Waaaay offtopic

Paul King pking123-rieW9WUcm8FFJ04o6PK0Fg at public.gmane.org
Sat Dec 20 14:45:59 UTC 2003

Date sent:      	Fri, 19 Dec 2003 22:40:29 -0500
From:           	James Knott <james.knott-bJEeYj9oJeDQT0dZR+AlfA at public.gmane.org>
To:             	tlug-lxSQFCZeNF4 at public.gmane.org
Subject:        	Re: [TLUG]: Waaaay offtopic
Send reply to:  	tlug-lxSQFCZeNF4 at public.gmane.org

> Bottom line, is much of that so called "medicine" cannot show any 
> benefit in comparitive tests.  

I am not sure what side you are taking, but first, I would like you to give me 
a "for instance" here. 

If an "alternative" medicine which people "say" works (anecdotal evidence, 
which isn't worth much, but may provide basis for study), is proven to be of 
benefit then it is no longer "alternative". To prove that something is of 
benefit, you need placebo trials. I would imagine (without really providing 
proof) that there are likely many medicines that have crossed this line. 

There are substances which sell really well for which there is no scientific 
evidence of benefit. Take lecithin, for example. Lecithin is found in all our 
cells, is a terrific emusifier for cell membranes, which results in allowing 
substances to pass into and out of our cells more easily. But there is one 
problem. Lecithin, when ingested, is broken down into smaller molecules in your 
intestine before it absorbs into your blood. So the only lecithin we have in 
our cells must be what our body makes. But it still sells in health food shops, 
and it still has strong adherents. Placebo trials have been done, but evidence 
remains strictly anecdotal.

Then there are accepted substances which benefit us, but benefits have been 
exaggerated. Omega-3 fatty acids (which I did a paper on for my biochemistry 
major) reverse atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). You read that 
right: it reverses it. That has been proven in numerous studies and clinical 
placebo trials. It also increases membrane fluidity, and it doesn't get broken 
down in the gut. If you go to health food stores, you may hear about numerous 
other benefits which have marginal proof, passed on as fact: It purportedly has 
a beneficial effect on asthma, psoriasis, cancer, arthritis, and [place your 
favourite autoimmune disorder here]. There is a movement under way to get Omega-
3 fatty acids (particularly EHA (eicosahexaenoic acid) and DPA(docosahexaenoic 
acid)) accepted as vitamins. If accomplished, this will no longer be an 
"alternative" medicine.

I can't see the scientific method ever failing, except for political reasons. 
AIDS research is a strong example. Researchers are hung up on retrviruses as 
the main mechanism, and other avenues of study into alternative causes have 
actually been silenced, last I have heard. You may speculate on the reasons, 
but they have not been honest reasons. This is when things stop being 
scientific. Or when drug companies tell a prof what they can and cannot publish 
or utter in a lecture. Things like that weaken the whole enterprise. But health 
food stores and herbalists don't even have this avenue of validity open to 
them. Health food stores and herbalists are in the business to make money. What 
they sell works because these users of the medicine say that it works. And you 
just have to believe it or not believe it, and buy their stuff, and that's how 
they make money. Maybe they're right, and maybe they're wrong. But I wouldn't 
travel down that road until other more established avenues have been used up 

> As for not knowing all about the world, 
> the only way to change that is to study.  If someone has an idea, they 
> should try to show some supporting evidence.  I don't know if you recall 
> something called "Essiac".  It was supposed to be a cancer cure, 
> developed by a woman, who lived up near Huntsville.  She appeared almost 
> 30 years ago, with her claims.  She wanted the provincial government to 
> pay her a large amount of money for her cure, before she'd allow any 
> tests or provide any info on it.  She had nothing to show it was 
> effective, other than her own claims.  The government turned her down, 
> but a private company paid her.  Last I heard they were suing her for fraud.
> With a scientific approach, a claim and any supporting data is examined 
> by others.  Sometimes this process fails, but overall, it results in the 
> advancement of knowledge.  If someone has a claim, the onus is on them 
> to prove their claims, not on someone else to prove them wrong.

Paul King              http://www3.sympatico.ca/pking123/

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