Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

Dr. Oz likes to defend his promotion of woonackery on the grounds that he is trying to be encouraging and provide motivational crutches via unproven alternative therapies to supplement health treatments that actually work (like, reducing calories and exercising for weight loss). He claims to be very offended when scam artists use his actual words to sell the unproven cures he promotes. You see, Dr. Oz doesn’t directly sell snake oil, nor does he endorse specific brands, directly.

What he is really saying is that the cost of providing inaccurate and deceptive medical advice is a worthwhile sacrifice if it allows him to be rich and famous. I mean, come on, y’all, according to CDC statistics you were probably going to get fat and stay fat anyway. Why should he suffer?

In a rare bit of wonderful from a Congressional committee, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) calls him on his “blarney”:

“I don’t get why you say this stuff, because you know it’s not true,” said McCaskill. “So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?” – “Dr. Oz Grilled by Senator Over ‘Miracle’ Weight Loss Claims” by Chris Morran – The Consumerist

Hat tip to Leonid Kruglyak

Don’t Fear the Toilet Seat!

Photo via Cheezburger.comFomite” isn’t a word that most people hear very often. However, if you’re a microbiologist (or are under the influence of one), you are likely to find yourself considering fomites as you go about your day. Fomites are everywhere, are difficult to avoid, and while it’s a good idea to be aware of fomites, they should not be feared. Continue reading “Don’t Fear the Toilet Seat!”

Personalized medicine versus human nature

Is genomics a medical game changer?

A brief review in the NY Times of recent books on ‘omics medicine:

In “Am I My Genes?,” the psychiatrist and ethicist Dr. Robert L. Klitzman plunges readers into the world of genomic medicine as it exists today: a barely mapped terrain of immense overlapping uncertainties. Many thousands of patients are bravely stumbling along in there: The book is based on interviews with 64 whose family history suggested a risk for the mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancers, the neurological killer Huntington’s disease or the destructive lung condition alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency… Dr. Klitzman moves through all the basic landmarks, including the big ones: “Do I want to know?,” “Whom should I tell?” and “Why me?”

But for uninvolved observers, perhaps most striking is the book’s clear demonstration that science of the future notwithstanding, human beings faced with illness or its likelihood tend to react in the same old human ways. They protest, weep, change their diet, blame stress, consult a psychic, consult another psychic, accept the inevitable and generally muddle through valiantly.

In other words, the genomic revolution may not wind up changing the landscape of illness quite as much as its proponents may envision: patterns of thought and reaction run deep. As one of Dr. Klitzman’s patients remarks calmly, “It might run in families, but I don’t think it’s genetic.” She may have the family cancer, but “now, everyone is showing up with cancer.”

Well, when personalized, ‘omic medicine does more than just predict disease outcomes, when it actually and reliably leads to cures, remissions, etc., then people will have to accept the inevitable less often. I don’t imagine that this will put psychics out of business, but it will relieve a lot of suffering.

Soladek: Too much of a good thing (When supplements “work” IX)

No undeclared ingredients here, just dangerous levels of Vitamins A & D in an effectively unregulated dietary supplement called Soladek Vitamin Solution.

ISSUE: Tested samples of Soladek contained levels of vitamin A and vitamin D that were many times the recommended daily allowances for these vitamins. . .Symptoms of vitamin A toxicity include anemia, anorexia, alopecia, joint pain, bone weakness, bulging eyes, liver abnormalities, and birth defects. Symptoms of vitamin D toxicity include weakness, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in mental status, increased blood pressure, abnormal heart rate or rhythm, kidney damage, and coma.

FDA Medwatch

For vitamins, like many biochemically active compounds, more is not better. Rather, the body wants the right amount. Many vitamins are water soluble and very difficult to overdose on, as you simply eliminate the excess in your urine. Vitamins A & D are fat soluble and not so easily removed.

Usually, these cases have not been associated with reports of health problems. Not so in this case.

The FDA received seven reports of serious health problems occurring in consumers using the product. The problems include decreased renal function, elevated levels of calcium in the blood, fatigue, heart arrhythmia, vomiting, and diarrhea.

-FDA Medwatch

Genomycism: “Deflating the Genomic Bubble”

Genomycism – the unsubstantiated belief that the cataloging of the genomic sequence of an individual conveys useful understanding about their ancestry, current characteristics, and disease risk with high degrees of accuracy and predictive power.

An important policy forum article has appeared in the most recent issue of Science discussing the expectations for the benefits of genomics, the issues created when those expectations are unrealistic, overinflated, and over-hyped[1]. Continue reading “Genomycism: “Deflating the Genomic Bubble””

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