A mere couple of weeks ago, I was beginning to “celebrate” a week designated to celebrate the sheer quackiness of the quackery that is naturopathy. True, that’s not what the woo-friendly Senators and Representatives who imposed Naturopathic Medicine Week 2014 on a disinterested world that didn’t need, want, or understand it. They represented it as a great thing, the “integrating” of the “best of both worlds,” those worlds to them being conventional science-based medicine and alternative medicine. To those of us who support science-based medicine, it was integrating cow pie with apple pie, as Mark Crislip would put it. Let’s just say such an “integration” doesn’t make the cow pie better; it makes the apple pie worse.
Well, October appears to be a busy month for quacks, because I found another “celebration” going on in a mere few days. Sure, it’s not a whole week, as the naturopaths have somehow conned woo-friendly legislators into proclaiming each of the last two Octobers. it’s just one day. That day is Friday. The “holiday” is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day 2014.
My first thought on hearing this was: “Oriental” medicine? Who uses that term anymore? It’s kind of dated and borderline racist. Why didn’t these advocates of traditional Chinese medicine (which, let’s face it, is what we’re really talking about) use the term “Asian” if they wanted to include other forms of woo from that particular continent, such as Ayurveda. Be that as it may, let’s take a look at the press release:
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) Day, celebrated annually on October 24, was created to raise awareness of the benefits of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, an effective form of medicine with a 3,000 year history. This national day of observance, recognized by the thousands of licensed acupuncturists, as well as AOM leadership organizations, was spearheaded by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM)® in 2002.
Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20141017/152838
In the United States the use of AOM is at an all-time high. In fact, according to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine, an estimated 36% of U.S. adults use some form of complementary and alternative therapy; however, misconceptions about this respected form of medicine still exist. AOM Day's primary purpose is to educate the public about the benefits of AOM therapies.
Notice the slick bait and switch there. The implication is that because (allegedly) 36% of Americans have used some form of CAM that much of that’s traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and acupuncture. In actuality, the percentage of people using acupuncture and TCM is way smaller than 36%. The way that the 36% estimate for “complementary and alternative medicine” CAM usage was to include a lot of what I like to call “rebranded” entities, some science-based (like exercise and diet), some not (like religion and spirituality). In reality, as I’ve alluded to before, acupuncture, Ayruveda, and TCM didn’t even make the top ten of CAM therapies used by Americans according to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey Report. Indeed, in that survey only 1.4% of Americans reported having used acupuncture within the last year and only 6.6% reported ever having used it. Although numbers might be higher now, only 0.9% reported having used Tai Chi, 0.6% qi gong. The most popular “oriental” medicine used was yoga, with 9.5% reporting ever having used it. Given that most people use yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong more for exercise than any medicinal benefits, anyway.
There’s even an AOM Day website, chock full of events. Just for yucks, I checked out the events in my state. There were four. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), only one is within a half-hour drive of where I live:
Come enjoy Tea and snacks as you meet the AHT healing team! Free stress relief auricular treatments from 6-8pm!
This is at the Asian Healing Traditions in Ann Arbor. There, they offer acupuncture (of course!) for a wide variety of conditions for which there is no evidence that acupuncture demonstrates any efficacy, such as “Amenorrhea, Dysmenorrhea, Endometriosis, Fibroids, Irregular Cycle, Infertility, Menopause, Morning Sickness, PCOS, Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)” and “Allergies, Asthma, Common Cold, Rhinitis, Sinusitis Gastrointestinal: Colitis, Constipation, Diarrhea, Diverticulitis, Gastritis, GERD, IBS, Ulcers, Poor Digestion.” And, of course, there are testimonials. Naturally, the AOM Day website has more, one of which is my favorite variety:
A SKETPIC... CONVERTED!
My allergy treatments with my acupuncturist have literally changed my life. Being a skeptic, I refused to reveal what my allergies were. She identified my known allergies / sensitivities as well as a few I didn't know about. One of the most significant allergens were eggs. After being treated, I ate my first egg at age 36! It made eating all sorts of things possible.
Yes, it’s the “conversion” story! It’s the quack’s favorite testimonial, because believers like to think that their woo works so well that anyone who experiences it will become a convert. Of course, as I’ve described more times than I can remember on this blog, there’s no compelling evidence that acupuncture is more than a “theatrical placebo” (as Steve Novella and David Colqhoun put it) or just a placebo, as I put it in a recent publication. Or, just enter the term “acupuncture” into the text box.
In any case, I know how I’ll (probably) celebrate AOM Day when Friday shows up. I’ll look for the juiciest, quackiest acupuncture study I can find and I’ll have some fun with it. On the other hand, I’ve already discovered that there is someone who thinks acupuncture is good for—surprise! surprise!—Ebola. Of course, there’s a problem with using acupuncture for a hemorrhagic disease, namely sticking needles into the skin, which is likely to cause excessive bleeding. So here’s what the answer of an acupuncturist is to the question Can Acupuncture Help Stop Ebola? It’s:
Stimulation of acupuncture points by some other modality will not kill the Ebola virus. It can be used however to help support the body’s organ systems and heighten the body’s immune defenses.
Needles should not be used to puncture the skin in patients with hemorrhagic diseases. However, the points can be accessed by placing high gauss magnets on the points and leaving them in place for several days
Oh, great. This reminds me of something:
You know. That claim that using “magnet acupuncture” can boost your immune system enough to fight Ebola is so quacky that by the time Friday rolls around, I might have nothing.
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I want to know how come they can only get a day, whereas Naturopathy gets a whole week of woodom and vaccine injury awareness wants a whole week?
I am now waiting eagerly for the year of Ear Candling.
"Arse candling awareness month"
Magnets. They worketh better than thy grammar. "Doth" is singular, thou ninny. And what, prithee, is "confund"?
I think they're calling it Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day because the acronym AOM (if you slur the letters together) sounds all transcendental meditation-y.
All together now: AOMMMMMMMMM.
In all seriousness, TCM has a lot to answer for. The near-extinction of the rhinocerous, for one thing.
Not to be a pedant, but I think the proper spelling is AUM (or Om) for the mystical sanscrit sound.
Which would work well for Auto-Urine Medicine month (or Ayurvedic Urinary Mouth?), now I come to think of it...
TCM has a lot to answer for
That's for damned sure! Now that it has devastated rhinoceros populations, it is well on its way to causing the extinction of pangolins. Then there are tigers, bears (poached or tortured in captivity for bile), deer for antlers and antler velvet and on and on. If it were just nitwits doing cupping and sticking needles in other nitwits, I'd shrug it off as fools folly. But is is truly destructive and anything but amusing. Piss on it, its "patients" and its practitioners.
There is a curious bit of cognitive dissonance going on for the eco-aware westerner who gets TCM treatments. They know TCM traditionally uses beast bits, but obviously want treatment and herbs without these. However, I've not heard the question asked about what discarding a set of ingredients implies for the treatment system as a whole.
Either you'd have to conclude that there is a hodge podge of folklore within the herbology, or you'd conclude that the efficacy of the system is eroded by going without these ingredients?
And if you are having it both ways, on what basis do we know which leftover bits of the herb set are the 'good' ones? I've not heard about any attempts (not that I've looked) within TCM to sift wheat from chaff though anything resembling a science based process.
We're a little short of rhinos here, but if anybody needs a few thousand deer, I think we can help.
Johnny -- Maybe we should convince the Chinese that deer antler are a perfectly good impotence cure.
The word "Oriental" is acceptable when used as an adjective for inanimate objects and to denote a zoogeographical region; it is unacceptable when used as a noun referring to a person or group of people.
Well, at least they are self-aware enough to see that sticking needles into somebody with hemorrhagic fever is problematic. But magnets? Really? That's another case of, well, crank magnetism. Here is Bob Parks' definitive takedown of magnet quackery in 2000:
the pineal gland is a “magnetic engine.”
I wonder what the think happens to it during head MRI.
Magnetic underwear? Now that gives a whole new meaning to the song 'Let's stick together'.
You've inspired my new test for acupuncture: apply needles then undergo an MRI scan to observe the effect.
@ Eric Lund:
Unfortunately, the Null-macher no longer sells magnetic underwear ( and other therapeutic magnetic items- including a mask) because the line doesn't attract enough customersto be profitable.
( and he makes a lot more money selling dried vegetables and fruits at insanely marked-up prices. see Gary Null,com).
BUT he does recommend using magnets for therapies for various ills when he runs down his infamous lists of 'what to do for what' condition - usually involving diet, exercise, herbs,supplements, specific foods and vegetable powders.
A while back, I talked one of my gentlemen and his friend out of acupuncture therapy by utilising Orac's spectacular take down of the toothpick study: neither has gone back and the latter has substituted massage.
HOWEVER my Irish friend developed trigeminal neuralgia and has had to call upon what seems like an un-ending queue of specialists- including dentists for tooth extraction. Not finding relief, she finally gave up and went to the acupuncturist to quell a relative's persistent badgering.
Last week, she narrated her experience which was- obviously- punctuated with a fast-flowing stream of disdainful pejoratives and expletives. In summation, acupuncture was 'bloody, f@cking useless'.
Perhaps he should recommend iron supplements first to make the magnetic products more attractive....
Acupuncture cures "Amenorrhea"? Do the Southern Baptists know this? Does TCM have the cure for Young Earth Creationism? Get some magnets to the Congressional Science Committee stat!
Poor acupuncture. The Naturopaths got Congress to declare them a week, but the TCMers can only declare a day for themselves. I suppose the AHT healing team can't afford to dole out free stress relief auricular treatments, tea and snacks to 36% of America for 7 whole days.
I'm not sure Pete A's definition #12 would pass muster with the late Edward Said, but I take "Oriental Medicine" to refer to the 'doctors' performing it, who are at least allegedly persons, so I'm sticking with Orac on the racism thing — if I can use the verb 'stick' in a comment about acupuncture.
(Don't needle me because i poke fun at woo. You have to admit, though that the idea of having a patient lie down for several days so high gauss magnets (which are pretty heavy if theyreally are high gauss) can be placed on all their pressure points is none too sharp.)
If you have one which comes ready-packaged for my freezer, I'd be obliged.
Deer antler is already part of the TCM arsenal. According to the Wikipedia article on velvet antlers (not the velvet itself, but an antler which has not yet fully calcified -- it's usually taken from live stags who are tranquilized for the procedure), the US currently produces about 20 tons annually. New Zealand is kicking our butts in this industry, churning out 450 tons annually. (China is the number two producer, at 400 tons.)
I think that by the time wild deer are in season for hunting, the horns have calcified, making it useless for TCM.
Deer velvet antler can be divided into sections, each of which is used for different medical purposes in traditional Chinese medicine. The upper section, called a wax piece, is used as a growth tonic for children. The middle section, called a blood piece, is used to treat adults with arthritis and related disorders. The bottom section, called a bone piece, is used for calcium deficiency and geriatric therapies. The tip is the most expensive and sought-after part of the antler.,
You will have to define 'high' and 'heavy'.
I shop for rare earth magnets from time to time (because they are fun to play with) and the specs on some of them are frightening.
If you will accept 2700 Gauss in about 8 oz as something you could duct tape to your skin, this would work -
However, if you were to walk too close to your car while wearing it, it may leave you and fly away.
For a really scary magnet, see -
Close to 5k Gauss and over a half ton of pull, in a package 4"x4"x2", and about 8.5 pounds.
The problem we have here is that the few places that you can hunt are so full of hunters that the deer are rather skittish, and everywhere else there are so many that they have outstripped the food supply that their growth is somewhat stunted. You'd get more meat out of a large dog.
I have heard it claimed that humans are the only ones that will use up all of their resources. Not true at all.
I remember the first time I saw a road-kill deer in the area - it was an event to mention around the office coffee pot. It's now a once a week occurrence, and I've even hit on myself.
I was in violent agreement with Doug, until he listed deer. The heard would be a lot healthier if we could loose about half of them around here.
"I was in violent agreement with Doug, until he listed deer. The heard would be a lot healthier if we could loose about half of them around here."
Yes, there are some places in North America where cervids (notably white tailed deer) are overabundant, because the dumbass hunters and farmers have wiped out all of the natural predators.
Regardless of current states of abundance, I don't want TCM after any animal anywhere on earth for their superstitious nonsense. What is a abundant now could be endangered before long, especially given that wealth is rising faster in places like China and Viet Nam faster than science is displacing BS. If TCM can find a use for raw sewage, preferably pig farm lagoon contents, it is welcome to it.
Where I live in Alberta, the idiot federal and provincial governments supported "farming" of native elk and a significant part of the market was for velvet for TCM. The market collapsed when chronic wasting disease (related to CJD & BSE) came to the attention of the importers (also why the US is not a big exporter). Public money flushed down the drain for the profits of a few. I'm glad the market collapsed.
Velvet from wild native caribou was also being exported. Caribou are at risk in many areas because of exploration for oil to keep the lights on in f'ing Las Vegas and run Arnie's hummer fleet. TCM is also welcome to anything they can harvest at Vegas casinos.
@Calli Arcale (#22):
Deer in the wild in New Zealand are a serious pest - the NZ government used to (and maybe still does) pay hunters to kill them. But deer farming is serious business. Originally for meat (CERVENA is farmed venison), but then someone figured out that there was a good market in China for velvet antlers, and now I think that may be even more profitable than the meat part of the business.
Yes, there are some places in North America where cervids (notably white tailed deer) are overabundant, because the dumbass hunters and farmers have wiped out all of the natural predators.
It's more than that. The expansion of suburbia and exurbia also plays a role. Much of the eastern US, from Florida to southern Maine and inland as far as parts of the Appalachians, has been infested by a plague of little (and not-so-little) boxes on the hillside, all made out of ticky-tacky and all looking just the same. In much of the region local governments have imposed a two-acre minimum lot size, which isn't quite big enough for a farm, and the ornamental shrubbery planted on many of those lots is quite attractive to deer. Because of the population density, these deer are quite safe from hunters, and while cars are a danger to individual animals, the kill rate from that cause isn't high enough to keep the population in check. Hunting within 300 feet of a dwelling is generally prohibited; in New Hampshire, RSA 207:3-a is the relevant statute:
That distance is a bit longer than the typical distance between dwellings on two-acre lots.
Sorry to interrupt with an OT request... a colleague is interested in examining a recent Ruggiero paper on GcMAF:
-- and seeks a copy. Unfortunately my library doesn't subscribe to the journal, "Anti-cancer Drugs". Can anyone help?
... Deer in the wild in New Zealand ...
Red deer in New Zealand were introduced, most likely by people who intended them to propagate so they could be shot for "sport" by Colonel or Major or Lord or Sir ... (a pox on the lot of them!) There are few things that become bigger problems than introduced species, including the ones in little boxes, who all go into business and all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry.
Red deer are slightly smaller and more polite than North American elk (which occasionally teach tourists to do what they are told by personnel in our western national parks).
Sorry to go off topic slightly but comments are closed here : http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/06/18/no-matter-how-often-i-read…
The commentariat suggests that fever caused by bleach is making the children docile, 'easier to handle'. No doubt that is true.
However, no-one had mentioned that there is an additional possible effect: Febrility may reduce autism symptoms.
Adults with autism and parents have both commented on this possible effect of fever. It's still no reason to use bleach or fever to treat autism.
Is there anything that causes fever but doesn't feel absolutely horrible, like a hundred times worse than autism must feel?
herr doktor, if you send me an e-mail I could have a little present for you.
I set up a temporary Dropbox:
Hmm, herr doktor I can't seem to put anything in that folder.
Perhaps you might go this way https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nete0n4f8uugsgb/AAAD3-VmwOVg1iLdv0_db2R_a?dl…
Thanks, ChrisP. Forwarding it now to the colleague.
Hot showers (start the temperature normally then gradually raise it to scalding), saunas and steam rooms.
I have encountered the Sauna life-style while visiting colleagues in Estonia... it's a bit like eating chilli... once you realise that it's not going to kill you, you learn to enjoy it. But do saunas actually raise the body temperature? Part of the appeal is the enforced relaxation, as your body shuts down muscular activity in an attempt to keep core temperature within the specified range.
The concept of "short-term, controlled febrile infections for pleasurable delirium" is a recurring trope in science fiction.
Apparently so, as well as causing other potentially dangerous physiological changes:.
I'm a little puzzled by the 38.8% increase in body temperature. If they were using Fahrenheit that would be 136.6 degrees, if Celsius 51 degrees, equally incompatible with life. It must be 38.8% of something else.
The CAM way of doing this is the far-infrared sauna, of course. This removes a range of imaginary toxins from the body that the kidneys can only dream of dealing with.
Thanks. The authors' diagram shows temperature rising to 38 and 38.5 C for dry and wet saunas. No wonder there's a Finnish horror movie called "Sauna".
I’m a little puzzled by the 38.8% increase in body temperature. If they were using Fahrenheit that would be 136.6 degrees, if Celsius 51 degrees, equally incompatible with life.
I certainly hope they weren't using Kelvin, although no other scale lends itself to percentages.
If I read it correctly, they mean that both dry and wet saunas increase rectal temperatures and heart rate, but the increases from the wet sauna were 38.8% and 21.2% greater that the increases from the dry sauna.
I see, that makes sense.
Regarding Julian's comment #29, apparently fever temperatures start a cellular defense response called 'heat shock' that reduces some autistic behaviors. The article I read is in the popular literature, so relatively easy reading. I'd like to see a lot more research before parents start force-feeding their kids broccoli and other sulforaphane-rich veggies.
Thank you JerryA, is there some effect of exercise that is common to the immune response to fever? I'm thinking that stimming and perhaps also self-harming may hold clues to the febrility mechanism?
@Julian Frost, are you finding yourself to be more empathic when in the sauna?
You are repeating the old falsity about autistics lacking empathy. While we may have poor cognitive empathy, we tend to have excellent emotional empathy.
We are not very good at working out what you're feeling, but when we do, we feel it ourselves very strongly.
What I feel in a steam bath or hot shower (I've never been in a sauna) is relaxed.
I'm not autistic myself, but my daughter is, and holy cow but is this obvious in her. She doesn't pick up on cues from other people very well, but any time she notices someone else's pain, she feels it right along with them, sometimes so powerfully it's incapacitating. The first time we really saw this was when watching the campy Toho classic "Son of Godzilla". At one point, baby Godzilla falls off of daddy Godzilla's tail, but daddy Godzilla doesn't notice and walks off set, leaving the baby sad and lonely. My daughter was so distraught by this that we had to stop the movie. She was sobbing for many minutes, and for hours afterwards the tears would spontaneously return as she remembered the baby getting left behind. We tried to get her to see the next ten seconds of the movie, where poppa comes back to get baby, but no. She was too upset.
She still has reactions like that, but has grown better at calming herself. All part of growing up. She knows she doesn't do a good job of reading other people, and she has learned that autism is supposed to cause people to lack empathy. So the really tragic part here is that now she gets very deeply sad about how much she believes she hurts people because she is insensitive. Which, of course, is the complete opposite of being insensitive, but when one is upset it's hard to be rational.
Regarding the broccoli stuff.....
One thing to bear in mind is that the study involved doses that are physically impossible to get by eating the plant. Even a professional competitive eater can't eat that much broccoli. That said, broccoli happens to be the only green vegetable my autistic daughter will eat. And she *loves* it! But she only loves it in exactly one way: steamed, from frozen. Consequently, we eat a lot of it in our family, because hey, if your kid decides they only like one vegetable, you can do a lot worse than this one. ;-)
" Regarding the broccoli stuff...."
Didn't Kreb postulate the opposite- broccoli causes autism?
Perhaps I can fill that out:
People started eating more broccoli because natural health fanatics claimed it would prevent/ cure cancer then the rate of autism rose.
( I'm joking)
Julian (not Frost):
Simple docility could easily be interpreted as "reducing symptoms", so that may just be the same thing seen from a different angle. For instance, irritability is often a symptom of autism, and the amount of time it takes the child to self-soothe is often used to evaluate the child's progress. Well, since caregivers aren't mind-readers, a child being more docile would score better on these things even with no other improvement in their condition. They might be evaluated to be less disabled, since they're not freaking out. That this is only because they're sleepy might not be noticed.
So . . . I guess I'm cautious about the notion that things that make a child sleepier are also improving symptoms. My daughter is trying a med that does make her sleepier, and so this weighs on my mind a lot, especially as it's not my intention to keep her on the med long-term.
@Julian, sorry I meant the other part of empathy, the actual seeing part. Imagine you're in a room with a few strangers, but not a sauna. Would your experience, being on the spectrum, be that you would have a hard time working out what those strangers thought of you at first?
Do you find it easier to 'feel' how a stranger in a sauna might feel about you?
@Calli both lethargy and hyperactivity are symptoms of autism but are they related? Do kids with more extreme lethargy get more hyperactive, or less? Are the two symptoms independent of each other?
Finding a medication that neither causes nor prevents drowsiness while helping with sleep problems? The idea of there being 'one chemical' for 'all autisms' seems impossible.
Fair question I guess. It makes no difference really. I tend not to speak when I'm in a steam room unless someone too young to be there comes in (the club has an age restriction of no under 14s), then I mention the rule. Otherwise I focus on enjoying the warmth.
Julian, I've just re-read your question and my answer.
I think a better answer is no, being in a steam room doesn't reduce my autism symptoms. What it does is relax me, so I seem more neurotypical.
While the author of the original article pulls no punches in his/her disdain for any form of alternative medicine, I would venture to suggest that a more open mind is in order. Science (specifically Western based science originating with Bacon et al) is not all knowing nor is it the font of all health knowledge. Accupuncture is a very effective treatment for some ailments as compared to surgery or drugs.
Certainly some horrendously outlandish claims are made for all alternative medicine treatments, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Statistical analysis is not always a good end point for a debate as many drugs which are effective in individuals have been shown to be statistically useless in treating ailments. I know I was in drug discovery for many years myself and am a working scientist in molecular biology.
Yes naturopathy make NO scientific sense whatsoever, but unfortunately it does work.. again from personal experience having been dragged into it by my better half and you would not have found a bigger skeptic worldwide. For sure it does not work all the time but neither do a horrendous number of drugs (many of which kill the patient). In fact more people die from drug OD's and side effects/interactions that the public is aware of. However, this is seldom reported so the public confidence is maintained.
The next wave of medicine... personalized medicine will revolutionise the entire global healthcare arena and who knows. maybe there will be a place for alternative medicines in the new world.
One thing I do know is that so called "bush medicine" should not be dismissed
"Accupuncture is a very effective treatment for some ailments as compared to surgery or drugs."
Prove it, show how it works for a non-self-limiting condition.
"Yes naturopathy make NO scientific sense whatsoever, but unfortunately it does work.."
Prove it, show that it works for a non-self-limiting condition.
For both provide the PubMed indexed studies by qualified reputable non-biased researchers. Do not post case studies or other anecdotes.
Unfortunately, too many treatments have been "known" to work which turned out with more careful study not to work at all or to have really bad side-effects.
What we ask is simply that all forms of treatment meet the same standards for demonstrating that they work (are effective for the stated condition) and are safe (careful recording and analysis of side-effects).
Statistical analysis is not the end point. But, without good data and a proper statistical analysis, we have no way of distinguishing random variation (I'm the lucky person who didn't die from this disease) from a definite improvement in results (people with treatment X lived an average of 3 years longer than after receiving the standard treatment).
And, since we're discussing Oriental Medicine, I remember one combination of 3 different herbs that was being touted. But I didn't see any studies that compared A+B, A+C, B+C, A+B+C, with a placebo mixture such as Herbs de Provence.
Do you know of any studies like that for any of the popular herbal medicine combo's?
Dang! At least I haven't italicized the internet again...
" Science (specifically Western based science originating with Bacon et al) is not all knowing"
Thanks, but I can't take credit for originating "Western based" science, though my contributions are increasingly recognized as critically important.
Like Vic, I was a profound skeptic when I tried alt med (acupuncture). Afterwards, I was just as skeptical. Unfortunately, having an "open mind" doesn't make woo effective, it just causes your brains to slop out all over your Hush Puppies.*
*a fellow pathology resident once ruined a new pair of Hush Puppies when he spilled intestinal contents on them during an autopsy. He switched to ski boots after that.