Thursday, May 2, 2019

#2183: Aviva Romm

Aviva Romm is an integrative physician (she actually does, in fact, have a real medical degree), midwife, and herbalist, defender of Goop and its practices, and contributor to the astonishingly insane misinformation on the Goop website. Her association with Goop should give you a sense of the relevant level of trustworthiness Romm is aiming for. Romm’s primary victims targets are pregnant women, busy women, and parents, to whom she peddles her very own line of herbal supplements, books and online courses (herbal medicine for womenadrenal thyroid pro training), such as Healthiest Kids University: Natural Medicine for Children – unsurprisingly, Romm’s main marketing ploy is fallacious appeals to nature. There is a good discussion of herbal supplements here – they are mostly polluted drugs in unknown dosages with unknown effectiveness and potentially dangerous side-effects – and a decent list of questionable “nutritionists” here.

Though she has been part of the Goop defense team to be deployed against science-based criticisms through well-honed and precise marketing techniques and appeals to empowerment – conspicuously and completely avoiding the substance of the criticism – Romm did at one point actually seem to distance herself a bit from Goop, admitting that not everything on the site is effective or evidence-based. “I’m not one of these integrative doctors who basically just because it’s alternative thinks it’s safe and good. I try to keep my doctor thinking cap on as well,” said Romm. She doesn’t, of course, but it is at least interesting to see her admit the difference between thinking as a doctor and thinking as an altmed huckster and more than suggesting that the latter role doesn’t involve much sensitivity to evidence, critical thinking or the significance of accountability. Romm also pointed out that “those drug company commercials are making lots of people millions. So it’s not just one isolated situation with Goop;” a tu quoque is of course always best when presented in the context of a false equivalence. Romm is fond of false equivalences.

Toxins feature prominently in Romm’s fearmongering, and she will readily tell us that “many health conditions that are adversely affecting children today can be traced back to environmental toxin exposure.” She is less sanguine about identifying these alleged toxins, of course, or trying to explain how they work or how the bullshit products she sells would help people deal with them. 

Hat-tip Refutations of Antivaccine Memes
She does, however, advise women to refuse glucola (a standard diabetes screening drink), claiming it is a “toxic cocktail”, and credits the Food Babe and the Food Babe’s chemophobia for alerting her to said toxins. Perhaps needless to say, glucola is not what’s toxic here. To attack glucola, Romm invokes conspiracy theories: don’t trust obstetricians or experts who actually work with patients; trust instead her, who don’t and therefore doesn’t need to take any responsibility for her advice (but is rather trying to sell you expensive quackery): the experts are actively conspiring to harm you, as Romm sees it, since nothing sells products better than sowing fear. There is a good takedown of Romm’s FUD tactics and rank dishonesty here.

Should you detoxify before getting pregnant?” asks Romm rhetorically, and continues “[a]s a midwife and functional medicine doctor specializing in women’s health, I get this question often. And if I had gotten this question ten years ago, I might have said no.” “No” is of course the correct answer, but these days Romm’s got products to sell and has changed her advice accordingly. Romm’s blog is full of fashionable detox recommendations (“How to Detox Every Day: Top Ten Foods & Herbs”, “Detox Immunity”, “The Easiest, Most Effective Spring Detox Ever”, “Detoxing Before Pregnancy”), none of them based on evidence, but many based on demonstrable quackery and pseudoscience, like the idea of autointoxication, which was somewhat popular around 1900 but abandoned in the 1930s since no evidence for it was ever found nor plausible mechanism ever suggested.

Romm’s products
Romm’s products are roughly as worthless as her medical advice. Her dispensary contains an impressive range of expensive supplements sorted by categories like  “Natural Detox Support” and “Adrenal and Thyroid Support”. They are associated with a wide variety of nonsensical health claims like “replenish adrenals”, “detox”, “rejuvenate liver function” and “boost immunity” – needless to say, her products do no such thing, which is ultimately actually fortunate for her victims customers clients.

Much of her stuff addresses prevention of and remedies for adrenal fatigue, a bogus condition, and promises to “replenish and restore the adrenals and counteract the effects of an overwhelmed stress response system.” Given that the condition is bogus, at least you will never be in a position to claim that the products didn’t work as intended. They won’t do anything else either, except possibly hurt your wallet. Several of her supplements are targeted at children – or rather their gullible parents – and her “Natural Children’s remedies” section lists plenty of questionable supplements, including “Calm Child”, which is designed to “support calm, focuses attention in children.” She also has a “Super-Charge Your Children’s Health and Immunity with Natural Remedies” online lesson material includes, which discusses “toxins in vaccinations”, and herbal medicines. 

Oh yes, Romm is at best deeply sympathetic to the anti-vaccine movement, having even written a book claiming to “offer a sensible, balanced discussion of the pros and cons of each routine childhood vaccination,” presenting “the full spectrum of options available to parents: full vaccination on a standardized or individualized schedule, selective vaccination, or no vaccinations at all,” and offering advice on how to use  herbs to provide “natural immunity”.

Hat-tip: Mr. Wrong
Among her top recommended supplements is curcumin (found in turmeric, good summary here), which is recommended for “leaky gut” (another bogus condition) and “detoxification from environmental chemicals” (another – you guessed it – nonsense claim). Curcumin supplements are of course demonstrably not going to do anything for anything either

Romm claims to offer “evidence-based alternatives” of the kind that empowered women are apparently seeking. She wouldn’t know what “evidence-based” means, of course, but neither, we presume, does her target audience.

Diagnosis: A disgusting excuse for a person. It is hard to imagine that she is unaware that the advice she peddles is bullshit, and her marketing and FUD tactics are so well-honed and appear so deliberate that it is difficult to believe she isn’t completely aware of what she is doing. 

Hat-tip: Sheila Kealey

1 comment:

  1. Time for the FDA to screen all supplements and their claims...put snake oil salesmen out of business. Guess there isn't enough money in real medicine.