There is an ongoing discussion amongst our Sciblings regarding our German counterparts at scienceblogs.de. Apparently they have some odd folks as science bloggers over there, including people who think ayurvedic heavy metals are good for you. In the tradition of countering speech with speech, I’m giving you this repost. More to come, I’m sure. –PalMD
The Infectious Disease Promotion Movement (let by such intellectual luminaries as Jenny McCarthy) may be worried about “toxins” in vaccines, but the real problem may hiding in plain sight.
Today’s issue of JAMA has an interesting study of Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicines. It turns out that many of them contain a significant amount of toxic heavy metals.
Let’s have a little refresher on the difference between science-based medicine and everything else. Science-based medicine is medicine based on science, everything else is either unproven or bullshit. Appealing to “ancient traditions” is a common practice among the “altmed” crowds. After all, if it’s been used for thousands of years, it must have something to it, right? Well, not really. After all, the only thing “ancient” really means is “pre-scientific”. Why trust your health to an ossified, thousand-year-old belief system based on superstition?
So, America is changing. We have an African American president. The Latino population continues to grow. How can the alternative medicine community adjust to this demographic shift? What are they to do?
I’m glad you asked! It turns out that immigrants are palomas ripe for the plucking. Now, we’ve talked about the ethics of alternative medicine, and how “meaning well” is not exculpatory. If you promote quackery, it’s wrong, even if you believe your own drivel.
One of the worst types of drivel is naturopathy. This “specialty” advertises itself as “medicine-plus”, but really it’s “healing-minus”: minus the evidence, minus the training, minus intelligent thought.
It should be no surprise that recent immigrants, who may have low educational levels, especially in English, and have less access to the health care system financially, culturally, and linguistically should be ripe targets.
And targeting these vulnerable individuals is a naturopathic “doctor” in Connecticut.
This doc sounds like she really cares. But that doesn’t mitigate the fact that she is diverting people from real medical care. For example, Latinos have a much higher rate of diabetes than Anglos (6.6% of non-Hispanic whites have diabetes, 10.4% of Hispanics have diabetes). Naturopaths don’t have much to offer these folks. Let me explain.
We’ve talked before about the complications of diabetes, and how they are divided into macro- and micro-vascular. We’ve also talked about how we prevent these complications. Certain medications prevent blindness, strokes, and heart attacks in diabetics. These effects are separate from diet and exercise. As part of taking care of diabetics, I must educate them about their disease and track several different parameters, such as weight, blood pressure, kidney function, urine protein, foot exams, eye exams, cholesterol, etc. What does our naturopath have to offer? Is it all of that “plus”? Her website gives all sorts of generalities about prevention, lifestyle change, and helping the body heal itself, but there is no evidence that she knows anything about the science of disease and health.
First, like all fake doctors, this place has lots of testimonials in place of real evidence. I don’t list testimonials at my office. It’s tacky, and it doesn’t give a measure of success in keeping people healthy. All it measures is how much someone liked a doctor as a person.
And what are these folks testifying about? Probably how nice the doctor is. They certainly aren’t giving us a measure of how well she prevents and treats disease. How do I know?
Here’s what she says about herself:
She has worked with children and teenagers with various conditions such as ADHD, and food allergies. Likewise she treats women’s related issues including menopause, PMS, breast cancer and hormone related issues. Dr. Robinson is very knowledgeable in diet and exercise related issues including weight gain/loss, detox-cleansing diets, and obsessive compulsive disorders. She also does guided imagery, coupled with counseling techniques. Her philosophy is to meet the patient where they are and work with them based on their needs. She acts as a coach-motivater-cheerleader and most importantly educator. She has a vested interest in seeing her patients achieve and sustain better health. Dr. Robinson will combine whatever conventional regime currently in place with Naturopathic medicines for a safe, effective way to maximum health.
I’m a general internist. I claim an expertise in the prevention, evaluation, and management of adult diseases. That’s it. I’m not a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, gynecologist, or surgeon.
What qualifies this “doctor” to treat adults and children, and a variety of conditions such as ADHD, food allergies, breast cancer, guided imagery, and OCD? And the fact that she admits to being “very knowledgeable” about “detox-cleansing diets” is not a mark in her favor. How does a detox diet prevent stroke? Will guided imagery prevent kidney failure?
She is apparently popular in the Hispanic community where she practices. Of course, science isn’t a democratic process, and since her popularity cannot be due to her ability to implement science-based medicine, it must be based on something else.
According to a news article:
Robinson, one of many doctors in the small but growing field of naturopathic medicine, has helped build her private practice in Stamford by offering her services to the Hispanic community at affordable rates.Early in her practice, Robinson discovered Hispanic patients were drawn to the type of natural medicine she offered. Now most of her business comes from Hispanics, she said.
She went through the routines of a primary doctor – taking blood pressure, listening to Shutte’s heartbeat, taking his weight. But instead of writing a prescription for blood pressure medication, which S. once took and disliked because of side effects, Robinson recommended he supplement his diet with fish peptides, flax, pumpkin seeds and cucumber.
I’m sure the patient felt cared-for, but hypertension is a killer, and Hispanics have high rates of strokes and other complications of hypertension than non-Hispanic whites. Additionally, Hispanics are statistically more likely to have poorly-controlled blood pressure.
Look, I’m willing to accept that this naturopath may mean well, and I certainly believe that her patients like her. But she is doing a double-disservice. Not only is she practicing incorrect medicine, but she has singled out a particularly vulnerable group and preyed on them. The fact that she means well or that they like her is less important that the fact that this represents a type of altmed racism. It takes trusting, at-risk folks, abuses their trust, takes their money, and diverts them from care they desperately need.
This is shameful.
I don’t like to repost, but Steve Novella has some great pieces up right now, and this is directly related. –PalMD
s I’ve clearly demonstrated in earlier posts, I’m no philosopher. But I am a doctor, and, I believe, a good one at that, and I find some of this talk about “non-materialist” perspectives in science to be frankly disturbing, and not a little dangerous.
To catch you up on things, consider reading one of Steve Novella’s best posts ever over at Neurologica. While you are there, you can also follow his debate with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, the latest guru of mind-body dualism.
To sum up (remember, IANAP), most of us science-y types hold to a materialist view of reality, that is, reality is all there is. This reality is susceptible to the investigations of science. Non-materialists and mind-body dualists hold that there is also a “non-material” reality. What exactly this might be, and how one might observe or measure it is never specified. Instead, they usually use a god-of-the-gaps argument, whereby any gaps in scientific understanding are automatically ascribed to the supernatural. The proof of the supernatural is stated is a lack of disproof of the supernatural.
Personally, I have no problem with people believing in God, Satan, fairies, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may we all be touched by His Noodley Appendages). What I have a problem with is people applying these beliefs to science and medicine.
Non-scientific medical practices, such as homeopathy, faith-healing, and reiki state various claims of efficacy and of mechanism of action. They can never prove these, but ask us to take their word, and the word of their clients. Once again, if someone takes communion and feels closer to their God, it’s none of my business. But if someone is claiming to affect the health of an individual by invoking supernatural powers, this is immoral and harmful
The point is simple: if reiki manipulates unseen, unmeasurable forces by unseen and unmeasurable means, creating solely subjective individual results, then reiki (and practices like it) is completely irrelevant to health. What matters in medicine is results, and results that cannot be observed and measured do not, for all practical purposes, exist.
We can measure the effect of beta blockers on a population of heart attack survivors. We can compare the number of subsequent heart attacks in those who do and do not receive the drug. We can come up with a scientifically valid explanation for the results, and we can replicate them.
None of the cult medicine practices that are so popular can do this. Their effects are either unmeasurable by definition (show me a qi), or when we try to measure the results of their application, results in aggregate are no better than by chance alone.
In all this discussion about naturopathy over the last week or so, what has been left out is that it doesn’t matter if naturopaths consider what they do to be “medicine-plus”—the plus is irrelevant because it cannot be measured or observed reliably. Unless and until it can, forget the “plus”. It’s only a dream.
How stupid do you have to be for Jenny McCarthy to legitimately toss the epithet back at you?
This question may seem unanswerable, but in this case, McCarthy may have gotten it half right regarding Dennis Leary. The headline at MSNBC delcares: McCarthy calls Leary ‘obviously stupid’
I don’t know much about Leary, but like many comedians he has said something that he will probably regret and move on. In attempting to be funny, Leary scored an epic fail (you can tell it’s an epic fail because Jenny did get it half right):
“There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you – yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.”
OK, in or out of context, not very funny. Autism is a serious neuro-developmental disorder, and his unfunny pseudo-Scientological riff doesn’t help advance the cause of autism diagnosis and treatment. So Jenny is right (if somewhat non-specific and unsophisticated) in calling him “stupid”. But Leary is up against some serious competition, and when it comes to bringing the stupid, no one does it quite like Jenny McCarthy.
“My fight isn’t with Denis Leary, my fight is with the government — a bigger fish to fry. So I’m still gonna work on the vaccines and I’m still working on pediatricians and Denis Leary can go hopefully be more educated by every mother that stops him from this day forward to give him a piece of their mind,” she said.
I’d argue that Leary’s comments are an opportunity for public education. To minimize a public figure’s idiotic comments about autism in favor of a fight against “the government and vaccines”, is a level of stupid unique to Jenny. The only conspiracy in Jenny’s world is her own conspiracy of ignorance. He’s is a conspiracy that prepares fertile soil for other real conspiracies—those by quacks and charlatans who give parents false hope, steal their money, harm their children, and distract from real autism research.
I’m off to the west coast (of Michigan) for a few days, and if I don’t blog, I shall die…or something. So I have a few posts from my old blog to share with you.
Often in the discussion of cult medicines such as homeopathy, acupuncture, and reiki, supporters fall back on “the wisdom of the ancients”. This raises a question. Since “the ancients” had it wrong (i.e. their belief systems could not effectively treat disease), were they just stupid?
Any of my historian readers already know the answer, but it’s worth going over…
Our forebears were neither more nor less intelligent that we (unless you go back about 3 or 4 million years—that gets rather dicey). They were literate, intelligent, and damn good thinkers. They just had limits to their ability to investigate their environments.
Let’s take an example. This is from an English physician living in Paris in the mid-18th century, during the time inoculation against smallpox was spreading, but vaccination had not yet been invented.
But apparently he’d rather have me fill it with coffee. Really…I mean it. I love coffee, but c’mon now! I can’t stand that this idiot is given time on public television during pledge drives to peddle his woo…
I stumbled across a website that goes on and on about the supposed vast conspiracy of the medical community to…well, I’m not sure. Anyway, given that you have to buy Gary Null’s quack tomes to get his advice, it’s hard to know exactly what he is selling. The conspiracy theorist from the above-linked site was kind enough to share some of Null’s secrets (at least they are cited that way:
Cervical Dysplasia, Fibroids, and Reproductive System Cancers. Excerpt from The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Natural Healing by Dr. Gary Null.Seven Stories Press, 1997), so that we all may benefit. Here is an excerpt on cancer treatment, and I warn you, poo-woo abounds:
Coffee enemas. “These enemas have been used by thousands of cancer patients, outside the realm of traditional medical care, because they work.
Ok, where is the proof of that? Here is the proof that they don’t work:
- Ernst, E. M.D., Ph.d., F.R.C.P. (Edin). Colonic Irrigation and the Theory of Autointoxication: A Triumph of Ignorance over Science. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 24(4):196-198, June 1997. (Make sure to follow the references to the primary sources).
- Green, S. A critique of the rationale for cancer treatment with coffee enemas and diet. JAMA. 1992,Dec 9; 269(13),1635-6.
- Alison Reed, Nicholas James and Karol Sikora.Mexico: Juices, coffee enemas, and cancer. The Lancet. Volume 336, Issue 8716, 15 September 1990, Pages 677-678.
Here’s a bit of a surprise. In California, our Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Opponents quickly arranged a ballot proposition to reverse the ban. Support for the ban has been slipping, from almost 50% earlier in the year, to 42% in July, and now to 38% in the latestField Poll.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have contributed more than a third of the approximately $15.4 million raised since June 1 to support Proposition 8. The ballot initiative, if passed, would reverse the current right of same-sex couples to marry.
It’s clear from the article that church officials are directing the flock to donate. I hope that the IRS investigates them.
So, why do the Mormons care about gay marriage? It’s a funny question, in that one of the principal conservative arguments against gay marriage is that it will open the door to polygamy or marriage with young children. But Mormons care more about purity of essence, it appears:
Same-sex marriage hits at the heart of Mormon theology, said Terryl Givens, a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond. According to scholars and documents on the Mormon Church’s official Web site, couples married in a Mormon temple remain wedded for eternity and can give birth to spirit children in the afterlife. Most importantly, Mormons must be married to achieve “exaltation,” the ultimate state in the afterlife. Mormons also believe they retain their gender in the afterlife.”This all explains the Mormon difficulty with homosexuality,” said Mr. Givens. In a theology based on eternal gender, marriage and exaltation, “same-sex attraction doesn’t find a place.”
Friends, many of you know the miraculous benefits of Hoofnagle Brand All-Natural Pb®. Well, I am writing to tell you that today I am filing a suit against a wide range of ayurvedic herbal supplements providers for using the active ingredient of Pb® and its sister product, As33® without licensing it from me.
The New York Times reported yesterday on this widespread deception of consumers. You see, in order to make ayurvedic medicine appear efficacious, a large number of supplement providers are secretly including Pb® and As33® in their scammy supplement products:
A report in the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly 21 percent of 193 ayurvedic herbal supplements bought online, produced in both India and the United States, contained lead, mercury or arsenic.
As you can see, the ayurvedic practitioners are riding off the all-natural, pure, elemental aspects of Pb®. I’m not going to allow this to continue, and you shouldn’t either–continue to buy your Pb® and As33® directly from Hoofnagle!
Steve Warshak, 42, founder of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, also was ordered to pay $93,000 in fines. He was convicted in February on 93 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.Federal prosecutors accused the company of bilking customers out of $100 million through a series of deceptive ads, manipulated credit card transactions and refusal to accept returns or cancel orders.
U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel ordered the company, along with other defendants, to forfeit more than $500 million. He said it was impossible to calculate exactly how much money was lost by customers, so he accepted a figure based on how much Warshak and the company took in.
Berkeley distributes various products alleged to boost energy, manage weight, reduce memory loss and aid sleep. The company’s main product, Enzyte, which promises sexual enhancement, has ads featuring “Smiling Bob,” a happy man with an exaggerated smile.
“This is a case about greed,” Spiegel said as he reviewed the case. “Steven Warshak preyed on perceived sexual inadequacies of customers.”
With any luck I’ll never have to see another one of those goddamn ads again. But really, 500 million? It’s sad to think of how many people are (1) feel so inadequate they would feel the need to buy the product (2) be so foolish as to think that magic penis pills work, (3) think the ad featuring “Enzyte Bob” was anything but an outrageous scam. It is sad to see the power wishful thinking has over basic rationality, and sadder still that there is scum like Warshak who will exploit such feelings to steal money from people.
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