Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Leave it to the naturopaths…

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on November 27, 2009

…to give you an insight of what delusion sounds like . I probably should apologize for the prolonged absence from the blogosphere, but what the hell this is my blog and I’m not going to. It’s not like there was any void of skeptical goodies to peruse during my absence, so suck it up and stop whining. As I am still not back 100%, I don’t intend to make this a long entry, but somehow I think I’ll fail at that.  I mean what can you expect given that I’m looking at something titled “Counterpoint: No ‘magic’ involved in naturopathic medicine”? Oh boy here we go!

Progress often faces resistance. Even with the substantial challenges facing health care in Ontario, the province’s recent decision to award prescribing authority to naturopathic doctors has its critics, as evidenced by Scott Gavura’s op-ed piece in Nov. 24th’s National Post.

Well, I’m going to adopt a famous Sagan saying and say that while progress does often face resistance, not everything that faces resistance is progress. A progressive idea must be established on its own merits, not the amount of resistance it encounters; therefore give up the genius-being-laughed-at complex and act like an adult! So let’s read through, I’m sure the “merits” of naturopathic “medicine” will be clearly and unambiguously revealed.

Ontario’s decision is a step forward in improving patient care by allowing naturopathic doctors to use their training to help address the substantial health challenges facing Ontario.

Their training? Training? Let’s see, according to Wikipedia the training, for the licensed ND that actually do go to some sort of school, “includes the use of basic medical diagnostic tests and procedures such as medical imaging, minor surgery, and blood tests. The CNME also provides for the inclusion of optional modalities including minor surgery, natural childbirth and intravenous therapy, though they are not generally licensed to perform these functions; these modalities require additional training and may not be within the scope of practice in all jurisdictions.”  Wow, I’m sure this sort of training must be making many nurses jealous….not (if you imagine Borat making this not-joke it might be funny!)

While it would be easy to dismiss Mr. Gavura’s opinions as alarmist, there’s something to be learned from it: Many Canadians aren’t aware of how safe, scientific and effective naturopathic medicine is.

And this is where I start cringing, because you see in reality most naturopathic treatments are neither safe, effective nor scientific (are you sh@%ing me?). Best case scenario they convince desperate people to avoid real medical treatments that do work; waste their time and money, and some times make them waste their last days in this universe chasing empty dreams and promises, thus robbing them and their families of much needed time together.Worst case scenario, you have 9 month old babies dying of infections that can easily be treated by real medicine. Yes I am looking at you homeopathy, don’t you dare to act all innocent, I-have-no-side-effects in front of me. As far as effectiveness is concerned, I will yet again make the claim that there are no rigorous scientific studies that will withstand scrutiny that show naturopathic medicines to work. You think I’m wrong? Pick your favorite alternative medicine modality and show me 3 proper, scientific studies that show a positive effect above and over the placebo effect. Set and ….go! I know you won’t be coming back with anything. Scientific? Hahaha, thanks for the good laugh. But seriously read a few sentences back. The same challenge applies. I have ample room in my comments section for many, many links. Get to linkin’!

Naturopathic medicine is based on the scientific assertion that the body, when given the appropriate support, has the potential to heal itself. This isn’t a “magical and transcendent anomaly of physics.” It’s how the body works — and we’ve known it for centuries. Each time you heal from a cut, a cold or a broken bone, you’re seeing vis mediatrix naturae, or “the healing power of nature” at work. It’s not magic, just good science.

Sneaky! Nice try. Yes, the body can heal itself, but that is limited. Medicine kinda implies human intervention for the sort of things the body cannot handle on its own. I guess by this logic vaccines are also naturopathic because they give the immune system “appropriate support” by teaching it how to fight invading agents so that in the future it can handle such agents without us intervening. Hey who knew, vaccines are naturopathic. Nice!

As well, many patients have not had success with conventional options to address chronic or unresolved conditions

Oh really? I need some clarification here: are the patients themselves assuming that they can find success with the naturopathic modalities, or are the naturopaths claiming that they have solutions to things real medicine cannot yet handle? If the latter is the case, I’d like to see a bit of evidence, just a tiny bit really. It would be great if some of these things included cancer or HIV or something like that.

This complementary system is vital when we are living in a society that is increasingly focused on symptom management.

And there it goes, the symptom-only-management fallacy. Forgive me for being a bit, what is the word…skeptical but when was the last time that doctors treated a shooting victim for the pain he was experiencing while ignoring the bullets lodged in his body? I’m sorry I can’t hear you…a bit louder please….oh you got nothing to say?

Most importantly, what patients want is to not be sick in the first place. The American Institute for Cancer Research determined that one-third of all cancers could be prevented through exercise, diet and weight management. Naturopathic doctors have the clinical skills and training to help patients integrate these preventative strategies.

Ha, and so do most all dietitians, no need to bring in the holistic nonsense. Exercise, diet and weight management have been around for a long time and have solid scientific support to have positive effect, this was not discovered by naturopaths by any stretch of the imagination.  They’re just latching onto it simply because it fits in with their whole anti-drug stance. Prevention is important but is not the end-all be-all in medicine. By their own citation, a full 2/3 of cancers can’t be prevented so show me what you can do about those dear naturopaths? Can you show that your methods increase life expectancy in a 5-year span? I didn’t think so.

There is more and more evidence in support of the approaches to health that NDs employ. Diet, lifestyle, stress and environmental factors have been a focus of naturopathic care long before evidence fully showed the importance of these approaches.

Isn’t this one of those can-never-be-verified claims? I guess the implication is that they were championing diet and exercise before the medical community was. Huh! Even if true, what does that have to say about acupuncture or homeopathy? Can you say diddly squat?

Meanwhile, the limits of randomized control trials favoured by the pharmaceutical industry are being increasingly recognized. Randomized control trials tend to test a single treatment approach to the eradication of a symptom. This approach works against individualized care, and tends to be biased toward over-treatment rather than prevention. Clinical studies are critical to advancing knowledge, but in themselves they are not the solutions to health problems.

And there goes the Special Pleading. Don’t tell me you weren’t expecting this now, what kind of skeptic are you? Obviously naturopathic medicine is scientific, as they said in the beginning, but here they go pleading for us not to look at randomized, controlled studies, which is what scientific tends to mean, for proof. Trying to have your cake and eat it too huh dear naturopath? But you can’t have it both ways. You see if you claim your modality is scientific then it is bound by the rules of ….guess what? Science! I know I shouldn’t load your cute little brain with this sort of heavy logic but you can handle it. Really, you can.

HPRAC also recommended that Ontario’s NDs, similar to NDs in almost every other regulated jurisdiction, have the capability to take on a larger role in primary care with access to basic primary care pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics.

Now wait just a minute! These guys want to be able to prescribe the same pharmaceuticals, an over-reliance on which according to this same article “may be making us sicker”? Isn’t that ironic? Drugs are bad as they don’t treat the root problem; I want to give you an all natural alternative to drugs; but let me have the ability to prescribe drugs nonetheless? What? Do they not really see the lack of logic in this line of thinking? Do they really think people are that stupid? Well, strike that last sentence!

As naturopathic doctors transition under new regulation in Ontario, there is an opportunity for us to work collaboratively with every member of an individual’s health-care team, forming a new model that acknowledges the choice that patients are making for the more natural approach that Naturopathic Doctors employ.

I must say for being a pile of crap, this is marketing genius. Honestly I must take my hat off to these folks for coming up with some pretty darn sweet sounding selling points. Just look at these two phrases. Who doesn’t like to collaborate? Or have a health care team all of his own? Or having a choice? Or going all natural? It all sounds so good! God if I didn’t know none of it has ever been shown to work,scientifically,I’d be definitely sold.

My verdict? Well if it isn’t clear by now I can recap it: I think naturopathic “medicine” is crap that makes people feel good but ultimately cannot objectively help with anything that can be measured. I think no alternative modality has ever been shown to work under rigorous scientific testing protocols, and when that happened it became part of real medicine thus loosing it’s alternative medicine status. I think that all of the alternative medicine modalities of today work no better than placebo, and that is the reason why their practitioners rely on testimonies and use a Special Pleading argument to be excused from the rigorous requirements of science, while at the same time proclaiming their modalities to be scientific, a bit misguided if not outright hypocritical in my eyes. So generally, I think naturopathic, alternative, integrative, non-conventional, call it whatever you want, I call it wishful thinking “medicine” is baloney; and there are few people who would be happier than me to if it turned out to be in fact useful to any degree. Until then, it is nothing but magical thinking.

India wasting money on swine flu homeopathic research

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 7, 2009

Via The Hindu we get news that the state of Maharashtra is investing money in research into a homeopathic swine flu vaccine of sorts.

A senior city homeopath Dr Sreerang Oak had on Friday advocated a preventive treatment combining two bio-chemic substances of homeopathy — ‘Kali Mur’ and ‘Ferrum Phos’ (with power of 12 X )– which he said could arrest the spread of the H1N1 virus among population.

Wow, they know they can arrest,  read stop dead on its tracks, the spread of the swine flu, before the research the money is supposed to be spent on has even been done! That does not augur well for the state of Maharashtra!

Four tablets each of the two medicines, easily and cheaply available with chemists could stop the infection in the first stage, bestowing an immunity on the person against the virus, he claimed.

They even know the exact dosage for goodness sake, before the research is done! Talk about quackery!

State of Maharashtra: Fail!

Mozambique: ‘Alternative Medicine’ Enters Mozambican Law

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 24, 2009


Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Tuesday passed the first reading of a government bill which amends the law on private medicine so that it includes, not only evidence-based medicine, but also “alternative medicine”.

The bill defines “alternative” medicine as “health practices not covered by the National Health System and which are constituted by range of diagnostic and therapeutic practices without the appropriate scientific validation, or which are regarded as inaccessible to the scientific method and experimentation and in this latter case may use metaphysical and spiritual curative practices”.

At first sight this looks as if purveyors of all manner of superstition and fraud – homeopathy, chiropractic, aromatherapy, naturopathy or vitamin therapy – will now be treated the same as qualified doctors. All can go into private practice and open up clinics.


If homeopaths think this means they will be able to open clinics in Maputo tomorrow, they may be in for a shock. For they will have to apply for a licence, just as a clinic offering genuine medical care has to apply. And the Health Ministry will decide whether to grant the licence or to refuse it.

“We will decide on a case by case basis”, Garrido stressed.

The law also allows the Health Ministry to shut down any private practice on grounds of “proven professional incompetence” or “grave acts that damage the physical and moral integrity of the users”.


$2.5 billion spent, no alternative cures found

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 10, 2009


BETHESDA, Md. – Ten years ago the government set out to test herbal and other alternative health remedies to find the ones that work. After spending $2.5 billion, the disappointing answer seems to be that almost none of them do.

Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.

As for therapies, acupuncture has been shown to help certain conditions, and yoga, massage, meditation and other relaxation methods may relieve symptoms like pain, anxiety and fatigue.

However, the government also is funding studies of purported energy fields, distance healing and other approaches that have little if any biological plausibility or scientific evidence.

Taxpayers are bankrolling studies of whether pressing various spots on your head can help with weight loss, whether brain waves emitted from a special “master” can help break cocaine addiction, and whether wearing magnets can help the painful wrist problem, carpal tunnel syndrome.

The acupressure weight-loss technique won a $2 million grant even though a small trial of it on 60 people found no statistically significant benefit — only an encouraging trend that could have occurred by chance. The researcher says the pilot study was just to see if the technique was feasible.

“You expect scientific thinking” at a federal science agency, said R. Barker Bausell, author of “Snake Oil Science” and a research methods expert at the University of Maryland, one of the agency’s top-funded research sites. “It’s become politically correct to investigate nonsense.”

Many scientists say that unconventional treatments hold promise and deserve serious study, but that the federal center needs to be more skeptical and selective.

“There’s not all the money in the world and you have to choose” what most deserves tax support, said Barrie Cassileth, integrative medicine chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

“Many of the studies that have been funded I would not have funded because they seem irrational and foolish — studies on distant healing by prayer and energy healing, studies that are based on precepts and ideas that are contrary to what is known in terms of human physiology and disease,” she said.



Posted in Bad Astronomy by Skepdude on June 10, 2009


The first panicky retreat in the war on free speech in the UK has begun.

As I wrote last week, the British Chiropractic Association is suing science journalist Simon Singh for saying that chiropractors practice “bogus” medicine. Instead of defending what they do with research and testing, they are acting to silence Singh and chill anyone else who may want to expose what they do.

This attack on free speech has been rippling outward over the past few days, and now there is an ironic twist: the McTimoney Chiropractic Association has strongly warned its practitioners to take down their websites and replace any information on their techniques with just brief contact information. Why would they do that?

Because of what we consider to be a witch hunt against chiropractors, we are now issuing the following advice:

The target of the campaigners is now any claims for treatment that cannot be substantiated with chiropractic research. The safest thing for everyone to do is […] [i]f you have a website, take it down NOW.

Heh. Gee, why the heck would anyone want to make sure that a chiropractor — a person who will be futzing around with your spine — be able to substantiate their claims with (gasp) RESEARCH?

It’s very telling, isn’t it, that the McTimoney group isn’t telling its people to only stick with proven methods, but instead to take down any claims that might get them sued.



Tests show many supplements have quality problems

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 9, 2009


Lead in ginkgo pills. Arsenic in herbals. Bugs in a baby’s colic and teething syrup. Toxic metals and parasites are part of nature, and all of these have been found in “natural” products and dietary supplements in recent years.

Set aside the issue of whether vitamin and herbal supplements do any good.

Are they safe? Is what’s on the label really what’s in the bottle? Tests by researchers and private labs suggest the answer sometimes is no.

One quarter of supplements tested by an independent company over the last decade have had some sort of problem. Some contained contaminants. Others had contents that did not match label claims. Some had ingredients that exceeded safe limits. Some contained real drugs masquerading as natural supplements.

“We buy it just as the consumer buys it” from stores, said Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of The company tests pills for makers that want its seal of approval, and publishes ratings for subscribers, much as Consumer Reports does with household goods.

Other tests, reported in scientific journals, found prenatal vitamins lacking claimed amounts of iodine, and supplements short on ginseng and hoodia — an African plant sparking the latest diet craze.

“There’s at least 10 times more hoodia sold in this country than made in the world, so people are not getting hoodia,” said Dr. Mehmet Oz, a heart surgeon and frequent Oprah Winfrey guest who occasionally has touted the stuff.

Industry groups say that quality problems are the exception rather than the rule.

“I believe that the problem is narrow, that the well-established and reputable brands deserve their reputations,” said Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association.


60 pct of cancer patients try nontraditional med

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 8, 2009


TAMPA, Fla. – With much of her lower body consumed by cancer, Leslee Flasch finally faced the truth: The herbal supplements and special diet were not working.

“I want this thing cut out from me. I want it out,” she told her family.

But it was too late. Her rectal cancer — potentially curable earlier on — had invaded bones, tissue, muscle, skin. The 53-year-old Florida woman could barely sit, and constantly bled and soiled herself.

“It was terrible,” one doctor said. “The pain must have been excruciating.”

Flasch had sought a natural cure. Instead, a deadly disease ran its natural course. And the herb peddlers who sold her hope in a bottle?

“Whatever money she had left in life, they got most of it,” said a sister, Sharon Flasch. “They prey on the sick public with the belief that this stuff can help them, whether they can or can’t.”

Some people who try unproven remedies risk only money. But people with cancer can lose their only chance of beating the disease by skipping conventional treatment or by mixing in other therapies. Even harmless-sounding vitamins and “natural” supplements can interfere with cancer medicines or affect hormones that help cancer grow.

Yet they are extremely popular with cancer patients, who crave control over their disease and want to do everything they can to be healthy — emotional needs that make them vulnerable to clever marketing and deceptive claims. Studies estimate that 60 percent of cancer patients try unconventional remedies and about 40 percent take vitamin or dietary supplements, which do not have to be proved safe or effective and are not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.


University of Maryland Medical Center-Are you that naive?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 8, 2009

This bit of news that has been picked up by major news outlets such as the Seattle Times and is troubling beyond belief.

At one of the nation’s top trauma hospitals, a nurse circles a patient’s bed, humming and waving her arms as if shooing evil spirits. Another woman rubs a quartz bowl with a wand, making tunes that mix with the beeping monitors and hissing respirator keeping the man alive.

They are doing Reiki therapy, which claims to heal through invisible energy fields. The anesthesia chief, Dr. Richard Dutton, calls it “mystical mumbo jumbo.” Still, he’s a fan.

“It’s self-hypnosis” that can help patients relax, he said. “If you tell yourself you have less pain, you actually do have less pain.”

True, but aren’t you in fact endorsing a fake therapy in the eyes of the patient and the public? Why the University of Maryland Medical Center offers it, so it must work. People are not going in there getting reiki, feeling better, and walking out thinking ” wow that placebo effect I got from the fake treatment known as reiki was great!”. They come out of there thinking “Wow that reiki is great, I don’t know what I would have done without it. It works!“, and then they’ll go on to accept all the claims that are made in the name of reiki.

Really Dr. Dutton? Are you really that naive or short sighted? Don’t you think that your job as a doctor includes dispensing good, sound information? Don’t you think your job should be more than just making the patient feel better right there and then, regardless of what that might mean for the patient further down the road? I find this attitude quite incredible!

Thank goodness the journalist reporting this troublesome bit of news, does not stop there, but goes on to point out how dangerous these so-called natural, alternative medicines are.

Dietary supplements do not have to be proved safe or effective before they can be sold. Some contain natural things you might not want, such as lead and arsenic. Some interfere with other things you may be taking, such as birth control pills.

“Herbals are medicines,” with good and bad effects, said Bruce Silverglade of the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Contrary to their little-guy image, many of these products are made by big businesses. Ingredients and their countries of origin are a mystery to consumers. They are marketed in ways that manipulate emotions, just like ads for hot cars and cool clothes. Some make claims that average people can’t parse as proof of effectiveness or blather, like “restores cell-to-cell communication.”

Even therapies that may help certain conditions, such as acupuncture, are being touted for uses beyond their evidence.

An Associated Press review of dozens of studies and interviews with more than 100 sources found an underground medical system operating in plain sight, with a different standard than the rest of medical care, and millions of people using it on blind faith.

How did things get this way?

Ten years ago, Congress created a new federal agency to study supplements and unconventional therapies. But more than $2.5 billion of tax-financed research has not found any cures or major treatment advances, aside from certain uses for acupuncture and ginger for chemotherapy-related nausea. If anything, evidence has mounted that many of these pills and therapies lack value.

Yet they are finding ever-wider use:


“In testing, one out of four supplements has a problem,” said Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of, an independent company that rates such products.

Even when the ingredients aren’t risky, spending money for a product with no proven benefit is no small harm when the economy is bad and people can’t afford health insurance or healthy food.

But sometimes the cost is far greater. Cancer patients can lose their only chance of beating the disease by gambling on unproven treatments. People with clogged arteries can suffer a heart attack. Children can be harmed by unproven therapies forced on them by parents who distrust conventional medicine.


The truth is, supplements lack proof of safety or benefit. Asked to take a drug under those terms, “most of us would say ‘no,'” Allen said. “When it says ‘natural,’ the perception is there is no harm. And that is just not true.”

Now this is what I call good reporting. Well done Marilynn Marchione.

Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on June 1, 2009

What this letter also highlights is that the entire scientific community needs to be called out on the subject of CAM. Being a “shruggie” (someone who recognizes the unscientific nature of CAM but does not feel it is worth any of their time or attention) is no longer ethically defensible.Scientistst and health-care professionals have a contract with society which includes defending the public from the threats of pseudoscience. Nowhere today is this more necessary than the infiltration and erosion of science-based medicine by unscientific sectarian interests.


Stupid quote of the day

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on May 29, 2009

Alternative Medicine can also be referred to as unconventional medicine because it is medicine in a way that a lot of people are not used to. It is medicine that works for a lot of folks though, and it could be medicine that works for you if you open your mind and body to it.

The thing about alternative medicine is that it emphasizes therapies that also form the basis of treatments carried out in conventional healthcare. The difference is that it stays basic without any of the fanfare and fancy of modern medication. If you ask me, I’d say that is why it is the better option of the two.

The thing about alternative medicine is that it able to address conditions in ways that conventional medicine is unable to. To date, people have begun to express more faith in the alternative than in the conventional. And this has led many more to subscribe to it.

Some douche bag