Skeptical Raptor's Blog hunting pseudoscience in the internet jungle

Green coffee beans and weight loss–another dumb myth

dr-oz-green-coffee-beansIf you’re a fan of the Dr. Oz show, you might have heard about his passionate support of green coffee beans, which are just unroasted coffee beans instead of the roasted ones we enjoy in a big mug, for losing weight. In America, weight loss pseudoscience, especially those who claim it’s “easy”, is an obsession, especially since since the country is experiencing an obesity epidemic.

Sadly, Americans are always seeking easy, simple, but effective ways to lose weight that don’t require them to change any behavior at all. In other words, let us eat our Big Macs and never exercise while taking a miracle pill, which makes us maintain a perfect Body Mass Index. If that existed, someone would make more money than the next iPhone.

But let’s focus on those green coffee beans.

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HPV and HepB vaccines are not associated with multiple sclerosis

hepb-vaccine-and-cancerI didn’t know it was an issue, but apparently there was some concern that there was a small possibility that vaccines, specifically the hepatitis B (HepB) and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, might increase the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) or some other acquired central nervous system demyelinating syndrome (CNS ADS). Apparently, there have been numerous studies examining the possibility that vaccines are related to these neurological disorders with mixed results. However, most of the studies showed no association between vaccines and these disorders, though most of the studies had significant limitations based on small numbers of patients included and some other factors.

If there is actually a causal relationship between vaccines and MS or CNS ADS, it could cause a sea change in the acceptance of vaccines, especially HepB and HPV, which are critical to preventing a number of serious cancers. A recent study, led by Annette Langer-Gould, M.D., Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente, Southern California, examined the relationship between vaccines, especially HPV and HepB, and MS and CNS ADS, using electronic data from a broad group of Kaiser Permanente Southern California members.

Dr. Langer-Gould and her colleagues conducted a nested case-control study, a type of case-control study that more carefully matches control risk factors, using that data from Kaiser. The authors identified 780 cases of CNS ADS and 3,885 control group patients; 92 cases and 459 control patients were females between the ages of 9 to 26 years, which is the indicated age range for HPV vaccination.

The researchers found that there were no associations between HepB, HPV or other vaccines and an increase risk of MS or CNS ADS, even up to three years post-vaccination. Just to be clear, vaccination of any type was associated with an increased risk of CNS ADS within the first month, but this association disappeared after one month. The researchers suggested that vaccines (like any infection) could accelerate the transition from a subclinical to clinical autoimmunity (including MS) in patients with preexisting autoimmune disease. In other words, any challenge to the immune system, whether from vaccines or from any of hundreds of infections, would have accelerated the autoimmune disorder. Let me repeat–the vaccination was irrelevant, it could have been any infection that caused it during those initial 30 days.

hpv-STD-cancerAccording to the research, “there were no associations between HepB vaccination (odds ratio [OR], 1.12; 95% CI, 0.72-1.73), HPV vaccination (OR, 1.05; 95% CI, 0.62-1.78), or any vaccination (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.86-1.22) and the risk of CNS ADS up to 3 years later.”

They concluded that, “our data do not support a causal link between current vaccines and the risk of MS or other CNS ADS. Our findings do not warrant any change in vaccine policy.”

Once again we find that vaccines are not associated with with serious neurological conditions. And the HPV vaccine, as I’ve written on numerous occasions, is incredibly safe and effective in preventing several types of cancer. This is another study in support of the safety of HPV vaccines.

 

Key citations:

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How to prevent cancer in 12 easy steps–OK, not that easy

stop-cancer-symbolI have railed against charlatans who claim that they have the easy way to prevent or cure cancer. Generally, these snake oil salesmen try to convince you that they have some miraculous food, supplement, spiritual energy, and on and on, that can either kill cancer in its tracks. Or keep them from even growing in your body. But their claims are nearly always absent real compelling scientific evidence.

Like supplements preventing cancer. They don’t. And that’s been shown in study after study after study after study (yeah, I could go on for awhile). Or like avoiding GMO containing foods prevents cancer. Again, studies show that GMO foods have no effect on cancers. Oh, one more thing–bananas don’t have tumor necrosis factor, and the yellow fruit can’t prevent or cure cancer (but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t delicious).

Despite the absolute lack of evidence that supplements, kale, bananas, or drinking the pure waters of a glacial fed stream (which may not be an option with climate change), there are some things that can be done to reduce your risk (see what I did there–no absolutes, just management of risks) of cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) has codified these 12 steps (no, not that debunked one) into European Code Against Cancer
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The freedom to not vaccinate in France–a court case

france-vaccineThis article was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, CA. 

Dr. Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. She is also member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

This article reports on a recent case in France that may lead the French Constitutional Council to examine directly the questions of a parent’s freedom not to vaccinate and a child’s right to health.

The Case: 

Samia and Marc Larère, parents to a three year old and fifteen months old, have decided not to vaccinate them. A criminal charge was brought against them, by the government of France, for not giving their three year old the required vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. They were charged under two legal provisions–a provision in the Code of Public Health (le code de la santé publique, art. L.3116-4) that imposes a find of 3750 euros and up to six months in jail for those who do not receive, or allow those under their guardianship to receive, mandatory vaccinations, including parents (“Le refus de se soumettre ou de soumettre ceux sur lesquels on exerce l’autorité parentale ou dont on assure la tutelle aux obligations de vaccination prévues aux articles L. 3111-2, L. 3111-3 et L. 3112-1 ou la volonté d’en entraver l’exécution sont punis de six mois d’emprisonnement et de 3 750 Euros d’amende”). And a provision in the criminal code that criminalizes neglect of parental duties “to the point of risking the health… of a minor child”, with a fine of 30,000 euros and up to two years in prisons as penalty (article 227-17: “Le fait, par le père ou la mère, de se soustraire, sans motif légitime, à ses obligations légales au point de compromettre la santé, la sécurité, la moralité ou l’éducation de son enfant mineur est puni de deux ans d’emprisonnement et de 30 000 euros d’amende”).

The reason the Larères initially gave for declining to vaccinate their child was that they could not give her only the required vaccines–the only available vaccines, they said, had the required vaccines in combination with others, like Hepatitis B and meningococcal, which are not legally required and they were not willing to give the combination vaccine to their child.  Upon further probing, however, the couple admitted they received a vaccine containing only the required vaccines from Sanofi Pasteur, but still refused to vaccinate claiming that the vaccine contained a “toxic product”.

It may have been this vaccine (pdf). It’s unclear which ingredients they were referring to. The product contains a number of ingredients that may be used to raise concern among those unfamiliar with their role in vaccines and the principle that the dose makes the poison. In fact, in the tiny amounts in vaccines (pdf), none of these ingredients is toxic (pdf).
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This deadly viral epidemic frightens me

1918-spanish-fluA deadly disease has entered the USA. And it took its first victim for the year, yesterday.(1)

During the past 10 years, this disease has killed up to 49,000 Americans, of all ages and demographic groups, annually.(2)

On average, 250,000-500,000 people die from the disease every year.(3)

During an average year, over 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for this viral infection.(4)

During one horrible outbreak of the disease, approximately 50-100 million people, mostly young healthy adults, were killed by the virus worldwide, all in one year.(5)

There is an amazing prevention for this disease that most people ignore–vaccines.(6)

References:

  1. DHEC: First Flu Related Death in the State.
  2. Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States: CDC Study Confirms Variability of Flu
  3. WHO | Influenza (Seasonal).
  4. Seasonal Influenza-Associated Hospitalizations in the United States 
  5. Reconstruction of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Virus
  6. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine

 

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Update–Polio-like illness (acute flaccid paralysis) in California

salk-polio-cartoonEarlier this year, I reported on an outbreak of a mysterious viral disease that exhibited polio-like symptoms. At the time, around 23 children and young adults were afflicted with the disease. Some of them tested positive for enterovirus-68a member of a genus of viruses that include over 66 different species that can infect humans. None of them tested positive for the polio virus.

Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, a human enterovirus, that spreads from person to person invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis. Because polio has no cure, the polio vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and the only way to stop the disease from spreading.

The United States last experienced a polio epidemic in the 1950s, prior to the introduction of the polio vaccine 60 years ago. Today, polio has been eradicated from most of the planet, as the number of worldwide polio cases has fallen from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 223 in 2012—a decline of more than 99% in reported cases.
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Another flu vaccine myth–Big Pharma profits

Flu_Season_AheadThe 2014-15 flu season is upon us, and that means it’s flu vaccine time again. Despite the availability of several flu vaccines, many people think that the flu is a painless, harmless disease, a belief belied by evidence.

To put flu in perspective, in the USA, depending on the severity of the flu season, from 3,000 (which happened 25 years ago, and hasn’t been that low since) to 49,000 people die every year. Worldwide, about 250,000 to 500,000 people die from the flu every year. A flu pandemic, like the one in 1918, killed 50-100 million humans, much more scary than Ebola.

Of course, a fairly large group of people, including some who are pro-science (read, pro-vaccine), will fall into the arms of their favorite flu vaccine myth, and then refuse to get the flu vaccine. Given the dangers of the flu, and given the loss in productivity, income, and lives, you’d think that the flu vaccine would be near the top of health care needs for the average person.

Last year, fellow blogger, Tara Haelle, spent numerous hours putting together the Top 25 Myths about the flu vaccine, which she published here (and I rewrote and republished). Read it, because it blows most of the myths completely out of the water. But antivaccination myths are never static, there’s always a new variant.
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The fictional CDC coverup of vaccines and autism–movie time

CDC-coverup-bullshitUpdated on 5 October 2014  with new information about the retraction of the paper by Dr. Brian Hooker (not a scientist).

Earlier this week, I and about 20-30 other pro-science bloggers wrote articles about a strange story, pushed by all of the usual suspects in the antivaccine universe (starting with Natural News, Green Med Info, and the Age of Lying about Autism). Despite new information, press releases, claims and counter claims, nothing has changed in the facts about vaccines and autism as a result of this somewhat entertaining story that included fictional claims with real people.

Nevertheless, this story is so provocative, so laughable at some level, and so filled with rather disreputable characters, it gives all 20-30 of us bloggers, who focus on the real scientific evidence behind the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, a great subject for writing. I mean we Americans have a three day weekend coming up, signaling the end of summer (not technically from an earth’s orbit perspective, but just from long tradition), so no one may care about this story in a few days. Except for the zombie meme–someone will bring this up again in a few months.

Since much of this story has strong fictional elements, I think we should examine this story as if it were a synopsis for a screenplay behind a proposed new superhero movie. You know, The CDC vs. the Evil Cult of Antivaccination–Revenge of Real Science. Hey, I ought to copyright that, just in case someone does turn in into a movie. Because this synopsis has all of the important parts of a movie–unsavory characters, a fool, the superhero government agency dedicated to saving lives, and the geeky nerds who think science trumps lies. No cool spacecraft or benevolent aliens unfortunately. I’ll work on that.

OK, let’s get with the story.
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Great CDC Coverup–suppressing evidence that MMR vaccines cause autism?

syringe-vaccine-autism

Updated on 6 October 2014.

Oh no, here we go again. The antivaccination cult, lacking any real evidence, grabs onto the flimsiest of stories, disregarding the foul and corrupt individuals promoting the story–using it all to scream “GOTCHA” to anyone involved with vaccines. Last year, it was laughably jumping on some comments of Dr. Diane Harper, who was promoted by the antivaccination crowd as the “lead researcher” for Gardasil, that appeared to say that Gardasil was useless.

Or promoting an “Italian court” that decided that MMR caused autism, relying upon the discredited and retracted study by one of the greatest scientific criminals of the past 100 yearsMrAndy Wakefield, who fraudulently alleged a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Or furthering the story of a French businessman, who claimed to have intimate knowledge of Merck’s data about Gardasil–all of it negative. Except he never worked in Merck’s R&D department, and was made redundant when his company was acquired by Merck.

The Church of Antivaccines, whose god, Mr. Andy Wakefield, should be held criminally responsible for deaths of children who never got the MMR vaccine, are so bereft of any real evidence to support their beliefs, they will either invent, misrepresent, or manipulate any story that even tenuously supports their dogma that vaccines are dangerous.
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Poll: what’s scarier than Ebola

ebola-virus-disease

There are actually more worrisome public health issues than Ebola.

What worries you?

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