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What Doctors Don't Tell You
$49.95/yr. print + online

Reviewed by: Christine Oka, Research & Instruction, Northeastern University Libraries, Boston, MA

The cover made me take a second look at What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY): Helping you make better health choices on the newsstand. It read: “End knee pain without drugs or surgery.” The last time I had a knee exam and MRI there was a diagnosis of “torn meniscus, arthritis, inflammation and some deposits.” But all that mattered at that time was “What can I do about the pain?” The WDDTY article suggested doctors would not tell you about possible drug- and surgery-free options. Fortunately, what my doctor did tell me was to get some exercise, along with a referral to a physical therapist. The article discussed the most common muscular causes of knee pain: an imbalance between quadriceps and hamstrings, strained quadriceps, or a strained gluteus medius muscle and provided exercises with photos. Personally, and IANAD (I am not a doctor), I would prefer going to a physical therapist for the training exercises. Some of the exercise demonstration photos in the article were dark and did not provide enough details for position and posture during the exercises. Correct alignment is essential to achieving the maximum strengthening benefit and preventing further injury.

Brief articles with headlines such as “Vitamin E reduces flu risk in older people” and “Saturated fats protect against heart disease” were real attention-grabbers. A quick check on the provided citation actually connected to the Clinical Interventions in Aging article, “Vitamin E administration may decrease the incidence of pneumonia in elderly males.” Not really older people or the flu. According to the second WDDTY article, “people who eat lots of saturated fats are less likely to suffer from heart problems and, in fact, even have better biomarkers, such as healthier levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin and blood sugar.” Research at the University of Bergen, Norway, studied two groups of men with abdominal fat (considered a risk factor for heart disease), one group having a high-fat diet and another consuming a high-carb diet for 12 weeks. A look at the cited article, “Visceral adiposity and metabolic syndrome after very high–fat and low-fat isocaloric diets: a randomized controlled trial” from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found “Consuming energy primarily as carbohydrate or fat for 3 mo did not differentially influence visceral fat and metabolic syndrome in a low-processed, lower-glycemic dietary context. Our data do not support the idea that dietary fat per se promotes ectopic adiposity and cardiometabolic syndrome in humans.” But the article did not conclude the high-fat diet would “protect” against heart disease.

The web-based December 2017 issue featured an article, “Hands of Light” about the history and benefits of the ancient practice of “laying on of hands” for comfort and healing. As a skeptic, I read further about the development of the practice and its development into what is now called “biofield therapies,” such as Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, Reiki, Qigong and Reconnective Healing. There was ample use of citations for this article. “In 2003, a systematic review of 90 clinical and laboratory studies examining hands-on and distance healing revealed that 70.5 percent of the clinical studies reported positive outcomes, as did 62 percent of the laboratory studies.” This was cited as Altern Ther Health Med, 2003; 9(3 Suppl): A96-104. Readers may accept the medical citation at face value, and not follow up. The complete citation for the review article: Crawford C, Sparber A, Jonas W, et al. “A systematic review of the quality of research on hands-on and distance healing: clinical and laboratory studies.” Altern Ther Health Med 2003; 9(3 Suppl.): A96–104 describes something different and led to the PubMed abstract with the conclusion about the research literature on this subject, “Major methodological problems of these studies included adequacy of blinding, dropped data in laboratory studies, reliability of outcome measures, rare use of power estimations and confidence intervals, and lack of independent replication.”

Looking into the background of WDDTY I saw it was originally launched as an alternative medicine magazine in the UK, in 2012 with a number of cautionary reviews from medical and health publications, such as the British Medical Journal, Health News Review, and the Science and Skepticism section of The Guardian. WDDTY is published monthly and contains advertisements from the holistic and alternative medicine market. The WDDTY Editorial Panel is comprised of “some of the world’s leading pioneers in nutritional, environmental and alternative medicine.” But another source writes about The Editorial Panel, “Of those who can be found on the GMC List of Registered Medical Practitioners, one has been issued with a warning, one has relinquished his registration, and all of them advocate dubious interventions, some of which have been shown to do more harm than good.”

The magazine has sparked intense discussions on censorship, the responsibility of retailers to stock, or not to stock, the magazine on their shelves, and freedom of expression. Based on a review of content and source research articles, WDDTY appears to broadly re-interpret medical research for its readers. Not recommended.

30 Nov 2017
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