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Pox Parties: Half-Truths, Anecdotes, And Fear

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There has been much abuzz about “pox parties” – the practice of parents getting a bunch of unvaccinated kids together with an infected one (pick one, really, though chicken pox is the focus of the recent article in Time) in the hope that their little sweethearts become ill and therefore “naturally” immune to the disease. This deliberate infection involves things as seemingly innocent as breathing the same air as the infected to the stomach-turning sharing of bodily fluids (Saliva lemonade, anyone?). To compound the issue, it seems that parents aren’t always taking into account how the viruses are transmitted, and end up trying oral transmission to  transmit a disease that is transmitted through the air. And yes, the whole thing is as stupid as it seems.

Given that the people partaking in these events have likely not vaccinated their children against anything else, these parties could be a source point for multiple highly contagious infections. Most of us have had chicken pox as children and don’t remember it fondly – now imagine having chicken pox with mumps, mono, and maybe a little hepatitis A to top it off. It is also easy to forget in Western luxury that these innocuous childhood illnesses are actually lethal. Just measles? Well, one death per 3000 measles infections might not seem like much, until you consider the fact that in 2008, 164,000 people died of the measles worldwide – approximately the same number of civilians that have died in the entire length of the current Iraq war. That’s an annual number, and it’s gone down by almost 80% over 10 years. How? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Skeptic North*

Article Questions The Effectiveness Of Antioxidant Supplements During Training

I have skeptical confession to make. I was once a panacea-seeking antioxidant-taker. As background, I’m a marathon runner and occasional triathlete. Several years ago, I was training for an Ironman triathlon, and banking 20+ hours of intense exercise per week. That may sound absurd to many (it does to me, now that I have kids) but that kind of training is necessary for the long races. So what did this pharmacist-wannabe-triathlete with access to discount vitamins do? He stocked up on the fancy bottles of multivitamins, the “endurance” version, of course — with extra antioxidants. Why did I supplement? I wanted to maximize my workouts, speed recovery, and minimize downtime and the risk of injury. Oxidation sounds bad — like a rusting car. Anti-oxidants sounded like the ultimate in preventative medicine. My workouts may have been more extreme, but the practice of supplementing if you exercise is common among athletes.

As it turns out, not only were the antioxidants likely ineffective, they may have compromised some of the gains I was seeking with all that training. That I didn’t evaluate the evidence at the time was my critical-thinking blind spot. Over the the past several years, more data on antioxidants and exercise have emerged. A recent review article, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Skeptic North*

Skeptic Uncovers Some Of The Week’s Medical Quackery

Hey there skeptifans. Here are the media Fails and Wins you sent me last week.

Edzard Ernst on alternative medicine
After Steve Jobs death, which we now know may have been hurried due to his decision to choose alternative treatments over evidence based ones, Maclean’s chose to run this Q&A with alternative medicine expert Edzard Ernst. Several years ago Dr. Ernst set out to find out if there is evidence to support the most popular alternative treatments. His findings were that the vast majority of alternative medicine is quackery. I hope this interview will help sway some people on the fence about chiropractic and other placebo treatments.

Family Doc Says No To Perilous Chickenpox Pops
Anna spotted this story on NPR. Apparently, there is a mom in Texas selling chicken pox infected lollipops to Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Skeptic North*

Certifiable: CNP, RNCP, RHN, NNCP and Other Suspect “Accreditations”

The team of nutritionists at D’avignon Digestive Health Centre on Danforth Avenue in Toronto are an impressive bunch — just consider their qualifications:

  • Louise Comtois – CNP, RNCP, Colon Therapist
  • Heidi Horowitz – CNP, RNCP, Live Cell Analyst
  • Marnie Ryan – CNP, Colon Therapist
  • Natasha Audette – RHN, Colon Therapist
  • Jane Sloan – CNP, NNCP, RhA

CNP, RNCP, RHN, NNCP. I single out D’avignon only because they came up at the top of my Google search, but the story is consistent across the nutritionist community — there are an awful lot of letters next to the names of practitioners. So what exactly do they all mean? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Skeptic North » Erik Davis*

Very Few Herbal Remedies Work: Here Are 5 That May Be Useful

Montage of St. John's Wort, African Plum, Horse Chestnut, Red Yeast Rice, and Feverfew

Here at Skeptic North, we’ve often been a sharp critic of those herbal remedies that are unable to withstand the scrutiny of science. Yet nature does indeed house many pharmacologically active compounds, and it stands to reason that some of them will have medicinal value. So today, we’re going to turn the tables and look at 5 herbal remedies that have held up well in repeated studies and are generally regarded as effective.

1)  St. John’s Wort for Depression

If there’s one herbal medicine that consistently gets high marks for effectiveness, it’s St. John’s Wort as a treatment for mild depression. A 2008 Cochrane Review looked at 29 trials totaling over 5000 patients, including 18 comparisons with placebo and 17 comparisons with synthetic standard antidepressants, and found significant effects in both cases. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database indicates that St. John’s Wort is likely as effective as both first generation antidepressants (low-dose tricyclics) and the current generation of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Skeptic North » Erik Davis*

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