Archives For health

Given ongoing interest in this post: http://violentmetaphors.com/2013/08/14/the-truth-about-vaccinations-your-physician-knows-more-than-the-university-of-google/, and based on several people’s suggestions to me, I’m going to put together a FAQ on the subject of vaccine myths/misconceptions. I will be pulling questions from the comment section of the University of Google post (and other places), but I would like to ask for your participation.  What questions do you or your friends have about vaccines? What are some vaccine myths have you heard that you’d like to have addressed? What kinds of information would you find helpful for sharing with family members when talking about vaccine issues? Parents, I’m *especially* interested in questions that come up repeatedly on parenting forums and messageboards.

Please leave me any questions/suggestions/links in the comments below, or email me privately at jenniferraff (at) utexas (dot) edu

Thanks, as always, to everyone for reading, commenting, and sharing.

 

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“A cousin of my mom’s survived Polio and lived the rest of his life with its effects. He was not expected to live past his teens but made it to his 40s. I am grateful that modern science can protect us from Polio and other diseases and I choose to take advantage of modern science to give my kid better odds of not dying from a preventable disease. I had heard a lot of noise from people claiming vaccines caused Autism, but never saw any clear evidence. It just seemed to me like people really wanted to point to something as the cause and they latched onto vaccines.”–Jennifer

I have been getting into a lot of discussions about whether vaccines are safe in the last few days. I’m not sure if it’s because of a post going viral about a (terrible) Italian court ruling last year (In contrast, American courts side with doctors and scientists on vaccine safety) or Jenny McCarthy’s recent hiring as co-host on “The View”, or simply (as a friend suggested to me today) the fact that a new school year is starting soon and parents are having to provide vaccination records to schools.

“(I got my children vaccinated) because the science supports it and I don’t want my kids to die. And civic reasons. It’s so straightforward.”–Britta

Whatever the reason, this week I’ve been in many conversations with individuals staunchly against vaccinations, parents who are very upset at the idea of unvaccinated children putting their own kids at risk, and parents who are confused and worried and want to know how to make the best decision possible for their children’s safety. I’m writing this for the third group of parents.
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I abhor the exploitative practices of Monsanto and companies like it. But truth is more important than politics, and I am always going to speak out when I see false information being touted as “science” to further an agenda.

I wanted to make this clear because I seem be writing a lot about the misrepresentation of GMOs as being harmful to your health. This article (“GMO feed turns pig stomachs to mush”) is by Natural News, which is emphatically NOT a scientific publication. It’s a site with a definite bias, and implies that people who disagree (I guess that means me?) are “paid online trolls, on-the-take ‘scientists.'”*

Natural News is a complete goofball pseudoscience website, but could the study they cite (Carman et al. 2013: “A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet.”) be the first legitimate evidence that GMOs are harmful to health?
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My friends are extraordinary people. The people I’m attracted to are very driven and highly intelligent (and perhaps more than a little neurotic). The majority of them are also passionate about exercise.

“Exercise” is maybe too mild a term for this group: they are athletes devoted to a sport (either professionally or as committed amateurs), or they are coaches who are as relentless about training themselves as they are their students. To a person, they freely admit that this activity is essential for their mental well-being.

Cognitive therapy. Photo taken by gymjones.com

My own cognitive therapy. Photo taken by gymjones.com

And while I believe that their lives are very stressful, they handle stress remarkably well. They seem to be very resilient when bad stuff happens to them. This is an anecdotal observation on my part, but it interested me enough to go read about the effects of exercise on the brain. Here’s what I found:
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I want to acknowledge a magnificent takedown of a terrible pseudo-scientific article.

Have you seen this BuzzFeed post on your Facebook timeline recently?

“8 Foods We Eat In The US That Are Banned In Other Countries”, written by Ashley Perez summarizes some claims made in “Rich Food, Poor Food”, a book by Dr. Jayson Calton and Mira Calton. It’s intended to give us the ‘real truth’ about the horrible chemicals that we’re ingesting on a daily basis. The problem? It’s complete nonsense to anyone who knows even a little bit about chemistry.
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Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent report that the MMR vaccine causes autism has resulted in a generation of children (~age 10-16) who have a historically low vaccination rate (below 50% in some places). As a result, the rate of measles infection has skyrocketed in Britain:

There have also been outbreaks in the United States, with significant infections so far this year in many places, including Brooklyn and New Jersey.

The good news is that thanks to excellent public health outreach in England, vaccination rates are improving significantly. But I worry that many people still don’t understand the issues. Let me summarize them for you:
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