A canna’ change the laws of physics

Scotty, The Naked Time, stardate 1704.3, Episode 7

Naturopaths angry up the blood

Posted by apgaylard on August 14, 2009


You might have thought that the oxygen in your blood came from taking air into the lungs, which extract oxygen and deliver it into the blood pumped into the lungs by the heart.  I certainly did.

Then again, I don’t have a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degree in Naturopathy.   Annelie Whitfield does, and on an episode of The Kitchen Pharmacy I saw her demonstrating how to concoct something she called ‘Anti-Age Green Juice’*.  You can see the video here.  During this segment she claimed, in part: 

“Interestingly the chlorophyll molecule, which is why all these vegetables are green, is almost identical to haemin which is a protein found in haemoglobin and haemoglobin carries oxygen around our body so when you look at dark green leafy vegetable you have to think that’s instant oxygen, therefore instant energy which makes you feel more youthful.” 

Interestingly haemin is, “a porphyrin chelate of iron, derived from red blood cells; the chloride of [haeme].”  I think that Whitfield is probably talking about haeme, the key constituent of haemoglobin.  This is an iron-porphyrin complex, with an iron atom held very firmly at the centre of the porphyrin ring by four Nitrogen atoms. 

Chlorophyll is, of course, the green pigment that is used by plants, algae and cyanobacteria to perform photosynthesis.  So, Whitfield is correct that chlorophyll is the reason why plants are green.  But that is as far as it goes.  Whilst it is fair to say that haemoglobin has structural similarities to chlorophyll, it is not “almost identical to haemin”, or haeme.


 hemin Heme






(above: centre – chlorophyll, left – haemin and right – haeme)


Chlorophyll has a magnesium ion (Mg) at the centre of its porphyrin ring, not iron (Fe) like haemin or haeme.  It also has a long hydrophobic side chain (phytol): haemin and haeme do not.  Even Dr Mercola doesn’t countenance this kind of nonsense. 

As an aside, some chlorophyll pushing sites minimise or conveniently omit the side chain to make them look more similar.

Heme and Chlorophyll

Ronald L. Seibold (Ed.) The Importance of Wheat Grass, Barley Grass and Other Green Vegetables in the Human Diet, 1990.











Why is Chlorophyll so Good for You? http://www.chancetoheal.com


Neither can chlorophyll carry oxygen; though during photosynthesis in the presence of sunlight it does produce gaseous oxygen (O2).  Given the lack of sunlight in the human gut and our voracious digestive system, once ingested, chlorophyll cannot provide, “instant oxygen, therefore instant energy which makes you feel youthful.” 

This is just nonsense made up to sell Naturopathy to the unwary.  It’s nothing more than vaguely plausible bait to draw new customers into this particular therapeutic fantasy**

Usefully though, Whitfield’s pitch does underline the sheer worthlessness and futility of BSc. degrees in hokum.  Of course, Whitfield is not alone in spouting this baloney: ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith ‘PhD’ has been known to make similar claims.  But there again, her PhD is a vanity qualification*** as well.


So, by all means, let’s eat our veggies: they look good, taste good and may do us some good as well.  The cause of promoting healthy lifestyle choices is not served by promoting lies, like eating (or drinking) green leafy vegetables will give us “instant oxygen” or “instant energy”.


I am not a doctor.  This is not medical advice.  If you need that please consult a properly qualified and registered medical doctor.  

Equally, if you think I have got anything wrong in this piece, please let me know.  I try to be careful, but anyone can be mistaken.  If you are right I will happily correct what I have written. 


*And she does seem to be talking about enhancing longevity by the use of antioxidants, not just making the usual temporary cosmetic improvements.

**There is so much more that Whitfield has wrong.  Just one more example, she thinks that honey is hydrating.

***What I mean is that it’s not a proper PhD.  According to Ben Goldacre, “It’s from a non-accredited correspondence college in the US, so no trustworthy government body attests to their standards.”  The college also refused to allow Goldacre to see the thesis.  It turned out to have been published as a 48 page pamphlet; very thin for a doctoral thesis.  Goldacre’s view is that it shows, “inadequate standards of referencing and evidence.”

See also

For more Whitfield ridiculousness see Cooking up arthritis treatments.


None yet! 


11 Responses to “Naturopaths angry up the blood”

  1. endlesspsych said

    Pardon my ignorance but is there a government organisation or dept. responsible for assessing the quality of PhDs on the subject of Deconstructive interpretations of the work of Shakespeare through a Sassurian lense?

    Or less glibly how many acadamic subjects are there for which government agencies (or any other organisation other then the academic institution itself and their external examiner) will attest to the worth or validity of a thesis?

    I mean given the gubmints track record on evidence based policy I’m not entirely convinced that they should be hailed as the arbiters of scientific dugout and quality…

    • apgaylard said

      Yes, you are right, governments are not in the business of attesting to the worth or validity of a thesis (I don’t think I claimed otherwise, or at least didn’t mean to). And no system is perfect, I’ve seen some very poor theses from ‘good’ universities. Though I would trust a PhD from an accredited institution more than a non-accredited one. I’m also more likely to trust an institution if it made its theses available, compared to one which does not. Even given this though, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. Ideally I’d like to see for myself, or have an experienced chef have a nibble if its beyond me. Hence the Goldacre reference. Thanks for the comment.

    • Governments have, in the past, shown some very poor judgement regarding science. To be fair, the times when their judgements are decent probably don’t get noticed much. But still, the government is certainly not the arbiter of scientific quality.

      As far as university education and degrees (especially PhDs, which can be very visible with people calling themselves “Dr.”) go, the role of government agencies is (should be?) setting up and supervising a system that, generally, promotes good science. Judging the science itself should be left to other scientist.
      For example, at least here in Germany, every PhD is publicly available and can be obtained (with some effort, of course) by anyone interested. There are also plenty of double-checks – the details vary, but an M.Sc. thesis will usually have two reviewers, a PhD will be “seen” by something like 5 professors. I would also consider it self-evident that a decent university would share the outlines of its courses with fellow professors (I think David Colquhoun tried in vain to obtain details about the curriculum of some naturopathy or similar B.Sc. courses).
      Another example that comes to mind is the system that promotes people to the professor status. It has plenty of flaws, but at least it does require a decent peer-reviewed research record.
      Considering all this, it becomes obvious that allowing “woo-ish” disciplines to establish themselves in universities undermines the whole scientific enterprise.

      • apgaylard said

        I agree with what you are saying here. Not having a PhD my knowledge of the system in the UK is restricted to the one time I was an external examiner for a PhD (odd, I know)and working with academics. It looks like the German system is a bit more rigorous as my experience would tend to suggest that 2-3 examiners are involved in the UK; as my experience shows thay don’t have to be professors either. I have also come accross instances where access to theses are restricted for some years to protect commercial confidentiality. I would suppose that there is a system for restricting theses containing classified information.

        Nevertheless, the general principles hold: transparency and assessment by qualified academics within an accredited system.

        At the end of the day the government has a role in maintaining standards in the system; academics for the integrity of the work. As you say, if professors of nonsense lead departments of nonsense they will award degrees in nonsense and the system is corrupted. This is why, in my book, Whitfield’s ‘qualification’ is more worrying than TAPL’s. In the case of the latter, an award from a non-accredited college based on a thin pamphlet is easier for the public to see for what it is than a BSc from a mainstream UK academic institution.

    • auslaendisch said

      The point is not to have the government look at every single PhD thesis, but to have accredited the universities that issue them. The standard is set by the University, but the government has an inspection system in place that watches the universities and checks that they do their job properly. It’s worthless to have PhDs if the standard required to get one is not somehow upheld – but the same applies to BSc’s and A levels…

      • apgaylard said

        Quite. At least McKeith’s pseudo-PhD was awarded by a US based non-accredited college. Whitfield’s UK-awarded BSc in naturopathy is more of a worry.

  2. alcari said

    How can you get a BSc. in Naturopathy? If she can do this, does that mean I can finally achieve my life’s goal of getting a BSc in UFOlogy? (snicker)

    Also, notice that the more the source of the pictures is into selling you stuff, the more obscure the carbon chain is. The book on wheatgrass juice reduced it to the simple notation of -C(20), but the website simply cuts off the picture at the point where one of them has a long chain.

    • apgaylard said

      The whole BScs in bunkum thing beats me. I notice that the legendary University of Woominster offers degrees in Naturopathy. I notice that David Colquhoun has commented on their course. Perhaps given the education that Whitfield has suffered I should work up some sympathy for her gaffes.

      Your point on the correlation between obsucration of the differences between haeme and chlorophyll on certain sites alongside and interest in selling stuff is telling. Thanks for your comment.

  3. cklinx said

    While I find some of your concerns valid to consider, I think it is a shame that you completely discredit this study altogether. Furthermore, your defensive tone speaks volumes. While there are studies of scientific measures with textbook proof, it is also noteworthy that leading edge thinkers do not follow a crowd, yet a crowd usually contains leading edge thinkers. Wouldn’t it better serve all if we questioned the possibilities of a more joined effort rather than a attitude of threat and insecurity to other potential solutions outside the scope of your own studies. Your comment while according to the books may be correct, it is very “in the box”, and I believe there is much more to be discovered when you venture to be open and step out.


    • apgaylard said

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Please note that I am not discrediting a “study” but a rather flimsy TV puff-piece. I listened carefully to it and just checked to see if it was consistant with well understood facts. This seems to me a very fair thing to do.

      Is this written in a defensive tone? I don’t think so – but you are entitled to your opinion. However, you are not entitled to your own facts. My fact-checking lead to some very clear conclusions, as explained in the post. If they are wrong, please let me know where the error lies. I am always happy to be corrected and learn something new.

      However, I fear that your “outside the box” is actually “outside reality”. Given that life is short and resources are finite I can’t really see that being open to what is clearly in error is very sensible: it’s just wasted effort.

      It continues to surprise me that people, such as yourself, seem be to offended by a bit of fact checking. Whilst it might be nice to believe that anything is possible, unfortunately nature is not so indulgent.

      If you believe that there is more to be discovered “outside the box” perhaps you could give me a hint as to what this might be? You will excuse me if I am not impressed by fact-free flights of fancy. I find reality much more interesting.

      In fact, if you read your own comment, aren’t you being defensive? You don’t seem to be open to the well understood facts that ingested chlorophyll cannot oxygenate the blood and really isn’t, “almost identical to haemin”. It seems to me that you just don’t like my analysis, but can’t offer anything to counter it.

  4. […] It seems that Mr Denton has not properly looked at the diagrams he (presumably) obtained here, which quite clearly differ in rather more than just the central atom. Similarly, he seems not to realise that the diagrams are incomplete. Most notably, the ‘hemoglobin’ diagram shows just the ‘heme’ group. While chlorophyll and haem are clearly similar (they are both porphyrin pigments), they are patently not identical. Denton’s misunderstandings are sadly not unusual and in fact have already been discussed here. […]

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