The importance of critical thinking in discerning reputable sources

The volume of material published and shared by anti-fluoride, anti-vaccine, pro “alternative” health – all which fall under the deceptive catch phrase of “pro-choice” – is notably bereft of critical thinking.

No doubt there will always be some attracted to the notion of oppressive governments and dark conspiracies. Research indicates the psychological predisposition to conspiracy theory is highly resilient. Yet the persistence of the claim vaccines are the cause of a host of childhood ailments, that homeopathy is effective or that fluoride is a poison added to water supplies, may in part indicate poor cognitive manipulation of available information.

It is not uncommon to find preposterous claims circulating as a purported superior health choice. Such material is favoured by those who contend they are exercising “pro-choice” as a result of having “done my research”. It’s clear that no independent, accredited source has evaluated this “research”. It is more evident that the person has not sought reputable source material or thoroughly investigated critiques of the main aspects of their research. Let’s try claims by one so-called alternative. Homeopathy.

A good example would be claims made by homeopath Isaac Golden. Golden claims homeoprophylaxis (homeopathic immunisations) are a safe and effective alternative to vaccination. In a very short time one can find that homeopathy has not been shown to offer any measurable effect beyond placebo.

Consider the National Health and Medical Research Council statement on homeopathy [PDF].

The media release opens:

The National Health and Medical Research Council today released a statement concluding that there is no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is effective in treating health conditions. Its release follows a thorough review of the evidence, conducted as part of NHMRC’s responsibility to provide advice and support informed health care decisions by the Australian community.

The conclusion is based on the findings of a rigorous assessment of more than 1800 papers. Of these, 225 studies met the criteria to be included in NHMRC’s examination of the effectiveness of homeopathy. The review found no good quality, well-designed studies with enough participants to support the idea that homeopathy works better than a placebo, or causes health improvements equal to those of another treatment.

A little more time reading evidence based material will reveal the mechanism of homeopathy to be impossible. In short it simply cannot work without rewriting aspects of physics and chemistry. Homeopaths often actually admit this – while being dishonest about observed effects.

Homeopathy Plus

Golden himself makes much of having completed a PhD in homeoprophylaxis, leaving the uneducated listener or reader under the impression that this thoroughly discredited pseudoscience is in fact a safe option in health science. Or as opponents of vaccination insist: a Choice. Indeed Golden claims homeopathic vaccines are an option which is “comparably effective but which is non toxic, which provides no danger, no long term side effects”.

In June this year “Dr. Isaac Golden’s Academy” was offering a YesCourse.

IsaacGolden_YesCourse

Yet in his PhD abstract Golden admits;

The effectiveness of the program could not be established with statistical certainty given the limited sample size and the low probability of acquiring an infectious disease.

Indeed. Not to mention the reality of an ethics committee. Let’s be clear. No success was demonstrated with this paper. So Golden also writes:

However, a possible level of effectiveness of 90.3% was identified subject to specified limitations. Further research to confirm the effectiveness of the program is justified.

Possible efficacy, subject to specified limitations, that requires further research is a very, very clear way of documenting no effect. I apologise but there are no prizes for guessing Golden has not gone on to search for, much less publish, the possible efficacy. This won’t prevent him waxing lyrical on “my own PhD” as a source in defence of homeoprophylaxis.

Furthermore Golden’s work has been cited by Fran Sheffield of Homeopathy Plus in defence of her own business. The danger of Golden’s ambitious work and lax clarification can be summed up in Sheffield’s marketing. Referring to his inability to establish efficacy to any degree, she advertised:

Dr Isaac Golden confirmed that homeoprophylaxis provides the same degree, or better protection, than vaccines with none of their side effects or complications

In 2010, following a complaint from Dr. Ken Harvey, the TGA’s Complaints Resolution Panel ordered that a Retraction be published on site. Sheffield ignored the request. Regarding the TGA Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, Sheffield was also noted to have acted in a misleading manner, abusing the trust and exploiting the lack of knowledge of consumers. A summary and key details can be found here at the Skeptics’ Book of Pooh-Pooh.

The notion that parents who choose alternatives are not actually researching or seeking reputable advice on their apparently “informed choice” is in this case further highlighted by ongoing offending by Fran Sheffield and Homeopathy Plus! In May 2012 the ACCC announced it had responded to complaints from the medical industry about bogus claims on the Homeopathy Plus! website. Namely that the pertussis vaccine was ineffective and that Homeopathy Plus! offered an effective homeopathic immunisation for pertussis.

On February 21st 2013 the ACCC instigated Federal Court proceedings against Homeopathy Plus! as the pseudoscience recalcitrant persisted in endangering the health of Australian children and infants. The claims made were in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, and were misleading and deceptive. The ACCC media release included;

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted Federal Court proceedings over allegedly misleading claims on a homeopathy website regarding the effectiveness of the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine.

The ACCC has taken proceeding against Homeopathy Plus! Australia Pty Ltd and against the owners of the Homeopathy Plus! website.

The claims on the Homeopathy Plus! website include statements that the whooping cough vaccine is “unreliable” and “largely ineffective” in preventing whooping cough and that homeopathic remedies are a safe and effective alternative for the prevention and treatment of whooping cough.

On December 23rd, 2014, the ACCC reported that the Federal Court had found both Homeopathy Plus! and Frances Sheffield had engaged in misleading conduct and made false or misleading representations regarding the effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine and homeopathic remedies as an alternative in breach of the Australian Consumer Law. Sheffield and Homeopathy Plus! had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. Put simply, Fran Sheffield had continued to use her website to lie to unfortunate visitors who were not in the habit of critically investigating such claims.

Harking back to the echo of Isaac (My own PhD) Golden we read (emphasis mine);

The Court also found that Homeopathy Plus! and Ms Sheffield engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false and misleading representations to the effect that there was an adequate foundation in medical science for the statement that homeopathic treatments are a safe and effective alternative to the whooping cough vaccine, when in fact no such foundation exists and the vaccine is the only treatment currently approved for use and accepted by medical practitioners for the prevention of whooping cough.

I should be clear. This is only one arm of a notable junk science making as a matter of course outrageous claims. To see that so many can be fooled into believing plain water can protect from disease in a manner no-one can explain, is to some, mind boggling. But to be even clearer the information to debunk such nonsense and thus protect yourself and family is there to be found.

It is plain that scam artists, conspiracy theorists and so on cannot be swayed by the findings of official investigations or years of scientific consensus. Thus it is better to ignore those who claim to hold an apparent truth or a wonderful therapy and subject their claims to robust and varied critique.

Critiques can be made for all of the pseudosciences purporting to offer a superior or natural alternative to evidence based medicine. The same applies to the unwarranted attacks on vaccines, fluoride, medical intervention and so on. A far better way to approach these topics is to do so with the confidence to review material from a bipartisan standpoint. Where claims of conspiracies or corporate corruption for profit are made be very skeptical.

Make a habit of visiting consumer advocacy groups, such as Choice. Spend some of that research time looking over the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. We looked at both of these and the NHMRC, above. Let’s say the best your new friends at Essence Of Moonbeam are offering in response is a claimed conspiracy, the mocking of “sheeple” or bemoaning the trampling of rights (or that “informed choice”). I’d say you’re pretty safe in concluding genuine evidence has caught up with debunking their claims.

No-one can develop the skills or knowledge base from the Internet to argue that “my research” on one topic is sufficient to make decisions that are traditionally overseen by specialists or experts. The skill we can develop is that by which we can discern between a reputable source and a disreputable source. And this process should include discussions with genuine, experienced practitioners.

There is too much information on individual areas of health to allow us to investigate fully and believe we may come away educated and/or able to advise others. Where new trends are jostling for our attention and money there are recurring themes that help reveal them to be useless.

The skills we develop in discerning the reputable from bogus information sources are increasingly the skills that will benefit us in more ways than seeking optimal health.

Dangerous Food Fads

~ Superfood is a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits ~

superfoods1The growing uptake of truly ridiculous (and frankly quite dangerous) super food trends continues apace with much thanks to the internet and increasingly, social media.

Far from a byproduct of the “information super-highway”, the pseudoscience, deception and planned scamming that can be seen today is better considered a byproduct of a wild roller coaster ride through The Twilight Zone.

The humble blueberry is a so-called “superfood”. Nutritional information may be found here. The Wikipedia entry on superfoods notes that Blueberries [are] a so-called “superfood” that actually does not have an unusually dense nutrient content. These berries contain anthocyanin which is a flavinoid with antioxidant capability. Along with the semantics of “wellness” there are many similar miracles supposed to control toxins. It is best to ignore this marketing niche at all costs. Sometimes expensive costs.

Consider this con from a heartless long term offender who has made a fortune from misleading the public with his often very dangerous nonsense.

Imagine a plant that can nourish your body by providing most of the protein you need to live, help prevent the annoying sniffling and sneezing of allergies, reinforce your immune system, help you control high blood pressure and cholesterol, and help protect you from cancer. Does such a “super food” exist?

Yes. It’s called spirulina.

Unlike plants you may grow in your garden, this “miracle” plant is a form of blue-green algae that springs from warm, fresh water bodies.

The “wellness” push for foods that are supposed to be “super” and as such capable of proactive, reactive (or both) types of veritable nutritional magic is consonant with similar and supporting health beliefs and movements. The anti-vaccine movement spends a great deal of time in the superfood/antioxidant driving gear. Uncertain parents are led to believe that vaccines contain untested “poisons… toxins… chemicals” and thus can certainly harm.

The answer – albeit monumentally wrong – is to avoid vaccines and instead pursue all things natural. So too it is with illness and alarmingly, cancer. The author of The View From The Hills, Rosalie Hillman stepped up to the plate and asked some vital questions of a young lady, Jessica Ainscough. It is astonishing Jessica’s claims were going unchallenged. Rather than being challenged for promoting the impossible, she was virtually worshipped as the head of her own “tribe”. Ainscough was being presented as having (and who was basically claiming to have) cured cancer through diet, the well known alternative pseudoscientific and thoroughly discredited Gerson Therapy and positive thinking.

The Gerson Institute claims:

With its whole-body approach to healing, the Gerson Therapy naturally reactivates your body’s magnificent ability to heal itself – with no damaging side effects. This a powerful, natural treatment boosts the body’s own immune system to heal cancer, arthritis, heart disease, allergies, and many other degenerative diseases. Dr. Max Gerson developed the Gerson Therapy in the 1930s, initially as a treatment for his own debilitating migraines, and eventually as a treatment for degenerative diseases such as skin tuberculosis, diabetes and, most famously, cancer.

Basically Gerson approach concludes we are bombarded with toxins and carcinogens over our lifetime. Gerson plays the magic Ace card in claiming to “restore the body’s ability to heal itself”. This message is pushed hard. The body can heal itself. It is this amazing ability we have lost and which apparently demands kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables daily in conjunction with the thrice daily enemas. The infamous coffee enemas ensure toxins will be eliminated from the liver.

Jessica Ainscough passed away from epithelioid sarcoma on February 26th 2015. Her cancer progressed as evidence based medicine would suggest for a woman of her age diagnosed when she was in 2008. Tragically Jessica’s mother, Sharyn, chose to follow Gerson Therapy in an attempt to defeat breast cancer. This meant abandoning radiotherapy.

Addressing both cases the ABC wrote:

Despite Cancer Council advice that Gerson Therapy was not proven to work, Ms Ainscough persisted, embarking on an alcohol-free vegan diet, drinking raw juices, taking vitamin supplements and undergoing coffee enemas daily.

She made videos explaining how to administer enemas and posted them on YouTube, although that video is now marked private.

When Ms Ainscough’s mother, Sharyn, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she followed her daughter’s lead and put her faith in Gerson Therapy.

Sharyn died in October 2014.

Whilst there are many heartless scam artists, such as Hellfried Sartori, aka “Dr. Death” and those genuinely deluded by their beliefs, one person deserves special mention. It appears that Belle Gibson managed to sink as far as one Meryl Dorey in that pleas for money donations from the public accompanied promises donations would be passed to charity. Gibson had named charitable organisations. As with Dorey this was not the case, although now under the glare of media scrutiny she has indicated the promised donations will be paid.

Gibsons The Whole Pantry app made the grade as a permanent app for the Apple Watch. It now seems Apple have pulled the app from Australian and USA app stores, but it is unclear if it will be and it has also been removed from promotional material as a permanent app from the much anticipated Apple Watch and iPad Air 2.

Sarah Berry wrote in SMH:

Gibson has a top-rating health app that was one of the promoted apps on Apple’s new watch.

Its success and the empire she has built comes from her incredible story of triumph over adversity, of sickness into self-empowered health.

It is a story that we now know was at best embellished and at worst was an outright lie.

Penguin have already dropped her recipe book by the same name. One hopes arrangements can be made so the scam app never sees the light of day as a permanent app on Apple’s watch.

Dangerous Food Fads


As Jenny McCartney recently noted the urge to believe in the magic of change turns consumer gullibility into fertile ground for the absurd claims made by every type of entrepreneur from well meaning fools to cunning scam artists. Gibson is reportedly back in Australia, but seriously who cares?

The damage has been done. Research indicates that even with brutally thorough exposure and follow up high quality debunking of anti-medicine and anti-science lies, the misinformation sticks. In this case it is not the lie of vaccines causing autism. Yet sadly it is a louder echo of a trumpet the antivaccinationists love to blow. Primarily that surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy do little for successful treatment of cancer.

The scale of Gibson’s rort is truly frightening. How many will follow her manufactured rubbish is unknown. But the fact remains that her army of followers and supporters will continue to support her pantry nonsense. Certainly many will realise the scam, but others – particularly the hard core anti-medicine crew – will dig in and find comfort in the usual conspiracies.

Consumers must develop skills in recognising reputable sources. As with the misinformation relating to vaccination and vaccines. Doing “research” just doesn’t cut it. Far better to have the means by which we can identify good, trustworthy material and spot the signs that give away trickery that is simply too good to be true. With cancer time is vital and whilst eating well is in itself not harmful, time spent thinking it is “treatment” is time lost from actual proven treatments.

This handbook from The Cancer Council provides excellent advice and tips on identifying dodgy sources and outright scams. As mentioned in the last post consider, “How will I know if claims of a cure are false?”. On page 39 of this booklet they note that the dishonest and unethical may;

  • Try to convince you your cancer has been caused by a poor diet or stress: they will claim they can treat you or cure your cancer with a special diet
  • Promise a cure – or to detoxify, purify or revitalise your body. There will be quick dramatic and wonderful results – a miracle cure
  • Use untrustworthy claims to back up their results rather than scientific-based evidence from clinical trials. They may even list references. But if you look deeper these references may be false, nonexistent, irrelevant, based on poorly designed research and out of date
  • Warn you that medical professionals are hiding “the real cure for cancer” and not to trust your doctor
  • Display credentials not recognised by reputable scientists and health professionals

Always speak to your doctor and be aware that even the best intentions of friends can unwittingly disarm you through peer pressure. There is no cure for cancer, but there are excellent treatments.

Avoid food fads as a means to health and beware of the wellness trend.

UPDATE – April 2nd, 2015. Belle Gibson will not be facing police action over fraud. Consumer Affairs Victoria has noted that dishonest and misleading actions of the business, The Whole Pantry, “may constitute a breach of the Fundraising Act 1998 or Australian Consumer Law (Victoria)”. Presently CAV are “ascertaining the facts around Gibson and her companies collection of funds and promises of donations.

One ring to rule them all… revisited

On April 2nd 2009 I wrote a post about a scam product claiming to stop snoring by stimulating acupressure points.

One ring to rule them all… looked at the AntiSnor “acupressure… modern miracle” that could boast of 140,000 satisfied customers. The post originated on the Atheist Age blog and fortunately attracted some comments from a David E. Woodley.

According to David there were some conflicting details about the ring’s inventor John R. Woodley – David’s father and, “our greedy and selfish and underhanded little brother John V. Woodley” or ‘Golum’ as he is affectionately called by family members these days”. This had led to two separate stories as to how the power of this ring was discovered circulating in the public domain.

golum_snor1annotatedOne story was that John Woodley, aka Golum had made the ring in an attempt to find pain relief following a car accident. The other story was that John Woodley Snr. had made the ring for his wife. She was heading to hospital and needed to control embarrassing snoring.

Clearly a magic ring was in order.

That I’d chosen the title, “One ring to rule them all…” and then found out later that he who coveted ownership of The Precious was nicknamed “Golum”, was indeed delightful. Or perhaps testimony to the limits of my imagination.

Since the post was written, the ACCC published a media release. On March 25th, 2010 they wrote in part;

Misleading advertising claims about an alleged anti-snoring ring have been withdrawn by the manufacturer and supplier after Australian Competition and Consumer Commission intervention.

More than 200,000 consumers worldwide are understood to have sought relief from the Anti Snor Therapeutic Ring which the supplier, ATQOL Pty Ltd, claimed used acupressure to stop a person from snoring and provide a relief from sinus, restless sleep and insomnia.

The ring was sold at most major chemist and health store chains in Australia and promoted through national television advertising and the company’s website.

Additionally, the company’s website, www.nosnor.com, claimed the ring had a ‘proven history of successful drug free treatment of snoring’ and was ‘Tested and recommended by a Physician’.

The ACCC raised concerns that these claims were likely to mislead consumers to believe that the product had proven medical outcomes in treating snoring, sinus, restless sleep and insomnia when this was not so.

antisnor ring

AntiSnor: Purportedly the two impressions place pressure on acupressure points on the inside of the finger and thus relieve snoring

It was claimed in 2009 that this modern miracle works because the little bumps apply pressure on key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the body’s natural self-curative abilities. The two prongs on the inside of the Antisnor Therapeutic Ring press on the heart meridian and the sterling silver metal also gives energy to this channel. Wearing the ring increases energy flow to what is referred to as the upper jiao, which contains the heart and lungs. This allows for improved breathing, which leads to the cessation of snoring”.

Yes. The ACCC were onto something to be sure. Pharmacy News confirmed that the manufacturers of the “deceptive” One Ring had complied.

Time has passed.

In 2011 Choice listed AntiSnor amongst “quack” health products pharmacies sell.

A year ago Choice included AntiSnor amongst it’s collation of dubious pharmacy-sold products.

The website now lists results and a conclusion from a purported 2012 clinical trial, conducted in France by Proclaim. Under the heading, The ACCC and AntiSnor acupressure ring it is no surprise that we read, “ATQOL first developed an innovative natural therapy product in 1999, based on nerve point stimulation and the ancient Chinese practice of acupressure. After being approached by the ACCC in 2009, we began scientific research into Western medical reasoning behind why this product is so effective. This lead to conducting an independent Clinical Trial performed in France with alarmingly positive results.”

It continues with some Peacock terminology;

Clinical trials concluded in 2012 conducted by PROCLAIM ( France ) supervised by Sonia Guillou ( Study Director) Lydie Guiard (Technician) and Dr Mathilde Rauch ( Pulmonologist Specialist)
2009 , Registered in Germany (DIMDI) Class 1 medical device for Acupressure Snoring Device ( UMDNS Reg; DE/CA67/53.2-2678.400/102 )
Registered with the Australian TGA (184173)
After a two year filing process in 2012 the ANTISNOR Ring was given an exemption snoring device sold over the counter by the USA FDA.

So now the AntiSnor acupressure/reflexology ring has a proud website boasting on the home page:

antisnor_home page

A visit to the site confirms that the registration of TGA listed products in Australia still benefits the sponsor of these products more than consumers. Despite the fact that testimonials are not evidence and there is no evidence of a control group – or indeed the much touted study itself – readers are informed this very same product is now “clinically proven” to reduce snoring. Somehow it even involves “modern medical technology”. The link to “articles” takes readers to blurbs crafted to support the logic of an “acupressure” ring.

We’re also informed, “Our website may contain links to other websites “ONLY” operated by ATQOL Pty Ltd”. And the study is condensed to this bar graph based on participant answers:

sleep quality

Whilst the study may be absent, there is a “conclusion”:

The report concludes that “77% of the spouses and 80% of the snorers were satisfied with the anti-snoring ring” (page 25) and that … “the anti-snoring ring … tested under the supervision of a pulmonologist doctor by 30 couples, was effective in reducing snoring and improving the sleep quality of the snorer and his spouse” (page 25)

Presently the ring remains on sale in Australian pharmacies and consumers are offered testimonials as evidence of efficacy.

“Deal or Dud” judges AntiSnor

Alternatives to medicine continue to sail a wave of misinformation

Every week up to a thousand Australians are dying in the public hospital system alone from adverse reactions to properly prescribed medication and hospital borne infections and medical error. This is the elephant in the room. If the government and medical community are really concerned about the health of Australians, why aren’t they doing something about this obvious, um, huge cause of death in Australia instead of worrying about measles?

Meryl Dorey, anti-medical science lobbyist – October 19th, 2013

The arguably spectacular misinformation Meryl Dorey pushes as an antivaccinationist, comes often as what can most kindly be called an utterly ridiculous mantra designed to promote fear of scientific based medicine.

double standards

This was in response to eight infant fatalities associated temporally with Hepatitis B vaccination in China. Regrettably China’s growing success with mass hepatitis B vaccination has now met a challenge. Fortunately in China the medical community is working effectively with the evidence and training they have. Despite the unambiguous harm HBV has caused China and the success of HBV vaccine programmes worldwide, Dorey commented on Facebook as seen above.

I won’t overly review Dorey’s claims on medical error and hospital borne infection. Although (updated in December 2011) a 2009 report from the Australian Group on Antimicrobial Resistance cited Commun Dis Intell 2011;35(3):237–243, and notes in the Abstract (bold mine):

Given hospital outbreaks of CA-MRSA are thought to be extremely rare it is most likely that patients colonised at admission with CA-MRSA have become infected with the colonising strain during their hospital stay.

We can place the general figure on medication in context by looking at adverse reactions. The TGA reporting system kicked off in the late 1960’s becomming computerised in 1972. As 2011 came to a close there were 247,000 suspected adverse events in the TGA database. It’s also worth adding that a primary aspect of “medical error” is indeed that of Adverse Drug Reaction, making Dorey’s claim somewhat meaningless.

Adverse reactions_TGA_drop shadow

Origin of Adverse Events 2006 – 2011 (TGA)

In 2011 the TGA received approximately 14,400 reports with 52% from pharmaceutical companies, 12% from hospitals, 7% from General Practitioners (GPs), 18% from State and Territory Health Departments and 3% from consumers. The sources for other reports (8%) include community pharmacists and specialists.

Placing the scale of insult inherent in Ms. Dorey’s deceit even more in context we should note that the TGA received an average of 1,200 reports each month. This includes all events – not just those involving mortality. More so the TGA receive data from six sources with the category of “hospital” enveloping public and private. The Department of Health and Ageing regards hospital outbreaks of community-associated MRSA as “extremely rare”.

Thus, Meryl Dorey’s 1,000 fatalities per week in Australian public hospitals appears to be beyond tenuous.

However there are a number of problems facing those taken in by the growing trend of “natural” or “alternative” choices to medicine. Not only is there growing evidence of harm, the absence of any efficacy at all is frequently documented.

Seventeen year old Christopher Herrera is one of a growing number who face organ damage, organ failure or death thanks to herbal supplements each year. In his case a “fat burning” dietary supplement resulted in liver damage. Initially placed on a transplant list, Chris was able to keep his liver but his lifestyle is now markedly compromised.

The New York Times report that such supplements account for 20% of drug related liver damage. This is a three-fold increase from a decade ago and comes from a review of the most severe cases in the USA. Evaluators believe the actual figure is higher. As is the case in Australia a lack of strict regulation standards for these products result in over-inflated claims, not backed by evidence, and the potential for adulteration of the product itself.

This December 17th, The Annals of Internal Medicine published three conclusive articles on both the harm and inefficacy linked to alternatives to medicine. An editorial Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money On Vitamin and Mineral Supplements, summarised the research.

After reviewing 3 trials of multivitamin supplements and 24 trials of single or paired vitamins that randomly assigned more than 400 000 participants, the authors concluded that there was no clear evidence of a beneficial effect of supplements on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.

In another instance the efficacy of daily multivitamin usage to prevent cognitive decline in just under 6,000 men aged 65 or older was evaluated.

After 12 years of follow-up, there were no differences between the multivitamin and placebo groups in overall cognitive performance or verbal memory. […] … compatible with a recent review of 12 fair- to good-quality trials that evaluated dietary supplements, including multivitamins, B vitamins, vitamins E and C, and omega-3 fatty acids, in persons with mild cognitive impairment or mild to moderate dementia. None of the supplements improved cognitive function.

Another study looked at supplement with high-dose, 28-component multivitamins involving 1708 males and females who had previously suffered a myocardial infarction.

After a median follow-up of 4.6 years, there was no significant difference in recurrent cardiovascular events with multivitamins compared with placebo (hazard ratio, 0.89 [95% CI, 0.75 to 1.07]). The trial was limited by high rates of nonadherence and dropouts.

The authors note that research into vitamins and minerals in the prevention of chronic disease “have consistently found null results or possible harms”. Data from tens of thousands of people in randomly assigned trials show “β-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements increase mortality”.

Yes – increase mortality.

Later they stress most supplements do nothing when it comes to preventing chronic disease or death and with no justification for use, should be avoided.

An audio summary of these editorial points can be accessed here.

An audio summary of the editorial is below, or an MP3 may be downloaded here. (Firefox Users. If you’re using the Bluhell Firewall add-on click “allow” as the file is quite safe).

Thus whilst the anti-vaccine and anti-medical science lobby continually manage to distort discussions on the value of conventional medicine, the evidence is time and again not in their favour. We are either hearing of the dangers of modern medicine itself or the wonders of natural concoctions.

Both trends are dangerous and fallacious.

Of chiropractic tripe and the odd zebra stripe

When we think of chiropractic and Equidae, it’s usually unicorns that come to mind.

The search for the chiropractic subluxation has been as fruitful as the search for the unicorn. In fact perhaps less fruitful, as we know with a high degree of accuracy what the unicorn looks like. Yet with the chiropractic subluxation our fairy tale is limited to conjuring mystical malaise or blaming dastardly disease as the work of this elusive evil.

chiro face palm

Do not be alarmed. This man has not seen a unicorn.

Rather, he had just been told that chiropractic subluxations

involve some type of “static” in the spinal cord.

Doctors (real doctors) report that he made a full recovery

after his palm was removed from his face.

Interestingly enough, whilst chiropractic teaches that areas of subluxation are invisible and can be “detected” only by the presence of symptoms, Simon Floreani, erstwhile president of the Chiropractors Association of Australia, has other ideas.

Check out the Catalyst video below at 1min, 45sec. Using the apparently magical Activator – or the “stick that goes click” – on an infant, Floreani announces:

Areas of subluxation that I can feel there, that are immediately improved after you adjust it like that…

You can read more about the Sonic Screwdriver-like Activator here in The Medical Observer. Just be prepared for some tongue in cheek observations. In September 2011 it was reported in Australian Doctor that the Federal Government had been asked to investigate both the Activator and “the Nervoscope” as they had been reported as having, “no biomechanical or physiological effect and cannot diagnose or treat any health condition”.

Fortunately, whilst new-age chiropractors continue to push their ineffective devices, practices and claims onto an unsuspecting public, genuinely motivated supporters of evidence based medicine are busy exposing their scams.

Check out the videos below to see just how devoid of facts claims made by the resurgent followers of Daniel David Palmer, really are. And keep an eye out for Simon and his zebra.

Catalyst – July 11th 2013


Floreani’s penchant for cutting his own path may help explain why he has chosen the zebra over the unicorn.

zebra floreaniFloreani positions a young subluxee on his treatment table cunningly disguised as a zebra

Lateline – July 6th 2009


Zebra floreani2

Floreani seems to be watched over by a zebra

Today Tonight – December 2011


Today Tonight – March 14th 2013