Weekend Reading


It’s Family Day weekend in several provinces in Canada, and President’s Day weekend in the United States. Here’s what I’ve been reading:


I’ve finally set up a Facebook page for Science-Based Pharmacy. Please like,share and comment.

Yoni Freedhoff reviews Wheat Belly, and surprise, surprise, the Wheat Belly diet and the science are lacking in credibility:

The kindest way for me to describe Wheat Belly is as the Atkins diet wrapped in one physician’s broad sweeping, yet not particularly well backed up by evidence theory, that wheat’s modern genetic modifications are responsible for the majority of society’s ills. The harshest would be that Dr. Davis has eschewed his medical responsibility to ensure that the information he conveys to the public while wearing his MD hat is firmly supported by and grounded in science (or at the very least point out when a view is highly preliminary and theoretical), and instead, uses his MD platform to push his own personal theory onto a trusting, vulnerable, and desperate public, as nearly irrefutably factual and scientific.

In another story, Yoni, king of all media, seems to be at odds with the “Raw Juice Guru” over the value of juice cleanses. As I have blogged before, the idea you need to “detox” or “cleanse” is an alternative medicine marketing creation with no basis in reality.

There’s some shenanigans at the website NHS Choices, which helps patients make self-care decisions. It seems the Department of Health and Prince of Wales’ Foundation didn’t like the messaging about homeopathy, so they sought to dilute the message to make it meaningless. David Colquhoun calls it “Policy-Based Evidence” and through freedom-of-information requests, has the proof. It’s a great read. Also see the coverage in The Guardian, which includes this comment from the former editor:

In causing NHS Choices to publish content that is less than completely frank about the evidence on homeopathy, the DH have compromised the editorial standards of a website that they themselves established and that they fund. They have sold out the NHS Choices editorial team who work tirelessly to fulfil their remit. And, most seriously, they have failed the general public, by putting special interests, politics and the path of least resistance (as they saw it) before the truth about health and healthcare.

What’s happening in the UK is quite similar to what’s happening in Canada where the Natural Health Products Directorate has effectively eliminated scientific standards for approving products, and asserts that homeopathic “remedies” it approves are “safe and effective”. Michael Kruse over at Skeptic North reveals how Health Canada seems determined to put the natural health products industy’s objectives ahead of consumers:

Bad Science Watch, a new national science advocacy group my colleagues and I founded last year, sent a letter to the NHPD detailing what we considered to be the three biggest problems with the new Pathway to Licensing and the related regulations. We feel that the risk-based efficacy standards do little to tell the consumer if their product is actually going to work, that the ability of the manufacturer to label their product as containing small ineffective doses of any herb or chemical with no requirement to prove any effect is very misleading, and that the currently voluntary inspection standard is not even below that for drugs, but also below that of food inspections, and they leave the consumer at risk while they wait for someone to get hurt before mandating plant inspections.

A good report on dietary fat fact and fiction from Consumer Reports. Also see this excellent resource on fats from Harvard School of Public Health which is a fair summary of the state of the evidence.

Astrology + homeopathy + organic + farming = “biodynamic” farms, which is as bizarre as it sounds. Now you’ll know more about your “biodynamic” wine.

Great story in the New York Times about the abuse of ADHD drugs, facilitated by physicians and pharmacies. What struck me is the extent to which abuse seems normalized among students.

Anti-fluoridation activists in Portland, Oregon are targeting those that link to the Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland website on community water fluoridation and share this video which corrects circulating fluoride misinformation. Please distribute in your network your widely. If you’re looking for a backgrounder, this statement on fluoridation from the Institute from Science in Medicine (PDF) is a great resource with a summary of the science. (Full disclosure, I am a Fellow with the ISM). I also enjoyed this post, Fluoride Paranoia and Betteridge’s Law. And in Maclean’s, see Are anti-fluoridation activists coming to your town?

I have written before about transparency in clinical trial data and how much it’s needed from the pharmaceutical industry. So this editorial in the JAMA disappoints with its weak, tentative suggestions. Derek Lowe has some ideas about why the pharmaceutical industry may be indifferent to its public image. Your perspective?

Live cell microscopy is medical quackery so I was disappointed to see that my local pharmacy in Toronto now offers it.

I’m a big fan of This American Life and the episode Harper High School, Part One, about a Chicago high school plagued by gun violence (29 shot last year) is great. Go listen.

Compelling long read in Esquire on the OBL shooter. See the follow-up controversy, too.


Photo from flickr user MGShelton used under a CC licence.




2 thoughts on “Weekend Reading

  1. Live cell microscopy. You may pooh pooh it all you want but somehow it WORKS! Now isn’t that strange? My friend had severe stomach cramps some years ago and went to emergency. They had her one week on IV and said they might have to do exploratory surgery because they didn’t know what was causing the cramps. Then she and her husband went to a doctor of integrative medicine and after doing live cell microscopy, he gave her black walnut for parasites. She was pain free and well in a week! The bottom line is that doctors need to get educated in various methods of treating health problems.

    • Like the Quackwatch article points out, live cell microscopy, as offered by alternative medicine providers and by pharmacies, is simply a ruse to sell supplements. The fact is that that if live cell microscopy was truly useful for medical diagnostic purposes, it would be used in medical laboratories. Mark Crislip sums it up well:

      In summary, virtually every diagnosis in live blood analysis is nonsense and much of the alleged pathology is either normal or artifact on the slide. The alleged pathophysiology is also nonsense; they just make this stuff up. Live blood analysts tend to make up words and processes that sound scientific and cromulous (6): several sites refer to seeing orimbryonic bacteria, but the google cannot find a definition. This pseudoscientific jargon and imaginary physiology combined with the a microscope and a view of their own blood, which most people have never seen, gives the live blood analysis proponents the trappings of real science. A nickel says they wear white coats.

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