ANTI-BUTTER FORCES FOILED AGAIN
A recently published meta-analysis looked at almost three hundred fifty thousand subjects in twenty-one studies to assess the correlation between saturated fat consumption and cardiovascular disease. The conclusion: intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of heart disease or stroke (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 13, 2010). The authors noted that studies showing a significant association of saturated fat with heart disease “tended to be received more favorably for publication” than those studies showing a negative correlation or no correlation. Did you read about this study in a newspaper; was it featured in the health section; was it reported on TV? Not at all; mainstream media response has been one of complete silence. Meanwhile, the voices demonizing saturated fat have become ever more shrill. A study published in the September 2009 Journal of Clinical Investigation accuses saturated fat of interfering with brain chemistry and making people eat more. The title of the accompanying press release: “Ice Cream May Target the Brain Before Your Hips” (Science Daily, September 19, 2009). Dr. Gabe Mirkin claims that a study on mice shows that a high-saturated fat diet prevents the building of muscle mass (www.drmirkin.com/public/ezine012410.html). Among many details about this study Mirkin neglects to mention is the fact that the “high-fat” diet was only about 25 percent saturated fat, with almost half the fat as omega-6 fatty acids. For a blatantly industry-oriented anti-saturated fat website—sponsored by Unilever—visit www.satfatnav.com. Unilever’s public relations company helped UK physician Shyam Kolvekar declare that butter should be banned, with headlines in the Daily Mail (www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1244048/Ban-buttersave-thousands-lives-says-heart-surgeon.html). Fortunately, public cynicism about the anti-butter forces surfaced with a vengeance, with hundreds of sarcastic comments posted after the article. Journalist Clarissa Dickson Wright countered with an article in the same publication, noting that she enjoys toasted crumpets “absolutely dripping with unsalted butter. . .”
Andrew Wakefield was one of many co-authors who published a paper linking autism with gut dysbiosis in The Lancet, 1998. Now the British publication has withdrawn the report, which tangentially linked the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to autism, no doubt due to heavy industry pressure (WSJ.com, February 3, 2010). This action was followed by the withdrawal of another study, in which Wakefield participated, from the journal NeuroToxicology. Wakefield and colleagues found that newborn monkeys given the hepatitis B vaccine containing the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal experienced developmental delays compared to monkeys that received a saline placebo or no injection. The infant monkeys were raised identically and tested daily by a blinded observer for the acquisition of nine survival, motor and sensorimotor reflexes. The vaccinated animals manifested significant delays in the acquisition of three survival reflexes, root, snout and suck, compared with controls. Those with lower birth weight and lower age suffered the most detrimental effects. In another recent paper, researchers found that boy babies receiving the hepatitis B vaccination had a three-fold greater risk for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Annals of Epidemiology 2009 Sept 19(9):659). While the pharmaceutical industry works non-stop to sweep the growing evidence of vaccination damage under the rug, more and more parents are just opting out. According to the CDC, nationwide rates for fully vaccinated children are about 75 percent, and as low as 60 percent in some states, such as Montana (www.usnews.com, August 27, 2008). In some areas, such as Ashland, Oregon, in some schools, up to three quarters of the children are unvaccinated (www.oregonlive.com, August 27, 2008).
THE ANTIOXIDANT MYTH
Antioxidants like vitamin C are the latest darling of the supplement industry. In the Winter 2009 Caustic Commentary section, we reported on the adverse effects of large doses of vitamin C on endurance capacity. Vitamin C is the most popular antioxidant supplement, often taken in amounts exceeding 1000 milligrams. An alert reader has pointed out a new study that evaluated the effects of 1000 mg per day of vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) and 400 IU per day vitamin E on previously untrained and pretrained men before and after a four-week intervention of physical exercise. The purpose of the study was to determine the effect of antioxidants on harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS), which increase in the mitochondria during exercise. The surprising results: exercise increased parameters of insulin sensitivity and ROS defense capacity only in the absence of antioxidants. Further, mediators of endogenous ROS defense (superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase) were also induced by exercise and this effect was also blocked by antioxidant supplementation. It appears that the exercise-induced improvement in insulin sensitivity and defense against ROS is the result of the increase in ROS (which is tightly controlled), and that antioxidants, by destroying the ROS actually prevent the health-promoting effects of exercise (www.pnas.org/content/106/21/8665.long). In a related study, scientists from Kansas State University report data from animal studies suggesting that some antioxidants may deplete the body of compounds like hydrogen peroxide, which plays a role in the relaxation of blood vessels. According to Professor David Poole, “We’re now learning that if antioxidant therapy takes away hydrogen peroxide—or other naturally occurring vasodilators, which are compounds that help open blood vessels—you impair the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscle so that it doesn’t work properly” (www.nutraingredients.com, January 27, 2010).
Estimates of how many Americans take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs range from eleven to thirty-six million. Even the higher number seems low—about 12 percent of the population— considering the pharmaceutical industry’s huge push to get everyone on statins. Furthermore, a study out of Great Britain indicates that only a small number of people actually stick to the drugs once they are prescribed. In one study, only 21 percent of people were still taking their medicine after three years; another found that only about half were still filling their prescriptions after five years (Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2010;64:109- 113). In the newspaper report, researchers noted that it is easier to keep people on their meds than convince new patients to take them. They suggested several ways of nagging people to continue with the statins, including telephone reminders, personal alarms and “better information about the medicine.” If a patient has side effects or is “confused” about “scare stories” on the internet, “it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor rather than simply give up on your medicine. There may be an alternative that you can switch to, or a lower dose may cut the chance of side effects” (www.guardian.co.uk, January 15, 2010).
BACON AND EGGS BACK IN BUSINESS
After years of propaganda against high-cholesterol foods like bacon and eggs, scientists have discovered that they might not be such a bad thing after all. Bacon and especially eggs are a rich source of choline. A team of researchers at the University of North Carolina have added to a large body of research showing that choline plays a crucial role in brain development. Plentiful choline in a pregnant woman’s diet helps the fetal brain develop regions associated with memory. In fact, a lack of choline in the diet of pregnant mice led to changes in gene expression so that new brain cells could not be formed (Science Daily, January 4, 2010). “We may never be able to call bacon a health food with a straight face, but the emerging field of epigenetics is already making us rethink those things that we consider healthful and unhealthful,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal, which published the report. “This is yet another example showing that good prenatal nutrition is vitally important throughout a child’s entire lifetime.” More to the point, this is yet another tragic example of the law of unintended consequences, as the cholesterol theory of heart disease has led to an epidemic of learning disorders in the young and mental decline in the elderly.
A recurring theme in these pages is a debunking of the myth that fruits and vegetables containing carotenes can supply adequate vitamin A in human diets. The enzyme responsible for the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A is called beta-carotene 15,15’-monoxgenase (BCOM1). Scientists from Newcastle University have found that almost 50 percent of females have a genetic variation that reduces their ability to convert beta-carotene. “Vitamin A is incredibly important. . . ,” notes Dr. Georg Lietz, who participated in the study. “It boosts our immune system and reduces the risk of inflammation such as that associated with chest infections. What our research shows is that many women are simply not getting enough of this vital nutrient because their bodies are not able to convert the beta-carotene.” Here we have one more incident of the law of unintended consequences. “Worryingly, younger women are at particular risk,” said Leitz. “The older generations tend to eat more eggs, milk and liver, which are naturally rich in vitamin A, whereas the health-conscious youngsters on low-fat diets are relying heavily on the beta-carotene form of the nutrient” (Science Daily, November 18, 2009).
SETBACK FOR MONSANTO
After planning for income of several billion dollars from so-called “second generation” genetically modified seeds, Monsanto withdrew its application for approval of two GM corn varieties in April 2009. Under conditions of secrecy, Monsanto subsidiary Renessen informed the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that it no longer wishes to pursue application for two varieties of corn designed to accelerate the growth rate of animals. Renessen cited “decreased commercial value worldwide” as the reason for withdrawal, but scientists who have followed the application process believe the real reason is safety. Although the two varieties were approved in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the concerns of several European countries forced EFSA to take a close look at the applicant’s supporting studies. The dossiers included rigged research and false assumptions in the reported experiments; failure to offer any test results based on cooked or processed corn; failure to test the whole GM plant in feeding trials; confusing and contradictory characterizations of the GM varieties and proteins; fraudulent mixing of GM strains during trials; pooling of crop data so as to mask undesirable effects in experiments; feeding trials too short to reveal true physiological changes in animal tissues; and the choice of an irrevelant, unrelated corn variety as the control group for comparison with the GM lines, with the clear intention of hiding potentially serious differences in composition or side effects on animals. Fortunately, these toxic strains of GM corn do not appear to have been grown or commercialized anywhere in the world (www.cornucopia.org, February 10, 2010).