News and Views

Staying fit by playing tennis

A recent health story is currently making the rounds proclaiming that some forms of exercise, as well as participation in three particular racquet sports, are better than others for your overall health and will help you live longer.

These online articles invariably attract our attention. Why? Because they carry headlines that provide the simple solution that everyone craves: the way to better fitness, and finally, a clear, unambiguous and athletic path to a long, healthy life.

Sure, these stories do contain some worthwhile information on how to improve one's fitness. But unfortunately, they are the very definition of health hype.

That's because placing emphasis on specific activities is overblown, and the study these stories are based on has a range of...

Watching the jaw drop or tug-of-war facial reaction battle of another person when they discover my educational and career endeavors is so uniformly commonplace that I would be hard pressed to come up with a day let alone a week where such an occurrence didn’t take place.

Apparently, I don’t look like a doctor.

Earlier today the waiter at lunch was first speechless then over-complimenting once it sunk in how dramatic his response was to the news that not only was I one, but I was not fresh in or out of training and had dabbled in the possibility of brain surgery as my chosen vocation.

Typecasting by others or the insistence on attempting to place me in a box is the story of my life.  I always joke I am like Rodney Dangerfield, “I just get no respect.”  Though...

Junk science

Junk science is everywhere. Just today, it was reported that President-Elect Donald Trump had a meeting with the anti-vaccine fraud Andrew Wakefield, who claimed that Mr Trump is "open-minded" about the issue. 

This is why our mission is so important. People in power often have a poor grasp of science. If journalists and advocates don't speak up for good science, cranks and quacks will take over. 

As part of our ongoing effort to eradicate pseudoscience, here is a list of the top 16 junk science stories we debunked in 2016.

#16. Olympic athletes should not be cupping. Remember seeing those...

Anyone who has suffered from migraines is aware of the limitation of the treatment options out there. With the exception of prescription medications that go a step beyond the old standby of an Excedrin with a cup of coffee - help is limited.

So, it's easy to understand why people reach for measures that they think may be helpful, like chiropractic, even without any evidence to support it. However, a recent study published in the European Journal of Neurology shows that, for migraines, chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy (CSMT) is no better than a placebo. 

The study, conducted over a three month treatment period followed by a 12 month follow up, included 104 people who suffer from...

As a scientist, I frequently get asked questions about topics that people bump into in their everyday lives.

  • WIll the flu shot give me the flu? (no)
  • Should I buy a crib bumper? (no)
  • Are you worried about GMOs? (absolutely not)

In a conversation recently with someone who had recently been on safari, the topic was the tsetse fly. This person had been told to not wear dark (blue or black, specifically) clothing because he was told that the tsetse was drawn to dark colors. In fact - this is such a widely accepted piece of information that, on the cdc website, the second tip for avoiding tsetse fly bites is 

"Wear neutral-colored clothing. The tsetse fly is attracted to bright colors, very dark colors, metallic fabric, and the color blue...

When an article says "Don't let this go unshared," over and over again (five times - if we're counting,) I automatically have questions. When the main message of the article scares people with misinformation and flawed science, then I have an article for Monday morning.

The 'Food Babe' has a new article out on glyphosate that fits both of the descriptions above. She claims that there are new data to show that glyphosate used when crops are grown is making it into many of the foods that are in our cupboards.

She states that a "FDA-registered food safety laboratory tested iconic American food for residues of the weed killer glyphosate (aka Monsanto’s Roundup) and found ALARMING amounts." She then goes on...

Homeopathic products are a scam. They are sold for almost any ailment imaginable and, collectively, people are willing to spend several billions of dollars a year on them despite any evidence that they are effective. 

Almost thirty years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided that homeopathic products could be sold over the counter (OTC) without going through FDA approval - as long as they were 1) labeled as homeopathic and 2) that the ingredients can be found in the 'homeopathic pharmacopeia' - a database of homeopathic compounds. 

But, the marketing world of homeopathy hit a hiccup this week that may result in a change in the industry. The Federal Trade Commission released an '...

You can certainly say that we millennials have a distinct sense of entitlement. So much so that we feel the need to bring our smartphones to the bathroom while we go Number 2 — the pastime has gained so much traction that it's become known as iPooping. Basically not even the urgency of a bowel movement will stop us from refreshing our social media feeds. So while I can appreciate other reasons why our phones could be dirtier than most public toilet seats, door knobs, or dog dishes, I am 100 percent confident that iPooping has become the Number One culprit. 

On average, a cell phone is estimated to hold roughly 25,000 germs in every square inch, making it — hands down — one of the nastiest things you touch on a...

With more and more stories crossing my path of people (mostly children) being hospitalized or dying at the hand of a naturopath, I could not help but wonder.... what does it take to become a naturopath? 

Like the profession, the training process to become a naturopath has been packaged to resemble actual medicine. The degree earned even contains the word 'doctor' - Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. 

Comparing the education that physicians and naturopaths obtain in order to prepare for their professions reveals a large difference between the two. Although both schools have a four year program - the similarities end there. 

    One place where naturopathic and medical education are the same is...

    This morning Archana Radhakrishnan et al. from Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania, published a paper in Cancer on who and why patients seek second opinions on prostate cancer. Despite recommendations from both the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society for cancer patients to seek second opinions regarding treatment, there is little substantive medical literature on the behavior surrounding second opinions.

    The Findings

    • 4676 men identified diagnosed with localized prostate cancer and in the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry within the greater Philadelphia region were mailed surveys along with nominal payment for their completion. 51.1% (2386) responded.
    • The...