Dr. Campbell: Is Mercola Selling Snake Oil?


  • digg
  • Delicious
  • Furl
  • reddit
  • blinklist
  • Technorati
  • stumbleupon

Read More: china study, joseph mercola, t. colin campbell

Get VegSource Alerts Get VegSource Alerts

First Name


Email This Story to a Friend


Editor's Note: As more and more people discover that healthy plant-based nutrition is the only medically proven way to prevent and reverse many serious diseases, certain health "experts" -- usually those with something to sell -- are feeling threatened.

Health products salesman Joseph Mercola, D.O., has been taking shots at T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Campbell's landmark bestseller, The China Study. Yesterday Mercola wrote a confused diatribe against Campbell, which, among other things, appears to show that Mercola has not actually read Campbell's book.

Following is Dr. Campbell's response:

Dr. Mercola raises so many questions that it would take me at least several weeks if not months to answer. He invents clever sayings and makes serious innuendos that are total nonsense--indeed slanderous. His questions are rhetorical, with meaning, and no matter what I say, the questions will always remain--without my answers.

But here are a few general comments that strike me as main points:

1. Dr. Mercola's main mantra (business model) is Nutritional Typing. In some way (maybe with paid phone assistance from his staff), we are supposed to listen to our body to determine which of three dietary types best suit us. He then becomes more specific as to the importance of eating foods in the right order and of the right type. These recommendations, he claims, are science based.

This is a clever strategy for positioning his company in the marketplace. He casts a broad net to capture as many customers as possible for his many products that he sells. According to him, we fit within one of these three diet groups, ranging from 1) the high carb-low fat types vs. 2) the low carb-high fat types vs. (3) those in-between, thus capturing for his company a much larger customer base.

I deeply respect our personal freedoms to do as we wish (as long as it doesn't harm others). But given the complex environment within which we choose foods, I cannot understand how we can reliably determine what dietary patterns and order of eating foods is best for our long-term health. I know that some people can recognize specific food allergies, but I also know that we tend to choose food for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is convenience, avoidance of pain and sense of 'pleasure' or gratification (read the little gem of a book, The Pleasure Trap, by Lisle and Goldhamer to see how so many of us continually choose foods not in our best interests). His method defies common sense. He says that this is based on science but, if so, I want to see the evidence. I see none. To say that we can determine, with any certainty, which nutritional type, based on our personal but very nebulous assessment of our metabolism is hokey pokey.

On his claims about science, Mercola is out of his element--way out. He excuses his failure to document his professional experiences in the scientific literature because he (and his compatriots like Dr. Eades) don't have time in their busy practice of medicine, as if public documentation of evidence is a bit of a luxury that is not really that important. This is an extremely lame excuse, exposing his fundamental misunderstanding of what scientific validity really means. Scientific evidence, as accepted by virtually everyone, is that which represents proper scientific experimental design and subsequent publication in the peer-reviewed literature.

Doing and reporting on peer reviewed research may not be a perfect solution for establishing truths (nothing is) but it is far better than listening to someone only telling us what he/she does or believes while giving us no way to evaluate such claims. Peer-review, the main engine of scientific validity, means that our research findings are subjected to the critique of professional colleagues before it is published in the professional literature. Even more to the point, in order for us to get the funding to do the research, especially from institutions like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the National Science Foundation (NSF), we are required to undergo a most serious and somewhat protracted exercise of defending our hypotheses before committees of professional peers that may include as many as 15 members (I know this, having been on several of these panels). The chances of successfully obtaining funding is, on average, only one in six. In short, peer review is rigorous both in getting the funding and in publishing the results. Anyone, like Mercola, who claims scientific validity for his personal/professional observations is really at liberty to say whatever pleases them--and their wallets. This opens doors wide for snake oil 'science'.

2. He relies on the bogus idea that it is our individual differences in "metabolism" that makes it possible for us to determine which foods please our metabolism and guard us against future ailments. He has no idea what is metabolism. It changes and responds continuously and it is an enormously complex system of digestion, absorption, transport, enzymatic synthesis and breakdown of intermediates and distribution, excretion and storage of metabolites, all in an effort to maintain homeostasis. Reducing this concept to a simple phenomenon of energy use, which we can assess for ourselves is more superficial than adjectives can describe.

3. Mercola dismisses my professional capabilities to assess diet and health evidence and to make dietary recommendations because I am not "a practicing physician [with] no real world experience." I probably should ignore this insulting comment. I never claimed I am a practicing physician and have repeatedly stated that I rely on the outstanding clinical accomplishments of (MD) physicians like Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., Joel Fuhrman, Matt Lederman, Dean Ornish, John McDougall and Terry Shintani, with a rapidly growing list of other primary care practitioners producing much the same results. I now personally know more than 30 such physicians whose findings are remarkably consistent with these clinical experiences. My 20-plus years as a member/participant of several major national and international food and health policy reports also provided a very rich experience in developing dietary recommendations. Mercola, according to the PubMed website (National LIbrary of Medicine), has not written a single peer-reviewed experimental study (only a few freebie letters to editors). My publications (mostly peer-reviewed) are well in excess of 350.

4. Mercola's comments (along with comments of others of his ilk) that my research is flawed because I used correlations to "prove causation" in the China project is dead wrong on several grounds. But this is answered elsewhere, including our book if only he would read it. I'm beginning to doubt the ability of his and his kind to read such material! Mercola is grossly wrong on several accounts, quite frankly bordering on intentional slander because I have good reason to believe that he already saw my responses but nonetheless parades out the same old questions without acknowledging my responses. Here are my previous comments:

The rationale and analytical strategy for my views expressed in our book, "The China Study" were carefully explained in the book. Mercola is merely repeating an already answered question. He is wrong to suggest the use of randomized control trials as the main determinant of nutritional effects, a point that I carefully explained in our book.

5. Mercola's assertion that we are all biologically different individuals impresses people because it is so obviously true. But what does he really mean? In no way does this mean that each individual (or each likely disease event) responds to very different diets. It only means that we can respond in the same direction with the same dietary lifestyle but to different degrees, depending on our genetic and environmental circumstances.

Our society has serious health problems and people are looking for serious advice. Mercola and others of the Atkins stripe believe that 1) we are biologically different, 2) we therefore require unique dietary lifestyles that represent a broad spectrum of possibilities and 3) we--perhaps with very expensive phone consultations--are essentially required to customize our diet, based on our reactions to food soon after we eat it. Mercola and his colleagues also never fail to advocate that diets high in protein, fat and cholesterol are not only acceptable but are advisable for most people.

Then the Mercolanites make the audacious claim that this is science based when, in fact, almost all of these people have little or no understanding of scientific research and essentially no evidence of actually doing scientific research. This is a mockery that mostly leaves people where they want to be (in the 'pleasure trap) while still pursuing a lifetime leading to a very high risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis and other serious illnesses.

In a marketing sense, this strategy works because people, while remaining uncertain about their best health practices, will continue to present a big market for pills, potions, supplements and gadgets that make some people financially rich but most people health poor. I worry that this would-be scientific group are continuing to bilk, in my opinion, the public while they fatten their own wallets. But I also am becoming aware that they are beginning to run scared, as evidenced by their feverish, irrational attack on our idea of whole foods, plant-based diets. Their livelihoods are being threatened because people are learning that they can do for themselves what needs to be done and, in doing so, do not need the snake oil preparations sold by the Mercolanites. Check out Mercola's own website of about 50 different products.

Because harsh words are now being spoken with increasing frequency about my ideas and my person, I must respond, briefly, about my motives for pursuing what I have found to be remarkably healthy for virtually all people for a wide variety of ailments. I spent more than 50 years in the diet and health research and policy communities, using taxpayer money. My only motive at this time of my life is to tell these taxpayers who generously supported our work what we did with their money--I feel this responsibility very deeply. I have no products to sell. I only want to do my part as honestly as I can to help resolve some very serious health problems.

I doubt that I will ever again answer such self-serving diatribes for they divert me from other more productive projects, including my writing an almost-finished second book. I have no doubt that the message in our book--and told in many other books of my physician colleagues--is finally beginning to resonate with large numbers of people. Dr. Eades and others have lamented why so many people continue to embrace the message in our book and the best answer that I can give is very simple. It works. Readers tell readers. Book sales continue to climb, now nearing 6 years since its publication.

So, Drs. Mercola, Eades and others of your compatriots, I lay down the gauntlet: your path is not scientifically based but is one for self-enrichment, in my opinion. It will become ever more difficult to follow, as people get to know the motives for your diatribes.

Addendum 9/12/10: Since I wrote my reponse to Mercola, I was alerted to this

FDA Orders Dr. Joseph Mercola to Stop Illegal Claims


20 Comments | Leave a comment


Mercola is a brilliant self-marketer, but he's done nothing more than further confuse an already bewildered public with regard to health and nutrition. He is a true snake-oil salesman, whose ultimate goal is to hawk his supplements. On the other hand, Dr. Campbell has worked tirelessly and passionately for decades on the real science of nutrition and human health, with no ulterior motive other than to empower each one of us to make better food choices that will improve our health and the quality of our lives.


I absolutely agree with your comment.
Dr. Mercola has only spoken out recently on one thing I believe in 100% and that is to try to halt water fluoridation.
Lets see how he makes out!

Other than that, he truly has sold his soul to (whoever) and it really does not matter who, but he certainly has more interests in financial gains from selling various products that should not be in the human body, especially if the diet consists of a mainly organic plant based diet.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, is trying to spread his research to everyone. He wrote a book *The China Study* and many criticize that he is making money. I have to laugh at comments like this. People write books to share information - there is not a lot of money in it these days. Dr. Campbells CHINA STUDY was a real eye opener to me, and I bet it caught me in time to change my lifestyle completely and no doubt will prolong my life. The man is truly remarkable and I admire his honestly and integrity.

I always say *NEVER BELIEVE ANYTHING, UNTIL IT IS OFFICIALLY DENIED* and Dr. Mercola is basically denying Dr. Campbells integrity and his research ability.

I also tried to post a comment on one of Dr. Mercolas YouTube videos but I should have known, my comment is *Pending Approval*.
It will never be posted of course.

I just hope Dr. Campbell knows how many supporters he has. The man is truly remarkable and I wish one day I could meet him and shake his hand and just tell him what a difference he is making to the lives of many.


I hope Dr. Campbell knows he has supporters too. He can definitely count me as one of them. Here is a man who is trying to get people to eat their fruits and vegetables and stop eating junk food and crappy processed meat. We should all be grateful that someone even cares. The fact that many of his critics haven't even read his book to find their answers there first before blasting him with criticisms? That is very depressing, unfortunate, and a waste of everyone's time.


Gail, I'm surprised by what you said. I have no doubt that Mercola has the full force of his conviction with most everything he does. I believe that the bad apples are few - those who intentionally deceive.
I have friends with a BMI of 16 and they've had it being vegetarian - they want some extra body fat so that the summers aren't so cold (and let's not talk about the winters). My wife countered recently that our diet (mostly McDougall) was highly radical. Where is the society that has lived with such a diet for a long time? Where is the continent, or country, of vegetarians? One must understand why people say something in order to know the value of what they say. McDougall / Fuhrman et al are extreamists - with scientific justification behind them. Healthy Traditions (a bible it seems to may homeschooling Christians we are quite aligned with) has some justification behind it - although it makes me cringe because they've taken things from the past as evidence for a healthy diet when those things were necessary for survival.
Dr. Campbell has changed his convictions over the years and has laid out why and what proof he has - and that means much more than someone who has not examined and questioned their convictions.
At our heart we are all flawed and it's the structure of science, and I believe society and religions, which attempt to deal with our basic failings (to believe but not question and not seek proof). I've heard of religous vegetarians feeding their child (secretly) chicken in an attempt to avoid the [health] deprivation which they feel that they suffered when they were young. If they lived back in their own country, surrounded by their own religous group there would not be a questioning like this. But here in the west our society seems structured to isolate the individual and make them very prone to marketing, feeding insecurities and have no steady ship (religon, culture) of centuries long tested values to live by.
As for Mercola - people believed in science - in technology and supplements are a natural extension of that. It's just that there is strong science questioning the value of them now. But people generally don't like to hear an authority say one thing - and then start saying the opposite - it breeds mistrust. Sadly they never look behind why recommendations were made; what foundation of evidence and assumptions ...


Sorry, but how can a reader find confidence at this site when there's a Jenny Craig ad staring me in the face.

It appears we're all selling something.


I posted several comments, all in a measured tone, on Dr. Mercola's site to rebut his claims about Dr. Campbell's work, and my most direct comment, in which I pointed out factual errors in Dr. Mercola's comments, was deleted! When I posted again and asked if others had their comments deleted--lo and behold--I could no longer access the site (the site claimed they were doing 'list maintenance').

Dr. Mercola's attempt to tear down decades of work and dozens of peer-reviewed papers with baseless rhetoric and uncited, unsupported claims of observations from his own practice have no place in any honest discussion of nutrition, biochemistry, human health, or any other field for that matter.


I have read many of Dr. Mercola's columns, and many of them have been very useful. He has a lot of terrific information about the dangers of pharmaceutical medicine, both in terms of the drugs themselves and in terms of the lifestyle that it promotes. His information about the value of Vitamin D has been spot-on.

I have also tried a number of Dr. Mercola's products, and most of them have been very junky. His pots and pans fell apart quickly. His white rock salt was a huge waste of money. There have been several other products that I had to throw away. On the other hand, he recommended Bio-D-Mulsion Vitamin D, which was the first product that raised my Vitamin D levels to what they needed to be.

So - I have found Dr. Mercola's advice to be a mixed bag. I continue to follow his admonitions about pharmaceutical medicine, but I rarely get distracted by the things he sells. And of course, I just ignore his animal-food recommendations. But he is right about virgin coconut oil - it's a terrific (vegan) product, and I swear by it.


With health care costs soaring and so much sickness, people have a hard time believing that anything as simple as a whole foods, plant-based diet is the solution to such intractable issues. People want to believe they can continue their culturally acceptable, but health-devastating habits and that all kinds of complex, "scientific" products will be the solution.

Eating animal products is like pouring sand into your car's engine. The damage it causes is undeniable. Dr. Mercola's fantasy-based assertions are symptoms of a larger problem.

Thank you, Dr. Campbell, for standing up to him and the others with baseless criticisms of your work. You are the leader of a growing army of people telling the truth about whole foods, plant-based diets. We all need to work together seamlessly and tirelessly to spread the word.



Yes, on behalf of the entire gem-of-a-Planet, and all her beings, I feel immensely indebted to Professor Campbell. The validation he offers makes my (our) work so much more, well, I was going to say 'easier', but let's say 'do-able'. There are others, and I'll bet that some of your favorites are mine as well.




I often read Mercola because it makes me think about where I can improve my lifestyle (not buy products); I think he may have started out with good intentions and then turned into a marketing maven instead of a compassionate healer. He taps into our uncertainty and fear and then we want to buy a product to quick-fix the problem he has pointed out that may be killing us.
From the very first newsletter, I had this feeling of green slime about his aura, which I know is a horrible thing to say; whereas I had the feeling of sparkling purity about Dr. Campbell because he is not promoting anything except what he believes as the Truth, so there is no hidden agenda and I don't feel manipulated, just cared about.
I think Dr. Mercola is not only threatened financially, but also his image and identity are being questioned in the face of the simple truth that we can use to simplify health issues, eat vegan, eat as much raw as possible and thereby detox. As an on again off again rv for 30 years, I was very uncertain and people like Dr. M feed that uncertainty by taking down Dr. Campbell. I am loving Natural News instead, they still sell products but their motives ring true. When in doubt I pay attention to vibration and Dr. Colin's vibration rings very pure and very true. Seek out the very best life by finding the good in everything, and leave the rest by the wayside. Dr. M has some useful messages and good you tube picks, but for the most part he feels like an oily salesman. Under it all is fear. Namaste and Aloha!



Could not have stated it better, I feel likewise. Very well put indeed.

Thank you,




Dr. Campbell's response affirms what my gut was saying. Every time I read Dr. Mercola's newsletters, I'm scared to death of the world, and it is odd that he is the only one who can save me? It reminds me of the feeling I have when my radio in my car accidentally turns to Fox news (some repair person set it apparently an da button on my steering wheel sometimes takes me there). I feel creeped out and I'm not sure why until I pay attention to what I've been listening to. In each case they may start with a grain of truth, but then it is spun into something hysterical and self serving. I'm glad to know it wasn't just me.



How interesting that you would relate the Dr M experience to a Fox News (FAUX NEWS) experience... Sell fear, desperation and spin it to suet your interests [corporate masters].

Again, I appreciate that he exposes some important issues: Microwave insanity and EMR (electro-magnetic radiation) stuff generally, GMOs and the distressing government takeover by monopolistic corporate monsters for instance, since after all lots of people read his rants. That's not to say that any of this should be presented with fear. In fact it's just like a 'sick government' to to invent (or present) an enemy and then indicate that only 'you' have the solution.

As you have expressed Carol, I too am pleased to find that I'm not the only thinking person who has seen behind the Dr M veil, as I mentioned in an earlier post (I think), it has been quite discomforting, for quite a few years, that people attach such a Gospel-like adherence to every claim made by the good doctor, and never question the validity (or motive). The level of gullibility is also cause for concern. Dr. M has masterfully tapped into this gullibility. It is a shame indeed, that people have become so dissatisfied with mainstream treatment of important issues [understandably] that they often turn to 'just another version and sill don't exercise critical thinking.

I have been in the 'rational' health care field for, well let's just say, quite some time, since before people started using the term 'alternative', which I don't particularly like, and Dr M is a relatively new wrinkle, I'm guessing I've been peeking at his stuff for 10 or 15 years and have watched him contradict himself enough to be amused... I don't know where I was going with that, but I sure hope that folks get some enhanced clarity out of this particular exposure.

Personally I would never trust someone who suggests that I heal or feed myself at the illegitimate expense of another living, breathing, sentient being... You can never be sure where that person might draw the line... What if he thought that someone closer to him, or more like him could benefit from my flesh, excretions or desiccated glands. Dr. M is indeed a murder/torture profiteer, which is by no means a unique position, but a regretful one. and that's not healthy. Such selfish and 'selective' advisers truly cause a lot of trouble.

I wish all the best for Dr M. I do whish that he would care for 'all' and finally drop the antiquated, backwards and destructive speciesism. I mean, come on people, have we not evolved at all?




I ALSO posted numerous comments on Mercola's website over the past week (whippedsilk), as well as my daughter (puremothers) heralding the results of the China Study and a heated discussion ensued with Dr. Mercola's readers. Even Dr. Mercola felt the need to step in and respond personnally. He actually told my daughter that this discussion (China Study) had received the most interest of all his topics! Needless to say, my daughter and I were bombarded with negative "thumbs down" regarding our plant protein diets, as well as many other commentators. But it was a healthy discussion that has been continuing for more than a week! Unfortunately, when I tried to reply to a woman (Mrs.Pennypacker) after she commented about casien results in The China Study, my comment mysteriously disappeared. I simply provided a link to Dr. Campbell's rebuttal to Dr. Mercola to make it fair. Dr. Mercola listed his rebuttals to Dr. Campbell in the discussion, but apparently he didn't want his 'groupies' to read Dr. Campbell's rebuttal. I tried to comment FIVE different times and they all disappeared moments after they were posted. I tried one last time, but now I get a notice that they're updating their database and maintenance is required, so I am unable to log on and read ANY article on his website. I guess I"m banned forever. Sad though. I found valuable information on his website. Although I didn't agree with his recommendation that eating meat and dairy were beneficial, I agree with many other topics. Also, I questioned him regarding his intake of orgarnic, raw sheep's milk. He always promoted drinking organic, raw COW'S milk. Every article he wrote, he showed a picture of a cow, NOT a sheep, so I was very confused. He admitted in this last debate that he indeed drinks sheep's milk because it has no lactase and it tastes better. But that's deceptive if he implied that he always drank cow's milk and not sheep's milk. I tried to get him to clarify this and asked other readers, but Dr. Mercola never responded to me and another reader simply stated he had specified that he drank sheep's milk in one of his posts. I've been a Mercola reader for years and never found anything in his posts, other than promoting raw, organic COW'S milk. A little deceptive there. Anyway, my daughter and I just unsubscribed, or rather, I was booted off. No bother. I know he has an agenda to follow and promote and I have mine. Thank you so much Dr. Campbell for writing The China Study! Not only do I have the best opportunity for good health, I'm alleviating unnecessary animal suffering and exploitation!! I can't wait for another book!!!


Oh, another little ditty. Did you know that Dr. Mercola's girlfriend is a vegetarian? Yep! He disclosed this fact when he replied to a reader that he has REDUCED his meat intake to about 2x week, yet he PROMOTES the Weston A. Price Foundation's recommendations of lots of meat and dairy. I haven't researched it yet, but I'm sure that sheep's milk has much less protein than cow's milk (smaller animal) and he already stated that it had no lactase. I guess if you're going to drink milk, then one with no lactase and fewer animal proteins would be better. But why not alert your readers to the benefits of sheep's milk instead of cow's milk? I suspect it's because Dr. Mercola has another agenda. He's also on the Advisory Board at the Weston A. Price Foundation. Hmmmm.


Dr. Campbell has a new recruit...former President Clinton! He turned vegan last May after reading The China Study. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear what Dr. Mercola thinks about that? Here's the article:


It appears that even * Bill Clinton * has read
"The China Study" and is now pursuing the Vegan diet.

Please read and watch this post ...


Any casual visitor to Dr. Mercola's website (as I was) will be astounded by the sheer array and amount of merchandise he is selling. How does he even expect anyone to take him seriously as a doctor?


Joe Mercola qualified as an osteopath. How he thinks that qualifies him to pontificate upon such wide range of subjects is beyond me. And he's not that well informed.

A short time ago, he said that the word salary derives from the Latin salarium - so far so good - but then went on to say that salarium derived from the fact that Roman soldiers were paid in salt.

That was so nonsensical that I politely pointed out that the word derived from the fact that Roman soldiers were paid money - their salarium - with which to buy salt. Source - the Oxford Dictionary of English (and anybody with more than a passing acquaintance with Roman history).

It does rather pose a question, though - if he's so ill-informed on something so widely known (or so easily verified), how up to speed is he on the really important stuff?


I cannot believe this is true neither. Fun though to see how tough the discussion has got (: to be ostheopath or not to be (:

Please read and check this site as well:

Leave a comment