Tom Brady’s Dangerous Alt-Science Blitz

"What are you willing to do and what are you willing to give up to be the best you can be?" are Tom Brady's first words in the Facebook Watch documentary, Tom vs. Time. The premise of the series is neatly summarized in the title, and put on repeat throughout the premiere of the show: Brady is 40 years old, at an age when he should be retired, yet somehow brought his team back from what seemed like imminent loss in 2017s stunning Super Bowl win against the Atlanta Falcons. On Sunday, Bradys New England Patriots will take on the Philadelphia Eagles.

Brady, the documentary suggests, is superhuman and on a race against time. And Bradys on a mission to show his secrets, first with last Septembers release of The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance and now with the companion series of episodes profiling Bradys life, directed by Gotham Chopra.

It might not be surprising, then, that the first episode of Tom vs. Time, The Physical Game, features a scene in which Brady goes to his business partner and long-time trainer Alex Guerrero for a pounding, seemingly painful massage he terms pliability training, after he noticed that bumps and bruises hed gotten from football were really starting to take a toll. The segment shows Guerrero examining Bradys heel, rubbing it and commenting, This is better, a vague note that suggests that something about pliability training has somehow improved Bradys heel .

Even Brady notes skepticism when he recalled initially meeting Guerrero. I was like, Yeah, what can he do? What can he do thats been different than what everyone else has done for me, which is just ice your shoulders and take some rest? Brady gazes into the camera and swallows. Boy did I learn a lot.

The next shot illustrates pliability training, what appears to be a really intense Thai massage, as Guerrero (credited as Bradys body coach) swiftly and stringently rubs Bradys legs. He pounds Bradys back so hard that the quarterbacks body bounces up and down, Bradys face crunched in discomfort. He pokes and prods, pushes and pinches Brady all over his body. Prior to the season starting, we really try to get his brain to understand that theres going to be impact, then prepare his body for the impact, to almost feel as if its normal behavior for him.

What Tom vs. Time fails to mention: Guerrero has been investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for making unsubstantiated health claims, like promoting a supplement purported to protect athletes from concussions. (The FTC decided not to pursue a full-fledged investigation in exchange for Guerrero refunding customers money and closing shop.)

Over the years, so many muscle contractions or through all the workouts that we do, we shorten our muscles. So if you can get them to lengthen, then when you contract, they can fully contract and relax.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots quarterback, on pliability training

Speaking of concussions, its troubling that the series makes no mention of them. Brady doesnt address the effects of head impact that a football player experiences, whichas has been widely reportedcan lead to concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Pliability training is, by definition, aimed at massaging an athletes muscles, which is well and good, but the vast majority of scientific and medical criticism about football has been around head impact and brain injuries, which are more complex and devastating than muscle tears. But Brady is silent on the fact that his colleagues have suffered some of the most violent traumatic brain injuries a human body can endure, resulting in mental and physical trauma that may have led to death and suicide.

As for pliability training itself, its a fuzzy concept. Brady explains it as such: I see pliability as lengthening and softening muscles to get them back into balance. Over the years, so many muscle contractions or through all the workouts that we do, we shorten our muscles. So if you can get them to lengthen, then when you contract, they can fully contract and relax. Soft muscles, Brady contends, allow a player to get slammed by another body repeatedly; denser, tougher muscles tear and dont bounce back.

On paper, this explanation of how muscles work makes very little sense and is oversimplified. Slow-twitch muscles carry oxygen and are able to sustain energy and function before feeling tired; fast-twitch muscles are key for sprinting and short bursts of strength and speed. The development and usage of these muscles can be sports-specific, so that in football, which is a game that requires both running for a distance and short bursts of speed, these muscles can be individualized for each role. Football is a physiologically intensive sport; for a quarterback like Brady, though, action is often limited to throwing and calling plays, with occasional running of the ball. That means that in both arms and legs, Brady is mostly using short-twitch muscles. Now, according to the Gatorade Sports Science Institutes analysis of the physiological demands of football, most muscle damage is enzymatic and highly conditioned athletes [are] able to withstand the stress of 10 days of two-a-day practice sessions. In fact, the report says, elite players often have muscles desensitized to repeated blows.

The lengthening and softening of muscles to allow them to contract and relax? A massage certainly has beneficial effects for how a body recovers after a stressful event. A stretch feels amazing, and getting a professional to knead sore, tired muscles can be crucial for recovery after any extremely physical event. But Bradys insistence that muscles experience ultimate performance when they are lengthened and softened so that they can fully contract has next to no scientific backupthere are literally zero studies on muscle pliability. As an expert in muscle physiology told The New York Times: Its balderdash.

And thats the crux of the problem with Tom Bradys TB12 method to promote health and wellness: It seems to suggest there is something happening that is good for you, something science doesnt even know or understand.

This line of thinking is always dangerous (see: anti-vaxxers, homeopaths), and its also dangerous for Brady to peddle his alternative therapieswithout any scientific research to back them upas something that should be believed as fact.

It doesnt help that the Tom vs. Time has the sheen of earnestness. Filmed in the type of inspirational montage-style that will become ubiquitous in February with the Olympics, the documentary homes in on Brady. We see shots of him peeling a banana (sans chef) before popping it in a blender and swirling the contents into a purple smoothie. We see him at the gym, sweating through resistance exercises. We see him at home, taking his rings out of a locker and chuckling, I need to shine these.

Bradys everyman routine is grating, but is instrumental in setting the stage for his second coming, a career that could propel him into the time part of his series: as a health and wellness guru. After all, whats better than a social media-only documentary in promoting Brady as a health expert? Chopra has seemingly obtained countless clips of commentators and coaches and even Brady himself robotically repeating ad nauseum the fact that Brady is 40 and far older than most athletes. Its impossible to ignore Bradys attempt to be the male Goop, a sort of Gwyneth Paltrow for men.

And while that might seem like an odd place to be for an all-American icon like Brady, its a savvy move. Brady is heralded by a significant portion of this country as an American hero, and in a land where football is second to church in godliness on autumn Sundays, Bradys is a presence that marks him as a prime individual for being able to kickstart a health and wellness revolution among men.

Thats huge, given the sorry statistics that surround mens health in this country: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 12.8 percent of men in America are in poor health; nearly half of American men dont meet federal guidance on physical activity; 17.8 percent of men smoke cigarettes; 34.5 percent were obese; mortality was overwhelmingly higher than those of their female counterparts, particularly due to cancer, heart disease, and accidentsthe first two of which are preventable with diet and exercise. For whatever reason, men dont take care of their health as much as they should.

But Brady, the quintessential American man, does, and how. Indeed, the series highlights very few of Bradys health practices that have been widely covered, analyzed, and often scorned: His refusal to eat nightshade vegetables to avoid inflammation, his misguided logic that drinking water will prevent sunburn.

Its impossible to ignore Bradys attempt to be the male Goop, a sort of Gwyneth Paltrow for men.

But could it be that Brady is actually doing good? Hes promoting health and wellness for a segment of the population that probably wont go see a doctor or eat some greens without someone they look up to promoting that lifestyle. Brady is, after all, just a normal, average American: a 9-to-5 man with a family, a job he works hard at, hitting the gym and hanging with his buddies (never mind that he's got a personal chef, an exercise routine that involves specialists, and moneylots of it).

In fact, thats a huge part of the problem in Bradys proselytizing about health and wellness: It requires a certain income and class. The nutrition manual alone that comes with Bradys recent book rings in at a hefty $200. Bradys diet is primarily vegan and local, which is arguably expensive for an average American man. He dumps electrolytes into everything he drinks along with specially-selected, top of the line supplements. His vegetables are most often raw and organic. The vegetables he has are limited to those that are alkalizing. Its not feasible for a middle- or lower-income American to go against time in the way Tom Brady does.

To be fair, Brady's diet falls into the nutritionally-lauded Michael Pollan philosophy: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. But it doesnt erase the fact that it takes money to follow the TB12 Method, it takes money to be able to eat well in America, and it takes money to be able to have vitamins and minerals splunked into every single drink you drinkmoney that many Americans just cant afford to spend on designer meals.

Whats even sadder, and more terrifying, about the series is the fact that Sundays Super Bowl offers Brady essentially free advertising for his "method." Regardless of if the Patriots win or lose, Brady will have won more exposure. Never mind that his physique and health have been honed after years of training, genetics, and professional investmenthes brought his scientific flim-flam to the biggest stage American television affords. And by doing so, by showcasing himself as proof of a wellness initiative founded on body coaches and questionable advice like not eating tomatoes and strawberries or shrugging off sunscreen off as unnecessary, Brady is able to establish legitimacy.

Bradys TB12 method is reflective of a wider debate in American culture about the perception of medicine and science and the rising distrust of those fields in favor of alternative theories that often dont have any basis in fact. Anti-vaxxers who want to protect their children from autism, women sticking jade eggs up their steamed vaginas in hopes to improve their sexual health and the burgeoning (vastly unregulated) wellness industrypeople are so afraid and distrustful of science that they are willing to seek out snake oil in a desperate effort to feel better about themselves and their health. While Bradys TB12 method certainly has some harmless aspects to itthe core of what he preaches is to eat well and to work out regularlythat he pits himself against time and offers some sort of miracle solution to aging if you just sign up makes for a worrisome precedent.

Never mind that his physique and health have been honed after years of training, genetics, and professional investmenthes brought his scientific flim-flam to the biggest stage American television affords.

"I could beI should be perfect," Brady says in a closing scene of the first episode, pulling into practice with an audio array of commentators wondering (for the umpteenth time) if Brady can continue to perform in his 40s. What Brady has achieved as a 40-year-old athlete is astounding. The fact that he's able to run, throw, tackle, and be tackled at the highest, arguably most brutal intensities, makes the fact that Brady has emerged time and again victorious remarkable. He's in peak health and capable of doing far more physically than the vast majority of his peers.

But while Brady might want to attribute this to his TB12 system, the fact is that what he's promoting has never been evaluated by factual, evidence-based science. And while it's important to question the status quo, to test what we believe is true, the pseudoscience Brady is peddling has the power to affect men who arent in a position to rigorously verify his claims.

Youve got to play harder, tougher, play for everything! Brady yells at his team in the lows of the Super Bowl last year. Modern-day Brady voices over: Being mentally tough is putting all that bullshit aside … all the noise, all the hype, and just focusing on what you've got to do.

The problem is, much of what Brady is promoting seems to be noise and hype itself.

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Leeches are sucking their way back into the medical field

Leeches suck blood from a young patient's during a therapy session in India.
Image: FAROOQ KHAN/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Medical bills are often littered with bizarre line items. If you’re in Russia, those little charges might include half a dozen slimy, slithering leeches.

About 10 million of the blood-sucking invertebrates are prescribed in Russia every year, offering many people an affordable alternative for blood-thinning medicines, the New York Times reported this weekend.

As Russia’s economy tanks due to a mix of low oil prices, sanctions, and military spending the country’s state-run medical system has also suffered. Medicinal leeches cost less than one U.S. dollar per icky blob, and doctors say leeches’ venom is a low-cost preventative treatment for stroke and heart disease.

“When you do it the first time, you think, ‘My God, leeches!'” Elena Kalinicheva, a patient at a walk-in medical center in Moscow, told NYT. She was there for her weekly leech treatment, which she seeks to treat her lower back pain.

“But after you go through it, you understand there is nothing to worry about,” she told the newspaper.

A typical treatment in Russia involves applying three to seven of the ravenous worms, which ooze their blood-thinning venom during 30- to 40-minute sessions. Once leeches are peeled away, the resulting wounds leak blood for another six hours, until the anticoagulant chemicals wear off.

Leech therapy was standard medical practice until the mid-1800s, and historical records show the treatment was common in Ancient Egyptian, Indian, Greek, and Arab cultures. But leeches fell out of favor with many doctors as claims about their healing effects proved to be hollow. Plus applying leeches is gross and uncomfortable.

But a slew of scientific studies in recent years have shown that leeches do offer medical benefits in limited applications. For people who can’t afford or access expensive prescription drugs, they remain a practical solution, even if some its power lies in the placebo effect.

Russia isn’t the only place experiencing something of a leech revival. The blood-suckers are creeping back into clinics and hospitals around the world, including in the U.S.

Jar o’ leeches.

Image: paul paquette/wikimedia commons

About 6,000 leeches are used each year in the U.S., according to BioTherapeutics Education and Research Foundation, though not for treating heart-related issues as in Russia.

Instead, leeches are used to help heal skin grafts, by draining pooled blood from under the graft and restoring blood circulation in blocked veins. They also remove excess blood from severed body parts that have been reattached.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved leeches for such uses in 2004, when it gave French company Ricarimpex SAS clearance to market the aquatic animals as medical devices.

In Europe, meanwhile, patients can get the therapeutic benefits of leeches without slapping any of the slimy creatures on their arms, heads, and legs. Large pharmaceutical companies now market medicines based on the blood-thinning chemicals in leech venom.

Medical experts in Malaysia have said that it’s of “paramount importance” to use leech therapy more frequently in plastic and reconstructive surgery, given how easy leeches are to apply and the reduced side-effects, compared to more invasive methods.

Leeches naturally thrive in a variety of environments, including rivers, ponds, estuaries, and saltwater, which is great for leeches less so for unsuspecting swimmers. But many of Russia’s medical leeches are raised in farms by experts in white lab coats.

Self-prescribers can also buy them at farms’ stores. Nadezhda Loba, who took home 100 leeches in a plastic jug, told the NYT she applies the worms on her temples to treat conjunctivitis.

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A step closer to Dr. McCoy’s tricorder

Two hundred years from now, medical tricorders like the ones depicted in Star Trek will be as common as tongue depressors. Theyll be unremarkable, mobile tools on our SpaceX starships shuttling us back and forth to Mars. Diagnosing cancer will only take a single wave over our bodies with a palm-sized sensor.

Thats the dream.

The reality, best embodied in two XPRIZE Tricorder competition finalists, is that the devices are somewhat ungainly and they feature distinctly 21st century diagnostic equipment. They work with mobile phones, but dont try hanging either one of them around your neck.

They are tricorders in only the most limited sense, and should not be confused with the so-called Tricorder phone, from SCiO. That one includes a molecular scanner for identifying everything from the medicine in pills to the freshness of tomatoes. That device is more akin to the Tricorder Star Treks chief science officer Mr. Spock carried.

What the XPRIZEs tricorder-like devices can do, however, is help average consumers diagnose themselves for a variety of conditions.

Final Frontier and its co-finalist Dynamical Biomarkers emerged out of a field of approximately 40 other contenders. All were competing to develop the first commercial medical tricorders, and all are at least inspired by Star Trek medical officer Dr. McCoys favorite tool.

Competition sponsor Qualcomm Foundation first whittled that list down to 10 companies that would develop prototypes and test them at University of California, San Diego. That work has been going on for about a year.

Based on initial performance, only two teams made it to final consumer testing phase, said Grant Campany, prize lead for the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE.

Competition organizers identified 13 illnesses and conditions, including amemia, HIV, cancer, COPD, urinary tract infection and leukocytosis, that the winning systems would have to accurately identify.

We looked at a large range of diseases, chronic and acute that affect the majority of people in the world, said Campany. In the end, they chose based on the frequency of the disease and availability of subjects based, at least in part, on proximity to UC San Diego.

For the tests, XPRIZE recruited people whom they knew had these maladies and then let them spend anywhere from 90 minutes to a full day with the two remaining competitor devices. Could these tricorder wannabes accurately diagnose maladies these subjects already knew they had?

Test time

Both the Final Frontier and Dynamical Biomarkers devices are designed for consumers, not doctors. They use mobile interfaces and customized diagnostic equipment, like blood pressure cuffs, a pulse oximeter (those things that clip onto your fingertips) and hand-held thermometers. The devices ask a series of questions, through mobile apps, collect vital signs and then choose which tests to run to identify whats wrong.

Its a lot like what happens to you in the first 10 minutes of your visit to urgent care, but without a nurse or doctor present.

Test subject trying out Dynamical Biomarker’s tricorder-like device.

Image: xprize

The Dynamical Biomarkers tricorder entrant, which doesnt have a name, was developed by Chung-Kang Peng, director of the Center for Dynamical Biomarkers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School. Trained as a medical doctor, but with a background in science and engineering, Peng and his team built a system that has modules for each of the 13 maladies.

The device, which was built in cooperation with HTC, is a small printer-sized box with a smartphone sticking up out of the center. If someone uses the Bluetooth camera to take a picture of their inner ear, the phone will show them their diagnosis.

While neither of the tricorders is intended for medical offices, they could end up near them or with people who have some medical training.

In our scenario, we want to deploy this kind of system in rural village with no healthcare resource, said Peng, who noted that Chinas 1 million “barefoot doctors,” who have helped spread medical care across the country through the use of trained townspeople, might be some of the best caretakers for this technology.

They could use the tricorder to diagnose, send the information to the cloud where medical professionals are waiting, confirm the diagnosis and get treatment delivered to them on the ground.

Peng says Chinas barefoot doctors is a good program, but now it needs to be upgraded to high-tech barefoot doctor.

The Dynamical Biomarker tricorder may eventually sell for $500.

Test subject trying out Final Frontier’s Dexter.

Image: xprize

Basil Harris, who works as an ER doctor in Philadelphia, hopes to get his Final Frontier Dexter tricorder, which features wearable sensors and the hand-held forehead temperature reader, into more urban environments. He explained that such a device could break down the barriers that currently prevent 30 percent to 40 percent of his patients from getting the medical care they need.

While Dexter is designed to be used by consumers, Harris said early deployment could be in urgent care and emergency rooms.

Dexter may sell for $200 (not counting the cost of a paired smartphone), but in the long run, Harris envisions different levels of tricorder devices. There might be the $200 take-home device and larger kiosk-based ones that end up in your local Walgreens, where customers can walk in and do a quick self-diagnosis.

Winning the future

On Wednesday, XPRIZE announces how the judges are divvying up the remaining $9 million in prize money. Campany wouldnt share which system did the best job on diagnosis. However, hes excited about the results and potential impact 23rd-century-inspired diagnostic equipment could have on our 21st-century healthcare problems.

The XPRIZE competition is designed, at least in part, to address current market failure in healthcare. Grant pointed to the escalating healthcare costs around the world and asked the fundamental question, How do you care for millions of people outside the system?

Image: xprize

With doctors being one of the scarcest resources in healthcare, these tricorders could have a profound potential impact.

Its difficult to resolve the grand dreams of Campany, Peng, and Harris with the reality of these devices that sit on a table top and require the user to blow into tubes, cuff their arms and measure their pulse and blood oxygenation through their fingertips. It just doesnt feel like the future.

Theyre not like a magical wand device that you can wave over somebody. The way I view it, these are the first-generation tricorders, said Harris. Were just scratching the surface of whats possible.

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Hearts and Minds: Open heart surgery at the Wellcome Institute

Hearts and Minds: Open heart surgery at the Wellcome Institute


A London audience watches live open heart surgery at an event organised by the Wellcome Collection to bring medicine 'back into the public sphere'
Warning: video contains graphic images of surgery

Abraham hicks. He has high blood pressure and wonders what’s the reason

Abraham hicks. He has high blood pressure and wonders what's the reason.
The audio material in this video is extracted from the Abraham Hicks workshops: and are copyrighted by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks. For additional information on Abraham Hicks or Esther Hicks, visit their website

British Heart Foundation – The science of the zebrafish

At the moment, there's no cure for a broken heart. Once your heart muscle is damaged by a heart attack, it can never fully recover. But there is hope.

We're funding Dr Tim Chico and his team at the MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics. Here they explain the science behind our Appeal.

We need to spend £50 million to fund groundbreaking research that could begin to literally 'mend broken hearts' in as little as ten years time.

Your support can give hope to hundreds of thousands of people across the UK.

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