Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Foods You Shouldn't Reheat debunked

MSN has this one article that keeps getting recirculated on it's own feed.  (http://www.msn.com/en-ca/foodanddrink/foodnews/foods-you-should-never-reheat-and-why/ss-AAlrn95?li=AAggFp5&ocid=mailsignout#image=1)  

First off MSN is a horrible source.  It often shares nonsense articles about nutrition with very little to almost no scientific references or credibility.  The original sources can usually be traced to quackery sites like Mercola and Natural News which spew an abundance on absurdities aimed at the gullible.    This "article", or rather clickbait, gives very little substance and resorts simply to the fear-mongering.  As usual with stuff like this, there is often a small grain of truth, but important information is missing in order for a consumer to make an informed choice.  Most of these become problematic if reheated from something that was left standing at room temperature (and therefore allowing bacteria to do their nasty work).   If proper preparation and storage (fridge/freezer) procedures are followed, there will be little to be concerned about.  

1.  Celery,beets, spinach, lettuce:   Yes these food can contain nitrates.  Nitrates can be converted to nitrosamines.  It is thought though that other substances, like vitamin C, within the plants help protect against them.  To help prevent/reduce bacterial and enzymes refridgerate any unused food immediately.

2.  Potatoes and Mushrooms:  Yes foods heated do lose some nutrient value, but the amount is small. The benefits of heating foot outweigh the small loss and include easier digestion (and thus more nutrient absorption), decreasing of bacteria, and taste enhancement.  Really no reason not to reheat if following proper food production and storage (don't let unused food stand too long unprotected and at room temperature allowing for bacterial growth).

3.  Chicken and eggs:  Just like the other items above, the only real problem is with contamination if left out and not in the fridge.  The big concern is salmonella poisoning if proper storage and handling protocols are not followed.

4.  Rice:  Unique fact, reheating properly stored rice (again to prevent bacterial growth) is actually healthier as it has a lower carbohydrate amount (the same is true of pasta as well)

In regards to the oils, I don't have knowledge in that right now, but I would at least have to agree that they don't taste the best reheated, so just for that reason go with fresh oil every time.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Midlife Milk hysteria

Don't be alarmed. The fear-mongers and hype machine are at work. A recent study was published showing a correlation (and a weak one at that) between a pesticide used in Hawaii on Pineapples in the 1980s (which is now banned in agriculture in the USA since 1988) and Parkinson's Disease. The study is in regard to assumed contaminated milk consumed.
Some problems with the study.
The milk consumption was only measured once at the beginning of the decades long study and assumed to be the same (a huge red flag).
The association found in the study of lower neuron density can be explained by other mechanisms
The study actually suggests that smoking is a preventative measure (as non-smoking men who consumed the milk had the lowest neuron density). So no, one shouldn't make a lifestyle change simply due to a study ;) "For those who were ever smokers, an association between milk intake and neuron density was absent."
Hence the study does not show a cause and effect relationship between consumption of milk and PD.
There is no direct evidence that the milk consumed by the men was contaminated.
"The vast majority of milk consumers do not get Parkinson's disease"--Robert Abbott, author of the study.
While the study is interesting in providing pathways to further study, it is by no means a smoking gun. From it's own conclusion "Whether contamination of milk with organochlorine pesticides has a role in SN neurodegeneration warrants further study."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How To Avoid Scams and Hoaxes: Blinding

A video with slides and info from my course.
You can find it here on Youtube

Like-farming problems

Beware of like-farming content on social media like this one supposedly about Haiti, but is actually from the Tsunami in Japan a few years ago. 

"Many like-farmers rely on appeals to emotion: anytime you're urged to “like” or “share” a post that pulls at your heartstrings or pushes your buttons, there's likely a like-farmer behind it. “This poor little girl with cancer lost her hair to chemotherapy — 'like' this post to let her know she's still beautiful!” “This new government policy is outrageous — 'like' this post if you're outraged, too!”"

Need a tissue? Hillary or Trump ad bashing brings a tear to my eyes

Really? I'm almost at a loss for words at the level of stupidity with this. Some people are calling this ad offensive and sexist. One person I know felt deeply offended that Scotties would put Hillary on an even level with Trump. Do these people have such boring insufferable lives that they are offended by any little thing? Why do they read so much into so little? I mean this really is as safe and clean as a comedic ad could be.

Also check out the Tissue for Any Issue previous ad campaign (second pic) and someone's reaction to it (third pic...note* in this pic the dark-haired female has the words "cutting an onion" and "cutting your finger" ). I think a special snowflake award is needed for these people. Or maybe just a tissue

Marijuana and the legality of it all.


My response to the post in the photo: 

Legalization doesn't mean a free-for-all. If it was an illegal grow-op then yes they should go after them (at least lay big fines). And yes, illegal activity can attract violent criminals, especially when lots of potential money is involved. Who would of thunk that? To be ignorant of that is just silly and childish. Your logic is flawed as you equate policing illegal business dealings with a bad social ideal. I wouldn't say that you shouldn't own nice things, but if you owned a high end sport car it would be prudent to protect it. Anyone who stole it from you would be in the wrong. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if someone stole your Porshe instead of your Toyota Echo. I wouldn't say that you shouldn't dress provocatively (and anyone who would harass you would be hugely in the wrong), but it would be naive to think that everyone in society thinks and behaves the same way as you, so it shouldn't come as a huge surprise if one was harassed at some point. These are just the sad realities we currently live with. Just as society wouldn't want a free-for-all on alcohol and the medicinal industry, here one would want it controlled in the same manner as well. C'mon man, you're smarter than this. Don't let an emotional appeal get in the way of your thinking.

Also see:  http://scambusting101.blogspot.ca/2016/04/to-cheech-his-own.html

and           http://scambusting101.blogspot.ca/2016/01/can-cannabis-cancel-cancer.html

Fallist fail: Lighting. How do you explain that?

This is funny but also sad that someone actually thinks like this.

Forget Bill O'Reilly (Tide goes in Tide goes out)

Here you have (paraphrasing a bit) "They believe that through black magic that you are able to send lighting to strike someone. Can you explain that scientifically because it is something that happens?"

Yes I can. Places with ferric (high iron content) or red soil provide the positive charge required by lightning. Thus with the heavy storms that come after heat waves that chances of getting hit by lighting increases. Add in a lack of knowledge in how to protect oneself from lighting and that increases even more. South Africa has annually anywhere between 100-300 deaths a year from lightning with many more presumed unreported due to cultural traditions of quickly burying the dead due to fear of witchcraft. Confirmation bias and confusion of correlation and causation would play heavily in reinforcing the idea of being able to jinx someone to being struck by lightning. Of course they would only remember the hits and never the misses.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Salt Expiry not a hoax

Yes it can go bad.

Once you add in iodine, salt will last about 5 years. The iodine is added as a low-cost health initiative to prevent iodine deficiency and goitre. It only costs about 5 cents a year/person. Some salts add in anti-caking agents.

Dates on salt are often "best before" meaning the taste will not be optimum after that date. Moisture and sunlight can be factors in degrading quality. Moisture can make it harder to use.

So when you see a meme like this...ummm take it with a grain of salt?

Cancer Cluster in Windsor update

I blogged about this back in May due to misinformation put into an article claiming something that simply wasn't proven to be true (http://scambusting101.blogspot.ca/2016/05/theres-always-witch-hunt.html… ).

The results are now in and it appears the tobacco smoke is the main possible culprit of the 12 people contacted (or their next of kin) in the study. https://www.wechu.org/about-us/reports-and-statistics/remington-park-cancer-cluster-investigation-report

Of course the original article was shared quite extensively, while my more truthful approach was not. Sad that folks prefer alarmist sensationalism as opposed to critical thinking.

Conspiracy nuttiness doesn't end

How sick does one have to be take tragedies like the Pulse Shooting and Sandy Hook shooting and denounce the victims?

First off buddy. He wasn't declared dead for hours. He was out (unconscious) for hours. You might just want to watch that vid for a 4th time because you obviously missed that. Secondly, recovery time from a gunshot wound is dependent on many different factors: Health and pyshological state before being shot, support after, exactly where was shot, how extensive the damage was, insurance ($$ can mean better care) and so on. A gunshot victim can be released from the hospital in as little as 10-14 days barring complications. The only bullshit here is what you are spouting because you lack the cognitive ability to critically think and instead allow dissonance and bias to fuel your nutty conspiracy theories.. It speaks volumes about your character.

This same guy also posted this nonsense:  

No hope for this one I'm afraid.

Sperm and Cellphones

A new study is making the rounds and the media is having a field day with making claims that the study doesn't make, even in the slightest. It's about RF-EMR and sperm quality.

Despite the headlines:
No, cell phones do not cause cancer
No, cell phone radiation does not damage DNA
No, cell phones are not super-heating and cooking sperm

The actual conclusion: "Our analyses indicate negative associations between mobile phone exposure on sperm viability and motility. The effects on concentration are more equivocal. Further research is required to quantify these effects more precisely and to evaluate the clinical importance of the risk to both sub-fertile men and the general population." http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412014001354 (note that most of the articles reporting this did not link to the article, thus making it really difficult for the average person to find out the reality)
You'll note that the effect on concentration is equivocal. This means ambiguous or uncertain. So really no conclusions can be drawn.

They acknowledge the limit of the 27 studies they reviewed: "Additional studies, particularly those which assess viability and other sperm parameters, including morphology and subcellular sperm damage such as sperm DNA integrity (not assessed during conventional semen analyses), are required. This would improve the precision of the estimated effect sizes, and allow better judgement of the likely clinical importance of the findings."

They also admit that cell phones have fluctuating SARs. This makes any long term exposure predictions sketchy.

At the beginning of the study, they said 14% of couples in high/middle income countries have problem with conceiving a child. Of that 40% is due to male infertility. Thus that is 5.6% of couples have problems due to male infertility. How much of that 5.6% is unexplained, I am unsure. One study (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412014001354#bb0095…) that they link to states: "Sperm motility is estimated to be approximately 8% lower in exposed than non-exposed groups. Alone, the clinical importance of an effect of this size may be limited to subfertile men or those at the lower-end of the normal spectrum." This means the this low effect correlation would most likely effect men who already had a low sperm motility. Thus the effect, if any, on the average male would be pretty much nil.

So pretty much, any causal link between cell phone radiation and sperm quality is lacking or extremely small. The media/internet's over-hyping and misinterpretation of the information creates needless fear and spread of misinformation. The researchers did a meta-analysis where 3/4 of the studies showed a barely statistically significant correlation and everybody goes insane.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Farmer's Almanac Harsh Winter Predicted

I keep seeing all these Facebook posts about the upcoming winter. As anyone watching the weather reports knows, predicting the week's weather is hard, let alone months in advance.

The predictions of the harsh winter is coming from the Farmer's Almanac. The Farmers' Almanac's Website explains that its forecaster uses a "top secret mathematical and astronomical formula, that relies on sunspot activity, tidal action, planetary position and many other factors" to predict weather. Yes it uses input like the pseudoscience astrology (not astronomy which is the science).
And just like astrology and psychics it makes its claims very broad, imprecise and sometimes a little vague. While the Almanac claims 80% accuracy, weather professionals cite that it is below 50% (sometimes as low as 10%).

So take these predictions with a grain of salt, or a skeptical mind. I think you can get a better source of weather prediction than from something that uses the motions of the planets.

Friday, May 13, 2016

There's always a witch-hunt...

I recently was made aware of this article in Huffington Post that suggests that Zalav Scrap Yard in Windsor, ON is linked to cancer rates in a group of people.

Here's a few problems with this:

Cancer clusters are limited.  Finding a cancer cluster does not indicate causation.  It's mostly just a statistic.  According to the National Cancer Institute:  "Cancer clusters can help scientists identify cancer-causing substances in the environment.  However, most suspected cancer clusters turn out, on detailed investigation, not to be true cancer clusters. That is, no cause can be identified, and the clustering of cases turns out to be a random occurrence."

So it turns out that a number of people in this area have had a higher rate of lung cancer than the national average.  OK, so that's a good reason to do more research to see if there is a common underlying cause.  And that's exactly is what is being done according to the Windsor Essex County Health Unit.

As of writing this blog WECHU have merely interviewed 50% of the target population (those, or next of kin of those, who where diagnosed with primary lung cancer between 2000 and 2009).  This data they collected is still currently being analyzed.  There have been no conclusions yet, so to indicate Zalav as the culprit is very wrong.

It will be hard to create any common definitive answers as to why the residents had cancer.  This is because of the limitations of this type of initial study.  You are relying a lot on the memories of people and as many people reading this may know, our recall of memories can be fallible.  People could misreport some items and thus skew the results.  I'm sure the WECHU and the epidemiologist looking into the matter understand this.   There are also many other factors to consider as well.   The area in question can have a number of low-income families.  In other such studies , a correlation between income/socioeconomic level and cancer rates has been shown.  This could be due to a lack of funds to maintain a high level of healthcare and also may be much more prone to behaviour and jobs that expose one more to carcinogens.

While I'm sure that the dust from Zalav does not help matters and does cause some problems, without evidence I would be intellectually dishonest in implicating them as a whole.  I do agree with the author's suggestion of moving the business away from the centre.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Problem with Pop Media Science

This a great look at the problem with science as it is often presented in the media.  A soundbite with very little depth and insight.  If only more people would understand this, I would spend less time debunking nonsense.

Check out the great video by John Oliver:

Also this is another great video clearly and simply stating the problem with studies being reproducible. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Q6M57sMtEI&list=WL&index=2

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016

Oxygenated Water Is Not Super

Recently this came into my hands.  The person that bought it did so simply because it was the cheapest at the time in the store.

Here's the nonsense about "super-oxygenated water."  It is a scam first and foremost.  The atmosphere from which we draw oxygen through our lungs is only 21% oxygen.  When we inhale and exhale, the difference in oxygen is 5%.  Yes, a breath will contain approximately 21% oxygen when we inhale and our bodies will take 5% of that and exhale 16% oxygen.

Oxygen is necessary for bodily functions, but it is also toxic.  The dose makes the poison.  Oxygen is a highly reactive chemical and this is why our bodies only use so much and expel the rest (I know, it's an oversimplification of the process but I don't want to get too wordy).   Now take in the idea that we also consume food rich in antioxidants to combat the problems caused by oxidative stress.  So would adding extra oxygen be a good thing?   Quacks are a weird bunch.

Now don't worry though, the extra amount in this water won't really cause you any harm.  The reason is that some of the extra oxygen in the bottle will be released when you open it.  The rest will go down to your stomach and intestines.  While in your stomach, some of that extra oxygen will be burped out.   The stomach and intestines are great at absorbing nutrients, but not so with oxygen.  That's what we have lungs for.  So any extra (what little there is left) might just come out...your other end.

So if you are a fish who has the organs to take oxygen from water, this product is for you.  For the rest of us, if you want extra oxygen, just take an extra breath.  It's free and thus lighter on your wallet. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

To Cheech His Own

Legalization does not mean a free-for-all. Many people are up in arms about a young couple recently who were arrested for drug-trafficking marijuana out of a home here in Windsor.

Here is my take on it: I should state up front that I do not drink alcohol or partake in any "recreational" drugs. That being said, I think MJ should be legalized. That also means though it should be regulated, just like alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Someone selling alcohol out of their home, an unlicensed business, is being unlawful and subject to fines and/or imprisonment (a quick search reveals $100,000 and 1 year in prison as one example) as per the AGCO stating "You may make beer or wine at home as long as it is only for your personal consumption or to be given away free of charge. Homemade (or "u-brew") beer or wine may not be sold or used commercially." http://www.agco.on.ca/en/faqs/faqs_alcohol.aspx The selling of marijuana without a license should be similar...once it does become legalized, which it is not currently. So thus, the couple was in the wrong either way and should be penalized (the degree to which they should be penalized is of course debatable).

I always notice too that many pro-legalization advocates often spout nonsense in comment sections. Clearly they are blinded by their own bias and fail to see beyond the haze (sorry couldn't resist). As most of you know, I usually form my opinions based on provable facts. Below are two links (one is from my own blog) relating to what is understood at this time, scientifically. It's fine to hold a certain position, just be intellectually honest about it.
Extra info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnNPm5cG85c Negative health effects

and http://scambusting101.blogspot.ca/2016/01/can-cannabis-cancel-cancer.html

Seek and ye shall find, but often it won't actually be

Nathalie Yves Gaulthier, founder of Le Petit Cirque, the youth performance group whose members are featured in the ad, said in a statement: "The child in the ad is not an "armrest", she's the other girl's little sister. They are a very close FAMILY. The child is a very young [junior] member with Le Petit Cirque, a humanitarian cirque company, and therefore a wee shyer than the more seasoned older outgoing girls. Our company is deeply saddened by some people misconstruing this as racist, and are keeping the children out if this at the moment to protect their beautiful feelings , but we are extremely supportive of dialogue in our country to move past any racial barriers. We stand by GAP KIDS and Ellen DeGeneres."

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Conspiracy Theorists are not honourable people.

Promoting the idea that the people who lost their lives on 9/11 and the subsequent torment their families  felt was all a hoax makes you a disgusting human being! Shame!

Posting bullshit like a video which clearly states at the 44 sec mark that the plane couldn't slice into the building "and most people are still believing this hoax"  (i.e. that is wasn't a plane full of victims) shows that you have little to no humanity and sympathy. It's cowardly and intellectually dishonest. I lose all respect for these types of people.

Trying to backpaddle and say that no it wasn't a hoax, but still missing the point that one is agreeing with another person who is saying it was a hoax on one's page does not add to your credibility or character.

The video clearly lies as well.  It claims the red building is past/beyond the South Tower and thus the video is fake because the plane's wing disappears so it must be CGI or something.  The building in question is actually in between the viewer and the South Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC).  The video was taken somewhere around Battery Park.  Below are some pics from googlemaps showing this.

Thus the posting of this video to show some nonsense conspiracy theory is completely dishonest.  Sharing this video without some simple research to see if it is correct (took me 5 minutes on googlemaps) is lazy.

This guy's friend saying a plane would “bounce off” is worthy of a Godzilla facepalm.

 You can see this video of a concrete wall designed to withstand an intense missile/plane impact (and you'll note that the plane did not bounce back in the video).  The WTC was not built to be a plane traveling 500-600mph absorbing, solid, concrete wall.   It had windows, sheet metal and only a thin wall by comparison.  So some of the plane could be pulverized and lots more of it would pierce through (including all the way through to the other side as can be seen in multiple other videos and the subsequent explosions and engine passing through).

So yes, I have very little tolerance for these types of people.  They are consumed by their own paranoia and don't rationalize very well, and in turn don't think about the victims and their familes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Psychic Scam 101

A student from my “How to Avoid Scams and Hoaxes” course gave me a package that she had received in the mail.  It was from the International Spiritual Society and Lowell McAdam.  This could be from an ad stating that you get a “free reading” that the student responded to, but sometimes an online presence in a specific webgroup (“liking” a Facebook page about psychics for example) may spawn a totally unsolicited mailing.

The enclosed letters are made to look like someone (the psychic) took the time to personally add some notes with a pen over top of the form letter.  Of course it is not so.  No pen actually touched this paper.  The “pen ink” is printed.  This type of scam often is targeted at seniors who likely don't have 20/20 vision.  Add in one's willingness to believe and the blinding of reason multiplies.

At this point of the game, the info has been free.  The psychic offers some lotto numbers to play.   The will “spiritually activate”, but one must reply in order for him to do so.  I guess he isn't psychic enough to know that the person did????  For this service of releasing the “spiritual blockade”, he will charge $19.

The claimed winning numbers printed are:   2-16-27-29-34-42 for Jan 2nd 2016 Lotto 6/49 in Ontario.
The actual winning numbers according to OLG were:  10-12-16-20-27-36.  http://www.olg.ca/lotteries/viewPastNumbers.do

He tries to cover himself in the letter, again by saying it would be impossible to win with any of the numbers due to the “spiritual blockade” (jeez that sounds more like a ransom type of deal).  I guess his powers are not 100% because the numbers 16 and 27 got through the blockade!  To note though, matching 2 numbers is not a big feat.  The odds of that happening are 2 in 8.3 approximately, according to the OLG (so don't go thinking that the 2 numbers are a show of predictive ability).

A search online shows that the PO Box address in Fort Erie Ontario is used by various agencies and businesses including Carta Engorius Society and Pegasus Services.  Further delving shows that the PO Box is linked to another address in Buffalo NY among others across both countries.  

This “company” is also reported to send out amulets (unsolicited) to responders and to begin charging ($30-$50).  They also seem to increase the bills and try to coerce payment by threatening that non-payment will mess up one's credit rating.    Many reports of the scam are available online.

Psychic's are frauds plain and simple.  They prey on people's hopes and emotions in various ways.  All they truly offer is false hope and lifting a burden...of money in your wallet...from people.  Be smart and do not fall into any psychic's traps.  Avoid them.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Access Bars....What????

Access Bars....what????

Going through my Facebook feed is interesting.  With 1400 friends, I tend to see a wide spectrum of interests and beliefs.  Some can be entertaining and others can be downright scary, and then you get some that are just plain insane made up nonsense.

So one friend posted about a “healer” visiting her midwife sister and helping her to access bars.  At first I thought “Oh that's nice.  Someone is taking someone else out for a night on the town and club-hopping.”   I was wrong in my initial assumption.   Very very wrong.   Maybe they went for some homeopathic beer.    Homeopathic Beer (wait for the end!!!)

An accompanying pictured showed a lady laying on a couch and another situated at the first woman's head.  “Ohhhhhhh,”  I said, “this is some reiki kinda nonsense.”   OK, so what does “access bars” mean?

The quick and shortest answer is that these are areas of the head that can be stroked (directly touching or mimic-like by hovering above said area) to reset your brain like a computer or as one website puts it:  “Releasing stuck energy is like deleting old files off your computer.”   Sounds like hokey magic doesn't it?  Well they even admit that it works “Like magic.”

I'm not going to get into it more than that because it is really just too dumb.  Suffice to say, this is complete baloney.  While reiki may reduce stress in some people by being calming, there is absolutely no proof of existence for these bars or magic energy.  It's very much akin to acupuncture which utilizes similar kind of made up “energy points.”   I think I might just have to go take a shower after getting my aura stroked and had a premature energy releasing.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Why Health and Nutrition Stores Are Anything But...

I don't understand a thing, but I do understand that more than some.  This is the humbleness that is science understanding.  As comedian Dara O'Briain said, that sciences knows it doesn't know everything.  Otherwise it would stop.

One of my talents is not that I possess any superior knowledge over others (I sooo wish I was smarter and could retain more information), it is that I've learned enough and developed heuristics to help spot scams, misinformation and all-around general nonsense.

Health and Nutrition specialty shops I find are lacking in this humility.  Most make bold claims, or at least openly display or parrot the bold claims of the products they offer.  The fact of the matter is that many of the products they sell either don't do anything close to what is claimed (or “suggested”as some make vague and ambiguous claims) or only offer mediocre or insignificant results.

The following is just a small list of things I've seen offered.

Miracle Weight Loss
Some studies suggest that caffeine may have a modest effect on weight.  This alone doesn't sell itself by showing only a weak result.  Now factor in that these studies had very small number of participants (16 for one study)  and are often published in low quality journal.  To say the least, the evidence is lacking in it being effective.

Similarly, raspberry ketone is a weight loss product that has had very little supporting evidence.  The fact that this product was marketed without any human trials is telling (and scary).  Also consider that on one such container of the product it was stated:
“This information has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, nor has it gone through the rigorous double-blind studies required before a particular product can be deemed truly beneficial or potentially dangerous and prescribed in the treatment of any condition or disease.”

The best advice for weight loss (barring any specific medical condition that might complicate it.  See your physician for the best course of action), is to burn more calories than you take in.  So consume less calories and exercise more.  Slowly build it to be a regular part of your weekly routines.  Exercise doesn't have to be at the gym (where undoubtedly you'll get a lot of advice...both good and bad).  It can be taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  Walking an extra block to work.  The little things can add up to help you being a little more physically active.  If you want to seek exercise advice, do so from a credible evidence-based trainer like James Fell.

The problem with supplements is many people don't need them unless one has a diagnosed deficiency. Most can get their recommended amounts from a balanced diet.   Also add in the fact that a lot of supplements are just new versions of snake-oil (heck some places do sell actual snake-oil!).

Some of the bottles of supplements available simply do not do a thing at all or, at most, have a very weak effect.  Take echinacea for example.

Recently in the past few years it has been coming to light about how many supplements do not contain what they claim to contain and that supplements have been linked to major health problems.   Part of the reason this has happened is because of legislature that has allowed the industry to not be monitored like medicines.

Too much of anything is not good.  Toxicology constantly tells us that the dose makes the poison.  We get enough vitamin C from a single glass of orange juice among the many other food and drink items fortified with the vitamin.  The reality is that with a water-soluble vitamin such as C, any excess is excreted through your bodily waste disposal system.  In fact, too much vitamin C has been linked to nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.  Ideally, one should only take any supplement on diagnosis from a medical professional.  Self-medication can lead to problems.  It's also important to know if any supplements will have side-effects or interfere with medicines one is taking.  So again, only take them through counsel with your family doctor.

Homeopathy is a medicine containing nothing...well except for water or sugar.  Seriously!  The main principles of this quackery is that the more dilute a substance, the stronger it is.  Yes so what they are saying is something that has been diluted so much with water that it doesn't even contain an actual molecule of the original substance is very strong, according to its proponents.  This is because they also claim that water has a memory. OOOOkay.  Sometime a drop of this “memory water” is put onto a sugar pill.  That in a nutshell is homeopathy.  Yeah, sure there's more nutty stuff I could share about it, but it doesn't help that case for it.  If you add more nuts to a bowl of nuts, you just have a lot more nuts.

Suffice to say, homeopathy relies on the placebo effect to fool people.  These people will often tell you that they feel better, but "feeling" better is a lot different from actually being better.  Even with that, a recent study has show something even better than homeopathy.

Ear Candling
I've written about this before
Ear candling is a procedure often used by alternative medicine practitioners for reasons they claim including: removing toxins, relieving sinus pressure, curing ear infections, helping with vertigo, improving hearing, purifying blood and much more. There is no scientific evidence to support any of those claims. Proponents often show some nasty discoloured gook in the candle after a session as proof. This stuff actually is the residue from the candle itself. Just burning one without use on an ear has the same exact effect as with use on an ear. Tests have shown that there is not enough suction created from ear candling to cause ear wax to be pulled from the actual ear.
Health Canada considers ear candles to be Medical Devices and as such require licenses for the sale of them. Since they are considered dangerous, Health Canada has not issued any licenses and therefore, the sale, and import of any ear candle is illegal. They recommend if you do have compacted wax to seek a health care professional who will use proper equipment to remedy the problem.

Similar to ear candling above...Oh the shelves are filled with this nonsense.  My favourite detox to debunk is the foot detox baths as they simply are an old classroom science experiment dolled up to look impressive and fool people.  Yup, it's just electrolysis causing oxidation of iron (rust).  No, despite some people having stinky feet, toxins are not being pulled out of your feet.

Detoxing obviously does have a real medical function, especially in circumstances of overdosing.  Beyond the legitimate medical procedures, the off-the-shelf stuff is just silly.  Many detoxes or cleanses are just a dressed up and expensive laxative that cause you to poop.  This is not really getting rid of excess “toxins” as they claim.  It's not removing heavy metals “built up in your body” from the “chemical soup” you are exposed to.  Keep a healthy body and have regular bowel movements and urination and your body is working at peak waste removal.

Other detoxes suggest mechanisms that are either inefficient or just plain insane.  Very little waste material is secreting through the pores of the skin, so sweat detoxes and body wraps drawing out toxins are just silly.  Some detoxes are downright dangerous.  Chelation is one of those.  Many deaths have occurred because of this.  Many proponents of it think it cures Autism.  Of course this is not true, but it doesn't stop quacks from promoting it and preying on people who are desperate.

In Conclusion
This is only the tip of the iceberg of the loads of rubbish that is sold to unsuspecting consumers at these stores.  Calling them a health and/or nutrition store when they rarely provide either is like calling yourself a video game store and all you offer is Scene It.  It's just not quite what your signage suggests.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Health Literacy

We can do better!

Health literacy is a big problem in North America.  Even those who have a high literacy standing can have poor health literacy, a lack of understanding of health related understanding.  This can be part of the answer to Michael Shermer's query:  “Why do smart people believe weird things?”

Many people have incorrect assumptions about a multitude of health related topics.  Because of their lack of health literacy, they can often fall prey to the onslaught of misleading and scam memes that get passed around on social media.  They may not be able to tell what's accurate or not, what's real and what is bogus.

As you can see in the attached screencap, 88% of English-speaking adults are not proficient in health understanding.  In fact a majority of the people that are on Medicaid in the USA barely have a reading level above 5th grade.   This is a problem as even basic level health information (pamphlets, print ads, commercial, communications with doctors) is often at grade 10 level or higher.

To help increase the health literacy of North America, we must learn to pass on important information in a simpler way.  This could mean sharing information in a simpler format (the meme is a good example), in simple language.

Ok, maybe not that simple, but something that explains a little bit more.

If we can better educate those who often feel confused (and in turn that confusion can learn to distrust), we will help slow down the effectiveness of predatory quacks who play right into that lack of knowledge and understanding.  Some people though will still hold onto a belief regardless (cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias), taking the time to try may help them eventually, or at least help those who are viewing the exchange.  The battle isn't always for the one right in front of you.

So be patient.  Teach relative to the person's health literacy (and actual literacy).  Hopefully we can create a much healthier and better world.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Do not let suffer, the little children

Recently a friend sent me the above picture that was seen just outside a children's hospital in Toronto.  This poster's creators are promoting the idea that a spiritual cleanse will heal children.  This of course is not true and has never been demonstrated.  Now if one wanted to pray and do a religious ceremony along with proven medical treatments, I would have little problem.  Unfortunately, delving deeper into what the creators of the poster are really about causes me to get very concerned and angry.

This church (Universal Church of the Kingdon of God) seems to prey on very superstitious groups of people as can be seen from the many videos they have including one promoting healing oil from Israel (which has been found out in the past to be regular olive oil from the grocery store) that can do anything, even if you just place it on the picture of the person you are trying to heal (sounds more akin to Voodoo to me).    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfs8ZxxmnpQ

The church has a long history of being accused of money laundering and charlatanism.  The Belgian government had described the UKCG as a dangerous cult.  It has been linked to various deaths due to its practices.  It has been repeatedly banned in some countries.  Many of its members have gone bankrupted due to the continuous requests from the church insisting huge donations.  It has also been shown to be violently intolerant of other faiths http://www.ipsnews.net/2009/07/religion-brazil-intolerance-denounced-at-un/

This is something I've wanted to write about for a while.  As an adult, if you choose to forgo proven medical treatments and instead opt for unproven nonsense, that is your right.  It is sad that one would go that route, to follow false hope, but again that is your right.

With children, it is a whole other issue.  As a parent, I have the obligation to give my child the best chance at survival regardless of my own personal choices.  We should want a better life for our children than we had.  One mistake many parents make is that our children are our property.  They are not.  They are only provisionally in our care, provided we can care for them.  If we cannot care for them, then the best thing for the children is to be with someone else who can do so.

When a parent chooses to deny a child the best treatment for a condition, that parent is being neglectful.  A year ago we saw the case of Makayla Sault, an 11-year-old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia,  whose parents thought it was okay to stop chemotherapy and to seek out faith-based treatments.  This type of leukemia, when treated with proven techniques, has a 90% survival rate.  Sadly, less than a year later Makayla's leukemia relapsed and a few months later she had passed away.

Do the right thing for one's children.  Do not let them suffer needlessly because of one's own insecurities and fears.

Friday, January 29, 2016

B.o.b flat earth nonsense

Apparently rapper B.o.B is a flat-Earther. Yes there are actually people out there who reject the fact that our planet is spherical (spheroid actually: meaning approximately with irregularities due to gravitational, rotational and other factors). Not only that, he's also a geocentrist and believes the sun is closer to the Earth and that it moves just above it creating the seasons. Not sure how he tries to explain night and day though. Maybe a magical fairy with a long cape blocking out the sun? I guess he's got the magic in him wink emoticon because screw facts, logic and reason. lol

Bra Cancer

An article is going around stating a link between wearing a bra will cause cancer. Of course you know that if I'm writing about it, it's pure nonsense. The article suggests this because of a single study done in 1995 that was published in a non-medical journal. This "study" is riddled with problems of course (seehttp://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-underwire-bras-cause-cancer/ for just one example of the critiques). 

It is interesting to note, that the authors of the study (and subsequent books) also suggest that sleeping on a tilted bed can prevent everything from Alzheimer's disease to impotence. They are quacks most assuredly.


The Windsor Star keeps promoting Dr. Gifford-Jones and I have to keep scratching my head as to why? ( http://www.donotlink.com/foj6 ). He's just as nutty as Dr. Oz and promotes misunderstanding of science and likes to fear-monger. Here's a debunking of one of his past articles to show you the level of ignorance we are playing with: http://www.skepticnorth.com/2014/02/does-gifford-jones-understand-science/ .

In this latest article, Jones decides to take old news from 2012 and try to make it new again. He exaggerates the risks. In the actual study (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/study-examines-possible-link-between-dental-x-rays-and-meningioma-risk) you'll note that the researchers plainly state right in the second paragraph "The study does not prove that dental x-rays cause these tumors". I'm guessing Gifford missed that (note sarcasm). 

You'll also note this as well "The study has some drawbacks that make the link between dental x-rays and meningiomas far from certain. Perhaps most importantly, it relied on participants’ memories about their history of dental x-rays (rather than on dental records themselves)." This makes it very inaccurate and hard to trust the information due to recall bias and the fallibility of the human mind (consider just how poor people remember even minutes after an accident or crime when police get stories from eyewitnesses). 

Now let's figure out the actual risk. I'll be honest here and say I'm horrible at math, so if someone can check and make sure it's correct me if I'm wrong. The point though will still be that the risk is extremely low even with any slight errors. It is estimated according to the University of California that 6500 people in the USA are diagnosed with meningioma. The study was done in 2012, so the population of the USA was 314.1 million. So this gives us a risk of 0.000002% of the population which is extremely low. So if we input the 4.9 times as likely we get the original risk of 0.0000098% of the population. We are dealing with very low risks here, so doubling one's risk of a low number, is still low.

Now while it's true you never want to do more xrays then necessary, there are certain other factors that you should keep in mind that are problematic with the study. As noted by the ADA (http://www.ada.org/epubs/science/2012/april/page.shtml) the study did not appear to be dose related, which one would think would be important (dose make the poison) and that there have been advances in xray technology and imaging which reduces the risk even further (again consider the study was a recall from people aged 20-79 which included remember when they were younger then 10, so that can put the time frame between 1943-2002 for technology, which in itself is very expansive). 

So I urge the Windsor Star to get an actual science/health editor to help prevent nonsense like that Gifford-Jones promotes and to present some real journalism.

How does one know a good scientific study from a bad one?

How does a regular Joe know a good scientific study from a bad one?

This is a very good question. For laypersons (and even those knowledgeable in the area), trying to find out if a certain study is significant or not can be very confusing. It is not always a simple straight answer as there are many factors to consider. None of the following by themselves is necessarily a sure sign of a bad study, but they can definitely be used for the final consideration, especially if the study has multiple infractions.

The first thing I look at is where the study was published. This is usually a good first indication. If a study is published in a respected scientific journal, its odds of being a good one increases. Of course some bad studies still do get published (some are deliberate hoaxes testing the reliability of said journals and their process), but in time they are often retracted. Searching on Google, the top journals can give you decent resources such as:http://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php andhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientific_journals.

So how does a study get into a respected journal? There is usually a process of evaluation (part of the scientific method) and review. They are often checking the methodology of the study. It's also good to know what type of study it is.

Is it just a review study looking at certain literature? I find these types are only ideal for proposing further studies and not necessarily for drawing any solid conclusion. Now this shouldn't be confused with a meta-analysis, which looks more in-depth at a larger selection of studies to try to determine a reasonable consensus and include more complex data algorithms and thus hold more weight.

Is the study relying on people's reporting/memory recall (which is often fallible, inaccurate, or prone to bias?) Studies that rely on people reporting from memory how they ate 5 years ago (or even 5 months ago) is problematic.

Was it done with experiments on actual people? Many studies are done just in petri dishes or maybe in just certain animals. While these give some good starting points for pursing further studies, they can't always be relied on to discern the reactions within the human body, which is quite different then a petri dish and rats, for example.

How many people were used? A small number of people used in a study can contain a lot of “noise” in regards to more closely representing what can happen in the general public. A study done on 10,000 people is definitely more robust than one done on 10. For example, you could get 3 out of 10 with a reaction and thus conclude a 30% effect. But in the 10,000 study one could find only 100, which then is only 1%.

Was the study blinded and have controls? Although not always possible, being randomized, blinded and having controls to compare to can increase the robustness of the research. Having it where participants do not know if they are getting a placebo or not is ideal, and even more ideal if the researchers are also blind to that fact as well (usually relying on an impartial 3rd party to keep track of that info for later review).

Did the study list conflicts of interest? A good study will list any conflicts of interest that could bias their results. It's about open honesty. One that hides any conflict raises serious red flags. To find a conflict of interest, one may have to do a bit of searching to discover the conflict of interest.

Has it been peer reviewed? With science part of the process is having your research critiqued. This can be others checking your math or even better seeing if when they repeat your experiment, can they replicate the results. This type of review of a study done by competent peers is the reason some studies have been retracted from journals. They found serious flaws in the data, conclusions and reproducibility of the studies. This is why good science can sometimes take a while, but it eventually corrects itself.

I find that media reports on science studies can sometimes misrepresent or exaggerate what is said in an actual study. Headlines are usually done to grab your attention by asserting a certain point like “chocolate can help with_______ study says.” What is often the case is a certain ingredient was found to have an interesting result (quite often in that petri dish we talked about earlier) and that more study is needed. So don't take headlines at face value. It's always a good idea to look at the actual study to see its conclusions (if any), or you could just ASK BILL wink emoticon (or any other friend who is proficient in finding out that info).

There are many more factors to consider as well, but just knowing some of the above, one can start to get an understanding of what makes a good study and will hopefully be able to disregard some “bad science.” I hope that answers your question.

Carrot Ingredients

Was this year the hottest July?

“Was this year the hottest July (world average) in our recorded history? Somebody showed me some results that said otherwise. I didn't get to check the sources because I was out and it was on his phone. What do the stats and experts say regarding it and where are these false stats coming from?”


According to reports from NOAA (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/201507) , NASA (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata_v3/GLB.Ts+dSST.txt) and JAPAN METEROLOGICAL AGENCY(http://ds.data.jma.go.jp/tcc/tcc/products/gwp/temp/jul_wld.html), this past July (2015) was the hottest recorded.

Some climate change deniers like Joanne Nova (Codling) and Roy Spencer are making claims to the contrary. They are correct in stating that some of the headlines get it wrong, such as those claiming “hottest in 4000 years” because we haven't been recording temperature for that long. The two naysayers though seem to rely on data strictly from UAH satellite data. The problem with this is that satellites do not measure temperature directly, but are inferred from radiance. The UAH data has had problems with the inferred temperatures not matching the actual site surface temperature (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v394/n6694/full/394661a0.html). Thus their claims are suspect and need to be investigated further. Even if it wasn't the hottest July on record, it would not indicate a lack of climate change. Variations go up and down in the short term and that is expected. It's the long term trend that is most important and that clearly shows a warming trend.

It is interesting to note that Joanne Nova has a degree in microbiology and molecular biology and not climatology. Roy Spencer is a meteorologist and not a climatologist. The major difference between the two is time frames. Meteorologists produce forecasts in a window no larger than 10 days and usually localized (weather). Climatologists are concerned with long term climate conditions. When considering sources, one would want it from the highest quality and someone actually in the field of studying climate. 97% of publishing climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming.

To learn more, I suggest taking this free, self-paced course: https://www.edx.org/course/making-sense-climate-science-denial-uqx-denial101x-0

I hope this answers your question.

Immunity and Chlorine

I was sent a link to a Facebook post about a guy (we will call Jean-Claude) who is complaining about the quality of Windsor's drinking water. I will admit that this is an area I don't have that much knowledge in but I have taken one course on water treatment and health so I have the beginnings of an understanding in this.

Jean-Claude's concern was about the chlorine concentration and also asking “doesn't chlorine lower immune systems, cause cancer and other bad stuff?” He showed a picture of a pool water testing kit which he claimed contained tap water (I will assume he was honest in that claim). He suggested that the concentration was at pool level (1.0..although when I look at the photo it appears to be at 0.5) and also claimed that since people say that you shouldn't drink pool water, then that means the tap water is unsafe. He also made a claim that showering for 15 mins allows for you to absorb 1 gallon of water through the skin by absorption.

There is a lot to go through here but lets get to the short answer first. Is the city water safe to drink? Yes. According to Enwin, “Chlorine is added on a continuous basis to the water leaving the treatment process at a strictly controlled concentration of 1.5 mg/l...the concentration of chlorine in the water is monitored at 18 locations through the distribution system on a daily basis to ensure an adequate concentration is maintained to ensure a safe supply of water to the customers.”

In regards to “lowers immune systems, causes cancer and other bad stuff”: “Health Canada has classified chlorine as unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans. Studies in laboratory animals and humans indicate that chlorine exhibits low toxicity, regardless of the route of exposure (i.e., ingestion, inhalation, dermal). Studies in animals have not been able to identify a concentration of chlorine associated with adverse health effects, in part because of aversion to its taste and odour. No adverse health effects have been observed in humans from consuming water with high chlorine levels (up to 50 mg/L) over a short period of time.” Now some people may not like the taste or smell of chlorine but they can easily install a filter in their home to remove it.

Jean-Claude said you shouldn't drink pool water. This I agree with, but not for the same reasons Jean-Claude thinks. He thinks it's because of the chlorine content. I would say it's because a pool is an open system where it has continual exposure to pollutants. People are swimming in the pool just for starters. Would you want to drink water from a bath tub that had someone was bathing in? I would think it unlikely. A pool also has insects (and other animals including birds), dirt and debris all entering it. Water from your tap is not accessible to the same type of contamination with the exception of water pipe breakage. You may also be interested in this article I wrote (under a pseudonym) about the problems with enclosed pools and water parks: http://www.windsorsquare.ca/archives/67286/why-i-avoid-indoor-water-parks

So now to the final claim of water absorption through the skin. This is the real reason why I chose this question because I do love laughable claims and this one sure made me laugh that I did my best Mark Wahlberg impression from The Happening http://i.imgur.com/fx7N61c.gif smile emoticon
Seriously though, the skin can absorb some things although it generally is water-resistant but is not water-proof. It's the keratin and sebum (an oil), that helps keep it at bay. You can see its effectiveness when you start to prune when in water too long. So yes it can absorb some water, but it wouldn't be enough to stop you from dehydrating. A gallon of water is a lot of water considering we only need to consume 2.5 quarts, or just over half a gallon, per day depending on individual needs. By Jean-Claude's meter, we would never have to consume water. It is interesting to note that during my looking up info for all this, I found a Danish group did do a study, albeit a small and no control study, to test an old myth of getting drunk by absorption of alcohol through the skin. As you can probably guess, it was confirmed a myth.

Well I hope that answers your question.