Tag: Hype

Vitamin Eeeeek?

The Difference Between Fact…and Factitious I’ve noticed that frightening myths about vitamin E persist in spite of vocal opposition from scientists and top experts. For those who want to know the facts behind the E “controversy”, here it is (just call it the E! True Supplement Story). For years, doctors have recommended vitamin E supplements to patients seeking better heart health. But a fairly recent study claimed vitamin E increases the risk of death and should not be taken. Let’s take a closer look – because there’s fact, and then there’s factitious. What is vitamin E? Vitamin E, a fat-soluble nutrient, is found naturally in many oils, grains, nuts and fats. E is also present in meats, dairy and leafy greens. What is it used for? The body needs vitamin E for various processes in the blood, eyes, brain and skin. Doctors have been supportive of E because of its heart benefits. Vitamin E helps to thin the blood and fight free radicals, so many Americans fighting heart disease, blood clots or high blood pressure like to take this natural treatment. Vitamin E can help ease leg cramps, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and the pain associated with several cardiovascular diseases. Even some migraine sufferers have benefited from vitamin E supplements. Though the benefit to the heart may not be as powerful as initially thought, vitamin E may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. What is the recommended dosage? 400 IU daily is the general recommendation of the government and most health experts – individual needs can vary. What are known side effects? Doctors have long known that excessive vitamin E intake can cause too much thinning of the blood. For that reason, large amounts of vitamin E should not be taken if you are already taking a synthetic blood thinner. There are no other known drug interactions and vitamin E cannot become toxic. Will Vitamin E kill me? No. A recent study that got a lot of spin (Vitamin E is bad! Oh no!) merely observed a correlation. Are there any problems with that study? Where to start? There are several issues with the study that launched the vitamin E scare: It only looked at people over age 60 who already had serious pre-existing conditions like heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease; this study cannot possibly be applied to younger and/or healthier patients. It eliminated observational studies from the analysis, most of which show clear benefit over several years. The study of 136,000 people grouped dozens of studies together without taking into account the different – and possibly incompatible – processes and analyses the various studies used. Many of the studies included in this broad study have been independently questioned for their reliability. This study used “meta-analysis,” which means there was not a consistent, controlled approach in each individual study. Most of the patients taking the vitamin E were also taking other drugs, and the study did not control for the possibility of interaction or complications. The patients were only taking … Continue reading “Vitamin Eeeeek?”

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All the News, None of the Calories

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

This is a low-fat blog post, Apples. Here’s the daily roundup:

1) Hypothetically, Of Course!

Answers to the Top 10 Embarrassing Health Questions. Hey, we know, it’s for your friend.

2) Go On, Get Fresh!

We’ve talked before about big cities like Chicago and New York hopping in the anti-trans-fat fryer. Massachusetts will be the first entire state to do so (of course it’s Massachusetts). And Starbucks recently volunteered outright. McDonald’s hasn’t been able to perfect their beloved heart attack sticks (a.k.a. french fries), but they keep trying to get rid of trans fat, by golly.

Unfortunately, our investigative vigilantes over at Mercola’s blog inform us that food companies are finding a sneaky way around this whole trans fat ruckus. They’re just switching the deadly trans fat for another, equally terrible fat. Doing so allows them to get away with saying “0 grams trans fat” on food labels.

You know, there are days when we want to think highly of our fellow food-manufacturing humans. And then we remember – oh yeah, we’re bees! We don’t have to think good thoughts about these greedy “it’s just the free market” milquetoasts! You don’t, either.

Selling. Deadly. Food. Is. Wrong.

End of story. Spread the word, Apples.

Here are some facts about why trans fat (a.k.a. Frankenfat) is so important to avoid. Thanks, Beacon!

3) Thanks for Smoking. No, Seriously.

In a grand gesture of love and thanks for customer loyalty, Harvard finds that death merchants tobacco makers have steadily increased nicotine levels in cigarettes since 1998. Harvard even took a second look after the death merchants industry whined about it, and still came up with pretty convincing proof. Gravity is more controversial. Thanks to the Urban Hermit for this news.

Help a Loved One Quit for Good

Lung Cancer News

And around the web:

Fascinating brain discovery!

Also on the table:

Export junk food to poor countries. Export subsequent obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Solution? According to the New England Journal of Medicineyness, we need to…export drugs to cure it all!

How about we save everyone, rich and poor alike, by demanding an end to the mass production of Frankenfoods? Does guacamole really need 27 ingredients plus three layers of packaging that no one but a two-year-old with a case of the mad molars can get into?

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File This Under Ponce de Leon

Occasionally an ad for a new product pops up in my email inbox that’s so ridiculous, I have to share it. Being involved in the health and fitness world for many years, I feel like I’ve seen it all – until the next scam comes along that is so blatantly dishonest, it’s almost funny. Almost – except that innocent people are too often the target of such useless health products.

The latest scam is something seemingly innocuous: water. Yes, water. Who knew water could be improved upon? Well, according to the hydration “experts,” the average bottle of water needs a lot of help. Of course, it’s going to cost you.

I’m not talking about fancy French water or sparkling seltzers. Expensive though such beverages may be, they aren’t making any wacky claims. Water, in just about any form, is beneficial for your health (not to mention necessary for life). The more you drink, the better you tend to feel.

However, there is a cottage industry of designer waters that you should be wary of. These waters typically go by names like penta-water, super oxygenated water, cell water, living water, coherent water … As the old saying goes, truth truly is stranger than fiction.

These water manufacturers all claim the same things in so many words. The basic promise is more potent, better-hydrating, “living” water. If the back of the bottle talks about cellular structures, living versus dead water, ionic processes or oxygenation, run for the nearest public water fountain. It’s quackery at its finest.

My personal favorite? One water manufacturer actually claims to use “platonic solid inversion geometry” to formulate their aqua. (Funny, I don’t remember that being covered in calculus class. I guess it’s new math.)

These water hucksters will go so far as to talk about “vibration” and “frequencies” of water. Of course, any 15-year-old in chemistry class can explain that these terms are irrelevant to drinking water.

As far as oxygenation is concerned, there’s simply no such thing. You cannot “oxygenate” water. You can certainly add extra oxygen during the filtering or bottling process, but you cannot fundamentally change the molecular structure of water. If you do, it’s no longer, well, water. Water is, of course, two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. “Adding” oxygen atoms would mean we’re no longer talking about water.

The “oxygenated” water flooding the store shelves is regular old water with a scientific-sounding name. Swirl a glass of tap water, and you’ll see some oxygenation, too.

Don’t fall for these fake health waters. Water will boost your health, but the latest incarnation will only drain your bank account.

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A Word on Cheese ‘Food’

Well, a few dozen words, which apparently still can’t compete with the number of ingredients required to make cheese “food”. When a food producer has to state the obvious, I get concerned. I start thinking about lobbies, factories, manufacturing, chemicals, and processes – things that sounded fun on the Jetsons but have disturbing consequences in reality.

Maybe I’m easily entertained, but I get a real kick (more pain than humor, actually) from “foods” I see in the grocery store. Some days, I can’t even make it through the center aisles – it’s just too much. But even the dairy case can be a minefield of scientific stupefaction for which no chemistry refresher course could possibly prepare me. Case in point: cheese food.

When did the food supply become about food products instead of food? When did it become acceptable to label something meant for human ingestion as a “cheese food”? What’s next: milk food, beef food, and perhaps food food?
I grew up in Maine: lots of trees, animals, mountains, farms. I grew up with the knowledge that cheese was something that came from milk after some fairly simple processing. Something about Miss Moppet and curds and whey. These days, cheese “food” comes from a factory and includes things like “anhydrous milkfat”. Google at your own risk. And schools feed it to our kids, meanwhile, and feel good because there’s calcium in it!

It’s a mass-produced, centralized, chemical-laden world of cheese food we live in, Apples. I encourage you to be vigilant about eating only fresh foods that don’t need descriptions like “process” or “product” or, as if we should eat something that comes with a reminder, “food”.

Here’s some clickativity from a less-perplexed soul who took the time to explain exactly what goes into cheese “food”. Read at your discretion.

[tags] lobbies, factories, manufacturing, chemicals, processed food, mass production, cheese food, anhydrous milkfat, strange food ingredients, dairy [/tags]

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What’s Up with Denmark?

Sara here. My Danish grandmother will be horrified by this post, but in my selfless devotion to you Apples, I’m taking that risk. And so, I have to ask: What is up with Denmark? (Huh? you ask. Just go with me on this.) I’ve noticed a strange trend over the last decade. This could be my own erroneous inductive research here – in fact, I actually hope so – but the Land of Lutefisk seems strangely supportive of Big Pharma and the status quo (sorry, Grams). First, two years ago, I heard about some “landmark” studies that came out of Old Dansk announcing that there is absolutely no link between autism and vaccinations containing thimerosal (a form of mercury). Nevermind that autism rates sharply increased around the same time that vaccines started being preserved with thimerosal. Nevermind that mercury poisoning symptoms and autism symptoms are virtually indistinguishable. Now, to be fair, the mercury/autism debate is hugely controversial precisely because we don’t have a definitive answer yet. I suspect the eventual conclusion may implicate thimerosal, at least as part of the equation. But, then, there was the fish study. Once again, researchers in Denmark came up with – er, concluded – that fish oil does not help those interested in reducing their heart disease risk. The study was a review, which is right up there with questionnaires in terms of scientific accuracy. Even worse, it was a review of cohort studies (cohort studies can have major problems with causation vs. correlation). Moreover, reading the fine print (not just the abstract), what the study essentially “discovered” was that people who are at a high risk for heart problems do benefit from fish oil, while people who are at a low risk do not. Now, think about that. In other words, people who don’t have a problem will not benefit from a solution. Kind of like how my grease-cutting counter disinfectant won’t do a great job of cleaning my freshly-scrubbed counters, either. But after this study was reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, amazingly, what got media attention was that fish consumption just doesn’t help heart issues. No one got excited about the additional finding that high-risk people can help their hearts with fish oil – just 40 to 60 mg a day can help! (That’s actually okay, since there are already hundreds of rigorously-conducted studies proving fish oil is good for reducing your heart disease risk.) The lesson: Apparently, 1) Create a study following less-than-ideal methodology, 2) determine absolutely nothing from it, and 3) leave out the important part and splash the meaningless part all over the news. Hey, if it looks like a duck…it might be a Danish study. Now, since then, there have been some pro-fish studies, so I’m willing to give the motherland the benefit of the doubt. Although I have seen several other pro-dairy, pro-drug, pro-status quo studies from Denmark, I will withhold judgment until more evidence presents itself. Except, now, hot off the presses, an … Continue reading “What’s Up with Denmark?”

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How Do You Say ‘No Shame’ in Spanglish?

I have to hand it to Taco Bell for being both devastatingly brilliant and unforgivably evil. In a new campaign called the Fourth Meal, they’re pumping the fourth meal (yes…“the meal between dinner and breakfast”) with a dazzling disregard for health, ethics, decency and taste. Normally, I tend to admire rebels and rule-breakers. I don’t exactly have best friends over at Big Pharma. And I understand Taco Bell isn’t in business to kiss babies and hug Aunt Sue. Taco Bell is in business for the same reason everyone else is: to make some cash. Hopefully, you can make some cash while doing something good. Not so with el Taco. To that end, their marketers are brilliant. Running a late-night campaign obviously aimed at college kids, night owls and (let’s be frank) bar flies – and being so blatantly cavalier about – is smart business. The website is so cool, it’s appalling. At the site, viewers can choose to enter as a hip young man or woman. Next up, you pick trendy threads to wear. You navigate a late-night, funky urban street. Via a glossy black virtual handheld device (of course), you can talk, make buddies, and play – you can become a “Fourth Mealer”. That’s right: Taco Bell is pushing an entire online community a la MySpace, Friendster, Squidoo (and your very own Mark’s Daily Apple) devoted entirely to feeling cool about scarfing a late night meal complete with the Taco Bell version of the four food groups: Melty, Crunchy, Spicy, Grilled. Hey, I was a college kid once; maybe you were, too. We’ve all had a wild night (or ten) at some point in our lives. I don’t hold anything against Taco Bell for wanting to make a buck. In fact, I advocate a fourth meal – in the sense that I advocate several small meals throughout the day to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels and keep the metabolism firing full speed ahead. But let’s consider, just for a second, if Taco Bell could have done something different. Kids are smart. They also like to rebel against authority. Don’t we all? What if Taco Bell had incorporated a few healthy items into their menu, marketed them as still being tasty (surely the food chemists can handle that order), and gone with the whole Fourth Meal campaign anyway. Only, instead of advocating the late-night consumption of complete garbage, pitching the healthy Fourth Meal as something only college kids and night owls would really “get”. Taco Bell: “Hey, it’s late. The parental units are home in bed and feeling great about their three squares. Your boss thinks you’re still at the office and your professor thinks you’re studying for that exam. Right. All the nerds are probably reading and listening to Beethoven. But you need a little veg, a little protein, and a little taste – now. So you’re eating a cheap, fast, healthy meal because you have a life. You’re a fourth-mealer. You either get it or you don’t.” [tags] … Continue reading “How Do You Say ‘No Shame’ in Spanglish?”

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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.

[tags] Coke, fried Coke, trans fat, deep fried food, corn [/tags]

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Tuno? My Money’s on Mocky-Mahi Next

Why eat tuna when you could eat…Tuno? That’s what Peta is hoping you’ll want to do. They offer 10 reasons to eschew eating all our dear fish friends, from tuna to salmon (here’s the clickativity).

In actuality, they offer two reasons, five different ways (human health, fish feel pain). I get a little peeved by this kind of repetitive illogic. Just make your two reasons convincing!

That said, I don’t really have anything against Peta, or against vegetarians. My wife and son have both tried vegetarianism in different forms over the years. I’ve never really understood the people who have an actual problem with vegetarians’ motives. While I personally believe eating fish and meat is healthy and natural, and I think Tuno is just plain ridiculous, I’m stumped by the anger I see at times. Call vegetarianism sentimental or unnatural if you like, but think about it: “I’m gonna get really riled up about the fact that you’re trying to be…nice.” I just don’t see how vegheads are threatening, but then, I also know real men aren’t afraid of salad.

As far as Tuno is concerned, I do want to suggest that you avoid mock-meats or faux-fish in whatever latest incarnation you see. While mercury toxicity is a concern if you eat a lot of fish, particularly tropical-water fish, let’s think about the alternatives being prescribed. Eating a processed soy- or grain-based artificial food is hardly a reasonable alternative.

Here’s an incredibly easy rule of thumb: did the food start this way? An apple started as an apple. A filet of fish started as fish. Foods people typically think are “healthy”, such as fruit leather, protein bars, and now Tuno, really aren’t much better for you than what you’d find in your local middle school vending machine (now there’s another peeve!). Though there are a few exceptions, I will say that any food that is highly-processed and generally unrecognizable from where it started is not fuel fit for consumption. Really.

Two easy solutions to the mercury concerns:

1) Eat mostly cold-water fish, such as Alaskan salmon and Arctic cod.

2) Supplement with an Rx-quality, filtered fish oil.

[tags] fish, best fish oil supplement, omega-3’s, healthiest fish, mercury, Tuno, Peta, vegetarian, processed foods [/tags]

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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 … Continue reading “Ladies: We Can Stop With the Calcium Chews, Already”

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Uncle Sam – Definitely Not a Pisces

Something I read in the New York Times the other day got me steamed faster than fresh spinach. Apparently, fish oil prescriptions are not only standard practice in Europe – they’re handed out like candy corn on Halloween – but heart patients who don’t get a prescription can actually sue for malpractice.

Pure fish oil is so clearly supported by the international body of science that European doctors who don’t prescribe the stuff to anyone worried about their cardiovascular health are considered grossly incompetent.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies support fish oil for great health. Some of the healthiest peoples in the world – from Japan to the Mediterranean – rely heavily on fish fats for great health. Fish oil = better body is not some radical new idea, but try telling that to the American health business. Er…health establishment.

Now, this doesn’t really surprise me; after all, the safest, longest-lasting, most effective, non-drug form of birth control favored in Europe and tested safe for decades is also basically nonexistent here in the Fabulous 50. America may have the best life-saving surgery techniques in the world, but when it comes to basic illness recovery or health maintenance, one would think fish oil must be some risky, mind-altering substance right up there with caffeine and alcohol. The difference being those are both substances prescribed by doctors.

I’m not asking a lot of our federal government. I know they have lobbyists to cuddle. But would it kill anyone over at the FDA or the N.E. Journal of Medicineyness to admit that fish oil has excellent therapeutic properties for people in general and heart patients in particular, and – gasp – recommend prescribing the stuff? They accept the data. Why not recommend?

Here’s the part of the article that really burned my mocha:

“For example, on Solvay Pharmaceutical’s Web site for Omacor (a Euro fish oil supplement), the first question a user sees is ‘Are you a U.S. citizen?’

If the answer is yes, the user is sent to a page where heart attacks are not mentioned.”

I’m so thrilled with our government for censoring accurate scientific information about cardiovascular health on a European company’s website so we citizens can remain both ignorant and unhealthy. Fish fat in its pure form is vital to cardiovascular health, brain health, and the strengthening of the linings of cells. Considering the damage that free radicals and inflammation whack cells with every day, and the difficulty in getting low-mercury fish filets at the local market, wouldn’t recommending and even prescribing fish oil be a prudent thing for the medical “establishment” to do?

Thanks to Elisabeth Rosenthal at the Gray Lady (the Times) for this piece. To the rest of you, get thee to a fish oil supplement, stat!

Click here for my favorite one.

[tags] Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Omacor, fish oil, omega-3, Europe, New England Journal of Medicine, FDA, NEJM, supplements, New York Times [/tags]

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