Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Bitter Pill

Protecting Your Health in a Post-Truth World

By Rob Morrison

As scientific literacy declines and “post-truth” and “alternative facts” take centre stage, how can you ensure that you get proper health treatments that will actually do some good?

“Post-truth” is a term coined in 2010 to describe a political culture in which appeals to emotion defeat factual evidence in debate. It has now gone mainstream, selected in 2016 by The Oxford English Dictionary as the word of the year. One year later, “alternative fact” entered the lexicon as US President Donald Trump’s advisers fabricated stories about his inauguration that were easily falsified by well-documented and even photographic evidence.

US Mandates “No Evidence” Labels for Homeopathic Products

By Justin Coleman

Before advocates of science get too excited, though, a number of caveats may limit its effect.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued an enforcement policy statement requiring the marketers of homeopathic products to “effectively communicate the lack of scientific evidence” on product labels (http://tinyurl.com/h8yzsla). This is the first time in the USA that homeopathic products will legally require a label stating that they don’t work.

Why Acupuncture Misses the Point

By Marcello Costa

History reveals the sociopolitical factors behind the rise and fall of acupuncture.

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Anti-Vaccination and CAM Reflect a Common Worldview

By Matt Browne

A study has explored the psychosocial factors driving anti-vaccination attitudes.

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Australian Chiropractors Manipulate the Evidence

By Ken Harvey

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is dealing with more than 600 complaints about chiropractors. The majority of these cases involve caring practitioners who genuinely believe that their interventions are effective. The problem is their interpretation of evidence.

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The Ultimate Placebo

By Ian Harris

The placebo effect is usually invoked with pharmaceutical treatments, but why not surgery?

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Is Saturated Fat Good or Bad?

By Rosemary Stanton

Populist TV, blogs and publications have portrayed saturated fats as healthy rather than dietary villains, but this is an oversimplification as it’s not valid to judge our complex dietary intake by only one component.

Internet blogs, popular books and some TV chefs are propounding the idea that saturated fat is now “healthy”, asserting that the “experts got it wrong” and we wouldn’t be so fat and sick if we hadn’t shunned saturated fat. Popular papers push the idea with headlines such as “Butter is back,” “Bacon for breakfast” and “Vegetable oils are toxic”.

Those pushing these ideas claim that “studies” have proved them right. When pressed, most quote a review (not a study) by Chowdhury et al. which reported no significant differences for coronary disease with different levels of saturated fat.

Dodgy Tests and Dodgy Diagnoses

By Bruce Campbell

Lax regulation of complementary treatments is allowing alternative laboratories to peddle expensive and useless diagnostic tests.

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An EEG Only Scratches the Surface of the Brain

By Marko Petrovic

Chiropractors claim that “functional neurology” can treat conditions ranging from epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease to autism and stroke, but the technology they use isn’t up to the task.

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Is Chemmart’s myDNA Test Right for You?

By Ken Harvey

The promises of genetic tests and treatments may be outstripping the science.

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