Later On

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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Science for sale: Philip Morris uses chemical industry consultants to perpetuate ‘light cigarette’ myth

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David Heath writes at the Center for Public Integrity:

In a landmark ruling nearly a decade ago, a federal judge ordered tobacco companies to stop lying.

After listening to 84 witnesses and perusing tens of thousands of exhibits, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler of the District of Columbia took a year to write a1,652-page opinion detailing the companies’ elaborate strategy to deny the harmful effects of smoking.

“In short, [the companies] have marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted,” Kessler wrote in United States of America v. Philip Morris USA.

Kessler noted that the Justice Department, in a racketeering lawsuit, had presented “overwhelming evidence” of a conspiracy to defraud the public. She ordered the companies to take a number of actions, including ceasing to claim there was such a thing as a low-tar cigarette that reduced the risk of disease. The evidence showed this simply was not true.

Yet in about a dozen pending lawsuits, Philip Morris continues to do just that. It routinely argues that the nation’s top-selling cigarette, once known as Marlboro Lights and now called Marlboro Gold, reduces the risk of cancer.

To find scientists willing to make this claim, Philip Morris turned to consultants for the chemical industry. The experts Philip Morris hired work for firms whose scientists regularly contend in medical journals, courtrooms, and regulatory arenas that their clients’ chemical products pose little or no health risks to the public. The firms have been instrumental in delaying new regulations by criticizing the work of other scientists, and emphasizing the doubt inherent in health science. The resultant uncertainty has helped delay attempts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on ubiquitous chemicals with known dangers, such as formaldehyde, arsenic, and hexavalent chromium.

The irony in this arrangement is that the tobacco industry pioneered such tactics. “The tobacco industry wrote the playbook for the rest of the industries,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Whether it’s the chemical industry, whether its climate change … you see it in industry after industry.” Now, it’s hiring consultants who took its techniques and pushed them further in other industries, relying on their experience to contest the scientific consensus on the dangers of low-tar cigarettes.

The industry’s tactics continue to have catastrophic consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attribute 480,000 deaths each year to smoking, equal to one in every five deaths. Since 1964, when the U.S. Surgeon General warned that smoking caused cancer, the government estimates that tobacco has killed more than 20 million Americans. That is 15 times the number of Americans who have perished in all wars combined. . .

Continue reading.

Do read the entire article. The degree of dishonesty is astonishing.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 May 2016 at 1:09 pm

Lead Water Pipes in 1900 Caused Higher Crime Rates in 1920

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post at Mother Jones:

Last year I wrote about a paper that looked at the relationship between childhood lead poisoning and violent crime rates in a whole new way. James Feigenbaum and Christopher Muller compared cities from the early 20th century that installed lead water pipes with those that installed iron pipes, and found that cities with lead pipes had higher homicide rates. Today, Josh Marshall alerts me to the fact that Feigenbaum and Muller have now published a final draft of their paper. The basic results are below:

blog_lead_pipes_homicide

As you can see, the effect is consistently positive. “Based on the lowest and highest point estimates,” the authors conclude, “cities that used lead pipes had between 14 and 36 percent higher homicide rates than cities that did not.” They present further versions of this chart with various controls added, but the results are largely the same. Overall, they estimate that cities with lead pipes had homicide rates 24 percent higher than cities with iron pipes.

As a check, they also examine the data to see if lead pipes are associated with higher death rates from cirrhosis and infant diarrhea, both of which have been linked with lead poisoning:

As expected, we observe large, positive, and statistically significant relationships between a city’s use of lead pipes and its rates of death from cirrhosis and infant diarrhea. Unexpectedly, we find that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 May 2016 at 3:32 pm

One minute a day of strenuous exercise has same health and fitness benefit as 45 minutes of moderate exercise

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Very interesting article in the NY Times by Gretchen Reynolds. The core:

. . . One group was asked to change nothing about their current, virtually nonexistent exercise routines; they would be the controls.

A second group began a typical endurance-workout routine, consisting of riding at a moderate pace on a stationary bicycle at the lab for 45 minutes, with a two-minute warm-up and three-minute cool down.

The final group was assigned to interval training, using the most abbreviated workout yet to have shown benefits. Specifically, the volunteers warmed up for two minutes on stationary bicycles, then pedaled as hard as possible for 20 seconds; rode at a very slow pace for two minutes, sprinted all-out again for 20 seconds; recovered with slow riding for another two minutes; pedaled all-out for a final 20 seconds; then cooled down for three minutes. The entire workout lasted 10 minutes, with only one minute of that time being strenuous.

Both groups of exercising volunteers completed three sessions each week for 12 weeks, a period of time that is about twice as long as in most past studies of interval training.

By the end of the study, published in PLOS One, the endurance group had ridden for 27 hours, while the interval group had ridden for six hours, with only 36 minutes of that time being strenuous.

But when the scientists retested the men’s aerobic fitness, muscles and blood-sugar control now, they found that the exercisers showed virtually identical gains, whether they had completed the long endurance workouts or the short, grueling intervals. In both groups, endurance had increased by nearly 20 percent, insulin resistance likewise had improved significantly, and there were significant increases in the number and function of certain microscopic structures in the men’s muscles that are related to energy production and oxygen consumption.

There were no changes in health or fitness evident in the control group. . .

The research was done by scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2016 at 4:18 pm

A Study on Fats That Doesn’t Fit the Story Line

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Aaron Carroll reports in the NY Times:

There was a lot of news this week about a study, published in the medical journal BMJ, that looked at how diet affects heart health. The results were unexpected because they challenged the conventional thinking on saturated fats.

And the data were very old, from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

This has led many to wonder why they weren’t published previously. It has also added to the growing concern that when it comes to nutrition, personal beliefs often trump science.

Perhaps no subject is more controversial in the nutrition world these days than fats. While in the 1970s and 1980s doctors attacked the total amount of fat in Americans’ diets, that seems to have passed. These days, the fights are over the type of fat that is considered acceptable.

Most of our fat comes from two main sources. The first is saturated fats. Usually solid at room temperature, they’re in red meat, dairy products and partly in chicken. The second is unsaturated fats, usually softer and more liquid at room temperature. They’re in fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Many doctors and nutritionists still argue, quite strongly, that the key to health is to emphasize the unsaturated fats. Others believe that’s misguided.

This week’s news came to us by way of a randomized controlled trial, which I’ve argued repeatedly is the best kind of study to determine how one thing causes another.

The Minnesota Coronary Experiment was a well-designed study that was conducted in one nursing home and six state mental hospitals from 1968 to 1973. More than 9,400 men and women, ages 20 to 97, participated. Data on serum cholesterol were available on more than 2,300 participants who were on the study diets for more than a year.

At baseline, participants were getting about 18.5 percent of their calories from saturated fat, and about 3.8 percent from unsaturated fats. The intervention diet was considered a more “heart healthy” one. It encouraged a reduction in the amount of calories from saturated fats (like animal fats and butter) and more from unsaturated fats, particularly linoleic acids (like corn oil). The intervention diet lowered the percent of calories from saturated fats to 9.2 percent, and raised the percent from unsaturated fats to 13.2 percent.

Continue reading the main story

The average follow-up for these participants was just under three years. In that time, the total serum cholesterol dropped significantly more in those on the intervention diet (-31.2 mg/dL) than in those on the control diet (-5 mg/dL).

There was, however, no decreased risk of death. If anything, there seemed to be an increased mortality rate in those on the “heart healthy” diet, particularly among those 65 years and older. More concerning, those who had the greater reduction in serum cholesterol had a higher rate of death. A 30mg/dL decrease in serum cholesterol was associated with a 22 percent increase in the risk of death from any cause, even after adjusting for baseline cholesterol, age, sex, adherence to the diet, body mass and blood pressure.

Of course, this is only one study. It involved only institutionalized patients. Only about a quarter of the participants followed the diet for more than a year. The diets don’t necessarily look like what people really ate, then or now. But this is still a large, randomized controlled trial, and it’s hard to imagine we wouldn’t at least discuss it widely.

Moreover, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of all studies that looked at this question. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2016 at 9:07 am

The idiot’s guide to low-carb high-fat eating

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I keep my net carbs (total carbs minus dietary fiber) below 50g/day, and it has put my type 2 diabetes into remission. The calories lost by restricting carbs to that extent are replaced by eating more fat— protein intake stays the same. The high-fat diet staves off hunger quite well—fat in general is more slowly digested than carb and in particular more slowly than refined carbs (sugar, flour products such as bread, pasta, pastries, boxed breakfast cereals, and the like). And the slow digestion prevents insulin spikes.

One still must watch caloric intake, of course, but the absence of hunger pains makes it easier to keep calorie intake reasonable. I’ve lost 20 lbs since the beginning of the year, which amounts to 5 lbs/month, a reasonable rate of loss.

Marika Sboros at FoodMed.net has a post introducing LCHF to those unfamiliar with it:

Some doctors and dietitians still say a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet is dangerours. That’s despite compelling evidence to show both safety and efficacy of LCHF for weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even dementia. Some specialists call dementia type 3 diabetes because of its links with diet.

LCHF is a global phenomenon. In South Africa there are three million “Banters”, as fans of LCHF regimens are known in that country. Banting pioneer is UCT emeritus professor Dr Tim Noakes, a world-renowned scientist rated A1 by the National Research Foundation for expertise in both sports science and nutrition. He documented his theories in the best selling The Real Meal Revolution, co-authored with chef Jonno Proudfoot and nutrition therapist Sally Ann Creed that is known as the “Tim Noakes Diet”. Here, in a Q&A, Noakes gives the basics and an Idiot’s Guide to getting started on the LCHF path. First question:

Is LCHF a diet?

No, it’s a lifestyle.

Do you say your diet’s right for everyone – a one-size-fits-all?

There’s no such thing. No diet is right for everyone. LCHF is best for people who have insulin resistance (the inability to tolerate carbohydrate).

Is it correct to call it “Banting”?

It’s probably more correct to call it Ebstein – after German physician Dr Wilhelm Ebstein who first made it high-fat. That was the diet Sir William Osler promoted in his monumental textbook: The Principles and Practices of Medicine published in the US in 1892.

Is LCHF a fad?

Anyone who claims Banting or Ebstein diets are fads knows nothing about medical nutrition history. Nutrition did not begin in 1977 as our students seem to be taught.

Is LCHF the same as Paleo?

The Paleo diet is slightly different; it promotes consumption of only those foods that would have been available to Paleolithic man from about 2.5 million years ago to the Agricultural Revolution starting about 12 000 years ago.  Foods allowed on Banting but excluded on Paleo  are dairy;  fruits are allowed on Paleo but excluded on Banting.

What about Atkins?

The Atkins diet is similar to Banting. Perhaps Banting promotes the use of low-carb vegetables rather more than Atkins did, but the differences are trivial. This shows that (i) first priority, and the commonality of all these diets, is to cut carbs and sugar (and vegetable oils) and (ii) whether you go Paleo or Banting or Atkins is determined by how you respond to the different options in the different diets.  To find the ideal low-carb diet you need to experiment to see how you respond.

Is LCHF extreme?

It depends what you mean by extreme. Moderation is a smug, puritanical word. No mammal eats in moderation. In nature all diets are extreme: lions eat only meat, polar bears mainly fat, panda bears only bamboo shoots, giraffes only acacia leaves.

Is it balanced?

Balance is what has worked for each of these species for millions of years. LCHF can be extremely low in carbohydrate – the one nutrient for which humans have absolutely no essential requirement, but that depends on how sick you are. In 1977, when we were told to eat diets extremely high in carbohydrates, human health started to fail on a global scale.

Your recommended carb range is <200g to <25g, correct? What are the indications?

It depends how insulin resistant you are and how much exercise you do. If you are completely insulin sensitive (that is, you tolerate carbohydrates well, have low fasting blood glucose, insulin and triglyceride concentrations, low small LDL particle numbers; low HbA1c; high HDL-cholesterol concentrations; and absence of fatty liver) and exercise regularly a few hours a week, then it is can be safe to ingest up to 200g carb per day, or at least until your HbA1c rises above 5.5% . That’ll be time to start reducing the carbs.

On the other hand, if you are profoundly insulin resistant with type 2 diabetes, morbidly obese, or with heart disease, cancer or dementia, you’ll probably do best on a very low-carb  diet of about 25 grams carbs per day. This won’t  change even if you do more exercise. Exercise is helpful but doesn’t obviate the need to eat very few carbs, even if you exercise for many hours a week.

What carb-fat-protein ratio is best?

It depends how sick you are. If you’re diabetic, we say 20% to 30% protein, 60% to 70% fat, 5% carbs. The sicker you are, the more fat you need because fat is insulin-neutral. The more insulin resistant you are, the more fat you can eat, because even when the pancreas fails, fat is the only fuel you can metabolise safely without requiring insulin. It’s perfect for blood sugar control.

Any weighing of food on your diet? . . .

Continue reading.

I highly recommend Nina Teicholz’s The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet and/or Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2016 at 7:59 am

Corporate ethics: Pretty low

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Two more examples, just in today’s news:

Mitsubishi Admits Cheating on Fuel-Economy Tests

In the latest scandal to hit the automobile industry, Mitsubishi Motors said on Wednesday that it had cheated on fuel-economy tests for an ultrasmall car it produces in Japan, acknowledging its engineers had intentionally manipulated evaluations.

The cheating affected about 620,000 cars sold in the Japanese market starting in 2013, Tetsuro Aikawa, Mitsubishi’s president, said at a news conference.

But the problem could stretch beyond that make of car. Mr. Aikawa said that the same testing method, which was in violation of Japanese standards, was used on other models in the country and that Mitsubishi was investigating whether fuel-economy ratings for other lines had been exaggerated as a result. . .

A Canadian Energy Company Is About to Expose an Inuit Community to Toxic Mercury

It’s a tale as old as time: energy company proposes big project, energy company says it will have no effects on the local population, local population says it’ll actually poison their land, and their people, for decades.

Classic!

The energy company in question here is Nalcor Energy, and the project is the multi-billion dollar Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam in Labrador, Newfoundland, which got the green light from the provincial government in 2012. Flooding the reservoir to build the dam will release toxic methylmercury into the area around nearby Lake Melville, but Nalcor argues that it will be diluted enough to have no effect on the local Inuit population.

But a new study, commissioned by the aboriginal Nunatsiavut Government and completed by scientists from Memorial University, Harvard, and the University of Manitoba, says that the toxic mercury released during the dam’s construction will have highly detrimental effects on the area’s wildlife and the aboriginal people who live off of it.

More than 200 individuals (and their children and grandchildren) could be affected by the toxic mercury, the study’s authors concluded. Additionally, 66 percent of the community in nearby Rigolet will be pushed above acceptable mercury levels, per the most conservative US Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, according to the report. . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2016 at 9:33 am

Maybe type 2 diabetes is not permanent

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Obviously, it doesn’t just stop, but it does seem as if reducing body fat substantially and avoiding refined carbohydrates can do a lot. Roni Caryn Rabin reports in the NY Times:

Many experts believe Type 2 diabetes is an incurable disease that gets worse with time. But new research raises the tantalizing possibility that drastic changes in diet may reverse the disease in some people.

Recently, a small clinical trial in England studied the effects of a strict liquid diet on 30 people who had lived with Type 2 diabetes for up to 23 years. Nearly half of those studied had a remission that lasted six months after the diet was over. While the study was small, the finding offers hope to millions who have been told they must live with the intractable disease.

“This is a radical change in our understanding of Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Roy Taylor, a professor at Newcastle University in England and the study’s senior author. “If we can get across the message that ‘yes, this is a reversible disease — that you will have no more diabetes medications, no more sitting in doctors’ rooms, no more excess health charges’ — that is enormously motivating.”

It is not the first time that people have reversed type 2 diabetes by losing a lot of weight shortly after a diagnosis. Studies have also shown that obese individuals who have bariatric surgery frequently see the condition vanish even before they lose very much weight.

But the new study, published in Diabetes Care, proved the reversal after diet can persist for at least half a year as long as patients keep weight off, and can occur in people who have had the disease for many years.

The researchers followed the participants after they had completed an eight-week low-calorie-milkshake diet and returned to normal eating. Six months later, those who had gone into remission immediately after the diet were still diabetes-free. Though most of those who reversed the disease had had it for less than four years, some had been diabetic for more than eight years. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

. . . The participants in the Newcastle trial, who ranged from overweight to extremely obese, were told to stop their diabetes medications and start a 600- to 700-calorie-a-day diet, consisting of three diet milkshakes a day at mealtimes and half a pound of nonstarchy vegetables a day.

Mr. Tutty, who weighed about 213 pounds before the trial, lost a little more than 30 pounds, the average weight loss in the trial. The people in the study most likely to respond to the treatment were in their early 50s on average and younger than the nonresponders, and they had had diabetes for fewer years. The responders were also healthier before the trial: They had been taking fewer medications than nonresponders, had lower fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1c before the trial, and had higher baseline serum insulin levels. Three of those who went into remission had lived with diabetes for more than eight years.

Many of the responders are still in the prediabetes zone and at risk for developing diabetes, Dr. Taylor said. “It’s not fair to say they were completely normalized, but they’re at a level of blood sugar where we don’t expect to see the serious complications associated with diabetes,” he said. “That’s why it’s such good news.”

The big challenge for dieters was returning to normal eating, and trial participants received intensive counseling from a researcher on the team about how to eat after ending the liquid diet, Dr. Taylor said. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2016 at 12:24 pm

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