Thursday, December 20, 2007


Just another proof that middle class people are healthier. They are far more likely to have got the religion of the Mediterranean diet than others. And the effects were as weak as one would expect in those circumstances.

The Mediterranean diet has been a fetish among epidemiologists ever since low levels of heart disease were observed in Greece and Italy. To acknowledge that Greeks and Italians might be GENETICALLY different from Northern Europeans would be politically incorrect, of course. Diet had to be the cause of why Greeks and Italians did better. Greeks and Italians don't live especially long however. For instance, Australians have a diet that is as far away from the Mediterranean in composition as Australia is geographically, yet they live longer than Greeks and Italians. And the long-lived Japanese have a quite different diet too. But we must not let facts upset a medical consensus, must we? Popular summary followed by Abstract below.

Eating the Mediterranean way could help you live longer, according to the first study to look at how the dietary pattern relates to mortality in a U.S. population. Men whose diets were closest to the Mediterranean ideal were 21 percent less likely to die over five years than men whose diets were least Mediterranean-like. Similar results were seen in women. "These results provide strong evidence for a beneficial effect of higher conformity with the Mediterranean dietary pattern on risk of death from all causes, including deaths due to cardiovascular disease and cancer, in a US population," Dr. Panagiota N. Mitrou of the University of Cambridge in the UK and colleagues conclude.

A number of studies have linked the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fish, fruits and vegetables and nuts and low in dairy foods and red meat, to health benefits, the researchers note in the Archives of Internal Medicine. They looked at diet and mortality in 380,296 men and women, 50 to 71 years old, who were participating in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. For both men and women, the researchers found, the risk of death from any cause over the five-year follow-up period was lower for those with the most Mediterranean-like diets. Deaths from cancer or cardiovascular disease were also significantly lower in this group.

The benefit was especially strong in smokers who were not overweight, who nearly halved their risk of death if they closely followed the Mediterranean diet pattern. Smokers may have had the most to gain from the antioxidant and blood fat-lowering effects of Mediterranean-style eating, Mitrou and colleagues suggest.


Mediterranean Dietary Pattern and Prediction of All-Cause Mortality in a US Population

By Panagiota N. Mitrou et al

Background: The Mediterranean diet has been suggested to play a beneficial role for health and longevity. However, to our knowledge, no prospective US study has investigated the Mediterranean dietary pattern in relation to mortality.

Methods: Study participants included 214,284 men and 166,012 women in the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) Diet and Health Study. During follow-up for all-cause mortality (1995-2005), 27,799 deaths were documented. In the first 5 years of follow-up, 5,985 cancer deaths and 3,451 cardiovascular disease (CVD) deaths were reported. We used a 9-point score to assess conformity with the Mediterranean dietary pattern (components included vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish, monounsaturated fat-saturated fat ratio, alcohol, and meat). We calculated hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using age- and multivariate-adjusted Cox models.

Results:The Mediterranean diet was associated with reduced all-cause and cause-specific mortality. In men, the multivariate HRs comparing high to low conformity for all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality were 0.79 (95% CI, 0.76-0.83), 0.78 (95% CI, 0.69-0.87), and 0.83 (95% CI, 0.76-0.91), respectively. In women, an inverse association was seen with high conformity with this pattern: decreased risks that ranged from 12% for cancer mortality to 20% for all-cause mortality (P = .04 and P < .001, respectively, for the trend). When we restricted our analyses to never smokers, associations were virtually unchanged.

Conclusion: These results provide strong evidence for a beneficial effect of higher conformity with the Mediterranean dietary pattern on risk of death from all causes, including deaths due to CVD and cancer, in a US population.

Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(22):2461-2468

Australia: Leftist broadcasters vent their predictable hatred of drug companies -- to dangerous effect

DOCTORS have condemned ABC television's The 7.30 Report over a story about bone drugs, which they claim was alarmist and inaccurate. According to professional group the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society, the story, broadcast last Wednesday, may cause worried cancer and osteoporosis patients to stop treatment. "We want to set the record straight," said the society's president, Philip Sambrook, a rheumatologist with the University of Sydney and Royal North Shore Hospital.

The contentious story - presented by Nick Grimm - stated that so-called bisphosphonate drugs can cause the jaw bone to dissolve, a disfiguring condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw, or ONJ.

But the society said the claims were misleading, and warned that if cancer patients stayed off bisphosophonate medications such as Zometa and Aredia for prolonged periods, their disease could more easily spread. Further, if people with osteoporosis stopped drugs such as Aldomet and Fosamax, they could suffer serious fractures of the spine and hip. "Patients have been contacting practitioners and I've had emails from people around the country I haven't seen," Professor Sambrook said. "They were scared, having heard thereport."

He said the story incorrectly implied that all patients were at risk and that they were not warned by doctors or advised of simple alternatives such as calcium supplements. "Not uncommonly in cancer sufferers, but in rare cases with osteoporosis, bisphosphonates can interfere with the normal bone healing of the jaw, resulting in ONJ, or death of the bone," Professor Sambrook said. "However, the risk of this rare side effect can be significantly reduced by good dental care."

He added that calcium and vitamin D supplements might be sufficient to treat mild cases of osteoporosis, but they were ineffective against severe osteoporosis. Professor Sambrook was also critical of the claim that "bisphosphonates are a booming business for drug companies", which downplay side effects and exaggerate benefits. And he said it was factually incorrect to claim, as the report did, that the drugs had been listed on the Public Benefits Scheme only last December. "They were listed 10 years ago," Professor Sambrook said.

In a letter seen by The Australian, Professor Sambrook wrote to The 7.30 Report's executive producer, Ben Hawke, outlining these and other problems. In response, the full interview with Professor Sambrook has been posted on the program's website, along with others used in the story. However, he has not had a formal reply from Hawke. The Australian was unable to obtain comment from Hawke or ABC staff.



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 and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correla-tion coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic condi-tions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his anal-ysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.


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