Skeptical Fails and Wins This Week

Hello skeptifans. I hope you all enjoyed your long weekend.  I’ve got a crisp new batch of  Fails and Wins for you this week.

Why fear of vaccination is spelling disaster in the developing world
Deanna found this Win in The Guardian. The anti-vax hysteria we see in developed countries can do much more damage in developing regions where healthcare resources are lacking if you contract a deadly disease. Educating the public on the benefits of vaccines is important, but clearly not enough. The article suggests an approach of creating ownership for vaccine rates, citing examples from South America where this has worked well. It’s nice to see a decidedly pro-vaccine article. In the first paragraph it says that anti-vax claims “have all been exposed as groundless fears”. I call that a Win.

Health benefits or hype? Battle over functional foods heats up
Lorne found this article in the Globe and Mail. It’s a very interesting write-up about “functional foods” which are defined as “those that go beyond basic nutrition to provide physiological benefits or help reduce the risk of chronic disease.” Health Canada regulates the claims that manufacturers can put on packaging about the benefits of these foods. While there may be some benefits to eating food fortified with nutrients, it doesn’t say much about the healthfulness of the food overall. In the US, functional food manufactures have been given a lot more leeway to make claims, and it has led to a lot of misleading labeling. It will be interesting to see if Health Canada allows for more health claims to be made in the future.

Superfruit: no magic bullet
Here’s another win from the Globe and Mail, this time talking about the unsubstantiated claims made by POM pomegranate juice manufacturers, and other antioxidant peddlers. It’s a very nice change from the credulous nutrition articles that often pop up in news outlets. This one is chock full of quotes that set the record straight, like this one:

Many people are drawn by the anti-establishment allure of a superfood that has been ignored by mainstream medicine, he adds. The conspiracy theory is that, because corporations can’t make a buck on natural foods, “pharmaceutical companies are trying to suppress it.”

Instead of facing mundane reality, Dr. Turtle says, consumers would rather be seduced by the promise of the latest superfruit. No wonder companies keep banking on what he calls “a never-ending hope that this is the one.”

At one point, they even direct readers to for evidence-based research. Definitely a Win.

Whooping Cough
Marion found this link to CBC’s The Current and their coverage of the whooping cough outbreaks seen in Canada. The episode starts off with the statistics on the disease, including the hundreds of thousands of deaths each year world-wide.  In Canada, we rarely see deaths from the disease because of wide-spread vaccinations. But more have been occurring in infants due to unvaccinated carriers.  It’s great to see coverage on the vaccine issue that sticks to the experts.  Overall it’s a big win.

That’s the Fails and Wins this week.  Keep ‘em coming to links [at] skepticnorth [dot] com.

8 Responses to “Skeptical Fails and Wins This Week”

  1. Josh K says:

    Great blog but WHY, OH WHY, do I have to see the idiocy of lolcats on a science blog? Does it really drive up traffic? Do you feel compelled to go with the low watermark of blog quality? Will you carry this habit into 2011? I guess I’ll have to add to AdBlock so I can just focus on the text…

  2. Really? I thought everyone loved LOLCats

  3. Tom Stinson says:

    I’m beginning to think that Josh K isn’t a “cat person”. :) Considering the three M.I.T. sites I was perusing yesterday had streaming lolcat images, well… keep up the good work Melany!

  4. Erik Davis says:

    Josh – give da kitty some love.

  5. Jordan M says:

    The article features the internet meme “win/fail”.

    Lolcats is consistent with this IMO.

  6. Daniel A says:

    With respect to the Whooping Cough issue in Canada, are whooping cough boosters supposed to be covered under public health, or is that something I’ll have to shell out for?

  7. It varies by province, but I believe Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria and acellular Pertussis) boosters are available for free for adolescents in most places, but you may have to pay after that. If you missed your teen booster, I think it is covered. You can find more info here:


  • Melany Hamill

    Melany proudly uses the titles of both geek and nerd. As a science-enthusiast and fan of debate, Melany likes to get her facts straight. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Since then her career path has meandered to its current spot as a project manager at a video game studio. Melany lives near beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. She is not seeking treatment for her caffeine addiction.