News and Views

A lot of alternative medicine sounds reasonable enough.

It is easy to see why so many people believe in traditional herbal remedies, for instance. Because they have been used for hundreds or thousands of years, people assume the traditions must be rooted in some sort of truth. Besides, scientists have isolated a lot of therapeutically useful compounds from nature, like caffeine and quinine, so it's not far-fetched to believe that all herbs have some sort of medicinal use (even if most don't).

Homeopathy, on the other hand, is just plain nuts. It completely defies logic how anyone with a halfway functional brain could buy into this. This type of alternative medicine is predicated upon three completely insane ideas.

Homeopathy's Three Insane Principles...

There have been a few images in the news in the past few years that have made tears roll down my face as soon as I saw them. I don't have even to say what they were - you know already.

One was a photo from this past week - of Abdul Hameed al-Yousef holding his twin babies, Aya and Ahmed, who were among the 86 people killed in the gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria.

Even as someone who is almost never without something to say - I was left speechless and had to catch my breath at the sadness, the loss, the devastation, the inhumanity. That photo will, most certainly, haunt everyone who saw it.

It is hard to find something to compare the tragedy of deaths in Syria too. But, Mike Adams, the 'Health Ranger', figured out a way to not only exploit the people who were...

Today, it seems that honest disagreement just isn't possible. Social media, which has become a sewage pipe of political hyper-partisanship and unscientific propaganda, magnifies this disturbing trend. If two otherwise intelligent people disagree on something, accusations of being a liar, fraud, or paid shill are quick to follow.

Compounding this problem is the fact that half of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory. Instead of ushering in a Second Enlightenment, it appears the Information Age has turned us into paranoid cynics who perceive dark forces controlling world events. Such is the state of our...

Every student in America should be required to take a class called, "What Do We Know, and How Do We Know It?" Perhaps if we learned from an early age how we know the things we claim to know, fewer Americans would fall for ridiculous conspiracy theories.

Public health is a field that is widely misunderstood, even by science journalists. That is because epidemiology is an inexact science that is complicated by a large variability in the quality of the data it produces, as well as by its reliance on advanced statistical methods. Let's leave the latter aside and focus on the former. Which epidemiological studies are most reliable and why?

From weakest to strongest, here are the most common epidemiological study designs:

Case report. A case report is...

It's likely that everyone has experienced it — you're ready to go somewhere or do something, but you can't because you can't find your keys, or your purse, or that special screwdriver for that weird set of screws. This is something that seems to happen more often as we age — but of course, as we age we tend to have more stuff to lose. So apart from having extra sets of everything to forestall the hide and seek situation, what can one do?

One thing to do is to optimize the search strategy. A group of researchers, led by Dr. Anna Nowakowska from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, investigated human foraging behavior — what we do when searching for misplaced items. Their report was published in the...

I recently wrote an article about a young, healthy woman who went to a healer (likely a naturopath), received an IV of turmeric as a treatment for eczema, and died as a result of it. 

Although some of the details of this case remain under investigation, the information comes from the medical examiner's report which stated that the woman died from, "anoxic encephalopathy due to prolonged resuscitated cardiopulmonary arrest due to adverse reaction to infused turmeric solution.”

In response to my article of a tragic tale of people practicing dangerous methods of pseudo-medicine, and healthy people ending up dead, I...

In last week's episode of Shark Tank, the five "sharks" elevated themselves from wealthy, successful business people to champions of science.

I caught the episode that had originally aired in November, where Catharine Arnston, the Founder/CEO of the Boston based company ENERGYbits made her pitch for their support of her algae supplement company. 

The sharks listened to her attentively but, it became quickly apparent when they started asking her questions, that they were not satisfied with her answers regarding both the finances and the science behind her product. But, I am not here to question the sharks decisions about their money. I am here to praise each of them on their decision not to invest in this snake oil...

Given the media attention devoted to weak observational claims about health (miracle vegetables, chemophobia of the month) and the rampant mistrust of science that has resulted, it is worth asking if they're worth the expense at all. 

The answer is that they probably are, though only for smaller programs. 

If you are not familiar with the term, an observational study is just what it sounds like; in contrast to an experiment, which is what most people think of as science, an observational study instead observes a population to see what they have in common, such as the impact of various lifestyle and environmental factors on diseases. There are two types of observational studies: case-control and cohort. In my short primer ...

A new paper in JAMA Cardiology titled Long-term Safety and Efficacy of Achieving Very Low Levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol found that very aggressive lowering of LDL-C (bad cholesterol) was not associated with an increased incidence of safety problems and demonstrated that the efficacy composite of cardiovascular death, major coronary events, and stroke were ‘significantly’ lower.  

This has been a concern from some.

Here is the science:

  • It was a data mining expedition into the...

Scientists are humans, too. And, just like other humans you know, some of them aren't very good at their jobs. There are three main ways in which scientists can mess up.

First, some scientists feel as if they have something valuable to say on any topic under the sun. (Far too often, it's politics.) Like those suffering from the dreaded Nobel Disease, they act as if their true expertise in one subject gives them wide latitude to speak boldly on every subject. They are wrong.

Consider a poll of scientists who belong to the American Association for...