2 Books & a Podcast: Facts, Fun & Fallacies

2 Books & a Podcast: Facts, Fun & Fallacies

Finding doses of health wisdom and lessons in healthy skepticism for an information-saturated world

A Book for All Ages
Thank you, AARP, for this readable and very helpful book on food and drug interactions! Don’t Eat This If You’re Taking That is an unwieldy title, but the book is a handy reference.

Don’t Eat This If You’re Taking That Each chapter tackles a drug category, such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), gives a clear explanation of how they work, and then launches into a lot of detailed information on foods, medicines and herbs to avoid or limit. Despite the prominent AARP logo on the cover, this is a book for any person who uses medicine and eats food.

It’s too much to comfortably read through, but why would you? It’s a reference book that you dip into as needed. The information is clear and authoritative. There many boxes that interrupt the flow of the chapters, but they contain useful suggestions for topics to discuss with your doctor. I was glad to see that most chapters included alternatives to using that medicine. This is a very good book to have on your shelf.

Don’t Eat This If You’re Taking That, Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, CNS, and John Fernstrom, PhD

Med Lite

2 Docs talk Kendall Britt, MD, is a practicing hospitalist in the Austin area. Amy Rogers, MD, is a medical writer who lives in the Dallas area. Their comments bounce off each other in a lively way, and that matters on a 4-hour trip like the one I took when I discovered their podcast. I love the simplicity and lack of research numbers. They just talk through issues of GERD or the possible overdiagnosis of thyroid disease just the way you wish your doctor would. I loved the one on cervical cancer and HPV, particularly since they post research supporting their positions on their website. Now I’m looking forward to listening to “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” After reading research for MedShadow’s articles all day, I’m ready for a dose of humor!

2 Docs Talk — Medical Radio for Smart People (Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or other podcast outlets)

Spotting Fakes

Misinformation is pervasive but worse, it’s persuasive. It’s fun to imagine the moon landing was a hoax, and it’s easy to get frightened into thinking that silicone gel breast implants cause cancer. There are just enough true facts in the details to perplex any reasonable person. So how to cut through to the actual truth without spending your life reading research papers?

Author John Grant is a fiery writer, and from the opening page he launches into topics. He deconstructs how arguments are put together and makes clear the patterns and devices used by those who lie on purpose (and those who repeat those lies naively). He runs through how arguments can be designed to confuse or distract from the primary point. He describes and puts cute names on strategies such as taking quotes out of context, shifting the goalposts and burying the opposition with false facts or cherry-picked anecdotes.

Then, all too quickly, we are on to Part 2, where Grant gallops off chasing down all the impossible-to-kill “theories” that won’t die. He smites them, like a modern Galahad, with facts, research and the unveiling of lies.

I wish I could keep a copy of Bullsh*t on hand for those moments when my otherwise sane friend staunchly defends the idea that the moon landing was faked. (Real friend, not kidding.) Maybe I could toss the book into the middle of a group of anti-vaxers — a great example of fear rather than fact driving very important decisions.

The most usable concept for me was in the intro: “Ignoring the minor, inconsequential facts and concentrating instead on the actual substance of what someone’s telling you is an easy tool you can use to defend yourself against bullshit. If that main point checks out, or at least if enough of it does, then maybe, just maybe, they’re telling the truth — or at least the truth as they know it.”

Bullsh*t: How to Detect Junk Science, Bogus Claims, Wacky Theories and General Human Stupidity, John Grant.

Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne Robotti founded MedShadow Foundation in 2012. Learn more about Su and her mission.

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