RFK Jr. is a famous anti-vaxxer. How does this make him qualified for President?
Genomics, Medicine, and Pseudoscience
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1M ago
I’ve written about the anti-vaccine movement and its many proponents more times than I can count. So why write about it again? Because one of them is running for President of the United States. Robert Kennedy Jr. is famous for two things: first, he’s famous because he’s the son of a former Senator and the nephew of a former president. His father, Robert Kennedy Sr., served as Attorney General under President John Kennedy and then as a US Senator. Tragically, both JFK and RFK were assassinated in the 1960s, and RFK might very well have been elected president in 1968, as he was leading the Demo ..read more
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Hormone replacement therapy is beneficial and safe, it turns out
Genomics, Medicine, and Pseudoscience
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2M ago
  A new study that just appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association has some good news for women who take estrogen replacement therapy. To jump to the punch line: estrogen therapy helps to alleviate hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, and it carries little risk. And even better news: the study also reported that estrogen-only therapy might actually decrease the risk of breast cancer. Why does this matter? Because about 20 years ago, millions of women stopped taking estrogen, even if it was helping them, because of a report that hormone replacement thera ..read more
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Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements Still Don't Work, New Study Says
Genomics, Medicine, and Pseudoscience
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4M ago
I think I’ll have to add calcium to my list of the Top Six Supplements You Should Not Take. Here’s why. A year and a half ago, I reported on a very large study of 26,000 men and women that asked if vitamin D helps to prevent bone fractures, as many people (including some doctors) believe. Well, it doesn’t. That study found that people who took vitamin D had exactly the same risk of bone fractures as those who didn’t. It didn’t matter how much vitamin D they took, nor did it help if they also took supplemental calcium: either way, vitamin D had no effect. (Aside: everyone needs vitamin D, but ..read more
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Why did humans lose our tails? Blame a "jumping gene"
Genomics, Medicine, and Pseudoscience
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4M ago
  Most animals have tails, including almost all mammals. For some reason, we humans don’t. This difference has been the source of much speculation among scientists over the years, and many arguments have been made about why we don’t tails. One line of reasoning goes like this: tails are very useful for animals that live in trees, but once our ancestors came down from the trees and started living on the open plain, they didn’t need those tails any more. But why lose them? Lots of animals don’t live in trees, and they still have tails. Even among the primates, most species have tails, but ..read more
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Sadly, the Washington Post once again falls for acupuncture pseudoscience
Genomics, Medicine, and Pseudoscience
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6M ago
It’s like playing whac-a-mole. No matter how many times I write a column showing that some wildly implausible practice is nonsense, new articles pop up claiming “Hey, look at this! It really works!” So I’m going to try to whack another mole, because people can be harmed by bad information, especially when it comes in the form of medical advice. Recently the Washington Post ran a column under the headline, “Does acupuncture work for chronic pain? Here’s what the science says.” (The column first appeared back in July, but the Post’s website promoted it again just last week.) Before giving you t ..read more
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Good news for "Research Parasites": NEJM takes it back, 8 years later
Genomics, Medicine, and Pseudoscience
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6M ago
After years of debate, the National Institutes of Health finally rolled out a data sharing policy early this year, one that should greatly increase the amount of data that biomedical researchers share with the public. This week, three prominent scientists from Yale described, in an op-ed in the New England Journal of Medicine, how “the potential effects of this shift ... toward data sharing are profound.” For some of us, it’s deliciously ironic that this op-ed appeared in NEJM, which just a few years ago coined the term “research parasites” to describe anyone who wants to make discoverie ..read more
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Are there two sides in the vaccine debate?
Genomics, Medicine, and Pseudoscience
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1y ago
Headline from a debate about vaccine hesitancy, from December 2020. I keep getting into debates with people about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. I’m not talking about anti-vaxxers (though I’ve encountered plenty of them), but level-headed, rational people who genuinely have doubts. Usually their doubts about vaccines come from dubious sources, but there’s so much misinformation out there, often coming from people with the letters M.D. or Ph.D. after their names, that I can understand why it’s confusing. So let me engage in what is sometimes called “both-sides-ism” (a disparagi ..read more
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Why the new COVID vaccine boosters are safe and likely very effective
Genomics, Medicine, and Pseudoscience
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1y ago
In case you haven’t heard, there’s now a new set of vaccine booster shots that protect against the latest variant of Covid-19, BA.5. This new variant is highly infectious, and the original vaccine doesn’t protect people against it as well as it protected against earlier variants. Now, before someone takes that last sentence out of context, let me emphasize that the original Covid-19 vaccines are still highly effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalization. Anyone who isn’t vaccinated would be well-advised to get one of those, if that’s their only option. But the new vaccines protec ..read more
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Covid patent fight is about greed, not human health
Genomics, Medicine, and Pseudoscience
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2y ago
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised: one of the companies that developed mRNA vaccines for Covid-19, Moderna, has just sued the companies who make the competing mRNA vaccine, Pfizer and BioNTech, claiming that Pfizer/BioNTech is violating its patents. Pfizer was surprised though, according to news reports. (Or at least they said they were.) Moderna had announced, back in 2020, that they wouldn’t enforce patents on their vaccine during the pandemic, but they seem to have changed their mind. Apparently, billions of dollars in profits isn’t enough: they’ve decided the time is right to try to grab ..read more
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Scientists have re-created the deadly 1918 flu virus and used it to infect animals. WTF?
Genomics, Medicine, and Pseudoscience
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2y ago
With all the controversy about gain-of-function research and all the concerns about how dangerous it is, you might think that scientists have stopped doing that kind of work. Well, no. In the latest news, a team of scientists in Canada and the U.S. report that they have re-created the 1918 influenza virus and used it to infect macaques. Let’s be clear here: the 1918 flu vanished from the Earth, long ago. It’s simply not a threat, or it least it wasn’t, until someone figured out a way to bring it back. Why would anyone do this? I’ll get to that, but first a little background. The 1918 flu pand ..read more
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