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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

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The Last Word on Homeopathy

ernst-book
No one will ever need to write about homeopathy again. Edzard Ernst has said it all in his new book Homeopathy: The Undiluted Facts.

Far too many trees have died in the service of praising or debunking homeopathy in the two centuries since Hahnemann invented it. The forests can celebrate, because this is the definitive book about homeopathy. It is neither “for” nor “against” homeopathy; it is explanatory. It is dispassionate and as unbiased as it could possibly be. It says good things about homeopathy, shows how arguments for and against it have been flawed, and contains nothing that the most ardent homeopaths should be able to complain about (but complain they surely will, because the facts Ernst reports are not what they want the world to hear). (more…)

Posted in: Book & movie reviews, Homeopathy

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Precision Medicine and Uncertainty

Precision Medicine offers precision, but not certainty

Precision Medicine offers precision, but not certainty

Precision medicine is a development that promises to tailor treatments to the individual patient based on genetic and other molecular and cellular analyses. In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative. A website for Precision Medicine claims to offer “perfect care for every individual.”

Much of what we read about precision medicine gives the impression that it provides certainty. That’s a false impression. As David Hunter pointed out in a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine, it may actually increase uncertainty. (more…)

Posted in: Cancer, Diagnostic tests & procedures

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Chiropractor Claims the CDC Is Trying to Get Nazi-like Unfettered Power in Violation of the Nuremburg Code

Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi gestapo. This is how chiropractor Koren sees the CDC.

Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi gestapo. This is how chiropractor Koren sees the CDC.

An email was recently circulated among chiropractors warning them about a proposed rulemaking by the CDC, saying that it will establish a public health gestapo. It originated from Ted Koren Seminars. A chiropractor who received the email brought it to my attention. He describes Koren as “a chiropractor who is a “leader” in the chiropractic community, lecturer, antivaxxer (he refers to the CDC as the “Centers for Disinformation Control” and states that the CDC “continues to spend taxpayers’ money spewing forth poorly written, biased, “junk science” studies that, through their connections, are placed in well-read medical journals for maximum media attention”. He is also the inventor of Koren Specific Technique, which he describes as a “system akin to muscle testing (applied kinesiology or AK) wherein a muscle will become weak when confronted with a negative impulse.” (Note: Applied kinesiology is bogus.)

The circulated email is a prime example of misinformation, conspiracy theory, and fear-mongering. (more…)

Posted in: Chiropractic, Public Health

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Corydalis: An Herbal Medicine for Pain, with Some Thoughts on Drug Development

Corydalis. Better than opium?

Corydalis. Better than opium?

Ever since William Withering published his classic treatise on Foxglove in 1775, science has been testing herbal medicines and trying to establish a scientific basis for the ones that work. As many as half of today’s prescription drugs were derived from plants. A new study published in Current Biology by Zhang et al. has identified a compound in a traditional herbal remedy that is effective in relieving pain in rats and works by a novel analgesic pathway. They used rigorous scientific methods and their findings do not represent an endorsement of traditional herbal medicine practices. (more…)

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements, Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Chiropractic Gynecologist Offers Dangerous Treatments and Misinformation

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Yes, you can have a chiropractor for a gynecologist, but it’s not a good idea.

Over a year ago I wrote about escharotic treatments for cervical dysplasia. It is offered not by MD gynecologists but by chiropractors and naturopaths, along with inconsistent and unproven diet recommendations and supplements. A corrosive agent similar to “black salve” is applied repeatedly to the cervix; it works by destroying tissue. There are no controlled studies evaluating it for safety and effectiveness. One major drawback is that there is no surgical specimen to submit to pathology to determine if there is invasive cancer. I urge you to read my first article for further details. Escharotic treatment is decidedly not a good idea.

In that article I focused on the treatment itself. I recently revisited the website of the chiropractor I mentioned in that article, Nick LeRoy, and I want to comment on some other issues raised by this individual who is offering the treatment.

Who is Nick LeRoy?

On one website he is listed as a Chicago holistic medicine physician and primary care physician for an HMO, Alternative Medicine Incorporated, which he says is underwritten by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. When I googled for Alternative Medicine Incorporated, I found a company in England, but none in America with that name. On his other website he claims to have “post-doctoral medical training in gynecology and internal medicine and to be a credentialed primary care physician (PCP) for Blue Cross of IL.” I phoned Blue Cross of Illinois, and they told me he was not listed as a provider in their records. They suggested I contact him directly to ask for clarification. I did, by email. He didn’t answer.

He has taken courses in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and got “private breast thermography training.” It’s not clear how much training he has in gynecology. On one page of his website he says his “integrative medicine training included gynecology, internal medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, and nutrition.” In a video, he says he has been specializing in gastrointestinal disorders for twenty years, and he describes how he does unconventional food allergy testing for 154 different foods.

He lists himself as “DC, MS, AcT,” but he calls himself “doctor” and readers are likely to assume he is an MD. The testimonials all refer to “Dr. LeRoy.” He sells his books and supplements through his “doctor’s supplement store.” (more…)

Posted in: Cancer, Chiropractic, Obstetrics & gynecology

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Dr. Richard Rawlins Reveals the Real Secrets of Alternative Medicine

Dr. Richard Rawlins reveals the secrets of alternative medicine in a new book

Dr. Richard Rawlins

Dr. Richard Rawlins, an orthopedic surgeon in the UK who is also a magician and member of the Magic Circle, has written an exhaustive review of alternative medicine, Real Secrets of Alternative Medicine: An Exposé.

“A conversation with Mrs. Smith”

A conversation with Mrs. Smith bookends the text. She comes to Dr. Rawlins for hip replacement surgery and asks if there is any alternative medicine she could try first. He tells her some patients say they have benefited, but personal experience is no substitute for critical analysis of evidence. He explains that there is no evidence to support those alternatives but that if she wants to try them, she can go ahead and try. Then she asks which one is most likely to help her. He tells her he can’t recommend one because he has not studied them in any detail. She says perhaps he should study them, and then write a book. So he does.

At the end of the book, he tells Mrs. Smith what he has learned: that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) “works” but only as a placebo; it does not affect disease outcomes and can sometimes do harm. He quotes cancer researcher David Grimes:

By clinging to delusion, belief in alternative medicine denigrates the very wonder of science and medicine and the massive strides we as a species have made over the last century or so in understanding the world around us, and how our bodies work.

Rawlins ends the book by telling Mrs. Smith “Conventional practitioners care more than you may think. That is the real secret.”

In between those conversations is a 370-page tour de force that covers the entire history of medicine and CAM, stresses the importance of scientific evidence, reviews how good the brain is at deluding itself, explains the placebo effect and the attractions of CAM, and argues that society should not pay for it. (more…)

Posted in: Book & movie reviews

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A Credible Placebo Control for Chiropractic Research

D.D. Palmer, the father of chiropractic, died in 1913. Over a century later, his ideas have never been properly tested with placebo controls - until now.

D.D. Palmer, the father of chiropractic, died in 1913. Over a century later, his ideas have never been properly tested with placebo controls – until now.

The research on chiropractic has been far from rigorous. One of the problems is that studies of spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) can’t be double blinded, and it is very difficult to even do single blinding. So most studies resort to non-manipulation control groups like “usual care” or “wait list” or “pain medication.” Those studies are practically guaranteed to lead to false positive conclusions: they make SMT look more effective than it would look if you could provide a control that patients couldn’t distinguish from real SMT.

In a study just published in the European Journal of Neurology, Chaibi et al. successfully used a credible placebo manipulation on patients with migraine. It showed that SMT doesn’t work for migraine, but that’s not news. The news is that it showed how to improve the methodology of SMT studies to get more reliable results. (more…)

Posted in: Chiropractic, Clinical Trials

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Plavinol and Other Natural Remedies for Diabetes: “Condimentary Medicine”?

Is this an effective medicine or a condiment?

Is this an effective medicine or a condiment?

We don’t yet have a cure for diabetes, but we have insulin; it controls the disease and allows Type 1 diabetics to lead a relatively normal life instead of suffering and quickly dying as they all did in the pre-insulin era. We know to counsel Type 2 diabetics about weight loss, diet, and exercise; and when those measures are not enough, we have prescription medications that work very well to control symptoms and help prevent complications.

For some people, that’s not good enough. They want to find “natural” remedies to supplement or replace conventional treatments. In a recent article on SBM, Scott Gavura quoted a pharmacy customer who said “I don’t want to take any drugs. Do you have something natural I can use to cut my blood sugar?” Scott went on to cover the questionable evidence for cinnamon in that article. Many other “natural” remedies have been proposed. Here’s an alphabetical list: acetyl L-carnitine, aloe, alpha-lipoic acid, banaba leaf (not banana!), basil, berberine, bilberry, biotin, bitter melon, cinnamon, chromium, coQ10, crepe myrtle, fenugreek, fish oil, fructo-oligosaccharides, green tea, ginseng, glucomannan, gymnema, hibiscus, Indian kino tree extract, magnesium, mistletoe, olive leaf, onion, psyllium, purslane, resveratrol, starch blockers, thiamine, vanadium, and vitamins. I compiled that list from just three websites; I’m sure there are many more natural remedies that I missed. These natural remedies have been recommended on the basis of rather shaky preliminary evidence that they lower blood sugar, usually by only a small amount. Even the CAM-friendly National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) concluded:

There is not enough scientific evidence to suggest that any dietary supplements can help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes.

They also warn that “Some dietary supplements may have side effects, including interacting with your diabetes treatment or increasing your risk of kidney problems.” (more…)

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements

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