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Robert O. Young (b. 1952)
Robert O. Young promotes the alkaline diet in books co-authored with his wife, Shelley Redford Young, and on websites such as www.drrobertoyoung.com/ and www.phmiracleliving.com/. He also promotes himself as a well-educated scientist and pioneer in nutrition who is doing work that is "on the threshold of a new biology." In fact, his work is ignored or ridiculed by the scientific community. His allegedly threshold work in biology has never been published in a reputable science journals, and for good reason. On his website, he claims:
In 1994, Dr. Young discovered the biological transformation of red blood cells into bacteria and bacteria to red blood cells. He has since documented several such transformations.
So he says. (He calls himself "Dr." because he several doctorates from the unaccredited Clayton College of Natural Health [formerly American College of Holistic Nutrition]). He even has a video claiming to demonstrate his discovery. If red blood cells turned into bacteria and vice-versa, Young would have a scoop worthy of a trip to Stockholm to collect his Nobel prize. Anyway, this claim is related to his other beliefs about blood and health, none of which seem based on an understanding of biology or chemistry.* He claims to have expertise in doing live and dry blood microscopy necessary to determine the proper diet for a person to maintain or restore health. The fact is, he might look at blood under a microscope and then prescribe a diet, supplements, water processing equipment, and the like (which he happens to sell), but there is no connection between anything he might see in his blood analysis and the need for an alkaline diet. Live blood cell analysis is just a gimmick used by some naturopaths, chiropractors, and bogus nutritional advisers. Live blood analysis for determining a healthy diet is "no better than tea leaves or tarot cards," says Robert Baratz M.D. and president of the National Council on Medical Fraud. "It's crapola."*
Young says he studied microscopic blood analysis with Robert Bradford. This is not something he should be proud of. Bradford ran a Mexican clinic that offered quack treatments, a company that marketed dubious drugs and dietary supplements, a "research institute" that did no significant research, and a non-accredited "medical school." Bradford didn't have a college degree, but Young refers to him as "Dr." Bradford. He was convicted of laetrile smuggling in the 1970s. According to Quackwatch:
In 2008, Bradford was charged with conspiring to violate federal food and drug laws and defraud individuals seeking medical care. The indictment states that he marketed bogus Lyme disease products and a microscope system that was falsely claimed to diagnose the disease.*
In 2010, Bradford, 79, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. Bradford's sentencing is scheduled for January 11, 2011. [update 16 May 2011: Bradford, his wife, and two others were jointly ordered to pay restitution of $40,372. His company was assessed a small fine and he and his wife were put on probation for 5 years.]
In 1995, Young himself was charged with two third-degree felony counts of practicing medicine without a license, but pled guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge. He drew blood from two women, told them they were ill, and then sold them herbal products to treat their "illnesses." Young argued that he "looked at the women's blood and simply gave them some nutritional advice."
In 2001, Young was charged with another felony in Utah when a woman suffering from cancer claimed he analyzed her blood and told her to stop chemotherapy and take his "Super Greens" product instead. Young told the woman that he had cured people suffering from AIDS, the affidavit alleged. A month later Young was arrested when an undercover agent went to him for a consultation. Young allegedly analyzed her blood and prescribed a liquid diet. A judge ordered Young to stop drawing blood or risk being denied bail. *
Young dismissed the arrests as "harassment."
Young's educational background is no less shady than his medical background. His degrees in nutrition, naturopathy, and science are from Clayton College of Natural Health, a now defunct non-accredited correspondence school.
Young's website describes him as a writer, a microbiologist, and a nutrition consultant. He says he's engaged in holistic healing by promoting an "alkalarian" way of life. He describes his wife as a writer, massage consultant, and cook.
Together, they run “The pH Miracle Center,” farm alkaline vegetables and fruit, hold health retreats, and teach live blood research and health conventions on what they refer to as “The New Biology,” which embodies concepts about the cause and source of disease and the way to forestall it thru an alkaline diet and a physically active, low-stress way of life.
The only problem with this picture is that it is deceiving. Many people, especially those with little knowledge of biology or chemistry and those desperate for a "natural" cure, are likely to think that Robert O. Young is a straight shooter who knows what he's talking about. There's nothing radical or earthshaking about recommending an active, low-stress lifestyle. On the other hand, there is nothing correct about Young's ideas on alkalinity, either as related to disease or as to promoting a healthy lifestyle. In fact, for many people, an alkaline diet can be unhealthy, as it prevents them from eating many foods that can provide vital nutrients.
A sign of Young's competence was given when he proclaimed that he had reversed Kim Tinkham's breast cancer with his pH miracle treatment. Tinkham apparently believed she was cancer-free before she died of cancer. He used her in several YouTube videos to provide proof of his miracle work. All those videos have been removed for obvious reasons. (For more on Tinkham's treatment by Young, see the entry on the alkaline diet.)
articles and books
Why Bogus Therapies Often Seem to Work by Barry L. Beyerstein
I'd like to offer an eighth reason to Barry's list: Ignorance of the many failures of the therapy. Alternative healers don't keep records of their failures. The patients who never return, either because they realized the treatment was worthless or they died, are not reported. Dead patients don't make good anecdotes.
Social and judgmental biases that make inert treatments seem to work by Barry L. Beyerstein
Why Health Professionals Become Quacks by William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.
All bacteria are bad? by Orac
Remember Robert O. Young?
He's the purveyor of only the finest quackery. Note that, by "finest," I mean the most highly entertaining, the sort of utter twaddle that makes me laugh out loud when I read it. Whether it's his claim that alkalinization is the cure for basically all disease, his characterizing sepsis as not being due to bacterial infection, his description of cancer as a mechanism to protect the body from "rotten cells" spoiled by acid and liquified, or his nonsensical attacks on Andrew Weil (his being one of the few men who can make Weil look reasonable by comparison), Robrt O. Young never fails to bring home the woo, often in ways that are utterly hilarious to anyone with a modicum of understanding of science and science-based medicine....As quacky as he is, Robert O. Young has lots of company.
Quack Victim Kim Tinkham Dies of Breast Cancer at Anaximperator blog: Blogging against alternative cancer treatments
new Controversial alternative health provider charged Robert Oldham Young, 61, was accused of going beyond advocating dietary changes and using intravenous treatments on "patients" he housed at his avocado ranch in Valley Center. He pleaded not guilty to 18 felony charges, including practicing medicine without a license and grand theft. Young was ordered held on $100,000 bail, and Judge David Szumowski told the defendant to surrender his passport and not have any patients stay at his ranch. [/new]