Announcement: Server migration this weekend

Server MigrationAs regular readers all know, this blog has been having a lot of problems with the server and the current WordPress installation, with lots of crashes and down time. It’s been very frustrating, and I’m probably more frustrated about it than anyone other than our intrepid proofreader because I spend more time on the SBM than anyone other than our intrepid proofreader. So when SBM is down a lot, it affects me a lot.

I realize that it looks as though nothing much has been happening to address this, but our trusty crack tech team has been working on the issue behind the scenes. This weekend their efforts will come to fruition as we migrate SBM over to a new server. We hope to be able to make the switch to the new site later this afternoon and to forward all visitors to the new server seamlessly. Be aware, however, that it could take up to 2 days for the DNS change to fully propagate, which is why we’re doing it on a weekend.

At the same time, we’ve also decided to update the WordPress template for SBM. Truth be told, the current template is getting a bit long in the tooth, looking so…2011. Sad to say, looks matter when it comes to websites and blogs, and the woo-friendly blogs and websites whose misinformation we combat as part of our mission haven’t stood still. Many of them sport slick, appealing, modern interfaces.

Posted in: Announcements

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Reiki and Therapeutic Touch. Compare and Contrast.

capa_do_livro pattern

What? I’m not on vacation? I have to write a post? Crap.

Remember those college essays? Compare and Contrast two topics and fill a Blue Book with your wisdom. Do they even use Blue Books anymore? I always hated the fact they were wide, rather than college, ruled. Now it is all about using Word and Microsoft doesn’t have a Blue Book mode.

See? There can be human progress. In Blue Books if not in medical education. I was annoyed to learn that reiki was being offered for continuing medical education at one of my institutions. We have so little pseudo-medicine where I practice that duty rarely calls.

I could not let such an abomination pass without comment. So I fired up the interwebs to find my SBM post on the topic…only to find such a post does not exist. I did a podcast on the topic back in the early days before my SBM life. Who wants to listen to a podcast from 2008? I am not even going to listen to it in preparation for this blog post.

I needed to write a review on the topic, not only to send to those who are offering reiki for CME, but also for the wider world. Reiki, and to a lesser extent its identical twin Therapeutic Touch, are remarkably popular in integrative medicine clinics. And, of course, because the world needs more Mark Crislip™ even if I was recently described on iTunes as an:

arrogant, intolerant, obscene verbal bully.

It is nice to know people are paying attention. Maybe that should be my motto. (more…)

Posted in: Energy Medicine, Humor

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State Medical Boards should not recognize board certification in “Integrative Medicine”

The Integrative Medicine Wheel: False hope and lies

The Integrative Medicine Wheel: False hope and lies

There are a number of things about so-called “integrative medicine” (or, “IM”) we don’t know, such as

  • Whether IM really offers the best of conventional medicine and CAM.
  • Whether IM produces better outcomes.
  • Whether IM is effective in the area of prevention, including obesity and cardiovascular risk.
  • Whether IM has anything to offer preventive medicine.
  • Whether future IM research will yield beneficial results.
  • Whether IM has a positive impact on utilization clinical preventive services, smoking cessation, diet, and physical activity.
  • Whether IM is cost effective.

We don’t even have a working definition of “integrative medicine,” although experience tells us that incorporating diagnoses and treatments with insufficient evidence of safety and effectiveness is an acceptable element of integrative practice, as is rebranding “conventional” practices as “integrative.”

Normally, these substantial deficiencies would get in the way of declaring that IM is anything like a real specialty in medicine. Indeed, as David Gorski has pointed out, IM is more of a brand than a specialty. Yet, as we do know, integrative medicine considers itself exempt from the rules. Thus, a few years ago, Andrew Weil, MD, an early adopter in incorporating pseudoscience into medical practice, announced his desire to create of a board certification in integrative medicine. No doubt aware that IM couldn’t fulfill the requirements of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), he turned to the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS), whose requirements for Board recognition are more forgiving. For example, the ABPS is willing to credit work experience as a prerequisite to board certification, as opposed to residency and fellowship training. Sure enough, a few years ago, the ABPS formally accepted board-certification in IM via the ABPS’s recognition of the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM). (more…)

Posted in: Chiropractic, Energy Medicine, Herbs & Supplements, Homeopathy, Legal, Medical Academia, Naturopathy, Politics and Regulation

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We still Need Better Communication on GMOs

A new PEW survey does a deep exploration of public attitudes toward genetically modified organisms (GMOs), organic food, and scientific consensus. While the numbers are better than I thought they would be, perhaps indicating some progress, they still indicate a large disconnect between scientific and public opinion on food matters.

GMOs are safe

It is reasonable to take as a premise for understanding this survey that there is a strong scientific consensus that GMOs are safe for human and animal consumption. Every major scientific and medical organization that has systematically reviewed the published data (most of which, by the way, is independent from industry) have come to the same conclusion, that current GMOs on the market are safe and that there are no inherent risks to current technologies used to create GMOs. The latest such report, a 2016 review conducted by the National Academy of Sciences and discussed here on SBM in May, also concluded GMOs are safe.

In a 2015 Pew survey, 88% of scientists surveyed reported they felt GMOs were safe. That was higher than the 87% who reported they believed in man-made global warming. So arguably there is a stronger scientific consensus that GMOs are safe than there is for anthropogenic global warming.

At the same time there is no convincing evidence, after 50 years of research, that organic food is more healthful than conventional produce.


Posted in: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

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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.

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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.

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

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Betraying the Science on Vegan Nutrition


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.


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

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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

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

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.


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

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Add-on Services for IVF – The Evidence


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)?


Posted in: Acupuncture, Science and Medicine

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