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June 2010

Obesity and diabetes: The link is not as clear as you might think

We keep hearing about the epidemics of type 2 diabetes and obesity. There is also a tendency to link the two. Certainly, obesity is a risk factor for type 2, but the link is nowhere near as straightforward as you might think.

My latest HND piece takes a hard look at this, and reports a few interesting things...

  • The most obese population in the world is Sumo wrestlers, yet none of them are diabetic.
  • People afflicted with Berardinelli-Seip syndrome have virtually no body fat, yet ALL of them are diabetic.

There is also a big glitch in the classical "thrifty gene" explanation of how the Pima Indians became diabetic, once they moved from Mexico to Arizona.

In short, beware of simple explanations, when applied to something as incredibly complex as human metabolism.

Read the complete article.

Vaccine purchasing contracts: Putting the doctor and patient last

In the never-ending fiasco that started in 1965 when the Feds entered health care in earnest, you can always count on a few things:

1.     Each successive bit of regulation will further erode the doctor-patient relationship.

2.     No money will ever be saved. On the contrary, costs will only rise.

3.     Honest docs will get squeezed, crooked ones will game the system.

4.     No matter what changes are made, insurance companies and big pharma will benefit more than any other players.

5.     Patients will get increasingly dissatisfied with their care.

My latest HND piece deals with vaccine purchasing contracts, also known as "compliance contracts." On the surface, they look like a way for struggling pediatricians to control costs, but looks can be deceiving.

Instead, they reward the already federally-subsidized vaccine giants, and stifle innovation. Or, as I describe it:

The net result is predatory, monopolistic practices in an over-regulated market, where the needs of the consumer (the patient) are completely ignored. It's hard to imagine a scenario that is less free enterprise than this one!

Read the complete article.

A big gun takes down some big myths

World class nutritionist Jo-Ann Heslin takes down some food myths by bringing some logic and right reason to the notion of "processed foods."

How's this for an opening paragraph?

The ancient Greeks processed foods by turning barely edible seeds of wheat, inedible fresh olives, and perishable grapes into bread, olive oil and wine. These "processed" foods are the foundation of the healthy Mediterranean diet.

As she notes:

Labeling all processed foods as to-be-avoided, unhealthy choices would be a serious mistake. Actually, avoiding all processed foods could result in a less-than-healthy diet.

She also puts a stake through the heart of the cliché of the "evil" food companies. After all, if people didn't buy various less-than-healthful products, they wouldn't be offered for sale, would they? Jo-Ann is too kind to say outright that if we want someone to blame, we should be looking in the mirror.

Read the complete HND article, and check out her website.

Will STAR METRICS give us a handle on the benefits of government-sponsored R&D?

Well, that's the theory, anyway.

STAR METRICS is a multi-agency venture led by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Naturally, the name is an acronym, short for Science and Technology in America's Reinvestment—Measuring the Effect of Research on Innovation, Competitiveness and Science.

Considering that the feds spend well over $100 billion annually on R&D, it might be nice to keep track of what bang we're getting for our buck.

My latest HND piece takes a look at this new program, which right now relies on the voluntary submission of data from the research contractors. Of course, they do have some incentive to comply.

The cynical side of me is reminded of countless other "metrics" and evaluations run on countless other government programs. The data is compiled, but almost no one actually reads it, and no action is ever taken on the findings.

Maybe STAR METRICS will be different.

Read the complete HND article.

ACSH hits "Toxic America" hard

We've already made fun of the stupid trailer for this TV show, so one good turn deserves another.

Beth Whelan and Jeff Stier tear the show apart in just a few words.

Sanjay Gupta, who hosted this nonsense, again proves himself to have no scruples. Attack chemical companies, defend Vioxx? Sanjay doesn't care, as long is someone is paying. There's a word for people like him, and I'm not thinking of "mercenary."

In Scientific Research, It's Full Disclosure for Thee, Not For Me

This is the title of an excellent piece by Jeff Stier of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH).

The usual suspects tell us to be wary of who is funding studies, but clearly this is only a one-way street. What about studies funded by plaintiff's lawyers trolling for toxic tort cases, for example?

Read the complete article.

Oh no! They're all wearing "toxic" suits to protect themselves from Toxic America

We've heard of artistic license, but this is ridiculous. In CNN's promo for its "Toxic America" special investigation, everyone shown in the video is wearing a HazMat suit, to keep them safe. Presumably, this is to underscore the allegedly toxic nature of our environment.

The only problem is that these suits contain...

PVC, phthalates, BPA, PFOA (used to make teflon), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).