Pfizer announced yesterday that they were abandoning their newest “miracle drug”, torcetrapib. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Torcetrapib.
Turns out that in a recent large-scale controlled study, “rolls-off-the-tongue” killed more people than even the previous miracle drug, Lipitor. Pfizer had invested over $800 million in their most recent attempt to stem the rise of heart attacks and stroke by lowering cholesterol.
The main focus of torcetrapib was to raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol that has been shown to reduce fatty plaque formation on arterial linings). Since Lipitor is coming off patent soon, Pfizer needs a new blockbuster to fill the income pipeline – now at $51 billion a year. Meanwhile, news wire services are suggesting that this is a huge setback for millions with heart disease who have been awaiting another magic pill to reverse the damage brought on by poor lifestyle choices.
Here’s the deal: as long as the medical community continues to approach heart disease by promoting cholesterol reducing drugs, they will fail.
Cholesterol is not necessarily the bad guy here. It is the inflammatory processes of C-reactive protein and homocysteine, occurring within the arterial walls, that begin the process of coronary artery disease. These inflammatory processes are the real culprits. Cholesterol production is merely the response mechanism! Attempting to avert heart problems by reducing cholesterol is literally akin to removing scabs from wounds as they try to heal. (If that analogy turns your stomach, you’ll have an inkling as to how sickened I am by Big Pharma.)
The root cause of inflammation is a combination of poor diet, sloth and stress. The good news is that most cardiovascular disease is completely preventable and largely curable without side effects.
Cholesterol is the unfortunate scapegoat in all this. It’s a shame, because this endlessly-eviscerated lipid is one of the body’s most useful and dynamic substances. 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 reserves up. Unfortunately, when you have a stressful lifestyle, toss in a bad diet and lack of exercise and you can get an inflammatory process within the arteries that causes lesions on arterial walls. The 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 most of us keep living the inflammatory lifestyle with little regard for how destructive it is. We’re inflammation rock stars.
Eventually, the cholesterol band-aids harden (sclerosis), narrow the arteries and sometimes break off, causing a heart attack or stroke. Of course, we blame the cholesterol for all this and embark on a national campaign to rid the body of this important substance by dousing everyone with drugs, instead of focusing on the foods (and other stresses) that promote inflammation in the first place. And these drugs have some pretty nasty side effects. And yet, we continue to worship at the idol’s altar.
Bottom line: In my opinion, diet, exercise, stress reduction and prudent supplementation should be the primary focus of any primary care physician.
UPDATE 12/11/06: Another interesting analysis.
It Ain’t All About Food: You Gotta Move, Too!
Here’s your weekly health challenge:
Commit to 3 solid workout sessions this week. If you’re already disciplined about performing regular exercise, then increase the length of your workout by 10 minutes, or try a challenging new fitness tool or technique. If you’re working out for 30 minutes, the pain of another 10 minutes is marginal, and the cumulative impact of a little more grit will surprise you.
In light of the holiday season this week’s Aaron’s Additions brings you a cool health gadget that could be the perfect gift for the health-conscious loved one in your life. Sony’s new MP3 player, created with workout-wonders in mind, packs tons of features into a distinct shape.
Sony geared their new S2 Sports Walkman MP3 Player (NW-S200) toward exercise buffs by including a stopwatch, pedometer, and a calorie counter so that you can track your workout progress. It is also designed with a water-resistant build so that you never have to worry about handling it with your inevitably sweaty hands.
Apart from these functions Sony has added some innovative elements as well. The Shuffle Shake feature allows you to listen to your music in shuffle mode simply by shaking the player three times. When you are tired of listening in shuffle mode just shake it three more times to return to your normal playlist.
The next inventive design component is the Music Pacer feature. This adjusts the rhythm of your music to match your pace. When you speed up so will the music, and when it is cool-down time the music will revert to your slow playlist.
An additional feature that sets this music device apart is its Quick Battery Charge feature. With only a 3-minute charge you can be listening to your favorite tunes for up to 3 hours! And if you can wait for the full 45-minute charge, you can expect a generous 18 hours’ worth of playback time.
The player comes in a 1 GB model that holds about 675 songs, and a 2 GB model that holds about 1350 songs. The player also comes equipped with an FM tuner with programmable preset stations.
How Sony managed to pack all these features into a package that weighs less than an ounce is hard to fathom. And this mp3 player is light, not only in weight, but on your wallet, as well – coming in at $119.99 and $149.99, respectively. Check out Sony’s S2 Sports Walkman MP3 Player. It could be the ideal workout companion.
Let me be the first to say: I am pro-sunlight. I’m not talking about weather patterns, either. I’m talking about exposing yourself to some rays. I spend a fair amount of time outside soaking up the sun’s energy (of course, being careful not to burn). Although evidently most dermatologists believe we would be better off spelunking in caves 24/7 and covering ourselves in head-to-toe black garb whenever we venture out, my own evolutionary perspective leads me to believe we were designed to get sunlight almost every day and that our health suffers if we don’t get enough.
In fact, recent studies show that, as a result of our shunning the sun, many of us suffer from Vitamin D deficiency and a resulting loss of bone density and immune function (to name just a few effects). Some researchers opine that more people die from lack of sun than from too much sun! But, I digress.
I came across an article the other day that piqued my curiosity since it dealt with the combination of running and sunning. It basically showed that marathoners (e.g. formerly yours truly) tend to get skin cancer at higher rates than other people. The more they run, the higher the incidence of skin cancer.
My take on what’s happening is that not only are runners exposed to more sun (which can cause DNA damage in skin cells – ergo, cancer), but they are also bathed in more free-radicals overall from the excessive oxidation of glucose and fats.
We know that sun exposure does deplete the skin of the antioxidant Vitamin C. Stick with me on this: the act of running tends to divert blood flow away from the skin, starving it of additional important antioxidants that could neutralize the free-radical damage in the skin tissues. Add to that the enormous amounts of stressful cortisol marathoners pump out doing this unnaturally high steady-state oxidative work and we not only get the DNA damage, we get the immune-bashing effects of the high-stress activity. The effect: more DNA damage and a reduced ability to recognize that damage and take steps to eliminate those cells and/or repair the damage.
That’s one reason (among many) that I have doused myself with antioxidants inside and out for over 20 years now. That’s also why one of my mantras is: a little running is OK – a lot is bad.
The above article also brings up other points of discussion, such as whether the reliance on inferior sunscreens might be another cause. This is vitally important to discuss and it’s not getting much attention in the mainstream media. It appears that for the past 30 years so-called sunscreens have been good at blocking UVB rays (the ones that burn) but not UVA (the ones primarily responsible for DNA damage and skin cancer). Thank you, FDA. The terrible effect is a generation of gung-ho health fanatics slathering on sunscreen and running 40, 50 or 100 miles a week. The fact that we didn’t burn only lead us to believe we could stay out even longer. Little did we know that the burning of skin might have been a great first warning to get the hell out of the sun! How’s that for nature’s way of saying “Yo! Enough!”? Unfortunately, the sunscreen gave us the false notion we were invulnerable. Oops. Guess big Pharma was wrong again. More on that later….
Last week we brought you a great new way to track your dieting progress with The Daily Plate. But The Daily Plate isn’t the only ‘Web 2.0’ application in the online universe that is designed to help you cut the fat. Introducing Traineo. The philosophy behind Traineo is that having a coach, friend, or spouse to motivate you through your journey of weight loss is the best way to see results. Having a personal motivator talk you down from that box of doughnuts you were about to consume can pay huge diet dividends. With this in mind Traineo was designed to connect you with people that have similar health goals that may be able to offer words of encouragement and support. If you don’t like the idea of having friends and family follow your weight loss journey you also have the option of allowing other Traineo members track your progress. Having someone there when the going gets tough – someone to motivate you and help you through the difficult times – can be all it takes to push you over the edge and into a healthy lifestyle.
Traineo has a slick interface which makes it a cinch to use. While you can’t pick and choose your food items from a database of thousands of dishes there are many other features that set this website apart. Beside the ‘motivator’ feature, there are online forums, featured articles on health and nutrition, and a ‘My Stats’ page that allows you to track you weight loss over time. The greatest part of this incredible resource is that it is entirely free. If you are looking for yet another tool to help realize your health goals and would like to unite with similarly minded people this may be just the ticket.
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