Health Canada Says a Nosode Is Not a Vaccine… But You Can Buy It Anyway (For Fun?)

Cracked Science

Health Canada is finally making (baby) steps toward better informing the public when it comes to homeopathy.

As readers of the blog should know by now, homeopathy is based on really silly, counterfactual beliefs that, if true, would lead to a complete rewrite of biology and chemistry textbooks.

Despite this, Health Canada routinely approves homeopathic remedies for sale in Canada.

On July 31, 2015, it introduced “label changes” for certain homeopathic preparations.

Labels on nosodes, which are homeopathic preparations of heavily diluted infectious pus and spit sold as natural alternatives to vaccines, will have to mention this: “This product is neither a vaccine nor an alternative to vaccination. This product has not been proven to prevent infection. Health Canada does not recommend its use in children and advises that your child receive all routine vaccinations.” The change is effective January 1, 2016.

Secondly, “Health Canada is no longer allowing…

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Celebrities and Science: The Darko Side of the Moon

Cracked Science

One’s acting talent does not always correlate with one’s scientific literacy. Or even one’s critical reasoning skills.

An article from the Toronto Sun quotes Hollywood actor Jake Gyllenhaal as saying the following: “I believe deeply in the unconscious. That you literally accumulate the molecules of the space that you’re in. We’re like 90% water, so naturally we are going to be affected by the moon when it’s full: if the sea is, why wouldn’t we be? That seems scientific to me.”

The actor made famous by his lead role in Donnie Darko went on to say that the molecules of his environment stick with him, and this incorporation apparently explains why he’s such a great actor. Surround yourself with cops for six months and cop molecules will become a part of you.

Sure, you may come into contact with cop dandruff but I don’t think this molecular transfer can impact your thespian…

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Read: 23andMe or the Fallacy of ‘More Is Better’

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A few months ago, a fellow skeptic told me he was considering personalized genetic testing and wondered what my opinion was on the service. The idea is that any consumer who desires can send a DNA sample to a company, like 23andMe, and get a report back on various genetic risk factors. Sounds like a good idea, but it is based on the fallacy that “more information is better for you” and, more specifically, that knowing about risks will alter your behaviour.

In a way, this direct-to-consumer service is trotting out that old American obsession with freedom: these are my genes, so I get to know. You can’t come between me and my biology.

The problems with personalized genetic testing are many: the communication of risk factors to a population that is statistically illiterate; the lack of subscription to quality control and assurance standards; and the revelation of risks that may…

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Read: How Antibodies Let Biomedical Research Down

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Antibodies are used a lot in research labs around the world and scientists tend to trust what’s on the label. But antibodies aren’t as reliable as researchers may think, with some scientists now arguing that “due diligence” in their use should include considerable time and money.

I remember comparing my own experimental results to published blots. We were in theory using the same antibody, and yet the pattern on the blot was completely different. Leave it to an eager principal investigator to squint really hard to see the band he or she wants to see.

“Scientists often know, anecdotally, that some antibodies in their field are problematic, but it has been difficult to gauge the size of the problem across biology as a whole. Perhaps the largest assessment comes from work published by the Human Protein Atlas, a Swedish consortium that aims to generate antibodies for every protein in the…

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Read: Exercise alone won’t make you lose weight

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Exercise has many virtues but, contrary to popular belief, it is not an efficient way to lose weight.

So what is?

“The idea that our obesity epidemic is caused by sedentary lifestyles has spread widely over the past few decades, spurring a multibillion-dollar industry that pitches gadgets and gimmicks promising to walk, run and kickbox you to a slim figure. But those pitches are based on a myth. Physical activity has a multitude of health benefits — it reduces the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and possibly even cancer — but weight loss is not one of them.

“A growing body of scientific evidence shows that exercise alone has almost no effect on weight loss, as two sports scientists and I described in a recent editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. For one, researchers who reviewed surveys of millions of American adults…

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I’m Majoring in Science, With a Minor in Wishful Thinking

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The infiltration of pseudoscience in academia, either universities proper or academic health centres, is very real. Dr. David Gorski is doing a great job reporting on the American side of this disturbing inroad, but I thought it was time to tackle the Canadian (and more specifically the Quebec) perspective.

The Prince Arthur Herald recently published an article of mine entitled “I’m Majoring in Science, With a Minor in Wishful Thinking”. You may be surprised to learn that chiropractic, reflexology, and acupuncture have all made forays into academia in Montreal.

From the article,

“What used to be a shibboleth—a phrase such as “evidence-based”—is now commonly used by quackademics as a smokescreen to deceive funding agencies, the general public, and perhaps the quackademics themselves. Everyone is engaging in “evidence-based practice”. The phrase has stopped to carry the meaning it once had and now serves as a fashion rule. If you don’t…

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Follow-Up on the Makayla Sault/J.J./Hippocrates Health Institute Case: J.J. Went Back to Chemo

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Finally, two items of good news come out of this dreadful affair in which Aboriginal families stopped chemotherapeutic treatment for their leukemic daughters and sought nonsensical pseudoscientific treatment in Florida.

While one of the children passed away this winter, the other, known in the media as “J.J.”, is being reported as feeling well. Could it be that the raw vegan diet and the Aqua Chi Ionic Foot Bath really work to fight off cancerous tumours?

Or could it be that the family reversed their initial decision and sent their daughter back to chemotherapy?

“But [J.J. was feeling] good, as became abundantly clear, because she resumed chemo treatment in March, as soon as hospital tests confirmed that the cancer had returned.

“The cancer that her parents claimed, early this year, was no longer in evidence, as the child was treated with traditional indigenous medicine, and after the family had returned from…

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Read: Does Being Short Mean a Higher Risk for Bad Heart Juju?

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Short people are at a higher risk for adverse cardiac events. Tall people are at a higher risk for heart attacks. Short people live longer. Tall people live longer.

Which is it?

A new study came out (in the much revered New England Journal of Medicine) apparently showing that short people are at an increased risk for heart disease.

Is there any weight behind this claim?

An article in the Montreal Gazette blows away the fog on the association between height and health:

“I wish I were taller. Tall people are more likely to get hired, get promoted and are paid better than their shorter counterparts. They can reach things from the top shelf without difficulty, have unobstructed views at theatres, and are consistently rated as more attractive by others. Overall, seems like a sweet deal.

“Then this study comes along in the New England Journal of Medicineshowing…

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Read: Dr. Labos on Natural Health Products (in the National Post)

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If the first episode of Dr. Labos’ and my new podcast, The Body of Evidence (also available on iTunes) failed to quench your thirst for knowledge on natural health products, I can now direct you to an article five months in the making that Dr. Labos finally managed to publish in The National Post:

“The response in Canada has been far more timid. Health Canada has a completely different approach to the regulation of natural health products. Unlike most countries, Canada has set up a process specifically to evaluate natural health products. Health Canada’s Natural Health and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate has a mandate to check whether natural health products are safe and effective.

“In this respect, Canada is ahead of the curve, according to Jamie Williams, executive director of Bad Science Watch, a consumer protection and science advocacy organization. But, Williams says, ‘the approval process is laughable…

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Read: Do We Have Too Many Postdocs in the Biomedical Sciences?

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My answer: yes.

Nature published a very lengthy and well-written piece by Kendall Powell on the postdoctoral fellowship. If you don’t know, the next step for many Ph.D. graduates is not a tenure-track position in a university but a sort of poorly paid specialization called the postdoctoral fellowship, whose funding is often uncertain and whose length can often stretch to absurdity.

“Many postdocs move on to fulfilling careers elsewhere, but those who want to continue in research can find themselves thwarted. They end up trapped as ‘permadocs’: doing multiple postdoc terms, staying in these positions for many years and, in a small but significant proportion, never leaving them. Of the more than 40,000 US postdocs in 2013, almost 4,000 had been so for more than 6 years.”

If you are interested in learning more about the less-than-stellar side of contemporary science, I encourage you to go read the full piece…

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