Dear Dr. Roach: Is acupuncture a possible therapy to relieve back pain and stiffness associated with Parkinson's disease?
A: There have been many trials that show acupuncture is superior to no treatment for various symptoms of Parkinson's disease. This is true especially for fatigue, but also in a composite score that includes stiffness. A systematic review of published studies found that "acupuncture has significant positive effects."
Other studies have shown that sham acupuncture, where random areas of the body were needled, was also effective in treating symptoms. This has led some skeptical authors to conclude that acupuncture is a placebo effect: The treatment convinces people that they are getting better, so they do feel better. However, if acupuncture were completely harmless and improved symptoms, I would recommend it to people who were interested.
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Acupuncture is mostly, but not entirely, harmless. Adverse events are not common with acupuncture, but they do happen. Minor adverse effects happen in about 9% of cases.
Dear Dr. Roach: Just wondering about good versus bad cooking oils. At one time, coconut oil was said to be a bad oil, but now I'm reading that it's really a good oil. Is coconut oil good or bad?
A: Coconut oil is "bad," at least compared with healthier oils like olive oil and canola oil. It has a high saturated fat content, and people who consume coconut oil have an increase in their total cholesterol and unhealthy LDL cholesterol. If you love the taste of coconut oil, it's reasonable in moderation, but don't consume it thinking it is good for your health or your heart. The available evidence does not support that.