Wednesday, June 03, 2009

An economist recommends vegetarianism

Sad to see an intelligent man fall for such malarkey. One hopes that he does not base his ideas in economics on one popular book and a shallow reading of the relevant literature. The author of the book answers his critics with ad hominem arguments so that should tell you all you need to know

You can shrink your lifetime medical costs by eliminating the food tax you impose on yourself. Just as taxes on wages and goods impose an excess burden on the economy, eating too much of animal products imposes an excess burden on your body, causing disease.

It has been conventional wisdom that for optimal health, one should avoid processed food and too much fat, salt, and sugar. But comprehensive evidence has now found that animal products are unhealthy. The China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project, known as the China Study, has found that eating meat and milk products increases the risk of getting diabetes, heart problems, cancer, and other diseases.

The findings, based on 8000 statistically significant links between dietary factors and disease, are in the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II. Critics of the book, such as in Wise Traditions, say that the book is too sweeping in its conclusions from the study, but the authors also base their conclusions on their own experience and other studies.

The China Study was conducted by a partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. The subjects who ate plant foods lived longer and healthier lives than those who ate meat and dairy. Also, vitamin pills and other supplements are not a good substitute for a good diet. Supplements provide nutritional insurance if one’s diet is already healthy. Exercise is also helpful for health, but diet is more important.

Our culture is a powerful enemy of good nutrition. Almost all the food in a cafeteria, restaurant, or food store is unhealthy. Go to a party, and they will offer cookies, cakes, and fatty little dumplings. Doctors contribute to the problem, as few of them study nutrition, and few have read the China Study. Ask a doctor if it is good to eat meat, and the standard answer will be, “Yes, in moderation.”

Government contributes to the problem. First they subsidize the mass production of grains, which indirectly subsidizes the production of pork and beef. Americans then get sick eating pasta and meat, and so the government subsidizes their medical costs. The huge and growing spending for medicate is a result of subsidized bad diets.

Very few of those who read this article will be persuaded to change their diets, which is good, because you should read the book and other studies to judge for yourself. But few who read this article will go on to read about The China Study or even look at the book’s web site. The human mind is naturally conservative and lazy, and few will seek out new information even if it could well save you from a painful early death.

Nature played a cruel trick on us by making cheese and cooked meat taste good, but one can imagine a skull and crossbones when one sees these goodies, and one can enjoy healthy foods such as cherries and lychee fruit.

There are many reforms that need to be made to slash medical costs. These include changing the tax system to avoid favoring employer-provided insurance, changing the legal system to loser-pays for lawsuits, legalizing all drugs and medical services, and eliminating laws that mandate various insurance provisions. But the greatest reform of all is to prevent disease.

Economically enlightened folks often wonder why the world resists the efficiency tax shift that replaces punitive taxes on wages and goods with levies on land value. Think about why you are now resisting making a radical change in your diet. Such self-reflection will then give you a hint about why others resist healthy economic policies.


Pill 'dramatically shrinks skin cancer tumours by 30%'

Sounds hopeful

A pill has dramatically shrunk tumours in patients with advanced melanoma, one of the deadliest skin cancers. Preliminary results from a small trial found tumour size was reduced by 30 per cent. Patients receiving the experimental treatment lived for around six months without their disease getting worse.

Results from the Phase 1 trial were released at the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando. U.S. investigators said the drug, known as PLX4032, is designed to block a genetic mutation in a cellular pathway called BRAF, that occurs in up to 60 per cent of melanomas and about 8 per cent of all solid tumors.

Malignant melanoma, also known as melanoma, is the most serious type of skin cancer and every year in the UK more than 10,400 people are diagnosed with it and almost 2,000 people die. It is the most common kind of cancer for women in their 20s. Worryingly, the number of people diagnosed in the UK has quadrupled since the 1970s - making it the most rapidly increasing cancer.

Melanoma is treatable if caught early, but patients who develop metastatic disease - where the cancer has spread - are rarely cured with available treatments, with just five per cent still alive five year after diagnosis.

In the trial, nine of out of 16 melanoma patients with the mutation who were treated with clinically relevant doses had tumor shrinkage of at least 30 per cent. Patients treated with PLX4032 lived for around six months without their disease getting worse and more than half experienced significant shrinkage of their tumours, including patients where the cancer had spread to the liver, lung and bone.

Most drug-related adverse events, including rash and photosensitivity, were classified as mild, although serious adverse events were observed in some patients after longer-term treatment.

Dr Keith Flaherty, of the University of Pennsylvania and the trial's lead investigator, said: 'PLX4032 has shown both tumour shrinkage and delay in tumour progression in patients whose tumours harbour a BRAF mutation, as well as improved quality of life for symptomatic patients. 'Seven years after BRAF mutations were first identified we have validation that this mutation is a cancer driver and therapeutic target. 'In addition to a new and important chapter in the story of targeted therapy development in cancer, we are especially excited for our melanoma patients for whom there are few treatment options.'

PLX4032 works in a highly innovative way by selectively targeting and destroying tumour cells carrying the BRAF mutation, an important mediator of cell growth and division.

The drug, being developed by privately-held Plexxikon Inc and Roche, will go into larger trials later this year along with a diagnostic test to select mutation-positive patients for clinical trials, and ultimately for treatment with PLX4032.


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