Monthly Archives: May 2010

UPDATED: Observer plugs fish oil for concentration, ADHD and depression

I was surprised to see the usually excellent Guardian Science tweeting that “Fish oil helps schoolchildren to concentrate”. This linked to Denis Campbell’s Observer article, reporting that

Fish oil helps schoolchildren to concentrate
US academics discover high doses of omega-3 fish oil combat hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder
Children can learn better at school by taking omega-3 fish oil supplements which boost their concentration, scientists say.

Boys aged eight to 11 who were given doses once or twice a day of docosahexaenoic acid, an essential fatty acid known as DHA, showed big improvements in their performance during tasks involving attention.

Dr Robert McNamara, of the University of Cincinnati, who led the team of American researchers, said their findings could help pupils to study more effectively and potentially help to tackle both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression.

Unfortunately, the Observer’s claims about fish oil are not evidence-based. Continue reading

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Filed under ADHD, depression, fish

Nature Publishing promote bad autism science

UPDATE: Nature Publishing Group now appear to have removed the links criticised in this post and the page looks to be much improved (although see the additional criticism at LBRB)

Nature Publishing’s Publishing Group’s (NPG) Scitable has previously been a fairly good example of accessible online science information. However, as Kev has noted, Nature’s NPG’s autism Scitable is well below their usual standard:

who thought it necessary to link to no less than three anti-vaccine links on the home page of this….blog? Wiki? Two links to Autism Speaks whose controllers recently attended a DAN! conference and one link to ARI itself.

Nature also links to Thoughtful House (the US autism clinic where Wakefield was based) when “Explaining the rise of reported cases”. Classy.

Particularly interesting – ‘interesting’ in the banging-head-on-desk-sense of the world – is the Autism Research Institute document they link re the Nutritional Treatment of autism Continue reading

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BBC Grow Your Own Drugs: implausible and risky advice

I have been disappointed with some of the content of the BBC’s Grow Your Own Drugs: in particular, its discussion of the use of turmeric and willow bark. I have therefore submitted two complaints to the BBC, and will explain my concerns in this post.

The programme suggests a daily dose of turmeric tea for arthritis treatment: arguing the curcumin in this may be beneficial. Sadly, though, this treatment is simply implausible: curcumin’s bioavailability is poor and (even if black pepper can improve bioavailability) it seems impossible that a daily cuppa would give enough of a dose to do anything particularly useful. I pointed this out to the BBC, and they responded to me:

While we appreciate your concerns, it’s always been the case that James Wong doesn’t believe that natural remedies are a replacement for conventional medicine, and he reminds viewers of this during the series. The programme’s website also explains this

While I am delighted that the BBC make clear that implausible treatments shouldn’t be used to replace actual medicine, it is nonetheless unhelpful for them to suggest implausible treatments in the first place. I have therefore asked them to consider my complaint again. Continue reading

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Filed under curcumin, turmeric