I have seen so much of this lately:
And in so many cases when we challenge this cherry-picking and confirmation bias we get this:
I have seen so much of this lately:
And in so many cases when we challenge this cherry-picking and confirmation bias we get this:
I saw this image in the paper:
Sheiham, A., & James, W. P. T. (2014). A reappraisal of the quantitative relationship between sugar intake and dental caries: the need for new criteria for developing goals for sugar intake. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 863.
It’s a very graphic illustration of the central role played by dietary sugar in tooth decay. Certianly makes one think about how to drastically reduce our dietary sugar intake.
There are a couple of “take home messages” in the paper:
Ths seems to have been debated in the past but is now widely accepted. Because acid attack arising from sugar metabolism is the only mechanism for inducing caries:
“the only confounding factors i.e. tooth brushing and the use of fluoride in drinking water or toothpaste serve to reduce the magnitude of the simple relationship between sugar intake changes and caries incidence.”
However fluoride is not a “silver bullet:”
“although fluoride reduces caries, unacceptably high levels of caries in adults persist in all countries, even in those with widespread water fluoridation and the use of fluoridated toothpastes .”
Perhaps we have been underestimating the problem because the apparent improvement in oral health comes from considering data for children:
“The sugar-caries relationship in adults has been largely ignored: all the conclusions on safe levels of sugar and the relationship between sugar and caries are based on children’s data. With fluoride and greater dental care caries has declined in children so some dental authorities have concluded that sugars are not a major determinant of caries provided fluoride toothpaste is use diligently with or without water fluoridation. However, it is now evident that the majority of caries occurs in adults, not in children, because the disease is cumulative and the rates of caries in individuals tracks from early childhood to adolescence and then into adulthood [21,26]. So the conclusion that sugar is not the major determinant of caries, is simply wrong.”
Anti-fluoride propagandists are already quoting this research – using the central role of sugar to imply this proves fluoride is ineffective. But the authors say:
“Fluoride is associated with about 25% lower caries experience when sugar intakes are constant between 10-15%E [10-15% of energy itnake from sugar] in 12 year-old children . The widescale use of fluoride toothpaste is a reasonable explanation for the decline in children’s caries in many countries since the 1970s, yet what then becomes relatively evident is that caries becomes more prominent in adolescents and adults [4,21].
Ireland has had a mandatory national water fluoridation policy since 1964 but some areas have not implemented the fluoridation policy thereby allowing a comparison within a country where fluoride toothpaste is in widespread use but drinking water fluoride varies. Additional benefits accrued from having fluoride in water as well as toothpastes but 7.3% of even the youngest adults aged 16-24 years with lifelong fluoride exposure still had dental caries experience in 4.6 teeth as did 53% of the 35-44-year-olds assessed 35 years after the beginning of water fluoridation: the mean DMFT was 13.3 and 16.0 in those living in non-fluoridated areas . Australia has water fluoridation in a number of cities, but despite fluoride use from both toothpastes and drinking water the mean DMFT and DF Surfaces for all adults increased; adults aged 65 years and older had ten times higher levels of caries than 15–24-year-olds . Thus although fluoride reduces caries, unacceptably high levels of caries in adults persist in all countries, even in those with widespread water fluoridation and the use of fluoridated toothpastes .”
So research is showing a strong need to cut dietary sugar intake by both children and adults. The authors say “for multiple reasons, including obesity and diabetes prevention, we need to adopt a new and radical policy of progressive sugar reduction.” They conclude:
“that public health goals need to set sugar intakes ideally <3%E with <5%E as a pragmatic goal, even when fluoride is widely used. Adult as well as children’s caries burdens should define the new criteria for developing goals for sugar intake.”
Obviously community water fluoridation (CWF) remains an important issue in New Zealand because political activists still work hard to remove it, or prevent it when health authorities attempt its introduction. It seems to me, though, that CWF, once achieved, plays its important role without having to continually educate and encourage the population to change their dietary habits. The battle over sugar will be so much harder because it will involve social pressure to change personal habits, as well as countering all the anti-science and freedom of choice arguments.
At least local body councils, and immature local body politics, will not play a key role.
I am always amazed at how some people will crudely misrepresent the scientific literature in their efforts to pretend their particular political agenda is scientifically valid. The way they will dredge the scientific literature searching for studies they can quote and misrepresent seems an extreme form of cherry picking and confirmation bias. Surely those indulging in such crude literature dredging are fully aware of what they are doing.
Here is an example of literature dredging I picked up recently. The offender is Michael Connett, Special Projects Director for Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action network (yes – a bit of nepotism there. Son Michael and Wife Ellen are on the payroll). Michael has a legal qualification, but no scientific qualification. Nevertheless, one of his special projects is a litrerature database anti-fluoride activists can use in their propaganda.
Any and every scientific publication that can be quoted, misquoted or misrepresented in arguments against fluoridation.
Here are a couple of slides from Michael’s talk at recent anti-fluoride get-together organised by the Connetts. It’s about “Fluoride and IQ Studies” and the section was meant to show that recent research confirms community water fluoridation is bad for our brain. So he found 4 studies from on rats from 2014.
I have extracted from each cited paper details from the conclusions and the fluoride concentrations of the drinking water given to the rats.
Keep in mind that in New Zealand the recommended optimum concentration for community fluoridated water is 0.7 – 1.0 mg/L.
“We found that NaF treatment-impaired learning and memory in these rats.” The NaF treatments were 25, 50 and 100 mg/L!
“these results indicated that long-term fluoride administration can enhance the excitement of male mice, impair recognition memory, . . ” The NaF treatments were 25, 50 and 100 mg/L!
“exploration preference in the novel object recognition test was significantly altered in mice treated with 5 and 10 mg/L NaF compared with the water-treated control animals.”
“These data indicate that fluoride and arsenic, either alone or combined, can decrease learning and memory ability in rats.” “The rats in the F, As, and F+As groups had access to drinking water with a 120 mg/L NaF solution, 70 mg/L NaAsO2 solution, and combined 120 mg/ L NaF and 70 mg/L NaAsO2 solution for 3 months, respectively.
It’s the old story. Find evidence for adverse effects at concentration much higher the optimum and pretend the results apply to the optimum.
Beware of political activists who claim their agenda has scientific support. There is a good chance they are manipulating the science.
Surpise, suprise. FAN has used young Michael’s talk at their get-together to launch a press release - Fluoride’s Brain Damage Studies Mounting. This will be sent through their usual social media merry-go-round in the hope that the MSM picks it up somehwere.
Just what one expects from a political activist organisation.
The international anti-fluoride movement seems somewhat pre-occupied with thew situation in New Zealand. In the last few months they have unleashed their “big guns” to attack two publications from local scientific researchers. First was their attempt to discredit the paper Broadbent, J. M., Thomson, W. M., Ramrakha, S., Moffitt, T. E., Zeng, J., Foster Page, L. A., & Poulton, R. (2014). Community Water Fluoridation and Intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand. American Journal of Public Health. Now they have produced an “International Peer Review“ of the review Health Effects of Water Fluoridation: a Review of the Scientific Evidence. This was commissioned by Sir Peter Gluckman, the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and Sir David Skegg, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand at the request of Auckland City on behalf of several local Councils.
Fluoride Free NZ pretends that the Royal Society Review “was sent out for review by five independent international experts” and a press release from their astroturf organisation the NZ Fluoridation Information Service repeats the independent claim (see NZ fluoridation report trashed by international reviewers).
Well let’s have a look. How independent are the authors of the critique?
I don’t think so. Here are the authors – chosen by the anti-fluoride movement, of course – together with affiliations and a little history
Kathleen Theissen, Environmental Risk Scientists. I don’t know what the affiliation “environment Risk Scientists,” is. Perhaps a consultancy. However, she is still listed as an affiliate on the Oak Ridge Center for Risk Analysis web site. Theissen was one of the minority* anti-fluoride members on the National Research Council Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water which produced the NRC review “Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.” She frequently writes articles and submissions opposing community water fluoridation
Chris Neurath, Research Director, American Environmental Health Studies Project. Neurath is also the “Research Director,” of Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network (FAN). The American Environmental Health Studies Project is really just the Fluoride Action Network in drag with a couple of other similar organisations tied in.
Hardy Limeback, Head of Preventive Dentistry, University of Toronto. Limeback was also an anti-fluoride minority member of the National Research Council Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water which produced the NRC review “Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.” He is also an anti-fluoride activist who writes often on the issue and a member of the Advisory Board of Paul Connett’s Fluoride Alert Network.
James Beck, a co-author together with Paul Connett of the anti-fluoridation book The Case against Fluoride.
Spedding Micklem, also a co-author together with Paul Connett of the anti-fluoridation book The Case against Fluoride.
This is a serious distortion of the truth by Fluoride Free NZ because they have continual described the authors of the Royal Society Review as not independent. They wrote, for example (see Fluoridation review ‘Dirty Science’ – Fluoride Free NZ):
“The NZ “expert panel” included only people who were already known to be ardently in favour of fluoridation and not one single person who is known to be opposed, or even someone neutral. It was therefore already a foregone conclusion.”
So, I can only conclude that these people define “independent” to mean that they agree with them – they have an anti-fluoride political stance. And they define anyone whose scientific work produces an objectively determine conclusion favourable to the consensus understanding of the effectiveness and safety of community water fluoridation as not independent!
I can only repeat, how do these hypocritical people sleep straight in their bed’s at night.
OK, so these people are not independent – but how valid are there criticisms. That is another issue. I am preparing a detailed analysis of the claims made in this critique and will post it in the next few days. So, watch this space.
*Three of the 12 members of the committee expressed disagreement with some fo the committee’s conclusions.
Click on image above, or link below, to download report
I downloaded the official Preliminary report of the MH17 crash in east Ukraine last night. I must say that although the report appears comprehensive as far as it goes – it doesn’t go far. Certainly nowhere near answering the questions everyone has about this tragedy.
It does rule out pilot error or technical malfunction. But we are almost as much in the dark about causes as we were on July 17 when the plane crashed. Except, perhaps, the evidence does not fit with an on-board bomb or other explosion. Believers in any of the other causes or conspiracy theories will all claim support from this report.
The report concludes:
Based on the preliminary findings to date, no indications of any technical or operational issues were found with the aircraft or crew prior to the ending of the CVR [Cockpit Voice Recorder] and FOR [Flight data Recorder] recording at 13.20:03 hrs.
The damage observed in the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft. It is likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up.
This is consistent with either of the major hypotheses:
The “high-energy objects” could be shrapnel from a missile (these are designed to explode at a distance from the target and spray it with shrapnel) or bullets. The report concludes the objects came from outside the aircraft but does not help identify their origin or nature.
The intriguing question of the damage being caused by bullets and not (or as well as) shrapnel will have to await more detailed analysis of the wreckage. So far fighting in the area has prevented a complete examination of the wreckage or its movement to a safe area for reconstruction. However, there are many high resolution photographs available on the internet which have been used to support all of the above hypotheses.
Let’s hope the current cease-fire will enable investigators to return to the crash site.
I found discussion of the Air Traffic Control surveillance data unsatisfying. It says:
For this investigation ATC surveillance data was obtained from both Ukraine (UkSATSE) D and the Russian Federation. The data obtained was the following:
Primary surveillance radar recorded by the Russian surveillance aids
Secondary surveillance radar (SSR / Mode S)
Automatic Dependant Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) ground based reception.
Unfortunately the second two systems only check commercial aircraft. The primary surveillance data from the Russian Federation will be critical as when first released it indicated the presence of a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH17 at the time of the crash. The preliminary report only discusses the 3 commercial airliners nearby at the time.
However, the report says that analysis of the surveillance data “is ongoing.” Hopefully the investigation team will be able to get the equivalent primary surveillance radar data from the Kiev government for this. So far Kiev has refused to make this information public and the report does not mention getting it.
This is an important preliminary report which at least confirms the aircraft was down by accidental or intentional attack. It gives absolutely no help in identifying the source of the attack and is therefore miles behind various unofficial on-line reports advancing various scenarios. So the Dutch Safety Board Report is very unsatisfying to anyone who has followed the on-line discussions.
We will now have to with another year for the final report. Although, given the political sensitivities which are likely to be involved and the requirement of feedback from various governments on reported findings, I would not be at all surprised if that takes even longer. I suspect such sensitivities may have been the reason for the delay in this preliminary report.
Meanwhile, I urge interested readers to download the preliminary report and read it for themselves. Its less than 34 pages can be read very quickly.
Anti-fluoride propagandists often use the incidence of dental fluorosis as an argument against community water fluoridation. However, they exaggerate the problem by misrepresenting the issue in two ways:
1: They present the issue as if the figures for the incidence of dental fluorosis relate to the severe forms when they don’t. Most cases of dental fluorosis in areas using CWF are classified as questionable or mild. Yet the anti-fluoride people will present images of severe dental fluorosis which is never caused by CWF (see Dental fluorosis: badly misrepresented by FANNZ ). Severe forms are caused by excessive toothpaste consumption, high natural fluoride levels or industrial contamination. Never by CWF.
The figure below shows the incidence of the different dental fluorosis categories in New Zealand (data taken from 2009 New Zealand Oral health Survey – see Our Oral Health).
And here are some accurate images of dental fluorosis provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
(Double click to enlarge)
2: They will then go on to claim that dental fluorosis is disfiguring and destroys the quality of life of the afflicted. Of course this may be true in countries where severe dental fluorosis occurs,* but not in countries like New Zealand where CWF is used.
A recently published study objectively determined the effect of dental fluorosis and dental decay on 5,474 North Carolina schoolchildren and their families – Effects of Enamel Fluorosis and Dental Caries on Quality of Life. It found no statistically significant association between dental fluorosis and oral-health related quality of life scores. Probably what one would expect because the incidence of dental fluorosis was about 28% and most of this was questionable or very mild.
But what about the effect of tooth decay on quality of life? In this case the results were statistically insignificant showing that dental caries does decrease the quality of life.
Their overall conclusions – a child’s caries experience negatively affects oral health-related quality of life, while fluorosis has little impact.
I think many of us can relate to this from our own childhood experience.
*The mainly poor quality IQ studies anti-fluoridation activists like Paul Connett love to quote were made in areas of high natural fluoride where dental and skeletal fluorosis is endemic. Such studies are not relevant to the issue of CWF, but they do raise in my mind the effect of severe dental fluorosis on quality of life, learning problems and hence possibly IQ measurements (see my article Confirmation blindness on the fluoride-IQ issue). Personally I think any disfiguring oral defect like bad tooth decay or severe dental fluorosis would effect a child’s quality of life and potentially cause learning defects and so drop in IQ.
In countries like NZ such effects on quality of life and learning are much more likely to result from bad dental decay than severe dental fluorosis. If anything, perhaps CWF actually reduces learning problems and potentially prevents decreases in IQ.
Another study invesdtigatign the influence of tooth decay and dental fluorsis on quality of life is described in the paper by Do, L. G., & Spencer, A. (2007). Oral Health-Related Quality of Life of Children by Dental Caries and Fluorosis Experience. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 67(3), 132–139.
This also concluded that caries and less acceptable appearance showed a negative impact, while mild fluorosis had a positive impact on child and parental perception of oral health-related quality of life.
New report from the National Fluoridation Information Service – Dental fluorosis – is it more than an aesthetic concern? Its key findings are:
“Evidence does not indicate there are any health risks associated with CWF at the levels of 0.7 to 1.0 mg/L in New Zealand, and no severe dental fluorosis, or skeletal fluorosis, has been found. While fluoride is incorporated into teeth and bones, there is no robust evidence of toxic accumulation of fluoride in other tissues in the body. CWF in New Zealand has been found to not lead to anything more than very mild or mild dental fluorosis for a small “
When we who are chronologically challenged get together we often discuss health – and sometimes compare notes. But, strangely, I have never heard people discuss their dental health. Don’t know why, but I started to wonder if I was the only one with my particular problem.
These days I seem to visit my dentist quite often – but current tooth decay is never the problem. Its more likely to be tooth fracture – bits of teeth breaking away or chipping off. So I asked a couple of dentists if I was unusual – or is tooth fracture just another problem of old age.
Turns out I am quite normal, at least in this respect. Dentists do find tooth fracture is more common than tooth decay at my age.* To me this underlines an important fact – what happens in our youth can affect us for the rest of our life, and particularly in our old age.
This goes for our teeth, as well as our brain. Our teeth form and develop in our early years. So the damage we do during their development comes back to bite us, as it were, 60 or more years later. Just as child abuse or neglect can have psychological effects in old age, it can also have dental effects.
Nutritional deficiencies during these early years can increase risk of developmental defects of the teeth and dental caries throughout the rest of our lives. Because teeth development is completed by age 8 we are stuck with these defects for the rest of our lives.
Fluoride deficiency can be a factor in tooth development defects. This is because it is a normal and natural part of the tooth mineral, the tooth apatite. Fluoride lowers the solubility of apatites and makes them stronger and harder. Consequently, fluoride deficiency in childhood weakens tooth enamel and can produce a susceptibility to tooth fracture later in life.
I think it is important to realise this. Recently I heard someone claim that ingested fluoride only has an effect on developing teeth in children so was of no benefit to adults. A very short-sighted understanding – children turn into adults.
Another reason I think it is important to understand the importance of ingested fluoride to our teeth throughout our life is the propaganda from anti-fluoride activists claiming that ingested fluoride does not influence out teeth. They have taken on the scientific understanding of the reaction of fluoride at the tooth surface which inhibits demineralisation to argue that ingesting fluoride is like drinking sun tan lotion because the effect is, they claim, purely topical.
That is a misrepresentation – and one that causes confusion when anti-fluoride campaigners make these claims in their submission to councils. (The Hamilton City Council even advanced this misunderstanding as accepted knowledge – see When politicians and bureaucrats decide the science).
A more balanced understanding of the science shows the beneficial effects of fluoride intake is both systemic (via ingested fluoride) and topical (via the surface reaction at the tooth surface). Incorporation of fluoride into the bioapatites forming our teeth and bones strengthens and hardens them. This occurs during tooth development. Because the tooth material is stronger and harder it is less likely to suffer from fractures, scratching and similar damage.
On the other hand, fluoride intake helps protect existing teeth from decay because of the surface reaction inhibiting demineralisation of the teeth. Just from a chemical perspective the presence of calcium, phosphate and fluoride in saliva and tooth biofilms helps prevent tooth decay resulting from acid attack and demineralisation. But from a mechanical perspective if our teeth are harder and stronger there will also be fewer physical defects providing sites for the chemical acid attack.
Anti-fluoride propagandists have worked hard to deny any benefits of fluoride on dental health. Often they fall back on the argument that any benefits arise only form a “topical” effect. They usually interpret this to mean tooth brushing or dental topical applications.
However, consumption of fluoridated water and food enables transfer of fluoride to saliva and biofilms on the teeth. This fluoride, together with calcium and phosphate on the saliva, reduces acid attack on the teeth and so helps prevent tooth decay. Because fluoride concentrations in saliva decrease within an hour or so after brushing, fluoridated water complements use of fluoridated toothpaste. We are in more regular contact with food and water than we are with toothpaste
But ingestion of fluoride in food and drink during tooth development in children also helps harden and strengthen tooth enamel. This benefits a person’s teeth throughout their life by helping prevent and tooth fracture and physical defects. Harder tooth enamel will reduce tooth decay by preventing physical formation of sites for it to take hold, even though the acid attack is itself a chemical, surface effect.
So, even the chronologically challenged benefit from community water fluoridation. And you young ones – remember one day you are going to be old and your quality of life may well depend on the community water fluoridation you had access to as a child.
*Apparently tooth decay can still return as a major problem in old age because the withdrawal of gums from the tooth roots open new sites for decay. This is known as root caries.
Bloggers in the thick of election campaign? Image Credit: Against the Current
PLEASE NOTE: Sitemeter is playing up again making it impossible to automatically get the stats using the normal process. I have done a manual work around but it was still impossible to get the stats for a number of blogs that I list below. Maybe more bloggers will shift to StatCounter or other counter.
No stats could be found for these blogs:
|Works in progress|
|Weakly Whirled News|
|Two Minutes Sport|
|Social Media and the 2014 General Election|
|Love your work|
|Today is my birthday|
|This Mum Rocks|
|Science Behind the Curtain|
|West City Darts|
|A conservative perspective|
|Save our schools NZ|
There are now over 300 blogs on the list, although I am weeding out those which are no longer active or have removed public access to sitemeters. (Let me know if I weed out yours by mistake, or get your stats wrong).
Every month I get queries from people wanting their own blog included. I encourage and am happy to respond to queries but have prepared a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) people can check out. Have a look at NZ Blog Rankings FAQ. This is particularly helpful to those wondering how to set up sitemeters.
Please note, the system is automatic and relies on blogs having sitemeters which allow public access to the stats.
Here are the rankings of New Zealand blogs with publicly available statistics for August 2014. Ranking is by visit numbers. I have listed the blogs in the table below, together with monthly visits and page view numbers.
Meanwhile I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter or visitor stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any or wish help adding publicly available stats to your bog.
You can see data for previous months at Blog Ranks
Find out how to get Subscription & email updates
I was sad to read that Victor Stenger died during the week at the age of 79.
Victor was a prolific author, writing on science, religion and philosophy. He often dealt with difficult issues coming out of the religion-science debates and was always able to explain complex subjects very effectively for the layperson.
In his retirement, after a career in particle physics research, Stenger took to writing popular books in science, religion and philosophy and participating in the public discussion and debate of these issues. Although not as prominent as the people usually called the “New Atheists” he was one of that group. In fact he wrote a book titled The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason. (See my review of this book at Defending science and reason).
Victor was also well-known for public debates with religious apologists like William Lane Craig and Hugh Ross. I believe his role in these were important because of his ability to explain particle and cosmological physics and thereby show how these apologists had been distorting the science. Readers interested in watching some of these debates will be able to find them on YouTube.
I suppose it is fitting that Victor Stenger was writing till the end. He died with one book waiting to be published – God and the Multiverse: Humanity’s Expanding View of the Cosmos.
Victor will be missed not only by his family and people who knew him, but also by many readers.
I urge interested readers to read one or more of his popular science book. Wikipedia lists the following – all published by Prometheus Books:
The links below are to my own reviews of a few of Victor Stenger’s books: