Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Heads I win, Tails You Lose"

This is an excellent article by Richard Wiseman on psi research and how studies are poorly designed, statistics are misused, and results are distorted to support psi research. Many of these problems are also common to many types of CAM research and unfortunately, sometimes other medical researh as well, so this is a useful article to keep in mind when evaluating medical claims. Basically, it illustrates many things which pseudoscience and sometimes just bad science does which should be kept in mind when critically evaluating claims.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Raw Milk; the myths and the evidence.

I wanted to draw attention to a new website dealing with the scientific evidence relating to human consumption of raw milk. There are many claims that raw milk is better than pasteurized milk, most of which are based on anecdotes and testimonials, and not on stronger evidence. On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that bacterial contamination of raw milk can cause serious illness and even death in humans, especially in susceptible people such as very young children, the elderly, and anyone with a suppressed immune system. While some of the bacteria which commonly occurred in raw milk (bovine tuberculosis and Brucella) have been eliminated from livestock in  the United States and much of Europe, there are still several types of bacteria that can cause serious illness, especially in high risk groups. This is important because some of the claims  made for raw milk relate specifically to health claims about children which are based on poor or no evidence. Raw milk may be an especially serious risk to urban or suburban children who may have no previous exposure to these bacteria. In contrast, children raised on farms probably receive some passive transfer of immunity from their mothers, and may also be constantly exposed to similar bacteria, allowing them to develop immunity. This does not mean that farm children never experience these illnesses, but the immune resistance of children who live away from a farm environment may be lower to these livestock related bacteria.

Real Raw Milk Facts is a new website written by veterinarians, food scientists and epidemiologists which provides the evidence for claims relating to raw milk and the risks of consuming raw milk products. It has an extensive list of scientific references relating to raw milk related disease. If you or someone you know is considering giving yourself or especially children or other susceptible persons raw milk, make sure that you understand that the evidence for benefits from raw milk is poor to non-existent, and the risks of exposure to dangerous bacteria are much higher than they are with pasteurized dairy products.