The power of recycling


A forthcoming article for the January 2015 issue is billed thus in Dec 2014:

lt sounds impossible, but besides a long history of use in  India, urine therapy has growing evidence of success in all manner
of conditions, from skin cancer to peptic ulcers. Cate Montana
separates fact from fiction.

Spoiler alert: no evidence, growing or otherwise, is provided, and if Cate Montana does indeed separate fact from fiction then the fact was sent to the shredder and only the fiction published.

It’s a twofer, released in advance on the electric internets: one article followed on the website by another. The implication is that this is one of their one story in a box in the other efforts.

In addition to credulously parrotting the claims of people profiting from a quack treatment, the first article cites only one source, which not only doesn’t support the content of the article, it actually contradicts the only claim to which it is relevant!

Any clinical evidence for this is currently non-existent

That’s unusually poor even for WDDTY.

If you can get past the ‘yuck’ factor, urine therapy has growing evidence as an effective treatment for everything from colds to cancer.

For some values of growing. And indeed evidence. Sometimes our job would be made much easier if only there was an online reference that analysed quack health claims. What’s that you say? There is

Here’s a transcript of Paul Willis (of the Royal Institution of Australia) interviewing Dr. Robert Farnsworth, one of Australia’s leading urologists:

(PAUL) There is a long list of ailments that urine is claimed to fix. I asked Dr Bob. Pain relief?

(ROBERT FARNSWORTH) “I can see no scientific basis for pain relief being achieved – any source of pain being treated, or cured, or assisted by recycling your own urine.”

(PAUL) What about skin complaints, such as shingles?

(ROBERT FARNSWORTH) “Again, the same comment would apply.”

(PAUL) Is there any benefit for hypoglycemic people to drink their own urine?

(ROBERT FARNSWORTH)”Not at all. Again, it doesn’t make scientific logic.”

(PAUL) And I suppose you’d say the same of cures for cancer, leprosy and AIDS?

(ROBERT FARNSWORTH) “Et cetera, et cetera . . . .yes.”

Not an ambiguous one then.

Here’s a pop-health-quiz: what highly sterile derivative of blood plasma has been used for thousands of years as a sleep aid, a fertility drug, a cure for the common cold and practically everything else—from cleansing wounds to rapidly healing burns to creating lustrous skin and hair? Need more hints? Most known cultures have used it. Studies show that it may contain antibodies to deadly infectious diseases.1 At least one clinic in Mexico uses it to cure autoimmune problems.2 Former Prime Minister of India Morarji Desai attributed his long and healthy life to it—he died in 1995 at the age of 99. Madonna used it to cure athlete’s foot and actress Sarah Miles swears by it.

No, urine is not sterile. Add to that the appeal to traditionW and celebrity endorsements and that is about as strong as the “evidence” gets, it seems.

Desai’s claims were thoroughly debunked in World Medicine in 1978, in an article called, unapologetically, Taking The Piss.

Dr. Farnsworth again:

It’s possible your urine could be infected, so you’re ingesting bacteria and maybe viruses, and that could be hazardous – it’s biologically illogical and also hazardous

Read that last sentence in your best Spock voice. Illogical. In a nutshell, that is it.

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