Christopher Aluminum Exley is still around after leaving academia

aluminum exley

Christopher Aluminum Exley, who thinks that the aluminum in vaccines causes everything from autism to Alzheimer’s disease and is a favorite target of my snark, disappeared after he left his academic appointment at Keele University in the UK.

In case you were wondering, Christopher Exley is still pushing false information about aluminum and vaccines. Of course, when does an anti-vaxxer ever really disappear from the world of pushing their nonsense?

Let’s catch up on Christopher Aluminum Exley, just so you know he’s alive and well. And still inventing claims about vaccines.

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Does walking reduce risk of dementia? Study seems to say yes

dementia walking

People are afraid of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease since we really don’t understand the diseases very well. But there’s some good news — a recent paper stated that walking could reduce the risk of dementia — could it be that simple?

As this feathered dinosaur is getting on in years, I worry about declining executive function. So far, I’m doing well. And I walk between 10 to 20 thousand steps every day for the past decade, so this type of science is personally interesting.

Like I always do, I’m going to present the key findings of the peer-reviewed paper, then tell you what I think about the article. So let’s get to it.

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Flu vaccine linked to a 40% reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s disease

flu vaccine alzheimer's

A new peer-reviewed study found that people who received at least one flu vaccine were 40% less like to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to non-vaccinated individuals. If this doesn’t convince you to run down to your local pharmacy or your physician to get the flu vaccine, I do not know what else to convince you.

As you know, I am a big proponent of the flu vaccine mainly because the disease it prevents is much more dangerous than most people seem to think. And during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic (yes, it’s still out there), getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccines are important.

Let’s dive into this paper to see if the data is convincing, and more than that, what potential mechanisms that may link the flu or flu vaccine to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Severe COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s disease risk may share a genetic link

COVID-19 Alzheimer's disease

The risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and for severe COVID-19 appear to share a common genetic mechanism that is involved with the immune response to viruses. This does not mean that COVID-19 increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, only that there appears to be a single genetic variant that increases the risk for both.

Researchers found that one genetic variant in the oligoadenylate synthetase 1 (OAS1) gene increases both the risk for AD of severe COVID-19 outcomes.

Risk for Alzheimer’s disease and susceptibility to severe COVID-19 share a common genetic mechanism involved in the immune response to viruses, according to a peer-reviewed article just published. The findings could lead to new treatment targets to slow the progression and severity of both diseases. If these findings bear out, it could suggest new drugs that could treat both diseases.

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FDA approval of Alzheimer’s disease drug aducanumab – Inspector General may investigate

Alzheimer's disease drug

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first new drug, Aduhelm (aducanumab), for Alzheimer’s disease in 18 years. The new drug is manufactured by Biogen, a US-based pharmaceutical company, and if you read the news reports and social media posts, you’d think the new drug is a miracle.

Given that Alzheimer’s disease afflicts over six million Americans each year, we wanted to celebrate aducanumab as a miracle. Except, there’s really nothing to celebrate here.

The FDA ignored the advice of its own expert advisory committee, which voted overwhelmingly (eight against approval, one for, and two abstained) to not recommend the drug because, according to the FDA’s own analyses, the drug failed to show that it can do anything to treat Alzheimer’s devastating cognitive decline. Plus aducanumab costs $56,000 per year (yes, $56,000) and comes with a relatively high risk for brain swelling and bleeding.

In response to the outcry, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock wrote a letter to the acting inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledging that there has been “significant attention and controversy” surrounding the approval of Aduhelm. In particular, Woodcock said, concerns continue to be raised about the agency’s contacts with Biogen, including “some that may have occurred outside of the formal correspondence process.”

So we have to ask why would the FDA approve this new drug for Alzheimer’s disease, even though aducanumab is expensive, has serious side effects, and probably doesn’t do anything to improve the outcomes of Alzheimer’s patients? And because the drug is so expensive and everyone will demand the drug for the disease, this could add hundreds of billions of dollars to the cost of healthcare in the USA and across the world (don’t believe for a second that this possibly worthless drug is going to cost only $5.00 in Denmark, because it won’t).

The answers to these questions are complicated, and I’ll try to explain. But I think what happened here is disturbing and tragic. And it could have implications for any new drug approved by the FDA.

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Canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease? Dubious evidence

Canola oil causes Alzheimer's disease

Food fads make me want to scream, cry, and hide in a cabin in the mountains. MSG is safe. And high fructose corn syrup is just an awful name for sugar. And only a small number of people have a real gluten sensitivity. And now a published article has caused the internet to explode with the trope that canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease.

This new internet meme is based on a peer-reviewed article published in a real journal. But as I have written time and again, just because an article seems like it has sterling credentials, it doesn’t mean the article is above criticism. We’ll get to this article below.

As expected, all of the usual suspects in the pseudoscience world have jumped on board with clickbait headlines like, “Scientists finally issue warning against canola oil: Study reveals it is detrimental to brain health, contributes to dementia, causes weight gain.” I always find it ironic when a pseudoscience-pushing website believes in scientists when it supports their belief.

Of course, we need to take a look at this whole issue. Here’s my spoiler alert (but please read the whole article) – there is little evidence that canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or dementia. You can use it safely. Continue reading “Canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease? Dubious evidence”

Aluminum and vaccines, it’s time to clear up the pseudoscience

aluminum and vaccines

The moving goalposts of the anti-vaccine arguments can be annoying. First, it was mercury (no mercury in vaccines). Today, it’s aluminum and vaccines. What next, the water in vaccines causes something because of reasons?

There is overwhelming and solid evidence that the tiny levels of aluminum in some vaccines are biologically irrelevant. Of course, the anti-vaccine religion is rarely convinced by science, because of only their beliefs matter.

The anti-vaxxers have a preconceived conclusion that vaccines are dangerous –  aluminum and vaccines cause it. Then they find every bit of “evidence” to support that conclusion, irrespective of the mountain of evidence that says they are wrong. Continue reading “Aluminum and vaccines, it’s time to clear up the pseudoscience”

Diet soda increases risk of stroke and dementia – does it?

diet soda increases risk

Two recent studies published in respected journals seem to indicate that diet soda increases risk of stroke and dementia. Not to give a free pass to sugary drinks, one of the studies seemed to indicate that either artificially sweetened or sugar filled drinks might be linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Typical of the popular press and your average website, they accept the findings of these studies without any serious critique of these studies. US News blares a headline that says, “Health buzz: drinking diet soda linked to stroke, dementia risk, study says.” Thankfully, many of the headlines use the qualifier “may be linked,” but I’m afraid most people will overlook that nuanced discussion of these studies.

But what does the actual science say? Do these studies provide us with robust evidence that cutting out diet soda will suddenly decrease our risk of stroke, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? Probably not, but let’s see what this data actually tells us.

 

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Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking

Aluminum adjuvant

With the success of California’s vaccination law, SB277, there appears to be a trend to increase vaccination uptake among school-aged children. And it’s a great thing that we protect our children from vaccine preventable diseases. Yet, the anti-vaccine crowd is still looking for lame excuses to not vaccinate – today, it’s the aluminum adjuvant in vaccines.

The anti-vaccine crowd has a tendency to ignore the vast and powerful scientific consensus on vaccines. Instead, they prefer to cherry pick research, often from biased “scientists” who publish in the lowest quality journals. That cherry picking is a form of confirmation bias – the individual seeks evidence that supports their a priori conclusions rather than letting the robust body of evidence point them to a conclusion.

Generally, these myths, based on cherry picking, are debunked. But the anti-vaccine cult is nothing if not creative. They just move on to a new boogeyman. This time, it’s aluminum adjuvants in vaccines. To be honest, anti-vaccine tropes are zombies, so we think we destroy those tropes, but they rise again, fed by new cherry picking. And debunking the danger of aluminum in vaccines has been an age-old discussion amongst the pro-science crowd.

Today, we’re going to look at one of those articles which was recently published. If one accepted this research, while ignoring critical analysis and the body of other science, then it would be a great one to confirm one’s own pre-conceived beliefs. But that’s not how we do science, so let’s take a look. Continue reading “Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking”

Why we vaccinate–debunking flu vaccine myths in 25 easy steps

flu-shot-mythThe seasonal flu is associated with an estimated 54,000 to 430,000 hospitalizations and approximately 3,000 to 49,000 deaths annually in the USA. So anyone who thinks that the flu isn’t a serious disease, needs to look at those numbers again. People die. And not just the old or sick–healthy people and children are killed by the flu. And let’s not forget about more serious pandemics, like H1N1, that can kill many more people.

We’ve all heard the excuses and myths about the flu vaccines. They’re repeated over and over again not only by those who are vaccine deniers, but more often by average people who just refuse to get the vaccine. This week, a fellow blogger and someone whom I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years, Tara Haelle, spent numerous hours putting together the Top 25 Myths about the flu vaccine, which she published here. Read it. Please. 

So, below is her list of 25 myths about the flu vaccine, with links back to her article (and in some cases, to this blog too) that debunk the myth. After you read this, share it with everyone. Your neighbor who won’t get the flu vaccine. Your spouse. Your parents. Your coworker. And one more person–yourself. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate–debunking flu vaccine myths in 25 easy steps”