Monthly Archives: December 2021
For my last post of the year 2021, I take the liberty to borrow parts of a BMJ editorial entitled A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION OF HEALTH WORKERS:
The prospect of a return to normality seems within reach. But what will that normality look like? We believe that health workers, who have been at the frontline of the pandemic, must offer a vision of a healthier future. We must not let the terrible events of this year recast the pre-pandemic world in a glowing light. The normality we departed from at the onset of the pandemic was unjust, unsustainable, and shaped the evolution of, and responses to, the pandemic with devastating consequences, particularly for the most deprived and vulnerable.
The start of a new year offers an opportunity to question old ways of working and to ask how we can create a better future for everyone. It is a cliché to say that you should never waste a crisis. Just as in wartime and in the global financial crisis, many have profited greatly from the pandemic, whether as providers of online services or by taking advantage of the rush to procure essential goods such as personal protective equipment.
But many were far less fortunate, living in circumstances that rendered them vulnerable to an infection that spread especially rapidly through communities where successive generations had been living ever more precarious lives. As the recovery begins, the powerful groups who benefited from the social and economic systems that created those conditions will, once again, seek to shape the world to their advantage. Health workers cannot remain silent. They must offer a compelling vision of how we should reconfigure the world so that it produces and sustains health for all, resilient in the face of future threats…
A country navigating the pandemic is like a ship navigating treacherous and unpredictable waters in a storm. If the ship, its crew, and its passengers are to come through the experience unscathed it needs three things. First, it needs an experienced captain who understands the ship and commands the trust of the crew. Unfortunately, in some of the countries worst affected, captains were either away from the bridge, denied there was a storm, or had lost the trust of those on whom they depended.
Second, it needs a crew that is adequate for the size of the ship, that is well trained, and that is working as a team to achieve the same goal. Yet in too many countries, skeleton crews were working in health systems that were highly fragmented. Dissenting voices who raise the alarm about the integrity of the ship, the working of the team, or its leadership must not be silenced or lives can be lost. It also needs passengers who are as seaworthy as possible so that they can withstand the storm. One of the sentinel challenges of covid-19 was finding large segments of the population weighted by a disproportionate burden of preventable disease that predisposed them to severe covid-19 once infected.
Third, we need a ship that is securely constructed. Yet in many of the countries that have fared worst, we have been working in vessels that are full of holes. Social safety nets have been ripped asunder, allowing too many people to fall through the holes. We have made many demands on our people—to stay at home, to face loss of income—and we have added greater uncertainty to what were already difficult situations, particularly for certain racially and economically marginalised groups. The disproportionate exposure to covid-19 of many in these groups—a consequence of precarious jobs and social circumstances that denied them the luxury of social distancing—drove, in large part, the high burden of covid-19 among minority and marginalised groups worldwide.
As we look to the prospect of a covid-19 secure future, with effective vaccines, new treatments, and continued countermeasures as necessary, we must ask how we can strengthen the foundations of our societies, coming together to repair the torn safety nets. We must never be afraid to challenge our political leaders when they are going in the wrong direction, and we must insist that they really are guided by the science, and not just those bits that support their beliefs. And we must ensure that our fellow citizens are as healthy as possible so they can withstand the inevitable storms that lie ahead. We must insist that our health systems and other public systems are adequately staffed, with the tools needed to do the job, with teams that are working together, pulling in the same direction. If we do all this, then we, and the populations we serve, can be confident that we can weather any future storms.
The editorial was written by 4 authors:
- Martin McKee, professor of European public health
- May C I van Schalkwyk, NIHR doctoral research fellow
- Nason Maani, assistant professor in public health evaluation
- Sandro Galea, dean
I think it is most sensible and thought-provoking and I suspect many of us agree with its sentiments. If it did not make you think, perhaps this information will do so:
Yes, 2021 has disappointed many of our hopes and turned out to be a difficult year.
I wish us all that 2022 will be better, much better.
Always on the lookout for so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) that we have not yet covered on this blog, I came across a really weird one. ‘Access Consciousness’ (AC) is claimed to be a form of self-improvement therapy based on the idea that you are not wrong, that you know, and that consciousness can shift anything. It gives you access to the possibilities that exist when you no longer stick yourself and no longer believe that you are stuck.  Gary Douglas ([pictured below] “bestselling author, international speaker and business innovator”) pioneered this set of transformational tools in the 1990s. His work is claimed to have now spread to more than 170 countries and is claimed to have transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people.
Access Consciousness allegedly empowers people to help themselves. The techniques of AC focus on your knowledge about yourself and the world around you. Part of what makes AC so different, according to its promoters, is that it is continuously being created.  AC promises to assist people with their health, weight, money, sex, relationships, anxiety, etc. It promises members, known as ‘Accessories,’ to become more conscious. To fully get it, Accessories should take part in classes. There they have 32 points on their heads lightly touched which is supposed to help them let go of all the thoughts, ideas, and emotions stored in any lifetime. Accessories are claimed to be able to “uncreate” memories of the past, or preconceived ideas picked up throughout a lifetime. As far as I can see, there is no evidence to suggest that AC is effective.
Some ex-members have alleged that AC is a “scam cooked up by a conman to rinse the vulnerable of their savings, a Scientology knock-off, and even a cult”. One ex-Accessory, for instance, claimed the group “programs its members to think like robots. It is very clever how it is done. Because it’s not like any other cult but it is mind control.”  In each 90-minute session, which costs up to US$ 300, 5,000 to 10,000 years of “limitations” are released, it is claimed.
My conclusion: there is no evidence that AC is plausible or effective and it is a SCAM and possibly also a cult.
THE GUARDIAN published an interesting article about vaccination hesitancy yesterday. Here is a short passage from it:
One major missing piece of the puzzle, currently under consideration, is a strategy that gets to the bottom of why 5 million people remained unvaccinated, especially those in communities with an ingrained distrust of authority.
No 10 even turned to an artificial intelligence (AI) company earlier in the year to determine the causes of vaccine hesitancy, but Whitehall sources acknowledge there is still a lack of understanding about how many of the unvaccinated remain so because of entrenched anti-vax ideology, misconceptions that could be turned around, a lack of time or transport to get to vaccine centres, or just apathy.
Yesterday, it was also reported in DER STANDARD that the Austrian Science Minister Martin Polaschek has commissioned a study from Statistics Austria, which for the first time was to look at the vaccination status of the population according to socio-economic characteristics.
The study yielded fascinating findings that might shed some light on the phenomenon of ‘entrenched anti-vax ideology’:
- Across all age groups, the proportion of vaccinated persons, including recovered persons, is 67%.
- Slightly less than four percent of the population are only recovered, and about 30% are neither one nor the other.
- There are no marked differences between men and women.
- The willingness to vaccinate is strongly related to the level of education.
- The vaccination rate in the group of 25-64 year-olds with a university degree is about 84% and thus significantly higher than among those who have only basic education (68%).
- In this age group, it also seems important whether someone has a job (76%) or not (69%).
- People employed in the information and communication sector (85%) and public administration (83%) are the most likely to be vaccinated.
- Workers in agriculture and forestry (67%) and construction (65%) are the least likely to accept vaccinations.
- Health and social services personnel have a vaccination rate of 79%.
- More than half of the 600,000 schoolchildren had already been vaccinated, and in the upper secondary school it was even 72%.
- The rate among teachers is also high, at 85%.
- 86% of the approximately 395,000 students at universities had been vaccinated.
- As 92% of all medical students were vaccinated.
- The vaccination rate among Austrian nationals, at about 70%, is clearly higher than that of people without an Austrian passport (52%).
- The difference between those born in Austria and those not born in Austria is only five percentage points.
- The willingness to be vaccinated is higher among people from Turkey (73%) than among those born in Austria (68%).
- Among Germans and Afghans, it is around 72%.
- People from Romania (43%) and the Russian Federation (45%) have the lowest vaccination rates.
- The percentage of vaccinated people is highest among those between 75 and 84 years.
Similar findings have, of course, been reported from other countries. However, what seems new to me here is the finding that vaccination rates are strongly correlated to the level of education: the anti-vax brigade tends to be uneducated and ignorant. If confirmed, this suggests that education might be a way to make them accept vaccinations.
Of course, correlation is not causality. But there seems to be a dose-response relationship between education and willingness to vaccinate. This makes a causal effect more likely.
THOSE WHO KNOW NOTHING MUST BELIEVE EVERYTHING
Bloodletting therapy (BLT) has been widely used for centuries until it was discovered that it is not merely useless for almost all diseases but also potentially harmful. Yet in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) BLT is still sometimes employed, for instance, to relieve acute gouty arthritis (AGA). This systematic review aimed to evaluate the feasibility and safety of BLT in treating AGA.
Seven databases were searched from the date of establishment to July 31, 2020, irrespective of the publication source and language. BLT included fire needle, syringe, three-edged needle, and bloodletting followed by cupping. The included articles were evaluated for bias risk by using the Cochrane risk of bias assessment tool.
Twelve studies involving 894 participants were included in the final analysis. A meta-analysis suggested that BLT was highly effective in relieving pain (MD = -1.13, 95% CI [-1.60, -0.66], P < 0.00001), with marked alterations in the total effective (RR = 1.09, 95% [1.05, 1.14], P < 0.0001) and curative rates (RR = 1.37, 95%CI [1.17, 1.59], P < 0.0001). In addition, BLT could dramatically reduce serum C-reactive protein (CRP) level (MD = -3.64, 95%CI [-6.72, -0.55], P = 0.02). Both BLT and Western medicine (WM) produced comparable decreases in uric acid (MD = -18.72, 95%CI [-38.24, 0.81], P = 0.06) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) levels (MD = -3.01, 95%CI [-6.89, 0.86], P = 0.13). Lastly, we demonstrated that BLT was safer than WM in treating AGA (RR = 0.36, 95%CI [0.13, 0.97], P = 0.04).
The authors concluded that BLT is effective in alleviating pain and decreasing CRP level in AGA patients with a lower risk of evoking adverse reactions.
This conclusion is optimistic, to say the least. There are several reasons for this statement:
- All the primary studies came from China (and we have often discussed that such trials need to be taken with a pinch of salt).
- All the studies had major methodological flaws.
- There was considerable heterogeneity between the studies.
- The treatments employed were very different from study to study.
- Half of all studies failed to mention adverse effects and thus violate medical ethics.
I came across this article via a German secondary report about it entitled “Scientists discover what else protects from severe symptoms” (Forscher finden heraus, was noch vor schweren Symptomen schützt). The article rightly stressed that vaccination is paramount and then explains that, once you have caught COVID, nutrition can prevent serious symptoms.
Even though I rarely discuss standard nutritional issues on my blog (nutrition belongs to mainstream not so-called alternative medicine [SCAM], in my view), this subject did attract my attention. Here are the essentials of the original scientific paper:
Australian scientists studied the association between habitual frequency of food intake of certain food groups during the COVID-19 pandemic and manifestations of COVID-19 symptoms in adult outpatients with suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection. They included 236 patients who attended an outpatient clinic for suspected COVID-19 evaluation. Severity of symptoms, habitual food intake frequency, demographics and Bristol chart scores were obtained before diagnostic confirmation with real-time reverse transcriptase PCR using nasopharyngeal swab.
The results of the COVID-19 diagnostic tests were positive for 103 patients (44%) and negative for 133 patients (56%). In the SARS-CoV-2-positive group, symptom severity scores had significant negative correlations with the habitual intake frequency of specific food groups. Multivariate binary logistic regression analysis adjusted for age, sex, and occupation confirmed that SARS-CoV-2-positive patients showed a significant negative association between having higher symptom severity and the habitual intake frequency of legumes and grains, bread, and cereals.
The authors concluded that an increase in habitual frequency of intake of ‘legumes’, and ‘grains, bread and cereals’ food groups decreased overall symptom severity in patients with COVID-19. This study provides a framework for designing a protective diet during the COVID-19 pandemic and also establishes a hypothesis of using a diet-based intervention in the management of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which may be explored in future studies.
So, the authors seem to think that they found a causal relationship: A CHANGE IN DIET DECREASES SYMPTOMS. In different sections of the article, they seem to confirm this notion, and they state that they tested the hypothesis of the effect of diet on SARS-CoV-2 infection symptom severity.
Yey, the investigation was merely a correlative study that cannot establish cause and effect. There are many other variables that might be linked to dietary habits which could be the true cause of the observed phenomenon (or contributors to it).
What’s the harm? If the article makes people adopt a healthier diet, all is pukka!
Perhaps, in this case, that might be true (even though one could argue that this paper might support anti-vax notions arguing that vaccination is not important if it is possible to prevent severe symptoms through dietary changes). But the confusion of correlation with causality is both frequent and potentially harmful. And it is unquestionably poor science!
I feel that we need to be concerned about the fact that even reputable journals let such things pass – not least because the above example shows what the popular press subsequently can make of such misleading messages.
DNP (2,4-dinitrophenol) is highly toxic. In the UK, it is illegal to sell DNP for human consumption. DNP causes serious harm to health. Its consumption has resulted in a significant number of deaths in the UK. Other side effects of DNP include:
- flushed skin
- rapid breathing
- an irregular heartbeat.
All this does not seem to deter entrepreneurs in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). One of them has just been jailed. Jack Finney, 25, of Northwich in Cheshire, sold the highly toxic chemical 2.4-Dinitrophenol (DNP) between June 2017 and July 2020 on the dark web. Finney was sentenced at Chester Crown Court and was handed a 28-month prison sentence.
Several deaths have involved people in the bodybuilding world or those trying to lose weight. Bodybuilder Sean Cleathero, a 28-year-old, died at a hospital in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in October 2012 after taking DNP. In another high-profile case, 23-year-old Sarah Houston tragically died after the medical student consumed a fatal dose of DNP while studying at Leeds University in 2013. In 2007, 26-year-old Selena Walrond, died after having taken DNP in a bid to lose weight. She too bought the deadly pills over the Internet.
In 2018, 31-year-old businessman Bernard Rebelo, from east London, was the first person to be convicted of manslaughter in relation to the sale of DNP pills. Mr Rebelo became a millionaire after selling the ‘weight-loss capsules’ to clients, but he was jailed for seven years after selling them to bulimic student Eloise Parry, who later died.
Reginald Bevan, Deputy Head of the National Food Crime Unit, said: ‘We welcome today’s sentencing as it sends a strong message to anyone seeking to profit from the illegal sale of this life-threatening substance. We continue to be relentless in pursuing and bringing to justice those who are endangering the public and breaking the law. This operation continues to demonstrate how seriously the NFCU takes the illegal sale of DNP for human consumption in the UK and through our close working partnership with local authorities and other law enforcement agencies in the UK and abroad that we are able to tackle offenders, close websites and work to disrupt possible supply routes within and into the UK.’
Don’t worry -it happens to the best of us: you have forgotten to get a present for someone.
Do not panic!
Here are five items that we discussed in 2021 on this blog and which might be suitable as a last-minute festive present:
- IRONY OF IRONIES: Gadgets allegedly protecting us from radiation have been shown to emit harmful radiation
How about a neckless? I know, it is perhaps not everyone’s taste but it has the additional advantage that, contrary to the manufacturer’s claim that it protects you from disease-causing radiation, it actually emits (radioactive) radiation. Ideal for a radiant Christmas, would you not agree?
- The ‘LOVETUNER’: Have a look at this, and you will never again think that Deepak Chopra is a charlatan
The festive season is foremost the season for love. If you want to make sure that your partner is tuned in, you must quickly get the LOVETUNER. Yes, it does work, after all, Deepak Chopra recommends it!
Another recommendation comes from the renowned Prof Harald Walach: a rosary! It is hard to imagine a present that befits Christmas better than this one.
Many people will over-indulge during the festive season. For them, Prince Charles’ Detox Tincture is the perfect present. You might have to search hard for it though; if I am correctly informed he had to take it off the market.
My final recommendation is divine – yes, truly! This divine protection oil is a must-have, particularly if you are not fully vaccinated.
PLEASE STAY HEALTHY OVER THE FESTIVE SEASON AND DON’T OVERDO IT,
WHATEVER YOU ARE UP TO.
We all need cheering up a bit, I’m sure.
Luckily, I found just the thing.
The New York Post reported that a former Versace model, Tom Casey, is crediting his youthful looks to drinking his own urine, and to perineum sunning (exposing your butt hole to sunshine). “I drink my own urine every morning — I call it hair of the dog!” Casey proclaimed, “the feeling is electric.” The ex-model also flushes his urine into his rectum and applies it to his skin as a moisturizer.
“It wasn’t as bad as the mental barrier in my own mind,” the ex-catwalk star reminisced. “I felt a cool buzz. Intuitively, it just felt good. I drank my urine on and off for a while from there.”
Casey began drinking his own urine on a daily basis back in 2008 and hasn’t looked back. He has even completed a “seven-day urine fast,” drinking nothing but his own urine for an entire week. He also bottles his pee, lets it “ferment” and uses it in an enema. “I would cultivate my own urine and ferment it in a sealed Mason jar for two weeks before transferring it into my rectum,” he explained. “Aged urine enemas are so powerful for your health and I got my six-pack abs after doing them. It flushed out my gut and that’s when I got really ripped.”
Casey uses his urine also as a moisturizer, which he believes helps maintain his appearance. “What it did for my mood and muscle building was amazing. I put it on my skin, especially when I’m on the beach, and it’s so electrifying and strengthening,” he cooed. “It’s a big psychological leap for people to use their own urine as a moisturizer but it’s so euphoric and anti-aging. Uric acid is used in high-end skin care products.”
“I’m 55 years old and most people don’t look and feel like I do at my age. No one can deny that I’m ripped, and that’s down to the fact that I love being extremely healthy and practicing natural healing methods.”
Casey claims Big Pharma is terrified of people learning that the secret to their health lies within themselves.
“What so many pharmaceutical companies don’t want to tell you is that we as humans are the secret to health. That’s what I try to teach people in everything I do,” he stated.
“People should be scared if they’re eating s–tty food and doing pharmaceutical drugs. Why should they be scared to try their own urine?”
Personally, I feel that Casey believes the sun might be shining out of his arse. In any case, it is hard to deny that the former Versace model is suffering from proctophasia and/or is taking the piss.
In Germany, the anti-vax movement is frighteningly strong and it constitutes one of the main reasons for the relatively immunization rate. In no small part, this is due to the many anti-vax Heilpraktiker who practice in Germany. In an attempt to put the record straight, the ‘Verband Klassischer Homöopathen Deutschlands’ (VKHD, Association of Classical Homeopaths of Germany) recently published an article entitled ‘Heilpraktiker – Homeopathy – Vaccination’ (Heilpraktiker – Homöopathie – Impfen). Here is a short excerpt (my translation):
… There is a clear conceptual similarity between homeopathy and vaccination . From a historical point of view, this was already reflected in the early days of homeopathy, when its discoverer, Samuel Hahnemann, expressed himself very positively with regard to the smallpox vaccination newly introduced at that time . Thus, it is historically wrong to insinuate that users of homeopathy have a fundamentally negative attitude towards vaccinations . In this context, terms such as “vaccination opponents” or “vaccination refusers” are misleading and defamatory .
A critical (not skeptical) approach to the topic of vaccinations is basically a characteristic of people with medical expertise. Such an attitude corresponds to the critical consideration necessary in daily practice and in each individual case to advise on suitable therapy options . Properly working alternative practitioners give differentiated advice accordingly . A fundamentally vaccine-rejecting attitude is precisely not a characteristic of a critical assessment that has taken place. The same applies to an unreflective recommendation of vaccinations or therapy methods, without taking into account individual factors as well as scientific and social backgrounds .
For the VKHD, we cannot give exact figures on recovered, vaccinated, or unvaccinated members. It is not the responsibility of a professional association to demand such information from its members . We assume that alternative practitioners who provide information on vaccinations do so in accordance with a responsible ethical attitude, regardless of their own vaccination status  …
I have taken the liberty of inserting some references into this text. They relate to my comments, which are as follows:
- A conceptual similarity between vaccination and homeopathy exists only in the minds of homeopaths. They often claim that both use highly diluted remedies. This is wrong because homeopathic remedies do not usually contain active ingredients, whereas vaccines do. This fact also explains why homeopathics do not produce immune reactions, whereas vaccines do.
- Correct! Hahnemann was in favor of vaccination. That is why he would be ashamed today if he knew how many homeopaths oppose vaccination.
- What has this got to do with ‘historical’? I assume that the ‘insinuations’ refer to the situation today. Further, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that all homeopaths are ‘fundamentally’ opposed to vaccination. However, that many of them are anti-vaxers is an indisputable fact.
- I would rather think they are accurate.
- How can they without any medical background?
- Is it to be implied here that real medical people do?
- Maybe not ‘demand’, but inquire or request would be possible and desirable, wouldn’t it?
- It is nice that you believe this. But belief is not evidence.
Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is advocated not merely for spinal or musculoskeletal problems, as many consumers seem to think, osteopaths also claim it to be effective for (almost) every condition. Some osteopaths who believe in the gospel of Andrew Still, the founder of osteopathy, recommend it even to facilitate breastfeeding.
But is it effective?
A double-blind randomised controlled trial to answer this question was conducted between July 2013 and March 2016. Breastfed term infants were eligible if one of the following criteria was met: suboptimal breastfeeding behaviour, maternal cracked nipples or maternal pain. The infants were randomly assigned to the intervention or the control group. The intervention consisted of two sessions of early OMT, while in the control group, the manipulations were performed on a doll behind a screen. The primary outcome was the exclusive breastfeeding rate at 1 month, which was assessed in an intention-to-treat analysis. Randomisation was computer generated and only accessible to the osteopath practitioner. The parents, research assistants and paediatricians were masked to group assignment.
One hundred twenty-eight mother-infant dyads were randomised, with 64 assigned to each group. In each group, five infants were lost to follow-up. In the intervention group, 31 of 59 (53%) of infants were still exclusively breastfed at 1 month vs 39 of 59 (66%) in the control group, (OR 0.55, 95% CI 0.26 to 1.17; p=0.12). After adjustment for suboptimal breastfeeding behaviour, caesarean section, use of supplements and breast shields, the adjusted OR was 0.44 (95% CI 0.17 to 1.11; p=0.08). No adverse effects were reported in either group.
The authors concluded succinctly that OMT did not improve exclusive breastfeeding at 1 month.
The only question that I can think of is this: why did osteopaths ever think that OMT might facilitate breastfeeding?