Thursday, July 24, 2014

Should Homeopathic Medicines be Banned?

Should homeopathic medicines be banned? I've seen this statement quite a few times in recent months. I just returned from a trip to England and Scotland, where there has been a lot of discussion of banning homeopathic medicines. The Daily Mail Reporter headlines "Homeopathy remedies should be labeled as placebos and banned on NHS", but added, "But some doctors said their patients seemed to benefit despite no clinical trial evidence that homeopathy worked."

I've also had a few blog posts recently come my way - stating that homeopathy is quack medicine, and should be banned. The blog 10 Pseudo-Science Theories we'd Like to see Retired Forever, says "Homeopathy claims water can cure you, because it once held medicine." But, the theory of homeopathic medicines is not based on diluted medicine. It seems the author(s) haven't actually bothered to look up the theory of homeopathy, or understand its claims before composing that nonsense.  The author of Homeopathy is placebo – ban homeopathy, says "The reason homeopathy should be banned is not that it’s placebo, but that it’s fraudulent." would also benefit from a simple dictionary check.  A placebo is defined as a medicine that is fraudulent, to quote Merriam Webster, Placebo "a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder".

Stephen Barrett, M.D., the ultimate "pot calling the kettle black" cites among other reasons, "the laws of chemistry". The laws of chemistry are actually the theories of chemistry, on theory that they 'cannot be broken'. But apparently Dr Barrett is worried that homeopathic medicines might manage to break these laws of nature?  He does not go so far as to suggest that homeopathic medicines should be banned, but wants them labeled as placebos, with statements like "a public warning that although the FDA has permitted homeopathic remedies to be sold, it does not recognize them as effective." Stephen also seems to forget, for the moment at least, that many doctors prescribe placebos, not because they don't work, but because they do work.

The reasons suggested for banning homeopathy are, frankly, very weak.  In summary:
 - it's no better than a placebo
 - people might take homeopathic medicines and suffer because they avoid a 'real doctor'
 - ?? more?? I honestly can't find any more reasons - I'd be happy to be enlightened.

So, let's look at the reasons first, then the reality.

Homeopathy is no better than a placebo. 

First of all, we need to define a placebo.  I define placebo from a healthicine perspective, which aligns directly with the dictionary definition, and with Wiki's definition.  A placebo is a lie from your doctor. If there is no doctor, it's not a placebo.  If there is no intentional lie, it's not a  placebo. Stephen Bartlett suggesting labeling homeopathic medicines as placebos, is suggesting the paradox “This statement is false.”

There's another side to the word placebo. People often confuse the word placebo with 'placebo effect', thinking that 'placebo effects' are not real, that they are lies.  But that's not true. Merriam Webster defines the placebo effect as an "improvement in the condition of a patient that occurs in response to treatment but cannot be considered due to the specific treatment used". Placebo effects are real.  Placebo effects are not lies, they are real effects, measurable by science, and by medicine.

So, stating that homeopathic medicines are "no more effective than a placebo", is actually saying that "homeopathic medicines cause real, positive effects that we don't understand." It also says "homeopathic medicines are no more effective than a lie from your doctor."

Should we ban homeopathic medicines because we don't understand them? Should we ban placebos because we don't understand them? Nonsense.

People who take homeopathic medicines might suffer because they avoid a real doctor.

Do people suffer more because they avoid doctors, or more because they see doctors too soon, or too often? Frankly, although medicines often work well, medicines can also kill.  According to government reports, medicines (but not homeopathic medicines) are third ranked in the causes of illness and death in the USA. Patent medicines and OTC medicines have side effects.  It's worthy to note that, according to the medical profession, homeopathic medicines don't have 'real effects', therefore, according to the medical profession, they also cannot have 'side effects'.

I'm not saying homeopathic medicines are ineffective.  Science, and medicine has proven, and agrees that homeopathic medicines are effective, although they qualify with "no more effective than a lie from your doctor".  Science and medicine have also proven that most, if not all, doctors recognize and occasionally prescribe placebos to their patients.

Do people who take OTC medicines suffer because they might avoid a real doctor? And what about food?  Hippocrates said "Let food be thy medicine, and medicine by thy food." Should we also count those people who eat an "apple a day", to keep the doctor away? Should we ban apples because some people think they are medicines?

On a more serious note regarding food, homeopathy can never cause the kind of damage that sugar does. Science shows us that sugar is addictive and damaging, yet we fill our children with the stuff. Why is there a witch-hunt to ban harmless, and potentially beneficial homeopathic treatment (often prescribed by naturopathic doctors) when there are real health problems that can be bought by any child in every grocery store?

What about Health?

This is a blog about health. Are placebos healthy? It is important to separate "health", from "illness". Health is larger than illness. It is entirely possible that homeopathic medicines, even if they have no effect on illness, might have positive effects on health. But science has proven they do have positive effects on illness.

We don't measure health.  We haven't yet learned to measure health yet - we can only measure symptoms of illness, and that's how we measure illness.  We can learn to measure health - but today, no-one is trying.

If we ban homeopathic medicines, how will we learn of their effects on health?   And there's the point.  The exact point of this discussion.

Freedom.  Freedom to study.  Freedom to learn. Freedom to learn about health - to learn more than simple studies of illness. Freedom to know for ourselves. Freedom to make our own choices. To advertise and market our own choices.

Should we ban homeopathic medicines? 

It might be a useful question, if it was not so loaded.  It is loaded against my freedom of choice, in favour of society's freedom to oppress, based on some people's beliefs.

I believe in health freedom.  I believe in the health freedom of the customer, and also of the producer and seller. Safety standards are important, but bans?  Banning something is a serious act, difficult to undo - even if the ban was wrong. Banning homeopathic medicines would be a strike against freedom.

Our laws should be designed to enhance our freedoms, not to restrict them.  If freedoms are to be restricted - there must be real and serious danger. Proof needs to be strong. Frankly, there is no evidence for banning homeopathy, plenty of evidence in favour of freedom.

In Summary: 

Side Effects
Effective, especially effective against nutritional deficiency illnesses.

Little danger, although it is possible to die from food.
OTC – Over the Counter Medicines
Most commonly effective against symptoms of illness, allowing the body to heal.
Listed on bottle. Can be severe.
Some danger.  Prone to non-monitored, over consumption, which can lead to illness, even death.

Patent Medicines
A wide range of effectiveness. Tend to be designed and tested for specific illnesses. The bestselling patent medicines only treat symptoms, and do not cure.

Listed on bottle. Can be severe. Sometimes not known for years.
Very dangerous. Requires a doctor’s prescription, controlled dosages, and even then can lead to injury or death.
Effective but we don’t understand why. However, many doctors are able to predict ‘when’ they will be effective, and prescribe them.

Little danger, although there is some danger when patent medicines  or OTCs are prescribed as placebos – which does happen.
Homeopathic Medicines
Effective, but we don’t understand why.
Little danger. As far as I know, there are no reports of death or injury caused by homeopathic medicines.

Should homeopathic medicines be banned? Nonsense. We need to spend our time on more important questions.

to your health, tracy
Author: Introduction to Healthicine: Theories of Health, Healthiness, Illness and Aging

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pseudo-Pseudo Science in the Blogosphere

I recently read a post claiming to bust “10 pseudo-science theories”. However, like many posts claiming to be science based, claiming to be about science it is actually a ‘pseudo-pseudo-science’ post, presenting many ‘pseudo-pseudo-science’ theories. Many people commented on the post, most with simple statements like ‘great’ and others with minor complaints.

To be honest, when I first read the post, I thought – this makes some sense, but the author(s)? have made a few simple errors.  As I read the post over, and over, and over again, I found more holes, more nonsense, more ‘pseudo-pseudo-science’ with each re-read.

If you want to test your own sense of science, you can read the post here.  Of courses internet posts are always ‘subject to change’, so by the time you read this, the post might have changed. I often improve on my posts after they are published.

10 Pseudo-Science Theories We'd Like to See Retired Forever
If you have seen this post before, no matter what you thought, you might be very surprised by my conclusions - I have read the post at least 5 times.  I have taken the time to research many of the points, the words, the ideas and the sciences discussed therein. 

The author(s) start with number ten. 

"10 Phrenology

When I was thinking about this list, I thought about mentioning graphology - handwriting analysis that supposedly reveals personality characteristics and is still used by some companies to evaluate job applicants. I thought about body language experts who claim that slouching shows deep things about a person's psyche. I thought about typology, which analyzes body shape and makes conclusions about the personality. But it's all just phrenology. Phrenology was the first time palm-readers cloaked themselves in science, and although phrenology itself has been beheaded, it sends out new heads, like the hydra."

Science? Or Pseudo-science, or is it Pseudo-pseudo-science?
It’s actually a bit hard to tell.  The science being challenged as pseudo-science is Phrenology.  But what does the writer say exactly?  There's a lot of rambling. 

Here’s a summary, in sequence:
  1.  Phrenlogy is ..actually the post writers don't bother to define phrenology.  
  2. Graphology is handwriting analysis that supposedly reveals personality characteristics (eg. but it does not)
  3. Graphology is still used by some companies to evaluate job applicants
  4.  Body language experts claim that slouching shows deep things about a person’s psyche
  5.  Typology analyzes body shape and makes conclusions about the personality of the subject
  6.  It’s all just phrenology - is this their attempt to define phrenology?
  7.  Phrenology was the first time palm-readers cloaked themselves in science
  8.  Phrenology has been beheaded,
  9.  Phrenology sends out new heads, like hydra.
Is any of these true?  Is all of it true?

Phrenology: first of all, the writer doesn't even bother to define Phrenology, either under the assumption that everyone knows what phrenology is, or that defining it is not important. For the record, from Websters: “the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it is indicative of mental faculties and character

And what about the SCIENCE of phrenology?  According to Wiki, and maybe we can agree, Phrenology was a ‘pseudo-science’.  But it was abandoned, in the mid 1800s. Does it deserve to be on a list of pseudo-science theories we’d like to see retired forever?  It was retired over 150 years ago...
Minus 1 for the author on Phrenology. Not defined. Already retired. No need to retire it.  

The author(s)? made many other points, what about them? 

2: Graphology: handwriting Analysis which our writer claims “supposedly reveals personality characteristics”.  Is graphology Science? Or Pseudo-science? Or is this post pseudo-pseudo-science?  Wiki’s entry on graphology says that most (but not all) scientific studies have found no relationship between analysis by graphologists, and personality as measured by other personality tests, with the exception of gender. Are the authors arguing that nothing about personality can be determined if you only know the gender of the subject? hmmm..
Let's give them a 0.5 score.  Sort of right. 

3: Handwriting is still "used by some companies to evaluate job applicants." True.  And based on the fact that, according to current research the only thing it can reliably reveal is GENDER, which might be said to be linked to valuable ‘personality characteristics’, but might also be an intrusion, or lead to unfair hiring practices – maybe it should be retired.  Score 1, but not for the reasons stated in the post. Bad idea, but not pseudo-science. 

Number 3: Body language experts claim that "slouching shows deep things about a person’s psyche". Is Body Language a science, a pseudo-science, or is our writer spouting pseudo-pseudo-science? Wiki, my first checkpoint says simply: “Body language refers to various forms of nonverbal communication, wherein a person may reveal clues as to some unspoken intention or feeling through their physical behavior.” It seems it is a science, not a pseudo-science. Minus one for the author's pseudo-pseudo-science.  

Do body language experts claim that "slouching shows deep things about a person’s psyche"? According to Forbes, on slouching "Bad posture signals to others that you lack confidence and have poor self esteem or low energy levels." According to, "In body language, slouching is associated with insecurity and lack of strength. "  I'm guessing the authors of this pseudo-science post just made up something, without even bothering to check.... More pseudo-pseudo science.  Minus another. 

4:  Typology analyzes body shape and makes conclusions about the personality of the subject.  Science? Pseudo-science? Is our writer spouting pseudo-pseudo-science?  What does Wiki say? 

If you don't know, prepare to be knocked over.

Typology (anthropology), division of culture by races
Typology (archaeology), classification of artifacts according to their characteristics
Typology (creation biology), system that classifies animals into groups called "created kinds" or "baramins"
Typology (linguistics), study and classification of languages according to their structural features
Typology (psychology), a model of personality types
Typology (theology), in Christian theology, the interpretation of some characters and stories in the Old Testament as allegories foreshadowing the New Testament
Typology (urban planning and architecture), the classification of characteristics common to buildings or urban spaces

Whoa! It seems that there are lots of legitimate sciences of “typology”, but NONE OF THEM matches the definition provide by the writer of this article?  What is going on here?  Did the writer mean to refer to:
Physiognomy: the assessment of a person's character or personality from his or her outer appearance, especially the face but the authors refer to the  body, not the face? 

Or is the writer, perhaps, referring to Somatotypes “typology of personality developed in the 1940s by William Sheldon”.  But the word Somatypes is not a science and is not even well defined. Frankly, this is nonsense.  Although, I’m tempted to take away a bunch of points for lack of clarity. ?Minus 1 for nonsense and minus three for no sense. 

5. "It’s all just Phrenology". Frankly, it’s not all just phrenology. And frankly the authors have lost the thread, and finally lost their head. What is meant, I presume, is “it’s all just nonsense”. Minus 1. 

6. "Phrenology was the first time palm-readers cloaked themselves in science". True? False? Nonsense?  Phrenology, according to Wiki, was first appeared in the society of the Essense, in-between the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Is the author arguing that the Essense jews were "attempting to cloak palm reading in science by developing phrenology?"

Remember that the authors didn't bother to define Phrenology. So we had to look it up.  Phrenology is the study of how shapes of human skulls indicate mental facilities and character.
-          What does it have to do with palm readers? I suspect the authors confused the fact that reading the skull involves running the palm over the skull, with 'palmistry'.  Given the looseness of the other 'facts' presented thus far, I'm not at all surprised. 

The blog authors are simply piling nonsense on nonsense, in the hope of making a point, about a science they have not taken the time to define, using other sciences and non-sciences, that they have also not bothered to research at all. 

They then continue with Numbers 7 and 8, saying:

Phrenology has been beheaded” whereas, Wiki, for example dis-agrees, stating that: “Developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall in 1796. and... Gall's assumption that character, thoughts, and emotions are located in localized parts of the brain is considered an important historical advance toward neuropsychology.” Phrenology has not been be-headed, it has evolved into an important science. 
"Phrenology sends out new heads, like hydra."  Our writer provides no evidence other than poorly thought out rhetoric, and frankly gets most of it wrong. Science moves forward, while some people remain stuck in the past.

The entire first example in this post is simply Pseudo-Pseudo-Science at its worst. We don't need to track the score. If someone claims to be writing about science, one error is, maybe, acceptable.  Two are intolerable.  A paragraph full of incorrect statements, nonsense assumptions, leading to fear mongering conclusions - is not science.  It is clearly pseudo-pseudo-science. 

What’s really happening here?  This writer is mixing science and bullshit, not very skillfully. 

The effect, if we follow the opinions, the ‘faith’ presented, is that we will limit our knowledge and our freedoms, and ultimately, limit the advancement of science.


Handwriting analysis has proven to be useful, although not as originally marketed. 
Body language is a very important field of study, not just for communications and understanding among humans, but for animals and maybe someday to increase our understanding and communications with off-planet aliens. 
Typology is a valuable science term, not a pseudo-science.

Saying “it's all just phrenology “ is the first step in unscientific fear mongering that leads to silly fear generation with statements like “although phrenology itself has been beheaded, it sends out new heads, like the hydra”.

The writer not only got many facts wrong, there is no understanding of science, or of how science works.
But the author doesn't just stop there. They move on to this nonsense:

"Want to know what someone's like? Get to know them, or talk to a lot of people who know them. Handwriting won't tell you anything, unless the letters are written in blood. If you think someone's posture indicates their character, I wish you an uncomfortable chair for the rest of your life. And as for deciding that someone's body shape is an indication of what they're like inside - we got taught to know better than this in kindergarten, people. Get it together. I have no doubt that there will always be new forms of this crap floating around. Some charlatan will always find a way to claim physical characteristics indicate moral character. Give it the hydra treatment. Chop off its head and burn its neck stump."

Anyone can agree, at the start: “Want to know what someone's like? Get to know them, or talk to a lot of people who know them.”  Reasonable…

But then:  “Handwriting won't tell you anything” Not reasonable. In fact, simply wrong. Handwriting will tell you lots. Maybe not as much as was proposed in the 1850s, but science, and our understanding of science has advanced steadily since them.  We know that handwriting can tell us lots about a person.  I could make a long list, but this is getting tedious.

Followed by: “, unless the letters are written in blood.” – fear mongering.

And more nonsense and fear mongering, even a veiled threat: “If you think ” X –  “I wish you an uncomfortable chair for the rest of your life” “Give it the hydra treatment. Chop off its head and burn its neck stump.

Science true science, does not care what you believe, nor what I believe. It pursues the truth irregardless of faith, or belief.  It’s OK for you to think, and to believe what you wish. It’s OK for me to think, and to believe what I want. That’s what intellectual freedom is all about.  Science is not against intellectual freedom.

But this writer says: “Give it the hydra treatment. Chop off its head and burn its neck stump.

This is not science, it is faith.  It is a “pseudo-pseudo-science”. 

... and the rest of the post? Much of the same.  An occasional factoid, surrounded by poor research, lots of nonsense and worse.  I could dive in and do a thorough analysis, but frankly, it would be a waste of my time, and of yours as well. 

to your health, to science over nonsense, over non-science,

ps. But perhaps the original post was meant as a joke, but no-one actually got the joke? No, a joke needs more substance, more basis in actual fact, to be taken seriously - even as a joke.  It is not a joke, it is simply a witch hunt.  And we need to remember from Salem, that there were no witches.  There were only witch hunters, yelling a chorus of "cut of their heads!" and "burn them at the stump!", and innocent victims, sisters, mothers, lovers, who were persecuted for what the witch hunters, collectively, feared. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Can the rich buy healthiness?

If you are very rich, can you buy healthiness?  It's an interesting question. We know that those with money can afford better 'medical care', but can they buy 'health'?

What if money is no object? How much would you pay to raise your health 'as high as possible'? Presumably, if you can raise your health as high as possible, you will suffer much less illness. When you do suffer an illness, you will recover much faster. If you can raise your health, you will live longer, healthier, look younger.  What's not to like?  If I had the money, that's what I'd want.

But, if I had money, what would I spend it on, to improve my healthiness? There are lots of 'theories' of how to improve healthiness. Eat a healthy diet and exercise are the two most often suggested. But what's the complete list?

From the Hierarchy of Healthicine, we can see the entry points for improving healthiness. The hierarchy contains the layers genetics, nutrition, cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, minds, spirit and communities. Some of the layers are not available for direct action.  We cannot improve the health of our cells directly, but we can improve our nutrition, on the expectation that it will improve the health of our cells.

In the image on the left, we can see the entry points for impoving healthiness.  We can improve our nutrition - buying and eating healthier food. We can improve our systems health (our circulatory system, our respiratory system, etc.) by doing exercises specifically designed to improve each are.  We can join a gym and hire a coach, and track the improvements in our body healthiness. We can even hire someone to provide mental exercises that will help ward off the effects of an aging brain.

We can improve our spirits easily - just go out and buy something nice: a new car, a second or third house, a yacht.

We can improve our individual community healthiness through philanthrophy. By giving time, or in our case, money, to selected communities, we can improve our community healthiness, and lift our spirits as well.

In each of the areas, we can find many possible ways to improve our healthiness with dollars.  Does that mean it's possible to buy healthiness with money?

No. There's something missing. What's missing? 'nothing'.

Each of the entry points in the hierarcy has two sides. Health is about balance - you can't improve your health by eating more and more.  It's healthy to not eat some foods, and in many cases, its healthy to eat less.  But you can't buy 'less'. You can't buy 'nothing'. No matter how much money you have, you can't buy the food required for 'fasting'.

And it's not just nutrition that gives us problems.  Exercise - physical or mental - has the same issue. If you are exercising for health, you need to take time out for rest and recovery. If you are working your brain hard through mental exercise, or by living a stessful 'life on the edge', or even by partying all the time - the action most needed to improve your health might be sleep. But you can't 'buy sleep'.

Our spirits can be lifted by purchasing nice things, but that lift is only temporary - if we really want to health our spirits we need spiritual exercise, which cannot be 'bought'.

When we arrive at they layer for community healthiness - the balancing factor is independence. In this case, we can spend money on either side of the balance, but we will find that spending money does not demonstrate independence, rather dependence on money.  And spending money on our communities, or giving money to our communities - our family, our church, our government, etc., will not take the place of active participation in those communities. Just giving money can actually lead to communities that are less healthy. Many people with money wat to think of themselves as 'rugged individuals', an important attribute. But independence, and individualism taken to excess can put your health, and the health of those around you 'out of balance'.

A more complete diagram of the entry points to improve healthiness shows both sides:

 How much 'time' are you prepared to improve your health? How much is your time worth? What are you willing to spend to improve your health? What else are you willing to 'pay', or 'give up'?

Aye, there's the rub. Frankly, we don't know what actions might maximize our health.

And even if we decide on some specific actions, whether they be expensive or not - after three months, or three years, we will have no idea if our health has improved! We might think we are healthier. We might guess that we are healthier. But there is no science. We have many theories of illness, but none of healthiness.

If we lose weight, are we healthier? There are many ways to lose weight that are 'unhealthy'. Maybe for some people, losing weight is healthy, but for others - there is little point in losing weight.

Are rich people healthier? We know that rich people tend to live longer. Is that because they are healthier, or is it because they can afford better medicines when they are sick? Frankly, we don't know. We might assume that rich people are healthier, in general. But we have no way to know for certain. We don't measure healthiness.

The concepts in this post are an expansion of the ideas in the book:
Healthicine, the Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness.

to your health, tracy

Thursday, March 6, 2014

When I let loose my dog, my spirits fly free

When I'm in Arequipa, Peru, I walk Otto, the dog, every morning. When we're in the city, with lots of people, children, cats, and dogs, I keep him close - to keep himself and others safe from his exuberant spirit.  But once we reach the fields in the countryside, I ask him to sit quietly while I unhook the leash - and he's off. When I let loose my dog, my spirit flies free.

In the distance, I can hear the church bells, and the recorded music calling the parishoners: choir music, organ music, Spanish hymns, and the occasional hymn from John Lennon - Imagine is a local favorite here in Arequipa.

My spirits lift, as his freedom lifts his body.

What are our spirits? How can we make our spirits healthier? In the book Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness, spirits are defined as "Our spirits are our wills, our desires, our longings, to be, or not to be." Do we need religion, or faith in God to have strong spirits. Are spirits only about religious spirituality? I don't think so.

When Otto runs free, he reminds me that I "want to be". My spirit soars with him, as he floats over the fields, ignoring the peruvian burrowing owls that screech above him, searching out the smells of the earth.

When I stop to think about it, I also realize that Otto has become part of my communities - and my community healthiness. When I walk with him and he runs with me - we both grow healthier.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vitamin D: Science vs the Media

In early December, 2013, the Lancet published a paper measuring the effects of Vitamin D supplements on illness. On January 24th, 2014, seven weeks later, the media woke up and published many 'reports' on the unstudied effects of Vitamin D supplements on health (not on illness).  Should you trust the science? or the media?

The Science:

On Dec 6, 2013, the Lancet journal of Diabetes and Endocrinology (the study of hormones) published a paper titled: "Vitamin D status and ill health: a systematic review". You can click the link to see the conclusion yourself. They reported that:

"Investigators of most prospective studies reported moderate to strong inverse associations between 25(OH)D concentrations and cardiovascular diseases, serum lipid concentrations, inflammation, glucose metabolism disorders, weight gain, infectious diseases, multiple sclerosis, mood disorders, declining cognitive function, impaired physical functioning, and all-cause mortality. High 25(OH)D concentrations were not associated with a lower risk of cancer, except colorectal cancer. "

English translation: In most prospective studies, where Vitamin D concentrations are measured in patients, low Vitamin D is correlated with increases in cardiovascular disease, serum lipid concentrations, inflammation, glucose metabolism disorders, weight gain, infectious diseases, multiple sclerosis, mood disorders, declining cognitive function, impaired physical functioning, and all-cause mortality. High Vitamin D levels were associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer, but not other cancers.

"Results from intervention studies did not show an effect of vitamin D supplementation on disease occurrence."

English: when Vitamin D was supplemented, in scientific studies, no disease effect was shown - positive or negative.

and "Supplementation in elderly people (mainly women) with 20 μg vitamin D per day seemed to slightly reduce all-cause mortality."

English: Vitamin D supplements help elderly people to live longer, but more details are not available.

and "The discrepancy between observational and intervention studies suggests that low 25(OH)D is a marker of ill health."

English: It seems (but we're not sure) that low Vitamin D is a result of ill health, but not necessarily a cause.

Important Distinction:

None of the studies measured "health".  The studies measured Vitamin D concentrations, and Vitamin D supplementation, and illness, and mortality.  There were no studies that measured health.

The News:

Note; For some reason, all of the news reports came on the same day, January 24th, more than 6 weeks after the study was published.

WebMD: "Vitamin D Supplements Don't Help Your Health: Review", by By Robert Preidt, Health Reporter. Jan 24, 2014.
- health was not measured, only illness.

International Business Times: "Is Vitamin D The ‘Sunshine’ Supplement? Study Finds Healthy People Are 'Unlikely' To Benefit ", by Zoe Mintz, Jan 24, 2014.
 - for some reason, the International Business Times chooses to put the words 'sunshine' and 'unlikely' in quotes, although these words did not appear in the actual scientific study's conclusion.
 - headline says 'healthy people unlikely to benefit'? Does that mean that the elderly people in the study who clearly benefited from longer lives - were not 'healthy' according to the International Business Times?

The Guardian Liberty Voice: "Vitamin D Supplements Do Not Improve Health", by Jean-Paul Gauthier. Jan 24, 2014.
 - health was not measured, only illness.

The Daily Mail: "Why taking Vitamin D Supplements is 'pointless'", by Jenny Hope, Medical Correspondent.
 - The Daily Mail decides to put the word 'pointless' in quotes, although it did not appear in the scientific study's conclusion.
 - Jenny ignores the evidence and goes on to reach conclusions that are not supported by the research study.

CBS News: "Vitamin D supplements won't protect against disease in healthy adults", by Ryan Jaslow, Health Editor.
 - most of the studies were not of healthy adults, they were studies of disease, and supplementation effects on disease.
 - there was no attempt to determine which study subjects were 'healthy', so this conclusion has no scientific basis.

I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, but the fact that the news was reported by many organizations on the same date is difficult to explain.

How is it that the news reporters can make such simple mistakes?

Maybe the simplest answer is that scientists, and news reporters, consistently confuse 'health' with illness.  Scientific studies study illness, and the effects of specific actions (in this case, supplementation with Vitamin D) on illness.  There is no attempt made to measure health, or healthiness.  But news reporters want to report on 'health', so the attempt to translate 'illness studies' into 'health studies', and the result, frankly, is nonsense.

to your health, tracy

Monday, December 23, 2013

Annals of Internal Medicine Claims Black is White: Further Explorations

The Annals of Internal Medicine today published an editorial titled "Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements". The editorial tells us that three separate research projects studied the effects of 'supplements' on different chronic illness, and found no significant disease benefit from 'supplements'.  

What's right with this picture? Seriously? What healthiness was measured? The editorial says: "most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death". The use of supplements is not justified because they cannot prevent death? So who can prevent death? Medicines can extend life, but they can't prevent death. And chronic disease? What medicine can prevent the chronic diseases that were tested? None. Should we "stop wasting our money on medicines"? Well, maybe we should. 

The research studies, of course, selected 'specific supplements', and specific illnesses. They did not study 'all supplements' nor to 'all supplement combinations'.  They didn't try to identify which supplement products work better than others. And most importantly, they didn't study health.  But, the Annals of Internal Medicine sees fit to extend their conclusions from "we could not find a supplement that works" to "all supplements" and from illness to health. It's as if three clinical studies found that three medicines could not prevent chronic disease and death - so we should give up on medicines?

Black is not white. Healthiness is not illness.  Illness is the blackness in our lives.  It is simple and bad.  Healthiness is full of light, and colours, with beautiful hues, saturations, tones and harmonies of color. If we want to measure the effects of supplements on healthiness, we need to measure healthiness.  And if we are to measure the effects of supplements on health - we need to select what we believe are the BEST POSSIBLE supplements you can buy and test those.  Those are, after all, the most likely to provide benefit.

Did the studies test the best vitamins?  No.  One commenter at wrote: "The only MULTIvitamin mentioned was Centrum Silver, the most highly advertised and consequently the largest selling multivitamin... [which] is known to be compacted so tightly that it passes like a bullet through the digestive system." How good is Centrum Silver?  According to the Nutrisearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements, there are 32 products available in the USA that received a score of 4 stars. Centrum Silver received a score of 0.5 stars.  One-half of a star. Is Centrum Silver an appropriate 'representative product', on which to base general conclusions about multi-vitamin value? Certainly not.  Choosing Centrum Silver to study the benefits of multivitamins is like choosing a random third place athlete in a small school in the countryside for our Olympic competition. Nonsense. Is this what passes for science, in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

Was health measured? No. Even in the studies related to patients who had suffered previous myocardial infarction, there was no attempt to measure the healthiness of the circulatory system before, during or after the study.  Duh...  

Seriously.  What might we learn, when we take the top ten BEST vitamins, according to the best vitamin researchers. Test the circulatory system health of patients and then administered the vitamins for 6 months, and then measure circulatory system healthiness again? 

But no-one will do this study, because no 'one' company will sponsor it.  There is no vested interest. 

But there's another problem with this technique. No-one knows how to measure circulatory system healthiness.  We can say that one person's circulatory system health is good, and someone else's is not so good - but we have no actual measurement techniques that are scientifically solid enough to be used in a research study. It's much easier, and more common, as in the study referenced, to simply select people who have had heart attacks, and study to see if they have more heart attacks. The study coordinators would have to invent measurements of circulatory system healthiness.  It's easy to measure heart attacks and death, much more difficult to measure health. 

Imagine if you will, a scientific study of the effects of supplements on health.  Here's how it would work:

1. Select a random group of people who are not sick. You could, if you wish, choose people of a selected gender and age group, but then the results would only be valid for that gender, for that age group.  So, select a random group of people, of varying ages and genders, who are not sick, and who are currently not consuming supplements.

2. Measure the healthiness of the people selected.  Measure their physical healthiness and their mental healthiness.  Measure their spiritual healthiness and their community healthiness.  Measure the healthiness of their circulatory systems, their respiratory systems, their hormonal systems.  Measure the healthiness of their teeth, their blood and more.

3. Have participants take one of the top ten high quality supplement products, or a placebo (or one of the supplements shown by the Annals of Internal Medicine to be useless), for three months, at least.  Six months preferred.  

4. Measure their healthiness again at the end of the study.

But, there's a problem.  We have many medical systems that can measure illness. But we have no standards for measurement of healthiness. We can measure blood pressure - for diagnosis of hypertension, but not blood health. We can measure cholesterol, for diagnosis of 'high cholesterol', but we can't measure cholesterol health - without reference to illness. We can measure tooth decay, but not tooth health. And we have virtually no useful techniques to measure spirit health, nor community health. Every so called 'health measurement' relies on measuring illness, not healthiness. 

The hierarchy of healthicine stretches from genetics to nutrients, to cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, mind, spirit, and community, but if you have no illness - our medical systems diagnose "health" - and that's the end of it.  

So, I have to laugh when the Annals of Internal Medicine say that supplements don't improve healthiness.  Frankly their statements have no basis in scientific fact. Their conclusion states "With respect to multivitamins, the studies published in this issue and previous trials indicate no substantial health benefit." But the truth is - no study measured health, nor health benefit. Medical studies are designed to study illness and illness benefit. Extrapolation from studies of illness, to conclusions about healthiness is unscientific and irresponsible. 

But seriously, what's really going on here?  Is the Annals of Internal Medicine encouraging health? No. Are they encouraging health freedom? Not.  It is clear that if three studies of medicines showed no benefit against chronic disease - studies would continue, with different medicines, until we get it right.  No one would be silly enough to recommend we 'stop wasting our money on medicines'.  In fact, if three studies of medicines 'failed', the studies would probably not be published.  Medical Journals don't publish 'failures' unless they are about supplements. 

Several years ago, I published a post The Food Myth, in which I noted the tendency of medical researchers to dismiss supplements in favour of foods (which they don't need to test via research).  Later, I wrote The Medicines Myth, where I noted that the top 10 selling medicines don't actually cure any diseases. Maybe it's time to write The Supplement Myth, and explore the myth that Vitamins are not 'vital' and 'essential minerals' are not really essential at all and besides, everybody who lives on the SAD (Standard American Diet) gets plenty of these essential nutrients in their fast foods. 

The Annals of Internal Medicine is simply wrong.  And the truth is - they are so wrong that the majority of North Americans know they are wrong.  Maybe it's time for some disclosure? It would be interesting to see some statistics on supplements consumed by contributors to the Annals of Internal Medicine.  How does their published "editorial opinion" compare with their actual behavior? 

to your health, tracy

This post is an expansion of a post initially published on  GreenMedInfo specializes in collecting and presenting evidence on non-prescription health products.  Eg. GreenMedInfo is dedicated to looking for, finding and presenting evidence that the Annals of Internal Medicine is officially denying with an unscientific wave of their editorial hand. I have been a GreenMedInfo supporter for just over 2 years - they do great work. They are widely recognized as the world's largest and most referenced health resource of its kind, receiving over 1 million visits a month.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and President Kennedy

I was eleven years old when President Kennedy died.  I remember coming home from school at lunch and hearing the news from my mom.

A few days ago at my local drugstore, I noticed the appearance of John F Kennedy memorial magazines. But a quick glance confirmed the truth.  Nobody knows. It's official. But it's OK, we can still sell magazines. We don't have free press, but we can pretend. We can print lots of "beautiful pictures" and happy stories.

November 22, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the death of President John Kennedy. It's official. Nobody knows what happened. You can be sure someone knows.  You can be certain that several people know what happened.  But you don't know.  The news media doesn't know, or doesn't dare. Fifty years later and the best we can do is, as Wiki, the new authority, reports "Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of the crime and arrested that evening, but Jack Ruby shot and killed him two days later, before a trial could take place."

To be perfectly honest, we don't even know if the President was assassinated.

The FBI officially maintains that Oswald was the lone assassin.
The Warren Commission officially concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin.
United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that those investigations were flawed and that Kennedy was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy.  Note: Probably comes before 'assassinated'.

Officially, we don't know.  Why don't we know? Because some organizations, some community or group of communities, doesn't want us to know. According to a Fox News poll conducted in 2004, 74% of Americans thought there was a cover-up. The other 26 percent are simply not paying attention.

Almost fifty years later, on November 3, 2013, the Washington Post published this headline: "5 decades later, some JFK assassination files still sealed; researchers demand ‘transparency’" The documents are still 'covered up'. The cover-up is written into law.

Where are the Julian Assanges and Edward Snowdens of the Kennedy assassination?

There are many who claim that Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are criminals, who released secret information, creating danger to the public. What about those who create danger to the public by hiding information?

The first key to freedom is information.  The first key to healthy communities, healthy organizations, is information. Can "Freedom of Speech" exist when it's illegal to speak the truth.

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business" author Patrick Lencioni articulates some key components of organizations: integrity, clarity, minimal politics, minimal confusion.

Where is the integrity fifty years after the death of a president? Where is the clarity? All we have is the remnants of a politically tense, confused time.

In 1914, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."  Almost one hundred years later - we still live under the misconception that secrecy benefits society.

When Julian Assange and Eric Snowden make information public, they make our communities, our organizations, our governments, healthier.  Like many 'healthy' actions, there may be some pain, but in the long term, we all gain. When will we learn the truth about John Kennedy?

History has shown us, that although the information freed by Julian Assange was top secret, was HUGE in quantity, and clearly demonstrated that some of our communities - our diplomats, our soldiers, our political figures, are conducting themselves in a dishonest, illegal, unhealthy fashion, the world did not end.  We ate the forbidden fruit.  And we're still here. When Eric Snowden told us, in no uncertain terms, that many of our government organizations are breaking our laws, taking away our the rights declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights who suffered? Only Eric Snowden.

Eric Snowden and Julian Assange and others like them, work to improve the healthiness of our communities. Community healthiness starts with information.  We need more than freedom to speak 'our political opinion'.  We need the freedom to speak the truth. That's the true test of free speech.

The top layer of the Hierarchy of Healthicine is communities. Our communities range from our friends and families to churches, corporations, associations and governments.  If we want to impove our healthiness, we need to address the health of our communities. What did John F. Kennedy have to say on this?

The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy

When I was eleven, I was a child. Today, I try to maintain some of my childhood innocence - and the frankness that comes with it.  I love the quote by Pablo Picasso: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

I hope that someday soon, some child, maybe a 70 or 80 year old child, will tell us what really happened to President John F Kennedy. He wants us to know the truth.

to your health, tracy

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Healthy Bodies to Healthy Communities

I am working on my book project, Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness. As a result, I haven't posted much on this site, or on Writing a book gives me a chance to collect and align many of the ideas I have explored in the past few years.

I'm immersed in looking from a 'health' perspective, which is very different from our normal 'illness' viewpoint. Sometimes, as I work, something very new and interesting comes up.  This post gives a preview of some of the new ideas to be found in the book.

Many medical and alternative medical practitioners refer to healthiness of body, mind and spirit.

They're missing the next layer: Community.

The Hierarchy of Healthicine begins with genetics and nutrients and rises through the layers of cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, minds, spirits, to the top layer: communities. There are five general entry points to improving healthiness: nutrition, physical exercise, mental exercise, spiritual exercise and community involvement.  We've always known that nutrition, or diet is a large factor in healthiness. Nutrition has been studied extensively - although mostly with regards to illness rather than healthiness.