Antibodies need some pollen, sometimes

March 18th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, oxygen, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, very basic science | 3 Comments »

Antibodies need some pollen, sometimes

Ben Goldacre
Thursday March 18, 2004
The Guardian

Talk bad science

· The hits just keep on coming. Our noble bad science spotter Carl Brancher sends important news of PO2 Contour Cream from Laboratoires Herzog: it’s a “patented stabilisation of oxygen within a cream” that “puts oxygen back into the skin, reoxygenates skin cells, encourages natural rejuvenation”. It sounds like bollocks; but it smells like peroxide. Especially since Laboratoires Herzog point out, in the small print, that you will want to keep the stuff off your eyebrows. Now, I’m not sure that this is going to put any useful oxygen in my skin, because I’ve got a perfectly adequate circulatory system to handle that; but more importantly, I’m not sure that peroxide is quite what I’m looking for on my face. For £25.

· You may remember Dr Ali, “Britain’s top integrated health expert” from the Sunday Express, who was recently suggesting that the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in your brain is circulated by the pulsation of your (er, rigid) skull. This week he’s telling us that “the body produces antibodies against bacteria and other living organisms that can multiply. But pollens and dust particles are inert (non-living), so the body tries to flush them out by sneezing, coughing, and producing mucous.” Guess those antibody tests where they inject you with pollen are a waste of time then.

· Anyone worried about Dr Ali’s poor understanding of medicine need not worry. Trained in Delhi and Moscow, and now based just off Harley Street in London, he has, his website informs us, “chosen not to apply for registration with the British General Medical Council as the treatment which he personally provides uses massage, diet, yoga and natural supplements and oils which do not need prescription”. Cynics might suggest that his decision not to apply for registration has got more to do with the fact that the General Medical Council regulations forbid the endorsement of lucrative commercial products. Like “Dr Ali’s special recipe Ayurvedic Joint Oil” (£8.50).

· Meanwhile, taking a chance on watching the national lottery draw on television, a reader, Rob Johnson, was delighted to see the programme quiz pose the following question in the science category: “What sign of the zodiac is represented by a fish?” As Mystic Meg might say, “Moron is rising in Aquarius …”


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