Never one to step away from a challenge (especially during the quiet before the storm that is Christmas), I had to accept the call to arms from Respectful Insolence. For anyone who doesn’t yet read his (or her, I’m not sure) blog, it’s a great chronicle of the craziness that comes out of the alternative medicine scene. So here’s the challenge: review and critique (if that’s even fair to say) the following:

Flu Shot Preservatives

This actually coincided with a great conversation I had with a family member about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). There were two basic thoughts that came out of our talk that I wasn’t expecting. First, it seems that people assume that alternative medicine is overlooked by the medical community, and that alternative medicine is full of breakthroughs in science that are simply waiting to be plunked from nature. Secondly, people seem to assume that if something feels “qualitative”, there’s no way to measure it quantitatively, and hence there’s no way to determine if it works or not. Both are clearly not true, but back to the point.

The post-thimerosal era of vacines has changed nothing of the approach skeptics take. The basic premise is the same: the ingredients in vacines are deadly, and lead to all sorts of unmentionable diseases like autism. The article actually quotes “Thimerosal: A neurotoxic mercury which causes autism:…”[1] as if it were fact, so we’re already out in right field heading for the parking lot. So the author lists a whole bunch of common substances with associated outrageous claims of their disease status. Here’s a sampler:

  • “MSG (monosodium glutamate): When injected becomes a neurotoxin, causing CNS disorders and brain damage in children.”[1] – Weirdly, only an internal link as verification.

  • “Sodium chloride: Raises blood pressure and inhibits muscle contraction and growth”[1]. Ground breaking, I’m sure the table salt in vaccines is felling Americans everywhere.

It goes on an on, listing generally harmless or minuscule ingredients. You’ll really have to read the article to get at all the wonderful quotes, but consider their central point: “would you eat a meal if you knew it contained 10 toxins, but the cook said they left out the one you are allergic to?” [1] Well if those toxins are table salt, msg, and egg protein, I’ve had all too many late night meals just like that and seemed to have lived through it. Yes, anything can kill you. Water[2], and air[3] come to mind. But to think that the doses of any of these in vaccines is on that scale is lunacy.

Lastly the big kicker at the end of the article is that the claim of mercury-free vaccines is a fallacy: there’s still trace amounts of mercury in Thimerosal-free vaccines. They go on to cite the DoD (oh wait, no citation) saying that mercury is a deadly poison, and that “Studies indicate that mercury tends to accumulate in the brains of primates and other animals after they are injected with vaccines…”. We know this isn’t true[4], but sadly people will say unfounded things to bring a point home.

They leave us with something that sounds like the closing to a forth-rate business proposal filled with jargon words, so here take in their giant nonsensical statement:

“Want to protect your immune system? Leave out all the toxins. That’s step number one. Especially leave out GMO, mercury, MSG and Aspartame. Step two? Look into Colloidal silver, Superfoods, mushroom powders, licorice root, garlic supplements, oil of oregano, cinnamon and much more” [1].

Just saying, it might be time to get your R01 in for “licorice root and more” before the rush. All in all, it’s easy to be a critic. For me yes, but more importantly for the alternative medicine field. This gets back to a point I made above: many people think it’s imposible to measure something like alternative medicine because science would never allow it. Not true (type acupuncture into pubmed or google scholar and watch the results fly by). Unfortunately, alternative medicine uses this prospective to their advantage. By misinterpreting and bending scientific results they try to discredit conventional medicine, but refuse to acknowledge the increasing evidence that many alternative medicines have little to no effect. Sorry, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (or as Romanians apparently say, “You can’t reconcile the goat and the cabbage”).