Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Nonsense diagnostic test used to diagnose non-existent problem

I keep a close eye on live blood analysis - it's been popular for a number of years in the UK and is closely linked with alkaline diets. Because of a number of misleading health claims made by several practitioners the Committee of Advertising Practice has published guidance on what advertisers can say about live blood testing.
"CAP is yet to see any evidence for the efficacy of this therapy which, without rigorous evidence to support it, should be advertised on an availability-only platform."
Not much as it happens. This is simply because there's no evidence it does anything useful so it would be a bad idea for anyone to claim that a useless test is useful, though it's fine to offer the test without making any claims - hence 'on an availability-only platform'.

While real medicine certainly does include looking at blood under a microscope the kind that is done by live blood analysts is the equivalent of a child playing with a toy oven. There are buttons you can turn or press and a door that can be opened, but you can't actually cook food on it.

Live blood analysts are led to believe that you can tell much more about someone's health by looking at their blood than you actually can. They pass this mistaken information onto their clients, believe that they can see things in the blood implying that there is something wrong with them and then sell them unnecessary supplements. With any luck the client will just be given some odd, but generally harmless dietary advice.

Recently I've noticed a number of tweets and articles implying that a live blood test provides evidence that 'smart meters' are damaging people's blood. This links in with a whole genre of misunderstanding about radiation, including the difference between ionising and non-ionising, but also failing to grasp that even if all wifi and electricity stopped tomorrow we'd still be getting a fair bit of natural (and ionising) radiation sleeting through us.

Unsurprisingly, this creation of an anxiety also allows people to sell a useless diagnostic test AND also sell tools that supposedly protect people from radiation. The 'extra' radiation is not harmful, the tools don't work and the diagnostic tests aren't diagnostic. There may be good reasons not to get a smart meter but effects on blood cells isn't one of them.

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Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).