Flu, milk, WHO, and more…

Friend’s news and articles

Cervical cancer set to be eliminated from Australia in global first: Thanks to an Australian-developed vaccine, and a well executed screening program, within a generation cervical cancer in Australia could be history.


Flu treatments – do any of them work, or should you get the vaccine? “We are entering 2018-19 flu season (in the Northern Hemisphere), so some of you have decided to get the seasonal flu vaccine because you know it is your best choice to prevent the flu. Or you are in the group that decided to forsake the flu vaccine because you buy into the easily-debunked myths of the anti-vaccine world? Instead, you depend upon flu treatments without evidence on whether those actually work.

“I’ve written previously about various supplements and treatments for the common cold, and they mostly don’t work. Or the evidence is so weak that it’s a waste of money to use them. Or they’re just useless. These ineffective treatments exist for one reason – money. Cold and flu treatments are a significant part of the estimated global US$278 billion supplement and nutraceutical industry. And the industry is largely unregulated, so they can make unsupported claims about things like flu treatments, and people buy them based on the pseudoscience and false claims. Although there’s some overlap between the common cold and flu treatments, there are a large number of flu treatments that get sold over the counter, although one class of drugs are sold by prescription. Are any effective? Let’s find out.”

Snake oil or science? Homeopathy in Europe:  GREAT NEWS!! The University of Lille announces the immediate suspension of its course in homeopathy.

A nuanced view on breast vs formula milk: A new study throws a little gas on this burning controversy. The study authors took a clever approach to this question – they asked pregnant mothers enrolled in the study if they intended to breastfeed, and then followed their actual breastfeeding behavior, and various health outcomes for their children. The data are based on 1,000 participants in the Infant Feeding Practices Study II.

The researchers found that mothers who while pregnant said they intended to exclusively breastfeed, but then used formula once the baby was born, had children with health outcomes similar to exclusively breastfed infants. Only about half of mothers who intend to breastfeed are able to do so, and often their ability to breastfeed is beyond their control and not known until their baby is actually born. This was a good way to get a peek at possible confounding factors. The intention to exclusively breastfeed, even if the mothers did not breastfeed, was very similar in outcomes to mothers who actually breastfed. This supports the hypothesis that the improved outcomes from breastfeeding are at least partly explained by the characteristics of the self-selective population who breastfeed. “What we found is that intending mothers had more information about nutrition and diet; they more frequently consulted their physicians; and had better access to information related to infant health than those moms who did not intend to breastfeed.”

Hundreds of Spanish scientists ask for action against pseudoscience “that kills”: “A 21-year-old physics student named Mario Rodríguez died after abandoning his leukemia treatment for a vitamin-based therapy advocated by a healer. He died six months after getting started on the vitamins, but before passing away Mario told his father Julián, ‘Dad, I made a mistake.’ “

Did you know?

Just because you’re thin, doesn’t mean you’re healthy“Many people think if they’re able to stay lean while eating poorly and not exercising, then that’s OK. But though you might appear healthy on the outside, you could have the same health concerns as overweight and obese individuals on the inside. When considering risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke or cancer, we often think about health indicators such as smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure, and body weight. But poor diet and physical inactivity also each increase the risk for heart disease and have a role to play in the development of some cancers. So even if you don’t smoke and you’re not overweight, being inactive and eating badly increases your risk of developing heart disease.”

Abused health concepts

Tradition and Politics: Why Chinese medicine is heading for clinics around the world: The World Health Organization (WHO), like any group or organisation, can be susceptible to the bias, politics, and beliefs of its leaders. The only ‘vaccine’ for such problems in health care is a strong adherence to the high standards of science. Instead of sticking to science, the WHO has been becoming more accepting and willing to promote the politics of “traditional medicine”, particularly TCM. It has released documents calling for member states to ensure traditional medicine is provided with health care facilities, insurance, and reimbursement. From 2022, the WHO’s compendium of disease (the ICD), which sets the medical agenda in more than 100 countries, will contain language like ‘Spleen Qi Deficiency’ or ‘Liver Qi Stagnation’.

Claims for traditional medicines cannot be supported in science because the evidence is lacking or only of the worst quality. “Critics view TCM practices as unscientific, unsupported by clinical trials, and sometimes dangerous: China’s drug regulator gets more than 230,000 reports of adverse effects from TCM each year” Medicine should not be based on belief. “With so many questions about TCM’s effectiveness and safety …at some point, everyone will ask: why is the WHO letting people get sick?” says Donald Marcus, an immunologist and professor emeritus at Baylor College of Medicine.

Great moments in Health and Science

Who Invented the Microscope? The invention of the microscope opened up a new world that was always around us – just unseen. Subsequent discoveries such as the germ theory of disease and penicillin would not have been possible were it not for the humble lens – this week’s great moment in health and science.