Sunday, August 1, 2021

Book Report: Viral BS by Dr. Seema Yasmin

Viral BS by Dr. Seema Yasmin is a non fiction book full of medical information that reads as more of a compilation addressing a multitude of  medical myths or common misconceptions with research, science, and style. Each section explores a common claim or question, most related to health in some way, and proceeds to break it down and come to a conclusion about how it started, why people continue to believe it, and whether or not it is based in any truth or if it is completely false. In the case of most sections that address a question, the question is answered in a thorough and slow thinking manner which extracts all possible truths and puts to rest any lies and myths regarding the subject. Some particularly interesting topics discussed include; Can your zip code predict when you die?, Is MSG addictive?, and Do we inherit trauma from our parents? The truth behind these topics and many more are uncovered throughout the course of this book. 

One section that I would have to say is my particular favorite is the chapter titled, “Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe?”. As an Environmental Science major this subject has come up in many classes, and has had a slightly different conclusion in each one. This section of the book addresses many of the things I had heard about Genetically Modified food and has pulled it all together to come to a much clearer conclusion. Dr. Yasmin first defines what genetically modified organisms are; any organisms that have had their genetic makeup altered by anything other than natural selection. This definition then means that almost all foods are genetically modified because almost everything we eat has been selectively bred to be sweeter or juicier or larger. Then she explains that what most people think of as genetically modified organisms are genetically engineered organisms, or organisms that have been directly altered through the use of chemicals or gene insertion. These methods of altering food are relatively new technology, which leads to a stigma because many people have an issue with thinking their food was messed with in a lab. However studies from the World Health Organization, The National Academy of Sciences, and American Medical Association have all concluded that they are safe to consume and have equal to or better nutritional value than non altered food. But the section is not all positive towards genetically modified foods. One counter argument brought up are genetically altered seeds that are resistant to RoundUp weed killer. The use of these crops and other pesticide resistant crops have led to the over use of chemicals such as these that have caused damage to the environment and spawned super weeds that are resistant to weed killer. Now while this is a huge problem, it is an indirect effect of GMOs and not a reason to say that GMOs are unsafe. This section was particularly interesting because of how thoroughly it summed up this debate I have had with myself for a very long time. This section allowed me to critically think about this topic using relevant information and slow thinking to come to a scientific conclusion. The section also highlighted the hysteria centered around GMOs that is largely caused by a poor understanding for what they are and an automatic bias against them because the name implies something unnatural. 

Overall this book covered many different topics that I have heard about in daily life or on social media and because of this book I am able to understand these topics and come to conclusions about them in a slow thinking way. The book will also allow me to address any misconceptions people who I talk to have about them. The book also does a very good job of taking some of the broad spectrum topics we have learned in this class about how to think and what to believe and applied them to medical myths and questions many people will find relevant or interesting. 

Author of this book Dr. Seema Yasmin debunks more medical myths: 

In a more recent and relevant video Dr. Yasmin debunks myths about COVID-19: 

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