Statin pushers are citing two studies as justification for putting people with “normal” cholesterol levels—millions more Americans—on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. One is the Jupiter study, in which the statin Crestor was said to “dramatically cut deaths, heart attacks and strokes in patients who had healthy cholesterol levels but high levels of a protein associated with heart disease.” (We commented on the spurious benefits of statins in the Jupiter study in the Winter, 2008 issue of Caustic Commentary.) The other was a study at UCLA in which half of 131,000 hospital admissions for heart disease had normal LDL-cholesterol levels. By the tortured logic of statin-numbed brains, this means that the ideal LDL level was set too high and the “majority of people would be recommended to take a statin” (Reuters Health, January 14, 2009). Meanwhile, research to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that cholesterolreducing drugs may lessen brain function. According to Yeon-Kyun Shin, a biophysics professor in the department of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, studies indicate that the drugs may keep the brain from making cholesterol, thereby affecting the machinery that triggers the release of neurotransmitters. “Neurotransmitters affect the data-processing and memory functions,” says Shin. “In other words, how smart you are and how well you remember things.” Another study found that obese men taking statins had a fifty percent increase in prostate cancer (News Wire Services, August 22, 2008). (Statin promoter Professor Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University dismissed the findings as a “statistical fluke.”)
No Population Group Left Behind
Pregnant women are targets for statins again with the publication of a study on mice, which indicates that “statins may be able to prevent miscarriages in women who are suffering from pregnancy complications caused by antiphospholipid syndrome (APS)” (Science Daily, October 11, 2008). Whether or not the biochemical changes observed in the mice on statins will result in fewer miscarriages in human women, one thing is certain: giving pregnant women statins is bound to result in more birth defects, horrible birth defects. Statins are listed as a Category X drug in pregnancy, along with thalidomide and Accutane. The March of Dimes has opposed the sale of over-the-counter statins because of birth defect risk. Governments in Canada, France and Sweden have issued warnings against statin use in pregnancy. Even the cholesterollowering spread Becel Pro-Activ contains a warning to women of child-bearing age not to use the product. But none of that deters the statin-pushers, determined to leave no population group behind.
Why the renewed push to get more people, even pregnant women, on statins? Perhaps because nearly half of all patients discontinue the medicine after a year of treatment, even though their doctors recommend treatment for decades, or even for life (www.npr.org, November 18, 2008). These findings are from a study of 435 patients treated at Kaiser Permanente of Colorado. The most common reason for stopping, according to a patient survey, was side effects, including muscle cramping. Patients also stopped the treatment because they thought it was unnecessary or were worried about developing side effects in the future. According to Kaiser researcher Dr. John Steiner, “It’s hard to know whether these symptoms are really due to the drug. . . it may be that people are paying more attention to their physical sensations after they start a new medication.” Instead of taking patient complaints seriously, doctors are calling for more “education,” that is, browbeating. “We showed that if you educate the patients, they’re more likely to continue their medication,” says Kaiser Permanente clinical pharmacist Brandy McGinnis. She spends a lot of time trying to clear up unanswered questions on the phone. “Patients don’t always understand the connection between high cholesterol and blocked arteries.” Since a simple perusal of the internet reveals the connection to be spurious, and statin side effects to be common, expect more and more people to “non-comply,” and more and more shrill voices for putting more people on statins.
The food formulators are at it again, coming up with fake ingredients not fit for human consumption. Advanced Food Systems has launched a range of new egg replacement ingredients for bakery goods which “will help food manufacturers reduce the cost of using whole eggs.” The product is a blend of starches, gums and other ingredients said to maintain “natural texture and flavor, excellent air cell structure and finished product volume, whilst remaining tender and moist through extended storage periods” (foodnavigator-usa.com, June 18, 2008). Unilever is working on “ice cream innovations” that will “give the consumer varied sensory experiences, with new products such as drinkable fizzy ice” (foodnavigator-use.com, June 24, 2008). Kraft Foods has invested in a novel ingredient screening technology that uses mathematics to identify new compounds with specific health benefits. Replacing the oldfashioned way of getting health benefits—it’s called eating, eating real food—Kraft will use the new technology to create a “digital fingerprint” for a group of active compounds with a desired health benefit (nutraingredients-usa.com, January 14, 2009). Another trick comes from Advanced Food Systems, which has introduced Actobind® ingredient systems for “injection, tumbling or other processes in a wide range of end products” in order to reduce costs in meat, poultry and seafood products. The new formulations replace sodium phosphate and can be labeled “all-natural and allergen-free” (foodprocessing.com/vendors/products/2009/015.html). At the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, England, scientists are experimenting with foods that trick the body into feeling full. Normally the body does this by eating fat, but the European scientists are investigating “chemical injections or implantable devices that interfere with the digestive system” and coating “fat droplets in foods with modified proteins from plants” (msnbc.msn.com/id/27336651/). In an attempt to shore up the bad image of soft drinks, Swiss-based Bischofszell has introduced a “tooth-friendly” soft drink sweetened with isomaltulose. It has an acid-free composition made possible by the aseptic process used to bottle the product—the acid in soft drinks is considered to cause erosion of tooth enamel. The beverage will carry the “Happy Tooth” logo of Toothfriendly International, a nonprofit organization for better oral health (http://www.foodnavigator-asia.com/, February 19, 2009). (Isomaltulose, or malitol, was denied FDA GRAS status in 1994 after animal studies showed bowel and intestinal cancer after six weeks of low level ingestion.) Finally, visit crayonsinc.com to learn about “uniquely formulated FUNctional Fruit Juice Drinks and Sports Drinks for KIDS,” including a Calcium Booster, Immunity Defender and a fiber-enhanced Afternoon Pick-Me-Up. The ingredients in these new “foods” are fake, but the diseases they cause are all too real.
Formulation for Success: Butter and Bacon
Meanwhile, three Canadian men have claimed a new record for the fastest journey across Antarctica to the South Pole, completing the journey of seven hundred miles in just over thirty-three days. They endured grueling trekking, altitude sickness, vertigo, and painful blisters on a seven-thousandcalorie- per-day diet of deep-fried bacon, cheese and chunks of butter (msnbc.msn.com, January 9, 2009).
Open Unhappiness Campaign
Coca-Cola is launching a new global ad campaign, hoping to appeal to consumers’ longing for comfort and optimism at a time when the weakening economy is sapping soft-drink sales. We are not making up the following ad summaries, taken from the company’s website, coca-colacompany.com. “In today’s busy world, everyone has become dependent on technology. While iPhones, BlackBerries, texting and computers keep people virtually linked, they create a lack of real connection between people, causing them to morph into avatars. The unexpected sharing of a Coca-Cola between two people in a diner breaks down digital walls and creates a human connection through a moment of happiness.” Here’s another: “On an unbearably hot day, two fierce monsters wreak havoc on a sweltering city. Just when it seems destruction will be complete, their differences dissolve when they come together over an ice-cold Coca-Cola. When these eternal enemies Open Happiness, peace and fun return to the city and its relieved, refreshed citizens.” Just one more proof of the axiom: there is no truth in advertising (except in Wise Traditions, of course).
Medicine of the Future?
McKesson is the eighteenth largest corporation in the U.S. and the largest corporation of any kind involved in health care. The company processes about 80 percent of all prescriptions written in America. In an article published in the February, 2009 issue of Harper’s Magazine, McKesson CEO, John Hammergren provided his vision for the future of medicine: “When my oldest daughter has her first child, I believe that baby will get a genomic profile for roughly $800. The data obtained through that profile will be stored in a central information system called an integrated delivery network (IDN), to which primary care physicians and specialists will have access throughout the course of my grandchild’s life. . . My grandchildren’s doctors will know from the moment of birth the likelihood that they will develop some form of chronic condition, cancer or other significant illness. This knowledge will shape and form their health care for the rest of their lives. Compared to today’s 40-year gap in treatment, my grandchildren will receive constant monitoring and prevention. Tapping the database’s artificial intelligence, their doctors will know which clinical interventions will be most effective, which cardiology or cancer drugs they will respond best to, and when care should be delivered.” Translation: the medicine of the future will create a pathological fear of disease and death from the moment of birth, and subject patients to all sorts of harebrained diets and harmful treatments for illnesses they don’t even have in the name of the greater good. Database companies like McKesson will profit enormously while the general population will succumb to poor nutrition and paralyzing angst.
Vitamin A to the Rescue Again
Anemia is a major health concern for children in Third World countries. In a study of children in Bangladesh, vitamin A supplementation proved to be the most successful micronutrient intervention for treating the debilitating condition (Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition 2008 Sep;26(3):340-55). The researchers noted that no sign of improvement appears with iron-supplementation programs. While American medical personnel are hell bent on demonizing vitamin A, researchers in other parts of the world are developing a grudging appreciation for the role of vitamin A in mineral metabolism.
Liver and Shellfish for the Brain
While one branch of the UK government is warning people not to eat liver, other British researchers have discovered that foods rich in vitamin B12, such as liver and shellfish, can protect against brain shrinkage leading to declining memory and dementia. Researchers from the University of Oxford looked at a group of people between ages 61 and 87. Those with the lowest levels of B12 were more likely to show signs of brain shrinkage, even though these levels were still above a threshold used by some scientists to define vitamin B12 deficiency (Neurology 2008 71(11): 826-832). But don’t look for appeals to eat more liver or shellfish anytime soon. According to Dr. Susanne Sorensen of the British Alzheimer’s Society, “The best way to reduce your risk of developing dementia is to keep active, eat a balanced diet, don’t smoke and visit your GP to get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked” (news.bbc.co.uk, September 9, 2008).
Size 14 Gals Have More Fun
According to a study sponsored Kellogg’s® Special K® cereal, “Size 14 women are the happiest with their life and looks” (National Enquirer, February 2, 2009). “A quarter of gals who wear that dress size are as thrilled as can be with their situations, while 43 percent of size 14s were pleased as punch with their careers and almost 33 percent are content with their love life.” Second happiest are size 12s, followed by size 8, size 16, size 10, size 6 and size 18. Perhaps size 14 is the happiest because women of this size—not too thin and not too large—are the best nourished.
Which Planet Are These Guys From?
Last August, Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences sponsored an agriculture “myth buster” lecture series which aimed at debunking the following myths: high milk production burns out cows; grass-fed and organic beef is better for consumers; large scale agriculture is the end of the family farm; and agriculture is harmful to the environment. More disdain for organic and pasture-based agriculture comes from Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), who recently disparaged small and organic farmers during the confirmation hearings for Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture. Roberts described the typical small farmer as literally small—about five feet two inches—“and he’s a retired airline pilot and sits on his porch on a glider reading Gentleman’s Quarterly—he used to read the Wall Street Journal but that got pretty drab—and his wife works as a stock broker downtown. And he has forty acres, and he has a pond, and he has an orchard, and he grows organic apples. Sometimes there is a little more protein in those apples than people bargain for, and he’s very happy to have that.” If this description applies to any of our hardworking organic farmers, please let us know.
According to Fred Pritzker, a Minneapolis lawyer whose law firm specializes in the area of foodborne illness litigation, the biggest E. coli outbreaks of 2008 show a problem getting worse. Between June and November, 2007, thirty million pounds of beef were recalled by twenty different companies. In keeping with the axiom that ground beef is the most common vector for E. coli O157:H7, 2008 was marked by multi-state outbreaks of infections that were associated with beef trimmings for hamburger produced by Nebraska Beef of Omaha. The company ordered two major recalls of tainted beef in June and July. But by far the largest E. coli outbreak of the year was centered at a lone family restaurant in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, which sickened 341 people, hospitalized 72, and led to the death of one 26-year-old man, a gospel singer. The year also was highlighted by a major E. coli outbreak related to fresh produce. In 2006, U.S. consumers were rocked by a deadly E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with bagged spinach. In 2008, the tainted leafy green vegetable was iceberg lettuce bagged at a food plant in Detroit. The outbreak sickened at least 50 people. Some researchers believe a possible explanation for increased prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in cattle is related to a byproduct of ethanol. Called distillers grain, it became increasingly abundant as cattle feed during ethanol’s boom in 2006, 2007 and early 2008. A study by researchers at Kansas State University found higher levels of E. coli O157:H7 in the feces of cattle fed a diet that included distillers grain, which is cheaper than corn. Confinement dairy operations are now routinely placed near ethanol production plants so the cows can be fed the chemically polluted ethanol swill—we’ve come full circle to the inner city swill dairies of the 1800s, with fingers still pointed at raw milk as the culprit for disease. After citing outbreak after outbreak from beef or produce irrigated with contaminated water, Pritzker warns us against drinking raw milk (prweb.com/releases/2008/12/prweb1780154.htm).
A Message from Tommy Thompson
In an interview on February 11, 2009, the former secretary of Health and Human Services gives us the math: there are 82 million food poisonings per year, about one per four individuals in the U.S., requiring 350,000 hospitalizations and resulting in 8,000 deaths. The FDA has 700 inspectors responsible for inspecting 64,000 food facilities. Thus, an FDA inspector may get to a food processing plant once every six or seven years (foodhaccp.com/memberonly/newsletter339.html). Solutions proposed range from more inspectors to a new food agency with police state powers when the obvious answer is the elimination of confinement animal facilities in favor of small farms, artisan processing and direct food sales.