The media loves a good story. When it comes to science journalism, the M.O. usually centres around the so-called ‘alternative’ to the mainstream. It’s an effective narrative device that, on the one hand, has boring and stodgy ‘mainstream’ and, on the other hand, has a person who goes ‘against the grain’ and seeks ‘different ways’ of ‘thinking outside the box’. Those who construct such narratives rarely notice that these modalities are outside the box for a good reason: there is little to no credible evidence of efficacy or safety. In short, it is journalism for narration, not for communication of truth. One of the more egregious examples of this narrative-as-news is the case of Bryce Wylde, weekly host of CP24′s “Wylde on Health“. Unfortunately for the general public, sometimes there is a lot more at stake than simple storytelling.
Bryce Wylde is a homeopath who is the director of a Vaughn (just north of Toronto) health clinic. This clinic offers a wide range of treatments ranging from the plausible (nutrition, massage therapy) to naked quackery (homeopathy). Wylde has a B.Sc. in biology and psychology from York University, but that is where the evidence-based science education appears to have ended, as he subsequently continued his education in homeopathy and other alternative (and unproven) modalities.
When looking for some reason why I, or anyone should listen to Wylde’s health claims (such as a doctorate, or a license to practice a legitimate healthcare modality), the most I could find was that he is the director of a big clinic and he’s on TV…like…a lot! TV equals correctness, right? In the words of our own Melany Fulgam, “I didn’t know square footage was a qualification for giving medical advice”. Wylde’s bio on his clinics’ webpage makes no mention of any degree at all, opting instead to provide a laundry list of media outlets he’s been on, how many hit-counts his website gets, a political job, and that he is CEO of “Dr. In Dr. Out”, a corporate wellness company.
In addition to being the CEO of a company that runs seminars for “well funded” companies, CP24′s own bio page for Wylde explicitly outlines what should be an obvious conflict of interest:
He is also the President of HGW Inc, a company which develops at home test kits which evaluate wellness markers in consumers interested in supplementing with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
One of the many unsubstantiated health claims that Wylde makes is that “Stress is the number one silent killer in North America” (source). It’s not clear what he means by “silent killer”, but then again, vague statements that depend on the readers’ imagination is pretty standard fare for CAM (a self-appointed moniker meaning Complementary and Alternative Medicine) practitioners. FYI, the leading cause of death in Canada is cardiovascular disease, not “stress”. While it may be true that stress can aggravate and worsen cardiovascular diseases (the supposed link may also be spurious), so too can smoking, drinking, and a sedentary lifestyle.
In 2009, Wylde published a book titled, “The Antioxidant Prescription: How to Use the Power of Antioxidants to Prevent Disease and Stay Healthy for Life.” During the 1990′s, ‘anti-oxidants’ was the big medical buzzword: it had the same media-savvy sting as ‘Autism’, ‘Mercury’, ‘Aspartame’, and ‘Tar-free’. Unfortunately, the science of anti-oxidants did not live up to its hype, and there’s little evidence to suggest that supplements will prevent disease. In fact, supplementation may actually be harmful.
That’s right, for Wylde, cancer is rust. I understood oxidation and rust to be a destructive process, caused by oxygen reacting with iron-based materials, yet cancer is defined as “diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.” Maybe by saying “cancer is rust,” it’s simply an easier way for Wylde to sell his book and supplements.
At the web page for the online store of Wylde’s clinic, you can find a huge list of diseases and disorders for which Wylde can provide homeopathic / antioxidant treatment. While some of the more serious disorders take the time to insist that you should never take complementary / alternative treatment alone, the list of apparently homeopathic-friendly diseases is nonetheless very comprehensive, and includes such things as:
- Wylde has no medical degree of ANY kind.
- Wylde runs a private, for-profit clinic in the Toronto area.
- Wylde is the CEO of a for-profit company that runs “wellness” seminars to corporations.
- Wylde says that drugs and doctors can’t cure you, that you can cure yourself, even of cancer.
- Wylde is the president of a for-profit company that develops and sells test kits and supplements.
So why does CP24 even allow this man a weekly spot on national television where he is free to not only dispense unqualified health advice, but also to promote homeopathy and alt-med products which he develops and sells!
Look, I don’t have a medical degree. I don’t even have a science degree. But the fact that lil’ old me, a music teacher can spot such an obvious array of conflicts-of-interest, it’s a wonder why the folks at CP24 haven’t noticed what they even spell out on their own web page! I care less that Wylde operates a clinic, but for my humble opinion, he should NOT be dispensing health advice on national television.
CP24: Where are your journalistic ethics?
I would encourage readers to complain to the Ontario Press Council. Make sure to include relevant links and quotes, many of which are in this entry, and be specific!
Bryce Wylde has no recognized medical training, yet he has a national television audience to which he can dispense medical advice. This advice often takes the form of either alarming assertions (claiming that vaccines are dangerous) or naked conflicts of interest (advocating anti-oxidants and supplements, both of which he stands to directly profit from despite a lack of robust evidence for efficacy). Instead of offering up any credentials or reliable scientific data, he piles on more and more media appearances, presenting his popularity with the media as his authority. CP24, and every other media outlet that presents Wylde as anything more than a fake doctor or a snake-oil salesman, needs to take a long, introspective look at their ethical standards before having Wylde on again.