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Do You Believe in Magic?: Vitamins, Supplements, and All Things Natural: A Look Behind the Curtain

Overview

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 ...

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Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine

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Overview

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."

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Editorial Reviews

Forbes
“Convincing.”
New York Times
“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.”
Wall Street Journal
“An invaluable chronicle that relates some of the many ways in which the vulnerabilities of anxious parents have been exploited.”
Science
“Lively. . . . Informative and well-written, the book deserves a wide audience among the general public, scientists, and health care professionals.”
New Republic
“Important and timely . . . Offit writes in a lucid and flowing style, and grounds a wealth of information within forceful and vivid narratives. This makes his argument - that we should be guided by science - accessible to a wide audience.”
Boston Globe
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.”
Financial Times
“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.”
Skeptical Inquirer
“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.”
on Autism's False Prophets Newsweek
“Few scientists are willing to touch this third rail of science publicity; Offit grabs it with two hands.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062222985
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/13/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 107,106
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul A. Offit, MD, is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as the acclaimed author of Autism's False Prophets, Vaccinated, and Deadly Choices.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2013

    Informative, engaging, and entertaining.

    Dr. Offit does a spectacular job of making the case for evidence-based research and tight controls on acceptable medical and pharmaceutical practices. The thread that runs through the entire book is simple, but has profound implications: if a person or group makes a claim that a treatment alleviates or cures a symptom, a disease, or a disorder, that person or group should be required to subject that claim (or have neutral third parties subject that claim) to the maximum level of scrutiny and testing possible if it is to be used in practice, adopted as sound medical advice, or sold to the public.

    Without excusing the mistakes of the science-based medical research community, Offit provides dozens and dozens of examples of how taking advice or treatment from those who are unwilling to allow such scrutiny can be an unfortunate, even lethal, mistake. I was stunned to learn that even some of my own cherished "natural" remedies (I use quotes advisedly -- many remedies called "natural" are not to be found in nature any more readily than extracts used in prescription pharmaceuticals) are pure fancy. Large doses of Vitamin C are effective in staving off colds? Nope. More antioxidants are better than fewer? Not necessarily. By reducing free radical production, antioxidants can actually increase cancer rates -- while free radicals do cause damage to human cells, they also eliminate detrimental bacteria and new cancer cells.

    I haven't gobbled up a book this quickly in at least a few years. Offit doesn't waste a single page on unnecessary anecdotes, but he still manages to keep the writing style thoroughly enjoyable.

    This is a fantastic read packed with important data and sensible ideas.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2014

    Amazing and Informative

    Creatively written while throwing facts left and right. The author is a phenominal writer.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

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