How to Spot a "Quacky" Web Site
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
The best way to avoid being quacked is to reject quackery's promoters. Each item listed below signifies that a Web site is not a trustworthy information source. The hyperlinks will take you to articles on Quackwatch that explain why. The same criteria can be used to identify untrustworthy books, talk-show guests, etc.
- Any site used to market herbs or dietary supplements. Although some are useful, I do not believe it is possible to sell them profitably without deception, which typically includes: (a) lack of full disclosure of relevant facts, (b) promotion or sale of products that lack a rational use, and/or (c) failure to provide advice indicating who should not use the products. During more than 35 years of watching the health marketplace, I have never encountered a seller who did not do at least one of these three things.
- Any site used to market or promote homeopathic products. No such products have been proven effective.
- Any site that generally promotes "alternative," "complementary," and/or "integrative" methods. There are more than a thousand such methods. The vast majority are worthless.
- Any site that promotes "nontoxic," "natural," "holistic," or "miraculous" treatments.
False Statements about Nutrition
- Everyone should take vitamins.
- Vitamins are effective against stress.
- Taking vitamins makes people more energetic.
- Organic foods are safer and/or more nutritious than ordinary foods.
- Losing weight is easy.
- Special diets can cure cancer
- Diet is the principal cause of hyperactivity.
False Statements about "Alternative" Methods
- Acupuncture is effective against a long list of diseases.
- Chelation therapy is an effective substitute for bypass surgery
- Chiropractic treatment is effective against a large number of diseases
- Herbs are generally superior to prescription drugs.
- Homeopathic products are effective remedies.
- Prayer can influence the course of disease.
- Spines should be checked and adjusted regularly by a chiropractor.
False Statements about Other Issues
- Fluoridation is dangerous.
- Immunizations are dangerous or do more harm than good.
- Amalgam ("silver") filings should be removed because they make people sick.
- All teeth that have had root-canal therapy should be removed because they make people sick.
This page was revised on September 6, 2006.