Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Notes from a diabetic

The first breakthrough, one I didn't predict, is a drug, called Metanx (pronounced, stupidly enough, "MET-an-ex" when it obviously should be "met-TANKS"). My doctor tells me it's acquiring a reputation for reversing diabetic neuropathy, something I'd thought impossible. Let me assure you it ain't. I have some hope it might even deal with a special kind of neuropathy, retinopathy, which is what you call it when diabetics slowly go blind.

The breakthrough I did predict, I called the "Bassett coil", after the doctor who invented it. I read about it in 1977 in the National Inquirer, believe it or not. Despite the source, the story seemed credible, so when a badly shot-up Win Bear, hero of The Probability Broach, wakes up in Ed Bear's home, being treated by Healer Clarissa MacDougall Olson, he has these "Bassett coils" fastened all over his body....

The idea behind the coils, as I understood it way back then, is that electromagnetic fields can be used to encourage and control calcium ion deposition in the human body. Bassett's invention was seen as a way to help old people with broken bones heal faster-when they weren't healing at all without this treatment. I had a good family friend who had to have her femur surgically removed because it wasn't healing and finally infected, so I understood very well what's at stake. It turned out that the primary use to which this progress was put was in the rapid healing of professional sports injuries-nothing to sneer at, since professional sports ends up financing a lot of medical progress....

The bone stimulator is ultrasonic, rather than electronic, and one thing it accomplishes is to increase circulation drastically, it says here, while stimulating various complex features on the membranes of individual cells. It's a little black plastic disc held in place with a Velcro strap, and there's a lead to a small box about the size of an overly thick PDA. The only sensation I can associate with it is of an increased warmth, although any pain I was feeling is now gone, along with a sense of strain and distention that was bothersome and sort of ominous....

Although it's difficult to imagine anything much spiffier coming to pass than the bone stimulator, the really big news this holiday season-a Christmas present of inestimable proportion, from Canadian science to all sixteen million of us-is that diabetes has been cured. Completely. Irrevocably. In mice.

This has to do with a previously unknown effect that pain neurons have in the Islets of Langerhans. No, these are not Danish coastal features, but the parts of the pancreas that produce insulin, the lack of which constitutes Type I diabetes. It seems these naughty neurons secrete an enzyme, or cause it to be secreted, that shut the islets off. But the neurons can be shut off, themselves, by judicious use of capsaicum, the stuff that makes chilis hot. Some other enzyme is then administered to the pancreas that turns the islets back on, and the diabetic organism-as I said, only mice, so far-are through with Glucophage, glypizide, blood tests, insulin injections, and can eat all the buttery mashed potatos, Mexican food, and chocolate cake they want. Merry Chistmas, mice!

What's more, for reasons that are so far completely unknown, the capsaicum treatment appears to work on Type II diabetes-which in many ways has always seemed like a completely different disease-as well. How soon this will get to people, I can't say. Not soon enough. If I weren't diabetic, I could look forward to living another 30 or 40 years without pain, and in tolerable good health-long enough to die of cancer, anyway. If the government-induced delay extends the process by even a microsecond, then it's time to abolish the FDA once and for all.


British ad ban takes big bite out of Burger King

Burger King, the world's second largest fast-food chain, estimates that the ban on children's advertising could cost it up to 100 million pounds in lost UK sales next year. The prediction came as the company's new management in the UK vowed to fight regulatory interference and a declining fast-food market. Giorgio Minardi, the company's head of north west Europe, in his first UK interview, said: "Advertising is a key part of our drive to get kids and families into our restaurants. It will have a major impact on our top line."

His comments come less than a week after Burger King aired its last advert aimed at children - an advert promoting penguin toys based on the hit animated film Happy Feet.

Mr Minardi, a former senior McDonald's executive, joined its arch rival earlier this year and is leading an almost entirely new team in the UK, vowing to turn around the struggling fast-food chain. "There is life yet in the burger," he said. Like McDonald's, Burger King has suffered from the relentless competition on the high street and the change in consumers' habits. One of his first decisions was to end adverts aimed at children, before regulators enforced any ban, outmanoeuvring many of his competitors.

He and his new head of marketing David Kisilevsky, have also, controversially, heavily promoted its calorific Double Whopper burgers. Mr Kisilevsky said: "People are starting to get a little bit fed up with the nanny state intrusion in our lives. It was important for Burger King to come out in a light-hearted way and say there is nothing wrong to partake in your love of a great burger."

Burger King spends about 10m a year on advertising, with traditionally a third of that geared towards children. Mr Minardi said that once the children's adverts stop airing the turnover will be hit "without doubt by approximately 10 to 15pc."

The company, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, does not split out sales from individual countries but market research firm Euromonitor estimates that Burger King in the UK generated sales of 693m in 2004. Though sales are forecast to have fallen since then, the impact on sales could therefore be 100m in a worst-case scenario. This is a far higher figure than most in the industry are prepared to predict. Ofcom estimates that the lost advertising revenue to broadcasters will be 39m when the ban comes into force next year. However, the regulator never calculated the possible lost revenue to the UK fast-food industry, reckoned to be worth 13bn in annual sales.

Mr Kisilevsky said he was confident the hit could be partly offset: "We are redeploying some of our advertising spend to focus that on to families." Mr Minardi confirmed that the company would continue to sell toys in its restaurants. "There's nothing wrong with our kids meals, and the toys are part of that experience. We're not going to take them out. What we're not going to do is target kids directly." He added that, after years of decline, sales in the UK were now in positive territory thanks to the launch of the Aberdeen Angus beef burger, which has been a hit with its diners



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter? It is just about pure fat. Surely it should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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