Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Archive for the ‘ Most Popular Posts ’ Category

20 Nov

What – Lardsicles Didn’t Have Enough Carbs?

Just when I think I’ve seen it all, along comes fried Coke. Earlier this year I saw a major Southern California “quick service” food chain promoting their deep-fried fries. That’s right – fries that are breaded and … fried.

I barely had time to recover from that one before fried soda burst onto the scene in several versions. There are fried Coke rings, in which the corn-syrup liquid is frozen, breaded in some variation of corn starch, and deep fried in (of course) corn oil.

The article linked below highlights what appear to be deep-fried Coke bonbons. Fortunately, they are drizzled with syrup and powdered sugar, thereby accelerating consumers from mere obesity, diabetes and heart disease to plain old death. I’m glad to see that science and the spirit of innovation are alive and well across our great land. Of that, we can be proud. Besides, next year, plans are in the works for a version that really keeps your health in mind:

“Next year’s fair-goers can look forward to fried Sprite or — for those watching their weight — fried diet Coke.”

Here’s the clickativity for the above quote and the story.


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9 Nov

Bite Me, Big Pharma

Lying, Twisting and Manipulating: The Statistics Game Drug Companies Play

Faced with high insurance rates, long hours, endless paperwork, and high-pressure demands, doctors don’t have an easy time of it. If you’re blessed enough to have a thoughtful, proactive, cautious M.D., let them know, by all means. Doctors are inundated with free drug samples, bonuses and perks from Big Pharma, and even the most well-intentioned practitioner can face dilemmas.

Case in point: even the most careful doctors are getting misleading information from many medical journals.

It’s one of the most serious problems facing healthcare and medicine today. Scientists and medical experts are expressing increasingly loud concerns about the ethical standards of medical publications. Some journals and publications have essentially become an extended limb of advertising for drug companies.

The problem isn’t just in the expensive pharmaceutical ads that provide a means of financial survival for scientific and medical news publications.

Many of the studies themselves are funded directly by pharmaceutical companies, making the journals de facto supporters of such companies. Or, doctors participating in the studies also serve positions in various companies.

It’s troubling enough that independent news sources, supposedly impartial and peer-reviewed by other scientists and medical experts, are vulnerable. But even government agencies aren’t immune. The CDC, FDA and NIH have all faced huge criticism in recent years for obvious conflicts of interest.

How is Big Pharma getting away with this? Simple: we let them.

Here is what frequently occurs:

For starters, when companies fund studies of their own drugs – big shock – there are almost never unfavorable results.

When there are, they’re simply omitted, or a new study is funded. A fairly recent review found that when a study is funded by the company producing the drug, positive results happen four times more often than when impartial studies by independent researchers are conducted.

According to the Public Library of Science, an impartial public access resource (check it out in my Daily Reads at right), “between two-thirds and three-quarters” of the studies reported in the top journals are paid for by pharmaceutical companies.

According to the Library, companies aren’t bold enough (or unwitting enough) to skew the results. They simply ask questions they know will yield the “right” results. How convenient.

Another problem: even though journals are usually reviewed by colleagues, if companies are using the same study again and again, but presenting it in different ways, editors have no way of knowing. Editors try to maintain strict ethical integrity, but it can be next to impossible to know the origin, conflicts or “right questions” involved in some studies.

Before I started Primal Nutrition, I served a stint as an editor of a large national health magazine, and I certainly empathize with editors – as my staff knows all too well, information is always changing and getting to the truth is a ceaseless quest that demands constant vigilance. Of course, the truth is worth it. The stakes – Americans’ health – are too high.

Clearly, this is frustrating for anyone who’s even remotely health-minded and trying to arm themselves with the right information about health. If drug companies are paying for studies in order to get certain results, how safe, really, are these drugs? (Yet stevia must be sold as a skin-care treatment.)

There are several ways pharmaceutical companies get around the suspicions of journals and experts:

- They often test their new drug against an old one already proven to be useless or inferior.

- They test their drug against a weaker dose of the competitor’s drug (or a stronger dose, if there are side effects).

- They sponsor ongoing trials and pick information at points where results are most favorable.

- They sponsor tiny trials that only study a few people or a specific group of people.

My biggest contention is what I call the Statistics Game. Crass manipulation of statistics happens more than any of us wants to know. For example, a drug company will study 1,000 people with a particular illness or disease. Let’s say 6 of the 1,000 died. The company then creates a drug that reduces that number to 3. You can guess what the headline will say (because the company will provide the media with it): “Deaths cut by 50% with new drug!” when the real headline should say: “.3% die instead of .6%” or, better yet, no headline at all, because three people out of 1,000 is not even close to being statistically significant. Statistical significance is a benchmark standard in all science. In medicine, 15% is typically what’s required to be considered worthy of any attention, funding or recommendation. You can see where the Statistics Game gets manipulated here.

In other words, using my example (which, unfortunately, is all too real), what doctors should say is:

“If you don’t take this drug, you will be among the 994 of 1,000 that still live regardless. If you do take this drug, you will suffer a loss in quality of life, put up with side effects and complications and will be among 997 of 1,000 that live.”

What can you do?

First and foremost, seek a preventive lifestyle that avoids the need for possibly harmful medications. Vitamins, antioxidants, a fiber-rich diet, and daily exercise are proven, in hundreds upon hundreds of ethically-conducted studies, to be the best course in your journey towards good health.

Every month, new research from prevention-minded resources like the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Public Library of Science reveal that simple lifestyle changes like exercise, diet, supplements and stress management are the true keys to unlocking great health.

Simply losing weight can halve your risk of diabetes, heart disease and other common health concerns. Doctors say the majority of arthritis sufferers would benefit if they just exercised on a daily basis. The vast majority of heart attack victims could help avoid these life-threatening incidents by simply reducing inflammation. (Ways to do this include taking Omega-3 fish oil supplements and exercising, in addition to cutting out alcohol, stress, smoking and high salt intake.)
Of course, I’m on a relentless mission to help you get started in the right direction. One way I can do that is to share my knowledge of studies with you. Here’s what I personally look for: studies that are reasonably controlled, have a variety of patients, and examine a large enough number of individuals over a long enough time period. I watch for drug company sponsorships in the hundreds of studies published every month, and my goal is always to separate the health from the hype. (One of my favorites: the big dairy campaign that claims three daily servings of milk or cheese will help you lose weight. Want to know what that was based on? A University of Tennessee study, funded by the Dairy Industry. The results? Even with Big Dairy backing the study, the average difference in weight loss between dairy-dieters and non-dairy participants was two pounds. Yes, two whole lb’s, folks. Unless you’re a five-year-old, I think many of us could lose that by skipping a dinner or two.)

Finally, you are your own best judge. Only you can decide what is best for your health. If something seems too good to be true, or appears to be a band-aid solution, it probably is. There’s no short-cut, drug or device that can give you good health. On the other hand, good health isn’t about deprivation or misery, either. It’s about smart daily decisions over a lifetime.

To do this, you don’t need to be a scientist or doctor – as this post shows, even the experts are vulnerable to biased influence. Let common sense be your guide and a positive, preventative lifestyle, your approach. And tell me what you think.


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6 Nov

Mark Sisson Is Not Afraid of Fat

Evolution is all about adaptation – to the environment, to circumstances, to stress and even (or especially) to food. In this context of adaptation, it’s truly amazing how “inventive” the human body has become in finding novel (and perhaps heretofore uncontemplated) ways to repair damage we do to ourselves through our diets and other lifestyle indiscretions. And most of these changes are less than a few hundred years old, which makes the adaptations even more remarkable.

Let’s use cholesterol as an example. Cholesterol is actually very beneficial. Among other duties, it’s a necessary component of every cell membrane and it’s involved in hormone production. The body makes about 1400 mg a day just to keep up!

Now let’s take a stressful lifestyle (show of hands, please), add in a bad diet and lack of exercise and we get an inflammatory process in the arteries that causes lesions. This inflammation problem is completely unrelated to amounts or types of cholesterol.

Nevertheless, the ever-inventive human body adapts to this inflammation sequence by using cholesterol as a band-aid to cover up the lesions until healing can take place – which, of course, almost never happens since the silly human continues to live the same pro-inflammatory lifestyle. Eventually, the cholesterol band-aids harden (sclerosis), narrow the arteries and sometimes break off causing a heart attack.

Of course, we blame the cholesterol for all this and embark on a national campaign to rid the body of this important substance instead of focusing on the foods (and other stresses) that promote inflammation in the first place!

Now let’s consider fat. For years we believed fat was nothing more than nature’s way of storing extra calories for some future famine. That would be a handy little adaptation in and of itself if that’s all it were. But when you do the math, you see that it doesn’t require a lot of fat to survive or even migrate for long periods. A 165-pound person with only 13% body fat has 21.45 pounds of fat. Being generous and assuming that you need a minimum 3% just to carry on basic survival functions, that leaves 10% or 16.5 pounds of fat to live off. At 3500 calories per pound of fat and 100 calories per mile walking, you’d theoretically have enough fat to survive weeks and migrate several hundred miles.

So maybe fat has another purpose, and this is where my friend Art De Vany’s description of fat as a toxic waste site (my words) comes in. Modern humans have so thoroughly altered foods to focus on simple carbohydrates (sugars) that we now consume hundreds of excess grams of it every day.

As Art has explained, the body recognizes excess sugar (glucose) as a toxic load – and remember, it doesn’t take a whole lot of it to be excessive – and the body starts the adaptive process of secreting insulin to take sugar out of the bloodstream and deposit it into the muscles.

Two problems arise immediately:

First, there’s not a lot of room in those muscles. Ask any athlete who’s ever tried to carbo-load for an event. Secondly, most people aren’t athletes and have lost significant utility of their muscle through atrophy, further diminishing storage. Furthermore, they don’t burn off the already-stored glycogen because they don’t exercise.

But here’s where the body has become so elegantly adaptive once again. It creates little storage facilities in the form of additional fat cells. Not because it’s trying to store calories for some future famine, as modern medicine might have you believe, but because it’s trying to find novel and effective ways to rid the body of this very toxic glucose excess.

And it’s a pretty good solution. Insulin allows glucose access to these fat cells which grow larger and more numerous over time. Problem is, it’s always one step behind, so the fat cells fill up just as the muscle filled up, leaving excess glucose in the bloodstream after the next high carb or high calorie meal until more fat cells can be made.

And so the spiral continues as 40 million Americans are headed towards type 2 diabetes.


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3 Nov

Ladies: We Can Stop With the Calcium Chews, Already

Sara here. Osteoporosis has been in the news again, and I want to share some important missing information with you. (If you want the nitty-gritty osseous-related research, please shoot me a line on the Forum.) In brief, though, here’s what every woman, and especially all the moms out there, must know:

Osteoporosis is not going to be prevented, treated or cured with three glasses of milk a day or yogurt every morning. Never was, never will be.

A few things the dairy people don’t want you to think about:

1) Dairy is not a common food in much of the world,

2) Osteoporosis is not a common disease – often, it’s not even heard of – in much of the world. However, osteoporosis is most common in Europe and in the United States, where dairy intake is exceptionally high. Strange? Sure, because there are other factors you need to know about. Osteoporosis is not simply a matter of calcium depletion.

Osteoporosis is caused by many factors, but here are the four key ones:

1) Vitamin and mineral deficiency. Although the western world has incredible abundance and access, centralized mass production of food leaves a lot to be desired in the nutritional department. And our calcium emphasis is skewed. Though calcium is important, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin D, and countless other vitamins and minerals are crucial to bone health. In fact, recent studies show that magnesium may actually be more important to bone health than calcium is. Not saying calcium isn’t important. It is. It’s vital. It’s just not the only thing you need. I hate to beat a dead llama, but take a multi-vitamin, ladies!

2) Soda consumption. (Even diet soda.) The worst, and I mean worst thing you can do to your bones is to drink death-by-can. There are lots of studies that prove this, but a recent long-term study published in the much-respected American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who consume just one soda daily have 5 to 7 percent less bone material than women who limit fizzy stuff to just once a month.

3) Lack of fruits and vegetables. Most Americans eat only 1-3 servings of produce daily. Blech! No wonder we’re all so chunkity chunk. A recent study from the British Journal of Nutrition found that postmenopausal women who ate adequate vegetable matter (at least 5 servings) in their daily diets were between 200 and 400% better in terms of bone mineral density loss. (Now, here’s a handy time to talk about studies and statistics. This doesn’t mean that these bone-hardy women have bones that weigh 2 to 4 times as much as other women. What it means is relative loss compared to veggie-avoiding women. So, that might mean a few ounces on up to a few pounds – scientists generally break things up into quartiles so they can examine a range of factors. Fascinating, I know!)

In other words, vegetables will not make you gain 300 pounds, and they will also not give you the bones of Hercules. But they’re still good for your bones.

Here was Mark’s take: the study was cross-sectional (good), population-based (fine in this case), long-term (good), used statistical regression analysis (sounds fancy but just standard) and was questionnaire-based (a little annoying, but still useful).

4) Lastly, but definitely not least, osteoporosis is caused by a lack of weight-bearing activity. This means resistance. This means weights. And there is no need to worry – weight-bearing activity will not make you look like a protein-shake spokeswoman. A lot of women are surprised to learn that “weight-bearing” activity can be going for a walk – ‘cuz you are bearing your own weight! Using ankle weights is great, as well. Purchase some dumbbells in the 2-10 pound range (depending on your fitness level) and learn to do 4 or 5 difference moves, 3 sets each, 8-10 repetitions per set. 2 or 3 times a week is plenty to keep your bones strong. Ask me for some moves. I’m happy to help out.


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