I know this probably belongs in the Skeptics group, but I wanted it open for all replies.

So what do you think? Natural healing bogus? Our health care system actively participating in a conspiracy to silence competition?

Does conventional medicine keep you sick in order to profit from your treatments?

I've got some findings that will help move the discussion along once it's started. So go post. Tell me your thoughts.

Remember to keep it civil!

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My dear mother is completely in thrall to all things alternative and her life is a wreck. She currently lives so far out in the country that her risk of not getting to needed medical care is very great. She lives out in the country to get away from cell phone antennas that emit dangerous radiation. There is more radiation coming from fluorescent lights but the fairies that tend her garden tell her otherwise.

Here is what science and medicine did for the human race after we figured out that germs were killing us and that poor health care could fix it.
Hey, don't bash the acai berry. Acai berry juice (like Sambazon juice, not the kind they sell in the alternative medicine shops) tastes really good. Of course, the acai pills and diet aids and those kinds of things are bogus.
Like Tim Minchin says, alternative medicine that works is called, simply, medicine.

This line goes through my head every time that I see "alternative medicine" discussed. :) It's from Storm, right?

Plus, great point about the improbability of a massive conspiracy being successfully hidden for so long. Like you said, people are just not smart enough to pull it off; a conspiracy of that magnitude would be bound to include at least a couple idiots who would blow it.
Yep that's right, it is in "Storm" by Tim Minchin. The line goes "Do you know what they call alternative medicine that's been proved to work? Medicine."
Of course it has nothing at all to do with conspiracies. It has all to do with the basic reason for pharmaceutical companies existing at all: maximising of share value.

Yapping about conspiracies in this debate is simply use of inflammatory language by people trying to stir up chit. Anyone who's ever studied business in the least knows what the basic function of a corporations is.

There is absolutely no financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies (alternative or not) to cure diseases. Treatment is the lucrative 'raison d'être' of all these companies.
So why is smallpox gone? Why is polio almost unheard of? Why are there medicines that *do* cure diseases? By your logic, no disease on the planet should ever be cured, only 'treated', because that would be more profitable.
Alternative medicine is what either does not work or has not been proven to work. If it had been proven to work, it would be called medicine.

What is contained within 'alternative' medicine ranges from the unlikely to the blatantly fraudulent. Test after test of things like homeopathy, acupuncture, 'energy' healing, and numerous other things touted as alternative healing methods have failed to show any effectiveness beyond that of placebo. However, as the practitioners of these items are opposed to science in general, and certainly opposed to any attempt to apply the scientific method and evidence to their systems, they ignore such results, coming up with excuses for the failures. They've claimed bias, lack of belief, poor conditions, and my personal favorite, that acupuncture is so good that even the fake acupuncture is effective.

It's not reason-based, it's faith based. A dependency upon anecdotes, testimonials, and trying to position themselves as victims of 'Big Pharma', combined with a complete lack of skepticism or the ability to adjust their views when confronted with new evidence, is what can be expected.

Of course, in their screeds about how they are being oppressed by 'Big Pharma', they never mention that they are raking in the cash themselves. I like the term that Orac recently coined, 'Big Placebo'. They put a lot of money into disinformation, trying to discredit actual science and medicine in order to boost their own businesses. And they do a lot of harm by this. A perfect example is the anti-vax movement. We're beginning to have actual outbreaks of measles and mumps again, not to mention whooping cough, because of these anti-science nuts.

Incidentally, I read a blog post somewhere which made a good amount of sense to me. One thing you hear a lot from the alternative medicine people these days is about 'toxins'. These undefined 'toxins' are what cause illness, make people sick or weak, and in general are behind most disease. If your immune systems can't fight off an infections, it's because toxins weakened it. Toxins cause cancer. Toxins are the cause of autism. Toxins, toxins, toxins. (And of course, they have a way to purge/cleanse/remove the toxins from your body, at a small fee) Today's toxins are yesteryear's four humors. Or demons. Or spirits. They want a simple, easily understood cause for everything, because the actual causes (not to mention the fact that life just isn't fair) is too complicated.
Today's toxins are yesteryear's four humors. Or demons. Or spirits. They want a simple, easily understood cause for everything, because the actual causes (not to mention the fact that life just isn't fair) is too complicated.

This is such a good point. The entire detox hook is just ridiculous, and often incredibly dangerous when these "detox" programs involve extreme periods of fasting, colonics, and gallbladder "flushes," all usually coupled with massive quantities of rough fiber and unregulated herbs.

We already have a perfectly good detox mechanisms built right into our bodies. My liver seems to do just fine battling all the evil "toxins" in spite of all the red wine that it must contend with. ;)

Also, I love how the "toxins" are never defined; it's never a specific chemical agent or element.
Profits over People

We all praise science for the great advancements in medicine that we have seen over the last couple of centuries. The eradication of small pox, Polio, and many other diseases that used to plague humanity. Most of us today never fear diseases that used to cripple or wipe out great numbers of victims at a time.

Still things have began to change in the last 40 years. As great advancements have been made in medicine, greater profits have began to dominate how medicines are controlled, used and made available to the public. I do not believe that any reasonable person can deny that pharmaceutical companies see human heath issues as a plethora of opportunities to make massive profits off of.

This is a very complicated subject with lots of gray areas. I will try to analyze just one aspects of current medical problems that we face today and how it is being treated by our modern medical system.

First lets look at type two diabetes. In recent years it has become an epidemic in this country. A disease that at one time only affect middle aged adults thus it was called Adult onset Diabetes. Today our doctors are seeing more younger and younger patients developing this terrible disease. It is particularly prevalent in the Native American Pima tribe living in Arizona. 30% of all this group are afflicted by type 2 diabetes. I recently heard a scientist claim that it is because of certain genes that they carry causes these high incident rates. As a layman this sounds perfectly plausible until you look a little deeper into the subject. The high rates of diabetes found in the Pima is only found in the Pima living in Arizona were they live a very rich life style compared to their relatives that live in Mexico. The Pima in Arizona have very high rates of obesity, hyper-tension, heart attacks and strokes as well as type 2 diabetes. Their relatives in Mexico are slender and suffer none of the same diseases that flourish north of the border. Certainly this is not because of genes these are a group of people all blood related.

No the difference between the Pima living in Arizona and those in Mexico is their diets. In Mexico the Pima still farm and their diet consists mostly of beans, squash, corn and a small amount of meat they raise and grow themselves. Their counter parts that live in Arizona eat the Standard American Diet, we will call it SAD for short. The SAD diet consists of large amounts of soda pop containing large amounts of high fructose corn syrup. Large amounts of animal based foods and refined carbohydrates. This diet difference between the two groups of Pima has been researched and experts agree that the unhealthy diet of the Arizona group is the main factor in their poor health.

So how does our modern medical system deal with fixing the Arizona Pima health issues. The same way it treats all Americans. Instead of preventive medicine, ( Correcting their diet) The system looks to where there is the most profit. The most profit is in pharmaceutical drugs. Statins to help reduce cholesterol, water pills to lower blood pressure, Insulin to control their diabetes as well as a bevy of other drugs to counter act the effects of their dangerous damaging diet. Their poor diet is a gold mine for the pharmaceutical industry,

Is there a viable alternative to all the drug treatments that Americans are bombarded with. Of course there is. The fact that the Pima Indians that live in Mexico do not suffer from these diseases and live longer healthier lives is proof enough that just by providing proper nutrition these modern disease need not be the norm.

Of course the food industries would not want to stop selling their high fructose corn syrup, and all the products they sell with this highly dangerous sweetener or even a more dangerous substance for the sugar free patients. Aspartame one of the most dangerous additives to ever enter the food chain. Animal food products that are high is saturated fats and cholesterol causing cardio vascular disease. High levels of animal proteins have also been linked to certain types of cancers. There has been research study after study to show that these and other foods eaten by most Americans today are harmful but yet the production of these food is highly profitable for both the food industries and the pharmaceutical companies. So our government does nothing while our over burdened medical system falls apart.

I would say that the profits made and the power that it buys out weights the concerns for public health. We as consumers must educate our selves and our loved ones and choose the foods we buy with our health in mind.

I personally have chosen to eat a whole foods plant based diet that reduces my chance of developing the diseases that we have talked about. From the large amounts of research I have done I feel confident that a preventive life style is best way to live a long and healthy life.

I recommend reading “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell.
Dennis

The high prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease among the Pimas in Arizona is caused by genes AND environment acting together. They have higher incidence of disease than the Pimas in Mexico because their diet is less healthy, and higher incidence than other American subgroups because their genes make them more suscetible to diabetes. This is not kept hidden by the medical profession. On the contrary, it is standard learning material in all good medicine schools.
About the "modern medical system" not dealing properly with the issue, you forget that the medical system is only that, a MEDICAL system. Crudely speaking, it was built to satisfy the demand for medical care. It cannot control what people eat or how much they exercise. Congratulations for changing your lifestyle. You took the right path. But have you asked yourself why your friends and neighbours still each too much, and mostly the wrong food? Do you believe they don't know what is obvious? That they are killing themselves? They do it because they choose to do it. It is easier for them. This is not because there is a conspiracy by the industry. The drug companies don't even need a conspiracy! They simply sell drugs to help people try to fix health problems that could have been prevented. And, by the way, it is not the duty of the pharmaceutical industry to teach people how to eat. Don't blame the industry for the stupidity of most persons.
This blaming genes for everyone's problems is a misnomer. “Genes do not determine disease on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes good or bad, are expressed.” (The China Study chapter 11)

I agree with most of what you wrote. My exception would be with the stupidity of most people , and that industry cannot be blamed. I totally disagree. That is like saying the tobacco industry had no part in getting its customers addicted, and they were innocent of promoting their product as safe and even healthy.

The food industry and the pharmaceutical companies are just as guilty as the tobacco companies of promoting foods and drugs that are harmful to the public. Look at the billions of dollars spent by the fast food companies in advertising directed toward children. If you have not seen the documentary “Super Size Me” I suggest you watch it. Again look at the advertising for Pharmaceutical drugs. Then look at the number of patients that die or are left with their health screwed up from the side affects. Reference: “Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients”JAMA 279 (1998): 1200-1205 106,000 hospitalized die per year from drugs that were properly administered. These were not accidental over doses or cases of the wrong drug being administered. These were properly administered and still killed the patient. Then just think about all the deaths that happen in the home from the same problem that doesn't get counted. These companies are very aware of the dangers they are selling to the consumer, just read the lawyers fine print.

The patient today that goes to the doctor to find out that they now have type two diabetes never hears that you have two options, one you can change to a diet that will reverse type two diabetes or you can begin taking drugs that you will have to take for the rest of your shortened life.

In fact if any AMA doctor did say such a thing they would loose their license. The best they are allowed to say is you will have to take these drugs watch your blood sugar and I suggest you watch your diet and exercise. The patients are never told that there is a diet available that can reverse type two diabetes and yet this has been known for 30 years. I would call that a conspiracy to maintain the highest level of stockholder profits.

In short the public is purposely dumb down instead of educated. The food industries purposely put out confusing conflicting data just like the tobacco industries did to mislead and misinform the consumer.

Sure people love fats, sugars and refined carbohydrates. They also love to smoke but a very large number have now decided to never start or to quit this harmful commodity because of public education. I think the same would be true if the public were educated as to the dangers of certain foods. There is also another factor. Availability, I love to bicycle tour but as a vegan that eats only whole plant based foods I have found it nearly impossible to find these foods in certain areas of the country. As I was riding across the plains states often the only foods available were at small gas stations with Quiky Marts. I never once found fresh fruit or veggies in any of these places. I also consider nothing they had to be healthy enough to eat and so they didn't profit a thing from me. It was often three or four days by bicycle before I found a real grocery store. Even then it was still nearly impossible to find organics and certain types of whole grains, raw nuts, and seeds. In some place this is now beginning to change. But many of the states that have the highest levels of obesity and all the diseases that follow, healthier food choices are not made readily available.

The fat food lobbies don't want to loose profit shares and that is why they spend millions in Washington making sure that legislation never happens that would change the Standard American Diet that Americans are dying from.

I call that a conspiracy.
I've read a few things from both sides of the 'fence' and have so far come to this conclusion:

Most alternative therapy is bogus. Some of it boarders on dangerous, or is actually outright life threatening.

Big Pharma is nasty, nasty business. The mark ups they put on drugs is nothing short of inhumane. (I've got a bunch of stuff on that, but I'll post it later and focus on the FDA for right now.)

The FDA? Well.. I haven't made my mind up there yet. I'm hoping that throughout the course of this discussion, I'll be able to reach some conclusion. Here are a few things that bother me, though.

"On Oct. 17th, 2005, The FDA sent warning letters to 29 companies that market cherries. In these letters, the FDA threatened these companies with legal action and told them they had to remove the information on their websites that described the health benefits of the natural medicines found in cherries, such as the anthocyanins that reduce inflammation for arthritis suffers." -Natural Health Solutions, Mike Adams. (I listed the source because I haven't researched the allegation myself, and wanted you to know that it's from a rather biased citation. If anyone knows any more than I do, please post.)

The 1992 Drug User Fee Act allows the FDA to collect 'user fees' from pharmaceutical companies in exchange for reviewing their drugs. Originally planned to help speed approval of lifesaving drugs, it has created a customer relationship with the FDA and Big Pharma

Unrestricted Direct to Consumer Advertising was approved by the FDA in 1998, and is allowed to use relative risk rather than absolute risk equations. This is a pretty big deal, as the Journal of American Medical Association reported on April 27th, 2005 in a case study showed that out of 152 randomly picked doctor's offices, 50% of researchers that went in and asked for Paxil by name were written a prescription for it (while purposefully giving no signs or symptoms of depression.)

Massive mistakes such as Vioxx (killed an estimated 50,000) and Rezulin (I can't find numbers on death toll, but it's promotional campaign paid for luxury vacations for diabetes specialists by flying them to the 1996 Olympic games, five star hotels, paid speaking fees to more than 300 doctors.) Yet enphedra, used in Chinese medicine killed only 155 at risk people that shouldn't be taking it anyway, and it was banned outright and said to be dangerous at any dose. Later, ephedrine (the exact same active chemicals) was still approved for OTC use in decongestants. (On a side note, I actually take the RDA of ephedrine containing decongestants to curb my hunger while dieting. I also have nasty allergies so that's partially why.. but I have to say, they make damn fine appetite suppressants! )

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists survey, July 2006, "40% of FDA scientists fear retaliation for voicing safety concerns in public."

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