Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23 2015. Let me confess a predilection for evidence. The fact that so much medicine is not evidence based (for instance) give me the creeps.




Riddle me that

As I have written previously, when I was about nine (I can’t recall precisely) I came to the conclusion that a great deal of what I was told was wrong. The details can await my memoirs—but it was an extremely useful insight.

What caused this epiphany? It was a combination of reading, observation, and a specific incident.

Why had I not come to this conclusion a great deal sooner?

Good question! Let’s destroy the credibility of the source.

Age and inexperience were two co-related reasons, but an important additional one was that I had been brought up not to lie.

Lying, I was trained to think, resulted in damnation. I wasn’t quite sure what that was, but it didn’t sound good. Bear in mind I was raised a Catholic—so doubtless Catholic guilt came into it too.

My mother, creative, charming, and charismatic though she was, was far from admirable in many ways. Nonetheless, she hammered that principle like nothing else. That apart, she was impressively cruel and violent. As she got older, she mellowed. There was no hint of that when I was young.

If I lied, I got beaten. If I didn’t lie, I got beaten. For a long period of time mother was convinced that that the way to handle boys was to beat them—for any and every reason. She was an only child—and craved men. She had a serious problem with boys. I was the eldest and the one she experimented on. It wasn’t fun.

Later, I was to find that she lied constantly—but didn’t see it as lying. It was more a matter of constructing a scenario—which she would adjust as needed, and which would become, as far as she was concerned, the absolute truth.

She was adept at scenarios and the fast mental re-write. The truly frightening aspect was that this process was the norm. As a consequence, I didn’t believe anything she said—unless it was something I had witnessed personally. That is a very sad thing to say about one’s mother—but such was my upbringing.

Be that as it may, I am very uncomfortable with lying personally, even for good social reasons, and attach particular importance to that elusive thing—the truth.

My conscience apart, I am also attached to the truth for practical reasons. It is the foundation of rational thinking—or so it seems to me. In turn, evidence-based thought leads to clarity of mind, which leads to clarity of writing (once you have practiced for a decade or two).

Voila! What more could you want (if you are a writer)?

Well, I could answer that in a number of ways starting off with readers, fame, and fortune—one can but dream— but I want to stick to the theme of veracity, because it seems to me that society attaches disturbingly little importance to the truth. Aspiring to it has become no more than a convenient convention. We don’t really expect it.

Whereas you may be punished for lying as a child, there is virtually no penalty for lying as an adult. In fact, the incentives are tilted strongly to promote the advantages of lying. Indeed, if you work for a corporation, or any kind of institution, you are pretty much expected to lie either to defend it, or to promote it to advantage in some way—normally profit.

Try telling the truth if you work in Big Pharma and you won’t be employed for long—and one can say much the same about any other industry or organization. Instead the standard seems to be the effectiveness of one’s lies. If you can lie convincingly, the world is your oyster.

Is lying now more common than it used to be? I don’t know the answer to that, but my suspicion is that it is for a number of reasons.

  • Because of the ever increasing power and influence of corporations—which lie constantly about their good and services.
  • Because legislation hasn’t kept pace with either the increase in corporate power, or the advances in technology.
  • Because professional communicators—advertising, public relations, and market researchers in particular—armed with unprecedented information about their target audiences, and with ever increasing computer power to process it, have become better and better at their business, and now truly excel at what they do. They now know, with some precision, that propaganda works, and what tools to use. They are that good.
  • Because the corporate-owned media have cut back their personnel so much that there is far less fact-checking—and investigative reporting in depth has practically gone the way of the dodo.  Why should media expose the truth when it exposes the lies of the very advertisers who support them?
  • Because increased communication simply gives more opportunities to lie.
  • Because we are now so drowned in information, it becomes harder and harder to check out the truth.
  • Because a great many of us are lazy, and prefer to rely on our prejudices rather than make any serious effort to ascertain the real situation.
  • Because, whether we admit it or not, it has now become accepted as the social norm.

I’m not totally negative about all this. Though our commercial culture seems to have wandered into the dark side, and careerism is rife, I still run across a great deal of ordinary human decency fairly regularly—and certainly don’t think integrity is dead. It is more that I feel we have got the balance wrong.

When you get right down to it, most issues are a matter of balance. 

Where health is concerned, it strikes me that matters are very far from balanced.

  • Most of us are under the illusion that the medical profession is almost entirely evidence based—and that is how the profession markets itself. The facts say otherwise.
  • In more than a few cases, the medical profession gets it entirely wrong.
  • Conflicts of interest are rife—and the patient almost always loses out.
  • The profit motive, where medicine is concerned, certainly doesn’t seem to work to the average patient’s advantage in the U.S.. American healthcare costs more than twice as much as in the UK—a truly staggering drain on the U.S. economy—and Americans live sicker and die, on average two years sooner than the citizens of other developed nations. On top of that, many people still don’t have healthcare—and the system, unless you are rich, has serious quality problems. It’s fiercely complicated, a source of ongoing stress for most families, and all too many avoid treatment because they can’t afford the deductible.
  • Deductibles are steadily increasing—whereas earnings, in real terms, are not.

All in all, it’s a disastrous mess, which is not being addressed—and the U.S. is the richest nation in the world.

A reasonable person might expect riots and outrage—but many Americans still believe the canard that they have the best system—and do nothing.

Propaganda works! It is frighteningly effective. In effect, if it is allowed on a virtually unrestricted basis—as is the case in the U.S.—it can neutralize, or otherwise distort, representative democracy. It is not just that politicians only listen to donors. It also means that the average American doesn’t have the necessary information to vote rationally.

This makes a nonsense of the Constitution—but explains a great deal.

The following piece is taken from

"Statin Nation II: What Really Causes Heart Disease?" is the sequel to the documentary "Statin Nation: The Great Cholesterol Cover-up." However, it stands well on its own, even if you didn't see the original film.

For many decades, the idea that saturated fats caused heart disease reigned supreme, and diets shifted sharply away from saturated animal fats such as butter and lard, toward partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine.

However, as people abandoned saturated fats and replaced them with trans fats, rates of heart disease continued on a steady upward climb. And, the more aggressive the recommendations for low-fat diets, the worse this trend became.

Last year, butter consumption in the US reached a 40-year peak, and the resurgence of butter has been attributed to a shift in consumer preferences away from processed foods and back toward natural foods.

This is a positive trend, showing that the old myth claiming that saturated fat is bad for you is finally starting to crumble. People are also starting to recognize that refined sugar is far worse for your heart than dietary fat was, and processed low-fat foods are typically loaded with sugar.

The French Paradox

According to the film, the long held view that saturated fats and cholesterol caused heart disease came under closer scrutiny in the 1990s, when researchers like Kurt Ellison with the Boston University started taking notice of what became known as the French Paradox.

The French eat a lot more fat than many other nations, yet they don't have higher rates of heart disease.

For example, in the UK people on average eat 13.5 percent of their total calories as saturated fat, whereas the French eat 15.5 percent saturated fat, yet their rate of heart disease deaths is about one-third of that in the UK — just 22 heart disease deaths per 100,000 compared to 63 per 100,000 in the UK.

Icelanders also consume higher amounts of saturated fat — on average 14.6 percent, but their rate of heart disease deaths is also lower than the UK, just 34 per 100,000.

The film reviews a number of statistics from other countries, including Denmark, Lithuania, and Portugal, which defy the idea that saturated fat consumption is associated with heart disease. The data simply doesn't bear this out.

Here's another startling example. The American Heart Association recommends keeping your saturated fat consumption below seven percent of your total calories, ideally around 5 or 6 percent.

Lithuania is very close to being on target, with a saturated fat consumption rate of 7.7 percent of total calories, yet Lithuania has one of the highest heart disease mortality rates in the world — 122 per 100,000.

Cholesterol Is Not a Major Factor in Heart Disease

Like saturated fat, cholesterol has also been wrongly demonized despite the fact that 60 years' worth of research has utterly failed to demonstrate any correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease.

Despite this, many, even most health professionals still cling to the idea that cholesterol raises your risk for heart disease, and that strategies that lower cholesterol also lower your heart disease risk.

Fortunately, limitations for cholesterol will likely be removed from the 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which would be a welcomed change.

Cholesterol is actually one of the most important molecules in your body; indispensable for the building of cells and for producing stress and sex hormones, as well as vitamin D.

It's also important for brain health, and helps with the formation of your memories. Low levels of HDL cholesterol have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease, and may also increase your risk of depression, stroke, violent behavior, and suicide.

What You Need to Understand About HDL and LDL Cholesterol

While cholesterol is typically divided into HDL/"good" and LDL/"bad" cholesterol," there's really only one kind of cholesterol. The division into HDL and LDL is based on how the cholesterol combines with protein particles.

LDL and HDL are lipoproteins, meaning fats combined with proteins. Cholesterol is fat-soluble, and blood is mostly water, so for it to be transported in your blood, cholesterol needs to be carried by a lipoprotein, which is classified by density.

Large LDL particles are not harmful. Only small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, as they can squeeze through the lining of your arteries. If they oxidize, they can cause damage and inflammation.

Thus, it would be more accurate to say that there are "good" and "bad" lipoproteins (opposed to good and bad cholesterol). Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a board certified cardiologist, and Chris Kresser, L.Ac., an integrative medicine clinician, have both addressed this issue in previous interviews.

Some groups, such as the National Lipid Association, are now starting to shift the focus toward LDL particle number instead of total and LDL cholesterol, in order to better assess your heart disease risk. But this approach has not yet spread into the mainstream.

Statins Are Prescribed Based on an Incorrect Hypothesis

Since the cholesterol hypothesis is false, this also means that the recommended therapies — low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, and cholesterol lowering medications — are doing more harm than good. Statin treatment, for example, is largely harmful, costly, and has transformed millions of people into patients whose health is being adversely impacted by the drug. As previously noted by Dr. Frank Lipman:1

"[T]he medical profession is obsessed with lowering your cholesterol because of misguided theories about cholesterol and heart disease. Why would we want to lower it when the research2 actually shows that three-quarters of people having a first heart attack, have normal cholesterol levels, and when data over 30 years from the well-known Framingham Heart Study3 showed that in most age groups, high cholesterol wasn't associated with more deaths?

In fact, for older people, deaths were more common with low cholesterol. The research is clear – statins are being prescribed based on an incorrect hypothesis, and they are not harmless."

Statins Can Wreck Your Health in a Number of Ways

The film points out that research shows statins promote calcification of your arteries, and even though arterial calcification increases heart disease, these studies seem to be largely ignored by mainstream health professionals. Sherif Sultan, a professor of Vascular and Endovascular surgery who is featured in the film, notes that many people have in fact improved their health by getting off statins.

That certainly doesn't surprise me, considering the fact that studies have discovered a wide variety of problems associated with statin use, and virtually all of these problems are being downplayed or ignored altogether by conventional medicine.

Odds are actually very high — greater than 100 to one — that if you're currently taking a statin, you probably don't need it. Based on my own review of the evidence, the ONLY subgroup that might benefit from statins are those born with a genetic defect called familial hypercholesterolemia. Dr. Sinatra believes males with obstructions in their left anterior descending coronary artery might also benefit. For all others, statins are more likely to do you harm than good.







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