Sickness being attributed to wind turbines is more likely to have been caused by people getting alarmed at the health warnings circulated by activists, an Australian study has found. Complaints of illness were far more prevalent in communities targeted by anti-windfarm groups, said the report's author, Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney University. His report concludes that illnesses being blamed on windfarms are more than likely caused by the psychological effect of suggestions that the turbines make people ill, rather than by the turbines themselves. [more inside]
The Triumph of New-Age Medicine "Medicine has long decried acupuncture, homeopathy, and the like as dangerous nonsense that preys on the gullible. Again and again, carefully controlled studies have shown alternative medicine to work no better than a placebo. But now many doctors admit that alternative medicine often seems to do a better job of making patients well, and at a much lower cost, than mainstream care—and they’re trying to learn from it." [more inside]
Cleaning hotel rooms is a strenuous business. However, when Alia Crum and Ellen Langer talked to 84 maids, most were under the impression that they did not get enough exercise. Furthermore, when they were measured for tests such as BMI and blood pressure, their results were typical of couch potatoes. The researchers let half the group in on the knowledge that they were getting more than enough of a daily workout and kept the rest in the dark. After a month results showed the former group were healthier on every single one of the objective health measurements tested - despite claiming to have been doing no more exercise or to have changed their diet. The study raises the possibility that mindset alone can influence our metabolism. Christopher Shea in the New York Times and Ben Goldacre in The Guardian have articles discussing the original paper.
No pain, no gain, they say, and when it comes to real pain, the inverse is true as well. "We now have research indicating there's a memory of chronic pain," said Dr. Doris K. Cope, director of chronic and cancer pain for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. It changes the genic code sometimes, it changes the biochemistry, and it causes new proteins to be formed." Or in other words, the more pain you have, the more pain you have. (More on this.) It's no wonder, then, that more money is spent on pain relief than any other medical problem, and that there has been so much pain research and so many clinical trials revealing such painful facts as redheads feel more pain, men feel less pain, and that there's a genetic difference between tough guys and wimps. (Much more pain inside.)
What if the 'placebo effect' is as unreal as a sugar pill? Danish researchers who have looked at 114 clinical trials involving placebos found "little evidence in general that placebos had powerful clinical effects. Although placebos had no significant effects on objective or binary outcomes, they had possible small benefits in studies with continuous subjective outcomes and for the treatment of pain. Outside the setting of clinical trials, there is no justification for the use of placebos." News links here and here.