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Donald Davis, PhD, of the University of Texas at Austin....located "Senate Document 264" cited by Wallach as evidence that 99% of Americans are deficient in minerals. It turns out that the "document" is nothing more than the reprinting of a highly speculative article about a passing fad written by a Florida farmer in the June, 1936, issue of Cosmopolitan magazine as requested by Florida's Senator [Duncan U.] Fletcher [1859-1936]. Fletcher died 16 days after requesting that the government printing office reprint the article.*
Joel D. Wallach, the "mineral doctor"
Joel D. Wallach, M.S., D.V.M. (University of Missouri) and N.D. (National College of Naturopathic Medicine) is a veterinarian and naturopath who claims (in a widely distributed audio tape entitled "Dead Doctors Don't Lie") that all diseases are due to mineral deficiencies, that everyone who dies of natural causes dies because of mineral deficiencies,* and that just about anyone can live more than one hundred years if they take daily supplements of colloidal minerals harvested from pits in Utah.
Wallach claims that minerals in foods and most supplements are "metallic" and not as effective as "plant-based" colloidal minerals, which is nonsense because colloidal minerals are also "metallic," i.e., contain trace amounts of aluminum and heavy metals. Being colloidal has more to do with the origin, size, and structure of the mineral particles that with their effectiveness. (A colloid is "a substance that consists of particles dispersed throughout another substance which are too small for resolution with an ordinary light microscope but are incapable of passing through a semipermeable membrane." --Merriam-Webster)
Wallach learned all this from living on a farm, working with Marlin Perkins (of Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom" fame), doing necropsies on animals and humans, reading stories in National Geographic magazine, and reading the 1934 novel by James Hilton, The Lost Horizon. He certainly didn't learn any of it from science texts.
Dr. Wallach makes his claims about minerals despite the fact that in 1993 a research team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, reported the results of a 13-year study on 10,758 Americans which failed to find any mortality benefits from vitamin and mineral supplements. The study found that even though supplement users smoke and drink less than non-users, eat more fruits and vegetables than non-users, and are more affluent than non-users, they didn't live any longer than non-users. The study also found no benefit from taking vitamin and mineral supplements for smokers, heavy drinkers, or those which chronic diseases. In May 2006, a committee of physicians impaneled by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that little information exists as to whether people should take supplements. The previous March the NIH noted that research suggests that vitamins and other supplements may do more harm than good, and that antioxidants are of little use.* Further research has found that vitamin supplements can even be deadly.* The simple fact is that there is no compelling scientific evidence that vitamin or mineral supplements effect the health or longevity of most people. Of course, those suffering from a vitamin or mineral deficiency should take supplements, but there is no merit to Wallach's claim that most or all diseases are due to mineral deficiencies.
The basic appeal of Dr. Wallach is the hope he gives to people who fear or are mistrustful of medical doctors and scientific knowledge. He gives hope to those who want to live for a really long time. He gives hope to those who are diagnosed with diseases for which current medical knowledge has no cure. He gives hope to those who want to avoid getting a terminal disease. And he gives hope to those who want to be healthy but who do not want to diet or exercise. All we have to do is drink a magic elixir of colloidal minerals and we'll be healthy. You can't just take your minerals in pill form, he warns us. You must take the colloidal variety in liquid form. Until he had a falling out with T.J. Clark & Co., this elixir had to come from special pits in Utah. After John H. Renner, M.D., President of the National Council Against Health Fraud, exposed the "distortions, bogus science, and outright lies" in Wallach's tape, T.J. Clark & Co. "severed its business relationship with him."* Wallach then "revised his 'scientific' opinion and quickly moved on to find new partners."*
Dr. Wallach seems to be most famous for a widely circulated audiotape he calls "Dead Doctors Don't Lie." [It is also available in video tape and book form.] The label of the tape notes that Dr. Wallach was a Nobel Prize nominee. This is true. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize in medicine by the Association of Eclectic Physicians "for his notable and untiring work with deficiencies of the trace mineral selenium and its relationship to the congenital genesis of Cystic Fibrosis." The Association of Eclectic Physicians is a group of naturopaths founded in 1982 by two naturopathic physicians, Dr. Edward Alstat and Dr. Michael Ancharski. In his book Let's Play Doctor (co-authored with Ma Lan, M.D., M.S.) he states that cystic fibrosis is preventable, is 100% curable in the early stages, can be managed very well in chronic cases, leading to a normal life expectancy (75 years). If these claims were true, he might have won the Prize. He didn't win, but he gave a lot of false hope to parents of children with cystic fibrosis.
The basic danger of Dr. Wallach's theories is not that taking colloidal minerals will harm people, or even that many people will be wasting their money on a product they do not need. Many of his claims are not backed up with scientific control studies, but are anecdotal or fictional. The basic danger is that because he and other naturopaths exaggerate the role of minerals in good health, they may be totally ignored by the scientific community even if they happen to hit on some real connections between minerals and disease. Furthermore, there is the chance that legitimate scientific researchers may avoid this field for fear of being labeled a kook.
Dr. Wallach falsely claims that there are five cultures in the world that have average lifespans of between 120 and 140 years: the Tibetans in Western China; the Hunzas in Eastern Pakistan; the Russian Georgians and the Armenians, the Abkhasians, and the Azerbaijanis. He also mentions the people of the Vilcabamba in Ecuador, and those who live around Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia. The secret of their longevity is "glacier milk," or water full of colloidal minerals. It is probably news to these people that they live so long. Dr. Wallach does not mention on what scientific data he bases his claims, but I am sure there are many anthropologists and tour book authors who would like to know about these Shangri-La havens.
The label on the "Dead Doctors Don't Lie" tape says "Learn why the average life span of an MD is only 58 years." On his tape, Dr. Wallach claims that "the average life span of an American is 75 years, but the average lifespan of an American doctor is only 58 years!" Maybe dead doctors don't lie, but this living one certainly stretches the truth. If he is telling the truth, it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. According to Kevin Kenward of the American Medical Association: "Based on over 210,000 records of deceased physicians, our data indicate the average life-span of a physician is 70.8 years." One wonders where Dr. Wallach got his data. The only mention in his tape of data on physician deaths is in his description of a rather gruesome hobby of his: he collects obituaries of local physicians as he takes his mineral show from town to town . He may be somewhat selective as a collector, however.
On his tape, Dr. Wallach says
...what I did was go back to school and become a physician. I finally got a license to kill (laughter), and they allowed me to use everything I had learned in veterinary school about nutrition on my human patients. And to no surprise to me, it worked. I spent 12 years up in Portland, Oregon, in general practice, and it was very fascinating.
Dr. Wallach is an N.D., a doctor of naturopathy, not an M.D. as his tape suggests. It is unlikely that most of the people in his audience know that naturopaths call themselves physicians and that there is a very big difference between an M.D. and an N.D. He also claims he did hundreds of autopsies on humans while working as a veterinarian in St. Louis. How does a veterinarian get to do human autopsies?
Well, again, to make a long story short, over a period of some twelve years I did 17,500 autopsies on over 454 species of animals and 3,000 human beings who lived in close proximity to the zoos, and the thing I found out was this: every animal and every human being who dies of natural causes dies of a nutritional deficiency.
To accomplish this feat, he would have to do six autopsies a day, working 5 days a week for the 12 years and taking only a 2-week vacation each year. He was allegedly performing all these autopsies in addition to his other duties, and presumably while he was writing essays and books as well. Maybe all those minerals gave him superhuman powers.
an attack and a panegyric
Dr. Wallach's "Dead Doctors Don't Lie" tape is both an attack on the medical profession and a panegyric for minerals. The attack is vicious and mostly unwarranted, which weakens his credibility about the wonders of minerals. He does not come across as an objective, impersonal scientist. He delights in ridiculing "Haavaad" University and cardiologists who die young from heart attacks, many of whom went into the field because of congenital heart defects. He reverts to name calling on several occasions, as well. Doctors, he says, routinely commit many practices that would be considered illegal in other fields. At one point he claims that the average M.D. makes over $200,000 a year in kickbacks. This ludicrous claim didn't even get a peep of skeptical bewilderment from his audience. [The tape is of a live recording of one of his shows.] He sounds like a bitter, rejected oddball who is getting even with the medical profession for ignoring him and his "research."
In addition to citing his many scientific studies and years of research as proof that we need mineral supplements for good health, Dr. Wallach presents U.S. Senate document #264. This paper claims that U.S. soils are 85% depleted of essential minerals. According to Dr. Wallach, that is why we can't get enough minerals from our foods. He has further evidence, too:
...to live to be 100+ we need to consume 90 nutrients per day...60 minerals, 16 vitamins, 12 amino acids and 3 fatty acids...there are some 10 diseases associated with the lack of each of these 90 nutrients or potentially 900 diseases...the American Medical Association did a study in 1939 and came to the conclusion that it is no longer feasible to get all the vitamins we need from foods.
I wonder if the AMA has done any studies on this issue since 1939? If so, why aren't they mentioned? And why, even if mineral supplements are needed can't we buy them off the shelf of our local supermarket? Because they aren't "colloidal." He suggests at one point in his tape that minerals in pill form aren't absorbed at all; they just pass right through the body and out into the sewer lines. But why do our colloidal minerals have to come from a pit in Utah? Here is his explanation:
the only place you can get these in the United States is from a prehistoric Valley in southern Utah that, according to geologists, seventy-five million years ago had sixty to seventy-two minerals in the walls and the floor of that valley, and those trees and the grasses in that valley and that forest took up all the metallic minerals and made colloidal minerals in their tissues. About that time there was a volcanic eruption which entombed that valley with a thin layer of mud and ash, not thick enough or heavy enough to crush or pressurize this into oil or coal. It was very dry in here, so it never became fossilized or petrified. Okay. Never became rock.
Today, if you put a shaft into this valley, it's still just dried hay. It's seventy-five million year old hay, according to geologists. You can still see the grass and the leaves and the twigs and the pine cones and the bark and so forth. And we grind this plant material up into a flour, very small, particle sized flour, just like a good wheat flour and for three to four weeks we soak it in filtered spring water and when it reaches a specific gravity of 3.0, it's very heavy, it has thirty-eight grams of this colloidal mineral in it per quart or liter and by actual analysis it has sixty colloidal minerals in it. This particular product has been on the market since 1926. It's the only nutritional product on the market that has a legal consent decree from a federal court and an approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to be harvested and sold as a nutritional supplement. Everybody else who has a vitamin, or mineral, or what not, just follows the labeling requirements of the FDA. This is the only one that, in fact, has a federal consent decree to do it, because it passed all their tests. It's the only one that has been put to this level of test because it works.
How do we know it works? Dr. Wallach guarantees it. Or your money back! Should you trust him? Why wouldn't you trust someone who tells stories about people in China who lived to be over 250 years old or about a 137 year-old cigar-smoking woman! Of course, it is up to you to infer that they lived so long because they took colloidal minerals, though the good Dr. has enough sense not to make such a claim. In case you are still not convinced of this man's trustworthiness, let me inform you that, according to Dr. Wallach, for the past twenty years there have been cures for arthritis, diabetes and ulcers. These cures were discovered by veterinarians, who also discovered the cause of Alzheimer's disease years ago. Tell that to the millions of people suffering from these diseases.
Ellen Coleman, a registered dietician and nutrition columnist, has another view of Wallach's products: “Colloidal mineral products have not been proven safe or effective. They are not better absorbed than regular mineral supplements.” James Pontolillo, a research scientist, is concerned that colloidal mineral products may contain toxic organic compounds.* The National Nutritional Food Association says that some colloidal mineral products “contain aluminum or toxic minerals; others are high in sodium. Some do not contain detectable amounts of minerals listed on their labels. Finally, there is no evidence that colloidal minerals are more bioavailable than those found in other forms.”*
new Steve Cherniske, M.S. has posted a list of 28 inaccuracies and falsehoods in Wallach's infamous tape:
1. He is listed on the tape as a "1991 Nobel Prize nominee for medicine." While that sounds impressive, you have to understand that anyone can nominate anyone for a Nobel prize. I would like to know what accomplishment he was nominated for and what level his nomination reached. After all, I have been nominated for President of the United States. [Wallach claims he was nominated for "his stunning discoveries in the prevention of cystic fibrosis." However, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is oddly unaware of his contribution. (the ed.)]
Impressed? I hope not.
2. Dr. Wallach claims to have performed over 3,000 autopsies on humans. When I called Bastyr University, the nations foremost Naturopath school, they informed me that ND's are not licensed or trained to perform human autopsies.
3. Dr. Wallach states that pica is a disorder in which a person craves sweets. In fact, it is a hunger for non-food substances such as soil or metal.
4. He states that the average lifespan of a doctor in America is 58 years. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, American physicians live an average of 69.7 years, less than the national average, but certainly more than Dr. Wallach would have us believe. [According to Goodman (1975) and the American Medical Association Center for Health Care Policy (1988), Over the last seventy years, M.D.s of both sexes have consistently enjoyed greater lifespans than the general public. The life expectancy of physicians is somewhere between 75 and 88 years, depending on the age and gender one chooses. See attached literature from the NCAHF. (the ed.)]
5. Dr. Wallach states that an anti-cancer diet has been discovered. But his data is derived from a Chinese study in which a large proportion of the participants were seriously malnourished. It is not reasonable to conclude that anyone who takes vitamins A, E and beta carotene will have the same reduction in cancer risk.
6. He states that 50% of 70 year old Americans have Alzheimer's disease. In fact, careful research shows that the incidence of Alzheimer's disease in Americans 65 to 74 years of age is approximately 3.9%. Reference: Evans D. et al. Estimated Prevalence of Alzheimers Disease in the United States. The Milbank Quarterly 1990; 68(2): 267-287.
7. He talks of preventing Alzheimer's disease in pigs with vitamin E and a low vegetable oil diet. In fact, pigs don't get Alzheimer's, and there is no evidence that this approach has any benefit for humans with this disease.
8. Dr. Wallach recommends the use of butter over olive oil for longevity when a virtual mountain of research supports the opposite view.
9. He states that gray hair at any age and face wrinkles are due to a copper deficiency. This is absurd and insupportable.
10. His claim that cardiomyopathy is a selenium deficiency is equally absurd, and illustrates a serious error in thinking. Cardiomyopathy is not a single disease, but a group of disorders that involve the heart muscle. (cardio = heart, myo = muscle, pathy = disease). Cardiomyopathy can result from a host of causes including genetic defects, nutritional deficiency, metabolic disease, infection, trauma and alcoholism. Yet Wallach lumps all cardiomyopathy into a single disease with a single cause, selenium deficiency. Even his examples are dead wrong. He goes on and on about Stewart Berger, a doctor who died of cardiomyopathy, yet Wallach knows nothing about this doctor. If he had bothered to do even a little research, he would have learned that Berger had a life-long weight problem (weighed over 300 when he died) and may also have abused drugs. Either of these factors can cause cardiomyopathy, but according to Wallach, Berger was simply deficient in the mineral selenium. In fact, Berger regularly took an enormous amount of nutritional supplements, including selenium.
11. He makes the same mistake when talking of aneurysms, the bulging of an artery. Although medical texts list some 40 different types of aneurysm, with a variety of causes including atherosclerosis, cancer, bacterial infection and hypertension, Wallach claims all aneurysms are caused by a copper deficiency.
12. He states that male pattern baldness is a tin deficiency. This is entirely incorrect. [Male pattern baldness is, in fact, a familial (inherited) condition influenced by androgen (testosterone) levels. (Merck 1987) (the ed.)]
13. He states that Bell's palsy is a calcium deficiency when in fact it is clearly a neurological disorder. Many individuals have suffered from Bell's palsy (interruption of a facial nerve resulting in partial paralysis of the face) after trauma or injury. Did these people all suddenly become calcium deficient? And if the disorder is a calcium deficiency, why is Bell's palsy so rare?
14. He states that sugar metabolism disorders (diabetes and hypoglycemia) are a vanadium deficiency when vanadium has not even been recognized as an essential nutrient for humans.
15. He states that arthritis is osteoporosis of the joint ends of the bones. This is incorrect.
16. He claims that sodium intake has nothing to do with high blood pressure, citing the fact that he used to put salt licks out for his cows and they never got high blood pressure. What incredible reasoning! Could it be that cows use the salt lick as needed, while humans routinely consume massive amounts of sodium for taste and as food additives?
In fact, the human body was designed for a high potassium, low sodium diet through 1.6 million years of hunting & gathering. Today's highly processed and refined diet supplies minimal potassium and enormous amounts of sodium, and we suffer as a result.
This is probably my major objection to this tape; the fact that important points like this are over-simplified and exaggerated. If Wallach actually did his homework, he would find that fully one-third of the studies evaluating calcium intake and hypertension actually show no consistent benefit. (REFERENCE: McCarron DA; Hatton D; Roullet JB; Roullet C. Dietary calcium, defective cellular Ca2+ handling, and arterial pressure control, Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 1994 Aug, 72(8):937-44.) This may be due to the fact that calcium supplementation appears to work best for people whose previous intake of calcium was very low.
17. Wallach dismisses the importance of good oral hygiene in preventing periodontal disease (receding gums). Instead, he claims the problem is simply a calcium deficiency. While adequate calcium intake is certainly important for the maintenance of the bone that anchors the teeth (alveolar bone), the deterioration of this bone is a late stage in periodontal disease. The progression of periodontal disease is actually well understood. First there is the accumulation of bacterial plaque, masses of bacteria that are actually visible to your dentist. The infection then spreads to the periodontal ligament which attaches the tooth to the bone, and finally, the bone begins to deteriorate.
18. One of the most simplistic and nonsensical claims made on this tape is that people who live to be a hundred drink 40 cups of tea every day and put rock salt and two pats of butter in each cup. On the other hand, doctors (who Wallach claims only live to be 58) tell you to reduce salt and butter. Wallach then asks "Who are you going to believe?"
First of all, I would like to know where these tea, rock salt and butter consuming people are. I have traveled throughout Asia and have studied longevity at great length, and have never encountered such behavior. And even if there are people with such habits, certainly the vast majority of centenarians do not drink 40 cups of tea each day loaded with butter and rock salt. So I will ask you the same question..."Who are you going to believe?"
19. Then there's the hysterectomy issue. Wallach states that "The medical treatment of choice for PMS is a hysterectomy." This is utter nonsense. He also claims that doctors perform about 285,000 unnecessary hysterectomies each year in order to make their Mercedes payments. This borders on hate mongering, and once again is a gross exaggeration. The total number of hysterectomies performed in the US in 1993 was 560,000 and the vast majority of these were performed because of ovarian cancer or other disease.
Where does Wallach get his figures? Now there is no doubt that many hysterectomies are unnecessary, but a careful study utilizing second opinion data showed that only 8% of elective hysterectomies (eg. those performed because of ovarian cysts) were unconfirmed. REFERENCE: Finkel ML; Finkel DJ. The effect of a second opinion program on hysterectomy performance. Medical Care, 1990 Sep, 28(9):776-83.
If you take the approximate number of elective hysterectomies (124,000) and multiply by 8%, you get 9,920, not 285,000. Wallach further states that the AMA says that these (285,000) hysterectomies are unnecessary, but when I contacted the AMA regarding this, they had no idea what he was talking about. Of course, as you might have guessed, Wallach states that PMS is really just a calcium deficiency.
20. Wallach states that all low back pain, "whether you work on a computer, unload hay or drive big trucks" is due to osteoporosis. This is absurd, as most low back pain is caused by muscle or ligament strain.
21. Wallach states that he has seen diabetes cured in "hundreds and hundreds" of individuals simply by taking chromium and vanadium supplements. Again, it is well-known that these trace minerals are important in glucose metabolism. It's also true that the medical community in general underutilizes trace minerals in treating diabetes. But I know dozens of doctors who include trace minerals in their treatment plans, and not one of them would agree with Wallach. They, along with the entire health care community, would love to see his patient records to verify his claims.
22. Wallach's treatment of colloidal minerals is also filled with errors. While any organic chemist knows that soil-based compounds can be divided into metals and non-metals, he calls all of these "metallic minerals." He claims that these metallic minerals are only 8 to 12% absorbable, and after age 35 to 40, that drops to 3 to 5%. Where does he get these numbers? What happens at age 35 that reduces mineral absorption by 60%? Whenever I hear ridiculous numbers like this thrown around I challenge the speaker to provide documentation. No one ever has.
In reality, the absorption of minerals depends on an enormous number of variables, the most important of which is physiologic need. Someone who is deficient in calcium will absorb a great deal more of the mineral (in any form) than someone who is adequately nourished. Another variable is vitamin D status. Someone adequately nourished in vitamin D will absorb far more calcium (in any form) than someone deficient in vitamin D. Other variables include nutrient form (calcium citrate is absorbed much better than calcium phosphate) and meal composition (vitamin C helps the absorption of iron and zinc).
23. He tells a story of a man who owned a portable toilet company finding hundreds of intact vitamin tablets in his toilets. Wallach uses that story to prove that "you can't absorb metallic minerals." In fact, all that proves is that some vitamins are tableted improperly. To make the sweeping statement that all vitamin tablets are unabsorbed is like saying that because Yugos break down all the time, all automobiles are unreliable. In nutrition as in automobiles, there are the Yugos and there are Rolls Royces.
24. Wallach states: "If you read the labels on those multiples, they say your iron comes in the form of iron oxide. What is iron oxide? Rust!" While this point is dramatic, it is also patently false. In the last ten years, I have reviewed more than a thousand different multi-mineral formulations, and not one of them used iron oxide.
25. Wallach's calcium lactate story also contains multiple errors. He states that in a 1,000 mg tablet, 250 mg is calcium and the remaining 750 mg is lactose or milk sugar. In fact, calcium lactate is a compound of calcium and lactic acid, which is an organic acid found in apples, tomatoes and other fruit as well as beer and wine. He then states that you'll only absorb 10% of the calcium in such products, but that claim is unsupported.
26. His claim that colloidal minerals are 98% absorbable is probably the most important statement on the tape (since he is selling colloidal minerals) but I could find no documentation in the medical or agricultural literature to document that. As mentioned in # 22 above, the absorption of minerals depends upon a host of factors, only one of which is the form in which they are delivered.
I am not saying that colloidal minerals are not valuable. They are probably a very good mineral source, but in order to evaluate their worth to human health, we need more than just claims and audio tapes. Mineral absorption is verifiable through scientific experiment. I have such data on the mineral compounds that I use, and I would expect that Wallach or anyone making these claims should be able to do the same. As of this writing I have not seen a single study comparing the absorption of colloidal minerals vs. mineral salts or chelated minerals in humans. Hmmmm.
27. Wallach states that the human body stores, uses and transports minerals in their colloidal state. This is not true. Most minerals are stored as salts of calcium or phosphorus. Others are found in compounds with proteins or lipids, or simply components of enzymes and hormones. In found in their free ionic state. Magnesium, for example, is found in numerous body tissues, with only about 30% bound to any type of carrier molecule. REFERENCE: Shils ME. Physiological Chemistry of Magnesium. In: Present Knowledge in Nutrition. The Nutrition Foundation. Washington D.C. 1984. pp 422-438.
28. More colloidal confusion. Wallach notes that all of the long-lived cultures drink glacier water which contains ground up rocks in solution. But these are simply metallic minerals, the very compounds he previously stated were unabsorbable. I don't get it. [/new]
Despite the many false claims Wallach makes about physicians, diseases, and mineral deficienties, he has spawned a small industry of mineral sellers, including some multi-level marketing projects on the Internet.
Dr. Wallach exposed a site dedicated to exposing the lies behind Dr. Joel Wallach and his "Dead Doctor's Don't Lie" propaganda
Exposé on Joel Wallach's controversial new tape, "Dead Doctors Don't Lie" by Steve Cherniske, M.S.
The Millenium Project - "Joel Wallach is a veterinarian best known for selling a tape called "Dead Doctors Don't Lie!". The lies on this tape are used to promote Wallach's pyramid scheme to sell snake oil which cures everything from Alzheimer's Disease to Zambucca Overdose, or so it seems. Vet Wallach likes to refer to himself as a "physician", apparently on the basis that he has bought a degree in naturopathy from somewhere. Wallach does not like criticism, probably because he knows that his nonsense cannot stand up to any scrutiny."
Colloidal Mineral Supplements: Unnecessary and Potentially Hazardous by James Pontolillo