Busting medical myths

Festive medical myths — Vreeman and Carroll 337: a2769 — BMJ

While sugarplums may dance in children’s heads, visions of holiday sweets terrorise parents with anticipation of hyperactive behaviour. Regardless of what parents might believe, however, sugar is not to blame for out of control little ones. At least 12 double blind randomised controlled trials have examined how children react to diets containing different levels of sugar.2 None of these studies, not even studies looking specifically at children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, could detect any differences in behaviour between the children who had sugar and those who did not.3 This includes sugar from sweets, chocolate, and natural sources. Even in studies of those who were considered “sensitive” to sugar, children did not behave differently after eating sugar full or sugar-free diets.3

Scientists have even studied how parents react to the sugar myth. When parents think their children have been given a drink containing sugar (even if it is really sugar-free), they rate their children’s behaviour as more hyperactive.4 The differences in the children’s behaviour were all in the parents’ minds.4

Of course, this analysis has its own problems, because it says nothing about the confounding effects of the children’s expectations on tasting something sweet, or the childrens’ response to the parents’ expectations. By the time the researchers get there, all the pavlovian responses have been well established. But that’s just my own prejudices as parent of a 4-year-old talking…

Medical myths — Vreeman and Carroll 335 (7633): 1288 — BMJ

In the United Kingdom, early studies showed that mobile phones interfered with only 4% of devices and only at a distance of <1 meter.w58 w59 Less than 0.1% showed serious effects.w58 At the Mayo Clinic in 2005, in 510 tests performed with 16 medical devices and six mobile telephones, the incidence of clinically important interference was 1.2%.w60 Similarly rigorous testing in Europe found minimal interference and only at distances less than 1 meter.w61

Wow, only 1-4%. That gives me a lot of confidence. I bet the outcome of clinically important hazard from driving without a seatbelt or riding without a helmet is well under 1%.

That is to say, when you’re “debunking” a “myth” you should really think about whether a risk is nonexistent or merely overblown.

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