Anti-Aging Claims: The Fountain of Youth is Still Only a Legend

The Spanish explorer Ponce de León wasn’t really looking for the Fountain of Youth when he trekked through Florida. That’s only a legend that wasn’t attached to his name until after his death. The idea of anti-aging remedies dates back to at least 3500 BCE, and the hope is alive and well today. Who wouldn’t

Scientology’s War on Medicine

Scientology has openly declared war on psychiatry and is ambivalent if not openly hostile towards the rest of medicine. Its “mind over matter” philosophy promises that attaining the “Clear” state will eliminate illness. Recently there has been a spate of exposés of Scientology, ably reviewed by Jim Lippard in Skeptic magazine (Vol. 18, No. 2).

A Scientist in Wonderland

Edzard Ernst is one of those rare people who dare to question their own beliefs, look at the evidence without bias, and change their minds. He went from practicing alternative medicine to questioning it, to researching it, to becoming its most prolific critic. I have long admired his work, and I finally met him in

Food Faiths and Diet Religions

  The parade of diet fads is unending; they will continue to proliferate as long as humans have to eat. They have created a hellish world in which every food component is a potential demon: fat, gluten, carbs, sugar, wheat, salt, etc. Diet gurus, both professional and amateur, are always ready to tell us what

Smokey the Bear Medicine and Prevention

When I was an intern, we used to joke that we were practicing “Smokey the Bear” medicine: stamping out forest fires. Patients would wait until a spark of disease had developed into a dangerous flame, and then they’d expect us to deal with it. We were mostly doing disaster control, and we wished we could

Colloidal Silver, Smurfs, and Ebola

Colloidal silver is back! It competed in the ring of science and was thoroughly clobbered. If it had any dignity, it would have stayed down for the count and admitted defeat; but like some bizarre whack-a-mole or zombie it keeps stumbling back to its feet, wanting to fight again. This myth that refuses to die

Evidence: “It Worked for My Aunt Tillie” Is Not Enough

Evidence means different things to different people. Even quacks and their victims claim to have evidence that their treatments work. Sometimes that evidence consists only of testimonials from satisfied customers or from personal experience. “I tried X and I got better.” “I know Y works because it cured my Aunt Tillie’s arthritis.” I had a

Incidentalomas: Too Much Information Can Hurt You

Incidenta-what? An incidentaloma is an unexpected abnormality accidentally found on medical imaging studies done for an unrelated reason. It typically leads to further diagnostic tests, sometimes invasive ones like biopsies and surgery, and it almost always turns out to be something harmless. It would have been better not to know it was there. Sometimes ignorance

Who’s Crazy Now? DSM-5 and the Classification of Mental Disorders

What does it mean to be crazy? We use the word loosely. In casual conversation we might say “He’s crazy” or “That’s insane!” but that doesn’t mean we really think the person is certifiable. Sometimes all it means is “He doesn’t agree with me.” What does it take to be formally diagnosed with a mental