Dr. Fuhrman's colleague Dr. Steven Acocella, MS, D.C., DACBN, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist, American College of Lifestyle Physicians, and a Diplomat of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, discusses celebrity doctor, Dr. Mercola:
I went to Mercola.com and took the nutrition quiz. Bison meat, Dr. Mercola recommends that I get more bison meat in my diet. I can show you the print out if you want to see it. In fact, he states that if you're like me and have a test score consistent with a ‘mixed metabolic type’ and eat more bison and other ‘dark meats’ (those meats he lists as ‘most beneficial’ for us mixer-types) we will “dramatically reduce the need for emergency care such as visits to the doctor or hospital, pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medicine” and “permanently free yourself from the health programs, supplements, foods…that won't have any positive effect on your health”. And, best of all, “you will reach your ideal weight by maintaining the principles”. Bison meat, who knew?
But sadly bison meat is just one piece of a much larger picture in this ‘Mercola Madness’. Dr. Mercola’s approach to improving our health is largely centered on knowing our metabolic type. According to Dr. Mercola we’ll be free of disease and attain proper weight and enjoy all his other promises of greater youthfulness, improved health and vigor if we simply know if we’re a protein, carbohydrate or mixed metabolic type and eat the corresponding foods and follow other recommendations. Wow, such a deal! So how do we find out what type we are? We answer a hundred or so questions and his software spits it out, that’s how. For only 59 bucks this is a great deal too, right? Wrong! The determinate test is junk and the pseudo-science attempting to support metabolic typing is even worse.
Firstly, let's look at the all important questionnaire. It is a subjective test in which you respond based upon how you feel relative to specific food consumption, timing of meals, digestion, cravings etc. The problem is that after years of eating the standard American fare most of the foods that makes us comfortable and feel good (which we base our answers on) are the very foods that got us into trouble in the first place. In fact, it's listening to our bodies that make many of us fatter and sicker. After a while we’re just trying to feed the addictions of toxic hunger and quell cravings in an effort to stay comfortable. It may be subtle but it’s what drives many of us. Taking this subjective test is like asking a cigarette smoker when they crave a cigarette if smoking makes them feel better, and after they say yes we recommend that they smoke because they’re the “smoking-type”. The Mercola questionnaire bases our responses on similar cravings and withdrawal symptoms but from processed foods, sugar and salt intoxication, fat addiction, esophageal spasms and other morbid conditions and cravings. Nice.
I answered the on-line questionnaire as a “carbohydrate-comfortable” person obviously would and it sent me results telling me I was a carbohydrate metabolic type; then I took the test again answering as a meat lover would and low-and-behold it sent me results telling me I was a protein metabolic type. And then I answered as I really felt, and I did this at 5 different times throughout the day. Yes, I guess it is possible to be all 3 metabolic types at once. It looks like I’m a Protein Type at around 8:00 am, a Carbohydrate Type around noon and really mixed up at dinner time.
So, now let’s say you took the big test and the computer based decision spits back your metabolic type; looking at the list of foods he recommends there are some sound choices for each type but this has nothing to do with a factitious metabolic type; good food is good for everyone and bad food is bad for everyone regardless of a test score, blood type, eye color or your mother’s maiden name spelled backwards. But unfortunately it gets worse. In addition to some healthy foods (which may be off limits to you based on your type, sorry) Dr. Mercola recommends some seriously dangerous foods in all categories (just check out QuackWatch.com). But back to this metabolic type nonsense; for this premise to be credible the laws of thermodynamics and biochemistry would have to no longer exist. Furthermore, our species simply does not exhibit a wide enough variation or biodiversity of our 20 or so metabolic pathways for any of this to matter. This is addiction based dieting, plain and simple. Unless, perhaps, some of us really have been abducted by aliens and had our insides altered. It’s that darn anal probe they use isn’t it? Perhaps Dr. Mercola does know something that we don’t! Come on, good nutrition is based upon the right ratio of calories and nutrients relative to age, sex and activity level and a few other basic variables. To alter a diet by doubling the fat content for one person verses another based upon some questionnaire is sheer lunacy (and he actually advocates saturated fat, that’s the malpractice of nutritional medicine in my opinion).
To think that a diet which includes excessive amounts of foods that are clearly well established risk factors for diet related cancers and heart disease is somehow less risky because you scored 82 points instead of a 63 on the Mercola questionnaire is scary, really scary. A healthy and well balanced diet with a high nutrient per calorie ratio is health promoting across our entire population. Conversely, a diet too high in fat or excessive in protein can be very damaging to the health of each one of us, even if you scored 100.
I’m sure he means well but at best Dr. Mercola’s methods are a waste of time and money, at worst a Mercola madness meal could be your last, and I mean your last. But what do I know? After all, there’s still not enough bison in my diet.