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What ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know: An Analysis of Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures

Article

Stephen Barrett

Volume 30.1, January / February 2006

Kevin Trudeau’s book, Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About, has spent months on the best-seller lists and has been heavily promoted in Trudeau’s ubiquitous infomercials. But just what is Trudeau’s rhetoric, and how accurate are his claims?

In September 2004, after having been charged repeatedly with false advertising, infomercial marketer Kevin Trudeau became bound by an FTC consent agreement under which he agreed to pay a $2 million penalty and be banned from appearing in, producing, or disseminating future infomercials that advertise any type of product, service, or program to the public, except for “truthful infomercials for books, newsletters, and other informational publications.” An FTC official stated that the ban was “meant to shut down an infomercial empire that has misled American consumers for years.” Around the time that the consent order was signed, Trudeau began flooding the airwaves with a thirty-minute infomercial for a book called Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About (see review on page 57). Although the infomercial suggested that the book would make specific recommendations for specific problems, it actually did not do this. Here are excerpts from a transcript of the infomercial, with my comments (boldfaced and in brackets).

Pat Matthews: I’m Pat Matthews. Welcome to a very special edition of A Closer Look. Today our guest is Kevin Trudeau. Kevin has written a book; it’s entitled Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About. . . . Tell us a little bit about who “they” are. I think that’s the first question.

Kevin Trudeau: “They,” in this case, are really several government agencies—U.S. government agencies—and other agencies around the world, and the drug industry primarily, but also it involves the food industry. There are certain groups, including government agencies, as well as the food industry, the drug industry, and even some news and television and newspaper organizations that don’t want people to know about cures for diseases that are all-natural because people can’t make money on all-natural cures. So there are in fact cures for cancer. There are cures for diabetes. There are cures for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There are cures—all-natural cures—for Attention Deficit Disorder, migraine headaches. . . .
[Trudeau attempts to gain sympathy and credibility by portraying himself as an underdog.]

Matthews: Now wait a second. Attention Deficit Disorder. Now, how can that be lumped in with all of these physical maladies?

Trudeau: Well, when you look at the way the system works today, you have the Food and Drug Administration—the FDA—and you have the drug industry. They really work in tandem. Unfortunately, there’s an unholy alliance there. People don’t know that the majority of commissioners of the FDA . . . go to work directly for the drug companies upon leaving the FDA and are paid millions and millions and millions of dollars. Now in any other format, that would be called bribery; that would be called a conflict of interest; that would be called payoffs. That’s exactly what’s happening right now. So what has occurred is the Food and Drug Administration is really working in tandem with the drug industry to protect their profits.

Matthews: There are natural remedies for psychological / neurological disorders or diseases, which they’re calling them now, right?

Trudeau: Absolutely, 100 percent. There are absolute natural cures for these problems. They don’t cost a lot. The problem is the manufacturers or the people that discover an herb, a food source—these are natural, an essential oil, a homeopathic remedy. These companies cannot by law say what the product does because if they say that this herb cures diabetes, then the Food and Drug Administration comes in and says, “Ah! You can’t say that because only a drug can cure a disease.”

Trudeau: The drug industry just started. Before then, there were only natural cures. [Actually, the number of curative products was close to zero.] But the drug industry in America is the most profitable industry in this country. You know what else is the most profitable industry is the insurance industry and the food industry.

Matthews: Right.

Trudeau: For example, obesity, weight loss . . . there are natural remedies for weight loss that the drug companies and the food industry does not want you to know about. . . . The lobbyists in Washington right now, as we speak, are demanding that the federal government and the various organizations—independent bodies—do not promote “eat less, exercise more.” The food industry does not want the message “eat less, exercise more.” Why? Because eating less means people consume less food. [This claim is a flat-out lie. Many government, professional, and educational organizations promote the idea of eating less and exercising more. The most prominent such effort is published every five years as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.]

Matthews: So the common threat in all of this seems to be money.

Trudeau: It’s all about money. The drug industry does not want people to get healthy. [It might be interesting to ask Trudeau what evidence he has for this claim.] Now think about that. People think, “[Inaudible] drugs are good.” No. The drug industry does not want people to get healthy. The drug industry wants people to buy more drugs. Healthy people don’t need drugs. If everyone in America was healthy, the drug industry would be out of business. [That’s literally true, but irrelevant. Illness is not going to disappear. The realistic view is that the drug industry could not succeed unless it produces safe and effective products.]

Trudeau: There was a study conducted on vitamin E . . . natural vitamin E . . . as a blood thinner. . . . And they compared it to the drug Heparin. And this research showed that vitamin E worked as good or better than the drug Heparin. Well, if you go to a hospital, you don’t get vitamin E. [By failing to identify the study, Trudeau makes it difficult to check whether he is interpreting it correctly. However, to anyone familiar with medical care, the statement is absurd on its face. Vitamin E has slight anticoagulant effects, but hospitalized patients who need immediate anticoagulation require a drug that is powerful and predictable. For many conditions, intravenous Heparin has been replaced by various derivatives that are safer and easier to administer.]

Matthews: No.

Trudeau: You get Heparin, because it’s a drug, and it’s a profitable drug. Drug companies do not want people to get healthy; they want them to buy more drugs. If you have, for example, a pain, headache, they don’t want your pain to go away forever. They want you to be popping some type of pain-relieving pill for the rest of your life. [Again, Trudeau offers no evidence that this is true.] See, if you have a headache, it’s not because you have an aspirin deficiency. Think about it.

Matthews: Right.

Trudeau: So . . . but if there was a way to cure migraine headaches forever so they never came back . . . if there was a way—and there is—a natural remedy you can put on the skin that will get rid of pain forever. [I don’t believe that.] Arthritis pain will go away. There is a natural, herbal supplement that the Asian Diabetes Association has called “the final cure for diabetes.” [I don’t believe that either.] It is the absolute cure. It’s an herbal remedy, it’s taken for three months approximately, and it will dramatically reduce or eliminate the need from any insulin shots, and it can cure diabetes type I and type II, in the majority of cases. Now do you think the companies that manufacture diabetes products want a cure for diabetes? [I find it difficult to believe that the medical organizations and all of the doctors who treat diabetics would not be promoting such a product if it existed. Trudeau, of course, wants you to believe he has nearly unique knowledge of the “cure” so you will buy his book.]

Matthews: I was going to mention that would put a real cramp in the insulin makers’—

Trudeau: It would wipe out a whole industry.

Matthews: Right.

Trudeau: And this is the problem. Do you think the food industry wants people to be thin? No. The food industry wants people to be fatter. There are ingredients being put in food right now that make you hungry. [Note that he doesn’t identify them.] There are ingredients being put in food right now that make you addicted to the food. There are ingredients that are being put in food right now that make you fat, and most of these products are called “diet products.”

Trudeau: Cancer . . . there are cures for cancer. There are ways to prevent cancer.

Matthews: What are some—I mean, without giving away too much of the book? [The book does not suggest any “cancer cures.” In fact, it contains almost no advice on how to cure specific conditions. People who buy the book with the hope that it will help cure what ails them are unlikely to find such advice.]

Trudeau: You know, I have been attacked by the FTC and the FDA for making statements that are true. [Not true. He was “attacked” for making statements that were false. In fact, he made so many that the FTC finally got a court order making it illegal for him to sell any products except publications. When challenged by the FTC, Trudeau had the opportunity to defend himself by presenting evidence that his product claims were true. Instead of doing this, he agreed to go out of the “natural cures” business. If he had facts to back him up, do you think he would have agreed to stop selling products whose sales totaled hundreds of millions of dollars?]

Trudeau: If your body pH is alkaline, you cannot get cancer. . . . [This statement is false.] Okay? If it’s acid, you can get cancer. In our—my personal observations, every single person who has cancer has an acidic body, acid pH, where it’s so [acidic] that it’s dramatically [inaudible]. [Considering the fact that there is no such thing as acidity or alkalinity of the body, I wonder what “observations” he can use to determine whether someone’s body is acidic.]

Kevin Trudeau

Trudeau: There are natural cures, that are not drugs, that absolutely work. And the companies that manufacture these natural remedies, or in some cases, simply foods that you can consume or foods to avoid—just take this food out and the problem goes away—these companies cannot state what their products do, what the homeopathic remedies do, what the essential oils, what the herbs, what the vitamins, the minerals. The companies that sell these products cannot say what they really do, because if they do, the FDA will come in and say you’re making a claim, therefore it’s a drug, therefore, you’re selling a drug without a license, and the FDA. . . . [These statements are false or misleading. The FDA has approved more than a dozen health claims that can be made for foods. The only requirement is that the claims be truthful and supported by competent scientific evidence. Even though all homeopathic products are worthless, the FDA permits products whose ingredients are listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia to be sold without a prescription for self-limiting conditions readily diagnosable by consumers. The FDA’s policy toward the other products is that no claim can be made unless it is supported by competent scientific evidence.]

Trudeau: The drug industry is trying to get—for years—has tried to get all vitamins and minerals labeled “drugs” so that they can control it. [This is a flat-out lie and scare statement used by the supplement industry to get vitamin users to ask Congress to weaken FDA protection. In the early 1970s, the FDA wanted to stop the sale of very-high-dose nutrients without a prescription. However, a health-food-industry campaign persuaded Congress to pass the Proxmire Amendment to the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the FDA from limiting the potency of ingredients of vitamin and mineral products that are not inherently dangerous.] There are health freedoms in this country that are being taken away from us. There are more people sick today than ever before. There are more people that are overweight. There are more people that have diabetes. There are more people that have cancer. There are more people that have heart disease. There are more people that have migraine headaches. There are more people that have arthritis. There are more people that have virtually every major health abnormality. . . . [Trudeau doesn’t indicate how he does his counting. Since the American population is increasing and since Americans are living longer, I would expect an overall increase in the number of people becoming ill and in the number of people acquiring diseases that are prevalent in older people. However, Trudeau’s statement is false because the incidence of many diseases has decreased. Poliomyelitis, for example, has been wiped out in the United States.] It’s getting worse and worse. Medical science has failed. It’s obvious. When more and more people are getting the disease, isn’t it true that the medical industry is failing us? [As noted above, the answer is no. In addition there has been tremendous progress in helping people cope with various diseases.] More people take drugs today than ever before.

Trudeau: You’re sick. You go to a medical doctor. . . . This is what normally happens. The doctor is allegedly trained, looks at your symptoms; based on what he sees in his experience and knowledge, writes you a prescription . . . or he cuts out a part of your anatomy. That’s pretty much what doctors do, right? [Laughs] [Wrong. Doctors may also recommend dietary change, other measures, or simply waiting, if a problem seems likely to go away by itself.]

Matthews: Studies, for example, are very misleading. You take depression, and a study said St. John’s Wort, which is a natural herbal remedy for depression—it’s been used for centuries.

Matthews: I’ve talked to people who have touted that highly.

Trudeau: Okay. There was a specific study that came out, and on the front page of the newspapers, it said, “St. John’s Wort proven ineffective in studies.”

Matthews: Right. I remember that.

Trudeau: “Proven ineffective.” Well, nobody actually-

Matthews: By whom?

Trudeau: Nobody read the study.

Matthews: Yeah.

Trudeau: When you look at the study, there was St. John’s Wort and two prescription medications that are [inaudible] powerful and allegedly antidepressants.

Matthews: And placebo. Yeah.

Trudeau: Okay? So they had these in the study, and guess what? The study showed that none of them did anything for depression. So, obviously the study’s flawed or none of them work.

Kevin Trudeau

Trudeau: Drugs are not the answer for depression. Drugs are not the answer for cancer. [I don’t believe that mainstream practitioners claim that drugs are “the answer” to either problem. Drugs are highly effective against some types of depression. Similarly, drugs are effective against many types of cancer.]

Matthews: But . . . you could not have a homeopathic medicine advertised on Seinfeld to do the same thing and probably cause your body less harm. [That’s correct, because no homeopathic product is effective against depression or cancer.]

Trudeau: Now, I can’t tell you—the federal government is forbidding me to tell you these [testimonials] because they say, “They don’t mean anything.” [Trudeau is correct that testimonials are not evidence of effectiveness. However, he has not been ordered to stop telling stories. The court order forbids him to sell products other than books and newsletters.]

Matthews: You have a gag order.

Trudeau: That’s right.

Matthews: [Chuckles]

Trudeau: “They don’t mean anything. They’re only anecdotal.”

Matthews: Yeah.

Trudeau: Let me tell you something. You talk to these people. Tell them it doesn’t mean anything. It means their life.

Trudeau: There are all-natural cures. You’ll never hear about them because the manufacturers can’t tell you what they are. Diabetes, migraines, cancer, heart disease, acid reflux, Attention Deficit Disorder, depression, stress, phobias, fibromyalgia, pain of all sorts, arthritis, the list goes on. Lupus, multiple sclerosis; there are cures for multiple sclerosis. There are cures for muscular dystrophy that are all natural and people are not being allowed— [Manufacturers are not the only information sources. If these “cures” were effective, wouldn’t they be making headlines everywhere? Trudeau apparently would like you to believe that he is the only person who is willing to reveal the secrets. Would any such belief be logical?]

Trudeau: [Quoting from his book] “I would like to give you the cures for every disease; I would like to tell you the natural treatments available that can eliminate your symptoms and, at the same time, address the cause instead of suppressing the symptom. However, as I began to write this book, the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration took unprecedented action. I am forbidden to give you specific cures in this book. The FTC has ordered me not to give you any specific product recommendations, or say where you can acquire the cures and receive treatment. This entire chapter has been censored by the FTC.” [Do you believe this? I don’t. Trudeau signed a voluntary agreement that he would not sell health or disease products or use publications to sell them. He still has the First Amendment right to claim that various generic methods or product ingredients provide benefits, as long as he is not promoting a branded product. FTC attorney Daniel Kaufman, the lead attorney in the recent case against Trudeau, told me that the basic principle involved is that Trudeau is not permitted to use a book as a marketing tool to promote brand-name products.]

A few months ago, probably in response to widespread criticism that his book did not contain what it promised, Trudeau published a second edition that includes alleged “natural cures” for more than fifty diseases and conditions. However, I don’t believe that any of this advice is valid.

Stephen Barrett

Stephen Barrett, M.D., a retired psychiatrist, operates Quackwatch.org, dedicated to debunking dubious health information on the Web and elsewhere. He is also Vice President of the National Council Against Health Fraud, and a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.