Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Atavists attack food from GMOs

Practically everything we eat is genetically modified. Tomatoes were originally yellow, for instance. Treating GMOs as an undifferentiated group is mindless. If a particular GMO has a problem that should be studied but all those GMOs released have been already studied extensively. Studies done by opponents of GMOs -- such as those reported below -- are probably just examples of the experimenter expectation effect and should not be taken seriously. If the FDA was once dubious about GMOs, it has found since from research that many are safe and has approved them. It is a very cautious organization, overcautious in the estimation of many

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has issued a warning urging the public to avoid genetically modified foods and has also called for a moratorium on GMOs until long-term, independent studies can prove their safety. The group has also called for required labeling of foods that contain GMOs, a move that has been strongly opposed by the Food and Drug Administration and Big Biotech which cooperatively purport that consumers should not have the right to know whether or not the foods they buy come from traditionally bred or genetically engineered sources.

While urging for more independent studies, the AAEM paper cites its own studies alleging that genetically modified foods cause serious adverse health effects, emphasizing more than a mere "causal association" as is commonly assumed. These effects include rapid aging, severe alterations to the major bodily organs, infertility, immune problems, gastrointestinal dysfunction, and disruption to proper insulin regulation, among others.

Many doctors are warning their patients to avoid GMOs as well, recognizing the distinct correlation between GMOs and disease. Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles believes genetically engineered foods are so dangerous that people should never eat them. Biologist Pushpa M. Bhargava, following the review of more than 600 scientific journals, has concluded that the drastic deterioration of Americans' health in recent years can be attributed to GMOs being introduced into their diets.

Experimental studies of genetically engineered foods and their effects in the body are disturbing, to say the least. Biologist David Schubert of the Salk Institute has stated that children are the most likely people to experience the adverse effects of GMOs, noting that apart from adequate safety studies, children become "the experimental animals". In truth, every citizen is a guinea pig when genetically altered organisms are introduced into the food supply without adequate safety studies let alone honest labeling.

In the animal studies that have been conducted, some noteworthy findings have been discovered about GMOs:
Female rats fed genetically modified soy saw most of their babies die within three weeks compared to the 10% death rate experienced by rats fed natural soy. The babies that survived in the genetically modified-fed control group were also born smaller and had problems getting pregnant later on.
Male rats fed genetically modified soy experienced a change in testicular color from pink to dark blue, as well as altered young sperm and significant changes in their DNA.

Indian buffalo that consumed genetically modified cottonseed experienced various birthing complications including infertility, abortions, premature delivery, and prolapsed uteruses. Many of the calves that survived birth died shortly thereafter.

In the United States, about 24 farmers reported that their pigs became sterile after consuming genetically modified corn.

Genetically modified corn and cotton, purposely engineered to create their own built-in pesticide called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), have been indicted in several studies to provoke intense allergic and immune reactions and death. Since the levels of Bt produced in the plant represent thousands of times more a concentration of Bt than natural Bt spray, the effects are greatly amplified. Shepherds whose sheep grazed on Bt cotton after harvest witnessed thousands of their sheep die. Post mortem examinations revealed severe irritation and black patches in the intestines and liver, as well as enlarged bile ducts. All sheep fed the Bt cotton eventually died within 30 days while those that grazed on natural cotton remained healthy.

Bt corn was also responsible for the deaths of cows, horses, water buffaloes, and chicken in both Germany and the Philippines.
Genetically modified tomatoes fed to rats were shown to cause bleeding stomachs and eventually killed many of the rats.

These are just a few examples of the many catastrophic effects of using genetically modified organisms as food.

Probably the worst finding in the AAEM report is the fact that GMOs can live and reproduce in the intestinal flora of the body long after being eaten. The genes present in the genetically modified organisms transfer into the DNA of intestinal bacteria, the good bacteria that digests food and maintains bodily health. This reprogramming can cause the intestinal flora to begin reproducing Bt pesticides, for example, rather than producing the living bacteria it is supposed to. The permanent, deadly implications of these alterations are mind boggling since intestinal flora is crucial for life.

Despite consensus from most FDA scientists in the early '90s declaring that genetically modified foods are inherently dangerous and could lead to all sorts of serious health problems, politics won out as mandates were given from Washington to promote biotechnology and GMOs in spite of apparent and obvious dangers. This led to the promotion of Michael Taylor, former attorney for Monsanto, as head of GMO policy at the FDA, a move that led to the official denial by the agency of any knowledge or substantiated concern by any FDA scientists about the safety of GMOs.

Despite findings in some 44,000 pages of internal FDA memos and reports released in 1999 due to a lawsuit, findings that contained the warnings from then scientists about the "unintended negative side effects" of genetic engineering, official FDA GMO policy has been scrubbed clean of the truth and purports blatant lies in its defense of GMOs as safe. In fact, current policy emphatically states that no safety studies on GMOs are even required or necessary; it is instead up to Big Biotech to determine the safety of its own genetically modified organisms if it so chooses.

Many people may remember the deadly epidemic in the late 1980s from the genetically engineered version of L-tryptophan, a food supplement, that was introduced into the market. An estimated 10,000 people became permanently disabled and about 100 died. Yet despite the rapidly occurring, deadly effects from this particular GMO immediately following its release, including noticeable changes in the blood, it took over four years to identify the existence of this epidemic.

Many concerned doctors hypothesize that the disease-causing symptoms of GMOs being consumed today will take years to show up, further besetting the efforts of those who are trying to expose the dangers of GMOs. Current data is showing that since 1996 when genetically modified crops were first introduced, the incidences of people with three or more chronic diseases has jumped from 7 percent to 13 percent.

In addition to all the existing evidence, AAEM is urging its members, the scientific community, and those in medicine to continue gathering case studies and initiate epidemiological research to help determine, once and for all, the effects of GMOs on human beings in addition to their effects on animals.

It is wise to avoid foods that contain GMOs and ingredients that are genetically engineered. These include non-organic corn and soy derivatives, canola and cottonseed oils, and sugar from sugar beets. Ingredients such as corn starch, corn meal, and soy lecithin are great examples of common ingredients that are suspect. Unless labeled as non-GMO or explicitly organic, these common ingredients are most likely genetically modified and should be avoided at all costs.

Lastly, the mindful citizen should contact grocers, food manufacturers, and restaurants to inquire about genetically modified ingredients and oppose their usage. As increasing numbers of people begin to seek out this information across the food supply-chain and purposefully avoid products that contain GMOs, producers and retailers will phase them out in order to meet demand. This can be seen in the gradual elimination of toxins such as high fructose corn syrup from food as consumers learn about its effects and avoid products that contain it.


$2.5B spent on testing "alternative" cures. Nothing of any note to show for it

Ten years ago the government set out to test herbal and other alternative health remedies to find the ones that work. After spending $2.5 billion, the disappointing answer seems to be that almost none of them do. Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.

As for therapies, acupuncture has been shown to help certain conditions, and yoga, massage, meditation and other relaxation methods may relieve symptoms like pain, anxiety and fatigue.

However, the government also is funding studies of purported energy fields, distance healing and other approaches that have little if any biological plausibility or scientific evidence. Taxpayers are bankrolling studies of whether pressing various spots on your head can help with weight loss, whether brain waves emitted from a special "master" can help break cocaine addiction, and whether wearing magnets can help the painful wrist problem, carpal tunnel syndrome.

The acupressure weight-loss technique won a $2 million grant even though a small trial of it on 60 people found no statistically significant benefit — only an encouraging trend that could have occurred by chance. The researcher says the pilot study was just to see if the technique was feasible.

"You expect scientific thinking" at a federal science agency, said R. Barker Bausell, author of "Snake Oil Science" and a research methods expert at the University of Maryland, one of the agency's top-funded research sites. "It's become politically correct to investigate nonsense."

Many scientists say that unconventional treatments hold promise and deserve serious study, but that the federal center needs to be more skeptical and selective. "There's not all the money in the world and you have to choose" what most deserves tax support, said Barrie Cassileth, integrative medicine chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. "Many of the studies that have been funded I would not have funded because they seem irrational and foolish — studies on distant healing by prayer and energy healing, studies that are based on precepts and ideas that are contrary to what is known in terms of human physiology and disease," she said.

In an interview last year, shortly after becoming the federal center's new director, Dr. Josephine Briggs said it had a strong research record, and praised the many "big name" scientists who had sought its grants. She conceded there were no big wins from its first decade, other than a study that found acupuncture helped knee arthritis. That finding was called into question when a later, larger study found that sham treatment worked just as well.

"The initial studies were driven by some very strong enthusiasms, and now we're learning about how to layer evidence" and to do more basic science before testing a particular supplement in a large trial, said Briggs, who trained at Ivy League schools and has a respected scientific career. "There are a lot of negative studies in conventional medicine," and the government's outlay is small compared to drug company spending, she added.

However, critics say that unlike private companies that face bottom-line pressure to abandon a drug that flops, the federal center is reluctant to admit a supplement may lack merit — despite a strategic plan pledging not to equivocate in the face of negative findings.

Echinacea is an example. After a large study by a top virologist found it didn't help colds, its fans said the wrong one of the plant's nine species had been tested. Federal officials agreed that more research was needed, even though they had approved the type used in the study. "There's been a deliberate policy of never saying something doesn't work. It's as though you can only speak in one direction," and say a different version or dose might give different results, said Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired physician who runs Quackwatch, a web site on medical scams.

Critics also say the federal center's research agenda is shaped by an advisory board loaded with alternative medicine practitioners. They account for at least nine of the board's 18 members, as required by its government charter. Many studies they approve for funding are done by alternative therapy providers; grants have gone to board members, too. "It's the fox guarding the chicken coop," said Dr. Joseph Jacobs, who headed the Office of Alternative Medicine, a smaller federal agency that preceded the center's creation. "This is not science, it's ideology on the part of the advocates."

Briggs defended their involvement. "If you're going to do a study on acupuncture, you're going to need acupuncture expertise," she said. These therapists "are very much believers in what they do," not unlike gastroenterologists doing a study of colonoscopy, and good study design can guard against bias, she said.

The center was handed a flawed mission, many scientists say. Congress created it after several powerful members claimed health benefits from their own use of alternative medicine and persuaded others that this enormously popular field needed more study. The new center was given $50 million in 1999 (its budget was $122 million last year) and ordered to research unconventional therapies and nostrums that Americans were using to see which ones had merit.

That is opposite how other National Institutes of Health agencies work, where scientific evidence or at least plausibility is required to justify studies, and treatments go into wide use after there is evidence they work — not before. "There's very little basic science behind these things. Most of it begins with a tradition, or personal testimony and people's beliefs, even as a fad. And then pressure comes: 'It's being popular, it's being used, it should be studied.' It turns things upside down," said Dr. Edward Campion, a senior editor who reviews alternative medicine research submitted to the New England Journal of Medicine.

That reasoning was used to justify the $2 million weight-loss study, approved in 2007. It will test Tapas acupressure, devised by Tapas Fleming, a California acupuncturist. Use of her trademarked method requires employing people she certifies, and the study needs eight. It involves pressing on specific points on the face and head — the inner corners of the eyes are two — while focusing on a problem. Dr. Charles Elder, a Kaiser Permanente physician who runs an herbal and ayurvedic medicine clinic in Portland, Ore., is testing whether it can prevent dieters from regaining lost weight.

Say a person comes home and is tempted by Twinkies on the table. The solution: Start acupressure "and say something like 'I have an uncontrollable Twinkie urge,'" Elder said. Then focus on an opposite thought, like "I'm in control of my eating." In Chinese medicine, the pressure is said to release natural energy in a place in the body "responsible for transforming animal desire into higher thoughts," Elder said.

In a federally funded pilot study, 30 dieters who were taught acupressure regained only half a pound six months later, compared with over three pounds for a comparison group of 30 others. However, the study widely missed a key scientific standard for showing that results were not a statistical fluke.

The pilot trial was just to see if the technique was feasible, Elder said. The results were good enough for the federal center to grant $2.1 million for a bigger study in 500 people that is under way now.

Alternative medicine research also is complicated by the subjective nature of many of the things being studied. Pain, memory, cravings, anxiety and fatigue are symptoms that people tolerate and experience in widely different ways. Take a question like, "Does yoga work for back pain?" said Margaret Chesney, a psychologist who is associate director of the federally funded Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland. "What kind of yoga? What kind of back pain?" And what does it mean to "work" — to help someone avoid surgery, hold a job or need less medication?

Some things — the body meridians that acupuncturists say they follow, or energy forces that healers say they manipulate — cannot be measured, and many scientists question their existence.

Studying herbals is tough because they are not standardized as prescription drugs are required to be. One brand might contain a plant's flowers, another its seeds and another, stems and leaves, in varying amounts.

There are 150 makers of black cohosh "and probably no two are exactly the same, and probably some people are putting sawdust in capsules and selling it," said Norman Farnsworth, a federally funded herbal medicine researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Even after a careful study, "you know one thing more precise and firm about what that agent did in that population with that outcome measurement, but you don't necessarily know the whole gamut of its effectiveness," as the echinacea study showed, Briggs said.

The center posts information on supplements and treatments on its Web site, and has a phone line for the public to ask questions — even when the answer is that not enough is known to rule in or rule out benefit or harm. "I hope we are building knowledge and at least an informed consumer," Briggs said.



Anonymous said...

"$2.5B spent on testing "alternative" cures."

The only herbal supplement I use is Milk Thistle for improved liver function since I used to be a heavy drinker and still dip beer or homemade alcohol in homemade V8 (tomato/celery/carrot/apple/beet/onion/spinach/garlic/horseradish/Worcestershire). That Milk Thistle can cure red cap mushroom poisoning of the liver is enough to hint that it indeed is good medicine for us drinkers (Wikipedia).

Though this may help avoid a fatty liver it did not have any ability to solve my huge hidden problem of abdominal fat. My word, when I stopped eating or drinking except small amounts of water for two months and lost all my subcutaneous fat followed by abdominal (organ cavity) fat, I was a new man. My high school physique returned. My oily dandruff prone face and scalp became normal. Indigestion evaporated. My sleep split into two 4 hour bouts without any grogginess. My sex drive and appetite became normalized as stress was no longer the center of my urges. I can feel inches of relief inside my tummy, literally regaining my breath.

I am now convinced that internal body fat in at least a male body vastly decreases quality of life and a feeling of vitality. Both physical constriction and estrogen production by fat seem to be at work. Alas, this is the one thing I cannot teach others to fix since in my own case it required the end of a 17 year relationship in a truly traumatic sense.

Anonymous said...

Food-wise, cinnamon, green tea, and curry all help regulate the insulin and fat burning...so I stock these dry goods at all times.

But herbs? For what? Disease? Viral conditions? Ugh. Why do people get so WEIRD? Of course Echinacea is bunk, as are rose hips in Vitamin C. Acupuncture? Why bother with some numbing effect like that which at best is boring. If only the placebo effect were replaced by a classic Greek sense of vigor and vitality in which worry no longer destroys health.

What I am doing at the beginning of age 40+ middle age is coming off of high dose individual supplements and bulk caloric foods and developing a dirt simple and very cheap alternative to using supplements at all (except fish oil). It will amount to a single long web page worth of recipes that requires access to Costco, a vegetable market, and a source for cheap non-fried rice noodles.

Investment in a $300 juicer is required. Quick gourmet food requires a $3000 induction wok connected to an electric stove power plug (or an outdoor BBQ). Home made alcohol spirits, though technically illegal, is a natural alternative to bulky wine or beer brewing. Beef jerky and radish sprouts require a few hundred more investment if automated but can be done on the cheap at first with a mere heat lamp and a few containers for the sprouts. Once invested in, meals become mere dollars a day instead of tens of dollars, all the way down to $0.25 a meal for a simple 200 calorie meal.

My comments at this stage will become redundant and repetitive rather than scientific method critiques so I will stop thinking of this site as a forum. I barely need to read up on health any more and I should simply create an info-product around my objective system of healthy living. It's fun being a chemist in wonderful health who has taken the time to scan all readily available food stuffs. Vegetarians are not my market but they could use most of it too. Anyone trying to incorporate your years of commentary into an actual program, for you are indeed the only comprehensive and rational commentator on health matters in existence, can likely both afford and enjoy what I very soon come up with.

Sorry to think out loud in writing, here, but I find it to be one of the only places on the web where diligent reading of the entire content here leads to a very simple conclusion: eat what pleases you when you want pleasure and eat the healthiest food you can afford for daily rations.

The only thing you under represent is what popular culture and health industry people rarely report on: how attitude, which is easily altered, wields the lion share of influence on mortality and health. That must be emphasized though since the studies on it were so conclusive and thus finished with, decades ago. Temperament aside, free will can certainly be of great influence upon one's health and vitality.

Thanks Jon. The condensed and commented upon content here has allowed me the freedom to vastly simplify my dietary outlook...BASED ON COLD HARD SCIENCE. I will sign off except for occasional short comments that act as footnotes to your own content. This project only became a project in the last few weeks going on months as I finally finished an entire economic and nutritional analysis of internet, local and bulk food suppliers. I just want you to know that I will package this information, either free or at a reasonable price as an adjunct to THIS site as the only source of information anyone needs in order to learn about health and nutrition. Eventually I'll photograph everything, make a download ready cookbook, and hope to exchange links.