This just out from Business Week: “Are Pharmas Addicted to Lifestyle Drugs?”
I know I rail against drug use. I have no problem with life-saving technologies that honor and extend the lives of human beings. And the good news is that the FDA is finally taking action (it only took half a dozen scandals). What I get furious about are the lifestyle drugs. For example, Alli, Ambien and Prozac. Obesity, insomnia and depression are all common and they are all seriously detrimental to health and longevity. They are all frequently preventable through lifestyle changes. In some cases, they aren’t, and for those cases, I say do whatever needs to be done. There are individuals who work out daily, eat a clean diet of vegetables and lean protein, supplement with plenty of high-quality fish oil, and take steps (like therapy and meditation) to manage stress, yet still fight depression. I can’t stand the harbingers of the extreme who believe everything can be resolved with a salad and a chipper attitude. People are unique.
That said, how many of the thousands on Prozac are stuck in stressful, sedentary office jobs, shoved into tiny urban apartments, living on junk food and alcohol, watching television and never moving their buns off the couch? It seems to me that our modern lifestyle is a recipe for depression – I’m surprised more people aren’t depressed. Staring at a computer all day and being inundated with media and noise are fairly traumatic experiences when you consider what our grandparents did in a day, yet the ever-resilient human body finds ways to cope.
Though we can’t necessarily get different jobs or pack up and move to the Bahamas, there are significant lifestyle adjustments within the easy reach of most individuals that can effectively support proper weight, rest, and mental health.
When people are eating packets of cigarettes and driving in their sleep while taking a drug like Ambien, it’s time to rethink our approach to health. Pharma makes a load of cash off the problems created by our Western lifestyle. Who’s addicted?
Stick around for the Tuesday 10. This week: tips to beat stress…naturally!
Here’s a compelling op-ed from a chemistry PhD about the problem with randomized clinical trials. RCTs are the gold standard for testing effectiveness and safety. The problem, however, is that a randomized clinical trial puts the substance in question in a bubble. Remove the substance from its context, this writer argues, and you aren’t going to get an accurate picture.
Hang on, all ye fans of the FDA. I’ll explain. Randomized clinical trials are essential for food and drugs. But the piece points out that the value is not so cut and dried when it comes to vitamin supplements.
Supplements, of course, have been all over the news lately. Recently a spate of stories came out condemning antioxidants. Another called vitamins into question. I’m used to drug companies funding studies and releasing statements about the dangers of vitamins, and Sara and Aaron addressed the whole issue in a scathing little parody at Healthbolt (for adult eyes and a sense of humor only). The FDA will begin requiring supplement manufacturers to test their products and prove that they contain what they say they contain. This is a good thing as far as I’m concerned, though it’ll be 2010 before everything takes full effect, and the policing will be an honor system not unlike the current setup Big Pharma enjoys. So it remains to be seen just how much good this will do in stopping bogus supplements…
At this point in the antioxidant debacle, though, I can tell you that I’m really tired of certain interests truckin’ out the same old scare, and I said as much in a flare at Technorati. Typically, a substance, such as a single antioxidant, is given to a group. Placebos are given, all is randomized, time passes. Sounds great, but it’s not. Thus far, the results from many RCTs have been dismally unconvincing, leading experts to assert that antioxidants are worthless despite loads of observational studies. I won’t regurgitate the whole op-ed here, but consider a worthy criticism of RCTs:
Frequently the supplement is given to an unhealthy population – even terminally diseased groups. Should we really expect miracles here? I’m interested in the etiology of disease and chronic health conditions. I think it’s obvious enough that a combination of risk factors, diet, genetics and environmental conditions are at play in most health issues. Can we reasonably expect a year of, say, vitamin E supplementation to offset 20 or 40 years of cumulative damage from a host of factors?
My advice? Take a broad spectrum of different antioxidants for prevention and overall health, not in a misguided attempt to cure a disease. Nutritional supplements are fundamentally different from drugs in their approach. The former supports prevention; the latter targets specific symptoms and eliminates or mitigates them. In the best cases, and only occasionally, drugs cure disease. In the worst cases, they merely mask pain or alleviate symptoms that indicate an unhealthy lifestyle.
To me, RCTs may be missing the big picture with antioxidants: synergy, baby.
A new study out today confirms the antibacterial power of both red and white wine. Apparently, researchers have proven that wine destroys the bacteria responsible for cavities and throat infections. Interestingly, it’s not the alcohol that kills the germs, but rather acids in the wine.
Imagine the possibilities here:
- Stop fighting the nightly battle with your toddler and the toothbrush. Just get ‘em tossed instead. Sure, they’ll be a little hungover at preschool, but you can never be too careful when it comes to your child’s dental health.
- Until cough syrup comes in a believable-tasting grape, wine has won points for flavor. Now we see that “Grandpa’s medicine” really is medicine. Because if you’re calling in sick, you might as well be drunk.
No wonder bums have such great teeth! I’m being facetious, of course. I don’t know if replacing your toothbrush with a wine glass is such a bright idea.
The study was a test-tube run, and when the active acids were removed and tested on their own, they killed germs better than the wine. So while wine is a naturally antibacterial beverage, other properties in the wine probably cancel out any benefits. The study also illustrates the fact that just about anything can be promoted as having a health benefit.
For example, because wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, it’s touted as being healthy. While there’s plenty of evidence to suggest modest amounts of alcohol may exert some protective cardiovascular benefit, to reap serious antioxidant benefit, you’d have to drink enough jugs to put Gallo out of business. I think wine, in moderation, has healthful properties. But don’t expect wine to save your arteries if you’re not also living a healthy lifestyle. You’re better off eating fresh fruits and vegetables and supplementing with a multivitamin that contains antioxidants.
The moral here is that even scientists can justify that Dionysian dinner tab as a business expense.
Ah, the joys of merch.
Sara your editor here. For the die-hard Fuji fans and apples everywhere who simply must accessorize with all things MDA, we present:
The adorable Fuming Fuji mug! Fume along with El Fritter every morning as you catch the latest health and fitness news. Click the mug to check out all the great Fuming Fuji and Mark’s Daily Apple accessories.
If you’re a customer of Mark’s awesome nutrition supplement company, Primal Nutrition, you can also get fun items with that super-cool “is it a sanskrit symbol? is it an infinity symbol? what exactly is it a symbol of?” symbol. We don’t know either, but it sure looks good on a shirt or an eco-friendly bag. Admit it. You want one.
While I’m swimming around in this post, I’d like to catch you up on some of the changes you may have noticed ’round ye ole blog. We’ve been experimenting with some different posting schedules and formats. For example, we’ve stopped the daily news updates (Worker Bees’ Daily Bites) and begun bringing you a comprehensive list every Friday of all the most interesting, important, and informative health news (Worker Bees’ Weekly Buzz). Do you like this format? Do you like the changes you’ve seen? Please let us know what you want to read more of as Mark’s Daily Apple continues to grow and evolve.
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