watervole: (Mad Scientist)
I'm normally very good at spotting bogus claims for vitamins, magic pills, superfoods, etc. but there was one that even I used to fall for - fish oil.

There are loads of claims made that it will improve your child's intelligence, cure you of depression, etc.

However, the trials showing this generally turn out not to be proper trials (or not to have published their results when nothing happened).  It's important to have a control group (who are randomly assigned and do not know which group they are in).

The findings of a a well-conducted, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, in 450 children aged 8–10 years old from a mainstream school population showed no improvement from fish oil.

Here's to Ben Goldacre, who makes the effort to look up the original papers every time newspapers make claims about these things (and misquote the papers they're basing the articles on)
watervole: (Teapot)
For those who didn't read this on [livejournal.com profile] major_clanger 's LJ go and take a look here (best if you read this link first) and here:

watervole: (Default)
On behalf of the four people I know with ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - recent research shows that 95% of sufferers have antibodies to murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV).

One should always be cautious of early research results, perhaps especially when they tell you what you want to believe, but the sample sizes and confidence levels look good. 

"The study, published in the journal Science, shows that the virus, called murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV), was found in 68 of 101 patients from around the US with chronic fatigue syndrome. This compared with just eight of 218 healthy "controls" drawn at random from the same parts of the US, the scientists said.

But the senior author of the study, Judy Mikovits, director of research at the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nevada, said further blood tests have revealed that more than 95 per cent of patients with the syndrome have antibodies to the virus – indicating they have been infected with XMRV, which can lie dormant within a patient's DNA. "With those numbers, I would say, yes we've found the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. We also have data showing that the virus attacks the human immune system," said Dr Mikovits. She is testing a further 500 blood samples gathered from chronic fatigue patients diagnosed in London. "The same percentages are holding up," she said."

When I had one friend with ME, I believed it might have a mental cause. The second friend - who was as strong a personality as you could wish for and a keen dancer - convinced me, because I saw her trying, that the disease cannot be overcome by exercise or positive thinking.  The third friend, who was a doctor, made me realise that 'chronic fatigue' is an understatement. The disease can cause severe pain as well as exhaustion.  The fourth made me realise just how widespread this illness is.

Now we have a cause, maybe there will eventaually be hope of a cure.

watervole: (Radiolarian)
Here is an excellent set of tips on how to evaluate newspaper headlines.  If you've just been scared by an article that says "x causes cancer" or curious about "miracle cure for y", then follow the suggestions here to work out if x is really likely to be dangerous, or if y may have been blown out of all proportion.

The link, of course, came via Ben Goldacre's excellent blog, which has an LJ feed.

Maybe, someday, when I've managed to get out of running big conventions, I'll run a totally self-indulgent little baby convention and have Ronald Hutton and Ben Goldacre as my guests.

But until that day happens, I'm still happy to say that Ben Goldacre will be one of the guest speakers at Odyssey 2010.

watervole: (Radiolarian)
Just read this interesting article on the way women select men by the way they smell (and it can kick in very quickly without us even being aware of it).  The most interesting finding was that oral contraceptives reverse the effect.  The preferred scent is that of a man with a different MHC complex (essentially someone who is resistant to different diseases from yourself).

The moral of the article appears to be that if you're looking for a man with the eventual aim of having children, then you should make sure you aren't on the pill at the time.  The miscarriage rate is lower (and the chances of conception higher) among couples with different MHC complexes, so it makes sense to choose a man when your built-in MHC detector is working properly.

(There hasn't yet been any research to find if men select women on a similar basis)
watervole: (Radiolarian)
This is fun, and it works - I just tried it.  (the practical value may be limited, but I can actually read text that I can't otherwise read without my glasses)

A good one if you ever want to show the kids some instant science.


watervole: (Default)
Judith Proctor


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