Trouble Thinking

March 2, 2010

Snake Oil?

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 2:16 pm

So, this is an interesting little bit of content I can steal from someone who works harder than I do:

A Graph of the Evidence Basis for Health Supplements.

One interesting aspect is that supplements like Omega 3 have a significant amount of evidence in some areas, but little to none in many others. There seem to be a lot of failed attempts at finding a panacea. I was interested in the NAC (mental health) entry as well. According to a few studies, N-acetyl cysteine may be of use in treating Schizophrenia because it is a glutathione precursor. Schizophrenics have a lower than average amount of brain glutathione, and low levels can lead to cell death. In rats, ingestion of NAC has been shown to increase levels of glutathione. Of course, it’s interesting to note that I also found a lot of information claiming NAC could detoxify your body, prevent cancer, and decrease mucus buildup on less than respectable sites. It’s interesting that even the potentially workable health solutions tend to become snake oil simply by virtue of people needing some vague scientific backup for their claims of ridiculous cure-alls.

Also, remember that when you take this sort of thing you need to tell your doctor. Even though it isn’t “traditional medicine”, it isn’t magic, and it can have complicated and sometimes very negative interactions with other common drugs even if it’s effective. St. John’s Wort, for instance, is a good treatment for mild depression. It can also interact poorly with drugs that treat heart disease, seizures, cancer, or even prevent pregnancy. Apparently, this is due to the fact that it works on similar metabolic pathways.

And now that you know which cures are worthless, you can go tell that hippie aunt you have who keeps telling you to eat more Acai berries to suck eggs.

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