Salt consumption and the media

July 21, 2011

A good post at Science-Based Medicine today about how the media managed to completely misinterpret a meta-analysis of studies on salt effects.

Yes, I’ve been pretty slack about posts lately – summer is pretty short here so I should spend the time outside rather than sitting at my computer.

Causes of high mercury levels

March 2, 2011

ResearchBlogging.orgThis is the second in a planned series of posts relating to mercury exposure and toxicity (see also Part 1: measuring mercury exposure and Part 3: the many faces of mercury). In this part I’m going to look at some of the causes of high mercury levels measured in the population, and specifically at a recent population biomonitoring study conducted in New York (McKelvey et al., 2011) where follow-up interviews were conducted with people who had abnormally high levels of inorganic mercury in urine samples (the mercury in urine is almost totally inorganic). The methodology was based on the methods used by the CDC for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and included 1,840 people across a variety of social strata, ethnicities, races, and education levels.

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Traffic vs. Autism

December 22, 2010

Originally I was planning on writing something this week on a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives looking at the possibility of a correlation between living near freeways and autism. However, Science-Based Medicine wrote a thorough evaluation of the study (probably more thorough than I would have had time for), so I encourage you to read theirs instead. In the meantime I’ll try to get something else up before Christmas.

Detox scams

October 12, 2010

It seems there are advertisements everywhere for various types of “detox” that will improve your health, make you lose weight, and more. But what does “detox” really do?

Any time I see the word “detox”, my scam alert radar kicks in (to be fair, maybe some people offering detox treatments aren’t scammers, and are merely deluded). These treatments are generally based on the concept of some undefined “toxins” being the source of all your problems, without ever defining what these toxins are supposed to be.

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Regulation of natural products

August 5, 2010

Related to my previous post – there was a good article today on natural product regulation in Canada vs. the US at Science-Based Medicine.

Why herbal medicines need to be treated as drugs

July 28, 2010

There is a tendency among some people to assume that herbal medicines are safe, since they’re “natural”. However, those that work (many are found not to work when they’re actually studied properly) act because a chemical in the herbal medicine has an effect on the body, just like any pharmaceutical drug. Since many pharmaceutical drugs were derived from herbal medicines, you would think this would be evident, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from assuming they’re safe.

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, natural products are often available without consulting a medical doctor. They also are not subject to the same level of regulation and control; most not only haven’t been properly tested to see if they work, but also haven’t undergone rigorous safety studies. Furthermore, the purity and potency of these products generally aren’t regulated [1]; as a result the dose of the active chemical is often unknown (and in some cases it isn’t always present), and contamination of herbal products or misidentification of plants have been reported [2]. The natural products industry has aggressively resisted regulation in Canada and many other countries, however.

I’m not suggesting all herbal products are dangerous; many have been used for a long time without obvious adverse effects (though chronic effects can’t be ruled out without proper testing). However, one concern that probably doesn’t get as much attention as it should is the potential for drug interactions, some of which can be lethal. This risk is compounded by these products being available without consulting a doctor – often a doctor doesn’t know which herbal products a person is taking.

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Baby and toddler foods – not as healthy as we’d hope

June 30, 2010

A recent paper published by Charlene Elliott of the University of Calgary in the Journal of Public Health evaluated the salt and sugar contents in baby and toddler foods; the results are a bit disturbing. While I think most people would expect baby food to be reasonably healthy, it turns out that it’s probably just as bad as processed adult foods. Read the rest of this entry »