Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Pure Water Fetishists

Posted in Thinking is dangerous by Skepdude on February 26, 2009

What is it with Complementary & Alternative Medicine communities and their crazed fixation on only ever coming into to contact with absolutely, scrupulously and perfectly pure water? And why does no-one ever point out that the minute they pour it into a glass, kettle or pot of dried lentils, all the effort to purify it has gone out the window?

The company I’d like to introduce you to is PureH20. Alas, the interweb has ensured that ‘2’ rarely gets to be subscript.

The website has a myriad of bullshit, fear-mongering, pseudoscience and amazing state-the-bleedin-obvious facts like

Water is absolutely vital for health

I would honestly like to know if there is anyone to whom that comes as a revelation. And I mean anyone in the whole world.
Did you know that

most of us have lost our proper thirst reflex by the end of our childhood?

or that

Bottled and tap waters contain many impurities like heavy metals and inorganic minerals that are likely to have an adverse effect on your health

So no shortage of bullshit to keep you entertained. Their purification system is definately a first in chemical synthesis though:

Water filtered using our patented system removes all the chemicals and impurities, both organics and inorganics, to provide you with one hydrogen atom and two oxygen atoms

(my bold)

Oh. I assumed they were selling water rather than HO2, who’d have thunk? As if all the sillyness wasn’t enough we get:

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More Omega 3 child testing nonsense – this time, New Zealand.

Posted in Thinking is dangerous by Skepdude on November 17, 2008

The outcome I would be really happy with is a better understanding of healthy eating“, said teacher Paul Whitaker, from Auckland’s Wellsford School, according to TV.NZ.

What I assume he meant is “The outcome I would be really happy with is a better understanding of the scientific method, placebos and possibly the Hawthorne Effect“.

It appears that after watching a BBC documentary on Omega 3 fish oils, Mr Whitaker decided to run a trial of his own: 42 pupils, 21 with a fish oil pill and 21 without, otherwise, everything was the same. The story was also picked up (slightly, but only slightly more sensibly) in The New Zealand Herald.

Now, Mr Whitaker makes a big enough song and dance about his results to allow me to pilliory him as a bit of a fool. It would be unkind to say that not much happens in NZ, and indeed this is no excuse. History repeated itself in many ways with the ghost of the nonsensical Durham Fish Oil trial/experiment/initiative/trial (still being admirable hounded by MacCruiskeen) being resurrected – the pills were given free to the school by Good Health, a NZ-based ‘natural health solutions’ company, who are happy to tout the trial as a success (despite not being finished yet) and give a list of some of the media exposure gained. (Save lazy people like me having to do too much Google trawling).

In a very similar case to Durham, the trial was poorly designed scientifically and a waste of time, although excellently designed from a point of view of getting a false positive with which to spin to the media.

First of all, 42 people is never enough to get any meaningful results – at best it may give an inkling as to the next direction your research will take.

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Hypnosis and hot flashes: When will they ever learn?

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on October 8, 2008

For women undergoing menopause, hot flashes are a real problem. In my specialty, as I’ve pointed out before, women undergoing treatment for breast cancer are often forced into premature menopause by the treatments to which we subject them. It can be chemotherapy, although far more often it’s the estrogen-blocking drugs that we use to treat breast cancers that have the estrogen receptor. Estrogen stimulates such tumors to grow, and blocking estrogen is a very effective treatment for them, be it with tamoxifen or the newer aromatase inhibors like Arimidex. The utterly predictable consequence, unfortunately, is an artificially-induced menopause.

I’ve written at least twice before about this topic in the context of various poorly designed studies of acupuncture for breast cancer-induced hot flashes. There’s a reason for this. Despite studies demonstrating that hormone replacement therapy doesn’t decrease cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women and increased the risk of breast cancer, for severe menopausal symptoms in women without breast cancer, estrogen remains the gold standard, and it’s reasonably safe to use for short periods of time. Consequently, for menopause having nothing to do with breast cancer, estrogen can be used, at least for the short term, if nonhormonal therapies don’t work. Not so in the case of women rendered menopausal by breast cancer therapy. Indeed, it defeats the purpose of antiestrogen drugs to replace the estrogen they are blocking. Not only that, but even after breast cancer therapy when a woman undergos menopause naturally, estrogen replacement increases their risk of a recurrence. Consequently, if nonhormonal methods supported by science don’t work, then there’s nothing else, and, unfortunately, most science-based nonhormonal therapies such as antidepressants do not work very well and have significant side effects.

That’s where the temptation to turn to woo comes in.

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