mm469: Blast from the Past! No. 41

August 15, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

So, back into the archives yet again, but hey, recycling is IN, right? We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, one of my first Sandy Szwarc posts, originally posted October 26, 2007, and titled “mm177: Healthy eating — Overrated!”

MUDGE’S Musings

Sandy Szwarc has, at least twice this month, provided health related stories that I’ve seen no where else, in her blog, Junkfood Science.

In a previous post, I highlighted her evaluation of recent under-reported studies showing counterintuitive results: that fat people survive cardiac episodes better than thin ones!.

She even responded politely to the post, even though I thoroughly and consistently misspelled her name! How embarrassing for MUDGE! Sorry, Sandy Szwarc!

She toppled my world again last week. She writes about a gigantic study launched in 1993 to pursue the relationship between what’s been known forever as healthy eating, and good health.

Remember reading about this study? I don’t.

Guess why. Because, once again, the results were startling.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm230: Stem Cells; Insurance Scum; Overtreatment!

December 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Yes, fan, it’s a Health/Medical edition of SASB!

shortattention_thumb2 ©

We begin with a doubly frightening topic: Cancer combined with cancerous Stem Cells. This story hit NYTimes:

nytimes

Scientists Weigh Stem Cells’ Role as Cancer Cause

By GINA KOLATA | Published: December 21, 2007

Within the next few months, researchers at three medical centers expect to start the first test in patients of one of the most promising — and contentious — ideas about the cause and treatment of cancer.

The idea is to take aim at what some scientists say are cancerous stem cells — aberrant cells that maintain and propagate malignant tumors.

Although many scientists have assumed that cancer cells are immortal — that they divide and grow indefinitely — most can only divide a certain number of times before dying. The stem-cell hypothesis says that cancers themselves may not die because they are fed by cancerous stem cells, a small and particularly dangerous kind of cell that can renew by dividing even as it spews out more cells that form the bulk of a tumor. Worse, stem cells may be impervious to most standard cancer therapies.

Not everyone accepts the hypothesis of cancerous stem cells. Skeptics say proponents are so in love with the idea that they dismiss or ignore evidence against it. Dr. Scott E. Kern, for instance, a leading pancreatic cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins University, said the hypothesis was more akin to religion than to science.

“…more akin to religion than to science.” How fitting when stem cells are the topic!

Of course these are one’s own, cancerous stem cells in question.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Scientists Weigh Stem Cells’ Role as Cancer Cause – New York Times

Here’s the telling quote:

“Not only are some of the approaches we are using not getting us anywhere, but even the way we approve drugs is a bad model,” he said. Anti-cancer drugs, he noted, are approved if they shrink tumors even if they do not prolong life. It is the medical equivalent, he said, of mowing a dandelion field.

Cancer patients and their families are desperate, so promising drugs can get expedited approval, even if, as noted, they don’t prolong life.

It would be spectacular if this stem cell related research might yield an effective, more permanent treatment.

Now, let’s get angry together…

shortattention_thumb2 ©

For some time now, we’ve had Esoterically.net/weblog as a member of L-HC’s blogroll blogroll2. The subtitle has changed since we originally captured it, Life is too short to live it as a Republican,” but the blog continues to highlight the important issues. Here’s one also from Dec. 21 that set me off:

esotericallynetweblog

Health insurance screwup

Published by Len Dec. 21, 2007 at 17:50 under General, Politics

I hope the Sarkisyan family wins their lawsuit and is award millions and millions of dollars. It is time for these $7.00/hour clerks at the insurance companies to stop playing doctor.

Family to Sue Insurer in Transplant Case

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The family of a 17-year-old girl who died hours after her health insurer reversed a decision and said it would pay for a liver transplant plans to sue the company, their attorney said Friday.

Nataline Sarkisyan died Thursday at about 6 p.m. at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. She had been in a vegetative state for weeks, said her mother, Hilda.

Len updated the post with a link to a more complete analysis definitely worth the detour.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Esoterically.net/weblog » Health insurance screwup

Tragedy is tragedy, but the absolute worst ones are those that were preventable: Katrina, the I-35 bridge, and now Nataline Sarkisyan are all examples of bureaucratic failures caused by a deliberate policy of undercutting the public good in the service of private political agendas, in the first two examples, and shareholder profit, in poor Nataline’s case.

U.S. healthcare needs fixing, and here’s a story pointing to an unexpected cause, and potential fix.

shortattention_thumb2 ©

This week, NYTimes published its list of top economics books as chosen by its columnist, David Leonhardt. His No. 1 book is one I’d not encountered shame on me!

nytimes

No. 1 Book, and It Offers Solutions

By DAVID LEONHARDT | Published: December 19, 2007

In 1967, Jack Wennberg, a young medical researcher at Johns Hopkins, moved his family to a farmhouse in northern Vermont.

“Overtreated” by Shannon Brownlee, above, diagnoses the big flaw in medical spending.

Dr. Wennberg had been chosen to run a new center based at the University of Vermont that would examine medical care in the state. With a colleague, he traveled around Vermont, visiting its 16 hospitals and collecting data on how often they did various procedures.

The results turned out to be quite odd. Vermont has one of the most homogenous populations in the country — overwhelmingly white (especially in 1967), with relatively similar levels of poverty and education statewide. Yet medical practice across the state varied enormously, for all kinds of care. In Middlebury, for instance, only 7 percent of children had their tonsils removed. In Morrisville, 70 percent did.

Dr. Wennberg and some colleagues then did a survey, interviewing 4,000 people around the state, to see whether different patterns of illness could explain the variations in medical care. They couldn’t. The children of Morrisville weren’t suffering from an epidemic of tonsillitis. Instead, they happened to live in a place where a small group of doctors — just five of them — had decided to be aggressive about removing tonsils.

But here was the stunner: Vermonters who lived in towns with more aggressive care weren’t healthier. They were just getting more health care.

That last bears repeating: Vermonters who lived in towns with more aggressive care weren’t healthier. They were just getting more health care.”

As you’ve doubtless heard, this country spends far more money per person on medical care than other countries and still seems to get worse results. We devote 16 percent of our gross domestic product to health care, while Canada and France, where people live longer, spend about 10 percent.

So, we’re overtreated, but undercured. Part due to our fee-for-service system; part due to our own ignorance of medicine’s true costs when we ourselves are the patients; part due to that byzantine health insurance system” that dazzles and confuses us, and lets Natalines die rather than pay.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

No. 1 Book, and It Offers Solutions – New York Times

As Leonhardt makes clear, the true value of this book is that it has clear and achievable recommendations for reforming our sick healthcare system.

When it’s back in stock (ah, the power of the press!) we ought to buy copies for every senator, congressperson and presidential candidate.

So, that’s our Health/Medicine edition of SASB shortattention©. Stay healthy!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the links to Amazon.com used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. It’s an artifact of Sequitur Service©. Deal with it.


mm177: Healthy eating — Overrated!

October 26, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Sandy Szwarc has, at least twice this month, provided health related stories that I’ve seen no where else, in her blog, Junkfood Science.

In a previous post, I highlighted her evaluation of recent under-reported studies showing counterintuitive results: that fat people survive cardiac episodes better than thin ones!.

She even responded politely to the post, even though I thoroughly and consistently misspelled her name! How embarrassing for MUDGE! Sorry, Sandy Szwarc!

She toppled my world again last week. She writes about a gigantic study launched in 1993 to pursue the relationship between what’s been known forever as healthy eating, and good health.

Remember reading about this study? I don’t.

Guess why. Because, once again, the results were startling.

As she writes,

junkfoodscience

Everybody knows what it means to eat healthy. We’ve heard about healthy foods and the importance of eating right our entire lives: “To be healthy and prevent heart disease, cancers and other chronic diseases of aging — and to maintain a slim, “healthy” weight — we should eat a low-fat and high-fiber diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.” This advice comes from respected doctors and health officials and we hear it everywhere, so it is unfathomable that these dietary beliefs have never actually been clinically tested…until recently.

So to rectify the lack of hard evidence a seriously mammoth study was created. Sandy Szwarc reports,

According to the National Institutes of Health, it was “one of the largest studies of its kind ever undertaken in the United States and is considered a model for future studies of women’s health.” It was a major undertaking, costing $415 million and was conducted at 40 medical centers across the country. It was a well-designed and carefully conducted study and researchers were confident this would prove the rightness of eating “right.”

The comparison, among over 48,000 post-menopausal women (the age group most at risk for heart disease and cancer) divided the group by diet:

The women in the healthy eating intervention group cut their total fat intakes down to 24% of their calories and 8% saturated fat the first year — well below the control group eating about 38% total fat and nearly 40% more saturated fats. By the end of the study, the “healthy eaters” were still averaging 29% fat, compared to 37% in the control group. The “healthy” dieters also ate about 25% more fruits and vegetables, grains and fiber than the typical American diet of the control group.

By now, you see where this is going. In the four major areas of concern, the results of years of study showed:

Cardiovascular disease (the biggest cause of death as we age): Healthy eating proved to have no effect on cardiovascular disease….

Breast cancer: Healthy eating proved to have no effect on breast cancer incidences….

Colorectal cancer: Healthy eating proved to have no effect on colon or rectal cancers….

Body Weight: Not only that, but the women following a “healthy” diet for 8 years didn’t end up thinner….

These results only hit the news in “spun” form, because the health establishment refuses to be confused by the facts. Turns out that the conventional wisdom is more properly characterized as unsupported by clinical findings conventional wis-dumb.

Sandy Szwarc says this much more eloquently than I can. Take a look:

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Junkfood Science: Junkfood Science Exclusive: The big one — results of the biggest clinical trial of healthy eating ever

One has to wonder: what have I been doing beating myself up all these years? Hating myself for not eating healthy; despising my inability to keep discipline and lose all that ugly fat once and for all; feeling certain that I’ll die before my time and they’ll have trouble finding a casket that fits.

And all that self-denial leads to… nothing? No substantive difference?

I’ll repeat Sandy Szwarc’s final graf:

Health is not evidence of moral character and pristine diets. Don’t let anyone try to scare you, threaten you, or get you to believe that if you don’t eat “right” (whatever their definition) you’ll get fat, cancer, heart disease, or die sooner. There is simply no good evidence.

Be sure to check out part 2 of her blockbuster report, reporting on analyses of the findings in relationship to cancer.

Junkfood Science is a wonderful blog.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE