RECIPE FOR DISASTER
The American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have ganged up to target children with a starvation diet guaranteed to saddle them with health and behavioral problems as they enter adulthood (Reuters Health 9/28/2005). Clothed in platitudes–“breast feed through the first year,” “skip calorie-packed, low-nutrient foods, “delay introducing juice until at least 6 months of age”–the new guidelines dictate withholding foods that growing children need most, namely animal fats and salt. Parents are advised to feed them lean meats, skinless chicken, “low-mercury” fish and fat-free milk. In this scheme, children don’t even get the small amount of fat in lowfat milk–it must be fat free! And they don’t get butter either, but vegetable oils and soft margarine. Plenty of whole grains (including extruded whole grain breakfast cereals) mean lots of stress on the developing intestinal tract and salt restriction guarantees suboptimal intellectual development. The phrase that comes to mind as one contemplates the consequences of this appalling advice is “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Consumers have filed the first-of-its-kind, nationwide class action lawsuit against Pfizer, maker of the popular cholesterol-lowering, statin-type drug Lipitor. The lawsuit alleges that Pfizer engaged in a massive campaign to convince both doctors and patients that Lipitor is a beneficial treatment for nearly everyone with elevated cholesterol, even though no studies have shown it to be effective for those over 65, and for women at any age who do not already have heart disease or diabetes. In fact, the ASCOT study, the largest clinical trial on the effectiveness of statin therapy in women, found that women at increased risk of developing heart disease who took Lipitor developed 10 percent more heart attacks than the women who took the placebo. The proposed class action seeks to represent women who have taken Lipitor and who have no history of heart disease or diabetes; people aged 65 and over who have taken Lipitor and who have no history of heart disease or diabetes; and third-party payers such as insurance companies, union health and welfare funds, self-insured employers and others who paid for Lipitor for patients in either of these two groups. The law suit was filed in US District Court in Boston by Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro on behalf of several individuals, Health Care of All and the Teamsters. For further information see www. hbsslaw.com.
UNIONS UNITED AGAINST FLUORIDE
Eleven EPA employee unions representing more than 7,000 environmental and public health professionals have demanded that drinking water fluoridation programs across the country be discontinued. These unions, which represent laboratory
scientists, regulatory support scientists and other EPA workers, have asked EPA management to recognize the finding that fluoride poses a potential serious cancer risk to people. The call for a moratorium came after a Harvard School of Dental Medicine researcher allegedly covered up evidence linking fluoridation with an elevated risk of a fatal bone cancer in young boys. Union members are further concerned about recent work by Richard Mass of the University of North Carolina’s Environmental Quality Institute, which found an association between increased lead levels in drinking water systems when silicofluoride fluoridating agents are combined with chloramines disinfectant. The unions have requested that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson issue a public warning in the form of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would set the drinking water standard for fluoride at zero. One of fluoride’s negative effects is its ability to compete with iodine, a mineral essential for thyroid, breast and whole body health. Increased iodine consumption helps expel fluoride from the body, but levels found in iodized salt are not sufficient to replenish health supplies. For further information, visit the Protect Our Water Alliance website at www.powalliance.org/petition.
SWISS MEADOW CLA
WAPF member Judy Mudrak has come across an interesting article while leafing through the Swiss Federal Research Station for Animal Production and Dairy Products magazine. The November/December 2004 issue contains a study showing that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an anti-cancer substance in the butterfat of grass-fed cows, is three times higher in the butterfat from cows grazing on Alpine meadows than from cows grazing at lower altitudes. Moreover, the CLA concentrations remain high during the whole grazing season. The report notes that CLA can also be of use in human health for weight control, strengthening of the immune system, reduction of inflammation, diabetes and protection against atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and asthma. Natural CLA in butterfat comes as a complex of isomers, each with different effects on the body. One of the isomers inhibits the activity of lipase in fat cells, thus reducing the storage of lipids in the cells. This explains animal studies showing a noticeable reduction in body fat while body weight was not reduced–CLA helps the body make muscle instead of fat. The authors speculate that the higher levels of CLA in Alpine milk are due to a much greater number of different plants on which the cows graze–up to 150–while in the grasslands of the valleys only about 6 species predominate.
BIG MAC DOC
For nearly 30 years, Dr. Dean Ornish has made a living by advocating a very lowfat diet as a way to reverse chronic illness, particularly heart disease. Now it emerges that Ornish is a paid consultant for McDonald’s. His responsibilities include meeting top executives, giving talks to employees and providing copy about diet and breast cancer for McDonald’s patrons on Mother’s Day. Hypocrisy? Maybe not. A McDonald’s meal is surprisingly high in soy and low in saturated fat, the kind he demonizes. That’s because there’s soy protein in the burger and bun plus plenty of partially hydrogenated soy oil in the fries. Ornish is also a paid “consultant”–or should we say “executive conscience assuager”–of PepsiCo and ConAgra Foods.
CSPI AT IT AGAIN
Center for Science in the Public Interest is the group responsible for the replacement of healthy fats like tallow and coconut oil in processed and fried with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. During its 1980s campaign against healthy traditional fats, CSPI assured the public that the replacement for those terrible saturated fats posed no health problem. But once the dirty deed had been done, spokesmen for CSPI professed shock that the industry was using oils containing unhealthy trans fats. In a repeat performance, CSPI has now focused its vitriol on sugary soft drinks, while assuring the public that the artificial sweetener aspartame is perfectly safe. It can’t be a coincidence that the American Beverage Association has recently announced that its board of directors has approved a new school vending policy that would provide lower-calorie and “nutritious” drinks to schools while also limiting soft drinks. Under the new policy, the beverage industry will provide middle schools with only “nutritious”/lower calorie beverages, such as water, 100% juice, sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks and low-calorie juice drinks. . . in other words, drinks sweetened with aspartame (www.ameribev.org). The announcement follows by just a few weeks a report from the Cancer Research Center of the European Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences in Bologna, Italy, that aspartame “induces an increase in lymphomas and leukemias in female rats.” The researchers also found an increased incidence of malignant brain tumors (www.dorway.com).
HEALTHIER FRENCH FRIES?
Meanwhile, food scientists are working to come up with some kind of trans-free vegetable oil that can be used for frying. Dow Chemical Company believes it has done just that. “We may have discovered the recipe that turns a greasy spoon into a healthy heart,” says a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal (9/2/2005). “Imagine: Fried foods your nutritionist would approve of,” reads the text. “Made possible by NATREONTM, a new cooking oil that comes from new canola and sunflower seed varieties developed by Dow AgroSciences. NATREON has the lowest saturated fat content of any vegetable oil and virtually eliminates trans fat, to reduce the risk of heart disease. It maintains the taste and texture of food, so it’s ideal for restaurants, snack foods, frying, and spray oils. It’s expected that healthful oils like NATREON will replace eight billion pounds of partially hydrogenated oil volume. Healthier french fries? Pass the ketchup.” Pardon us while we pass on NATREON.
The trendy new contraceptive patch you’ve seen in the ads works by delivering pregnancy-blocking hormones into the bloodstream. Ortho-McNeil, manufacturer of the patch, touts the device, worn on the shoulder, buttocks or hip, as more convenient than the Pill. The company is the object of a lawsuit charging that the device causes blood clots. Ray Chester, a Texas personal injury attorney, is suing Ortho-McNeil in Pittsburgh on behalf of two women, ages 21 and 43, who suffered debilitating blood clots while wearing the patch, and also in Austin, Texas, for a 37-year-old mother of two left paralyzed after a massive stroke. In the first fatality publicly linked to the patch, a Manhattan student and aspiring model, Zakiya Kennedy, age 18, collapsed in a subway station in April 2004. In the lawsuits, Chester has revealed information on Dr. Andrew Friedman, who is currently senior director of clinical research at Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical in New Jersey. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Friedman admitted to fabricating 80 percent of patient data and altering files in three studies of hormonal drugs for women. He was banned for three years from government-funded research for “scientific misconduct,” resigned from his post at a Harvard University-affiliated women’s hospital and lost his medical license in Massachusetts for a year. Friedman was not involved in clinical trials for the patch but is now part of a team doing further research on the device. “We made the decision to hire Dr. Friedman based on his performance as a consultant and overall reputation in the medical community,” said company spokesman Michael Beckerich, “which was excellent” (New York Post, 5/8/05).
BIRD BRAINED LOGIC
Avian flu is decimating confinement poultry flocks and has even been blamed for the deaths of about 60 people in southeast Asia. The cause of poultry die-off is obvious–overcrowding and horrendous conditions in confinement poultry operations, making the birds vulnerable to infection. But the official explanation points the finger of blame in the opposite direction–at migratory birds and poultry raised in the out of doors! Hard to believe but some officials have suggested culling migratory birds as a way to protect indoor flocks. And in a move that should delight the industrial poultry industry, the Netherlands has ordered all of its 5.5 million free range poultry in doors. Germany, Britain and France are considering similar moves, justified with the bird brained logic that outdoor birds can serve as a vector and “infect” confinement birds with whom they never have any contact. Fortunately, some experts have pointed out that moving poultry flocks indoors doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian with the US Department of Health and Human Services, says it would be hard to argue in favor of such a draconian order, given that infectious diseases often sweep through poultry operations where flocks are raised entirely in chicken houses (Edmonton Sun 8/24/2005).
A new study by the US Department of Agriculture reveals that only abut 30 percent of food in China is processed, compared to 80 percent in western nations. This fact translates into an opportunity for the food processing industry. While most consumers in China “still prefer to purchase fresh foods, there is a clear shift towards processed foods, throwing up untold opportunities for western food firms faced with saturated sales in home markets.” The Chinese food processing industry grew 16 percent between 2001-2002 and a huge 23 percent in 2002-2003. Packaged foods, especially baked goods, dairy products, oils and fats, baby food and ice cream have all demonstrated “exceptional growth. . . . In the upcoming years the industry will focus on the development of corn and wheat goods, dairy products, food additives and seasoning essentials.” For US manufacturers, “Good prospects include infant formula, baking ingredients (nuts, whey powder, flours), fruit flavorings, stabilizers as well as a range of nuts and fruits.” The industry has capitalized on recent “food poisoning incidents” in China that have “increased consumer concern over food safety” and sent many consumers “towards big-name brands that they feel they can trust” (www.dairyreporter.com/news/news-ng.asp?n=60899-china-food-opportunities).