“A bird in the scam” (Emu oil)

DREMU

The emu is a large, flightless bird endemic to Australia. Despite an awkward physique, they are faster than Usain Bolt and the females lay giant, Dr. Seuss-worthy green eggs. They are interesting animals but only merit mention in this forum because of claims that emu oil can cure or mitigate a wide range of maladies, including acne, arthritis, rosacea, hemorrhoids, baldness, bee stings, diabetes, bed sores, multiple sclerosis, and even cancer.

Such broad assertions are invariably evidence of a product’s inefficiency. Authentic medicine has an active ingredient that has been identified, extracted, and inserted into a product that is meant to serve a specific purpose, be it attacking a viral invader, reducing an inflammation, or soothing an aching muscle. The biological change it affects is understood, as is mechanism behind the active ingredient. Moreover, the risks and rewards are known. Advil can be taken for knee pain, Aveeno for eczema, and Antivan for anxiety. There is no magic potion that knocks out all of those, especially not from a product that has never been shown in testing to do any of this. Genuine medicine is the reward for doing sound research, following the Scientific Method, and double blind testing. It is supported by empirical evidence and repeated clinical trials.

No product or procedure can treat the dozen-item lists associated with emu oil and similar quackery. And for many serious diseases, there is no cure, only methods to manage symptoms or control flare ups. The more deadly the condition is, the more likely a scammer is to find a desperate patient to peddle to.

If scientists and doctors were seeing consistent, wide-ranging, and significant curative properties in emu oil, there would be multiple double blind studies and peer-reviewed articles highlighting this. Major breakthrough announcements would be made, Nobel Prizes would be awarded, and there would be a rewriting of medical, biology, and pathology textbooks.

Instead, we get claims from Dr. Axe that emu oil boosts the immune system, which is neither possible nor desirable. A heightened immune system is what plagues sufferers of autoimmune conditions such as lupus, celiac, and multiple sclerosis, which emu oil is supposed to fix. We also have an assertion from Wellness Mama that the oil “supports overall health,” an impossibly vague claim, and is without side effects. That last part may be true, but is also a giveaway that emu oil lacks medical value. Medicine, by nature, is going to impact the body is some way and that carries the risk, however slight or rare, of unpleasant side effects.

Another alt-med giveaway is that emu oil proponents prefer anecdotes over data. On wonderoil.com, there are dozens of testimonials insisting that the oil cured just as many conditions. By contrast, the only reference to double blind studies is a paragraph of ad hoc reasoning as to why there aren’t any such studies affirming the viability of emu oil as medicine.

The most frequent emu oil testimonies rave about its ability to soother minor wounds, cuts, and burns, and to provide arthritic relief. But these are cyclical pains and persons are more likely to try something different if previous treatments have failed. This means that seeming successes are likely the result of the discomfort running its usual course. Further, seemingly favorable experiences could result from earlier or concurrent use of genuine medicine. Worse, the claim could be fabricated and there would be no way to know.

One anecdote I found focused on headaches, which is another hurt that fluctuates. But as McGill University science professor Joe Schwarcz noted,”There’s no component in emu oil that could be absorbed into the blood vessels and make it to the brain and influence the dilation or constriction of blood vessels.”

This demonstrates the importance of double blind studies, which determine if placebos produce the same results as the medicine being tested. If there was an ingredient and mechanism in emu oil that cured headaches, experiments and testing would locate this ingredient, extract it, determine the proper dosage, and put in pill, powder, or lotion form. If it worked, patients would need to know how much to use. Too little would be ineffective and too much could be dangerous. But since no research has attested to emu oil’s effectiveness as medicine, supplements that contain it lack standardization and the amount per dose varies depending on which brand one buys.

Many of the claims about emu oil rest on its omega 6 and omega-3 content. These are both essential fatty acids, meaning we can only get them from our diets. But according to obstetrician-gynecologist and skeptic leader, Dr. Jen Gunter, we in the  west consume far too much omega-6 and there’s no evidence that emu oil is especially high in omega-3.

Between Australian origins, a comical appearance, and eggs that resemble massive avocados, there are plenty of emu traits to appreciate, but a byproduct that cures gout, gastritis, and gingivitis isn’t one of them.

 

  

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“Art depreciation” (Ener-chi)

scream

Like other New Age medicine proponents, Ener-chi founder Andreas Moritz was convinced that life force energy imbalances were the cause of illness and disease. But he put a twist on it by adding artwork to the equation and ascribing curative properties to his paintings. He said he could “imbue them with light-encoded energies” that correspond to bodily organs. Gazing upon the painting would therefore heal ailments of the blood, brain, eyes, liver, lungs, and much more.

He explained, “If one looks at the painting that corresponds to the heart, even for only about a minute, very profound changes occur in the life energy field corresponding to that organ. The flow of chi becomes fully restored, and any thought forms or emotional imbalances that have been locked in the cellular structure of that organ are systematically transmuted and released.”

Talk about a magic eye image. But despite having this painted panacea at his disposal, Moritz passed away at age 58. He was willing to die for his beliefs, noted the ener-chi.com website, which continues to promote his ideas. From the website: “Andreas refused to have invasive surgical treatments or procedures.”  

He is gone, but the Ener-Chi Wellness Center continues to trumpet his proposals. Such as insisting that every cell and organ has its own aura, and that the body’s collective aura is made of trillions of tiny ones. Further, these auras also affect Earth’s atmosphere. Moritz wrote, “Negative thoughts and beliefs, emotional trauma, and other experiential episodes get caught up in the ionosphere, triggering major global disturbances.” But that can be fixed with his paintings, too, as some of them are “designed to heal the Earth and her environment. One is meant to heal and awaken energies in the mountain and rock structures of the planet. Another one has a similar effect on the rivers, lakes and seas.” No need to plant a tree when you can just draw one.

The wellness center website contains several blunders:

  • It misuses the word energy, plus mixes it with undefined New Age Terms: “Ener-chi art affects the human body so that something spirals out from our light body to the universe. It cleanses the aura as well as the physical and mental bodies, and balances the chi force throughout the body. It transports energy in and out of the body.”
  • It makes extraordinary, unsubstantiated claims about an eminent, wondrous phenomenon: “Ener-chi art is designed to activate the codes within the DNA structure that are linked with total immunity to disease and make full use of the body’s enormous untapped potential.” Eliminating all disease or making profound, positive changes to DNA are advancements that would be announced by the Nobel Prize Committee chairman, not a schlocky website.
  • It throws scientific terms into a dish, but comes up with a muddled pseudoscientific gumbo: “Ener-chi assists in raising the body’s frequencies and loosening its density, so that one will be able to live and function in higher dimensions than is currently possible. Direct access to these realms will remove fear from life and replace it with the powerful love energies that are capable of accomplishing almost anything.”
  • It makes the hackneyed claim about seeking the root cause, which energy medicine practitioners use to dance around the fact that alt-med has yet to manage its first cure: “Ener-Chi Art addresses the original causes that are responsible for the physical, mental and emotional problems prevalent in our lives today, including those that are of karmic origin.
  • It includes the ubiquitous alt-med goodie about being holistic: “If healing is to be complete, lasting, and purposeful, it must occur simultaneously on all levels of the body, mind, and spirit.
  • It makes the appeal to antiquity: “Ener-Chi Art is based on one of the most ancient systems of healing and rejuvenation. A primary function of this art is to restore a balanced flow of life force energy, throughout the body.
  • Finally, there plenty of testimonials, praise, and self-promotion, but nothing in the way of empirical evidence, double blind studies, or an explanation of the products’ curative mechanisms.

How dangerous a given alternative medicine is can be determined by what the patient is attempting to cure and whether that treatment is used exclusively. There are some inherently hazardous techniques and products, such as black salve, bleach enemas, or staring at the sun. Others are innocuous, albeit futile. For example, trying to get rid of moderate back pain by using applied kinesiology won’t take away the hurt, but it won’t be fatal or cause any more harm beyond to one’s pocketbook.

So with Moritz’s artwork, if one used impressionism to fix astigmatism, it won’t help the peepers, but won’t do any more damage. But if using minimalism to clear clogged arteries, the consequences could be fatal.

Which brings us to the second and more nefarious plank promoted by Moritz. He felt that cancer could be wished away with the right attitude and by snuffing out unresolved issues. He wrote, “Constant conflicts, guilt, and shame can paralyze the body’s basic functions, and lead to the growth of a cancerous tumor.”

In actuality, cancer is normally is caused gene mutation, which can lead to unchecked cell growth. Vulnerability to these mutations are the result of life choices, genetics, and exposure to carcinogens.

Moritz claimed that cancer was rarely seen until the last half century and makes an even more bewildering assertion that it is never fatal. He said, “What kills a cancer patient is not the tumor, but the numerous reasons behind cell mutation and tumor growth,” and that these reasons include unbalanced emotional states, conflict, stress, feelings of inferiority, and lack of confidence.

However, cancer is more common today primarily because people are living longer. And if the disease were related to our emotions, it would be rampant in destitute locations like South Sudan and North Korea.

Moritz even saw cancer as beneficial and benevolent. “Cancer can be a way of revealing the source of such conflict…and heal it. The body can still cure itself, which it actually tries to do by developing cancer. Cancer is more a healing response than it is a disease. It is the body’s attempt to cure itself of an existing imbalance.”

So any smoker who died of lung cancer was just a pessimist. If they had only gotten to the root of why they felt blue, the disease would have gone away. And other animals who die of cancer, they were just a little stressed. Can you blame them? They are homeless, don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and they have no idea where their children are.

Moritz recalled that he had “yet to meet a cancer patient who does not feel burdened by some poor self-image, unresolved conflict, worries, or past emotional trauma.” He failed to consider that a terminal illness, with its pains and fears and seeing what it does to your loved ones, could be a real downer.

Like many alternative medics, Moritz blamed the patient for undesirable outcomes. If after receiving his “treatment,” the patient was unable to resolve the conflict, then he or she was causing the body’s natural healing processes to fail.

One thing Moritz and I would agree on: You need his paintings like you need cancer.

 

  

“Tough cell” (Integrative oncology)

CANCER

Integrative means “to unify separate items.” Oncology refers to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. So, in a strict sense, exercise, nutrition, deep breathing, and meditation that are aimed at reducing the pain, nausea, stress, and other consequences of cancer could qualify as integrative oncology.

However, most people who consider themselves integrative oncologists use the term because it sounds better than “malarkey.” They offer aura cleansings, naturopathy, and energy healing, all of which have no plausible mechanism by which they would arrest rouge cell growth.

While proponents try to spin it as offering the best of both the traditional and alternative medicine worlds, the term is almost never used by those who combat cancer with chemotherapy and surgery; it’s used almost exclusively by those who prefer beef liver regimens and crystals.

Integrative oncologists favor terms like “multidisciplinary, “synergy,” “patient-centered,” “holistic,” “mind-body-spirit meld,” and “optimizing wellness.” These vacuous words gloss over the fact that the techniques they offer won’t help cure a patient’s cancer. To do that, one needs chemo, radiation, targeted drug therapy, immunotherapy, or surgery.  

Again, in the strict sense of the word, there is room for integrative oncology. Wigs and prosthetic brassieres for post-mastectomy patients are examples of how a person can be helped with issues related to cancer without the disease itself being impacted.

Or perhaps a patient suffers from malnutrition, as cancer affects their appetite and digestion. It would therefore be valid to work with a dietician to come up with a meal plan that will provide the extra vitamins and minerals needed while battling cancer and undergoing treatment.

And since a potentially lethal disease causes dread, anxiety, stress, fear, and worry, it follows that meditation, guided imagery, or a massage to help deal with these emotions can be beneficial. Or the patient may be an erstwhile distance runner who is now incapable of much exertion at all. In this instance, an exercise plan that squares with this new reality is another good idea. So tai chi, yoga, meditation, and the like are all fine for dealing with the tangential issues of cancer. As long as there is no claim that any magical, curative energy is at work, it’s fine.

The nonsense comes from thinking, as Dr. Axe does, that one of the nation’s leading killers is going to be stymied by “vegetable juicing, probiotic foods, immune-boosting supplements, stress reducing techniques, and prayer.” He presumably followed his attorney’s advice by adding, “I am not claiming that is a cancer cure.” Having taken care of that legal cover, Axe dovetails back into, “I believe these natural therapies, either used by themselves or in conjunction with conventional medical treatments, may support the healing process.”

Like much alternative medicine, integrative oncology has seeped into our institutions of higher learning. This includes the University of Arizona, which offers a course on the subject. Despite a terse description of the field on its website, the university managed to squeeze in three logical fallacies:

“It is estimated that a great majority of cancer patients are using complementary therapies in addition to conventional care (Ad populum). As patients face a life-threatening diagnosis out of their control, they turn to therapies that offer hope and a regained sense of empowerment (Appeal to consequences). You will learn techniques such as those offered in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Appeal to antiquity).”

Bypassing conventional cancer treatment is almost guaranteed to be fatal. In the last year, there have been heartbreaking cases of persons trying to cure cancer with Gerson Therapy, veganism, or baking soda and lemon juice.

While not as drastic as those tragedies, integrative oncology mixes the legit and the looney. This creates a parasitic relationship, where chemotherapy, surgery, targeted drug therapy, and immunotherapy are considered in the same class of cancer treatment as are coffee enemas, frankincense, B12 overloads, and lots of sunshine. All those are types of naturopathy. The field has many forms, but the underlying theme is that the body has an inherent ability to heal itself if only it can be prompted by the right vehicle. This notion cannot be squared with cancer treatment. Incorporating iridologists, Reiki practitioners, or oily neck rubs is of zero value and could even be dangerous since a somewhat pleasant craniosacral massage is going to seem more attractive than another round of chemo, perhaps prompting the patient to forgo the latter.

That’s why UCLA’s Simms-Mann Center is wrong to proclaim that “the best medicine combines multiple modalities.” No, the best medicine is proven through metadata of double blind studies. More is not necessarily better. The removal of a malignant tumor isn’t going to be aided by listening to binaural beats.  

 

“Frequent liar miles” (Amino Neuro Frequency)

'Quack'

Amino Neuro Frequency is a treatment system touted as a way to reduce pain and inflammation. During a session, silver dollar-sized discs are applied liberally to the skin and this is intended to emit healing frequencies to the afflicted body part.

From afncourses.com, we learn that, “AFN discs transmit a unique range of frequencies through the neurons in the body. The nervous system picks up these frequencies, starting a self-healing and self-regulating process. They store and transfer radio frequency in the form of sub-harmonic signals, programmed to a specific frequency. The discs provide a biofield with information via sympathetic resonance. The connection from the patch to the body is made through the nervous system and the seven layers of bio energy the body naturally produces. The patch provides the signal to promote cellular communication to reduce stress and anxiety while restoring imbalances.”

That mishmash of pseudoscientific language never gets around to explaining how the treatment works. But it does reference resonance, cells, frequency, harmonics, energy, and the old alt-med standby, imbalance. Proponents are content to toss a hodgepodge of science-like terms into a caldron and hope the resultant gumbo impresses or at least confuses.

They were unable to persuade the folks at factualphysicaltherapy.com, who noted that, “This explanation is so vague, it can be connected to any problem a person has. There is no condition that they can’t help.”

The discs allegedly decrease pain levels within minutes and are effective for 72 hours. There are many testimonials to support this. Skeptic leader Harriet Hall wrote that one such anecdote had a patient describing his pain level going from 10 to 2 in just a few minutes. This prompted her to wonder, “If the pain is caused by injury or inflammation, how could it resolve so quickly, without time for tissue repair?”

Indeed, there is nothing in the way of controlled scientific studies to support this claim or any of the others. Trying it out one’s self is an unreliable method to determine the efficiency of a medical product or treatment. That’s because the self-administering patient will be unaware if symptoms were resolved because of the treatment, some other cause, or merely time. The opposite is also true. If the subject’s symptoms stagnate or worsen, that person might be the anomaly. These are reasons why control groups and double blind studies are needed. When neither the subjects nor the researchers know which group is receiving the authentic medicine and which group is receiving the placebo, the efficiency can be ascertained with much more accuracy, especially when scores of such studies are conducted.

Double blinds studies are especially crucial when researching treatments for illnesses that are not serious or chronic. That’s because the immune system and the body’s recuperative abilities will generally restore good health and this normal course of business can be wrongly attributed to a purported medicine or technique if we rely on anecdotes instead of data. Double blind studies also help determine the proper dose and to develop treatment protocols. .

With Amino Neuro Frequency discs, there are the additional problems of practitioners having no idea what a human cell’s frequency would be, how the discs would access and hold energy, what type of energy it is, how it is imparted to the patient, and how this is beneficial.

Embedded frequencies are becoming more of an alt-med buzzword. Hall notes that proponents usually employ the word “frequency” in isolation. But the word is meaningless unless the speaker specifics what kind of frequency it is. Frequency is defined as the number of repeating occurrences of an event per unit of time. When used legitimately, it refers to phenomena such as revolutions per minute, heartbeats per minute, waves of light per second, etc. Just throwing out the word “frequency” is taking a science term, using it incorrectly, and trying to hawk a product with it. In other words, the epitome of pseudoscience.

Further, it is impossible to embed a frequency. One might be able to embed an object that produces vibrations or electromagnetic waves that have a frequency, but that would require a power source. And even if a product contained such a generator, there is no evidence that subjecting a body part to a set frequency would have an identified benefit for a specific organ.

“Fleeced lightning” (Phil Parker)

FL

Phil Parker and his Lightning Process sounds like a bad lounge act, but in fact is an even worse form of make-believe medicine. It is another instance of supposed mind control magic, and while Parker’s claims are somewhat less extravagant than other alt-med peddlers, he boasts of doing plenty, none of which is backed by double blind studies or an explanation of the mechanism behind it.

Parker holds that we experience stressors from sickness, pollution, relationships, work, school, finances, etc., and that these mess with our sleep, immune system, digestion, and rational thinking. This, in turn, creates a wide range of medical conditions. So he offers a three-day training course that allegedly helps patients recognize the body’s stress response mechanism and reduce the frequency and intensity of such stressors. Next, the persons will manage their long-term health through the use of neuroplasticity.

While neuroplasticity has applications in areas such as brain damage, vision defects, or Cochlear Implants, these must be undertaken by medical specialists using advanced technology and is not something persons can tap into themselves during a long weekend retreat.

But after such a weekend, Parker says the Lightning Process will help sufferers conquer Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, migraines, backaches, Multiple Sclerosis, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, overeating, low self-esteem, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and general malaise.

Such wide-ranging claims are almost always a pseudoscience giveaway. Consider a legitimate medication, ibuprofen. We know that it treats specific areas: Pain, fever, and inflammation. And in an article for Business Insider, Lydia Ramsey explained that ibuprofen works by “latching onto to an enzyme called cyclooxygenase and blocking it out. This keeps the body from making a molecule called prostaglandin, which generates the inflammation that often leads to pain. With that molecule blocked, the pain begins to subside.”

The language there is a little technical, but we get the basic idea of why the medication works. By contrast, this is what passes for an explication of Parker’s program: “The Lightning Process gives you powerful tools to use brain-body links to influence your health and life. The tools involve gentle movement, meditation-like techniques and mental exercises. With practice you can use them to change the way your nervous system works, switching on pathways which promote health and switching off ones which aren’t so good for you.”

This gives us nothing concrete and there is also no mention of side effects, which is another pseudoscience giveaway. An ibuprofen bottle warns of the risks of nausea, dyspepsia, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, dizziness, rashes, hypertension, and more. The seemingly refreshing lack of side effects in alternative medicine is due to such products lacking any active ingredients, which means they are having no impact on the patient’s body.

Another red flag is Parker’s claims being sometimes vague, such as promising to “help with performance” or “improve esteem,” concepts that are difficult to quantify. But at least that is better than his more dangerous claim of being able to cure Multiple Sclerosis. While that disease has no cure, there are treatments available, and a patient who eschews those for Parkers’ three-day training program are going to make a bad situation even less tolerable.

Indeed, as the skeptic surgeon blogger Orac wrote, “A cancer patient would be infinitely better off trying immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or chemotherapy, rather than trying to use the brain to create thoughts that will kill cancer cells.”

To be clear, Parker does not claim cancer-killing abilities and most of his assertions are relatively benign in an alternative medicine landscape that includes staring at the sun for weight loss, bleach enemas to cure autism, and anti-vaxxers tormenting parents whose children died from Whooping Cough.

Because he focuses on comparatively tame maladies like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, back pain, and headaches, Parker’s techniques may seem to work, owing to the fluctuating nature of illnesses and post hoc reasoning. The one area besides MS where he does cross the line into becoming dangerous is claiming that the Lightning Process will help with mental disorders. A person with such conditions should by getting psychiatric care, not attending a seminar.

But plenty of persons do seem to be attending. On his website, Parker writes of “thousands of success stories from those who’ve changed their lives and health.” That is followed by links to newspapers, magazines, television stations, and blogs. What he doesn’t point to is anything the way of double blind studies. His website has one isolated example of research, but this was  alone study featuring a non-random sample of nine persons with no control group. One zero-blind study on a miniscule number of subjects falls well short of the scientific standard, and it’s easy to see why Parker favors the alt-med tactic of emphasizing anecdotes over data.

What he lacks in empirical evidence and research, however, he makes up for in books and videos, which is yet another pseudoscience giveaway. Someone practicing genuine medicine is going to offer only products and/or treatments. Further, they will be able to explain in scientific terms the mechanism behind what they are offering. They will not be hawking multimedia products that take hours to get through, with only a hazy description of how it all works.

In Parker’s description, the Lighting Process is a means to improve athletic performance, relieve chronic fatigue, vanquish anxiety, end panic attacks, zap Multiple Sclerosis, lose weight, and stop headaches. Such a multi-faceted wonder would be announced in peer reviewed journals and at Nobel Prize ceremonies, not in Facebook posts and advertisements laden with all caps and exclamation points.

 

 

“Balancing act” (Neuro Connect clips)

BALANCE

Neuro Connect clips are new on the alternative medicine scene are, but the posturing and preposterousness that accompanying them have been seen many times before.

Owners of the company that sells them purport that their product can do all manner of wonders, particularly for one’s balance and athleticism. The product was pitched to credulous investors on Dragons’ Den, which is the Great White North’s version of Shark Tank. Doing the hawking was Ontario chiropractor Mark Metus and his business partner, Greg Phillips, both of whom raved about the clips’ ability to immediately improve balance, strength, muscle function, and joint flexibility.

In doing so, they employed classic pseudoscientific techniques, such as misrepresenting a genuine scientific phenomenon and falsely asserting that their merchandise can harness it. In this case, the principle is quantum entanglement, which Metus said his product creates.

This goes well beyond my area of expertise, so I will keep it basic. But quantum entanglement occurs when groups of particles interact in such a way that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the others’ quantum state, regardless of distance from one another. Even quantum physicists are unsure why this occurs. The topic is confusing, complex, and science-sounding, so Metus and Phillips take advantage of this befuddlement and pitch their product with assertions that are unsupported by evidence or studies. Again, even among experts, quantum entanglement is little understood, so there’s no reason to believe that the phenomenon is being tapped into for health benefits by two men with no medical or scientific background or training.

According to the company’s website, the clips are infused with a “subtle energy pattern” which travels neurological pathways by means of quantum entanglement and this leads to better health. This description represents a mishmash of misused words, artificially constructed phrases, and unsubstantiated claims. Energy is merely measurable work capability, not the panacea it is presented to be in alt-med circles, where it is the most ubiquitous and abused word. Neurological is an anatomical term, but the clips’ merchants are failing to explain how such pathways would be impacted by their product via quantum entanglement. This use of science terms without explaining the science it is another red flag. Finally, the health claims are unsupported by double blind studies or other empirical evidence, to which Metus can only respond, “We just know that it works.”

Instead of the Scientific Method, he and Phillips prefer demonstrations that are easily manipulated. On the Canadian television program, Metus asked Dragon Michele Romanow to stand on one leg and reach up as if she were grasping for an object on a high shelf. He then forces her arm down, attaches the clip, and has her assume the position again.

This time, Metus seems unable to lower the arm and he remarks how much stronger Romanow is, to her amazement. The company’s website is full of such testimonials from customers who also credit the clips with improving their stability, pain management, and motor skills. Glowing reports like these in lieu of double blind studies are yet another pseudoscience giveaway.

The technique that fooled Romanow is frequently used in the alternative medicine field of applied kinesiology. It has also been a central selling point for similar products that purport to improve balance. The technique is less of a demonstration of the product and more of an example of how the range of human motion works.

You can try your own in-home study. Have someone push you with moderate effort from the front. Then turn 90 degrees left or right and have the person again shove you again with the same force. In the second iteration, you will now be much more likely to stay put. This is due to anatomy and physiology, not because a mysterious force or magic dust is at work.

In the hands of charlatans, the usual method is to twice push down on a subject’s arm, which has been raised or otherwise positioned for the “testing.” The first test is alleged to measure the subject’s baseline. The follow-up is meant to show how much stronger or centered the person feels with the product in hand (or around neck or over waist). The patient usually detects a difference, but this is not because a mystical energy has been accessed. Rather, it stems from the client’s positioning and the force exerted by the practitioner.

In a similar deceptive demonstration, the subjects clasp their hands together behind their back while the demonstrator, from about two feet away, pushes down and dislodges the person from their position. Then with the magic bracelet affixed, the demonstrator moves directly behind the person, who now cannot fall back because someone is standing directly behind them.

Another trick is to have the subject stand with their arms forming a T. The demonstrator then pushes on one of the arms around the elbow, outward toward the hand. Unless the subject is Mr. Olympia, the arm is going down. On the next demonstration, with the stupendous product now in place, the push is made again at the elbow, but in the other direction toward the subject’s sternum, and the pose holds.

Since Neuro Connect has yet to conduct double blind studies of its clip, the online news organization Marketplace filled the void. Teaming with science professors from the University of Toronto, the journalists performed tests on 10 volunteers. All were tested on standing balance and grip strength. Each volunteer participant did each test thrice – once with Neuro Connect clips, once was with placebo clips, and once without clips. On the first two of these, neither the subjects nor the evaluators knew which was which. The results showed no difference in strength or balance for any participant in any of the three iterations. Maybe their quantum wasn’t entangled enough.

 

“The Brady Hunch” (TB12 Method)

bradyps

Whatever reasons Tom Brady might give for his key fumble in the closing minutes of Super Bowl LII, he won’t include his breakfast among them. The New England quarterback touts his TB12 Method through his book of the same name and he outlines his dozen guidelines for optimal performance. These include, supplements, stretches, and massage techniques, but the primary focus is on diet.

Brady emphasize foods that he calls “alkalizing,” “anti-inflammatory,” and which improve “muscle pliability.” He writes that certain meal selections lower his pH level, which in turn help with a range of ailments, from low energy to supple bones. However, a person cannot impact their pH balance through diet or anything else, nor would one want to. The lungs and kidneys maintain pH levels and the body deviates very little toward more acidic or more alkaline, instead permanently residing in a balanced, ideal range. In this sense, pH levels are somewhat akin to body temperature. There is little one can do to impact it, one should not be attempting to do so, and if it changes five percent in either direction, medical help should be sought.

Brady avoids alcohol, gluten, GMOs, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, sugar, artificial sweeteners,  fruit juice, grain-based foods, jams, jellies, most cooking oils, frozen dinners, salty or sugary snacks, white potatoes, prepackaged condiments, flour, caffeine, and nightshade vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. With a list that extensive, it doesn’t seem like there would be many grub options left, but he does profess his love for coconut oil and Himalayan pink salt, both New Age, alt-med darlings.

Clearly, some of this abstinence is good. Avoiding alcohol, trans fats, and excess sugar are to be applauded. But some items on his list are there because of unwarranted fears, specifically of GMOs and gluten. Moreover, some foods he eschews are good for health, such as the vegetables. The biggest point, though, is that whatever Brady is refraining from or indulging in, there’s no evidence that the diet does what he claims. It neither alkalizes the body nor improves muscle recovery.

One possibly-true-but-with-a-caveat claim is Brady’s insistence that his anti-inflammatory diet helps him stay injury free and recover quickly from a bruising corner blitz or a game played on three days’ rest. It is true that our cuisine choices can impact inflammation, but Brady’s diet is unnecessarily restrictive.

Before going further, let’s emphasize that there are two primary types of body inflammation. One is beneficial and assists the body’s immune system against viral and bacterial interlopers. As an example, the skin may redden as the body turns up the heat in order to fend off bacteria residing in an elbow scrape. Then there’s harmful inflammation, which occurs when the body’s inflammatory responses are overactive and which reduces a person’s ability to fight off invaders and disease.

Unlike our pH levels, there are ways to deal with harmful inflammation. These include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, medicine, and, yes, diet. But anti-inflammatory regimens aren’t nearly as exclusionary as the one Brady is promoting. Per an article cited in PubMed, an effective anti-inflammatory diet would focus on omega-3 fatty acids and colorful, non-starchy vegetables, while eliminating Ding Dongs and the like. On another point, there’s no evidence that these diets boost athletic performance. The only post-exercise food options likely to speed recovery are getting adequate carbohydrates and protein.

Another tip Brady offers is drinking at least half one’s body weight in ounces per day. For instance, I weigh, well never mind, let’s just go with someone who weighs 180 pounds. That person, per Brady, should be drinking at least 90 ounces of water daily. He claims consuming less could lead to decreased oxygen in the bloodstream, more susceptibility to sunburn, toxin buildup in cells, and an undefined unpleasantness he calls an “unhealthy inner environment.” None of this has any scientific backing, nor does Brady attempt to cite any.

To state the obvious, humans need water, but let thirst be your guide on whether you should drink some. Our bodies maintain sufficient reserves of electrolytes and 538 journalist Christie Aschwanden quoted exercise scientist Tamara Hew-Butler, who said even an endurance athlete will have salts and minerals replaced with their next meal. There is no need for supplements or excess water consumption. She further said, “Even athletes taking part in ultramarathons should not drink beyond thirst, and supplemental sodium has been demonstrated to not be necessary during prolonged exercise even under hot conditions for up to 30 hours.” Besides, drinking extreme amounts of excess water can lead to hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition.

As to the muscles claims, Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times took these on. Brady’s idea is that muscles should be pliable for good health and prolonged athletic performance. He suggests less weight training in lieu of “targeted, deep-force muscle work,” which entails “focused massage and contracting of muscles, while also stretching and pummeling them, preferably with high-tech, vibrating foam rollers or vibrating spheres.”

There is no empirical evidence supporting this and Brady is not a subject matter expert with double blind studies and published papers to his name. There’s no more reason to believe his take on this than there would be to turn quarterbacking duties in the Super Bowl over to a kinesiology professor. Stuart Phillips holds just such a position at McMaster University and he said that soft muscles are sick ones, so Brady is not accomplishing what he thinks he is, nor would he want to.

Brady calls muscle pliability the name he and his body coach “give to the training regimen he and I do every day.” In other words, they made the term up and there is no science supporting the purported benefits they attribute to it. Indeed, Reynolds performed a PubMed search with the keywords muscle and pliability, and the only result was a study on the efficiency of various embalming techniques on corpses. Brady’s nutritional notions should likewise be considered dead on arrival.