Now that the public has discovered that half of all heart attacks occur in individuals with “normal” or even low cholesterol levels, the American Heart Association spin doctors have found a new enemy of the cardiovascular system–it’s not cholesterol after all, but inflammation (Associated Press 8/5/2002). Replacing “the standard theory through the modern era of cardiology,” low-grade inflammation is said to cause plaque embedded in the arteries to loosen, thereby triggering fatal blood clots. “The implications of this are enormous,” says Dr. Paul Ridker of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It means we have an entire other way of treating, targeting and preventing heart disease that was essentially missed because of our focus solely on cholesterol.” The new way of treating heart disease will consist of blood tests to measure a substance called C-reactive protein, which is a marker for inflammation occurring anywhere in the body (not just in the arteries). But if you think that the new way of treating heart disease will include abandoning the widespread use of statins, those cholesterol-lowering drugs that have so many dreadful side effects, think again. “Many people ordinarily considered at low risk will probably be put on statin drugs, which lower inflammation as well as cholesterol.” Thus, by declaring a new enemy, the medical profession can put just about everyone on statins, which magically not only lower cholesterol but also have a slight effect on inflammation. And because animal fats contain arachidonic acid, which has been falsely accused of causing inflammation, doctors can continue to recommend that people avoid saturated fats. Never mind that saturated animal fats provide vitamins A and D, nutrients the body uses to prevent inflammation.
In 17 years of practice in Tyler, Texas, Dr. Peter H. Langsjoen has seen a “frightening increase in heart failure secondary to statin usage.” Says Langsjoen: “Over the past five years, statins have become more potent, are being prescribed in higher doses and are being used with reckless abandon in the elderly and in patients with ‘normal’ cholesterol levels. We are in the midst of a CHF epidemic in the US with a dramatic increase over the past decade. Are we causing this epidemic through our zealous use of statins? In large part I think the answer is yes.” Langsjoen has compiled a review of studies showing that statins interfere with Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is essential for muscle function–and the heart is a muscle. This phenomenon is well known to the drug companies because Merck & Co has two 1990 patents combining CoQ10 with statins to prevent CoQ10 depletion and its attendant side effects. Statins have created a life-threatening nutrient deficiency in millions of otherwise healthy people while the drug companies have sat back “with arrogance and horrific irresponsibility and watched to see what happens. As I see two to three new statin cardiomyopathies per week in my practice, I cannot help but view my once great profession with a mixture of sorrow and contempt.” Langsjoen has piloted a citizen petition to the FDA calling for a black box warning on the statin package insert information. Langsjoen and colleagues “do not expect any response from the FDA, but ten years from now when the full extent of statin toxicity becomes painfully evident, at least we can, in good conscience, know that we tried and who knows, sometimes small sparks may spread in dry grass (www.redflagsweekly.com/features/2002_july08.html).”
Oops, We Were Wrong
For years the pharmaceutical industry has promoted hormone replacement therapy (HRT), involving the use of estrogen extracted from pregnant mares’ urine, as a panacea for women experiencing difficulties in menopause, and as a protection against heart disease, bone loss and even Alzheimer’s. The enormously successful campaign to get every menopausal woman on drugs began in 1966 when Wyeth-Ayerst, developer of the drug, paid Robert Wilson, an enthusiastic doctor, to write a bestselling book called Feminine Forever and then financed him to fly around the country promoting it. Wilson told women and doctors alike that estrogen therapy “could keep women young, healthy and attractive.” He painted a dire picture of the consequences to women who resisted. “At age 50, there are no ova, no follicles, no thesa, no estrogen–truly a galloping catastrophe.” Wilson promised that estrogen therapy could save women from the ravages of age. “Breasts and genital organs will not shrivel. Such women will be much more pleasant to live with and will not become dull and unattractive.” This offensive propaganda spurred billions of dollars in sales of HRT drugs yearly. Now a rigorous study has found that HRT causes increases in breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. The study did not even show that HRT could reduce the risk of bone fractures. Other trials have demolished the theory that HRT protects against Alzheimer’s. Sixteen thousand participants in the study, the Women’s Health Initiative sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, received notices to discontinue HRT and Wyeth stock fell 24 percent after the report (New York Times 8/10/2002). The lesson: be skeptical of claims for patented medicines. But it’s a lesson that Americans are taking a long time to learn.
Dozens of people in Washington state have become sick from a toxic variant of E.coli that was carried on a Spokane brand of romaine lettuce. As of mid-July, 29 people at a cheerleading camp had confirmed cases of the foodborne illness, apparently from eating “Romaine Toss” lettuce, sold in five-pound bags. The FDA has recommended that consumers should avoid buying the particular brand for the moment (www.fed.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2002/NEW00824.html). Why are we telling you this? Because the incident illuminates the nature of what has to be the Double Standard of the Modern Age–dozens are sickened by raw romaine lettuce and the FDA issues a mild warning to local consumers. No laws have been proposed to require that all romaine lettuce be cooked, banned from interstate commerce or removed from the market entirely. Yet if such an incident could possibly be blamed on raw milk, there would be national alerts and further draconian laws against nature’s perfect food. Hundreds of foods, both raw and cooked, have caused foodborne illness but only raw milk is singled out as something that must be forbidden by state and federal laws.
Bad for Children
The governments of Australia and New Zealand are expected to require a warning statement for lowfat, evaporated and dried milk products, as well as soy and rice beverages with a fat content of no more than 2.5 percent. The warning labels will alert parents that such products could retard growth and cause chronic diarrhea in children under the age of two. The body must call on its reserves of vitamin A to process the high-protein content of such products and for growing children the results can be disastrous. The results of consuming lowfat products can be disastrous for older children and adults as well, but they are not always so immediately obvious.
The damage caused by imitation and lowfat foods is becoming more apparent, and those who are suffering the most are our children. The latest US census has found that one in every 12 US children and teenagers–about 5.2 million–has a physical or mental disability. The figures, which cover children ages 5 to 20, are the first collected on childhood disability in the census in more than a century. But data from other sources have shown a rapid increase in the number and rate of childhood handicaps. Special education enrollment rose twice as fast as overall school enrollment in the past decade and a growing number of children receive federal Social Security payments because they suffer from serious disabilities (Washington Post 7/5/2002). Furthermore, the numbers of low-birthweight babies are increasing, with greater increases in the suburbs than the cities. In 1999, 8.9 percent of urban babies weighed 5.5 pounds or less and 7.0 percent of suburban babies were born that small. Since 1990 the rate of low birthweight babies grew by 14 percent in the suburbs versus 5 percent in the cities. The trend is attributed to increasing numbers of older women using fertility drugs, which leads to more twins, triplets and higher order multiples, babies that are likely to be small. But the trend could also be due to the relentless decline in the quality of the food supply. Low birthweight babies are more prone to be sickly and have physical handicaps than babies born at normal weight (Associated Press 8/6/2002).
More women are taking fertility drugs because of increasing rates of infertility. An indication that more and more women are having trouble conceiving children is revealed in the declining teenage birthrate, which has reached its lowest level in 60 years. Between 2000 and 2001, the birth rate for all teenagers declined 5 percent. For African American teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17, the decline was a significant 8 percent (Washington Post 6/7/2002). Public health officials have cited “higher levels of sexual abstinence among teens and better use of contraceptives” as the reason, but anyone who has spent much time around teenage girls these days is likely to be skeptical of this explanation. The probable culprit is the abysmal diet of our teenage girls, many of whom were given soy formula as infants, who now eat mostly fast food loaded with sugar and hydrogenated fats, and who think it is cool to be a vegetarian.
Belgium’s Health Minister Magda Aelvoet has issued a ban on the sale of chewing gum, tablets and drops that contain fluoride because officials feared they could cause health problems in people who use them to excess. The ban stops short of removing fluoride from toothpaste although such a proposal is being discussed. The Health Ministry made its decision after the results of a study commissioned by an advisory board found that excessive use of fluoride products could cause fluoride poisoning, damage to the nervous system and osteoporosis (Reuters 7/31/2002). Aelvoet has been the target of vociferous criticism, particularly by associations representing the dental profession, but so far is holding her ground. Pharmaceutical companies are well aware that fluoride used to “prevent dental caries” can cause periodontal bone loss. In 1998, the pharmaceutical company Sepracor filed a patent for a drug to control “periodontal bone loss precipitated by the fluoride, by providing a combination of fluoride and NSAID. . . . We have found that fluoride, in the concentration range in which it is employed for the prevention of dental caries, stimulates the production of prostaglandins and thereby exacerbates the inflammatory response in gingivitis and periodontitis. . . thus, the including of fluoride in toothpastes and mouthwashes for the purpose of inhibiting the development of caries may, at the same time, accelerate the process of chronic, destructive periodontitis (www.thememoryhole.org/health/fluoride-patent.htm).” Here’s a question: if fluoride causes inflammation, could the widespread use of fluoride-containing toothpastes be contributing to the epidemic of heart disease, now said to be caused by inflammation?
The discovery of significant levels of acrylamide in cooked and fried foods like french fries, crackers and breakfast cereals has been widely reported in the press. Scientists speculated that acrylamide, a potent nerve toxin in humans and an endocrine disrupter that affects male reproduction and causes birth defects and cancer in animals, is somehow formed during the cooking process. These reports did not reveal the fact that acrylamide is a building block for the polymer polyacrylamide, a so-called “inert” ingredient added to herbicide mixtures to reduce spray drift and act as a surfactant. Roundup, the glyphosate herbicide made by Monsanto Corporation, is of particular concern because the herbicide interacts with the polymer. Experiments show that heat and light contribute to the release of acrylamide from polyacrylamide, and glyphosate was found to influence the solubility of polyacrylamide, so care was advised in mixing the two. Cooking or frying vegetables or grains exposed to polyacrylamide-containing herbicides releases even more acrylamide. Polyacrylamide is a “trade secret” additive in North America and information on the contents of herbicide preparations is not available to the public (www.i-sis.org.uk/acrylamide/php). So what is the public to do? Don’t eat any food, especially cooked or fried food, that is not organic.
Death of Frankenfoods?
The Organic Consumers Association reports that on July 30, 2002, Monsanto announced they were backing off “indefinitely” from plans to commercialize herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready wheat. The reason: heavy opposition from farmers, consumers and even major US food corporations such as General Mills. One large European Union grain miller told wheat industry leaders that his company would “stop buying US or Canadian wheat at once” if GE wheat was allowed on the market. GE wheat joins a growing list of other abandoned GE crops including the Flavr Savr tomato, the Endless Summer tomato, Bt potatoes, GE flax, herbicide-resistant sugar beets and StarLink corn. GE rice has been put on indefinite hold and Monsanto’s controversial recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) has been banned in every major industrialized nation except for the US, Mexico and Brazil. Although Monsanto characterizes their back off from GE wheat as a “delay,” even Wall Street is now admitting that consumers are never going to accept GE wheat. Other bad news for Monsanto includes the announcement on June 12 that Argentina, its second largest customer for GE soybean seeds, is bankrupt and that its soybean farmers would no longer be able to receive seeds on credit; and that Oregon voters will get a chance to vote on mandatory labeling for GE foods in November. If Oregon voters pass the initiative, anti-GE campaigners have vowed to place similar measures on the ballot in a dozen states, including Colorado, Washington and California (Biodemocracy News #40, www.organicconsumers.org).
Food columnists have been abuzz since the publication of science writer Gary Taube’s exposé in The New York Times Magazine, July 7, 2002. “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” he asks, and then proceeds to explain why the USDA-endorsed high-carb diet is more likely to make us fat (and diabetic) than a diet containing higher levels of fat. Many dieters wrote to the newspapers confirming that only the Atkins-type diet helped them lose weight and keep it off. Lowfat guru Dean Ornish got plenty of column space to sputter about the dire consequences of a high-fat diet, and prime time exposure on Oprah Winfrey’s show to warn dieters about the Atkins regime. Oprah was polite but noncommittal. According to the tabloid Globe, August 6, 2002, Oprah’s days of yo-yo dieting are over. She has come down to a reasonable weight of 174 pounds and is “filled with joy.” Her successful dieting approach? Eliminate the “white stuff”–potatoes, white rice, pasta, refined sugar, bread and salt. We don’t agree that Oprah should eliminate salt, but we’re glad that she has found the winning combination–reasonable expectations and an elimination of all those high-carb foods that we’ve been told will keep us slim.