Thursday, 17 February 2011

Herbal Hokum

Once again Britain is seen to be almost medieval in comparison to much of the west when it comes to healthcare. Not only does the heir to the thrown support homeopathy and other useless pseudoscience, but now our own government has decided to over rule an European ban on herbal products that are not licensed and proven medicines. The headline of the Metro today read “Britain defies EU over herbal ban” 1 and went on to describe how it will leave Britain vulnerable to quacks and other fraudsters. It is partly understandable that a ban as soon as April would put many companies out of business, for example health food/supplement chains like Holland and Barrett. However, surely it is more important to consider that you are putting the publics’ health at greater risk by not enforcing the ban. What will happen when people go to these establishments looking for a treatment and are advised to take a certain supplement, but then the condition does not improve or gets worse, and in the process are not seeking qualified medical intervention. The public needs to be more informed that these shops are selling plant extracts that offer no health benefits over a normal balanced diet. They are seen to be more natural, however, those that were shown to work have been studied and the active chemical has been extracted and synthesized to allow for mass production and to avoid unwanted contamination that is inherent with plant material. If anything avoiding this ban is simply allowing a few retailers to stay in business which are quite happy to take advantage of the sick and vulnerable within our communities.

E Markham (2011). Herbal Hokum blogspot

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Idiotic IQ

In Tuesday’s issue of the Metro, a study is quoted as proving that ‘a junk food diet can lower a child’s IQ’ 1. This article is trying to represent the research study it was taken from, but it is clear that the take home message has been exaggerated a bit. Firstly, there are many more factors involved with IQ that just diet, and so it would be easy to imagine that those parents who fed there children junk and processed foods before the age of 3 are also likely to be less than ideal parents, probably from a poor background and unlikely to ‘go the extra mile’ with regards to extracurricular activities and other stimuli, which is likely to have a bigger influence on the IQ that just the food. Secondly, the article also states there is a relationship with ‘head growth linked to intellectual ability’, this is a notion much studied in the 19th century and there is no link between the size of the head or the size of the brain and the IQ. This article is poorly written, clearly the research was misunderstood and misinterpreted, and again the vital role of the media as a ‘go between’ from science to the public means that the actual facts become altered and distorted like a game of Chinese whispers. 


E Markham (2011). Idiotic IQ Blogspot