Skeptic’s Guide to Debunking Claims about Telomeres in the Scientific and Pseudoscientific Literature (James Coyne) Exaggerated, premature, and outright pseudoscientific claims are being made about telomere length being a measure of cellular aging and human longevity, and about treatments to increase telomere length. Telomere research is in the preliminary stages, and the evidence is conflicting. Claims like “soda may age you as much as smoking” are unjustified. The telomere craze relies on assumptions that can be easily debunked by skeptics.
Say it ain’t so, Mickey! A holiday measles outbreak makes the happiest place in the world sad (David Gorski) In a new outbreak of measles in California, infected patients had all visited Disneyland between December 15 and 20. Theme parks are excellent incubators for diseases as highly infectious as measles. Most victims had not been vaccinated, and at least two were too young to be vaccinated. Doctors who support a non-science-based policy of allowing parents to skip or delay vaccines reacted by minimizing the seriousness of the disease and saying they will give the MMR vaccine “if parents are worried.”
Smoking Cessation and the Affordable Care Act (Harriet Hall) Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and the cause of a long list of diseases. Smoking cessation is arguably the most important public health intervention, and several treatments have been proven effective. The Affordable Care Act will help: it mandates coverage for tobacco use counseling and interventions without cost sharing or prior authorization.
Acupuncture, Organic Food, and Other Questions (Steven Novella) Answers to reader questions about pesticides (there’s no evidence that organic produce is safer), acupuncture (as a scientific hypothesis, it has failed), and supplements (marketed with insufficient evidence, exaggerated claims, and insufficient guarantee of purity). We don’t pick on alternative medicine; we just apply the same standards of scientific evidence to everything.
New FDA regulatory role threatens bogus diagnostic tests (Jann Bellamy) The FDA is going to exercise its medical device regulatory authority over laboratory-developed tests (LDTs) that are developed and performed exclusively at a single laboratory. This may put a stop to bogus tests for “chronic Lyme disease” and provoked urine tests for heavy metal toxicity. Tests for bogus diseases should trigger FDA action.
Does a Common Treatment for Childhood Constipation Cause Autism? (Clay Jones) Polyethylene glycol (Miralax) is a safe and effective treatment for childhood constipation. It has been accused of increasing the risk of autism; there is no real evidence, but research is ongoing. Dr. Jones provides a primer on childhood constipation: its definition, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
SfSBM at NECSS. Update and More (Mark Crislip) Two announcements: (1) the preliminary program schedule for the day of Science-Based Medicine at the NECSS conference in New York on April 10. (2) Mark Crislip’s new book: Puswhisperer: A year in the life of an Infectious Disease Doctor.