Saturday, March 15, 2008

Food Fascism gets 8th-grader punished

What could be more normal than a kid eating candy? But the Fascists are determined to stop it

Contraband candy has led to big trouble for an eighth-grade honors student in Connecticut. Michael Sheridan was stripped of his title as class vice president, barred from attending an honors student dinner and suspended for a day after buying a bag of Skittles from a classmate. School spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo says the New Haven school system banned candy sales in 2003 as part of a districtwide school wellness policy.

Michael's suspension has been reduced from three days to one, but he has not been reinstated as class vice president. He says he didn't realize his candy purchase was against the rules, but he did notice the student selling the Skittles on Feb. 26 was being secretive.


Vaccines Are Safe

Over the past decade, the public has been presented with a large amount of information about the safety of vaccines. Among the reasons for this interest is the widespread success of routine, universal immunization of infants and children, beginning in the 1940s. Unfortunately, along with reasonable information comes erroneous information, and the safety and effectiveness of vaccines has been questioned. Make no mistake: Many dangerous, life-threatening diseases have been wiped out because of vaccines. Immunization was the greatest public health achievement in the U.S. in the 20th century.

The list of licensed and recommended vaccines has been growing, and not just for infants and children. There are now schedules from professional societies, such as the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and public agencies (e.g., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that indicate what vaccines should be given for adolescents and adults, and when. There are specific vulnerable populations.

The considerable focus on vaccines, and their safety, in our information-overloaded society is not surprising, with a surplus of articles in magazines, books, parenting guides, and on the Internet, and stories on radio and television. While these occasionally highlight the benefits of immunization - "No One Got Sick or Died from a Vaccine-Preventable Disease Today" - is not a very exciting story.

More often, the emphasis is on speculation that a vaccine caused a health problem. Further, the widespread availability of litigation and liberal tort in the U.S. has encouraged lawsuits claiming harm from vaccines. Finally, it's human nature to assume cause-and-effect when something bad happens, so a vaccination is an attractive target when administered before the onset of a medical condition. Unfortunately, most of the public receives a lot of health information from these lay sources, rather than their physicians. Professional knowledge of immunization is grounded in science - microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and statistics.

Vaccines are licensed by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) only when proven to be safe and effective. Recommendations for use are promulgated by committees of scientific experts composed of academics, clinicians and other caregivers that are passionately devoted to our citizens' health and safety. The committees' conclusions, and the rationale for them, are shared with practicing physicians, who are the most reliable source of information for patients. This process is the foundation that leads to the conclusions that licensed vaccines are safe, and fears that vaccines are harmful are unfounded.

Nevertheless, to address these unfounded fears, groups of scientific experts have undertaken investigations to determine possible relationships between vaccines and autism, asthma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, SIDS, and other diseases, and to ansrwer questions that are posed to them:

Does hepatitis B vaccine cause SIDS? Looking at the numbers of doses administered of the former and cases of the latter, one would conclude the opposite, that hepatitis B vaccine prevents SIDS, since 90 percent of U.S. children have received hepatitis B vaccine, and SIDS cases have dropped dramatically in the past decade (probably due to the AAP recommendation that infants sleep on their backs).

Does the MMR vaccine cause autism? This question received extraordinary attention after it was raised in an article in The Lancet, in 1998, by Drs. Wakefield and colleagues. The co-authors and The Lancet have since retracted the article and its conclusions, and Dr. Wakefield is currently on trial in the U.K. for conflict of interest at the time of its publication. (He was on retainer from lawyers suing for vaccine damages.)

More importantly, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) expert panel evaluated the issue, and concluded that the evidence favored rejection of a connection between autism and MMR vaccine. Fourteen epidemiologic studies have been performed, all demonstrating the absence of a relationship between increased rates of autism and frequency of use of MMR vaccine.

It is unfortunate that the speculation of a relationship between MMR vaccine and autism has resulted in the occurrence of vaccine-preventable diseases (especially measles) in children whose parents refused to allow them to receive the vaccine, and has diverted attention from research into the causes of autism, which has been shown to have prenatal origins.

Is thimerosal a cause of neurologic abnormalities, including autism? The preservative thimerosal, consisting of ethyl mercury, was used in multi-dose vaccine vials. At present, most infancy and childhood vaccines are supplied in single-dose vials, and all such routine vaccines are thimerosal-free. Studies to answer this question, including five epidemiologic surveys, came to the same conclusion as the MMR vaccine autism analyses, that there is absence of a relationship. A pivotal study at the University of Rochester quantifying thimerosal in childhood vaccines stated administration of vaccines containing thimerosal does not seem to raise blood concentrations of mercury above safe values in infants. In short, no studies have established a causal link between vaccines and these diseases.

Many of us recall that only two generations ago we had schoolmates who limped or had withered arms, due to the paralytic polio that infected them. That disease has been eradicated in the U.S. because of the universal use of polio vaccine. During my training, I cared for children made deaf from measles, infants blind and retarded from rubella, and those who died from bacteria like pneumococcus and meningococcus. With vaccination, those conditions no longer occur.

As a physician in my early years of practice, the threat of infection with bacteria called Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) loomed large for my patients and their families; the outcomes of brain damage or death being distinct possibilities. A vaccine was invented, adopted as policy, and given to U.S. infants and children. I'm pleased to say I no longer worry about Hib infection.

Despite scientific proof and a long track record of vaccine safety, we see public policy based on junk beliefs, misinformation, fear, and mass hysteria. In 2006, a number of legislative bodies passed, and executives signed, bills prohibiting use of vaccines containing thimerosal.

From a practical perspective, these restrictions mean little, since all but a few influenza vaccines do not contain thimerosal. But such policies send a bad message: The vaccines that have virtually eradicated many diseases, constituting one of the greatest public health accomplishments of the past century, are dangerous. Further, these policies denigrate our informed medical and scientific communities. This is a disservice to our citizens, and endangers us all.



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 correlation 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 conditions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his analysis 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.

"What we should be doing is monitoring children from birth so we can detect any deviations from the norm at an early stage and action can be taken". Who said that? Joe Stalin? Adolf Hitler? Orwell's "Big Brother"? The Spanish Inquisition? Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde? None of those. It was Dr Colin Waine, chairman of Britain's National Obesity Forum. What a fine fellow!


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