Bankers, Buyouts & Billionaires: Why Big Herba’s Research Deficit Isn’t About The Money
It’s a scene from the blogosphere that’s become all too familiar. A skeptic challenges a natural health product for the lack of an evidentiary base. A proponent of that product responds that the skeptic has made a logical error — an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and in such a scenario it’s not unreasonable to rely on patient reporting and traditional uses as a guide. The skeptic chimes back with a dissertation on the limits of anecdotal evidence and arguments from antiquity — especially when the corresponding pharma products have a data trail supporting their safety and efficacy. The proponent responds that it’s unfair to hold natural health products to the same evidentiary standard, because only pharma has the money to fund proper research, and they only do so for products they can patent. You can’t patent nature, so no research into natural health products gets done.
Okay, so maybe this isn’t a scene from an actual blog. The participants are way too civil, the arguments too coherent, and no one has been compared to Hitler. But it’s not a straw man either (look here, here, and here for recent examples), merely a distillation of an argument I’ve seen made repeatedly — that the deck has been stacked by Big Pharma, which has set a research bar that the much poorer natural health industry can’t possibly meet given the costs and lack of financial upside.
In my observation, skeptics don’t often have a good response to this argument beyond their basic scientific disposition toward only making assertions based on positive evidence. Typically, that’s not a disposition shared by the proponent, and thus they simply agree to disagree (read: trade barbs until the thread peters out from fatigue). Yet this need not be a purely philosophical debate. After all, there’s a testable premise embedded in this disagreement — that the natural health industry isn’t rich enough to sustain proper research. Is that true? Read more »
Virtually all bottled beverages you can buy have handy-dandy nutrition labels from which you can access information about calories, carbs, and so forth. All beverages except the ones containing alcohol, that is. Why is that?
Maybe it’s because alcoholic beverages contain little to no protein, sodium, cholesterol, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and iron (remember that alcohol is metabolized as a fat, not a carbohydrate) — so why bother? Then again, alcohol does contain calories — a lot of them. Would people drink less if they knew how many calories they were consuming? Would they drink less if they knew how many “servings” of alcohol were contained in the bottle they just purchased?
Maybe it’s because of the cost of performing nutritional analyses on each vintage of wine, each and every year, would turn profitable vineyards into money losers? Then again, plenty of niche beverage producers who run reasonably narrow margin businesses have never complained about the requirement to provide nutritional information.
The Tax and Trade Bureau is the federal agency that decides what information must appear on the labels of alcoholic beverages. Currently, it does not require manufacturers of wine, beer and the hard stuff to list ingredients. It does require them to list chemicals that folks might have an adverse reaction to things like sulfites, aspartame, and dyes.
The Tax and Trade Bureau also mandates that wines containing 14 percent or more alcohol by volume must state this fact on a label. Wines containing less than 14 percent can either specify the alcohol content or affix the words “light wine” or “table wine” to their labels. In addition, “light” beer bottlers must state calorie and carbohydrate content, and distilled liquor bottlers must specify the alcohol content by volume. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*
Regular readers of the Better Health blog are familiar with the shoddy science behind homeopathy (an outdated system of “medical” treatment that relies on water dilution and shaking to ‘”strengthen” the effects of drugs). But because homeopathic placebos have been marketed so successfully (even receiving paid endorsements from hockey teams), the Ontario government has decided to regulate homeopathic practices.
In this terrific news exposé, reporters ask if it’s appropriate for the government to regulate health scams. In doing so, are they not lending credibility to modern-day snake oil? Check out these videos and let me know what you think. Is there a roll for government in regulating homeopathy?
An interesting press release from the Competitive Enterprise Institute recently came across our desk and is reproduced in full below. I’m curious what our readers think of it, and of the government’s role in nutritional issues, given the link between nutrition and health:
Institute Calls for Civil Disobedience on National Donut Day
As Government Meddling in Nutritional Issues Mounts, CEI Advises, “Eat Two Donuts Today—One for Yourself, and One for Your Freedom”
Washington, D.C., June 4, 2010 — The Competitive Enterprise Institute today urged Americans to turn National Donut Day into a day of protest against growing government intrusion into nutritional issues. CEI urged people to eat two donuts — “one for yourself, and one as an act of patriotic civil disobedience.”Read more »
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