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Monday, May 21, 2012

Medical B.S. (not bachelors of science)

Ok everyone, I know I've been on a bit of a hiatus, but as usual, things have been a little hectic, and are probably going to stay that way for a while, so the posts are going to be a little sporadic, but I might go with a slightly shorter format when I hear of something interesting, just to whet your skeptical whistle, which oddly enough, sounds alot like an old slide whistle.  Go figure.  There has been some science based events in the news, the main one being the failure to launch of the SpaceX Dragon capsule to rendezvous with the International Space Station.  By the time this posts, hopefully they will have fixed the problem and have launched.  Otherwise been a quiet couple of weeks.

Todays post is about a couple of fad health "lifestyles" that have made headlines lately.  The first one is of course the Breatharians.  This one seriously should be a no brainer.  The basic tenants behind this cult, and I do mean it is a cult, is that with proper meditation, a human being can live off of prana, a Hindu life energy, or sunlight.  Food and water are not necessary to function.  One of the main practitioners, Prhlad Jani,  claims to have lived without food or water for 70 years.Think about this for a minute.                          O.K., times up.  Did these people consider the fact that, as a large mammalian animal with a relatively high metabolic requirement, and no chloroplasts anywhere in the human cell structure, that it is biologically highly improbable to the point of being impossible that we are able to survive off of the energy from the sun or good thoughts?  Any organism that is 1) multi-cellular, and 2) mobile, is pretty much incapable of processing enough energy from the sun to fulfill even the most basic requirements.  Now I will admit that as a child, I read a neat little book in school, and I forget the title, about a kid that somehow ends up turning himself into a "plant person"  and I thought that it would be cool to not have to eat or drink.  I was also 8 years old.  People have died from trying this steaming load of sloth shit. For some reason, the sloth seemed the best animal for a comparative fecal measure, I don't know why.  Anyway, recently a Swiss woman essentially starved herself to death trying to follow the "example" of these nutballs.  If she had just done a little research, she would have found that all the people that claim to live without actually taking any food or water have been caught multiple times eating food while maintaining their claims that they don't eat.  Wiley Brooks, the head of the Breatharian Institute of America, (yeah, there is an American branch of the plant people) have been photographed consuming a slurpie, hotdog and chips.  He claims that when surrounded by the "Junk food Culture", he will eat some to restore his balance.  Basically, that is a logical fallacy called "Moving the Bar"  which allows the purveyors of woo to change the rules to match or change the conditions. It could also be considered loosely a form of  "Special Pleading" where the purveyor of woo basically asks for special considerations in order for their claim to work.  As I said before, this one should be a no brainer.  Literally, you shouldn't have to put much thought into this to work out why it's a bad idea.  Even plants have to absorb nutrients in order to grow and thrive.  This is one of the more dangerous fads I have come across in a while, and the disturbing thing is that it seems to be becoming more popular.  Please, eat the last piece of pizza, in the long run, it's safer.

The other topic that has caught my eye lately is several ads that I've seen in the Daily Oklahoman, our wonderful, non-biased, fair coverage state paper.  Basically, the ad is for a chiropractor clinic.  It states that they can treat lower back pain (fine, I'll buy that), arthritis (o.k?), shingles (WTF?), and other various health problems.  As a little back story, when I was young, my folks used to take me to a chiropractor all the time.  Nice guy, but seemed obsessed with popping my neck, and he would put me in the same hold that you see on Rambo movies when John Rambo breaks the Viet-congs neck.  Really creeped me out.  They also hooked me up to what I called a shock box, which just sends a low voltage electrical pulse through your body.  When I asked him about it, he stated it was to help my muscles loosen up to make the realignment of the vertebrae easier.  This is purely anecdotal, but I never felt better after a treatment, and felt even worse for a couple of days afterwards, and when you figure I was going 2-3 times a month, yeah football and wrestling practice sucked.  I think the only reason that my parents took me, personally, was that the chiropractor was a friend of theirs, so the "sessions" were free, where as a real medical doctor cost money.  Back to the point. I do think that the practice of Chiropractic can help some what with lower back pain, but even that has not been sufficiently proven in clinical testing.  But there is no bloody flamin' way that popping someones back can help with arthritis, shingles, or a fun one I saw while researching this article, autism, which thanks to Jenny McCarthy and the anti-vaccers, has become a catch word in the medical quackery circles.  Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, caused by trauma, cysts, age, weight, genetics, or infection.  What these have to do with vertebral joint misalignments is beyond me.  As for helping cure shingles, shingles are caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.  How does a realignment therapy session help with a virus?  Does putting your spine in place cause the virus to get confused and leave?  No, it doesn't, plain and simple.  As for helping with autism, now they're just reaching for anything to show up in google searches.  Don't get me wrong, not all of the practitioners are misguided or just trying to fleece the public (and I don't know which of these is worse).  Some of them are actually very good at what they do, and they will work hand in hand with a modern medical provider, some even refuse to see people if their problem is something other than lower back problems, or serious enough that surgery may be required.  I have yet to meet one of these personally, but I have been told that they exist.  The funny thing is that the people that have told me about them were upset that they were referred to a primary care giver instead of getting what a lot of times adds up to the Placebo effect. 

According to wikipedia,  " The American Medical Association called chiropractic an "unscientific cult"[19] and boycotted it until losing an antitrust case in 1987".  Another problem with the practice, is that it it primarily self regulated, meaning that the AMA has very little authority over what they do.  It is also a little difficult to find studies regarding the efficacy of chiropractic that aren't done in-house, meaning un-biased.  As far as harmful medical procedures go, it is fairly innocuous, unless a person forgoes all modern medical treatments and only uses a chiropractor.

That's about it for this rant against the woo machine, other wise my fingers may start to cramp up and then the spelling and grammatical errors will really start to pile up.  Thanks for reading, remember, the cool points have been sent out, and if you haven't gotten them yet, contact your local state rep and find out if they took them.  If you have any topics you'd like me to try and detangle, tackle, rip apart, explain, or just serve with a nice Earl Grey and some biscotti, let me know in the comments section, and I'll do my impersonation of a bloodhound, which is something to watch I've been told. Until next time, Be good, Be yourself, and as the song says, Think for Yourself!

The Skeptical Okie.

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