Statin Madness. . .
In 2003, sales of the class of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins totaled almost $14 billion, up 10.9 percent from 2002. Growth of this magnitude can only be achieved by rapidly expanding the customer base. First proposed for men deemed “at risk” for heart disease by virtue of “high” cholesterol levels, doctors now recommend statins for both men and women of all ages, diabetics and sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis. The literature even promotes statin use as a cancer prevention measure. The cholesterol juggernaut is not daunted by cautionary studies, such as a review appearing in the May 12, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors looked at studies going back almost 30 years and concluded that statin drugs do not provide any benefit to women who do not have already existing heart disease. More healthy Americans joined the ranks of patients in July with new recommendations to lower LDL-cholesterol (the so-called “bad” cholesterol) to less than 100, 30 points lower than previously recommended. The authors of the recommendations, which were published in the journal Circulation and endorsed by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, have made a living promoting pharmaceuticals, with most receiving honoraria from all the major drug producers, including Merck, Pfizer, Parke-Davis, AstraZeneca, Abbott, Dupont, Sankyo, Bayer and Bristol-Myers Squibb. The challenge for the statin makers is to convince everyone “qualified” to actually take the drugs–only about half of them do. One proposal calls for making statins available as an over-the-counter drug (already an option in the UK). Another, presented at a UK medical meeting by Dr. John Reckless (this is his real name!), calls for adding statins to tap water–like fluoride. (Actually some of the bestselling statins–Lipitor, Baycol, Crestor and Lescol–contain a fluoride compound.) “It would be a great way of protecting people from heart disease before it even starts,” says Dr. Reckless. What Reckless fails to mention is that statins pose a massive risk of severe, horrible birth defects if taken by pregnant women, worse defects than were ever caused by thalidomide. The list of statin-induced defects includes holoprosencephaly (defective septum separating lateral cerebral ventricles with cerebral dysfunction), atrial septal defect, aortic hypoplasia, neural-tube defects, duplication of spinal cord, spina bifida, left renal dysplasia, disorganized lumbosacral vertebra and deformities in the limbs. “We seem to be sleepwalking into what could be a major medical disaster,” writes Dr. Malcolm Kendrick. “Most people, and most doctors, are unaware–or don’t seem to care–that statins should never ever be taken by women of childbearing age. . . . Yet, when statins are available OTC it is absolutely certain that women of childbearing age will take them, knowing nothing of this risk. It is equally certain that a number of these women will become pregnant, and many of these pregnancies will result in horribly deformed children” (redflagsdaily.com, 6/18/2004).
. . . And the Diet to Go with It
Not content to make you depressed, weak, achy and forgetful with statins, the medical profession recommends a lowfat diet of processed foods so you’ll feel even worse. A WAPF member recently diagnosed with “high” cholesterol shared with us the handouts his doctor gave him and it’s the same old, same old–margarine instead of butter, skim milk, nondairy creamer, lowfat milk and cheese, lean meat, skinless chicken breasts, egg substitutes, liquid vegetables oils and lowfat baked goods. No bacon, liver, sausage, cream, full-fat cheeses or coconut but high-sugar items like sherbert, angel food cake, lowfat jelly beans and hard candy are OK. In an editorial, Dean Ornish, dean of the ultra-lowfat diet, even argues that Medicare should reimburse dieticians who counsel heart patients on how to follow this spartan regime (Washington Post, 8/8/2004). Invoking “powerful benefits” including “sustained weight loss, improved sexual function, increased energy, decreased blood pressure, dramatic reductions in angina and better control of diabetes,” Ornish promises that a diet of ersatz, tasteless food will increase your “joy of living,” providing far more motivation than the “fear of dying.” Here’s what we’d like to know: Even if such a diet were effective (which it is not), how many days and weeks would such soul-numbing measures add to the human carcass?
Poking and Prodding
Up to now, only men have been the objects of batteries of medical tests at yearly checkups. No longer. Now the medical profession has focused its sights on women, urging a huge list of annual tests including a medical history; a dietary and nutritional assessment (in case you might still be enjoying real food); questions on tobacco, alcohol or drug use; a discussion of sexual practices (Big Brother wants to know); any history of abuse or neglect; measurements of height, weight and blood pressure; a check for thyroid problems; an examination of the breast, pelvis and skin; a Pap smear to detect cervical cancer; cholesterol profiles; a hemoglobin assessment; a mammogram; a fasting blood sugar test; HIV testing; genetic testing; TB testing; hepatitis C testing; colorectal screening; and bone density screening. After age 40, add a yearly fecal occult blood test and a fasting glucose test for diabetes. After age 50 you are in line for an annual flu shot; yearly counseling and evaluation for hormone replacement therapy; thyroid stimulating hormone screening; and a colonoscopy. Once you hit age 65 you get an annual urine analysis; bone density screening for osteoporosis; and evaluation and counseling in the area of vision, hearing and depression (National Enquirer, August, 2004). After all that poking and prodding, they’re bound to find something wrong with you so that you can step onto the conveyer belt of the medical care system and qualify for a daily dose of drugs.
Choline and the Brain
The Wall Street Journal reports that scientists have found that choline, a B vitamin compound, plays a critical role in brain development (10/26/2004). Choline helps regulate the transport of nutrients into and out of cells and also forms acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory functions. Researchers at Duke University have shown that giving extra choline to pregnant rats during a key window of development permanently changes the way the brains of its offspring are organized and function. For example, rats born to mothers given extra choline performed 30 percent better on tasks relating to memory and attention than control animals; autopsy showed that the neurons in the offspring’s brains were bigger and could make more neural connections. “The amazing part of these studies is that the effects lasted the animal’s entire life, even though it never received any more extra choline except for that one six-day period in the womb,” says Dr. Stevel Zeisel, head of the research project. The problem is, according to the article, “choline has yet to find its way onto the public’s radar screen.” The unstated reason for this lack of public recognition is the fact that the Wall Street Journal, along with the entire US media, have spent the last few decades demonizing the very foods that contain the highest levels of choline–beef liver, chicken liver and eggs. Daily requirements in milligrams range from 375 for youngsters aged 9-13 to 550 for lactating women, amounts supplied by approximately 100 grams beef liver, 150 grams chicken liver or 2 eggs. But instead of encouraging consumption of these foods, the Journal article cites the efforts of Roger Lantz, sales director at the Solae Company (a manufacturer of processed soy products) to raise consumer awareness of soy as a choline source. The problem is, to obtain the requisite amount of choline from soy, you’d have to consume about 400 grams per day, an amount that carries a toxic dose of isoflavones, especially for a pregnant woman.
Buying Local Pays Off
An economic impact study carried out in Austin, Texas, shows that locally owned businesses create greater economic benefits for local communities than large chains. The study compared the economic activity generated by two locally owned bookstores to that of a large national chain and found that the local businesses generated more than three times the economic activity than the chain bookstore. Specifically, the local bookstores generated $45 of economic impact for every $100 spent, compared to $13 by the chain. The reason: locally owned businesses spend more on payroll because they tend to employ their own ad writers, buyers, accountants and other positions, whereas chain stores often centralize these types of positions in a single headquarter location; locally owned businesses purchase more from other locally owned businesses than do chain stores; and a higher percentage of a locally owned business’s profit is recycled back into the community. Another survey of eight locally owned businesses in Maine revealed similar figures. Locally owned businesses returned 44.6 percent of their revenue to the surrounding two counties and another 8.7 percent elsewhere around the state compared to only 14.1 percent by a “big box” retailer. A study carried out in Barnstable, Massachusetts found that many types of development actually drain local economies. The biggest drain comes from fast food restaurants with a net annual deficit of $5,168 per 1000 square feet. Next comes big box retail stores with a loss of $468 per 1000 square feet and shopping centers with a loss of $134 per 1000 square feet. Why? Because these types of businesses require higher road maintenance costs and increased police coverage. The study cited a case in Pineville, North Carolina which faced an increased cost of $120,000 per year for two additional police officers required for a new Wal-Mart supercenter. The additional expense far exceeded the municipal revenue the store would have generated for the city so officials turned down the proposal (http://www.nobigboxes.org/docs/bbr_research.php). Wal-Mart’s failure to provide affordable health insurance to its employees costs California’s state health care programs an estimated $32 million per year (New York Times, 11/1/2004).
General Mills reported a 19 percent drop in earnings this year, a decline that reflects an industry-wide trend. Other food industry giants, such as Coca-Cola and Unilever, also expect lower profits. Manufacturers blame the rising cost of raw materials and stiff competition in the retail sector, specifically citing the influence of Wal-Mart in keeping prices artificially low (FoodNavigator.com 9/22/2004). But changing purchasing habits have also taken a toll; weight-conscious consumers are eating less wheat, fewer potatoes, less orange juice and fewer processed foods in general. A recent victim of this change in spending habits was Interstate Bakery, maker of Hostess Twinkies, Wonder Bread, Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs. The firm has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with more than $1.3 billion in debt. “We are in an industry that is challenged because of consumer tastes,” says turnaround specialist Tony Alvarez. “Twinkies and Wonder Bread are nutritional disasters,” says Larry Samuel, president of Culture Planning, a trends forecasting and consulting firm. “Boomers who ate them as kids now find them socially reprehensible to eat in public. And they don’t want their kids eating them either” (USA Today, 9/23/2004).
The Data Quality Act
Scientist Tyrone B. Hayes, a professor of integrative biology and an expert in frog development at the University of California at Berkeley, found that the herbicide atrazine had demasculinizing effects on male tadpoles leading to hermaphroditism after exposure of just 0.1 parts per billion, or the equivalent of one drop per 5,000 40-gallon barrels of water; and that 100 percent of male leopard frogs in regions that had been treated with atrazine had abnormal sex organs, compared to no such problem in untreated regions. Results like these led the European Union to ban atrazine starting in 2005. Yet, after 10 years of review, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to permit ongoing use in the US, with no new restrictions. The EPA gave the chemical industry what it wanted by citing the recently approved Data Quality Act, written by Jim J. Tozzi, an industry lobbyist, and slipped into a giant appropriations bill in 2000 without congressional discussion or debate. It consists of just two sentences directing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure that all information disseminated by the federal government is reliable. According to John D. Graham, administrator of the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the law will keep the federal government hewing to “sound science” and allows people and companies to challenge government they believe is inaccurate. Conservationists point out that by demanding that the government use only data that have achieved a rare level of certainty, the act dismisses scientific information that in the past would have triggered tighter regulation. In the case of atrazine, the EPA responded to a petition filed by Mr. Tozzi working with atrazine’s primary manufacturer, Syngenta Crop Protection, by claiming that hormone disruption cannot be considered a “legitimate regulatory endpoint at this time.” Other pending regulation challenged by industry under the Data Quality Act includes a ban on wood treated with heavy metals and arsenic in playground equipment, FDA recommendations to limit sugar intake and a report on the hazards of nickel in food and the environment. According to Rena Steinzor, a professor of law and director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland, the Data Quality Act is “a tool to clobber every effort to regulate. In my view, it amounts to censorship and harassment.” Expect the Data Quality Act to be invoked as we lobby to remove another endocrine disrupter from the marketplace–soy infant formula.
Parents and activist organizations have worked hard to have thimerosal removed from children’s vaccines. But as the mercury-based preservative is phased out, mercury has returned to the pediatric scene in the form of the flu vaccine. Current recommendation is two flu shots for babies in their first year and one shot per year thereafter. A single flu shot contains 25 micrograms of mercury, which is 100 times more than kids get in their cumulative vaccinations over several years. The Centers for Disease Control disputes claims that mercury in childhood vaccines contributes to autism but a study by Dr. Mady Hornig from the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University supports the mercury-autism connection. Hornig injected a strain of mice with genetic tissues similar to those found in autistic children with vaccines containing amounts of mercury equivalent to what kids got in the 1990s. The mice developed profound brain problems, repetitive behavior and withdrawal from their surroundings. They resisted change and developed brain abnormalities affecting emotion and thinking, just like autistic children. And what about adults taking the flu vaccine? According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, a speaker at our recent conference, adults who receive the flu vaccine five years in a row are 1000 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
The food industry is looking for a replacement for trans fats, due to be labeled in 2006. For frying, they are using so-called “heart healthy” liquid oils such as canola, corn and soybean, which are invariably rancid from processing and which suffer further breakdown during the frying process. For a solid fat (as a shortening in baked goods like crackers and cookies) the choices are palm oil, “interesterified” oils or “stearic rich” oils. Intesterification is a process that rearranges fatty acids to make a liquid oil slightly solid; full hydrogenation makes a solid fat by forming fully saturated stearic acid out of unsaturated fatty acids; and palm oil is a stable, healthy, natural fat composed of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. The obvious choice is palm oil but it is imported, expensive and the subject of intense industry demonization over the past 30 years. Interesterified oils pose several problems including bad taste and lack of stability; and “stearic rich” oils contain those same saturated fats that you find in the verboten tallows. Definitely a dilemma for the food processing industry.
The Top Fourteen
According to government and media health pundits, the top best 14 foods are:
- Tea (green or black)
This uninspiring list reflects the current establishment angels (anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acids) and demons (saturated fats and animal foods).
Our list of the 14 best top foods, foods that supply vital nutrients including the fat-soluble vitamins, looks like this:
- Butter from grass-fed cows (preferably raw)
- Liver from grass-fed animals
- Eggs from grass-fed hens
- Cod liver oil
- Fish eggs
- Whole raw milk from grass-fed cows
- Bone broth
- Wild salmon
- Whole yoghurt or kefir
- Beef from grass-fed steers
- Organic Beets
A diet containing only these foods will confer lifelong good health; a diet containing only the foods in the first list is the fast track to nutritional deficiencies.