To alternative medicine and back again

This is a fascinating account of a family who were way down the alternative medicine rabbit-hole to try to treat their children who were diagnosed with autism. That the Laidlers are doctors is somewhat surprising, but that Jim Laidler also has a PhD in Biology and stumped for chelation for years is even more surprising.

Using substances known as chelating agents, the Laidlers also worked to rid Ben and David of heavy metals thought to be accumulated through vaccines and environmental pollutants. With a PhD in biology as well as his MD, Jim Laidler had become an expert on chelation, speaking nationally and internationally about it at conferences dedicated to autism and alternative approaches.

What is interesting about the Laidlers is their evolution of thinking, their eventual realization that they had been wrong:

Then, after months of soul-searching, Jim Laider took to the internet to announce his “de-conversion” from alternative medicine—a kind of penance, but also a warning to others. “I had this guilt to expunge,” Jim says. “I helped to promote this nonsense, and I didn’t want other people to fall for it like I did.”

Dangerous Ideas

I’ve been reading Big Think for a while now, and it’s always pretty interesting. Perhaps their most thought-provoking articles are in the Dangerous Ideas series, which they describe as:

Brace yourself: these ideas may at first seem shocking or counter-intuitive—but they are worth our attention, even if we end up rejecting them.  Every idea in this blog is supported by contributions from leading experts, from the world’s top theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, to Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker, to linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky.

It’s worth a look. Some are definitely better than others, and none really explore the issues in much depth, but in general they’re good to get you thinking or to start a conversation. A few of my favorites:

Blind to be cured with stem cells

BRITISH scientists have developed the world’s first stem cell therapy to cure the most common cause of blindness. Surgeons predict it will become a routine, one-hour procedure that will be generally available in six or seven years’ time.

The treatment involves replacing a layer of degenerated cells with new ones created from embryonic stem cells. It was pioneered by scientists and surgeons from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London and Moorfields eye hospital.

via Blind to be cured with stem cells – Times Online (thanks, Nick!).

Vision for all

Inventor’s 2020 vision: to help 1bn of the world’s poorest see better:

Silver has devised a pair of glasses which rely on the principle that the fatter a lens the more powerful it becomes. Inside the device’s tough plastic lenses are two clear circular sacs filled with fluid, each of which is connected to a small syringe attached to either arm of the spectacles.

The wearer adjusts a dial on the syringe to add or reduce amount of fluid in the membrane, thus changing the power of the lens. When the wearer is happy with the strength of each lens the membrane is sealed by twisting a small screw, and the syringes removed. The principle is so simple, the team has discovered, that with very little guidance people are perfectly capable of creating glasses to their own prescription.

Such an amazing idea. With self-adjustable glasses cheap enough, and with the right distribution networks, sight could be restored to massive numbers of poor people in the world.

So what’s new?

I’m sitting in a cafe near London Bridge, trying to prepare for a presentation I have to give on Tuesday. I’m speaking on the topic of pertussis (whooping cough), and how its resurgence in some parts of the US could display a lack of trust in the medical establishment. Finding good, recent articles on the subject is proving difficult. Perhaps my focus is too narrow. Any advice is appreciated.

What’s new with you?

The 11 Best Foods You Arent Eating

The 11 Best Foods You Arent Eating – Well – Tara Parker-Pope – Health – New York Times Blog

Sardines: Dr. Bowden calls them “health food in a can.’’ They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins.
How to eat: Choose sardines packed in olive or sardine oil. Eat plain, mixed with salad, on toast, or mashed with dijon mustard and onions as a spread.

There’s gotta be a way to ease into sardine eating. They’re so hard to stomach. Anything complement them well enough to counteract the weird flavor?

Immunization bribes

In the UK, Prime Minister Brown has pledged £200 grants in exchange for participating in health and social programs:

Ten pilot projects in low-income neighbourhoods will trial the one-off grants as part of a £125 million three-year drive announced in the Budget to find innovative solutions to child poverty.

Based on schemes in the US, where parents are rewarded for things like making sure their children attend health check-ups and receive immunisation jabs, the grants are targeted at the most hard-to-reach parents who currently do not take up services offered by children’s centres.

The pilots will test whether offering cash incentives can encourage socially-excluded parents to participate in agreed programmes of action to improve their children’s well-being.

I’m actually not aware of programs like that here in the US, but I think they’re a great idea. It’s a small price to pay for healthy kids and a little boost to social mobility.