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
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”:
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
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
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.
(1) Mark Hyman Tweet on Caramel Coloring
(2) “Neuromins” on DrHyman.com
(3) Pure Encapsulations Neuromins Product Fact Sheet
(4) Mark Hyman Tweet on Carrageenan
(5) Agents Classified by the IARC Monographs, Volumes 1–112
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.
dude – you are absolutely brilliant!
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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.
Hyman uses exactly the same caramel coloring he attacks. I verified this with the vendor before writing.
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Yes, he is a snake oil artist. BEWARE. Don’t listen to anything he claims.
But this has no sense. Drinking soda means being exposed to this ingredient every day, in big quantities. Obviously there is no problem on drinking ONE soda every year, or every three months. So, taking a supplement that contains caramel coloring, or aspartame, or whatever not-poisson substance having bad effects on long term, IS NOT HARMFUL.
Improving our health is not about being fundamentalist people. Being flexible is important. Dr Hyman talks about that in his books too.
What “big quantities” Guillermo? Who said there were large quantities of coloring in soft drinks? And compared to what quantities in Hyman’s daily supplement? And, more importantly of all, since Dr. Hyman claims caramel coloring is carcinogenic without stating any levels (“quantities”) whatsoever, on what basis are you defending him?
Again, please understand, when I call these folks out on hypocrisy, I am playing purely by their own rules. I make no claim here that Dr. Hyman hasn’t made. Please write back, I’d be interested in your thoughts
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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.
This article is probably one of the most senseless ones I’ve had the displeasure of coming across, it almost strikes as journalism. If these two components that you talk about here are only the tip of the iceburg when it comes to his nutritional philosophy (i.e., eating mostly veggies, avoiding hormone and antibiotic and disease ridden meats from factory farms, choosing healthier grains, and focusing on the better fats, not to mention his acknowledgement of the very corrupt system we live in that has hijacked our health) why would you dedicate an entire article to that one component of his selling supplements? You just come across as jealous, or perhaps you were paid to debunk him since he was one of the few doctors who preaches the truth about the politics behind our food in this country. Who cares? Just like the doctors who wrote this make their living by writing god knows many unnecessary prescriptions and saying this like “we get the nutrition we need from our diets” just shows either how IGNORANT you are as a doctor, or that you are merely part of the problem in this system of corruption. He has to make his money somehow. After all, he goes on public television wanting to educate people. There is no way in hell I would trust a doctor who tells me that our nutrition is adequate with the current state of the food industry and the distortion of government guidelines from lobbying and corporate take over. I think we all know who the quack here is
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Hayman promotes animal, fats etc in his “diet” THis is exactly what is causing the top 5 causes of death and disease in western diet. Don’t listen to him, it is a scam.
Sources for this statement? I’m sorry but he clearly goes into all of the misinformation regarding animal fat, saturated fat, and the correlation to disease. Animal fats like meat (GRASSFED) which is what he emphasizes, he says should be thought of as condiments, or sides to any dish. This is the key. Grass fed= more nutrients, vitamins, and smaller amounts of it make it much less damaging to the body than what most americans are used to- eating 10 oz steaks with 4 broccoli’s and white rice that ultimatley spikes your sugar way more than you think. INFORM YOURSELF instead of pointing fingers thinking you know what a scam is. SCAM is this country and everything they’ve told us over the years
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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.
Thanks so much Douglas. Asimov has so many quote-worthy quotes that it was really hard to pick one. I think I might start alternating them… I love the one you provided!
Why don’t you post to Dr Mark Hyman and let him have a chance to answers these charges.
I have, multiple times. He doesn’t reply.
of course, He has no defense. He claims the literature is replete with peer reviewed cases that support his lies. That is all bunk. Whatl he preaches is bunk.
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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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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I’ve read one of his books. He’d say combined elements may have different effects than the elements alone, different configurations –> different outcomes. He’d say observational studies are pseudo-science, not his.
Last month Mark Hyman posted an email in which he included the following quote in bold letters: drinking one glass of wine per day increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 40%.
I sent a followup email asking for the source of this statistic. I have received a few responses, such as “we are looking into this” or “Dr. Hyman has been incredibly busy and we will be back in touch”
I doubt I will ever get a serious response. Frankly, I think it is shameful that a doctor from such a well regarded hospital such as Cleveland Clinic cannot backup his medical advice. Terrible.
Thanks for this Mary. I would be shocked if you ever get a reply, but would love to hear if you do. I’ve tried several times to contact the good doctor regarding his comments and have yet to receive a response.
Here’s a recent article from the Jrnl of the Americna Medical Association (JAMA) looking at the increased incidence of breast cancer with even small amounts of alcohol use. It includes a good discussion of the literature. Most medical professional quote a rate of about a 9% increased risk per daily average number of drinks; this article confirms that number. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1104580
Gary Goldman, MD
Thanks for reading and commenting Gary!
No, I never received a reply. Yes, the 9% increase is often quoted which is why I wanted to know the source for 40%. Getting no response whatsoever has made me question a lot of things about his advice and credentials.
His fat diet will bring a lot of open heart surgical procedures to the CLinic. They are all in it together?
Is he even a doctor?
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Perhaps the reason it is difficult to find a credible source for the 40% figure is because there is no credible source for the 40% figure? Genuine sources of information and knowledge that adhere to basic pillars of science and evidence, developed and tested over 1,000s of years, need to be promoted as strongly as this gentleman promotes supplements. Readers should research evidence-based medicine, the Cochrane Library and PubMed, all free and supported by evidence. “Nullius in verba” should be the guiding principal in separating fact from fiction
Does anyone have info re: Dr. Hyman’s positive treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and the Living Health Integrative Medicine Clinic in Maryland?
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I discovered Dr.Hyman on YouTube. Although a lot of his advice isn’t rocket surgery, and is reasonable within healthy guidelines, he takes larger truths and weaves inaccuracies into them. I can’t recall what it was but by the 3rd video I was skeptical. I unsubscribed. He is YouTube’s Dr. Oz. Selling whatever he can without conscience. These guys need calling out. People hear a couple solid facts and stop being critical of anything after that. Thank you for bringing attention to this.
Well hold on to your seat…hes got new audios o. The Covid vaccine which should sell in the millions. Please do get the skinny…hate it when diets docs try to talk infectious medicine.