Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shame on Canadian Blood Services


Canadian Blood Services is a non-profit organization charged with the responsibility of collecting and managing the blood supply for Canadians (except Québécois). They have a website called What's Your Type: Find out what your blood type says about you ...

Here are the answers.
  • Type A: So, you’re an A. You already know that having type A blood suggests that you are reliable, a team player and may benefit from a vegetarian diet*. Did you also know that anthropologists believe that type A blood originated in Asia or the middle east between 25,000 and 15,000 BC?

  • Type B: So, you’re a B. You already know that having type B blood suggests that you are independent, a self-starter and may benefit from a wholesome well-balanced diet*. Did you also know that anthropologists believe that type B blood appeared between 15,000 and 10,000 BC in the Himalayas?

  • Type AB: So, you’re an AB. You already know that having type AB blood suggests that you are organized, friendly and may enjoy a vegetarian or wholesome well-balanced diet*. Did you also know that anthropologists believe that type AB blood did not originate until 900-1000 years ago and came into existence when eastern Mongolian invaders overran the last of European civilization?

  • Type O: So, you’re an O. You already know that having type O blood suggests that you might be competitive, goal oriented and a real meat eater*. Did you also know that anthropologists believe that type O is the oldest and most common blood type, originating in Southern Africa?
I bet there's lots of stuff there that you didn't know. I was particularly intrigued by the genetic data. Did you know that humans were originally Type O—the null allele? Only later did mutations arise that created the active N-acetylaminogalactosyltransferase enzyme (Type A).1


Theme

ABO Blood Types
I was shocked to learn that Mongolians overran the last of European civilization in 1000 AD. I'm a bit of a history buff, especially European history, and this nasty little fact completely escaped my notice. How come the citizens of Western Europe didn't notice that they were overrrun by Mongolians? And how come the history books say the main Mongolian invasions were in about 1220 AD?



1. All knowledgeable scientists agree that this is the primitive allle, present in all primates. Subsequent mutations created the null allele (O) and the B allele, which is a modified version of the wild-type allele. I assume that Canadian Blood Services must be in possession of very recent information that overthrows all those previous scientific papers.

15 comments:

  1. I first came across this nuttiness yesterday when I ran into someone who explained that as type O we had to eat a bit of meat and can't be vegetarian—even though my wife and I have been healthy vegetarians for 20 years.

    It turns out that this nonsense is in a book, Eat Right for Your Type, that basically makes the stuff up. It claims the initial blood type was O, despite the evidence that it was probably A, and that the different types require different diets. I'm surprised that people who should know the most about blood would fall for that crap.

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  2. I could not make this stuff up.

    Wow.

    I guess I better go chew on some beef jerky.

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  3. These supposed "facts" are similar to the claims in a diet book by Peter D'Adamo titled, "Eat Right 4 Your Type". He has a series of diet recommendations based on the concept that different blood types evolved in different populations (agriculturalists, hunter-gatherers, etc) and therefore need different diets. I haven't checked that the dates are the same, but the book is a plausible source for the Canadian Blood Services site.

    None of these dates accord with what we know genetically about the evolution of the ABO blood types in humans. The major A, B, and O alleles have all been present in humans for more than 2 million years.

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  4. Ottawa Skeptics posted an article about this online back in 2009. Apparently Canadian Blood Services has been using this as a marketing tool for years.

    Ottawa Skeptics: Canadian Blood Services Promotes Pseudoscience

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  5. Wow. So bizarre! If I were Canadian, I'd probably be very reluctant to give blood to these people. If they can't get such a simple thing right, what are the chances that they do other things just right?

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  6. @DK
    That's silly-- why would you be very reluctant to donate blood to CBS? The fact that some of their marketing is bizarre doesn't affect their mission, which is to safely provide blood products for use in our healthcare system. On the other hand, legitimate reasons not to donate blood to CBS would be if they reused needles, did not screen people in terms of suitability (e.g. iron levels, body weight), or allowed multiple donations within a short time period for cash.

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  7. I have written to CBS poiting out their errors. Their response was "We do make reference to selected aspects of ketsueki-gata within the What's Your Type program and our intention is for this to be a light-hearted way to involve potential new donors in the typing process.
    ...
    We have found the program to be a successful recruiting tool, particularly with young people. They are often nervous about the typing, and the reference to a potential link between personality and blood type offers them an avenue to share their experience with others in a way that, for many, relieves the tension of the process. All participants, however, are made aware that the link between blood type and personality is not, in any way, scientific."

    Why is this important?

    Trust

    Trust is very important when it comes to the medical blood supply – especially given the history in Canada. Promoting fake pseudoscience destroys trust.

    I want my blood supplier to be using the best, most current science, not mythology that has been shown to be plain wrong.

    I wouldn’t go to a doctor that prescribed powdered rhino horn and I don’t want a homeopathic blood transfusion. I want a trustworthy blood supply, not one tainted with mythology, woo and pseudoscience

    I have no choice with my blood supplier, if CBS can’t get the science right on your promotional materials, how can I trust CBS when it comes to the real science of managing the blood supply?

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  8. Seriously people, get a life! You spend way too much time trying to 'debunk' issues that are clearly based on entertainment, and less time actually doing some good in your community.
    Do you spend the other half of your time writing to all the newspapers telling them they should stop printing Horoscopes because they are misleading?
    Blood donors don't care about stuff like this? Not everyone is stupid, and we certainly don't need people like you to speak on our behalf.

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  9. "To whom it may concern:

    As someone who has been a donor in the past, and will likely make contributions in the future, I was extremely disappointed to see the new "What's Your Type?" feature. Canadian Blood Services works closely with the medical profession and should hold itself to far too high a standard of integrity to peddle the blood-type equivalent of horoscope.

    Your organization is something that I greatly respect, and it's saddening to see something like this. I would appreciate any response or explanation as to whether this might be re-thought.


    Sincerely,
    Oren N.

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  10. @Quidam
    One way to reassure yourself as to the trustworthiness of our blood supply is to read about the various screening procedures that CBS applies to all blood products, ranging from questionaires to PCR tests. This is freely accessible on the Internet, and it should be something you do rather than talking up rhetoric about pseudoscience and trust.

    Hell, even if CBS was run by wackaloons (which it isn't), as long as they follow a strict quality control process, it shouldn't matter that their marketing is wrong. By analogy, I think various policies of the Conservative government are wrong, but I don't feel that the entire institution of federal government is rotten.

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  11. @Alex, sadly if this was the only pseudo-science that CSB was pushing, perhaps. however, since you bring up the quality of their blood screening it is important to note there is no reason why a healthy gay man cannot donate blood to save a family member's life- or anyone elses- since all donations get screened for everything imaginable, yet despite the fact that their screening is so rigorous they continue to prevent gay men from donating, presuming that they are all AIDS-lepers.

    there's a definite disconnect with the science and technology available and who's making the policy decisions.

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  12. Would anyone expect different from an organization run more by politics than science?

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  13. @Randy - sorry, which 'politics' running CBS is it you speak of?
    Is it the CEO, a doctor himself and a recognized expert in transfusion medicine and science?

    Maybe you are referring to the board members, all of which appointed by the provincial ministers of health and all experts in either science, medicine, corporate governance, or legal matters? Yes, that must be it!

    Thanks, but knowing that CBS is one of the world's safest blood systems in the world, I'll take my chances with a little bit of 'fun' in blood typing.

    It's no wonder no one takes you guys seriously.

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  14. So what do the little asterisks stand for? I did some digging and found an archived version of the Blood Services page. Here's what's found at the bottom:

    "* The What's Your Type? program is a recruitment program with information provided for the participants' enjoyment. You should seek medical supervision for all matters regarding your health."

    So the information provided about what each blood type means isn't actually serious. Kind of silly, but hardly worth criticizing so vehemently. Can you tell us why you deceptively left that rather important part out? To make a mountain out of a molehill?

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