Excess Woo – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle?

July 1, 2009 at 3:47 pm (Alternative Medicine, Miscellaneous, Trivial, Woo) (, , , , , , , , , )

Far too much energy is being expended on producing and consuming the bullshit of the counterknowledge industry: nutritionism, homeopathy, and the various forms of energy medicine that rely on vitalism being prime examples of this industry. Worthless remedies are produced, and worthless books and pamphlets are published.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Woo on Woo – layers of nonsense

October 24, 2008 at 4:16 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, NLP, Supplements, Woo) (, , , , , , , )

I’ve written before about woos trying out different ‘healing modalities’ seemingly as the mood takes them. I think that the last time I wrote on this topic, it was a homeopath disseminating dietary advice that had caught my attention: Dr O. I received an email yesterday that included a link to this page: Sulis. The advice is Holford’s, but why an NLP practitioner would feel the need to reproduce woo-ish dietary advice on their website is beyond me. I can understand someone believing in the value of NLP, but why assume other woo is true? Seems to be quite common to me. Instead of speculating wildly about the thinking of people who are into multiple forms of woo (which is what I’d normally do at this point), I’m going to have a quick laugh at the advice.*

Eat three pieces of fruit such as apples, pears, bananas, berries, melon or citrus fruit […] Avoid any form of sugar, also white, refined or processed food with chemical additives, and minimise your intake of alcohol, coffee and tea.

It works best with these two pieces of advice if you show them together in the same quote. According to the Sulis site, Patrick Holford is advising you to avoid all forms of sugar while, at the same time, advising you to eat fruit such as banana. Hmmm… I wonder if bananas contain sugar in any form? Why, yes – yes they do. According to the USDA database, bananas are about 12% sugar and this comes in the form of glucose, sucrose and fructose.

Supplement your diet with a high strength multivitamin and mineral preparation and 1000mg of vitaminC a day.

Well, the rest of his advice seems to fit in with the ideal of eating a balanced and varied diet – including advice to eat plenty of fruit and veg – so why would anyone following this advice need a high strength multivitamin and a 1,000mg vitamin C tablet? They almost certainly wouldn’t. Which is what makes Patrick’s advice so laughable – he advises people to eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C and then tells them to add a supplement. Why? To make expensive piss? I can’t think of any other reason.

Drink six glasses of water, diluted juices, herb or fruit teas.

Ah, water woo. http://tinyurl.com/draust will give you more info on that topic.

Eat whole, organic, raw food as often as you can.

Why? Is there any evidence that organic, raw food is better for you? Should we eat all foods raw or is it better to cook, say eggs to prevent Biotin deficiency [the avidin in raw eggs is a bastard for binding to Biotin, apparently] – or tomatoes to increase the bioavailability of Lycopene? Is organic food healthier than non-organically grown produce?

*I will say this: it’s bad enough that experts believe themselves to be more expert than they actually are [*cough* experts-versus-equations], but surely it’s worse when amateurs believe themselves to be competent in various domains when they haven’t, actually, demonstrated their competence in any or all of these domains?

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An Idea Relating To Dr John Briffa’s Current Favourite Homeopathy Study (Arnica “Effective”)

September 12, 2008 at 8:38 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Briffa, Homeopathic Remedies, Homeopathy, Nutritionism, Remedies, Supplements, Woo) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I recently wrote about Dr John Briffa, making reference to his approving comments about a study into arnica as a post-operative aid. I had an idea that homeopathic treatments like arnica relied on the placebo effect and was surprised to see that Briffa’s post described arnica as “effective”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whiny Sceptics

July 28, 2008 at 6:45 pm (Alternative Medicine, Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Homeopathy, Nutritionism, Woo) (, )

I’ve been blogging about bullshitters and mindfuckers since, ooh, last September. Recently, I claimed that woos are angry and I asked why. For balance, perhaps I should ask why sceptics are so whiny? Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Are Woos So ANGRY?

July 18, 2008 at 9:52 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Homeopathy, Religion, Supplements, Woo) (, , , , , , , )

David Mabus gets slightly annoyed with atheists

Chiropractic *is* evidence-based...

Despite the cuddly image Alt-Med types like to project, they do seem to get ever so angry when their ideas are discussed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine – dangerous

March 26, 2008 at 4:29 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Remedies) (, , , , , , , )

There has been a reported case of poisoning by herbal remedy. This has been discussed on the Bad Science forum and was also reported in an online news article that featured on Ben Goldacre’s Miniblog. I can’t see a report of this case on the herbal remedies page at whats the harm yet, but hopefully it will soon be up there – I’ve just submitted it. I’ve looked before at dubious herbal remedies and linked to some systematic reviews – like this one for individualised herbal medicine. The review is by R Guo, P H Canter and E Ernst and includes the following quote (my emphasis) –

Individualised herbal medicine, as practised in European medical herbalism, Chinese herbal medicine and Ayurvedic herbal medicine, has a very sparse evidence base and there is no convincing evidence that it is effective in any indication. Because of the high potential for adverse events and negative herb–herb and herb–drug interactions, this lack of evidence for effectiveness means that its use cannot be recommended.

Not only is there insufficient evidence that individualised herbal medicine is effective, but there is also a chance that the medicine(s) you take will be dangerous. Is it worth the risk?

UPDATE: http://depletedcranium.com/?p=491 has covered this story as well.

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Does Woo Work?

February 29, 2008 at 10:08 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Dawkins, Homeopathic Remedies, Homeopathy, Remedies, Supplements, Woo) (, , , , , , , , , )

I have previously asked “What’s Woo Worth?“. My earlier post looked at the profits to be made from herbal medicine, homeopathy and supplements. This post takes a quick look at the evidence for the same categories of woo. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dr Organon’s Dietary Advice

February 23, 2008 at 12:02 am (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Homeopathic Remedies, Homeopathy, Supplements, Woo) (, , , , , )

What is it about woo-meisters that makes them think they are the best person to give advice on anything health-related? I can (just about) understand why a homeopath would think they were able to advise on homeopathy, but what makes them think they are qualified to, say,  diagnose or to give advice on diet? Read the rest of this entry »

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Chief Woo MP Tredinnick

February 20, 2008 at 1:10 pm (Alternative Medicine, government, Homeopathic Remedies, Homeopathy, Woo) (, , , , , , , , )

MP David Tredinnick last night spoke in Parliament about homeopathy. The last time I can recall this happening, Mr Tredinnick was answered by Roger Marris. Mr Marris pointed to the lack of evidence for homeopathy and was then quoted in the Guardian as follows:

Sometimes their dilutions are so weak that the medicine contains not a single molecule of the active ingredient, though it’s alleged that the water “holds its memory”. Mr Marris asked scornfully, “we use a lot of recycled water – why does it not have a memory of the faeces that have been in it, and make us all sick?”

Dawn Primarolo claimed that the Government was looking at the cost effectiveness of many treatments, including alternative medicines, but Evan Harris wasn’t going to let that go:

So Dr Evan Harris, a Lib Dem, was just as contemptuous. “If the effectiveness is zero,” he pointed out, his lip curling, “there can be no cost-effectiveness.” Ms Primarolo repeated her earlier answer. She is a great believer in repeat prescriptions.

Dr Harris must not have been in the House of Commons last night – if he were, then he surely would not have let this go unchallenged: homeopathy does not fit normal methods of assessment*. Tredinnick actually said that “the scale of prescribing is in reverse so that the weaker the dose, the more powerful or effective it is. That subject has always been hotly disputed by many doctors, but homeopathic treatments have been operating on the reverse scale of prescribing for 200 years. Some of the most powerful-the constitutional remedies-are so diluted that they can hardly be detected. There are similar problems with acupuncture and its acceptance, as some doctors and commissioners do not necessarily believe in meridians. The same issue occurs with herbs that are unknown in this country.” Firstly, Tredinnick is comparing alternative remedies (homeopathy with acupuncture and herbalism) that have nothing in common. Secondly, he has introduced another canard – that meridians have something to do with the effects of acupuncture. See here for why meridians don’t matter: http://dcscience.net/?p=166. Thirdly, if dilution increased potency then tramps would drink Skol.

Tredinnick also stated that “the Royal London Homeopathic hospital has conducted more than 130 randomised and controlled trials of homeopathic treatments that show very effective results”. Ben Goldacre’s article in the Guardian “A Kind of Magic?” points out that:

there are some individual trials where homeopathy does better, first because there are a lot of trials that are simply not “fair tests”. For example – and I’m giving you the most basic examples here – there are many trials in alternative therapy journals where the patients were not “blinded”: that is, the patients knew whether they were getting the real treatment or the placebo. These are much more likely to be positive in favour of your therapy, for obvious reasons. There is no point in doing a trial if it is not a fair test: it ceases to be a trial, and simply becomes a marketing ritual.

I have used another quote from Dr Goldacre’s article below, but – to be honest – you really should read the article for yourself.

when doctors say that a trial is weak, and poor quality, it’s not because they want to maintain the hegemony, or because they work for “the man”: it’s because a poor trial is simply not a fair test of a treatment. And it’s not cheaper to do a trial badly, it’s just stupid, or, of course, conniving, since unfair tests will give false positives in favour of homeopathy.

Disgustingly, it gets worse: Tredinnick decides to bring up homeopathic remedies for AIDS and malaria. Website whatstheharm.net refers to a “report [that] found 5 women who used a homeopathic preventative instead of conventional medicine prior to a trip to Africa. On return, all five had malaria.” Click here for more on homeopathy and harm. Tredinnick takes seriously a letter from a homeopath (a homeopath who claims to have introduced Homeopathy to Swaziland!), which states that homeopathic treatments have achieved success rates of close to 100 per cent. This is worrying indeed – a Member of Parliament genuinely believes that homeopathy can achieve a 100% success rate? We really should fear for the state of our country if Tredinnick is representative of MPs. Worse – Tredinnick seems to be advocating homeopathy for AIDS and Malaria. This is quackery at its worst and vulnerable people are being taken in by pseudo-medical bullshit spouted by not just homeopaths but also politicians. This isn’t just about whether people with self-limiting conditions feel better after taking some kind of placebo – it’s about people dying because they thought a ‘remedy’ containing no trace of active ingredient could prevent malaria or cure AIDS. Anyone who contributes to that situation should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Hat tip: Thanks to Andy Lewis of Quackometer fame for bringing this to my attention.

Other posts dealing with this speech: Gimpy gives us David Tredinnick misleads parliament and offers staggeringly dimwitted endorsements (Note: Gimpy has now updated his post to include google cache links to the Quackometer posts on AIDS / Malaria quackery) and Ben G has written about Tredinnick’s Magnificent Torrent of Canards.

*This is simply untrue and is an example of the truly muddled thinking of homeopathy supporters. Tredinnick seems to be saying that homeopathy cannot be tested by orthodox methods (e.g., double-blind trials). Ben Goldacre’s article (‘A Kind of Magic?‘) actually details the kind of trial that could be run and points out that:

this trial has been done, time and time again, with homeopathy, and when you do a trial like this, you find, overall, that the people getting the placebo sugar pills do just as well as those getting the real, posh, expensive, technical, magical homeopathy pills.

 So the Bosworth MP David Tredinnick is simply repeating canards that were debunked in a Guardian article last November. Idiot.

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Woo – Patterns and Warning Signs

January 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm (Alternative Medicine, Homeopathy, Quantum, Woo) (, , , , , )

Occasionally, patterns can be seen in woo. Sometimes different strands of woo seem to be linked. (I’m not sure why – I suppose I could always ask a sociologist, though). I’ll have a very brief look at a couple of these patterns now. Read the rest of this entry »

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