Time to catch up on some of the interesting news items readers have sent me lately.
Maybe they should just ban the consumption of their own product …
You’re probably aware that some companies are trying to keep their health-care costs down by charging overweight and obese employees more for health insurance. I think that’s a dumb idea. It’s based on the (mistaken) belief that the overweight employees know how to lose weight, but just don’t care to make the effort.
But when this company charges unhealthy employees extra, it seems double-stupid:
Four years ago, PepsiCo began rolling out a wellness program that charges its employees $50 a month if they smoke or have obesity-related medical problems such as diabetes, hypertension, and high blood pressure. Workers can avoid the surcharge if they attend classes to learn how to break their nicotine addictions or lose weight. When about 400 unionized PepsiCo bottlers and truck drivers in central New York learned early last year they’d be subject to the fee, they rebelled.
So we’ve got a company producing a sugary drink that can cause obesity-related medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and they’re going to levy a sin tax on employees who developed obesity-related medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Why don’t they just send out a memo:
Please stop drinking our product. We don’t want to have to charge you extra for insurance.
I’m waiting for a news story describing how cigarette manufacturers are going to charge higher insurance rates for employees who smoke.
The soda maker doesn’t think of its $50 assessment as a sin tax. Says [PepsiCo spokesman Dave] DeCecco: “What company wouldn’t want a healthy, engaged workforce?”
Oh, I don’t know … maybe a company that sells big bottles of sugar-water for less than a dollar apiece?
Truth in advertising
You’ve got to love the name of this new cereal:
Yup, I’m sure lots of kids will krave Kellogg’s Krave. They’ll probably toss back big ol’ bowls of the stuff before going to school and attending the special classes for kids with ADHD. But hey, it’s okay … as you can see from the label, Kellogg’s Krave contains fiber and whole grains!
“Johnny, where were you? You missed Social Studies and English!”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Worthington. I had to make a number two. Again.”
“Well, that shouldn’t take two class periods to accomplish, young man.”
“It does if you fall asleep on the toilet.”
Okay, this isn’t exactly a news item, but a reader who happens to be a teacher sent me a copy of the guidelines she was given to teach 7th graders about the Paleolithic era and the “stone-age” diet. Here are some quotes from an assignment for the kiddies:
No one expects you to eat raw mammoth brains, or even thistle, twigs, or your hamster. In fact, many species eaten by early hominids are now extinct. To duplicate the same foods our ancestors ate is almost impossible. Imagine trying to find in the local supermarket such foods as reindeer, fox, caribou, giant sloth, flamingos, bear, catmint, grubs, or quail eggs. Nevertheless, many foods exist that are similar to foods eaten during the Stone Age.
Yup … steaks, organ meats, chicken eggs, chickens, fish, a wide variety of vegetables, fruits …
Approved “Stone Age” foods to eat
• fish and seafood
• small game (e.g., rabbit, chicken)
• bison (buffalo meat)
• seeds and nuts (raw, without salt)
• lots of fruits (including figs)
• lots of vegetables (including beans)
• lots of water (eight to 10 glasses per day)
• whole grains such as barley, bulgar, oat bran, corn bran, rice, millet, buckwheat, and rye
• tubers (potatoes and sweet potatoes)
• small amounts of cereal grains
• pita bread and whole grain breads
• honey—the only sweetener allowed in your Stone Age diet!
• shoots and roots
• edible leaves and flowers
• lean red meats (sparingly)
• whole wheat bagels and rolls
• rice cakes
Whole grains, cereal grains, rice cakes and bagels – in the STONE AGE?!! Do these goofballs have any idea when farming actually began?
Your goal is to eat an abundance of natural, wholesome food with few or no chemical additives. Keep track of what you eat on the STONE AGE DIET RECORD. Why not do one more thing your ancestors did—exercise by walking or running outside each day. The combination of wholesome, low-fat foods and daily vigorous exercise will make a difference in your life!
Yup, that was life in the stone age: whole-wheat bagels, rice cakes, cereal and other low-fat foods. Those paleo hunters were very concerned about saturated fat and cholesterol.
Well, at least the lesson planners probably explained how anthropologists have found that hunter-gatherers spent an average of 20 hours per week obtaining food, then spent their remaining time playing games, telling stories, and engaging in ceremonies.
For 2.5 million years, humans lived nomadic lives of hunters and gatherers. This era of human existence was one of continual scarcity. All human energy had to be devoted to daily securing the food necessary to survival.
Head. Bang. On. Desk.
Yes, let’s get those cholesterol levels even lower!
I just knew that when the patents on statin drugs began to expire, something even (ahem) better would come along. I’m sorry to say I was right:
A possible revolutionary way to fight cholesterol is expected to cause a big stir among thousands of heart doctors gathering in Chicago starting this weekend for the annual American College of Cardiology meeting.
No doubt. You mention fighting cholesterol, and cardiologists get all stirred up. Fighting cholesterol makes them feel good about themselves. That’s because they believe – despite all the contrary evidence – that high cholesterol causes heart disease.
The new drugs in development by top pharmaceutical makers and up-and-coming biotechs are injectable medications that block a protein called PCSK9.
They have shown promise in early clinical trials for slashing “bad” LDL cholesterol further than widely used statins can alone. Their biggest advocates say PCSK9 blockers have the potential to be the next multibillion-dollar class of heart drugs.
I’m sure they will be. The makers of those drugs will sponsor educational conferences for doctors (in really nice locations) and present some dazzling, highly-manipulated evidence that these new drugs can save millions of lives.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc last year disclosed that its product slashed levels of LDL cholesterol up to 65 percent beyond reductions seen alone with statins – pills like Pfizer Inc’s Lipitor and AstraZeneca Plc’s Crestor that are today’s standard treatments.
Outstanding! If we can just get people’s LDL levels down to, say, 20 or 30, we’ll make a fortune! Granted, the people taking the drugs will be impotent, sore, tired, cranky, too weak to move and suffering from serious cognitive decline, but – here’s the important thing – their lab scores will make doctors feel good about themselves.
“PCSK9 is one of the most exciting targets in cardiovascular drug development today,” Michael Severino, Amgen’s chief medical officer, said in an interview. Severino said a large number of patients – some studies suggest 40 to 50 percent – fail to reach their cholesterol-lowering goals despite being on statins, and that PCSK9 inhibitors could give them the needed extra push.
Yup, right into the home for Alzheimer’s patients. But – this is the important thing – their lab scores will make doctors feel good about themselves.
Sure, you’ll lose weight … but then you’ll die
In my recent ORI speech, I listed this as the fifth ingredient for cooking up a crisis in nutrition:
Doctors, researchers, medical industry trade groups, government agencies and other authorities insisting that while the alternative advice may occasionally help some stupid, lazy, or gluttonous people lose weight and get their blood sugar under control, it will also kill them.
We had another example this week. Take a look at this dramatic headline:
Low carb diets imperil people prone to heart disease
No ifs, ands or buts in that headline, by gosh. There’s not even a maybe. If you’re prone to heart disease, going on a low-carb diet is risky, period, end of story. Surely a bold headline like is the result of a well-designed clinical study of how low-carb diets affect humans.
A low-carb, high-fat diet might help some people lose weight, but it could be deadly to those with a family history of heart disease, according to research presented March 25 at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago.
Hey … that would be the same meeting where cardiologists were dazzled by the news that some new drugs can beat down cholesterol levels even more than statins! I’m starting to see pattern here: going on a diet that makes you feel great and lose weight will kill you, but the drugs we sell are fantastic and will save your life. So forget the diet and take your drugs.
Anyway, back to the article:
Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that obese rats fed a high-fat, low-carb diet — comparable to what many humans consume — had more damaging and deadly heart attacks than obese rats fed a low-fat diet.
Got that? Obese rats fed a high-fat diet had more heart attacks than rats on a low-fat diet, so this proves (according to the headline) that low-carb diets imperil people with heart disease. And you wonder why I think the average media health writer is a flippin’ moron?
I couldn’t find the study online (it may not be published yet) and therefore couldn’t determine what was in that “high-fat” diet the rats consumed, but I did find a spec sheet awhile back for something called the Atkins-Style Diet that’s frequently used in rodent studies. Here are some of the top ingredients:
- Corn Starch
- Milk Fat
- Soybean Oil
- Corn Oil
- Blue Dye
Boy, that sounds exactly like the average Atkins dieter’s dinner, doesn’t it? The lard is good, but I urge all of you to avoid basing your meals on corn starch, Crisco, dextrin, sucrose, soybean oil and corn oil.
In other words, don’t eat the typical school lunch, even if the USDA approves.