Articles

Announcement: Harriet Hall will not be posting today, and here’s why

Harriet Hall

I have bad news to announce to our readers. While traveling in Australia, SBM stalwart and founding editor Harriet Hall suffered a fall and significant injury. Australian skeptic and friend of the blog Eren Segev has the news, and this is all I know other than what Steve Novella told me the other day in an e-mail. It wasn’t any more than this:

We here at SBM are saddened and are hopeful that Harriet will soon be able to return to her home and ultimately make a full recovery. I haven’t yet had any direct communication with Harriet or her husband.

For purposes of her blogging here at SBM, there is one more post that she wrote before this that will be published next Tuesday. After that, her regular Tuesday posting time will be filled with guest posts and a series of “Best of Harriet Hall” reposts until she is able to resume her regular contributions to SBM, however long that takes.

I and the rest of the editors and regulars at SBM wish Harriet a swift recovery. I hope that regular SBM readers will do the same. We will post updates as they become available.

Posted in: Announcements

Leave a Comment (0) →

A Rolling Stone gathers no science-based medicine—but does gather a lot of quackery

What is it with causes like alternative medicine and getting naked except for body paint?

What is it with causes like alternative medicine and getting naked except for body paint?

Old fart that I am, I’ve been a fan of The Rolling Stones since the mid-1970s, when I was in junior high school. Over the years, I’ve accumulated pretty close to all of their studio albums—and even bought multiple remastered versions of classics like Exile on Main Street and Beggar’s Banquet—and got access to the rest when I discovered the joy of streaming through Apple Music. Granted, the Stones went through a rough patch, creatively speaking, in the 1980s (the less said about Under Cover and Dirty Work, for instance, the better) and nothing they’ve done since the late 1970s has lived up to their glory days, but, damn, if I wasn’t surprised that their latest album of blues covers Blue & Lonesome released on Friday is really good.
(more…)

Posted in: Cancer, Herbs & Supplements, Homeopathy, Science and the Media

Leave a Comment (0) →

Betraying the Science on Vegan Nutrition

vegan-betrayal-cover

Ed. Note: After the prolonged comment thread in Harriet Hall’s review of this book in July, given the controversy, we were willing to consider a guest post offering another perspective. In this case, the perspective is very similar to Harriet’s, the main difference being primarily in emphasis.

As a dietitian working in the area of vegan nutrition, I see no shortage of outrageous claims about vegan diets. They come from both sides of the debate. Advocates for veganism sometimes ascribe unsubstantiated benefits to vegan diets while downplaying concerns about meeting nutrient needs.

On the other side of the debate are bloggers and authors who insist that a vegan diet is a dangerous choice and that it can’t support health over the long term. Prominent voices for this perspective include those whose health failed on a vegan diet and who eventually returned to eating meat, dairy and eggs. They are now on a mission to prove that humans require animal foods.

Mara J. Kahn is the latest author to try to capitalize on that story. Her book Vegan Betrayal has already been reviewed on Science Based Medicine and the nutrition information was deemed evidence-based. I came away with a different impression when I read the book.

I don’t feel any particular need to prove that a vegan diet is the only healthful way to eat; that’s not the point of veganism. The term was coined in 1944 by the founders of England’s Vegan Society and was defined as:

a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

(more…)

Posted in: Book & movie reviews, Nutrition, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (0) →

Cleveland Clinic Subscription Box Service Introduces Integrative Medicine to Curious Consumers

A young child opening a CAMCrates for Kids box, hoping for relief for her Childhood-Onset Qi Deficiency (COQD).

A young child opening a CAMCrate for Kids! box, hoping for relief from her Childhood-Onset Qi Deficiency (COQD)

Cleveland, OH- Cleveland native Kelly Anderson is looking forward to the end of the month like a young child anxiously awaiting Christmas morning. That’s because on a day between the 20th and the 28th of December, she will receive the gift of hope. Anderson, a 43-year-old mother of five who was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease and numerous nutritional imbalances earlier this year by a Naturopathic doctor during a visit to discuss her unexplained fatigue, is part of a growing number of people interested in an alternative path to wellness.

CAMCrate, a new monthly subscription box service developed by the experts at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, will deliver boxes of high quality and thoroughly tested alternative medical experiences right to customer’s doorstep starting this month. Anderson, who learned about the new service during a routine check-up at the office of her Cleveland Clinic affiliated primary care doctor, is quick to point out that she loves her conventional medical doctor. “I’m not against Western scientific medicine, I’m just looking to augment it with something different, something special. Who doesn’t want a little magic and mystery in their lives?” (more…)

Posted in: Humor, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (0) →

Drug therapy is still sending too many people to the emergency department

emergency-room-sign
No drug is free of risks, or the potential for causing harm. Every decision to take a drug needs to consider expected benefits and known risks. One of the ways we can reduce harms is by studying drug use rigorously. Only by understanding the “real world” effects of drugs can we understand the true risks (and benefits) and design strategies to reduce the risk of iatrogenic harm — that is, harms caused by the intervention itself. Adverse events related to drug treatments are common. Some lead to hospitalization. Studies suggest 28% of events are avoidable in the community setting, and 42% are avoidable in long-term care settings. That’s a tremendous amount of possible harm from something prescribed to help. A new study published this week shows that adverse drug events (ADEs) continue to cause significant problems, sending over a million Americans to the emergency room every year.

(more…)

Posted in: Pharmaceuticals, Public Health, Quality Improvement, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (0) →

Add-on Services for IVF – The Evidence

ivf

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the only option for many couples who want to have their own genetic child. This is an expensive procedure – it can cost up to $20,000 per attempt, with about a 40% success rate overall.

Couples going for IVF are often desperate to have their own child, and the uncertainty of success can be emotionally and financially draining. For this reason they are an especially vulnerable population when it comes to optional services (“add-on services”) that promise to increase the chances of success.

A recent BMJ article reviewed the evidence for 38 IVF add-on services typically offered in the UK: “Lack of evidence for interventions offered in UK fertility centres.” The title gives away the punch line – of the 38 services they reviewed, only one had any compelling published evidence of efficacy, endometrial scratch (causing minor trauma to the uterine wall to enhance the probability of embryo implantation). Even then the evidence was only “moderate.” The authors write:

Our appraisal of the evidence shows only one intervention, endometrial scratching, for which the review evidence robustly supports an increase in live birth rate, yet even this evidence is of only moderate quality, and the observed benefit is only in women with more than two previous embryo transfers.

That could easily be just random noise in the research. If you look at 38 different treatments, what are the odds that at random one of them will have an excess of false positive studies, and only in one subgroup (which is a red flag)?

(more…)

Posted in: Acupuncture, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (0) →

BrainPlus IQ: Lying with Advertising

BrainPlus IQ: If it turns your brain blue, consult a doctor.

BrainPlus IQ: If it turns your brain blue, consult a doctor.

I got an email urging me to check out a wonderful new product that boosts brain performance: it “doubles IQ, skyrockets energy levels, and connects areas of the brain not previously connected.” It is BrainPlus IQ, a dietary supplement that falls into the category of nootropics, substances that enhance cognition and memory. After looking into it, my first thought was that if it doubles your IQ you might become smart enough to realize you have been scammed. The advertising for this product is as reprehensible as anything I have seen (and I have seen a lot).

The link in the email was to a “Discovery” website article titled “Anderson Cooper: Stephen Hawking Predicts, “This Pill Will Change Humanity” and It’s What I Credit My $20 Million Net Worth To.” According to the article, Stephen Hawking said his brain is sharper than ever because he uses BrainPlus IQ. It quotes Denzel Washington, saying he gave a speech at a science convention (unnamed) in New York City, saying BrainPlus IQ enabled him to memorize movie lines after reading them just once. He brought to the stage MIT scientist Peter Molnar, who said he had tested BrainPlus IQ against Adderall in 1,000 patients and found it was 600% more effective and subjects doubled their IQ in 10 days. It has “absolutely no harmful ingredients, it’s non-addictive, and 79% of participants double their IQ within 24 hours.” It was supposedly described as “Viagra for the brain” in Forbes magazine. (more…)

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements, Neuroscience/Mental Health

Leave a Comment (0) →

“Functional medicine” in practice

Functional Medicine practitioners like to make patients think that this diagram actually means something.

Functional Medicine practitioners like to make patients think that this diagram actually means something.

I’ve frequently written about a form of medicine often practiced by those who bill themselves as practicing “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or “integrative medicine” (or, as I like to refer to it, “integrating” quackery with medicine). I’m referring to something called “functional medicine” or, sometimes, “functional wellness,” which Wally Sampson first introduced to readers of this blog way back in 2008, and continued to educate our readers over multiple posts. Over the years, I’ve tried to explain why the term “functional medicine” (FM) is really a misnomer, how in reality it is a form of “personalized medicine” gone haywire, or, as I like to refer to it, as “making it up as you go along.” Unfortunately, thanks largely to its greatest popularizer, Dr. Mark Hyman, FM is popular, so much so that Bill and Hillary Clinton count Hyman as one of their medical advisors and the Cleveland Clinic, not satisfied with embracing prescientific traditional Chinese medicine, has gone “all in” for FM by hiring Dr. Hyman two years ago to set up a functional medicine clinic. Unfortunately, it’s been “wildly successful” there.

Unfortunately its success is not deserved, at least from a scientific standpoint.
(more…)

Posted in: Acupuncture, Basic Science, Diagnostic tests & procedures, Science and Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Leave a Comment (0) →

Phenibut Is Neither Proven Nor Safe As A Prosocial Wonder Drug

Editor’s note: With Mark Crislip away on yet another vacation, we present an inaugural guest post from Abby Campbell, a practicing MD, Ph.D and contributor at HealthyButSmart.com. Welcome Abby!

Ball-and-stick diagram of the phenibut molecule

Ball-and-stick diagram of the phenibut molecule

On average for the past year, phenibut has been typed into google 49,500 times a month. Phenibut is a supposed wonder drug that claims to promote sociability and lessen anxiety.

When people run that search in Google, they find stores that sell phenibut, as well as blogs and forums where people discuss and make recommendations for the use of phenibut. The main qualification of these people is that they themselves have taken the drug.

What a searcher doesn’t find is any reference to any credible research. Yet another supplement market has been born driven by anecdotal social marketing, and no one seems to care about the evidence.

What is phenibut?

Phenibut is a designer drug which was synthesized by a group of Russian scientists in the 1960s. Perekalin and his colleagues in St. Petersburg added a phenyl ring to butyric acid to make what we now call phenibut. The addition of the phenyl group to the butyric acid enables the compound to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain.

This basic chemical structure of the compound explains the origins of the name ‘phenibut’. Phenibut is also known as fenibut and is sold under the brand names of Noofen and Citrocard.

Phenibut is structurally similar to the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). GABA occurs naturally in the human nervous system and has a calming effect on the brain.

GABA itself does not cross the blood brain barrier and so is not viable as a drug or supplement to reduce anxiety. The addition of the phenyl ring by the Russian scientists overcame the problem of penetration into the brain. However this means that phenibut is not totally identical to human GABA which means that we can’t just extrapolate information on GABA to phenibut, as some websites have done. (more…)

Posted in: Basic Science, Herbs & Supplements, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (0) →

Happy Thanksgiving from SBM!

thanksgiving-turkey

Today is the American Thanksgiving holiday and SBM is taking the day off. Speaking of thanks, thank you to all of our readers and to those of you who take time to comment. Thanks to all of  you who patiently explain to a neighbor why homeopathy does not (and cannot) work, complain to your pharmacy about its selling dubious dietary supplements, warn a friend about the dangers of chiropractic neck manipulation, refuse the reiki “treatment” at your local hospital (and explain why), write to your state representative opposing naturopathic licensing, stand up for vaccination, and for all the myriad other ways you support the rational application of science to health care.

Posted in: Announcements

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 1 of 274 12345...»