Sunday, December 19, 2010

So who should I trust, and who is full of it?

It can be hard to determine which sources are the best, and who exactly you should listen to. I know I said “without naming names” in my last post, but that is precisely what I intend to do in this one. I think it is important for people to know where their medical information is coming from and whether it is credible or not.

Never believe anything they say:
  • Infomercials! – these are the guys I was talking about in the first part of my last post; these are the ones who want your money, even if it puts your health at risk. While some of what they say is based on facts, they twist it and add stuff to make you believe their lies. Things like diet pills on infomercials are usually full of nothing, or very dangerous drugs like ephedrine. Similarly, things like miracle cleansers will usually do nothing but clean out your bank account. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I can make a whole post on it, leave me a comment.
  • People who ask/answer questions on sites like Yahoo Answers, or – some of these people are knowledgeable professionals, most are not. Many are those people who take the infomercials as fact, they are likely exposed to most of the bad sources of information on this list and remember bits and pieces, then regurgitate a fractured version in a way that may or may not make any sense. Sometimes they are people who want only to fool others and get as many people as possible to believe their lies. This can be a way to get some direction for further research, but should not be taken for fact.
  • Anyone who does not cite their source – if there is no reference as to where the information came from, then you can assume they are making it all up, if there are references, check them out! You may discover they are complete crap, or they may be much more informative and helpful than the explanation you were originally given. (I will attempt to provide as many alternate sources as possible to allow you to do your own research if you want to look further in to what I have presented, and of course, if you want to learn more, just ask.)

Most of the info can be trusted, but be careful..
  • TV shows like “The Doctors” or “Dr. Oz” – these shows are what I was talking about in the second part of my last post. It is not limited to television; radio shows, websites, magazines, and other media are guilty of unintentionally distorting good medical information into less than truthful advice. For the most part what they have to offer is good, awareness about diseases, teaching the public what warning signs they should recognize for various conditions, what to do in the event of a medical emergency, ways to prevent disease, all good stuff. Sometimes though, they create a bit of a misconception due to their over-simplifications. Also, sometimes they manage to induce some form of paranoia or hypochondria since many diseases and conditions present with common innocuous symptoms. Do not write these guys off altogether, just take what they have to say with a grain of salt, and if you are curious or skeptical, just look it up!
  • Wikipedia – many people would classify this in the “Never believe anything they say” category, but that’s not where I put it. It is true that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone on the planet and they can say whatever they darn well please, no matter how truthful it is. But in reality the majority of information on Wikipedia is true, and most people cite their sources! This does not mean that everything is true; it is like a minefield of lies dispersed between the facts. I recommend using Wikipedia to get an idea about the topic you are interested in, and directions you might like to investigate further, then go straight to the references part at the bottom and check them out, they are usually much more thorough, and can often be used as citations for your work. That is not to say that any citation in Wikipedia is great and full of truth; it may not be, so again, take it with a grain of salt.

ALMOST always credible information:
  • – this is a great website with tons of helpful information on conditions, diseases, drugs, and general health information. They have a nifty ‘symptom checker’ that can help you zero in on what is ailing you. Not to be used as a substitute for your doctor, but it can give you an idea of whether you should schedule a visit, or something you might like to mention while you are there. If you know of another website you think may fit here, let me know and I can check it out.
  • Web sites from trusted organizations and universities – Mayo Clinic, Harvard, Cornell
  • Government sites - National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control
  • Scholarly Journals – these can be found on PubMed through the NIH – scholarly journals are the research articles published by scientists. All the information contained in them has been thoroughly reviewed and double checked by a number of individuals. They are written by experts for experts and may not be easily understood by a lay person, so this is not helpful for everyone.
  • Text Books – Definitely my favorite source of information! Text books are compilations of all the information that has been published in the articles above, with all the background information to help it make sense to you. The information is presented clearly and with nice diagrams to illustrate things in a more dynamic way. The more advanced the textbook the more background knowledge you need, so start with general topics and work up. (Books I may use in my posts include: Human Anatomy by McKinley and Olaughlin, Human Physiology by Silverthorn, Brody's Human Pharmacology by Wecker, Basic and Clinical Pharmacology by Katzung, and Basic Pharmacology by Hernandez and Rathenavelu.)
  • Your doctor – trust no one more than a good doctor, they have gone through years of training to be able to diagnose and treat any health problem you have, and to answer all your questions. Find a good one, one who is approachable and explains things to you, one who is compassionate and asks your opinion. If you don’t like your doctor, get a new one, find the perfect doc for you and stick with them. Always remember to tell them full details and keep them informed of any vitamins, supplements, or anything else you may be taking. There is no substitute for your doctor!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The problem with fake medical advice.

This is the reason I started this blog; not everyone who is presenting medical information is doing it factually. Most of the time when you hear things that sound true, you assume they are; if someone sounds like they know what they are talking about, most people will believe what they have to say. But often times you shouldn’t.

The people who present false information as fact are essentially manipulating people for profit, this alone is somewhat benign, but when they are selling false medicine they can be putting people’s health and even lives at risk. Those who try to convince you that something in your home right now will kill you if you don’t buy their product; those who claim that their magical object is the secret to health and longevity; those who try to solve a problem you have with the next ‘super-drug’; it is all asinine  There are way too many legitimate ways to earn an honest dollar, ways that serve no harm or even benefit others, for anyone to devote their time and money to compromising people’s health in return for some money.

It is not only those out to make a buck, sometimes it is also those with good intentions. Without naming names, there are plenty of people out there who are attempting to provide the masses with some degree of medical information so they can live healthier lives. This sounds pretty good, right? The problem here is that many times they will ‘dumb it down’ to make it easier for anyone who may be reading/listening/watching to understand. Often, they manage to put it in words that encompass all the necessary information and make sense to the lay person. Other times they generally represent the true information they are trying to convey, but leave out some crucial details, this is now verging on falsification. When things are simplified to the point of losing the true information, it practically becomes a lie, even when the intentions are pure. This can be even more detrimental because people are conditioned to trust these individuals, and will often act on the information they get from them. People may end up doing something that may actually cause them harm.

One day while listening to the radio I heard a segment about consuming unpasteurized milk. My friends and I mocked it because we have the education to know how ridiculously bad that notion really is. Still, people were calling in telling the host how they think it tastes better and that it is supposedly healthier, that they will never go back to drinking pasteurized milk. I understand those who dislike things purely because they are commercialized and prefer to ‘buy local’; I have no problem with this concept. But milk is pasteurized for a reason, there are numerous pathogens that cows carry (inside and out) without making them sick (lots for humans too). When those little bugs are in the milk that is being ingested by humans they can make us very sick, and with repeated exposure has the potential to cause conditions that may eventually kill us. As usual, this is particularly dangerous for children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. It is true that the pasteurization process can remove some nutrients from the milk, but it does not add toxic chemicals or cause any diseases, it is merely a controlled heating of the milk to remove the majority those bacteria in order to keep us healthy. The process can also substantially lengthen the freshness of that milk. Learn more from Michigan State University and if you are really interested, this document from the World Health Organization may be fascinating. Alternatively, here is a link to a website dedicated to Raw Milk.
Please never drink unpasteurized milk unless it is from a cow or goat you know personally, one who is well cared for and kept clean, even then it may not be entirely safe; drink at your own risk!

It is my intention to never present false information; I will do my best to put things in plain language and simple terms, while still keeping the true meaning intact. I will provide citations for anything and everything that I feel requires or may benefit from references. Also, though the life of a graduate student is hardly a profitable one, I am not doing this blog for money; I am doing it to help people.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Logical Factual Science..Applied to your life!

Welcome to Logical Factual Science!!

This will be a blog about everyday things you encounter in your life with real scientific explanations.

I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of pseudo-scientific and pseudo-medical information and advice being peddled by people who know nothing about science, health care, and how the human body works.

I am a pharmacologist/toxicologist and have extensive education about how the body works, what can go wrong, what can be done to reverse things that go wrong, and the positive and negative effects of compounds on the body.

If you have questions about any of my posts, please don't hesitate to ask.
If you have a topic you would like me to address, please send them to me.

I hope you enjoy some real Logical Factual Science!