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Do You Believe in Magic?: Vitamins, Supplements, and All Things Natural: A Look Behind the Curtain Paperback – May 13, 2014
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“Do You Believe in Magic? is a briskly written, entertaining, and well-researched examination of those whom Offit considers ‘unclothed emperors’: purveyors of miracle cancer cures, fountains of youth, and the theory that vaccines cause autism.” -- Boston Globe
“Few scientists are willing to touch this third rail of science publicity; Offit grabs it with two hands.” -- Newsweek, on Autism's False Prophets
“Over the last decade [Offit] has become a leading debunker of mass misconceptions surrounding infections and vaccines, and now he is taking on the entire field of alternative medicine, from acupuncture to vitamins.” -- New York Times
“An invaluable chronicle that relates some of the many ways in which the vulnerabilities of anxious parents have been exploited.” -- Wall Street Journal, on Autism's False Prophets
“A fascinating history of hucksters, and a critical chronology of how supplements escaped regulation. . . . A bravely unsentimental and dutifully researched guide for consumers to distinguish between quacks and a cure.” -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Lively. . . . Informative and well-written, the book deserves a wide audience among the general public, scientists, and health care professionals.” -- Science
“Offit is a rare combination of scientist, doctor, communicator and advocate. . . . What is needed is more people like [him] willing to engage the skeptics in a debate that just will not go away.” -- Financial Times, on Deadly Choices
“Offit is a wonderful storyteller who makes his message come alive. Each chapter is a story that grabs the reader’s interest and holds it.” -- Skeptical Inquirer
“This excellent, easy-to-read look at the alternative-medicine industry is highly recommended.” -- Library Journal (starred review)
From the Back Cover
A half century ago, acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, Chinese herbs, Christian exorcisms, dietary supplements, chiropractic manipulations, and ayurvedic remedies were considered on the fringe of medicine. Now these practices—known variably as alternative, complementary, holistic, or integrative medicine—have become mainstream, used by half of all Americans today to treat a variety of conditions, from excess weight to cancer.
But alternative medicine is an unregulated industry under no legal obligation to prove its claims or admit its risks, and many popular alternative therapies are ineffective, expensive, or even deadly. In Do You Believe in Magic? Dr. Offit debunks the treatments that don't work and tells us why, and takes on the media celebrities who promote alternative medicine. Using dramatic real-life stories, he separates the sense from the nonsense, explaining why any therapy—alternative or traditional—should be scrutinized. As Dr. Offit explains, some popular therapies are remarkably helpful due to the placebo response, but "there's no such thing as alternative medicine. There's only medicine that works and medicine that doesn't."
- ASIN : 0062222988
- Publisher : Harper Paperbacks; 1st edition (May 13, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- Item Weight : 8.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.76 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #427,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The truth is pretty clear but the supplement industry does not want you to know it. Read this book to find out how and why
Homeopaths, ayurvedic healers, TV doctors and even Nobel Prize winners often go the way of promoting alternative medicine. The problem is, as Offit remarks, "There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t" (p. 6).
The misplaced trust in alternative medicine is not difficult to understand, and it blossoms in an age of scientific malpractice and mass media. What is surprising is that the harms it causes, besides wasting resources, are as serious as they are unknown: acupuncture treatments that cause sepsis, expensive and unnecessary vitamin supplements that increase the risk of cancer, the delay of proper treatment until is too late, a narrow understanding of the placebo effect, and the decline of vaccination rates from fear-mongering are all tragedies with alternative medicine written all over. The measles outbreak in Minnesota in 2017, after anti-vaxxers targeted distrustful Somali-American families, or the drop in the uptake of the HPV vaccine in Japan from 70% to 0% are only two manifestations of this phenomenon.
Offit does a fantastic job explaining and describing alternative medicine -and the people who push it. He describes eloquently how a regulatory gap in the US, born from an unruly coincidence of interests between a Republican and a Democrat, pumped air into the lungs of so many charlatans. In telling the story of Linus Pauling, he shows how a brilliant mind can go awry and set the world on a crazy equilibrium intake of vitamin C, summarizing that the vitamin craze has a stark conclusion: "Of the 51,000 new supplements on the market, four might be of benefit for otherwise healthy people: omega-3 fatty acids to prevent heart disease, calcium and vitamin D in postmenopausal women to prevent bone thinning, and folic acid during pregnancy to prevent birth defects" (p. 103).
Also, Offit has no hope for departments of alternative medicine, which he sees as dangerous: "Encouragement of scientific illiteracy— or, beyond that, scientific denialism— can have a corrosive effect on patients’ perceptions of disease, leaving them susceptible to the worst kinds of quackery." (p. 252)
Dishonest, dangerous peddlers of alternative medicine will only scurry away with the arrival of informed consumers. Unfortunately, healthcare is the epitome asymmetric market, so this will never happen; there will always be room to fool some people all of the time. Offit's answer is an unrelenting demand for science: "[…] we need to focus on the quality of scientific studies. And where scientific studies don’t exist, we should insist that they be performed. If not, we’ll continue to be deceived by therapies whose claims are fanciful" (p. 256).
Top reviews from other countries
Demolishes so many of the myths and fantasies about CAM.
The author is knowledgeable and highly qualified.
Title: Do You Belive in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine.
Author: Dr. Paul A. Offit
I had a few surprises with this book. Firstly, I was not expecting this book to be as compelling a read as it turned out to be. I must admit I looked forward to my bedtime reading as I might a good novel. Admittedly, I am a nutrition geek and my reading preferences are a bit skewed from the normal reading public, but I was pleasantly surprised by its readability. I think this is largely due to the authors story-telling style. Hey, who doesn’t like a good story, even if it’s about the FDA versus rogue alternative medicine practitioners?
My second surprise with this book, was the rude awakening I received about the size and power of the alternative medicine industry. I knew it was big and I knew that over-the counter alternative and complementary medicines are unregulated (in Canada and the U.S.), but there was still some shock-value in the actual details for me.
Turns out it’s a $34 billion dollars industry in the U.S. I don’t think that necessary makes is bad, but neither does it make the pharmaceutical industry bad, which is how alternative practitioners tend to paint mainstream medicine – as being under the thumb of ‘big pharma’.
I have already mentioned this book to audiences. I tell them, it’s written by Dr. Paul Offit... “as in, if you are on a supplement, you should be off it”. That is definitely the message of this book.
My favourite quote from the book is from Dr. Joe Schwartz who asks, “Do you know what they call alternative medicines that work?”
Dr. Offit is definitely a skeptic and relies on evidence-based science to determine if a product works or it doesn’t. He doesn’t shy away from naming offenders, even big media names like Dr. Oz, Dr. Weil, Dr. Mercola and Suzanne Somers.
You Should Read This Book If…
You are feeling pressured from well-meaning friends and family to take a particular complimentary or alternative therapy. Read this book and you will not be at a loss for words.
You yourself are curious and considering a complimentary therapy. This book would definitely provide everything you need for the “con” side of your decision making process.
You Must Read This Book if...
You are considering an alternative therapy in place of conventional cancer treatment recommended in hospital
While I am trained in evidence-based decision-making (I'm an RD with a B.A.Sc. in human nutrition), I do also believe in some unproven things, like prayer, affirmations, miracles and gut-feelings. I believe I have experienced benefits from complimentary therapies including meditation, massage, and acupuncture. Of course, I also believe in the benefits of good nutrition.
Having said that, I never once considered taking an alternative therapy instead of the chemotherapy and radiation offered to be at the cancer centre. Without it, I don’t believe I would have lived more than a few days from the time I arrived at the cancer centre.
I would recommend conventional cancer treatment.
I do think that though that there is room for complimentary therapies. Keep in mind – complimentary means you do this as a compliment to your conventional treatment. Alternative therapy – as the name implies, you would do instead of conventional. Because of this, alternatives are a much higher risk. Steve Jobbs, the founder of Apple computers is an excellent example of the level of risk involved in choosing an alternative therpy over a conventionsl one. I have never felt confident enough in any alternative therapy to recommend one.
As I say in my book ( The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook: Includes 150 Healthy and Delicious Recipes ), there is no right way to go through cancer treatment. It’s everyone’s individual journey. It’s a difficult decision to determine, what if any complimentary therapies you will use and the decision can have many social pressures associated with it. I do believe though that this book can help you navigate your way through some of those decisions.