Month: April 2013

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind

In his first book, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Wrong, neurologist Robert Burton showed that our certainty that we are right has nothing to do with how right we are. He explained how brain mechanisms can make us feel even more confident about false beliefs than about true ones. Now, in a new book, A Skeptic’s Guide...

/ April 30, 2013
1970s buttons

“Alternative” cancer cures in 1979: How little things have changed

When it comes to quackery, the decades and names change, but the song remains the same, as it has since the era of disco and earlier.

/ April 29, 2013

Alternative Medicine and the Vulnerable Child

A concept that has been well-recognized in pediatric medicine, at least since it was first described in 1964, is that of vulnerable child syndrome (VCS). Classically VCS occurs when a currently healthy child is felt to be at increased risk for behavioral, developmental, or medical problems by a primary caregiver, usually a parent, and typically follows a serious illness. It can lead to some pretty serious behavioral...

/ April 26, 2013

What’s in your supplement?

When you pick up a bottle of supplements, should you trust what the label says?  While there is the perception that supplements are effective and inherently safe, there are good reasons to be skeptical. Few supplements are backed by good evidence that show they work as claimed. The risks of supplements are often not well understood. And importantly, the entire process of...

/ April 25, 2013

Science-Based Public Service Announcements

Changing behavior is difficult. It is also an increasing priority for health care. We have entered a period of history when lifestyle choices have a dominant impact on health and longevity. People are no longer dying young of incurable infectious diseases in significant numbers. Rather they are surviving long enough to die from their bad habits. Further, health behaviors are having a...

/ April 24, 2013

Too Much Information!

Some people would like to manage their own health care without having to depend on a doctor. They consult Google, diagnose themselves, and treat themselves. The Do-It-Yourself trend in lab tests continues apace. Without a doctor’s order, patients can get legitimate and/or questionable lab tests directly from various companies such as Any Lab Test Now and Doctor’s Data (which has sued Stephen...

/ April 23, 2013
Commander Yevsey Goldberg conducts an acupuncture procedure.

A very special issue of Medical Acupuncture

Every so often, our “friends” on the other side of the science aisle (i.e., the supporters of “complementary and alternative medicine”—otherwise known as CAM or “integrative medicine”) give me a present when I’m looking for a topic for my weekly bit of brain droppings about medicine, science, and/or why CAM is neither. It’s also been a while since I’ve written about this...

/ April 22, 2013

Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Flu

Infectious diseases (ID), as those who read my not-so-secret other blog know, is without a doubt the most interesting speciality of medicine. Every interesting disease is infectious in etiology. What is cool about ID is that it has connections into almost every facet of human culture and history. I note that at some point I have gone from being the young whippersnapper...

/ April 19, 2013

The Quack Full Employment Act

Quacks, charlatans and snake oil salesmen are closely watching “The Colorado Natural Health Consumer Protection Act,” Senate Bill 13-215 (SB 215) as it wends its way through the Colorado Legislature. I imagine a few felons about to be released from prison are keeping tabs on the bill too, for reasons we’ll get to in a minute. SB 215 passed the Senate on...

/ April 18, 2013

Does Brain Training Work?

Websites such as Luminosity.com make some bold promises about the effectiveness of computer-based brain-training programs. The site claims: “Harness your brain’s neuroplasticity and train your way to a brighter life” “Your brain’s abilities are unique. That’s why your Personalized Training Program adapts to fit your brain and your life goals.” “Just 10 hours of Lumosity training can create drastic improvements. Track your...

/ April 17, 2013