Genetic trials, cult statistics, bushfires, and more…

Friends’ News and Articles

Acupuncture doesn’t work: The stronger evidence shows that acupuncture can only have a placebo effect. It doesn’t matter where the needles are placed, or whether they penetrate the skin.

From the vault: Newborn vitamin K shots save baby lives: Newborn babies are amazing things. I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about them, and I certainly don’t understand the evolutionary underpinnings of vitamin K deficiency in newborns. I guess it is uncommon enough that there was no pressure to evolve better transport of vitamin K across the placenta or to increase levels of vitamin K in breast milk. But the why is not so important in this instance. Babies, through no fault of their own, are born at increased risk of life threatening bleeding complications from vitamin K deficiency. Vitamin K prophylaxis via the intramuscular route is safe and effective at preventing these life threatening complications, and based on the evidence available it is better than oral regimens. This may change in the future.

When a parent refuses the vitamin K, I can’t force it upon them. I try to get to the bottom of their concerns and address them as best as possible. In the vast majority of instances, parents agree to the injection. When they don’t, we don’t notify child protective services or call the police. We document, document and then document some more so that it is clear in the medical record that the parents were given the appropriate information to make an informed decision and that even knowing the risk they still refused. There is no oral vitamin K solution available in the United States, but I guess you can get anything on the internet these days. Oral dosing is better than nothing. I leave that discussion up to their primary care physician.


CRISPR enters its first human clinical trials: Welcome to the ethical minefield that is CRISPR technology. People will inevitably worry about the concept of “designer babies” but at this point there is no intention of improving humans. Rather CRISPR is intended to repair genetic disorders and as a new means of treating cancer. There will of course be problems as we explore this technology but the potential good this could do means it is worth the risk to develop this.

New polymer-coated vitamins and minerals could fight malnutrition in low-income countries: “Every year, 2 million children die because they don’t get enough vitamins and minerals. Billions more face blindness, debilitating disease, and birth defects for the same reason. Now, researchers have fortified corn grain and other staple foods with these essential micronutrients by encapsulating them in a biocompatible polymer made of a well-known food additive. The coating prevents the nutrients from degrading during storage or cooking and it may help people better absorb them. If the new coating proves effective in large trials, it could offer public health officials a new tool for saving countless lives.”  

Cold water poured on scientific studies based on ‘statistical cult’: Many sports science papers make claims based on an unreliable statistical method. The method, called magnitude based inference, has the “advantage” of finding more statistical differences in low sample sizes, but it also amplifies the chances of false-positives. Interventions like foam rollers, turmeric or ice baths may not have a strong evidence base after all.

Chinese medicine: Health experts call for “evidence-based diagnosis and therapy”: “In the absence of solid scientific evidence, no medical product or procedure – be it Chinese, European or other – should be approvable, registrable or reimbursable.”

Apple cider vinegar is a total waste of time: Not that vinegar has a great deal of benefit, but why does one type of vinegar get singled out as a miracle cure? Because the stories and claims and the anecdotes and the popularity is based on social cultural effects, not on any demonstration of benefit.

It’s hard to breathe and you can’t think clearly – if you defend your home against a bushfire, be mentally prepared: “A large Australian study shows people who are better psychologically prepared for a bushfire have accessed information on what it means to be mentally prepared have previous experience of bushfires and are mindful (have the ability to stay present) use an active coping style such as the AIM model (anticipate, identify, manage) have low levels of stress and depression.” An event like a bushfire can have a detrimental impact on metal health – while you are preparing your fire safety plan this season, take a moment to consider how you or your loved ones might fare psychologically in this high-stress situation. It might be helpful to practice mindfulness techniques to promote clear thinking, and consider if you or a family member is suffering from an existing mental health condition, it could be amplified in a dangerous fire.

Great Moments in Health and Science

History of the Sphygmomanometer: Through relatively simple means, blood pressure can be measured both in emergencies and for long-term health monitoring.

Today’s Abused Health Concept

Research Institutes aimed at validating pseudo-science. Looking to China for a remedy: inside the National Institute of Complementary Medicine: There is a growing tradition of creating institutes to study and validate concepts of Complementary Medicine. While scientific testing is a good thing even with low probability concepts, these institutes promote rather than properly falsify the things that they study. The NCIM has been no different, opening itself up to undue political influence and scandal as it seeks Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) funding to keep itself afloat. The NCIM courted the Chinese communist party, from whom awards were given for the ‘promotion of TCM. Funding arrangements were formed which companies already seeling the remedies being studies, and a major donor was later deported by ASIO for exerting undue political influence. The NCIM director Bensoussan also formed a relationship with and defended a TCM practitioner convicted of importing and distributing endangered animal materials including more than 200kg of pangolin scales. It is suspected that the NCIM had an agreement to “share recipes” with this individual. And “according to Ken Harvey, president of Friends of Science in Medicine, NICM appeared to be trying to find a way to give a tick of approval to herbs without thoroughly checking the evidence. “The problem with looking at these trials is they generally don’t stand up. You’re better off bullshitting and hoping that no one is going to pull you up,” he said.”