Some Notes on "Dr." Gillian McKeith

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Gillian McKeith, author of You Are What You Eat and Living Foods for Health, is a television commentator and sees patients at her McKeith Research Centre in London, England. A booklet she wrote states that she "conducts clinical research, publishes findings, and treats illness through comprehensive biochemistry" and "believes that most disease can be eradicated with the proper application of a natural and nutritional approach." She also offers online "personal health profile" consultations and operates McKeith Research Ltd., which markets "organic living food supplements."

Questionable Credentials

McKeith’s Web sites and printed publications make many questionable claims about the nature and prominence of her work and the extent of her education.

For approximately two years (2002-2004), one of her sites even described her as “The World’s Top Nutritionist.” Since there are many highly competent nutrition experts, I don't know how anyone could justify such a description. But even if criteria could be selected to identify such a person, I would think that publication in scientific journals would be one of them. Searching Medline, which is the internationally recognized 13-million article database for health-related journals, I found no entry for “McKeith G,” which means she has never published an article in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

 

The biographical sketch in McKeith’s 1999 booklet Miracle Superfood: Wild Blue-Green Algae—The nutrient powerhouse that stimulates the immune system, boosts brain power and guards against disease says that McKeith "conducts clinical research, publishes findings, and treats illness through comprehensive biochemistry." The back cover of her 2004 book 12 Natural Supplements to Transform Your Health states that she “conducts key clinical research.” However, I can find no report or description of any study she did in any of her publications or on any of her Web sites. These publications include a few skimpy anecdotes about individual patients who she claims to have helped, but these do not comprise “key clinical research.” In fact, they are so incompletely described that a medical or dietetic student presenting such a report would get a failing grade.

One of McKeith's Web site states that she “spent several years re-training for a masters and a Doctorate (PhD) in Holistic Nutrition from the American Holistic College of Nutrition (USA).” This entity was founded in 1981 by an unlicensed naturopath named Clayton and operated under various names until it was renamed Clayton College of Natural Health (CCNH) in 1997. CCNH and its predecessors have never been accredited by any agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education [1]. This means that the credentials they have issued have no legitimate academic standing. It also means that their graduates would be ineligible for licensure in the states that require accredited credentials (which most do). CCNH claims to be accredited by two accrediting agencies, but this claim is dishonest because neither is a recognized agency. Correspondence schools do not provide students with the supervised experience with patients/clients needed to achieve professional competence.  Thus, even if CCNH's teaching were reliable—which they are not—it could not provide an adequate basis for entry into clinical practice.

McKeith’s Web site also states that she has certificates from the London School of Acupuncture, Kalish Centre of Oriental Medicine, and is studying at the Australasian College of Health Sciences. All of these entities advocate practices that lack scientific support and are irrational.

Regulatory Actions

In November 2006, the British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) ordered McKeith Research Ltd, to stop marketing two of its products to the public. The agency's press release explained that claims made for the products and the presence of well-known herbal ingredients made both products "medicines" that are illegal to advertise without MHRA authorization. Wild Pink was said to help women with sexual desire, orgasmic function, lubrication, satisfaction, arousal, and "maintenance . . . before and after menstruation and through the change of life." Horny was claimed to help men with "maintaining erections, orgasmic pleasure, ejaculation and overall sexual satisfaction."[2]

 

In February 2007, the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that McKeith had informally resolved a complaint by pledging to stop advertising herself with the title "doctor" based on her American College of Holistic Nutrition "degree." The change was triggered by a pending ASA ruling that McKeith's use of the term "Dr." was likely to mislead and breached ASA's advertising practice code [3]. ASA has jurisdiction over claims in magazine and newspaper ads, radio and TV commercials, TV shopping channels, billboards, leaflets, brochures; cinema commercials, direct mail, door drops and circulars, CD ROMs, DVD and video, faxes, Internet banner and pop-up ads, commercial e-mail, and SMS text message ads. McKeith's Web sites still call her "Dr. McKeith," but claims on a company’s own sites are outside of ASA's purview.

References

  1. Barrett S. Clayton College of Natural Health: Be wary of the school and its graduates. Quackwatch, Sept 7, 2005.
  2. MHRA order removal of Gillian McKeith's illegal products. Press release, Nov 21, 2006.
  3. Goldacre B. Ms Gillian McKeith - Banned from calling herself a doctor! - squabble update below. Badscience Blog, Feb 18, 2007.

This article was revised on March 7, 2007.

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