One-third of American children take alternative medicine. This is a problem.
Despite little clinical evidence of efficacy, a growing number of parents are giving their children supplements that could prove dangerous.
In April, I wrote an article covering decades of NIH research on multivitamins and supplements, to the tune of $2.4 billion, that showed these products are predominately ineffective. The following month a meta-analysis of 179 studies confirmed this, at least in relationship to cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. The drugs, as the saying goes, don’t work.
While Facebook comments and Twitter are not exactly the best places for nonjudgmental information, they are a good gauge for emotional reactivity. I received plenty of negative comments, tweets, and emails about this article, including accusations that I’m in cahoots with Big Pharma (nope) as well as anecdotes about the miraculous healing potential of supplements.
Here’s the thing: some supplements or vitamins may very well help you. The problem with multivitamins is the same with probiotics: loading your body up with a bit of everything is not only often ineffective, but dangerous. If you don’t know what your body is deficient of—the same holds true with your microbiome, hence probiotics—taking these pills, oils, and tinctures are only helping companies profit while potentially harming you in the process.
Medicine is becoming more individualized, which is a good thing. Screening your feces to better understand your personal microbiome will, hopefully, be common practice in the coming years. You might discover certain mineral needs, which could result in an inexpensive and effective healing regimen offered in the vitamin aisle. That would certainly be a positive step forward.
Bottles of St. John's Wort are seen for sale April 10, 2002 in New York City. The popular herbal supplement was found not to be an effective remedy for depression according to a government-backed study. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
But that's not where we're at. Right now the “alternative medicine” industry is predicted to be worth over $196 billion by 2025. Considering the general lack of oversight of these substances and workarounds companies use to make health claims sans clinical proof, vitamin and supplement manufacturers enjoy an effectively lawless pipeline straight into your medicine cabinets.
This is not only a problem for us adults. A new research letter published in JAMA states that 33.2 percent of children (ages 0-19) used some form of alternative medicine between the years 2003-14. Given the growing popularity of such products, alongside a growing distrust of pharmaceutical makers, this number is likely higher today.
While many of these substances are, at best, benign, the potential for unintended consequences exists. As the authors write,
Commonly used nutritional products (eg, iron, calcium, and vitamin D) and alternative medicines (eg, bodybuilding supplements), are also increasingly associated with adverse cardiovascular effects, including arrhythmias, that can lead to sudden cardiac death, a serious yet underreported problem in children and adolescents.
They note that melatonin and ω-3 fatty acid supplements, packaged as promoting cognitive benefits and as sleep aids for those suffering from attentional and hyperactivity disorders, also come with a risk of dangerous cardiovascular effects.
Lead author Dirma M Qato, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, expressed that healthy children should not be consuming these products. Given the risks, there is no reason to draw minerals or vitamins from such sources when all we need is usually available in a healthy diet.
There are plenty of reasons to be suspicious of the pharmaceutical industry. That does not give us license to believe anything packaged as “alternative” to that industry is healthy. Some of these products help some people, while the placebo effect is responsible for healing others. Enrolling children into a supplement program with no proven credibility is unfair to them, ultimately overruling the trust they place with their parents for guidance. It’s bad enough if you’re just wasting money; it’s much worse if you’re putting their health in danger.
Why self-control makes your life better, and how to get more of it.
(Photo by Geem Drake/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
- Research demonstrates that people with higher levels of self-control are happier over both the short and long run.
- Higher levels of self-control are correlated with educational, occupational, and social success.
- It was found that the people with the greatest levels of self-control avoid temptation rather than resist it at every turn.
Ready your Schrödinger's Cat Jokes.
- For a time, quantum computing was more theory than fact.
- That's starting to change.
- New quantum computer designs look like they might be scalable.
Quantum computing has existed in theory since the 1980's. It's slowly making its way into fact, the latest of which can be seen in a paper published in Nature called, "Deterministic teleportation of a quantum gate between two logical qubits."
To ensure that we're all familiar with a few basic terms: in electronics, a 'logic gate' is something that takes in one or more than one binary inputs and produces a single binary output. To put it in reductive terms: if you produce information that goes into a chip in your computer as a '0,' the logic gate is what sends it out the other side as a '1.'
A quantum gate means that the '1' in question here can — roughly speaking — go back through the gate and become a '0' once again. But that's not quite the whole of it.
A qubit is a single unit of quantum information. To continue with our simple analogy: you don't have to think about computers producing a string of information that is either a zero or a one. A quantum computer can do both, simultaneously. But that can only happen if you build a functional quantum gate.
That's why the results of the study from the folks at The Yale Quantum Institute saying that they were able to create a quantum gate with a "process fidelity" of 79% is so striking. It could very well spell the beginning of the pathway towards realistic quantum computing.
The team went about doing this through using a superconducting microwave cavity to create a data qubit — that is, they used a device that operates a bit like a organ pipe or a music box but for microwave frequencies. They paired that data qubit with a transmon — that is, a superconducting qubit that isn't as sensitive to quantum noise as it otherwise could be, which is a good thing, because noise can destroy information stored in a quantum state. The two are then connected through a process called a 'quantum bus.'
That process translates into a quantum property being able to be sent from one location to the other without any interaction between the two through something called a teleported CNOT gate, which is the 'official' name for a quantum gate. Single qubits made the leap from one side of the gate to the other with a high degree of accuracy.
Above: encoded qubits and 'CNOT Truth table,' i.e., the read-out.
The team then entangled these bits of information as a way of further proving that they were literally transporting the qubit from one place to somewhere else. They then analyzed the space between the quantum points to determine that something that doesn't follow the classical definition of physics occurred.
They conclude by noting that "... the teleported gate … uses relatively modest elements, all of which are part of the standard toolbox for quantum computation in general. Therefore ... progress to improve any of the elements will directly increase gate performance."
In other words: they did something simple and did it well. And that the only forward here is up. And down. At the same time.
These modern-day hermits can sometimes spend decades without ever leaving their apartments.
- A hikikomori is a type of person in Japan who locks themselves away in their bedrooms, sometimes for years.
- This is a relatively new phenomenon in Japan, likely due to rigid social customs and high expectations for academic and business success.
- Many believe hikikomori to be a result of how Japan interprets and handles mental health issues.
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