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FROM SCIENCE SALON # 9

How to Use Your Fat as Fuel

In this Moment, from Science Salon # 9, recorded on January 22, 2017, in Pasadena, California, Gary Taubes discusses how fat, muscles, hormones, and enzymes respond and interact based on our level of physical activity and dietary intake.

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Dropbears
MONSTERTALK EPISODE 133

Australia is home to monsters both real and legendary. In a country where a tiny octopus is toxic enough to kill 20 adults, where huge spiders can catch birds and eat them, where people are so tough that they voluntarily eat Vegemite, what kind of creature could be the apex monster? Not the bunyip. Not the yowie. Keep looking up in the trees; it’s time to face the dropbears!

Artistic depiction of a drop bear

Artistic depiction of a drop bear, by Yamavu (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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ABOVE: A quack doctor offering a gouty John Bull some medicine whilst conventional doctors are turned away; satirizing British politics. Colored lithograph attributed to J. Doyle. See full bibliographic record from Wellcome Images. [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

In this week’s eSkeptic Harriet Hall, M.D. (the SkepDoc) examines the latest flavor of integrative medicine called “functional medicine” (FM) — a Trojan horse designed to sneak non-science-based medicine into conventional medical practice.

Functional Medicine:
Pseudoscientific Silliness

by Harriet Hall, M.D.

Language keeps changing. We used to call questionable remedies “folk medicine,” “fringe medicine,” or “quackery.” In the 1970s, the term “alternative medicine” was coined, an umbrella term for all treatments that were not supported by good enough evidence to have earned them a place in mainstream medicine. Then came “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and later, “integrative medicine.” Now there’s a new kid on the block, “functional medicine” (FM) which is really just the latest flavor of integrative medicine. These are all marketing terms, Trojan horses designed to sneak non-science-based medicine into conventional medical practice. The oft-quoted quip is appropriate here: Do you know what you call alternative medicine with evidence? Medicine.

How is Functional Medicine Different from Conventional Medicine?

Functional medicine was invented by a single individual: Jeffrey Bland. He’s not a medical doctor. He’s a Ph.D. who sells dietary supplements. His supplement companies have been fined repeatedly by the FTC and FDA and have been ordered to stop making medical claims for their products. A number of health care providers have “jumped on the Bland wagon” and claim to be practicing functional medicine.

“Condimentary Medicine,” a term coined by Dr. Richard Rawlins, describes treatments that add spice and flavor but that have no actual effect on the outcome of the treatment. That applies in spades to Functional Medicine (FM).
Real Secrets of Alternative Medicine

It’s hard to pin down a definition of FM; each FM provider describes it differently. Dr. Mark Hyman says conventional medicine is dysfunctional, and FM is the opposite. He thinks conventional medicine is as obsolete as phrenology and bloodletting; he also rejects the germ theory of disease. He says diseases don’t exist; they are merely “the downstream symptoms of a mechanism.” The official organization, the Institute for Functional Medicine, says this:

Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, Functional Medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional Medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, Functional Medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual. […]

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