MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Monthly Archives: October 2023

The ‘Miami Herald’ reported that a father and his three sons were convicted of selling a toxic bleach solution as a “miracle” cure through a fake online Florida church.

” The sentencing hearing in Miami federal court took an unusual turn when the father, Mark Grenon, told the judge that he was actually the victim. He argued that his 1,152 days in custody amounted to “kidnapping” and the U.S. government should compensate him $5.76 million for being “held unlawfully.” “Yes or no?” Grenon, 66, asked U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga. “That’s a nonsensical question,” Altonaga told Grenon. “I won’t answer that.”

In short order, Altonaga sentenced the father to five years in prison, fined him $5,000 and ordered him to pay $1,948 in restitution to victims of the Bradenton family’s scheme of selling “Mineral Miracle Solution” to thousands of consumers across the country. The judge also sentenced one of his sons, Joseph Grenon, 36, to five years, with no fine, but imposed the same restitution order.

When the four family members were charged in 2020, the father and Joseph Grenon were hiding in Colombia, according to federal authorities. The U.S. government sought their extradition. The Bogota government turned them over on the condition that they would only be charged with a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, which limited their punishment to a maximum of five years. Separate contempt of court charges were dismissed against them before trial.

The father’s other two sons were not as lucky to catch that break. The judge sentenced Jonathan Grenon, 37, and Jordan Grenon, 29, to more than 12 years in prison because they were convicted of the main conspiracy charge and a pair of contempt charges stemming from their violation of court orders to stop selling the dangerous mineral solution to the public. Jonathan was not fined, but his brother Jordan was ordered to pay $2,500. Both were also ordered to pay the same restitution as the other family members.

The Grenons represented themselves at their trial and sentencing hearing, though court-appointed defense attorneys were on standby if required. At Friday’s hearing, the Grenons did not allow those lawyers to speak on their behalf. At trial and during sentencing, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office portrayed the four defendants as con men who used a phony religious front on a website, the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, to sell $1 million worth of their “Miracle Mineral Solution” in video pitches as a cure for 95% of the world’s known diseases, from AIDS to the coronavirus. They called it a “scam for money.” “The defendants preyed on many vulnerable populations,” including children with autism, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Homer said Friday. He told the judge that the Grenon family members have never shown any remorse for their crime.

At the sentencing hearing, the four defendants invoked their faith in God and Jesus repeatedly, saying they did not “consent” to the judicial proceedings and should be released after spending about three years in custody in both the United States and Colombia.

In public warnings, the FDA said it received several reports of hospitalizations and life-threatening conditions as people drank the dangerous substance. MMS is a chemical solution containing sodium chlorite that, when mixed with water and a citric acid “activator,” turns into chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleach typically used for industrial water treatment or bleaching textiles, pulp and paper.

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We have discussed MMS, bleach, the fraudsters who sell this stuff, the organizations behind them, and their victims repeatedly. e.g.:

I feel that the world is a safer place, now that these charlatans are finally behind bars.

 

Yes, that would be nice!

You want to lose weight?

Just take a few pills an Bob’s your uncle!

There is, of course no shortage of such pills – but do they work?

This study aimed at quantifying and ranking the effects of different nutraceuticals on weight loss. PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science to November 2022 were searched and all randomized trials (RCTs) evaluating the comparative effects of two or more nutraceuticals, or comparing a nutraceutical against a placebo for weight loss in adults with overweight or obesity were included. A random-effects network meta-analysis was conducted with a Frequentist framework to estimate mean difference [MD] and 95% confidence interval [CI] of the effect of nutraceuticals on weight loss.

One hundred and eleven RCTs with 6171 participants that investigated the effects of 18 nutraceuticals on body weight were eligible. In the main analysis incorporating all trials, there was high certainty of evidence for supplementation of spirulina (MD: -1.77 kg, 95% CI: -2.77, -0.78) and moderate certainty of evidence that supplementation of curcumin (MD: -0.82 kg, 95% CI: -1.33, -0.30), psyllium (MD: -3.70 kg, 95% CI: -5.18, -2.22), chitosan (MD: -1.70 kg, 95% CI: -2.62, -0.78), and Nigella sativa (MD: -2.09 kg, 95%CI: -2.92, -1.26) could result in a small improvement in body weight. Supplementations with green tea (MD: -1.25 kg, 95%CI: -1.68, -0.82) and glucomannan (MD: -1.36 kg, 95%CI: -2.17, -0.54) demonstrated small weight loss, also the certainty of evidence was rated low.

The authors concluded that supplementations with nutraceuticals can result in a small weight loss in adults with overweight or obesity.

The authors tell us little about the methodological quality of the studies. All they did report was this:

Among trials with a low risk of bias, only chitosan (mean difference: −1.72 kg, 95%CI: −3.37, −0.06) and green tea (mean difference: −1.61 kg, 95%CI: −3.14, −0.09) were effective for weight loss compared with placebo. There was no significant weight loss following increased consumption of other nutraceuticals in trials with a low risk of bias.

In view of the lack of reliability of the primary studies, I feel that the conclusions drawn by the authors are not justified. Even though far from recent, I much prefer our own conclusion of a similar data set:

The evidence for most dietary supplements as aids in reducing body weight is not convincing. None of the reviewed dietary supplements can be recommended for over-the-counter use.

In other words, if you want to lose weight, don’t rely on dietary supplements!

The history of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is rich with ‘discoveries’ that are widely believed to be true events but that, in fact, never happened. Here are 10 examples:

  1. DD Palmer is believed to have cured the deafness of a janitor by manipulating his neck. This, many claim, was the birth of chiropractic. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because the nerve responsible for hearing does not run through the neck.
  2. Samuel Hahnemann swallowed some Cinchona officinalis, a quinine-containing treatment for malaria, and experienced the symptoms of malaria. This was the discovery of the ‘like cures like’ assumption that forms the basis of homeopathy. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because Hahnemann merely had an intolerance to quinine, and like does certainly not cure like.
  3. Edward Bach, for the discovery of each of his flower remedies, suffered from the state of mind for which a particular remedy was required; according to his companion, Nora Weeks, he suffered it “to such an intensified degree that those with him marvelled that it was possible for a human being to suffer so and retain his sanity.” This is how Bach discovered the ‘Bach Flower Remedies‘. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? His experience was not caused by by the remedy, which contain no active ingredients, but by his imagination.
  4. William Fitzgerald found that pressure on specific areas on the soles of a patient’s feet would positively affect a specific organ of that patient. This was the birth of reflexology. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because there are no nerve connections from the sole of our feet to our inner organs.
  5. Max Gerson observed that his special diet with added liver juice, vitamin B3, coffee enemas, etc. cures cancer. This is how Gerson found the Gerson therapy. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because he never could demonstrate this effect and others never were able to replicate his alleged finfings.
  6. George Goodheart was convinced that the strength of a muscle group provides information about the health of inner organs. This formed the basis for applied kinesiology. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because applied kinesiology has been disclosed as a simple party trick.
  7. Paul Nogier thought that the function of inner organs can be influenced by stimulating points on the outer ear. This was the discovery that became auricular therapy. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because Nogier’s assumptions fly in the face of anatomy and physiology.
  8. Antom Mesmer discovered that by moving a magnet over a patient, he would move her vital fluid and affect her health. This discovery became the basis for Mesmer’s ‘animal magnetism‘. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because there is no vital fluid and neither real nor animal magnetism have specific therapeutic effects.
  9. Reinhold Voll observed that the electric resistance over acupuncture points provides diagnostic information about the function of the corresponding organs. He thus invented his ‘electroacupuncture according to Voll‘ (EAV). BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because EAV and the various methods derived from it are not valid and fail to produce reproducible results.
  10. Ignatz von Peczely discovered that discolorations on the iris provide valuable information about the health of inner organs. This was the birth of iridology. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because discolorations develop spontaneously and Peczely’s assumptions about nerval connections between the iris and the organs of the body are pure fantasy.

I hope that you can think of further SCAM discoveries that never happened. If so, please elaborate in the comments section below; you will see, it is good fun!

PS

By sating ‘IT NEVER HAPPENED’, I mean to say that it never happened as reported/imagined by the inventor of the respective SCAM and that the explanations perpetuated by the enthusiasts of the SCAM regarding cause and effect are based on misunderstandings.

We have repeatedly discussed the fact that so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is related to magical health and pseudoscientific assumptions. Now new evidence has emerged on this subject. This study (Alternative Medicine, COVID-19 Conspiracies, and Other Health-Related Unfounded Beliefs: The Role of Scientific Literacy, Analytical Thinking, and Importance of Epistemic Rationality | Studia Psychologica (savba.sk)) examined how scientific literacy (scientific reasoning, scientific knowledge, and trust in science), analytical thinking and the importance of epistemic rationality relate to the belief in the efficacy of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and other health-related unfounded beliefs (COVID-19 conspiracies, pseudoscientific and magical beliefs, and cancer myths).

A representative sample of 1038 Slovaks (age = 42.08, SD = 13.99) participated in the study. While SCAM belief correlated with COVID-19 conspiracy theories, pseudoscientific beliefs, magical health-related beliefs, and cancer myths, it appeared that belief in SCAM was primarily driven by lower trust in science, lower analytical thinking, and, interestingly, a higher need to be epistemically rational. Other components of scientific literacy did not significantly predict SCAM belief but they did predict other health-related unfounded beliefs, which may suggest that a more fine-tuned approach to studying SCAM beliefs is needed.

The authors commented that SCAM is moderately related to magical health beliefs and pseudoscientific beliefs and only weakly related to COVID-19 conspiracy theories. However, the weak association between SCAM and conspiracy beliefs is in line with previous findings (Mijatović et al., 2022; Vujić et al., 2022). Similar to previous studies (Fasce & Picó, 2019; Lobato et al., 2014), we found that different unfounded beliefs tend to correlate with each other. However, it appears that COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs are distinct from magical and pseudoscientific beliefs (as evidenced by weaker correlations), whereas SCAM beliefs overlap more with magical health and pseudoscientific beliefs. SCAM beliefs correlated positively with all types of unfounded beliefs, from low to moderate levels (r values between -.16 and -.50) but did not have the same predictors. Contrary to previous findings about the stronger predictive power of scientific reasoning compared to analytical thinking in unfounded beliefs (Čavojová et al., 2020; 2022), our results point to more balanced strengths, except for belief in SCAM, which was not predicted by scientific reasoning. One of the possible explanations lies in the very low reliability of the Scientific Reasoning Scale in this study. On the other hand, other studies using the same scale showed only slightly higher reliability (e.g., Bašnáková et al., 2021, Čavojová et al., 2020; 2023; Čavojová & Ersoy, 2020) and it predicted both COVID-19 conspiracy theories, as well as pseudoscientific/magical component, similarly to the results of previous studies.

This study evaluated the effect of ear acupressure (auriculotherapy) on the weight-gaining pattern of overweight women during pregnancy. It was a single-blinded randomized clinical trial conducted between January and September 2022 and took place in health centers of Qom University of Medical Sciences in Iran.

One-hundred thirty overweight pregnant women were selected by a purposeful sampling method and then divided into two groups by block randomization method. In the intervention group, two seeds were placed in the left ear on the metabolism and stomach points, while two seeds were placed in the right ear on the mouth and appetite points. Participants in the intervention group were instructed to press the seeds six times a day, 20 minutes before a meal for five weeks. For the placebo group, the Vaccaria seedless label was placed at the same points as the intervention group.

A digital scale with an accuracy of 0.1 kg was used to weigh the pregnant women during each visit. Descriptive statistics, independent T-test, chi-square, and repeated measure ANOVA (analysis of variance) test were used to check the research objectives.

There was a statistically significant difference between the auriculotherapy and placebo groups immediately after completing the study (1120.68 ± 425.83 vs. 2704.09 ± 344.96 (g);  = 0.018), respectively. Also, there was a substantial difference in the weight gain of women two weeks (793.10 ± 278.38 vs. 1090.32 ± 330.31 (g);  < 0.001) and four weeks after the intervention (729.31 ± 241.52 vs. 964.51 ± 348.35 (g);  < 0.001) between the auriculotherapy and placebo groups.

The authors concluded that the results of the present study indicated the effectiveness of auriculotherapy in controlling the weight gain of overweight pregnant women. This treatment could be used as a safe method, with easy access, and low cost in low-risk pregnancies. 

In order to understand these findings, it is worth reading the methods section of the paper. It explains what actually happened with the two groups:

After providing explanations to familiarize the participants with the working method and answering their questions, the participants were requested to be comfortable. The first author who has an auriculotherapy certificate did the intervention. The intervention began by disinfecting both ears with a 70% alcohol solution. After determining the location of metabolism and stomach points in the left ear and mouth and appetite points in the right ear related to weight and appetite control, the researcher placed the seeds on the desired points… The intervention lasted for a total of 5 weeks. The seeds were changed twice a week (once every three days) by the researcher. The participants in the intervention group were taught to press the seeds 6 times a day for one minute each time. The pressure method was to use moderate stimulation with continuous pressure. In the first session, the researcher fully taught the participants the amount of pressure and the duration of it in a practical way and asked them to do this once in her presence to ensure that it was correct. Participants were recommended to do this preferably 20 minutes before eating. The researcher reminded the participants in the intervention group of their daily interventions by phone or text message. Each night, they were asked to check if they had followed the instructions and completed the daily registration checklist. In each seed replacement session, which was performed every three days, the checklist of the previous session was viewed and checked, and a checklist was received every week at the same time as the participants were weighed. Subjects were also emphasized in case of any symptoms of allergies or infections and pain as soon as possible through the contact number provided to them to discuss the issue with the researcher to remove the seeds.

In the placebo group, instead of real seeds, a label without Vaccaria seed (waterproof fabric adhesive) was placed by the researcher at the desired points in both ears, and the participants did not receive training to compress the points. They also did not receive the list of daily pressing points. All follow-ups and replacement of labels were performed in the same way as the intervention group in the placebo group. Finally, all participants were requested to notify the researcher if any seeds or labels were removed for any reason. It should be noted that pregnant mothers were unaware of the nature of the group to which they belonged.

It seems clear, therefore, that the patients were NOT blinded and that the verum patients received different care and more attention/encouragement than the placebo group. This means firstly that the trial was NOT single-blind, as the authors claim. Secondly, it means that the outcomes were most likely NOT due to ear acupressure at all – they were caused by the non-specific effects of expectation, extra attention, etc. which, in turn, motivated the women to better control their weight. Consequently, the conclusions of this study should be re-phrased:

The results of the present study fail to indicate the effectiveness of auriculotherapy in controlling the weight gain of overweight pregnant women.

In addition, I feel that the researchers, supervisors, peer-reviewers, editors should all bow their heads in shame for trying to mislead us.

Anja Zeidler (born 1993) became known in 2012 as the most successful fitness personality in Switzerland. After joining the bodybuilding scene in Los Angeles, a phase of self-discovery followed. Anja published her development and became what one nowadays calls an ‘INFLUENCER’. As Managing Director and Content Director of her own company, Anja Zeidler GmbH, Anja has made a name for herself as a public figure far beyond the fitness market with her activities as a ‘Selflove Influencer’, blogger, book author, motivational speaker, presenter and expert in the food & health sector. Furthermore, she is completing a degree at the Academy of Naturopathy for Holistic Health.

About a year and a half ago, Anja Zeidler had a desmoid tumor removed from under her left breast – and now it was reported to be back. The conventional treatment methods are clear: another surgical procedure or radiation. But Zeidler said she wants to wait with such interventions. For the time being, she has decided to go her own way. She wants to “balance any imbalances” with her naturopathic doctor and wishes to fight the disease on her own and with a “positive mindset.”

“On a spiritual level, they say that tumors can be related to trauma. That’s why I’ve tried breathing exercises and cocoa ceremonies. With these methods, I get into my subconscious and get closer to traumas, which I am not aware of, and try to dissolve them. So far, blatant things have come up that I had long forgotten and repressed,” she says enthusiastically. In addition, Zeidler wants to give up refined sugar with immediate effect, keep better control of her diet in general – even in her stressful everyday life – and drink freshly squeezed celery and beetroot juice every morning. In addition, she relies on “natural capsules with and grape seed OPC.” “I’ve read in studies that certain types of fungi and strong antioxidants like OPC are supposed to fight tumor cells.” There I follow the motto: ‘if it doesn’t help, at least it does not harm.'”

Zeidler’s tumor is a desmoid tumor, an abnormal growth that arises from connective tissues. These tumors are generally not considered malignant because they do not spread to other parts of the body; however, they can aggressively invade the surrounding tissue and can be very difficult to remove surgically. These tumors often recur, even after apparently complete removal.

Zeidler commented: “I am convinced that with a positive mindset you can contribute extremely much to the healing process. If the checks reveal rapid growth, I will of course seek medical treatment. Then I would opt for radiation.”

The trouble with ‘influencers’ is that they are gullible and influence the often gullible public to become more gullible. Thus their influence might cost many lives. Personally, I hope that the young woman does well with her erstwhile refusal of evidence-based treatments. Yet, I fear that the ‘Academy of Naturopathy for Holistic Health’ will teach her a lot of BS about the power of natural cancer cures. The sooner she agrees to have her tumor treated based on evidence, the better her prognosis, I’m sure.

Scientists Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, from Hungary and the United States respectively, have received the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries enabling the development of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

“The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19,” the body said. “The laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times.”

Dr Karikó was senior vice-president and head of RNA protein replacement at BioNTech until 2022, and has since acted as an adviser to the company. She is also a professor at the University of Szeged in Hungary, and adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Dr Weissman is professor in vaccine research at the Perelman School.

Dr Karikó invented a way to prevent the immune system from launching an inflammatory reaction against lab-made mRNA, previously seen as a major hurdle against any therapeutic use of mRNA. Together with Dr Weissman, she showed in 2005 that adjustments to nucleosides  can keep the mRNA under the immune system’s radar.

The Journal ‘Nature’ reported the following:

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to biochemist Katalin Karikó and immunologist Drew Weissman for discoveries that enabled the development of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. The vaccines have been administered more than 13 billion times, saved millions of lives and prevented severe COVID-19 in millions of people, said the Nobel committee…

Karikó is the 13th female scientist to win a Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology. She was born in Hungary and later moved to the United States in the 1980s. “Hopefully, this prize will inspire women and immigrants and all of the young ones to persevere and be resilient. That’s what I hope,” she says.

The COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna and the Pfizer–BioNTech collaboration deliver mRNA that instructs cells to create SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein, which, in turn, stimulates the body to make antibodies.

“The ideas that she and Drew Weismann developed were critical for the success of RNA vaccines,” said John Tregoning, a vaccine immunologist at Imperial College London, in a press statement for the UK Science Media Centre. “They demonstrated that changing the type of the RNA nucleotides within the vaccine altered the way in which cells see it. This increased the amount of vaccine protein made following the injection of the RNA, effectively increasing the efficiency of the vaccination: more response for less RNA.”

“This discovery has opened a new chapter for medicine,” said Nobel committee member Qiang Pan-Hammarström, an immunologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, at a press conference following the prize announcement. “Investment in long-term basic research is very important.”

“It’s really like a revolution starting since the COVID pandemic,” says Rein Verbeke, an mRNA vaccine researcher at the University of Ghent in Belgium. He adds that Karikó and Weissman’s contributions were essential to the vaccines’ success during the pandemic, and beyond. “Their part was really crucial to the development of this platform.” …

The development of mRNA vaccines and therapeutics is in its infancy, says Robin Shattock, who studies vaccines, infections and immunity at Imperial College London. Scientists and biotechnology companies are busy coming up with new applications for mRNA technology, from cancer treatments to next-generation COVID-19 vaccines. Many teams are also working on improved ways of delivering mRNA. “What we see used today is not what it’s going to be used in the future,” says Shattock. “We’re at the beginning of an RNA revolution. The technology is really taking off.”

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On this blog, we had an abundance of discussions about mRNA vaccines. I wonder whether the anti-vaxx brigade will now consider their position. More likely, however, they will merely claim that the Nobel committe is just another element in the big conspiracy that is about to kill us all.

This sudy made me speachless. I best show the abstract in its full and unadulterated beauty:

Background

Studies have shown homoeopathy to effectively control blood sugar levels and improve quality of life (QOL), though a standard treatment protocol is required.

Objective

This study intended to assess the homoeopathic practice, prescription habits, experience, and perception of Indian Homeopathic Practitioners (HPs) in treating DM.

Methodology

A web-based cross-sectional with a snowball sampling method was conducted between 30th July 2021 and 18th August 2021. A questionnaire to record clinical attributes of Indian HPs in the management of DM was formed after the consensus of the subject experts and pilot testing for feasibility.

Results

Participants were 513 HPs with mean age [Standard Deviation (SD)] of 40.44 years (11.16) and a mean duration of the homoeopathic medical practice of 14.67 years [95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 13.71–15.63]. The majority of HPs made classical homoeopathic prescription (201, 39.2%) though the success in the management of DM was better among HPs who prescribed more than one potentized medicine [vs classical prescription, Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.34, p = 0.032]. As perceived by the HPs, homoeopathic treatment resulted in a major improvement in QOL of the diabetic patients (418, 81.5%) with very few adverse effect (100, 19.5%). The blood sugar level was controlled better when homoeopathy was given alongside conventional medicine (348, 67.8%).

Conclusion

The clinical experience of HPs in this study has shown that homoeopathic treatment can benefit DM patients in preventing complications and improving QOL. It further reported that homoeopathy can be an important adjuvant to conventional treatment in managing DM.

Let’s be clear: there is no reliable evidence that DM – a life-threatening disease –  can be effectively treated with homeopathy. And let’s be blunt: HPs who claim otherwise are in my view criminal.

I should mention that some of the patients had type 1 diabetes. Many HPs felt that “there was a lack of awareness about the effectiveness of homoeopathy in DM among the general population”. The data show that in 7% the HPs discontinued conventional ant-diabetic drugs completely, and in 73% they reduced them.

It seems that the general population is well advised to ignore homeopathy and its alleged effectiveness for DM. I would even go one step further and postulate that:

if patients rely on homeopathy to treat their diabetes, they risk their lives!

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