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Aaron has a book coming out November 7. It’s called The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully. You can preorder a copy now!

Amazon -
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Any local bookstore you might frequent. You can ask for the book by name or ISBN 978-0544952560
Dr. Doe: Welcome to Sexplanations, I'm Dr. Lindsey Doe, clinical sexologist, and this is Dr. Aaron Carroll, a medical doctor, who also wrote this book, in addition to this book, this book, this book..

Dr. Carroll: It's The Bad Food Bible. It grew out of some columns, and actually some episodes we made on our show, Healthcare Triage, talking about how the science behind so much of nutrition and what we think of as "bad food," or foods that we shouldn't be eating, isn't that good. And a lot of the stuff that people tell you you absolutely must avoid is not harmful, and in some cases, it's not sometimes healthy.

LD: I consider you to be an expert in a lot of things, and one in particular. It is HPV, the Human Papilloma Viruses. Also the insistence on vaccinating young people.

AC: I mean, the reason we vaccinate people is to try to prevent them from getting illnesses that they would otherwise get. And vaccines in general have been probably one of the greatest public health achievements of the last century, if not of all time. I mean, vaccines are amazing. There are diseases we've eradicated just because of vaccines.

So the HPV vaccine is a newer one. But the idea is that we're trying to prevent people from getting infected with Human Papilloma Virus, which is a virus that causes a bunch of sexually transmitted illnesses, but also is associated with later cancers: with cervical cancer, with anal cancer, and even with some throat cancers now. And so if we can get people vaccinated so that they don't get infected, it should prevent those cancers, and millions of people from getting them.

LD: So the idea behind a vaccine is that you're giving a dead or weakened version of the virus to the person's system, the immune system responds to that, and so when the full force virus comes in, you already have antibodies to fight it off.

AC: Correct. So you did a great job there. So yes. So the way that the body works is that when it sees a bad germ, it has to build things, antibodies, to try to grab onto it so that the body knows to clear it out. And once it's learned how to build and construct this certain antibody to attack something, it then records it so it can do it forever and ever and ever. But sometimes when you get infected with some viruses, even if you grab onto it, you can't fully eradicate it. The chicken pox vaccine, for instance. If you get infected with real chicken pox, the reason people get zoster, or they get infected later, like, it's not that they got sick again, it came out of their nervous system, where it had lain dormant, and reinfected them from within. So if we can prevent people from getting chicken pox in the first place, they won't get, you know, the later disease. So it's a lot about prevention. It's: we have to actually get people vaccinated before they could ever become infected with HPV, which means, of course, we have to get them pretty young.

LD: But my confusion then is that if you have hundreds of strains of this virus, 40 to 60 of them are sexually transmitted?

AC: Mmm hmm.

LD: Why is it that we're targeting young people? Obviously because they haven't maybe had uh, sexual contact that would contract the virus, but why not give it to everyone so that you're at least preventing some strains that they haven't gotten?

AC: Most adults who have not been vaccinated have come into contact with so many of them already that there's just a limited efficacy.


AC: It just doesn't do as much.

LD: Darn.

AC: Uh, the only to sort of get that full prevention is to get in early, before people see the virus at all. And people become sexually active at reasonably young ages, so if we don't get them vaccinated before that's going to occur, it is too late. Because once they've actually been infected with the regular virus, the vaccine just doesn't work as well.

LD: Aaron does the Healthcare Triage, and in one of his shows about HPV and the vaccine, you say, "You need to do it before you touch genitals."

AC: Mmm hmm.

LD: And if you don't want to get the vaccine, then don't ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever touch genitals.

AC: Yeah, and that's where we get to. You can say, ok you probably don't need to be vaccinated if you just make a commitment never to be sexually active in any way possible, ever, but that's just not realistic.

LD: Mmm.

AC: And it probably isn't even healthy. So...

LD: [laughs]

AC: ... the idea is that, you know, we just want to vaccinate children before this occurs. I mean, we could make an argument that they could start even earlier. It's just unfortunately because of the way people view this one vaccine, a lot of parents don't want their kids to have it and a lot of people remain unprotected.

LD: And they don't want their kids to have it because they think that it will increase sexual activity?

AC: That's the most highly cited reason. And of course they've done studies, we cite these on our show all the time, where they can look at girls or boys who have been vaccinated or not vaccinated and then see whether they are more or less sexually active. And there's no relationship at all between whether kids get vaccinated and whether they have more sex, or unprotected sex, or whether they get pregnant. It just doesn't occur. But some people just believe that, and because they believe that, they think that giving kids the vaccination gives them a license to go have sex. In other words, it removes this barrier which otherwise would keep them from being sexually active. That does not bear out in reality.

LD: No!

AC: All we're doing is leaving kids unprotected.

LD: So what is the medical stance on the HPV vaccine?

AC: Oh, that pretty much all children should be getting it, you know, I'm not even sure what the recommendation on year is now. It might be 11 or 12 or 13, but certainly, it's got to be young enough that it's before sexual activity. And we, I see parents all the time in my practice where they are trying to push it later and later, and there's just no reason to. In fact, it's dangerous, the way that we talk about this vaccine differently. There's been some interesting recent research showing that doctors approach this one differently because they're so worried about what parents are going to think about it. [5:23]