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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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March 2018 (Vol. 28 Issue 12)

Bryan Hubbard



Bryan Hubbard is Publisher and co-editor of WDDTY. He is a former Financial Times journalist. He is a Philosophy graduate of London University. Bryan is also the author of several books, including The Untrue Story of You and Secrets of the Drugs Industry.














Getting the vax facts wrong

February 28th 2018, 15:43

The media is pulled by the forces of simplification and sensationalism, says American sociologist Robert McChesney. I'd add a third 'S' to the list: suppression. All three are amply exercised when it comes to reporting on vaccinations, a touchy subject that has had journalists tying themselves up in knots for decades.

Simplification and sensationalism were the hallmarks of the coverage of gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield and his discovery that the triple MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine was causing inflammation in the guts of a small group of children, and which, he postulated, could presage autism.


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Blame the Russians

January 25th 2018, 17:54

The vaccine debate has taken a sinister turn. Any bad news you read about the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) and flu vaccines on social media sites has been placed there by Russian cyber units, plotting to destabilize the West, according to a British tabloid newspaper.

First they orchestrated Brexit, then they helped get Trump into the White House, and now those Kremlin hackers are targeting vaccines. The Daily Mirror reports that "Russian cyber units are spreading false information about flu and measles jabs, experts claim."1


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It's all a Wonderland

December 21st 2017, 14:07

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice might have said if she'd seen some of the research papers that have been passing across the WDDTY desks in recent weeks. They're curious because they provide more evidence of the humbling fact that we have so much still to learn about how the body works and how (or why) disease develops.


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Fake real news

November 21st 2017, 11:13

In more innocent times, there was news, pure and simple. We believed most of what we were told in newspapers and on TV. Now, in the Days of Trump, we also have fake news: blatant untruths like 'Hillary Clinton uses a body double' or 'Donald's tan is natural.'


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Chinese delivery

October 25th 2017, 15:32

The Economist magazine has recently been voted the world's most trusted news source, but even such a highly rated title can get it badly wrong when it reports on alternative medicine. In an editorial, it has accused the Chinese government of state-sponsored 'quackery'—for supporting the country's own ancient healing system, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

It's quackery because it's unproven, the magazine thunders, and yet the Chinese government is set to promote the use of TCM remedies globally, while upping its investment in an already extensive domestic network of TCM clinics and hospitals.


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Quiet as mice

August 29th 2017, 19:13

I'm not a mouse; nor, I suspect, are you (unless you're a highly intelligent one who reads our magazine when you're not eating cheese or whizzing around on one of those running wheels—fun, aren't they?)

If you don't have a very serious identity crisis, this is not earth-shattering news, although it could be if you're a drug company. Mice are usually on the front line when drug companies begin testing the safety and effectiveness of a new drug. If the mice give it the paw's up, the drug will be given to healthy young medical students who aren't anything like the frail and elderly people who'll actually be the targets of the drug.


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Thinking makes it so

June 26th 2017, 21:52

Here's a very radical thought: suppose it's all placebo. Does the thought that a remedy will work actually make it work—whether you've been given a prescription drug, a placebo or dummy drug, or a homeopathic pill?

The idea that the mind can make us feel better when we're given any kind of pill isn't new to medicine. It's the basis of the double-blind placebo-controlled trial, where a group of participants is given either an active drug or a 'dummy' placebo drug, and no one—not even the researchers—knows which they've been given. The drug is deemed a success if its positive effects outperform those of the placebo, even if by just a few per cent.


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The spaces between facts

March 31st 2017, 12:25

William Halsted is revered among surgeons. He died in 1922, and yet is still considered one of the most influential surgeons ever, with many of his innovations—such as the use of rubber gloves and a surgical procedure on the digestive tract—still in use in operating theatres today.


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Sugar and spite

February 23rd 2017, 18:12

It's a belief that still underpins our most popular weight-loss programmes and, if truth be told, somewhere deep down you probably believe it too. It's this: the more you eat, the more weight you'll put on.

It seems logical enough, but it's not entirely true. The idea of the equality of calories was started by the sugar industry in the late 1950s, and has been endorsed and promoted by supposedly independent researchers and our health guardians ever since. The National Institutes of Health in the US states that obesity is the result of "an energy imbalance"—you're eating more than you're burning off—and the UK's National Health Service tells us that "obesity is generally caused by consuming more calories—particularly those in fatty and sugary foods—than you burn off through physical activity. The excess energy is stored by the body as fat".


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Post-truth medicine

January 24th 2017, 15:26

Last year was the start of something big, and it even gave birth to a new word: post-truth. Critics argued that much of the Trump presidential campaign was hallmarked by post-truths—and preposterous post-truths at that, such as President Obama being the founder of ISIS and opposition candidate Hilary Clinton running a paedophile ring from a pizza parlour.


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Do nothing

November 30th 2016, 08:18

It should be the golden rule of medicine (yet it’s never taught in medical school): first, do nothing. Instead, the fledgling medic is cast in the mould of the hero, ready and waiting to intervene at the drop of a blood-pressure reading.

To help him in his quest to restore health to all are the paraphernalia of the newest technologies, including computer-aided screening tests, scans and X-rays, and the latest breakthrough drugs.


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The real med diet

October 27th 2016, 14:29

Been down to the Med lately? If you have, you’ll have noticed that the locals don’t eat the Mediterranean diet—or certainly not the idealized version celebrated by medical researchers. Yet, they’ve been urging us to eat oily fish, fresh vegetables and fruit, with lashings of olive oil, all rounded off by a plate of nuts—just like the Mediterraneans do.

Except they don’t. Instead, they eat plenty of red meat, eggs, and dairy products like cheese, cream, butter and milk, and they love white processed bread—whether they’re baguettes, croissants or the Italian panini (grilled sandwich). Or, as food and obesity researcher Dr Zoë Harcombe put it, “If it moves, they eat it + white things.”


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Beyond your genes

June 27th 2014, 13:09

When it comes to cancer, modern medicine is in firm denial. For all the triumphalism over the latest claims that approximately 50 per cent of people survive cancer for at least 10 years, the bald fact remains that cancer incidence rates in Great Britain have risen by 23 per cent in men and by 43 per cent in women since the mid-1970s, cancer deaths account for more than one in four deaths and more than 430 people a year,or one person every four minutes, dies from cancer. Does that sound like a war that's being won?

At least that's the dismal batting average for the typical oncologist. Dr Patrick Kingsley, now retired, had a different track record. Most of the thousands of patients he's treated for cancers of all varieties reversed their cancers and survived.


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Catching it early

May 30th 2014, 10:15

It's all over the newspapers. Deaths from breast cancer have almost been halved, and the bow belongs to screening with routine mammography.

So persuasive is the catch-it-early argument that governments have spent millions putting into effect mass screening programmes, with women the primary targets for wholesale breast and cervical cancer campaigns.


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April 28th 2014, 11:43

Failing eyesight has become so closely associated with old age that medicine has applied a number of adjectives synonymous with 'geriatric' to conditions like 'age-related macular degeneration' and 'senile cataracts', and it's just taken for granted that your eyes are going to wear out even faster than the rest of you.

As Dame Judi Dench once commented about her AMD, which has now made it difficult for her to read scripts: "I've got what my ma had, which you get when you get old."


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Inventing the problem

March 31st 2014, 11:16

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith was one of the first to identify 'revised-sequence' markets which, unlike the ordinary consumer-driven variety, are driven by a corporation, which controls the consumer's attitudes and values and so creates product demand. Or, to put it more simply, theyinvent the problem to sell the solution.

As American political activist Ralph Nader once remarked, "In any industry, the sellers become very acute in appealing to those features of a human personality that are easiest to exploit. Everyone knows what they are. It's easiest to exploit a person's sense of fear . . ."


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