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Trick or Treatment

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Medicine 713

brothke writes "The recent collapse of financial companies occurred in part because their operations were run like a black box. For many years, alternative medicine has similarly operated in the shadows with its own set of black boxes. In Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine, Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, MD, break open that box, and show with devastating clarity and accuracy, that the box is for the most part empty." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.I first encountered co-author Simon Singh at the 2005 RSA Conference. In his presentation, he included a demonstration of the human brains unique capability for pattern matching when specific patterns are expected, and used Led Zeppelins Stairway to Heaven as an example. Stairway has long been rumored to have subliminal satanic messages. When played backwards, it is impossible to decipher any message. But when the message is known in advance, one can then hear the message imploring the listener to go to Satans tool shed. Once Singh put the subliminal lyrics on the overhead, the subliminal message was now clear, not due to a subliminal message, rather via pattern matching.

While no reasonable person can believe in Stairways subliminal lyrics, far too many people do believe in equally implausible things in the realm of alternative medicine. In the book, the authors tackle four main areas: acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbal medicine. The books conclusion is that acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic are essentially worthless, while herbal medicine has limited value.

Chapter 1 starts with an overview of evidence-based medicine (EBM), of which the authors are staunch believers. EBM applies evidence gained via the scientific method and assesses the quality of the evidence relevant to the risks and benefits of the treatments. The foundation of EBM is the systematic review of evidence for particular treatments via mainly randomized controlled trials. In the chapter, the authors reiterate the concept that the plural of anecdote is not data. Acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic have plenty of first-person anecdotes, but a lack of controlled studies with real data to back up their spurious claims.

EBM shows that homeopathy and other bogus cures are of no value, yet the public is oblivious to those facts. In a piece I wrote on this topic, New York News Radio" The voice of bad science, its shows that cheap radio advertising (with its mishmash of pseudo-scientific claims) combined with a public that is ignorant of basic scientific facts, creates a perfect storm for the continuation of homeopathy and other bogus cures.

A recurring theme the book stresses is that acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and other alternative therapies are scientifically impossible, and often will violate fundamental scientific principles. A perfect example of this implausibility is with homeopathy. Contrary to what common sense and basic science, in homeopathy, a solution that is more diluted is considered stronger and as having a higher potency. The issue is that the end result is a product that is so diluted, that its contents when in solid form is pure sugar, and when in liquid form; 100% H20. When a homeopathic liquid is in its most diluted state, there is not a single molecule of the active ingredient. Therein lays the scientific implausibility of homeopathy.

Chapter 1 also asks one of the books fundamental questions: how do you determine the truth? The authors answer that it is via the scientific method. This is determined only after strict and careful analysis of a clinical study, of which the most effective is double-blind and randomized.

In chapter 3, the book jokingly notes that since homeopathic liquid remedies are so diluted that they contain only water; their only use would be for dehydration. And since homeopathy is based on the fact that the strength of a remedy is based on its dilution, one could conceivably overdose on a homeopathic remedy by forgetting to take a dose.

The chapter concludes with perhaps the strongest indictment against homeopathy; namely its content. If one looks at the content of oscillococcinum, a homeopathic alternative marketed to relieve influenza-like symptoms, the packaging states that each gram of medication contains 0.85 grams of sucrose and 0.15 grams of lactose. Sucrose and lactose are simply forms of sugar, of which oscillococcinum is nothing more than am expensive sugar pill.

In chapter 4, the authors write that while homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo, the added danger with it is that patients will often forgo real medications to take a homeopathic one. It reports of a study in Britain, which demonstrated that the most benign alternative medicine can become dangerous if the therapist who administers it advises a patient not to follow an effective conventional medical treatment. The study demonstrated that alternative medical practitioners often recommend homeopathic remedies for malaria, and ignore proven conventional medicines. Such an approach can often mean a death sentence for the person taking the homeopathic remedy.

Chapter 5 deals with herbal medicine. The chapter is somewhat different in that the previous chapters about acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractic showed them to be useless, herbal medicine does have value. The book notes that herbal medicine has been embraced by science to a far greater extent than acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractics. The chapter lists over 30 herbal medicines and their levels of efficacy. An irony of herbal medicine is that some exotic ones, such as those with tiger bone or rhino horn are pushing the species to the brink of extinction, due to their level of popularity in certain parts of the world.

Chapter 5 concludes with on why smart people believe such odd things? Alternative medicine has failed to deliver the health benefits that it claims, so why are millions of patients wasting their money and risking their lives by turning towards a snake-oil industry? The authors provide numerous reasons for this, from the concepts such as natural, traditional and holistic, to attacks on the scientific method by the alternative medical community and more.

The appendix is a rapid guide to alternative therapies and lists over 30 new treatments with their benefits and potential dangers. The appendix gives single page summaries of the plethora other alternative therapies, from ear candles, colonic irrigation, reiki, to leech therapy and more. The authors write that most of these are bogus, many violate fundamental laws of sciences, and but a few have real, but limited value.

Alternative medicine operates in the shadows, blithely touting that their products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and that they are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. While these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease; consumers nonetheless spends billions of dollars per year on unproven supplements. Consumers can be quite fickle. On one side they are furious at the SEC for their lack of oversight around Madoff Investments Securities. Yet when the FDA requires products use their disclaimer of how ineffective the item is, consumers will throw billions of dollars on ineffective products.

Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine is an incredibly important and eye-opening book. While Singh is a physicist and Ernst a medical doctor, the book is written in a clear and compelling style, avoids technical jargon, and sticks to the facts. In the spirit of the scientific method, the authors scrutinize alternative and complementary cures and the results show that the snake oil is still selling.

Ben Rothke is the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.

You can purchase Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews — to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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But I *know* alternative medicine is real!!! (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174463)

...My psychic told me so!

Re:But I *know* alternative medicine is real!!! (3, Funny)

SCPRedMage (838040) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174643)

Pfft, that only means that it'll be real sometime in the future...

Re:But I *know* alternative medicine is real!!! (2, Funny)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174673)

Can I interest you in some shares of General Motors?

Herbal medicine has limited value (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174477)

You mean all those alkaloids that are the basis of most of the precription drug industry.

Re:Herbal medicine has limited value (5, Insightful)

Atrox666 (957601) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174531)

Yup it's obvious to any reasonable scientific person that it's the corporate logo stamped on the pill that confers the magic powers.

Re:Herbal medicine has limited value (3, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174681)

Those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it [infowest.com] .

Re:Herbal medicine has limited value (1)

AioKits (1235070) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174695)

Wasn't there a psych study done where they found that even though a particular medication being offered was in the same dosage and composition, patients reported 'feeling better' from pills that were unique shapes or colors? Anyone else heard of this before?

I tried to google right quick but my company blocks anything with 'blog' and somethings with 'forum' in the address.

Re:Herbal medicine has limited value (3, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174897)

Yup it's obvious to any reasonable scientific person that it's the corporate logo stamped on the pill that confers the magic powers.

Well what that assures you is that the pill will dissolve correctly and the dosage and freshness will not vary beyond certain bounds. Delivery of medicine at high does means those factors are non-trivial.

Now I think most alternative medicine is bunk. But the concept that if something is toxic in large doses that a small dose might have medicinal effects is not crazy at all. It is crazy to assume that is a good rule of thumb, but anything that has a strong influence on your body probably is worth considering as a drug. The idea of infinite dilution seems to carry the concept too far.

One form of alternative medicine that gets too much abuse is Vedic medicine which hold that natural based drugs are best delivered not in pure isolated forms but delivered in the context in which they are natually found. The more we learn about proteins and their interaction with small molecules the more that actually makes scientific sense. Although the vedic medicine scheme was not developed with that understanding, in hindsight it may lead to new ways to increase a drugs effectiveness at smaller dosages.

the problem with ostracizing branches of boogie-wooggie medicine is that this allows them to start mixing good and bad practices since no matter what they do they will be osctracized. A good example of this is chiropracty. those doctors know a lot more about muscle skeletle injury diagnosis that the orthopedic surgeons I have been to. But they also then reccomend all kinds of crazy cures like aroma therapy and magnets. SO the quality of their patient asseement skills gets tossed out with the bathwater of their bullshit cures. Orthopedists could learn a lot from the accumulated science of chiropracty but it wont since its too hard to sift through the dross.

Re:Herbal medicine has limited value (5, Insightful)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174697)

The thing that bothers me somewhat is the 'herbal = good' message that herbal medicine promotes. Yes, some herbs have medicinal effects. Quite a few of those will also mess you up if you're not careful, and then there's _way_ more 'herbal' substances that are just plain toxic.

I mean, drug companies don't tend to release actively harmful substances with no medicinal value. They also tend to document how to use them safely and control of side effects, and avoiding harmful interactions.

Stuff that comes from plants has no such restrictions.

Re:Herbal medicine has limited value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174743)

"I mean, drug companies don't tend to release actively harmful substances with no medicinal value."

OMG, thanks you, I nearly pissed myself from laughter at that.

You are right, risk of blood clots and heart attack are acceptable risks for masking symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome!!

I love these treatments for made up shit.

Re:Herbal medicine has limited value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174867)

I especially like the anti-depressants that cause people to commit suicide.
Thanks you drug companies!!!

Is your new drug ready that makes me shit out my colon when I have diarrhea ready too?

Re:Herbal medicine has limited value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174975)

Yep, and don't forget herbs are "natural" and the "natural" label is useless. It could also apply to arsenic, mercury, radium, etc. Herbs have some interesting properties, the scientists isolated the compounds and sell them in pill form.

Re:Herbal medicine has limited value (1)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174999)

What bothers me is the exaggerated claims of herbal medicine industry in general. There are a lot of great things that come out of herbal medicine, but the claims made about them are so blown out of the water that they lose all credibility. For example, many "colon cleansing" products are a good thing considering the typical American diet. They restore regularity in bowel movements and consequently reduce gas emissions. But to suggest that you'll lose weight, and that toxins in your blood are excreted through your colon is a load of bull.

Re:Herbal medicine has limited value (2, Insightful)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174717)

"You mean all those alkaloids that are the basis of most of the precription drug industry."

Of course yes: they are of limited value in an herbal treatment and acquire full value once doses are understood and stablished in detail and those alkaloids are purified and dosified on their best absorbable way.

But then, once you take an herbal treatment and study, purify and dosify properly it is an herbal treatment no more but what the authors call an Evidence Based Treatment.

WHAT! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174499)

I thought homeopathic was what we called gays.

wut (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174525)

So which is this: news for nerds, or stuff that matters?

Re:wut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174563)

So which is this: news for nerds, or stuff that matters?

None of the above.

Re:wut (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174943)

So which is this: news for nerds, or stuff that matters?

None of the above.

Don't be silly. Of course it matters to Nerds. Guarana [wikipedia.org] and Ma Huang [wikipedia.org] would be good places start.

Re:wut (1)

pe1rxq (141710) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174663)

It shouldn't be news to nerds.... but unfortunatly it often is...
That is also the reason it does matter.

Exploitations? (4, Funny)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174547)

So alternative medicine exploits placebo effect and gullibility.

Essentially taking money from people who want to believe.

I find it ironic that this book seeks to take money from people who _don't_ want to believe.

Re:Exploitations? (2, Insightful)

EVil Lawyer (947367) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174739)

The difference is that no one is going to forgo some other important service because they buy the book. While people DO forgo proven and effective medical treatments because a homeopath tells them to...

Re:Exploitations? (3, Insightful)

Kokuyo (549451) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174929)

Which is equally stupid as foregoing proven alternative treatment and getting out the antibiotics for simple stuff.

Frankly, with all the quacks I have met that had an actual doctor title...

The only thing I'll have doctors treat nowadays is the heavy stuff. Broken bones, cancers... you know, the stuff that makes you either move funnily or die rather quickly and painfully. I'm not the type to treat blood poisoning with a herb or two.

But I will state this: I am going to treat simple infections by means of personal hygiene and natural products and see how that works out. If the problem gets worse, I can still go and see a doctor.

Remember, guys, for doctors, your symptoms are a matter of trial and error. The usual way to treat people is to go through every medication until you find one that helps. If you have one of the better doctors, they'll be starting with the medicine that is most likely to help. I've you've got one of the many bad ones, they're going to start with the most expensive concoction.

Like lawyers, mechanics and us IT folk, doctors operate in a field that is very hard to understand unless you're a professional. The possibility of ill intentions and plain old incompetence is very high. So in my opinion, trusting medicine (or science) like it could do no wrong (and especially the people representing it) is just as gullible as believing some preacher about Armageddon.

Re:Exploitations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174797)

The guy is writing a book, he's not lying to anyone. I could say, the same way as you did, that "Franz Kafka seeks to take money from people who want to read good books". So what?

Re:Exploitations? (1)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174873)

It'd be a lie, because Kafka's been dead for a long time.

Re:Exploitations? (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174995)

Yes, in a way, the authors are profiting from the gullibility of others which created the need to disprove these methods to begin with.

Still, if this is compelling enough, I'd buy it because I know a few people who are wasting their time and money on these bullshit remedies. In the end, it would probably save them a lot more money than the book cost.

 

Minor correction (5, Informative)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174549)

"the plural of data is not anecdote"
should be
"the plural of anecdote is not data"

It isn't all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174961)

It isn't all wrong, the plural of data definitely isn't anecdote. ;)

Re:Minor correction (1)

kms_one (1272174) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174965)

I agree. This poster don't right no good.

you can thank Patron Saint Orrin Hatch for this (4, Informative)

swschrad (312009) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174559)

it was our good ol' boy Hatch who called in chits to get a law passed that puts the not-medicine hawkers beyond the reach of scientific proof and tests for safety and efficacy of their nostrums.

We already knew this (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174571)

So what? Anybody with half a brain already knew that alternative medicine is a scam. I'd be much more interested in some of the evidence-based medicine exposes of mainstream medicine. Menopause replacement hormones? Oops, turns out they give women breast cancer. Low-fat diets? Gary Taubes says they may be making us fat. 3rd-generation anti-depressants? They may work for a week but also seem to cause dependence, long-term depression, and make people more suicidal than before.

Doctors aren't scientists (not very good ones anyway), even if they do plan them on TV.

Re:We already knew this (2, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174703)

Doctors aren't scientists (not very good ones anyway)

Hell, most doctors aren't even good doctors, or are overworked to where they simply don't have to time to give things the attention they should. I think the real reason for the push towards alternative medicine is mistrust of the medical industry these days. After seeing 20 ads for different pill on TV, you just have to wonder if they have your interests are heart or not.

Re:We already knew this (1, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174705)

Speaking of "real" medicine, it's a well-known fact that Psychiatrists(and, to a lesser extent, pharmacists) are basically drug-company shills.

They push the pill du jour, they get kickbacks such as golf trips and other free stuff from the drug companies. Some womens' magazines are so chock full of drug ads that the color scheme of the magazine will often match some of the ads inside.

Drug companies are like OPEC except that they occasionally create things that are good for us. That's a shame beacuse, for some odd reason(perhaps the influence of large corporations who manufacture competing products?), tryptophan and cannibis are still officially illegal in the US.

Re:We already knew this (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174851)

... tryptophan .. still officially illegal in the US.

You mean my holiday turkey is turning me into a lawless junkie?

Re:We already knew this (0, Troll)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174749)

So millenia of effective use don't count for anything? I'm not saying all homeopathy is valid and effective, but lumping them all together simply because there's no "data," as you choose to consider it, and calling them a scam isn't any more valid.

We simply don't understand the human body well enough to know why some things work and why others don't. The human psyche plays a significant role that pure science doesn't admit to because it can't be proven in a test scenario. We know the human body gives off energy but people refuse to accept the "auras" are possible or significant for some reason. We know every brain has a distinct pattern with a general consistency to that pattern, but we refuse to believe it's anything more than electrical.

We are too ignorant of the details to say it's all a scam.

Re:We already knew this (4, Insightful)

pe1rxq (141710) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174937)

Evidence does not mean understanding.

We can have evidence that an effect exists without having to know what causes it.
Double blind testing is just that... seeing if just a single difference has any effect at all.

Auras are bullshit because in a blinded trials those who claim to see/feel them are incapable of detecting the difference between a human and a christmas tree.

Same with brainwaves... you can propose any other kind of new 'radiation' but unless you find a way to actually measure it (like in a double blinded test) it might as well not exist.

Re:We already knew this (3, Informative)

GRW (63655) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174931)

I'd be much more interested in some of the evidence-based medicine exposes of mainstream medicine.

Then you might be interested in reading the article The Wholesale Sedation of America's Youth [csicop.org] in the Nov/Dec '08 issue of Skeptical Inquirer [csicop.org] .

It isn't all a trick (1, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174587)

http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,164071,00.html [military.com]

"In the beginning, many people were skeptical, but after seeing it demonstrated on patients and the benefits achieved -- especially in the area of pain -- the majority of physicians embraced it and learned how to use it in their practice as an adjunctive therapy," said Colonel Niemtzow, who is the consultant for alternative and complimentary medicine to the Air Force surgeon general.

If the Army is embracing acupuncture, I wouldn't be so quick to lump it in with the sugar pills and diluted solutions.

Re:It isn't all a trick (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174753)

And why do you assume the people responsible for those particular decisions within the military are any less gullible than anyone else? (note: some areas of the military absolute DO require high intelligence and sharp wits, however that doesn't mean ALL positions in the military do...)

Re:It isn't all a trick (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174775)

The Placebo effect is powerful, especially when dealing with issues like chronic pain. Also, just because the Army is interested in something doesn't make it legitimate. There have been several projects funded over the years that in retrospect (and even at the time) were complete hogwash.

Re:It isn't all a trick (3, Informative)

Faux_Pseudo (141152) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174783)

The military also invested millions in remote viewing.

Re:It isn't all a trick (2, Informative)

LKM (227954) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174911)

Given that they actually explained why they use it, and given that their explanation shows that they don't have actual data (they saw demonstration showing that it worked), I would be so quick to lump it in with the sugar pills and diluted solutions.

The author is wrong about accupuncture (5, Informative)

maynard (3337) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174589)

And likely many of his other claims as well. Here's what PubMed says:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17568299?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum [nih.gov]

"Accupuncture may be an efficacious and acceptable nonexposure treatment option for PTSD. Larger trials with additional controls and methods are warranted to replicate and extend these findings."

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6289567?ordinalpos=3&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum [nih.gov]

"A brief characterisation is maccccde of the working principles underlying neural therapy under local anaesthesia or accupuncture. Common approaches to therapy are offered by disorders of autonomous regulation, including inflammatory processes, and by purely functional disorders.--There are many applications in gynaecology and obstetrics. A brief statistical information on lumbosacral pain is quoted as an example. Optimum performance can be expected from them, when used in combination with proven therapeutic methods. They provide a low-cost approach to reducing both the consumption of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals as well as time of morbidity."

There are many others outside of PubMed. And that is but one of the author's claims that actual published studies in the medical literature refute. This side-swipe skepticism is not science, it is marketing in order to sell a bullshit book. Ignore idiots like him and read peer reviewed journals and abstracts before basing your own judgment.

Re:The author is wrong about accupuncture (1)

pe1rxq (141710) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174741)

I doubt you can find a pubmed article that says that sticking a needle in your ear will heal your liver ailments...

Re:The author is wrong about accupuncture (2, Insightful)

maynard (3337) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174825)

Conduct a study and discover the answer then. Just making your claim does not prove your point. And a lot of reputable scientists and physicians have now published in peer reviewed journals positive findings beyond placebo in the use of acupuncture (and other so-called 'alternative' treatments).

Pay attention to data, methods, and results. The rest is all bullshit.

Re:The author is wrong about accupuncture (4, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174831)

The problem with Acupuncture is that the practitioners still prescribe to the theory that the needles redirect a person's Chi and whatnot. To modern medicine this is about as useful as describing a treatment that restores balance to the four bodily humors.

I agree. But that's a different problem (3, Insightful)

maynard (3337) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174957)

Now you're arguing that an ancient Chinese model for how acupuncture works is flawed because it doesn't conform to modern medical terminology, nor does it conform to the scientific method of making predictions based on prior results.

I fully agree.

But that doesn't discount findings, it only calls into question an understanding of the underlying mechanisms behind the technique. Which ultimately means, let's do more research and find out that answer. But having a broken model is not confirmation that one's findings are wrong. That's ridiculous. In fact, such a position is as much the exact opposite of the scientific method as are those ancient claims about chi.

IOW: Skepticism as a business has far outstripped anti-science nuttiness from new-age and other so-called 'alternative' medical and science quacks.

Re:The author is wrong about accupuncture (2, Interesting)

drfireman (101623) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174945)

On the whole I think you're right about acupuncture. But bear in mind that PubMed doesn't say anything. PubMed indexes articles published in many journals, many of which are decidedly shoddy. Many more people do medical research than actually know how to do it properly. Also, trying to adjudicate any dispute about efficacy with a cursory look at PubMed is dangerous, not least due to publication bias, but also due to the aforementioned shoddiness of the indexed journals.

I have a question for anyone who's read this book. In general, do the authors argue that we have high-quality studies concerning these four treatment modalities, and that we therefore know with pretty good certainty that they're not much good? Or do they downplay the quality of the existing data?

Re:The author is wrong about accupuncture (2, Informative)

ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 5 years ago | (#26175003)

As a first point, "Pubmed" says nothing about these things. Pubmed is a search engine which indexes various medical journals. The appearance of something on Pubmed is by itself in no way an indication of quality.

But the main point about researching any medical articles is that picking out limited data points is a terrible, terrible way to draw conclusions. Holding up a couple of papers as proof is a rather dubious method of calling "bullshit" on a position. Appraoching things that way, we have to assume that MMR undoubtably causes autism, for example, since there are published articles which express support of this claim. Cherry-picking abstracts does no good, particularly without a critcal eye - the obvious observation on the first article is that it lacks a placebo control, which is a common criticism of many accupunture trials, I believe.

A more comprehensive examination of this field (and indeed, most medical fields) typically shows there is actually disagreement in the field with published articles supporting both positions, and it must be evaluated as a whole to determine the validity of a given statement. Perhaps the author has actually performed such an experiment and reached this sort of conclusion? That's the sort of thing which needs to be investigated before dismissing the work out of hand.

Acupuncure? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174595)

I was under the impression that for some conditions acupuncture had been shown to have a small but statistically significant benifit, especially when combined with conventional thearapies. Wikipedia cites several published, peer reviewed articles to that effect, especially in regards to chronic lower back pain.

Re:Acupuncure? (2, Interesting)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174779)

Are there any good examples you know of that couldn't be explained by the placebo effect? If you go purely with statistics (which most of the research I've seen does) then you WILL see a positive result from acupuncture compared to "no treatment", but that doesn't mean it's actually doing anything.

Re:Acupuncure? (1)

LKM (227954) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174879)

If you do enough studies, some of them are bound to show some kind of statistically relevant result. Most studies on acupuncture show that it's no better than sticking needles randomly (a.k.a. a placebo).

Chiropractic treatment worked for me (3, Informative)

^Case^ (135042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174599)

I had a serious fall when skiing in february. A muscle in my back was so sore that I could not tie my own shoelaces or sit down without severe pain.

After having consulted three different medical doctors who all told me to just go home and lie down and just wait for the pain to go away I consulted a chiropractic. He was able to make some of the pain disappear immediately.

So I have to say that for me at least it worked. YMMV.

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (1)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174625)

There was a Chiropractor who lived right behind my house while growing up and when I hurt my back playing football, our family DR said surgery would be necessary, but the Chiropractor behind us fixed me up with just a few trips to the office.

Been going to Chiropractors ever since.

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174881)

'You've been seeing chiropractors ever since' would seem to imply that you've had ongoing back problems. Isn't it at least possible that with surgery you wouldn't have the back issues that you do?

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (5, Insightful)

Angostura (703910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174687)

Not all "alternatives" are created equal. I think it is reasonable to surmise that manipulation of joints and stretch and massage of muscles can help alleviate muscular and joint pain. It is less reasonable to assume that massaging a particular spot on my foot will help kidney function.

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (4, Insightful)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174925)

Not all "alternatives" are created equal. I think it is reasonable to surmise that manipulation of joints and stretch and massage of muscles can help alleviate muscular and joint pain. It is less reasonable to assume that massaging a particular spot on my foot will help kidney function.

I was hoping that the reviewer would go into more detail on what parts of Chiropractic treatments are "snake oil". I know "common sense" and "baseless anecdote" are close buddies, but if your vertebra is pinching a nerve, something somewhere is going to hurt! If rubbing it and popping it works, it's a heck of a lot better than addictive painkillers or dangerous surgery.

But yeah, claiming that a chiropractic adjustment will prevent asthma or allergies is just silly. My chiropractor has a standard chart on the wall that includes some of those claims -- but when I mentioned it in passing, he seemed very uncomfortable with the idea.

If doctors and chiropractors would mutually respect each other's actual accomplishments and abilities, patients would be much better off. But as long as you have chiros saying they can cure *everything*, and MDs saying *they* are the only valid practitioners of the healing arts, we're stuck in the middle.

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (2, Insightful)

oogoliegoogolie (635356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174751)

Chiro works for pinched nerves in my neck usually in one treatment. A 'mainstream' MD would probably prescribe a weeks' worth of muscle relaxants.

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174803)

I am in agreement with Chiropratic care being quite useful.

I've pulled a full muscle system from my back down to my toes (originating from a twisted vertibrae). A few trips to a Chiropractor helps align that vertibrae and eases the muscles back to normal.

So I can either spend a few bucks for a handful of trips to a chiropractor or look at expensive back surgery to fix the issue with he vertibrae and possibly have back problems from the surgery.

I believe the author of this book is just looking to push normal modern medicines due to them being 'more scientific' even though alternative methods are often quite intuitive AND effective as well.

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174817)

That's the thing: that's just anecdotal data. Without further tests, it has no place in modern medicine or science. Without controlled experimentation, "we" (i.e. anyone who is not you, ^Case^) do not know what happened. Maybe your doctor was wrong. Maybe your muscle would have healed anyway, without any external help. Maybe it was something your chiropractic did, just not what he thinks he did. And yes, maybe chiropractic treatments work -- but your unverified anecdote is not evidence enough!

One of the problems with common sense is mistaken association of cause and effect (I'm sure there's a name for this fallacy): just because someone did A before B happened, it doesn't mean A caused B or that they are related at all!

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (5, Funny)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174843)

I had a serious fall when skiing in february. A muscle in my back was so sore that I could not tie my own shoelaces or sit down without severe pain.

After having consulted three different medical doctors who all told me to just go home and lie down and just wait for the pain to go away I consulted a chiropractic. He was able to make some of the pain disappear immediately.

So I have to say that for me at least it worked. YMMV.

My doctor, Johnny Walker, MD, can do better than that. His assistant, Jack Daniels, does a pretty good job too of relaxing muscles. Dr. Jim Beam, on the other hand, I never got along with him. And when times are hard, like now, I get it on with the Blue Nun - yeah, I'm a perv. Now, I heard of this Russian guy, Smirnoff, I think, who can do a good job too. Some folks prefer to go with a laymen with some military training. They like Captain Morgan. I don't know about the Captain. Too each his own.

Now, I have to go to my Canadian Club to relax.

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (2, Insightful)

raddan (519638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174895)

The reason, I suspect, is that some parts of chiropractic, e.g., massage, have actual therapeutic value. One of the reasons why people are so unhappy with traditional doctors is that a doctor will look at them, maybe touch a spot here and there, take a photograph, and then conclude: "there is nothing wrong with you". But this phrase means something quite different to a doctor than a layperson.

A layperson _knows_ there's something wrong. It hurts! What they do not know, and what the doctor is telling them in a terse and somewhat cryptic way is: there is no permanent damage. A great deal of back pain is caused by strain or damage to skeletal muscle, and it is painful. But it will heal.

A person who visits a chiropractor gets instant satisfaction. Your chiropractor may examine you, proclaim, "Ah, a subluxation!" (which sounds at least, quasi-scientific), and immediately proceed to push and prod-- essential massage-- you, until you feel better. People walk out with the good feeling you get after a massage, plus the fact that their "Doctor" did _something_, and think: my M.D. was full of shit!

Scientific American had a lengthy article examining why chiropractic was so popular, that you may find interesting. (I can't seem to find it-- it was not the SciAm Frontiers show on PBS about the same subject)

Generally speaking, chiropractic is benign and often helpful, if otherwise completely hogwash. But you have to be careful-- the practitioners of alternative medicine have a worldview that is not at all based in any kind of rigorous method-- and as a result, they can cause real harm.

The lack of communication between M.D.s and patients is a real problem, and needs to be rectified. My girlfriend, who is near the end of her medical schooling, speaks about this often with me. Unfortunately, doctors are under such time pressure that this leads to a serious lack of bedside manner. What results is a crisis in faith in their expertise among laypeople.

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (1)

renoX (11677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174899)

The thing is that not all chiropractors are equal: having done a lot of Judo when I was young, having pain in the back was quite common, a trip to the chiropractor I knew fixed it every time, then having moved into another town, once when I had a pain in the back I went to see another chiropractor (recommended by a colleague) which did basically nothing to me, of course the back pain stayed.

Another one (a chiropractor and doctor) hurt my shoulder with an unneeded manipulation: a reminder that going to the chiropractor isn't without risks!

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (4, Interesting)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174941)

That's thing with Chiropractic... it's 85% bunk because it claims by "aligning your spine" it can heal all sorts of things.

Straight snag from Wikipedia: [ emphasis mine]
Chiropractic... emphasizes diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine, under the hypothesis that these disorders affect general health via the nervous system.[1]... Chiropractic treatment focuses on manual therapy including spinal manipulation and other joint and soft tissue manipulation, and includes exercises and health and lifestyle counseling.[4] Traditionally, it assumes that a vertebral subluxation or spinal joint dysfunction can interfere with the body's function and its innate ability to heal itself.
[5]

The bold stuff is the bunk. Complete garbage. But if they just said.. "Chiropractic.. we fix back problems." I think it would be a solid medical practice. Even evidence based. There is no doubt that electro-therapy applied to muscles relaxes spasms and reduces inflammation, that manipulating a sacroiliac joint for instance, back into alignment, definitely works.

I have recurring problems with my sacroiliac joints. I walk into a chiropractor so crooked and bent I look like I have severe scoliosis, with one leg longer than the other, in severe pain. I walk out straight and tall, with soreness instead of debilitating pain. Every time.

So yeah, mostly Chiropractic is bunk. But it can fix your back, "kinks" and spasms in your neck, a "thrown out" lower back, etc.

My anecdote isn't evidence. But a physical therapist will do the same thing: http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/cybertherapist/back/buttocks/sacroiliac.htm [sportsinjuryclinic.net]
They just charge a lot more and don't call it Chiropractic.

Re:Chiropractic treatment worked for me (1)

jag7720 (685739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174955)

I had two cases of pancreatitis and the "Medical" doctors could not find a reason.
MRI/CT Scan/ultrasound/genetic testing/drink radio active liquid and watch my pancreas work...

Nothing.

I went to a Kenesiologist/Chiropractor when it started to happen again and in 10 minutes he told me I had a hiatal hernia.
He pushed on the spot to move the hernia out and back into the normal position. With in seconds I didn't feel like I was going to vomit and have another case of pancreatitis.

So, as far as this guys book... bah... he is a medical dr... and his profession is in stark contrast to homeopathy.

But now he is an author and trying to sell his book.... it's all about the Benjamins..

Success relies on our tendency to get well or die (5, Insightful)

howlatthemoon (718490) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174619)

In general, if you are sick or injured you get better or die. If you die you can't say anything about the failure of your medical care. If you have received care, more than likely likely you will improve. The question is whether the care altered the healing. Since humans like to find patterns, which help us predict future events, we tend to associate an action with an outcome. So, if we tend to get better, and we receive care, unless we are careful we will assume the care was positively associated with getting better. I really wish we were better able to teach that correlation does not imply causation.
Remember, your chiropractor is little more than a highly paid masseur/se.

Re:Success relies on our tendency to get well or d (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174845)

And massage is a valid healing regimen for many injuries. Studies have shown the effective of therapies like massage increasing the rate of healing and improving overall return of full capacity. (e.g. 100% range of motion return instead of 95% for shoulder injury)

Cripes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174631)

PLEASE tell me that there's either currently a way, or will soon be a way to block stories by specific editors, much like the way one can block the 'idle' channel from the front page?

I don't know about others, but Slashdot would be a LOT more enjoyable for me if I could block kdawson and samzenpus from showing up on the front page.

Re:Cripes (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174805)

Well, as an AC, no... but check your preferences, and you'll find the setting you're looking for.

Grammar Nazi (2, Informative)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174637)

From someone who's a published author, I expect better grammar in a book review.

In the chapter, the authors reiterate the concept that the plural of data is not anecdote. Acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic have plenty of first-person anecdotes, but a lack of controlled studies with real data to back up their spurious claims.

The aphorism is mis-stated (it's "the plural of anecdote is not data"), and directly contradicts the next sentence. I actually read it over several times because I thought it might be deliberately reversed to make a point. Nope, it's just wrong.

Contrary to what common sense and basic science, in homeopathy, a solution that is more diluted is considered stronger and as having a higher potency.

Either the third word, "what", shouldn't be there, or there's some missing word(s) after "basic science", such as "assert" or "claim" or "would say".

Chapter 5 concludes with on why smart people believe such odd things?

Either "on" is not supposed to be there, or should be something like "the question of".

Overall, it reads like a high school student's book review. Get a proofreader.

Dear Ben (Rothke) (3, Insightful)

Slartibartfast (3395) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174641)

For the love of God, please: learn to use punctuation and better sentence structure. I tried making it through your review -- I really did. But this review, as well as your "New York News Radio: The voice of bad science" are so rife with incorrect usage that the message becomes blurred and incoherent. Just one example of many:

"Contrary to what common sense and basic science, in homeopathy, a solution that is more diluted is considered stronger and as having a higher potency."

What? Oh! I just realized: if I remove "what", the sentence suddenly makes sense. (No, I'm not being sarcastic or ironic.) Perhaps a careful proofreading is what you require, though your utter lack of possessive apostrophes implies that is probably not the case.

Bottom line: you've got good stuff to say. Please learn how to better say it.

Thanks.

If you dont like herbs , (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174645)

then go to IRAN you godless HORE! Americans like myself enjoy scientific HERBS which have MEDICAL POWERS beyond your limited, ISLAMIC comprehendion. Further, and more: the formality of HERBS is not diluted by the pill that you ate when it wasn't a Doctor to it, dumbass. If you don't believe me, go to IRAN ore even ITALY and see if you like it "there"!!!!!!

Re:If you dont like herbs , (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174795)

it looks like the local insane asylum finally got internet access.

although I agree (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174659)

A lot of standard medicine doesn't really pass the test of evidence-based medicine either, in the sense that specific advocated treatments have been validated experimentally when applied to specific, observable conditions. That's one reason EBM is still relatively controversial: many standard surgical and medical practices are based on rational inferences from facts we're pretty sure of, but have never themselves been validated.

To take a really simple example, look at how dermatologists treat moles. There isn't very good experimental data on mole prognosis. An EBM approach would say something like: given specific observed features of this mole, data tells us it has an x% chance of turning into a melanoma within Y years. You would probably need computer models to aggregate the various features that could contribute to or against it being at risk. Dermatologists don't generally have this information at hand (if it exists at all), but instead make more subjective judgment calls, based on some high-level knowledge of risk factors (which may or may not have ever been validated experimentally themselves).

I should add that it is improving (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174729)

Especially in areas where there's some specific push to use evidence-based medicine, its adoption is increasing and leading slowly to changes in clinical practice, as long-established assumptions have turned out not to be supportable by evidence.

One of the more notable examples is the significant decrease in use of antibiotics for many bacterial maladies, which has been driven by an initiative to experimentally validate allegedly positive uses of antibiotics, and stop prescribing them if evidence of positive effect can't be found.

It used to be assumed that, because broad-spectrum antibiotics kill bacteria, they are therefore useful to prescribe for maladies caused by bacteria. However in many cases they turn out to have little effect at all; for example, controlled studies of antibiotic prescription for ear infections have generally shown no improvement in recovery speed or likelihood with antibiotics as compared to without. Therefore the previous, non-evidence-based standard medical practice ("you should prescribe antibiotics for ear infections") has turned out not to be experimentally supportable.

Re:although I agree (2, Insightful)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174891)

It's very easy to find blind spots in any science.

Simply ask a doctor to explain why inflammation happens or ask a physicist where G comes from.

Any scientific person who is unwilling to say "I don't know" once in a while is not as scientific as they should be.

As for determining whether moles will turn into cancer... there are particular chemicals given off by cancerous cells, and melanoma's "scent" has been mapped (after years of looking at moles and the chemicals which are present in the ones that do and do not turn into cancer). There is no fast or easy test for these chemicals, but I'm working on that.

oscillococcinum (2, Informative)

EVil Lawyer (947367) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174667)

FTFR: "If one looks at the content of oscillococcinum, a homeopathic alternative marketed to relieve influenza-like symptoms, the packaging states that each gram of medication contains 0.85 grams of sucrose and 0.15 grams of lactose. Sucrose and lactose are simply forms of sugar, of which oscillococcinum is nothing more than am expensive sugar pill."

Um, it does contain both .85 grams of sucrose and .15 grams of lactose, but those are only the "inactive" ingredients. The supposedly active ingredients are "200CK Anas barbariae hepatis," or heart and liver of the Muscovy duck. Whatever that is. I'm not saying I think it works (though they do have clinical data showing some benefit over placebo), but that the reviewer is wrong that it's ONLY a sugar pill.

Re:oscillococcinum (1)

LKM (227954) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174839)

No, he's not wrong. It is only a sugar pill. Not a single atom of the original active ingredient is left in homeopathic sugar pills.

Re:oscillococcinum (2, Informative)

FroBugg (24957) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174849)

Except that there is none of this ingredient physically present in the medicine. At some point (supposedly), some small quantity of this ingredient was mixed with greater and greater and greater quantities of inactive dilutants until you'd be lucky to find a single molecule of it in a swimming pool full of the stuff.

That's how homeopathy is supposed to work. By the memory of the water or whatever was in contact with the "active" ingredient.

Re:oscillococcinum (3, Insightful)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174905)

The point is that 1 gram contains .85g sucrose and .15g lactose. In base 10, .85 + .15 = 1.0, therefore the entire 1g contains nothing but sugar. Where is the "Anas barbaria hepatis" to fit?

Re:oscillococcinum (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174907)

The "200CK" is irrelevant, it's silly unit for a kind of treatment that's no better than placebo. It's supposed to sound important, which is how it works, by tricking the mind.

meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174671)

I don't know. My back feels a whole lot better after I get manipulated at the chiropractor, after a day of digging ditches. You can't tell me that is all in my head.

Self Deception and bias (4, Interesting)

aepervius (535155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174675)

From the example of my family (all have at least a master in education, albeit I am the only one with a natural science [physic] PhD), the main problem is that people do not know how long an usual illness can take to naturally cure (without intervention) and also suffer for confirmation bias. This is enough to explain fully why people even intelligent one buy into it. I keep telling them the old doctor joke : "with medicine you will cure your average banal cold in 14 days. Without it will take 2 weeks". I keep telling them to try blinding as an experiment, to try reading scientific result, I indicated them why it could only be placebo, but after a while, I decided to simply stay silent. Their usual answer was only "it works for me". From that position of belief, sympathic magic, nothing can be done. you can as well try to convince a christian with logic that Jesus was an oridnary man and not the son of god or something similar. The worst is that when they get "complication" they ascribe it to having forgotten or not properly taken their "homeopatic" globule... But when they are cured after the average "14 days" they ascribe it to their beloved oscillocoxnium. The usual confirmation bias, the same which works with other scam like dead talking and what not : forget the negative remember the positive.

In the mean time, I simply have utterly given up, I think we would need 3 or 4 generation of basic scientific education from the 1st grade onward to change the trend. The way it is now, people as a whole will never be able to recognize homeopathy for the pathetic scam it is. Even if you rub their nose in it.

Why so trusting of MDs? (0, Flamebait)

critical_point (1430417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174685)

Why are geeks so trusting of medical doctors?

I have met many medical doctors who chose their profession because it comes with prestige and high pay, which makes them no different then the majority of the population, except for having more resources to start with. They are merely at the pinnacle of the sheeple/consumer-breeder class that slashdotters loathe!

In contrast we have mathematicians, theoretical physicists, and open source programmers who chose these professions because they want to do great work, while disregarding the low pay and low social status. These people are true thinkers, true geeks, while so many medical doctors are egomaniacs who like to chase women, drink beer, watch sports and excessively pat each other on the back (hence the kind of groupthink that makes their ability to evaluate any kind of new medical advances poor).

Re:Why so trusting of MDs? (1)

jconley (28741) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174735)

There is something wrong with chasing women and drinking beer? You sir (or ma'am) are clearly on the wrong website.

Re:Why so trusting of MDs? (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174763)

They aren't. They're trusting of people who apply the scientific method to a medical product. I mean, drug companies are biased and they lie for their own ends, but at least they have to pretend they've done proper trials, proof and testing of their product.

My 'herbal brain enhancer' that I'm selling you has no such constraints.

Re:Why so trusting of MDs? (1)

LKM (227954) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174813)

Critically evaluating alternative medicine and being trusting of doctors is not the same thing.

Re:Why so trusting of MDs? (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174953)

Those medical doctors have also completed a reasonably rigorous education and internship in a field grounded in the scientific method, whatever their personal failings are. And being a "true geek" is no guarantee of being right, either--witness the number of flame wars in tech circles.

Doctors aren't the only ones patting themselves on the back excessively.

Scientific Method (5, Insightful)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174693)

The authors provide numerous reasons for this, from the concepts such as natural, traditional and holistic, to attacks on the scientific method by the alternative medical community and more.

This _really_ makes me angry. When I talk to someone about homeopathy, they always tell me about how "alopathy" doesn't work on prevention and how all those "chemicals" do bad things for your health.

I think they don't relate the studies saying "don't eat too much fat, it's bad for your heart" and "don't smoke, you bastard, or your lungs will collapse" with prevention. I don't know why.

I don't have a problem with people getting cured by placebos. But I do want them to notice that, if they have TB, it's the "oh-my-god-they're-so-bad" antibiotics that will probably save them.

This applies equally to "mainstream medicine" ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174755)

Well if we are going to call acupuncture a bluff then we should call many of the modern "fashion drugs" also a bluff. Many drugs seems to have less of an effect than the placebo - but are still marketed as mainstream medicine - with the blessings of the FDA. even scarier is the idea that an anti-allergy drug can cause a variety of "side-effects" - many of which sound worse than watery eyes to me (like say intestinal bleeding, giddiness, nausea, sexual dysfunction ....). EGAD!!

If missing a homeopathic dose is overdosing - then taking many of today's pills is effectively "Take my money and make me sick(er?) in a different way".

Ah well - the beer has run out .... :)

What about those eye teaser pictures? (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174761)

With the whole stairway thing it would seem to imply that if you are looking at one of those pictures and don't see the hidden image then it is not there. However if someone points you in the right direction and you suddenly do see it then its still really not there, but you think it is???

Being one of the gifted few chosen to be Satans Little Helper I've always been able to hear it. Just because you need help doesn't make it less there. You just may not have been meant by Him to hear it.

Chiropractic care (1)

jbolden (176878) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174769)

The review is good it is a pity it skips the chapter on Chiropractic care. There results are mixed, especially for lower back pain.

As for why these are popular.... alternative medicine providers offer a much higher level of customer service and focus on customer satisfaction. They work hard to make sure their patients are happy with the treatment regimen and spend time with them.

Painting with a very broad brush (5, Insightful)

Vidar Leathershod (41663) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174777)

While some Chiropractors are trying to sell people on "Blue Light Therapy" and other stuff, others do help patients who are in great pain. Ask anyone who has been helped with Sciatica that occurred after a lumbar disc problem whether they would prefer to go back and have surgery, rather than the solution they got from the chiropractor. Or maybe the person who had a pinched nerve in their neck causing total numbness to shoot down their arm and pain in their shoulder. When the Chiropractor fixes this issue, do we disregard the results because we believe Chiropractic to be quackery?

Meanwhile, we'll have all the kooks out here proclaiming that Vitamin C or Zinc don't help with colds, and whatever you do, don't drink cranberry juice to help you with a UTI.

I've seen plenty of quackery. Many people in the Alternative medicine field are insane. But that doesn't mean that every treatment that is not released by a pharmaceutical or approved by a certified M.D. is useless.

The Plural of Anecdote (1)

LKM (227954) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174785)

"In the chapter, the authors reiterate the concept that the plural of data is not anecdote."

Shouldn't that be "the plural of anecdote is not data"?

That, by the way, is exactly why all of the people who wrote things like "But it worked for me!" need to buy this book.

What is the Selection Criteria? (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174791)

The problem here is that people tend to reproduce before they choose a homeopathic therapy for their cancer and die. We need a way to exploit lethal gullibility prior to the propagation of those genes into the gene pool.

The author has an axe to grind... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174841)

I'm pretty sure the author doesn't know as much as he claims to. Take herbalism for example. Until the advent of synthetic drugs, the entire list of pharmaceuticals was plant-based medicine, which could arguably be called herbalism. 25% of medicines still sold in pharmacies are plant extracts, and science is still finding uses for new plant compounds, though not at the rate it once was.

Kava Kava and Valerian root are known sedatives, White Willow bark contains salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin (where do you think they got it from), and the list goes on.

Don't be so quick to throw out everything just because there is incorrect information and belief floating around. It's not like the AMA approved and licensed people have all the answers.

The key is to use the systems for what they were designed for - I wouldn't go to a chiropractor for an ear infection, and if I were experiencing chronic pain, I'd rather go to an acupuncturist than walk around while pumped full of Vicoden or whatever is being advertised this week by Big Medicine.

My recollection differs from the book (4, Interesting)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174869)

I looked into these things at various points when I was feeling bored. My recollection is that

- The placebo effect is a real effect, and can make you feel better, especially if you are more invested in the outcome (either financially (spend $$$$) or socially (there are doubters but you *know* it works); simply wanting to be better for health reasons is less useful).

- Homeopathy is useless except as a placebo (but one could argue that generating belief in homeopathy is the best way to deliver the placebo effect because you don't have to give the person anything but water).

- Chiropractors on average do not generate an improved outcome for their patients (possibly beyond a short initial time when the patient feels worked on) on *average*, but there exist some chiropractors who perform at well above chance on helping people with certain types of problem. It was unclear to me at the time whether this was due to the mechanical manipulations or to the placebo effect.

- Acupuncture has mixed success, but can have reliable if small-on-average effects on certain types of problem. I am pretty sure that there was a control group here, so this is above and beyond what one gets from the placebo effect.

- Herbal medicine runs the entire spectrum from harmful through better than established commercial drugs for some things. Knowing which is which is difficult if you listen to the people who like herbal medicine.

- Commercial drugs usually (but not always) work well on average, but insufficient attention is paid to whether they give small benefits to everyone or large benefits to only a small subgroup, and they very often have long-term side effects that are insufficiently characterized. Using older products it therefore more safe than using new exciting ones.

But I'm afraid I don't have references for any of these vague recollections. Perhaps someone knows of studies to the contrary (or which support these tentative beliefs)?

Organ enlargement, etc. (1)

Cutie Pi (588366) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174871)

I'd like to see a follow-up book on all the crazy shit that's out there like the penis enlargers, the motorized belts that vibrate your fat away, oddly shaped ergonomic chairs and desks, ionic air purifiers, the automatic muscle exercisers, yadda yadda yadda.

Flip through a SkyMall catalog on an airplane some time and you'll find tons of examples of devices like this that supposedly improve your body or health. (Also, a magnet stand that magically ages your wine collection 100 years in minutes!!) This industry is even less regulated that alternative medicine but can be just as dangerous, if not more so. At a minimum, they lend credence to the saying, "a fool and his money are soon parted."

Dead doctor's don't lie... (2, Insightful)

nisse-j (1044566) | more than 5 years ago | (#26174913)

Recommended reading on the topic of "alternative medicine": http://kingmaker.net/DeadDoctorstxt.html [kingmaker.net]

The real black box (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26174963)

The real black box is the current doctoral regime and their strong ties to big pharma and the insurance companies. How many 100s of thousands of the worlds children need to be the victim of regressive neurological spectrum disorders before the greed and the lies finally stop.

Baby and the Bathwater (2, Informative)

tbcpp (797625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26175005)

I think it's important not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I come from a vegan family (health reasons) and I have to say, chiropractors, and alternative medicine does work. Sure some of it is just a crock, but not all of it.

Two examples: my mother was told by the doctors that her thyroid deficiency was untreatable and that she would need supplements for the rest of her life. A local alternative medicine doctor claimed otherwise, he explained that back in the 60's chickens were fed with chemicals that were not safe for humans. Humans ate these chickens and that was what had caused her thyroid to start malfunctioning. He treated her, and she hasn't needed the supplements for several years now.

More recently, I have had serious eye/head pain. The eye doctors didn't know what it was. Out of a whim I visited a chiropractor, and a day later I was totally fine. And that was after living off of pain killers for an entire week.

So yes, this stuff works. Nothing is a cure all, and there's just as much snake oil as there ever was. But I have been cured more times by alternative medicine than I ever have been by doctors.
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