Dr Caroline Leaf – Contradicted by the latest research

This is my most popular post by far.  I truly appreciate the support and interest in this post, but I’ve discovered and documented a lot more about Dr Leaf’s ministry in the last two years.  I welcome you to read this post, but if you’d like a more current review of the ministry of Dr Caroline Leaf, a new and improved version is here:
Dr Caroline Leaf – Still Contradicted by the Latest Evidence, Scripture & Herself

* * * * *

Mr Mac Leaf, the husband of Dr Caroline Leaf, kindly took the time to respond to my series of posts on the teachings of Dr Leaf at Kings Christian Centre, on the Gold Coast, Australia, earlier this month. As I had intended, and as Mr Leaf requested, I published his  reply, complete and unabridged (here).

This blog is my reply.  It is heavily researched and thoroughly referenced.  I think it’s fair to say that while Dr Leaf draws her conclusions from some scientific documents, there is more than enough research that contradicts her statements and opinions.  I have only listed a small fraction, and only on some of the points she raised.

In fairness, the fields of neurology and neuroscience are vast and rapidly expanding, and it is impossible for one person to cover all of the literature on every subject.  This applies to myself and Dr Leaf.  However, I believe that the information I have read, and referenced from the latest peer-reviewed scholarly works, do not support Dr Leaf’s fundamental premises.  If I am correct, then the strength and validity of Dr Leaf’s published works should be called into question.

As before, I welcome any reply or rebuttal that Dr Leaf wishes to make, which I will publish in full if she requests.  In the interests of healthy public debate, and encouraging people to make their own informed decisions on the teachings of Dr Leaf, any comments regarding the response of Mr Leaf, Dr Leaf or myself, are welcome provided they are constructive.

This is a bit of a lengthy read, but I hope it is worthwhile.

Dear Mr Leaf,

Thank you very much for taking the time out to reply to some of the points raised in my blog.  I am more than happy to publish your response, and to publish any response you wish to make public.

ON INFORMED DECISIONS

I published my blog posts to open up discussion on the statements made by Dr Leaf at the two meetings that I attended at Kings Christian Centre on the Gold Coast.  As you rightly point out, people should be able to make informed decisions.  A robust discussion provides the information required for people to make an informed choice.  Any contributions to this discussion from either yourself or Dr Leaf would be most welcome.

I apologise if you interpreted my blogs as judgemental, or if you believe there are any misunderstandings.  You may or may not have read my final two paragraphs from the third post, in which I acknowledged that I may have misunderstood where she was coming from, but that I would welcome her response.  If there were any misunderstandings, it is likely because Dr Leaf did not make any attempt to reference any of the statements she made on the day.  You may argue that she was speaking to a lay audience, and referencing is therefore not necessary.  However, I have been to many workshops for the lay public by university professors, who have extensively referenced their information during their presentations.  A lay audience does not preclude providing references.  Rather, it augments the speakers authority and demonstrates the depth of their knowledge on the subject at hand.

YOUR DEFENCE

It’s interesting that you feel the need to resort to defence by association, and Ad Hominem dismissal as your primary counter to the points I raised.

Can you clarify how attending the same university as Dr Christaan Barnard, or a Nobel laureate, endorses her arguments or precludes her from criticism?  I attended the University of Queensland where Professor Ian Frazer was based.  He developed the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine and was the 2006 Australian of the Year.  Does that association enhance my argument?

Can you also clarify why a reference from a colleague was preferred to letting Dr Leaf’s statements and conclusions speak for themselves?  Dr Amua-Quarshie’s CV is certainly very impressive, no doubt about that, although he doesn’t list the papers he’s published.  (I’m assuming that to hold the title of Adjunct Professor, he’s published peer-reviewed articles.  Is he willing to list them, for the record?)

Whatever his credentials, his endorsement means very little, since both Dr Leaf and Dr Amua-Quarshie would know from their experience in research that expert opinion is one of the lowest forms of evidence, second worst only to testimonials [1].  Further, both he and Dr Leaf are obviously close friends which introduces possible bias.  His endorsement is noteworthy, but it can not validate every statement made by Dr Leaf.  Her statements should stand up on their own through the rigors of critical analysis.

On the subject of evidence, disparaging your critics is not a substitute for answering their criticism.  Your statement, “By your comments it is obvious that you have not kept up to date with the latest Scientific research” is an assumption that is somewhat arrogant, and ironic since Dr Leaf is content to use superseded references dating back to 1979 to justify her current hypotheses.

DR LEAF’S EVIDENCE

In the blog to which you referred, Dr Leaf makes a number of statements that are intended to support her case.  These include the following.

“A study by the American Medical Association found that stress is a factor in 75% of all illnesses and diseases that people suffer from today.”  She fails to reference this study.

“The association between stress and disease is a colossal 85% (Dr Brian Luke Seaward).”   But again, she fails to reference the quote.

“The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Health Organization has concluded that 80% of cancers are due to lifestyles and are not genetic, and they say this is a conservative number (Cancer statistics and views of causes Science News Vol.115, No 2 (Jan.13 1979), p.23).”  It’s good that she provides a reference to her statement.  However, referencing a journal on genetics from 1979 is the equivalent of attempting to use the land-speed record from 1979 to justify your current preference of car.  The technology has advanced significantly, and genetic discoveries are lightyears ahead of where they were more than three decades ago.

“According to Dr Bruce Lipton (The Biology of Belief, 2008), gene disorders like Huntington’s chorea, beta thalassemia, cystic fibrosis, to name just a few, affect less than 2% of the population. This means the vast majority of the worlds population come into this world with genes that should enable the to live a happy and healthy life. He says a staggering 98% of diseases are lifestyle choices and therefore, thinking.”  Even if it’s true that Huntingtons, CF etc account for 2% of all illnesses, they account for only a tiny fraction of genetic disease.  And concluding that the remaining 98% must therefore be lifestyle related is overly simplistic.  It ignores the genetic influence on all other diseases, other congenital, and environmental causes of disease.  I will fully outline this point soon.

Similarly, “According to W.C Willett (balancing lifestyle and genomics research for disease prevention Science (296) p 695-698, 2002) only 5% of cancer and cardiovascular patients can attribute their disease to hereditary factors.”  Science is clear that genes play a significant role in the development of cardiovascular disease and most cancers, certainly greater than 5%.  Again, I will discuss this further soon.

“According to the American Institute of health, it has been estimated that 75 – 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems (http://www.stress.org/americas.htm). Some of the latest stress statistics causing illness as a result of toxic thinking can be found at: http://www.naturalwellnesscare.com/stress-statistics.html”  These websites not peer-reviewed, and both suffer from a blatant pro-stress bias.

You’ll also have to forgive my confusion, but Dr Leaf also wrote, “Dr H.F. Nijhout (Metaphors and the Role of Genes and Development, 1990) genes control biology and not the other way around.”  So is she saying that genes DO control development?

EVIDENCE CONTRADICTING DR LEAF

Influence Of Thought On Health

Dr Leaf has categorically stated that “75 to 98% of all illnesses are the result of our thought life” on a number of occasions.  She repeated the same statement in her most recent book so it is something she is confident in.  However, in order to be true, this fact must be consistent across the whole of humanity.

And yet, in a recent peer-reviewed publication, Mara et al state, “At any given time close to half of the urban populations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America have a disease associated with poor sanitation, hygiene, and water.” [2]  Bartram and Cairncross write that “While rarely discussed alongside the ‘big three’ attention-seekers of the international public health community—HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria—one disease alone kills more young children each year than all three combined. It is diarrhoea, and the key to its control is hygiene, sanitation, and water.” [3]  Hunter et al state that, “diarrhoeal disease is the second most common contributor to the disease burden in developing countries (as measured by disability-adjusted life years [DALYs]), and poor-quality drinking water is an important risk factor for diarrhoea.” [4]

Toilets and clean running water have nothing to do with stress or thought.  We live in a society that essentially prevents more than half of our illnesses because of internal plumbing, with additional benefits from vaccination and population screening.  If thoughts have any effect on our health, they are artificially magnified by our clean water and sewerage systems.  Remove those factors and any effects of thought on our health disappear from significance.  Dr Leaf’s assertion that 75 to 98% of human illness is thought-related is a clear exaggeration.

Let me be clear – I understand the significance of stress on health and the economy, but it is not the cause of 75-98% of all illnesses.  I’m not sure if there is a similar study in the US, but the latest Australian data suggests that all psychological illness only counts for 8% of visits to Australian primary care physicians [5].

In terms of cancer, I don’t have time to exhaustively list every cancer but of the top four listed in the review “Cancer Statistics 2013” [6] , here are the articles that list the gene x environment interactions:

  1. PROSTATE – There are only two risk factors for prostate cancer, familial aggregation and ethnic origin. No dietary or environmental cause has yet been identified [7].  It is most likely caused by multiple genes at various loci [8].
  2. BREAST – Genes make up 25% of the risk factors for breast cancer, and significantly interacted with parity (number of children born) [9].
  3. LUNG/BRONCHUS – Lung cancer is almost exclusively linked to smoking, but nicotine addiction has a strong hereditary link (50-75% genetic susceptibility) [10].
  4. COLORECTUM – Approximately one third of colorectal cancer is genetically linked [11].

So the most common cancer is not linked to any environmental factors at all, and the others have genetic influences of 25% to more than 50%.  This is far from being 2% or 5% as Dr Leaf’s sources state.

Also in terms of heart disease, the INTERHEART trial [12] lists the following as significant risk factors, and I have listed the available gene x environment interaction studies that have been done on these too:

  1. HIGH CHOLESTEROL – Genetic susceptibility accounts for 40-60% of the risk for high cholesterol [13].
  2. DIABETES – Genetic factors account for 88% of the risk for type 1 diabetes [14].  There is a strong genetic component of the risk of type 2 diabetes with 62-70% being attributable to genetics [15, 16].
  3. SMOKING – nicotine addiction has a strong hereditary link (50-75% genetic susceptibility) [10].
  4. HYPERTENSION – While part of a much greater mix of variables, genetics are still thought to contribute between 30% and 50% to the risk of developing high blood pressure [17].

So again, while genes are a part of a complex system, it is clear from the most recent evidence that genetics account for about 50% of the risk for cardiovascular disease, which again is a marked difference between the figures that Dr Leaf is using to base her assertions on.

Atrial Natriuretic Peptide

I am aware of research that’s studied the anxiolytic properties of Atrial Natriuretic Peptide.  For example, Wiedemann et al [18] did a trial using ANP to truncate panic attacks.  However, these experiments were done on only nine subjects, and the panic attacks were induced by cholecystokinin.  As such, the numbers are too small to have any real meaning.  And the settling is completely artificial.  Just as CCK excretion does not cause us all to have panic attacks every time we eat, ANP does not provide anxiolysis in normal day to day situations.  Besides, if ANP were really effective at reducing anxiety, then why do people suffering from congestive cardiac failure, who have supraphysiological levels of circulating ANP [19] , also suffer from a higher rate of anxiety and panic disorders than the general population? [20]

The Heart As A Mini-Brain

As for Heartmath, they advance the notion of the heart being a mini-brain to give themselves credibility.  It’s really no different to an article that I read the other day from a group of gut researchers [21] – “‘The gut is really your second brain,’ Greenblatt said. ‘There are more neurons in the GI tract than anywhere else except the brain.’”  The heart as a mini-brain and the gut as a mini-brain are both figurative expressions.  Neither are meant to be taken literally.  I welcome Dr Leaf to tender any further evidence in support of her claim.

Hard-Wired For Optimism

As for being wired for optimism, the brain is likely pre-wired with a template for all actions and emotions, which is the theory of protoconsciousness [22].  Indeed, neonatal reflexes often reflect common motor patterns.  If this is true, then the brain is pre-wired for both optimism and love, but also fear.  This explains the broad role of the amygdala in emotional learning [23] including fear learning.  It also means that a neonate needs to develop both love and fear.

A recent paper showed that the corticosterone response required to learn fear is suppressed in the neonate to facilitate attachment, but with enough stress, the corticosterone levels build to the point where amygdala fear learning can commence [24].  The fear circuits are already present, only their development is suppressed.  Analysis of the cohort of children in the Bucharest Early Intervention Project showed that negative affect was the same for both groups.  However positive affect and emotional reactivity was significantly reduced in the institutionalised children [25].  If the brain is truly wired for optimism and only fear is learned, then positive emotional reactivity should be the same in both groups and the negative affect should be enhanced in the institutionalised cohort.  That the result is reversed confirms that neonates and infants require adequate stimulation of both fear and love pathways to grow into an emotionally robust child, because the brain is pre-wired for both but requires further stimulation for adequate development.

The Mind-Brain Link

If the mind controls the brain and not the other way around as Dr Leaf suggests, why do anti-depressant medications correct depression or anxiety disorders?  There is high-level evidence to show this to be true [26-28].  The same can be said for recent research to show that medications which enhance NDMA receptors have been shown to improve the extinction of fear in anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, and PTSD [29].

If the mind controls the brain and not the other way around as Dr Leaf suggests, why do some people with acquired brain injuries or brain tumours develop acute personality changes or thought disorders?  Dr Leaf has done PhD research on patients with closed head injuries and treated them in clinical settings according to her CV.  She must be familiar with this effect.

One can only conclude that there is a bi-directional effect between the brain and the stream of thought, which is at odds with Dr Leaf’s statement that the mind controls the brain and not the other way around.

FURTHER CLARIFICATION

One further thing.  Can you clarify which of Dr Leaf’s peer-reviewed articles have definitively shown the academic improvement in the cohort of 100,000 students, as you and your referee have stated?  And can you provide a list of articles which have cited Dr Leaf’s Geodesic Information Processing Model?  Google Scholar did not display any articles that had cited it, which must be an error on Google’s part.  If her theory is widely used as you say, it must have been extensively cited.

I understand that you are both busy, but I believe that I have documented a number of observations, backed by recent peer-reviewed scientific literature, which directly contradict Dr Leaf’s teaching.  I have not had a chance to touch on many, many other points of disagreement.

For the benefit of Dr Leaf’s followers, and for the scientific and Christian community at large, I would appreciate your response.

I would be grateful if you could respond to the points raised and the literature which supports it, rather than an Ad Hominem dismissal or further defense by association.

Dr C. Edward Pitt

REFERENCES

1. Fowler, G., Evidence-based practice: Tools and techniques. Systems, settings, people: Workforce development challenges for the alcohol and other drugs field, 2001: 93-107.

2. Mara, D., et al., Sanitation and health. PLoS Med, 2010. 7(11): e1000363.

3. Bartram, J. and Cairncross, S., Hygiene, sanitation, and water: forgotten foundations of health. PLoS Med, 2010. 7(11): e1000367.

4. Hunter, P.R., et al., Water supply and health. PLoS Med, 2010. 7(11): e1000361.

5. FMRC. Public BEACH data. 2010  16JUL13]; Available from: <http://sydney.edu.au/medicine/fmrc/beach/data-reports/public&gt;.

6. Siegel, R., et al., Cancer statistics, 2013. CA Cancer J Clin, 2013. 63(1): 11-30.

7. Cussenot, O. and Valeri, A., Heterogeneity in genetic susceptibility to prostate cancer. Eur J Intern Med, 2001. 12(1): 11-6.

8. Alberti, C., Hereditary/familial versus sporadic prostate cancer: few indisputable genetic differences and many similar clinicopathological features. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci, 2010. 14(1): 31-41.

9. Nickels, S., et al., Evidence of gene-environment interactions between common breast cancer susceptibility loci and established environmental risk factors. PLoS Genet, 2013. 9(3): e1003284.

10. Berrettini, W.H. and Doyle, G.A., The CHRNA5-A3-B4 gene cluster in nicotine addiction. Mol Psychiatry, 2012. 17(9): 856-66.

11. Hutter, C.M., et al., Characterization of gene-environment interactions for colorectal cancer susceptibility loci. Cancer Res, 2012. 72(8): 2036-44.

12. Yusuf, S., et al., Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. Lancet, 2004. 364(9438): 937-52.

13. Asselbergs, F.W., et al., Large-scale gene-centric meta-analysis across 32 studies identifies multiple lipid loci. Am J Hum Genet, 2012. 91(5): 823-38.

14. Wu, Y.L., et al., Risk factors and primary prevention trials for type 1 diabetes. Int J Biol Sci, 2013. 9(7): 666-79.

15. Ali, O., Genetics of type 2 diabetes. World J Diabetes, 2013. 4(4): 114-23.

16. Murea, M., et al., Genetic and environmental factors associated with type 2 diabetes and diabetic vascular complications. Rev Diabet Stud, 2012. 9(1): 6-22.

17. Kunes, J. and Zicha, J., The interaction of genetic and environmental factors in the etiology of hypertension. Physiol Res, 2009. 58 Suppl 2: S33-41.

18. Wiedemann, K., et al., Anxiolyticlike effects of atrial natriuretic peptide on cholecystokinin tetrapeptide-induced panic attacks: preliminary findings. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2001. 58(4): 371-7.

19. Ronco, C., Fluid overload : diagnosis and management. Contributions to nephrology,. 2010, Basel Switzerland ; New York: Karger. viii, 243 p.

20. Riegel, B., et al., State of the science: promoting self-care in persons with heart failure: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 2009. 120(12): 1141-63.

21. Arnold, C. Gut feelings: the future of psychiatry may be inside your stomach. 2013  [cited 2013 Aug 22]; Available from: http://www.theverge.com/2013/8/21/4595712/gut-feelings-the-future-of-psychiatry-may-be-inside-your-stomach.

22. Hobson, J.A., REM sleep and dreaming: towards a theory of protoconsciousness. Nat Rev Neurosci, 2009. 10(11): 803-13.

23. Dalgleish, T., The emotional brain. Nat Rev Neurosci, 2004. 5(7): 583-9.

24. Landers, M.S. and Sullivan, R.M., The development and neurobiology of infant attachment and fear. Dev Neurosci, 2012. 34(2-3): 101-14.

25. Bos, K., et al., Psychiatric outcomes in young children with a history of institutionalization. Harv Rev Psychiatry, 2011. 19(1): 15-24.

26. Arroll, B., et al., Antidepressants versus placebo for depression in primary care. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2009(3): CD007954.

27. Soomro, G.M., et al., Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) versus placebo for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2008(1): CD001765.

28. Kapczinski, F., et al., Antidepressants for generalized anxiety disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2003(2): CD003592.

29. Davis, M., NMDA receptors and fear extinction: implications for cognitive behavioral therapy. Dialogues Clin Neurosci, 2011. 13(4): 463-74.

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145 thoughts on “Dr Caroline Leaf – Contradicted by the latest research

  1. I recently attended a women of influence confrence this last weekend in Anaheim hold with my adult daughter who is a graduate from Books university with s teaching credential. We attending with s close friend of mine I purchased the tickets for all three of us I personally had never heard of Caroline leaf! She spoke as a speaker on Saturday and she spoke in a fast paced manner! We were lead to believe she was a neiscientist! I was under the impression she was an expert in her field of neuroscience which I assumed meant brain mapping and all of the scientific Data to go along with that! I assumed much! My mistake I will admit it! My daughter and I were conversing later in the evening about the day and something didn’t set well with us this kind over matter business? And such my daughter said to me children are born with cancer children die at birth as you can see so on and so on it reigns upon the Judy and the unjust alike! I was the daughter myself of some extremly Pentecostal parents who were very wrapped up in the Copleland ministry and I saw many things that were not biblical my sound in the latec89’s early 90’s and I also had a twinge of pain when Caroline leaf mentioned the Coplelands on stage! The lord directs us to hold teachers and preachers up to Gods word? So my daughter and I today are sadddened that so many leaders in almost all of them in the non denominational area endorse acsroline leaf and her teachings? Teachers that I have respected and am now questioning myself today Christine Cain is one? Tim Keller? Lisa Teurset? Holly Wagner? Women’s Color confrence? And so on so on! Thank you for sharing your article my daughter found it and shared it with me and I’ve shared it with my friend I invited to the confrence who quickly informed me no I’m wrong Caroline leaf is spot on and 100% biblical I sent her several links and explained why she should question and I told her I had a responsibility as a sister in Christ to share with her my concerns for her to honestly research this and please do it not blindly and hold it up to Gods word 100%. Sincerely Tracey,

    • You would never have need for medication if you were controlling your thoughts. Toxic thoughts cause depression (Beck& Ellis). There is so much more evidence. Medication fixes at a surface level. Lifestyle a Permanente level. All diseases upon this Earth. Have their origin in the feebled thoughts and behavior’s of mankind. Thus water is contaminated, etc etc. Due to low Emotional Intelligence, bad choices and stressed out people trying to make decisions for a toxic world.

      Your rebuttal is not sound! And not evidenced based in the powerful word of God , the author of science. Who is your author of Science? God or man?

      • Thank you for the comment Dr Branner. I appreciate your forthright opinion. You’re more than welcome to disagree with the conclusions I draw but I disagree that it is unsound. I also disagree with your statements that “You would never have need for medication if you were controlling your thoughts” and “Toxic thoughts cause depression (Beck & Ellis).”

        Beck and Ellis were key researchers who are known for advancing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. They did not prove that ‘toxic’ thoughts cause depression. Indeed, there are several counter-arguments against your assertion that thoughts are in any way connected with low mood or depression. “The precise role of cognitive processes is yet to be determined. It is not clear whether faulty cognitions are a cause of the psychopathology or a consequence of it. Lewinsohn (1981) studied a group of participants before any of them became depressed, and found that those who later became depressed were no more likely to have negative thoughts than those who did not develop depression. This suggests that hopeless and negative thinking may be the result of depression, rather than the cause of it.” (Lewinsohn, P. M., Steinmetz, J. L., Larson, D. W., & Franklin, J. (1981). Depression-related cognitions: antecedent or consequence?. Journal of abnormal psychology, 90(3), 213.) Also, “The cognitive model is narrow in scope – thinking is just one part of human functioning, broader issues need to be addressed.” (https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-therapy.html)

        I also question the validity of your assertion that “All diseases upon this Earth. Have their origin in the feebled thoughts and behavior’s of mankind.” I’m no theologian, but I’ve read the Bible enough to know that the diseases of mankind relate to living in a fallen world. If all diseases upon the Earth were due to “feebled thoughts and behaviors of mankind”, then you’re suggesting that getting a cold is due to “feebled thoughts and behaviors” which is just ludicrous. What about a baby that dies of SIDS? Did its “feebled thoughts and behaviors” result in its disease? Would you care to explain the answer that Jesus gave to his disciples in the story of the man born blind in John 9:1-3, “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’”

        Finally, your straw man argument about the “author of science” really doesn’t carry any weight. God created the world and its truth, science is merely the systematic discovery and documentation of that truth. By your logic, we should dispense with all scientific knowledge that we can’t cross-reference with the Bible, but the Bible and science are not mutually exclusive.

        I would welcome your counter argument if you are willing to provide one, but I get the feeling we will have to agree to disagree.

        All the best to you.

  2. I was searching for peer reviews to support a formal research proposal. I would greatly appreciate it if anyone can connect me to Dr Leafs formal writings (peer review). I would love to research this further as part of my MPH capstone. Otherwise with out evidence to support a proposal I will have to change my direction. Thanks.

  3. I recently began studying Caroline Leaf’s research because I suspected my health conditions were a result of my thought life/stress. I experienced severe trauma through abuse two years ago and have not felt quite myself since then.

    A little background.. I am 40 years old. For 10 years, I have eaten an all organic/homegrown diet. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, and I stay away from refined sugar. I haven’t had a soda in over 20 years. I exercise, take quality supplements, avoid toxic household products. I have not taken antibiotics are any prescriptions medications in over 10 years. I have never had a chronic health condition and haven’t had so much as a cold in years. I don’t say these things to toot my own horn. Rather to prove that I was missing the mark when it came to taking care of myself.

    I went to my gynecologist for routine bloodwork because I was feeling exhausted and anxious. She tested my bloodwork, as well as my micronutrient levels and also did a saliva test to check my cortisol. My micronutrient levels were all well above average with the exception of a slight deficiency in biotin. My blood work was pretty much perfect however the doctor was alarmed when she saw that my insulin stores over the last 3 months showed me to be diabetic. We retested and the same thing came back. Also, my cortisol came back almost off the charts. I asked if diabetes can be caused by stress and she said, absolutely. I said, “So the stress and my thoughts about the trauma is what caused diabetes?” She said, “it looks that way.” Why had I never given thought to the fact that stress cuases illness?

    I think it is tragic that most doctors as well as many in the church do not see the strong influence that our thinking has on our health. Doctors call it quackery and the church calls it new age. Granted there are some strange “ministries” out there and we need to be aware, but from what I understand, Dr. Leaf does not teach a prosperity based, name-it-and-claim it gospel. I think she is just saying that stress takes a toll and us and chronic, long term stress is caused by wrong thinking. I don’t know of anyone who would disagree with that regardless of their beliefs or religion. This information should be liberating for the Believer. I too, am always very skeptical and I shy away from prosperity based theology however I feel this is much different. Historically, and as a result of all of the frightening heretical doctrine that was introduced during the middle ages, I think many Christians live a fear based life and carry that middle aged mentality to this day. It is a mentality that was created years ago in large part to scare people into the church in order to generate revenue. Consequently, many are still stuck in that dark mentality and are so afraid of “veering off the straight and narrow”. This leaves little room for freedom in Christ and appreciation of the mystery of our creator. To me, modern day American Christians seem to be, by far, the most frightened, timid, void- of -peace people groups. We are terrified of “loosing the faith” or our loved ones “going to hell”.
    This fear based living is exactly what Dr. Leaf is teaching against and it starts with the mind. No matter how bad things get or how sick we are, the peace of God which transcends all understanding is the reason we will not be overcome. But nowadays, most of us have to be taught how to practice peace in our minds because the world is so chaotic and leaves little time for such things.

    My question is, even she references a 1979 article and may have errors here and there, what is Dr. Leaf teaching that is harmful? Being a leader doesn’t require her to be flawless so we must give her and all leaders grace and room for error. And I certainly don’t feel she is deceptive or just in it for the money. She is just sharing her research and her personal experience to bring some hope and a natural alternative to anxiety infested, pharmaceutically dependent, malnutritioned, stressed out people.

    Scriptures are super clear about fear and the power of our thought lives. Why is it that we allow medical doctors (Christians and non Christians) to pump us full of drugs and we feel ok about that, but if a doctor who proclaims to be a Christian offers an alternative way based on the power of the Holy Spirit that indwells us, we become afraid that its new age or heretical. I find it odd, that we are comfortable taking mind altering, drugs that have a laundry list of side effects, but we are not comfortable following the advice of someone who recommends a prescription of prayer and meditation… both of which the people of the Bible did without fail in order to experience peace and the presence of God.

    Medicine and pharmaceuticals are wonderful and at time necessary, but they are not our Savior.
    And while there are many leaders in the evangelical movement who are preaching a false gospel, we need to be careful not to lump all “unconventional” teachers in together and call them guilty by association. Just because they are sharing something new they’ve learned or just because they mention the name of someone who is involved in the charismatic movement, doesn’t make them dangerous. We can learn from all types of people and leaders without becoming their disciples. Whether its Kenneth Copeland, Tim Keller or John MacArthur…or Dr. Leaf 🙂 we have to exercise discernment because they are all human and subject to error. And so are we!

    • Dear Lindsay,

      Thank you for your comment. You raise some very interesting points, some of which are certainly reasonable assumptions and observations.

      However, I’d like to address some things I disagree with, which you can consider at your leisure.

      First and foremost is your assumption that our thoughts affect our health. This is something that I have considered scientifically and scripturally and I have discussed it at length and heavily referenced in my book examining Dr Leaf’s teaching. If you’re interested, I suggest that you review chapter 1, specifically the section “The Neuroscience of Thought” (http://www.debunkingdrleaf.com/chapter-1/), chapter 6 (http://www.debunkingdrleaf.com/chapter-6/), chapter 8 (http://www.debunkingdrleaf.com/chapter-8/) and chapter 10 (http://www.debunkingdrleaf.com/chapter-10/).

      Thought is a trickle of conscious information that is a tiny part of a torrent of information processed subconsciously. It does not determine our health. Stress is often associated with disease, but it is not specifically a cause of disease. Indeed, one of Dr Leaf’s own references concluded that “Although stressors are often associated with illness, the majority of individuals confronted with traumatic events and chronic serious problems remain disease-free.” (Cohen, S., et al., Psychological stress and disease. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association, 2007. 298(14): 1685-7) “Negative” or “toxic” thoughts are often the result of an underlying disease process not the cause of it.

      While on this subject, I’m not your treating doctor and I don’t want to start giving you lots of medical advice as it certainly isn’t my place. However, I wonder why your gynaecologist just assumed that your cortisol and diabetes are all related to stress. Acute stress can decrease cortisol, and chronic stress doesn’t significantly elevate it. What is known is that diseases like Cushings Disease or an adrenal tumour can raise cortisol which then interferes with blood sugar control, causing high blood sugar. High levels of cortisol and/or the high blood sugar will also make you tired and weak. It’s up to you of course, but I would strongly suggest that you talk to your family physician or gynaecologist about seeing an endocrinologist with regards to excluding the possibility of Cushings or another physical disorder.

      The other thing I was wondering about is why you blame yourself for your condition? Whatever the diagnosis, there are many diseases that occur in people despite the best care that they can give themselves. Again, there was a study in which pre-diabetics were given an intensive lifestyle intervention, kind of like what you describe your lifestyle as, and still, despite the best diet and exercise, 11% of them developed diabetes anyway (Tuomilehto J, Lindstrom J, Eriksson JG, et al. Prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus by changes in lifestyle among subjects with impaired glucose tolerance. The New England journal of medicine 2001 May 3;344(18):1343-50). So sometimes, sickness happens because of genetics or other factors beyond our control. Personally, I think you should be proud of your lifestyle, and not unnecessarily blame yourself for an illness.

      Specifically in regards to Dr Leaf and her ministry, Dr Leaf’s teaching is a Christian reworking of “The Secret” (https://cedwardpitt.com/2016/10/19/the-secret-teaching-of-dr-caroline-leaf/). She may not be a pure tele-evangelist but she is part of their ecosystem. She certainly profits off her cosy association with the Copelands and Joyce Meyer, but that’s not why her teaching is wrong. As I said before, chronic long term stress is not caused by wrong thinking. And if anything, wrestling with our thoughts under the presumption that they are somehow toxic is actually counter-productive (https://cedwardpitt.com/2016/05/24/running-of-the-elephants-why-thought-suppression-doesnt-work/).

      You may be right about American Christians. I certainly can not speak for them living in Australia. But I was intrigued by your comment that “No matter how bad things get or how sick we are, the peace of God which transcends all understanding is the reason we will not be overcome.” How is the peace of God related to our thinking? After all, as you correctly pointed out, it “transcends all understanding”. So it would seem that Dr Leaf isn’t teaching us to live under the peace of God, but rather the peace that our minds can purportedly generate under their own strength, something which seemingly doesn’t fit well with Paul’s teaching on grace (2 Corinthians 12:6-10).

      You also say that “Scriptures are super clear about fear and the power of our thought lives.” Can you list which ones?

      You then move on to ask “Why is it that we allow medical doctors (Christians and non Christians) to pump us full of drugs and we feel ok about that, but if a doctor who proclaims to be a Christian offers an alternative way based on the power of the Holy Spirit that indwells us, we become afraid that its new age or heretical.” First of all, Dr Leaf is not a medical doctor. Her title is academic, related to a twenty year old PhD about an educational program that showed no proven benefits (https://cedwardpitt.com/2015/03/26/the-tedx-users-guide-to-dr-caroline-leaf/). Not only is she not medically trained, but she is also not theologically trained. Does that qualify her to offer an alternative way based on the power of the Holy Spirit? That’s up to you to decide I guess. Further, it’s not heretical or new age to suggest an alternative way based on the power of the Holy Spirit that indwells us. It is potentially heretical to state that toxic thoughts like anger is a sin (https://cedwardpitt.com/2013/08/06/dr-caroline-leaf-serious-questions-few-answers/) or new age to suggest that “You can shape your reality by the way you think” (https://cedwardpitt.com/2016/10/19/the-secret-teaching-of-dr-caroline-leaf/). (Oh, and just by-the-bye – most doctors I know don’t just pump people full of drugs, myself included. I understand your comment was a generalisation, but it’s a scarecrow fallacy. Personally, I don’t think the generalisation applies).

      You also ask, “even (if) she references a 1979 article and may have errors here and there, what is Dr. Leaf teaching that is harmful?” Firstly, referencing a 1979 article is a sign that she relies on antiquated sources to try and make her point, which calls into question her capacity as an expert. No expert would rely on references that are nearly 40 years old, especially in the field of genetics. A 1979 reference on genetics compared to what we know now about genetics is like comparing a Model-T Ford to a Mustang (http://www.ford.com/cars/mustang/2017/).

      What is Dr Leaf teaching that is harmful? Well, I wrote a whole book on that. I suggest that you have a read of it.

      You say, “Being a leader doesn’t require her to be flawless so we must give her and all leaders grace and room for error. And I certainly don’t feel she is deceptive or just in it for the money. She is just sharing her research and her personal experience to bring some hope and a natural alternative to anxiety infested, pharmaceutically dependent, malnutritioned, stressed out people.” Sure, I don’t expect her to be flawless, but she deliberately obfuscates her errors and hides from them. She has refused to engage with me or any other person who questions her teaching. She and her social media team actively block those who dissent. Is that someone who is gracious, humble or teachable? You only need to read the reply that Dr Leaf’s husband wrote (https://cedwardpitt.com/2013/08/29/mac-leaf-responds-to-dr-caroline-leaf-serious-questions-few-answers/) to appreciate that they don’t care what other people say, and neither do they have any interest in the truth. It seems they want to protect their house-of-cards ministry any way they can.

      Finally, you say, “Medicine and pharmaceuticals are wonderful and at time necessary, but they are not our Savior. And while there are many leaders in the evangelical movement who are preaching a false gospel, we need to be careful not to lump all “unconventional” teachers in together and call them guilty by association. Just because they are sharing something new they’ve learned or just because they mention the name of someone who is involved in the charismatic movement, doesn’t make them dangerous. We can learn from all types of people and leaders without becoming their disciples. Whether its Kenneth Copeland, Tim Keller or John MacArthur…or Dr. Leaf 🙂 we have to exercise discernment because they are all human and subject to error. And so are we!”

      Sure, medicine and pharmaceuticals are not our saviours, and no one who believes in rational evidence-based medicine would believe that they are. Dr Leaf is not guilty purely by association, she is just plain guilty. Her teaching does not stand up to even rudimentary scrutiny, either scientific or scriptural, and on that basis alone, I think her teaching should be rejected.

      If Dr Leaf had minor errors in her teaching that were still being debated amongst members of the scientific community, then I wouldn’t be so worried, because you’re right, no one’s perfect and we’re all prone to error. Unfortunately Dr Leaf’s teaching runs contrary to any number of basic scientific principles and basic scriptural interpretation, things which an expert in their field would know and not get wrong. This really shows that Dr Leaf is not an expert and that she is taken seriously by the church is incredibly disheartening.

      Of course, you’re welcome to disagree with any or all of the above and to believe whatever you want to believe. I do appreciate you taking the time to comment. I wish you all the best with your life and your health.

  4. John 3:16; Romans 6:23, 12:1-3; Galatians 1-6

    I must admit that this was a very stimulating 4th of July read (After watching the TED x video. . Thanks to both Dr. Caroline Leaf (and her husband), Dr. C Edward Pitt and others for openly stating your research and opinions. As we continue to thank God for His glorious freedom we also celebrate free thinking. Let’s continue to pray, serve and work to break all of the human chains that keep us bound in sin.

    Blessings in Jesus Name!

  5. Thank God we have good Christians like Dr. Leaf who move toward raising others in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ! There will always be naysayers of everything that others do for good. As good Christians we are to continue to learn and seek the truth, love others, and build Christian Faith in our Lord and Savor Jesus Christ.

    • Hi edWORD.

      Thanks for your comment. There are lots of good Christians who move towards raising others in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and there are also wolves in sheep’s clothing. How would anyone be able to tell the difference if it wasn’t for those pesky naysayers. You’re certainly welcome to your opinion, but I think it’s inaccurate to imply that being a ‘naysayer’ and being a ‘good Christian’ are mutually exclusive. The Bible says to speak the truth in love, not engage in naive conformity.

      All the best to you.

  6. It is only about out two days since somebody advertised to me a fringe church event that involved watching some video or other made by Dr Leaf. I was immediately sceptical of the value of what struck me as a project for evolving new or modernised Christian doctrines, based more, or as much upon what passes for science these days, than (or as) upon any of the traditional authorities for Christian doctrine. So I sought alternative opinions, on the merits of Dr Leaf’s new doctrines, or enhancement to old doctrines.

    PItt the Younger cropped up. Before long, I was into familiar territory, that of the so-called “flame war”.

    • Hi John, thanks for the comment.

      I’m not quite “Pitt the Younger” any more, more like “Pitt the middle-aged” (My sister, the unofficial family historian, as tried to find a connection from William Pitt to our family but hasn’t come ups with anything definitive yet).

      I’m curious to know if your comment was inadvertently truncated as I’m intrigued to know what you meant about the so-called “flame war”. Love to hear more if you’re willing to share.

      All the best to you.

      • I referred to you as “Pitt the Younger” because I read that you called yourself C Edward Pitt out of respect for your father, Edward Pitt, who I nicknamed “Pitt the Elder” in my mind.

        Are you unfamiliar with the phrase “flame war”?

        http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=flame%20war

        I was using tongue-in-cheek hyperbole. Actually, the discourse between yourself and the husband of Dr Leaf was reasonably genteel. But I thought I detected under-currents of mutual irritation all the same. That is understandable, given the topic, his wife, whom you effectively accuse of pseudoscience.

        Science is deterministic, in a material way. Christianity is libertarian, or sometimes deterministic in a theistic way. I reject deterministic ways of thinking, both kinds. Still, never mind. It was bound to happen.

      • Hi John, thanks for the reply. Sorry, I missed the connection with “Pitt the younger” – straight over my head, but very clever. I have a wry smile now, both at your play on words and the fact I missed it. Oh well.

        And thanks for the education – I hadn’t heard of a flame war before but it’s a fairly apt description. I try and stay genteel but it would be fair to say that Dr Leaf and I are not exactly on each other’s Christmas Card list.

        Anyway, the comment and the reply, and the interest in the blog are all appreciated.

        Take care good sir.

  7. I am not an academic, nor a scientist or considered intellectual, but doesn’t the new information on epigenetics confirm a lot of her theories?

    • Hi Joretha,

      Thanks for the query. I think there’s a lot of information out there on epigenetics that’s been misrepresented by alternative health practitioners and by people like Dr Leaf, which is best summarised by this paragraph, and indeed, this blog post: “In the end, what is most concerning about the hype of epigenetics is how it feeds into what I’ve referred to (ironically, of course) as the “central dogma” of CAM: Namely ‘The Secret’. I fear that epigenetics is being grafted onto such mysticism such that not only can “positive thoughts” heal, but that they induce permanent (or at least long-lasting) changes in our genome through epigenetics. Besides the obvious danger that thinking does not usually make it so, which is a dangerous delusion for patients, the embrace of epigenetics as giving us “total control” over our health also produces the flip side of The Secret, which is that if one is ill it is his fault for not doing the right things or thinking happy enough faults.” ~ http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/02/11/epigenetics-you-keep-using-that-word-i-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means/

      All the best to you.

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