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

evidence

A review conducted in 2015 reported community pharmacists are willing to adopt a professional role in counselling consumers about the appropriate and safe use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) but faced multiple barriers in doing so. This current review aimed to update and extend these findings, by identifying studies published since 2015 that reported on pharmacists across any setting.

Eligible studies published between January 01, 2016, and December 31, 2021, were identified across 6 databases (PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, EMBASE, ScienceDirect and MEDLINE). A grounded theory approach was used to thematically synthesize the data extracted.

A total of 64studies representing pharmacists across 30 countries were included for review. The study designs varied and included:

  • cross-sectional surveys (n = 36),
  • qualitative studies (n = 14),
  • pseudo-patient studies (n = 3).

Eight studies reported on practice and/or bioethical responsibilities and 19 studies documented factors that would enable pharmacists to fulfill these responsibilities, while 37 studies reported on both.

The authors concluded that these findings indicate research about pharmacists’ responsibilities associated with SCAM is evolving from gap analysis towards research that is proactive in advocating for change in multiple areas. These findings can be used to inform a consensus discussion among pharmacists and key stakeholders regarding a set of professional responsibilities that would serve in the development of: a clearly defined role and associated practice standards, and competency requirements that inform educational learning objectives for inclusion in undergraduate, post-graduate and continuing professional pharmacy education.

I am puzzled why so many researchers in this specific area seem to avoid clearer language plainly stating the essential, simple, and undeniable facts. I am equally puzzled why so few pharmacists speak out.

It is obvious that community pharmacists are firstly healthcare professionals and only secondly shopkeepers. As such, they have important professional and ethical duties. Foremost, they are obliged to inform their customers responsibly – and responsible means telling them about the evidence for or against the SCAM product they are about to purchase. This duty also entails that pharmacists must inform themselves about the best current evidence. In turn, this means they must stop tolerating the current plethora of under- or post-graduate SCAM courses that are not evidence-based.

As we have discussed ad nauseam on this blog, none of this is actually happening (except in very few laudable cases)!

By and large, pharmacists continue to go along with the double standards of a) evidence for conventional drugs and b) fairy tales for SCAM. In the interest of progress, patient safety, and public health, it is time that pharmacists wake up and remind themselves that they are not commercially orientated shopkeepers but ethical healthcare professionals.

In recent weeks, I have been thinking a lot about ‘INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE‘. Skeptics mostly see it as a way of smuggling quackery into conventional healthcare. This is undoubtedly true and important. But it occurred to me that there also is a somewhat different perspective that has so far been neglected. Let me try to explain by recounting a story. It is fictive, of course, but the fiction is based on the observation of many cases during previous decades.

The story is about a doctor – let’s call him George – who, to be frank, is not the most gifted of his colleagues. Already at medical school, he was not as dedicated as his teachers would have hoped. In fact, medicine had not been his first choice at all. Yet he ended up as a general practitioner and eventually became a partner in a practice with 5 GPs.

Over the years, it became clear that George lacked something to be a good doctor. He knew his stuff, alright, got most of the diagnoses correct, and made not too many mistakes. But something was not quite right. One could say that, relative to his colleagues, he lacked kindness, dedication, compassion, and empathy. He often found it unnecessary to respect his patients. Sometimes, he even joked about them and about what he perceived as their stupidity.

If we view medicine as being both a science and an art, one might conclude that George was just about alright with the science but notably deficient in the art of healthcare. Most of his patients were aware that something was amiss; many even avoided him and tried to consult one of his colleagues instead. On more than one occasion, patients had told George that they were disappointed with his attitude. Some had even told him to the face that he lacked kindness. Such conversations made George think. He had to admit to himself that his colleagues were better at building good relationships with their patients. Eventually, George decided that something ought to change.

As it happened, George’s wife had a friend who was a Reiki healer. One day, he asked the healer – let’s call her Liz – whether she would like to try working alongside the GPs in his practice. Liz was delighted and accepted. George did not believe for a minute that Reiki was more than hocus-pocus, but he knew that Liz was kind and had loads of the compassion that he was so obviously lacking.

Hence force George and Liz formed a team: George looked after his patients the best he could and whenever he felt that more empathy and compassion were required, he would send the patient to Liz. This partnership changed everything. The patients were content, George was happy, and Liz was beaming.

As some patients frowned at the idea of Reiki, George soon recruited an aromatherapist as well. After that, a lay homeopath and a reflexologist were employed. George’s GP partners (who made little use of the alternative practitioners) were sure that none of these therapies had any specific effects (incidentally, a belief not shared by the practitioners in question who felt they were doing wonders). But for George, the therapists clearly did supplement his limited interpersonal skills. Patients were delighted and the GP practice began to thrive. As for George, he became an increasingly outspoken and prominent advocate of INTEGRATED MEDICINE. The fact that there was no evidence to support it did hardly matter to him; what counted was that it rendered his own incompetence less visible.

About a year later, George convinced his slightly bewildered partners to rename their practice ‘THE INTEGRATIVE HEALTH CENTRE’.

End of story

In case you did not get my point, let me make it more bluntly: INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE can be a way for some doctors to delegate the art of medicine to quacks. Good doctors don’t need to do this because they are able to show compassion and treat their patients as whole human beings. Less gifted doctors, however, find INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE a practical solution to their own incompetence.

So, is INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE a good compromise then?

No, certainly not!

The last thing we need in healthcare is for doctors to start delegating the art of medicine to others. It would be a serious mistake, nothing less than abandoning the core values of medicine to charlatans.

But what is the solution?

Obviously, it is to make sure all doctors are competent. We need to select medical students adequately, tell them much more about the importance of kindness, compassion, empathy, holism, etc., and teach them how to show and use these qualities. We need to train doctors to be competent in both the science and the art of medicine. This has to begin in medical school and must continue throughout their professional career. We need to make sure that doctors like George understand the message; if they prove to be unable to do so, we should direct them to professions where compassion is not essential.

The worst solution we can possibly envisage is to allow charlatans to cover up the incompetence of people like George and call it INTEGRATED MEDICINE.

 

I just got this email with sad news: Ken Frazier “died peacefully this morning, three weeks after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Judy and I were fortunate to spend time with Ken and Ruth last week and tell Ken personally how much he has meant to us over our entire lives.”

Ken was a part of CFI history quite literally from Day One. In May 1976, writing for Science News, Ken reported on the formation of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). In 1977, Ken joined CSICOP to serve as editor of The Zetetic, which became Skeptical Inquirer in 1978. He held that position ever since, spending the better part of five decades defining and steering the work of the skeptical community in combatting disinformation and pseudoscience. Ken has also published numerous papers and books, e.g.:

Ken’s book Science Under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience was featured by Science News for its “engaging, insightful, and often surprising essays by researchers and journalists” about “what science is and is not, and what happens when the facts get twisted.” And he was working on yet another book; only a few months ago he wrote to me taking me for help with it:

… I am completing [ a book] on science and pseudoscience, titled Shadows of Science.  It was just accepted by Prometheus Books for publication in Fall 2023.  I am now working on a final chapter on “Pseudomedicine,” pseudoscience in medicine.  This is not my area of expertise so I am relying on many medical professionals who have investigated and written about medical pseudoscience, most prominently you.

My chapter is mainly concerned with broad points and principles in identifying and describing pseudoscience in medicine — SCAM.

I merely ask if you mind if I quote from and paraphrase from a number of your writings—all with full credit to you in the text itself in addition to in the bibliography

I have always been particularly impressed with the Introduction to your So-Called Alternative Medicine (SCAM) for Cancer as well as parts of your earlier book SCAM: So-Called Alternative Medicine (which carries my testimonial to you on the back cover!).  This includes your definition of SCAM and your list of popular therapies and perhaps some of your common assumptions about SCAM. I also would love to draw upon some of the information in your boxes in the opening parts of SCAM…

Ken has on many occasions been most helpful and kind to me, and it goes without saying that I was delighted to assist.

He was a giant amongst the US skeptics, and we will all miss him badly.

This study described osteopathic practise activity, scope of practice and the osteopathic patient profile in order to understand the role osteopathy plays within the United Kingdom’s (UK) health system a decade after the authors’ previous survey.

The researchers used a retrospective questionnaire survey design to ask about osteopathic practice and audit patient case notes. All UK-registered osteopaths were invited to participate in the survey. The survey was conducted using a web-based system. Each participating osteopath was asked about themselves, and their practice and asked to randomly select and extract data from up to 8 random new patient health records during 2018. All patient-related data were anonymized.

The survey response rate was 500 osteopaths (9.4% of the profession) who provided information about 395 patients and 2,215 consultations. Most osteopaths were:

  • self-employed (81.1%; 344/424 responses),
  • working alone either exclusively or often (63.9%; 237/371),
  • able to offer 48.6% of patients an appointment within 3 days (184/379).

Patient ages ranged from 1 month to 96 years (mean 44.7 years, Std Dev. 21.5), of these 58.4% (227/389) were female. Infants <1 years old represented 4.8% (18/379) of patients. The majority of patients presented with musculoskeletal complaints (81.0%; 306/378) followed by pediatric conditions (5%). Persistent complaints (present for more than 12 weeks before the appointment) were the most common (67.9%; 256/377) and 41.7% (156/374) of patients had co-existing medical conditions.

The most common treatment approaches used at the first appointment were:

  • soft-tissue techniques (73.9%; 292/395),
  • articulatory techniques (69.4%; 274/395),
  • high-velocity low-amplitude thrust (34.4%; 136/395),
  • cranial techniques (23%).

The mean number of treatments per patient was 7 (mode 4). Osteopaths’ referral to other healthcare practitioners amounted to:

  • GPs 29%
  • Other complementary therapists 21%
  • Other osteopaths 18%

The authors concluded that osteopaths predominantly provide care of musculoskeletal conditions, typically in private practice. To better understand the role of osteopathy in UK health service delivery, the profession needs to do more research with patients in order to understand their needs and their expected outcomes of care, and for this to inform osteopathic practice and education.

What can we conclude from a survey that has a 9% response rate?

Nothing!

If I ignore this fact, do I find anything of interest here?

Not a lot!

Perhaps just three points:

  1. Osteopaths use high-velocity low-amplitude thrusts, the type of manipulation that has most frequently been associated with serious complications, too frequently.
  2. They also employ cranial osteopathy, which is probably the least plausible technique in their repertoire, too often.
  3. They refer patients too frequently to other SCAM practitioners and too rarely to GPs.

To come back to the question asked in the title of this post: What do UK osteopaths do? My answer is

ALMOST NOTHING THAT MIGHT BE USEFUL.

Shiatsu is a Japanese form of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine using deep pressure on the paths of the postulated acupuncture meridians. Clinical observations on this topic are said to be encouraging, especially for the treatment of sleep and conduct disorders, but there is a lack of empirical data.

The objective of this study was to examine the possible therapeutic effects of shiatsu in a clinical population of children treated in child and adolescent psychiatry. It was designed as a qualitative descriptive and non-interventional study, conducted on children treated in day-care hospital units and outpatient clinical settings. Shiatsu was administered, at least during 3 sessions, to children with an autism spectrum disorder or other disorders according to ICD-11 criteria (such as conduct disorders with impulsivity or attention deficit).

The evaluation was performed by two independent researchers (a child psychiatrist and a psychologist who were not the caregivers) based on direct observation of children during the shiatsu sessions, combined with semi-structured non-inductive interviews with their parents, and data collected from focus groups conducted with the children’s caregivers. A phenomenological interpretive analysis (IPA) approach with Nvivo coding software was used to analyze the data.

Based on semi-structured interviews with 13 parents cross-referenced with data from 2 focus groups and direct observations of 7 children during 2 full shiatsu sessions for each observation, the results show that shiatsu has positive effects on

  • internal tension (a relief effect, notably on aggressive behaviors directed against others or self),
  • sleep (including improvement of sleep quality),
  • social interaction,
  • attention,
  • verbalization of affects and traumatic memories of early childhood,
  • perception of bodily limits.

As these children had several other treatments as well, it cannot be proved that the positive effects observed in this study are related specifically to shiatsu practice. Shiatsu may participate and facilitate the effects of other treatments. It is noteworthy that most of the children came willingly to the shiatsu sessions, ask their parents to repeat the shiatsu sessions at home, and indicate to the practitioner, from one session to the next, their elective body points where they wish to receive the application of shiatsu.

The authors concluded that the findings suggest therapeutic benefits of shiatsu, especially on externalize violence with a relief of aggressive behavior directed against others or self (knowing, moreover, that internal tension, sleep disorders and non-verbalization of affects or traumatic memories, all improved by shiatsu, are also all risk factors for externalize violence). These results highlight, therefore, the need to develop a daily practice of shiatsu in child and adolescent psychiatry. Further research is required to clarify the effects of shiatsu and ascertain better its underlying mechanisms based on this exploratory pilot study.

I do appreciate that, with a treatment that has not been submitted to many controlled clinical trials, researchers feel that they have to start from scratch, e.g. simple observations. However, they also must realize that their observations do not lend themselves to firm conclusions about the effects of the treatment. In the present case, the researchers do seem to be aware of this caveat but nevertheless make statements that go way beyond of what is warranted:

  • the results show that shiatsu has positive effects on …
  • Shiatsu may participate and facilitate the effects of other treatments
  • the findings suggest therapeutic benefits of shiatsu, especially on externalize violence
  • These results highlight, therefore, the need to develop a daily practice of shiatsu in child and adolescent psychiatry

I fear that these statements are not merely exaggerated but suspect they are also untrue. Testing them in properly controlled clinical trials would show whether my suspicion is correct. Meanwhile, I would like to remind

  • researchers,
  • reviewers,
  • and journal editors

of their duty to be truthful and not mislead the public.

 

I was fascinated to find a chiropractor who proudly listed ‘the most common conditions chiropractors help kids with‘:

  • Vision problems
  • Skin conditions
  • Bedwetting
  • Sinus problems
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Stomachaches
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Loss of hearing
  • Ear Infections
  • Hip, leg, or foot pain
  • Constipation
  • Poor coordination
  • Breastfeeding difficulties
  • Arm, hand, or shoulder pain
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Colic
  • Scoliosis
The list is so impressive that I felt compelled to read on:

The birth process, even under normal conditions, is frequently the first cause of spinal stress. After the head of the child appears, the physician grabs the baby’s head and twists it around in a figure eight motion, lifting it up to receive the lower shoulder and then down to receive the upper shoulder. This creates significant stress on the spine of the baby.

“Spinal cord and brain stem traumas often occur during the process of birth but frequently escape diagnosis. Infants often experience lasting neurological defects. Spinal trauma at birth is essentially attributed to longitudinal traction, especially when this force is combined with flexion and torsion of the spinal axis during delivery.” ~Abraham Towbin, MD

Growth patterns suggest the potential for neurological disorders is most critical from birth to two years of age, as this time is the most dynamic and important phase of postnatal brain development. Over sixty percent of all neurological development occurs after birth in the child’s first year of life. This is why it is so important to bring your child to a local pediatric chiropractor to have them checked and for your child to get a chiropractic adjustment during the first year of their life. Lee Hadley MD states “Subluxation alone is a rational reason for Pediatric Chiropractic care throughout a lifetime from birth.”

As our children continue to grow, the daily stresses can have a negative impact on an ever growing body. During the first few years of life, an infant often falls while learning to walk or can fall while tumbling off a bed or other piece of furniture. Even the seemingly innocent act of playfully tossing babies up in the air and catching them often results in a whiplash-like trauma to the spine, making it essential to get your baby checked by a pediatric chiropractor every stage of his/her development as minor injuries can present as major health concerns down the road if gone uncorrected.

______________________________

On the Internet, similar texts can be found by the hundreds. I am sure that many new parents are sufficiently impressed by them to take their kids to a chiropractor. I have yet to hear of a single case where the chiropractor then checked out the child and concluded: “there is nothing wrong; your baby does not need any therapy.” Chiropractors always find something – not something truly pathological, but something to mislead the parent and to earn some money.

Often the treatment that follows turns out to be a prolonged and thus expensive series of sessions that almost invariably involve manipulating the infant’s fragile and developing spine. There is no compelling evidence that this approach is effective for anything. In addition, there is evidence that it can do harm, sometimes even serious harm.

And that’s the reason why I have mentioned this topic before and intend to continue doing so in the future:

  • There is hardly a good reason for adults to consult a chiropractor.
  • There is no reason to take a child to a chiropractor.
  • There are good reasons for chiropractors to stop treating children.

But let’s be a bit more specific. Let’s deal with the above list of indications on the basis of the reliable evidence:

I rest my case.

 

One of the numerous conditions chiropractors, osteopaths, and other manual therapists claim to treat effectively is tension-type headache (TTH). For this purpose, they (in particular, chiropractors) often use high-velocity, low-amplitude manipulations of the neck. They do so despite the fact that the evidence for these techniques is less than convincing.

This systematic review evaluated the evidence about the effectiveness of manual therapy (MT) on pain intensity, frequency, and impact of pain in individuals with tension-type headache (TTH).

Medline, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, CENTRAL, and PEDro were searched in June 2020. Randomized clinical trials that applied MT not associated with other interventions for TTH were selected. The level of evidence was synthesized using GRADE, and Standardized Mean Differences (SMD) were calculated for meta-analysis.

Fifteen studies were included with a total sample of 1131 individuals. The analyses show that high-velocity, low-amplitude techniques were not superior to no treatment in reducing pain intensity (SMD = 0.01, low evidence) and frequency (SMD = -0.27, moderate evidence). Soft tissue interventions were superior to no treatment in reducing pain intensity (SMD = -0.86, low evidence) and frequency of pain (SMD = -1.45, low evidence). Dry needling was superior to no treatment in reducing pain intensity (SMD = -5.16, moderate evidence) and frequency (SMD = -2.14, moderate evidence). Soft tissue interventions were not superior to no treatment and other treatments on the impact of headache.

The authors concluded that manual therapy may have positive effects on pain intensity and frequency, but more studies are necessary to strengthen the evidence of the effects of manual therapy on subjects with tension-type headache. Implications for rehabilitation soft tissue interventions and dry needling can be used to improve pain intensity and frequency in patients with tension type headache. High velocity and low amplitude thrust manipulations were not effective for improving pain intensity and frequency in patients with tension type headache. Manual therapy was not effective for improving the impact of headache in patients with tension type headache.

So, this review shows that:

  • soft tissue interventions are better than no treatment,
  • dry needling is better than no treatment.

These two results fail to impress me. Due to a placebo effect, almost any treatment should be better than no therapy at all.

ALMOST, because high-velocity, low-amplitude techniques were not superior to no treatment in reducing the intensity and frequency of pain. This, I feel, is an important finding that needs an explanation.

As it is only logical that high-velocity, low-amplitude techniques must also produce a positive placebo effect, the finding can only mean that these manipulations also generate a negative effect that is strong enough to cancel the positive response to placebo. (In addition, they can also cause severe complications via arterial dissections, as discussed often on this blog.)

Too complicated?

Perhaps; let me, therefore, put it simply and use the blunt words of a neurologist who once was quoted saying this:

DON’T LET THE BUGGARS TOUCH YOUR NECK!

 

The authors of this article searched 37 online sources, as well as print libraries, for homeopathy (HOM) and related terms in eight languages (1980 to March 2021). They included studies that compared a homeopathic medicine or intervention with a control regarding the therapeutic or preventive outcome of a disease (classified according to International Classification of Diseases-10). Subsequently, the data were extracted independently by two reviewers and analyzed descriptively.

A total of 636 investigations met the inclusion criteria, of which 541 had a therapeutic and 95 a preventive purpose. Seventy-three percent were randomized controlled trials (n = 463), whereas the rest were non-randomized studies (n = 173). The most frequently employed comparator was placebo (n = 400).

The type of homeopathic intervention was classified as:

  • multi-constituent or complex (n = 272),
  • classical or individualized (n = 176),
  • routine or clinical (n = 161),
  • isopathic (n = 19),
  • various (n = 8).

The potencies ranged from 1X (dilution of -10,000) to 10 M (10010.000). The included studies explored the effect of HOM in 223 different medical indications. The authors also present the evidence in an online database.

The authors concluded that this bibliography maps the status quo of clinical research in HOM. The data will serve for future targeted reviews, which may focus on the most studied conditions and/or homeopathic medicines, clinical impact, and the risk of bias of the included studies.

There are still skeptics who claim that no evidence exists for homeopathy. This paper proves them wrong. The number of studies may seem sizable to homeopaths, but compared to most other so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs), it is low. And compared to any conventional field of healthcare, it is truly tiny.

There are also those who claim that no rigorous trials of homeopathy with a positive results have ever emerged. This assumption is also erroneous. There are several such studies, but this paper was not aimed at identifying them. Obviously, the more important question is this: what does the totality of the methodologically sound evidence show? It fails to convincingly demonstrate that homeopathy has effects beyond placebo.

The present review was unquestionably a lot of tedious work, but it does not address these latter questions. It was published by known believers in homeopathy and sponsored by the Tiedemann Foundation for Classical Homeopathy, the Homeopathy Foundation of the Association of Homeopathic Doctors (DZVhÄ), both in Germany, and the Foundation of Homeopathy Pierre Schmidt and the Förderverein komplementärmedizinische Forschung, both in Switzerland.

The dataset established by this article will now almost certainly be used for numerous further analyses. I hope that this work will not be left to enthusiasts of homeopathy who have often demonstrated to be blinded by their own biases and are thus no longer taken seriously outside the realm of homeopathy. It would be much more productive, I feel, if independent scientists could tackle this task.

The global interest in dieting has increased, and many people have become obsessed with certain fad diets, assuming they are magic bullets for their problems. A fad diet is a popular dietary pattern known to be a quick fix. This review article explores the current evidence related to the health impacts of (amongst others) detox diets (DDs). DDs are interventional diets specifically designed for toxins elimination, health promotion, and weight management. They involve multiple approaches, including total calorie restriction, dietary modification, or juice fasts, and often the use of additional minerals, vitamins, diuretics, laxatives, or ‘cleansing foods’. Some of the many DDs used today are listed below:

Diet type Duration Foods allowed Proposed claims
Liver cleansing diet 8 weeks Plant-based, dairy-free, low-fat, high-fiber, unprocessed foods are allowed. Epsom salt and liver tonics are also consumed. Improved energy levels and liver function Toxins removal Improved immune response Efficient metabolism of fats and better weight control
Lemon detox diet/Master cleanser 10 days A liquid-only diet based on purified water, lemon juice, tree syrup, and cayenne pepper. A mild laxative herbal tea and sea salt water is also incorporated. Toxins removal Shiny hair, glowing skin, and strong nails Weight loss
The clean cleanse 21 days Breakfast and dinner comprise probiotic capsules, cleanse supplements and cleanse shakes. A solid meal in lunch while avoiding gluten, dairy, corn, soy, pork, beef, refined sugars, some fruits, and vegetables. Toxins removal Improved energy, digestion, sleep, and mental health Reduction in joint pains, headaches, constipation, and bloating
Martha’s vineyard detox diet 21 days Herbal teas, vegetable soups and juices, specially formulated tablets, powders and digestive enzymes are on the menu. Weight loss Toxins removal Improved energy levels
Weekend wonder detox 48 h Protein-rich meals salads, detox-promoting superfoods, and beverages. Healthy lifestyle, spa treatments, and herbal remedies. Toxins removal Improved organ function Strengthen body Enhance beauty
Fat flush 2 weeks Large meals are replaced with dilute cranberries, hot water with lemon, pre-prepared cocktails, supplements, and small meals Toxins removal Reduced stress Weight loss Improved liver function
Blueprint cleanse 3 days Consumption of six pre-prepared vegetable and fruit juices is allowed per day. Toxins removal
The Hubbard purification rundown Several weeks Niacin doses along with sustained consumption of vitamin-A, B, C, D, and E. Daily exercise with balanced meals. Restriction of alcohol and drugs. Sitting in a sauna for ≤ 5 h each day. Toxins removal from fat stores Improved memory and intelligence quotient Better blood pressure and cholesterol levels

Currently, there is no good clinical evidence for the effectiveness of DDs and some evidence to suggest they might do harm. Many of the DD are liquid-based, low-calorie, and nutrient-poor. For example, a part of BluePrint Cleanse, Excavation Cleanse, provides only 19 g protein and 860 kcal/day which is far below the actual requirement. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommends a minimum of 0.83 g/kg body weight of high-quality protein and 1,680 kcal/day for an adult. DDs may also induce stress, raise cortisol levels, and increase appetite, resulting in binge eating and weight gain.

As no convincing positive evidence exists for DDs and detox products, their use needs to be discouraged by health professionals. Moreover, regulatory review and adequate safety monitoring should be considered.

In this paper, a team of US researchers mined opinions on homeopathy for COVID-19 expressed on Twitter. Their investigation was conducted with a dataset of nearly 60K tweets collected during a seven-month period ending in July 2020. The researchers first built text classifiers (linear and neural models) to mine opinions on homeopathy (positive, negative, neutral) from tweets using a dataset of 2400 hand-labeled tweets obtaining an average macro F-score of 81.5% for the positive and negative classes. The researchers applied this model to identify opinions from the full dataset.

The results show that the number of unique positive tweets is twice that of the number of unique negative tweets; but when including retweets, there are 23% more negative tweets overall indicating that negative tweets are getting more retweets and better traction on Twitter. Using a word shift graph analysis on the Twitter bios of authors of positive and negative tweets, the researchers observed that opinions on homeopathy appear to be correlated with political/religious ideologies of the authors (e.g., liberal vs nationalist, atheist vs Hindu).

The authors drew the following conclusions: to our knowledge, this is the first study to analyze public opinions on homeopathy on any social media platform. Our results surface a tricky landscape for public health agencies as they promote evidence-based therapies and preventative measures for COVID-19.

I am not clear on how to interpret this study. What does it show and why is it important? The authors state this:

… our study cannot lead to meaningful conclusions about homeopathy’s overall online landscape. We also enforced the English language constraint while analyzing the tweets which excludes the views and opinions of all the non-English speaking users, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the world’s population. However, our effort is a first step in the direction of examining the support for alternative medicines especially for homeopathy which has not been studied in the past. At least on Twitter, our findings indicate that negative opinions are gaining more traction in the context of COVID-19.

Opinions expressed on Twitter are influenced by an array of entirely different factors many of which are unpredictable or even unknown. Therefore, I am unsure what to make of these findings. Perhaps some of my readers have an idea?

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