Red Yeast for Cholesterol: It Works, BUT…

John’s cholesterol is high but he doesn’t like taking prescription drugs. Should he take red yeast as a “natural” alternative? Evidence shows that it is effective in lowering cholesterol. In 1994, the Diet Supplement Health and Education Act was passed, allowing the fiction that “natural” medicines are really “foods” and need not be regulated the

Puncturing the Acupuncture Myth

Note: This is slightly revised from an article I originally wrote as a “SkepDoc” column for Skeptic magazine. It was pre-released online in eSkeptic and it has already generated a lot of comments, including “a truly amazing piece of peurile pseudo-intellectualism,” “an ad hominem attack on one form of alternative medicine so beset by poor

Massage for AIDS

I recently learned of a study entitled “Dominican Children with HIV not Receiving Antiretrovirals: Massage Therapy Influences their Behavior and Development.” It disturbed me, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. They’re massaging these kids but letting them die of AIDS? I went back and read the complete article, and it left me

Cholesterol Skeptics Strike Again

I’m really tired of arguing about cholesterol, but I feel obliged to stand up once more to defend science-based medicine from unfair calumny. Lewis Jones’s article “Cholesterol-shmesterol” in Skeptical Briefs (December 2007) included errors and misconceptions about cholesterol. It was a re-hash of the same kind of misinformation that is being spread by The International

What’s for Dinner?

Diet advice changes so fast it’s almost a full-time job to keep up with it. Avoid cholesterol; no, avoid saturated fats; no, avoid trans-fats. Avocados are bad; no, avocados are good. Wheat germ is passé; now omega 3s are de rigueur. The supermarket overwhelms us with an embarras de richesses, a confusing superabundance of choices

Hole-in-One Chiropractor

Chiropractor Ryan Alter of Delray Beach, Florida, was featured on TV as a miracle worker who cures migraines and other health problems with “a cutting edge technique” only offered by 250 practitioners around the world: Atlas orthogonal. You can see the video clips at http://www.alterchiropractic.com/ His machine looks like a drill press. It holds a

Misleading Ads in Scientific American

I’m frequently asked, “Is what that ad says really true?” Three recent inquiries have been about products advertised in Scientific American. An ad may acquire a certain cachet by appearing in a prestigious science magazine, but that doesn’t mean much. Scientific American’s editorial standards apparently don’t extend to its advertising department. I remain skeptical about

Anion strips in sanitary napkins?

Anion strips in sanitary napkins? Just another far-fetched marketing gimmick. The pseudoscientific claims on that website are ludicrous. “In certain types of environment (such as the mountainous area), the inhabitants are free from troubles of inflammation and generally live longer. This is obviously related to the fact that the air there contains abundant anions.”  No

4-Minute Exercise Machine

I know I should exercise regularly, but I’m congenitally lazy and am ingenious at coming up with excuses. There’s an exercise machine that sounds like the end of all excuses, a dream come true. You’ve probably seen the ads in various magazines. The ROM Machine: “Exercise in Exactly 4 Minutes per Day.” It claims that

Is Kava Safe?

Kava is a plant that grows in the western Pacific. It was traditionally prepared as a drink and used for its psychoactive properties, including sedation, relaxation, and relief of anxiety. It is intoxicating but not addictive. It has become a popular supplement in the US, used to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and menopausal symptoms.