Archive | Evaluating evidence

Evidence lacking for “alternative” weight-loss therapies

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Posted 07 July 2021

A systematic review of published research evaluating the efficacy of dietary supplements and “alternative therapies” for weight loss among people at least 18 years of age has found that supportive evidence is weak. Many clinical trials were also hampered by a significant risk of bias due to inconsistent testing methods. Problems with studies include small sample sizes, short follow-up periods, and poor study designs.
Reference: Batsis JA. A systematic review of dietary supplements and alternative therapies for weight loss. Obesity, June 23, 2021

Key findings included:

  • Out of 315 randomized controlled trials included in the review, 52 were classified as having a low risk of bias, of which 16 demonstrated significant weight changes for tested therapies compared to placebo.
  • No high-quality evidence supported acupuncture, calcium-vitamin D supplementation, chocolate/cocoa, phenylpropanolamineguar gumPhaseolus vulgarispyruvate, and mind-body interventions as weight-loss
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Companies warned about misleading “FDA registration certificates.”

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Posted 07 July 2021

The FDA has ordered 25 companies to stop issuing documents that state that a medical device has been registered with the FDA. The certificates often look like official government documents, and many display the FDA logo. The agency believes that the certificates falsely imply that a device has been evaluated, cleared, or approved as effective for its intended purposes. The FDA does not issue any type of device registration certificate, and registration does not denote approval or clearance of a manufacturer or its devices. It merely means that certain information has been provided to the FDA.
Reference: Barrett S. FDA orders 25 companies to stop issuing misleading “FDA registration certificates.” Device Watch, July 4, 2021

The marketers of Healy bioresonance devices are using a certificate which states that their device has been cleared. Although the recent FDA action concerned registration certificates, the same principles … Read the rest

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Expert consensus on “alternative health care” risks developed

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Posted 30 June 2021

A 17-member Canadian team has come to a consensus regarding: (a) how “alternative health care” should be defined, (b) ways it can harm patients directly or indirectly, and (c) its four major risk categories.

The team consisted of three physicians, four nurses, three pharmacists, two physiotherapists, one social worker, two lawyers (with expertise in harm, injury and case law), an epidemiologist, a naturopath and a chiropractor, each with at least 10 years of experience and an identified interest in “alternative health care.”

Their definition is:

The range of therapeutics that largely originate from traditions and theories distinct from contemporary biomedical science, and which claim mechanisms of action outside of those currently accepted by scientific and biomedical consensus.

The team distinguished direct harm from indirect harm:

  • Direct harm can result from: (a) prescribed (including self-prescribed) substances, (b) procedures, (c) reducing the effectiveness of, or causing detrimental effects
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Can you actually boost your immune system? Here’s the truth

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Posted 26 June 2021

Take vitamin C supplements when you feel a cold coming on? The problem is, you can’t actually “strengthen” your immune system, says Dr. Jen Gunter. Diving into the elegant network of cells, tissues and organs that protect us every day, she introduces two kinds of immunity that specialize in recognizing and fighting off bad bacteria, viruses, fungi and toxins — and shares what you can do to keep your immune system healthy.


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Bizarre Discovery Suggests Pink Drinks Make People Run Faster, But Why?

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Posted 14 May 2021

Weight-loss may occur even with scam products, or products that are unlikely to work because of the ingredients or dose of the ingredients. This is attributed to the placebo effect. In this small study, runners were found to run faster just because of the colour of the drink!

By Peter Dockrill 13 MAY 2021

Science Alert

If you’re going to gargle something next time you go for a run, here’s some free advice: Try using a pink-colored drink. As strange as it sounds, pink drinks appear to be linked with enhanced running performance.

In a new study, scientists found that runners who rinsed their mouths with a pink-colored liquid solution – as opposed to a clear, identical-tasting one – ran for longer and at a faster average speed, while having a more enjoyable running experience too.

“Adding a pink colorant to an artificially sweetened solution not … Read the rest

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Free science literacy course launched

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Posted 27 October 2020

The University of Alberta is offering a free online course in Science Literacy intended to enable learners to “understand and use scientific evidence to challenge claims based on misinformation, and engage the process of science to ask questions to build our knowledge.” The course has no prerequisites, features a variety of guest lecturers, and can be completed at the learner’s own pace—roughly five weeks with five to seven hours per week of study.

Reference: Lyle A. UAlberta launches free online Science Literacy course. University of Alberta Faculty of Science, Oct 13, 2020

The modules of the course are: Introduction to Science; Pseudoscience; Critical Thinking; Scientific Methods; and Interpreting Evidence

About the Course

We are often told not to believe everything we read online or see on TV—but how do we tell the difference between sensationalized statistics and a real scientific study? Learn how to spot

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How to avoid becoming a super spreader of fake news on social media – Top tips

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Posted 02 April 2020

10 ways to spot online misinformation

By H. Colleen Sinclair* The Conversation

Propagandists are already working to sow disinformation and social discord in the run-up to the November elections.

Many of their efforts have focused on social media, where people’s limited attention spans push them to share items before even reading them – in part because people react emotionally, not logically, to information they come across. That’s especially true when the topic confirms what a person already believes.

It’s tempting to blame bots and trolls for these problems. But really it’s our own fault for sharing so widely.
Research has confirmed that lies spread faster than truth – mainly because lies are not bound to the same rules as truth.

As a psychological scientist who studies propaganda, here is what I tell my friends, students and colleagues about what to watch out for. Read the rest

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Landmark ruling for science journalists

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Posted 31 March 2020

By GroundUp Editors

Appeal committee of press council frees media from having to create false balance

landmark ruling by the appeal committee of the Press Council has clarified the obligations of science journalists in South Africa, with immediate implications for coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ruling arose from an article GroundUp published in March 2019, Quack claims about oxygen treatment are dangerous. The article, clearly categorised at the top as science, described how some companies are making unsubstantiated medical claims about hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This has legitimate purposes – like treating scuba divers who get the bends. But quack companies offer it as a treatment for cancer, autism and much else. Our report named a company making such spurious claims.

The company’s manager lodged a complaint with the press ombud. He argued his company should have been contacted for its Read the rest

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Are medical errors really the third most common cause of death in the U.S.?

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Posted 19 February 2020

Promoters of “alternative medicine” have exploited previous estimates of hospital deaths “due to medical error” to undermine the public confidence in medicine. Dr David Gorski has assessed the most recent Yale study and has provided an analysis of the study, below.

The claim that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US has always rested on very shaky evidence; yet it has become common wisdom that is cited as though everyone accepts it. But if estimates of 250,000 to 400,000 deaths due to medical error are way too high, what is the real number? A recently published study suggests that it’s almost certainly a lot lower.

David Gorski on February 3, 2020

I say this at the beginning of nearly every post that I write on this topic, but it bears repeating. It is an unquestioned belief among believers in alternative medicine

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Responses to health misinformation in mass media recommended

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Posted 31 July 2019

Fifteen scholars at institutions in Canada have reviewed how health misinformation is spread through mass media and have recommended policy and communication correctives.

Reference: Caulfield T. and others. Health misinformation and the power of narrative messaging in the public sphere. Canadian Journal of Bioethics 2:52-60, 2019

They describe problems of: (a) misleading narratives spread through social media; (b) implicit hype of emerging therapies by the popular press, pseudoscience embraced by journalists; (c) use of “scienceploitation” language of quantum physics, stem cells, genetics, and microbiome research for hype; and (d) misleading narratives in health-related crowdfunding. They recommend four “legal and policy tools” followed by seven “social tools” in response:

  • Better enforcement of existing truth in advertising law, and/or improvements thereto
  • Regulatory policy change and enforcement for health professionals spreading misinformation
  • Policy outlining rules for and encouraging expert media engagement and the use of narrative
  • Litigation
  • Advocacy
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