The concept of ultra-processed food (UPF) was initially developed and the term coined by the Brazilian nutrition researcher Carlos Monteiro, with his team at the Center for Epidemiological Research in Nutrition and Health (NUPENS) at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. They argue that “the issue is not food, nor nutrients, so much as processing,” and “from the point of view of human health, at present, the most salient division of food and drinks is in terms of their type, degree, and purpose of processing.”
Examples of UPF include:
- Carbonated soft drinks,
- Sweet, fatty or salty packaged snacks,
- Candies (confectionery),
- Mass-produced packaged breads and buns,
- Cookies (biscuits),
- Cakes and cake mixes,
- Margarine and other spreads,
- Sweetened breakfast cereals,
- Sweetened fruit yoghurt and energy drinks,
- Powdered and packaged instant soups, noodles, and desserts,
- Pre-prepared meat, cheese, pasta and pizza dishes,
- Poultry and fish nuggets and sticks,
- Sausages, burgers, hot dogs, and other reconstituted meat products,
Ultra-processed food is bad for our health! This message is clear and has been voiced so many times – not least by proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) – that most people should now understand it.
But how bad?
And what diseases does UPF promote?
How strong is the evidence?
I did a quick Medline search and was overwhelmed by the amount of research on this subject. In 2022 alone, there were more than 2000 publications! Here are the conclusions from just a few recent studies on the subject:
- Higher intake of UPFs was associated with higher incidence of Crohn’s disease, but not ulcerative colitis. In individuals with a pre-existing diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease, consumption of UPFs was significantly higher compared to controls, and was associated with an increased need for IBD-related surgery. Further studies are needed to address the impact of UPF intake on disease pathogenesis, and outcomes.
- In this prospective cohort study, higher consumption of UPF was associated with higher risk of dementia, while substituting unpr2ocessed or minimally processed foods for UPF was associated lower risk of dementia.
- In almost all countries and age groups, increases in the dietary share of ultraprocessed foods were associated with increases in energy density and free sugars and decreases in fiber, suggesting that ultraprocessed food consumption is a potential determinant of obesity in children and adolescents.
- Higher ultraprocessed foods consumption was independently associated with a higher risk of incident chronic kidney disease in a general population.
- These data suggest that a consistent intake of ultra-processed foods over time is needed to impact nutritional status and body composition of children and adolescents.
- This meta-analysis suggests that high consumption of UPF, sugar-sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, processed meat, and processed red meat might increase all-cause mortality, while breakfast cereals might decrease it.
- The consumption of ultraprocessed foods represents a significant cause of premature death in Brazil.
- Available evidence suggests that UPFs may increase cancer risk via their obesogenic properties as well as through exposure to potentially carcinogenic compounds such as certain food additives and neoformed processing contaminants.
- The high consumption of UPF, almost more than 10% of the diet proportion, could increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adult individuals.
Don’t get me wrong: this is not a systematic review of the subject. I am merely trying to give a rough impression of the research that is emerging. A few thoughts seem nonetheless appropriate.
- The research on this subject is intense.
- Even though most studies disclose associations and not causal links, there is in my view no question that UPF aggravates many diseases.
- The findings of the current research are highly consistent and point to harm done to most organs.
- Even though this is a subject on which advocates of SCAM are exceedingly keen, none of the research I saw was conducted by SCAM researchers.
- The view of many SCAM proponents that conventional medicine does not care about nutrition is clearly not correct.
- Considering how unhealthy UPF is, there seems to be a lack of effective education and action aimed at preventing the harm UPF does to us.
The UK medical doctor, Sarah Myhill, has a website where she tells us:
Everyone should follow the general approach to maintaining and restoring good health, which involves eating a paleo ketogenic diet, taking a basic package of nutritional supplements, ensuring a good night’s sleep on a regular basis and getting the right balance between work, exercise and rest. Because we live in an increasingly polluted world, we should probably all be doing some sort of detox regime.
She also happens to sell dietary supplements of all kinds which must surely be handy for all who want to follow her advice. Dr. Myhill boosted her income even further by putting false claims about Covid-19 treatments online. And that got her banned from practicing for nine months after a medical tribunal.
She posted videos and articles advocating taking vitamins and other substances in high doses, without evidence they worked. The General Medical Council (GMC) found her recommendations “undermined public health” and found some of her recommendations had the potential to cause “serious harm” and “potentially fatal toxicity”. The tribunal was told she uploaded a series of videos and articles between March and May 2020, describing substances as “safe nutritional interventions” which she said meant vaccinations were “rendered irrelevant”. But the substances she promoted were not universally safe and have potentially serious health risks associated with them, the panel was told. The tribunal found Dr. Myhill “does not practice evidence-based medicine and may encourage false reassurance in her patients who may believe that they will not catch Covid-19 or other infections if they follow her advice”.
Dr. Myhill previously had a year-long ban lifted after a General Medical Council investigation into her claims of being a “pioneer” in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, the hearing was told there had been 30 previous GMC investigations into Dr. Myhill, but none had resulted in findings of misconduct.
Dr. Myhill is also a vocal critic of the PACE trial and biopsychosocial model of ME/CFS. Dr. Myhill’s GMC complaint regarding a number of PACE trial authors was first rejected without investigation by the GMC, after Dr. Myhill appealed the GMC stated they would reconsider. Dr. Myhill’s action against the GMC for failing to provide reasoning for not investigating the PACE trial authors is still continuing and began a number of months before the most recent GMC instigation of her practice started.
The recent tribunal concluded: “Given the circumstances of this case, it is necessary to protect members of the public and in the public interest to make an order suspending Dr. Myhill’s registration with immediate effect, to uphold and maintain professional standards and maintain public confidence in the profession.”
I remember being a student in Munich – that was about half a century ago! – protesting against some new regulations that my University (LMU) was trying to implement. We were in the street and some placards read: “TRAUE NIEMAND UEBER 30!” (DON’T TRUST ANYONE BEYOND THE AGE OF 30!).
And now I am 75!
Do I still trust myself?
Not with everything, of course.
For instance, I would not trust myself to ski down neck-breaking slopes; nor would I trust myself to pass the medical exams again; nor to drum 3 times per week in jazz clubs.
But, generally speaking, I do manage not that badly. In particular, I think I am capable of providing (hopefully constructive) criticism and reliable information on so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), the subject that became my hobby horse in the late 1970s and subsequently my job in the early 1990s.
At my age, people often ask me about regrets.
Do I have regrets?
I used to answer this question with a straight NO.
Lately, I am realizing that this is not entirely true.
I have quite a few regrets – mostly, they are relatively trivial. But some go deeper.
Those who know my CV well often wonder “Do you not regret having left your position in Vienna?” It’s a legitimate question: in Vienna, I had a position for life, a large and well-funded department of high reputation. In Exeter, I initially had as good as nothing followed by 20 years of fighting for ever more scarce funding.
Despite all this, the positives of the last 30 years more than outweighed the negatives, in my view: I was soon able to build up a productive team of researchers; together we managed to publish some exciting and important research; and eventually, we even managed to get a reputation – depending on who you ask, a good or a bad one.
But more important for me was just being in England. I loved it! No, not the food, not the weather, but the British openness, tolerance, understatement, politeness, integrity, gentleness, and decency. Sadly, since the Brexit vote, much of this has started to slowly disappear.
Would I do it all again?
I am an incorrigible optimist convinced that the UK is presently going through a bit of a rough patch that soon will end. It’s just that, at the age of 75, I feel they better hurry up.
The birthday cake just came from Natalie Grams – thanks Natalie
About 3 years ago, I reported that the Bavarian government had decided to fund research into the question of whether the use of homeopathy would reduce the use of antibiotics (an idea that also King Charles fancies). With the help of some friends, I found further details of the project. Here are some of them:
The study on individualized homeopathic treatment to reduce the need for antibiotics in patients with recurrent urinary tract infections is a randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter, double-blind trial. Frequent urinary tract infections (more than two infections within six months or more than three infections within twelve months) occur in up to three percent of all women during their lifetime and represent a high risk for increased antibiotic use in this population.
The current guidelines therefore also provide for therapeutic approaches without antibiotic administration under close monitoring. The approach to be investigated in the study is the administration of a homeopathic medicine individually selected for the patient for prophylaxis. The number of urinary tract infections and the need for antibiotics will be recorded and evaluated at the end of the trial period, around mid to late 2023.
The aim of the study is to find out whether patients taking homeopathics need antibiotics for the treatment of urinary tract infections less often compared to the placebo group. This could lead to a reduction in the use of antibiotics for recurrent urinary tract infections.
Project participants: Technical University of Munich, Klinikum Rechts der Isar
Project funding: 709,480.75 Euros
Project duration: January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2023
This sketch is of course not enough for providing a full evaluation of the study concept (if someone has more details, I’d be interested to learn more). From the little information given above, I feel that:
- the design of the trial might be quite rigorous,
- a fairly large sample will be required to have enough power,
- the closing date of 31/12/2023 seems optimistic (but this obviously depends on the number of centers cooperating),
- I, therefore, predict that we will have to wait a long time for the results (the pandemic and other obstacles will have delayed recruitment),
- the costs of the trial are already substantial and might increase due to delays etc.
My main criticism of the study is that:
- I see no rationale for doing such a trial,
- there is no evidence to suggest that homeopathy might prevent recurrent urinary tract infections,
- there is compelling evidence that homeopathic remedies are placebos,
- the study thus compares one placebo with another placebo (in fact, it is a classic example of what my late friend Harriet Hall would have called TOOTH FAIRY SCIENCE),
- therefore, its results will show no difference between the 2 groups (provided the trial was conducted without bias),
- if that is true, enthusiastic homeopaths will claim that the homeopathic verum was inadequate (e.g. because the homeopaths prescribing the verum did not or could not do their job properly),
- when that happens, they will therefore not stop claiming that homeopathy can reduce the over-prescribing of antibiotics;
- that means we will be exactly where we were before the trial.
In other words, the study will turn out to be a waste of 709,480.75 Euros. To express it as I did in my previous post: the Bavarian government has gone barmy!
We have discussed the UK conservative MP and arch-Brexiteer, Andrew Bridgen, and his anti-vax stance before. Yesterday, it has been reported that he lost the Tory whip, i.e. he was expelled from the Tory party. The reason for this step is that he had taken to social media and claimed the Covid vaccine to be the “biggest crime against humanity since the holocaust”.
The North West Leicestershire MP has been vocal in remarks questioning the coronavirus vaccine.
On Wednesday he shared an article on vaccines on Twitter, adding: “As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.”
Renouncing Bridgen’s right to sit as a Tory MP in Parliament, Conservative chief whip Simon Hart said: “Andrew Bridgen has crossed a line, causing great offence in the process. “As a nation, we should be very proud of what has been achieved through the vaccine programme. The vaccine is the best defence against Covid that we have. “Misinformation about the vaccine causes harm and costs lives. I am therefore removing the whip from Andrew Bridgen with immediate effect, pending a formal investigation.”
Earlier, former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke had condemned his colleague’s tweet referencing the Holocaust, calling it “disgraceful”.
Bridgen is currently already suspended from the Commons after he was found to have displayed a “very cavalier” attitude to the rules in a series of lobbying breaches. MPs agreed on Monday to suspend the North West Leicestershire MP for five sitting days from Tuesday.
Comments from different sources are not flattering for Bridgen:
- Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said Bridgen’s tweet was “highly irresponsible, wholly inappropriate and an elected politician should know better”.
- Anneliese Dodds, the Labour chair, said: “Andrew Bridgen has been spreading dangerous misinformation on Covid vaccines for some time now. He could have been disciplined weeks ago. “To invoke the Holocaust, as he did today, is utterly shameful, but it should never have reached this point.”
- Andrew Percy, the Conservative MP who is vice-chair of the all-party group against antisemitism, called the comment “disgusting”. Asked by Times Radio if Bridgen should be allowed to stand again, Percy said: “I don’t think anybody who believes this kind of crap should, but that’s a matter for the whips not for me.”
- John Mann, the former Labour MP who is now a non-affiliated peer and the government’s independent adviser on antisemitism, said Bridgen should not be allowed to stand again as a Tory. “There is no possibility that Bridgen can be allowed to stand at the next election,” he said. “He cannot claim that he didn’t realise the level of offence that his remarks cause.”
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a UK politician has been punished in this way. But it may well be also the first time that a sitting UK politician has uttered such insane stupidity. Bridgen’s chronic ineptitude is all the more significant as he really should know better. He studied genetics and behaviour at the University of Nottingham and graduated with a degree in biological sciences!
Here are some reactions from people commenting on Twitter about the twit:
- Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen highlights… – Lies in court over family dispute and ordered by judge to pay £800k – Suspended for breaching MP lobbying rules – Thought all Brits entitled to Irish passport after Brexit – Likens vaccines to holocaust What a guy.
- Spreads a dangerous, baseless smear his party colluded in a vaccine Holocaust and at the same time manages to insults victims of a grotesque wartime Holocaust. Conspiracy theorist Andrew Bridgen’s lost the plot. See no way back for the Tory MP now.
- Grubby and despicable: Tory MP Andrew Bridgen loses whip over ‘dangerous’ Covid vaccine claims
- To be fair, Bridgen kept the whip after saying the MI5 knew about the pandemic six months early, then colluded with shadowy elites to impose needless restrictions for their own nefarious ends. So the bar is high.
- Politicians like Andrew Bridgen have succeeded in bringing conspiracy theories into the mainstream. They need to be called out, their arguments dismantled and their political influence cast out to the fringes where it belongs.
- A Holocaust survivor has condemned a Tory MP’s “mind-boggling ignorance” after he compared the mass genocide of Jewish people during World War II to the COVID vaccine rollout
- Many congratulations to Andrew Bridgen on his imminent selection as the Reform Party candidate for North West Leicestershire in the 2024 election
- Andrew Bridgen. Perjury, bullying, misuse of money, months of anti-vaccine garbage, finally loses whip after comparing vaccination to the Holocaust. Scum.
- Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. COVID vaccines have saved millions. The false and outrageous comparisons must end.
- Andrew Bridgen suspended as Tory MP he said: “As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.” Crucially a cardiologist saying this too. Who are they? Should GMC act in same way as Whips Office?
The prime candidate for the cardiologist in question must, of course, be Aseem Malhotra who also appeared on September 27, 2022, in a press conference with the World Council for Health — a group that has previously spread vaccine misinformation — to call for the “immediate and complete suspension of Covid-19 vaccine.”
Who was it that coined the bon mot: We were all born ignorant but to remain so requires hard work
On Sunday, December 18, 2022, the General Assembly of the European Humanist Federation (EHF)met for the very last time. It was decided that, from 2023, there will be only one international humanist organization and resources will be concentrated there, namely with the Humanists International. It was felt that this is the best way to strengthen the humanist network in Europe as well as in the world. The EHF has thus stopped its own activities and the liquidation surplus will go to Humanists International.
Humanists International (HI) is the global representative body of the humanist movement, uniting a diverse community of non-religious organizations and individuals. On their website, the organization states the following:
Inspired by humanist values, we are optimistic for a world where everyone can have a dignified and fulfilling life. We build, support and represent the global humanist movement and work to champion human rights and secularism.
What we do
We campaign on humanist issues. We defend humanists at risk of persecution and violence. We lobby for humanist values at international institutions, including the United Nations. And we work to build the humanist movement around the world. Find out more about the work we do on behalf of the global humanist community.
Our members and supporters
Our Members and Associates include humanist, rationalist, secular, ethical culture, atheist and freethought organisations from all over the world. Our community also includes many individual supporters who share our vision and values.
Find out more about our member organizations around the world. If you represent a humanist or secular organization you can find out more and apply for membership here. If you are interested in supporting us as an individual, you can sign up here.
Below, you can read more about our history, our strategy and how our organization is managed and governed.
Humanists International was founded in Amsterdam in 1952. Originally five Humanist organizations — the American Ethical Union, American Humanist Association, British Ethical Union (later the British Humanist Association and now Humanists UK), Vienna Ethical Society and the Dutch Humanist league — hosted our inaugural congress in Amsterdam, 22–27 August 1952, founding the organization that was then called the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). On the last day of the congress five resolutions were passed, which included a statement of the fundamentals of “modern, ethical Humanism”, a resolution which would come to be known as the Amsterdam Declaration.
Now registered in New York, USA, the main administrative headquarters are in London, United Kingdom, Humanists International is an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) with representation on various United Nations committees and other international bodies. We seek to influence international policy through representation and information, to build the humanist network, and let the world know about the worldview of Humanism.
Humanism focuses on living ethically and thinking rationally while refusing to rely on supernatural sources. The humanist movement aims at making the world a better place. I consider myself a humanist (without being a member of an organization) and believe the world could do with more of us.
Is so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) compatible with Christian beliefs? This is not a question that often robs me of my sleep, yet it seems an interesting issue to explore during the Christmas holiday. So, I did a few searches and – would you believe it? – found a ‘Christian Checklist’ as applied to SCAM Since it is by no means long, let me present it to you in full:
- Taking into consideration the lack of scientific evidence available, can it be recommended with integrity?
- What are its roots? Is there an eastern religious basis (Taoism or Hinduism)? Is it based on life force or vitalism?
- Are there any specific spiritual dangers involved? Does its method of diagnosis or practice include occult practices, all forms of which are strictly forbidden in Scripture.
Now, let me try to answer the questions that the checklist poses:
- No! – particularly not, if the SCAM endangers the health of the person who uses it (which, as we have discussed so often can occur in multiple ways).
- Most SCAMs have their roots in eastern religions, life force, or vitalism. Very few are based on Christian ideas or assumptions.
- If we define ‘occult’ as anything that is hidden or mysterious, we are bound to see that almost all SCAMs are occult.
What surprises me with the ‘Christian Checklist’ is that it makes no mention of ethics. I would have thought that this might be an important issue for Christians. Am I mistaken? I have often pointed out that the practice of SCAM nearly invariably violates fundamental rules of ethics.
In any case, the checklist makes one thing quite clear: by and large, SCAM is nothing that Christians should ever contemplate employing. This article (which I have quoted before) seems to confirm my point:
The Vatican’s top exorcist has spoken out in condemnation of yoga … , branding [it] as “Satanic” acts that lead[s] to “demonic possession”. Father Cesare Truqui has warned that the Catholic Church has seen a recent spike in worldwide reports of people becoming possessed by demons and that the reason for the sudden uptick is the rise in popularity of pastimes such as watching Harry Potter movies and practicing Vinyasa.
Professor Giuseppe Ferrari … says that … activities such as yoga, “summon satanic spirits” … Monsignor Luigi Negri, the archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio, who also attended the Vatican crisis meeting, claimed that homosexuality is “another sign” that “Satan is in the Vatican”. The Independent reports: Father Cesare says he’s seen many an individual speaking in tongues and exhibiting unearthly strength, two attributes that his religion says indicate the possibility of evil spirits inhabiting a person’s body. “There are those who try to turn people into vampires and make them drink other people’s blood, or encourage them to have special sexual relations to obtain special powers,” stated Professor Ferrari at the meeting. “These groups are attracted by the so-called beautiful young vampires that we’ve seen so much of in recent years.”
You might take such statements not all that seriously – the scorn of the vatican does not concern you?
Yet, the ‘Christian Checklist’ also raises worries much closer to home. King Charles is the head of the Anglican Church. Undeniably, he also is a long-term, enthusiastic supporter of many of those ‘quasi-satanic’ SCAMs. How are we supposed to reconsile these contradictions, tensions, and conflicts?
The INDY and many other news outlets reported that the British Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen, has called on prime minister Rishi Sunak to suspend mRNA covid vaccines after alleging they are “not safe, not effective and not necessary”.
During Wednesday’s PMQs (13 December), Bridgen stated that “since the rollout in the UK of the BioNTech-Pfizer mRNA vaccine, we have had almost half a million reports of adverse effects from the public”, a message he later reiterated on Twitter.
Posting a snippet from his debate, Bridgen tweeted: “Almost half a million yellow card reports of adverse effects following administration of the Biotech Pfizer mRNA vaccine in the UK alone! Answers are desperately needed. #completelyunprecedented”.
Bridgen also claimed that a leading figure in the British Heart Foundation is suppressing evidence that the Covid vaccines cause heart damage, even sending non-disclosure agreements to his research team.
Facebook flagged his post with a notice urging users to ensure that they share “reliable information.” It included two links to “continue sharing” or “get vaccine info.”
The scandals Bridgen has been involved in seem too numerous to mention (e.g. violation of parliamentary standards, homophobic remarks, antisemitic statements). Here is just one of the most recent:
A Leicestershire MP has been ordered to pay £800,000 and been evicted from his five bedroom home by a judge following a legal dispute involving the family vegetable business. It is currently unknown where Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, lives after being given final deadline of August 24 to vacate the premises in Coleorton, near Coalville.
The 57-year-old was branded “dishonest” by a High Court judge in March – who ruled that Bridgen “lied” under oath. Judge Brian Rawlings said he was so dishonest that nothing he said about the dispute with AB Produce, a vegetable and potato supplier based in Measham, could be taken at face value.
Bridgen was also said to have behaved in an “abusive”, “arrogant” and “aggressive” way during the dispute, in which he has spent years suing the firm. A later judgment in June, reported by the Times on Sunday, forced the MP to vacate the £1.5 million-valued property owned by AB Produce that he has lived in since 2015…
First a High Court judge says Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen, lied under oath, then he evicts him from his home and orders him to pay £800,000 now Facebook flags his posts as Covid misinformation. How’s your week going?
Andrew Bridgen MP now promoting Dr David Cartland, a man who aligns himself with claims that Freemasons rule the world; that Covid doesn’t exist; and that medical doctors who don’t share his views should be executed (screenshots H/T
Andrew Bridgen MP now promoting Dr David Cartland, a man who aligns himself with claims that Freemasons rule the world; that Covid doesn’t exist; and that medical doctors who don’t share his views should be executed.
This Andrew Bridgen? ‘A Conservative MP lied under oath, behaved in an abusive, arrogant and aggressive way, and was so dishonest that his claims about a multimillion-pound family dispute could not be taken at face value, a high court judge has ruled.’
Proper tinfoil-hat stuff from Andrew Bridgen, suggesting Covid vaccines are unsafe, misrepresenting data, and implying some sort of conspiracy between ‘Big Pharma’ and MHRA.
Didier Raoult, the French scientist who became well-known for his controversial stance on hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19, has featured on this blog before (see here, here, and here). Less well-known is the fact that he has attracted controversy before. In 2006, Raoult and 4 co-authors were banned for one year from publishing in the journals of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), after a reviewer for Infection and Immunity discovered that four figures from the revised manuscript of a paper about a mouse model for typhus were identical to figures from the originally submitted manuscript, even though they were supposed to represent a different experiment. In response, Raoult “resigned from the editorial board of two other ASM journals, canceled his membership in the American Academy of Microbiology, ASM’s honorific leadership group, and banned his lab from submitting to ASM journals”. In response to Science covering the story in 2012, he stated that, “I did not manage the paper and did not even check the last version”. The paper was subsequently published in a different journal.
Now, the publisher PLOS is marking nearly 50 articles by Didier Raoult, with expressions of concern while it investigates potential research ethics violations in the work. PLOS has been looking into more than 100 articles by Raoult and determined that the issues in 49 of the papers, including reuse of ethics approval reference numbers, warrant expressions of concern while the publisher continues its inquiry.
In August of 2021, Elisabeth Bik wrote on her blog about a series of 17 articles from IHU-Méditerranée Infection that described different studies involving homeless people in Marseille over a decade, but all listed the same institutional ethics approval number. Bik and other commenters on PubPeer have identified ethical concerns in many other papers, including others in large groups of papers with the same ethical approval numbers. Subsequently, Bik has received harassment and legal threats from Raoult.
David Knutson, senior manager of communications for PLOS, sent ‘Retraction Watch’ this statement:
PLOS is issuing interim Expressions of Concerns for 49 articles that are linked to researchers affiliated with IHU-Méditerranée Infection (Marseille, France) and/or the Aix-Marseille University, as part of an ongoing case that involves more than 100 articles in total. Many of the papers in this case include controversial scientist Didier Raoult as a co-author.
Several whistleblowers raised concerns about articles from this institute, including that several ethics approval reference numbers have been reused in many articles. Our investigation, which has been ongoing for more than a year, confirmed ethics approval reuse and also uncovered other issues including:
- highly prolific authorship (a rate that would equate to nearly 1 article every 3 days for one or more individuals), which calls into question whether PLOS’ authorship criteria have been met
- undeclared COIs with pharmaceutical companies
To date, PLOS has completed a detailed initial assessment of 108 articles in total and concluded that 49 warrant an interim Expression of Concern due to the nature of the concerns identified. We’ll be following up with the authors of all articles of concern in accordance with COPE guidance and PLOS policies, but we anticipate it will require at least another year to complete this work.
Raoult is a coauthor on 48 of the 49 papers in question. This summer, Raoult retired as director of IHU-Méditerranée Infection, the hospital and research institution in Marseille that he had overseen since 2011, following an inspection by the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) that found “serious shortcomings and non-compliances with the regulations for research involving the human person” at IHU-Méditerranée Infection and another Marseille hospital. ANSM imposed sanctions on IHU-Méditerranée Infection, including suspending a research study and placing any new research involving people under supervision, and called for a criminal investigation. Other regulators have also urged Marseille’s prosecutor to investigate “serious malfunctions” at the research institution.
Pierre-Edouard Fournier, the new director of IHU-Méditerranée Infection, issued a statement on September 7th that said he had “ensured that all clinical trials in progress relating to research involving the human person (RIPH) were suspended pending the regularization of the situation.” Also in September, the American Society for Microbiology placed expressions of concern on 6 of Raoult’s papers in two of its journals, citing “a ‘scientific misconduct investigation’ by the University of Aix Marseille,” where the researcher also has an affiliation.
Christian Lehman predicted on my blog that ” If Covid19 settles in the long-term, he [Raoult] will not be able to escape a minutely detailed autopsy of his statements and his actions. And the result will be devastating.” It seems he was correct.
Osteopathy is currently regulated in 12 European countries: Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Switzerland, and the UK. Other countries such as Belgium and Norway have not fully regulated it. In Austria, osteopathy is not recognized or regulated. The Osteopathic Practitioners Estimates and RAtes (OPERA) project was developed as a Europe-based survey, whereby an updated profile of osteopaths not only provides new data for Austria but also allows comparisons with other European countries.
A voluntary, online-based, closed-ended survey was distributed across Austria in the period between April and August 2020. The original English OPERA questionnaire, composed of 52 questions in seven sections, was translated into German and adapted to the Austrian situation. Recruitment was performed through social media and an e-based campaign.
The survey was completed by 338 individuals (response rate ~26%), of which 239 (71%) were female. The median age of the responders was 40–49 years. Almost all had preliminary healthcare training, mainly in physiotherapy (72%). The majority of respondents were self-employed (88%) and working as sole practitioners (54%). The median number of consultations per week was 21–25 and the majority of respondents scheduled 46–60 minutes for each consultation (69%).
The most commonly used diagnostic techniques were: palpation of position/structure, palpation of tenderness, and visual inspection. The most commonly used treatment techniques were cranial, visceral, and articulatory/mobilization techniques. The majority of patients estimated by respondents consulted an osteopath for musculoskeletal complaints mainly localized in the lumbar and cervical region. Although the majority of respondents experienced a strong osteopathic identity, only a small proportion (17%) advertise themselves exclusively as osteopaths.
The authors concluded that this study represents the first published document to determine the characteristics of the osteopathic practitioners in Austria using large, national data. It provides new information on where, how, and by whom osteopathic care is delivered. The information provided may contribute to the evidence used by stakeholders and policy makers for the future regulation of the profession in Austria.
This paper reveals several findings that are, I think, noteworthy:
- Visceral osteopathy was used often or very often by 84% of the osteopaths.
- Muscle energy techniques were used often or very often by 53% of the osteopaths.
- Techniques applied to the breasts were used by 59% of the osteopaths.
- Vaginal techniques were used by 49% of the osteopaths.
- Rectal techniques were used by 39% of the osteopaths.
- “Taping/kinesiology tape” was used by 40% of osteopaths.
- Applied kinesiology was used by 17% of osteopaths and was by far the most-used diagnostic approach.
Perhaps the most worrying finding of the entire paper is summarized in this sentence: “Informed consent for oral techniques was requested only by 10.4% of respondents, and for genital and rectal techniques by 21.0% and 18.3% respectively.”
I am lost for words!
I fail to understand what meaningful medical purpose the fingers of an osteopath are supposed to have in a patient’s vagina or rectum. Surely, putting them there is a gross violation of medical ethics.
Considering these points, I find it impossible not to conclude that far too many Austrian osteopaths practice treatments that are implausible, unproven, potentially harmful, unethical, and illegal. If patients had the courage to take action, many of these charlatans would probably spend some time in jail.