When Robert Young published his “pH Miracle” series of books, he had no idea how successful they would be or how many people would be interested in his revolutionary Alkaline-based Diet. Having risen to fame following an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show for allegedly curing a terminally ill woman with breast cancer, Young was soon accused of being a “quack.”
Kim Tinkham was a mother-of-four diagnosed with breast cancer in the prime of her life. After her appearance with Young on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Tinkham even believed that she had been cured by him. When she died a short while after filming, Young’s reputation would become highly questionable.
Robert Oldham Young touted himself for years as a naturopathic practitioner and author of alternative medicine books which claimed that his alkaline diet could cure cancer as well as a myriad of other things. In his first book, “pH Miracle” Young claims that an “alkalarian lifestyle” is the answer to cancer, alleging that it can be cured by such a lifestyle. For most, Young’s theories are ill-founded and amount to little more than quackery. Despite that, millions of people have bought his books.
What’s for sure is that Young lived an interesting and varied life before he wrote his books and rose to notoriety. Having attended the University of Utah on a tennis scholarship and studied biology and business in the early 1970s, Young failed to graduate. He then worked for missionaries at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for two years in London. But despite flunking college, he went on to earn a number of “degrees.”
Young studied at the Clayton College of Natural Health, an unaccredited college not recognized by the US Department of Education. He received degrees as a Master of Science in nutrition and a D.Sc. with an emphasis on chemistry and biology. He also received a Ph.D. in alternative medicine in 1997. But none of these turned out to be valid degrees.
Young published a number of books and videos called “The pH Miracle,” and when the first book did so well, he wrote a further eight books, all of which are a variation on a theme. As well as pH Miracle, Young also wrote and published The pH Miracle for Diabetes, The pH Miracle for Weight Loss, and The pH Miracle Revised, among other publications. These were all based on the theory that consuming an alkaline diet is the key to health and can even be life-saving.
In Young’s mind, the body needs a perfect balance of alkaline and acid in order to perform to its full potential and to remain healthy. Despite not being compatible with any scientific understanding of nutrition and disease, Young has been extremely successful in peddling his theory and giving people hope where there is none. As a believer in pleomorphism, Young claims that red blood cells transform into bacteria when there’s too much acid in the body and that leads to disease.
Young’s books talk about a low-stress lifestyle coupled with high-water intake and a plant-based diet. His diet calls for the moderate intake of high-carbohydrate vegetables, some grains, and lots of fresh fish. He also claims people should abstain completely from acidic foods such as sugar, red meat, shellfish, eggs, and dairy. But the only research that supports Young’s theories is limited to in vitro and animal studies only.
Despite Young’s claims and the success of his books, some recent systematic reviews in medical literature have concluded that there is no evidence that alkaline diets are beneficial to humans. While many agree that it is beneficial to eat leafy greens and to exercise regularly as per Young’s advice, it has nothing to do with the alkaline and acid balance within the body.
One of the things Young bases his theories on is something called nutritional microscopy. Young taught courses training people to perform live blood analysis on themselves, claiming them to be a valuable qualitative assessment of a person’s state of health. However, this process lacks scientific backing and has been described by many as a fraudulent means of convincing patients to buy dietary supplements.
Young worked without a license, and that’s what landed him in hot water ultimately. Back in 1995, he drew blood from two women, told them they were sick and then sold them herbal products to treat the illnesses he had diagnosed. He was charged with two third-degree felony counts of practicing medicine without a license for that episode. After pleading guilty it was reduced to a misdemeanor charge and nothing more than that.
Then, in 2001, Young found himself in trouble with the law once again, this time in Utah. There he told a cancer patient to stop her chemotherapy and to substitute it with one of the products he had sold her. He put the woman on a liquid diet and claimed she would be cured of cancer in no time. Nothing ever came of the Utah case due to lack of evidence and Young went on to offer similar advice to more cancer patients on a regular basis.
By 2014, Young was in a whole bunch of trouble. He was arrested in San Diego and received 18 felony charges relating to practicing medicine without a license, as well as for theft. At the time of his arrest, the Medical Board of California claimed that Young was charging terminally ill patients up to $50,000 for his bogus treatments. His case went to trial in November of 2015.
Young’s trial at the Vista Superior Court took three months, and he was ultimately found guilty on two counts of practicing medicine without a license. He was also to be retried on six charges of fraud after the jury was deadlocked. He faced a three-year jail sentence for his crimes and a declaration that none of his degrees were accredited. He also needed to admit openly that he wasn’t a microbiologist, medical doctor, naturopathic doctor, or trained scientist.
The three-year sentence was considered light by many people, but those people felt that Young got his comeuppance when a jury awarded a cancer patient who dealt with Young $105 million in compensation. He had gotten away more or less free following the Oprah appearance with Kim Tinkham, but then there was Dawn Kali.
Not only did Young’s advice to Tinkham to stop chemotherapy and take his supplements not go well he also gave the same advice to a woman named Dawn Kali. Kali sued Young for claiming to be a doctor and for advising her to stop chemo. For that, the jury said he had to pay $105 million to her even though that number was double the amount Kali had sued for in the first place.
Young was less than pleased about that verdict and spoke out against it according to a San Diego Union-Tribune report. “It’s totally outrageous,” Young said of the verdict. “It’s one-tenth of a billion.” He also noted that it was “appalling” for the jury to award so much more than the plaintiff had sought. Young was even more outraged by the breakdown of that compensation award.
Kali, who has stage four cancer and has only been given a few years to live, was to receive $90 million for pain and suffering and $15 million for punitive damages. According to her attorney Patrick Swan, his client feels vindicated by the verdict. She hopes to put that money towards raising her four kids, with the youngest being just eight years old.
According to Swan: ‘The jury listened carefully and understood the gravity of the evidence, and rendered a verdict that was commensurate with the damage Ms. Kali suffered and will suffer,” he said. He also said that he hoped the verdict would help to put an end to what he called the “miracle, cure-all cancer industry.”
According to Young’s attorney, Conrad Joyner, his client feels his views have been systematically suppressed as they don’t fall in line with the medical establishments’. “No matter if you believe in the pH Miracle or disbelieve it, it’s clear that Robert believes it,” Joyner said. “He sincerely believes what he is doing.” He also commented that Kali had worked for Young and was well aware that his theories were outside of the establishment.
Ripe for Appeal
Joyner said he believes that his client has good grounds for appeal, saying that this case is “ripe for appeal.” “I have never heard of a jury case with that much damages where the jury comes back in about three hours,” he said. “I wonder how much thought they really put into it.” Young also felt that there was “a tremendous amount of evidence” he was not allowed to present to the jury.
There are many people who feel that Robert Young has been wrongly accused and convicted of malpractice. Many support his work and say he was characterized unfairly during his criminal trial. These people claim that they have had their lives transformed by Young’s work and will continue to take his advice as well as his supplements, which they feel are life-saving despite so much evidence to the contrary.