Sunday, October 31, 2010

British death rates at record low 'due to rise in statins use'

This is sheer unsubstantiated propaganda. Lifespans were steadily increasing long before statin use

Death rates in Britain have fallen to record lows, official figures have shown, amid claims the introduction of cholesterol-lowering statins is largely responsible for the fall.

Last year the number of people who died in England and Wales fell by 3.5 per cent to almost 492,000, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.

The latest figures showed that over the past five years deaths resulting from heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases had fallen by a third.

The ONS said the “age-standardised mortality rates” had not been so low since 1952 when the population was smaller and relatively healthy. The infant mortality rate in 2009 was also at its lowest point, it found.

Experts said the introduction of statins, which combat cardiovascular diseases, had contributed to the dramatic fall in deaths.

The drugs are taken by millions of Britons to lower their cholesterol in order to cut their risk of having a heart attack or stroke. It is estimated that about five million people in Britain are on statins, which are credited with saving 7,000 lives a year.

They also said that it was also in part to the NHS’ determination to become a world leader in heart treatment. "We should be celebrating the wonderful news that the number of people dying from coronary heart disease is continuing to fall,” said Prof Peter Weissberg, the British Heart Foundation medical director.

"The decline is due to a whole host of reasons including a better public understanding of heart disease risk factors, important government policies aimed at improving lifestyles and more effective treatments.

According to the ONS, there were 6,573 deaths per million population for males and 4,628 deaths per million for females. Over the whole year 491,348 people died in England and Wales compared to 509,090 the previous year. Over the past 10 years the highest death rate among males was for circulatory diseases despite a fall of 42 per cent in the rate, to 2,078 deaths per million. The female death rate for circulatory disease also fell over the same period by 40 per cent to 1,312 deaths per million.

But the fall in age-standardised mortality rates for cancer was more gradual, with death rates 15 per cent lower for males and 13 per cent lower for females in 2009 than a decade earlier.

The leading cause of death for both sexes was ischaemic heart diseases, which accounted for about one in six male deaths and one in eight female deaths last year.

Lung cancer was the second leading cause of death for males, accounting for more than seven per cent of male deaths.

More than one in 10 females died from a stroke, which was the second highest cause of deaths.

"Since more people are surviving their heart attacks and living longer, the burden of heart disease is actually rising,” Prof Weissberg said. "We can't afford to take our eye of the ball because heart disease is still the UK's biggest killer. "We have a long road and a lot of hard work still ahead of us."


Legally enforced hysteria

The Baltimore City Health Department issued its first environmental citation for repeat violations of the city's trans fat ban. The Health Department issued Healthy Choice, a food facility in the 400 block of Lexington Street, a $100 fine on Thursday. "It was the second time they were found with a high trans fat level in their ingredients," said Health Department agent Juan Gutierrez.

Officials said that during inspections in July and this month, the facility was found to be using a margarine product with trans fat levels in excess of what the law allows.

The law banning food facilities from serving or selling non-prepackaged food items containing 0.5 grams or more of trans fats went into effect in September 2009.

"They originally had a margarine that was above 3 grams, actually, which is very high compared to the .5 that is allowed. Then when we came back and they had replaced it, they replaced it with one that was 2 grams, so it still was too high," Gutierrez said. The facility discarded the products in both instances, health officials said.

"I think they're doing it right. They're doing what they have to do," Healthy Choice owner Ki Jeong said. Jeong said he will abide by the decision but said the new margarine will cost him double what the original type costs.

Trans fats are artificial fats that are known to elevate bad cholesterol and cause heart disease, according to health officials. Studies have indicated that trans fats are responsible for as many as 30,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year.

The city said it has worked with bakeries to come up with alternatives to using trans fats.

"While we are pleased with the high rates of compliance we've seen since the ban took effect, we will continue to sanction businesses that repeatedly fail to comply," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

The Health Department said more than 100 Baltimore restaurants have received warnings since the ban went into effect. Agents said that if restaurants don't make changes after a citation is issue, the establishment could be shut down.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cooked breakfast 'cuts fertility'

This is rubbish. The sample is tiny and unrepresentative for a start. And if the findings mean anything, they probably mean that working class men (who are generally unhealthier) are more likely to eat a traditional breakfast

Men who frequently indulge in a traditional English cooked breakfast could be reducing their chances of fathering children, according to new research.

A diet rich in saturated fats - found in foods like fried bacon, sausages, butter and cream - could cut the sperm count by almost half, found researchers at Harvard Medical School in the US.

Their study discovered that it did not matter if the man was fat or thin - such a diet had the same negative effect on sperm concentration.

Dr Jill Attaman and colleagues looked at 91 men seeking fertility treatment and asked them how often they ate certain foods, what types of oil they used in cooking and baking and the types of margarine they consumed.

Of the group, 21 men also had the levels of fatty acids in their sperm and semen measured.

Presenting the study's findings at the annual American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Denver, she said: "We were able to demonstrate that in men who took in higher amounts of fats, such as saturated fat and monounsaturated fat, there was an association with decreased sperm concentration."

Overall, men with the highest saturated fat intake consumed 13 per cent of their daily calories as saturated fat, while those in the lowest third took in eight per cent.

The study concluded: "Men in the highest third of saturated fat intake had 41 per cent fewer sperm than those in the lowest third. "Likewise men in the highest third of monounsaturated fat intake had 46 per cent fewer sperm than those in the lowest third."

She said diet could have a greater impact on ability to father a child among men with a lower base level of sperm concentration.

Conversely, the study found that a higher intake of polyunsaturated fats - namely omega-6 and omega-3, commonly found in oily fish - was associated with better sperm movement and shape, both indicators of fertility.

While the exact reasons for the apparent link between diet and sperm quality remain unclear, she said that "dietary modifications could be beneficial for global health as well as reproductive health".

Dr Tony Rutherford, chair of the British Fertility Society, said the study was small but the conclusion was that people should eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Meanwhile, a British expert in men's health said that it was poorly appreciated that a man was as often the cause of a couple's infertility as a woman.

Dr Allan Pacey, Senior Lecturer in andrology at Sheffield University, who will be speaking at the UK Fertility Show at the Olympia Exhibition Centre in London next week, said: "It is often misunderstood by couples trying to conceive that in nearly half of all such instances, it is problems with the man’s sperm that is either directly or partially responsible for their lack of success."


Ignorant Food Snobbery: Judge Orders McDonald’s to Pay Obese Employee $17,500

A Brazilian court ruled this week that McDonald’s must pay a former franchise manager $17,500 because he gained 65 pounds (30 kilograms) while working there for a dozen years. The 32-year-old man said he felt forced to sample the food each day to ensure quality standards remained high . . .The man also said the company offered free lunches to employees, adding to his caloric intake while on the job.

This is sheer idiocy. McDonald’s does not make people fat. I lost 10 pounds while working at McDonalds for a summer. McDonald’s food is not any fattier than the food served by many other restaurants. The foie gras served in fancy restaurants is much fattier than hamburgers. Quiche Lorraine is also fattier than a hamburger.

Food snobs may not like proletarian food like hamburgers, but then, I am indifferent to foie gras, which tastes a lot like canned dog food to me. Should I be able to keep food snobs from eating foie gras, just because it’s very fatty? (Ironically enough, my wife is French, so I’ve been exposed to foie gras a lot.)

There is now a big movement afoot to tax fast food in the pursuit of mythical public-health benefits. The government is also moving to restrict the salt content of food, which could lead to increased obesity rates and more heart attacks and make it harder to market low-fat foods.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Plastic water bottles won’t hurt you

Canada has announced it will ban the chemical bisphenol A -- known as BPA -- which is used to make plastic water and baby bottles.

The head of the Canadian environmental group Environmental Defence is thrilled: "Kudos to the federal government. ... We look forward to seeing BPA legally designated as 'toxic' as soon as possible."

But the evidence doesn't actually show that BPA is toxic. Europe's equivalent of the FDA concluded: "(T)he data currently available do not provide convincing evidence of neurobehavioral toxicity."

Richard Sharpe of the University of Edinburgh explained: "Some early animal studies produced results suggesting the possibility of adverse effects relevant to human health, but much larger, carefully designed studies in several laboratories have failed to confirm these initial studies."

The initial studies injected BPA into animals, rather than giving it by mouth, which is how we humans are exposed. Since BPA degrades in the gut when we consume it, very little gets to our cells.

Yet many people are sure BPA causes not only breast and prostate cancer but also obesity, diabetes, attention deficit hyperactivity, autism, liver disease, ovarian disease, disease of the uterus, low sperm count and heart disease. When a chemical is said to cause so many disorders, that's a sure sign of unscientific hysteria. But a documentary called "Tapped" says it's true. It quotes experts claiming "BPA may be one of the most potent toxic chemicals known to man."

Nonsense. Not only is there no good evidence that BPA locked into plastic can hurt people, it actually saves lives by stopping botulism. "Since BPA became commonplace in the lining of canned goods, food-borne illness from canned foods -- including botulism -- has virtually disappeared," says the American Council of Science and Health.

You never hear the good news about BPA in the mainstream media. Fear-mongering gets better ratings.

"Tapped" also asserts that other dangerous chemicals poison bottled water. In the film, toxicologist Dr. Stephen King says that we should be "horrified" at all those chemicals. But when we called King, he sent us a study saying "testing" reveals a surprising array of chemical contaminants in every bottled water brand analyzed -- at levels no different from those routinely found in tap water.

"Tapped" claims cancer rates are up because of these chemicals, but that's another myth. Cancer incidence rates are flat. They would have declined if not for new screening methods. Life spans are up, too.

Not every mom has fallen for the BPA scare. "Truth or Scare," the blog of a woman who calls herself "Junk Science Mom," recently called out one of the people behind the anti-BPA campaign: scaremonger/hustler David Fenton:

"If you believe what you see and hear in the media, those fighting an unnecessary battle against bisphenol-A (BPA) are altruistic individuals concerned about health and safety. ... But there is an ugly truth behind the scenes that you will never hear about in the media. Greed, propaganda, political agendas, profits, lies and scams. And it all can be tied to one person and one powerful PR firm. David Fenton and Fenton Communications. ...

"He is the puppet master, and we moms are his puppets. He orchestrates the scare, and we, being fearful for our children, unknowingly carry out his plan for him. He comes out a winner, and we are duped into wasting our time, money and energy fighting a battle that never needed to be fought."

Good for you, Junk Science Mom, whoever you are. "Truth or Scare" is a wonderful addition to the debate.

But if BPA isn't toxic, why will Canada ban it? And why have Connecticut and Minnesota already done so? Because scientifically illiterate legislators are quick to panic. When the media sensationalize, legislators respond. Two FDA scientists -- Ronald J. Lorentzen and David G. Hattan --[AZ1] note the bias toward sensationalism: "The disquieting public invocations made by some ... about the perils of exposure (to BPA) ... galvanize the public debate."

When even notoriously risk-averse FDA scientists speak out against the BPA panic, the scaremongers must have gone absurdly far.


Supreme Court case may wipe out vaccine industry

Back when Congress knew how to pass good legislation, in this case in the mid-1980s, it took most cases involving vaccine liability out of the normal court system and put them in a special vaccine court where science and medicine would rule instead of the whims of scientifically and medically ignorant juries.

That’s because vaccine companies were going the way of the woolly mammoth, in part because it’s just not a very profitable business and in great part because they were awash in over $3.5 billion of lawsuits claiming little more than the post hoc fallacy of “Before the person was vaccinated her or she was fine and since the vaccination he or she became sick.” Seriously.

Even as it dramatically cut spurious claims, it helped persons who really had suffered from adverse reactions both by cutting litigation costs and by taking them outside of “roulette wheel” justice wherein a case might net a reward of millions while a virtually identical one would be rejected entirely.

But as I write at, this system itself is now endangered by a Supreme Court case in which the plaintiffs are claiming that having lost their case in Vaccine Court that rather than appeal within that system they should be able to try the case in state or federal court. And Congress did allow for some such exceptions.

But no, not this one. It’s very clear from the history of what led up to the statute that Congress did not want cases such as these to bypass the system. Why? In part as one court found, it could to a great extent destroy that very system. I provide other arguments. If we lose this system many, many children will not get their vaccines until something else is instituted. And many will die.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

ObamaTV on NBC: ‘Law & Order: Soda Police’

The Law & Order franchise has always made a fetish of being “ripped from the headlines.” Law & Order: SVU—the popular, sexed-up spin-off of the now-retired original—seems particularly intent on cramming up-to-date political commentary into every hour-long episode.

Remember Terri Schiavo? If you don’t, you can refresh your memory with SVU Episode 7×08. Want to hear your favorite detectives debate the standards of Army recruiters? That’s 11×08. And don’t miss 11×10, in which a man kills “anchor babies” of immigrants and claims he did it because he was brainwashed by a right-wing television personality. (Bill O’Reilly was not a fan of that episode.) And then there’s the October 13th episode.

Here’s the “plot”: a beautiful blonde woman named Lindsay is found dead. The detectives investigate. It turns out that Lindsay had a lot of enemies. See, Lindsay was a PR representative for a big soda company—and, of course, soda kills children.

“Lindsay Elding and all the soda companies know their products are poison,” one angry (but sympathetic) lobbyist tells the detectives. When one detective protests gently that lack-of-exercise—not soda—is to blame for childhood obesity, the lobbyist is indignant. “Ask Davy Gamm’s mother,” he says. “She’ll tell you what soda did to her son.”

Cue sentimental scene between female detective and dead child’s mother:

Davy’s Mother: Davy was 12 when he took his life. I tried to make him stop with the cola. But he was addicted to it.

Det. Benson [slowly, with furrowed brow]: Soda made him kill himself.

Davy’s Mother: I collected all the research. High-fructose corn syrup can make you obese. And obesity can make you depressed.

Det. Benson: And depression can lead to suicide.

So let me get this straight: you’re saying soda killed your son because soda can make people fat, and being fat can make people depressed, and depression can make people kill themselves? Guess I never thought about it like that before! Color me convinced!

And there’s more. Davy Gamm’s mother—who’s a nurse—reveals that she filed a wrongful death suit against the soda company for her son’s suicide. When Detective Benson says she’s “not sure” that the company can be blamed for Davy’s death, Davy’s mother shakes her head sadly and replies:

“That’s what the jury said. But we would’ve won our suit if that woman hadn’t built the ColaNow athletic center for the community.”

That woman, of course, is Lindsay. Not only is she guilty of killing children with soda, she’s also guilty of building gyms for underprivileged communities in her corporation’s name. Good thing she’s dead!

In true Law & Order form, the episode has a (predictable) twist: it seems that Lindsay wasn’t killed for her soda-peddling after all, but over a personal grudge.

Yet the real message of the episode is clear: soda is the new tobacco. It’s the monster in the closet; it’s coming for your children; and it’s to blame for whatever’s wrong with your life.

So keep your kids off soda! Or, actually, don’t. Just keep them off Law & Order: SVU—not just because it’s political propaganda masquerading as crime-drama, but because really, when you get down to it, it is a very, very bad show.


Strange taste finding may be useful

The ability to taste isn't limited to the mouth, and researchers say that discovery might one day lead to better treatments for such diseases as asthma.

It turns out that receptors for bitter tastes also are found in the smooth muscles of the lungs and airways. These muscles relax when they're exposed to bitter tastes, according to a report by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore in Nature Medicine.

That surprised Dr. Stephen B. Liggett, a lung expert who noted that bitter tastes often are associated with poisonous plants, causing people to avoid them.

Liggett said he expected the bitter-taste receptors in the lungs to produce a "fight or flight" reaction, causing chest tightness and coughing so people would leave the toxic environment.

Instead, when scientists tested some non-toxic, bitter compounds on mice and on human airways in the laboratory, the airways relaxed and opened more widely.

The compounds "all opened the airway more profoundly than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," Liggett said.

Liggett said that eating bitter-tasting foods or compounds would not help in the treatment of asthma. To get a sufficient dose, he said, sufferers would need to use aerosolized compounds, which can be inhaled.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Forget Obesity, Fight Liberalism

With the year winding down, many Americans are now receiving their health insurance renewal packets for 2011 and are reporting, with eye-rolling disgust, higher premiums. Employees and retirees on Medicare and Medicare-supplement plans are seeing, as well, in this age of ObamaCare, greater emphasis on lifestyle and behavioral issues such as obesity, with some information going so far as to define it as a disease.

Nanny-staters frequently gripe that the food choices of the obese and unhealthy drive up the cost of insurance for everyone. New York, of course, has all but banned trans-fats, the Institute of Medicine recommended earlier this year that the FDA limit salt content (a proposal, apparently, still under consideration), and, of course, McDonald’s is facing increased fire from consumer advocacy groups for its Happy Meals targeted at children. Back in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is suggesting that food stamps not be payable for Coca-Cola and other sugary, fattening sodas.

The latter example may not define Nanny-statism but it reflects a prevailing mindset, and the din of voices calling for individual responsibility in food choices is growing louder (if only the Left invoked individual responsibility in, say, sentencing guidelines and school choice). Yes, the war on obesity targets not just the makers of Twinkies, but the non-exercising, mass-consuming sofa-citizens, as well. Lest they miss anyone, Michelle Obama is taking it to the school children, and some, mostly elderly, Americans know their BMI (body mass index) numbers as well as their Social Security numbers.

So what is wrong with encouraging individual responsibility? Nothing, but the problem with government “persuasion” is what price are we willing to pay in freedom? Nothing written here is meant to encourage or condone obesity, only to submit that a market-oriented system based on competition and choice best promotes a culture of individual responsibility, with the warning that those who make dangerous choices will ultimately bear the consequences, thus lowering the price of health care.

Yes, premiums will likely always reflect the costs of someone’s ill behavior, but only an enormous toll in human contentment and liberty will ensure uniform diet, exercise and lifestyle regimens.

To which an extreme advocate of the Nanny-state would reply, “So, what?” Who cares if a few over-consuming obese divan-denizens are shamed and ostracized into sacrificing their Cokes and Twinkies for the sake of numbing down America’s vibrant lifestyle to that of a somber, socialistic, shadow-of-its-former self, European sissy-state?

The goal of ObamaCare, and the future legislation upon which the current act is mere prelude, is equality of outcome and homogenization of behavior. They cannot rightly criticize capitalism for its inefficiency, so they condemn its so called excesses.

The prevailing wisdom is that we consume too much. They are always grousing that America consumes more than its share of the world’s resources. Our greed is bad for the environment, thus the need for cap and trade legislation.

It is not the notion of America the bountiful that animates liberals, but disgust with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Little Debbie and others who add fun, flavor and color to our lives. The risk of an inch or two to our waistlines is not worth ceding our liberty to killjoy bureaucrats at any level of government. If we are serious about cutting fat, forget middle America, why don’t we just start in Washington?


Six-monthly jab 'will help beat osteoporosis'

A cheap six-monthly jab for the crippling bone disorder osteoporosis is to be made available on the NHS. Post-menopausal women at increased risk of fractures should be treated with Prolia if other treatments are unsuitable, says the drug rationing body Nice.

Trials of the drug in women show it dramatically cuts the number of spine and hip fractures and even helps bones to regrow.

The treatment, which works out at £1 a day, could provide a new option for one in four women who cannot tolerate existing medication because it causes serious stomach side effects. An estimated 170,000 women a year are unable to take bisphosphonates and risk their bones deteriorating further without treatment.

The new drug, which is also known as denosumab, has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Prolia works in a different way to existing medicines as it stimulates patients’ immune systems to block a protein called rank ligand, which regulates the activity of cells that break down bone. The drug reduces the activity of these cells throughout the body, increasing bone density and strength.

Amgen and GlaxoSmithKline, the companies who are co-marketing denosumab, welcomed the NICE decision.

John Kearney, General Manager at Amgen said: ‘Amgen researchers were the first to discover a fundamental biochemical pathway that controls bone remodelling almost fifteen years ago and we are thrilled that this discovery has led today to patients having access on the NHS to a convenient treatment that really has been shown to be highly effective in preventing fractures caused by osteoporosis.’


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Aspirin a day could halve risk of death from prostate cancer

Note that these results concern only a very narrow group of men: Those who already have cancer but in whom the cancer has not spread. Generalizing beyond that group would be incautious

Men with prostate cancer can halve their chances of dying by taking aspirin every day, researchers have found. They discovered that patients with a tumour which had not spread beyond the prostate gland, and who were also being treated with surgery or radiation, saw a drastic improvement in their life expectancy by taking the drug.

Aspirin was found to have a positive effect on all patients – but those with more aggressive forms of the disease appeared to get the most benefit. A ten-year study of 5,000 men with the early stages of disease found that aspirin reduced the risk of dying from 10 per cent to 4 per cent.

Previous trials have suggested prostate cancer may be prevented by daily doses of aspirin but there have been mixed results.

The findings come a week after a study found that healthy people can cut their risk of bowel cancer by taking 75mg of aspirin a day for five years. And earlier this year U.S. researchers said the painkiller could help women with breast cancer.

The latest findings on prostate cancer will be released next week to the American Society for Radiation Oncology in San Diego.

Of the 5,275 men taking part in the U.S. study, 1,982 were taking anticoagulant drugs such as aspirin and warfarin – usually for other conditions such as heart disease.

As a result there were varying doses of anticoagulants being taken. The anti-cancer effect was found with all such drugs but was ‘most prominent’ with aspirin.

The risk of prostate cancer spreading to the bones was also cut, along with the risk of dying from the disease.

Study leader Dr Kevin Choe, of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, said: ‘If the major effect of anticoagulants is preventing metastasis (the ability of cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body) this may be why previous clinical trials with anticoagulant medications had mixed results, since most patients in these trials already had metastasis.’

He added that while findings from this study are promising, further studies are necessary before the addition of aspirin to prostate cancer therapy becomes standard treatment.

The results coincide with a study led by Cardiff University which found a combination of hormone drugs and radiotherapy can reduce the death rate among prostate cancer patients by 43 per cent. British experts say ‘doubling up’ on drugs and radiotherapy, which is increasingly being used in the NHS, should become the new standard treatment.


New treatment for perinatal accident gives good results

It sounds a great improvement on previous practice

Research led by Australians has shown how a radical therapy could halve the number of babies who die from a birthing complication caused by inhaling their own waste.

Meconium aspiration syndrome, caused when a baby's first bowel movement occurs wrongly before birth, affects one in 2000 births in Australia and is more common in developing nations.

It can cause fatal airway blockages and inflammation, said Associate Professor Peter Dargaville, from the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, who headed a multinational trial of a new lung cleaning technique for newborns. "It involves putting a large amount of cleansing fluid into the lungs … the amount we use in a term baby is about 50 to 60ml," Dr Dargaville said yesterday.

"Many neonatologists, and people involved in neonatal intensive care, gasp when they see the video of the procedure because normally we are trying to keep the lungs dry. "It is a radical departure from what we would normally consider to be appropriate care."

The fluid, a dilution of a medicated liquid otherwise used to fortify lungs in premature babies, is syringed into the baby's airway. It is sucked out after some chest massage, collecting the waste as well, in a process that takes about a minute.

Dr Dargaville said this "lavage" treatment differed from the conventional approach in which the baby was monitored and supported in the intensive-care unit as it cleared the waste itself.

The trial involved 66 severely ill babies who were "on the knife edge" and treated across 20 neonatal intensive-care wards in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan. Mortality among the lavage-treated babies was 10 per cent, compared to 23 per cent among those babies who received the conventional treatment.

None of the lavage-treated babies needed a heart and lung bypass intervention, unlike some who failed to respond to conventional treatment.

Dr Dargaville said the trial, while small in number, showed how MAS babies who were critically ill on life support "can tolerate a lung-cleansing procedure, using a large volume of cleansing fluid". "It is not something that can be undertaken lightly … it can't really be done by people who haven't been trained in the technique," he said. "[But] for the most serious cases of MAS I do think this has something to offer."

The syndrome is thought to account for about 10 per cent of all newborns who need intensive care in China, where up to four in 10 babies born with it die.


Monday, October 25, 2010

More nonsense from the Marmot

Or is he onto something this time? He says some sensible things below. I have reddened the most sensible bit. I like the last sentence too

A hormone naturally created in the body could be the elixir of life, scientists believe. According to a study of thousands of over-50s, the substance known as DHEAS makes you live longer – and is more plentiful the wealthier you are. Research suggests that in future tablets, patches or injections could boost the DHEAS level.

In the meantime, leading a more fulfilling life could have a similar effect, says Professor Sir Michael Marmot, who led the research.

Higher levels are associated with both greater amounts of exercise and an active life with lots of pastimes, interests, friends and family – all of which tend to come with wealth.

The hormone is secreted by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys. Production is greatest in childhood and teenage years, before gradually declining through adult life. By the age of 80 it could be just 10 per cent of the peak teen level.

Having more DHEAS in the body is linked to a better memory and ability to cope with mental tasks, particularly in men.

The research also found higher levels of a second hormone, the insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), in those who are better off. The two hormones help control reactions to stress and regulate various body processes including digestion, the immune system, mood and energy usage.

Researchers said it is too soon to say whether the higher level of DHEAS is a result of being rich. However, Sir Michael believes the benefits of wealth, which include a better diet, greater control over life, less stress, more travel and involvement in the wider world through hobbies, sport or other interests will encourage the body to create DHEAS.

He stressed that improving the level of the hormone is not a simple matter of popping a pill.
‘In my view, it is a much bigger issue and involves the package of choices that wealth opens up,’ he added. The study was carried out by University College London for the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

Hormone levels were measured by taking blood samples from more than 10,000 people aged over 50, who have been monitored since 2004.

Sir Michael said: ‘We found a clear social gradient in several health indicators with less wealthy people having higher levels of obesity, lower levels of physical exercise, higher levels of smoking, lower fruit and vegetable intake and being more likely to suffer from hypertension and diabetes.

‘A striking new finding is that the hormone DHEAS which predicts life expectancy also follows a social gradient – less wealth, lower levels of DHEAS. ‘I believe this is the first time this has been identified. ‘My own interpretation is that it is a counter to stress. Having higher levels of DHEAS protects you.’

The same study confirmed previous research showing a correlation between poverty and increased levels of obesity, larger waist size and other measures of ill-health.


Celery good for memory -- in mice

A new study conducted by US researchers has claimed that celery -- staple ingredient of soups -- helps in preserving memory.

Celery has always been on the dieters list as it very low in calories. The study found that a chemical found in high concentrations in celery, capsicum peppers and peppermint could prevent loss of memory with the rise in the age.

"It shows you food doesn't have to be exotic or expensive to have exciting health properties. You are better off spending your money on a range of healthy fruit and vegetables rather than concentrating on this week's trendy superfood", explained, Carina Norris, independent nutritionist and author based in Fife.

The research team from the University of Illinois analyzed the effect posed by luteolin--a substance found in celery--on the brain. The research was performed using young mice in the age bracket of three to six months and older ones aged two years.

The study found that older mice given a diet rich in luteolin showed great results in memory tests compared to mice which were not fed on foods rich in luteolin.

Luteolin assists in escaping the chances of inflammation of the brain related to age. Age-related brain inflammation has been discovered to bear wide association with memory loss.


Four killed by celery

A food processing plant in Texas has been shut down after contaminated celery was linked to the deaths of four people. The victims all died from listeriosis food poisoning after eating chopped celery from the factory in San Antonio.

The rare bacterial infection is particularly dangerous for newborn babies, pregnant women and the elderly. It can be caused by not washing or cooking raw vegetables properly. No details were given about the victims.

Texas health chiefs traced the bacteria to chopped celery from Sangar Produce and Processing. They ordered the plant to stop operations immediately and recall all its products shipped since January.

‘At this point, the order prohibits the plant from reopening without our approval,’ health department spokeswoman Carrie Williams told CNN. ‘We will work with the company about setting up some guidelines before it can reopen,’ she added.

Six out of ten cases investigated by health officials over the past eight months were linked to the tainted celery. Four of those people died. Sangar strongly refutes the Texas Department of State Health Services accusations.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lies, damned lies and medical science

Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice? Dr. John Ioannidis has spent his career challenging his peers by exposing their bad science

By David H. Freedman

In 2001, rumors were circulating in Greek hospitals that surgery residents, eager to rack up scalpel time, were falsely diagnosing hapless Albanian immigrants with appendicitis. At the University of Ioannina medical school’s teaching hospital, a newly minted doctor named Athina Tatsioni was discussing the rumors with colleagues when a professor who had overheard asked her if she’d like to try to prove whether they were true—he seemed to be almost daring her. She accepted the challenge and, with the professor’s and other colleagues’ help, eventually produced a formal study showing that, for whatever reason, the appendices removed from patients with Albanian names in six Greek hospitals were more than three times as likely to be perfectly healthy as those removed from patients with Greek names. “It was hard to find a journal willing to publish it, but we did,” recalls Tatsioni. “I also discovered that I really liked research.” Good thing, because the study had actually been a sort of audition. The professor, it turned out, had been putting together a team of exceptionally brash and curious young clinicians and Ph.D.s to join him in tackling an unusual and controversial agenda.

Last spring, I sat in on one of the team’s weekly meetings on the medical school’s campus, which is plunked crazily across a series of sharp hills. The building in which we met, like most at the school, had the look of a barracks and was festooned with political graffiti. But the group convened in a spacious conference room that would have been at home at a Silicon Valley start-up. Sprawled around a large table were Tatsioni and eight other youngish Greek researchers and physicians who, in contrast to the pasty younger staff frequently seen in U.S. hospitals, looked like the casually glamorous cast of a television medical drama. The professor, a dapper and soft-spoken man named John Ioannidis, loosely presided.

One of the researchers, a biostatistician named Georgia Salanti, fired up a laptop and projector and started to take the group through a study she and a few colleagues were completing that asked this question: were drug companies manipulating published research to make their drugs look good? Salanti ticked off data that seemed to indicate they were, but the other team members almost immediately started interrupting. One noted that Salanti’s study didn’t address the fact that drug-company research wasn’t measuring critically important “hard” outcomes for patients, such as survival versus death, and instead tended to measure “softer” outcomes, such as self-reported symptoms (“my chest doesn’t hurt as much today”). Another pointed out that Salanti’s study ignored the fact that when drug-company data seemed to show patients’ health improving, the data often failed to show that the drug was responsible, or that the improvement was more than marginal.

Salanti remained poised, as if the grilling were par for the course, and gamely acknowledged that the suggestions were all good—but a single study can’t prove everything, she said. Just as I was getting the sense that the data in drug studies were endlessly malleable, Ioannidis, who had mostly been listening, delivered what felt like a coup de grĂ¢ce: wasn’t it possible, he asked, that drug companies were carefully selecting the topics of their studies—for example, comparing their new drugs against those already known to be inferior to others on the market—so that they were ahead of the game even before the data juggling began? “Maybe sometimes it’s the questions that are biased, not the answers,” he said, flashing a friendly smile. Everyone nodded. Though the results of drug studies often make newspaper headlines, you have to wonder whether they prove anything at all. Indeed, given the breadth of the potential problems raised at the meeting, can any medical-research studies be trusted?

That question has been central to Ioannidis’s career. He’s what’s known as a meta-researcher, and he’s become one of the world’s foremost experts on the credibility of medical research. He and his team have shown, again and again, and in many different ways, that much of what biomedical researchers conclude in published studies—conclusions that doctors keep in mind when they prescribe antibiotics or blood-pressure medication, or when they advise us to consume more fiber or less meat, or when they recommend surgery for heart disease or back pain—is misleading, exaggerated, and often flat-out wrong.

He charges that as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed. His work has been widely accepted by the medical community; it has been published in the field’s top journals, where it is heavily cited; and he is a big draw at conferences. Given this exposure, and the fact that his work broadly targets everyone else’s work in medicine, as well as everything that physicians do and all the health advice we get, Ioannidis may be one of the most influential scientists alive. Yet for all his influence, he worries that the field of medical research is so pervasively flawed, and so riddled with conflicts of interest, that it might be chronically resistant to change—or even to publicly admitting that there’s a problem.

The city of Ioannina is a big college town a short drive from the ruins of a 20,000-seat amphitheater and a Zeusian sanctuary built at the site of the Dodona oracle. The oracle was said to have issued pronouncements to priests through the rustling of a sacred oak tree. Today, a different oak tree at the site provides visitors with a chance to try their own hands at extracting a prophecy. “I take all the researchers who visit me here, and almost every single one of them asks the tree the same question,” Ioannidis tells me, as we contemplate the tree the day after the team’s meeting. “‘Will my research grant be approved?’” He chuckles, but Ioannidis (pronounced yo-NEE-dees) tends to laugh not so much in mirth as to soften the sting of his attack. And sure enough, he goes on to suggest that an obsession with winning funding has gone a long way toward weakening the reliability of medical research.

He first stumbled on the sorts of problems plaguing the field, he explains, as a young physician-researcher in the early 1990s at Harvard. At the time, he was interested in diagnosing rare diseases, for which a lack of case data can leave doctors with little to go on other than intuition and rules of thumb. But he noticed that doctors seemed to proceed in much the same manner even when it came to cancer, heart disease, and other common ailments. Where were the hard data that would back up their treatment decisions? There was plenty of published research, but much of it was remarkably unscientific, based largely on observations of a small number of cases.

A new “evidence-based medicine” movement was just starting to gather force, and Ioannidis decided to throw himself into it, working first with prominent researchers at Tufts University and then taking positions at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health. He was unusually well armed: he had been a math prodigy of near-celebrity status in high school in Greece, and had followed his parents, who were both physician-researchers, into medicine. Now he’d have a chance to combine math and medicine by applying rigorous statistical analysis to what seemed a surprisingly sloppy field. “I assumed that everything we physicians did was basically right, but now I was going to help verify it,” he says. “All we’d have to do was systematically review the evidence, trust what it told us, and then everything would be perfect.”

It didn’t turn out that way. In poring over medical journals, he was struck by how many findings of all types were refuted by later findings. Of course, medical-science “never minds” are hardly secret. And they sometimes make headlines, as when in recent years large studies or growing consensuses of researchers concluded that mammograms, colonoscopies, and PSA tests are far less useful cancer-detection tools than we had been told; or when widely prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil were revealed to be no more effective than a placebo for most cases of depression; or when we learned that staying out of the sun entirely can actually increase cancer risks; or when we were told that the advice to drink lots of water during intense exercise was potentially fatal; or when, last April, we were informed that taking fish oil, exercising, and doing puzzles doesn’t really help fend off Alzheimer’s disease, as long claimed.

Peer-reviewed studies have come to opposite conclusions on whether using cell phones can cause brain cancer, whether sleeping more than eight hours a night is healthful or dangerous, whether taking aspirin every day is more likely to save your life or cut it short, and whether routine angioplasty works better than pills to unclog heart arteries.

But beyond the headlines, Ioannidis was shocked at the range and reach of the reversals he was seeing in everyday medical research. “Randomized controlled trials,” which compare how one group responds to a treatment against how an identical group fares without the treatment, had long been considered nearly unshakable evidence, but they, too, ended up being wrong some of the time.

“I realized even our gold-standard research had a lot of problems,” he says. Baffled, he started looking for the specific ways in which studies were going wrong. And before long he discovered that the range of errors being committed was astonishing: from what questions researchers posed, to how they set up the studies, to which patients they recruited for the studies, to which measurements they took, to how they analyzed the data, to how they presented their results, to how particular studies came to be published in medical journals.

This array suggested a bigger, underlying dysfunction, and Ioannidis thought he knew what it was. “The studies were biased,” he says. “Sometimes they were overtly biased. Sometimes it was difficult to see the bias, but it was there.”

Researchers headed into their studies wanting certain results—and, lo and behold, they were getting them. We think of the scientific process as being objective, rigorous, and even ruthless in separating out what is true from what we merely wish to be true, but in fact it’s easy to manipulate results, even unintentionally or unconsciously. “At every step in the process, there is room to distort results, a way to make a stronger claim or to select what is going to be concluded,” says Ioannidis. “There is an intellectual conflict of interest that pressures researchers to find whatever it is that is most likely to get them funded.”

Perhaps only a minority of researchers were succumbing to this bias, but their distorted findings were having an outsize effect on published research. To get funding and tenured positions, and often merely to stay afloat, researchers have to get their work published in well-regarded journals, where rejection rates can climb above 90 percent. Not surprisingly, the studies that tend to make the grade are those with eye-catching findings. But while coming up with eye-catching theories is relatively easy, getting reality to bear them out is another matter. The great majority collapse under the weight of contradictory data when studied rigorously.

Imagine, though, that five different research teams test an interesting theory that’s making the rounds, and four of the groups correctly prove the idea false, while the one less cautious group incorrectly “proves” it true through some combination of error, fluke, and clever selection of data. Guess whose findings your doctor ends up reading about in the journal, and you end up hearing about on the evening news? Researchers can sometimes win attention by refuting a prominent finding, which can help to at least raise doubts about results, but in general it is far more rewarding to add a new insight or exciting-sounding twist to existing research than to retest its basic premises—after all, simply re-proving someone else’s results is unlikely to get you published, and attempting to undermine the work of respected colleagues can have ugly professional repercussions.

In the late 1990s, Ioannidis set up a base at the University of Ioannina. He pulled together his team, which remains largely intact today, and started chipping away at the problem in a series of papers that pointed out specific ways certain studies were getting misleading results. Other meta-researchers were also starting to spotlight disturbingly high rates of error in the medical literature. But Ioannidis wanted to get the big picture across, and to do so with solid data, clear reasoning, and good statistical analysis. The project dragged on, until finally he retreated to the tiny island of Sikinos in the Aegean Sea, where he drew inspiration from the relatively primitive surroundings and the intellectual traditions they recalled. “A pervasive theme of ancient Greek literature is that you need to pursue the truth, no matter what the truth might be,” he says. In 2005, he unleashed two papers that challenged the foundations of medical research.

He chose to publish one paper, fittingly, in the online journal PLoS Medicine, which is committed to running any methodologically sound article without regard to how “interesting” the results may be. In the paper, Ioannidis laid out a detailed mathematical proof that, assuming modest levels of researcher bias, typically imperfect research techniques, and the well-known tendency to focus on exciting rather than highly plausible theories, researchers will come up with wrong findings most of the time. Simply put, if you’re attracted to ideas that have a good chance of being wrong, and if you’re motivated to prove them right, and if you have a little wiggle room in how you assemble the evidence, you’ll probably succeed in proving wrong theories right.

His model predicted, in different fields of medical research, rates of wrongness roughly corresponding to the observed rates at which findings were later convincingly refuted: 80 percent of non-randomized studies (by far the most common type) turn out to be wrong, as do 25 percent of supposedly gold-standard randomized trials, and as much as 10 percent of the platinum-standard large randomized trials. The article spelled out his belief that researchers were frequently manipulating data analyses, chasing career-advancing findings rather than good science, and even using the peer-review process—in which journals ask researchers to help decide which studies to publish—to suppress opposing views. “You can question some of the details of John’s calculations, but it’s hard to argue that the essential ideas aren’t absolutely correct,” says Doug Altman, an Oxford University researcher who directs the Centre for Statistics in Medicine.

Still, Ioannidis anticipated that the community might shrug off his findings: sure, a lot of dubious research makes it into journals, but we researchers and physicians know to ignore it and focus on the good stuff, so what’s the big deal? The other paper headed off that claim. He zoomed in on 49 of the most highly regarded research findings in medicine over the previous 13 years, as judged by the science community’s two standard measures: the papers had appeared in the journals most widely cited in research articles, and the 49 articles themselves were the most widely cited articles in these journals. These were articles that helped lead to the widespread popularity of treatments such as the use of hormone-replacement therapy for menopausal women, vitamin E to reduce the risk of heart disease, coronary stents to ward off heart attacks, and daily low-dose aspirin to control blood pressure and prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Ioannidis was putting his contentions to the test not against run-of-the-mill research, or even merely well-accepted research, but against the absolute tip of the research pyramid. Of the 49 articles, 45 claimed to have uncovered effective interventions. Thirty-four of these claims had been retested, and 14 of these, or 41 percent, had been convincingly shown to be wrong or significantly exaggerated. If between a third and a half of the most acclaimed research in medicine was proving untrustworthy, the scope and impact of the problem were undeniable. That article was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.....

When a five-year study of 10,000 people finds that those who take more vitamin X are less likely to get cancer Y, you’d think you have pretty good reason to take more vitamin X, and physicians routinely pass these recommendations on to patients. But these studies often sharply conflict with one another. Studies have gone back and forth on the cancer-preventing powers of vitamins A, D, and E; on the heart-health benefits of eating fat and carbs; and even on the question of whether being overweight is more likely to extend or shorten your life. How should we choose among these dueling, high-profile nutritional findings? Ioannidis suggests a simple approach: ignore them all.

More here

I have put up this article alone today as it is such important information: Well worth reading the whole thing. I only note the obviously misleading publications in this blog. We see in this article that even the most solid-looking findings are often crap -- JR

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Now POTATOES are incorrect!

The food Fascism just grows like a cancer

Potato growers are fighting back against efforts to ban or limit potatoes in federal child nutrition programs, arguing the tuber is loaded with potassium and vitamin C and shouldn't be considered junk food. One Washington man is so exasperated by the proposals that he's in the midst of a 60-day, all potato diet to demonstrate that potatoes are nutritious.

"We're just really concerned that this is a misconception to the public that potatoes aren't healthy," said Chris Voigt, head of the Washington Potato Commission. "The potato isn't the scourge of the earth. It's nutrition."

Healthy food advocates said they're not anti-potato, but they think children need a greater variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to fight a tripling of child obesity rates in the past 30 years.

"The potato is the most common vegetable," said Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokeswoman for the School Nutrition Association. "My impression is that the goal is to increase the amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I don't believe anyone is specifically attacking the potato."

With that in mind, the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, recommended that the U.S. Department of Agriculture stop participants of the federal Women, Infants and Children program, known as WIC, from buying potatoes with federal dollars. The institute also called for the USDA-backed school lunch program to limit use of potatoes.

Under an interim rule, the USDA agreed to bar WIC participants from buying potatoes with their federal dollars. Potatoes are the only vegetable not allowed. Next year, the agency will roll out a final rule on the WIC program, which last year served 9.3 million children and pregnant and breast-feeding women considered at risk for malnutrition.

The WIC program is a supplemental food program, and the determination was made that consumption of white potatoes was already adequate, said Christine Stencel, spokeswoman for the Institute of Medicine. "The recommendation was made to encourage consumption of other fruits and vegetables," she said.

Jean Daniel, spokeswoman for USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, said the WIC program was updated for the first time in 30 years after a study showed more consumption of leafy greens and other veggies was needed.

The USDA is expected to release changes to the federal school lunch program by the end of the year. The program subsidizes lunch and breakfast for nearly 32 million needy kids in most public schools and many private ones, and those schools must follow guidelines on what they serve.

Whatever the USDA decides, potatoes won't disappear from school lunches, although they might become less common, Daniel said,
"It's an opportunity to make healthy eating choices as varied as possible, and it's a learning lesson for children about how to put a plate together that's healthy and balanced," she said.

The Institute of Medicine made its school lunch recommendation late last year after determining that standards for the federal lunch program don't match up with the government's own dietary guidelines, calling for lots of fresh fruits and veggies and more whole grains.

This hardly marks the first time that potato growers have felt targeted. Low-carb diets, such as Atkins and South Beach, prompted the U.S. Potato Board to allocate $4.4 million for an 18-month public relations campaign in 2004 to stress the nutrition factor in potatoes.

Growers note that potatoes have more potassium than bananas, and that one serving provides roughly 45 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin C. They also offer some fiber and other minerals and vitamins.


Please Pass the Salt

On many American dinner tables sits a salt shaker. And in many American meals sits a fine amount of salt. Whether it is food from a restaurant, processed food or canned, salt is an integral ingredient.

The government has taken note of this phenomenon. And what used to be warnings by medical professionals saying Americans are consuming too much salt, are evolving into something more.

The federal government has noticed the weight gained by the American people and feels entitled to fix it. And with the passage of ObamaCare, the government is well on its way to fulfilling its mission. “The government has no business interfering with the diets of Americans,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “It also has no authority to do so.”

The idea of the government restricting America’s salt intake might sound funny and a bit ridiculous, but it is a very plausible and serious proposal. In fact, what states like New York have already made into laws regarding its nutritional guidelines, can be found in ObamaCare as well.

New York passed legislation for restaurant chains forcing many of them to post calorie information on menu boards for consumers, and even ruled that some cities have to have nutritional information posted directly on the menus.

A similar mandate was passed in ObamaCare: a federal-menu labeling law. This new law will affect restaurants with 20 or more locations by forcing them to put nutritional information for menu items on the menus themselves, menu boards and even drive-thrus. This law also requires vending machine owners to comply by the same rules.

New York has also banned the use of all artificial trans fat in restaurant foods. Of all the 50 states New York has continuously been the lab rat of sorts for new nutrition-based regulations. Why is this important?

Thomas Frieden, now the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), used to be the head of New York City’s Health Department.

If you haven’t picked up on it already, this Administration is full of surprises and hidden agendas — though this one may not remain hidden for much longer.

Obama knows the odds of Republicans taking over the House and possibly the Senate are pretty good. How then will his radical new diet restrictions come to pass? Easily.

With the use of Executive Orders and regulations, Obama doesn’t need the approval of Congress. He just needs other departments of the federal government, like the CDC, to take his plan as their own.

In an October 2010 press release by the CDC, an announcement was made that five states and communities across the country will receive a total of $1.9 million for sodium reduction efforts.

It looks like Frieden isn’t wasting any time promoting how good America will be with less salt intake. The recipients of his grant: California, Shasta County and Los Angeles; Kansas, Shawnee County; and New York, New York City and Broome and Schenectady counties.

Furthermore, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report in April encouraging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set standards for salt added to prepared meals and processed foods. Though the FDA has not come out with a plan on how to attack salt intake in America, it is being considered. This should be of great concern to every American.

And to one particular American it is. Charles, who refers to himself as the Chief Salt Patriot, launched a grassroots effort to keep the government out of America’s eating habits. “When the government started talking about regulating salt, that was it. That was the last straw for me,” says Charles of Salt Patriots. “I thought this was a good way for me to take action.”

Charles has even designed buttons and salt shakers sold on his website to endorse his cause. “I’m scared of these laws,” he says. “They are numerous and ridiculous, but they’re real. The government is there to protect the Constitution, that’s all. Not to control our diets.”

ALG’s Wilson agrees and adds, “The Nanny State approach this government is willing to take shows how far they are willing to go to regulate every aspect of individual Americans’ lives — from cradle to grave. We need to keep the government out of the kitchen.”

If not stopped, this fight could land itself at your dinner table. One of the most basic and readily available ingredients would be portioned by the government. Possibly similar to how England withheld salt to American rebels during the Revolutionary War in an effort to make them weak.

But not to worry, the federal government promises to have America’s best interests in mind. In the meantime, hold onto your salt shaker and be careful who you pass it to.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Is cancer a modern disease?

This is utter rubbish. People in ancient times died much younger and most cancers emerge relatively late in life. The findings below are exactly what you would expect from that. The author recognizes that problem but her rebuttal is weak. It depends on her small sample of old-age mummies being representative. Yet it was basically only the top stratum of Egyptian society that was mummified and upper class people are much healthier than lower class people. And ANYONE who survived to old age in that society would have to have been unusually healthy

Cancer is often regarded in our society as a natural, if grim, part of the human ­condition — a dark shadow that hangs over our health. This is hardly surprising, given that one in three people develop cancer at some stage in their lives, with the disease ultimately responsible for a quarter of all deaths in Britain.

Yet it is possible that cancer is not nearly as natural as we might think. Through research with fellow scientist Professor Michael Zimmerman, I have uncovered powerful ­evidence to suggest that cancer could largely be a modern phenomenon linked to our diet, ­environment and lifestyles.

Over the past 30 years, we have ­conducted an extensive study into ancient mummified bodies, skeletal remains and classical literature from ancient societies. If cancer had always been ­prevalent in humans, we would have expected to find a large number of cases of it.

But what we discovered was striking. In all these studies, involving tens of thousands of ­individuals, we found hardly any. Among the hundreds of mummies we examined, only three definite ­incidences of cancer were detected: one from Chile, one from 14th-century Italy and one from ancient Egypt.

And out of the thousands of bones studied from European Neanderthal ­society, only one — a 35,000-year-old skull bone from Stettin, Germany — had traces of a ­malignant tumour.

In ancient Egyptian documents, too, there is no clear mention of the disease, though the ­Egyptians had relatively sophisticated medical knowledge. The near complete absence of any ­evidence of cancer in the ancient world suggests that the ­disease could be ­‘man-enhanced’, meaning its increased ­prevalence is the result of our ­industrialised and highly-stressed ­modern societies.

Since Professor Zimmerman and I published our report, last week, several objections to our theory have been loudly voiced by other scientists.

One key argument is that cancer is essentially a disease of older people, and, therefore, as life expectancy was so much lower in the ancient world, far fewer people would have contracted it. According to this thesis, the vast majority would have died of something else before they had the chance of getting cancer. But this does not stand up.

The average rates of life expectancy in the ancient world might have been far lower than today, but, even so, some ­individuals lived to an old age, as we know from skeletal records and ­literature. Yet our studies reveal that none of them seem to have had cancer.

Significantly, we found ample evidence of other age-related conditions, such as osteoarthritis, which leads to bone degeneration, and ­atherosclerosis, which causes the ­arteries to harden. If such diseases obviously existed in the ancient world, then why is the ­evidence missing for cancer?

Others have questioned the methods we used to test the mummies, ­claiming that modern techniques are not sophisticated enough to draw conclusions about the incidence of cancers.

But, once more, this does not stand up to scrutiny. My colleague Professor Zimmerman conducted experiments using cutting-edge scanners to see how well cancer tumours are preserved in mummified tissue. His tests found the ­process of mummification actually ­preserves such tumours very well. So, contrary to the claims of our detractors, traces of cancer should undoubtedly have survived from the ancient world — if they existed.

That is all the more true because the absence of medical surgery at the time would have meant that any individual tumour would have remained within the body rather than being cut out.

I am, therefore, sticking with our belief that, over the great sweeping narrative of history, cancer must have been extremely rare in the ancient world compared with today.

We suggest this huge difference may have been down to the changes in our lives that modern society has brought, from pollution to diet. Essentially, ­cancer has to be a man-made disease.

Our research supports the views of medical campaigners and experts who have long argued that mounting ­incidence of cancer is caused by factors present only in the modern world.

Diet is a classic example. Today, we consume large quantities of processed foods (which have often been produced with huge amounts of cancer-causing pesticides or chemicals) and heavily-salted instant meals, as well as fatty takeaways and sugary drinks.

In contrast, the ancient Egyptians had a far healthier diet, which — for most of the population — consisted of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables. Occasionally, on feast days, they may have had meat.

More here

Cinnamon is good for diabetics

A bit surprising but much of the pharmacopeia is of herbal origin so it is not very surprising. Abstract below

Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type 2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial

Aims: To determine the blood glucose lowering effect of cinnamon on HbA1c, blood pressure and lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes.

Methods: 58 type 2 diabetic patients (25 males and 33 females), aged 54.9 ± 9.8, treated only with hypoglycemic agents and with an HbA1c more than 7% were randomly assigned to receive either 2g of cinnamon or placebo daily for 12 weeks.

Results: After intervention, the mean HbA1c was significantly decreased (P<0.005) in the cinnamon group (8.22% to 7.86%) compared with placebo group (8.55% to 8.68%). Mean systolic and diastolic blood pressures (SBP and DBP) were also significantly reduced (P<0.001) after 12 weeks in the cinnamon group (SBP: 132.6 to 129.2 mmHg and DBP: 85.2 to 80.2 mmHg) compared with the placebo group (SBP: 134.5 to 134.9 mmHg and DBP: 86.8 to 86.1 mmHg). A significant reduction in fasting plasma glucose (FPG), waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) was observed at week 12 compared to baseline in the cinnamon group, however, the changes were not significant when compared to placebo group. There were no significant differences in serum lipid profiles of total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL cholesterols neither between nor within the groups.

Conclusions: Intake of 2g of cinnamon for 12 weeks significantly reduces the HbA1c, SBP and DBP among poorly controlled type 2 diabetes patients. Cinnamon supplementation could be considered as an additional dietary supplement option to regulate blood glucose and blood pressure levels along with conventional medications to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Taking fish oils in pregnancy 'does not boost brain power of baby'

Taking fish oil during pregnancy does not reduce the chance of post-natal depression or boost brain development in babies, research has shown.

Many women take supplements including fish oil after there were suggestions it could improve their child's co-ordination, brainpower and vocabulary. Some studies had suggested omega 3 could also reduce the chances of post-natal depression.

However a new study conducted by the University of Adelaide has found no differences among women taken the capsules and those not.

Professor Maria Makrides said a study of 2400 pregnant women in five Australian maternity hospitals between 2005 and 2009 said rates of post-natal depression were the same and that there were no differences in the cognitive development of babies at 18-months-old either.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In the trial half the women were given fish oil capsules in the last three months of pregnancy and the other half were given vegetable oil capsules.

Prof Makrides, who is Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Adelaide and Deputy Director of the Women's and Children's Health Research Institute, said: "These results show that recommendations to increase omega 3 fatty acids in pregnancy are being made without sound evidence.

"Despite the paucity of hard evidence, women are being recommended to increase their intake of fish oil fats in pregnancy and the nutritional supplement industry is successfully marketing products with fish oil, claiming they optimise brain function in both mother and infant.

"Before omega 3 supplementation in pregnancy becomes widespread, it is important to establish not only any benefits, but also any risks to mother or child."


Midnight munchies make you fat

Since mice are nocturnal, the process outlined below could well not work the same way in humans

Persistent exposure to light at night may lead to weight gain, even without changing physical activity or eating more food, according to new research in mice.

Researchers found that mice exposed to a relatively dim light at night over eight weeks had a body mass gain that was about 50 percent more than other mice that lived in a standard light-dark cycle.

"Although there were no differences in activity levels or daily consumption of food, the mice that lived with light at night were getting fatter than the others," said Laura Fonken, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

The study appears this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If the mice are not less active or eating more, what's causing the bigger weight gain? Results suggest that mice living with light at night eat at times they normally wouldn't. In one study, mice exposed to light at night – but that had food availability restricted to normal eating times – gained no more weight than did mice in a normal light-dark cycle.

"Something about light at night was making the mice in our study want to eat at the wrong times to properly metabolize their food," said Randy Nelson, co-author of the study and professor of neuroscience and psychology at Ohio State.

If these results are confirmed in humans, it would suggest that late-night eating might be a particular risk factor for obesity, Nelson said.

In one study, mice were housed in one of three conditions: 24 hours of constant light, a standard light-dark cycle (16 hours of light at 150 lux, 8 hours of dark), or 16 hours of daylight and 8 hours of dim light (about 5 lux of light). The researchers measured how much food the mice ate each day. They also measured how much they moved around their cages each day through an infrared beam crossing system. Body mass was calculated each week.

Results showed that, compared to mice in the standard light-dark cycle, those in dim light at night showed significantly higher increases in body mass, beginning in the first week of the study and continuing throughout.

By the end of the experiment, light-at-night mice had gained about 12 grams of body mass, compared to 8 grams for those in the standard light-dark cycle. (Mice in constant bright light also gained more than those in the standard light-dark cycle, but Nelson said the dim light-at-night mice were better comparisons to the light exposure that humans generally get.)

The dim light-at-night mice also showed higher levels of epididymal fat, and impaired glucose tolerance – a marker of pre-diabetes.

Although the dim light-at-night mice didn't eat more than others, they did change when they ate, results showed. These mice are nocturnal, so they would normally eat substantially more food at night. However, the dim light-at-night mice ate 55 percent of their food during the daylight hours, compared to only 36 percent in the mice living in a standard light-dark cycle.

Since the timing of eating seemed significant, the researchers did a second study, similar to the first, with one important difference: instead of having food freely available at all times, food availability was restricted to either the times when mice would normally be active or when they would normally be at rest.

In this experiment, mice exposed to the dim light at night did not have a greater gain in body mass than did the others when their food was restricted to times when they normally would be active.

"When we restricted their food intake to times when they would normally eat, we didn't see the weight gain," Fonken said. "This further adds to the evidence that the timing of eating is critical to weight gain."

The findings showed that levels of corticosterone, a stress hormone, were not significantly different in dim light-at-night mice compared to those living in a standard light-dark cycle.

That's important because corticosterone has been linked to changes in metabolism, Fonken said. This shows there doesn't have to be changes in corticosterone levels to have changes in metabolism in the mice.

So how does light at night lead to changes in metabolism? The researchers believe the light could disrupt levels of the hormone melatonin, which is involved in metabolism. In addition, it may disrupt the expression of clock genes, which help control when animals feed and when they are active.

Overall, the findings show another possible reason for the obesity epidemic in Western countries.

"Light at night is an environmental factor that may be contributing to the obesity epidemic in ways that people don't expect," Nelson said. "Societal obesity is correlated with a number of factors including the extent of light exposure at night."

For example, researchers have identified prolonged computer use and television viewing as obesity risk factors, but have focused on how they are associated with a lack of physical activity.

"It may be that people who use the computer and watch the TV a lot at night may be eating at the wrong times, disrupting their metabolism," Nelson said. "Clearly, maintaining body weight requires keeping caloric intake low and physical activity high, but this environmental factor may explain why some people who maintain good energy balance still gain weight."


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The probiotic myth

They claim to boost your immune system and help digestion. But probiotic yoghurt drinks and supplements don’t live up to their promises, according to an EU watchdog. It concluded there is no scientific proof that products such as Actimel and Yakult have any health benefits at all.

The European Food Safety Authority has now banned companies from making such assertions – and they will face heavy fines if they break the rules.

The watchdog dismissed more than 800 claims regarding the increasingly popular probiotic drinks, yoghurts and supplements, ruling that suggestions the products could strengthen the body’s natural defences and reduce gut problems were either too general or could not be proven.

The supposed health benefits of probiotic goods enable manufacturers to sell them at much higher prices than normal yoghurts and milkshakes. For example, a packet of seven 65ml bottles of Yakult costs up to £2.50 – double the price of the same quantity of chocolate milk.

Earlier this year, the Advertising Standards Authority watchdog banned a TV advert for Actimel, manufactured by Danone, which suggested it stopped children falling ill. It ruled that the promotion was ‘misleading’ and its claim that the drink was ‘scientifically proven to help support your kids’ defences’ was not supported.

Danone has subsequently dropped most of its claims that Activia yoghurts and Actimel drinks boost the immune system.

But other probiotic firms claim the European watchdog has been unnecessarily rigorous. Last night, Yakult issued a statement saying the rejected claim was just one aspect of its research. A spokesman added: ‘The claim was supported by well-designed, double-blind, placebo-controlled human studies.

‘In response to the EFSA opinion, the company wishes to discuss the evaluation process and this outcome with EFSA. ‘With the benefit of further guidance, the company anticipates a positive EFSA opinion in due course.’


Bacteria turned into 'silver bullet' to combat flu

Bacteria normally found in yogurt have been turned into "silver bullets" that can destroy viruses and could provide a cure for the common cold. Scientists have discovered that they can attach tiny studs of silver onto the surface of otherwise harmless bacteria, giving them the ability to destroy viruses.

They have tested the silver-impregnated bacteria against norovirus, which causes winter vomiting outbreaks, and found that they leaves the virus unable to cause infections. The researchers now believe the same technique could help to combat other viruses, including influenza and those responsible for causing the common cold.

Professor Willy Verstraete, a microbiologist from the University of Ghent, Belgium, who unveiled the findings at a meeting of the Society for Applied Microbiology in London last week, said the bacteria could be incorporated into a nasal spray, water filters and hand washes to prevent viruses from being spread.

He said: "We are using silver nanoparticles, which are extremely small but give a large amount of surface area as they can clump around the virus, increasing the inhibiting effect. "There are concerns about using such small particles of silver in the human body and what harm it might cause to human health, so we have attached the silver nanoparticles to the surface of a bacterium. It means the silver particles remain small, but they are not free to roam around the body."

The bacteria used, Lactobacillus fermentum, is normally considered to be a "friendly" bacteria that is often found in yogurts and probiotic drinks that can help to aid digestion. The researchers found that when grown in a solution of silver ions, the bacteria excrete tiny particles of silver, 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, which stud the outside of the cells.

Although the bacteria eventually die as a result of the silver, they remain intact and the dead cells carrying the silver particles can then be added to solutions to create nasal sprays or handwashes.

The researchers also found they could be fixed onto other surfaces such as water filters or chopping boards, which can harbour viruses.

Norovirus typically causes 90 per cent of the gastroenteritis cases around the world and is normally spread through poor hygiene or in contaminated food. Last winter it affected an estimated one million people in England and Wales and forced many hospital wards to be closed.

Influenza is a respiratory infection that normally spreads through the air when infected individuals sneeze and it is breathed in by those around them. Although there are some drugs to treat flu viruses, they are not commonly prescribed. Nasal sprays carrying silver studded bacteria might provide an alternative, according to Professor Verstraete.

Silver nanoparticles are already used in antimicrobial fabrics for sports wear clothing as they can help to reduce the growth of bacteria that can lead to the clothes smelling. But there have been widespread concerns about applying such tiny particles in ways that could lead to them getting inside the human body.

Silver is already known to cause damage to the liver, kidneys and lungs in large enough amounts and there are fears that the small size of the particles could allow it to pass into other parts of the body and cause harm.

Professor Verstraete, however, claims that by attaching the silver to the outside of the Lactobacillus fermentum bacteria, the silver is fixed onto a larger object that cannot pass into other parts of the body. He is now working with drug giants Janssen, and Johnson and Johnson to further develop the technology to tackle other viruses.

He also hopes to identify new types of bacteria that can pass through the gut while carrying the silver particles, allowing them to tackle infections there.

Dr Michael Dempsey, a biologist at Manchester Metropolitan University who has studied the affects of silver nanoparticles on microorganisms, said: "A nanoparticle contains around 15,000 atoms of silver according to some recent research from China on how they work. "This means a high concentration of silver atoms come into contact with the micro-organism, punch a hole in its wall and destroy it."


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The cure with a sting: Eczema cream meant to soothe 'makes skin WORSE'

Yet more ill-researched "wisdom" crumbles. Even theories that are "obviously" true must be tested

For years people with eczema have been advised by doctors to use a cheap emollient cream to soothe their irritated skin. But researchers have now discovered that aqueous cream BP can make the condition worse. Tests show a detergent contained in the cream thins the skin and actually causes irritation.

Although aqueous cream has been prescribed for millions of sufferers from childhood, it is the first time research has been carried out on an ingredient called sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS).

Previously it was thought the ‘stinging’ sensation affecting half of users was due to a preservative or antiseptic in the cream.

In a study by Bath University researchers, aqueous cream reduced the thickness of healthy skin in volunteers by more than 10 per cent in just four weeks and water loss was increased.

Professor Richard Guy, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Bath, said the remedy was likely to aggravate the dry, itchy rashes that plague eczema sufferers. He said: ‘The skin has a protective barrier layer of lipids, around one eighth the thickness of a sheet of paper, that stops chemicals from getting into the body and keeps moisture in.

‘SLS is a detergent used to mix oils into water-based moisturisation creams to give a nice creamy texture. It’s also used widely in shower gels and other cosmetics. 'Our study has found that rubbing aqueous cream containing SLS into the skin thins this protective barrier, making the skin more susceptible to irritation by chemicals. So to use this cream on eczemous skin, which is already thin and vulnerable to irritation, is likely to make the condition even worse.’

The study was published in the British Journal of Dermatology.


Hard exercise damages your heart

A very thorough article below by Kurt G. Harris MD, a radiologist with a very skeptical approach to accepted dietary wisdom.

He is also derisive about the benefit of statins: "For primary prevention, there is no demonstrated mortality benefit to taking statins".

He also seems to be one of the few health writers who is aware that correlation is not causation. What a guy!

I first saw this study by Brueckmann and Mohlenkamp last spring and I'm a bit surprised that the nutrition and fitness blogosphere hasn't noticed it. I think you may have to be an academically-oriented cardiologist or radiologist to really understand the significance of the findings, as the MRI imaging science is a bit esoteric. Also, it's published in Radiology, which is not exactly Gina Kolata territory.

I'll do my best to convince you of just how disturbing this study should be to those who believe that "aerobic" exercise will make you immortal.....

Mainstream thinking still maintains that lots of aerobic exercise is good for cardiovascular health - to the point where everyone uses the word "cardio" as a synonym for long sessions of aerobic effort. Like the diet-heart and lipid hypotheses, this idea is actually only about 40 years old. In the first half of the 20th century, it would have been thought as absurd as the idea that butter clogs your arteries.

So let's say you want to see just how protective "cardio" is against the number one killer of Americans -coronary heart disease. Instead of just looking for atherosclerosis, though, we want "the thing itself" of actual myocardial damage. Who knows, maybe runners get more plaque but have fewer plaque ruptures or a less thrombogenic blood profile?

So in the Breuckmann study, they recruited 102 active marathon runners. To be a marathon runner (and perhaps to maximize their power to show how healthy "cardio" is) required at least 5 marathons in the past 3 years. Many had run dozens or more in their lifetime. Anyone with a known history of heart disease or diabetes was excluded. The average age was 57 with age 50-72. The median number of marathons was 20. Weekly mileage was 35 (55km). Mean work was 4700 METs per week.

There were 102 totally asymptomatic age-matched controls, also with no history of diabetes, who had no significant history of vigorous exercise.

All subjects had cardiac MRI with LGE imaging. Those with LGE abnormalities were called back to have perfusion imaging as well to help tell if they had evidence for ischemia.

What do you think they found? After all, these were a bunch of completely asymptomatic runners. Conventional wisdom will assure you that only eating copious fiber and making turds like a gorilla could make you healthier than being a serious runner.

Would you believe 12% of asymptomatic marathon runners had evidence of myocardial damage on LGE?

Would you believe that among the sedentary controls only 4% had abnormal LGE?

I am obliged to point out that by the conventional arbitrary criteria used in biomedical publishing, the difference was "not statistically significant". To meet the standard definition, there would have to be a 95% chance the difference is real. Instead, the significance level was 8% by McNemar's test, so there is only a 92% probability that the difference is not due to chance. That's a relief.

Among runners with LGE, there were two patterns of abnormality. In the first pattern, found in 5, there was evidence on perfusion imaging and an anatomic pattern that confirmed these were typical ischemic infarcts. That is, they are evidence of heart attacks due to insufficient blood supply in the distribution of a particular diseased coronary artery. The kind of heart attacks we are all familiar with that kill 500,000 Americans a year. Two of the controls had these classic appearing infarcts.

Runners 5 classic heart attacks
Sedentary 2 classic heart attacks

The second pattern of abnormality, seen in 7 runners and 2 of the sedentary, was non-classic LGE. These areas of dead tissue were found in the middle or outer layers of the heart muscle, rather than the subendocardial layer. They also tended to be more patchy in disrtibution. This non-classical pattern can indicate scarring or fibrosis from non-ischemic injury to the heart muscle, including myocarditis. However, despite lack of evidence for ischemia on perfusion MRI, this pattern can also occur to due coronary microembolization, where a coronary artery is not narrow enough to cause ischemia, yet small bits of plaque break off or tiny blood clots form and plug the arterioles deep in the muscle - causing infarction and permanent scarring in an "atypical" pattern.

The authors speculate that this atypical infarction could be due to exaggerated shear stress related to marathon running and disturbance of prothrombotic and fibrinolytic systems contributing to microthrombotic emboli.

I think that is a reasonable speculation.

Runners 7 non-classic heart attacks
Sedentary 2 non-classic heart attacks

So whether we are looking at classic heart attacks or non-classic, the ratio is about 2.5 or 3 to 1 in favor of being relatively sedentary.

But, you might say, how do we know this LGE is significant? First, there was evidence of ischemia in most of the classic cases even if you don't buy my statement LGE by itself is definitive evidence of a heart attack.

Second, in only 21 months of followup, 1 of 90 runners without LGE had a significant coronary event and 3 of 17 runners with LGE had a significant event. Significant events included two cases of collapse and EKG abnormalities after a race. None died, but all were proved to have severe coronary disease by conventional angiography and were stented or had bypass surgery. This event-free survival was significant by log-rank at the .0001 level.

Third, the median CAC (coronary artery calcium score) in the runners with LGE was 192, and in the runners with no LGE it was 26. This is a big difference and shows that coronary atherosclerosis is tracking the LGE evidence of heart attacks. So it's probably not just thrombogenicity or arrythmias on top of an invariant level of coronary disease.

Now I'll be good and put on my Karl Popper hat for just a second. Maybe the runners all took up running a few years ago and had bad CAD to begin with? Maybe they had not yet run enough marathons to reverse their disease? From another good paper by the same group on the same subjects:

1) The more marathons run, the higher the likelihood of heart disease. The number of marathons run was an independent and significant predictor of the likelihood of myocardial damage.

The runners had about the same prevalence of non-zero coronary calcium compared to age matched controls randomly assigned from a survey population. This was so despite the Framingham risk score being lower for the runners and there being more than 5 times as many smokers among the controls.

2) Compared to age-matched controls, the runners had 40% higher HDL -c (mean of 74 mg/dl) and 18% lower LDL (121) Again, these more favorable lipid risk factors did not show a benefit in calcium scores, which correlate well with atherosclerosis (not heart attack, but coronary heart disease). Statin deficiency, I guess. How many torpedoes before the Bismarck of the Lipid Hypothesis finally sinks?

3) Compared to age and risk factor matched controls (a second set of controls with similar rates of smoking and other risk factors), 36% of runners had a calcium score or CAC above 100, versus 21% of age and risk factor matched controls. (High CAC means more coronary atherosclerosis) So if the "risk factors" like lipids and BMI and such really are helping you, running seems to be doing something to undo the effect.

There are many good references quoted by Brueckmann and Mohlenkamp. Among them is This paper by Kwong and Chan from Circulation. They looked at the presence of LGE as a predictor of major cardiac events (heart attack) and the ultimate relevant end point for us all - death.

They said: "LGE demonstrated the strongest unadjusted associations with MCE and cardiac mortality (hazard ratios of 8.29 and 10.9, respectively; both P 0.0001). LGE remained the strongest predictor selected in the best overall models for MCE and cardiac mortality."

A hazard ratio of 11 for future cardiac mortality is very, very very, high. 1100% more likely to die is gold standard hazard ratio, of the same magnitude as smoking and lung cancer. This makes it hard to doubt the significance of having LGE and would not be seen if there were benign explanations for it.

This makes sense. How could there be a better predictor of whether you will have a heart attack than evidence that you have already had a clinically silent one?

Brueckmann and Mohlenkamp are German, but get points for an English level of understatement: "...It seems safe to state that marathon runners most likely did not have a lower rate of LGE than did the healthy control subjects, who did not regularly exercise."

Do you think that might be why this paper was in Radiology instead of JAMA or NEJM? Is that why there was no press conference before the paper came out? Do you think maybe Kolata or Jane Brody might have told you about this study in the New York Times if the numbers had been reversed? It's time for some Kuhnian iconoclasm. Let's take the hammer to some "normal science".

I think that atherosclerosis is not caused by lack of sustained high-level aerobic ("cardio") exercise. Just like I don't think lack of "cardio" is the cause of the obesity epidemic. I think premature atherosclerois is caused by diet. Our susceptibility to a bad diet is contributed to by genetics.

I think that not only does sustained "cardio" not protect you from atherosclerosis, I think it is quite likely that through repetitive shear stress with endothelial damage and promotion of an inflammatory state, that it promotes atherosclerosis.

Further, I think that "cardio" can precipitate the thromboembolic and acute inflammatory events like plaque rupture - acute heart attacks, even if it does not directly contribute to atherosclerosis, which I think it does.

Could "cardio" promote atherosclerosis and myocardial damage by being confounded by diet? That is, could the wheat, carbohydrate and linoleic acid found in low fat "healthy" diets be more prevalent in marathon runners by virtue of their greater caloric intake of this noxious garbage?

That's a possibility. I think it may apply to cyclists, most of whom seem to eat horribly and who seem to be prone to osteoporosis.

Even if these findings are all confounded by a noxious athletic diet, I still find no grounds at all to believe that "cardio" protects your heart or makes you live longer.

I think a modicum of repetitive physical activity can improve your mood. I like to a run a 5 k every now and then. It feels good and cross-country seems good for your coordination with all the varied terrain. A little cross-country and some sprinting sure seems to make me more functional. I am not under the delusion that it will improve my overall health or my longevity, though.

Same goes for eating vegetables, fiber, antioxidants, and most supplements. No magic foods.

The good kind of exercise, resistance training, makes you more functional and stronger. That is the only sensible definition of fitness if we follow the hippocratic oath with our selves: Primum Non Nocere

I think if you eat the SAD that adding a little exercise may mitigate some damage in a compensatory fashion by improving your glucoregulatory function and sucking up some of that excess glucose. I don't eat the SAD, though.

I vote we keep the terminology. We should keep calling marathons, centuries on the bicycle and hours on those ridiculous stairmasters and treadmills "cardio" to remind us which organ we are likely to be putting at risk.

Running a marathon is looking about as smart as boxing or playing football. So maybe you should stick to crossfit and weightlifting for your exercise. Or TV watching.