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Catalyst followup

November 7th, 2013

Fresh from denouncing statins as a Big Pharma conspiracy, MaryAnn Demasi gives a massive plug for cosmetic dermatology, which she describes, without irony, as the “anti-ageing industry”. She dumps on some over-the-counter remedies but only to promote much more expensive treatments like botox and laser “therapy”. Money quote

Now, you’ve seen how we can mask wrinkles by freezing muscle-movement or adding volume to the skin, but to achieve the ultimate skin-rejuvenation, the one thing all dermatologists agree on is to target a protein in the skin called ‘collagen’.

It’s good to know there aren’t any stick-in-the-mud dermatologists who think that leaving collagen alone is a reasonable implication of the Hippocratic injunction “first, do no harm”.

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  1. November 7th, 2013 at 21:23 | #1

    Really it might as well be Today Tonight. But its been like that for a long time — I remember a year or so ago tuning into Four Corners or the 7:30 report when they were covering the hunt for some escapee living in the bush. The sound rack was spooky, dramatic music. I initially assumed I was watching a commercial channel.

  2. November 7th, 2013 at 21:28 | #2

    Maybe they’re trying to play to the ACA or TT ‘market’?

    Speaking of medical professionals, the ‘Science Show’ this week had a segment about unnecessary female cosmetic surgical procedures:

    Robyn Williams: It’s a bit puzzling, if you are a National Health doctor, so obviously you’re in the system, you’re a specialist, you’re a surgeon, why would they perform surgery if it is manifestly not needed?

    Natalie Starkey: Yes, I know. I spoke to the doctor about that, and partly she said, well, they are a surgeon, if they are presented with some surgery that they can do, they’ll do it. And I find that a bit of a weird excuse, and I’m sure if I was a surgeon I would hope that I would say, wait a minute, should we actually just ask some questions here of why you want this done when there is probably nothing wrong. And obviously women can have problems which need surgery, and we know about female genital mutilation which is actually a horrible big subject, and that obviously some women do need treatment for that. So there are women that need it, but a lot of women are having it just out of choice now. It’s almost like getting a boob job or something, they are not really considering really what the problem is about why they are questioning their body in that way.

    Hard to believe.

  3. Sheila Newman
    November 7th, 2013 at 21:55 | #3

    Have you tried it, John?

    Sheila N

  4. jon frankis
    November 7th, 2013 at 22:26 | #4

    Except for a couple of excellent Anja Taylor pieces last year I haven’t been watching Catalyst until last week’s excitement. It does seem an odd programming choice – why Demasi for three weeks in a row ie where are the other presenters, and who chose this little piece of fluff to follow on from last week’s serious assault on the establishment?

  5. Donald Oats
    November 7th, 2013 at 23:10 | #5

    Didn’t watch it; after the last fortnight’s double-episode fluff piece on the perils of cholesterol lowering medications, I kind of went off Catalyst. Catalyst aren’t alone in taking this path with respect to the stylistic aspects of their articles on obstensibly scientific subject matter. Trouble with this way of presenting scientific material (or contentious issues within a scientific area) is that it just comes across as sci-lite, sci-as-entertainment, rather than as something of substance. Worst of all, it can sway people.

  6. November 7th, 2013 at 23:54 | #6

    You can’t fight it you know. As Austen Powers showed, bad teeth were quite acceptable in the 60’s, but not now. And wrinkles are heading the same way. And I suppose serious science may be looking for the exit as well.

    We’ll be left with cute dumbed down science that can easily be subverted if it conflicts with fashion, or political or commercial interests. Except for people whose scientific skills are actually needed to do something useful, like make money.

  7. Ikonoclast
    November 8th, 2013 at 08:34 | #7

    A lot of these pointless industries (like cosmetics and cars the size of APCs) will shrink rapidly when the collapse begins in earnest. I will enjoy considerable schadenfreude at that point. I will shrink too during the food shortages but that will actually do me good.

    Our environment is so chock full of artificial and harmful chemicals it is really playing havoc with people’s immune systems. Chemicals in cosmetics and hygeine products play a role in this. I would say 50% of the adults I know over 50 have auto-immune diseases of one sort or another. Remember, these diseases range from asthma, eczema and eisinophilic disorders on to these for example;

    Diabetes (Type I) – affects the pancreas. Symptoms include thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and an increased susceptibility to infection.
    Graves’ disease – affects the thyroid gland. Symptoms include weight loss, elevated heart rate, anxiety and diarrhoea.
    Inflammatory bowel disease – including ulcerative colitis and, possibly, Crohn’s disease. Symptoms include diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
    Multiple sclerosis – affects the nervous system. Depending on which part of the nervous system is affected, symptoms can include numbness, paralysis and vision impairment.
    Psoriasis – affects the skin. Features include the development of thick, reddened skin scales.
    Rheumatoid arthritis – affects the joints. Symptoms include swollen and deformed joints. The eyes, lungs and heart may also be targeted.
    Scleroderma – affects the skin and other structures, causing the formation of scar tissue. Features include thickening of the skin, skin ulcers and stiff joints.
    Systemic lupus erythematosus – affects connective tissue and can strike any organ system of the body. Symptoms include joint inflammation, fever, weight loss and a characteristic facial rash.

  8. John Quiggin
    November 8th, 2013 at 09:03 | #8

    @Sheila Newman

    Just as I’m trying to control my cholesterol through diet and exercise, I’m trying to control my frown lines by not frowning. Catalyst isn’t helping me with that.

    Seriously, I don’t have any strong views on cosmetic procedures (from traditional paint to high-tech), except that they aren’t for me, and I don’t pay my 8 cents a day to watch full-length infomercials for them.

  9. peter
    November 8th, 2013 at 10:16 | #9

    I watched all but the bits where the needle or scalpal went in, wondering why people would elect to have such or perhaps why I’m so squeamish. Somewhere in there I recall Ms Demasi also admitting she was squeamish. That and also telling viewers she was 36 which caught me, okay voyueristically, searching for frown lines. Can’t recall any presenter elsewhere ever doing likewise.
    Prediction: Maryanne will be fronting her own ‘science’ program on a commercial network and Catalyst will have been the springboard.

  10. Jim Birch
    November 8th, 2013 at 10:36 | #10

    @Ikonoclast
    There are autoimmune diseases but there isn’t a lot of convincing proof that “chemicals” are the sole problem. There are some modern chemicals that causes some problems for some people at some doses but any sort of blanket claim is a religious statement, not a scientific one. A lot of these chemicals have had massive positive benefits on human welfare, for example, the use of insecticides to knock out malaria and to increase food production, and the use of cleaning agents and antibiotics to reduce disease. The historical evidence on disease is not great but it’s totally clear that autoimmune diseases predate industrial chemicals. Some rates may have increased and some may have fallen but it is usually very hard to tell what’s to blame or even if it is a just detection and reporting issue.

    The normal immune system actually spends a significant part of its physiological effort attacking and killing the organisms own cells on the assumption that they are or might be infected or cancerous. It’s using a set of best-evolutionary-guess working assumptions to decide what to hit that is not 100% accurate. Loosely, if it errs low you may die; if it errs high you get an autoimmune problem. It’s pretty reasonable to expect that in the world of modern medicine we notice the autoimmune overreach, where any time more than like a hundred years ago the dead kids might have been way more attention grabbing. In a sense, autoimmune disease is a sign of biological “success” – by the standards of evolutionary history – rather like being overweight: not the preferred outcome but significantly better than succumbing to disease or starving to death.

  11. Garry Claridge
    November 8th, 2013 at 10:47 | #11

    I watched the programme and thought that she was being relatively critical of the methods (maybe that is what I was hoping she was doing).

    The interviews at the end were not supportive of the procedures/methods.

  12. sunshine
    November 8th, 2013 at 11:03 | #12

    A link has just been shown between the immune system and Alzheimers disease.
    The situation of our gut flora and fauna has changed radically very recently (the last 50-100 years) ,most of them arent there anymore. Amongst other things (worming pills, anti-biotics, new chemical compounds, obssesive clenliness, etc), lots of sugar changes the balance -and this gut situation affects the immune system which has evolved alongside it for millions of years before humans came .

    Surgery to change ones appearance is just an extension of the urge to fit in -people do all kinds of things to themselves ,some of which have downsides. Its a bit sad that the stakes are high enough that people will do risky things .Its a massive industry ,a fraction of the money spent on these things could feed cloth and educate the world ,the World Health Org estimates eating too much now kills more than getting too little.

  13. John H.
    November 8th, 2013 at 13:08 | #13

    Fresh from denouncing statins as a Big Pharma conspiracy,

    I suggest you look up the number of fines handed out to Big Pharma over recent years. I don’t buy into conspiracies, more just people doing what they always do: looking after their own interests first. Remember, Big Pharma is not Big Science, it is Big Commerce. As the climate debates have shown Big Commerce will use any contrivance to advance its own interests and the greater good be damned. When science and money are in the game, money holds the lead for a long time.

  14. Mel
    November 8th, 2013 at 13:33 | #14

    When science and money are in the game, money holds the lead for a long time.

    True but the incentive to engage in fraud for a short term buck is roughly matched by the incentive not to engage in fraud to avoid being sued and having one’s reputation trashed. Individuals and organisations will weight the incentives differently.

    Deleted for multiple violations of comments policy. In particular, remember that you are topic banned with respect to any mention of fluoride

  15. Ikonoclast
    November 8th, 2013 at 14:05 | #15

    @Jim Birch

    There is a lot of truth in what you say. We have made many net gains (so far) from using man-made chemicals (new to nature or not). However, autoimmune and allergic reactions are also part of the picture. Certainly a proportion of the rise in allergic response can be attributed to these artificial chemicals. Equally certainly, a proportion of the rise in allergic response can be attributed to our immune systems not having enough real work because we kill bugs so effectively with antiseptics, antibiotics etc. Ditto for autoimmune issues.

    My complaint is with the excessive and frivolous use of artificial chemical compounds in our lives and environment. Cosmetics is a largely frivolous industry. To run risks for vanity is foolishness. It impacts on others too. Certain perfumes on a female at 10 paces or even in the same large room give me violent continuous hayfever and watery, stinging eyes. Admittedly, I can understand the value from their point of view in keeping ugly old men like me at a great distance.

    But there is just too much uneccesary artificial “goo” in our environment and people suffer for it (and also the animals used in testing).

  16. sunshine
    November 8th, 2013 at 14:30 | #16

    Cosmetics (and medicines) are not permitted to be sold in China unless they have been tested on animals .

  17. John H.
    November 8th, 2013 at 14:58 | #17

    Deleted response to comment policy violation – JQ

  18. Tim Macknay
    November 8th, 2013 at 15:02 | #18

    Certain perfumes on a female at 10 paces or even in the same large room give me violent continuous hayfever and watery, stinging eyes.

    Only on a female?

    Cosmetics (and medicines) are not permitted to be sold in China unless they have been tested on animals .

    Or are made of same. Particularly tiger and rhino.

  19. Ikonoclast
    November 8th, 2013 at 19:11 | #19

    @Tim Macknay

    I have not met any males who use these perfumes but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist I guess.

  20. may
  21. rog
    November 9th, 2013 at 16:21 | #21

    Certain perfumes on a female at 10 paces or even in the same large room give me violent continuous hayfever and watery, stinging eyes.

    I know the feeling, perhaps not quite the same symptoms.

  22. ZM
    November 9th, 2013 at 16:35 | #22

    Aaargh, you guys have never seen the lynx etc ads, or smelt the scent then? It’s just the ladeyz…

  23. Julie Thomas
    November 9th, 2013 at 18:50 | #23

    Oh that lynx stuff – highly perfumed indeed – but the ads make it macho enough for youngest son to use – liberally. His sister says to him ‘ it’s not a shower in a can you know”.

    I curse these masculine grooming products when I have a migraine being particularly sensitive to smells then. And there are pockets of particles that wander around the house and seek me out for hours after he has left and main cloud of pungent cheap perfume has dissipated.

  24. November 9th, 2013 at 20:30 | #24

    @Julie Thomas

    I quite like the smell of the variety of Lynx that I use, however some deodorants/perfumes are a bit noxious. There was one guy I didn’t enjoy cycling behind for a while – even though he was big and fast and easy to draft off.

  25. Julie Thomas
    November 10th, 2013 at 06:28 | #25

    John the lynx varieties are only noxious during my migraine experience – it is very interesting how differently one’s perception of ‘reality’ changes during these times.

    Most of the time the shower in a can is an acceptable, indeed a preferable alternative to the natural state of a 20 something male who living at home with his mother who doesn’t do his washing or clean his room.

    Perhaps it was the combination of lycra and lynx – or whatever brand it was – that made the big guy a bit dodgy?

    And humans apparently differ between those who have genes for smelly sweat – their sweat contains an enzyme encourages certain bacteria to grow – and those who don’t. Those who have smelly sweat also have wet ear wax and those people who don’t, have dry ear wax.

  26. MikeH
    November 10th, 2013 at 13:17 | #26

    Please pass the following on to your friends.

    National Day of Climate Action, next Sunday 17th November.
    In every Australian capital city and 100s of regional towns.

    https://www.getup.org.au/get_togethers/climate-catchup

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