The bullshit box

July 10th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evidence, nutritionists, regulating nonsense | 36 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 10 July 2010

This week the food and nutrition pills industries are complaining. They like to make health claims about their products, which often turn out to be unsupported by the evidence. Regulating that mess would be tedious and long-winded, the kind of project enjoyed by the EU, and so the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation was brought in during 2006. Since then, member states have submitted tens of thousands of health claims on behalf of manufacturers about cranberries, fish oil, and every magical ingredient you can think of. This week it turned out that 900 have been examined so far, of which 80% have unsurprisingly been rejected. Read the rest of this entry »

A frankly thin contrivance for writing on the fascinating issue of subgroup analysis

April 25th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, nutritionists, subgroup analysis | 53 Comments »

Welcome back to the only home-learning statistics and trial methodology course to feature villains. You will remember the comedy factory of the Equazen fish oil “trials”: those amazing capsules that make your child clever and well behaved. A new proper trial has now been published looking at whether these fish oil capsules work. They took 75 children with ADHD aged 8 to 18, split the group in half randomly, and gave each child either genuine fish oil capsules, or dummy capsules. They measured ratings scales, and a Clinical Global Impression scale, but there was no difference between the two groups. The fish oil pills did nothing, as in many previous studies, so this trial has not been press released by the company, nor has it been covered in the media.

Read the rest of this entry »

Matthias Rath – steal this chapter

April 9th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, BANT, book, death, matthias rath, nutritionists | 126 Comments »

imageThis is the “missing chapter” about vitamin pill salesman Matthias Rath. Sadly I was unable to write about him at the time that book was initially published, as he was suing my ass in the High Court. The chapter is now available in the new paperback edition, and I’ve posted it here for free so that nobody loses out.

Although the publishers make a slightly melodramatic fuss about this in the promo material, it is a very serious story about the dangers of pseudoscience, as I hope you’ll see, and it was also a pretty unpleasant episode, not just for me, but also for the many other people he’s tried to sue, including Medecins Sans Frontieres and more. If you’re ever looking for a warning sign that you’re on the wrong side of an argument, suing Medecins Sans Frontieres is probably a pretty good clue.

Anyway, here it is, please steal it, print it, repost it, whatever, it’s free under a Creative Commons license, details at the end. If you prefer it is available as a PDF here, or as a word document here. Happy Easter!

Read the rest of this entry »

The barefaced cheek of these characters will never cease to amaze and delight me.

January 5th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, detox, nutritionists, onanism | 150 Comments »

Greeetings to listeners of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. About 20 minutes ago I was on the show talking about detox nonsense. Nas Amir Ahmadi of detoxinabox.com denied the rather foolish contents of her own website, and confidently claimed that I must be thinking of the wrong company. I read a quote. She laughed and said I was mistaken.

The audio is here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I promised on air that I would double check and post on badscience.net. It will not surprise you to hear that she is completely wrong, and I am completely correct. Read the rest of this entry »

Hot foul air

November 1st, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, homeopathy, mondo academico, nutritionists, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications | 78 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday 1st November 2008

Guy Ritchie has cancelled Madonna’s order for tens of thousands of pounds worth of special Kabbalah water to fill their swimming pool. It’s always uncomfortable when we have to humour someone close to us in the name of avoiding conflict. Right now in Thames Valley University, for example, entire science departments must be feeling slightly embarrassed about their degrees in quackery. Because despite the refusal of all universities to openly disclose what they teach on these – uniquely their ideas must be shielded from critical appraisal – the leaks keep coming, and Professor David Colquhoun of UCL continues to archive the comedy on his website.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dave Ford from Durham Council performs incompetent experiments on children.

September 27th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, fish oil, nutritionists | 71 Comments »

image You’ll remember the Durham fish oil “trial” story, possibly the greatest example of scientific incompetence ever documented from a local authority.

Initially they said – to blanket media coverage – that they were running a trial on fish oils, giving pills to 3,000 children to see if it improved GCSE performance. I pointed out, along with several academics, that their experiment was incompetently designed, for no good reason, and so would only produce false positive results. They responded that this was okay, as they hadn’t called it a “trial”. This was very simply untrue: Read the rest of this entry »

The Medicalisation of Everyday Life

September 1st, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, alternative medicine, bad science, big pharma, celebs, equazen, fish oil, medicalisation, nutritionists | 42 Comments »

As the pace of medical innovation slows to a crawl, how do drug companies stay in profit? By ‘discovering’ new illnesses to fit existing products. But, says Ben Goldacre, in the second extract from his new book, for many problems the cure will never be found in a pill.

image

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Monday September 1 2008

When you’ve been working with bullshit for as long as I have, you start to spot recurring themes: quacks and the pharmaceutical industry use the exact same tricks to sell their pills, everybody loves a “science bit” – even if it’s wrong – and when people introduce pseudoscience into any explanation, it’s usually because there’s something else they’re trying desperately not to talk about. But my favourite is this: alternative therapists, the media, and the drug industry all conspire to sell us reductionist, bio-medical explanations for problems that might more sensibly and constructively be thought of as social, political, or personal. And this medicalisation of everyday life isn’t done to us; in fact, we eat it up. Read the rest of this entry »

Bill Nelson wins the internet.

August 9th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, badscience, detox, homeopathy, nutritionists, pseudodiagnoses, quantum physics | 66 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday August 9 2008

image Silly season is in full swing. At the Telegraph, their correspondent has gone for a bioenergetic health audit. “The resident homoeopath, Katie Jermine, quizzed me about my diet, stress levels and lifestyle. She then strapped on a wristband and plugged me into an electronic device called the Quantum QXCI, which scanned my system for vitamins, minerals, food intolerances, toxicity, organ function, hormone balance, parasites, digestive disorders and stress levels.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Blame everyone but yourselves

July 25th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, BANT, dangers, detox, media, nutritionists, regulating nonsense, telegraph | 55 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday July 26 2008

image Like many professions who kill people with some regularity, doctors have elaborate systems for seeing what went wrong afterwards, and the answer is rarely “Brian did it”. This week the papers have been alive with criticism for quack nutritionism after the case of Dawn Page, a 52 year old mother of two who ended up being treated on intensive care, with seizures brought on by sodium deficiency, and left with permanent brain damage, after following the advice of “nutritional therapist” Barbara Nash. She denies liability. Her insurers paid out £810,000.

I will now defend the nutritional therapist Barbara Nash. Read the rest of this entry »

You are hereby sentenced eternally to wander the newspapers, fruitlessly mocking nutriwoo

July 19th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, badscience, nutritionists, telegraph | 41 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday July 26 2008

The newspapers are so profoundly overrun with pseudoscience about food that there’s no point in documenting it any longer. They will continue with their Sisyphean task of dividing all the inanimate objects in the world into the ones that either cause or cure cancer, and I will sit at the sidelines, making that joke over and over again.

This week, however, the Telegraph, which has lost its science editor and its science correspondent in two months, deserves special attention, because two of its food stories went beyond stupid, and managed to give actively harmful information. Read the rest of this entry »