Guest blogger Kate Tuttle: Heard of Dr. Joseph Mercola? If you're a certain kind of crunchy parent -- wary of vaccines and chemical exposure, committed to exploring holistic and non-Western health practices with your family -- you likely have. Mercola is the author of a pair of bestselling books, "The No-Grain Diet" and "The Great Bird Flu Hoax." He is a giant in the natural health and parenting realm, an entrepreneur whose website touts dozens of products, including air filters, juicers, vitamins and krill oil. He is also an osteopath. (Osteopaths hold an O.D., as opposed to an M.D., and are considered doctors; they are often sought after by those who mistrust what they see as an arrogant medical establishment.)
Although I'm solidly on the crunchy end of the spectrum in some parenting categories (breastfeeding, for instance), I'm a vaccinator and milk drinker and overall a fan of Western medicine. So my first exposure to Dr. Mercola occurred when a Facebook group I follow (Peaceful Parenting) erupted with news that he had betrayed his legions of followers by breaking with their philosophy on two key fronts: He refused to condemn routine infant circumcision, and he was planning to produce and market his own line of "all-natural" infant formula. (He made the formula announcement in an online article attacking soy formulas for containing manganese, a mineral he claims is dangerous to infants.)
For a man whose fortune is built on the idea that natural is always best, it was quite the reversal, and his fan base responded with outrage, launching a Facebook page asking if Mercola is "for or against unethical practice in medicine." I have to say, while I understand their disappointment -- especially those who are strong breastfeeding advocates -- I find their anger a little surprising. Did they really think Mercola was another Dr. Schweitzer? Is there such a person, actually?
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For all its lofty self-regard, the natural-health movement is lousy with quacks, from the anti-scientific anti-vaccine advocates to those who are clearly only in it to make a buck. With his million-dollar business plan (and his FDA-issued warnings), Mercola was pretty clearly not one of the good guys, even before this latest news. It's a bitter homeopathic pill to swallow, I suppose, but maybe the fall of yet another quack will help nudge more well-meaning parents away from the more cultlike aspects of natural health and into a saner, more balanced approach.
And you know nobody really liked krill oil, anyway.