Thursday, 3 January 2013

smugness about science

A few days ago there were articles in a couple of newspapers about celebrities and their pseudo scientific ideas. There is a campaign group called Sense About Science. They did something on their site about celebrities and fads and some of the newspapers did articles on it, including this one in The Independent.

I don't think they've checked their facts though. It's as if they've already made up their minds that things like vitamin pills and fasting must be pseudoscience and they aren't interested in recent research. Don't get me wrong. I believe in science. I just can't accept the lazy smug attitude of some people who claim to have a monopoly of rationality.

After slagging off a lot of celebrities about their health tips, the campaign group commends Jennifer Anniston and Al Murray for what they think are their more rational ideas. Jennifer Anniston is praised for saying that fasting is 'bad for the body'. Al Murray is praised for saying that 'popping vitamin pills is a waste of time and money, apart from perhaps cod liver oil'. Ursula Arens and Lucy Jones, both from the British Dietetic Association, are quoted in support of each of them.

Is Sense About Science not aware of the research publicised by Dr Michael Mosley about fasting? As this news article shows 'Scientists are uncovering evidence that short periods of fasting, if properly controlled, could achieve a number of health benefits, as well as potentially helping the overweight, as Michael Mosley discovered'. I have posted on Dr Mosley and intermittent fasting a while ago.

When it comes to vitamins, there is more and more evidence that vitamin D is very important in a number of different ways, and that it is difficult to get enough through a balanced diet or though exposure of skin to sunshine (some vitamin D can be synthesised though sunlight). In this news article it says 'Writing in Scrubbing Up, Prof Blair said: "Vitamin D can be found in some foods such as oily fish, eggs and mushrooms - but only 10% of a person's recommended daily amount is found naturally in food. Put bluntly, eating more fish and getting out in the sun a bit more won't make much of a difference to your vitamin D levels". I have posted on vitamin D a while ago.

There is vitamin D in cod liver oil, although that's not what it's mainly used for. Most cod liver oil has added vitamin D and it often has added vitamins A and E too. I prefer to buy fish oil and then buy my vitamin D separately. If anyone has the right to be smug, it would be someone like me who has been taking extra vitamin D for years. That seems perfectly rational to me. As each new piece of research comes along showing the value of vitamin D, I am pleased that I have been taking supplements for years. I'm glad I didn't listen to these people.

If it is unscientific to believe that vitamin pills are anything but 'a waste of time and money', why is it that so many foods are fortified with vitamins? Why aren't scientists complaining about that? Not only don't they complain about it, they think it is a clever thing to do.

Another thing I didn't like is this paragraph 'Gary Kemp, former singer with Spandau Ballet, came to the aid of medical science by declaring that acupuncture as performed by his chiropractor didn't do much for him and that "hardcore science" should be everyone's first port of call when dealing with a serious illness'. I don't know much about acupuncture. I'm not interested in alternative or complementary medicine and it's outside the scope of this blog. But my understanding of acupuncture is that it is a valuable method of pain relief. 'Hardcore science' has shown that this is true. I don't want anyone in pain to dismiss something that could help them because of the cynics.

Tracey Brown, managing director of Sense About Science said "we have had more examples than ever sent to us of people in the public eye who clearly do check their facts". Well, Tracey, perhaps it is you who should check your facts.

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