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The Selectiveness Of Science Denialism

Statement #1:

The holocaust never happened. Hitler loved Jews and respected Jewish culture. The photographic evidence of the camps, including the bodies and atrocities, were all fakes designed by the State of Israel to generate international sympathy.

Statement #2:

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an effective treatment for numerous medical conditions. Acupuncture has been around for centuries and is widely practiced in China and elsewhere. Science has proven its efficacy in controlled experiments.

With any luck, that first statement should generate dozens of hits from watchdog groups berating me for spreading the vile lie of Holocaust denial.

The second statement, or words perilously close to that effect, has appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, a previously-prestigious medical publication now revealed to be no better than the National Enquirer or any other sleazy tabloid, fit only for lining bird cages and wrapping week-old fish. Thanks to this wonderful article by Harriet Hall, it turns out that the first reference to “needling” in Chinese medical literature is from 90 B.C., although it doesn’t refer to acupuncture. It’s talking about lancing abscesses and bloodletting. The technology required to make sufficiently thin needles didn’t even exist until 400 years ago.The Chinese government tried to ban acupuncture several times around the turn of the twentieth century. The actual term “Traditional Chinese Medicine” was coined by Mao Tse Dung in the 1960s! (Go read Hall’s article linked above. It’s awesome.)

So riddle me this, campers: Why (and how) do science denialists get away with these outrageous lies? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Personalized Medicine: A Bait And Switch

Mark Hyman, a proponent of so-called “functional medicine” promoting himself over at the Huffington Post (an online news source that essentially allows dubious medical infomercials to pass as news) has posted a particularly egregious article on personalized medicine for dementia.

In the article Hyman distorts the modern practice of medicine, the current state of genetic science, and the very notion of “disease.” It is, as usual, a fine piece of medical propaganda sure to confuse many a reader. Hyman starts with some standard epidemiology of dementia –- it’s a common and growing disorder –- but then descends quickly into distortion and pseudoscience. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

“Naturopathic Oncology”: A New Specialty Of Pseudoscience

On “wholistic” medicine

If there’s one aspect of so-called “alternative medicine” and “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) is that its practitioners tout as being a huge advantage over what they often refer to sneeringly as “conventional” or “scientific” medicine is that–or so its practitioners claim–alt-med treats the “whole patient,” that it’s “wholistic” in a way that the evil reductionist “Western” science-based medicine can’t be.

Supposedly, we reductionistic, unimaginative physicians only focus on disease and ignore the “whole patient.” Of course, to me this claim is belied by the hectoring to which my own primary care physician has subjected me about my horrible diet and lack of exercise on pretty much every visit I’ve had with her, but then maybe she’s an anomaly, along with Dr. Lipson on this very blog and pretty much every other primary care doctor I’ve ever dealt with. Anecdotal experience, I know, but since alt-med mavens appear to value anecdotal evidence above pretty much all else I thought it appropriate to mention here. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

New Movie Promotes “Energy Medicine”

It’s boring to try to ferret out reliable health information from dry medical journals. It’s easier and more fun to watch a movie. A new movie promises to change the way you think about your health. To bring you breakthroughs that will transform your understanding of how to get well and stay well. To share the discoveries of leading researchers and health practitioners about miracle cures that traditional medicine can’t explain.

If this makes your baloney detector light up, good for you!

The Living Matrix: A Film on the New Science of Healing is an atrociously bad movie that falls squarely in the tradition of What the Bleep Do We Know? In his book Nonsense on Stilts, Massimo Pigliucci characterized the “Bleep” movie as “one of the most spectacular examples of a horribly tangled mess of science and nonsense,” and this new movie is more of the same. Bleep was just silly, but The Living Matrix is potentially dangerous because it might persuade patients to make poor decisions about their medical care. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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