Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Dying for Sleep

Posted in The Rogues Gallery by Skepdude on October 6, 2008

There is a silent epidemic of sleep disorders in the US (and probably other developed countries as well). Increasing diagnoses of sleep problems is likely a combination of increasing incidence and increased awareness. Recent studies showing that sleep apnea (blocking of the air passageways during sleep) increases the risk of stroke and heart attack. Poor sleep is also linked to diabetes and may be the true underlying cause of up to half of people with the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

Lack of sleep also exacerbates many conditions, from migraines to seizures, and correlates with a decreased life expectancy. In short – we need our sleep. Our bodies, especially our brains, do not function optimally when deprived of sleep. Everyone should strive to have good sleep habits – avoid caffeine in the evening, don’t eat right before going to bed, and try to consolidate your sleep so you get it all at once rather than napping throughout the day. If you still have poor sleep, consult a physician – you may have a treatable condition that can be diagnosed with a sleep study.

But for every such truth in medicine there seems to be a quack willing to take it to absurd extremes in order to sell their books, supplements, and devices. I recently received the following e-mail asking about such extreme claims.

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

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How they do the voodoo that they do so well – Part 1

Posted in Photon in the Darkness by Skepdude on September 22, 2008

You’ve probably heard the story. A child is diagnosed with autism and the desperate (yes, I said “desperate”) parents search for answers. The “mainstream” doctors tell them that there is little that they can do (note: ”mainstream” doctors almost never say, “There’s nothing that can be done.”). Not satisfied with that answer (and what parent would be satisfied?), the parents try “alternative” practitioners.

And sure enough, the “alternative” practitioner has just the answers the parents are looking for. He or she can help them “recover” their child.

Or can they?

Over the years, I’ve shown how many of the “therapies” that claim to “cure” or “recover” autistic children haven’t been shown to work. But how do the practitioners keep the parents “on the hook”, even when the treatments aren’t working? That’s the topic of today’s lecture.

Before I get started, I need to make one thing perfectly clear. Despite being a hard-bitten cynic, I am convinced that most of the “alternative” practitioners truly believe that what they are doing is helping their patients. There are, of course, a minority that are consciously trying to deceive their patients (or their parents), but I believe that the majority are convinced that their treatments actually work.

Once again, being honest is no protection against being wrong.

So, with that disclaimer, what are some of the techniques that the “alternative” practitioners use to keep parents satisfied even when the treatments don’t work?

[Note: the same techniques are used by most “alternative” practitioners, but I will approach them from the perspective of the parents of an autistic child.]

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “A PHOTON IN THE DARKNESS”

The Importance and Limitations of Peer-Review

Posted in Science Based Medicine by Skepdude on September 3, 2008

Peer-review is a critical part of the functioning of the scientific community, of quality control, and the self corrective nature of science. But it is no panacea. It is helpful to understand what it is, and what it isn’t, its uses and abuses.

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

First Measles Now Mumps

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

Here is another report of an outbreak of a preventable infectious disease in a population with low vaccination rates. This time it’s mumps in Canada in a religious community that believes getting vaccinated shows a lack of faith in the protection of God. I wonder if they feel it is blasphemy to wear a seatbelt, or use sunscreen, wash their hands, cook their food thoroughly, or do any of the common-sense things people should do to reduce their risk of infection or disease.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “NEUROLOGICA”