“Health” Lunacy On The Internet

Few things piss me off as much as false “cures” or “treatments”, and the advent of the internet made things much worse. I gave some examples a few days ago (Cancer Quackery), but there is a never ending well of BS in the bowels of the network. A lot of this is related to a antiscience streak that underlies a lot of the misinformation that goes around (see another post, The Worrying Growth Of Antiscience Claims). I don’t see many people shopping around for “alternative airplane pilots” to fly them around or “alternative engineers” to design and supervise construction of their apartment, but that’s beside the point.

The proliferation of “detox” and “natural” remedies on the internet would be a laughing matter if it weren’t the very serious consequences they may bring about, either by being harmful, wasteful or simply delaying the beginning of proper care, and for more often than not making victims among the most vulnerable and/or desperate people. I’ll just give a few examples from some quasi-random stuff I came across.

First, the most unbelievable proposition about “cures” I’ve seen in recent times, the idea that industrial bleach is a panacea, especially for autism. Yes, you read it right: ‘Miracle cure’ exposed as bleach. More about it here: Autism: how unorthodox treatments can exploit the vulnerable. “As a rule of thumb, the more desperate and vulnerable you are the easier you are to exploit, with anything from financial advice to lifestyle tips. A diagnosis of an incurable disease; a child with a serious developmental disorder: these are circumstances that see many people seek unorthodox solutions, either as a way of coming to terms with what has happened, or in an attempt to find a treatment that perhaps the mainstream has not yet embraced, but which will give relief or cure. However, some alternative products and techniques are not merely controversial, they are potentially dangerous. Recently in mainland Ireland, a number of parents have been interviewed by police as part of an on-going investigation with the Health Products Regulatory Authority. These parents are thought to have administered a substance known as MMS to their autistic children. MMS has been known variously as Master Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Solution and Miracle Mineral Supplement.

Another favourite is this staple of “natural treatments”, coffee enemas (!). There’s no good reason to squirt coffee up your ass. “Potential side-effects from squirting coffee up your asshole include: ‘electrolyte imbalance, sepsis, colon or rectal perforation, and proctocolitis due to the coffee itself, among others, up to and including death.’ Coffee will not ‘detox’ you because detoxing is bullshit. It wouldn’t matter, except quacks tell cancer patients and other people who are sick and need actual medicine, not coffee enemas, to squirt coffee up their assholes.

This unfortunately applies to some mainstreamed forms of therapy that apparently either don’t know or don’t want to conduct an honest trial: New Study on Homeopathic Cough Syrup for Children Reveals a Lack of Effectiveness and Ethics. “In case you didn’t catch that, they concluded that the homeopathic cough syrup worked in the current study’s pediatric population because the subjects did as well as the adults in the ‘treatment’ arm of their prior study. The prior study, like the overwhelming majority of homeopathy research, was entirely consistent with the much more plausible conclusion that the minimal clinical effect was a mixture of placebo effects and statistical noise. All the subjects in both studies simply followed the expected course of cough symptoms caused by colds when no treatment is provided.

This extends to all sorts of diets and concoctions, perfectly satirized by an actual dietitian: Broccoli is bad for you, like, really toxic bad. “The Internet proliferates with opinion pieces quick to vilify particular foods and nutrients as being ‘the cause’ of many of our health problems by over-cooking (see what I did there?) one side of the research evidence. To show you how this is done, I present for you today a masterclass on this art form. I’ll also give you some practical tips on how to spot when it is being done.

Very dangerous “advice” is being dispensed on the internet, so caveat emptor. In closing, I feel the same way as the author of this post: Distilled nonsense. “Why are ‘health’ sites so full of shit? It’s getting to be the case that when I see ‘health’ (or worse, ‘wellness’) in the title of an article, I have the same aversive reaction I get when I see the word ‘family’. It’s a good word that has been hijacked by loons.


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