People in the fitness world seem to be especially susceptible to complementary and alternative “medicine” (CAM). I always wondered why that was, but never came to a conclusion.
Maybe it’s the above average body awareness which leads to hypochondriac behaviours and therefore people are more likely to turn off critical thinking and put themselves into the hands of CAM scam artists.
In his blog, Dr. Steven Novella, MD wrote a nice summary about continuing failure by CAM proponents to come up with any evidence to support their ludacris claims.
Well – a couple a decades and a few billions of dollars worth of research later, and the CAM community has essentially nothing to show for it. The research is in: none of the major CAM modalities actually work. The evidence shows that homeopathy is just water, that acupuncture is no more effective than the kind attention of the practitioner, and that mystical life energies in fact do not exist.
A review of the research funded by the NCCAM, to the tune of over 2 billion dollars, found that all that research has not added one proven modality to the tools of health care. In defending this research the best the NCCAM can do is say that they have demonstrated that some popular herbs do not work, which reduced their market share a bit.
But of course that doesn’t stop the loonies to come up with new suggestions and shifting the goalpost.
CAM proponents, he says
are shifting to the claim that while CAM modalities may not work any better than placebo, the placebo is a powerful treatment in itself. In essence they are advocating for placebo medicine via CAM modalities.
That is something I hear quite frequently when arguing about the (non-)efficacy of such treatments.
He presents the findings of a major article on placebo effects that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. And surprise, surprise…
Despite the spin of the authors – these results put placebo medicine into crystal clear perspective, and I think they are generalizable and consistent with other placebo studies. For objective physiological outcomes, there is no significant placebo effect. Placebos are no better than no treatment at all.
In the end, placebo effects do not appear to be a sufficient justification for any particular treatment ritual. The other conclusion we can draw from the data in this study is that the magnitude of placebo effects for objective outcomes was no greater with a ritual of treatment than with no treatment at all.
In other words – any component of the placebo effect worth having you can get from science-based medicine. Pseudoscientific rituals are not necessary – and they come with added risk of promoting pseudoscientific beliefs in health care. As James Randi, who founded TAM, famously said – “It is a very dangerous thing to believe in nonsense.” This is perhaps most true in the field of medicine.