I am Sanford Severin a practicing physician and co-author of two books on wellness. I am so upset about the amount of misinformation and waste in our healthcare system that I finally decided it was time to do some thing about it. What better way then to point out some of the health myths that lead us astray and to discuss some hugely important facts that will lead everyone onto a path of better health and vitality.
This is the first in a series during which I will discuss health and wellness topics that are important. current and timely. Hopefully you will find this information useful in making decisions about your own health.
For example maybe you take one or more supplements. Are those supplements helping you and are they worth the money you spend? How do you know that they are helping? A very good place to begin is understanding the placebo effect and its impact on your own health. In carefully constructed medical studies the effect of a drug that is being studied is compared to the effect of a placebo taken as a control in the same study. The placebo is a substance that resembles the medicine that is being studied but which has no biochemical effect at all. The placebo has no active ingredients that would improve a patient’s symptoms but in 20% to 40% of cases in which a patient gets a placebo there is a definite improvement.
How can that be? The answer is in the mind body relationship. It works this way. Imagine that you are enrolled in a study to determine the effectiveness of a pain pill. You are given a pill that you think is the new substance that will reduce or even eliminate your pain. Your pain lessens. It lessens even though you have been given a placebo.You and possibly 20% to 40% of others who received the placebo noticed a great improvement in the pain. This is the placebo effect. The placebo effect is an example of how the mind controls the body.
In carefully constructed medical studies the effect of a new drug is compared to the effect of a placebo to determine whether the new drug is effective. Manufacturers of supplements use the placebo effect to market and sell their products.
For example pretend that I am a manufacturer and I produce a pill that I claim will improve your memory. I give you a supply of pills and tell you that your memory will get better if you take this pill as prescribed. Low and behold your memory improves.You are really excited and a number of other people who were in the study also had improved memory. Let;s make up a number.Let’s say that 22% of the subjects reported improved memory within six weeks. Isn’t that exciting? But wait a minute there was no placebo control. In a proper study there would have been one.
What would you think if this hypothetical manufacturer had included a placebo control in the study and 28% who took the placebo reported improved memory. That drug would never reach the market because the control group responded as well if not better then those who received the drug.