Dogtor J

Jun. 22nd, 2014 11:18 am
draggonlaady: (Nice Girl)

I was referenced to this person by a client who was trying to convince/prove to me that gluten is a detrimental ingredient in all diets for all species. Dogtor J was someone I'd never heard of. So I went to his webpage, where he proclaims that he's discovered that viruses and bacteria are actually helpful and all disease is self-caused. I must admit to developing an immediate large dose of skepticism about anything else the man says. My skepticism was not reduced when he went on to say that he knows all this by grace of God, and that medical training taught him absolutely nothing about how the body or disease works. I'm sorry, but no – I do my best to base my medical decisions and recommendations on science and evidence, not on 'revelations' that fly in the face of all existing research. Anyway, I thought I'd post my breakdown of his article here for you lovelies as an example of the utter BS available on the internet, and why people should think carefully about what they read.

The following is an article I wrote for the newsletter of when asked about the prevalence of celiac disease (gluten intolerance) in the dog and cat. This condition has been definitively diagnosed in the Irish Setter but not many other breeds of dogs. I would not be at all surprised to find that it does exist in other breeds, but as this article explains, that may very well be a moot point.

Dogtor J.

Gluten Intolerance and Your Pet

by Dogtor J.

© 2002

"Chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp....GULP. Slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp....BELCH." This is the sound of "Fido" eating his scientifically formulated, well-balanced dog food. It can be purchased at the grocery store, but the discerning owner travels to the local pet shop to buy the better quality food. Most people know that you get what you pay for in a pet food and that the higher grade foods come from certain recognizable manufacturers and can only be found at specialty pet supply outlets. But, is that axiom true? Does purchasing the most expensive food guarantee that your pet will be receiving the best in nutrition that the industry has to offer?

No more so than it does in anything – a high price is often as likely to be an indication of over-pricing for fancy packaging as it is a dramatically increased quality of product. Many 'specialty' pet foods take advantage of that – so consider carefully anything claiming to be 'human grade', 'food grade', 'all-natural', 'all organic' or any of the other buzz words associated with high price; most are marketing techniques only.

The unfortunate truth is that pet food is not as scientifically formulated as most would like to think. For the most part, Fido's food is made with convenience and cost of manufacturing in mind more than science. Yes, the first few ingredients look appetizing enough and there are essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals added to the mix. But are these ingredients natural for the pet and are they readily available for absorption and use by their body? Here in lies the crux of the matter.

If you're buying from a reputable brand, the food IS scientifically formulated, and ingredients are chosen to meet the nutritional requirements of the pet; many 'specialty' foods do this in the reverse, and pick ingredients first, then try to make up or ignore nutritional deficiencies. If you want more information about this, I can put you in contact with the nutritionists at Royal Canin, Purina, and Science Diet.

The wake-up call comes when one realizes that once the meat source is removed from the diet, the remaining ingredients are mostly unnatural for the pet. If we exclude the beef, poultry, fish, and lamb, the remaining calorie sources are mostly wheat, barley, corn, rice, and oats, all of which are man-raised crops that the dog and cat would never consume in the wild. I love to inquire of my clients "How would a pet get rice? Swim to Viet Nam?"

Ah, the appeal to the wild diet. Several points in no particular order. 1: pets are not wild animals, any more than humans are chimpanzees, so saying dogs should eat the same as wolves is equivalent to saying humans should eat leaves and termites. 2: wild animals live short, brutal lives, often on the edge of starvation, so it is little wonder you don't see age-related and chronic disease in wild populations; they either don't live long enough to develop them, or are eaten by some other predator before the disease becomes chronic, 3: predatory pets would get grains by eating the guts of their prey, herbivore pets would just eat them directly, 4: if you exclude half of the ingredients, you are pretty obviously not going to have a balanced diet, by virtue of excluding half of the ingredients, 5: what makes you think a 'cat in the wild' would eat cow? And in conjunction, how many of the 'all natural' pet foods you can buy for a cat are made primarily of mouse and vole?

But what is the problem with these complex carbohydrates being in the diet? Humans consume these with every meal and they are doing just fine, aren't they? Ahhhh. Are we? If we were, those reading this paper would be reading something else right now, wouldn't they? The problem is that the grains listed above have some universal problems among humans and pets alike, as do a couple of other problem foods that eclipse even the grains in health issues.

Well, no... you really have not convinced me (or the majority of nutritionists, veterinarians, or human doctors) of this point.

To digress for just a moment, I am a recovered celiac. For forty-something years, I suffered like most other celiacs of a myriad of symptoms, including allergies, heart burn and intestinal problems, depression/chronic fatigue, memory and balance difficulties, joint pain, and even fibromyalgia. I was taking at least four drugs twice daily; caffeine addicted, and was quite frankly not having any fun anymore. I am now two and a half years gluten AND casein-free, off all drugs, symptom-free, and feeling better than I did when I was twelve. This miraculous recovery got my attention as a patient and as a doctor. How could this be? How could I be suffering from what millions of people and pets were experiencing but be well in such a short period of time? How could all of these conditions be linked together?

I have not ever denied that celiac disease exists and is awful, or that eliminating gluten from the diet of someone with celiac disease will dramatically improve their quality of life. However, I fail to see how it can be blamed for his caffeine addiction, or just extrapolated straight across to mean that because a disease exists in some individuals, all individuals of all species should change their diet. There's a pretty big logic-gap to cross in that leap. It is exactly the same gap that one would face in saying "some people have absolute polycythemia, therefore every person should be regularly bled to remove excess red blood cells". Shall we all line up for the lea.

The readers of and its publications have read many a testimony like this. Many have experienced similar responses while others are still wondering when wellness is going to happen to them. Those in the latter category have been trying to faithfully adhere to the gluten-free regime but are frustrated by the fact that they are making such huge sacrifices with less than optimal responses.

Well, "Fido" is about to teach you something. The fact is that the celiac is a "who's who" of what is wrong with human beings but the conditions that we suffer from are not limited to those who walk upright. When I read the list of conditions that we as gluten intolerants experience, my first thought was that "This is me. This describes me to a T." My second thought was "...but this describes everything that is wrong with everyone, including their dogs and cats." And it does. Suddenly, medicine through the eyes of celiac disease (and other similar food intolerances) made sense. I tell everyone that it was like someone had finally put the right program into a stalled computer and it began operating at lightning speed. All of the idiopathic conditions that are so poorly understood in medicine became "open season" for this medical headhunter.

There is a huge flaw here - just as I would with someone claiming a single medication can cure any/all disease, I have huge skepticism about claims that all diseases are the same, or that all diseases arise from the same cause. In all likelihood, someone selling a panacea is pushing placebos and playing on people's desperation. This "all disease is one disease" thing is the mirror reflection of that, and serves only to set the stage for the snake-oil salesman. You cannot toss out all the evidence gathered by all the researchers in thousands of labs over centuries of work on viruses, bacteria, fungus, cancers, and immune-mediated issues, and simply say "every single one of them was wrong in all particulars, while I, who has done absolutely no laboratory research, know this by virtue of divine revelation" and expect to be taken seriously.

And, the answers did come one after another. I launched into two years of intensive research while applying the newly unveiled principles to my patients as well as myself. Miracles started happening around me. Allergies abated, intestinal problems cleared up, older pets became less painful and more active, and yes, even their epilepsy stopped. "Wait a second! Epileptic seizures stopped?", you may be asking. Yes, 100% of my epileptics have stopped having seizures, just like many celiac children that were placed on gluten-free diets have responded. I got the idea from the celiac literature. How that occurs is totally explainable but beyond the scope of this article. It can be found in my paper entitled The Answer on my Website,

You know, the neurology specialists I've consulted with all stoutly disagree with this as a treatment for epilepsy, and Dogtor J is very strongly waving the 'brilliant heretic' red flag here. Lets see the details of this two years of intensive research... what studies? what labs? did he design and perform new research or is he "reinterpreting" others' findings? which others'? Specifics and details are absolutely necessary for drawing scientific conclusions.
Feel free to jog over to his site and look for yourself, but if you're short on time, I'll save you the trip. There is only 1 actual reference mentioned in "The Answer", and that is "The Merck Manual"; he doesn't list which edition or what page he references, but states that his 'project' was opening the book to random pages and "trying to explain the disease through the eyes of food intolerance". So basically, he's stating that he's assuming a conclusion, then intentionally interpreting evidence to force it to fit that conclusion. This is NOT how science or research works. It is, in fact, exactly the opposite of science.

In a nutshell, after all of my research into so many of the medical problems and conditions that plague pets and mankind, I decided that the center of our health universe lies in that "J-shaped" stretch of intestine known as your duodenum. Most celiacs are aware of the pathophysiology of their condition and are familiar with the terms malabsorption and "leaky gut syndrome". But, many are like I was in that they don't understand all of the fine details.

All your research? You seriously mean you consider sitting on your bed picking random, unrelated articles from a text book and forcing them to match your pre-conceived notions to be research? Of course you do.
The center of our health universe? Repeating the stance that all ailments derive from one cause...

There are three food ingredients that adhere to the villi of the duodenum and induce the change that is characteristic of celiac disease known as villous atrophy. These three substances are gluten (from the grains), casein (from cow milk products), and soy protein. Oh oh. Did you know that the last one was on the list? Hopefully so.

I'm not even going to bother looking up the purported physiology of how 'adherence' results in atrophy in healthy gut, because I don't feel up to chasing ghosts. It's rather unnecessary, since that is hardly a comprehensive list of causes of villous atrophy. Here is a list of causes with actual research behind them, courtesy of University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center:

Since we're discussing pets here, I'll add corona virus, rotavirus, parvovirus, and hemorragic gastroenteritis.

Oh, wait, I forgot, viruses and bacteria are merely scapegoats and all disease arises from our own intestine. Guess we can go ahead and stop vaccinating for parvo then? Too bad about all those puppies who psychogenically give themselves fatal parvo, or who suffer villous atrophy as a result of drinking milk (casein isn't found only in cow milk, you know - best take those pups away from mom on day one and not allow nursing!).

What is it that links these substances together? For one, they are all use {sic} as adhesives, either as non-food glues or as binders in the foods we consume. Gluten, casein, soy and even corn are all used in industry as adhesives, some even being waterproof. Put "gluten", "casein", "soy protein adhesive" or "corn adhesive" in the search engine of any computer and read the responses. Wow! They are not only used in the food industry to hold items such as oats together but they are put to use in industry to hold just about anything together.

Yup. Because if you concentrate or refine it and use it in some other manner it must be horrible. Hmm, don't they use water in glues too?

As we all know, it is the nature of the starches to be sticky. And, as it turns out, the foods that are the "stickiest" are the ones that cause the most problems. This should not be a surprise once this issue is introduced. Casein and gluten are used for the most powerful adhesives. Therefore, it should be not be a shock that they are the number one and number two childhood food allergens according to the FDA. What is number four? Soy. What is number three? Eggs. (This is the first secondary allergen brought about by the damage done to the gut by the first two.)

Casein and gluten are not starches, they are proteins. If you can't even keep that straight, why should I trust that you have any clue about their digestion or actions in the body?
Also, what "most powerful adhesives" do you specifically mean? I asked 3M's website what their most powerful adhesive was, and pulled up it's Material Safety Data Sheet - no mention of casein, soy, or gluten:

Now, imagine these proteins leaving the stomach of a human or their pet. I have always used the illustration of three slices of pizza leaving our stomach. But, for this sake of this article, I will use a wheat, barley, or soy-based pet food to drive the point home. Now that you have an idea of where we are headed, you can imagine the stomach is filled with "glue-containing" food. This "glue" leaves the stomach after it has been worked on as much as possible by that organ. Of course, not being a ruminant like a cow or sheep, these foods are not completely broken down any more than the cellulose that they eat that non-ruminants are unable to digest. As simple-stomached animals, our pets and we are not designed to eat grasses like the ruminants do and all of the grains are in the grass family. They are all grasses that man has chosen to consume, with those in Asia picking their grass (rice), the Europeans choosing their grasses (wheat and barley), and those in central America picking corn. Here in America, we consume them all and in abundance.

Neither casein or gluten is the same thing as cellulose, not even close. So why on Earth would we assume that digestion of these things is the same? This doesn't even make sense! We're talking about the grains here, not the stems or leaves – nobody in serious conversation ever claimed that humans, dogs, or cats can digest grass blades or corn husks. Stop picking on straw men, and focus on reality.

In an attempt to digest these grasses and their "glue" (along with dairy and soy), our stomach adds as much acid as possible to break them down. Heart burn, anyone? (Yes, my two years of acid reflux abated after just one week of being gluten- free. This, again, should be no surprise.) But, the increased acid is inadequate to eliminate the "glue". It is this sticky substance that adheres to the villi of the duodenum. Whether it be from wheat, cow milk, soy, corn, or the others mentioned, it adheres to these finger-like projections of the intestine that are vital for the absorption of nutrients, effectively reducing the amount of those essential ingredients that would be absorbed into the bloodstream.

You're right, it shouldn't be a surprise that your digestion improved once you were diagnosed with a specific medical condition for which you made specific and recommended adjustments. That STILL doesn't mean that all individuals of all species should make the same changes on the basis of your individual medical diagnosis.
Just lumping dairy in with plants? How does he justify that, since his claim last paragraph was that we can't digest cellulose therefore can't digest plants? There's no cellulose in milk, last I heard. Also, the issue with absorption in celiac disease isn't adherence blocking cellular transport, it's inflammation thickening tissue and interefering with absorption. “Glue” has nothing to do with it.

What are those nutrients? The vital substances are calcium, iron, iodine, all B complex, vitamin C, most water-soluble vitamins, and most of our trace minerals such as zinc, boron, manganese, magnesium and more. In other words, just about everything that is important other than our proteins, fats, and calories are absorbed by the duodenum. How well can this organ function when it is coated with "glue"? The important thing to realize here is that this happens to everyone and every pet that eats these foods.

See above about inflammation vs glue. Then please provide me some evidence that this "glue" effect occurs in any, let alone all humans and pets.

That bears repeating. This happens to everyone and just about every simple-stomach creature that eats these foods. We have simply focused on the worst-of-the-worst.... as in the celiacs, casein intolerants, and soy which an immune response is mounted against the glue leading to severe villous atrophy. This immune assault also generates the warning antibodies that we call "allergies" to tell you that this is process is taking place. Otherwise, it would be a "stealth operation" that goes on undetected for years and years until the bottom falls out. Yes, this is all too familiar of a scenario as well, isn't it? It happens in pets all of the time, I'm afraid.

Wait wait wait – every simple-stomach creature? So we're including rabbits, guinea pigs, and horses here? They're not ruminants, but do just fine at digesting plant matter. How come they don't all get 'glued up' inside and die?

Actually, “allergies” (why the scare quotes there?) are the result of an immune response mounted against an inappropriate protein molecule, or an inappropriate response mounted against an innocuous protein molecule. It is not a 'warning', it is an over-active immune-mediated response, and has nothing to do with the purported glueyness of the protein molecules.

So, the ultimate question is whether pets suffer from celiac disease? My answer is that it doesn't really matter. In the pet, every bite of the average commercial food has "glue" in it, whether it is of wheat, barley, soy, corn, or rice origin. Yes, there are better glues" {sic} than others and they are in line with what we see as the principle allergens in the pet, just as one would expect. Wheat and soy are the worst (now that dairy has been eliminated from pet foods) while oats and rice are the best...the least sticky. Corn is in the middle. This is exactly what we see as the main sources of food allergies in the pet, a problem of huge importance in dogs and cats. Now people can understand why lamb and rice foods have become so popular. Rice is the least of the adhesives and thereby less allergenic and lamb is (or at least used to be) an unusual protein source compared to beef and others, which have become the main secondary allergens in the pet. It does all make sense.

Yes, we seem more allergies to more common proteins, but that's not because the proteins themselves are particularly allergenic, it's because those are the proteins to which a potentially atopic immune system is exposed most often, precisely because they are common. With the increasing popularity of lamb and rice foods, we are seeing increasing numbers of allergies to, you guessed it, lamb and rice. A straight up function of exposure, not being a "better glue". And I'm pretty sure dairy has not been eliminated from pet foods... or did that happen between now and 2 paragraphs ago when he was concerned about casein?

But celiac disease has occurred in the dog. It has been definitively identified in one breed, which is almost extinct now.... the Irish setter. This hapless breed was effectively sent the way of the buffalo when the industry added wheat, the number one dog and cat food allergen, to the pet foods about 15 years ago.

What the what? Where did he even come up with that? Irish setters are nowhere near extinct, they are currently listed as the 68th most popular of 155 breeds by the AKC, and I'd be surprised if they weren't more popular in Europe. Yes, a handful of Irish setters have been diagnosed with a condition similar to celiac disease. That's a family cluster within a single breed, which speaks strongly to a genetic alteration underlying the issue, and it hasn't resulted in the decimation of the breed any more than celiac disease has resulted in a significant decline in human population. Since Dogtor J can't be arsed to cite his sources, here, read the studies on those Irish Setters yourself: and

Thanks to the wheat glut in this country, corn-based diets were quickly replaced with wheat and the subsequent decline in our pet's health began.

The decline that's resulted in steadily increasing life expectancy? Because I have not seen an over-all decline in health and quality of life in pets, and I see literally hundreds of pets every week.

Veterinarians found themselves wondering why the immune system of the dog and cat were having such problems, ranging from worsening allergies to a rapid rise in immune-mediated diseases. The answer was right before us: you don't add the number one dog and cat food allergen to the diet without having some major repercussions.

Funny, I have not seen nor heard of (other than the claims in this article) a rapid rise in immune-mediated diseases, nor an epidemic of worsening allergies in any of the species I treat. Once more, the most common allergies are those to the most common exposures – if you change what the most common protein in a population's diet is, you will see a change in the most common allergies. The protein didn't cause the immune response, the pre-disposition of the immune system to respond latched on to the protein.

The veterinary profession was just as shortsighted as the medical profession is today about the ramifications of consuming the top food allergens as the bulk of the diet. 60-70% of the American diet is comprised of cow milk products and wheat alone, with 40-50% being the number one food allergen, dairy products.

Actually, according to Food Allergy Research and Education, dairy allergies have an incidence of only 0.2-0.4% of the adult population, falling behind peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish. Keep in mind, dairy allergy and lactose intolerance are two totally different disease processes.

There is a price to pay for this sort of ignorance and it is heavier than most realize.

The main cost is the disruption of duodenal function. Once the essential nutrients have been malabsorbed for a long enough time, Pandora's Box is opened. This may occur every {sic} early in life or very late, partly governed by the degree of immune-mediated component. The worst of the worst will experience severe problems by the time they are adolescents while the more resilient will not be affected until late in life. But, as I tell my clients, I believe that with the top three foods...wheat, dairy and is a matter of when they cause problems, not if. The "glue" will eventually affect everyone and every pet with it' {sic} nutrient-blocking qualities.

Suddenly, conditions such as hip dysplasia, elbow and shoulder problems, intervertebral disc syndrome, cruciate ligament ruptures, and even heart valve failure all have better explanations. All of these problems are caused by failing cartilage and connective tissue, both of which are structured similarly and made up of calcium and collagen. Collagen is the building block of most of your skeletal support structures. The principle component of collagen is vitamin C. Therefore, when it is understood that calcium and vitamin C are absorbed by the duodenum, then it is easily seen that inadequate amounts of these in the diet or failure of their absorption will compromise the integrity of these structures...all of them.

Holy crap the wrongness.

Hip and elbow dysplasias are developmental abnormalities resulting in early-onset arthritis and degenerative joint disease. They are an inherited bone growth problem, having nothing to do with digestion.

"Shoulder problems" is too vague even to start – the majority of shoulder problems I see are directly trauma related, and I don't even know what he's getting at here.

Intervertebral disk disease (not syndrome) is cartilage related, and has a very high incidence in the chondrodysplastic breeds such as dachshunds, precisely because we've bred them to have defective cartilage (hence chondrodysplastic, which literally means poorly formed cartilage). The way you get short curvy legs is to breed for structurally deficient cartilage that collapses under weight, resulting in stumpy bones. That same cartilage is what makes up the intervertebral disks, which not surprisingly fail under normal use. Again, this is a hereditary developmental issue, not related to digestion.

Cruciate ligament rupture has several factors, primarily conformation and trauma. As with dachshunds and their faulty cartilage, the further away we breed pets from being built like coyotes, the more structural abnormalities we are breeding into them. The third factor increasingly associated with cruciate tears is actually early castration, because testosterone affects growth plate closure, and thus conformation. AGAIN, genetic and growth issues, and trauma – not digestion.

Heart valve failure is usually seen in geriatric, small-breed dogs, is strongly correlated to chronic poor dental health in both dogs and humans, and is the only thing on this list that can even remotely be tied to digestion, and that's round about. Since heart valve thickening may be caused by infection of the heart valves, and the gastrointestinal tract is a common source of bacteria, thanks to dogs' love of eating disgusting things, heart valve failure could conceivably be tied to bacterial entry into the blood stream from dietary indiscretion. More commonly though, it's chronic bacterial shedding from infected teeth.

I am frankly scared for this man's patients, if he thinks he can treat cruciate ligament tears and intervertebral disk collapses with diet change. Those poor, poor dogs.

Imagine that a German shepherd puppy begins eating a wheat, barley, corn, or soy-based diet from the moment it is weaned. If inadequate levels of calcium and vitamin C are absorbed, what are the chances that its hips, elbows, spine, and other cartilaginous structures are going to form properly? I would say "Not good". Most people familiar with dogs know that this breed has a reputation for horrible hip dysplasia.

Because they're bred to have horrible, sloped-back, under-slung hind end conformation. It's no surprise at all they have a high incidence of back and hind leg problems – look how they're built! That's not digestive, it is a matter of selectively breeding for outrageously abnormal conformation.

But, they also have serious allergies and other immune-related disorders. This, of course, is no coincidence.

True story – it's not coincidence, it's genetic, hence why one breed has a much higher incidence than other breeds fed exactly the same diets.

Once it is understood that the allergies form in the area of the gut that is being damaged or coated by the "glue", it is easy to see why the trouble breeds like the German Shepherd, Cocker Spaniel, Shih Tzu, and others have their "genetic" tendencies such as allergic skin and ear problems, orthopedic abnormalities, intervertebral disc ruptures, and cancers. Once again, Pandora's Box is opened and unleashed upon these poor breeds through one basic mechanism: malnutrition via malabsorption taking place in the duodenum.

If all those problems come from the same dietary issue then how come they are directly correlated to the conformation and breeding of the dogs – why does the same issue supposedly cause such drastically different ailments in different breeds? You really, honestly think that gluten by exactly the same digestive mechanism causes hip dysplasia in German Shepherds and chronic ear infections in Cocker Spaniels? That the gluten somehow knows what breed it's in and results in different symptoms? I am boggled by the lack of logic there.

I used to be concerned that the veterinary profession had somehow missed the incidence of celiac disease in breeds other than the Irish setter. But, now that I understand the effects of the "glue" on the absorptive ability of the duodenal villi, I believe this possible oversight to be much less important. I believe the same to be true for humans. The "glues" affect all that consume them. Certainly, the "worst of the worst"...the celiacs, casein intolerants, and soy intolerants...have the most to be concerned about. But, with these trouble foods, it is a matter of when they will create a problem, not if. Those who test negative for these food intolerances should not be lulled to sleep with a false sense of security. These fortunate souls will just be healthier longer. This is clearly one of the things that make us individuals, placing us on a spectrum of wellness that ranges from serious illness during the first year of life to a clean bill of health well into the twilight years. The same is true of our pets.

"These fortunate souls will just be healthier longer" because they don't have the same medical issues as people with celiac disease, and therefore don't need the same treatment!

One important determinant will be the length of time it takes for an individual to deplete their reserves of these vital nutrients. We must realize that a condition like osteoporosis is an end-stage result of chronic calcium deficiency and that there existed less identified but significant symptoms that preceded this dreaded outcome. Certainly we can affect the pace of these syndromes through supplementation and eating correctly in other regards. However, if we continue to consume the blocking agents, the "glues", I am afraid that we will eventually lose the battle.

Osteoporosis is the result of hormone-regulated bone remodeling changes associated with menopause. It is not an issue in dogs or cats unless they have some other underlying problem, such as the massive calcium deficiencies seen in growing animals fed meat-only diets, which is kind of the opposite of geriatric animals fed large amounts of grain.

If we don't understand this, it is a matter of when...not if.

Dogtor J. (Read: The Answer- to "Why is the plane of our nation's health in a death spiral?" )

I am sad that this man claims the same profession as me. He is frighteningly far afield from all scientific evidence, and from the world in which I live.

draggonlaady: (Nice Girl)
Dogs Likely Born with 'Canine Telepathy'

People who write for publications should have some basic idea what the words they are using actually mean.

According to the researchers, "These results suggest that dogs' ability to follow human actions stems from a willingness to accept humans as social companions, combined with conditioning to follow the limbs and actions of humans to acquire reinforcement. The type of attentional cues, the context in which the command is presented, and previous experience are all important."

Telepathy does NOT mean "reading body language". *headdesk*
draggonlaady: (Grinding Bones)
It's not just unpasteurized milk, it's any unpasteurized drink that presents health risks. This pasteurization thing, it has a purpose.

In other news, why the bejeezus are journalists not taught the very very basic basics of evaluating scientific studies before reporting on them?!? UGA study finds salmonella less prevalent in organic chicken: Organic chicken isn't just healthier for you - it's also safer, according to a new University of Georgia study.
Great! Yay! indisputable proof that organic is better in all ways! Except that if you read the article, you may notice that this grand study looked at only seven farms. We are not provided any information on how many chickens were involved. Already I have skepticism--not that small studies are useless, mind you, and this one may provide the impetus for a larger, more comprehensive look at some issues raised, but really? Seven farms, an unknown number of chickens, and you're trumpeting about health and safety differences?

Perhaps it would be pertinent to look at something said by Assistant Professor Walid Alali, who performed this study: "Because chickens spread salmonella horizontally, when there are fewer birds, it spreads less." I would infer from this that the organic farms had fewer hens, though that's not explicitly stated. Perhaps, then, the difference is not whether the hens are allowed to be treated with antibiotics, but instead has to do with population density? Sadly "MORE STUDY NEEDED!" is not once printed in this article.

"The organic feed rarely contains salmonella, while conventional feed is full of it, Alali said." That's interesting, and probably quite pertinent to the topic, so why aren't we given ANY more information about it at any point? What, exactly, does "full of it" mean here? I want numbers! Quantitative and qualitative analyses of feed used on all 7 farms, and the actual difference in rates and degree of salmonella contamination would be sterling, but given that this is just a small article, I'd settle for x% of organic and y% of non-organic feeds cultured positive for salmonella". I am denied even this cursory summary, however, and left to take Alali's word for it that non-organic chicken feed is "full of it".

Well. Okay, how about the title claim that organically raised birds are healthier? Not a single tidbit of information is offered in this article as to any nutritional difference in the meat or eggs of chickens raised in different situations. Not a single word, let alone a phrase or complete sentence. I begin to doubt the accuracy of the "Organic chicken isn't just healthier for you - it's also safer, according to a new University of Georgia study" statement. Did this study even frelling look at potential health effects of eating chicken from different sources? Ah, here we go: "Alali collected the chickens' feces, feed and water samples from each of the seven farms." Nope. No study whatsoever of nutritional value of meat or eggs. This headline has no bloody relevance to the study the article is supposed to be reporting! Son, I am disappoint.
I am especially disappointed as this totally unsupported claim is reinforced by the article illustration, which shows chicken legs in a frying pan, with the caption "UGA study finds salmonella less prevalent in chicken". Could you get more misleading about what the study actually studied if you tried?

But maybe I'm just being nitpicky and mean. Maybe what they really meant was that the chickens themselves are healthier, and it was just really (really) poor sentence structure? "Chickens themselves don't suffer from the infection - they're just carriers, Alali said." Oh. Well. Guess not then.

Speaking of misleading and meaningless statements, try this on for size: "The organic chickens also are fed organically grown food like corn and soybeans that is free of animal byproduct."
Are we to take from this statement that animal products are not organic? Boy, is Dr S gonna be confused by that when he goes to sell his organically raised calves this year! Then again, what does that mean in an article touting the benefits of organic chicken? Is chicken not an animal? Does this author even know what "organically grown food" means? Or what chickens are normally fed?
From the USDA's information page: "Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides..." Well, I guess that means that "organic" and "animal byproduct" are not mutually exclusive. So how about those soybeans, then? Oh, the main difference is that they don't use "most conventional pesticides". Right. Right. Because one would absolutely expect the use of insecticides and/or herbicides to make a significant difference in potential bacterial content of food. Very logical. If these chicken farmers choose not to use animal products in their feed, that is their choice and may have points in its favor on several levels, but being "organic" ain't one of them, honey.

In summary: A small study of potential interest, which raises questions for further study. Follow-ups may include whether these findings are consistent across a larger population of farms and/or farms in different areas. Whether size of farm/chicken population density is strongly correlated with incidence of salmonella. Whether a meat-free diet would be better for chickens. Whether there is a significant difference in bacterial contamination of chicken feeds from different sources, and whether organically grown ingredients processed into chicken food do or do not produce a chicken feed with lower bacterial contamination than chicken feed made from "conventional" ingredients. And whether journalists can be trained to write articles which actually pertain to and accurately relate the findings of scientific studies.

ETA: And why the bloody bejeezus is there no link to source material?! Yeah, the majority of readers are not going to bother reading the actual study results, but some of us would, and if you're reporting accurately, it can only help prove your point.
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Reproduced entirely from someone else's work; I did not write this!
How to read articles about health and healthcare

By Dr Alicia White

If you’ve just read a health-related headline that’s caused you to spit out your morning coffee (“Coffee causes cancer” usually does the trick) it’s always best to follow the Blitz slogan: “Keep Calm and Carry On”. On reading further you’ll often find the headline has left out something important, like “Injecting five rats with really highly concentrated coffee solution caused some changes in cells that might lead to tumours eventually. (Study funded by The Association of Tea Marketing)”.

The most important rule to remember: “Don’t automatically believe the headline”. It is there to draw you into buying the paper and reading the story. Would you read an article called “Coffee pretty unlikely to cause cancer, but you never know”? Probably not.

Before spraying your newspaper with coffee in the future, you need to interrogate the article to see what it says about the research it is reporting on. Bazian (the company I work for) has interrogated hundreds of articles for Behind The Headlines on NHS Choices, and we’ve developed the following questions to help you figure out which articles you’re going to believe, and which you’re not.

Does the article support its claims with scientific research?

If an article touts a treatment or a lifestyle factor that is supposed to prevent or cause a disease, but doesn’t give any information about the scientific research behind it, or refers to research that has yet to be published, then treat it with caution. A lot of caution, like balling the article up and throwing it in the (recycling) bin.

Is the article based on a conference abstract?

Another area for caution: news articles based on conference abstracts. Research presented at conferences is often at a preliminary stage and usually hasn’t been scrutinised by experts in the field. Also conference abstracts rarely provide full details about methods, making it difficult to judge how well the research was conducted. For these reasons, articles based on conference abstracts should be no cause for alarm. Don’t panic or rush off to your GP.

Was the research in humans?

Quite often the “miracle cure” in the headline turns out to have only been tested on cells in the laboratory or on animals. These stories are often accompanied by pictures of humans, creating the illusion that the “miracle cure” came from human studies. Studies in cells and animals are crucial first steps and should not be undervalued. However, many drugs that show promising results in cells in laboratories don’t work in animals, and many drugs that show promising results in animals don’t work in humans. If you read a headline about a drug or food “curing” rats, there is a chance it might cure humans in the future, but unfortunately a larger chance that it won’t. So no need to start eating large amounts of the “wonder food” featured in the article.

How many people did the research study include?

In general, the larger a study the more you can trust its results. Small studies may miss important differences because they lack statistical “power”, and small studies are more susceptible to finding things (including things that are wrong) purely by chance. You can visualise this by thinking about tossing a coin. We know that if we toss a coin the chance of getting a head is the same as that of getting a tail – 50/50. However, if we didn’t know this and we tossed a coin four times and got three heads and one tail, we might conclude that getting heads was more likely than tails. But this chance finding would be wrong. If we tossed the coin 500 times – gave the experiment more “power” – we’d be much more likely to get an even number of heads and tails, giving us a better idea of the true odds. When it comes to sample sizes, bigger is usually better. So when you see a study conducted in a handful of people, proceed with caution.

Did the study have a control group?

There are many different types of studies, and they are appropriate for answering different types of questions. If the question being asked is about whether a treatment or exposure has an effect or not, then the study needs to have a control group. A control group allows the researchers to compare what happens to people who have the treatment/exposure with what happens to people who don’t. If the study doesn’t have a control group, then it’s difficult to attribute results to the treatment or exposure with any level of certainty.

Also, it’s important that the control group is as similar to the treated/exposed group as possible. The best way to achieve this is to randomly assign some people to be in the treated/exposed group and some people to be in the control group. This is what happens in a randomised controlled trial (RCT) which is why they are considered the “gold standard” way of testing the effects of treatments and exposures. So when reading about a drug, food or treatment that is supposed to have an effect, you want to look for evidence of a control group, and ideally evidence that the study was an RCT. Without either, retain some healthy scepticism.

Did the study actually assess what’s in the headline?

This one is a bit tricky to explain without going into a lot of detail about “proxy outcomes”. To avoid doing that, here is the key thought: the research study needs to have examined what is being talked about in the headline and article. (Somewhat alarmingly, this isn’t always the case.) For example, you might read a headline that claims “Tomatoes reduce the risk of heart attacks”. What you need to look for is evidence that the study actually looked at heart attacks. You might instead see that the study found that tomatoes reduce blood pressure. This means that someone has extrapolated that tomatoes must also impact heart attacks, as high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attacks. Sometimes these extrapolations will prove to be true, but other times they won’t. So if a news story is focusing on a health outcome that was not examined by the research, treat it with a grain of salt.

Who paid for and conducted the study?

This is a somewhat cynical point, but one that’s worth making. The majority of trials today are funded by manufacturers of the product being tested – be it a drug, vitamin cream or foodstuff. This means they have a vested interest in the results of the trial which can affect what the researchers find and report in all sorts of conscious and unconscious ways. This is not to say that all manufacturer-sponsored trials are unreliable. Many are very good. But it’s worth looking to see who funded the study to sniff out a potential conflict of interest for yourself.

Should you “shoot the messenger”?

Sometimes journalists take a piece of research and misrepresent it, making claims the scientists themselves never made. Other times the scientists or their institutions over-extrapolate, making claims their research can’t support. These claims are then repeated by the journalists. Given erroneous claims can come from a variety of places, don’t automatically ‘shoot the messenger’ by blaming the journalist.

How can I find out more?

It’s not possible to cover all the questions that need to be asked about research studies in a short article, but we’ve covered some of the major ones. For more, go to Behind the Headlines at for daily breakdowns of healthcare stories in the media.
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Stolen whole-cloth from Dr Goldacre's website. If you want to pass this on, please credit him:

Yeah well you can prove anything with science

July 2nd, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 3 July 2010

What do people do when confronted with scientific evidence that challenges their pre-existing view? Often they will try to ignore it, intimidate it, buy it off, sue it for libel, or reason it away.

The classic paper on the last of those strategies is from Lord in 1979: they took two groups of people, one in favour of the death penalty, the other against it, and then presented each with a piece of scientific evidence that supported their pre-existing view, and a piece that challenged it. Murder rates went up, or down, for example, after the abolition of capital punishment in a state, or comparing neighbouring states, and the results were as you might imagine. Each group found extensive methodological holes in the evidence they disagreed with, but ignored the very same holes in the evidence that reinforced their views.

Some people go even further than this, when presented with unwelcome data, and decide that science itself is broken. Politicians will cheerfully explain that the scientific method simply cannot be used to determine the outcomes of a drugs policy. Alternative therapists will explain that their pill is special, among all pills, and you simply cannot find out if it works by using a trial.

How deep do these views go, and how far do they generalise? Professor Geoffrey Munro took around a hundred students and told them they were participating in a study on “judging the quality of scientific information”, now published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. First, their views on whether homosexuality might be associated with mental illness were assessed, and then they were divided into two groups.

The first group were given five research studies that confirmed their pre-existing view. Students who thought homosexuality was associated with mental illness, for example, were given papers explaining that there were more gay people in psychological treatment centres than the general population. The second group were given research that contradicted their pre-existing view. (After the study was finished, we should be clear, they were told that all these research papers were actually fake, and given the opportunity to read real research on the topic if they wanted to).

Then they were asked about the research they had read, and were asked to rate their agreement with the following statement: “The question addressed in the studies summarized… is one that cannot be answered using scientific methods.”

As you would expect, the people whose pre-existing views had been challenged were more likely to say that science simply cannot be used to measure whether homosexuality is associated with mental illness.

But then, moving on, the researchers asked a further set of questions, about whether science could be usefully deployed to understand all kinds of stuff, all entirely unrelated to stereotypes about homosexuality: “the existence of clairvoyance”, “the effectiveness of spanking as a disciplinary technique for children”, “the effect of viewing television violence on violent behavior”, “the accuracy of astrology in predicting personality traits”, and “the mental and physical health effects of herbal medications”.

Their views on each issue were added together to produce one bumper score on the extent to which they thought science could be informative on all of these questions, and the results were truly frightening. People whose pre-existing stereotypes about homosexuality had been challenged by the scientific evidence presented to them were more inclined to believe that science had nothing to offer, on any question, not just on homosexuality, when compared with people whose views on homosexuality had been reinforced.

When presented with unwelcome scientific evidence, it seems, in a desperate bid to retain some consistency in their world view, people would rather conclude that science in general is broken. This is an interesting finding. But I’m not sure it makes me very happy.


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