London Evening Standard promote live blood quackery

Yesterday’s Evening Standard featured an advertisement article promoting live blood analysis, in particular Katrin Hempel’s London Natural Therapies clinic.

It begins…

The last time I looked at anything under a microscope was at school, identifying the nucleus of a plant cell. So seeing my own blood — fresh out of my fingertip — is a novelty.

I think it is safe to assume that reporter Jasmine Gardner is not a specialist in science or medicine. Although she went as far as actually undergoing the test (for which she had to fast for five hours), she stopped short of questioning anything she was told by the practitioner.

The piece repeated Hempel’s bold and unsubstantiated claims to identify

bacteria, yeasts, fungi, vitamin deficiencies, organ stress and many other potential imbalances in your body

Following the test, it was suggested to Gardner that she may have a lack of omega-3 fatty acids and perhaps a slight iron deficiency. Although as a vegetarian, this did not surprise her, she seems to have forgotten that she had already given Hempel detailed information about her diet. It didn’t occur to Gardner that perhaps Hempel had somehow – consciously or otherwise – been influenced by the questionnaire completed prior to the session.

Somewhat alarmingly, Hempel also claimed that clumps of white strands around the blood were due to liver and bowel toxicity. If Jasmine is reading this, I’d like to reassure her by saying it’s quite possible that the white strands were artefacts on the slide. Nonetheless, if someone has genuine health concerns about their liver or bowel then they need to consult a suitably qualified medical professional.

Predictably, Hempel recommended a whole new diet in addition to a cocktail of supplements.

The article even concluded by advertising mentioning a special offer currently running at Hempel’s clinic:

Live blood analysis, £150 until the end of June, £250 thereafter (07952 865430, londonnaturaltherapies.co.uk).

I believe that lazy and irresponsible health journalism misleads readers and even has the potential to cause harm to the very people it seems to be aimed at – those who may consider undergoing such a test. In all likelihood, such customers would also fail to question unsubstantiated claims made by practitioners.

False reassurance may cause people with genuine health concerns to delay consulting their doctor. Practitioners could also make incorrect diagnoses, causing unnecessary stress and inconvenience. Since I started writing about live blood analysis, I have had several unhappy customers contact me, one of whom was led to believe she had mould and markers for cancer and diabetes in her blood.

To put it bluntly, live blood analysis is pure quackery and advice given by practitioners is unreliable and best ignored.

I have written to the London Evening Standard expressing my concerns and will report back on any response I get.

Related articles

A new era of scientific discovery? Edzard Ernst, The Guardian, 12/07/05

Making Sense of Testing Sense about Science, March 2008

Live Blood Analysis: The Modern Auguries Mark Crislip, Science-Based Medicine, 13/02/09

ASA not able to pursue all my Live Blood Analysis complaints… Hopefully compliance action across the sector to follow. Josephine Jones, 10/08/11

My third ASA adjudication: Groupon’s Live Blood Test claims exaggerated, misleading and unsubstantiated Josephine Jones, 07/09/11

Another bloody disgrace from Groupon! Josephine Jones, 12/10/11

Radio 4 You & Yours investigate unregulated ‘live’ blood tests Josephine Jones, 17/03/12

15 responses to “London Evening Standard promote live blood quackery

  1. I find it very interesting what counts as an advert and what counts as news. Presumably as it’s not been paid for it doesn’t count as an advert but if that’s the only distinction (is it?) then I’m not sure it’s much help.

    From the author’s tweets the intention seems to have been to present this to the Evening Standards’ readers as a new treatment that might be of interest to them, eg see https://twitter.com/#!/JasGardner/status/197996339114676224 “A) It wasn’t an ad, it was highlighting a new treatment available, which we do a lot on our pages.”

    Well that’s fine but as you’ve pointed out here this seems to have been readily accepted without much effort to check if it’s a real ‘treatment’ or a made up one. I’d argue that it’s more of a diagnostic tool than a treatment but I’d also argue that it isn’t actually one of those either, since it’s useless.

    Nor is it new – I put in my first complaint about misleading claims in early 2010. At that time I wasn’t aware though that you can just hire rooms by the hour to get a temporary Harley Street address either (although that may not be the case here of course).

    That’s not to say there’s no information to be gained from looking at blood under a microscope and when I blogged about this two years ago I had a very helpful response from @MedTek who highlighted what real blood analysis could tell you about someone’s health. Her final comment about this sort of live blood analysis was that “This is nothing more than a parlour trick designed to cure overly worried people of their heavy wallets.”

    No wonder the people on the (completely unrelated) MoreNiche forum are so keen to get newspaper PR. Not only can the author’s piece be tweaked and re-used (swap a few words or phrases around, most of the work’s been done for you), or referenced as ‘evidence’ but it completely bypasses the Advertising Standards Authority. Not to mention it’s free and has a permanence online (easily findable when Googling) that adverts don’t.

    It’s not really a failure of spotting the nonsense in the first place but of not checking before printing.

    Jo

  2. I’ve had a reply from Will Gore of the Evening Standard saying he takes on board the concerns I have raised and that they have discussed them internally. He also said:

    I take your point that people ought to approach ‘natural therapies’ realistically.  I believe readers of our piece would have been clear that Katrin Hempel is a natural therapist rather than a medical doctor.  The tone of the article was largely sceptical and made no claims about the evidential basis for live blood analysis.  That said, it is an intriguing technique and one we thought would be of interest to readers.

  3. Reframing an article that’s uncritical about nonsense as being “largely sceptical” is also an intriguing technique.

  4. Following my reply to the email mentioned above, Will Gore thanked me for the feedback, said he has reiterated the need for care, and also said that he really does think that Jasmine was seeking to take a sceptical tone in her piece.

    I have also written to the letters editor.

  5. Being a healthcare and investigative journalist I wonder why the journalist who wrote the article in the Evening Standard did not ask as a first question whether the device obtained the CE mark of approval in Europe, given that: (1) it was being used by a practitioner, and (2) was giving a diagnosis (or so it seems) to the general public. In such an instance one would think the ‘device’ or tool would need to be regulated as it does not appear to be an over the counter (OTC) product.
    The use of alternative medicine or healing techniques in itself is a positive practice so long as it doesn’t seek to provide a diagnosis, prognosis or promise a cure.
    Practitioners can administer medicines and others can work with the body’s bioenergetic field to ‘pick up’ any potential blockages in the physical body. But drawing conclusions from a spot of blood from one’s finger tip using an unregulated diagnostic tool of unknown precision or efficacy sounds somewhat reckless…

  6. Very interesting question, what role – as a medical device – does the microscope have in this setting? I don’t know🙂

    I think the microscope would faithfully reproduce an image of what is on the slide but it is the interpretation and context that is given to the customer that’s of greatest concern.

    I’m not convinced that people can pick up potential blockages in bioenergetic fields though… that also sounds imprecise.

    Jo

  7. Pingback: Denton’s dirty tricks campaign | Josephine Jones

  8. While I couldn’t complain to the ASA about this newspaper article (their remit doesn’t cover news) I did flag up some odd claims made on Katrin Hempel’s website at London Natural Therapies about live blood analysis. They didn’t adjudicate on it (presumably because, from previous adjudications, they already knew that live blood analysis or nutritional microscopy has no evidence for it) and instead they went straight to dealing with it as a compliance issue.

    Alas there was no compliance from the company so London Natural Therapies is now listed (not under Katrin Hempel’s name though) on the ASA’s page for people who are non-compliant online advertisers http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Non-compliant-online-advertisers/London-Natural-Therapies.aspx

    Apparently “The CAP Compliance team has contacted London Natural Therapies several times about removing claims implying that Live Blood Analysis could be beneficial for Gastro Intestinal Tract Disorders, Allergies and Hormonal Imbalances after the ASA previously ruled that Live Blood Analysis was not effective in detecting/diagnosing those conditions.”

    I wonder (a) how many live blood analysts / nutritional microscopists have had their misleading claims adjudicated against, either individually or as a company and also (b) how easy it is to pull that information from the ASA’s rulings pages. Were you to search for Katrin Hempel on the Advertising Standards Authority pages I don’t think you’d find their ruling against London Natural Therapies. I’m not even certain that searching for ‘live blood’ would bring that up.

    • I’ve been keeping a list of the ones I know of. It appears end of this post about Errol Denton and his smear campaign against us:

      https://josephinejones.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/dentons-dirty-tricks-campaign/

      Informally resolved

      These advertisers all agreed to amend their advertising after I reported them to the ASA.

      • Jackie Reader (t/a Solar Health). Blogged here. The website is still online but the particular claims I had highlighted have gone.
      • Inhealth UK (Brina Eidelson). Mentioned on my blog here. The website is still online but the claims I’d highlighted have gone.
      • Dipika Joshi (Good Medicine Clinic). The website is no longer active.
      • UK Blood Clinic. Blogged here. The website is no longer active.
      • Ruth Daber. Informally resolved 17/08/11. Website here.
      • Steps to Perfect Health. Informally resolved 25/05/11 (as mentioned here) after agreeing to remove problematic claims from this website. When the complaints were not removed, I complained again and this second complaint was also informally resolved (07/09/11). I noticed some of the problematic claims either didn’t disappear or are back, so there is now another complaint outstanding.

      Rulings

      • Live Blood Test. Adjudication against Errol Denton’s leaflet here. Blogged by you, here.
      • Fitalifestyle (t/a See My Cells). Adjudication against Errol Denton’s chlorophyll claims here. Blogged here.
      • My CityDeal Ltd (t/a GrouponUK). Errol Denton’s promotion. Adjudication here. Blogged here. I also reported later Groupon deals for other practitioners which also made misleading claims regarding live blood analysis. These were passed to compliance. Groupon were later referred to the OFT due to ongoing problems.
      • Optimum Health UK. This is the only one in this category that has nothing to do with Errol Denton. Adjudication here. Blogged here. Optimum Health UK no longer advertise live blood analysis on their website.
      • Fitalifestyle (t/a See My Cells). Adjudication against Errol’s nutritional microscopy claims here. Blogged here and here.

      Non-compliant online advertisers

      • Fitalifestyle Ltd (t/a See My Cells). Following the ruling mentioned above, Errol moved the ludicrous chlorophyll claims to a different page of his site. The ASA statement is here. My blogpost is here.
      • London Natural Therapies (Katrin Hempel). The ASA statement is here. And here is your post.

      Unresolved complaints

      • Live Blood Test. Errol Denton’s main website.
      • The Natural Health Clinic (Stephen Ferguson). Blogged here, website here.
      • I currently have new complaints outstanding against these two practitioners as well as Steps To Perfect Health.

  9. Pingback: Live Blood Analysis and the ASA: a catalogue of complaints | Josephine Jones

  10. I just came onto your post and found it quite interesting. I am also associated with homeopathy surrey, sports massage surrey, homeopathy london, sports massage london,london,CEASE therapist, CEASE, autism, back pain, allergy, allergies, therapy, and enjoy to read the stuff on the same as its rarely found on internet. Thanks again for writing such a good post.

  11. Pingback: Healthy Evidence for tackling unhealthy news | Josephine Jones

  12. Katrin’s website at London Natural Therapies was referred by the ASA to Trading Standards and is now compliant with respect to live blood analysis but I’ve not checked the other pages https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Trading-Standards-referrals.aspx

    • Although the live blood analysis claims have been removed, the rest of the site includes all manner of misleading claims. I have contacted the ASA about this and await further developments.

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