Glucosamine Update: A New Study and a New Product

When I recently wrote about glucosamine, I discussed the evidence up through the New England Journal of Medicine study of 2006, which I thought was a pretty definitive study showing that neither glucosamine, chondroitin or a combination of the two was more effective than placebo.  Subsequent studies have continued to fuel the controversy. One 2007 study showed that glucosamine sulfate was better than

Does Glucosamine Really Work?

 Glucosamine and chondroitin, used separately or together, are among the more popular diet supplements. They are used widely for osteoarthritis, especially of the knee, and have been better studied than most other diet supplements. But do they really work? The journal of my medical specialty, American Family Physician, recently published an article about the use

Akavar 20/50 and Truth in Advertising

Over the last few months, I have had a truly surreal experience. It started when I noticed a two-page full color spread in TV Guide magazine advertising a product called Akavar 20/50. It contained the same claims that so many bogus weight loss products do: eat all you want and still lose weight. What attracted

Popular Fallacies: Ancient Wisdom, It Works for Me, and Natural is Good

Advocates of so-called alternative medicine (i.e. unproven treatments) don’t always use the best critical thinking skills. False assumptions and logical fallacies abound.  Three that I encounter constantly are (1) “ancient wisdom,” (2) “it works for me,” and (3) “it’s natural.” Ancient Wisdom The argument usually goes something like this: Our wise ancestors used X to

Ultrasound Screening, Fish Oil, and Ear Candles: Sometimes Ignorance is Bliss

I never thought I’d be promoting ignorance!  I’ve always thought the more information, the better; but there are exceptions. I’m going to explain something that is very counterintuitive and grates against every fiber of our truth-seeking skeptical brains. The ad shouts, “Tests That Can Save Your Life… Stroke is America’s third leading killer… Half of

Double Blind or Double Talk? Reading Medical Research with a Skeptical Eye

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a new drug was tested carefully by its manufacturer, demonstrated to be safe, and approved by the FDA. After it went on the market, people started reporting a lot of side effects. An independent researcher thought the drug manufacturer’s studies might have been biased (after all, they

Don’t Let Them Hoodia-Wink You

I first heard of Hoodia last summer, when a radio ad told me it was the new miracle weight loss pill. Since then, I’ve been seeing ads for Hoodia everywhere. Anna Nicole Smith took it. It was featured on Oprah.  Lesley Stahl went to Africa to taste the plant on 60 Minutes. There are nearly

Andrew Weil: Harvard Hatched a Gullible Guru

Book review of Natural Health, Natural Medicine: The Complete Guide to Wellness and Self-care for Optimum Health. By Andrew Weil. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2004. ISBN 0-618-47903-1. 432 pp. Softcover, $14. Andrew Weil’s Natural Health, Natural Medicine is a dangerous book. The preface states: “All the information is consistent with the best scientific evidence currently available.”

Dubious Genetic Testing

Stephen Barrett, M.D. Harriet Hall, M.D. During the past year, a few companies have begun offering genetic testing combined with guidance on diet, supplement strategies, lifestyle changes, and/or drug usage which they claim can improve health outcomes. This article explains why such testing should be avoided. Until recently, hereditary tendencies were determined mainly by examining