Snot a problem

July 29th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, express, mail, nutritionists, oxygen, very basic science | 3 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday July 29, 2004
The Guardian

· Mainstream science is, of course, not above reproach. We all know about the dangers of publication bias, where only positive findings get reported, and the negative ones get left in desk drawers; and, of course, sometimes cheeky souls quote papers selectively, to bolster their own agenda. Like the Daily Mail. This week it reports a trial, by the “Institute for Optimum Nutrition”, showing that bone mineral density is preserved in postmenopausal women taking soy milk, because “soy protein and its isoflavones – natural compounds that have a weak, oestrogen-like effect – are good for bones, but until now there has not been an investigation of long-term effects in humans”. It must be news because these gentle, natural isoflavones have, so they say, until now, been callously ignored by patriarchal medical science. Although only if you disregard a very similar but far larger trial, which found that soy supplements do not protect against postmenopausal changes. It was published several weeks previously in Jama, the most important and well read medical journal in America. I didn’t see the findings of that study reported in the newspapers.

· After our cream last week that kills “every known bacteria”, the Daily Express reports that Kleenex is launching an antiviral wipe that can “check the spread of colds and flu”, with chemicals on the middle layer of a three-ply tissue destroying “99.9% of the germs that lay millions low across the nation”. Only 99.9% this time? “This is an incredible breakthrough,” says Kleenex’s spokesman, Dr Winkler Weinberg. “But,” the Express warns, “some scientists fear it could weaken the immune system and trigger the growth of superbugs.” Yikes! That certainly makes it sound jolly potent. Which scientists were they, the ones who keep giving each other colds by sharing disposable tissues covered in snot? Since most of us prefer to catch our colds from the air droplets out of coughs and sneezes, I don’t think we need to be too worried about the Kleenex superbugs just yet.

· Finally, something fishy from the August edition of She magazine, via reader Joanna Franks: “Marketed as an energy booster, HealthAid’s Concentrated Air-Oxy (£9.99) is also effective against jet lag. The drops contain negatively charged oxygen particles that, when added to a glass of water and drunk, supply extra oxygen to the tissues and thus combat tiredness.” Only if you’ve got gills.


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3 Responses



  1. Stig Carlsson said,

    August 30, 2005 at 11:25 pm

    Why do The Winkler mention GERMS in this context?

    Anyway, let them make this amazing material into masks instead
    so we can all go around looking like a Tokyo High Street at
    rushhour, at least that may really work.

    Stig Carlsson, Vänersborg, Sweden

  2. Richard said,

    December 1, 2005 at 11:00 pm

    Now I am no scientist…. and I am not….I havnt even splashed out the 65 bucks for membership of the AANC.

    But I do recall many years ago Domestos changing its bug killing property claims to “germ” killing properties….and low and behold Kleenex are doing exactly the same 30 years later.

    So what exactly are germs? I had always thought that “germ” was an abbreviation of the word germination, which has something to do with plant growth and not virus spread!

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