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

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It has been reported that the coronavirus outbreak might have spread from bats to humans via pangolins, the scaly mammal prized in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The pangolin is protected by law, yet it is one of Asia’s most trafficked mammals, not least because its scales and meat are used in TCM. “This latest discovery will be of great significance for the prevention and control of the origin (of the virus),” South China Agricultural University, which led the research, stated.

All pangolin species (Manis spp.) have been included in CITES Appendix II since 1975 and a “zero quota” has been in place since 2000 for trade in the Asian pangolin species: M.crassicaudata, M. pentadactyla, M. javanica and M. culionensis. This effectively bans all international commercial trade of Asian pangolins.  Despite the trade restrictions, more than a million pangolins (including Asian and African species) have been poached and illegally traded globally over the past decade to satisfy demand from consumers in Asia, particularly in China.

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The Effect of Pangolin Scales

Property

Salty, slightly cold; liver and stomach meridians entered.

Actions

Activate blood and dispel stasis, dredge meridians and promote lactation, resolve swelling and expel pus.

Indications

Mass, amenorrhea due to stasis, wind-damp arthralgia, lactation blockage, abscess, swelling and sore, scrofula.

Dosage and Administrations

Decoct 3~10 g. Make powder and take 1~1.5 g.

Cautions

Use with cautions for the pregnant women.

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Experts think the coronavirus outbreak may have originated in bats and then passed to humans, possibly via pangolins. The genome sequence of the novel coronavirus strain separated from pangolins was 99% identical to that from infected people, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported. The research concluded that pangolins to be “the most likely intermediate host.” But Dirk Pfeiffer, professor of veterinary medicine at Hong Kong’s City University, cautioned that the study was a long way from proving pangolins had transmitted the virus. “You can only draw more definitive conclusions, if you compare prevalence (of the coronavirus) between different species based on representative samples, which these almost certainly are not,” he said.

I have often wondered why some, mostly US authors include prayer as an so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). According to this author, for instance, prayer therapy is professional quality therapy where a Christian counselor uses prayer intervention to bring healing to people’s  lives and core beliefs so that one can live out of a healthier identity and self-concept. Some studies even suggested that religious practices might be associated with longer survival, and it has been hypothesised that, for some, praying provides assurance with, in turn, affects a range of physiological variables.

However, whether religiosity influences survival among patients discharged from the hospital after an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) is unclear. This recent study examined the relationship between religious practices and 2-year all-cause mortality among survivors of an ACS.

Patients hospitalized for an ACS were recruited from 6 medical centers in Massachusetts and Georgia between 2011 and 2013. Study participants self-reported three items assessing religiosity: strength/comfort from religion, petition prayers for health, and awareness of intercessory prayers by others. All cause-mortality within 2-years of hospital discharge was ascertained by review of medical records at participating study hospitals and from death certificates. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate the multivariable adjusted risk of 2-year all-cause mortality.

Participants (n = 2,068) were on average 61 years old, 34% were women, and 81% were non-Hispanic White. Approximately 85% derived strength/comfort from religion, 61% prayed for their health, and 89% were aware of intercessions. In total, 6% of all patients died within 2 years post-discharge. After adjusting for sociodemographic variables, petition prayers were associated with an increased risk of 2-year all-cause mortality. With further adjustment for several clinical and psychosocial measures, this association was no longer statistically significant. Strength and comfort from religion and intercessory prayers were not significantly associated with mortality.

The authors concluded that most ACS survivors acknowledge deriving strength and comfort from religion, praying for their health, and intercessions made by others for their health. Although the reported religious practices were not associated with post-discharge survival after multivariable adjustment, acknowledging that patients utilize their religious beliefs and practices as strategies to improve their health would ensure a more holistic approach to patient management and promote cultural competence in healthcare.

On this blog, we had several previous posts on prayer; so, I do probably not need to repeat my stance on the issue:

Prayer as a therapy: a new randomised study

Prayer as a medical therapy? Time to stop this nonsense!

Daniel P Wirth, his dubious research, and the remarkable apathy of some medical journals

Is God an alternative to healthcare?

Personally, I don’t consider prayer as a therapy. Those who do, might now have to concede that yet another SCAM has been shown to have no positive effects on post-operative survival.

I have recently reported that some homeopaths recommend homeopathics against the corona virus. Since I wrote last about this subject, numerous further sites have sprung up where homeopaths try to make a fast buck on the increasing panic of large sections of the population. Here is an apt example:

We all know that in homeopathy we treat patients according to the symptoms. According to these symptoms, the homeopathic medicine influenzam 30 drug can prove to be very effective. If you want to protect yourself from the corona virus, then you can take this medicine two to three drops three to four times a day. You can also get this medicine online at home.

And if you read French, you might want to read this hair-raising nonsense under the title ‘Quelques conseils pour s’armer contre le coronavirus et autres virus de l’hiver‘:

L’un des piliers de la défense antivirale est la thymuline. Elle permet aux cellules thymiques de communiquer entre elles, et en particulier aux cellules mères d’initier les cellules jeunes et immatures. Elle est toujours conseillée en homéopathie, en 9 CH, seule dilution homologuée par les travaux du professeur Madeleine Bastide. Vous pouvez donc, quels que soient votre âge ou votre poids, prendre quatre granules de thymuline 9 CH le matin (idem pour un nourrisson de quelques semaines) pour renforcer vos défenses immunitaires.

As though this is not bad enough, now the Indian government has followed suit. The Indian ‘AYUSH’ ministry has issued recommendations that homeopathic and Unani medicines could be effective in the prevention of novel coronavirus (nCoV) infections. The advisory was issued following a meeting of the scientific advisory board of the Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) under the Ministry of AYUSH to discuss ways and means for prevention of the nCoV infection through homoeopathy, the ministry said in a statement. The original press-release from the ministry beggars belief; it can be viewed here.

The ministry recommended that homoeopathic medicine Arsenicum album 30 could be taken on an empty stomach daily for three days as a prophylactic medicine against the infection. The dose should be repeated after one month by following the same schedule in case the nCoV infection prevails in the community, the advisory said, adding that the same has also been advised for prevention of influenza-like illness. It also suggests some Ayurvedic medicines, Unani decoctions and home remedies which can be useful in symptomatic management of nCoV infections. The advisory also recommended prophylactic measures/ immunomodulatory drugs as per Ayurvedic practices and taking measures to strengthen the immune system through a healthy diet and lifestyle practices.

Regular readers of this blog will, of course, understand what homeopathy is. But what is Unani, some might ask. This excerpt from my book explains:

Unani (or Yunani) is an Islamic healing philosophy that combines elements of ancient Greek medicine with those of Ayurvedic medicine. In the course of the current boom in alternative medicine, Unani has become popular also in the West.[1]

    1. Unani means “Greek” in Arabic. Ancient Greek medicine was based on the erroneous concept of four elements: earth, fire, water, air, corresponding to four humours: Phlegm (balgham), Blood (dam), Yellow bile (safra) and Black bile (sauda).
    2. Unani is popular in the Middle East, India, Pakistan and their neighbouring countries.
    3. It is based mainly on Ibn Sina’s The Canon of Medicine from the 11th century. Ibn Sina (or Avicenna) is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age.
    4. According to proponents of Unani, the health of the human body is maintained by the harmonious arrangement of al-umoor al-tabiyah, the seven basic physiological principles of the Unani doctrine. These principles include (1) arkan, or elements, (2) mizaj, or temperament, (3) akhlat, or bodily humours, (4) aaza, or organs and systems, (5) arwah, or vital spirit, (6) quwa, or faculties or powers, and (7) afaal, or functions. Interacting with each other, these seven natural components maintain the balance in the natural constitution of the human body. Each individual’s constitution has a self-regulating capacity or power, called tabiyat (or mudabbira-e-badan; vis medicatrix naturae in Latin), or to keep the seven components in equilibrium[2].
    5. Unani treatments can consist of diet, massage, exercise, blood-letting, leeching, and medication.
    6. There are very few rigorous clinical trials of Unani. Their results vary and depend on the modality tested.[3],[4]
    7. Unani remedies can include substances or products, including herbs, minerals, that are not safe for human consumption.[5] The risks may therefore be considerable.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27604201

[2] https://www.britannica.com/science/Unani-medicine

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29749363

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26687754

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12408732

And what do Unani and homeopathy have in common?

Not a lot!

But one thing is for sure: neither of the two approaches are supported even by a shred of evidence to suggest that they might help against the corona virus pandemic. And another thing is almost equally sure: the above advice is not just governmental, it is mental!

 

 

Last week I was in Prague for a lecture which was great fun. On this occasion, I was interviewed by 5 different journalist. One of them asked a question that I had not often heard before: ‘how do they react to criticism?’

What he was inquiring about was the responses I get after publishing results, articles, interviews or blog posts that do not live up to the expectations of proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). I think the journalist was taken aback by the detail of my response:

  1. They denounce tell lies about me. I have written about some of such lies on my blog. But this was just the tip of the iceberg; if you go on the internet, you could find much, much more. Here is a nice example: Prof. Ernst has published little original primary research. His clinical trials have nearly all encountered severe methodological criticism and have often been published in low impact journals.
  2. They claim that I falsified my qualifications.
  3. They state that I am a killer.
  4. They say that my research was sub-standard: the reviews and evaluations he publishes have often met with substantial methodological criticism. In situations where reviews were conducted simultaneously by other research groups, other scientists frequently came to entirely different, and usually more positive, conclusions.
  5. They claim that I am not adequately qualified to do what I do and unqualified or unwilling to judge the evidence fairly.
  6. They write that I am dishonest and fabricate data.
  7. They claim that I have violated medical research ethics (more details here).
  8. They specifically claim that I do not have a clue about the homeopathy of Hahnemann.
  9. They sue me and people who work with me. The BCA famously sued Simon Singh. I have also had numerous legal actions against me from various SCAM advocates/entrepreneurs.
  10. They file complaints with my university. I remember about a dozen such actions but, as I failed to keep a record, there could have been even more.
  11. They try to get me struck off the medical register. That happened thankfully only once, yet it was one of the most unpleasant experiences of them all.
  12. They claim that I am paid by ‘Big Pharma’ almost on a daily basis.
  13. They stop inviting me to their conferences. Since the publication of TRICK OR TREATMENT, I have rarely been invited to SCAM conferences (before, this used to be almost my ‘daily bread’).
  14. They send me hate-mail. On this blog, I have written about the many ‘love letters’ I receive (see for instance here and here).
  15. They threaten me with physical violence or death. At one stage we had to call the police because there were threats of letter bombs coming my way (more details here).
  16. Some have even used their influence to close my department. Yes, I almost forgot Prince Charles in this long list of opprobrium.

So, how do they react to criticism?

In a word: badly!

To make it clear from the outset: do not watch Gwyneth Paltrow’s 6-part Netflix series. It’s not worth it!

I could have guessed that too, of course. But the BBC had asked me to watch some of it and, wanting to help, I agreed and then joined a small group of scientists to discuss what we had seen (here is link to the broadcast).

The 6 episodes follow a similar pattern; two ‘experts’ (often decorated with a PhD, DC, DO, or similar title) are talking to well-groomed middle-aged women (including Gwyneth) and reveal their insights into different topics including anti-ageing, sex, psychedelic drugs, cryotherapy, energy healing, clairvoyance, etc. Normally, one would expect the two ‘experts’ to come from different perspectives, disagree on certain issues and discuss them productively. Not so here!

On the contrary, one ‘expert’ tends to be more outrageous than the other, and the two support each other in producing the most embarrassing nonsense (just one exception: the episode on sex). The amount of utter bullshit is completely overwhelming; so much so that even a sceptical listener is bound to fall silent with embarrassment. I find it futile to do another fact check, as others have published one in addition to ours on the BBC (see above).

In no time at all, the ‘experts’ then manage to re-write the laws of nature and throw almost everything we know about health and disease out the window. Gwyneth is often the focus of the camera looking pretty, and exclaiming ‘so cool’, ‘how the fuck does that work’ or similarly profound comments. The other ladies can be seen nodding obediently.

‘Science is just one way of knowing; intuition is another’, the ‘experts’ explain. Yet, in nearly every second sentence, they proudly impress the audience with their cutting edge ‘science’. At closer inspection, this ‘science’ turns out to be a mixture of platitudes and the worst pseudoscience imaginable. To any informed listener, this can only be cringingly embarrassing; to the lay audience, however, it might even look impressive.

The videos involves many volunteers who receive this or that form of quackery and usually start crying as soon as the camera catches them. They are clearly impressed with the idea to be on a Netflix video together with a film diva. Several volunteers stress that, in fact, they approached all this as sceptics – only to display minutes later the exact opposite of scepticism.

On returning from the BBC, got more and more depressed about these Netflix videos and our post-truth society. The misinformation promoted in the videos is as dangerous as any other fake news, I felt. So, what can be done about it?

There are several options, as far as I can see:

  1. We can ignore it. That would have been my preferred choice, but sadly this is hardly possible. The news about Paltrow’s Netflix foray is all over the place. To pretend it does not exist is to give way to her attempts to mislead the public.
  2. We can approve of it. I fear that this is exactly what millions will do. Sadly, this will increase the harm such misleading information does – not just in terms of healthcare, but more importantly in undermining rational thinking in our society.
  3. We can oppose and publish what we think. That’s what I did (and I did not mince my words; the BBC might even edit much of what I said). But will it have the desired effect? My fear is that the comments of the small troop of critical thinkers assembled by the BBC will, in the end, merely help Miss Paltrow and her fellow charlatans to get even richer by defrauding the gullible public.
  4. We can ridicule it. I have recently tried this as well. But I am perhaps not best suited to do this. It would be good if comedians would pick up this theme. I suspect that this could be the most effective way of making progress in preventing harm to the public.

 

Proponents of SCAM like to think that anyone who is critical of SCAM must be a defender of conventional medicine or worse a pharma shill. One can point out the ridiculousness of this claim until the cows come home, it nevertheless pops up relentlessly.

Personally, I am aware of (and have experienced) the many shortcomings of conventional medicine and applaud the various initiatives to improve it. Take this press release about 10 worst actions in US conventional medicine of 2019, for instance:

The Lown Institute released the 3rd Annual Shkreli Awards, a list of the top ten worst actors in health care from the past year, named for the infamous “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli… The top ten Shkreli Awards went to:

10. The cancer doctor who hid millions in industry gifts, then got a “dream job” at a cancer drug company.

9. The hospital that kept a vegetative patient on life support to boost transplant survival rates.

8. The doctors, telemedicine company employees, and genetic testing lab employees who bilked Medicare for $2.1 billion in a genetic cancer test scam.

7. The psychiatric hospitals that held patients against their will and drugged children.

6. The hospital that pressured cardiologists to keep referring pediatric patients for surgery in-house despite disturbingly high mortality rates.

5. The pharma executive who said, “addicts are to blame for their opioid addiction.”

4. The private equity firm that took over nursing homes, leading to a surge of neglected and abused residents.

3. The hospital that used a technicality to force a $900,000 medical bill on a new mother, who was also a hospital employee.

2. The private equity firms that spent $28 million to defeat “surprise billing” legislation, as medical debt skyrockets.

1. Several hospitals which claimed to care about patients but nevertheless sued them, garnished wages, and seized houses.

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What, you do not believe me that I regularly point out the shortcomings of conventional medicine? In this case, let me show you the introduction of a chapter dedicated to this topic from one of my books:

All too often, the failings of modern medicine seem as obvious as they seem inexcusable. It is thus understandable that some disappointed patients seek help and compassion from homeopaths. Seen from this perspective, the current popularity of homeopathy indicates that many patients are not satisfied with what conventional medicine offers. In other words, the current boom in homeopathy can be seen as a poignant criticism of certain aspects of modern health care.

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And why do I not dedicate more posts to the failures of conventional medicine? Because I am a pharma shill? No, because the topic of this blog was, is and will remain so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).

Why?

Because of two main reasons:

  1. In conventional medicine there are already many excellent initiatives (like the one mentioned above) to expose shortcomings, while in SCAM there are only relatively few.
  2. My expertise is in SCAM.

Please allow me to quote from yet another paper that I published 20 years ago. It is a very brief comment on an article by Kaptchuk and Eisenberg which discussed the reasons for the considerable popularity of SCAM. In it, they stated that the attraction of alternative medicine is related to the power of its underlying shared beliefs and cultural assumptions. The fundamental premises are an advocacy of nature, vitalism, “science,” and spirituality. These themes offer patients a participatory experience of empowerment, authenticity, and enlarged self-identity when illness threatens their sense of intactness and connection to the world.

This failed to convince me and I decided to offer an alternative view. Here is the relevant passage:

…  I would like to expand on a much more profane possible reason for the prevalence of alternative medicine. U.S. sales data of BMW cars (used as a marker of affluence) were obtained from the BMW head office in Munich, Germany. These data were correlated with both U.S. consumer use of herbal remedies and sales figures from the U.S. herbal mass market. Both latter data sets were taken from a recent overview of the U.S. herbal market. The correlation coefficients were impressive (r = 0.870 and r = 0.929, respectively).

Of course, correlations of this type do not imply a causal relation. Nevertheless, they do put affluence into the realm of factors to be considered seriously as explanations for the currently high prevalence of complementary medicine.

What I tried to imply in my comment is simple: many consumers in countries such as the US are well-off. Some seem to have so much money that they don’t know anymore what to do with it. Thus they spend it on all sorts of nonsense – some even spend it on SCAM! This was true, I think, 20 years ago – and it is true today.

I think that, during the last 20 years, this hypothesis has received much support – just think of our favourite SCAM merchant, Gwyneth Paltrow laughing all the way to the bank!

We were all born stupid, but it requires continuously hard work to remain dumb. A SCAM-obsessed, belligerent twit – the type we regularly encounter in the comments section of this blog – is not born but evolves during years of agonisingly tough work. At least, this is my impression. Certain traits (e. g. lack of self-doubt, bloody-mindedness, arrogance, egoism) might help, but the rest is a development that must follow certain steps.

THE INITIATION

An event is needed to start it all off. Often this is a very personal experience such as an illness which is unsuccessfully diagnosed and treated by a series of ungifted physicians. Eventually, our man (less frequently woman) comes across one particular SCAM. He tries it and his aliment subsequently is much-improved. Understandably, he is impressed and, unable to think critically, becomes a proponent of this particular SCAM.

INITIAL ‘RESEARCH’

Next our man takes the (not entirely irrational) step of reading all he can find about his newly discovered SCAM. Not having a science background, he falls for the plethora of uncritical BS that pollute the Internet. The more he reads, the more confident he becomes that SCAM is quite simply wonderful. And the more he studies, the clearer he realises that the news about the wonders of SCAM is being suppressed by the pharma/establishment mafia which is keen to hide the knowledge about SCAM for fear of losing their profits, jobs and income.

LOATHING

Naturally this insight triggers increasing resentment. How dare they suppress the information that would save thousands from suffering? How do they manage to sleep at night knowing that they are viciously hindering progress? Our man started his SCAM-journey by being mildly critical of conventional medicine (which could of course be a good thing). Now this sentiment is fast turning into a deep loathing. He is unable to see a single good point about conventional healthcare and he is becoming convinced that all who are engaged in it are cynically out to harm their fellow human beings. Consequently, he is less and less able to engage in a meaningful discussion with anyone who is not of his opinion.

THE DECISION

Our man arrives at the point where he makes a conscious decision to reject any information that contradicts his by now ‘superior’ knowledge of health, medicine, science and SCAM. He has seen clearly that such information is false, biased or misleading. The people who call themselves experts are bought by Big Pharma and cannot be trusted. They control the medical press where they publish their evidence. Yet, our ignoramus knows that their evidence is false and their science is corrupt. Reliable evidence, our man decides, is defined as evidence supporting his views. People who disagree with him are his personal enemies.

ADVANCED ‘RESEARCH’

Instead of reading any of the many papers that contradict his thinking, our man decides to dig deeper and deeper into BS. He now conducts ‘in-depth research’ by concentrating purely on what his gurus have put on the internet and published in their books. Peer review is not necessary; in conventional science, it is merely a smokescreen to hide the corrupt machinations of the establishment. In other words, our man has firmly established his home on ‘mount stupid’ (see below) and has turned into the belligerent fool we sometimes encounter on this blog. His over-confidence prevents him from descending into the ‘valley of despair’.

THE FOCUS

What he needs now is a pair of blinkers which allows our simpleton to eliminate all the disturbing information from ‘the enemy’. He now focusses on all the material that confirms his opinions. Any facts that might contradict them are denounced as propaganda from the ‘status quo’ and thus ignored. Accepted knowledge from the areas of physiology, pathology, pharmacology, etc. is pushed aside as just another bit of fake news from the medical mafia. He is unable to move on by learning; all he does is confirm his prior belief though a semblance of research. At this stage, our dimwit considers himself now a leading expert in his SCAM. His near-total lack of understanding of related issues and fields has become irrelevant. His self-confidence is at its peak, while his knowledge stagnates.

THE MISSION

Our belligerent ignoramus is full of anger about the fact that his supreme expertise is not taken seriously outside the echo chamber of his SCAM. He thus decides to go on a mission and preach the gospel wherever he can find a platform. Others may politely caution him pointing out that he might have misunderstood many of the basic principles involved. He is, however, unperturbed and proud of the half-knowledge that he managed to acquire during the process he calls research. Confronted with the repeated rejection of his bizarre notions, he eventually gets aggressive and starts insulting those who fail to follow his delusions. His mission is preaching the gospel of SCAM and, for that purpose, all means are necessary and allowed.

Our cantankerous twit has developed a serious neurosis. Nothing can free him from his paranoid obsessions and conspiracy theories. One by one, his opponents realise the extent of his problems and abandon discussing with him. This merely confirms his prior belief that, on this blog, everyone is in the pocket of Big Pharma. Deeply disgusted he stops debating and looks for another forum where, at least for a while, he can display his profound ignorance.

Carbon 60 has recently been promoted by some commentators on this blog. Their claim seems to be that it is the best thing since sliced bread. So, what should we make of carbon 60 as a dietary supplement?

Here is my attempt to provide a brief summary:

The endogenous production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a consequence of basal cellular respiration. At a moderate level, ROS are involved in cell signalling and required for biochemical energetics of life. When ROS overwhelm the cellular anti-oxidant defence system, oxidative stress can cause damage to cellular proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. Oxidative stress has been implicated in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, neurodegeneration, cancer and musculoskeletal conditions. Therefore, it might be of therapeutic value to relieve the oxidative stress by neutralising ROS with extrinsic anti-oxidants. One potentially potent anti-oxidants is ‘carbon 60’ (also called Fullerene 60).

But what exactly is carbon 60?

Carbon 60 is a molecule composed of 60 carbon atoms arranged in a sphere, and is also known as a buckyball, a cluster of sixty carbon atoms in the shape of a ball, also known as buckminsterfullerene. The carbon atoms in C60 fullerene are linked to three adjacent carbon atoms by strong covalent bonds, and form a spherical pattern of 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons, also known as a truncated icosahedron. The C60 molecule is around 0.7 to 1 nanometres in diameter. Most carbon 60 is manufactured in the laboratory, using an electric arc between two carbon electrodes to create a soot from which the carbon 60 fullerene molecules can be extracted. Tweaking the soot-creating conditions also allows carbon nanotubes to be created instead of C60 buckyballs.

The medicinal properties of carbon 60 currently are the subject of much hype. One website lists 12 amazing health benefits of carbon 60.

#1 May Increase Longevity

#2 Scavenges Free Radicals

#3 May Promote Less Bodily Stiffness and Happier Joints

#4 Seems to Improve Immune Function

#5 Possibly Supports Brain Health

#7 Promotes Cleanliness & Supports Good Hygiene

#8 Might Help You Maintain an Even Waistline

#9 Might Be Useful As A Chemo Support Supplement

#10 Possible UV Protection

#11 Might Enhance Your Skincare Routine

#12 Could Prove Helpful As A Support for Male Infertility Treatments

Is there any evidence to justify these claims? My ‘rough and ready’ searches found just two clinical trials:

Trial No 1

Highly purified and organic solvent-free fullerene-C60 was dissolved, at nearly saturated concentration of 278 ppm, in squalane prepared from olive oil, which is designated as LipoFullerene (LF-SQ) and was examined for usage as a cosmetic ingredient with antioxidant ability. The aim of this study was to assess the anti-wrinkle formation efficacy of LF-SQ in subjects. A total of 23 Japanese women (group I: age 38.9 +/- 3.8, n = 11, group II; age 39.4 +/- 4.3, n = 12) were enrolled in an 8-week trial of LF-SQ blended cream in a randomized, matched pair double-blind study. The LF-SQ cream was applied twice daily on the right or left half of the face, and squalane blended cream (without fullerene-C60) was applied as the placebo on another half of the face. As clinical evaluations of wrinkle grades, visual observation and photographs, and silicone replicas of both crow’s feet areas were taken at baseline (0 week) and at 4th and 8th weeks. Skin replicas were analyzed using an optical profilometry technique. The wrinkle and skin-surface roughness features were calculated and statistically analyzed. Subsequently, trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), moisture levels of the stratum corneum, and visco-elasticity (suppleness: RO and elasticity: R7) were measured on cheeks by instrumental analysis. LF-SQ cream enhanced the skin moisture and the anti-wrinkle formation. LF-SQ cream that was applied on a face twice daily was not effective at 4th week, but significantly more effective than the placebo at 8th week (p < 0.05) without severe side effects. The roughness-area ratio showed significant improvement (p < 0.05) at 8th week with LF-SQ cream as compared to 0 week with LF-SQ cream, but no significant difference was detected between LF-SQ cream and the placebo. We suggest that LF-SQ could be used as an active ingredient for wrinkle-care cosmetics.

Trial No 2

Oxidative stress plays a major role in acne formation, suggesting that oxygen radical scavengers are potential therapeutic agents. Fullerene is a spherical carbon molecule with strong radical sponge activity; therefore, we studied the effectiveness of fullerene gel in treating acne vulgaris. We performed an open trial using a fullerene gel twice a day; at 4 and 8 weeks, the mean number of inflammatory lesions (erythematous papules and pustules) significantly (P < 0.05) decreased from 16.09 ± 9.08 to 12.36 ± 7.03 (reduction rate 23.2%) and 10.0 ± 5.62 (reduction rate 37.8%), respectively. The number of pustules, consisting of accumulation of neutrophils, was significantly (P < 0.05) decreased from 1.45 ± 1.13 to 0.18 ± 0.60 (reduction rate 87.6%), and further in vitro assays of sebum production in hamster sebocytes revealed that 75 μM polyvinylpyrrolidone-fullerene inhibits sebum production, suggesting that fullerene suppresses acne through decreasing neutrophil infiltration and sebum production. After treatment for 8 weeks, the water content of the skin significantly (P < 0.05) increased from 51.7 ± 7.9 to 60.4 ± 10.3 instrumental units. Therefore, the fullerene gel may help in controlling acne vulgaris with skin care benefit.

So, would you buy a supplement of carbon 60? There are many products to chose from. Yet, many readers of this blog might hesitate: not only is the evidence hardly anything to write home about, but also the price tags are eye-watering (~£40/100ml of oil enriched with carbon 60).

Here is a so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) that might be new to you – it certainly was to me: etiopathy. Founded in 1963 by the French Christian Trédaniel, etiopathy is a method of reasoning to determine the causes of a health problem and remove them acting on them. Etiopathy seems particularly popular in France, but is now slowly making inroads also elsewhere.

What is it?

This article explains it quite well:

Etiopathy is an alternative medicine which aims to treat everyday ailments without medication, using only manual techniques. Although it has been around for many years, the discipline is only just beginning to find its feet. It is a recognised health profession in several European countries, although there are not many practitioners.

The word etiopathy comes from the Greek word “aïtia”, which means “cause” and “pathos”, which means “suffering”. In short, etiopathy prioritises trying to find the cause for a pathology rather than getting rid of its symptoms.

The ethos of etiopathy is that the only way to prevent a problem from recurring is to treat it at the cause. According to this approach, if we don’t go back to the true source of the problem, patients run the risk of relapse.

The emphasis on diagnosis in etiopathy allows practitioners to treat the majority of common pathologies, thanks to an exclusively manual treatment approach, involving massage of particular points and thus avoiding medication and side effects. Obviously, an etiopath will immediately refer the patient on if they feel that the support of another health professional is required.

Etiopathy can be used to complement classic medical treatment, to help treat fairly benign problems such as:

  • joint problems (sprains, strains, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, etc.)
  • respiratory or ENT problems (asthma, colds, coughs, sinusitis, rhinitis, rhinopharyngitis, etc.)
  • vertebral problems (neuralgia, torticollis, lumbago, chronic lower back pain, etc.)
  • problems during pregnancy (nausea, vomiting, sciatica) and preparation for giving birth
  • digestive problems (bloating, aerophagia, gastro-oesophageal reflux, constipation, diarrhea, etc.)
  • urinary problems (cystitis, prostate problems, incontinence, etc.)
  • gynaecological problems (painful periods, infertility, menopause, organ prolapse, etc.)
  • circulation problems (palpitations, tightness in the chest, heavy legs, Raynaud’s syndrome, etc.)
  • general health problems (migraines, insomnia, anxiety, shingles, etc.)

The goal of etiopathy is to reduce the risk of developing chronic problems or to find a natural solution to avoid surgical intervention.

_____________________________________________________________________

Big claims indeed!

But what about plausibility?

What about the evidence?

None!

Naught!

Zero!

Zilch!

Zippo!

Conclusion: etiopathy is a SCAM like many others – plenty of hot air, fantasy and hype combined with an absence of science, evidence and  data.

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