Representing Science within popular culture can often be a difficult thing to achieve, as it is often complex and easily misinterpreted. This January's issue of Tatler, a high-end women’s fashion magazine, contained an article about how to “beat the Flu” 1. While we understand this is unlikely to be detailed medical advice, and more likely to be advice on general health, the article made some surprising statements.
The first thing to notice about the article is that is a blatant promotion of a health spa, as all the advice within it pertained to EF Medispa in London 2, however it did not state that it was an advertisement in the article. They offered treatments like “soft wave healing laser” which involved shining lights on you in order to “boost your immune system”, then there was Simon Cowels favourite treatment, the “drip and chill”, which is an IV injection of vitamins. Lastly, you could opt for the “Californian Colonic” which involves an enema of plant extracts, which will apparently kill any unfriendly bacteria in your gut.
While there is no doubt about the benefits of rest and relaxation, unless you like in a cave and have serious vitamin D deficiency, the “soft wave healing laser” will not have any effect, and will certainly not have any influence on your immune system. The IV of vitamins will do very little for anyone with a balanced diet, and since most vitamins cannot be stored within the body, the vitamins will simply be filtered out by the liver and kidneys. The “Californian Colonic” will probably make you fell better simply because it is quite an unpleasant procedure and you would feel quite relieved it had stopped, but medically it would have no benefits because the plant extract does not have any significant antibacterial action, and additionally, this is bacteria within the colon, which has nothing to do with the claims of the article, being able to beating the flu, which is a virus and does not live in your colon, so would be unaffected either way.
Upon visiting the clinics website 2, it offered many other treatments under the dubious title of “Age Prevention Medicine”, this included PRP therapy, which involved removing serum from the blood and micro-injecting it under the surface of the skin. But then it talks about obtaining fat cells, reprogramming them in to stem cells and then injecting them in to the face. This seemed like conflicting statements, as PRP therapy is a pseudoscientific treatment that is supposed to involve the extraction of serum that contains high levels of growth factors and this is then injected, in order to stimulate cell growth and repair 3. So it seems they are unclear of the actual procedure of the treatment they are offering! After contacting the clinic for more information and to clear up this discrepancy, no reply has been made.
Another treatment offered by the clinic is called Photo-biological Stimulation Therapy, with involved a small amount of blood being extracted and then exposed to UV light, before being returned to your body. Apparently this will allow your blood to bind more oxygen and so you will feel more energised. This same treatment, from the same clinic, also featured a Daily Mail’s article about the procedure 4, including a statement from a doctor saying “‘There is no evidence to show how the process of irradiating small amounts of blood and re-injecting it has a therapeutic benefit,’ says Dr Rajendra Sharma, of The Diagnostic Clinic in London.”. After all, how can UV light, which disrupts DNA, have any effect on the red blood cells ability to bind oxygen? Since red blood cells do not even contain DNA.
1. Simson, I. (Jan 2012) Time to... beat the flu. Tatler.
E Markham (2012). Troubling Treatments