When raw gurus give dangerous advice

After its recent undercover investigation of 15 nutritional therapists, the consumer group Which? concluded that some of the advice given “could seriously harm patients’ health”.

In brief, Which? sent researchers feigning a range of health problems to the therapists, and the researchers secretly recorded the sessions.

After listening to the recordings, Which’s panel of experts evaluated six of the consultations as “dangerous fails”, eight as “fails”, and just one as a “borderline pass”.

As a result of the investigation, Which? is calling for tighter regulation of nutritional therapists.

It is relevant, however, that Which’s panel of three experts was made up of two (David Colquhoun and Catherine Collins) who are vocally opposed to all things alternative, and a GP – making this not the most unbiased panel.

As Which? has not named the therapists in question nor released the recordings, it is impossible for the rest of us to comment on the specifics behind the panel’s decisions.

But to comment in general terms, the two things that come to mind are:

(a) Thousands of UK patients die every year due to medical doctors failing to diagnose life-threatening conditions, overprescribing drugs or making other mistakes, and tens of thousands more are seriously harmed.

(b) I’ve heard a lot worse from the world of alternative nutrition advice than the examples Which? gave in its report, and I do agree the field should be more tightly regulated.

That may surprise you.

But I think you’d feel the same if you’d seen and heard the things I was privy to during six years as editor of a raw food magazine.

I could tell you about the raw guru – let’s call him “Guru A” – who “treated” a patient suffering from M.E. and multiple diagnosed nutrient deficiencies with a diet of just bananas.

She was (predictably) even more drained than usual for the fortnight she was on it. In fact she was practically bed-bound – something she hadn’t been for years. When told, Guru A was unconcerned: “Carry on, it’s just detox, that shows it’s working”.

Needless to say, her M.E. was not cured – on the contrary, it took her months to feel as “well” as she did before this episode.

This is definitely not a typical experience – many raw gurus and coaches are extremely responsible in the recommendations they make – but it’s not an isolated one, either.

I’ve heard similar stories too many times over the years.

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