The broadcast regulator Ofcom has issued a £25,000 fine after the star of a television show called Yoga for You told viewers that he could cure cancer using “11 holy basil leaves and three black peppers”.
Self-styled Ayurvedic guru Dr Pankaj Naram, who runs the “Ancient Secrets Academy”, was given a platform by the giant Zee TV network – which broadcasts in the UK on Freeview, cable and satellite – to cast doubt on the effectiveness of cancer treatments including chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
He claimed to have “75,000 cancer patients” and said that “people who were told by famous hospitals in Mumbai, America and Europe that they are going to live only for another two or three months, I am seeing them after 15 years leading their normal lives and performing their work”.
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Dr Naram also suggested that tablets of his “Life Yog Formula” could kill cancerous cells and that hernias could be treated using “half a tablespoonful of cumin powder, half a tablespoonful of coriander powder and 11 black raisins”.
Fining Asia TV Ltd, the company which owns the Zee network, Ofcom found that the programme, on the Lamhe channel, had breached its broadcasting code and included material that was “potentially harmful” to viewers.
Dr Naram’s business is based on the “Siddha Veda Ancient Secrets”, drawn from what he claims are 2,500-year-old hand-written scriptures “entrusted” to him by his “beloved master Guruji Baba Ramadas”. He has a large presence on Facebook and YouTube, where he is featured discussing treatments for diabetes, back pain, hair loss and “frozen shoulder”. On his website, he claims to have helped more than 1m people, including “the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and the victims of 9/11”.
During the Yoga for You programme in June last year, Dr Naram told viewers that cancer was caused by fermented foods. “I am only trying to tell you about it from a scientific point of view. So…if you have 11 holy basil leaves and three black peppers, you can prevent cancer.” A holy basil plant is known as “Tulsi” and is sacred in Hindu beliefs.
After carrying out an investigation, Ofcom “noted that concerns had been raised about the potential toxicity of certain ayurvedic products and that to date, there is no evidence that ayurvedic herbal remedies can prevent, treat or cure cancer”.
The regulator “found…there was an appreciable risk of harm to viewers who actively followed the alternative treatments promoted in the programme.” It criticised the absence of “any warning or information about Dr Naram’s advice before, during, or at the end of the programme”. Ofcom was “particularly concerned that Dr Naram did not, at any point in the programme, make reference to the need to seek conventional and qualified medical advice”.
Asia TV Ltd said the broadcast, which was in Hindi with English subtitles, had not been its intention for it to be shown in the UK. It blamed “human error” and has dropped Dr Naram’s series from its UK output.Reuse content