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Jon Barron and the Barron effect
Jon Barron is the founder of the Baseline of Health® Foundation and Baseline Nutritionals. Barron sells "nutritional" products that he creates, including "health drinks," herbal tinctures, and a detox program. He claims that he discovered "a revolutionary herbal manufacturing breakthrough that makes herbal tinctures 100-200% stronger than previous extraction techniques." He won't reveal the secret method he uses to produce his tinctures but he informs us that it involves a paradigm shift, scalar energy, healing energy frequencies, and Kirlian photography to prove that he is not making this stuff up. He modestly named his discovery after himself: the Barron Effect®.
He may make and sell strong tinctures, but so far the scientific community has been yawning at Barron's genius despite the fact that he is the author of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors and is on the Medical Advisory Board of the Health Sciences Institute, an organization devoted to "the most urgent advances in modern underground medicine." Underground medicine is code for not recognized as medicine by the science-based medical community.
Barron is a prolific producer of health-related claims. Here are just a few. "Cancer cells are, almost without exception, low voltage cells.... the optimum cell voltage for most cells in the body is in the 70-90 millivolt range. Cancer cells are almost exclusively in the 15-20 millivolt range." I don't know if cancer cells are in the 15-20 millivolt range, but NanoMedicine reports that internal electrical sources at the intercellular and intracellular level typically range between 10 and 100 millivolts. Without knowing whether there are also healthy cells that are typically in the 15-20 millivolt range, we have no idea what significance being in that range has for cancer cells--if indeed they are in that range. Barron speculates that "as cell voltage starts to drop into the range where the very survival of the cell may be called into question, the cell begins to proliferate uncontrollably in an attempt to guarantee its 'survival'." Barron also claims that his magical discovery of energizing things can be used to raise the voltage of cancer cells and stop their proliferation. If Barron were right about why cancer cells proliferate and how his energizer could stop cancer cells from multiplying, he would have his Nobel Prize and the medical community would be beating a path to his door.
The cellular mechanisms that affect the changes in voltages of cells is a key to understanding how our bodies work and malfunction. Those mechanisms are very complex and while you may evoke a feeling, memory, or hallucination by directly stimulating the brain with an electrical current, you will not eliminate cancer by directly increasing the voltage of cancer cells. (For an accurate understanding of how voltages change in cells see The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body by Frances Ashcroft and chapter eight, The Believing Neuron, of Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain.) Cancer scientists don't think the voltage of cells is particularly important in determining why they turn cancerous or how they might be treated. The change in voltage is an effect of cancer, not a cause.
[new] Barron's flawed thinking about cancer is also revealed in this passage from his website:
Jon Barron has maintained for years that cancer is fundamentally a disease of the immune system. New cancer treatments that focus on improving your immune system's ability to deal with cancer pretty much validate this conclusion.
In fact, immunotherapy is not new in cancer treatment and its use in no way implies that cancer is "fundamentally a disease of the immune system." Immunotherapy aims at helping the immune system kill cancer cells, but that no more makes cancer a disease of the immune system than, say, using a targeted therapy that blocks proteins needed to build blood vessels that feed cancer cells makes cancer fundamentally a vascular disease.
Here is how an internationally respected oncologist, someone schooled in the science of cancer research, describes cancer: [/new]
Cancer, we have discovered, is stitched into our genome. Oncogenes arise from mutations in essential genes that regulate the growth of cells. Mutations accumulate in these genes when DNA is damaged by carcinogens, but also by seemingly random errors in copying genes when cells divide. The former might be preventable, but the latter is endogenous. Cancer is a flaw in our growth, but this flaw is deeply entrenched in ourselves. We can rid ourselves of cancer, then, only as much as we can rid ourselves of the processes in our physiology that depend on growth—aging, regeneration, healing, reproduction. (Mukherjee, Siddhartha. The Emperor of All Maladies, p. 462, Scribner. Kindle Edition.)
Barron also claims to be an expert on fecal buildup. On page 42 of his Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, Barron writes:
Consider that a sluggish bowel can retain pounds of old toxic and poisonous fecal matter (10-20 pounds is not unusual, and up to 65 pounds has actually been reported).
Don't worry. Barron sells the remedy for releasing all that shit.
Barron also has advice about vaccines. Vaccines are unsafe, he says, because they are poisoning our children with mercury. He publicly criticized a scientific study on vaccines and thimerosal, for which Dr. Steven Novella took him to task.
Jon Barron is hardly a reliable source – he is just trying to sell his own quack detox programs. So he directly profits from the bad science he is selling....
Apparently Jon Barron – who wants to chelate the mercury out of you – either did not actually read the study or just doesn't care about the facts as long as he can sell his products. Urine mercury was measured, although levels did not rise significantly. But he does not mention that stool mercury was measured and the level of mercury rose and fell in the stool just as it did in the blood. This strongly suggests that at least some of the mercury is being excreted in the stool. Also – the study authors honestly discussed the limitations of their study, that only spot levels were done and not 24-hour levels, and a future study looking at 24-hour stool mercury excretion would account in more detail for how much of the mercury is being excreted. They also specifically discussed the 2-compartment hypothesis – that the mercury leaving the blood does not necessarily mean it’s leaving the body. That means that Jon Barron is a dishonest crank. He criticizes reporters for shilling for Big Pharma meanwhile he is shilling for his own quack nostrums.
I agree with Dr. Novella that Barron is not a reliable source. I can't say that everything Barron claims about health and medicine is false, but he has some axes to grind that hinder his ability to be fair in assessing medical information.
Barron is a promoter of the idea that, for most people, food alone cannot supply a person with enough of the right kind of nutrients to maintain health. Barron recommends a daily array of supplements. He also promotes organic food as healthier than conventional food. The science does not support the notion that organic food is superior to conventional food in any meaningful way. Nor does the science support the notion that vitamin, mineral, and other supplements are important to good health. Unless one has a specific deficiency, supplementation is of no benefit and may even be harmful.
All science-based physicians know that a healthy diet is important and should include several daily helpings of fresh fruits and vegetables. All science-based physicians know you shouldn't smoke and you should exercise if possible. All science-based physicians know that cancer is not a nutritional disorder and that drugs are not without risks but they extend and improve the lives of many people.
The idea that your cancer must be your fault for not having the right diet or taking enough supplements may be related to the idea that everything happens for a reason and that ultimately that reason has something to do with making sure there is justice in this world. The idea that you can prevent cancer by taking supplements or eating copious amounts of organic fruits and vegetables is an illusion. There is comfort in believing that you can control your health destiny, but we should be honest when claiming that there is scientific evidence that nutrients in foods can prevent cancer. Even the American Cancer Society (ACS) exaggerated the evidence in a 2014 page on phytochemicals (antioxidants, flavonoids, flavones, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanidins, isothiocyanates, carotenoids, allyl sulfides, or polyphenols):
There is some evidence that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains reduces the risk of certain types of cancer and other diseases, and researchers are looking for specific compounds in these foods that may account for the beneficial effects in humans. Available scientific evidence does not support claims that taking phytochemical supplements is as helpful as consuming the fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains from which they are taken. (italics added)
The evidence that a diet rich in anything reduces the risk of certain types of cancers comes from observational studies.
Much of the evidence so far has come from observations of cultures in which the diet consists mainly of plant sources, and which seem to have lower rates of certain types of cancer and heart disease. For instance, the relatively low rates of breast and endometrial cancers in some Asian cultures are credited at least in part to dietary habits. These cancers are much more common in the United States, possibly because the typical American diet is higher in fat and lower in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. (italics added)
The ACS doesn't mention that some Asian cultures have high rates of cancers of the esophagus, stomach, thyroid, pancreas and liver. Should we credit dietary habits for those high rates? Are the increasing death rates in China from lung and breast cancers due to eating habits? Maybe, but if I were looking for a major cause I think I'd look at smoking habits and childbirth rates before checking on broccoli or vitamin C intake. The ACS has since removed its page on phytochemicals and now (Oct. 2015) posts a more general summary.
The evidence on the other side--that certain foods increase the risk of cancer--is also observational. Studies on eating soy and cancer rates have produced conflicting recommendations. Some say soy is dangerous; others, like Mr. Barron, say that it is fine in moderation as long as you take a supplement that he recommends. Some, like Andrew Weil, recommend that men eat soy because "Asian men have a lower risk of BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia or enlarged prostate) and some researchers believe it is related to their intake of soy foods."
So, yes, there is some evidence that ingesting phytochemicals may help prevent cancer and that ingesting certain foods may increase cancer rates, but the evidence is not very strong. Much more research needs to be done before claiming that you can prevent cancer by eating foods rich in antioxidants or avoiding foods like soy. And there is good evidence that antioxidant supplements may actually promote some cancers. Thinking diet and supplementation can prevent cancer gives one the illusion of control. It's a powerful illusion and a comforting one, but it is not going to ward off cancer any more than having happy thoughts will.
The idea that a cancer could just happen randomly due to some fluke like a speck of asbestos getting trapped in a lung cell that later mutates and develops into lung cancer doesn't seem just or fair. Smoking for twenty-five years and getting lung cancer seems more fitting and in line with a just universe. But those who see one cause and one cure for cancer--energy or nutrients--not only want a just world but a simple world. The idea of cancer being random, unpredictable, and incredibly complex does not sit well with such folks.
Read Barron's response to a previous version of this entry here. He thinks I intentionally posted a distorted photo of him to make him look "strange." Which of these two photos looks "strange" to you?
I didn't intentionally try to make him look strange, despite what he thinks. I don't recall how the photo was sized, but I can assure you it wasn't to make Barron look "strange." I'd say the fellow has a bit of a vanity issue.
Magnetic Water Treatment and Pseudoscience (Barron is a believer in the virtue of magnetizing water. See his instructions for how to make your own magnetic water.)
High Dietary Fiber Intake May Not Reduce The Risk Of Colon Cancer "The largest study examining the association between the incidence of colon cancer and dietary fiber consumption was published (New England Journal of Medicine 1999; 340:169-76). The authors report that they found no such correlation in a study of 89,000 US nurses. This finding suggests that the hypothesis that dietary fiber prevents colon cancer is false or, at least, that the effect of fiber is too insignificant to be discerned. Moreover, there was no association between fiber intake and the development of colon polyps, which are believed to be precursors of colon cancer."
Antioxidants and Exercise: More Harm Than Good? "The evidence is inconsistent and generally unimpressive when it comes to the effects of antioxidant supplements on exercise. So we’re challenged to make decisions based on incomplete information. In light of what we know about antioxidants and exercise, the trend in the data is strongly suggestive of zero benefit, at best, with the real possibility that there may be negative consequences to supplementation. Overlay the epidemiologic evidence that looks at mortality, cancer, and other outcomes, and the attractiveness of antioxidant supplements drops even further."