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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Study Blasts TV Drug Ads

Study Blasts TV Drug Ads

A study came out a few days ago showing that pharmaceutical ads are based on emotion rather than fact. Just watch the commercial and you see that the people in them are unbelievably excited about their new prescription. They feature people telling their friends about how wonderful it is and read just like a warning label, with more disclaimers than information. Below are some excerpts from the article on Live Science.

Pharmaceutical companies spent an estimated $1.9 billion on TV advertising in 2005.
Ninety-five percent of ads made "emotional appeals," and 78 percent implied that use of the medication would result in social approval. Fifty-eight percent of the time, products were depicted as medical breakthroughs.
According to the new study, only two developed countries -- the United States and New Zealand -- allow drug companies as much unfettered access to the TV airwaves. In fact, the average American television viewer now spends 16 hours a year watching prescription drug ads, "far exceeding the average time spent with a primary care physician,"

Basically, the pharmaceutical companies only care about getting more people on their drugs. Most of these drugs are either for made up diseases (Restless Legs Syndrome) or are created to treat a symptom (anything for cholesterol). Here's a thought when it comes time for a prescription: is it a long-term course of action? If it is, you are likely being treated for a symptom rather than a disease. From a business perspective, this is the best thing for Big Pharma's pockets; you take a drug for the rest of your life, never actually treating any underlying causes, but it makes you feel better, so you think you are better.

And there are the obligatory side effects, which are often worse than whatever it is you're being treated for. "Try some Rogaine. Get your hair back. And have a 1 in 50 shot of being impotent. But who cares? At least you'll have your hair." It is telling that Big Pharma spends more on TV advertising than most companies make in profit in a single year. You can hardly watch a 30-minute show without seeing at least one ad for drugs. We are a nation of pill-poppers and the pharmaceutical companies are getting rich off or our laziness. Everyone wants a quick pill to fix anything that their sedentary, sugar-filled lifestyle has caused, from diabetes and obesity to allergies. And in our American way, we are allowing commercial interests to override social interests by allowing Big Pharma all the access they want to our advertising mediums, including our kids. This all bodes poorly.

There is one very simple way to avoid nearly all prescriptions. Eat a healthful, whole foods diet. That means meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, oils (palm, olive, and coconut), little starch, and no sugar. Sugar and grains have numerous deleterious effects in the body, damaging the immune system and causing the bacterial environment of the intestines to get out of whack. And get some exercise too.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Unhappy Meals by Michael Pollan

An excellent article by Michael Pollan. He discusses (in 12 pages...a long read) how America went from a land of food to a land of nutrients. Because of our turn to eating nutrients instead of food, we must rely on experts. It is in these experts' interest to keep us confused about what to eat. One day low-fat diets are all the rage, the next, it's low-carb. The following day, low-carb is unhealthy again. I disagree with Pollan's take on meat, but he's mostly spot on with this article.

A couple of sentences that stuck out in my mind:

Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you're concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it's not really food, and food is what you want to eat.
Of course it's also a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims , while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness.

See, you never see a health claim on lettuce because everyone knows lettuce is healthy. So many other foods in the aisles of the grocery are adorned with health claims such as "Good source of fiber" and "Eating a diet low in saturated fat is known to..." That these recommendations are based on pseudo-science is irrelevant. The government has deemed them to be correct.

I'll make it easy: Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar (from What Is CrossFit?). There's nothing more simple than that. Grains, pasteurized dairy products, soy, and anything in a brightly colored package with nutrition information and a list of ingredients are not good food. If there is a cartoon character or celebrity pushing it, it's most likely a food product, not food. There is no such thing as "junk food"; there is junk and there is food. It really is as simple as following the maxim in the first sentence to be healthy. You really won't even have to worry much about quantity as long as you're eating mainly meat and vegetables with nuts, seeds, and oils for fat; a bit of fruit for dessert; some starch from sweet potatoes and squashes; and limiting sugar to virtually none.

Eating a colorful variety of plant foods - vegetables, fruits, and tubers - ensures that you receive wide-ranging amounts of different vitamins and minerals. Meat is the most nutrient-dense food item available, and the one that has allowed the human race to evolve to such high standing. Within meat you'll find several important vitamins that are unavailable elsewehere, along with good saturated and mono-unsaturated fats (especially if it's grassfed meat). And nuts, seeds, and oils provide the fat that is necessary for proper metabolic functioning and absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Another notable:
Today, a mere four crops account for two-thirds of the calories humans eat. ... It's hard to believe that we can get everything we need from a diet consisting largely of processed corn, soybeans, wheat and rice.

Two-thirds of our calories come from foods that the human animal has not evolved to eat. Soy must be highly processed to be consumed safely and unfortunately the soy industry doesn't do this when turning out soy burgers, soy dogs, and tofu (the Chinese do when eating miso, natto, and tempeh). Corn, wheat, and rice are grain foods that must also be soaked and fermented to neutralize antinutrients and be usable by the body. Again, this isn't done by food processors. Is there any wonder why we're so unhealthy?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Shane Ellison Interviews Anthony Colpo

The Interview

Here is an interview between Shane Ellison and Anthony Colpo, of The Great Cholesterol Con fame. Anthony describes his personal journey to investigate, and ultimately write a scathing book about, the cholesterol hypothesis that prevails today. He also describes his methods of training and the type of diet he advises for his trainees. This is an excellent read as is his book. Get it at Amazon.

Should've Just Read "Lights Out"

Lights At Night

I wrote a book review of Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival previously. In this book, Wiley and Formby lay out the premise of why modern humans suffer from debilitating diseases and how light toxicity contributes. Now comes this finding that jives perfectly with that book's premise:

Night life under electric lighting may cause serious behavioral disorders and physical diseases including cancer, according to a specialist team led of the Professor N.N. Pertov Scientific Research Institute of Oncology, Russian Ministry of Healthcare, and Petrozavodsk State University, who have been investigating the effects of night-time illumination on people’s health for several years.

Basically, strong light suppresses melatonin which is necessary for proper hormonal functioning. Think about all of the little lights in your room: alarm clock, LEDs on the DVD player, light coming through the windows, etc. All of that light is wreaking havoc on your hormonal systems by suppressing melatonin release. It is important to make your room as dark as possible and sleep 7-10 (8+ is optimal) per night.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What Are You Optimistic About?

Every year, asks one question, to which numerous scientists and thinkers respond. Here is this year's question, "What are you optimistic about? Why?" Read on for some interesting answers.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Carbs and Cholesterol

Carbs and Cholesterol

South Asians ate the most carbohydrate and had the lowest HDL cholesterol levels, while Chinese individuals ate the least carbohydrate and had the highest levels of the beneficial blood fat, Dr. Anwar T. Merchant of the Population Health Research Institute in Hamilton, Ontario and colleagues found.

Each additional 100 gram per day of carbohydrates was tied to a 0.15 mmol/L drop in HDL cholesterol. Triacylglycerol levels also rose in tandem with carbohydrate intake.

The researchers also found that consuming more sugar-sweetened soft drinks, juices and snacks was tied to a lower HDL level.

Interesting findings, but not all that surprising for those that don't believe in the "high fat equals high cholesterol" dogma. As I've mentioned before, cholesterol is not the danger, but it may signal that the body is trying to protect itself from something. In this case, a higher intake of carbohydrates results in a higher output of insulin and higher blood sugar. Both of these things damage arteries, resulting in a need for cholesterol to patch the holes. Cholesterol is the ambulance at the scene of a crash, taking the blame for the carnage.

High Intensity Training

HIIT Training

This is a great document comparing the effects of standard, moderate intensity "cardio" against high-intensity training. High-intensity training will always prevail over low- or moderate-intensity training. Running sprint intervals is more effective at improving your athleticism than is running 3 miles everyday. Traditional "cardio" work sticks solely to the oxidative pathway, neglecting the phosphagen and glycolytic pathways, the ones that contribute to power and anaerobic capacity. In fact, distance running can actually be detrimental to anaerobic capacity in favor of aerobic capacity. Unfortunately, with the exception of endurance sports such as bicycle road racing and marathons, sports take place in the anaerobic pathways. Basketball, football, boxing and martial arts, tennis, and Olympic weightlifting all are characterized by short, high-intensity bursts followed by periods of rest. Traditional cardio also tends to convert fast-twitch muscle fibers (the power oriented ones) into slow-twitch fibers (non-power oriented)...this is why most marathoners haver very little in the way of a vertical jump. If you want to maintain power and sports capacity, high volumes of aerobic work isn't the way to do it. Try some sprint intervals.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Value of Health Studies

Health Studies Are Worthless to Those Who Care About Health

This is a great article about why we should ignore (or rather take with a grain of salt) health studies. Steve Pavlina points out four basic truths: 1) Everyone has an agenda, 2) you never hear the whole truth, 3) you're unique, and 4) the underlying paradigm is wrong. I disagree with him that health studies are worthless, but many people put WAY too much value into them. They can provide a guide for areas of experimentation in your own health journey, but just because something works in a lab setting or someone dredged data to find some barely-there correlation (which doesn't equal causation), doesn't mean it's going to work for you.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

New Cancer Drug

Cheap, safe drug kills most cancers

This is an interesting article from New Scientist that I happened across a few days ago. They have found a drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), that turns off the immortality of cancer cells. Cancer cells grow into a tumor because they lack the normal mitochondrial activity that signals for apoptosis, or cell death. This drug reactivates the mitochondria so that they can trigger normal cell death, returning cancerous cells to the status of every other cell. The real beauty is that it has no patent and can therefore be manufactured on the cheap. We still lack human trials, but this could be promising.

A Trans Fat By Any Other Name

New fat, same old problem with an added twist?

Study shows a new fat replacement for trans fat raises blood sugar in humans

One day we may learn that we cannot best that which Mother Nature has provided us. Whether through divine intervention, evolution, or some combination of the above, that which is found in nature is the proper food for the human animal. We tried the replacement fat thing with trans fats over the last two decades; it didn't work. We tried the indigestible fat, Olestra; it didn't work. Now we have a new trans fat that has different problems. It suppressed insulin and raises blood glucose, both forerunners of Type II diabetes. The plain truth is this: "If man made it, don't eat it" (I believe that was Jack LaLanne). Stick to meat, vegetables, oils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. The best oils are the two saturated tropical oils, coconut and palm, and olive oil. Yes, that's right. Saturated oils are very good for you. They are resistant to the rancidity that plagues the polyunsaturated fats that are pushed on us and do not require processing to make them shelf-stable. Get some at Tropical Traditions for all your cooking needs. They are very flavorful and full of healthful vitamins, minerals, and fats. And for your own sake, avoid anything that is a man-made fat. We don't have a good track record and that doesn't appear to be changing soon.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ghost Authorship of Studies

Ghost authorship of industry funded drug trials is common

Ghost authorship was defined as present if individuals who wrote the trial protocol, performed the statistical analyses, or wrote the manuscript, were not listed as authors of the publication, or as members of a study group or writing committee, or in an acknowledgment. Of the 44 trials included, 43 were initiated by one of 26 multinational pharmaceutical firms and one by a local company.

That doesn't surprise me. It's interesting how many studies that show support for the pharmaceutical or beverage industry are heavily influenced or sponsored by those same industries. Something seems amiss with our health reporting. If you recall, I wrote previously about the New England Journal of Medicine and pharmaceutical conflicts of interest. Furthermore, our own FDA officials, charged with protecting our health, have their hands in the till, taking money from pharma companies. It's no wonder that our nation's collective waistline is ever-expanding and more people than ever are on pharmaceuticals. We're spoon-fed marketing from these companies in the form of "studies" and the corruption runs straight to the top of the FDA.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Today we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday. In honor of his birthday, it is a good time to hear and read the words of his "I Have a Dream" speech again.

Cheap and Healthful

At the grocery yesterday, I caught a major sale on chicken thighs; $0.69/lb. They come with the bone and skin, but that's okay. The skin has the fat and vitamins and it's easy enough to cut chicken off of the bone. I typically buy it bone-in because it's significantly cheaper and the bone makes the meat more flavorful when cooked. Anyway, the point is that people talk about how expensive it is to eat healthfully. I laugh at that notion. I bought 8 packages of chicken, a total of 10lbs or so, for $10 at the most. That's the cost of 2 fast food meals for several week's worth of chicken. So compared to junk food and grains, it is more expensive to eat healthy. But compared to what most people are eating, it's not. If you eat out for lunch often, you are wasting money and wasting a chance to eat healthful food. You can find sales on stuff and stock up. I keep an eye on the chicken and it never fails to go on super-sale about a week before it goes out of date. Of course, freezing it makes the date irrelevant.

Skip the fast food and spend the money on several meal's worth of healthful food. Spend a few hours Sunday to do some cooking. On Sundays, I usually cook up 3 or 4 packages of chicken and throw it in Tupperware. I'll also cook a spaghetti squash or some sweet potatoes to last a few days of lunches. And yesterday, I made a huge double-batch of Golden Squash Soup. For a few hours of time, you can have days worth of meals.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Finally Some Good Advice About Soy

Soy cancer warning

In today's news out of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, we finally have some common-sense coming out.

The Cancer Council NSW will issue guidelines today, warning about the dangers of high-soy diets and soy supplements for cancer patients and those people in remission from cancer.
"The Cancer Council does not support the use of health claims on food labels that suggest soy foods or phyto-oestrogens protect against the development of cancer.''

Here's another good part of the story:
Soy has earned a reputation as a natural "superfood'' that cuts the risk of breast or prostate cancer, and is commonly included in women's health supplements.

This claim was based on findings that cancer rates were lower in Asia, where soy consumption is high.

And there it is...the truth. It's not based on actual facts. It's based on the finding that Asians have less of some types of cancer. What those proponents won't inform you of is that Asians also have higher rates of some cancers, such as esophagus, stomach, pancreas, and liver. Can soy proponents take credit for lower incidence of some cancers, but not for the higher incidence of others? That hardly seems logical. Besides, Asian diets aren't just higher in soy, they are higher in fruits and vegetables, lower in sugar, lower in refined carbohydrates, and higher in whole foods, all of which are protective against disease.

Rest assured, soy is a huge industry and that is why there is so much "good news" about it here in the States. The reality is that our soy products are not similar in any way to those consumed by traditional Asians. They eat fermented products, such as miso, natto, and tempeh, while we eat precipitated products, like soy burgers, soy dogs, and tofu. The fermentation is absolutely essential to neutralize the many, many antinutrients in soy. And studies have shown that Asians only consume an average of 2 tsp of soy per day, hardly a "high" intake.

From protease inhibitors to goitrogens to high levels of manganese, you can read all about the reality of soy here. It's not a health food. It must undergo extreme processing to be palatable in the form that it is consumed in the US. Soy foods are a man-made item and should not be consumed as part of a healthy diet, unless they are traditionally fermented foods.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

It's Evolution Baby!

'Out Of Africa' Theory Boost: Skull Dating Suggests Modern Humans Evolved In Africa
Earliest Evidence Of Modern Humans In Europe Discovered: Artifacts May Date Back 45,000 Years

I came across these two articles on Science Daily yesterday. One deals with the dating of a human skull found outside Cape Town, South Africa from about 36,000 years ago. It supports the theory that humans evolved in Africa, then moved out into the Fertile Crescent (modern day Middle East), the Near East, Europe, and then on into Siberia and Australia before crossing the land-bridge into Alaska and populating The Americas.

The other article deals with artifacts dated found south of Moscow dated to 45,000 years ago. This is thought to be the earliest evidence of humans in Europe. Artifacts include bone and ivory needles with eyelets, blades, scrapers, and other tools. Also discovered were the remains of large and small animals, including mammoths, horse, bison, and either fish, bird, or both. Interesting stuff!

Idaho Governor Can't Wait to Kill Wolves

Idaho Governor Can't Wait to Kill Wolves

Idaho's governor said Thursday he will support public hunts to kill all but 100 of the state's gray wolves after the federal government strips them of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

This thinking infuriates me. Humans move into an area, then proceed to kill off those "offending" animals that dare to "encroach" on our territory. The same thing has happened in Los Angeles with the coyote, minus the endangered species thing. This governor basically wants to kill off 2/3 of the wolves because they are doing what wolves do, kill elk and such for food. But the elk are part of Idaho's hunting industry, so it's time to harm the ecosystem in pursuit of the mighty dollar. Some things never change.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hold the Milk

For Vascular Benefit of Black Tea, Hold the Milk

Black tea's purported cardiovascular benefits are blunted when milk, even skimmed milk, is mixed into the brew, found researchers here.

Researchers suspect that it may be the casein proteins in milk. Read my previous post on Dr. Loren Cordain's milk article to see more on why milk isn't an essential part of the human diet. In fact, if you're over the age of 3, milk shouldn't touch your lips, especially milk from another species. Milk is for hormone delivery to a baby, passing on immune complexes and perfect doses of essential fatty acids, proteins, and carbohydrates. Unfortunately, cow milk is designed for baby cows, not humans. So a diet high in milk is also a diet high in the perfect dietary needs of baby cows.

Cheese Declared Junk Food

Cheese Ad Banned

In Britain, cheese ads were recently banned during children's shows in an attempt to combat childhood obesity. Yes, cheese!

The Food Standards Agency ranked a 100g serving of cheese as unhealthier than sugary cereals, crisps or cheeseburgers. Their guidelines mean cheese will be treated like other banned foods including mayonnaise, butter, chocolate, colas, pizza and fried chicken.

But cheese producers argue a normal serving of cheese would only be around 40g, and that the fat and sugar content in such a portion would not fall into the 'junk food' category.

I'm not a big fan of dairy and I certainly don't think it's an essential part of a diet, especially if we're talking about pasteurized, homogenized stuff. But to rank cheese below sugared cereals means that the guidelines were pathetic. While the guidelines aren't detailed, my thought is that it's based on fat. Cheese contains fat, protein, and carbohydrates, whereas sugary cereals are carbohydrate only. Ridiculous!

Industry and Studies

Research funded by beverage industry is biased

This article came out a few days ago and discusses the fact that studies backed by the beverage industry are more likely to be favorable to the beverage industry. Surprise, surprise!

If anything, bias was even stronger than for research on drugs, with industry-backed papers being more than seven times as likely to produce a conclusion favouring a company’s product.

Of course, the American Beverage Association rejects this notion in a well-placed marketing attempt. But rest assured, pharmaceutical companies, beverage companies, and many other industries back research that is sure to turn out favorably for them. There is nothing good about the beverages that these people are selling to you. Drink water, tea, and coffee (black of course). And an occasional beer.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Are We Alone Out There?

Did We 'Kill' Martian Microbes? New Analysis Of Viking Mission Points To Life On Mars

Extraterrestrial life is something that I find quite intriguing. It's very hard for me to believe that of all the thousands of galaxies and hundreds of thousands of celestial bodies out there, Earth is the only one with life. That's not to say that I believe there are other intelligent two-legged creatures out there, but life began on this planet and it's quite likely it began on other planets.

Dr. Shameless

Why I Take Drug Company Handouts

An interesting essay by Kent Sepkowitz regarding his history of taking drug company handouts. A very good read.

Friday, January 05, 2007

More on FDA and Cloning

My Big Beef with Cloned Cattle

This is an article I ran across yesterday on Live Science, a great website by the way, on cloning. The author looks at this FDA decision from several angles that I hadn't considered. One thing I had considered, which Mr. Wanjek also makes note of, is the lack of long-term human safety studies. Is cloned food likely safe? Yes. Has this been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt? No. And the FDA isn't known for its consumer-protecting decisions (see Vioxx, etc).

Issue 3 that he brings up, secrecy, is my biggest issue with this whole thing. If meat and milk from cloned animals is perfectly safe, then put it on the market. But let consumers know where their food comes from. Some will not want to eat it for religious/moral reasons, others for health reasons. We are able to see which meats come from grass-fed animals, so why should we be denied the ability to not choose food that goes against our personal nutrition philosophies, whatever that philosophy may be? Unless the FDA is afraid that consumers will reject cloned food... Studies show that a majority of Americans are against it. So they will hide it from us so that we can be against it, but can't do anything about it other than not eat meat.

We have until April 2nd to complain to the FDA. Get on it if you care about your food supply.