Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#154: Mark Gold

To some people, reason and evidence count when assessing claims about health benefits or hazards of various food products. To others, what matters is to find an appealing conspiracy and a plausible culprit. Mark Gold isn’t the only one who has hit upon aspartame as the culprit, but he seems to be representative of that group. From the point of view of science, there is little evidence to suggest that aspartame is actually a hazard, though it may admittedly not have been properly tested. But what does science matter when it doesn’t fit your preconceptions? I am, by the way, using this entry as a general entry for this particular conspiracy theory.

Mark Gold has no medical expertise. Rather, he presents himself as an expert on holistic healing (with 20 years of background in “research" (not further specified)). He seems to be behind this cesspit of misinformation, and this one, which may appear convincing to someone with no medical training (and no background in critical thinking). He is even featured on, for crying out loud. A typical example of Gold’s research occurred when, preceding the European Food Safety Authority’s acceptance of aspartame as safe, Gold “investigated the background of the first two speakers and knew they had no intention of giving an honest opinion". That, readers, is a prime example of what confirmation bias and conspiracy theory research looks like. Considering the claims does not matter when you can challenge the integrity of the people presenting them.

Apart from the aspartame conspiracy, Gold seems to be into every form of woo imaginable.

And here is, apparently, the face of the “scientific” opposition to aspartame.

It is all there. Random capitalization and colors and claims like “aspartame is the molecular Auschwitz” (with pictures of FDA members juxtaposed with pictures of Hitler), “The actual letter from the FDA Gestapo is here! Is this the U.S. or Nazi Germany?” and: “We need to tell the world that the NutraSweet Company is guilty of MURDER and we need to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law as well as all individuals who stood by them and protected them such as the media, Medical Associations (AMA, ADA, JDF, IFIC, Public Voice, etc) congress, FDA, and the Justice department just as they did with Nazi war criminals.” If that’s not scientific evidence enough for you, I don’t know what is! And of course: “Does Michael J. Fox really have Parkinson's or is his nerve damage from many years of consuming diet soda and other aspartame laced products? Michael EMAIL us!” [the garish color schema removed]

And there has been research! Such as Carol Guilford's Report: “ARTIFICIAL SWEETENER, ASPARTAME, (EQUAL, NUTRASWEET) LINKED TO BREAST CANCER AND GULF WAR SYNDROME”. Unfortunately Guilford is an author of cooking books and not exactly a scientist.

Other “researchers” associated with the stupidity seems to include one Betty Martini, Russell Blaylock (an actual doctor, but still a loon), and one Dr. H.J. Roberts.

Diagnosis: Very typical, and very insane. Gold and the aspartame conspiracy theorists are prime examples of how confirmation bias works in practice and how certainty is not a function of good evidence. The influence of the movement seems to be on a level that must be considered to be a cause for concern.
(ed. note - I'm having a hard time finding a photo I can reliably identify as the Mark Gold of this post, but since this post is also largely about aspartame conspiracy theories, this logo should suffice for the time being.)


  1. Actually, I should make a comment here. One name that pops up regularly in the aspartame debates is "Nancy Markle". In fact, it seems that much of the content of the aspartame conspiracy theories can be traced back to an online article posted a couple of years ago. There is no Dr. Nancy Markle. The article in question was penned by insane nut and not medically trained Betty Martini (mentioned in the post). You can read more about these bizarre circumstances here.

  2. There's also this bullshit here: