July 2015 in review: Part 4

So far we’ve reviewed the cover stories, pages 1-10, pages 11-21 and pages 22-39.  We’re nearly at the staple, without a hint of any remotely credible advice that doctors don’t give you. Lots of adverts, though.

Page 40  is the start of an article titled “sweet not-so-nothings”. (it runs on pp. 41, 43, 44, 47, and a listicle on page 49 (the intervening pages being advertisements), and  which advances this idea:

Artificial sweeteners may have zero calories, but they cause weight gain by boosting blood sugar and crippling the system that regulates it.

Aside from the missing word “may” (as in they may cause weight gain and it may be by this mechanism), this is all consistent with current science.

The inherent problem with artificial sweeteners is that they are promoted as a magic bullet to achieve weight loss without changing your behaviour. Any long-term reader of these pages will know that miracle cures, never are.

And the essential problem with the WDDTY article is that it uses studies such as Fueling the Obesity Epidemic? Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-term Weight Gain to assert a proven causal link. Continue reading July 2015 in review: Part 4

Woman who died from measles had been vaccinated

WDDTY headline with obligatory scary needle shot.
WDDTY headline with obligatory scary needle shot.

The Holy Trinity of anti-vaccinationists runs thus:

  1. Vaccines are dangerous.
  2. Vaccines don’t work.
  3. Vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t serious anyway.

And when one is rebutted they move to another, frequently in rotation, perennially moving the goalposts.

What WDDTY Don't Tell You about infectious disease.
What WDDTY Don’t Tell You about infectious disease when there is no vaccination.

Still, deaths from preventable disease are the anti-vaccinationist’s worst nightmare. Their narrative can only succeed in an atmosphere where the realities and consequences of preventable disease are a distant memory. We do recommend you watch The Vaccination Chronicles by Australian skeptic and all round good egg Richard Saunders.

Provable deaths in the newspapers are the ultimate heresy to the antivax cult. You need only look at the torrent of vile abuse heaped on the parents of Dana McCaffery by Australian antivax whackaloon Meryl Dorey. Your child died of vaccine preventable disease? Off-message. STFU.

So it is with the recent death of an American woman from measles.

The first death in 12 years from measles was reported last week from the USA, which had doctors emphasising the important of vaccination. However, what doctors didn’t tell you was that the woman who died had been given the MMR vaccine.

What they did tell you, however, was that she was immunocompromised, and thus in the high risk group for exposure to measles, a highly contagious disease. Hilariously, WDDTY try to spin this as an anti-pharma angle:

It’s believed the woman caught measles when she was in hospital, and she died because her immune system had been seriously compromised from too many pharmaceuticals.

Let’s get this straight, Lynne: you have no fucking clue why she was immunocompromised. She was on immunosuppressant drugs, there are a number of reasons for using these including transplants, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, control of severe allergic asthma.

The immune system is a complex beast and when it works against you, as it does in autoimmune disorders, you can suffer dramatic and life threatening symptoms.

All in all it’s just as well that all those products you pimp for “boosting your immune system” do no such thing. If they could, they would be dangerous.

Doctors at the hospital in Washington state, where she died, confirmed she had had the MMR vaccine when she was a child. One, Dr Jeanette Stehr-Green, also said on local TV that the woman had been taking medication that had interfered with her immune system, and made her more vulnerable to the measles virus.

Right, so you assumed that she was actually taking “too many pharmaceuticals” when actually you (and we) have no idea at all of her health history or the reason she was on immunosuppressant therapy. But you assume… What? That the doctors put her on it on a whim? Fatuous.

The hospital has refused to reveal the age of the victim, but have said she was not elderly.

Indeed. Measles kills indiscriminately, including years after the event due to subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. Odd that something as natural as measles turns out to be a real bastard. And don’t pretend you don’t know about SSPE: in October 2007, WDDTY said:

Latent infections also lie at the root of a number of serious chronic diseases that are dependent upon the immunological response, including progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy, a rapidly progressing neuromuscular disease, and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, a rare progressive brain disorder caused by an abnormal immune response to the measles virus. In fact, the latter is thought to be triggered, in some cases, by the MMR vaccine.

You cited this source: Latent Virus Infections. See where it mentions immunisation as a source of SSPE? Me neither. Of course nobody has ever checked this, have they? Oh, wait, yes they have:

For situations where cases of SSPE occur in vaccinated individuals who have no previous history of natural measles infection, the available evidence points to natural measles infection as the cause of SSPE, not vaccine.

WHO, Jan 2006.  And while it might be charitable to attribute your ignorance of the falsity of your claim, it would also be incredibly naive.

Mind you, that’s pretty tame. In September 1994 you said:

Besides causing dangerous mutations like atypical measles, the measles portion of the [measles] vaccine has been associated with numerous side effects, including nerve deafness, encephalitis, epilepsy, febrile convulsions, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (a paralysis) and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a fatal wasting disease rarely associated with measles .

That was characteristically inaccurate, in that these things have “been associated” primarily by anti-vax cranks.

What does the reality-based community say? Two thirds of people with Guillain–Barré syndrome have experienced an infection before the onset of the condition, usually gastroenteritis or a respiratory tract infection. Vaccines can prevent some causes of these. In many cases the exact nature of the infection can be confirmed: approximately 30% of cases are provoked by Campylobacter jejuni bacteria, which cause diarrhea. A further 10% cases are attributable to cytomegalovirus (CMV, HHV-5). Despite this, only very few people with Campylobacter or CMV infections develop Guillain–Barré syndrome (0.25–0.65 per 1000 and 0.6–2.2 per 1000 episodes, respectively).[1] The strain of Campylobacter involved may determine the risk of GBS; different forms of the bacteria have different lipopolysaccharides on their surface, and some may induce illness while others will not.

While rare cases of GBS have been reported following flu vaccination, a link with measles virus is explicitly ruled out in “Pediatric Guillain-Barré syndrome”. Current Opinion in Pediatrics 25 (6): 689–693. doi:10.1097/MOP.0b013e328365ad3f

On we go:

She was receiving hospital treatment for several health problems when she caught measles from another patient. As her symptoms worsened, she was taken to the University of Washington Medical Centre in Seattle, where she died from pneumonia due to measles last spring.
Doctors did not establish the cause of death until the autopsy was carried out, as the woman did not display any of the usual symptoms associated with measles, such as a rash.

Yup. Rare, but not unheard of especially in the immunocompromised. It’s quite likely that there have been other deaths that were never identified as being due to measles, because these patients are by definition very sick anyway.

No other patient developed the disease, and the hospital is confident the outbreak has been contained.

Good, but it should never have had to be contained.

Measles cases showing uptick due to antivaccinaitonists.
Measles cases showing uptick due to anti-vaccinationists.

Measles vaccination rates declined due to anti-vaccination activists and especially the fraudulent work of Andrew Wakefield. As rates dropped below the levels required for herd immunity, measles infection rates rose.

Antivaxers are responsible for the greater prevalence of measles. Antivaxers are responsible for its return from near-eradicated status in the 1990. Antivaxers are responsible for the fact that the virus can circulate among a larger pool of people who are not immune. The unvaccinated are much more likely to contract measles than the vaccinated.

Family launching enquiry into mysterious death of anti-vaccine doctor

WDDTY is part of the counter-factual counter-culture that is the anti-vaccination movement. An antivax doctor kills himself as the feds move in on his fraudulent empire? It must have been black helicopters.

Mystery surrounds the sudden death of Dr Jeff Bradstreet, a high-profile anti-vaccine campaigner who treated autistic children. His body was found in a river in North Carolina, with gunshot wounds to his chest, a week after his clinic had been raided by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agents.

Mystery? Not really. While there is ample documentation of conspiracist rumours following his death, there’s no real mystery. He used real therapies with real possibilities of harm – including unlicensed stem cells, chelation and hyperbaric oxygen – on the basis of muddle-headed beliefs entirely divorced from the scientific evidence. His office was raided by the FDA and Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, he had already been caught out promoting pseudoscience in the autism omnibus trial and there was apparently an outstanding complaint against him by the parents of a child he had treated. Continue reading Family launching enquiry into mysterious death of anti-vaccine doctor

July 2015 in review: Part 3

We’ve seen the cover stories, pages 1-10 and pages 11-21.  Thus far, most of the content has been adverts, followed by things doctors do tell you and falsehoods from previous issues of  WDDTY. A bit of a swindle, the first quarter, and not even much of the lunatic nonsense for which WDDTY is famed. All that is about to change.

An advertising feature (as opposed to the undeclared advertorial that makes up most of the magazine) pimps the “MEND” Programme for Alzheimer’s disease. If there’s one thing guaranteed to get the vultures circling it’s a dreaded and incurable disease, and these vultures don’t mind sitting at the bedside during the death watch. Continue reading July 2015 in review: Part 3

July 2015 in review: part 2

So far we’ve looked at the cover stories and the first ten pages. Brace yourselves, there’s more to come.

Page 11 is a full-page advert for Cytoplan, who claim that their Wholefood Cherry C contains only pure, powdered acerola cherry because, as they say, “food supplement nutrients in the same form as those in food are always the most optimally effective”.

L-Ascorbic Acid (evil) Natural Vitamin C (not evil)
L-Ascorbic_acid-a L-Ascorbic_acid-g

Spot the difference. Continue reading July 2015 in review: part 2

July 2015 in review: part 1

There have been a good number of tweets on the #WDDTY hashtag highlighting bonkers claims in the July 2015 edition of WDDTY, so lets take a quick whistle-stop tour through its pages.

We dealt with the cover stories yesterday. Page 2 is (as usual) a full-page “we’ll never take advertising” advert for Altrient, which appears to be in competition with homeopathy as their strapline is “nothing compares to Altrient”. They lead with a “33% increase in skin firmness” cream, high dose vitamin C (perfect for enriching your urine) and “high performance” glutathione, which, you will be pleased to hear, may support optimal overall health (quackvertising code for: there is no credible evidence that it does), supports a number of fad diets, and contains no gluten or GMOs. WDDTY seems quite happy for the drugs it likes to be oversold with vague and inflated claims, it seems. Continue reading July 2015 in review: part 1

July 2015: the firehose of stupid at full blast

Your challenge: guess how much of this is valid information that doctors don't tell you.
Your challenge: guess how much of this is valid information that doctors don’t tell you.

The July 2015 issue of WDDTY is out.  You can tell from the cover that it’s going to be a cracker. HPV vaccine: new dangers revealed! Why low-cal sweeteners make you fat! Recipe for better breast health! How I beat Lyme disease! Staying sun-safe naturally! And the headline: 10 minutes to stronger bones.

Based on these I predict: an anti-vax diatribe based on misleading presentation of data with no balancing reference to the benefits of preventing cervical cancer; anti-aspartame conspiracist whacknuttery; pimping some refuted nonsense about breast cancer; favourite quack fake disease “chronic Lyme” cured by some quack nostrum; anti sunscreen bollocks; and something doctors already told you.

Let’s see how I do. Continue reading July 2015: the firehose of stupid at full blast

Painkillers are behind most murders and mass killings, say researchers

Painkillers are behind most murders and mass killings, say researchers

Researchers, eh. What are they like?

Pharmaceuticals are often behind the mass horror killings in schools and public places, a new study has confirmed. But it’s not the antidepressants that are likely to make you a killer, as everyone suspected: the real culprits are painkillers and the benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia.

TL;DR version: At no point do the researchers claim, still less “confirm”, that drugs, of any kind, are “behind” any violent crimes at all.

What they actually say is that people with a history of violent crime should be carefully assessed when prescribing painkillers, because there is an increase (of between zero and two-thirds) in their chances of committing a subsequent violent crime while taking painkillers.

Not dramatic enough, so WDDTY decided to make some shit up. As ever.

First, some perspective. In the UK in 2013 (the last year for which figures are available) there were 8,416 deaths due to a single drug, 2,955 deaths due to all other drugs combined. The larger figure is, of course, for alcohol. The drug that killed Charles Kennedy is still legally on sale in every high street.

But this is not about deaths due to drugs directly, it’s about homicides and spree killings – A tiny number in comparison, at least in civilised countries. Mind, Lynne McTaggart (aka Chief Shitting Bull) is American by birth and has never really seemed to understand the differences between the US and the UK.

This study covers the period 2003-2011 in Finland, during which time there were 1,091 homicides (and 3,549 road traffic fatalities, an undocumented proportion of which involved drug use of some kind).

So what did the new study “confirm”?

Most of the available studies are case reports that only suggest a coincidental link between violence or homicide and antidepressants  or benzodiazepines, while very little is known about the association between antipsychotics and homicide. Two recent ecological studies found no support for a significant role of antidepressant use in lethal violence in the Netherlands or the U.S., although data on individual offenders were not available.

In fact it was a specific and detailed investigation of psychotropic drugs, and the conclusion is:

These results – which may probably be generalized to other developed and stable societies that have a low to medium homicide rate, although not necessarily to countries with higher rates of organized and premeditated crime – imply that the use of antidepressants should not be denied to either adults or adolescents due to a presumed risk of homicidal behavior. The surprisingly high risk associated with opioid and non-opioid analgesics deserves further attention in the treatment of pain among individuals with criminal history.

This is science not pseudoscience, so the investigators published the finding despite it contradicting their original hypothesis. Yes, the researchers actually did not confirm anything, they disconfirmed their original hypothesis.

Did WDDTY lead with “antidepressants not linked to violent behaviour”? Don’t be silly.

The highest risk was among people who were aged 26 or younger and who were taking an opiate painkiller; they were four times more likely to become a killer, and the risk almost doubled if they were taking a benzodiazepine.

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

The median age of offenders and controls was 36.3 years (range 13.3-88.0 years). A total of 849 (88.5%) offenders were males, and 42 (4.4%) had more than one victim, 761 (79.4%) were intoxicated by alcohol and 51 (5.3%) by illicit drugs during the offence (as confirmed by the police).

So when we read that:

The results of this prospective study show that antidepressant use per se was associated with an only modestly increased risk of committing a homicide, with borderline statistical significance. Benzodiazepine and analgesic use was linked with a higher risk of homicidal offending, and the findings remained highly significant even after correction for multiple comparisons.

What we are actually seeing is a combination of these drugs with alcohol. And in some cases illicit drugs as well.

So does that mean there’s a causal link, as WDDTY imply? No, it does not. But “Being off your tree on alcohol and drugs, plus painkillers, is behind most murders and mass killings, say researchers” is not quite so on-message. Get with the programme: it’s always the DRUGS.

Sorry that should be DRUGS!!!!!

But the risk was almost as great in any age group if they were taking an anti-inflammatory painkiller, some of which are available without a prescription; the drugs quadrupled the risk of someone becoming a killer.

That word risk. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Correlation does not imply causation.


Researchers from the University of East Finland made the connection between the drugs and homicidal activity after they analysed the drug-taking history of 959 people who had been convicted of murder. They looked at their drug-taking before they had committed a crime and again afterwards.

They did indeed, and they found that:

The results of this prospective study show that antidepressant use per se was associated with an only modestly increased risk of committing a homicide, with borderline statistical significance. Benzodiazepine and analgesic use was linked with a higher risk of homicidal offending, and the findings remained highly significant even after correction for multiple comparisons.

Which is interesting but doe not prove causation and absolutely cannot be extrapolated to the population of normal people, rather than those recently released from prison for violent offences.

Surprisingly, the expected suspects—the antipsychotics and antidepressants—seemed to have only a minimal effect. Of the real culprits, the benzodiazepines seemed to have been prescribed in high doses for long periods, and they can weaken our ability to control impulses. Painkillers affect emotional processing, say the researchers

Really?  Search the full text of the article, see if you can find the claim that painkillers affect emotional processing.

What it does say is this:

These results – which may probably be generalized to other developed and stable societies that have a low to medium homicide rate, although not necessarily to countries with higher rates of organized and premeditated crime – imply that the use of antidepressants should not be denied to either adults or adolescents due to a presumed risk of homicidal behavior. The surprisingly high risk associated with opioid and non-opioid analgesics deserves further attention in the treatment of pain among individuals with criminal history.

See the qualifications? ” deserves further attention in the treatment of pain among individuals with criminal history”

So: no need to stop taking the painkillers unless you have a history of violent crime. The headline should in fact read:

Most pissed-up violent offenders who commit subsequent violent crimes, are also on painkillers, say researchers.

Homeopathy improves fatigue and pain of cancer patients ten-fold

Few fields demonstrate the exercise of the pseudoscientific method more consistently than homeopathy. Any half-competent editor of a health magazine will be well aware of the red flags, and will steer clear of the junk studies that define the field.

You’ve already spotted the problem, haven’t you? Yes, the editor would have to be half competent. And also they would have to give a shit about facts, rather than their advertising sales.

Homeopathy dramatically improves the mental and physical well-being of cancer patients who are being treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, a major new study has discovered.

Really? I wonder who would produce such a study, and where it might get published?

Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2015; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2015.03.004. A low impact factor (2.2) SCAM-specific journal.

“Influence of adjunctive classical homeopathy on global health status and subjective wellbeing in cancer patients – A pragmatic randomized controlled trial”

The word “pragmatic” is a red flag with homeopathy studies: it means that they are engaged in benefit finding, and have deliberately chosen not to try to eliminate many common sources of bias.

Half the 410 cancer patients, who were prescribed individual remedies, reported “significant improvements” in their levels of fatigue and pain, and had better appetites, than those who weren’t given the remedies. Improvements ranged from seven to 14 times in those taking homeopathy, say researchers from the Medical University of Vienna.

Did they indeed. So a group of people who received amateur talk therapy and magic sugar pills, reported subjective benefits, but no objective measures were used. This tells us precisely nothing that we did not already know.

Here’s something else we know: users of SCAM fare worse when they get cancer.  They delay treatment, trying worthless SCAM remedies first, so they present later and with more advanced disease, and even after controlling for that, they still die sooner.

With that in mind, one wonders why the Medical University of Vienna’s IRB approved this trial. Would they approve one on voodoo?  Maybe they would, it would not be the most unethical thing the university ever did, as Prof. Ernst reveals in his excellent A Scientist In Wonderland.

All the patients, who were being treated for stages 3 and 4 cancer, were interviewed every week while they were taking the remedies, and the improvements in the homeopathic group was very noticeable compared to the group who weren’t taking homeopathy.

According to a bunch of homeopaths. Of course the rigorous blinding that ensured that neither patient nor experimenter was aware of which group they were in, and the use of a carefully selected placebo (including controls for the homeopathic “consultation”, which another study shows is the only part of the whole charade that matters).

Oh, wait, no, they don’t appear to have done any of that.

Improvements in overall health were 10 times greater in the homeopathic group over the three weeks the remedies were taken.

Amazing, isn’t it? You wonder how such a striking finding could come out of a decently designed study given that three separate government reviews of homeopathy (Switzerland, UK and Australia) have failed to find a single condition for which it is provably effective.

There are two possibilities here:

  1. All the previous research is wrong, especially that showing that positive results are more likely when the study design is sloppy and less likely when it’s robust; most of physics is wrong; there are two complete parallel systems of action in human biochemistry, one of which has never been identified by scientists; and there is a form of energy that has never been detected or measured, but which has profound effects on human health.
  2. This is another badly-designed study by True Believers seeking to proselytise their faith.

Which is more likely? Answers on a razor please.

Shilling for Big Herba

All drugs are bad, in any amount. All vitamins, supplements and other SCAM products are good, and the more the better.

That’s the message of WDDTY, brought to you by the advertising budgets of people selling vitamins, supplements and SCAM products.

Sunshine News #1: You’re only getting a tenth of what you need

No, you really aren’t. Unless you want skin cancer. What WDDTY actually want to sell you is pills. It must be pills: they say that sunscreen is carcinogenic, so they cannot possible be advocating more sun exposure, because that would be a literally murderous level of stupid.

People who have been following the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) amounts for vitamin D could be severely malnourished: scientists have discovered the recommendation is only one-tenth of what it needs to be.


The current RDA forthe vitamin is 600 IU/ day for everyone up to the age of 70, and 800 IU/dayforthose who are older. But a team of American researchers, in response to a letter by a pair of Canadian
researchers calling on all public-health groups and agencies to urgently change the current too-low RDA for vitamin D, say the
amount we really should be getting from all sources, including sunshine, is 7,000 IU/day.

Doses that large are normally promoted by the “orthomolecular” quacks. Who are these scientists and researchers?

We have a source: Nutrients, 2015; 7: 1688-90.  The first thing to note about this is that it is not a published article, it’s a letter. WDDTY readers probably don’t know the difference. Letters do not go through peer review, they are simply expressions of opinion.

The letter responds to another letter, again not a paper. Both are contingent on an estimate of appropriate serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. The letters are estimates based on regressions – they suggest a need for further research, theya re not a confident finding, and they are absolutely not a cast-in-stone fact, as WDDTY promotes them

And even this amount is way below the safe upper limit for teenagers and adults, which may be as high as 10,000 IU/day, says Cedric Garland of the University of California at San Diego.

Garland is a darling of the orthomolecular crowd.

In fact this adds very little to what is already known: that people living in Northern latitudes may, in later life, require vitamin D supplementation.

The idea that large amounts of supplemental vitamin D are essential to life in the otherwise healthy adult human, is evolutionarily improbable and unsupported by data.

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

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