Newsfront

Female ‘sorcerers’ tortured and murdered

Four Papua New Guinea women, believed by fellow villagers to have used sorcery to cause a fatal road crash, were tortured with hot metal rods to confess, then murdered and buried standing up in a pit (Stuff, 25 January).

A local newspaper said that police had only recently uncovered the grisly murders, which occurred last October near the town of Goroka in the jungle-clad highlands some 400km north of the capital, Port Moresby. Black magic is widespread in the South Pacific nation where most of the 5.1 million population live subsistence lives. Women suspected of being witches are often hung or burnt to death.

Local police commander Chief Inspector David Seine told the newspaper that people in the village of Kamex accused the four women of sorcery after a road crash killed three prison officers. The women were reportedly tortured into admission by being stabbed with hot metal rods, said Seine.

It appeared the women were blindfolded with thick sticky tape strapped across their faces and mouths and their hands had been tied before they were murdered, he said.

Commander Seine said the women were buried in an old narrow toilet pit in the standing position. The pit was then covered with soil and two old vehicle tyres placed on the top.

“They planted a banana tree on top of the pit with fresh grass making it difficult for anyone to discover the site, but police got to it with the help of some elders from the village,” he said.

Red netting benefits ‘a myth’

A retired scientist is questioning the effectiveness of red horticultural shade cloth which is being erected on a growing number of orchards around the Nelson region (Nelson Mail, 17 March).

Orchardists use the red cloth because it is thought to enhance pipfruit crops. But the bright red netting has run into a storm of controversy with lobby groups and neighbouring land owners who say it is visual pollution.

Now Rob James of Motueka, who was involved in tobacco research at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research for 18 years, claims the benefits of red netting are a myth.

Mr James said he had been in touch with scientists in New Zealand and at Cornell University in New York and none of them knew of any research that proved that red netting was better than any other coloured netting.

“There’s no published research on the use of red netting in the world. If there was, we would have found it.”

If people did have scientific evidence on the benefits of the netting on pipfruit he would like to see it.
Pipfruit New Zealand chairman Ian Palmer agreed there was no scientific proof of the benefits of red netting, but said that was irrelevant. Fruit grown under red netting was “elite”, he said. “The evidence is in the fruit itself.

“It had the sort of appearance that made it some of the best fruit I’ve seen.”

Mr Palmer said the red netting seemed to enhance the colour of the fruit, giving it a pinkish finish. He said he had not seen the results of fruit grown under white netting.

Vitamins ‘do more harm than good’

Proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) may be attracting a lot of attention, but they have yet to convince anyone who counts that their ideas should be taken seriously. In the latest setback, school authorities in Kansas have deleted language from teaching guidelines that challenged the validity of evolutionary theory, and approved new phrasing in line with mainstream science (Guardian Weekly, 23 February).

The 6-4 vote by the state board of education is seen as a victory for a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats, science educators and parents who had fought for two years to overturn earlier guidelines. It reverses the decision taken by the same authorities two years ago to include language undermining Darwinism on the insistence of conservative parents and the ID movement. The board removed language suggesting key concepts, such as a common origin for all life on Earth and for species change, were seen as controversial by the scientific community. They have since received a petition of nearly 4000 signatures opposing the new decisions.

Herbal medicine perceptions studied

The perceptions that consumers of alternative medicines have about the treatments they use are to be studied by a Waikato University psychology student (Hamilton Press, 21 March). Kirsty Bell is concentrating her research on depression, and she is seeking people who are interested in sharing their experiences.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 75 percent of the world’s population uses some form of alternative medicine, and New Zealand statistics show that one in four New Zealanders over the age of 15 use them.

Alternative health industry setback

A letter from Tertiary Education Minister Michael Cullen has quashed the alternative health industry’s hopes of establishing a New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)-approved industry training organisation (Sunday Star Times, 23 February).

The Health Training Organisation (HTO) is now considering removing itself from the national qualifications framework. HTO executive officer Roger Booth said responsibility for setting standards in the industry was held by the NZQA, but it stepped down from this role on February 28. The HTO wanted to take on responsibility itself, but its application to establish itself as an Industry Training Organisation (ITO) had been turned down. The NZQA wanted the organisation to align itself with another ITO, Mr Booth said.

NZQA deputy chief executive, quality assurance, Mike Willing said alternative health standards and qualifications would eventually be removed from the framework if no ITO took over standard-setting for the sector.

Mr Booth said discussions with several ITOs had found no natural partner.

‘Used car salesman’ a ‘fraud of the worst kind’

John of God got short shrift in the Sunday Star Times (25 February). Described as a “faith healer and used-car salesman” by journalist Ruth Hill, the Brazilian otherwise known as Joao Teixeira de Faria was holding a four-day event in Lower Hutt.

He claims to cure cancer, Aids, and other conditions including ‘spiritual desperation’ by channelling 36 ‘spirit doctors’. New Zealanders are the biggest single group of foreign visitors per capita to his çheadquarters in southwest Brazil, largely through tours promoted by Wellington naturopath Peter Waugh.

NZ Skeptics chair-entity Vicki Hyde said she was unimpressed by what she had seen of his performance, which consisted of “old carnival tricks”.

“If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a quack.”

She said the Skeptics were concerned the ‘healer’ was preying on vulnerable, desperate people. Victims of failed faith healings were often reluctant to speak out because they blamed themselves for not having enough faith-“another nasty piece of psychological manipulation” on which faith healers relied, said Hyde.

US stage magician James Randi, best known as a debunker of pseudoscience, is convinced John of God is “a fraud of the worst kind, making money from other people’s suffering. To any experienced conjuror, the methods by which these seeming miracles are produced are very obvious.”

Haden sticks to his guns

The passing of long-standing NZ Skeptics member Frank Haden was widely reported. Perhaps the best tribute came from Tom Scott’s cartoon in the Dominion Post (March 9). A voice booms from the clouds: “What’s all that swearing at the gate?” St Peter, standing at the Pearly Gates, replies: “Crusading journalist Frank Haden is refusing to come in. He says he didn’t believe in this place before and isn’t about to change his mind now…”

www.stuff.co.nz/281630a17218.html

Hokum Locum

Debunking debriefing

It has become a cliché that whenever something bad happens, a horde of counsellors descend on the survivors to make their lives a misery. It’s true. Counselling does make you more sick compared to doing nothing.

A child is run over and killed. Instead of teachers and parents rallying around and doing what they have done for hundreds of years, ‘professionals’ are now called in to make things worse. In a study, survivors were randomly allocated to “emotional ventilation debriefing” (whatever that is), educational debriefing or nothing and were followed up at two weeks, six weeks and six months. The only difference in outcome was that at six months the first group had significantly more emotional distress.

Not only are these forms of counselling useless they are harmful and the relevant authorities should face up to this by not inflicting it on people. People have always coped with death and disaster and feelings naturally settle with time. Ordinary people underestimate their own ability to just be there for their friends and family and support them. No fancy talk is necessary. bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/189/2/150

More on Placebos

It can easily be argued that the history of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is intimately involved with the history of the placebo effect. The placebo effect is also intimately involved with the practice of medicine although attempts are made to control for it.

The placebo effect is poorly understood, even by doctors, and if you interview specialists they generally discount the placebo effect in their own specialty and attribute it to their colleagues in other specialties. Orthopaedic surgery is rife with placebo procedures such as arthroscopic washout of arthritic knees. At least two good trials have shown that it is worthless yet orthopaedic surgeons continue to inflict this useless procedure on their patients. I confronted one such specialist and he argued that “in my experience it makes the knee feel better.” This is the typical feeble appeal to authority which is the lowest and most contemptible form of evidence. This refusal to accept the evidence is not unusual and in the past other placebo operations have been performed for years until such time as there is a critical mass of peers crying stop.

With respect to homeopathy, there are wide variations in the results of placebo controlled trials because, as someone put it, not all placebos are equal. One wag suggested that “double strength placebos” were needed.

In an interesting study subjects were given placebo analgesia and subjected to painful stimuli. The painful stimuli were then surreptitiously reduced to make the analgesia appear even more effective. This enhanced learned response lasted up to seven days and the authors concluded that this effect “may explain the large variability of the placebo responses that is found in many studies.”

My conclusion from all of this is that my own profession fails to use the placebo effect in a positive way. It is viewed instead as a nuisance to be controlled or minimised. The CAM industry has shown no such reluctance and the placebo effect is behind most of these treatments. Perhaps this explains the public fascination with quackery?

www.chaser.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1182&Itemid=26

Medical Journal of Australia Vol 179 18 Aug 2003

Pain Vol 24 Issues 1-2, Sep 2005 Pg126-133

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Advocates of TCM argue that it cannot be evaluated by clinical trials because TCM has a different philosophical basis to western medicine. This is a typical argument known as the ‘plea for special dispensation’ and is a hallmark of quackery.

TCM evolved in China in the same manner as western medicine under the teachings of Galen. Authoritative teachings were gospel and anyone who dissented was criticised. In many respects this process has some of the features of a religion where beliefs are more important than scientific facts.

Galen solved the problem of the circulation of the blood by proposing that blood got from one side of the heart to the other through tiny pores in the heart. No one was ever able to demonstrate these pores but it was taken as fact. When Harvey described what actually happened in the circulation of the blood (ie arteries to capillaries to veins and back again) based on his anatomical studies he was treated as a heretic. TCM is a placebo-based philosophy and every time there is a scandal such as herbs adulterated with western drugs, for example Viagra and steroids, this strengthens the argument that such products and practices should be banned as being consumer fraud.

Occupational Health Delusions

Unhappy people in boring jobs can escape their stressful situation by attributing some mythical illness to the workplace. This entitles them to compensation from ACC. Many such people become extremely litigious and unpleasant if there is any suggestion that their illness is psychosomatic. Complaints and symptoms are out of all proportion to any evidence of an actual injury.

A recurring theme in the occupational health literature is the statement that “psychological factors might be important.” There is seldom any suggestion that a condition has nothing to do with work. Conditions such as railway spine and miners’ nystagmus were compensated when we now know that these conditions were a delusion, a folie a deux between plaintiffs and their gullible doctors.

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a modern example of this delusional thinking. I recall an earlier study where symptoms bore no relationship with building ventilation. This experiment involved varying the ventilation rate without the workers’ knowledge. If the air was being changed at a very high rate there should have been a corresponding drop in symptoms.

Another recent study has found “symptoms of SBS are more strongly associated with job demands, workload, social stressors, and support at work than with the physical environment.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2006;63:283-289

More on Goji Juice

I revisited the goji juice site www.best-goji-juice.com and decided to investigate Dr Earl Mindell. He has a legitimate Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota and a PhD from a diploma mill, the University of Beverly Hills. Quackwatch has some good information about his vitamin industry and the goji juice industry is a good example of multilevel marketing similar to Amway. Has anybody tried the stuff? I would be interested to hear.

The ideal marriage?

Consider an iridologist married to a reflexologist. The iridologist can look into her partner’s eyes and tell him what’s wrong with his feet. The reflexologist can look at her feet and tell her what’s wrong with her eyes. Many thanks to whoever it was who passed that on at the conference and thanks to Dr Keith Davidson for passing on a half page advertisement devoted to reflexology from the Christchurch Press, 26 September. It’s clearly a growth industry with their own website www.reflexology.org.nz. You can train at a reflexology school or even gain a diploma from the Canterbury College of Natural Medicine.

Defrauding the dying


Mexican cancer clinics continue to do a roaring trade, despite their poor track record.

When civil rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, the world lost a voice for decency and truth. The death of his widow earlier this year, however, was attended by greed and lies. The family of Coretta Scott King rushed her to Hospital Santa Monica at Rosarito Beach, Mexico, on 26 January. She died five days later. The underlying cause of her death was ovarian cancer. King’s death in one of alternative medicine’s dodgiest facilities highlights a relationship between quacks and Mexicans that is evil.

Hospital Santa Monica is located near crashing surf, 25 kilometres south of San Diego. The climate there may be the best in the world, consistently pleasant. Cruise ships call at beach resorts along the coast, unloading passengers who like the sunshine and the cheap peso. The region also has about 20 alternative medical clinics for desperate patients, almost all from the United States. Coretta Scott King was barely alive when she arrived in Mexico, but like the tourists, she had money. She was one of perhaps 10,000 paying US citizens who check into some Mexican clinic every year. Mexican locals and authorities welcome money from both the tourists and the sick.

Sadly, Hospital Santa Monica and the dozens of similar facilities sell patients only false hope. Kurt W Donsbach founded the Rosarito Beach facility. “The major patient clientele is comprised of cancer patients who have been told that there is no more hope, all traditional therapies having failed,” he boasts on his website. Donsbach claims to use “wholistic” techniques to treat the “whole” person; body, mind and spirit. He repeats the usual twaddle favoured by quacks: about how orthodox doctors treat only symptoms, not the disease; about detoxing the body and boosting the immune system; about avoiding standard treatments because they make cancer worse. Hospital Santa Monica offers “a very eclectic approach,” he says, including ultraviolet blood purification, mag-ray lamps, hydrogen peroxide solutions dripped into veins, ozone gas blown into the colon, a microwave hyperthermia machine (with a rectal probe), induced hypoglycemia by administering insulin, shark cartilage, a Rife frequency generator machine (remember Liam Williams-Holloway?), magnet therapy and other nonsense. Deluded groups such as the so-called Cancer Control Society, based in Pasadena, California, run trips to such Mexican clinics, taking thousands of cancer patients there for useless treatment.

Donsbach fails to reveal on his website that he has a criminal record but no medical degree. Born in 1933, he graduated in 1957 from a chiropractic college in Oregon. By the late 1960s he was running a health-food store in California, selling supplements that he said treated cancer. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he was repeatedly in legal trouble for practising medicine without a licence, selling unapproved drugs and related wrongs. In 1979 he founded a correspondence school – the nonaccredited Donsbach University – that awarded bogus degrees in nutrition, and he sold his own supplements. Officials in New York said the products were useless and sued him. Under pressure in the US, Donsbach started the Mexican clinic in 1983. In 1996 he pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling $250,000 worth of unapproved, adulterated or misbranded medicines from Mexico into the US. Sentenced to prison, he avoided serving time by plea bargaining. In other words, Kurt W Donsbach’s life has been devoted to a range of health-related scams.

The Mexican medical clinics are a blot on the page of human history, but they continue to exist because they attract money. Mexico is a very corrupt country, and bribes and fraud allow unconscionable activity to thrive there. Mexican officials claim they can investigate the facilities only if there are complaints, which are rare because the clinics usually treat non-Mexicans and do not advertise in Mexico. Sometimes clinics get shut down, but they re-open. A week after Coretta Scott King died, the Mexican government closed Hospital Santa Monica, saying it lacked authority to carry out some of its treatments and that several of its unconventional practices put patients at high risk. Patients from the US, Canada, Australia and Italy were at the facility when it was closed. Interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Donsbach was shameless. He blamed the closure on the US medical establishment and predicted that his clinic would reopen soon: “The moment they close down a clinic, they open it up very quickly, the same place, same people.” Immoral quacks and their allies continue to fleece the dying.

Snake Oil: a brief history of alternative medicine

Early in 2005 Professor Kaye Ibbertson, the relentless grand vizier of the Marion Davis Library and Museum, asked David Cole to offer the Medical Historical Society some comments about the history of unorthodox medicine. He was in the process of assembling several convincing excuses, when Ibbertson turned off his hearing aid and any excuses were set aside. This article is based on the talk which resulted.

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Magnets repelled

Magnetic fields are no better for your water or your car than they are for your arthritis

Powermax magnetic water-treatment conditioners have been controversial since they were introduced in New Zealand in 1998. Now they’ve been withdrawn and the Consumer’s Institute believes customers are due a refund.

Questionable science

Powermax is simple – two magnets clip to your water pipe. It’s imported by Pat Julian of Julian’s Electrical and Energy Conservation in Inglewood. Julian’s is also the importer of a similar dubious gadget, Fuelmax. Julian has made many claims about Powermax’s powers. These include: eliminating bacteria and parasites; dissolving faecal wastes; removing silt, chlorine and scale; stabilising pH; and stopping diarrhoea in cows.

Julian’s website said Powermax worked on the principle of “magnetic frequency resonation”. That might sound scientific but a Google search shows this was the only website in the world to use the term! The website also gave a brief explanation of how it works. “In simple terms, when the water passes through the magnetic field the magnetic polarity of the molecules reverse. The molecules separate, break down into microscopic size and remain in suspension.”

We asked two professional chemists to assess these claims. Both agreed that the statements were meaningless. One told us it generated gales of laughter from his colleagues. The other said, “It’s all gobbledegook wrapped up with some scientific buzz-words to make it sound authentic to the average Joe Blow.” Neither scientist believed the Powermax could do what it claimed to do. We asked importer Pat Julian about his website and its claims. He said the information on the website came from the manufacturer, International Research and Development (IR&D). “It’s not just something we had dreamed up – we don’t work like that.” Julian also offered to provide customer testimonials.

Questionable products

Readers started asking Consumer’s Institute about Powermax in 1999. We said then we had doubts that the magnets could affect bacteria.

Our doubts were borne out in 2001 when the Commerce Commission took Julian’s to court. Julian admitted that “Powermax does not and cannot” treat water for bacteria, parasites, giardia, cryptosporidium or faecal wastes. “People believing these spurious claims and then drinking or swimming in dirty water ‘conditioned’ by Powermax are at risk of potentially serious illness,” Commission chair John Belgrave said. Julian says he refunded dissatisfied customers at the time.

The Commission also criticised Julian for accepting IR&D’s claims. “Distributors are responsible for the goods they provide and must take reasonable steps to check them. They cannot simply rely on claims made by a manufacturer,” the Commission said.

Then in 2001 Julian took exception to a TV One item about Powermax. He tried to sue for defamation but the case was settled this year before it got to court. And this year US courts ordered IR&D to stop promoting Fuelmax.

Fuelmax is a magnetic gizmo for fuel lines in motor vehicles. The court decision related to claims that Fuelmax reduced emissions and fuel consumption. Julian’s withdrew Fuelmax in May as a result. Last month, after more questions from us about Powermax’s claimed performance, Julian withdrew that product from the market too.

Questionable claims

Julian says all the technical information for Fuelmax and Powermax came from manufacturer IR&D. He told us he was disappointed with the US court decision.

“IR&D certainly have not been honest with us. The technical explanations used in our sales literature came from the information supplied by them, and we are therefore currently investigating the question of taking legal action in the US to recover the costs of what is unsaleable stock.”

This raises two points. First, Julian was warned in 2001 that he could not rely on IR&D’s claims and he should check them out himself. And if he wants IR&D to repay him for unsaleable stock, then it’s only fair that he should refund anyone who bought a Fuelmax or Powermax from him.

Pat Julian says he still believes in magnetic water and fuel treatment, and he plans to import a similar range of products from a new manufacturer.

Consumer’s view

Anyone using Powermax or Fuelmax should return them to Julian’s Electrical and demand a refund. We believe you are entitled to one under the Consumer Guarantees Act, as the products are not fit for the purpose they were sold for. And Julian was warned in 2001 that he cannot rely on claims made by manufacturers. We hope he won’t fall into this trap again.

This article appeared originally in Consumer magazine. The institute is currently interested in magnetic and other fuel-saving devices. If you spot any, please send email to Martin Craig.

Something to Laugh About

There’s a stereotype of card-carrying members of the Skeptics Society that we’re dour, humour-less, cynical nay-sayers; depressed Eeyores not cheerful Tiggers. Like most stereotypes, it’s 95% wrong. I’m often asked what characterises a member of the Skeptics, and I think of the diverse opinions, the range of religious and political beliefs, the spectrum of occupations and interests. Apart from a compulsive inquisitiveness about the world, the only other major thing all Skeptics seem to have in common is a large capacity for laughter.

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Hokum Locum

Now that Terri Schiavo has been allowed to die peacefully there is an opportunity to reflect on the matter free from the hysteria and religious arguments advanced as an excuse to maintain her in a vegetative state. When discussing the ethics of the situation with a local surgeon he commented that the main problem was that the feeding tube should never have been inserted in the first place. A feeding tube is surgically inserted into the stomach through a hole in the abdominal wall. Once such medical interventions have been made it is very hard to reverse them. In this case the debate appears to have been hijacked by Catholic pressure groups.

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The Royal healing touch

The medical community in Britain is suffering a severe attack of lèse majesté, and it is feared some distinguished heads will roll on Tower Green.

Prince Charles, in his untiring care for the health of his future subjects, has set up The Prince of Wales’ Foundation for Integrated Health, and, with the help of several hundred thousand pounds of taxpayers’ money, this Foundation has published Complementary Health Care: a guide for patients. It helps readers to locate homeopaths, reflexologists, cranio-sacral therapists, and other types of healer. This 45-page treasury is being sent free to all GPs in Britain.

This well-meaning attempt by the philanthropic heir to the throne and his disciples to help the sick has been spurned by the medical fraternity, in the harshest and most hurtful terms. The British Medical Association has criticised it for recommending treatments which have no evidential support. More biting remarks have come from Professor Edzard Ernst, occupant of Britain’s only Chair of Complementary Medicine. When he saw a draft version, he said it was “hair-raisingly flimsy, misleading and dangerous”. He offered to correct it free of charge, an offer which was declined (Of course! How dare he presume to rewrite a text which had the Imprimatur of HRH?).

Having seen the published version, the Professor is even more scathing (see www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1442930,00.html) “… scandalous waste of public funds … the most spurious I have seen for years … reads like a promotional booklet”.

No expense seems to have been spared in the production of the “Guide”; it is in full colour, with lots of photos of folk receiving various therapies. Though it concedes, even emphasises, the need to see your doctor and to keep him/her fully informed, the contents will otherwise be familiar to students of Complementary Medicine; no mention of evidence (though a scholarly-looking list of 141 references), much talk of “… believe that … ” and “… used by many people for …” and of those mysterious entities beloved of these practitioners: “energy” and “meridians”. There is, of course, no discussion of the mutually exclusive nature of some of these therapies, nor of the complete absence in many cases of evidence of efficacy. You know, of course, the meaning of the verb “to heal”. It is therefore puzzling to see one of the 16 therapeutic modalities included in the “Guide” is known as “Healing”. Surely it is not implied that none of the other 15 can cure your trouble? “Healing”, in this context, looks to be our old fraudulent friend Therapeutic Touch. If you are visiting Britain, and feel the need for a little cranio-sacral therapy, help is at hand. The Guide, with relevant addresses, can be downloaded free from www.fihealth.org.uk. Be cheered, also, by the claim that over half the GPs in Britain will direct you to CAM practitioners; indeed, many have such people working in their medical centres.

Loose Talk from an Old Smoothie

Bob Brockie samples a health food that saw the dinosaurs come and go

We’ve all seen the claims – Spirulina! Nature’s Health Solution! The World’s Healthiest Superfood! Soulfood!
“Spirulina – the ancient blue-green micro-algae found growing in the lakes of Africa and Central and South America, derives its energy directly from the sun, contains 100 nutrients, is a rich source of iron, is extremely alkalising, energy-packed, supports the maintenance of the beneficial gut flora, is rich in antioxidants, contains 65% protein, etc.” Many firms claim that Spirulina “will reduce diabetes, cancer, hives, cataracts, wrinkles, anaemia, eczema, HIV, hypertension, detoxify the kidneys, help balance your RNA and DNA nucleic acids, and protect you against radiation.”

Small wonder that huge volumes of this cure-all are drunk or eaten daily. One US firm sells over $50 million worth of Spirulina every year. But most chemists and medicos think these claims are laughable.

“Found growing in the lakes of Africa and Central and South America?” Yes, this is true but Spirulina also grows in almost any stagnant fresh or brackish pool near you in New Zealand. Nevertheless, a lot of the Spirulina sold in New Zealand is produced in industrial vats in the US.

As for the nutritional claims – the same could be said about almost any green vegetable on Earth. Spinach or broccoli also contain 100 nutrients, are a rich source of iron and vitamins, are extremely alkalising in the stomach, support the maintenance of the beneficial gut flora, and are rich in antioxidants. If you want protein it’s cheaper to eat an egg, which is 87% protein. And what’s this? “Spirulina contains antioxidant ammunition in the form of the enzyme Superoxide dismutase!” Nobody can deny this but it’s a silly claim. Superoxide dismutase is the most abundant enzyme in the world. Every green plant is full of the stuff.

To be really pedantic, Spirulina is not an alga at all, it’s a bacterium. Ancient? Yes. Because Spirulina has a long fossil history it is often promoted as a “Dinosaur Drink”. “It must be good for you because it’s so old” but the promotion people got the date wrong. Spirulina was around 600 million years before dinosaurs trod the Earth. We should call it “The Proterozoic Drink”.

Raw Spirulina tastes vile, which is why Spirulina smoothies must be masked with pureed banana, kiwifruit and apricot. These additives provide more energy and vitamins than the Spirulina itself.

Who’s for a broccoli smoothie?
Originally published in the Dominion Post, 11 November 2002