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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hey you, stop trying to improve on nature
One of the funny things about Buck's post on the latest homenoschooling on Wife Swap is the discussion of the raw food types. One thing to remember when dealing with any type of woo, as Orac would call it, is that the purpose of most people's crazy beliefs about diet, medicine whatever, are attempts to create control in their life. People like alternative medicine, not because it respects the body and is natural, these are rationalizations. People like it because there is always an alternative medicine you can take, every day, for any reason. Largely because they're harmless, this is ok. If you did this with real medications you would probably end up dead or sick. Same with the raw food guy in this show. When confronted by the other parent who challenged the wackiness of a world view that includes eating raw chicken, what did he do? He ran to the kitchen and started eating. It's about a feeling of control, that's all, and to some degree that's ok, people need coping mechanisms to deal with stress, and if they end up being a little wacky, that's fine (eating raw chicken might not be).

If a system of "alternative" medicine were legitimately interested in preserving health rather than just selling worthless supplements, one of the first elements of its practice would be to do nothing if nothing is wrong. This new paper in JAMA makes this point nicely. It is entitled "Mortality in Randomized Trials of Antioxidant Supplements for Primary and Secondary Prevention" and is a meta-analysis of nearly 400 studies on antioxidants like selenium, beta-carotene and vitamins A, C, and E. Their findings? Dosing yourself with beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase your mortality, while selenium and vitamin C are at best harmless.

For the most part your body knows what it's doing and can and should be left alone. A normal diet will provide you with all the nutrition you need, and it's very unlikely you need to supplement with some exceptions like folic acid in women of childbearing age, B12 in vegans and old people or if one has an underlying condition like anemia which requires supplementation. So, a simple way to determine if something is quackery is if you're healthy, do they still suggest treatment?

Again, most of these interventions are mostly harmless and merely relieve the sucker of money they soon would have parted with anyway. But it's a sure sign of a bad medical practitioner if they want to do anything to a helthy person to "make them better".

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3 Comments:

Anonymous said...

A normal diet will provide you with all the nutrition you need...

Normal? What is that? Ketchup the school lunch vegetable normal? Or the normal that comes from exercising freedom of choice by scarfing $1 burgers.

I have no issue with your anti-supplement post, just your use of the word normal associated with American diets.

10:48 PM, February 28, 2007

 
Rev. Dr. said...

if you're getting your RDAs.

10:13 AM, March 01, 2007

 
Rev. Dr. said...

Also one should note, the vitamins that were associated with mortality were the lipid soluble, not the aqeous ones like Vit C that you just piss out what you don't need.

7:00 PM, March 01, 2007

 

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