Saturday, 25 July 2015

Unhealthy nonsense

I can cope with stories of consumers receiving poor service. It makes me angry on their behalf but I can manage that. I can even cope with gullible consumers falling victim to scammers, even though I’d sometimes dearly like to acquaint the scammer with the wrong end of a cricket bat.

What gets me really angry, really VERY angry is people who offer us products they claim can improve our health.

Luckily the newspaper industry has cleaned up its act in the last few years and we no longer see adverts from the so-called “traditional healers” who offered cures for all sorts of diseases and ailments as well as offering to enlarge and shrink various parts of our anatomy. They still exist of course but they are now much more of an underground industry.

The threats we now see are from what is often perceived as the more legitimate “alternative” or “complementary” medicine industry.

It’s important to begin with a simple observation. There’s no such thing as “alternative medicine”. There are things that treat and cure disease, which we call medicine, and other stuff that doesn’t, that we call hogwash.

Perhaps the best example of alternative “medicine”, because it illustrates what utter nonsense it can be, is homeopathy.

The idea behind homeopathy is quite simple. Homeopaths believe that an illness can be best treated with minute quantities of a substance that produces symptoms similar to those of the ailment. For instance, to cure a fever, homeopaths argue that you should take minute quantities of a substance that produces symptoms similar to those of a fever. Of course there is absolutely no evidence that this is true. In fact what the evidence DOES show is that it’s all utter nonsense.

Homeopathy can’t work for a very simple reason: dilution. Homeopathic remedies are so diluted that they contain no active ingredients. Homeopathic "remedies" are produced by repeatedly diluting a sample of the supposedly active ingredient. A homeopath might take a 1% solution of the ingredient and dilute it further to 1% of it’s original strength. And then again, repeatedly, each time to 1% of the previous strength. After 10 generations of this process the strength of the solution has gone from 1 in a hundred to 1 in one hundred million trillion. In fact the most common forms of homeopathic remedy are actually diluted in this way thirty times, not just ten. After thirty dilutions there’s simply nothing left of the original ingredient, not even a single molecule. Homeopathic remedies don’t contain anything other than water.

So how do homeopaths claim it works? Apparently the water in which this ingredient once resided "remembers" that it once contained the substance in question. Homeopaths talk seriously about "the molecular memory of water". You have to ask, even if there was such a process, why would it only remember the substance you want it to? What about all the other substances the water might have encountered? It’s all completely absurd.

Want another absurdity? The principle of homeopathic "succussion" states that the remedy only becomes really effective if you hit it against something firm up to 100 times between each dilution. I promise you I am NOT making this up.

Homeopathy is nonsense. It flies in the face of all that we have learnt over the last couple of thousand of years in the fields of chemistry, physics and biology as well contradicting basic common sense.

So you’ll be asking whether homeopathy ever been actually tested? Maybe there is something magical going on that allows it to work?

No. Every single time homeopathy has been put to the test, and I mean rigorous scientific, double-blinded testing, it has failed completely. Of course we shouldn’t be surprised, it simply can’t work because there’s nothing in a massively dliuted homeopathic remedy that could possibly have any effect.

Unfortunately for the alternative medicine industry the same goes for every other treatment they offer. Reflexology, the practice of manipulating your feet because it’s claimed that each part of your foot magically connects to the organs of your body is also nonsense and simply doesn’t work. Acupuncture, which involves tiny needles being inserted into your skin and which its proponents say modifies the flow of energy or “chi” through “meridians” around your body is also ineffective. Every time it’s been tested scientifically it’s come out no better than a placebo.

It’s the same for the silly boxes of electronic tricks called QXCI (or sometimes SCIO or ESPX) that its proponents say can cure “any disease”.

They say that this device is:
“an incredibly acurate (sic) biofeedback stress reduction system, combining the best of biofeedback, stress reduction, Rife machines, homeopathic medicine, bioresonance, electro-acupuncture, computer technology and quantum physics”.
In case you are wondering what the letters QXCI stands for, it’s “Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface”. Here’s a free consumer tip. Anyone who uses the word “quantum” when they are trying to sell you something is a fraud or a fool. Or both.

And another thing. The Food and Drug Administration banned these bogus devices from importation into the USA several years ago. In an interview with the Seattle Times a spokesman for the FDA said:
“This is pure, blatant fraud. The claims are baloney. These people prey in many cases on consumers who are desperate in seeking cures for very serious diseases.”
The same goes for all these so-called “alternative” treatments. Don’t waste your money on them and please, I beg you, don’t risk your health on them.

Some might ask if these treatments are ineffective, then where’s the harm? The problem is that people often use them instead of the real thing. Then the risk is as serious as it gets. Their lives are at stake. Anyone selling an “alternative” remedy that is then taken instead of a real medicine has blood on their hands.

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