Tag Archives: FDA

Aspartame – Truth vs Fiction

by

If you believe everything you read on the internet, then is seems that a chemical found in thousands of products is causing an epidemic of severe neurological and systemic diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus. The FDA, the companies that make the product, and the “medical industrial complex” all know about the dangers of this chemical but are hiding the truth from the public in order to protect corporate profits and avoid the pesky paper work that would accompany the truth being revealed. The only glimmer of hope is a dedicated band of bloggers and anonymous e-mail chain letter authors who aren’t afraid to speak the truth. Armed with the latest anecdotal evidence, unverified speculation, and scientifically implausible claims, they have been tirelessly ranting about the evils of this chemical for years. Undeterred by the countless published studies manufactured by the food cartel that show this chemical is safe, they continue to protect the public by spreading baseless fear and hysteria.

Hopefully, you don’t believe everything you read on the internet, and you don’t get your science news from e-mail SPAM, where the above scenario is a common theme. While there are many manifestations of this type of urban legend, I am speaking specifically about aspartame – an artificial sweetener used since the early 1980s. The notion that aspartame is unsafe has been circulating almost since it first appeared, and like rumors and misinformation have a tendency to do, fears surrounding aspartame have taken on a life of their own.

Keep Reading: Science-Based Medicine » Aspartame – Truth vs Fiction.

Top 5 Chemistry Fails by the Food Babe

Is Aspartame Safe?

Antibiotics in Beef

By The Feeding Tube via YouTube

Read the transcript on YouTube

Conspiracy Rumors Follow Apparent Suicide of ‘Anti-Vaccine’ And Alt-Med Autism Doctor Bradstreet

Emily WillinghamBy Emily Willingham via Forbes

“... some of Bradstreet’s supporters were speculating that his death wasn’t a suicide, but a conspiracy.”

“… some of Bradstreet’s supporters were speculating that his death wasn’t a suicide, but a conspiracy.”

Jeff Bradstreet, who has been described as a “controversial autism researcher,” has now become the center of conspiracy rumors after reports of his apparent suicide. His death is said to have followed on the heels of a raid by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of his Bradstreet Wellness Center in Buford, Georgia (update 27JUN2015: the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency is reported to have aided in the raid). A fisherman found Bradstreet’s body in a North Carolina river on Friday, June 19. Authorities in Rutherford County, North Carolina, state that he had a gunshot wound to the chest, “which appears to be self-inflicted,” according to the local newspaper, the Gwinnett Daily Post. The Post also reports that

“By Wednesday night, some of Bradstreet’s supporters were speculating that his death wasn’t a suicide, but a conspiracy.”

That speculation has spread like a virus through the community of people who are mourning the loss of a man whom they viewed as a courageous crusader against mainstream medicine and who believe, as Bradstreet argued, that the mercury in vaccines causes autism (the evidence emphatically indicates otherwise). According to his website, Bradstreet, whose own son is autistic, embraced a number of unproven or untested interventions for autism, including using stem cells in an overseas study he chronicles, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which the FDA cracked down on in 2013. He was known for his use of chelation therapy.

Continue Reading …

Does aspartame cause MS?

aspartame
howstuffworks_iconby Laurie L. Dove via HowStuffWorks

For 10 years, Nancy drank diet soda — sometimes as many as four or five a day. Otherwise, she ate and drank in moderation, exercised regularly and got plenty of sleep. Then one day, as Nancy picked up her glass of diet soda, it slipped from her fingers and crashed to the floor. Shocked, Nancy tried again, only to discover her hand wouldn’t properly respond. The problems subsisted for weeks, then her legs began to buckle and her vision to blur. Eventually, Nancy’s doctor diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

The idea that aspartame causes MS most likely stems from a chain email.

The idea that aspartame causes MS most likely stems from a chain email.

Desperate to know more about MS, Nancy scoured the Internet for answers. She learned MS usually strikes between ages 20 and 40, that it affects women more often than men and that scientists don’t yet understand its root cause (source: WebMD). Then she came across an obscure message board and realized she might have a clue after all. There might be a link between aspartame and MS. Wasn’t that the ingredient in all the diet sodas she’d had over the years?

While the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation stops short of saying aspartame — or any additive, for that matter — is 100 percent safe, it doesn’t subscribe to the notion that aspartame causes MS. Aspartame was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in carbonated beverages, and other beverages and foods in the 1980s. After a volley of complaints from consumers experiencing everything from insomnia to diarrhea after ingesting carbonated beverages containing aspartame, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated aspartame’s use and concluded there wasn’t any evidence that it caused these symptoms. More to the point, the CDC failed to find a link between aspartame and the onset of MS (source: Guthrie).

The idea that aspartame causes MS most likely stems from a supposed first-hand account of an aspartame expert that has persisted on the Internet and in chain e-mails since the 1990s. Although this article is frequently attributed to the author “Nancy Merkle,” nobody has ever come forward to take credit and the article contains no citations (source: Guthrie).

The FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research refuted the claims made in the account, which linked aspartame to a number of diseases and maladies, including MS. According to the FDA, aspartame is one of the most frequently tested food additives and there’s no evidence to support a link between aspartame and MS (source: Hattan). That’s good news for Nancy and others who drink diet beverages and opt for “low-cal” foods containing aspartame.

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A Dunning-Kruger manifesto about vaccines and autism

Bertrand_Russell_Fools_Fanatics_Certainty_600px
By Orac via Respectful Insolence

I’ve frequently written about the “arrogance of ignorance,” a phenomenon that anyone who’s paid attention to what quacks, cranks, or antivaccine activists (but I repeat myself) write and say beyond a certain period of time will have encountered. Basically, it’s the belief found in such people—and amplified in groups—that somehow they can master a subject as well or better than experts who have spent their entire professional lives studying the subject on their own, often just through the use of Google University and the echo chamber discussion forums that they frequent with their fellow cranks.google U 03_400px Thus we have, for example, the rambling clown car of antivaccine bloggers over at the crank blog Age of Autism declaring that, contrary to the mountains of evidence otherwise, vaccines cause autism, “brain damage,” autoimmune diseases and all sorts of mean and nasty other conditions. Skeptics quite properly point out that (1) there is no convincing evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies to support these links; (2) there is a lot of evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies that there is no link between vaccines and these conditions given that such studies invariably are unable to detect differences in the prevalence of these conditions associated with vaccines (or, in the case of the mercury militia, thimerosal-containing vaccines); meaning (3) the most parsimonious explanation for these results is that there almost certainly no link. What is the response? Antivaccine cranks will invoke the pharma shill gambit and all sorts of dire conspiracies on the part of the CDC, big pharma, the FDA, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to “suppress” smoking gun evidence that vaccines cause autism.

This is a well-known phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, a phenomenon whereby people who are unknowledgeable or incompetent about a topic hold an unjustifiably elevated estimate of their own knowledge base on the topic. In the antivaccine movement, the Dunning-Kruger effect tends to take the form of parents who think that their University of Google knowledge trumps the knowledge of physicians and scientists  .  .  .

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What is orgone energy?

By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube

Did Wilhelm Reich really discover a new form of energy? If he was just a fraud, then why did the FDA burn all his books?

6 Fake Ebola Cures Being Peddled Online

snake oil elixir
By Matt Novak via gizmodo

Throughout history, hucksters have emerged to sell bullshit “cures” for diseases to fearful people. Today these frauds make their home on the internet. And they’re selling bullshit cures for Ebola. There is no known cure— or vaccine— for Ebola, but that’s not stopping shameless profiteers from exploiting the panic over this deadly virus.

Below, six “cures” and “treatments” for Ebola that you might see tumbling through the internet. Please, don’t waste your time or money on any of them.

1 • Nano Silver

Rima E Laibow

Image: Screenshot of Rima E. Laibow via YouTube

“Nano Silver is the world’s only hope against Ebola and the other antibiotics/anti-viral resistant pathogens,” claims the Natural Solutions Foundation. The company is run by a woman named Rima E. Laibow, a trained psychiatrist who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Which is why the FDA has told her to cut it out.

“It is said that there is no treatment against Ebola, and that is not true,” Laibow claims in a YouTube video — wearing a stethoscope and white lab coat, no less. “In fact, there is a well known, well characterized nutrient that is Nano Silver.”

The FDA has taken special aim at companies selling Nano Silver as a cure for Ebola. Some conspiracy theorists contend that the government crackdown on people promoting Nano Silver is because it works and “they” don’t want you to have the “real cure.”

“Nano Silver leaves the beneficial bacteria and the healthy cells of the patient unaffected but it does kill every pathogen against which it has been tested worldwide without exception,” Laibow explains without a single shred of evidence to back up her claims.

“Now, why hasn’t Nano Silver been brought forward already as a treatment against Ebola? There are many reasons. The fact is, it is available now,” she insists.

Good explanation. And available now, indeed! Available at your website!


2 • Sulphuricum acidum (and other homeopathic garbage)

Image: Homeopathic remedies at a pharmacy in London via Getty

Image: Homeopathic remedies at a pharmacy in London via Getty

A homeopathic “doctor” named Givon Kirkind is claiming that the best treatments for Ebola are sulphuricum acidum, crotus horridus, and crotalus cascavella. Which all have fancy scientific sounding names. But they won’t do shit for someone who actually has Ebola.

Why’s that, might you ask? Because homeopathy is bullshit. 100 percent complete and utter bullshit. The jury is not out on this one. Homeopathy is a $3 billion industry in the United States alone, but it’s completely ineffective and often dangerous.

Of course, Kirkind gets the disclaimers out of the way:

This article analyzes ebola from a homeopathic perspective and suggests possible courses of homeopathic treatment. Due to the seriousness of the disease, the treatments discussed would require an expert homeopath.

But since an “expert homeopath” is kind of like being an “expert unicorn psychologist” it’s probably best to just ignore his prescribed experiments altogether.

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Drinkable Sunscreen Snakeoil

steven_novellaBy Steven Novella via Science-Based Medicine

In May, prompted by an uncritical article in the Daily Mail, the internet was buzzing about a company that was offering drinkable sunscreen. This is one of those game-changer health products that immediately garners a great deal of attention.

At first the claim seems extraordinary, but it is not impossible. It is theoretically possible to drink a substance that becomes deposited in the skin and absorbs or reflects UV radiation providing protection. Sunscreen_250pxHowever, upon reading the details it becomes immediately apparent that the product in question is pure snake oil.

The product is Harmonized Water by Osmosis Skin Care. In fact, UV protection is just one claim among many for the harmonized water line of products. The website claims:

  • Remarkable technology that imprints frequencies (as standing waves) onto water molecules.
  • Advances in the ability to “stack” thousands of frequencies onto one molecule.
  • Revolutionary formula allows us to reverse engineer the frequencies of substances found in nature and/or the human body.
  • Newly identified frequencies that have beneficial effects on the body.

The website does include the “quack Miranda warning:”

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The product list also includes this further disclaimer: “Recommended for (but not meant to replace effective medications):”

And is then followed by a long list of harmonized water products with the conditions they are “recommended for,” including arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, asthma, depression, and many others.

SnakeOil_200pxDespite the aggressive disclaimers, I do believe that mentioning specific diseases by name violates FDA regulations. I did file a complaint with the FDA but never heard back.

This is a common snake-oil scam – selling “magic” water for one thing or another. The basic idea is that you can give special properties to ordinary water, and that somehow the water will retain these properties. Homeopathy, of course, is the grandfather of all such water woo. Ionized water, imprinted water, and energized water are all variations on this common theme.

The harmonized water is also playing off another common snake oil theme  .  .  .

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Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked

By Brooke Borel via Popular Science

What-are-GMOs-and-How-Safe-Are-They-_250pxLater this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture may approve the Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden, the first genetically modified apples to hit the market. Although it will probably be another two years before the non-browning fruits appears in stores, at least one producer is already scrambling to label its apples GMO-free.

The looming apple campaign is just the latest salvo in the ongoing war over genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—one that’s grown increasingly contentious.

[ . . . ]

But the truth is, GMOs have been studied intensively, and they look a lot more prosaic than the hype contends.

[ . . . ]

So what, exactly, do consumers have to fear? To find out, Popular Science chose 10 of the most common claims about GMOs and interviewed nearly a dozen scientists. Their collective answer: not much at all.

Continue reading: the 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked

Aspartame

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know

Aspartame is sweeter than sugar and packs less of a caloric punch. Sounds cool, right? So why has aspartame become one of the most controversial food additives in history?

Vaccine adverse events are rare–vast benefits outweigh risks

VACCINE 147 CROPPED
Via Skeptical Raptor

protected-water-vaccinesLike all medical procedures, devices and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective.

Sometimes the ratio is small. For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication. Yet, if you ask a patient whether it was worth it, to spend just a few extra months with their children and loved ones, the value becomes nearly incalculable.

But mostly, the FDA and other regulatory agencies demand that new products and procedures must meet or exceed the safety, and meet or exceed the financial and health benefits of currently acceptable versions. Actually, the FDA examines a lot more than that. They check packaging, shelf life, instructions, manufacturing practices, and so much more, it would take a book to explain it (and there probably are several). It may not be a perfect process, but it’s better than what we had 100 years ago, and it continues to improve every single day. People tend towards a form of confirmation bias where they remember where a drug may or may not have been found to be dangerous (best example is Vioxx). But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living. 

After arguing the scientific point of view with the antivaccination forces for nearly 15 years, I have observed that they tend to vastly overstate the safety risks, while vastly understating the financial and health benefits. It’s a form of the Nirvana Fallacy, which is a fallacy that if something is not perfect, then it’s junk. For some, if a vaccine is only 95% effective in stopping a disease, it’s worthless. And they want a “guarantee” that there are NO side effects of the vaccines, even when the “adverse effects” of a vaccine preventable disease could be hospitalization or death.

Of course, no pro-science proponent of vaccines would ever say “vaccines are perfect.” We never claim that vaccines never have an adverse effect, though there is no evidence that a vaccine has killed anyone in the last 30 years. On the other hand, I do have plenty of evidence that vaccine preventable diseases have killed children across the world, including the USA.

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Earth Day Festival 2014: How was the Woo?

by The Locke via The Soap Box

Last Sunday, April 26, I went down to my town’s annual Earth Day Festival to check out everything that was there, just like I do every year.

Last year I was appalled by the amount of pseudoscience and alternative medicine woo mixed in with all of the legitimate booths and displays promoting legitimate environmental causes and advice [read about it here] to the point where they pretty much overshadowed what the Earth Day festival was suppose to be about.

The worst offender last year of course was a booth promoting Anti-GMO conspiracy theories.

Fortunately that person wasn’t back this year, but still there were people back again promoting the same woo, including the Astrology and Tarot Card reader from last year  .  .  .

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.  .  .  and the chiropractors from last year are back as well  .  .  .

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.  .  .  but I have some new ones for this year, starting with this one:

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Now I admit at first glance this one wasn’t that bad, even through it had nothing to do with environmentalism.

Creating art can help relax a person and cut down on stress. That’s the good part about what’s being presented there.

Then there’s the woo.

They also promote past life regression and trauma healing, clearing of curses, negative spirits, and other stuff of the like, and how to protect yourself from such things, all while using nature and spiritual energy.

In other words instead of addressing any real things that can cause stress in a person’s life, they’re just claiming that it’s supernatural forces, and use “techniques” they claim to get from Shamanism to “cleanse” a person of these supernatural forces.

The next offender of promoters of woo that I saw there was  .  .  .

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Essential Oil Claims – The Dangers Keep On Coming

Eric HallBy Eric Hall via Skeptoid

Today I am going to focus specifically on one essential oil blog which came to my attention through a Facebook post about making your own “dry shampoo.” Why did I click on it? Sigh. Well, I did. I ended up at an essential oil seller making not just bogus claims, but downright dangerous claims. doula1_250px Of course, this seller protects herself with the standard FDA fake medicine disclaimer. Let’s look at a few of the more dangerous suggestions on the site.

Let’s meet Dana. Dana says she is doula and certified by DONA international. A doula is basically a coach for the birthing process. It does not signify any medical training. Yes, before you comment, I know there are nurses and other medical professionals that also serve as doulas. But she does not reveal any medical training. So in essence, she is a coach for the birth. She says:

My mission is to provide women with the information they need to make confident decisions about their labor, the emotional support to motivate them to the next level and the physical comfort to embrace their birth experience.

Based on the information on her website, she isn’t doing a great job of informing.
Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 8.00.25 PM_250px
[…]

Let’s look at the information on how to become a “home healer,” which turns out she admits simply means you use lots and lots of the product she is selling. She starts by selling an over $150 “family physician kit.” I find this claim to be dangerous, as well as a bit insulting. Being a physician requires medical education and years of training. To call yourself a physician is a bit like calling myself a professional hockey player because I occasionally shoot the puck around. Here are a few of the claims of the oils in this kit:

You may have already heard me talk about how I only ever use doTERRA’s essential oils, because they are 100% certified pure therapeutic grade. This makes me feel great because I know that what I’m putting in/on my body and my family’s body, is safe and natural. There are no synthetics or fillers in the doTERRA oils and they are highly potent and effective.

What does 100% certified therapeutic grade mean? It turns out the phase is a registered trademark of doTERRA. The great irony is the proponents of these oils claim “big pharma” is shady. snake oil_300px I can only imagine how they would feel if “big pharma” reviewed their own science without any FDA or peer review – because that is exactly what doTERRA is doing here. They have no science or any details on what this process means. In other words, it is nonsense.

The next claim is that what you are putting in your body is safe and natural. These are fake (alternative/homeopathic/natural/naturopathic/etc) medicine buzz words. Just because it is natural doesn’t make it safe all the time and in every case. And natural is another weird word. Usually in fake medicine circles as “coming from a plant,” it has no real meaning since the chemicals in the oils are still processed to make them “100% certified therapeutic grade.” So is that natural?

The statement about highly potent and effective is interesting. Because one of my problems with these oils is that because they come from plants, and there is no oversight as to how the oils are processed, the potency is a bit of an unknown.

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Pot. Marijuana. Cannabis. Misunderstood Motives.

By Eric Hall via Skeptoid

Bob Marley was a regular marijuana user. Bob Marley died of cancer on 11 May 1981; he was 36 years old.

Bob Marley was a regular user of marijuana.
Bob Marley died of cancer on May 11, 1981.

I have had a regular argument over the years with a family member about both the recreational use of pot and the use of pot and derived materials from pot. Many of the claims promoted by this family member surround its use in cancer. In fact, this person follows a group on Facebook called “Cannabis Cures Cancer.” Being a regular listener to scientifically-based podcasts, I was skeptical of the dramatic claims being made, as they seemed to be mostly anecdotal in origin. However, I thought I’d take a fresh look at the information to see where the science stands on cannabis.

In comparison to other treatments, the amount of information available discussing the science on this topic took a bit more digging. There are some preliminary studies for a wide variety of conditions, but no large scale studies or anything that would be close to market. To start, I looked over the information presented to me by this family member, which was a link to the National Cancer Institute at the NIH. I use the NIH website to find basic health information about medications I am taking, or to find out about treatments for minor injuries or illnesses, and find it to be a fairly trustworthy source.

However, this link makes me reevaluate that stance. Without any differentiation other than the web address, the entire topic falls under the umbrella of the NIH’s CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine) research. The only way to tell it falls here is in the web address itself; there is no disclosure on the page as such. The Science-Based Medicine blog does a great job covering why the NIH should not be promoting CAM. The problem I have lies with the lack of disclosure. The information in the article itself isn’t inaccurate, although the way it is written can be misleading.

The entire topic falls under the umbrella of the NIH’s CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine) research.

The entire topic falls under the umbrella of the NIH’s CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine) research.

One of the articles I did have in my stash of information is a recent blog from the Skeptical Raptor blog. This post does a great job summarizing the information being claimed about actually curing cancer. It actually uses published medical information, even linking to the abstracts in the NIH database. The article also addresses the above NIH National Cancer Institute page. Although some of the research into cannabis is interesting, it hasn’t progressed much beyond cell cultures and a couple of rat studies. The push-back I received using this article is because the “Skeptical Raptor” worked for the pharmaceutical industry, this is another attempt for “big pharma” to suppress the truth. The raptor does a great job addressing this:

cannabis copy…if cannabis or any of its components actually could show efficacy against any of the 200 or so cancers, Big Pharma would be all over it. Because, they would not be selling joints, they would be distilling the active ingredient, determining the exact dose, determining how to deliver it to the exact cancer site, funding clinical trials, filing documentation with the FDA, then getting it into physician’s hands. This is not an easy process, but it would be a profitable one if it worked. Big Pharma and the National Cancer Institute is looking at everything, and they ignore nothing for potential. If cannabis works (and it might), they are all over it. Big Pharma is providing a lot of the funding for it.

And he is right. A cure for cancer would be highly profitable. If it is one thing the conspiracy theorists and skeptics can agree on, it is that corporations are driven by profits. Making money in and of itself is not a sign of bad motives.

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Homeopathic Products Recalled for Containing Actual Drugs

Story H/T: @ Skeptic Wars


steven_novellaBy via NeuroLogica Blog

Homeopathy is bunk. It is 100% pure unadulterated pseudoscience. That is – unless it is adulterated with actual working medicine.

The FDA recently put out a safety alert warning the public that certain homeopathic products may contain measurable amount of penicillin, enough to cause an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive:

pleo-fortTerra-Medica, Inc. is voluntarily recalling 56 lots of Pleo-FORT, Pleo-QUENT, Pleo-NOT, Pleo-STOLO, Pleo-NOTA-QUENT, and Pleo-EX homeopathic drug products in liquid, tablet, capsule, ointment, and suppository forms to the consumer level. FDA has determined that these products have the potential to contain penicillin or derivatives of penicillin, which may be produced during the fermentation process. In patients who are allergic to beta-lactam antibiotics, even at low levels, exposure to penicillin can result in a range of allergic reactions from mild rashes to severe and life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. See the press release for a complete listing of products affected by this recall.

One has to wonder if the company was aware that their product contained penicillin.  That’s a pretty good scam. In the US homeopathic products do not require testing or any FDA approval process. They are essentially pre-approved by law. homeopathy 803_250pxWhile this is a shameful scam, at least homeopathic remedies are completely inactive – nothing but water placed on sugar pills. However, some specific products have been found to have functional levels of active ingredients, so they are not truly homeopathic. For example, some Zicam products were found to contain active levels of zinc, and was linked to anosmia (a loss of smell) in some cases.

In this way a company can market a drug that has actual pharmacological activity, but market it as a homeopathic product that requires no testing and is automatically approved.

This is obviously a dangerous situation. Drugs need to be carefully regulated because they can cause allergic reactions, they are not safe to use in certain condtions, and they can interact with other drugs. In this case there is also the issue of overuse of antibiotics resulting in increased bacterial resistance.

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Medical Conspiracies

steven_novellaconspiracy medical health_100pxBy via Science-Based Medicine

Anyone publicly writing about issues of science and medicine from a pro-science perspective likely gets many e-mails similar to the ones I see every week. Here’s just one recent example:

Im sorry the medical community has become decadent and lazy as most that follow your stance could care less to study the real truth. I have also seen it much more deviant as many professionals know the risks and harm vaccination cause but continue to push it through there practices because of pure greed. Many are also scared of loosing there practices for not following the corrupt industry. Im sorry but the medical industry has become drug pushing decadent slobs that only care about there bottom line.

The e-mailer clearly has a particular narrative that he is following (in addition to the amusingly common poor grammar and spelling). He even writes at one point in our exchange, ProfessorHugoStrange“the details really don’t matter at this point what matters is what the bigger picture…” He is certain of his big picture conspiracy narrative. The details are unimportant.

Being on the receiving end of an almost constant barrage of such medical conspiracy theories it might seem that such beliefs are extremely common. Of course, such e-mails are self-selective and therefore not representative of the general population. I was therefore interested to see a published survey polling the general population about such beliefs. The survey is published in JAMA Internal Medicine, authored by Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood.

Here are the six survey questions and the percentage who agree or disagree (the rest indicating that they do not know).

The Food and Drug Administration is deliberately preventing the public from getting natural cures for cancer and other diseases because of pressure from drug companies. (37% agree, 32% disagree)

needle_175pxHealth officials know that cell phones cause cancer but are doing nothing to stop it because large corporations won’t let them. (20% agree, 40% disagree)

The CIA deliberately infected large numbers of African Americans with HIV under the guise of a hepatitis inoculation program. (12% agree, 51% disagree)

The global dissemination of genetically modified foods by Monsanto Inc is part of a secret program, called Agenda 21, launched by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations to shrink the world’s population. (12% agree, 42% disagree)

Doctors and the government still want to vaccinate children even though they know these vaccines cause autism and other psychological disorders. (20% agree, 44% disagree)

Public water fluoridation is really just a secret way for chemical companies to dump the dangerous byproducts of phosphate mines into the environment. (12% agree, 46% disagree)

The numbers are not surprising, in fact I would have guessed they were a bit higher, but again that perception is likely distorted by my e-mail inbox. They found that 49% of Americans agreed with at least one conspiracy, and 18% agreed with three or more. This is in line with the level of belief in non-medical conspiracies. They did not publish, but I would be interested, in the percentage of people who said they disagreed with all of the conspiracies. Many of the respondents indicated that they did not know if a particular conspiracy were true, likely because they had not heard of it before, but were unwilling to disagree on plausibility grounds alone.

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Half Of Americans Believe in Medical Conspiracy Theories

By Rachael Rettner via LiveScience

"Do you see what vaccines have done to me?"

“Do you see what vaccines have done to me?”

About half of Americans agree with at least one medical conspiracy theory, a new study suggests.

The study surveyed more than 1,300 Americans to see whether they agreed with six popular medical conspiracy theories — such as the discredited link between vaccines and autism, or the belief that water fluoridation is a cover-up to allow companies to dump dangerous chemicals into the environment.

Nearly half, or 49 percent, of those surveyed agreed with at least one medical conspiracy theory, and 18 percent agreed with three or more theories.

The most commonly endorsed theory was the belief that the Food and Drug Administration is “deliberately preventing the public from getting natural cures for cancer and other diseases because of pressure from drug companies.” More than a third of Americans, or 37 percent, agreed with this statement.

Twenty percent agreed with the statement: “Health officials know that cell phones cause cancer but are doing nothing to stop it because large corporations won’t let them.” The vaccine-autism link was supported by 20 percent of participants.

Study researcher Eric Oliver, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, said he was not surprised by the findings. Studies of American’s belief in political conspiracy theories have yielded similar results.

“We see that Americans have conspiracy theories about a lot of things, not just about politics, but also about health and medicine as well,” Oliver said.

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Student Questions: Magic Wristbands, Laser Danger, and ManBearPig

Skeptoid answers another round of questions sent in by students all around the world.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via Skeptoid

Read transcript below or listen here

Once again we’re taking a week to answer questions sent in by students all around the world. Any question is welcome from any student. Today we’re going to explore the question of whether Stanley Kubrick made The Shining as a confession that he was behind the alleged moon landing hoax; whether acupressure wristbands are a way to cure nausea or just a placebo; whether you should use hydrogen peroxide as a bactericide on minor wounds; the song Gloomy Sunday and if it has indeed been connected with an increased number of suicides; the true nature of whatever danger can be expected from common laser pointers; and whether we need to worry about hoards of human-animal hybrids swarming down from the mountains. Let’s get started at a creepy old lodge hidden away up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado:

Stanley Kubrick Faked the Moon Landings

Hello, Brian. I am a sophomore going to Mira Costa college in Oceanside, California. I recently heard about a conspiracy theory which states that Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining, is actually a big allusion to the fact that he helped NASA cover up the moon landings. This particular conspiracy was recently featured in the documentary, Room 237, and I was wondering if there is any truth in this. Thank you for your help.

Moon-Landing-Hoax_200pxRoom 237 was a 2012 documentary film that features five people, each of whom has a different obsessive interpretation of Kubrick’s 1980 movie The Shining. One believes it was was really about the Holocaust; another believes it was about the plight of native Americans. One of the five was conspiracy theorist Jay Weidner, who believes that Kubrick made the movie to confess that he had faked the moon landing films. There are hardly any bizarre conspiracy theories Weidner has not promoted, including the 2012 apocalypse, the claim that Denver International Airport is a headquarters for the Illuminati, and that the Georgia Guidestones monument is actually some sort of Rosicrucian shrine.

The_Shining_2345798bWeidner’s evidence that The Shining was Kubrick’s moon hoax confession leaves one wanting, to put it mildly. The kid in the film wears a sweater with an Apollo rocket on it… and that’s about all. The other points he raises are wrong; that 237 was chosen because the moon is 237,000 miles away (it’s not), and that a pattern in the hotel’s carpet looks like the Apollo launchpad (it doesn’t remotely). The Shining was based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel; Kubrick didn’t even write it himself. Room 237 is not about The Shining, it’s about five bizarre theories and the people who come up with them. Don’t miss the point and assume that the theories were being seriously presented.

Acupressure Wristbands

Hi Brian, my name is Rachel Bloom. The other day, I was watching ABC’s Shark Tank and a woman came on touting her own brand of anti-nausea acupressure wristbands. She said they were “FDA Approved.” I have a lot of friends who use these wristbands, and, after doing a little bit of internet research, it looks like there have actually been studies where the acupressure wristbands were more effective than placebos in combating motion sickness and/or nausea. So, my question is: what’s the deal with these wristbands? Thanks.

wrist band_200pxYou bring up two points. First, FDA approval. This does not necessarily mean that the FDA has tested the device and found that it works. In this case, the applicants merely have to show that similar devices (which may or may not have been tested) are already for sale. This is all that’s needed for the FDA to grant clearance for a company to market something. In the case of Sea Band, one of the more popular wristbands, such clearance based on the existence of similar products is all they ever received from the FDA. Obviously, Sea Band trumpets the fact as if it constitutes an endorsement, which it’s not.

Second, whether they work. You are correct that tests have shown them to be effective, however all such tests that I was able to find were uncontrolled and unblinded. Randomized controlled trials of the wristbands, however, have had very different results. The Institute of Naval Medicine did such a test in 1990 and found that Sea Bands performed no better than placebo, and both were outperformed by scopolamine. Even in post-surgical nausea, controlled tests have found no improvement through the use of wristbands.

Acupressure Wristband_200pxAn interesting warning sign to be aware of is that research that tends to find a positive result usually has not only poor experimental design, but almost always mentions the “P6 acupressure point” on the wrist. This is a sure sign that the article is written from a pro-acupressure perspective. “P6 acupressure point” is not a medical or scientific term and is only used in the acupressure community.

Although the placebo effect can be very compelling and creates passionate believers, the wrist simply has no connection to your body’s sense of nausea, and no plausible hypothesis has ever been suggested to explain how it might.

Read more student questions answered by Brian Dunning at Skeptoid

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