Tag: Alternative medicine

Ben Platt is deep in pseudo-science as well as Tony awards

benplattBroadway actor Ben Platt sings the title role in Dear Evan Hansen, a spectacularly successful show nominated for 9 Tony awards, included one for Platt as Best Actor. Platt was profiled in last Sunday;s New York Times “He sobs 8 times a week,” in a article discussing the stress the character puts on Platt, who sings six songs, including a gut-wrenching second act number that he sings while crying. If you sing at all, you have to admire Platt’s dedication and talent, because this is really hard to do. Neil Patrick Harris is quoted as saying that he couldn’t do it, “I’d sound like a goat.”

But the Times article while praises Platt’s enormous talent, is way too accepting of some of the alternative medicine crap his coaches are putting him through.

First off, the article describes 4 circles on his back from “cupping,” a weird Gwyneth-level fad where small flasks are heated and applied to the skin, causing suction as they cool. This is supposed to impart relaxation or something. Speaking of relaxation, there´s this site that teaches very good subconscious mind training techniques, that will basically calm your mind down, give them a try. Continuing on the topic. We have previously discussed cupping when Olympic swimmers were trying it last summer. But as we noted, there is simply no evidence that cupping has any effect at all. Articles by Brian Dunning and Orac  (David Gorski) confirm that this is superstitious nonsense. All it does is leave ugly circular bruises. Some web sites suggest the cupping can help “detox” your body, but as we have noted before, there is no such thing as “detox.” Your liver takes care of this by itself.

Platt is also on a gluten free diet, which is only sensible if your have celiac disease. For anyone else, it is just a fad, as there is no clear evidence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. He also is on a dairy-free diet, perhaps to keep his weight down, but in fact studies have shown that full fat dairy is linked to a reduced rate of obesity.

Platt also takes oregano supplements, despite the fact that there are no studies showing any benefit. He also takes a zinc supplement, which is only useful in developing countries. In the US, there is no evidence that it helps with the common cold.

Finally, his voice coach used peppermint oil to treat his voice when he had an infection, but there is no evidence that it provides any relief for any malady at all.

Plat is undeniably one of Broadway’s finest young actors who certainly deserves his Tony, but it is a shame that his “handlers” are forcing these quack regimes on him. It is also a shame that the New York Times doesn’t question this quackery in their articles.

And remember:

Alternative medicine is made up of things we don’t know work and things we know don’t work. If something works, it is called medicine.



Connecticut proposes bill to protect charlatans

Connecticut State representative Charles Ferraro has introduced a bill (HB 5759) entitled “AN ACT ESTABLISHING A CONNECTICUT HEALTH FREEDOM AND ACCESS ACT.” In essence, this aretirement community bill is designed to protect alternative medicine practitioners from being prosecuted for practicing without a license.

Here’s the entire bill:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

That the general statutes be amended to permit a health care provider who is not licensed, certified or registered by the state to provide health care services in the state, provided (1) such provider does not perform lasik eye surgery, set fractures, perform any other procedure on any person that punctures or harmfully invades the skin, prescribe or administer x-rays, prescribe or administer drugs, devices or controlled substances for which a prescription by a licensed health care provider is required, perform chiropractic adjustment of the articulations of joints or the spine or hold out himself or herself as licensed, certified or registered by the state, and (2) such provider makes certain disclosures regarding his or her unlicensed, uncertified or unregistered status to anyone seeking his or her health care services.

Statement of Purpose:

To provide the public access to practitioners providing health care services with appropriate consumer protections.

In other words, an unlicensed health care provided can practice his quackery without fear of prosecution despite the fact that none of their practices are supported by any science.

If you doubt the bill’s intent, look at statements by NationalHealthFreedom.org. They describe this as

a bill that protects access to the thousands of traditional, complementary and alternative health care practitioners (such as homeopaths, herbalists, energy healers, and more) who are providing great services to health seekers in Connecticut.

Now let us remember that

Alternative medicine is made of up things we don’t know work and things we know don’t work. If they worked, we would call them medicine.

This bill does nothing but exempt quacks scamming the public with pseudo-science from being prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license. These charlatans do a great deal of damage by persuading people that they can actually provide science-based medicine when they are actually talking utter nonsense and taking money from the gullible.

The fact that millions of people seek out care from alternative health providers is no evidence that any such treatments actually work. In fact, there is no such evidence. Homeopaths, naturopaths, aroma therapists, herbalists, energy healers and crystal wavers are selling arm waving nonsense for which no scientific studies exists. This also applies to acupuncturists, who may or may not be covered by this outrageously stupid bill. There is also no evidence that acupuncture works.

It should be worth noting that the Organic Consumers Association, an industry funded lobbying group for organic food providers, supports this bill, which demeans both the bill and the lobbying group.

If you live in Connecticut, contact your legislators and tell them  that this “safe harbor” bill protects dangerous quacks from being held responsible for their nonsensical practices. Alternative medicine is bunk.


5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You

corn syrup
Corn syrup


An article by Mark Hyman, MD with the above title has been broadly distributed across the Internet: you can easily find dozens of copies. If I go down to my local Stop and Shop and buy, say, Coca-Cola, with HFCS in it, am I killing myself? Nonsense! Hyman’s article is full of basic scientific errors as well as substantial errors of fact. What he has written is sensational, but utterly wrong.

While Hyman is indeed a physician, he is not a research scientist, and he has gone deeply into something called “functional medicine,” which is the sort of woo you find on alternative medicine sites like imaginewellnesscentre.com.

Alternative medicine is a collection of things we don’t know work and things we know don’t work.

Functional medicine is not science-based medicine. Further, Hyman’s web site is a vehicle for him to peddle pills, books and supplements; he is certainly not the sort of physician we would recommend anyone consult, since many of his ideas are nonsense.

Hyman’s shrill article accusing the Corn Manufacturer’s Association of “deception,” a “misinformation campaign,” and “twisted sweet lies.” Not exactly a sober scientific report! In fact, it contains only two scientific references, one of them discredited and the other retracted.

Hyman starts out in his preamble claiming that HFCS is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay, “and more.” The only links are to other articles of his, none of which even mention HFCS.

Major errors

Here are some of the errors in the major points in his article:

  • He claims that HFCS is an industrial food product extracted from corn by a process so secret that ADM and Cargill (which he misspells) would not allow author Michael Pollan to observe. Rubbish! The details of HFCS production have been known for years, and are readily available, even on Wikipedia. The details of a specific industrial process may indeed be secret, but this is true throughout the consumer products industry.
  • He calls the result a chemically and biologically novel compound, when as he admits one paragraph later, it is just of mixture of glucose and fructose. It is not a compound and hardly novel.
  • HFCS contains contaminants including mercury. This is based on a discredited undergraduate paper we’ve discussed before. They did find traces of mercury in HFCS: but only the traces you’d expect to occur naturally.
  • When HFCS is run through a chemical analyzer (a what?) or gas chromatographstrange chemical peaks” show up that are not glucose or fructose. Maybe the technician that did this work didn’t know what these peaks were, but nowadays gas chromatographs are routinely coupled with mass spectrometers, and identification of each peak is not difficult. We have no idea what a “chemical analyzer is,” (nor does Hyman) but reporting that someone cannot identify a peak from a gc is simply silly.
  • He credits Barry Popkin for suggesting that metabolism of glucose and fructose differ and this may contribute to obesity. In fact, Popkin did not say that. In an interview in the NY Times, he said this was an hypothesis “meant to spur on further research.” And in this same article, Prof Walter Willet, chairman of the nutrition department at Harvard made it clear that:

There’s no substantial evidence to support the idea that high-fructose corn syrup is somehow responsible for obesity.

  • HFCS is almost always a marker of poor-quality, nutrition-poor disease creating industrial food products. Poor quality foods, perhaps, but HFCS is used by bakers and candy makers who make high-quality products as well. And as far as “disease creating,” this is in no way established.
  • Shocking new evidence on how HFCS can trigger body wide inflammation and obesity. This statement is based on a lunch meeting with Dr Bruce Ames. Unfortunately, there are no papers published on this by Ames anyone at his research center. This seems to be pure hyperbole.

The idea that a solution of fructose and glucose is processed differently by the body than a solution of sucrose (table sugar) has had a lot of discussion, both by Hyman and others, but thus far there is no evidence for it. There is an interesting hypothesis begin generated in this area that we learned about in a phone conference with Dr Mark Shigenaga, who is in the same research group as Bruce Ames. Here is a recent paper on his work.However it is contradicted in a critical review by Stanhope.

The amount of heat any discussion of HFCS continues to generate is astonishing considering how little actual research there is in this area. Hyman’s scare article does nothing to improve the situation.

Related papers

  1. 5 Reasons HFCS Can Kill You (Hyman’s version)
  2. Science-based medicine : functional medicine
  3. HFCS, the myths continue
  4. A sweetener with a bad rap (NY Times)
  5. Consumption of HFCS may lead to obesity (Popkin and Bray)