CAM Scam

Book review of: Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All, by Rose Shapiro. London: Harvill Secker, 2008. 296 pages. £12.99. ISBN: 978-1-846-55028-7/ Political correctness has emasculated our language. We walk on linguistic tiptoes for fear of offending someone. British journalist Rose Shapiro refuses to be cowed. With refreshing directness, she titled her new

Clearing the Air: What Does Science Really Say About Secondhand Smoke?

Secondhand smoke is a bit like abortion and global warming: it invokes such strong emotions that it is difficult to view the evidence objectively. In his analysis of the subject (see preceding article) Sidney Zion is right about one thing: anti-smoking activists have overstated the evidence against secondhand smoke. He, on the other hand, understates

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

Bioidentical Hormones: Estrogen is Good. No, It’s Bad. No, It’s Good

MENOPAUSAL WOMEN USED TO HAVE NO ESCAPE from the sufferings of the dreaded “Change.” In the mid-20th century, they were offered a reprieve. They could take a pill to replace their missing hormones, and feel back to normal. That was good in itself, but then they found that replacing estrogens could prevent osteoporosis and hip

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

Three Perspectives on Longevity: Fantasy, Reality and Confusion

A book review of three books on longevity: Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, M.D. Rodale, 2004. 400 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 1579549543. Anti-Aging Medicine: The Hype and the Reality, edited by S. Jay Olshansky, Leonard Hayflick, and Thomas T. Perls. The Gerontological Society of America, 2004. 195

Keeping an Eye on Alternative Medicine

In case you hadn’t noticed, snake oil is alive and thriving under the shield of alternative medicine. As the Baby Boomers approach retirement age and develop health problems, we can expect an even greater boom of quackery, pseudoscience, and misinformation. Even the most critically thinking scientist may think less critically when he’s sick. This column

Energy Medicine

A review of Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis by James L. Oschman. London: Churchill Livingstone, an imprint of Harcourt Publishers Limited, 2000. 274 pp. ISBN 0-443-06261-7 “ENERGY MEDICINE” INCLUDES therapeutic touch, craniosacral therapy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and numerous other alternative medicine practices. It usually implies a vitalistic philosophy: something immaterial produces life and health in a