Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Lose Weight – With Lasers

Posted in The Rogues Gallery by Skepdude on March 9, 2009

Listener, Nick,  sent in the following e-mail:

For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to lose weight the old fashioned way. Eat less, move more. Today my personal trainer suggested this weight loss clinic that uses some foam wrapping and infrared lasers. My trainer said she’d tried it and it works and gave me the web site. I’m looking over the website and I’m not buying it. But I’m not that good of a skeptic and don’t know why I’m not buying it. I just know, I’m not buying it. Would the skeptics be so kind as to tell me why this doesn’t work? Thanks, and I love the show.

http://www.achievelaser.com/weight-loss.html

Wow. This is one of those websites that just overwhelms you with pseudoscientific technobabble. There is far too much nonsense here to tackle in a single blog, so I am going to focus on two claims – the low level laser therapy (LLLT) and the infrared body wrap.

But first, for a little background, it’s interesting to note that spas have had a tradition for literally hundreds of years of promoting wellness (that is, there own financial wellnes) through pure BS. The basic marketing strategy is to convince people with disposable income and too sedentary a lifestyle to come in, relax, and passively receive exotic treatments that will cure whatever ails them. Spas have often been on the cutting edge of health pseudoscience. Today they incorporate the latest fads in CAM – from aromatherapy to reflexology.

The infrared bodywrap is in the sweet-spot of the spa tradition – and now you can enjoy the same exploitation at home. The basic claim here is that the wrap system contains infrared radiation, which penetrates the skins and (you know the drill) – removes toxins, increases blood flow and oxygen delivery, and melts away fat and cellulite. Right.It promises you will lose weight and inches.

Of course, all such wraps do make you lose weight and inches – by dehydration via sweating. That’s the core trick here. Of course, water loss is not fat loss and in fact is counterproductive. But it is highly profitable.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “THE ROGUES GALLERY”

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Lightning bolt makes healer of Indonesian village boy

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 6, 2009

Actually, no it didn’t, superstition did. According to this article at theage.com.au (sounds suspiciously close to New Age for my blood):

MOHAMMAD Ponari was, until last month, a typical kid in the impoverished East Java village of Balongsari. Then, quite literally, lightning struck.

The nine-year-old, who had been playing in the rain in his front yard, was hit by the thunderbolt but, to the astonishment of his young friends, he was unharmed.

All the more bizarre, according to an account by his village chief and his family, when he came to, he found a stone the size of an egg on his head, and was convinced he possessed healing powers.

This has the makings of a Marvel superhero comic book. Boy gets hit by lightning. Boy miraculously survives. Boy gets mysterious superpowers. Or as in this case, A ROCK! Sounds made up so far to me, more specifically the kind of made up a 9-year old would come up with. Nevertheless, let’s continue reading:

A boy next door with a fever was his first patient. The stone was placed in a glass of water and the boy drank deeply. His fever vanished.

Wow! Fever vanished! But wait a minute, don’t most fevers vanish at some point? When did this other boy’s fever vanish? How long had he had the fever? Was he being treated with medicine already? How much of a fever did he have anyway? Of course those details are omitted. Why spoil a perfectly good story with facts and stuff. Moving on:

Then another neighbour approached him, a woman in her 30s who had suffered from a depressive condition for 15 years. She, too, was healed.

The miracles, large and small, kept coming, said Nila Retno, the local village chief.

It is a miracle indeed, a miracle that such a pathetic story is being reported at all, but we shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve seen this too many times before. Anyway, the boy becomes so famous for his healing stone water ability that soon enough thousands were lining at his door. And what happens next:

Stampedes erupted on at least three occasions, resulting in the deaths of three people and injuries to dozens more.

3 people died. Let’s stop for a second and do a quick cost vs. benefit analysis here. This boy allegedly is “healing” a few fevers, depressions and sprained arms and on the cost side we have 3 fucking dead people and dozens of injuries. I wonder if the injured were treated for free by the magical lightning stone water, because did I mention he was obviously making money out of this. No? Must have skipped my mind.

Even so, as much as 1 billion rupiah ($A120,000) has been raised through a charity box outside his home. This, many adherents to mysticism believe, was poor form indeed. Dukuns are not supposed to profit from their activities.

But that is the whole point of charlatans like this, to make a quick buck, or a few quick millions, at the expense of the ingorant and the hopeless. They are supposed to profit from their acitivities, dukuns or not!

Ay the stupid….the stupid… it burns!

the-stupid-it-burns

Recognizing Dubious Health Devices

Posted in Science Based Medicine by Skepdude on August 20, 2008

The public is often left to fend for themselves in the marketplace of medical devices and health aids. Current regulations in most countries are inadequate to prevent grossly misleading claims in advertising and to provide adequate evidence for safety and effectiveness for products on the market. So it is helpful for consumers to be aware of the red flags for dubious devices to watch out for.

I came across this ad for The Rebuilder, which purports to be a treatment for painful neuropathy.  About 2.4% of the population has some kind of peripheral nerve damage (neuropathy), which means there are about 7.2 million Americans with neuropathy. In most cases there is no cure (although there is effective treatment for some of the symptoms of neuropathy) so it is not surprising that neuropathy is a common target for questionable treatments and devices.

The ad is full of misleading or unsupported claims and blatant misinformation and provides an excellent example of the many features of quackery marketing to look out for.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “SCIENCE-BASED MEDICINE”