Later On

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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

America once fought a war against poverty – now it wages a war on the poor

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Reverend William Barber and Dr Liz Theoharis write in the Guardian:

In 2013, Callie Greer’s daughter Venus died in her arms after a battle with breast cancer. If caught early, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is close to 100%. But Venus’s cancer went undiagnosed for months because she couldn’t afford health insurance. She lived in Alabama, a state that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Venus’s death is not an isolated incident – more than 250,000 peoplelike her die in the United States from poverty and related issues every year.

Access to healthcare is just one of the issues facing the 140 million people who live in poverty in the US today. Over the past two years, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has carried out a listening tour in dozens of states across this nation. We have met with tens of thousands of people from El Paso, Texas, to South Charleston, West Virginia, to Selma, Alabama, where we met Callie, gathering testimonies from poor people and listening to their demands for a better society.

On Tuesday, we announced a Poor People’s Campaign Moral Agenda, a set of demands that is drawn from this listening tour, as well as an audit of America we conducted with allied organizations, including the Institute for Policy Studies and the Urban Institute, 50 years after the original Poor People’s Campaign.

As grim as the situation was in 1968, the appalling truth is deep inequalities still exist and, in some ways, we are worse off.

While our nation once fought a war against poverty, now we wage a war on the poor. The richest 1% in our country own more wealth than the bottom 90% combined, tightening their grip on political power to shape labor, tax, healthcare and campaign finance policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many. A full 60% more Americans now live below the official poverty line than in 1968, and 43% of all American children live below the minimum income level considered necessary to meet basic family needs.

In the last eight years alone, 23 states have passed voter suppression laws – gutting the Voting Rights Act civil rights leaders helped secure more than a half century ago. This is the true hacking of our democracy, allowing people to win office who deny healthcare, living wages, cut necessary social programs and push policies that promote mass incarceration, hurt immigrants and devastate our environment.

These racist laws hurt not just people of color, but poor whites whose lives are upended by the politicians put in office by the violent extremism that is voter suppression.

Coretta Scott King would call all of this violence. She’d say that violence isn’t just killing people with guns, but denying them living wages, allowing them to live in ghetto housing. We rightfully get in the streets and protest when the police shoot unarmed black men, but we must also stand up to the public policy violence that is ravaging our society. We must no longer allow inattention to violence to keep the poor, people of color and other disenfranchised people down.

People are poor not because they are lazy, not because they are unwilling to work hard, but because politicians have blocked living wages and healthcare and undermined union rights and wage increases. Our nation’s moral narrative is shaped by Christian nationalists whose claims run contrary to calls in the Scripture, which is very clear that we need to care for the poor, immigrants and the least among us.

If you claim to be evangelical and Christian and have nothing to say about poverty and racism, then your claim is terribly suspect. There needs to be a new moral discourse in this nation – one that says being poor is not a sin but systemic poverty is.

The Moral Agenda we announced on Tuesday demands a massive overhaul of the nation’s voting rights laws, new programs to lift up the 140 million Americans living in poverty, immediate attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism and the war economy.

We call for major changes to address systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and our distorted moral narrative, including restoration and expansion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, repeal of the 2017 federal tax law, implementation of federal and state living wage laws, universal single-payer healthcare and clean water for all.

To make sure these demands are heard, poor and disenfranchised people from coast to coast are preparing for 40 days of action centered around statehouses and the US Capitol. Over six weeks this spring, people of all races, colors and creeds are joining together to engage in nonviolent moral fusion direct action, massive voter mobilization and power building from the bottom up.

To prepare for the 40 days, poor and disenfranchised people, clergy and advocates will participate in nonviolent direct-action trainings across the country on Saturday. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2018 at 6:22 pm

Stephanie Mencimer: “Did Drinking Give Me Breast Cancer?”

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Stephanie Mencimer writes in Mother Jones:

I thought I’d done everything right: breastfeeding my children, a careful diet, plenty of exercise. I wasn’t overweight and didn’t have a family history. I bought BPA-free bottles for my filtered water. But on a visit to the radiology department last spring, a pair of red brackets highlighted something worrisome on the ultrasound monitor.

Invasive lobular carcinoma—a malignant breast tumor. This spidery little beast measuring nearly three centimeters meant I had stage 2 cancer.

At 47, I was a decade and a half younger than the median age for breast cancer diagnosis in the United States. Was this just bad luck? Maybe, but the journalist in me was still curious to know: Why me? So I dug into the literature on risk factors to see where I might have fit in. It’s an impossible question to answer definitively for an individual, like trying to prove that a single weather event was caused by climate change. As one doctor told me, “You know who’s at risk for getting breast cancer? People with breasts!”

Still, most of the broad indicators didn’t seem to apply to me. The biggest one is age: The median diagnosis in the United States is at 62, and the highest breast cancer rates are in women older than 70. Another is taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause, but I’m premenopausal and haven’t taken it. Obesity raises risk, but I’ve never been overweight.

Then I saw one that gave me pause: alcohol consumption. I’m not a heavy drinker, but like most women I know, I have consumed a lot of alcohol in my lifetime.

While doctors have frequently admonished me for putting cream in my coffee lest it clog my arteries—a correlation that’s been pretty thoroughly debunked—not once has any doctor suggested I might face a higher cancer risk if I didn’t cut back on drinking. I’d filled out dozens of medical forms over the years asking how much I drank every week, but no one ever followed up other than to say with nodding approval, “So you drink socially.”

I quickly discovered that way back in 1988, the World Health Organization declared alcohol a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning that it’s been proved to cause cancer. There is no known safe dosage in humans, according to the WHO. Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer, but it kills more women from breast cancer than from any other. The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that for every drink consumed daily, the risk of breast cancer goes up 7 percent.

The research linking alcohol to breast cancer is deadly solid. There’s no controversy here. Alcohol, regardless of whether it’s in Everclear or a vintage Bordeaux, is carcinogenic. More than 100 studies over several decades have reaffirmed the link with consistent results. The National Cancer Institute says alcohol raises breast cancer risk even at low levels.

I’m a pretty voracious reader of health news, and all of this came as a shock. I’d been told red wine was supposed to defend against heart disease, not give you cancer. And working at Mother Jones, I thought I’d written or read articles on everything that could maybe possibly cause cancer: sugar, plastic, milk, pesticides, shampoo, the wrong sunscreen, tap water…You name it, we’ve reported on the odds that it might give you cancer. As I schlepped back and forth to the hospital for surgery and radiation treatments, I started to wonder how I could know about the risk associated with all these other things but not alcohol. It turns out there was a good reason for my ignorance.

I was born and raised in Utah, and after my cancer diagnosis, I wondered what would have happened if I’d stayed put. My home state has one of the lowest rates of breast cancer in the country. Observant Mormon women don’t drink, and like other populations that abstain, they have significantly lower rates of breast cancer than drinkers. In Utah, Mormon women’s breast cancer rates are more than 24 percent lower than the national average. (Mormon men have lower rates of colon cancer, which alcohol can also cause.)

Researchers suspect the low overall rate of breast cancer in Utah has to do with the LDS church’s strict control over state alcohol policy. Gentiles, as we non-Mormons are called, grouse mightily over the watery 3.2 percent beer sold in Utah supermarkets, the high price of vodka sold exclusively in state-run liquor stores, and the infamous “Zion Curtain,” a barrier that restaurants were until recently required to install to shield kids from seeing drinks poured. Yet all those restrictions on booze seem to make people in Utah healthier, Mormon or not, especially when it comes to breast cancer.

Epidemiologists first recognized the connection between cancer and alcohol consumption in the 1970s. Scientists have since found biological explanations for why alcohol is carcinogenic, particularly in breast tissue.

When you take a drink, enzymes in your mouth convert even small amounts of alcohol into high levels of acetaldehyde, a carcinogen. People who consume more than three drinks a day are two to three times likelier to contract oral cavity cancer than those who don’t. Alcohol also damages the cells in the mouth, priming the pump for other carcinogens: Studies have found that drinking and smoking together pose a much higher risk of throat, mouth, and esophageal cancer than either does on its own.

Alcohol continues its trail of cellular damage as enzymes from the esophagus to the colon convert it into acetaldehyde. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2018 at 12:38 pm

My current diet advice

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I’ve been tinkering with my diet over the years, and here’s my current approach. I think this is worth considering (the reason I’m posting it). It takes a couple of weeks to get the hang of it, so I would recommend you stick with it for two months and then take stock, evaluating it in the light of your own experience.

Sugar, along with other simple starches (white potatoes, rice, and foods made with flour—bread, bagels, pasta, pancakes, boxed cereals, etc.) disrupt the metabolism, as described in Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes. (Also, his excellent book Good Calories, Bad Calories summarizes the research that demonstrates that not all calories are the same: 100 calories from refined sugar affect the body in a very different way than 100 calories from, say, extra-virgin olive oil. That’s why those who focus only on calories—”just consume fewer calories than you burn”—miss a vital point: the nature of the foods that carry the calories are vital: you cannot (without consequences) ignore the foods and look only at the calories.)

I follow a diet that severely restricts carbohydrates and totally eliminates the simple carbohydrates mentioned above. Unlike fats and proteins, there are no “essential carbohydrates,” so minimizing their intake runs no risk of a deficiency disease. The calories lost by eliminating the carbs are replaced by calories from fat, which is digested more slowly and thus prolongs satiation, meaning that one tends to eat less and/or less often. See A low-carb diet for beginners – Diet Doctor and A Low Carb Diet Meal Plan and Menu That Can Save Your Life for an introduction. If you’re concerned about eating fats, I highly recommend the book The Big Fat Surprise, by Nina Teicholz. (Book links are to inexpensive secondhand copies.)

I should note that I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is why I switched to a low-carb, high-fat diet. That did in fact put my diabetes in remission and I have maintained an HbA1C of 5.7%-5.8% for years now. (If you also have type 2 diabetes—it is unfortunately not rare—I highly recommend The Other Diabetes, by Elizabeth Hiser)

It’s important to note that the LCHF diet is not intended as a weight-loss diet; its purpose is to address metabolic issues. Weight-loss diets require calorie restriction. Many do lose weight on the LCHF diet (because the increase in satiation results in eating less), but that’s not true for everyone, and I was one who did not lose weight on the LCHF diet.

However, when I combined the LCHF diet with the online Weight Watchers Freestyle program, the pounds dropped away easily. I like that program because I can do it online (no meetings) and I have to do very little counting because an enormous number of foods have zero points (though obviously one should not be a glutton in any event). And, best of all, the transition from weight loss to weight maintenance is very easy: you change your setting on your Weight Watchers page from “lose” to “maintain,” and points allowances are adjusted accordingly—there is no change in the way you eat.

Tip: Look to all the zero-point foods and meals you can make with them. If you focus your attention on what you can eat and not dwell on what you can’t (or shouldn’t) eat, you’ll feel much more satisfied with your lot. If you constantly obsess about foods you should avoid, you’ll make yourself unhappy and undermine your will to eat well.

Since vegetables are zero points, we eat a lot more of those, which usually involves a certain amount of chopping. That works best if you have a good chef’s knife. These are modestly priced but excellent:

Mercer Millennia 8″ Chef’s Knife – $13.95
Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8″ Chef’s Knife – $35.99
Mercer Renaissance 8″ Chef’s Knife – $36.45

Watch this excellent 4-lesson series: This Free Online Knife Skills Class Will Teach You Everything You Need To Know You will eventually have to sharpen the knife, but if you get a good steel you can touch up the edge for quite a while. (The knife’s cutting edge will curl over a bit in use, and the steel straightens it out.)

Tip: Do all the chopping and measuring of ingredients before you begin cooking, so that everything to be used is already prepared and measured. I use various prep bowls to hold the ingredients. The cooking then consists of simply dumping the contents from the prep bowls into the pot in the proper sequence and at the proper time. Rinse each bowl as you empty it, and put it into a rack to dry. Cleaning as you go means that when you finish cooking, the kitchen will be clean. (Bowls and measuring utensils that were used with oil will require a little detergent, but for other ingredients a rinse is sufficient.) By doing all prep work ahead of time, you avoid being rushed and frantic when you start cooking. (It took me too long to learn this.) “Measuring” includes weighing (particularly meat), so a digital kitchen scale (about US$10) is a good investment.

One very easy way to prepare meals is the technique Elizabeth Yarnell developed under the name “Glorious One-Pot Meals.” The food is layered in a cast-iron dutch oven. (She recommends using an enameled cast-iron dutch oven; if you use a plain one, which also works, this conditioner will be a big help in seasoning it and keeping it seasoned.)

A 2-qt dutch over is an ample size for 2 meals (for active adults) or 4 meals (for sedentary adults, of which my wife and I are two). The food is cooked for just 45 minutes in a hot oven (450ºF/232ºC), then let rest for 15 minutes. The best thing about the meals, beyond nutrition and taste, is that they make improvisation easy. Check out these links for:

GOPM: Explanation and template
First Glorious One-Pot Meal in quite a while
Lamb sausage one-pot meal
Time for more Glorious One-Pot Meals  

Those offer general guidance and advice, and you can see various recipes here: GOPM | Later On. Once you’ve made a couple, you’ll get the idea and then you can freely improvise. And here you don’t need prep bowls: you add each ingredient in its layer as you prepare it. The pot itself acts as one big prep bowl, then you cook the meal in it.

I have noticed a change in our foods after being on WW Freestyle for a few months. (I do all the cooking in our family.) Sources of protein now are almost entirely eggs, fish, shellfish, and boneless skinless chicken breasts, and we are eating a lot more vegetables (since they are zero points). On the whole, it’s been a healthful change. We eat very little red meat (pork, beef, and lamb) and much less cheese and butter.

Economists will be interested in the effects of just a slight increase in costs (in this case, cost = WW points) resulting in substitution of lower-cost (fewer points) alternatives. Example: 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil is 4 points, 1 tablespoon of butter is 5 points. That small difference is enough that I almost always use olive oil now instead of butter (though I will occasionally use butter). And that sort of gentle nudge on all the foods gradually shifted our diet in a more healthful direction.

Sugar is particularly bad. See The Startling Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s and watch this video:

Note that food cravings can be driven by the makeup of your gut microbiome. If you eat high-starch food, the microbiome tilts strongly toward microbes that prefer such foods, and the microbiome can drive food cravings if those microbes become hungry: Why you’re still hungry: 6 obstacles to healthy eating

By sticking with the LCHF diet (with or without Weight Watcher guidlines), in time your gut microbiome will change to favor other microbes, and carb cravings will dwindle. Dietary fiber is an important food source for gut microbes, so pay attention to it—see How probiotics and prebiotics team up in your gut. I take 1 tsp of inulin and 2 tablespoons of chia seed in a glass of water each morning. Chia seed has benefits beyond fiber, of course. (And BTW, in the LCHF diet, one counts net carbs: total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber. Chia seed has very low net carbs: 2 tablespoons has 13.1g carbohydrates and 11.2g dietary fiber, so only 1.9g net carbs.)

BTW, if you must regularly take antibiotics, which can devastate the gut microbes, you might try Floristor, a yeast-based probiotic unaffected by antibiotics.

Dietary fiber is not just for weight loss: it’s vital to our health. See Fiber Is Good for You. Now Scientists May Know Why.

Plateaus: Plateaus are important in weight loss. They are a time when the body makes changes: shrinking the skin, rearranging things internally, etc. Those who get bariatric surgery achieve rapid and significant weight loss without plateaus, but then cosmetic surgery is generally required to remove the floppy skin that results. My daughter knows a woman who did have bariatric surgery and then had to have cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin on thighs, tummy, and arms.

Knowing that the plateaus serve a purpose makes them easier to endure. She also said that, in general, each plateau lasts twice as long as the previous one. In my current weight-loss regimen, I hit my first plateau at Day 47, and then for 11 days my weight stayed at 208.x, going up and down within that range, before resuming a steady loss. I expect my next plateau will last around 22 days.

Lately I’ve been eating about an ounce of oyster mushrooms a day, usually with my breakfast egg. Here’s why: What Is the Health and Nutritional Value of Mushrooms?. For my wife, I make this recipe each week (and eat a couple myself): Low-carb breakfast on the run. Very tasty, very easy, and light on the carbs—plus she could eat it in the car when she had to commute. It also has the advantage that you cook just once to get 9 breakfasts. For myself, lately I’ve been eating this breakfast, but doubtless that will vary in time. And two scrambled eggs for breakfast takes less than minute, and this pan makes clean-up easy.

An excellent way to cook chicken breasts so they are moist and tender rather than dry and tough is included in this recipe: Very satisfying dinner: Ratatouille with chicken. (You can browse recipes on my blog to get ideas: Recipes | Later On)

I suggest you avoid seed oils (oils like canola (rapeseed), grapeseed, corn, peanut, soybean, cottonseed, safflower—all have bad omega-6 to omega-3 ratios). Soybean oil and cottonseed oil are mostly found in processed foods—e.g., store-bought mayonnaise—so read ingredients labels. (And it’s easy to make your own mayo.). Use avocado oil for high-temperature sautéing (it has a smoke point of 271ºC / 520ºF, higher than any other cooking oil), and use extra-virgin olive oil for low-temperature cooking and as a dressing.

More info here: Healthiest Cooking Oil Comparison Chart with Smoke Points and Omega 3 Fatty Acid Ratios. And regarding olive oil, I highly recommend this fascinating and informative book: Extra-virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2018 at 9:18 am

One reason Chicago is so violent: Brain-damaging lead found in tap water in hundreds of homes tested across Chicago, results show

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Michael Hawthorne and Cecilia Reyes report in the Chicago Tribune:

Amid renewed national attention to the dangers of lead poisoning, hundreds of Chicagoans have taken the city up on its offer of free testing kits to determine if they are drinking tap water contaminated with the brain-damaging metal.

A Tribune analysis of the results shows lead was found in water drawn from nearly 70 percent of the 2,797 homes tested during the past two years. Tap water in 3 of every 10 homes sampled had lead concentrations above 5 parts per billion, the maximum allowed in bottled water by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Alarming amounts of the toxic metal turned up in water samples collected throughout the city, the newspaper’s analysis found, largely because Chicago required the use of lead service lines between street mains and homes until Congress banned the practice in 1986.

The testing kit results provide the most conclusive evidence yet of widespread hazards that have remained hidden for decades. Yet as Mayor Rahm Emanuel borrows hundreds of millions of dollars to overhaul the city’s public water system, Chicago is keeping lead service lines in the ground.

Under the city’s plumbing code — the same ordinance that for nearly a century mandated the use of lead pipes to convey water to single-family homes and small apartment buildings — individual property owners are responsible for maintaining service lines. The mayor’s office has said it is up to homeowners, not the city, to decide if it is worth replacing the lead pipes at their own expense.

As a result, critics say, the city is leaving scores of Chicagoans at risk and failing to seize an opportunity to fix more than one problem when crews dig up streets to replace aging water mains.

“Chicago could be a leader on nationwide solutions to this problem, but instead they appear to be sticking their heads in the sand,” said Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director at the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund and former assistant commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Adam Collins, Emanuel’s chief spokesman, referred questions to the Department of Water Management, where a spokeswoman earlier had said she would need to consult with the mayor’s office before responding to the Tribune’s analysis. Asked why the city hasn’t removed lead service lines it once required by law, the department emailed a three-sentence statement:

“Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, he has made it a priority to improve Chicago’s overall water quality and infrastructure,” the statement reads. “Today, the city’s water exceeds the standards set by the (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) for clean, safe drinking water. And the Department of Water Management continues to take a proactive approach to mitigating lead in our water system and is continually evaluating additional methods of lead mitigation.”

City and EPA officials advise that residents can protect themselves by flushing household plumbing for three to five minutes when water hasn’t been used for several hours. But in one of five Chicago homes tested since January 2016, the Tribune analysis found, samples contained high levels of lead after water had been running for three minutes.

Even after water had been running for five minutes, 9 percent of the homes tested had lead levels above the FDA’s bottled water standard. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2018 at 10:38 am

Finally: Below 200 lbs

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On 25 March I was ready for a brag: my weight was at the threshold of breaking 200 lbs (90.7 kg). The lead-up:

19-Mar 203.2
20-Mar 202.9
21-Mar 202.3
22-Mar 202.2
23-Mar 201.4
24-Mar 201.1
25-Mar 200.4

Nice steady trend. But then a plateau ensued:

26-Mar 201.4
27-Mar 200.5
28-Mar 201.5
29-Mar 200.7
30-Mar 200.7
31-Mar 201.2
01-Apr 201.1
02-Apr 200.8

This morning, at last: 199.6 lbs.

I know enough now to just wait out plateaus: keep up the regimen, given it time, and loss will resume in time. I do have to admit that yesterday I threw a quiet little fit: a glass of wine (4 points) with lunch, which was a piece of halibut—it’s halibut season here, something I did not know about, and the fish counter is stacked with fresh halibut—2 teaspoons butter, and lemon juice (total 3 points). For dinner, roasted Brussels sprouts with 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and roasted salmon with lemon slices and another 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil (a total of 4 points, quite reasonable), but also a Manhattan (10 points) and a late evening salad (no points except 1 point for olive oil in dressing).

So altogether yesterday added up to 30 points, with my daily target being 24 (though I do get 42 points “surplus” allowance per week to use for such blowouts). But still I lost weight: 1.2 lbs. Go figure.

Still, my average weekly loss, which once was 2 lbs, is now 1.6 lbs, still perfectly reasonable. The chart:

I probably didn’t need to include the box, since the shape of the graph makes it obvious when The Wife was away. I do find it much easier to stick to the plan when she is here: planning on-program meals for her results in using the same plan for myself.

Still, glad to finally break through a 10% weight loss total to date.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2018 at 9:26 am

Study links marijuana legalization to fewer opioid prescriptions

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Jessie Hellmann reports in The Hill?

States that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes have seen fewer opioid prescriptions for Medicaid patients, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

States with medical marijuana laws had a 5.8 percent lower rate of Medicaid-covered prescriptions for opioids, the study found.

When states with existing medical marijuana laws began allowing recreational use of the drug, prescriptions for opioids dropped an additional 6.38 percent.

“Overprescribing of opioids is considered a major driving force behind the opioid epidemic in the United States,” wrote the authors of the study, Hefei Wen and Jason Hockenberry.

“Marijuana is one of the potential non-opioid alternatives that can relieve pain at a relatively lower risk of addiction and virtually no risk of overdose.”

Among the eight states that began implementing medical marijuana laws between 2011 and 2016, four had significantly lower opioid prescribing rates: Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Hampshire.

Of the four states studied that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, three had significantly lower opioid prescribing rates during that same time period, the study found.  . .

Continue reading.

Also in the report:

Another study published in the journal Monday found that in states where medical marijuana is legal, there was an 8.5 percent reduction in the number of daily opioid doses filled under Medicare Part D.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 April 2018 at 2:25 pm

NIH rejected a study of alcohol advertising while pursuing alcohol industry funding for other research

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I wish the US had a good Congress that could put a stop to this sort of corruption. Sharon Begley reports in StatNews:

It’s rare for officials at the National Institutes of Health to summon university scientists from hundreds of miles away. So when Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University and a colleague got the call to meet with the director of NIH’s Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, he said, “I knew we were in trouble.”

He never imagined, however, that at the 2015 meeting the director, George Koob, would leap out of his seat and scream at the scientists after their PowerPoint presentation on research the agency had eagerly funded on the association between alcohol marketing and underage drinking. “I don’t f***ing care!” Koob yelled, referring to alcohol advertising, according to the scientists.

Koob also made clear that NIAAA would pull back from such research, recalled Siegel and his colleague, David Jernigan of Johns Hopkins University, who described the previously undisclosed meeting in Bethesda, Md., in separate interviews with STAT. Shocked by the encounter, they retreated to an NIH cafeteria, asking each other what had just happened — and why.

It would take them three years to figure it out:In 2014 and 2015, Koob’s agency was quietly wooing the alcoholic beverage industry to contribute tens of millions of dollars for a study on whether drinking “moderate” amounts of alcohol was good for the heart. Those efforts were brought to light by recent reports in Wired and the New York Times.

Now STAT has found that the ties between Koob, his agency, and the alcohol industry were deeper than previously known — and that he told an industry official he would quash “this kind of work,” to which the industry objected. Doing so would be a radical departure from the NIH mission, in which decisions about what research to fund are supposed to be based on scientific merit and public need.

Koob, in a previously undisclosed email sent six months before the contentious 2015 meeting and provided to STAT, had assured the alcohol industry’s leading trade group that research like Jernigan’s and Siegel’s on alcohol advertising, which was published in respected journals, would never again be funded.

“Sam: For the record. This will NOT happen again,” Koob wrote in a 2014 email to Samir Zakhari, senior vice president for science at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the lobbying group for alcoholic beverage producers.

In a written response to STAT, Koob said the email “was to convey that I had no intention of supporting research that was not of the highest scientific quality. NIAAA funds a vast amount of research on underage drinking, which is among the Institute’s top research priorities.” An NIAAA spokesman said Koob, 70, and other officials were not available for interviews, and NIAAA officials said they could not speak to a reporter without clearance by NIH’s communications office.

At the time of the 2015 meeting, no outsider was aware of NIAAA’s efforts to get industry funding for the very costly study of moderate drinking. With those revelations, Siegel said, “things finally made sense. If they’re soliciting money from industry, they wouldn’t want to do anything that would affect their chance of getting that money. Of course that will bias them toward intimidating researchers who study things [the industry doesn’t] like.”

In fact, Koob was true to his word. Jernigan applied for another NIAAA grant later in 2015, and . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 April 2018 at 11:11 am

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