Herpes zoster vaccine and dementia — is there a surprising link?

herpes zoster dementia

I generally wouldn’t write about herpes zoster and dementia, which recently appeared in a peer-reviewed article. Such a topic is mostly outside of my interest area. Then a thought hit my reptilian brain — anti-vaxxers might use this information to claim that the shingles vaccine, which prevents herpes zoster (the more formal name for shingles), might increase the risk of dementia.

So, this article is here just in case you run into that pathetic argument. In no way would I advocate not getting the shingles vaccine because of its supposed relationship with dementia.

Let’s take a look at this new article and how we should look at whether the herpes zoster vaccine and dementia might be related.

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Does marijuana cure cancer? Robust scientific evidence is lacking

marijuana cure cancer

Subjectively, one of the wilder claims one can find on social media is that marijuana can cure cancer. Or cannabis prevents cancer. It doesn’t matter what form – smoked, eaten, hemp oil (which is manufactured from the seeds of cannabis plants that don’t contain much THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active hallucinogenic agent of cannabis) – some advocates for cannabis will try to make the argument that it is some miracle drug for cancer.

But is it? Yes, there are systematic reviews that indicate that cannabis may be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy. But research has generated negative results in some well-done clinical trials and some positive results in others. But that has nothing to do with actually curing or preventing cancer itself, just dealing with the effects of the treatment.

Furthermore, a 2022 systematic review (again, the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research) showed that “evidence from RCTs (randomized clinical trials) that medicinal cannabis increases appetite in people with cancer is limited.

However, this article isn’t about appetite or nausea related to cancer, it’s about whether cannabis can cure or treat cancer.

So what has real clinical and scientific research said about whether marijuana can cure cancer? Well, not to give away the conclusion, but not very much. Let’s take a look.

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Turmeric — it does not treat, cure, or prevent cancer

turmeric cancer

Cancer myths are prevalent on the internet, and one of the favorites for the past few years has been turmeric. It has been described as the great secret cancer cure, treatment, and/or prevention. But here’s the thing with these types of claims about cancer — there rarely is much evidence supporting their use clinically.

This article is going to look at what turmeric may do for cancer if anything. You can probably predict that if I’m writing about it, I’m not going to be finding much evidence, but I’ll give it a try.

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Himalayan salt facts — please don’t waste your money

Himalayan salt facts

Now for something completely different, let’s talk about the facts and myths about pink Himalayan salt. I could make this my shortest blog ever and state, “it’s salt.” Followed by a mic drop.

But it is a bit more complicated than that. There may be some reason to avoid it, so I will write about all the facts that I can find about Himalayan salt. But spoiler alert, you really shouldn’t be wasting your money on it.

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Gun control laws and firearms mortality – a public health imperative

Let me start right at the top — gun control laws save lives. These laws prevent firearms mortality, either murder, accidents, or suicide. Gun control laws should always be considered a public health issue in the USA. There have been several good epidemiological studies that have examined whether gun control regulations and firearms mortality risk are related – and the results are surprisingly robust and repeated.

From recent epidemiological research, there is some convincing evidence that establishes a correlation between state-level gun control regulations and firearms mortality rates. However, the link is not as black and white as one might wish – the relationship between gun control regulations and mortality depends on the quality of the laws. In other words, good science seems to show that gun control laws save lives.

Historically, the nation’s leading public health organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is essentially prevented from analyzing and publishing any epidemiological research that would help us understand what, if any, links there are between gun control and firearms mortality. However, things are changing, probably because of what has been happening lately, and the CDC is funding research into firearms mortality.

Previously, because the CDC could not fund research into gun control, there has been a chilling effect on gun control research in academia. According to the Washington Post, “young academics were warned that joining the field was a good way to kill their careers. And the odd gun study that got published went through linguistic gymnastics to hide any connection to firearms.”

But maybe because this public health menace can no longer be ignored, a smattering of well-done epidemiological research is being published in very high-quality medical journals. Let’s look at one.

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COVID vaccines are not responsible for mysterious hepatitis outbreak

photography of people on grass field

An outbreak of hepatitis of unknown etiology in children across the world is not caused by COVID-19 vaccines. Of course, anti-vaxxers are trying to use this hepatitis outbreak as more fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the COVID-19 vaccines, but the evidence doesn’t support it.

As of this time, we don’t know a lot about this hepatitis outbreak, like routes of infection and the causative agent, but it is ringing the alarm bells at various public health agencies across the world.

In this article, I will walk you through the hepatitis outbreak and then some limited data that appear to show that there is no link to either COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccines.

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Peer-reviewed journal publishes COVID-19 denier editorial filled with lies

COVID-19 denier

A peer-reviewed neurosurgery journal published a COVID-19 denier editorial that peddled false statements about the COVID-19 pandemic without any scientific and unbiased evidence to support the claims.

I am not sure what possessed the journal to publish a COVID-19 denier article, maybe something to do with false balance or something else, but you know that this article, by appearing in a peer-reviewed journal, will be used by the anti-vaccine forces as a justification for the COVID-19 denier nonsense.

Let’s take a look at this article and refute the claim presented in the COVID-19 denier editorial. This should be easy.

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Alkaline water — don’t waste your money, it’s pure, unfettered woo

alkaline water

Every time I go to the grocery store, I see shelves stuffed with alkaline water. I always shake my head, because I happen to know what the body does with any food or water that is alkaline or acidic. It buffers it to the normal pH of the body so that alkaline water doesn’t do anything. Well, it is expensive.

There are a lot of bogus reasons to drink alkaline water, but we’re going to focus on just one of the claims — it helps prevent cancer. I’ll make this simple, no it does not.

There are so many inaccurate, misleading, and harmful claims about cancer that I could spend years just debunking them. One of the most popular assertions is that acidic blood causes cancer — that is, if you lower the pH of the blood, it creates an environment to let cancer thrive.

Now, I have written this about a hundred times on this blog (I am not kidding) — there are only a handful of scientifically sound methods to potentially lower your risk of cancer. Quit smoking is near the top. Stay out of the sun. Maintain a healthy (that is, very low) weight. Don’t drink alcohol. Get exercise. And a handful more.

And even if you do all of them, you just reduce your absolute risk, not completely eliminate it. You could randomly get a set of mutations – there are several trillion cells in the body, and even if genetic copying in cell division or transcription were 99.999% perfect, it still leaves millions of chances of mutations – that lead to cancer.

And then there are at least 200-250 different cancers, all with different causes, pathophysiologies, prognoses, and treatments. In other words, even if you found some miracle way to prevent one cancer 100% of the time, it probably will not affect the other 200 or so cancers. We have tended to conflate cancer as one disease when it is a large set of diseases that have the same general physiology but aren’t truly related.

Cancer is scary because it is so random. In many cases, the treatment is so harsh. And people are so interested in anything that may prevent cancer. And if it’s simple like “eat superfoods like kale and blueberries,” or “reduce acid in your blood,” the instinct is to try it out.

But let’s examine how and if acidic blood causes cancer. Spoiler alert – it doesn’t.

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Public health policy — gun control and vaccines to save children’s lives

health gun control

Another day, another mass shooting in the USA. Gun control and vaccines should be public health issues, but they aren’t. In fact, anti-vaccine and anti-gun control activists seem to show a huge overlap in the Venn diagram of being opposed to the health of children. They both make the same excuses and the same lies.

There have been over 200 mass shootings in the USA just in 2022 alone. And that’s as of 26 May 2022! Americans are so numb to it that it’s becoming harder and harder to express outrage and disgust.

Gun control should be a public health issue no different than what we do with vaccines. The CDC should be posting rules to reduce gun violence as much as they do to reduce deaths from COVID-19 by pushing vaccines.

But here’s what’s going to happen. After 19 children and two adults were killed at an elementary school in Texas, a state which thinks all guns are good, politicians will express their useless “thoughts and prayers,” and in a few days, all will be forgotten. If 19 children and two adults had died of COVID-19, we’d try to fix it. If 19 children and two adults had died in a school bus crash, we’d try to fix it. But gun violence? There seems to be no willpower among the political elite to do anything, especially in our nation of minority rule.

What some of the anti-gun control people are saying is that the risk of dying from a gun is so small, that gun control is outweighed by the benefits of owning guns. I’ve heard this logic before, and it’s from the anti-vaccine zealots. They argue that because only a few children will die of measles (or any vaccine-preventable disease), vaccines should not be mandated. 

Yes, the chances of dying from measles are rare (thanks to vaccines). Yes, the chances of one person dying in a mass murder are small. The problem with the logic of the anti-vaccine and anti-gun control activists is the same — we have the power to prevent both. And we should prevent both. Our public health advocates should be on the side of vaccines and gun control.

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Monkeypox virus — what is it and is there a vaccine?

monkeypox

Massachusetts health authorities confirmed a case of monkeypox on 18 May 2022 after the CDC said it was monitoring the possible spread of the rare but potentially serious viral illness. The virus has spread in several countries and the CDC believes that the actual number of cases is being underreported because few physicians know much about the disease.

When I first heard about the novel coronavirus, I thought that the press was exaggerating and that the disease would disappear in a few weeks. Yes, I was wrong, very wrong.

When I read the first reports of a monkeypox outbreak, I decided to write about it because I was getting questions about the seriousness of the disease and if there was a vaccine for it. It is a serious disease, and as for the vaccine, it’s complicated.

So, let’s talk about monkeypox and potential vaccines.

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