I started losing respect for Novak Djokovic when I read about how he had concluded that he should adopt a gluten-free diet, long before the fiasco in Australia. Dr. Igor Cetojovic, a fellow Serb, asked Novak to hold a slice of bread against his stomach with his left hand and stretch out his right arm, which the doctor then attempted to push down. Since he was now able to push it down more easily than in the absence of the bread, he diagnosed gluten sensitivity. Ever since then Djokovic has followed a gluten-free diet and has also eliminated dairy. He doesn’t want sugar in his diet, yet starts every day with two spoonfuls of honey. In any case, the diet seems to work for him and he credits it for his rise to the world’s number one ranking. While I can stomach Novak’s skimpy knowledge of science, his endorsement of Anthony William, the self-anointed “Medical Medium” turns my stomach. According to the tennis ace, “Anthony has turned numerous lives around for the better with the healing powers of celery juice.”
Let me introduce you to William. Here we have an individual who has amassed over 3 million followers on Instagram and Facebook, has written a number of best-sellers about healing various diseases with food and dispenses medical advice on the radio as well as on his own website and that of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. He has earned the respect of celebrities such as Robert DeNiro, Sylvester Stallone and Hillary Swank. And with what scientific background has he accomplished all this? Absolutely none. Zilch. Zero.
Given that he had no help from a science education, how did the “Medical Medium” attain such lofty heights? Well, he has had help. From a Spirit with whom he has been communicating since the age of four, one who “provides him with extraordinarily accurate health information that's far ahead of its time.” This allows William to "read people's conditions and tell them how to recover their health.” It seems the Spirit is an expert in toxicology because, through William, he reveals that cilantro can remove toxic heavy metals from the brain. So what medical literature has the Spirit been reading?
A search of PubMed does not come up with a single study that has examined the effect of consuming cilantro on heavy metals in the human brain. Not one! A couple of studies have examined what happens when brains contaminated with lead are treated with cilantro. But these were rat brains that are decidedly different from human brains, although perhaps not in all cases.
Rats fed food contaminated with lead were treated with a cilantro seed extract before being sacrificed. Their brains were then examined for damage due to lead. The toxicity of lead is in part due to the role it plays in producing free radicals, highly reactive species that can damage tissues and there was somewhat less lead-induced free radical damage in certain areas of the brains of the treated rats. In no way does this demonstrate removal of the lead from the animals’ brains, and the cilantro extract contained far more cilantro components than anyone would ever consume in a diet.
Such animal studies are light years away from a salad with cilantro accomplishing any sort of heavy metal “detoxing” in people. Such a claim would require a demonstration of there being a heavy metal problem in the first place and its reduction with cilantro. A PubMed search for “cilantro detox” yields zero entries. Similarly, there is no basis to claims that “cilantro can reduce water weight, is a cancer fighter and can improve memory with its brain-protecting vitamins and minerals.”
The Medical Medium or I suppose his Spirit guide, goes beyond claiming that cilantro removes heavy metals from the brain. This magical herb is also said to be antiviral, able to keep levels of the Epstein-Barr virus low, a virus that, according to William, is responsible for virtually all human ailments. Furthermore, cilantro “is also antibacterial; it helps to fight off virtually every form of bacteria and flush its waste from your body, and it’s also anti-worm.” Needless to say, there is no evidence for any of this. But who am I to argue with this great sage and his Spirit guide?
How then do we explain the enormous following that William has accrued, and the stunning number of people willing to take nutritional and medical advice from someone who has no expertise in either area, as is readily admitted in the extensive disclaimer on his website? Why do they buy his books and the numerous dietary supplements he promotes? What is the formula for such success?
Scientific illiteracy plays a role, as does disenchantment with a medical community that has failed to conquer all diseases and is forced to pepper its language with “ifs,” “buts” “maybes,” and “more research is needed.” There is also the belief that effective nutritional cures are being hidden from the public by a nefarious, profit-driven pharmaceutical industry and that champions like William can reveal them. Add to this the popular notion that “detoxing” with various foods, herbs and juices offers protection from all the poisons that industry unleashes into the environment, and you have the public’s attention.
To complete the formula, throw in that you get help from angels in addition to your spirit contact, and finally elevate some dietary component, such as celery juice, to a magical status describing it as “the most powerful medicine of our time, healing millions worldwide.” Never mind that there is no evidence for such a claim. By now you have given people simple solutions to complex problems, and they lap it up.
What do we make of William himself? Is he just a clever charlatan with an overabundance of chutzpah who has managed to fool a lot of people and evade being charged with practicing medicine without a license by claiming that he is just relaying advice from a spirit? Or is he really in contact with the spirit of a doctor who in the afterlife has discovered methods of healing unknown to earthly physicians? Or does William just hear voices that have nothing to do with spirits, in which case the possibility of mental illness has to be considered. I wonder which of these options Novak Djokovic would favour?