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The FDA Cracks Down on Fake Cancer Cures

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency that regulates the drug industry in the US, put out a press release yesterday warning “Individuals and Firms to Stop Selling Fake Cancer ‘Cures’.” The press release reports:

“Although promotions of bogus cancer ‘cures’ have always been a problem, the Internet has provided a mechanism for them to flourish,” said Margaret O’K. Glavin, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “These warning letters are an important step to ensure that consumers do not become the victim of false ‘cures’ that may cause greater harm to their health.”

The FDA therefore recognizes that this is a serious problem, and that is good. They also acknowledge that the problem of “bogus cancer cures” is a longstanding one, not a new or recent problem, but the reason they are taking action now is because the internet is significantly increasing the reach of these fake cures.

In the US the FDA regulates as drugs only those products that are already designated as a drug or for which disease claims are made. Everything else, in the context of regulation, is a supplement and is regulated under DSHEA – the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. For these substances sellers can make so-called “structure function” claims (that a product improves or supports a structure or function of the body) but cannot make claims that their product cures or alleviates a specific disease. In practice this is a fine line, but this is the line the FDA is now defending.

Essentially, the FDA is going after cancer supplement sellers who are stepping over the line and making claims that their product (which is not approved by the FDA) can cure cancer. They list the suspect claims as follows:

  • “Treats all forms of cancer”
  • “Causes cancer cells to commit suicide!”
  • “80% more effective than the world’s number one cancer drug”
  • “Skin cancers disappear”
  • “Target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone”
  • “Shrinks malignant tumors”
  • “Avoid painful surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or other conventional treatments”

What is more, the effort is part of a larger initiative to protect the public from such false treatments. The FDA sent 23 warning letters to US companies urging them to cease their fraudulent activity. In addition they state:

The Warning Letters are part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts, in collaboration with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Canadian government agencies, to prevent deceptive products from reaching consumers. The initiative originated from consumer complaints and a web search for fraudulent cancer products conducted by the FDA, FTC and members of the Mexico–United States–Canada Health Fraud Working Group. Earlier this year, FTC sent Warning Letters to 112 Web sites falsely promoting cancer “treatments” and referred several others to foreign authorities.

In the US The FTC picks up where the FDA leaves off. Even if a company is not violating FDA regulations they still cannot lie to consumers or market a fraudulent or harmful product. Therefore it is necessary with such widespread abuse that the agencies work together. In addition, the internet means that increasingly fraudulent treatments are multi-national – a foreign-run website may be selling products to American or Canadian citizens. Therefore the FDA must increasingly cooperate with foreign regulatory agencies, like they are now with Mexico and Canada.

Even more encouraging is that the FDA is publishing warnings for consumers about health fraud in general. In this consumer update they warn about the signs of health fraud:

  • Statements that the product is a quick and effective cure-all or a diagnostic tool for a wide variety of ailments.
  • Suggestions that a product can treat or cure serious or incurable diseases.
  • Claims such as “scientific breakthrough,” “miraculous cure,” “secret ingredient,” and “ancient remedy.”
  • Impressive-sounding terms, such as “hunger stimulation point” and “thermogenesis” for a weight loss product.
  • Claims that the product is safe because it is “natural.”
  • Undocumented case histories or personal testimonials by consumers or doctors claiming amazing results.
  • Claims of limited availability and advance payment requirements.
  • Promises of no-risk, money-back guarantees.
  • Promises of an “easy” fix for problems like excess weight, hair loss, or impotency.

In the same document they further warn of the types of harm that fraudulent therapies can cause, including: direct harm from side effect, delaying appropriate and effective treatment, and interfering with effective treatment. I would add to these items: adding an unnecessary financial burden to a patient and family that is likely already burdened by illness, the emotional and psychological harm caused by giving false hope to the desperate, and the indirect harm done by fostering anti-scientific attitudes and beliefs.

While I applaud this new initiative, it also feels as if the FDA is coming a little late to this party – but better late than never. In the last 20-30 years fraudulent health care has been on the rise and has been increasing bypassing regulatory mechanisms designed to protect the public from fraud by hiding under more pleasing labels and rhetoric, such as “health care freedom,” alternative medicine,” and “natural cures.” These labels have been very success as marketing strategies, but they are all ultimately about selling treatments that do not meet reasonable standards of scientific plausibility and evidence.

The FDA now seems to recognize the problem, or (more likely) has gathered the political will to admit the problem exists and face it head on. This is only one of many fronts on which science-based medicine needs to be defended – but it is a critical one and it is heartening to see the FDA recognizing much of what we have been advocating on this blog.

Let’s hope their crack down on fake cancer cures metastasizes to all other fraudulent cures.

Posted in: Cancer, Health Fraud, Politics and Regulation

Leave a Comment (46) ↓

46 thoughts on “The FDA Cracks Down on Fake Cancer Cures

  1. qetzal says:

    In practice this is a fine line, but this is the line the FDA is now defending.

    I’m sure Dr. Novella knows this, but for the benefit of any uninformed readers I’ll point out that this is the line that FDA is required to respect. Congress established that line when it passed DSHEA, and FDA has no authority to cross it.

    I’d like to think that top FDA officials would go after some of the more egregious supplement claims if they could. I’m not an insider though, so I don’t know whether they merely accept the line as the limit of their statutory authority, or whether they agree with it in principle.

  2. overshoot says:

    Let’s hope their crack down on fake cancer cures metastasizes to all other fraudulent cures.

    It’s a high-risk gamble for them. The potential downside is another exercise of Legislative fiat that strips them of all authority over “alternative medicine.” Frankly, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to ante up.

  3. qwtzal – you are correct, it was my intention to make that clear. My understanding is that the FDA was very upset at DSHEA and the restrictions it placed. Word is that then FDA director, David Kessler, quite partly or largely over this issue.

    overshoot – I agree with you – the risk is that the pro-CAM politicians will react by further hamstringing the FDA. That is why we need grassroots support for their anti-fraud efforts.

  4. drval says:

    Steve – you’ve got my support for anti-fraud efforts! Let me know what this little blade of grass can do… :)

  5. Steve good article. However, I have a correction. You said, “Even if a company is not violating FDA regulations they still cannot lie to consumers or market a fraudulent or harmful product.”

    You are right. It is illegal to fraudulently advertise a product. Not even Orrin Hatch would propose a law that made fraud in advertising legal in the US because he knows the nation would probably (hopefully) revolt. However, it is perfectly legal to sell a harmful product here. As I understand it under DSHEA, the FDA cannot ban a specific ingredient, although after ephedra this interpretation of the law may have changed. They have to go after each brand and present evidence that that specific formulation is dangerous. To do that they have to have victims lined up willing to testify on their behalf something not about to happen any time soon. I think if you talk to product liability lawyers they will tell you how difficult it is to get victims to come forward, how it takes the momentum of victims doing that and being covered in the media before most will step forward.

    Silver supplements are sold legally in the US. The FDA has issued warnings about them. So has NCCAM. Even Andrew Weil and one of the supplement trade groups have. There are now many cases of argyria caused by silver supplements reported in med. journals and lots more unreported there. Victims have won out of court settlements.

    Several years ago the FDA & FTC sent the same kind of letters to websites making fraudulent claims and drug claims about silver as they just have to those making fraudulent cancer cure claims. I know of one AG who took legal action against a silver supplement company in his jurisdiction. But are the fraudulent silver ads and drug claims gone? No way. I was just asked about this site this morning.
    http://lifesilver.com/
    If you look through the site, you will see a reference to in vitro studies done on the product at BYU. If any of you are interested enough to really look at it, and the claims would be hilarious if the matter wasn’t so serious, I have an FAQ with the response of the head of the microbiology department at BYU regarding the studies mentioned that I posted years ago.
    http://homepages.together.net/~rjstan/rose6.html

    This is not the FDA’s fault or the FTC’s. It is the fault of the people who passed DSHEA. The law favors criminals.

    I recently noticed that the only material on the link to my website that I’ve given here is on silver. The rest was never transfered and I will have to get that done. I have a lot more info on my site, info for laypeople, not scientists and MDs. If any of you are interested, it is here.
    http://www.webanstrich.de/rosemary/

  6. apteryx says:

    rjstan wrote: “As I understand it under DSHEA, the FDA cannot ban a specific ingredient…”

    No, they can; they banned ephedra products as a group, not brand by brand, and they also banned a whole list of species that contained or might contain the toxin aristolochic acid. Under DSHEA, the limitation is simply that, if the species’ use is grandfathered in, FDA has to cough up evidence that it is dangerous. Grandfathered species have been sold commercially, in America [not part of DSHEA, but FDA's interpretation], since before 1994, often long before. If they are really so dangerous that they must now be taken away, FDA should be able to come up with evidence of the fact. If a company wants to put a new dietary ingredient into commerce, by FDA’s interpretation including one that has been used in other countries for millennia or apparently even one used in American folk tradition outside the cash economy, they must provide dossiers on its safety to FDA, which then has the choice of allowing them to market the product or not. (Usually they refuse.)

  7. apteryx says:

    As to why they have not banned silver products, I cannot imagine why the **** not. My only guess is that the major side effect of long-term use, argyria, is a benign condition in the sense that it only affects the victim’s appearance. FDA can probably envision hordes of silver crackpots coming to court and saying “Show us one person who’s ever died or become seriously ill from using silver!” – and they can’t. Many consumers would probably rather suffer a nonfatal heart attack than a permanently disfiguring condition, so I think this risk should be weighted just as heavily as the stated risks of ephedra; but they might fear that a court won’t see it that way. Or they could be afraid that all the silver crackpots who haven’t gotten argyria will start writing to their congresscritters about how the FDA is overstepping itself again.

    Anybody know someone from the FDA who could be asked about this?

  8. daedalus2u says:

    The FDA doesn’t have the authority to ban materials from commerce. What they do have the authority to do is regulate drugs. The FDA has said:

    310.548 Drug products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts offered over-the-counter (OTC) for the treatment and/or prevention of disease.

    (a) Colloidal silver ingredients and silver salts have been marketed in over-the-counter (OTC) drug products for the treatment and prevention of numerous disease conditions. There are serious and complicating aspects to many of the diseases these silver ingredients purport to treat or prevent. Further, there is a lack of adequate data to establish general recognition of the safety and effectiveness of colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts for OTC use in the treatment or prevention of any disease. These ingredients and salts include, but are not limited to, silver proteins, mild silver protein, strong silver protein, silver, silver ion, silver chloride, silver cyanide, silver iodide, silver oxide, and silver phosphate.

    (b) Any OTC drug product containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts that is labeled, represented, or promoted for the treatment and/or prevention of any disease is regarded as a new drug within the meaning of section 201(p) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the act) for which an approved application or abbreviated application under section 505 of the act and part 314 of this chapter is required for marketing. In the absence of an approved new drug application or abbreviated new drug application, such product is also misbranded under section 502 of the act.

    (c) Clinical investigations designed to obtain evidence that any drug product containing colloidal silver or silver salts labeled, represented, or promoted for any OTC drug use is safe and effective for the purpose intended must comply with the requirements and procedures governing the use of investigational new drugs as set forth in part 312 of this chapter.

    (d) After September 16, 1999, any such OTC drug product containing colloidal silver or silver salts initially introduced or initially delivered for introduction into interstate commerce that is not in compliance with this section is subject to regulatory action.

    http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2007/aprqtr/pdf/21cfr310.548.pdf

    This is the same standard for any material. If you want to sell it as a drug, you have to show that it is safe and effective. Silver has not been shown to be safe and effective as a drug. Until silver is shown to be safe and effective as a drug it can’t be sold as such.

    If you want to sell it as a “supplement”, then the FDA regulations don’t apply.

    A recent scam I saw in silver was that they said it had silver, just not over the drinking water limits, and so it had a level of silver determined to be “safe” by the US government.

  9. Calli Arcale says:

    Actually, the FDA does regulate more than just drugs. They also regulate food and cosmetics. Thanks to DSHEA, supplements fall broadly under the rubric of food and cosmetics, and so as long as they don’t make drug claims, the most the FDA can do is require that their ingredients be approved for human consumption.

  10. apteryx says:

    Any disease claim, even if supported by scientific evidence, makes a product a “drug”; if the product has not been approved as a drug, it then becomes an illegally marketed drug liable to regulatory action. The exception is that certain conventional foods are allowed to make disease-related health claims for which there is considerable support; these must be FDA-approved. However, even if NO claims are made for a botanical or other dietary supplement, it must be reasonably safe when used as directed, just as a food must. DSHEA specifically gives FDA the right to remove previously marketed botanicals from the market if they can demonstrate a danger to the public. It is not correct to say that “[the] FDA doesn’t have the authority to ban materials from commerce”. Google “Aristolochia” if you want to check that.

  11. Apteryx, actually I know many people at FDA or previously at FDA. Also some at FTC, IRS, DoJ & HHS as well as people in state public health departments and also AAGs. That is because I went ballistic when I learned that silver was being sold as a “dietary supplement” and that because of DSHEA no one could prevent the fraudulent claims being made to sell it or insist that it carry a warning about argyria. (The details explaining all of this are to many for a post here.)

    I went to FDA headquarters, to many different buildings and personally spoke with about 30 officials. When I couldn’t get in at the Rockville fortress, I insisted that they give me a security guard escort which they did. He looked like a drill instructor at Quantico. He took me where I wanted to go – to see the lawyers. The first lawyer I spoke with said, “Yes. I know what you are talking about. I’m working on it, but there are things far worse than silver.” And I believed her.

    I’ve given oral and written testimony to the President’s Comm. on Dietary Supplements. Some of the biggest names in the supplement industry were on that committee and it was hosted by PhDs from HHS. When these people first meet me they think I’m insane, but about 5 minutes into the conversation they usually realize that I’m exceedingly rational, fair, have the facts down cold and can clearly articulate them.

    My comments on silver and argyria are mentioned in the FDA’s final rule on silver in the Federal Register.

    I’ve given testimony to an FDA advisory committee on pharmacy compounding when the compounders wanted silver admitted to the bulk drug list.
    http://homepages.together.net/~rjstan/msp.html
    http://homepages.together.net/~rjstan/PharmacyCompounding.html
    And those bastards (sorry doctors), the compounding pharmacists, didn’t even have the guts to look me in the face and listen to my oral testimony! One of them was supposed to testify too but she disappeared. They had a non-voting member on the committee and had read my written testimony and couldn’t face me. The committee voted unanimously not to put silver on the bulk list. A friend who is a retired FDA chemist came to listen to my talk and we had lunch together in the FDA cafeteria. Committee members and a doctor from USP came over to thank me for my talk and written comments. My friend said he was pleased they had done that but had never seen anything like it before.

    I’ve been asked to speak at conferences on quackery sponsored by FDA and state groups working with AIDS patients. I’ve spoken at conferences along with FDA and FTC officals, even one with Randi. Dr. Renner and I were asked to testify in a court case for DoJ, IRS & FDA. As a result of all this, I’ve met a lot of government officials.

    And it was a pharmacognosist at FDA who eventually left the agency to work for a supplement company who told me that they cannot ban a specific ingredient, but as I stated previously, that interpretation of the law may have changed with ephedra.

    Presently I don’t know any lawyer working at FDA and I rather doubt than anyone else there in another department could explain why they can’t ban silver although I personally do not want them to ban it. I believe that people should be free to poison themselves if they choose to. But I do want silver supplements to have to carry warning labels about argyria and I want anyone who makes claims that they cannot substantiate about silver or any supplement prosecuted for fraud in advertising and I want the penalties to be substanial enough to deter criminals.

    Actually, it is impossible to ban silver supplements in a free country because anyone can make his own with some silver wire, water and batteries. And I don’t see how FDA can prove that silver supplements can cause argyria since there are no toxicology studes that show the amount that causes it in the average person. In the first part of the last century doctors tried doing those studies in animals but could never find a species where they could experimentally reproduce it.

    If FDA tried to ban silver supps, they could be legally challenged. While there are many cases of argyria caused by supps, I know of only two person who *might* appear on the agency’s behalf. Most of the case reports in journals don’t give brand names or many specific details and each time a case hits the airwaves, the silver quacks start screaming that the victim took the wrong brand, made his “improperly” or took too much even when the same creeps told them previously that the stuff was nontoxic and that they had to saturate themselves with it to cure themselves of disease.

    I googled “Aristolochia”. I only glanced at the first page of results. They seemed to be mostly about botany. I know a pharmacologist who is very concerned about it who follows it closely. Not too long ago when I said the FDA had banned it, he said that they hadn’t. I will see if I can get more info on that.

    Law is very complicated. DSHEA is a very bad law. It makes it almost impossible to protect consumers from quacks. If there is a caring, knowledgeable person in the supplement industry, I don’t know how he sleeps at night with that law on the books.

  12. Clarification. Silver most definitely causes argyria. There is more than enough scientific evidence to demonstrate that. However, no one knows the amount that will cause argyria in the average person and the amount will vary with the form that the silver is in. Therefore, it is not possible to show that a specific brand of silver supplement taken at the “recommended dose” will cause argyria.

    Then there is the descrepency between the lables and the sales pitches. I have found one salesperson claiming that the product she sells is “non-toxic”, perfectly safe, and that you should take it as a nutrient, a remedy when you are sick and use it to purify your water while the label on the stuff she sells tells you to gargle with it and use it topically.

    DSHEA favors criminals. It is a disgrace in a civilized country.

  13. DLC says:

    The “supplements” con men will tell you that their substances are not drugs. If then asked if the stuff is food, they will again reply in the negative. “It’s a supplement” they will say. Except they will nudge-nudge-wink-wink that “we can’t make any claims, but we have all these anecdotes from satisfied customers that took our product and lived got well.” It’s a con job. These people aren’t selling vitamins, they’re selling uncontrolled and impure drugs.

  14. DLC says:

    Blast. didn’t know your comments don’t accept html style tags.
    The word “Lived” above is supposed to be in strikethrough.

    Addendum:
    Two minor additional comments:
    I don’t work for “Big Pharma”. (pre-empting the “pharma shill gambit)
    Second, while I cannot claim that I have complete knowledge on the subject, I do follow medical science fairly closely, and I have not yet come across any study showing that any of these supplements have any effect over that of a placebo.

  15. apteryx says:

    rjstan – I’m glad you were able to make a little bit of difference regarding silver’s regulatory status, but it’s amazing to me that manufacturers are not warning people about argyria. Failing to warn about a known side effect creates an enormous liability issue. The fact that you can make your own silver supplement at home should not preclude banning it from commerce. You could also make tincture of belladonna for home use, but you would not be allowed to sell it. Of course, there the side effect of overdose is death, which tends to get regulators’ attention in a hurry.

    DLC – Which are “these” supplements? Every botanical that in the U.S. is sold as a dietary supplement? If you have never seen a single study in which a botanical outperformed placebo, then you are ignorant of almost the entire body of research on botanicals. Nobody can possibly stay aware of the research being published on every subject, and if this is not an area that interests you, there’s no shame in ignoring it. I, personally, know nothing about the field of, say, cardiovascular surgery, and do not read any of the journals that focus on it; therefore, I have never seen any research that supports any of the current practice in that field. However, I do not assume that no such research exists simply because I have not seen it.

  16. Apteryx, it doesn’t sound as if you understand the reality of product liability law which of course is not surprising since very few people do. I am not an expert, but I have worked with lawyers who are and with argyria victims who have had very good cases.

    The first problem is getting victims to admit that they’ve been conned and getting them to even look for a lawyer to represent them. Most believe that they were very stupid to have believed the lies of the salesmen in the first place. They think it is their fault that they turned gray. They also are embarrassed to speak publicly. Most won’t even let MDs take photos of them for med. journal articles.

    Second, there are statutes of limitations which I am sure are far too short. They vary by state but seem to be around 2 or 3 years from the time the person realized he was injured. Many silver victims literally take years before admitting even to themselves that yes they really are a funny color just like people tell them. Then they take years trying all the fraudulent and sometimes dangerous cures that the salesmen who sold them the silver tell pitch.

    Third, till very recently we couldn’t find lawyers who would take their cases. There were several reasons for that. First, there wasn’t a legal precident to follow, a cookbook recipe of the procedure the lawyer had to follow for a supplement case. Second, there was no money to be found. Lawyers’ time is money. Many silver supplement companies don’t have money that is easy to find so that even if a lawyer takes the case and wins, he can’t collect. I know of one case where there was an out of court settlement that was relatively small. The reason was that the insurance company paid. If the lawyer had tried to get more money, he would of had to have sued the insurance company which claimed that it wasn’t liable because the silver company lied to get the insurance. There are some silver companies that have taken in millions, not just selling silver but also other supplements. They consider these lawsuits the cost of doing business.

    Yes. You can make a tincture of belladonna at home but I’m sure it is no where near as simple as making a silver supplement and I’d guess that it would be much more expensive. You say that you cannot sell a homemade ticture of belladonna. I assume you mean you can’t sell it legally. If so, how do you know that? As far as I know, under DSHEA anyone can make and sell any “dietary supplement” which is another one of the many very serious flaws with DSHEA.

    Regarding your comment to DLC, “If you have never seen a single study in which a botanical outperformed placebo, then you are ignorant of almost the entire body of research on botanicals.” I have not closely followed supplements other than silver for many years now, but when I did, I didn’t find any convincing evidence that any were better than placebo. I was not looking at individual studies. I was looking at “bodies of evidence” or the “weight of the evidence”, or all the studies on the subject I could get and the standards I use to evaluate the evidence are scientific. They are the same for all products making health claims. Based on the posts of yours that I have read, your standards are far lower than mine where botanical supplements are concerned. (I hope that for once you have the courtesy to graciously accept that rather than trying to spin it.)

    I have recently read Dan Hurely’s book as well as SNAKE OIL SCIENCE. Both conclude after serious, in depth investigations that there are no supplements that perform better than placebo and I know that even if there were, the chances of a consumer buying the formulation that had been studied would be exceedingly small.

    If you or anyone else has a solid body of scientific evidence showing that that is incorrect, I would be happy to review it. But again please have the courtesy to spare me the spin about not doing my research for me or about narrow minded people rejecting anything that contradicts their preconceived beliefs.

    It isn’t an intellectual game. It is a very serious matter that affects the lives of a great many people. I can be influenced by evidence not spin.

  17. weing says:

    In evaluating any drug it is of utmost important to know the dose. With supplements or herbals, you are on your own. Do you trust the “big herbals” and the supplement makers more than “big pharma” that at least has government oversight, quality control testing, and can be shut down?

  18. apteryx says:

    rjstan – I admit to ignorance of liability law, but you are equally ignorant of herbalism and regulation thereof. I don’t have a clue how to make one of these silver gizmos, but tincture of belladonna is easy and free. Go find the plant growing wild, chop it into a jar, soak it in vodka. And before you start experimenting with the dose, make sure your will is made out. If you tried putting the stuff in a health food store these days, the FDA would be all over you. It used to be an effective medicine, but is just too dangerous for modern use. If ephedra can be banned because there’s a one in millions chance it will cause you to have a stroke, what do you think would be said of a frankly poisonous plant?

    You seem to see all disagreement as “spin.” There have been a lot more lab, animal, and human studies of botanicals in the past decade or so, so if you have not been paying attention to the research for many years, you may not be familiar with current literature. There are plants, and specific standardized extracts, that have performed in multiple clinical trials. (You can indeed buy products using those extracts, if you wish.) There are also animal studies of these products showing bioactivity, and research has been done to begin to elucidate the mechanisms of activity at a molecular level. No hypothesis in science is ever completely “proven.” To me, if human use data are backed up by multiple animal and human studies, that creates a presumption that the hypothesis is likely correct. To you, it does not. If you want to say that my standards therefore are lower, okay; but my opinions also are based on “evidence, not spin.”

    I suspect that there is little point in arguing this further. It is a philosophical issue, not a scientific one. I’ve had my say for the benefit of third parties, and it’s clear I’m not going to change your mind to any degree; nor are you going to change mine.

  19. weing says:

    “No hypothesis in science is ever completely “proven.” ”
    That is not really true. Hypotheses can only be disproven. If you really want to test a hypothesis, you try to prove it false.

  20. apteryx says:

    weing – There’s hardly any such thing as “big herbal” in the same way that there is Big Pharma, but there are certainly scammers in the field. As I have said repeatedly, there are also manufacturers turning out standardized products of consistently high quality. Personally, unless you’ve got a good reason to use a standardized product (you are dealing with a severe disease, or there’s a safety issue with homemade products), I prefer lovingly made “little herbal,” even though this means products that have not been exhaustively standardized. Ideally, I prefer products made at home from plants I pick myself. Just like the chicken soup I make at home is not standardized, yet is always better than the standardized canned soup, I think my nonstandardized tincture of echinacea is likely to be superior.

    FDA does regulate dietary supplements and does require quality control. The new good manufacturing practice guidelines imposed by FDA require very strict QC, comparable to that of drugs (rather than foods, as specified by DSHEA). For larger manufacturers, these are in full force (it’s being phased in for the smallest companies, many of whom the FDA expects to be put out of business). If manufacturers are not abiding by them, just as when drug or food manufacturers cheat, that’s a black mark against those individual companies, not a whole modality. If FDA fails to enforce the regulations, then they need more money and manpower or, dare I say, an administration that does not always think corporations should be allowed to ride roughshod over actual humans.

  21. apteryx says:

    weing wrote: ““No hypothesis in science is ever completely “proven.” ”
    That is not really true. Hypotheses can only be disproven. If you really want to test a hypothesis, you try to prove it false.”

    Er, we are in agreement here. Fortunately, we are both agreeing with the general philosophy of Western science; if we did not, neither of our opinions would really matter much in practice.

  22. weing says:

    Ok. As long as you know that you don’t try to prove hypotheses as your original statement implied.

  23. apteryx says:

    weing – As long as YOU know that. You have said you are an MD and have not mentioned any research experience, so as far as I know you are not a scientist. My statement adequately conveyed the correct concept in lay language.

    For the benefit of any others who may be confused: Hypotheses, and even well-supported theories, are always provisional. While it is possible to amass negative evidence that conclusively *disproves* a hypothesis, it is never possible to amass positive evidence that conclusively *proves* a hypothesis. Further evidence might later emerge to show that it was in some fashion wrong. Well-supported hypotheses have predictive value even if not fully correct. For example, Newton’s laws were supported by a heavy weight of evidence and had great practical applications, yet they were disproven by Einstein. Nevertheless, they are still close enough to accurate that they are used in rocket science. It is universal in English to speak of things we “know” with great support as “proven,” and even scientists will do that on occasion, but it is not technically correct.

    The classic experimental framework is conceptualized as follows. (As a caveat, not all scientific endeavors follow the rigid experimental lab method.) You take the hypothesis that you think may be true (“X causes Y”) and you compare it to a null hypothesis (“X does not cause Y”). Experiments are designed with the presumption that the null hypothesis is true and results will therefore be random (e.g., the rats getting X and those getting placebo will have equal amounts of Y). You look for statistically significant deviations from the results you expect. Enough data of adequate quality favoring the null hypothesis can cause you to definitively reject your starting hypothesis, but no amount of data in favor of your hypothesis can cause you to definitively accept it and call it “proven” as absolute truth.

    Naturally, we make and must make decisions every day based on “unproven hypotheses,” because those hypotheses have been shown (we hope) to have predictive value. According to strict scientific philosophy, no chemo drug has ever been *proven* to treat any kind of cancer, but the implied hypotheses in some cases (that certain drugs treat certain cancers) have considerable predictive value (i.e., we observe that people who take them are more likely to live), and this justifies their use. Also, the strict scientific experimental method is not the only path to potentially useful knowledge. I have noted before that our ancestors, without PhDs or wet labs, identified thousands of edible and poisonous plants as such. You can, if you like, term those “folk hypotheses with demonstrated predictive value.”

  24. Joe says:

    apteryx wrote “… Newton’s laws were supported by a heavy weight of evidence and had great practical applications, yet they were disproven by Einstein.”

    Newtonian mechanics were not disproven by Einstein, they were extended. One test for a new quantum mechanics calculation is to scale it up to the macroscopic domain. For example, if a QM formula predicts the wavelength of a baseball (in flight) to be measurable, the QM calculation is wrong. If one does the standard calculation of the wavelength of a baseball (a common exercise), it is found to be immeasurably small.

    apteryx wrote “According to strict scientific philosophy, no chemo drug has ever been *proven* to treat any kind of cancer, but the implied hypotheses in some cases (that certain drugs treat certain cancers) have considerable predictive value (i.e., we observe that people who take them are more likely to live), and this justifies their use.”

    Here, you confuse ‘data’ with ‘hypotheses.’ ‘Data’ are measured facts, ‘hypotheses’ are ‘explanations’ of those facts. It is not a hypothesis that most cases of Hodgkins lymphoma are curable with chemotherapy, it is a fact.

  25. apteryx says:

    No, Joe, you are confused. [Or pretending to be - as I recall my hypothesis regarding your identity.] If a person has Hodgkin’s and later does not, it may be a fact that he is cured (or it may not; MDs prefer to use the word “remission”). But it is not a fact – in the sense favored by scientific philosophy – that he was cured because of a particular treatment he took. He might have experienced spontaneous remission. Practically speaking, we say that he was cured by the treatment because that is statistically the more likely explanation. But we can only know that drug-induced cures are more likely than spontaneous cures if we have scientific studies testing the HYPOTHESIS that the drug works, or else good data on the disease’s natural course plus a mountain of case reports involving the drug.

    A couple of decades ago, the prevailing belief was that hormone replacement therapy prevented (rather than caused) cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. This was actually supported by data, though not gold-standard data. A strict scientist might have said that this belief was a relatively well-supported hypothesis; a sloppy MD might have said it was a FACT that HRT had these effects. Sadly, more data became available and the hypothesis was shown to be flawed. Facts can be differentiated from hypotheses in that facts do not evaporate when contradictory facts are discovered.

    Personally, I am willing to agree that some hypotheses are so well-supported that they can be said to be facts, at least in broad outline. Scientific nitpickers might not accept that conflation of fact and hypothesis, but for practical purposes it might be just fine. The question is who gets to decide when something has shifted from being a tentatively accepted practice to being unchallengeable truth.

  26. Joe says:

    Apteryx wroete “No, Joe, you are confused. [Or pretending to be - as I recall my hypothesis regarding your identity.] If a person has Hodgkin’s and later does not, it may be a fact that he is cured (or it may not; MDs prefer to use the word “remission”). But it is not a fact …”

    You are entitled to your opinions; but not to your “facts.” I have lived through the evolution from ‘remission’ to ‘cure.’ I know the difference. In the 1960s a friend had interminable Hodgkins, no expectation of remission; today, it is curable: patients, today. live decades with no recurrence.

    I note that you have not refuted there is difference between observation and theory (because you cannot.)

    apteryx wrote “A couple of decades ago, the prevailing belief was that hormone replacement therapy prevented (rather than caused) cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. This was actually supported by data, though not gold-standard data. A strict scientist might have said that this belief was a relatively well-supported hypothesis; a sloppy MD might have said it was a FACT that HRT had these effects. Sadly, more data became available and the hypothesis was shown to be flawed.”

    This is like asking if I walked to work or did I bring to lunch- a nonsequiteur .

    Medicine advances, quackery does not. When HRT was found to be ineffective, it was re-valuated. When herbs are found to be ineffective (difficult, since proponents don’t look for that) they remain in your pratice, without modification.

  27. apteryx says:

    The astute reader will note that most of the above is gibberish, consistent with my hypothesis – which I am willing to re-evaluate if further evidence appears – that Joe is a trolling CAM practitioner having fun with you. He is certainly correct that modern treatment has improved survival in Hodgkin’s, but that, of course, was a hypothesis that needed to be tested and supported by data (i.e., cataloged and interpreted facts) before it was generally accepted as being useful.

    In this particular case, the hypothesis is supported strongly enough that we can refer to it in ordinary speech as a fact: we would think it almost impossible that any new data would ever show that the treatment for Hodgkin’s does not really make a difference. However, according to the strictest scientific dogma, you can still not announce that the hypothesis of activity is “proven.” In this case, that kind of philosophical nitpicking seems just silly. Its broader purpose, though, is to warn against the conflation of hypotheses, no matter how well-supported, with facts. Facts cannot be challenged, whereas the ability to challenge even an established and mostly true hypothesis may be essential if science is to progress.

  28. Joe says:

    apteryx, have you ever read “Fashionable Nonsense” http://www.amazon.com/Fashionable-Nonsense-Postmodern-Intellectuals-Science/dp/0312204078/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213999548&sr=8-4 ? Physicist Alan Sokal has great sport with such as you …

  29. Apertyx, “rjstan – I admit to ignorance of liability law, but you are equally ignorant of herbalism and regulation thereof.”

    If you say so, it must be true. But once more you are making broad generalizations about relatively recent studies supporting claims made for botanical supplements while conveniently ignoring those who have studied the matter who, like me, disagree with you on that. (With SJW you ignored Cochrane and NCCAM.) Here you are ignoring Bausell and Hurley although you have already dismissed Bausell as being narrow minded on another thread because he disagrees with you about the studies of acupuncture.

    Apertyx: “I don’t have a clue how to make one of these silver gizmos, but tincture of belladonna is easy and free. Go find the plant growing wild, chop it into a jar, soak it in vodka. And before you start experimenting with the dose, make sure your will is made out. If you tried putting the stuff in a health food store these days, the FDA would be all over you.”

    Actually, I think your ignorance is showing again. I’ve seen supplements, colloidal minerals, with labels claiming that they contain lead and arsenic and I haven’t heard that the FDA did anything. One lawyer I mentioned this to bought some and had them analyzed, but he couldn’t sue because they were within the acceptable levels for drinking water. Lab analysis has shown that there are silver supplements sold that, contrary to the lables, have no detectable level of silver. They are nothing more than mislabeled, overpriced water that many derive miraculous benefits from drinking. I assure you that they are not dangerous and that no one, not even the FDA, can prove that they are.

    As for Joe being “a trolling CAM practitioner”, I doubt it. My bet is that he is a chemist. I think you are either a troll or an academic engaging in debate for the pleasure of it or to impress your academic buddies, but I don’t think you know or care about the facts.

    If as Apertyx suspects there are “third parties”, laypeople, lurking who are interested in botanical drugs, I have some articles about them on my webpage
    http://www.webanstrich.de/rosemary/
    under the heading of “botantical drugs”.

    Unlike Apteryx, I think you have to compare them to dye plants rather than food plants which is what I did.
    http://www.webanstrich.de/rosemary/naturaldyes.html
    http://www.webanstrich.de/rosemary/naturalremedies.html
    http://www.webanstrich.de/rosemary/grannysmeds.html
    http://www.webanstrich.de/rosemary/chinesepatent.html
    http://www.webanstrich.de/rosemary/indianherbal.html

  30. weing says:

    apteryx,
    Again and again, you keep talking of a hypothesis being proven or unproven. A hypothesis is generated or supported by observations. A hypothesis is either disproven by testing it or continues to hold up after testing. It’s very difficult to understand what you are saying when your words appear to change their meanings almost every time they are used. That may be fine if your goal is to confound. Being simple minded, I prefer precision and clarity. I’d rather be dazzled by brilliance than baffled by bull.
    Anyway, why be sad if a hypothesis is disproven? If your hypothesis is that HRT prevents heart attacks in 70 year old women, and it is disproven, that should be a reason for joy. You won’t be wasting time and money on a therapy that is useless and also has side effects. Isn’t that how it works with herbal treatments?

  31. Belladonna
    excerpts from:
    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-belladonna.html

    Belladonna is an herb that has been used for centuries for a variety of indications….

    The expert German panel, the Commission E, suggests these doses mainly for the treatment of “gastrointestinal spasm.” For tincture of belladonna (composed of 27 to 33 milligrams of belladonna leaf alkaloids in 100 milliliters of alcohol), informal reports suggest either a total dose of 1.5 milligrams daily (divided into three doses daily with a double dose at bedtime) or a dose of 0.6 to 1 milliliters (0.18 to 0.3 milligrams of belladonna leaf alkaloids) taken 3-4 times daily.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels.

    In smaller doses, belladonna is traditionally thought to be safe, but may cause frequent side effects… High doses can cause death. …Belladonna overdose can also occur when it is applied to the skin.

    Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels.

    End of Excerpts.

    From that I would guess that the FDA or at least NIH is concerned about the sale of belladonna supplements. I would also guess that they are legally sold in German and that because the active ingredient has been identified that it would be relatively easy to standardize the product. (If anyone is interested, I can probably find out if in fact belladonna is sold legally in Germany.) I would also guess that supplement companies and retailers would be smart enough not to sell a botanical which has immediate and serious toxic effects so that a need for regulatory action would not arise. (A google search did find belladonna supplements for sale, but most if not all appear to be homeopathic. However, i didn’t notice any that explained that homeopathic means that the remedy doesn’t actually contain belladonna, something very few members of the general public would know.)

    Products that have immediate, dramatic effects are not the ones that are of major concern. The ones that are of major concern are the ones that are toxic but with toxicities that are not immediately apparent. How long does the average person who develops lung cancer from cigarettes smoke before the disease becomes apparent? What % of smokers get lung cancer?

    I fear that there could be a supplement out there today that will turn out to be as toxic as tobacco and that by the time that becomes apparent that it will be too late to help a lot of human beings.

  32. apteryx says:

    rjstan – Yes, there are places where tincture of belladonna is used; it is an effective antispasmodic. However, it is my understanding that it is always prescribed by doctors or expert practitioners. It is not suitable for self-treatment by lay people.

    It’s conceivable that some apparently harmless supplement, or food plant, will turn out to have long-term risks. I do not suggest that we stop using plants in the meantime. Epidemiological studies suggest that the most dangerous substance in the American diet is grain-fed red meat, yet we keep on using that.

    weing – “Again and again,” you are either failing to comprehend my words or deliberately twisting them. MDs are not scientists, but I wonder if you fancy yourself so far above the patient class, and especially ones who question your orthodoxy, that you don’t want to admit I understand the scientific method as well as you do. I have said repeatedly, just as you have, that in science hypotheses are NOT PROVEN, although they can be, as you have said above, “supported by evidence.” Average people, in common speech, do use the word “proven,” so if you are speaking to laymen you had better make it clear what you mean by it vs. what they mean by it. Likewise, I never suggested that one should “be sad if” the data disprove one’s original hypothesis (although since scientists are human, they often will be). A hypothesis that is disproven, or tentatively so, adds to our knowledge just as much as a hypothesis that is supported. I certainly think it’s a good thing that good HRT studies were done, so that fewer women are now paying to increase their cancer risks. Likewise, there have been enough negative studies of evening primrose oil for PMS to suggest that it is not effective; this also enables consumers to make decisions about how best to spend their money. If you disagree with any of that, please say so directly and explain why. Otherwise, let’s let this drop.

  33. weing says:

    apteryx,
    Thanks for reminding me that I am a priest and should be following the religious method in taking care of patients. I am glad you no longer advocate using Primrose oil for PMS. Regarding herbals, I am reminded of the old saying. “Six months in the lab will save you a week in the library.”

  34. Apteryx: “It’s conceivable that some apparently harmless supplement, or food plant, will turn out to have long-term risks. I do not suggest that we stop using plants in the meantime. Epidemiological studies suggest that the most dangerous substance in the American diet is grain-fed red meat, yet we keep on using that.”

    I suggest that we adequately test plants before introducing them into commerce on a scale and at concentrations never seen before to make sure that we know that any benefits that they are claimed to offer are real and that those benefits make the long term risk of using them worthwhile.

    I believe that there have been scientific studies which have shown that several specific traditional foods are actually quite harmful. I don’t have citations before me and do not have the time to investigate sufficiently to actually state that as a fact.

  35. apteryx says:

    Certainly, highly concentrated modern plant extracts could have safety issues that traditional products made from the same plants do not. That’s a very valid concern. Otherwise, virtually nobody in Western countries is out testing new plants to see if they have potential uses. The plants in commerce are not just being “introduced”; they’ve been used for hundreds or thousands of years. That doesn’t prove that they are safe, but the same is true for conventional foods. It would be great if resources were available to exhaustively (“adequately”) test every fruit, vegetable, beverage, herb, spice, and/or medicinal plant to determine its health effects (as well as possible given that you simpy cannot do lifelong prospective trials in humans – is “adequate” testing defined as “limited enough to be possible, or even affordable”?). Until they are, I think it is better to keep on using plants, as is natural to us.

    You would not let me get away with saying “I believe that there have been scientific studies which have shown that several specific traditional foods are actually quite medicinally valuable [but sorry, don't remember any details!].” There have indeed been such suggestions made about certain traditional foods in a few places. However, let’s remember that Americans have higher rates of common cancers and heart disease than do virtually all of the peoples who eat less processed diets. The evidence that our “traditional food,” grain-fed beef, is harmful is overwhelming. Perhaps we should take the beam out of our own eye, before fussing about the mote in the Jamaicans’ eye.

  36. Joe says:

    apteryx,

    I replied to one of your posts on June 20, 2:59. You (20 Jun 2008 at 1:43 pm) confused “hypothesis” with “fact” as in:

    “According to strict scientific philosophy, no chemo drug has ever been *proven* to treat any kind of cancer, but the implied hypotheses in some cases (that certain drugs treat certain cancers) have considerable predictive value (i.e., we observe that people who take them are more likely to live), and this justifies their use.”

    It is laughable that you assert an understanding of science. It is a “fact” that formerly untreatable cancers can, now, be treated (even cured). The “hypotheses” concern why such treatments work. The Earth is round, that’s a fact, not just because other possibilities are less probable. This is not changed by your fashionable nonsense.

    You asserted (20 Jun 2008 at 1:43 pm) that Einstein refuted Newton, and I said you were wrong- more of your superior “understanding” of science?

    You wrote, somewhere above, about your “lovingly prepared” echinacea extract. The ‘scientific’ evidence is that echinacea is a waste of money. This is your chance to get sciencey on me and cite the relevant literature.

    In short, the science credentials of others can hardly be worse than those your you arrogate to yourself.

  37. apteryx says:

    Joe is clearly not a scientist. (If he were, he would be able to search for the many positive trials on echinacea all by himself!) As a citizen, I will happily say it is a FACT that X well-proven drug works for Y condition. However, by the scientific philosophy taught in every graduate school, claims that X treats Y are HYPOTHESES. They must be validated or invalidated through the accumulation and statistical analysis of FACTS. Whether one patient lives or not, and what treatment if any he used, are unquestionable facts. Put enough facts together and properly interpret them, and you have a body of support for a hypothesis. If we did not make that distinction, I could point to all those echinacea trials and declare that it was a FACT that echinacea relieved colds, and therefore that nobody should dispute it ever again. Some hypotheses are so well-supported that everyone feels certain they are true (e.g., chemotherapy cures Hodgkin’s disease in many people), and nobody would waste effort trying to disprove them. But in science, we do not, or should not, have dogmas that are not allowed, even in principle, to be questioned.

    A long-term perspective on human thought might describe this relatively recent Western scientific philosophy as “fashionable,” but it’s a quite well-established fashion and almost everyone who is actually doing research goes along with it, at least in part for good reasons. Those who have had scientific training and participated in research understand those reasons.

    Was Newton really wrong? His theories were accurate as far as they went, but did not correctly deal with all possible conditions. Einstein later improved upon them, making our understanding better – but still not perfect, as that is an impossible goal. Probably we will someday demonstrate that Einstein’s theory of relativity missed a few things also. That won’t mean that we completely discard relativity, any more than we have discarded Newton, because both will remain very useful even though imperfect. Nonscientists sometimes make the mistake of assuming that if a hypothesis is said to have been superseded by a better one, it was completely wrong and had no value. Thus whenever there is improvement in our understanding of evolutionary processes, creationists start yelling that if the theory was “wrong” before, why should they believe what is said now?

  38. weing says:

    apteryx,
    You are the one claiming echinacea works, therefore it is up to you to support that claim. All the good studies I’ve seen, showed it to be uselesss.

  39. Joe says:

    “apteryx on 20 Jun 2008 at 1:43 pm For example, Newton’s laws were supported by a heavy weight of evidence and had great practical applications, yet they were disproven by Einstein.”

    “Joe on 20 Jun 2008 at 2:59 pm Newtonian mechanics were not disproven by Einstein, they were extended.”

    “apteryx on 23 Jun 2008 at 5:26 pm Was Newton really wrong? His theories were accurate as far as they went, but did not correctly deal with all possible conditions. Einstein later improved upon them, making our understanding better…”

    Wow, you learned something.

  40. apteryx says:

    *groan* I can’t believe I’m arguing physics with a suspected homeopath who probably never took a physics series. Look: You can say that Newton was “right”: his understanding of gravity has fine predictive value for billiard balls, and even rocket ships. Or you can say that he was “wrong”: Einstein showed that gravity and indeed the very nature of space were very, very different than Newton understood them to be. Newton’s theory of gravity was “not true.” Although it worked very well, it was not, thank gawd, enshrined as “a fact,” which would have made it impossible to accept Einstein’s challenge to it.

    weing – I have previously on this board explained why one of those “good studies” was a scam. A good study must use a good liquid product in an adequate dose, ought to provide some information on its chemical content, and must not use material acknowledged to contain none of an active ingredient for which a minimum concentration is specified in a pharmacopoeial monograph. Some people seem to think a good study is one done by Americans that gets negative results.

  41. Joe says:

    apteryx on 23 Jun 2008 at 5:26 pm “However, by the scientific philosophy taught in every graduate school, claims that X treats Y are HYPOTHESES.”

    Now, try to learn the difference between a “fact” and a “hypothesis.” It goes something like this: a reliable observation (claim) is a fact, an explanation is a hypothesis. We prefer to teach this in high school (it is not a difficult concept) rather than “every” graduate school.

  42. Fifi says:

    apteryx – “Otherwise, virtually nobody in Western countries is out testing new plants to see if they have potential uses.”

    You keep making this untrue claim over and over again – as if repeating it like a mantra will make it true. I find it really odd that you keep (artificially) dividing the world into East vs West, there’s also south and north (what dualistic dogma do you have attached to these two directions?). Jungles tend to be the main locales for uncovering potentially useful new medicinal plants (since they are so fecund and support such a diversity of life) so east vs west doesn’t really have much to do with anything – other than artificially prop up a dualist ideology that romanticizes/uses certain people and cultures to serve personal ends.

  43. Apteryx: “…virtually nobody in Western countries is out testing new plants to see if they have potential uses.”

    I think if you read the history of the development of scientific medicine, specifially drugs, you will see that pharmaceutical companies did exhaustive searches all over the world looking for medicinal plants many, many years ago. They also did extensive reasearch on using them, isolating active ingredients and developing safe, efective drugs from them. Now before you start ranting about reductionists and isolated active ingredients vs. whole plants, I’ll bring up senna and the OTC laxatives still made from it. I don’t know but assume that since they worked, they were used and “grandfathered in”.

    Apteryx: “The plants in commerce are not just being ‘introduced’; they’ve been used for hundreds or thousands of years.” If you are talking about plants used as “dietary supplements”, I beg to differ. There are supplements out there that have not been used for “hundreds” much less “thousands” of years, and I seriously doubt that the valerian a traditional healer picks today is exactly the same as that which one of his ancestors picked 500 years ago. Plants change over time and under different growing conditions. (Study dye plants where the controls, color, make that very clear.) And those are not berries in your supplement bottles. They are pills, processed pills, processed in ways great granny never dreamt of.

    I would never advocate doing “adequate” tests on all the products people eat. Aside from the lack of resources, I don’t believe life is or can be risk free. Neither do I think that the danger of consuming toxins in sufficient quantity in food we eat for nourishment is anywhere near as great as it is in consuming them in supplements that contain high concentrations of unknown chemicals especially when those supplements are taken in the belief that they offer benefits which they probably do not offer.

    I do not believe that botanical drugs are like food plants and I think that if promoters really thought that they were they would advocate eating them as such rather than taking extracts. Stu, can I interest you in a delicious SJW salad? Do you want the Italian, French or Ancient Chinese dressing?

    Apteryx: “You would not let me get away with saying ‘I believe that there have been scientific studies which have shown that several specific traditional foods are actually quite medicinally valuable [but sorry, don’t remember any details!].’” Of course, I would let you get away with saying that just as I expect most people on this forum will let me get away with saying it because by saying that I “believe” I am clearly indicating that I don’t know that it is a fact and that I don’t expect anyone reading it to assume that it is. Furthermore, when I made that statement, I had no intention of “fussing about the mote in the Jamaicans’ eye”. I most certainly never said, nor would I say, that the traditional American diet is healthy. The fact that you apparently assumed that I made a distinction between the “American diet” and “traditional diets” of other cultures actually tells me a lot about you and the way that you think.

    Apteryx, “Americans have higher rates of common cancers and heart disease than do virtually all of the peoples who eat less processed diets”.

    That is funny, especially if my suspicion is true and Americans consume more “processed” supplements than all those people with comparatively lower rates of common cancers and heart disease.

  44. Joe says:

    “apteryx on 20 Jun 2008 at 1:43 pm For example, Newton’s laws were supported by a heavy weight of evidence and had great practical applications, yet they were disproven by Einstein.”

    “Joe on 20 Jun 2008 at 2:59 pm Newtonian mechanics were not disproven by Einstein, they were extended.”

    “apteryx on 23 Jun 2008 at 5:26 pm Was Newton really wrong? His theories were accurate as far as they went, but did not correctly deal with all possible conditions. Einstein later improved upon them, making our understanding better…”

    “apteryx on 24 Jun 2008 at 7:57 am “You can say that Newton was “right”: {snip} Or you can say that he was ‘wrong’”

    Wow, you can have it either way! Truthiness is fluid in your version of reality. How very new age; as in- something is simultaneously true and untrue. Does it depend on what the meaning of “is” is?

    Leaving those (minor, for most of us) complications aside, do you (now) understand the difference between a fact and a hypothesis? You should not find it intellectually challenging- after all, we teach it in high schools.

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