A Thumbs Up Media Review
Dr. Mercola’s Conference Call with Dr. John Cannell
Review by Tim Boyd
This audio recording (no longer posted on the internet) picks up somewhere after the call began. Dr. Mercola initiated the conference call and we hear at least two other women on the line with occasional questions and comments. One woman seems very impressed with everything Dr. Cannell says while the other is clearly not buying all of it. Dr. Mercola is non-committal for the most part.
After making it clear that his paper (not yet released at the time of this recording but eventually published in the November, 2008 issue of Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology) was mainly about the benefits of vitamin D, with some small coverage of vitamin A and cod liver oil at the end, he goes into detail about vitamin A toxicity and cod liver oil toxicity. He does show some discernment in recognizing that cod liver oil was shown to be beneficial in the 1930s, that many modern brands are different due to over processing and high vitamin A to D ratios. He says there is an ideal ratio between A and D but he doesn’t know what it is. And he knows there is considerable variation between modern brands of cod liver oil.
He then takes a mix of studies, some on vitamin A, some on cod liver oil, throws these apples and oranges into the hopper and pulls out some results he believes are adequate to make blanket condemnations of all cod liver oil. He doesn’t seem to grasp the fine point that the Weston A. Price Foundation has been saying for years, namely that not just any cod liver oil is OK. His reasoning gets even more chaotic when he brings evolution into the discussion. He claims that to know how much vitamin A humans need, we need to look at how much we needed in our evolutionary development. To figure that out, we must look at the great apes. I know it is controversial and politically incorrect to say this, but there are reputable scientists (not all of whom are religious zealots) who don’t unquestioningly accept evolution over long periods by chance mutations as fact. But let’s suppose it is a fact. I remember hearing years ago that the idea that humans evolved from apes was abandoned in favor of both of us evolving from a common ancestor. Also, as one of the listeners during the call pointed out, vegetarian apes are pretty shaky examples on which to base human nutritional needs.
The other glaring problem with his reasoning in general is his insistence on taking a reductionist, fragmented view of nutrition. As Chris Masterjohn has made clear in several articles, all of the fat-soluble vitamins must be present, balanced and working together. Despite paying some lip service to this reality, Dr. Cannell keeps pulling isolated nutrients out of the line-up and examining how they might work by themselves. That’s the problem. They don’t. He managed to come up with sixteen experts who agreed with him, which apparently implies the case is closed. I continue to insist that the truth is not up to a vote.
Dr. Cannell may be well-intentioned and I’m sure he has done a lot of work. I’m sure he’s very intelligent. He brought up a very interesting observation that high vitamin D levels raise glutathione levels, greatly reducing mercury toxicity. He was so certain that very high levels of vitamin D make one almost immune to mercury that he bandied about the idea of drinking mercury at large demonstrations to prove the point. Cod liver oil is toxic but mercury is OK. . . . I can’t help wondering whether he has already experimented. That would explain. . . everything.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2009.