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Joseph "Doc" Mercola, D.O. (born 1954), is an osteopathic physician, health activist, and entrepreneur practicing near Chicago. He is the author of two New York Times best-sellers, The No-Grain Diet (with Alison Rose Levy), and The Great Bird Flu Hoax, together with several other books. He is best known as founder and editor of the popular website Mercola.com. On his website, he advocates dietary and lifestyle approaches to health. He criticizes many of the practices of mainstream medicine and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), particularly vaccination and the frequent use of prescription drugs and surgery to treat diseases. On the website, he also promotes and sells a variety of products. Mercola has received a pair of warnings from the FDA for marketing nutritional products in a manner which violated the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. He is a member of the politically conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, as well as several alternative medicine-related organizations.
Additional recommended knowledge
Started in 1997, Mercola.com is the website operated by Joseph Mercola. As of October 2006, the site had a ranking of 4534 out of all websites by Alexa.com, ranked first under key words 'natural health' in the United States, and one of the top visited for 'health'. As of October 2006, mercola.com had a ranking of 5,033 out of all websites at Ranking.com and was first for the "health/news and media/newsletters" category.
The web site presents health articles, product sales, solicitation for new patients, and a video addressing newsletter readers. There is usually a new google video in each weekly newsletter. If someone gives their date of birth and mailing address, they are even sent a surprise birthday card in snail mail.
Mercola is a 1976 graduate of the University of Illinois and a 1982 graduate of the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. According to Mercola's website, he is a former Chairman of the Family Medicine department at St. Alexius Medical Center in Illinois and served as editor of HIV Monograph (1989) by Abbott Laboratories.
Mercola strongly advocates dietary changes to improve health, which he considers to be among the most important lifestyle changes for enhancing well being and longevity. Overall, he claims that a well balanced diet should include mostly natural, unprocessed foods, while excluding processed and artificial foods. He sees value in paleolithic diets, and advocates tailoring food consumption to the metabolic typing, developed by William Wolcott that Mercola offers more information on, in his book on the subject. He encourages using water filters or reverse osmosis to purify water content, and is against water chlorination and fluoridation.
Examples of foods he recommends include fresh vegetables and vegetable juice, wild salmon, fish oil, (cod liver oil in winter), fermented foods like kefir, raw foods including raw milk products, raw eggs, grass fed beef, ostrich meat and traditionally used fats such as virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
Foods he recommends avoiding include pasteurized milk, homogenized milk, most fish (due to mercury content), trans fats, certain processed vegetable fats (such as corn and canola oil), soy products, artificial sweeteners, sugar, starches, and for those with elevated insulin levels (such as anyone who is overweight, diabetic, or has high blood pressure or high cholesterol) he also advises avoiding all grain products (including "even whole unprocessed grains, and alternative grains like quinoa, amaranth, millet and teff"), fruit juices, and canned, packaged or artificial foods. This is very similar to what is often called a Paleolithic diet and the diet promoted by the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Controversial dietary advice
Joseph Mercola's dietary recommendations often put him at odds with mainstream dietary advice. The elimination of grains from the diet goes against the recommendation of the USDA food pyramid, where grains are viewed as a staple food. Mercola, however, points to theories on food intolerances involving gluten, such as celiac sprue and wheat allergy, and the relatively new introduction of grains into the human diet and theories that sugar and starch are associated with hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance.
Some dietary fats he promotes are also high in saturated fats, including unrefined coconut oil, which also contains medium chain triglycerides. While saturated fats are considered by the American Heart Association as contributing to heart disease, a number of scientists (such as those from The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics) dispute this claim, stating that the lipid hypothesis has not been validated to scientific standards. Some other fringe nutritional groups beside Dr Mercola also advocate saturated fat consumption.
Mercola.com has hosted negative articles about microwave ovens, calling them dangerous, citing accidents, lawsuits, biochemical changes and other health reservations about the chemical effects of microwaving food. He also offers non-microwave, convection ovens for sale in his store. Mercola controversially claims, "Microwaves may also cause pathological changes in your body. Once a food's structure is altered, it cannot perform the desired function in your body. Clinical studies show that microwave heating of milk or cooking of vegetables is associated with a decline in hemoglobin levels. These reductions may contribute to anemia, rheumatism, fever and thyroid deficiency."
In supporting raw milk, Mercola is very critical of requirements for pasteurization, stating that it is unnecessary if cows are raised under healthy conditions. He claims that raw milk is one of the finest source of protein and calcium available, His main concern is that the high temperatures during pasteurization will destroy the valuable enzymes in milk and create converted proteins the body was never designed to handle.
Mercola is also against homogenization. He asserts that it causes fat globules to surround the enzyme xanthine oxidase (XO), which prevents the stomach from breaking down XO and allows XO to be absorbed intact into the bloodstream. He relates this additional bovine XO as a possible source of harmful oxidatitive stress contributory to heart failure and increased uric acid levels associated with gout.
Drugs and supplements
Dr. Mercola advises elimination of most prescription drugs and immunizations for treatment, and favors natural food choices, lifestyle modifications and energy psychology tools to address emotional challenges. He views these as safer and more effective options, because they address what he believes to be the 'root causes' of disease rather than simply treating symptoms by palliative means. He states that drug companies profoundly influence both government health agencies and the mainstream medical community, which in turn promote medical practices that are beneficial to drug companies but harmful to the patient. Typical supplements he promotes are krill oil, fish oil or cod liver oil, products containing vitamins such as vitamin D (when lacking adequate sun exposure) and vitamin K, probiotics, and anti-oxidant supplements.
Pharmaceutical industry criticism
Mercola is especially critical of new drugs, as well as the economic and political powers which might influence their acceptance. He wrote an early drug warning on rofecoxib (Vioxx), a drug later withdrawn from the market by its manufacturer due to adverse reactions. He dismisses many conventional health concerns and medications as useless, prescribing exercise, good diet, good sleep, specially filtered water, chlorella, omega-3 fats focusing on fish oils, and energy psychology methods like Emotional Freedom Techniques as cures for most ills.
Among Mercola's most controversial recommendations are his expressed concerns that too many vaccines are used too soon during infancy. He believes that some subpopulations (e.g. neonates, elderly, chronically ill) may be less suitable for certain vaccines, and that flu vaccines are still formulated with thimerosal and other undesirable adjuvants unsuitable for use. He asserts that the slow phasedown for millions of existing doses of childhood vaccines containing mercury is against the public's greater interests.
Mercola hosts vaccine critics on his webpages, advocates preventive measures  as part of an alternative immunization schedule, and strongly criticizes influenza vaccines. He questions the projected epidemic threat and severity of influenza, the flu vaccine's safety  and efficacy, and the possibility of harm to an individual's immune system.
Mercola claims that some chemicals used to control fungi and bacteria within certain vaccines are toxic to infants and can harm young children if too many shots containing mercury-containing Thimerosal are given within a period of time. He also expresses concern about potentially cancer-linked components in vaccines such as thimersol, and historically, SV40 virus contaminating early polio vaccines. Medical research and views in this area are contentious. Thimerosal is an organic compound used as an antiseptic and antifungal agent in vaccines, containing mercury which is classified as a poison in its pure form, and is used in small amounts as a preservative in vaccines. Thimerosal is no longer recommended in vaccines given to young children in the USA, though it is still present in US-made vaccines exported to other countries.
In his book The Great Bird Flu Hoax he appears to take a stronger anti-pharmaceutical industry stance by accusing them of a fear-mongering marketing campaign against the public, as allegedly occurred with the Swine Flu scare of the 1970s.
In supporting this stance, Mercola often has wholly critical views of those working in governmental health care, as well as towards international health organizations. Mercola makes an extensive argument that disease alerts such as swine flu and their resulting immunizations were actually false alarms put forth to terrify the public.
Mercola promotes treatments based upon methods that have not been accepted by mainstream medicine, such as metabolic typing, the traditional Chinese medicine originated acupressure-based Emotional Freedom Technique, herbalism, naturopathy and chiropractic including vitalism. Proponents of conventional medicine claim that these methods are unproven.
While stating that he believes in the scientific method, he distrusts many commercial and institutional applications of it in medicine. He has stated that the only value he finds in mainstream medicine is diagnosis and emergency accident survival. Mercola paints a picture of most medical science as being corrupted by the pharmaceutical industry, and the majority of medical doctors as being frequently deceived and misled by multinational corporate drug interests.
Of homeopathy he says, "I have never been formally trained in homeopathy, and as a result I don't use much of it in my practice, but I am convinced it can be used as an effective tool for many conditions if properly utilized." He has also contributed to the water fluoridation controversy and has published several anti-fluoride articles.
Mercola was raised as a Catholic. Later in life he switched to evangelical Christianity, but now calls himself spiritual rather than religious. Dr. Mercola was formerly a member of the Christian Medical Society but stopped his membership in 2002. He promotes religion and prayer as having health benefits, and focuses strongly on studies that advocate this position.
Mercola hosts the theistic writings and beliefs of other website contributors such as Carol Tuttle, who speaks of angels among us, that want to help everyone, and can be petitioned to do so. He refers to her as a master energy therapist of energy psychology and energy medicine. Says Mercola: "energy psychology is one of the greatest tools I have ever encountered in the healing modalities." As with his involvement with Emotional Freedom Technique, his support for these modalities gives such approaches value in his spiritual views, frequently presented on the website.
Mercola's web site, articles, and weekly newsletter constantly promote food, mechanical and information products sold from the site. He claims that all income goes towards maintaining and enhancing the Web site.
Mercola sells meditation tapes which he claims reduces stress as "the number one cause of illness"  or disease (as stated in his newsletter). His advertisement also claims that they increase creativity, energy, and focus.
In defense for having the inaccurate statements for his products up in the first place, he claimed that six months prior to the FDA letter he had hired a Washington DC law firm to proactively review the claims he had already posted on the website for legal validity.
Mercola claimed that due to their internal miscommunication the law firm never completed his request. He claims to be unaware of their failure to review his website for statements until he received the letter from the FDA.
On Sept. 21, 2006 Mercola received a second warning letter from the FDA for claims made on his website in relation to "various product labels...".
Criticisms of Mercola
Some of the criticism of Joseph Mercola is similar to criticism made against non-mainstream and alternative medicine in general. Mercola is often viewed in this light by his promotion and marketing of non-pharmaceutical approaches. While certain advice, such as good diet and exercise, are not so criticized, he promotes a variety of alternative medicine that often take the place of the pharmaceutical approaches he mostly discourages.
Mercola has authored sixteen health books and has published many alternative medicine related articles on his website. He has authored a review article in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, as well as several letters to the editor in conventional journals.
Affiliates and friends
Mercola employs a variety of alternative medicine practitioners in his website, the Optimal Wellness Center . He hosts physicians who employ alternative treatments such as chelation therapy, acupuncture, auriculotherapy, and cranial osteopathy. His literature covers alternative nutritionists, some of whom also support practises of homeopathy  and laser-assisted detoxifying. He similarly consults alternative psychotherapists who promote Emotional Freedom Technique (which he sells tapes for) or a variety of other concepts like bioenergy systems and energy medicine. Friendly relations have been formed with others in the alternative natural health industry some of whom also maintain their own websites.
In late 2007 Mercola has voiced support for the presidential candidate Ron Paul for his supportive stances on homeschooling, raw milk, and health freedom in general.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Joseph_Mercola". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|