The jelly bean problem

If you’ve wondered why we are so skeptical about the studies that WDDTY cites (at least those where WDDTY does not misrepresent the findings, which is alarmingly common) then you may not understand the “jelly bean problem”.

From XKCD, released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Which is awesome in and of itself.

David Colquhoun explains it perfectly in this superbly written and very readable paper published by the Royal Society: An investigation of the false discovery rate and the misinterpretation of p-values. If the editors could read and understand the implications of this paper, half of our work would be done.

New supplement best for preventing bone loss, says study

Churnalism. Don’t you just love it? The repetition of self-serving claims from press releases into press as if they were facts. Wikipedia calls this “fact-washing”.

WDDTY said they would not do this. It’s as true as their principled statement that they would never take paid advertising.

So it’s no surprise to see a tweet from WDDTY:


We know WDDTY well enough by now to be able to read the subtext. A new supplement (i.e. made by the whiter-than-snow big-pharma-suppressed all-natural supplement world) is superior to the current drugs.

And this is clear too in the story they link:

A new nutritional supplement is better than calcium and vitamin D for protecting the bones in older women, a new study has concluded.

There you have it: the supplement is better than the drug calcium and vitamin D. Except – wait – that’s a supplement too isn’t it? How can this be? Ah yes: calcium and vitamin D, usually branded Adcal or Calcichew, is made by big pharma.

KoACT is a calcium-collagen chelate—which means the two compounds are bound together—that prevents bone loss, and so reduces the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Well that’s plausible enough, but it rather runs against the narrative as the calcium-collagen chelate is produced by a pharmaceutical manufacturing process; the supplement is a form that does not actually exist in nature.

It’s been tested for a year on 39 older women, who were given either KoACT or calcium and vitamin D supplements. Women in the KoACT group had a 1.23 per cent loss in bone mineral density at the end of the 12 months trial, while those taking the supplements experienced a 3.75 per cent loss.

N=39 is a very small study. The difference in bone loss could be significant, or it might not.

Researchers from Florida State University, who carried out the study, say the results are “crucial” for women, and especially for those who have reached the early stages of menopause when bone loss can be rapid.

Do they indeed? Or is it, perhaps, that these words were planted in their mouths by someone?

You know what’s coming. You will have guessed the obvious right from the outset. But I won’t spoil your pleasure yet.

KoACT website:

(Source: Journal of Medicinal Food, 2014; 141014082953002).

Want to see that source? You bet. The journal link is  doi:10.1089/jmf.2014.0100 and it’s also summarised in Science Daily.

The Science Daily coverage is more comprehensive, giving a more neutral overview and not including claims that the results are “crucial” but instead the much more plausible:

Arjmandi acknowledged he was “pleasantly surprised” by the outcomes and hopes that the supplement will be used in the future as a way to prevent bone density loss.

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. There, at the bottom of Science Daily’s article is the one piece of genuinely crucial information, the essential fact omitted from WDDTY which necessarily colours any interpretation of this small, preliminary study:

Arjmandi’s study was funded by AIDP, Inc.

And AIDP Inc. is, of course, the manufacturer of the supplement.

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that a calcium/collagen chelate is more effective for preventing bone loss than calcium and vitamin D?

Because the evidence to date is one rather small study funded by the manufacturer.

WDDTY misrepresents antivaxer

Last year we reported a grossly irresponsible article in WDDTY: “Jayne Donegan on the MMR (measles–mumps–rubella) jab” (see also “Hygiene, Not Vaccine“). These refer to a WDDTY article retailing the discredited antivax trope that hygiene improvements, not vaccines, are responsible for the decline in vaccine preventable diseases.

What we did not spot was that Jayne Donegan, quacktivist though she be, is no happier with this festering pile of bullshit than we are!

1) I have never been interviewed by WDDTY.

2) In order for parents and the general public not to be mislead by statements purported to be quotes made by me in the October edition of ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ and subsequent statements by them in various media, I am publishing the letter below on my website as WDDTY have refused to publish either this letter or any other form of correction/ clarification.

Now, it is just possible that the November article is a response to this. Possible, but very unlikely, as (a) the November edition must have gone to press before the page is dated and (b) the WDDTY article includes the very claims of which Donegan complains.

So it turns out that WDDTY can’t even honestly report the views of a homeopath, anti-vaxer and dissembler to the courts.

The old saying says: when you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.

Wheelbarrow of Stupid

Or How Wandering Teacake Wasted His Time Trying To Understand WDDTY’s Sales Figures

Reblogged with permission from Wandering Teacacke, please follow the comments there.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about What Doctors Don’t Tell You, the journal of record for those looking for an alternative to real medical advice. But here I am, pretty much back where I started my blogging career all those 12 long months ago.

Here’s why. Over the past 18 months or so, various individuals, myself included, have contacted various supermarkets and newsagents that stock WDDTY, expressing our concern at the content of this – how can I put it? – festering purulent pile of discarded, discredited and dangerous treatments. Over the years, some stockists have dropped the title, some have dropped it and then reportedly started again, some have just ignored us. But through it all, the editors of WDDTY have screamed about free speech and how the nasty Big Pharma shills want this magazine banned. Continue reading

Lynne McTaggart attacks critics with blatant lies

Lynne McTaggart tweets: “Last year drug-company lobbyists tried to ban WDDTY – but we WON. Please vote us Health Website of the Year TODAY”. This is of course a malicious lie – if she had any evidence she would already have published it. The sole grounds for this mendacious claim appears to be that McTaggart’s only experience is with people whose writing is blatant shilling for their own commercial interests; as a result, she does not seem to be able to understand any motive other than naked profit. Now read on…. Continue reading

Autism ‘caused by MMR using human fetal cell lines’

Another month, another paper flogging the zombie meme of MMR-Autism. This time in a superficially decent journal, albeit one where the subject is likely to be outside the specialist knowledge of peer reviewers (public health specialists are not normally going to be geneticists).

Impact of environmental factors on the prevalence of autistic disorder after 1979, Journal of Public health and Epidemiology, 2014; 6: 271-86

The first question is: who wrote the paper? All the authors list their affiliation as “Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute“, a religious fundamentalist group with an agenda against use of foetal cell lines, because abortion. You can probably stop there, actually. That really does tell you everything you need to know about this “study”: it’s an exercise in hunting for a predestined conclusion. Such exercises rarely fail.

The explosion in autism has been caused by the introduction of human fetal cell lines in the manufacture of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccines, a major new study has concluded.

“Major”? By what definition? How does it compare with all the other reviews of the purported correlation between MMR and autism, covering over 20,000,000 individuals, and finding no correlation whatsoever?

Oh, wait: this is WDDTY. Major means “we like the result”. Like the “major” study proving that we live after death (that wasn’t and didn’t).

Before 1987, when the vaccines were produced with animal cell lines, autism cases were relatively low. Today, it’s been estimated that 1 in 50 children has autism.

No, autism cases were not low, autism diagnoses were. In fact the biggest driver of increasing autism diagnosis rates is probably that a far greater proportion of cases are diagnosed. The diagnostic criteria have also changed.

Stem cell researcher Theresa Deisher and others say that the correlation between the sudden explosion in autism cases and the introduction of the new MMR vaccines is too strong to ignore—although, as the old maxim goes, correlation doesn’t prove causation.

Stem cell researcher? Hmmm. This is someone who does write research on stem cells, but she is also listed as the driving force behind Sound Choice, so it is very likely that what she is actually doing is closer to pathological science, where ideology drives the results and confirmation bias is king.

But there’s another question here. The SEC filings of Sound Choice indicate a non-trivial sum of money, but I can find no information about where the money comes from. Is it really all small private donations? It seems unlikely.

Why is this relevant? Well, we’ve seen before that groups producing “science” to support fundamentalist Christian and other conservative agendas, often turn out to be funded by wealthy activists. Remember the claim that abortion increases breast cancer risk? There were bills on the floor of several State houses seeking to mandate that this “information” be forcibly presented to women seeking termination, and it took some time for these to die even after the purported link was refuted.

According to the published paper, “The author(s) have not declared any conflict of interests” though it was supported by the Murdock Charitable Trust, a body that has funded pro-life and libertarian groups, provided funding to the Discovery Institute and so on – in other words, a religious conservative foundation. There has even been an editorial in Nature discussing the lead author’s role in a lawsuit aimed at forcing the US Government to stop funding stem cell research.

In what way is a history as plaintiff in a faith-motivated lawsuit related to stem cell research, and funding from a religious conservative foundation, not a conflict of interest?

How many red flags do you need, exactly?

The ‘change point’—when the numbers of autism cases rose sharply—happened in the UK in 1987, just when the new MMR vaccine, using human fetal cells, was introduced. A similar correlation was seen around the same time in Denmark, while the autism change point in the US was 1980 to 1981 after the introduction of the new MeruvaxII and MMRII vaccines in 1979. Both vaccines used human fetal cells for the first time.

How convenient for those who, like the authors, have an ideological opposition to human foetal cell lines.

There are a few inconvenient facts omitted from WDDTY’s coverage, then.

  1. The research was conducted by a body that cites opposition to use of foetal-derived cell lines as a primary purpose.
  2. Research by groups not committed to finding adverse effects from foetal cell lines, find no association, causal or otherwise, between MMR and autism.
  3. Withdrawal of MMR in Japan following the fraudulent work by Wakefield had no effect on  autism diagnosis rates.
  4. Diagnostic criteria have changed since 1989.
  5. No plausible mechanism is referenced by which this purported effect might work. DNA does not recombine in this way. It does not enter the cell nucleus.
  6. We already have good evidence that autism is usually genetic, and there is emerging evidence that it can be traced to foetal development (unsurprisingly, if it is a genetically caused mutation in the brain). There is no evidence whatsoever linking these genetic markers to vaccinations.

Even if you want to believe the result, ask yourself this: if a new study showed that eating whale meat causes autism, and all the work was done by Greenpeace, would you believe it?

As usual the “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine” editors at WDDTY have seized on a result they like, ignored massive red flags for conflict of interest, and portrayed it as validating their anti-vaccine agenda even though it conflicts with many of the previous studies they claim support them (e.g. Wakefield’s “enterocolitis”and thiomersal, both of which turds have been polished to shining brilliance in the pages of WDDTY).

Once again, WDDTY prove that in anything related to vaccines, they simply cannot be trusted.

What Zombies Don’t Tell You

What Zombies Don't Tell You
What Zombies Don’t Tell You

You know, it’s a mystery why this title did not occur to us sooner.

Be that as it may, @GezBlair alerts us to the NHS Choices response to the life-after-death story: Questions about life after death remain unanswered.

We mention this for completeness and because it’s a timely reminder that NHS Choices is the perfect antidote to WDDTY, offering balanced analysis of health news from a reality-based perspective.

Incidentally, for those who think that there is something extraordinary about resuscitation victims showing some evidence of brain activity going through periods of clinical death, we’d like to draw your attention to the remarkable story of Anna Bågenholm, one of many fascinating cases discussed by Dr. Kevin Fong in his book Extremes, which shows again and again that life is plenty weird enough without recourse to making shit up.

We survive death, major scientific study “proves”

Unusually quick off the mark, new-age hippy dippy loon Lynne McTaggart is trumpeting a new study that “proves” we live after death.

Spoiler: it proves no such thing, and in fact it can’t even really be said to conclude it,  other than in the sense that the lead researcher started with a conclusion and worked back.

Continue reading

Fight the quacklash

We in the reality-based community always wonder why quacks and cranks are unable to understand any motive other than profit. After all, it’s not as if their entire industry is founded on charlatans seeking to profit from the misery of others, is it?

Oh, hang on…

As a loyal “pharma-sponsored troll” it would be remiss of me not to alert you, my fellow minions of the drug overlords, to this blatant effort to stir up a quacklash against W. H. Smith, who have apparently at last done the decent thing and dropped the “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine” McTaggart’s Andrex substitute from sale.


There’s an email address there. You know what to do.

Don’t bother commenting on WDDTY’s Facebook wall, though, it will be censored for free speech.


  • If you are a member of the Consumers’ Association, you might like to ask them what their views are on conspiracy-mongering quack advertorial masquerading as health and consumer advice.
  • If you are a listener or viewer of consumer affairs programmes such as You And Yours, you might like to pick one or two of the grossly misleading and inaccurate stories in recent issues and invite their views.
  • The “electrosmog doctor” has another advert repeating the claims adjudicated as misleading by the ASA – no need to report this as it’s already been done, but you might feel motivated to comb the pages and highlight any other repeat offenders.
  • A few supermarkets (allegedly including Tesco again) stock WDDTY. If you are on good terms with the in-store pharmacist, why not show them some of the more egregious stories in the issues on sale? Their professional reputation is being trashed by a product their employer is selling.
  • Finally – and most important – if you are being paid by “big pharma” please put us in touch, we could use the cash.

Chronic Lying Disease part 2

ByjnKcqCcAABtXL[1]In Treatment wars: Chronic Lying Disease we noted a regrettable tendency of quacks to promote the fictional “chronic Lyme disease”.

Note that there is nothing fictional about the symptoms, but as you’ll see in a moment they are generally either (a) hopelessly generic – “symptoms of life” if you will or (b) caused by something else.

Nor is there anything fictional about Lyme disease. It is real, a tick-borne infection caused by the borrelia burgdorferi bacterium (in the US) or a close relative (in th Europe). The symptoms are characteristic – erythema migrans, a bull’s-eye rash – and the infection can be confirmed pathologically by blood test.

And indeed there is a real thing called post-Lyme syndrome, or post-borrelia syndrome, or “Lyme arthritis”, which is characterised by fatigue and muscular pains, especially, in patients who have had Lyme disease.

No, the fictional disease is chronic Lyme disease, which is a disease diagnosed by quacks and treated using quack treatments, especially long-term antibiotics (ironically WDDTY also fulminates against antibiotics, but promoting mutually contradictory ideas in the same story has never been a problem for the editors).

Continue reading

What "What Doctors Don't Tell You" Don't Tell You

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