Dietary supplements are not better than statins for heart disease

statins supplements

As I wrote previously, statins are important in preventing cardiovascular disease and mortality, but people continue to push dietary supplements as a better alternative to statins. Well, a new study blows that claim out of the water — statins are better for your cardiovascular health than dietary supplements.

I keep writing about supplements, and rarely do I find powerful, robust, and repeated evidence that supplements have any positive effect on one’s health. Occasionally, some research might show a small clinical benefit, but mostly, taking supplements means you have very expensive urine since most of it is removed by your kidneys.

As most of you who read this blog know that I love reviewing these articles, so you have the bullet points for the results. Of course, the article is linked, so you can get into the weeds if you want. Here we go.

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Echinacea — the science and myths in treating the common cold

echinacea

I recently wrote about pseudoscientific treatments for colds and flu, but I wanted to focus on one of the more popular treatments — echinacea. The history and science of echinacea treating these wintertime diseases are almost laughable. But you know how pseudoscience and supplements go together, and here we are.

I’m going to review the history of the herbal supplement along with the science of its safety and effectiveness. The history is quite amusing. And science is definitely lacking.

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Mucoid plaques and colon detoxification junk science (UPDATED)

mucoid plaques

The internet is filled with all kinds of nonsense, but one of the more annoying is the issue of mucoid plaques and how they can ruin your life. Colon detoxification or, sometimes, colon cleansing to remove mucoid plaques is one of those strange alternative medicine ideas that hang around without one single bit of evidence supporting it.

Of course, it is time to take a look at this and debunk this junk science. Spoiler alert — it doesn’t do anything except take money from your pocket, like most pseudoscientific scams on the internet.

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Homeopathy is a pseudoscientific scam — here’s why (UPDATED)

homeopathy

Homeopathy is a pseudoscientific scam that should be never be considered as a legitimate treatment for any condition. Homeopathy lacks any biological plausibility. Homeopathy lacks any support in basic chemistry. And homeopathy violates the basic laws of physics.

Essentially, homeopathy is the debunked idea that “like cures like,” and that a diluted ingredient can be activated by shaking it in between dilutions. Every robust, rigorous, and repeated clinical study has demonstrated that homeopathy has no clinical effect.

Unethically, individuals push this treatment that has been shown not to work. That is why it’s a scam.

Let’s take a look at the facts about homeopathy.

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Omega-3 supplements have little effect on cardiovascular disease and mortality

omega-3 supplements

This article about omega-3 supplements is a companion piece to my recent article about fatty fish and cardiovascular disease. There is little evidence that two servings of fatty fish, which are filled with omega-3, have any effect on the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

I have been skeptical of supplements for a long period of time. Supplements are generally of low quality, they don’t prevent or cure cancer, they don’t prevent colds, they can’t boost the immune system, and they don’t prevent heart disease. Now there is a powerful review of omega-3 supplements that shows that it has little effect on cardiovascular disease.

Unless one has a chronic disease or is chronically malnourished, there are precious few instances where supplements are necessary. A couple of cases where supplements may be critical include prenatal folic acid supplements to prevent neurological defects in the developing fetus, vitamin C to prevent scurvy, and vitamin D supplements for individuals who do not produce enough endogenous vitamin D. In each of these cases, however, supplements are necessary to counteract a micronutrient deficiency that results from a chronic deficiency in the diet.

The benefits of omega-3 supplements have always been intriguing to me because it is one supplement that I thought might be useful for improving cardiovascular health based on some clinical evidence. But as I reviewed before, the evidence seemed awfully weak. With this new study, there may be no evidence whatsoever supporting the use of omega-3 supplements, at least for cardiovascular disease.

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The misleading claims of anti-vaccine Steve Kirsch — a review

Steve Kirsch

This article about misleading claims from anti-vaccine activist Steve Kirsch was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about vaccination’s social and legal policies. Additionally, Reiss is also a 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 diseases. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

I have not previously discussed posts by Mr. Steve Kirsch, of the new generation of antivaccine activists, because they are not generally related to law or regulation, and they have been well debunked by those that are in the field, such are Dr. Jeffrey Morris, Dr. David Gorski, and others more suited to address his statistical errors. 

But his recent post, “Silenced healthcare workers speak out publicly for the first time,” is sufficiently jarring that I would like to address it. Mr. Kirsch’s claims have been getting increasingly more extreme, and this post is a good example of some of the problems with his views that you do not need an extensive background in statistics to address. (I do not link to anti-vaccine posts, but with the title and author they should be easy to find, should anyone wish to). 

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Vitamin C does not prevent or treat cancer — let’s end this myth

vitamin c cancer

One of the frequently made claims from the alternative medicine world is that vitamin C prevents cancer. Or cures cancer. But is there any real science behind vitamin C and cancer?

Of course, there are over hundreds of different cancers, each with a different etiology, pathophysiology, and prognosis, so it’s rather difficult to believe that vitamin C has that much effect on any of those cancers. But the claims, and their adherents, persist despite the lack of robust evidence supporting these claims.

Frankly, there are just a handful of ways to prevent cancer. One of those ways, eating a balanced diet, implies consuming appropriate amounts of nutrients, like vitamin C, I suppose. But does it mean that taking a handful of vitamin C tablets has some beneficial effect on cancer prevention or treatment? Well, let’s take a look.

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Keto diet – what does the scientific evidence say about its effectiveness?

keto diet

As an ancient dinosaur, I’ve seen every diet fad from the popcorn diet to the South Beach diet to the paleo diet to the keto diet. Most of these fads are based on almost no good science, though they try to bring really bad science to convince themselves or others to “buy” into it, sometimes literally.

I’m sure that the ancient Romans had some diet fad diet that the aristocracy followed to keep themselves healthy – oh wait, the Roman upper class followed the Mediterranean diet, which may be one diet fad that stood the test of time and science.

Outside of the aforementioned Mediterranean diet, which includes whole grains, olive oil, seafood, legumes, and nuts, most of these diets lack robust scientific evidence supporting their usefulness in weight loss or maintaining some unbiased standard of health. But they certainly make a lot of money for those promoting them. The worldwide diet management market is estimated to be over $192 billion in 2019.  Wait, what? Obviously, I’m in the wrong business.

One of the current fads is the keto diet, which is all the rage among those looking to lose weight, improve their health, and, I’m sure, prevent cancer. Before someone thinks it really prevents cancer, it does not. In fact, it may increase the risk of cancer. But that’s another story for another day.

Let’s get into this keto diet fad. Is it supported by any robust, repeated, published evidence? Or, like most diet fads, is it mostly supported by testimony and anecdotes? 

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What are the links between vitamin D and COVID?

vitamin D COVID-19

Across the internet, I keep reading about some relationships between vitamin D levels and COVID-19. I’ve written about it twice (here and here), but I have never seen reliable, robust, and repeated clinical trial data that supports a link between vitamin D levels or deficiencies and COVID-19.

So, I thought I would take a look at it once again, and see if there’s anything there. I keep wondering if vitamin D is just another “miracle supplement” that, once you scratch the surface of data, you find that there is actually nothing there.

What we know or think we know about COVID-19 seems to change daily, partially because the disease caught us by surprise. But every day we seem to get new data that contradicts something we thought or adds to our knowledge of the disease. And sometimes both.

Let’s take a look at the current data on vitamin D and COVID-19.

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Science is not a belief, not a religion — please get this straight

science belief

I get so tired of people who science is nothing more than a belief, rather than a method to understand facts about the natural universe. I don’t believe in vaccines. I don’t believe in evolution. I don’t believe in climate change.

In each of those cases, and much more, I review and accept the scientific evidence that supports a scientific claim, whether it is that evolution is real, that climate change is caused by humans, or that vaccines don’t cause autism. No, I am not an evolutionary biologist (though it’s kind of hard to be a biologist without accepting evolution), a meteorologist, or a vaccine scientist. But I do know how to follow the science in an unbiased manner and I know who are the experts in fields which means science is not a belief to me, but facts supported by evidence.

I like to say that I don’t believe in anything. Not one thing. My statement is always “the evidence supports” any claim that I make. Now, I don’t apply this many other areas of my life. I don’t like Brussels sprouts, and the only evidence I have is that they taste like little pieces of poison. It’s an opinion, one that will not be changed, especially once I found out that Brussels sprouts are frequently cut in half to determine if there is a brood of disgusting worms in the middle. But I have zero scientific evidence supporting my claim that Brussels sprouts were created to destroy human civilization.

Let me get a bit into science and belief so that you understand what I’m trying to say. Because if one more anti-vaxxer claims that “vaccines are a religion based on belief,” I’m going to scream. Or when a creationist tries to claim I am an “evolutionist” trying to make it seem like evolution is merely another set of beliefs.

I am mostly writing this article because I get tired of replying to people that I “believe” in something in science. I keep repeating myself, so I can just drop a link to refute their nonsense. Of course, I’m assuming that they can read what’s in the link.

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