[Discussion] Medical Quackery

This is a follow up to the thread "Medical quackery in the US upsets me very, very much". The aim of this current thread is to take up the discussion on medical quackery (widening the scope since the US isn't the only country concerned), discuss news item pertaining to it and the potential responses to address it.
The definition of medical quackery is not up for debate and includes, among others, homeopathy, vaccine skepticism, naturopathy, crystal healing, psychic healing.

I think more importantly, a vegan diet usually has what I would consider valid reasons behind it. Whether it's health issues or moral beliefs, it's generally not promoted by spurious science. A paleo diet may have health benefits, though I don't know of any scientific studies that prove this. However, proponents are usually either trying to sell books or diet plans and in my experience, pretty much always use spurious claims and common fallacies to support the diet. They make claims like "unprocessed foods are more natural" (implying that "natural" is inherently good and that technology is evil), or "our ancestors ate this way" (usually not supported by evidence, and it depends on which ancestors and what time period, doesn't it?).

Going vegan for health reasons is currently medical quackery. No study I have heard of recommends avoiding animal products. There is evidence to suggest that most of our diet ought to be plant matter, but similar studies also recommend some animal matter to supplement, for proteins and some B vitamins.

Now that nutrient fat has been somewhat absolved and sugar increasingly implicated in obesity and metabolic diseases, going vegan won't necessarily be good for you. There's a lot of plants that have significant amounts of sugar, and liberating them from the fiber that modulates their absorption may be no better than soda.

I love the vegan commentary in Scott Pilgrim.

To my knowledge there are NO health benefits from being vegan. I'm a vegetarian for moral reasons. (Not vegan). A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Avoiding the bad cholesterol is smart. The healthiest diet is a balanced one. If you want to lose weight, reduce your caloric intake.

I'm vegan because I can't not be, for a few different reasons (morality among them), but it's not some switch you flip and then all of a sudden you're healthier. I have some vegan friends that eat like garbage. Delicious garbage, but unhealthy as f*ck.

On either side of the aisle, healthy is basically optional.

Oreos: technically vegan. Likewise coca-cola. As Hyetal says, one can be vegan and yet have a terrible diet health wise.

Even in the best of nutritional cases? Vegans die too. Even vegans get cancer. Pesky facts of life that diet may help delay but certainly won't render one immune despite all the propaganda 'documentary' films on netflix. I think one could make a moral argument for veganism, even without animal rights there's the whole water issue and other environmental factors thing.

Unless you believe human innovation™ will fix everything, bugs as the main global protein source, or killing off 75% of the human population, then veganism may well become a necessity for environmental reasons as we kill this world.

Last time I saw any serious studies into it, shocking no one, a more plant based diet low in calories and high in nutrition does avoid some of the risks present in the typical modern north American diet. That said there seems to be a non-trivial number of people who simply don't care, the 'well at least I'll die full and happy!' crowd.

Well, I guess my point that kicked off this side-trip was that I personally haven't seen a lot of vegan diet promotion that is based on bunk science. Whatever I see tends to be more of the opposing-factory-farms and animals-are-our-friends variety, rather than veganism-will-give-you-superpowers. Paleo, on the other hand, is wholly based on eating like a caveman or hunter-gatherer, which is patently ridiculous. Media that promotes paleo diets almost always does it based on unproven health claims.

YMMV, of course. I don't really watch a lot of vegan documentaries, but some of my best friends are vegan...

krev82 wrote:

Oreos: technically vegan. Likewise coca-cola. As Hyetal says, one can be vegan and yet have a terrible diet health wise.

Even in the best of nutritional cases? Vegans die too. Even vegans get cancer. Pesky facts of life that diet may help delay but certainly won't render one immune despite all the propaganda 'documentary' films on netflix. I think one could make a moral argument for veganism, even without animal rights there's the whole water issue and other environmental factors thing.

Unless you believe human innovation™ will fix everything, bugs as the main global protein source, or killing off 75% of the human population, then veganism may well become a necessity for environmental reasons as we kill this world.

Last time I saw any serious studies into it, shocking no one, a more plant based diet low in calories and high in nutrition does avoid some of the risks present in the typical modern north American diet. That said there seems to be a non-trivial number of people who simply don't care, the 'well at least I'll die full and happy!' crowd.

Once again, I'm a vegetarian but not vegan. At first, it was an emotional decision. I love animals and nature, and don't want an animal to have to die so that I can have a yummy meal. Later, I started learning about the ecological and environmental benefits of choosing a meatless diet. And for me, that's where it becomes a moral choice.

The Paleo Diet does not actually reflect what people ate tens of thousands of years ago. In fact, much of what people ate then is unavailable today, and would not really be considered palatable.

I agree Rawk, I became lacto-ovo because I was not feeling well when I ate meat. These days even if I could go back I'm not sure I could justify it, 11 years into being lacto-ovo I'm increasingly contemplating the switch to vegan due to the same knowledge.

Robear wrote:

The Paleo Diet does not actually reflect what people ate tens of thousands of years ago. In fact, much of what people ate then is unavailable today, and would not really be considered palatable.

I eat only mammoth.

I'm so hungry.

I'm a pescapescatarian

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Tanglebones wrote:

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Did anyone hear about this? Quackademic Medicine at UC Irvine (Science Based Medicine)

How do you get to have a center named after you in a major medical school? You don’t necessarily need to have any medical accomplishments. All you have to do is bribe, I mean donate, $200 million. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a philanthropist making a major donation to a hospital or medical school and being honored for that donation by having a building or center named after them. That’s pretty much how it works.
What is a problem is dictating the academic and scientific standards of that medical school through your donation. Samueli did not intend to support the teaching and practice of medicine, but to change the teaching and practice of medicine according to her own misguided ideology.

I'm just.... ***sigh*** I know I may be naive, but you'd think this kind of thing wouldn't happen in a million years.

Yes. I heard about it. I was going to post an article about it here. But life happened. UCI is practically in my back yard, so this kills me.

An important detail to note: This is the largest private donation ever made to a university. Talk about buying your way in to academia.

BTW, Eleima, big props for quoting Science Based Medicine. Steve Novella is my spirit animal.

Spoiler:

Did you hear about those 20-something fans that printed t-shirts that had Steve's face with the quote "Science works, bitches!!"??

Sure did, listened to the podcast this morning, thats where I heard about this. SGU is awesome, a must for anyone interested in debunking quackery.
But yeah, it’s a very very large sum and that’s probably something that came into play. But as Mr. Novella said, the university should’ve gone with “thanks but no thanks”......

Agreed!

Medicaid And The Opioid Epidemic: Correlation is not Causation

Another widely recommended woo practice with no evidence to back it up.

The new paper cites a 2015 review published in American Psychologist reporting that only around 9 percent of research into mindfulness-based interventions has been tested in clinical trials that included a control group. The authors also point to multiple large placebo-controlled meta-analyses concluding that mindfulness practices have often produced unimpressive results. A 2014 review of 47 meditation trials, collectively including over 3,500 participants, found essentially no evidence for benefits related to enhancing attention, curtailing substance abuse, aiding sleep or controlling weight.

Interesting. My own anecdotal evidence is that for me, it works. Mindfulness meditation can curtail an oncoming panic attack, lift my spirits when I'm feeling depressed, and help me to fall asleep when my minds racing.

I will read that study when I have time.

The article mentions that there is research showing benefits of mindfulness meditation for certain conditions. The main problem is that “mindfulness” has become a buzzword, and it is being recommended in many circumstances where there is no evidence supporting it.

My psych. taught me a quick and dirty mindfulness technique for dealing with panic attacks, and it has been very helpful. OTOH, mindfulness exercises associated with cognitive behavioral therapy for depression do nothing for me.

You hit the nail on the head, BadKen. **Certain conditions** is the key phrase here. It’ll work for stress relieving for me, but I don’t doubt for a second that it won’t work for substance abuse and weight control. Those issues have so much more going on in terms of biology that there’s no way mindful meditation alone would help.

Yes. And it won't cure cancer or help you lose weight or make your male pattern baldness go away. But calling it woo is not quite accurate.

Eleima wrote:

You hit the nail on the head, BadKen. **Certain conditions** is the key phrase here. It’ll work for stress relieving for me, but I don’t doubt for a second that it won’t work for substance abuse and weight control. Those issues have so much more going on in terms of biology that there’s no way mindful meditation alone would help.

Unless the substance abuse or weight issues are caused by self-medicating a stress/anxiety issue, in which case it might help a little.

Eleima wrote:

You hit the nail on the head, BadKen. **Certain conditions** is the key phrase here. It’ll work for stress relieving for me, but I don’t doubt for a second that it won’t work for substance abuse and weight control. Those issues have so much more going on in terms of biology that there’s no way mindful meditation alone would help.

I find mindfulness to be really useful in calming a high energy anxiety kind of feeling and help with focus (I don't suffer real panic attacks, just general anxiety that exacerbates ADHD stuff) However I find it worse than useless during a depression spiral kind of feeling. I think its a really situational kind of thing.

I tend to agree with y'all. 'Mindfulness' as a drive-by concept can actually be a bit worrying if someone decides to get into it without the actual insight that needs to back it up. I usually point people to Tara Brach's RAIN principle for a fuller understanding.

R – Recognize what is happening
A – Allow life to be just as it is
I – Investigate inner experience with kindness
N – Non-Identification

I think a lot of people skip over that third letter because they don't want to really look at their stuff, so it can be another avoidance strategy. That's why mindfulness practice WITH therapy is such a good pair. If anything, meditation on its own can make you feel WORSE at first because you really see how busy your mind is, how often your 'stuff' comes up and you may not have a framework to actually do something about it.

As usual, anything that reads like a 'quick fix' and gets approached as such will usually lead to disappointment.

On a lighter note, from The Onion: Historians Discover Meditation Spread From Ancient China By Annoying Monk Who Wouldn’t Shut Up About How It Changed His Life

Oh my gosh, that Onion article. Thanks Certis, I’m crying! With laughter.

bleh, yet another "documentary" coming out featuring a bunch of talking head quacks

On a brighter note, I found this in my Twitter feed this morning. Found in a antivaxxer forum, some antivaxxer was asking for advice on how to fix their bus. Some skeptic decided to troll them. Hard.
https://www.facebook.com/TAVSofficial/photos/a.660980460584026.1073741827.656716804343725/1889729077709152/?type=3&theater
Transcript:

Person A: "Hey, all you need to fix your bus is some chakra crystals, a bucket of kale and essential oils. Don't waste your money on Big Mechanic."
Person B: "Um, I'm sorry dear but I'm pretty sure crystals, kale and essential oils won't fix a bus We'll leave this one up to the experts instead of something you read off the internet. Thanks for the suggestion tho!" [sic]
Person A: "Wow, irony much?"