Mushrooms, Evidence, Smart Watches, and more…

FSM News and Articles

University under fire for mushrooms claim after sponsor revealed: “An Australian university has come under fire for spruiking a study into the supposed immune-boosting powers of mushrooms – without revealing it was sponsored by a company that sells mushroom-based immune-boosters.” More shameful commercialisation of university research for private company profit.

FSM Friends’ News and Articles

Ellura: A supplement backed by evidence: Well this is unusual. A supplement to reduce UTI frequency that uses biologically plausible rationale and actually has supporting EVIDENCE?? “To cause an infection, the bacteria must adhere to the cells lining the bladder. … Ellura does not protect against bacteria that don’t exhibit P-fimbriae, but it covers the bacteria that cause over 90% of UTIs. When adhesion is prevented, the bacteria get flushed out with urination, which is probably what the ads mean by the claim “supports a clean urinary tract.” This is not to treat established UTI’s, but hopefully this can help to reduce reliance on antibiotics. The studies are small, and there are questions about preferable dosages, but it is refreshing to see promising plausible evidence rather then the usual wild west approach that is the supplement industry.


First-ever Ebola Vaccine OK’d by FDA: This vaccine has already proved a useful tool to save lives in Ebola outbreaks – hopefully approval increases the availability of this vaccine.

Argumentum ad package insertWe seem to have an influx of people using the “Package Insert Fallacy”. Argumentum ad package insert is a fallacious anti-vaccination argument that holds that the contents of the warnings on package inserts of vaccines and diagnostic tests indicates that the vaccine is very dangerous or that the diagnostic test has a high failure rate. These arguments fail to take into account the actual measured rates of adverse reactions or actual measured false positive rates, or to take into account the proven beneficial effect of vaccination.

140th out of 146 – Australian teens do close to the least physical activity in the world: “In a study published in The Lancet today, we find out how 1.6 million adolescent school students from across 146 countries are faring in terms of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) physical activity recommendations. The answer: pretty dismally. And Australia is among the worst, ranked 140 out of the 146 countries studied.”

Today’s Abused Health Concept

Smart Watch Health Monitoring –  The Apple Heart Study. As people open their gift this Christmas, I’m sure many will branch out into smart wearables, and wonder if these can be medically useful. A study on 400,000 participants was recently published using Apple smart watches to try to detect cardiac arrhythmias. When considering the value of a medical diagnostic device, it is important to consider both the positive detection accuracy (how reliable is it when it says something is wrong) and the negation detection accuracy (how reliable is it when it says that nothing is wrong). Both false negatives and false positives can be harmful.

To consider how hard it is to engineering a reliable device, consider if a device is 99% accurate for a condition that occurs in 1% of the population. Even with 99% accuracy, ~50% of warnings will be false alarms (check the maths in the article). With a condition that occurs in 0.1% of the population, ~90% of the warnings will be false alarms. This means that patients will be seeking medical testing and interventions, and accepting the associated risks for little to no benefit.

While this study on smart watches may sound like it was very large, one has to consider that the self-selection of people buying smart watches biases to the young, wealthy, and healthy. Then consider that of people actually getting an alert, compliance to follow up and confirm results was low, with only 450 people submitting data. Then consider that for people NOT receiving a health alert from their watch, there was no follow up screening to confirm the accuracy of negative (normal) sensor readings. Thus, this study doesn’t tell us much about the reliability of the device. Even so there was a marked reduction in reliability of results for younger users who received follow up testing compared to older users.

“The problem with the Apple Watch is not its technology, it’s how we use it. Because even good tests and good technology fail if you use it on the wrong group of people.”