Can anal retention help you beat depression?

September 18th, 2003 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, express, herbal remedies, new scientist, references, times, weight loss | 5 Comments »

Can anal retention help you beat depression?

Ben Goldacre
Thursday September 18, 2003
The Guardian

Talk bad science

· You might wonder why I’m being so anally retentive about everything this week. I can only say in my defence that I’ve been doing my best to follow Hiroyuki Nishigaki’s excellent book: “How to Good-Bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?” available now on Amazon (£14.49).

· The Independent on Sunday managed to infuriate me by carrying an interesting story about comfort eating in rats – apparently it blocks the effect of a hormone implicated in stress – but then not bothering to tell us anything as useful, or crucial to the story, as which hormone. Meanwhile their books section, as is traditional, carried a string of articles that nobody without a PhD in literature could possibly understand.

· The Times on Saturday managed to cheer me up by starting a flatteringly derivative bad science column called “Junk Medicine”. “Chelation therapists, magnet pushers, Cherie and Carole: you are being watched,” sounded eerily familiar, so I decided to watch the Times closely. On Sunday my vigilance was rewarded when its sister paper told us: “The remedy that has performed well in trials to reduce the pain of postherpetic neuralgia is reishi (Ganoderma lucidum).” When they say “performed well in trials” I presume they mean the one trial that was done, in 1998, of four people, with no control group. Find out more at the writer’s awkwardly confident www.whatreallyworks.co.uk, or come chat with me on their excellently unpoliced message boards…

· Meanwhile the Sunday Express claimed “clinical research published in the journal Life Sciences” showed pycnogenol, an extract of pine bark, to be effective at treating blood pressure over 12 weeks. This study is not on medline, or in the Life Sciences index, or in the latest edition of the journal.

· After this orgy of pickiness I was dizzy with over-excitement at spotting some bad science in New Scientist: “A new kind of machine … locates and measures your body fat. It could then tell you exactly where you could do with losing a few pounds and even advise you on exercises for your problem areas.” Normally I wouldn’t dare to question the überboffins, but this sounds a lot like the “spot reducing” myth, the idea that muscles use fat from overlying tissue rather than the whole body, which is widely regarded as rubbish.


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