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… read more "Popular Fallacies: Ancient Wisdom, It Works for Me, and Natural is Good"
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… read more "Ultrasound Screening, Fish Oil, and Ear Candles: Sometimes Ignorance is Bliss"
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… read more "Double Blind or Double Talk? Reading Medical Research with a Skeptical Eye"
We can eradicate smallpox, decipher the genome, and put a man on the Moon, but we can’t cure the common cold. Well, maybe I can. I have a cartoon plaque, painted many years ago by my brother in a fit of creative zaniness, entitled “Milestones in Medicine: Dr. Harriet Hall… read more "Curing the Common Cold"
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… read more "Don’t Let Them Hoodia-Wink You"
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… read more "Andrew Weil: Harvard Hatched a Gullible Guru"
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… read more "Dubious Genetic Testing"
Harriet Hall, M.D. Stephen Barrett, M.D. Nicholas Perricone, M.D., has written three similar books: The Wrinkle Cure , The Perricone Prescription ; and The Acne Prescription . All contain many claims that are questionable, controversial, fanciful, unsupported by published evidence, or just plain wrong. Although he mentions standard skin-care treatments,… read more "A Skeptical View of the Perricone Prescription"
ABSTRACT Background: “Vitamin O” is being sold as an oxygen supplement. Direct analysis has shown that it contains no oxygen. A scientific study published on the manufacturer’s website claims to have demonstrated the presence of oxygen in the product indirectly, by demonstrating increases in blood oxygen in anemic subjects taking the… read more "Analysis of Claims and of an Experiment to Prove that Oxygen is Present in “Vitamin O”"