Temporarily suspending Empowered Health coverage

So I have been, happily, let down by the Vancouver Sun. I was relatively sure that their “Empowered Health” series was going to be chock full of ample fodder for my skeptical scalpel, but so far it is simply “diet and exercise” repeated ad infinitum, mixed with a few exercises in lazy journalism. As a result, I am going to suspend my weekly examination of the stories, since it makes for boring blogging (and I’m sure boring reading too).

Empowered Health: Week 3

The Vancouver Sun hasn’t stopped publishing this series, so I will not stop critiquing it.

10 ways to evade Alzheimer’s

Anyone who has a close relative with Alzheimer’s shares the same worry: Am I next? However, a growing body of research indicates that our lifestyles — particularly what we eat and whether we’re obese — play a greater role than our genes in determining our brain health as we age. “For years, scientists thought that Alzheimer’s was primarily genetic,” said Gary Wenk, professor of neuroscience at Ohio State University. “We now believe that, while there’s a genetic component, Alzheimer’s is primarily a lifestyle disease.”

This little blurb really does give you all the information you need about this article. Gerontologists (those who study human aging) know that maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle is a key component of avoiding all kinds of chronic illnesses. Many of these diseases were thought to be the natural consequence of getting old, but as we learn more about aging and the importance of diet and exercise on human health we recognize that it plays a role in all kinds of degenerative conditions. Alzheimer’s is no exception, although the disease’s genetic cause is still a major factor in learning to treat it. This piece isn’t about curing Alzheimer’s though, it’s about steps people can take to avoid it, or reduce its impact.

Overall rating: 5/5 – nothing particularly innovative or informative here, but it doesn’t make any missteps and I’m constantly surprised by how little people know about this stuff. [Read more…]

Empowered Health: Week 2

So the Vancouver Sun is still forging ahead with it’s largely useless feature called Empowered Health. The general bent of the pieces seems to be that a healthy diet and an active lifestyle are good ideas (whoops, spoilers!), but as is the pattern with woo-friendly journalism, they sneak in a bunch of counterfactual nonsense in there as well under the guise of “alternative” practices. They are an alternative – an alternative to stuff that might actually work.

Let’s forge ahead, shall we? [Read more…]

Empower Health: Week 1

So last week I noticed, with more than a little consternation, that the Vancouver Sun has begun publishing a feature it calls Empower Health:

Better health is not a destination. Your health is a journey of small steps, things you can do to improve your mental and physical well-being.

Empowered Health is a new locally produced television program that shows you the path to better health with weekly tips on eating better, improving your fitness and navigating the minefield of the health care system and the dozens of complementary and alternative therapies and practices.

Those of you who don’t know much about Vancouver aside from the excellent work that the Vancouver Skeptics do here may be unaware that it is a city full of woo-woo nonsense. One can’t walk a city block without stumbling over a reflexologist or a chiropractor or some other snake-oil peddler trying to separate fools from their money. Because Vancouver has a large population of young, well-educated and upwardly mobile people, it has succumbed to the stereotypical west-coast syndrome of buying wholesale into “alternative” practices. Add to that a large immigrant population bringing practices from their countries of origin and a well-developed sense of fascination with anything “exotic”, and you have a perfect recipe for this kind of hucksterism.

Now, ordinarily the only thing I read the Sun for is local news and Canucks coverage, but I figured I wouldn’t be doing my duty as a local skeptic if I didn’t take a swing at the glass jaw they’re dangling out there. So I will try, every week, to digest the claims made in these articles. [Read more…]