The blogosphere is teeming with articles regarding a couple of recent wins for skepticism. I’ll save the best for last.
The first such win is the admission by the makers of Power Balance, a bracelet designed to increase sport performance. How you ask? The website states that
Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many Eastern philosophies. The hologram in Power Balance is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body.
Sound like bullplop? Well it is bullplop.
Making these kinds of statements was a violation of Australian trade practices. Why? The press release to Australian media by Power Balance says it all:
In our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility.
We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct in breach of s52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
If you feel you have been misled by our promotions, we wish to unreservedly apologise and offer a full refund.
Big time win for the skeptical movement, since they were instrumental in bringing about this admission from Power Balance.
So that’s great. But this one is awesome!
Our dear friend
Doctor Andrew Wakefield, whose study linking vaccines to autism (retracted study, btw) sparked an anti-vaccine movement and a huge public health risk, is in the news again. If you have read my blog before, you know that I am not his biggest fan.
Although he has had his medical license stripped and paper retracted by the Lancet, the anti-vaccine movement persisted, painting Wakefield as some kind of martyr; hung out to dry by Big Pharma for trying to tell the “truth” about vaccines.
Well yet another blow has been struck against this movement, and its a doozy.
After seeing the data, the father of one of the children in the study said
His misrepresentation of my son in his research paper is inexcusable. His motives for this I may never know.
The piece is well written and documents Deer’s investigations into Wakefield’s research. I encourage you to read the whole text, but here are the key points:
Three of nine children reported with regressive autism did not have autism diagnosed at all. Only one child clearly had regressive autism
Despite the paper claiming that all 12 children were “previously normal,” five had documented pre-existing developmental concerns
Some children were reported to have experienced first behavioural symptoms within days of MMR, but the records documented these as starting some months after vaccination
In nine cases, unremarkable colonic histopathology results—noting no or minimal fluctuations in inflammatory cell populations—were changed after a medical school “research review” to “non-specific colitis”
The parents of eight children were reported as blaming MMR, but 11 families made this allegation at the hospital. The exclusion of three allegations—all giving times to onset of problems in months—helped to create the appearance of a 14 day temporal link
- Patients were recruited through anti-MMR campaigners, and the study was commissioned and funded for planned litigation
So basically, he lied. He’s a dirty rotten liar-liar-pants-on-fire.
But what was his motivation? From the CNN news article:
Deer said Wakefield “chiseled” the data before him, “falsifying medical histories of children and essentially concocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccine scare.”
According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers.
Wakefield continues to defend himself by playing the fall-guy to Big Pharma:
Wakefield dismissed Brian Deer, the writer of the British Medical Journal articles, as “a hit man who has been brought in to take me down” by pharmaceutical interests.
The evidence against Wakefield was already overwhelming. But this story has hit the news media hard. It is a huge blow to the anti-vaxxers. Why do I think this? Well what did the anti-vaccine movement’s and Andrew Wakefield’s most prolific and outspoken public relations person, Jenny McCarthy, say about this story?
Actress Jenny McCarthy, founder of Generation Rescue and whose son also has autism, declined to comment on Wednesday’s developments
Your friends are abandoning you Andrew Wakefield. The truth is finally starting to become clear to everyone. You have duped a generation of mothers into thinking that vaccines cause autism, and children have died because of it.
The state of science reporting and science journalism is pretty dismal. And in the past few years, there have been few better examples of this than the reporting on the Vaccine/Autism “debate”.
Vaccines DO NOT cause autism. This has been known in the scientific community for a long time, and I’ve blogged about it before. But every so often a story will come up in the news which gives equal representation to the scientists who know vaccines are safe, and the quacks and conspiracy theorists who believe they are evil.
The article gave a clear history of the issue, reviewed the scientific evidence and gave a sound conclusion: that vaccines are safe and do not cause autism.
My only problem with the article is the title: “The End of the Autism/Vaccine Debate?” I’m not a big fan of that question mark. If you are going to do an article which debunks the whole “vaccines cause autism” notion, you may as well make that clear in the title. You will still garner lots of attention, and your position will be made clear from the get-go.
But thats me being nit-picky. The article is good, and the fact that it got reprinted on CNN is a step in the right direction. With cases of whooping cough on the rise in the United States and the proliferation of misinformation by the anti-vaccine movement, we need more articles like this to get public attention.
The study looked at nearly 200,000 Americans and found a heightened risk of diabetes in those who ate white rice as opposed to brown rice.
However, rice constitutes only about 2% of the American diet, as opposed to nearly 30% for some Asian cultures. Yet, there is a smaller rate of diabetes in Asian cultures than in America…
That really pisses me off! Totally mis-representing the findings of a study to increase readership shows extremely poor scientific integrity.
I think the more likely scenario here is that those who eat brown rice as opposed to white probably also do more to improve their health. They probably eat other whole grains, eat less fat, and exercise more. And oh wait, the researchers even state that eating brown rice was associated with “a more health-conscious lifestyle”. To quote the 1990’s, “Umm…duh!”
We all know one of those jerks who is always telling us to “eat this, not that” because its healthier.
“You shouldn’t eat so much sodium.”
“You should really try soy milk.”
“I love running.”
“You should eat more whole wheat and whole grains.”
Guh. I hate those jerks. Mostly because they are right.
Anyway, CNN also covered this study, but the headline they gave it was: “Brown rice instead of white may lower diabetes risk.” This is such a better headline, and y’know what? I bet they got just as many hits on that story as Scientific American did on theirs.
Now, lets be clear. I sure as hell think that brown rice is better for you than white, but I also think that WHITE RICE IS GOOD FOR YOU! White rice is low in fat, sodium, and it goes well with vegetables; it just needs to be eaten in moderation, which, lets face it, we all have trouble with sometimes.
So eat rice (preferably brown, but whatever), eat less fat, exercise more, and you will be more healthy and lower your risk of diabetes.
Oh, and read the research, not the headlines.