Sinus Based Medicine

‘People don’t have ideas, ideas have people.’ —Carl Jung

Science Based Medicine (SBM), the self-styled parser of all that is untrue, fraudulent, and unbelievable in modern clinical medicine, has a long history of trashing medical theories and methods that don’t fit their particular standards for ‘evidence.’ It’s a breathtakingly ambitious title for a website, since the implied notion is that these people can be trusted to judge what science is and what it isn’t, resulting in a weblog whose overarching aim seems to be a never-ending sophomoric pillory of methods they deem quackery. Much of the questionable in modern biomedicine is studiously avoided; instead special attention is reserved for acupuncture, naturopathic medicine and other forms of ‘alternatives’ including vaccines and GMOs. My goal here is not to debate the benefits of skepticism, for indeed, there are many. Instead I propose to hold their particular ways and means up to the light so that those who are interested can see the way the game is played.

I’ve periodically visited the site over the years, in a fashion not terribly different from the way most people crane their necks as they drive by interstate accident sites. SBM’s groupthink culture revels in stereotyping and incivility, often in the form of heavy-handed frat house loutishness. Editors act as mindguards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information. Their posts are often witty, but usually glib and needlessly hurtful. The comments are often xenophobic and unstudied. I rarely leave without needing to run my head under some cold water. This is not skepticism. This is not science. This is medical hate culture.

A truly ethical skeptic is quite aware of the limitations of their own biases, and approaches what they seek to scrutinize humbly, in a spirit of curiosity, for much in science that is now accepted as fact was once considered ridiculous on first inspection. I’m all for vaccines, but I’d like to see the manufacturers liable to the same damage claims as any other pharmaceutical.[1] I’d be much more open to GMOs if there was clearcut indicators that they actually increased crop yields (some sources say yes [2], others say the increases are the result of better general practices. [3])

Particularly appalling is the the degree of ignorance they often display of the very subjects they seek to castigate. I’ll illustrate this with a personal anecdote. Recently, Harriet Hall, one of the lead editors, reviewed the Textbook of Natural Medicine, edited by Joseph Pizzorno and Michael Murray. In the review she excoriated virtually every entry, including one on the ‘Non-Transfusional Significance of ABO Blood Groups’ authored by none else but your humble blogger. I’ll quote the small section here:

Nontransfusion Significance of ABO and ABO-Associated Polymorphisms is a chapter that endorses D’Adamo’s Blood Type Diet, citing popular books and self-reported consumer satisfaction. It does not see fit to mention that a recent systematic review of the published studies concluded that no evidence exists to support benefits of blood type diets. Its conclusion that ABO blood types are “worth factoring into the everyday algorithms of a nutritional practice” is not justified.

Now, this ‘systematic review’ can be found here. [4] You can take look at the abstract, but I’ll encapsulate the premise: the authors scanned the medical literature to see if anyone else has ever published information on the link between blood types and diet. They found little to none. The rationale resulting is, that because there are no prior studies, there is no basis to support its use. Imagine some important historical facts subjected to a similar analog. Up until the Wrights’ flight at Kitty Hawk, there was no prior evidence that it was possible for heavier than air machines to fly. In 1920 The New York Times ridiculed the idea of the scientist Robert H. Goddard that a rocket could function in a vacuum because nobody had ever shown it before. Appeals to ignorance are logical fallacies that, almost by design, set you up to never get better informed.

Slightly more humorous was Hall’s quip that I did not see fit to include this study in the article. Typical of pseudo-skeptics in general, and SBM in particular, is the belief that sloppy investigation needn’t bar the way to a trenchant blog entry. The Textbook she reviews, is the fourth edition, copyright 2012. [5] This article came out in 2013. Remembering that there was at least a one year interregnum between my submitting the article and the publication of the textbook, Hall would seem to think I can go backwards in time.

Should I ever get this awesome ability, a better article to include might be the botched PLOS study purporting to debunk the Blood Type Diets, which conclusively proved that if young, healthy research subjects eat potato chips, sandwiches, pizza, ‘beans,’ mac-and-cheese, French Fries and processed meat products, all the while doing 13.7% of the Blood Type Diet for six weeks, their final cardiometabolic markers will probably not vary much by blood type.[6]

The sinuses are the empty parts of your head.

For years my little private internal joke was to think of this blog instead as Sinus Based Medicine, after those places in your head where things are largely empty, and which only garner attention when they hurt. It’s essentially a collection of the editors’ various feelings about certain aspects of ‘alternative medicine’ and not a whole lot more. Pity, because this segment of medicine needs watchdogs like any other. But not these people, please.

I’ve previously written on the difficulties of ‘proving,’ by conventional statistical and epidemiological methods, the effects of lifestyle changes such as diet alterations. Surveys of people’s eating habits are notoriously imprecise, and it’s simply not practical to run randomized trials for most big nutrition questions. I’ve tried to be honest about the fact that my recommendations are largely based on circumstantial evidence in the literature; albeit voluminous, consistent, physiology-type circumstantial evidence. Perhaps I’d rate higher with SBM if instead I did what 17-30% of all medical researchers do and just fabricate some research. [7,8,9]

1.) Parents can’t sue drug firms when vaccines cause harm, Supreme Court says (Christian Science Monitor)
2.) Does GMO corn increase crop yields?
3.) Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops (2009)
4.) Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jul;98(1):99-104. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.058693. Epub 2013 May 22.
5.) Textbook of Natural Medicine 4th Edition
6.) What went wrong with the The PLOS ‘Blood Type Diet’ Study?
7.) Why Most Published Research Findings Are False
8.) Fraud and deceit in medical research
9.) Fraud and misconduct in clinical research: A concern