I was hoping I could give GOOP a pass for a while. I have grown tired of the dark side of wellness that is their brand. I’m also tired of doing the job they advertised on LinkedIn for free.
However, someone sent me this atrocious piece on heavy metals and I just couldn’t stay quiet.
The GOOP expert is Dr. Mark Hyman, a family physician who has written a bunch of diet books that I can confidently say I will never read. He is also not a toxicologist. Being an “integrative” doctor does not make you an expert on heavy metals, being a toxicologist does.
Oh, and Dr. Hyman opposes fluoridation of water. No. Really.
About fluoridation Dr. Hyman has incorrectly stated, “There are numerous mechanisms by which uncontrolled dosing of fluorides through water fluoridation can potentially harm thyroid function, the body and the brain” and “I support federal investigative hearings looking into why our cities and towns are allowed to continue to add fluoride to public water sources and why the whole story about fluorides is only just now coming out.”
This what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say, “Water fluoridation continues to be one of the most important tools in our toolbox to prevent tooth decay in children and adults. Hundreds of studies have affirmed community water fluoridation as a safe, equitable, and cost-effective way to protect the oral health of the population.”
Hyman, a non pediatrician, also has views about autism that seem to out of line with the current accepted beliefs of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He treats autism by treating “leaky gut,” antibiotics to kill “toxic bacteria” in the gut, and of course by treating yeast. He also believes in the completely discredited theory that vaccines are related to autism. Hyman has written, “Vaccines may affect susceptible children through different mechanisms. In some it is overwhelming of an already taxed immune system with over 2 dozen vaccinations at a very young age, for some it is the thimerosal (ethylmercury) used as a preservative until recently in most vaccines (although it is still present in most flu vaccines).”
A physician who believes fluoridation of water is dangerous and vaccines are related to autism has, in my opinion, disqualified himself to speak about toxicology and I don’t care how many non recognized medical board specialities he holds.
The post is essentially a hot mess, but I want to focus on the testing recommended by Dr. Hyman, because this is what can actually harm people. Hyman recommends hair testing and urine chelation challenge testing.
To get appropriately confident information on heavy metal testing I turned to Dr. David Juurlink who did his board certification in Medical Toxicology in 2002 and is a medical toxicologist and Head of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology at the University of Toronto. He is an expert.
I asked Dr. Juurlink what he thought of Dr. Hyman’s recommendation for hair testing? He replied, “Hair testing for heavy metals is bullshit. I have seen people fall for this scam more times than I can remember.”
He added that the issue with hair testing is that the levels are almost, always very high and that “any toxicologist worth his or her salt will tell you cannot be interpreted.”
What about a chelation challenge test that Hyman touts as the way to find out something he calls your “body burden” of heavy metals? Dr. Hyman, the non toxicologist, admits it is not “widely accepted in traditional medicine”
Dr. Jurrlink replied, “It’s not widely accepted because it’s uninformative and misleading. It’s not validated, the types and doses of chelating agents used are inconsistent, and depending on what’s being tested, urine levels will go up in normal people after a “challenge.” This isn’t indicative of poisoning or the need for treatment, and it’s not a valid indicator of a given metal’s body burden. Provocation testing does not distinguish poisoned from non-poisoned people and simply should not be done.”
The American College of Medical Toxicology (ACMT) i.e. the society of appropriate medical experts states the following about post-chelation testing:
“…post-challenge urinary metal testing has not been scientifically validated, has no demonstrated benefit, and may be harmful when applied in the assessment and treatment of patients in whom there is concern for metal poisoning.”
This excellent review article, written by toxicologists from Harvard, echos what Dr. Juurlink says. Hair testing and urine chelation are not recommended and should be “discouraged.” That’s a far cry from Hyman’s “not widely accepted.”
There is much harm to be had in this testing. The financial issues aside, many patients end up getting expensive chelation therapy that they most definitely do not need and pay for a wide variety of supplements and other unproven therapies to treat the supposed poisoning that they don’t have. It also could lead to the delay in diagnosis of a real medical condition. Dr. Hyman, who works at the Cleveland Clinic, admitted he has ordered the test on tens of thousands of patients!!!! That is worth repeating, Dr. Hyman bragged about the number of people he has subjected to a test that experts say may be harmful and should be discouraged. Also, tens of thousands of patients? It is astonishing how he can see so many patients given his busy writing schedule, television appearances, and the fact that integrative doctors usually spend at least an hour per new patient. I would love to see a book from Dr. Hyman about how he personally manages to see so many patents!
Dr. Juurlink, a toxicologist says, “The mainstay of treatment for heavy metal poisoning isn’t chelation, it’s removal from exposure. Chelation has a role in some patients, but should only be done under the guidance of a medical toxicologist.” He also felt it was “unethical” for someone like Hyman to suggest otherwise.
How GOOP got from “no demonstrated benefit” and “may be harmful” and “discouraged” to that “speculative but promising” means they shouldn’t spend their money on research scientist, they need an ethics consultant who can read through the myriad of easily accessible, accurate information that many professional medical societies have spent countless hours developing for this very reason.
The GOOP post on heavy metals is not “speculative but promising” it is “harmful and should be discouraged.”
GOOP and Paltrow might also want to buy a dictionary.