Cervical radiculopathy is a common condition that is usually due to compression or injury to a nerve root by a herniated disc or other degenerative changes of the upper spine. The C5 to T1 levels are the most commonly affected. In such cases local and radiating pains, often with neurological deficits, are the most prominent symptoms. Treatment of this condition is often difficult.
The purpose of this systematic review was to assess the effectiveness and safety of conservative interventions compared with other interventions, placebo/sham interventions, or no intervention on disability, pain, function, quality of life, and psychological impact in adults with cervical radiculopathy (CR).
MEDLINE, CENTRAL, CINAHL, Embase, and PsycINFO were searched from inception to June 15, 2022, to identify studies that were randomized clinical trials, had at least one conservative treatment arm, and diagnosed participants with CR through confirmatory clinical examination and/or diagnostic tests. Studies were appraised using the Cochrane Risk of Bias 2 tool and the quality of the evidence was rated using the Grades of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation approach.
Of the 2561 records identified, 59 trials met our inclusion criteria (n = 4108 participants). Due to clinical and statistical heterogeneity, the findings were synthesized narratively. The results show very-low certainty evidence supporting the use of
- cervical manipulation,
- low-level laser therapy
for pain and disability in the immediate to short-term, and thoracic manipulation and low-level laser therapy for improvements in cervical range of motion in the immediate term.
There is low to very-low certainty evidence for multimodal interventions, providing inconclusive evidence for pain, disability, and range of motion. There is inconclusive evidence for pain reduction after conservative management compared with surgery, rated as very-low certainty.
The authors concluded that there is a lack of high-quality evidence, limiting our ability to make any meaningful conclusions. As the number of people with CR is expected to increase, there is an urgent need for future research to help address these gaps.
The fact that we cannot offer a truly effective therapy for CR has long been known – except, of course, to chiropractors, acupuncturists, osteopaths, and other SCAM providers who offer their services as though they are a sure solution. Sometimes, their treatments seem to work; but this could be just because the symptoms of CR can improve spontaneously, unrelated to any intervention.
The question thus arises what should these often badly suffering patients do if spontaneous remission does not occur? As an answer, let me quote from another recent systematic review of the subject: The 6 included studies that had low risk of bias, providing high-quality evidence for the surgical efficacy of Cervical Spondylotic Radiculopathy. The evidence indicates that surgical treatment is better than conservative treatment … and superior to conservative treatment in less than one year.
Menopausal symptoms are a domaine of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), not least because many women are worried about hormone treatments and therefore want ‘something natural’. TCM practitioners are only too keen to offer their services. But do their treatments really work?
This study aimed to analyze the effectiveness of acupuncture combined with Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) on mood disorder symptoms for menopausal women.
A total of 95 qualified Chinese participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups:
- 31 in the acupuncture combined with CHM group (combined group),
- 32 in the acupuncture combined with CHM placebo group (acupuncture group),
- 32 in the CHM combined with sham acupuncture group (CHM group).
The patients were treated for 8 weeks and followed up for 4 weeks. The data were collected using the Greene Climacteric Scale (GCS), self-rating depression scale (SDS), self-rating anxiety scale (SAS), and safety index.
The three groups each showed significant decreases in the GCS, SDS, and SAS after treatment (p < 0.05). Furthermore, the effect on the GCS total score and the anxiety domain lasted until the follow-up period in the combined group (p < 0.05). Within the three groups, there was no difference in GCS and SAS between the three groups after treatment (p > 0.05). However, the combined group showed significant improvement in the SDS, compared with both the acupuncture group and the CHM group at 8 weeks and 12 weeks (p < 0.05). No obvious abnormal cases were found in any of the safety indexes.
The authors concluded that the results suggest that either acupuncture, or CHM or combined therapy offer safe improvement of mood disorder symptoms for menopausal women. However, the combination therapy was associated with more stable effects in the follow-up period and a superior effect on improving depression symptoms.
Previous reviews have drawn conclusions that are far less positive, e.g.:
- the observed clinical benefit associated with acupuncture may be due, in part, or in whole to nonspecific effects.
- the evidence gathered was not sufficient to affirm the effectiveness of traditional acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture.
- For natural menopause, one large study has shown acupuncture to be superior to self-care alone in reducing the number of hot flushes and improving the quality of life; five small studies have been unable to demonstrate that the effect of acupuncture is limited to any particular points, as traditional theory would suggest; and one study showed acupuncture was superior to blunt needle for flash frequency but not intensity.
- Sham-controlled RCTs fail to show specific effects of acupuncture for control of menopausal hot flushes.
It seems therefore wise to take the conclusions of the new study with a pinch of salt. The intergroup difference observed in this trial may well be due to residual biases, multiple testing, or coincidence. And the reported intragroup differences are in complete accord with the fact that the employed therapies are mere placebos.
This, of course, begs the question of whether SCAM has anything else to offer for women suffering from menopausal symptoms. To answer it, I can refer you to one of our systematic reviews:
Some evidence exists in favour of phytosterols and phytostanols for diminishing LDL and total cholesterol in postmenopausal women. Similarly, regular fiber intake is effective in reducing serum total cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women. Clinical evidence also exists on the effectiveness of vitamin K, a combination of calcium and vitamin D or a combination of walking with other weight-bearing exercise in reducing bone mineral density loss and the incidence of fractures in postmenopausal women. Black cohosh appears to be effective therapy for relieving menopausal symptoms, primarily hot flashes, in early menopause. Phytoestrogen extracts, including isoflavones and lignans, appear to have only minimal effect on hot flashes but have other positive health effects, e.g. on plasma lipid levels and bone loss. For other commonly used CAMs, e.g. probiotics, prebiotics, acupuncture, homeopathy and DHEA-S, randomized, placebo-controlled trials are scarce and the evidence is unconvincing. More and better RCTs testing the effectiveness of these treatments are needed.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common condition that often frustrates all attempts of treatment. This is an ideal situation for homeopaths who claim to have the solution. Yet the evidence fails to support their optimism. The two systematic reviews on the subject are not encouraging:
- There was insufficient evidence to make recommendations on maternal allergen avoidance for disease prevention, oral antihistamines, Chinese herbs, dietary restriction in established atopic eczema, homeopathy, house dust mite reduction, massage therapy, hypnotherapy, evening primrose oil, emollients, topical coal tar and topical doxepin.
- The evidence from controlled clinical trials therefore fails to show that homeopathy is an efficacious treatment for eczema.
But now, a new study has emerged and it seems to contradict the previous conclusions. This study compared the efficacy of individualized homeopathic medicines (IHMs) against placebos in the treatment of AD.
In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 6 months duration (n = 60), adult patients were randomized to receive either IHMs (n = 30) or identical-looking placebos (n = 30). All participants received concomitant conventional care, which included the application of olive oil and maintaining local hygiene. The primary outcome measure was disease severity using the Patient-Oriented Scoring of Atopic Dermatitis (PO-SCORAD) scale; secondary outcomes were the Atopic Dermatitis Burden Scale for Adults (ADBSA) and Dermatological Life Quality Index (DLQI) – all were measured at baseline and every month, up to 6 months. Group differences were calculated on the intention-to-treat sample.
After 6 months of intervention, inter-group differences became statistically significant on PO-SCORAD, the primary outcome (−18.1; 95% confidence interval, −24.0 to −12.2), favoring IHMs against placebos (F 1, 52 = 14.735; p <0.001; two-way repeated measures analysis of variance). Inter-group differences for the secondary outcomes favored homeopathy, but were overall statistically non-significant (ADBSA: F 1, 52 = 0.019; p = 0.891; DLQI: F 1, 52 = 0.692; p = 0.409).
The authors concluded that IHMs performed significantly better than placebos in reducing the severity of AD in adults, though the medicines had no overall significant impact on AD burden or DLQI.
I was unable to access the full paper, or more precisely unwilling to pay for it (in case someone has access, please post the link in the comments section below). From what can be gleaned from the abstract, this study is rigorous and clearly reported.
So, why is the outcome positive?
Pehaps one clue lies in the origin of the study. Here are the affiliations of the authors:
- 1Department of Materia Medica, Mahesh Bhattacharyya Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Howrah, West Bengal, India.
- 2Department of Pathology and Microbiology, D. N. De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
- 3Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Mahesh Bhattacharyya Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Howrah, West Bengal, India.
- 4Department of Repertory, JIMS Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Shamshabad, Telangana, India.
- 5Department of Repertory, Mahesh Bhattacharyya Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Howrah, West Bengal, India.
- 6Department of Health and Family Welfare, Homoeopathic Medical Officer, Rajganj State Homoeopathic Dispensary, Rajganj Government Medical College and Hospital, Uttar Dinajpur, West Bengal, India.
- 7Department of Pathology and Microbiology, National Tuberculosis Elimination Program Wing, Imambara Sadar Hospital, Hooghly, Govt. of West Bengal, India.
- 8Department of Organon of Medicine and Homoeopathic Philosophy, D. N. De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
- 9Department of Repertory, The Calcutta Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
- 10Department of Health and Family Welfare, East Bishnupur State Homoeopathic Dispensary, Chandi Daulatabad Block Primary Health Centre, Govt. of West Bengal, India.
- 11Department of Repertory, D. N. De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
I have previously noted that Indian studies of homeopathy (almost) never report a negative result. Why? Are the Indian homeopaths better than those elsewhere, or are they just less honest?
A recent article in ‘The Lancet Regional Health‘ emphasized the “need for reimagining India’s health system and the importance of an inclusive approach for Universal Health Coverage” by employing traditional medicine, including homeopathy. This prompted a response by Siddhesh Zadey that I consider worthy of reproducing here in abbreviated form:
… Since the first trial conducted in 1835 that questioned homeopathy’s efficacy, multiple randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and other studies compiled in several systematic reviews and meta-analyses have shown that there is no reliable and clinically significant effect of non-individualized or individualized homeopathic treatments across disease conditions ranging from irritable bowel syndrome in adults to acute respiratory tract infections in children when compared to placebo or other treatments. Even reviews that support homeopathy’s efficacy consistently caution about low quality of evidence and raise questions on its clinical use. The most recent analysis of reporting bias in homeopathic trials depicted problematic trial conduction practices that further obscure reliability and validity of evidence. Homeopathic treatments have also been linked to aggravations and non-fatal and fatal adverse events.
The Lancet has previously published on another kind of harm that uptake of homeopathy encourages in India: delay to evidence-based clinical care that can lead to fatality. Authors have pointed out that evidence for some of the alternative systems of medicine may not come from RCTs. I agree that more appropriate study designs and analytical techniques are needed for carefully studying individualized treatment paradigms. However, the need for agreement on some consistent form of evidence synthesis and empirical testing across diverse disciplines cannot be discounted. Several other disciplines including psychology, economics, community health, implementation science, and public policy have adopted RCTs and related study designs and have passed the empirical tests of efficacy. Moreover, the ideas around mechanism of action in case of homeopathy still remain controversial and lack evidence after over a century. On the contrary, biochemical, molecular, and physiological mechanistic evidence supporting allopathic treatments has grown abundantly in the same period.
Owing to lack of evidence on its efficacy and safety, the World Health Organization had previously warned against the use of homeopathic treatments for severe diseases. Additionally, multiple countries, including Germany where the practice originated, have initiated mechanisms that discourage uptake of homeopathy while others are considering banning it. Homeopathy doesn’t work, could be harmful, and is not a part of Indian traditional medicine. While we should welcome pluralistic approaches towards UHC, we need to drop homeopathy.
(for references, see original text)
Yes, in the name of progress and in the interest of patients, “we need to drop homeopathy” (not just in India but everywhere). I quite agree!
This review investigated the characteristics, hotspots, and frontiers of global scientific output in acupuncture research for chronic pain over the past decade. the authors retrieved publications on acupuncture for chronic pain published from 2011 to 2022 from the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-expanded) of the Web of Science Core Collection (WoSCC). The co-occurrence relationships of journals/countries/institutions/authors/keywords were performed using VOSviewer V6.1.2, and CiteSpace V1.6.18 analyzed the clustering and burst analysis of keywords and co-cited references.
A total of 1616 articles were retrieved. The results showed that:
- the number of annual publications on acupuncture for chronic pain has increased over time;
- the main types of literature are original articles (1091 articles, 67.5 %) and review articles (351 articles, 21.7 %);
- China had the most publications (598 articles, 37 %), with Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (93 articles, 5.8 %);
- Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine ranked first (169 articles, 10.45 %) as the most prolific affiliate and journal, respectively;
- Liang FR was the most productive author (43 articles);
- the article published by Vickers Andrew J in 2012 had the highest number of citations (625 citations).
Recently, “acupuncture” and “pain” appeared most frequently. The hot topics in acupuncture for chronic pain based on keywords clustering analysis were experimental design, hot diseases, interventions, and mechanism studies. According to burst analysis, the main research frontiers were functional connectivity (FC), depression, and risk.
The authors concluded that this study provides an in-depth perspective on acupuncture for chronic pain studies, revealing pivotal points, research hotspots, and research trends. Valuable ideas are provided for future research activities.
I might disagree with the authors’ conclusion and would argue that they have demonstrated that:
- the acupuncture literature is dominated by China, which is concerning because we know that 1) these studies are of poor quality, 2) never report negative findings, and 3) are often fabricated;
- the articles tend to be published in journals that are more than a little suspect.
As we have seen recently, the reliable evidence that acupuncture remains effective is wafer-thin. Therefore, I feel that we are currently being misled by a flurry of rubbish publications that have one main aim: to distract from the fact that acupuncture might be nonsense.
This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) combined with Western medicine (WM) in comparison with WM in reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure for patients with primary hypertension (PHTN).
Various literature searches located a total of 29 studies that included 2623 patients. The results showed that the clinical effectiveness in the treatment of hypertension with CHM+WM was considerably higher than that with WM alone, clinical effective (RR 1.23, 95% CI [1.17, 1.30], P < 0.00001), and markedly effective (ME) in the patients (RR 1.66, 95% CI [1.52, 1.80], and P < 0.00001). Random effect in SBP (MD 7.91 mmHg,[6.00, 983], P < 0.00001) and DBP (MD 5.46 mmHg, [3.88, 6.43], P < 0.00001), a subgroup analysis was carried out based on the type of intervention, duration of treatment, and CHM formulas that showed significance. Furthermore, no severe side effects were reported, and no patients stopped treatment or withdrawal due to any severe adverse events.
The authors concluded that compared to WM alone, the therapeutic effectiveness of CHM combined with WM is significantly improved in the treatment of hypertension. Additionally, CHM with WM may safely and efficiently lower systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in individuals with PHTN. However, rigorous randomized controlled trials with a large sample, high quality, long duration of treatment, and follow-up are recommended to strengthen this clinical evidence.
The authors can boast of an impressive list of affiliations:
- 1Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, Harbin, 150040, Heilongjiang, China; School of Pharmacy, Lebanese International University, 18644, Sana’a, Yemen.
- 2Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, Harbin, 150040, Heilongjiang, China.
- 3Key Laboratory of Chinese Materia Medica, Ministry of Education of Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, Harbin, 150040, Heilongjiang, China.
- 4Department of Urology, Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao Binhai University, Qingdao, Shandong, China.
- 5Department of Respiratory Diseases, Shandong Second Provincial General Hospital, Shandong University, Shandong, China.
- 6Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, Harbin, 150040, Heilongjiang, China. Electronic address: [email protected]
Impressive in the sense of being impressively prone to bias, particularly knowing that ~80% of Chinese research findings have been shown to be fabricated and considering that Chinese authors as good as never publish anything negative about TCM.
But perhaps you still believe that the results reported here are 100% true? In this case, I might even agree with you. The reason is that the authors demonstrate in exemplary fashion what I have been saying so often before:
Blood pressure is one of the many endpoints that are highly prone to placebo effects. Therefore, even the addition of an ineffective CHM to WM would lower blood pressure more effectively than WM alone.
But there is a third way of explaining the findings of this review: some herbal remedies might actually have a hypotensive effect. The trouble is that this review does come not even close to telling us which.
Homeopathic remedies are highly diluted formulations without proven clinical benefits, traditionally believed not to cause adverse events. Nonetheless, published literature reveals severe local and non-liver-related systemic side effects. This paper presents the first series on homeopathy-related severe drug-induced liver injury (DILI) from a single center.
A retrospective review of records from January 2019 to February 2022 identified 9 patients with liver injury attributed to homeopathic formulations. Competing causes were comprehensively excluded. Chemical analysis was performed on retrieved formulations using triple quadrupole gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy.
Males predominated with a median age of 54 years. The most typical clinical presentation was acute hepatitis, followed by acute on chronic liver failure. All patients developed jaundice, and ascites were notable in one-third of the patients. Five patients had underlying chronic liver disease. COVID-19 prevention was the most common indication for homeopathic use. Probable DILI was seen in 77.8%, and hepatocellular injury predominated (66.7%). Four (44.4%) patients died (3 with chronic liver disease) at a median follow-up of 194 days. Liver histopathology showed necrosis, portal and lobular neutrophilic inflammation, and eosinophilic infiltration with cholestasis. A total of 29 remedies were consumed between 9 patients, and 15 formulations were analyzed. Toxicology revealed industrial solvents, corticosteroids, antibiotics, sedatives, synthetic opioids, heavy metals, and toxic phyto-compounds, even in ‘supposed’ ultra-dilute formulations.
The authors concluded that homeopathic remedies potentially result in severe liver injury, leading to death in those with underlying liver disease. The use of mother tinctures, insufficient dilution, poor manufacturing practices, adulteration and contamination, and the presence of direct hepatotoxic herbals were the reasons for toxicity. Physicians, the public, and patients must realize that Homeopathic drugs are not ‘gentle placebos.’
Over a decade ago, we published a systematic review entitled “Adverse effects of homeopathy: a systematic review of published case reports and case series”:
Aim: The aim of this systematic review was to critically evaluate the evidence regarding the adverse effects (AEs) of homeopathy.
Method: Five electronic databases were searched to identify all relevant case reports and case series.
Results: In total, 38 primary reports met our inclusion criteria. Of those, 30 pertained to direct AEs of homeopathic remedies; and eight were related to AEs caused by the substitution of conventional medicine with homeopathy. The total number of patients who experienced AEs of homeopathy amounted to 1159. Overall, AEs ranged from mild-to-severe and included four fatalities. The most common AEs were allergic reactions and intoxications. Rhus toxidendron was the most frequently implicated homeopathic remedy.
Conclusion: Homeopathy has the potential to harm patients and consumers in both direct and indirect ways. Clinicians should be aware of its risks and advise their patients accordingly.
It caused an outcry from fans of homeopathy who claimed that one cannot insist that homeopathic remedies are ineffective because they contain no active ingredient, while also arguing that they cause severe adverse effects. In a way, they were correct: homeopathic remedies are useless even at causing adverse effects. But this applies only to remedies that are manufactured correctly and that are highly dilute. The trouble is that quality control in homeopathy often seems to be less than adequate. And this is how adverse effects can happen!
The new article from India is an important addition to the literature providing more valuable information about the risks of homeopathy. Its authors were able to do chemical analyses of some of the remedies and could thus show what the reasons for the liver injuries were. The article provides an essential caution for those who delude themselves by assuming that homeopathy is harmless. In fact, the remedies can cause severe problems. But, as we have discussed regularly on this blog, the far greater risk in homeopathy is not the remedy but the homeopath and his/her all too often incompetent advice to patients.
In one of my last posts, I was rather dismissive of veterinary chiropractic.
Was I too harsh?
I did ask readers who disagree with my judgment to send me their evidence.
Sadly, none arrived!
Therefore, I did several further literature searches and found a recent review of the topic. It included 14 studies; 13 were equine and one was a canine study. Seven of these were cohort studies and seven were randomized controlled clinical trials. . Study quality was low (n = 4), moderate (n = 7), and high (n = 3) and included a wide array of outcome parameters with varying levels of efficacy and duration of therapeutic effects, which prevented further meta-analysis. The authors concluded that it was difficult to draw firm conclusions despite all studies reporting positive effects. Optimal technique indications and dosages need to be determined to improve the standardization of these treatment options.
This, I think, can hardly be called good evidence. But I also found this more recent paper:
Chiropractic care is a common treatment modality used in equine practice to manage back pain and stiffness but has limited evidence for treating lameness. The objective of this blinded, controlled clinical trial was to evaluate the effect of chiropractic treatment on chronic lameness and concurrent axial skeleton pain and dysfunction. Two groups of horses with multiple limb lameness (polo) or isolated hind limb lameness (Quarter Horses) were enrolled. Outcome measures included subjective and objective measures of lameness, spinal pain and stiffness, epaxial muscle hypertonicity, and mechanical nociceptive thresholds collected on days 0, 14, and 28. Chiropractic treatment was applied on days 0, 7, 14, and 21. No treatment was applied to control horses. Data was analyzed by a mixed model fit separately for each response variable (p < 0.05) and was examined within each group of horses individually. Significant treatment effects were noted in subjective measures of hind limb and whole-body lameness scores and vertebral stiffness. Limited or inconsistent therapeutic effects were noted in objective lameness scores and other measures of axial skeleton pain and dysfunction. The lack of pathoanatomical diagnoses, multilimb lameness, and lack of validated outcome measures likely had negative impacts on the results.
Great! So, we finally have an RCT of chiropractic for horses. Unfortunately, the study is less than convincing:
- It included just 20 polo horses plus 18 horses active in ridden or competitive work all suffering from lameness.
- The authors state that ‘horses were numerically randomized to treatment and control groups’; yet I am not sure what this means.
- Treatment consisted of high-velocity, low-amplitude, manually applied thrusts to sites of perceived pain or stiffness with the axial and appendicular articulations. Treatment was applied on days 0, 7, 14, and 21 by a single examiner. The control group received no treatment and was restrained quietly for 15 min to simulate the time required for chiropractic treatment. In other words, no placebo controls were used.
- The validity of the many outcome measures is unknown.
- The statistical analyses seem odd to me.
- No correction for multiple statistical tests was done.
- Most of the outcomes show no significant effect.
- Overall, there were some small positive treatment effects based on subjective assessment of lameness, but no measurable treatment effects on objective measures of limb lameness.
- The polo horses began their competition season at the beginning of the study which would have confounded the outcomes.
What does all this tell us about veterinary chiropractic?
Not a lot.
All we can safely say, I think, is that veterinary chiropractic is not evidence-based and that claims to the contrary are certainly ill-informed and most probably of a promotional nature.
Konjac glucomannan (KGM), also just called ‘glucomannan’, is a dietary fiber hydro colloidal polysaccharide isolated from the tubers of Amorphophallus konjac. It is used as a food, a food additive, as well as a dietary supplement in many countries. KGM is claimed to reduce the levels of glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of the consumption of gummy candy enriched with KGM on appetite and to evaluate anthropometric data, biochemical, and oxidative stress markers in overweight individuals. Forty-two participants aged 18 to 45 years completed this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Participants were randomly assigned to consume for 14 days, 2 candies per day, containing 250 mg of KGM or identical-looking placebo candy with 250 mg of flaxseed meal, shortly after breakfast and dinner. As a result, we observed that there was a reduction in waist circumference and in the intensity of hunger of the participants who consumed KGM. The authors believe that a longer consumption time as well as an increased dose of KGM would contribute to even more satisfactory body results.
These findings seem promising, yet somehow I am not convinced. The study was small and short-term; moreover, the authors seem uncritical and, instead of a conclusion, they offer speculations.
Our own review of 2014 included 9 clinical studies. There was a variation in the reporting quality of the included RCTs. A meta-analysis (random effect model) of 8 RCTs revealed no significant difference in weight loss between glucomannan and placebo (mean difference [MD]: -0.22 kg; 95% confidence interval [CI], -0.62, 0.19; I(2) = 65%). Adverse events included abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation. We concluded that the evidence from available RCTs does not show that glucomannan intake generates statistically significant weight loss. Future trials should be more rigorous and better reported.
Rigorous trials are required to change my mind, and I am not sure that the new study falls into this category.
I have tried!
But at present, it is simply not possible to escape the revelations and accusations by Harry Windsor.
So, eventually, I gave in and had a look at the therapy he often refers to. He claims that he is deeply traumatized by what he had to go through and, to help him survive the ordeal, Harry has been reported to use EMDR.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a fringe psychotherapy that was developed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. It is supposed to facilitate the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experiences with a view of bringing these to an adaptive resolution. The claim is that, after successful treatment with EMDR therapy, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced.
During EMDR therapy the patient must attend to emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus. Therapist-directed lateral eye movements are commonly used as external stimulus but a variety of other stimuli including hand-tapping and audio stimulation can also be employed.
Francine Shapiro, the psychologist who invented EMDR claims to have serendipitously discovered this technique by experiencing spontaneous saccadic eye movements in response to disturbing thoughts during a walk in the woods. Yet, as GM Rosen explains, this explanation is difficult to accept because normal saccadic eye movements appear to be physiologically undetectable and are typically triggered by external stimuli.
Shapiro hypothesizes that EMDR therapy facilitates the access to the traumatic memory network, so that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information. These new associations are alleged to result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights.
EMDR therapy uses a three-pronged protocol:
- (1) the past events that have laid the groundwork for dysfunction are processed, forging new associative links with adaptive information;
- (2) the current circumstances that elicit distress are targeted, and internal and external triggers are desensitized;
- (3) imaginal templates of future events are incorporated, to assist the client in acquiring the skills needed for adaptive functioning.
The question I ask myself is, of course: Does EMDR work?
The evidence is mixed and generally flimsy. A systematic review showed that “limitations to the current evidence exist, and much current evidence relies on small sample sizes and provides limited follow-up data”.
What might be particularly interesting in relation to Harry Windsor is that EMDR techniques have been associated with memory-undermining effects and may undermine the accuracy of memory, which can be risky if patients, later on, serve as witnesses in legal proceedings.
Personally, I think that Harry’s outbursts lend support to the hypothesis that EMDR is not effective. In the interest of the royal family, we should perhaps see whether so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) does offer an effective treatment against navel gazing?