Contaminated supplements – spiked with potentially dangerous ingredients

contaminated supplements

The supplement industry is huge and unregulated. Worldwide annual supplement sales exceed US$151 billion, yet contaminated supplements are part of the industry’s method to make their mostly useless products appear to have some clinical effect.

There is growing evidence that these contaminated supplements contain unlabeled ingredients that are found in regulated pharmaceuticals – all without telling the consumer about them. Or testing them. Or listing warnings for their use.

Let’s take a look at Big Supplement, and what’s going on with contaminated supplements.

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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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Starving cancer is not a good way to treat it despite what the internet says

starving cancer

I am a fierce skeptic about cancer. If someone says “starving cancer is better than chemotherapy,” well that means some gullible person will take that advice and forgo more aggressive, and frankly more evidence-based, treatments. And that patient could die.

I’ve written over 200 articles related to cancer on this website. Admittedly, my interest is mainly based on the incredible harm done to people by fake cancer treatments, but others, like editors at Science-Based Medicine and the estimable Orac, are actual experts in cancer, so I’ve just limited myself to sniping from the sidelines, like debunking the nonsense about weed cures cancer. Anyway, I’ll let others do the heavy lifting in cancer articles, I’m just going to focus on the really stupid nonsense that pervades places like Facebook or Quora.

Let me start out with my strategy on cancer claims made on the internet — anyone who oversimplifies prevention, development, or treatment of cancer shall be treated with disdain unless their claims meet the standard of “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” If you’re going to tell me that blueberry-kale smothies™ prevent cancer, I want extraordinary evidence in the form of meta-analyses or systematic reviews published in respected biomedical journals. Anecdotes, logical fallacies, and testimonials are NOT DATA.

Furthermore, I need to keep reminding my readers – and various people who push this nonsense – that there are hundreds of different cancers. Each of those cancers has a different etiology, pathophysiology, and treatment strategy. Starving cancer may actually be a brilliant idea – some research is involved in cutting off the blood flow to cancers. But that’s at a very localized level, and changing your diet will have approximately zero effect on cancer development and growth.

On the other hand, I guess you could starve cancer by starving one’s self. But I don’t think there would be a good prognosis and outcome for the patient, especially since eating is problematic when patients are undergoing adjuvant therapy for cancer.

Let’s take a look at the pseudoscience of starving cancer.

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Quackery grifting — easy money for pushing pseudoscience

quackery

I always joked that I could have a profitable business if I engaged in quackery. I’ve got all of this science floating in my brain which I could use to confuse the customer and have them buy my quackery. But I have morals, so I don’t.

I just read a blog post by Melanie Trecek-King in Thinking is Power, a wonderful website that pushes critical thinking skills, something that I find is totally lacking in the quackery world. Anyway, I thought I take her nine steps and give it the old feathered dinosaur take — you know, a little snark, a lot of science, and a little bit of teaching. But read her article too, since I’m “borrowing” her ideas.

Before I start, it has become clear to me that all of the people pushing their quackery are also grifters — they sell their quackery for profit. Joe Mercola and Andrew Wakefield double down on their pseudoscience, just to add money to their coffers.

Please, don’t use this list to start your own profitable pseudoscience business. Use it as a method to weed out the quacks, woomeisters, and pseudoscientists.

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NFL QB Aaron Rodgers chose homeopathy over vaccines, catches COVID

aaron rodgers covid vaccines

Sometimes my blog posts write themselves. NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers decided to forgo COVID-19 vaccines and chose homeopathy to build antibodies against it. As you can predict, he tested positive for COVID-19.

Shocking, right?

There are two things here that need to be debunked. First, homeopathy, although I know that almost any scientific skeptic knows that homeopathy is pseudoscience. Second, building antibodies without vaccines – can’t be done, but we’ll get to that.

I’m writing this not for you science geeks out there – nothing I’ll write will cause you to exclaim, “Oh my, and I thought homeopathy worked!” But this is for those who may come here to find out if Aaron Rodgers knows anything about vaccines, COVID-19, or homeopathy. He doesn’t.

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YouTube bans vaccine misinformation – sometimes science prevails

YouTube vaccine

On 29 September 2021, YouTube announced that it was banning all videos with vaccine misinformation, and it was banning the accounts of several dangerous anti-vaccine activists such as Joseph Mercola, Erin Elizabeth, Sherri Tenpenny, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The tide is turning against the vaccine denialists who have used social media, including YouTube, to push anti-vaccine nonsense. It couldn’t happen soon enough.

YouTube said it would remove videos claiming that vaccines are not effective in reducing the rates of transmission or contraction of the disease. It will remove content that includes disinformation about the ingredients in a vaccine. And they will remove any video that claims that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer, or infertility. Finally, they will remove any information that claims that vaccines contain electronic trackers.

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COVID vaccine deniers – 12 are responsible for 73% of anti-vaccine content on Facebook

COVID-19 vaccine deniers

The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) recently published a guide called the “Disinformation Dozen,” a group of 12 COVID-19 vaccine deniers who are responsible for the bulk of anti-vaccine information on social media. Some of the names are familiar (at least to me) and some are not that familiar (again, at least to me).

CCDH is one of the leading voices in calling out the anti-vaccine world, especially during this time of COVID-19 deniers. They have long pointed out that social media, especially Facebook, has become the major mouthpiece for these groups. And recently, President Joe Biden has called out Facebook for “killing people” as COVID-19 had evolved into the pandemic of the unvaccinated.

The Disinformation Dozen have a long history of grifting, lying, and anti-vaccine rhetoric. Of course, more recently, they have become committed COVID-19 vaccine deniers, while many of them are promoting evidence-lacking COVID-19 treatments like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. And according to CCDH, the Disinformation Dozen are responsible for about 73% of the anti-vaccine content on Facebook. That is disturbing.

Because I like to be an encyclopedic resource for anti-vaccine garbage, like my list of facts and myths about the COVID-19 vaccine to debunk deniers, this article will be a list of the Disinformation Dozen along with links to further criticisms of them, whether or not it was written by yours truly. I wanted to also update what platforms some of these people are still using for their propaganda.

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Do supplements prevent cancer or heart disease? No evidence

Do supplements prevent cancer or heart disease

One of the undying beliefs of some people is that a handful of expensive supplements prevent cancer and heart disease. Outside of a few cases where there is a diagnosed medical need for supplements, the only result of taking them is very expensive urine.

I’ve written a lot about various supplements and their potential to treat or prevent cancer and heart disease, and the evidence is sorely lacking. There are good ways to prevent cancer, like not smoking and getting the HPV vaccine, but not a single one of them includes swallowing a bunch of vitamins.

Recently, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued draft recommendations on supplements – they were unable to give a single recommendation to any of the supplements that they examined. And as we do here, let’s take a look at what they wrote.

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Anti-vaccine Sharyl Attkisson threatens to sue Dr. Peter Hotez for defamation

anti-vaccine sharyl attkisson

This article about threats to sue Dr. Peter Hotez by anti-vaccine journalist Sharyl Attkisson 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 the social and legal policies of vaccination. 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 disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

Litigation threats by anti-vaccine activists are not new, nor are they unusual. Recently, anti-vaccine journalist Sharyl Attkisson sent a litigation threat to Dr. Hotez, a threat she then published online. Her chances, if she actually sues, are slim, but that does not seem to be the point of such threats.

As best as I can tell, litigation threats by anti-vaccine activists serve two purposes, neither of which depending on the validity of the claims. First, towards the target of the threat, the threat can serve as a deterrent to engage with the anti-vaccine activist. Second, in relation to the anti-vaccine activist’s own followers the threats can both serve to create a narrative of victimhood (“I’m targeted by ‘them’), and second to present themselves to their followers as bravely fighting back against attacks.

This post will describe the events, then put them in the context of previous litigation threats by anti-vaccine activists and previous such behavior by Sharyl Attkisson, then make some suggestions to any reader targeted by similar threats. 

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Joe Mercola warned by FDA about quack COVID-19 treatments

joe mercola

One of our favorite alternative medicine quacks, Dr. Joe Mercola, DO, has been warned by the FDA to cease promoting useless COVID-19 treatments. This is not the first time that Dr. Mercola has run afoul of the FDA, and given his past activities, I doubt it’s his last.

The FDA told Joe Mercola that three products he markets with COVID-19 treatment claims are are “unapproved new drugs” and “misbranded drugs” being sold in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The three products are – Liposomal Vitamin C, Liposomal Vitamin D3, and Quercetin and Pterostilbene Advanced.

In case you don’t feel like reading what Joe Mercola has done this time, I’ll save you a bit of time. There is no evidence that any of these products do anything to treat COVID-19. But let’s take a look at Mercola and his quack treatments.

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