramel coloring and carrageenan are “carcinogenic” and “controversial”, why the hell are you selling them?  As I pointed out in the first article in this series, this type of hypocrisy is (sadly) all too common with the snake oil aficionados.  The fact that the seller in this case carries the initials “M.D.” by his name makes the offense all the more egregious.

 

References
(1) Mark Hyman Tweet on Caramel Coloring
https://twitter.com/markhymanmd/status/568754599953244160

(2) “Neuromins” on DrHyman.com
http://store.drhyman.com/Store/Show/SearchResults/533/Neuromins-

(3) Pure Encapsulations Neuromins Product Fact Sheet
http://www.pureencapsulations.com/neurominstm.html

(4) Mark Hyman Tweet on Carrageenan
https://twitter.com/markhymanmd/status/502810272294109184

(5) Agents Classified by the IARC Monographs, Volumes 1–112
http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/ClassificationsGroupOrder.pdf

Image Credits
Dr. Mark Hyman material, Twitter, and Pure Encapsulations screen snapshots are used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

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14 thoughts on “Trick or Tweet: Dr. Mark Hyman Exposed

  1. Carmel coloring is not the same as Carmel (coloring). One is chemical used to achieve the color of Carmel. The other is actually Carmel which is used for coloring. Human is a quack, but you need to attack the right things. He attacks sugar…yet Carmel is in his supplmemts and for no other purpose than coloring. Attack that.

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  2. Pingback: Food Babe Advisor Dr. Mark Hyman Sells Parabens He Links To Cancer | Bad Science Debunked

  3. Pingback: Food Babe Advisor Mark Hyman Selling Parabens He Links To Cancer | Bad Science Debunked

  4. Is that all you guys have to attack Dr. Hyman?? I sense that you guys are westernized physicians. Why don’t you all admit that you have been a big part of America’s problem. Why not concentrate on helping Dr. Hyman advocate what everyone knows is truth but refuse to say out loud. Americans are sick because of western medicine and the way they have been hounded to eat! When pointing a finger at someone, remember, all the other fingers are pointing back at you. Hmmm…..

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    • Who attacked Dr. Hyman? I attacked the fact that he is selling supplements that contain EXACTLY the same ingredients he says will kill you. Doesn’t it bother you that Hyman is selling the same products he says are dangerous? Please come back and comment Lorraine, I would love to have a discussion with you. I can show you label after label of the products sold in Hyman’s store, where the products are 100% “toxic” according to Hyman’s own claims. The sad thing is, when I point this hypocrisy out to his followers, they never return and talk about it. So please, do come back, and bring as many Hyman followers as you wish to talk. We have civil discussions here, and people aren’t banned for respectful debate. Please, however, be prepared to examine the labels of Hyman’s own products. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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  5. I applaud your well meaning efforts of enlightenment. Those that are critical of your views are at least here in this forum reading what you say. Perhaps they are looking for answers. Keep in mind the is also an organization called the Flat Earth Society, full of zealots that despite the truth of a round earth, defend their position not by putting forth truths, but by tearing down truths.

    Nice Asimov quote. Here’s another…..There is no shortage of people to march under the banner of ignorance. Keep up the good work.

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  6. The problem is really that Dr Hyman is a completely shameless marketing shill in order to get his mostly good message out. Unfortunately we’ve got a society so dumbed down that scare tactics or super-inflated promises are all they react to any more.

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    • Having read his books, I think his goal in life is to sell dietary supplements–very expensive supplements. The doctors I speak with say that his message is a farce; that we get the nutrition we need from our diets. But one thing we agree on–he is completely shameless with his marketing. The point I want to drive home in my writing is that he is selling the very ingredients he claims are dangerous. For example, carrageenan and caramel coloring. Thanks for reading and commenting Sara, much appreciated!

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  7. Thanks for your informative post. I’ve been following and watching Dr. Hyman’s videos on YouTube and learned a lot from him. I cut sugar and refined carbs and feel great now. Honestly I’m kinda shocked and disappointed seeing this (if it’s really true) … I got to know lot’s of interesting people through Dr Hyman like Dr David Ludwig (hope he doesn’t disappoint me too!) … well now I know that I shouldn’t buy anything from his website and only maybe listen to his advises which seem to be helpful and useful … anyway I never focus on only one person and always search much more. plus I sent him this link and I asked him to explain about it. Cheers!

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