ASA adjudicate against ‘Dr’ San Gogana’s Optimum Health UK

The Advertising Standards Authority have upheld my complaint against ‘Dr’ San Gogana’s Optimum Health UK, whose website was riddled with misleading and unsubstantiated health claims.

These concerned not only ‘Dr’ San’s supposed medical qualifications, but also the potential benefits of Colonic Hydrotherapy, Live/Dry Blood Microscopy, Nutritional Therapy, Stress Management and Facial Diagnostic Analysis.

I will consider each of these as separate points.

Use of the term ‘Dr’

CAP Copy Advice on use of the term ‘Dr’ states that:

Advertisers wanting to refer to themselves as “Dr”, “a doctor” (or any other similar term) should take care not to imply that they hold a general medical qualification if they do not. In general, CAP advises that if they do not possess a general medical qualification advertisers should not call themselves “Dr”.

Ms Gogana may argue that the CAP Advice is open to interpretation (for example also stating ‘we believe that it would be acceptable for a hypnotherapist with a PhD in Psychology to call himself “Dr John Smith PhD … Hypnotherapist”’). However, I felt that Ms Gogana was misleadingly implying she held a medical qualification.

My reasons were as follows:

Her home page described the premises as an ‘Integrative Medical Centre’ and as the ‘London Clinic‘. She also stated here that:

  • All our consultants are medically/clinically qualified
  • Dr.San Gogana PHd is an eminent integrative Medical Practitioner

Please note, she also described herself as ‘Dr San Gogana’ (ie without the PHd (sic) suffix elsewhere on her site).

Colonic Hydrotherapy

Claims of medical efficacy for this dubious, potentially harmful therapy (also known as colonic irrigation) are generally based on the embarrassingly naive yet sadly widespread idea of ‘detox’. As Edzard Ernst explains in this recent Guardian article,

unless someone is severely ill, the elimination of toxins is most efficiently being taken care of by various organs – for instance, the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs and the gut. In a healthy person, the function of these systems is already optimal. No improvements are needed or can be achieved by detox therapies.

This did not prevent the Optimum Health UK website from claiming that colonic irrigation could remove toxins, improve skin conditions, improve mental clarity, reduce headaches, and improve circulatory, immune system, inflammatory and weight problems. The site also listed a range of conditions one might suffer from as a result of not having this treatment – these included arthritis, asthma and headaches. There was even the confident assertion that a build up of poo in the gut is the reason elderly people suffer from bowel obstruction, toxic colon, polyps, diverticulosis, diverticulitis, rectal bleeding or perforation, colon cancer and other intestinal problems.

Live/Dry Blood Microscopy

Live Blood Microscopy (known elsewhere on this blog as ‘Live Blood Analysis’), and the related Dry Blood Microscopy are also highly questionable techniques.

These ‘tests’ and the ludicrous theories behind them are promoted and spread by the outrageously shameless quack ‘Dr’ Robert O Young and his followers. Since I made it my business to complain about this particular form of quackery, I have found Young’s nonsensical theories repeated on websites up and down the country and although he is not credited by Optimum Health UK, the claims look all too familiar.

The apparent aim of Live Blood Analysis is to identify certain phenomena in the blood, which the practitioner will then typically explain are a sign of potential health problems. Predictably, these problems may then be averted by investing in nutritional advice, supplements and further consultations. Some practitioners have even been known to imply that customers’ blood tests are showing markers for cancer and diabetes.

I believe that this test serves no legitimate purpose. If you are under any illusions about Live Blood Analysis, what it may or may not be used for or how practitioners misinterpret results, you may find this Science-Based Medicine article useful. It describes in detail a wide range of the phenomena which quacks typically and mistakenly claim may be observed using this technique – and explains why such claims are utter nonsense.

A more succinct summary was given, again by Edzard Ernst in The Guardian, where he said:

Advocates of LBA continue to insist that it is a diagnostic method “valuable for the early detection of serious health conditions”. In my view, it is fraudulent; those who promote ineffectual diagnostic methods for financial gain are charlatans, and patients who try them are being ripped off.

Optimum Health UK made a wide variety of misleading, mainly untrue statements on their website about the possible benefits of Live Blood Analysis, while also criticising conventional testing and practititioners.

Here are a few examples:

  • The procedure allows the direct inspection and interpretation of over fifty possible features of the bloodstream, red blood cells, and white blood cells
  • The size and shape of the red blood cells may indicate stress levels, nutritional deficiencies, digestive problems, absorption problems and the damaging effects of free radicals
  • Organ malfunction is also evident in the live blood cell view
  • You may find out why you are feeling tired, worn out, bloated or why you can’t fall asleep at night, and more importantly, how to change it.
  • Every person should have this test because it is the ultimate preventative medicine tool available today
  • Live Blood analysis is a visual medicine tool – you will see if you are stressed, eating or drinking too much, having free radicals damage, or the opposite – you are better than you may have thought!
  • Your health is entirely your own responsibility not the medical doctors or hospitals

They did not substantiate any of these claims.

Nutritional Therapy

This centres around three basic ‘diagnostic categories’: nutritional deficiency, food intolerance and  – once more – ‘toxic’ overload.  One could cynically imagine Ms Gogana using Live Blood Analysis to ‘diagnose’ all of these conditions. The unfortunate client could then be sold Colonic Hydrotherapy in order to ‘flush out’ the unnamed ‘toxins’, in addition to supplements and dietary advice to combat any (also unnamed) deficiencies or intolerances.

But that is pure speculation. I merely asked that she substantiate or remove some specific untrue and pseudoscientific claims. Examples included:

  • The factors that always accompany chronic illness are toxin accumulation, inadequacy of key nutrients, and loss of cell vitality
  • None of these can be put right by taking either prescribed or over-the-counter drugs and remedies
  • Nutritional therapy, by taking careful account of the patient’s history of illness and the treatments already undergone, aims to remove toxins, nourish the cells of the body, and increase cellular energy so that the body can function much more as it should

I also asked that she explain the meaning of the term ‘cellular energy’ and pointed out that some of the above advice could deter potential clients from taking advice from a suitably qualified medical practitioner.

Stress Management

‘Dr’ Gogana claims that it has been found that most illness is related to unrelieved stress.

I say otherwise.

Facial Diagnostic Analysis

I must admit to some ignorance on the subject of Face Reading – a practice ‘Dr’ San’s site tells me is based on the Five Elements and Yin and Yang and its lineage goes back to Buddhist and Taoist philosophy.

I do, however, know enough about the human body to be highly sceptical of the following claims:

  • Face Reading is a neither invasive nor embarrassing diagnostic tool which can also be used for determining your constitution, current health and long term health prospects
  • The health and function of the internal organs can be seen by looking at the Facial Zones, ears, colours on the face, skin, lines and hair
  • Face Reading aids weight loss from both physical and emotional angles
  • A Face Reading can uncover nutritional deficiencies that can be corrected by diet, lifestyle changes and supplements

In particular I would be very embarrassed indeed to be caught undergoing such a ludicrous procedure – the only discernable point of which would be to sell me supplements and further consultations.

Outcome

After being contacted by the ASA, Optimum Health UK said that they would amend their advertising to state what discipline their practititioners hold a doctorate in. They did not, however, provide any evidence that Ms Gogana or any other of their practitioners held general medical qualifications. The ASA therefore concluded the ad was misleading.

Optimal Health UK also said they would give references on their site for the problematic claims – though they did not provide the ASA with substantiation. It was therefore concluded that claims had not been substantiated and the ad was misleading.

Optimal Health UK did not respond to my concerns that some of their claims could discourage essential medical treatment. Since the ASA shared my concerns, they concluded that the ad also breached the Code in that regard.

My complaint was upheld in full, with the ASA concluding that the Optimal Health UK website breached the CAP Code rules several times over on points 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 12.1 and 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products)

5 responses to “ASA adjudicate against ‘Dr’ San Gogana’s Optimum Health UK

  1. How interesting your article is.
    I have met San and she introduces herself as a radiologist who runs a private clinic in Harley Street. She said she went to Royal Free medical school.
    I had a look at her website and thought it does not add up- why would a consultant radiologist leave a consultant job and go and do colonic irrigation not to mention the other complete nonsense she offers??
    She is not on the GMC register, as for the PhD and MsC- well no comment.
    Sad and pretentious that you have to pretend to be something you are not!

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