I’ve never heard of her before—I guess you have to be familiar with the routine quackery of the health food store to know of her—but she certainly sounds like a real piece of work. The Guardian has an entertaining exposé of her claims and her tactics. She’s one of those people who makes extravagant claims for dietary supplements that she sells, backing them up with loads of pretentious and utterly bogus pseudoscientific gobbledygook.
She says DNA is an anti-ageing constituent: if you “do not have enough RNA/DNA”, in fact, you “may ultimately age prematurely”. Stress can deplete your DNA, but algae will increase it: and she reckons it’s only present in growing cells. Is my semen growing? Is a virus growing? Is chicken liver pate growing? All of these contain plenty of DNA. She says that “each sprouting seed is packed with the nutritional energy needed to create a full-grown, healthy plant”. Does a banana plant have the same amount of calories as a banana seed? The ridiculousness is endless.
One thing that prompts this particular article that McKeith has recently been ordered to stop referring to herself as “Dr” in her ads, since she apparently is one of these mail-order phonies, like “Dr” Kent Hovind. That doesn’t stop her from continually faking an air of authority, though.
And the scholarliness of her work is a thing to behold: she produces lengthy documents that have an air of “referenciness”, with nice little superscript numbers, which talk about trials, and studies, and research, and papers … but when you follow the numbers, and check the references, it’s shocking how often they aren’t what she claimed them to be in the main body of the text. Or they refer to funny little magazines and books, such as Delicious, Creative Living, Healthy Eating, and my favourite, Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet, rather than proper academic journals.
She’s a complete quack, but what isn’t funny is that she tries to defend herself with legal intimidation.
But those who criticise McKeith have reason to worry. McKeith goes after people, and nastily. She has a libel case against the Sun over comments they made in 2004 that has still not seen much movement. But the Sun is a large, wealthy institution, and it can protect itself with a large and well-remunerated legal team. Others can’t. A charming but – forgive me – obscure blogger called PhDiva made some relatively innocent comments about nutritionists, mentioning McKeith, and received a letter threatening costly legal action from Atkins Solicitors, “the reputation and brand-management specialists”. Google received a threatening legal letter simply for linking to – forgive me – a fairly obscure webpage on McKeith.
Ben Goldacre, the author of this piece, seems to have a history of ripping up this McKeith fraud, and he also has a wonderfully entertaining website with a fine collection of Gillian McKeith articles, so I guess I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Truth is a pretty solid defense.