Another “I’ve seen the light” American quack whizzed through New Zealand recently, spreading his own magical brew of antioxidants, lacto-vegetarian diets, bioFlavonoid herbs, and, wait for it, Maharishi Ayurveda compounds. Hari Sharma, Professor Emeritus at the Ohio State University, says that physicians are becoming pathogens, they are creating diseases. Like most saviours of the human race before him, he mixes scientific half truths and anecdotal stories to rubbish hundreds of years of painstakingly researched evidence-based medicine (GP Weekly, October 1997)
He blames the medical profession for all the admissions for drug side effects (18,000 deaths a year in the US), without acknowledging any of the drugs’ life and cost saving benefits. “Prescribed Transcendental Meditation (and his products) and you could eliminate 50% of your patients’ chronic illnesses within three years,” he said to GPs gathered in Rotorua. “Dr Sharma has given us more wisdom in 20 minutes than I’ve heard in the entire conference,” said a Keri Keri GP. God save us all, I say.
A Korean company, Zion Esopinio Cosmetics, presented its new discovery, mineral-enhanced underwear, to the annual Invention Convention in Pasadena, California recently (Reuter, 13 September 1997). Called “PIO Power Underwear”, the briefs are said to raise your spirits by relieving stress and steadying your nerves. If you’re not happy imbibing minerals through your nether regions, they can be found in special socks, soap and bedsheets. This lends new meaning to the phrase “Iron-drawers”. It might, however, prove a problem to those unfortunates with a mild degree of incontinence, who might be afflicted by crutch rust.
The cheaper it is to produce, the more people will swallow it. I’m talking water. Going one further than homeopaths’ successful exploitation of the weak-headed by water dilution, the bottled water industry is the champion swindle of the century.
Drinking bottled water every day for a lifetime could cost you $75,000. The cost for the same quantity of tap water would be 1000 times less — a modest $75.
The difference was calculated by the Water Companies of England and Wales (International Express, 24 September 1997). Chief executive Pamela Taylor accused bottled water producers of “one of the great cons of the 20th century”. Any claims that bottled water aids health and fitness have no basis of truth, she said. “It is marketing’s answer to the emperor’s new clothes”. Results of a survey on the multi-million dollar bottled water industry showed that consumers pay “massively over the odds” for bottled water, and many brands contain nothing but tap water. The British Soft Drinks Association said people would not buy their drinks if they didn’t like them. Wanna bet?
Proponents of the recently revived “Buteyko” cure for asthma say it is the greatest health discovery since personal hygiene (Listener, 13 September 1997). Russian doctor Konstantin Buteyko came up with the theory of shallow instead of deep breathing 40 years ago. He believed most people overbreathe, reducing the body’s carbon dioxide supply, which is required to absorb oxygen supply then caused bronchial muscle spasm, causing asthma.
New Zealand’s two trained Buteyko practitioners, Russell and Jenny Stark of Hastings, discovered the technique when it cured their own son of milk asthma in Australia. They claim Canterbury crusader Con Barrell is just one of many asthmatics who have been cured by an inexpensive treatment ($475 for wage earners, $395 for beneficiaries) that could save the taxpayer millions — NZ’s RHAs spend $112 million annually on asthma drugs for an estimated 450,000 sufferers.
Dr Julian Crane, medical director of the Asthma Society, is unconvinced. You could “drive a train through many of Buteyko’s arguments. The scientific community doesn’t put much store by anecdotal evidence, but if a good scientific driven project came to us, we’d certainly look at it,” he said.
The only trial, carried out on 39 Queensland asthmatics, was never published. Crane doesn’t think the claim that big business is keeping a lid on the technique is fair. “Don’t forget that the people who are doing the research are not fired by financial imperative, but by finding answers to clinical problems.”
I think New Zealand’s asthmatics should stop smoking (50% of them smoke compared to 30% of the population), learn about asthma (only 1% belong to the Asthma Society) and get fit. This would be far more likely to lower the drug bill than yet another fad cure.
Take a Bow
My final accolade goes to the NZ Listeners excellent new editor, Paul Little. His weekly column in the September 8th edition was an intelligent truthful ray of sanity in a world of make-believe. His comments on the shooting down the hopes of monster-believers were most apt. He described the unmasking of the perpetrator of the 30-year hoax of “Bigfoot” (John Chambers) as “one less nagging enigma to speculate about”, even though some fanatic believers refuse to give up. “The gullibility factor is all powerful and they will believe,” he writes. Good on him. We should get him to the next skeptics’ conference. Mind you, it’s sad to lose Bigfoot. Never mind, we still have Nessie and the Yeti. I’m off to the South Island for my Christmas holidays. I might find a live moa (Moa’s Ark?). I could be famous next year. See you then.