All posts by Steven Novella

Founder and currently Executive Editor of Science-Based Medicine Steven Novella, MD is an academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is also the president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society, the host and producer of the popular weekly science podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and the author of the NeuroLogicaBlog, a daily blog that covers news and issues in neuroscience, but also general science, scientific skepticism, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella also contributes every Sunday to The Rogues Gallery, the official blog of the SGU.

Red apple

The Clean Eating Delusion

While some parts of the world are concerned with eating, because of food insecurity, the “worried and well-fed well” are increasingly obsessed with so-called “clean eating.” This is nothing new, but like every cultural phenomenon, it seems, has increased partly due to the easy spread of misinformation over the internet. If you are anxious about your health, and who isn’t to some...

/ January 20, 2016
A vaccine to prevent cancer

HPV Vaccine Safety and Acceptance

The public fight over the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is still raging. The debate partly reflects the underlying logic of health prevention measures, which is essentially a statistical game of risk vs benefit. Unfortunately thrown into the mix are ideological opponents to vaccines who are distorting the facts at every turn. Notice that I said this was a “public” fight, because it...

/ January 13, 2016
The Brain

FTC Slaps Down “Brain Training” Claims

Lumosity is a company that provides online and mobile games that it claimed are scientifically designed to enhance memory, focus, mental flexibility, and even stave off dementia. In a recent decision, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concluded that Luminosity’s claims are not based on adequate scientific evidence. They imposed a $50 million judgement against Lumos Labs, the company who sells Lumosity, and...

/ January 6, 2016

Continued Battle over Homeopathy

The battle to rid modern scientific societies from the blatant and harmful pseudoscience of homeopathy continues. This past year has been overall a good one – in the US both the FDA and FTC decided to review their regulation of homeopathy. They have gathered their testimony and are now apparently reviewing everything. Their decisions on this topic are eagerly anticipated and could...

/ December 23, 2015

Antidepressants and Autism

A new study looking at the correlation of antidepressant use during pregnancy and the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been making headlines. While the results are likely significant, they are not as worrisome as the headlines may suggest. The study: strengths and weaknesses Overall the study design is solid. They followed 145,456 singleton full-term infants for a total of 904,035.50...

/ December 16, 2015

The Ethics of Prescribing Worthless Treatments

Is it ever ethical for a physician to prescribe a treatment to a patient that they know to be entirely without efficacy? Is it ever possible to do this without deceiving the patient to some degree? I think the answer to both questions is a clear “no.” Within the flipped reality of “alternative medicine,” however, it suddenly becomes acceptable to deceive patients...

/ December 9, 2015

CRISPR and the Ethics of Gene Editing

If you have not heard of CRISPR yet, you should have. This is a truly transformative technology that allows for cheap and easy gene editing. It makes a powerful technology easily accessible. Powerful biological technology, like stem cells to give another example, always seem to provoke profound hope and fear. The ability to manipulate human biology comes with it the hope of...

/ December 2, 2015

Exercise and Memory

There is no escaping the evidence that regular moderate exercise is associated with a host of medical benefits. Among those benefits are perhaps improved memory and cognition, and questionably a decreased risk of developing dementia. The latest study to show this correlation involved younger and older adults who wore a step-monitor. The number of steps they took during the study interval was...

/ November 25, 2015

US Department of Justice Goes After Supplements

It is shaping up to be a good year for those of us advocating more effective regulation of supplements and unproven therapies in the US. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing its regulation of homeopathy, and recently also announced it is taking public comment on its regulation of the term “natural.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also reviewing the...

/ November 18, 2015

Low Energy Sweeteners and Weight Control

A new systematic review published in the International Journal of Obesity looks at the totality of evidence investigating whether consuming low energy sweeteners (LES), such as aspartame, sucralose, or stevia, is a net benefit or detriment for weight control. In addition to providing some clarity on the answer, the review also provides some insight into how different kinds of evidence address such...

/ November 11, 2015