Pass the popcorn – and a foil hat.
So-called health documentaries that promote incomplete science, snake oil remedies and dangerous conspiracies are finding a place in popular streaming services and alarming public health experts.
"The spread of pseudoscience undermines valid science," says Dr. David Katz, founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and True Health Initiative, which supports evidence-based disease prevention. "The first victim is the offer of modern conventional medicine, which is quite powerful and, when used well, can do extraordinary things."
At Amazon Prime, "Science of Fasting" promotes starvation as a cure for cancer, while "The Great Culling: Our Water" leads viewers to believe that the government is using fluoride as a means of population control.
"What the Health", a 2017 movie produced by Joaquin Phoenix on Netflix, cites misleading statistics, namely, that eating an egg a day is as bad as smoking five cigarettes, which have drawn attention in the medical community. (The statistics come from a 2012 study linking cholesterol and heart disease, which has since been reviewed by experts.)
Katz calls it "fearsome and hyperbolic filming" even though he agrees with the pro-plant thrust of the film.
"I support your conclusion," he says. "But the fact that you think the conclusion is valid does not mean you can use baseless nonsense to defend your case."
Another film, "Cowspiracy" from 2014, funded by Leonardo DiCaprio, states that the animal protein industry is responsible for 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that it is 14.5 percent.
("All facts and statistics in our films are supported by peer-reviewed studies," said "What the Health" and the co-director of "Cowspiracy" Keegan Kuhn in an e-mailed statement. "Arguments against our "What the Health" film has tried to use industry-funded studies to discredit us. "
"The spread of pseudoscience undermines valid science."
Last February, Netflix signed an agreement with the Goop welfare brand of Gwyneth Paltrow. The original documentation will explore alternative healing and is expected to be published in the fall.
In the past, Goop has been criticized for suggesting that underwire bras could cause breast cancer and vaginal vapor could balance female hormones. Katz describes the brand as "pseudoscientific garbage with a celebrity glow attached to it."
And it is not clear who will investigate the series: last year, the agreement of Goop's magazine with Condé Nast collapsed due to the refusal of the brand to be verified, a policy of Condé Nast called "old school" in an interview with the New York Times. .
On some platforms, such as Hulu, movies like "A Conspiracy To Rule: The Illuminati" are clearly labeled as such.
But on Netflix, labels like "cerebral", "provocative" and "controversial" make it confusing for viewers to separate fact from fiction.
Meanwhile, the phrase "special interest" accompanies films like the anti-vaxx feature film "The Greater Good" on Amazon, which suggests a link between autism and vaccines based on false studies conducted by the now discredited British physician Andrew Wakefield in the 90s. .
"These are non-health organizations that are very powerful information collectors and distributors," says Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist and founder of the National Council Against Health Fraud and the popular media monitoring website. Quackwatch.
"What should be your responsibility? The question is whether a private company should be treated as a public service, "says Barrett.
Amazon, Hulu and Netflix did not respond to requests for comments from The Post until the time of publication.
After a letter written in March by Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), In which he cited a "direct threat to public health," Amazon eliminated books that included "Curing the symptoms known as autism," which suggested that People affected by the Disorder, for which there is no cure, drink a substance similar to bleach.
But with DVDs like "Vaxxed: From cover-up to catastrophe" and titles like "Cure cancer with carrots" available for purchase on Amazon, with free shipping benefits available through the Prime membership, the policy is, the best, inconsistent.
Platforms can also bypass responsibility, or their own guidelines, to the content of the home by third-party services. For example, Amazon Prime customers can enter the territory of the growing circle by subscribing to a Prime video channel like Gaia (where viewers will find "alternative cancer views" that promote ketogenic diet and prayer as "cures"). ") and Food Matters TV (which contains anti-vaccination content, as well as a series organized by goldsmith David Wolfe, who believes that dietary supplements can cure cancer).
When the misleading content of a film is transmitted on legitimate platforms, it makes it look more credible, Katz says. "(Netflix and Amazon) are lending their impression to this content." How can it be propaganda? It was on Amazon, "he says.
Although he no longer sees patients, Katz says that the increase of exposed style films and unaccredited experts give way to distrust between patients and doctors. "In the last years of my career, everyone knew everything, and most of it was wrong," he says of the growing spread of misinformation about health.
Katz argues that, in the final analysis, he is in sight of viewers in search of all remedies. "If there is a guarantee of an outcome, it is not legitimate – whether it is conventional medicine or alternative medicine, nobody can guarantee a result," he says, adding that possible warning signs include "no indication of credentials, no reliable affiliation. with a degree or a university, or if there are hyperbolic claims. "
In the short term, Barrett believes that "a panel of experts" could be effective to ensure that only legitimate films make the cut, while Katz thinks that, in addition to "purging" the suspect content, labeling could help.
Your suggestion? "Notice to parents: watch only if you are NOT an imbecile."
Dismantle the myths of health in some of the controversial documentaries that are transmitted now.
(Amazon Prime, as of June 6, on the platform through Prime video channels by subscription)
The movie says: Chronic Lyme disease is a persistent infection with an existence that has been suppressed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and academic institutions, but it can be treated with long-term antibiotics administered intravenously through a catheter.
The experts say: The term chronic Lyme disease is not supported by the National Institutes of Health because it can be used to describe those who never became infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The CDC identified three cases of death from "prolonged intravenous antibiotic treatment" to treat chronic Lyme disease in a 2017 report. The NIH does not recommend such treatment for people with Lyme disease after the disease. treatment.
Food Matters subscribe to television through Amazon Prime
The movie says: Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative previously found in multi-dose vaccines, caused autism in one child, Jordan King, while Stephanie Christner claims that the "chronic inflammation" caused by the vaccines caused the death of her 5-year-old daughter. months
The experts say: Although thimerosal was eliminated from childhood vaccines in 2001, the CDC states that "many studies show no evidence of harm caused by low doses of thimerosal in vaccines." David Katz from Yale adds: "Immunization is one of the greatest advances in public health in the history of the world today."
The movie says: Eating processed meat is as bad as smoking, and eating one egg per day is equivalent to sucking five cigarettes.
The experts say: Although processed meat has been classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization, the occasional hamburger is not on par with smoking, which causes 1 million cancer deaths per year. In addition, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee declassified cholesterol, which is found in egg yolks and the subject of the study referred to in "What health", as a "nutrient of concern" in 2015.
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