Diet guru who proposed beans as a cure-all exposed as fraud

Food therapist faked credentials and gave wrong advice

Zhuang Pinghui
01 June2010

Beijing health authorities are investigating a self-proclaimed diet therapist who was found to have faked his credentials and given wrong advice to patients who paid thousands of yuan in consultation fees – only to be told vegetables were the cure.

Chaoyang District Health Department, which has inspected Zhang Wuben’s clinics, said they would determine whether he had illegally practised medicine.

A previous inspection of Wuben Hall by the same district Health Department and the district Bureau of Industry and Commerce found that it was not registered as a clinic and that Zhang, who claimed to be a health ministry nutritionist, and other staff were not registered with authorities and did not have medical credentials. No drugs were sold there, only food.

Zhang shot to fame in February after hosting a show on Hunan Satellite Television Station. His book, Cure the Disease You Get From Eating by Eating, is a national best-seller. He claims cancer is just scare talk by doctors and that many chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, can be cured by eating eggplant, Chinese cabbage and white radish.

Zhang charges a consultation fee of 1,800 yuan (HK$2,050) and supposedly has appointments up to next March, but his prescriptions don’t vary much from the three vegetables.

One of his most circulated theories, to ward off everything from hypertension to lung cancer, is to boil 500 grams of mung beans a day and drink the resulting broth. The theory was so popular that he was cited for helping push the price of mung beans to a record high this year.

But nutritionists are now dismissing Zhang’s ideas, and officials say his credentials are fake.

The Ministry of Health called a press conference on Friday to discredit his theories with several prominent doctors, nutritionists and health officials.

Professor Chen Chunming, of the Chinese Centre of Disease Prevention and Control, said diet was just one factor, but not the only one, in chronic diseases and eating only vegetables was not necessarily good for health.

“If you get a disease, you must go to see a doctor and take medicine. Diet, like exercise, helps medicine achieve a better result. It must be clear that diet does not cure disease. You must go to see a doctor.”

Wen Changlu, an adviser at the China Association of Chinese Medicine, said Zhang also made a key mistake by recommending mung beans without conditions.

“It’s common sense in traditional Chinese medicine that you can’t take mung beans while taking medicine at the same time. Mung beans can cancel out the effects of medicine, and doctors will tell you not to take the medicine together with mung beans. It has been the practice for thousands of years.”

The Ministry of Health also discredited Zhang as “one of first group of advanced nutritionists” from the ministry, saying he had never enrolled in the two qualification tests and was a fake.

Zhang’s other credential was also found to be counterfeit. He claimed to be a graduate of the Peking University Health Science Centre, majoring in clinical medicine in 1981, and a graduate of Beijing Normal University in 2000 as a traditional Chinese medicine major.

Mainland media could not find his student record at either university. He argued that he had gone to night school, but the ministry did not recognise the credential.

Professor Wang Longde, dean of Peking University Health Science Centre’s Public Health Department, said people should be alert to anyone offering health views that challenged traditional ones and check if they offered scientific proof.

Qualifications should also be checked, Wang said, and alarm bells should ring if someone claimed one thing could cure everything.

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