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Biomedical Scientist Answers Pseudoscience Questions From Twitter | Tech Support | WIRED

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Biomedical Scientist Answers Pseudoscience Questions From Twitter | Tech Support | WIRED

Pseudoscience Support (00:00:00)

  • Dr. Andrea Love, a biomedical scientist, fact-checks false health claims.

What is pseudoscience? (00:00:11)

  • Pseudoscience refers to beliefs or practices that appear scientific but lack repeatability, reliability, or credibility.
  • Pseudoscience claims are often based on anecdotes rather than evidence.
  • Pseudoscience often starts with a nugget of truth but exaggerates it beyond reality.

Flat Tummy Tea (00:00:36)

  • Flat tummy teas are glorified laxatives that speed up digestion beyond normal.
  • They flush out undigested food, causing diarrhea and dehydration.
  • The perceived flat tummy effect is due to rapid food removal and dehydration, not weight loss or toxin removal.

Chiropractors (00:01:17)

  • Chiropractic is a $15 billion industry founded on the belief that joint and nerve issues cause all ailments.
  • Chiropractic is a pseudoscience, with limited evidence supporting temporary relief for certain types of low back pain.
  • Chiropractors (DCs) are not medical or scientific experts.

Anti-Science (00:02:19)

  • There has been a dramatic rise in anti-science and pseudoscience beliefs, coinciding with social media prevalence and the politicization of vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Vaccination rates for preventable diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella have dropped, posing a public health concern.

Autism and Vaccines (00:03:07)

  • The myth linking vaccines to autism originated from a fraudulent 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield, who lost his medical license.
  • Wakefield's paper falsely claimed a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism symptoms in children.
  • The paper was retracted in 2010, but the damage was done, leading to increased fear and lower vaccination rates.
  • Over 60 years of data show no relationship between vaccines and autism.

GMOs (00:04:30)

  • GMO papayas were created to resist the papaya ringspot virus and 90% of papayas are GMO.
  • Eating GMO papayas does not change human DNA because the DNA in the papaya is broken down by pepsin in the stomach.

Health Influencers (00:05:25)

  • Red flags to identify potentially misleading health influencers:
    • Evoking strong negative emotions related to health.
    • Making absolute statements about the causes or cures of health conditions.
    • Selling products or services related to their claims.
    • Having a conflict of interest, such as working for a company whose products they promote.
    • Speaking outside of their area of expertise.

Homeopathic Medicine (00:06:31)

  • Homeopathy is a pseudoscience created in the 1700s based on the principles of "like cures like" and "the law of infinitesimals."
  • Homeopathic remedies are diluted to the point where there is no active ingredient, making them ineffective.
  • Some homeopathic remedies can be dangerous, such as teething tablets containing belladonna, which have caused seizures and deaths in babies.
  • The belief in the effectiveness of homeopathy can lead people to forgo actual medical care, which can have serious consequences.

5G (00:08:26)

  • Cell phone towers emit radio frequency waves, which are a low-energy type of radiation.
  • Radio frequency radiation is non-ionizing, meaning it cannot penetrate the body and cause damage.
  • The amount of radio frequency radiation emitted by cell phone towers is not harmful to humans.

Organic Foods (00:10:00)

  • Organic foods are grown using organic pesticides, which are chemicals that have not been synthetically altered.
  • Conventional pesticides can be synthetically altered to improve their specificity.
  • Organic produce may have residues of pesticides, but the levels are minuscule and not harmful to humans.
  • Washing produce in water is recommended to remove any pesticide residues.

Cleanses and Detoxes (00:11:20)

  • The body's organs naturally detoxify the body.
  • Juice and smoothie cleanses or detoxes do not remove toxins from the body.
  • Stringy things seen in the poop during a cleanse are mucus and sloughed-off intestinal cells, which can harm the GI tract.

Lyme Disease (00:11:52)

  • Lyme disease is not as easy to get as people think.
  • The risk of getting Lyme disease is very low, with only two species of ticks in the US that can transmit the disease.
  • Higher risk areas for Lyme disease are the Midwest and the Northeast.
  • Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be effectively treated with antibiotics.
  • Some tests sold directly to consumers that claim to diagnose Lyme disease are not FDA-approved and are not accurate.

Non-Fluoridated Toothpaste (00:13:22)

  • Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance found in minerals, soil, and the environment.
  • Communities with higher fluoride levels in their water have lower rates of cavities.
  • Fluoride has been added to water and toothpaste for over 75 years, significantly reducing dental carries.
  • Claims that fluoride is a neurotoxin are unfounded; the toxic dosage is far beyond what is consumed through fluoridated water or toothpaste.
  • Fluoride in water is added at 7 mg per kilogram, and a child weighing 22 lbs would need to drink 50 7 L of water per day to reach the minimum threshold for skeletal effects.

Gluten-Free (00:14:34)

  • Gluten is a structural protein found in certain grains like wheat, barley, and rye.
  • Avoiding gluten is only necessary for individuals with medical conditions like celiac disease.
  • Claims that European wheat has less gluten or that pesticides in American wheat cause gluten sensitivity are false.
  • Gluten quantity in wheat is similar across countries, and Europe imports millions of pounds of American wheat.
  • Perceived gluten intolerance while traveling may be due to rushing and stress, leading to air swallowing and bloating, rather than gluten itself.

Reliable Study (00:15:56)

  • The hierarchy of evidence determines the reliability of a study.
  • Small sample sizes and opinions are at the bottom, followed by animal trials and in vitro data.
  • Human studies, especially randomized controlled trials that are blinded, are considered the gold standard.
  • Meta-analyses and systematic reviews, which analyze multiple studies together, provide high-quality evidence.
  • Reputable journals like JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) and PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) publish reliable research.
  • Peer-reviewed studies that align with other research in the field are more credible.
  • Cherry-picking, or relying on a single study to support a claim, is not a reliable approach.

Artificial Sweeteners (00:17:47)

  • Studies linking aspartame, sucrose, and saccharin to cancer and other disorders were conducted using rats with a genetic predisposition to developing bladder crystals and tumors.
  • The rats were fed an unrealistic amount of saccharin (close to 10% of their body weight per day).
  • Follow-up studies using rhesus macaques and human data have shown that saccharin is not linked to cancer in humans.
  • The stigma associated with saccharin has been transferred to other artificial sweeteners.

Supplements (00:18:53)

  • In the United States, the dietary supplement industry is worth nearly $60 billion.
  • Unlike FDA-approved medications, supplements do not have to prove their effectiveness or benefits.
  • Vitamin C supplementation does not reduce the duration, severity, or prevent respiratory illnesses.
  • A study found that over 50% of immune-boosting supplements misrepresent their contents, and some fail to mention certain ingredients.

Crystals (00:20:13)

  • There is no scientific evidence to support the belief that crystals have energetic powers or vibrate with personal energy.
  • The perceived benefits of crystals are likely due to the placebo effect, which can be powerful in making people feel like they are recovering more quickly or experiencing fewer symptoms.
  • The placebo effect should not replace science-based medicine.

Fasting (00:21:00)

  • The claim that fasting can help cancer patients is harmful and misleading.
  • This claim originated from in vitro studies where cancer cells were deprived of nutrients, causing them to die.
  • However, fasting in humans is not the same as depriving cancer cells of nutrients in a petri dish.
  • Fasting can actually be harmful for cancer patients as it deprives the body of essential nutrients and calories needed for the immune system to function effectively.

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