Category Archives: Science

That new sex ed study

A new study in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that 12 year-olds enrolled in an “abstinence only” sex-ed program delayed the onset of sexual activity for at least two years (and was subsequently written up in the mainstream media). This is a good thing: the age of onset of sexual activity and use of contraception/STI control measures have been repeatedly shown to be strongly correllated, so delaying the so-called “sexual debut” will therefore increase the likelihood of safe sex at the debut and beyond.

In this case it’s important to realize that the “abstinence only” program tested in this study is not of the over-churched, Jesus-will-hate-you-if-you-have-sex-before-you-get-married variety; the authors of the study were examining instead a secular, health-based just-don’t-have-sex-yet program. The point was not to try to get teens to feel morally shamed into waiting until marriage to have sex, but rather give them the confidence to say, “no, I’m not ready yet,” give them the facts about STI’s, and non-specifically delay the age of onset of sexual activity. As mentioned above, delaying the sexual debut leads to better eventual use of condoms and other protection. And obviously a secular program is something that everyone can feel comfortable about; religious programs by virtue can’t be as effective for people who aren’t a partisan of that religion.

That said, this particular study was not able to come to any conclusions about whether the kids who put off having sex for a while due to the abstinence message program actually engaged in safer sex practices when they did eventually have sex. For this study to really be informative, you’d need to make a connection between the kids who delay and better use of contraception; if you just cause them to put off sex for a bit but then not have safe sex, you really can’t say that the abstinence program “worked” or had much of a positive effect.

The Hon. Prof. Jenny B. McCarthy, DDS, MD, PhD is gonna be pissed!

At long last, the highly regarded British medical journal The Lancet has officially retracted “Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitic, and pervasive developmental disorder in children,” by Wakefield et al., aka the famous study “linked” autism (“pervasive developmental disorder”) with receipt of a MMR

Obviously Jenny McCarthy knows more about science than a bunch of stupid scientists!

(Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine in children. The retraction was prompted by Britain’s General Medical Council’s admonishment of Wakefield for unprofessional and unethical practices in regard to the recruitment (he apparently paid children at his son’s birthday party $8 to donate blood) and study procedures (the study involved performing highly invasive techniques such as sedation, MRI scanning, colonoscopy on developmentally-challenged children) involved in the Lancet paper.

Upon actually reading the study, I was incredibly surprised that the Lancet ever allowed it to be published in the first place. Only 12 participants (an absurdly low number for a scientific study) were studied, and all of them had the digestive ailments that Wakefield was looking at. Inconceivably, there was no control group. And out of 12 participants, only 8 had symptoms of autism-spectrum disorders, which were ever-reliably self-reported by parents (or physician-reported; we don’t know the breakdown) as having first become symptomatic within a few months of receiving an MMR vaccine (what a controlled, tight window!). None of the actual science that Wakefield actually presents in the paper has anything to do with a causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism – his “results” section is all about the findings of the colonoscopies, MRIs, and other tests, without any scientific or statistical analysis of the presence of autism symptoms in his (selection-biased, small, and uncontrolled) population. Yet this did not prevent Wakefield, or the editors of Lancet, from boldly claiming the the final graf of the paper that “in most cases, onset of [chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction] was after measles, mumps, and rubella

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, author of the oft-discredited and now officially retracted paper. May his car get egged and shoe fall upon dog shit.

immunisation,” even though the lack of any sort of scientific evidence for this made him admit that “we did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described” several earlier in the paper. So essentially, Wakefield opens with a titillating hypothesis about vaccines and autism, is forced to admit that his shitty study design cannot possibly shed any light on whether the hypothesis is correct or not, and then closes by restating his hypothesis as if he’s done some actual science to advance it, which he has not.

And somehow the Lancet published that crap, and only took 12 years and an independent inquiry for them to decide that it was, indeed, crap. So thumbs down to the Lancet. And although I already have mad thumbs down to Jenny McCarthy and the unreasonable crew of idiots blabbing on anti-vaccine messageboards, I’m throwing even more their way for the reckless ignorance of using this terrible study as a touchstone. These people have put thousands and thousands of children at risk for serious morbidity and mortality from measles, mumps and rubella for absolutely no good reason.

P.S. I should note that the Lancet’s official retraction comes after lots and lots of studies discrediting Wakefield’s hypothesis

P.P.S. This article goes into how much of a creep this dude is, e.g. getting a patent on a singular measles vaccine right when he was trumpeting the danger of the MMR vaccine.

Reminder about “detox”

Just a quick reminder from Dr. Rob at getbetterhealth.org: There is no such thing as a “detoxifying regimen” or any of that bullshit. Keep these 7 points in mind next time you’re about to get your colon blasted by water or embark upon multiple days of consuming some weird potion for all of your meals:

  1. Your body is not “full of toxins.”  When it is, your liver and kidneys are designed to handle those “toxins” and will do so far better than anything someone tries to sell you.
  2. Diets only work when they restrict calories.
  3. Your colon is fine and does not deserve to be regularly “cleansed.”  Colonics have been around since the early 1900’s (maybe earlier) and the fact that they are still being used is only evidence of the gullibility of humans.
  4. Never trust something that claims to “strengthen the immune system.”  It is an impossible claim to prove or disprove, and so is made with impunity.
  5. Look for the word “supports.”  Phrases such as “supports prostate health” or “supports a healthy immune system” are big signs that you are being BS’d.
  6. I never give patients medicines I would not take myself in the same circumstance.  I know no doctors who do.  It is fine to say “why do I need this medicine?” or “Is this medication really necessary?” but to ask “is it safe?” or “doesn’t this destroy the liver?” is kind of insulting.
  7. I guarantee that any plan like this one will cause significant weight loss…in your wallet.

In a related post, Dr. Rob goes off on Gwyneth Paltrow, who is probably one of the most “going off on” deserving people around. Funny:

Somehow the medical community has missed a very important news Item.  In her website goop.com (dang, I was going to go for that domain), movie star Gwyneth Paltrow weighed in on a very frightening medical subject.

Shampoo.

“A couple of years ago, I was asked to give a quote for a book concerning environmental toxins and their effects on our children.

“While I was reading up on the subject, I was seized with fear about what the research said. Foetuses, infants and toddlers are basically unable to metabolise toxins the way that adults are and we are constantly filling our environments with chemicals that may or may not be safe.

“The research is troubling; the incidence of diseases in children such as asthma, cancer and autism have shot up exponentially and many children we all know and love have been diagnosed with developmental issues like ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder].”

Apparently, she went on to point the finger at shampoo as a potential major problem in our society and raised a possible link between shampoo and childhood cancers.  Now, I am not sure how one can use shampoo on the head of a foetus (or a fetus, for that matter), but we have to tip our hat to celebrities for bringing such associations to the forefront.

So I did a bit of science myself to assess the voracity of her claims.  I too was seized with fear when I noted the following:

  • All of the kids in my practice who have ADHD have used shampoo.
  • All of the kids with cancer have also used shampoo.
  • I used shampoo as a kid (but not as a fetus), and I have ADHD.
  • The projection is that 100% of the people now using shampoo will die.

I love science!