Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Info age fail 2: more infovomit (vaccines-autism and paleo/SCD nonscience)

(This is part 2, Read Part 1 here)

  • In 1998 Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a paper implicating vaccines as a cause for Autisim. 

The paper was partially retracted in 2004 after it was discovered that Dr. Andrew falsified information in the report, and received over a half-million dollars in bribes.  

 In 2008, incidents of Measles climbed above 1997 levels. In 2010 the paper was officially fully retracted. To date there are still large movements which continue to preach the evil of vaccines, religiously citing this retracted paper. 

  • With my diagnosis of Crohn’s disease a few years back, I began looking into means of managing it, including Paleo and SCD diets. 

SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) was specifically developed for Gut disorders by Dr. Sidney V. Haas, sometime around 1920.  It was based on the idea that complex carbohydrates and refined sugars were the source of inflammation in the gut.

The Paleo Diet was created in 1975 by Gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin. It was presented as a diet for improved health. It was based on the idea that we would be healthier if we ate like our paleolithic ancestors. His argument was that humans are carnivores, and should be living primarily on fats and protein. 

Initially he created the Paleo diet for gut disorders. More recently it has gone mainstream as a general health, fitness and weight loss diet.

The diets, while difficult to follow precisely, are not bad diets. Processed sugars are out, as are grains, starches… pretty much all packaged foods… They both emphasize good protein, fruits and vegetables…

But the science is garbage.

For SCD you find little real science.  You find lots of people who will go on about how good it is for you. They will tell you about the thousands/millions of people who were cured of their gut disorder by following it. 

Generally anyone who suggests it didn’t work for them is quickly dismissed for having not followed the diet properly (which given the difficulty, and variances from one “expert” to the next, that is an easy claim to make and a difficult one to defend against).

The story is similar with Paleo. Worse, the Paleo peddlers (make no mistake, they profit from the book sales, video sales, product sales…), promote a supporting argument that is fairly convincing, but fundamentally flawed. The two most obvious issues come from the “paleo ancestors” argument. 

Fifty thousand years of evolution separate modern man and Paleo. Two thirds of the human population have evolved the ability to digest milk, as one example (increasing the variety in a species’ food supply is an evolutionary step forward. It improves the probability of survival for a species). 

Second, advancing science has called into question if paleolithic man is our ancestor (A similar thing happened to Neanderthal. He was considered our ancestor when I was in elementary school.  A few years and plenty of research later it was concluded the Neanderthal was a parallel evolutionary path. One that failed. After that, the new evolutionary model was that paleolithic man was the ancestor of us, and Neanderthal. Now that model is changing, and science is coming to the conclusion paleo is also a (failed) parallel evolution.

Additionally, the argument that gut disorders are a direct result of the agrarian diet (which both paleo and SCD claim) is flawed. Humans switched to an agrarian diet nearly 10,000 years ago. Gut disorders are much more recent. It has been in the past 50 years that they have really taken off.

The reason that this matters is that so much attention is being given to Paleo and SCD, resulting in tunnel vision setting in. Insufficient attention is thus being given to more likely factors, such as overuse of anti-biotics (which impacts the gut bacteria ecosystem), GMO’s (they are a little late to the party, having shown up only about 20 years ago, but still much closer to the target time frame than wheat), and other more recent environmental factors (herbicides, pesticides, food additives,…), which more precisely fit the time-frame and geographic patterns of gut disorders.

Oh, It would be unfair of me not to cite a recent study which both Paleo and SCD groups are touting, which demonstrated 100% success in treating a mix of Crohn’s and UC patients. There are several problems with this. First the study was of the IBD-AID diet which is based on SCD. It is neither Paleo nor SCD. Second, the study was of just over a dozen, hand-picked individuals, Finally, the 100% success rate is rather subjective. If you review the data given, there is an absence of any indication of a control for placebo effect (runs around 50% in most Crohn’s trials). Most of the individuals in question were on the same medications at the end of the trial, save for those which are normally short term (the steroids), or in some cases where multiple treatments were being used, the lesser (i.e. safer, but less effective) medications were discontinued. The study is dreadfully weak, yet is accepted as near gospel, used by groups who really have no claim to it, to promote their only barely related solution.


I could go on for pages, volumes. New examples are a daily occurrence.   

An endless sea of evidence that the “Information age” was a bust.

We can’t reliably manage it, verify it, authenticate it, maintain it, or trace it.
<Part 3>

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