Archive for December, 2015

Interesting items from my inbox …

Good news about statins

I’ve written a few posts with variations of the title Bad News For Statins. But I can finally report some good news, thanks to an article from Reuters:

Roughly one third of U.S. adults should be on cholesterol-lowering drugs, according to current guidelines, but almost half of these people aren’t taking the medications, a recent study finds.

Yee-hah! Despite the medical industry’s efforts to declare almost everyone with a pulse abnormal and in need of treatment, half of those with “high” cholesterol aren’t swallowing statins.

More than 78 million people aged 21 and older have high enough levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – the bad kind of cholesterol that builds up in blood vessels and can lead to blood clots and heart attacks – to be eligible for LDL-lowering drugs known as statins, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

But overall, only about 56 percent of people who might benefit from the drugs took them. Women eligible for treatment did better than men – about 59 percent of them were taking the drugs compared with 53 percent of their male peers.

I’m thinking the real problem here isn’t that people aren’t taking statins. The real problem is that bozos in the medical industry believe 78 million adults need them.

Some cardiologists believe the 2013 guidelines may have recommended treatment for too many people, particularly by suggesting some healthy individuals take drugs based on an estimated future risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The new guidelines may have roughly doubled the number of people eligible for treatment.

What a nice boon for the statin-makers. But I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

I read elsewhere that more people are refusing statins because they’re concerned about side effects. I believe we can thank the Wisdom of Crowds effect for that. If you listen to the FDA or the average doctor, you’ll hear that very few people suffer side effects. But if you listen to the crowd, you know better.

The Anointed want even more calorie labels

There are 235 calories in a pint of Guinness Extra Stout. I know that because I spent almost five seconds conducting a Google Search. There are 149 calories in a bottle of Dos Equis. I found that info and calorie counts for dozens of other beers on this page — again, in about five seconds.

See? It’s quick and easy for beer-drinkers to look this stuff up if they care about calorie counts – which most of them don’t. But that’s not good enough for The Anointed. Nope, The Anointed believe we all need to be confronted with calorie counts, like it or not. Beer is next on their to-do list.

Soon enough, some restaurants, including all of the biggest chains, will be required to provide nutritional information for beer, just like every other product they sell. Walk into a TGI Friday’s or a Chili’s and you’ll be presented with calorie count, fat content, and more. And brewers aren’t happy about it.

Customers shouldn’t be happy about it either. If you want to drink beer and watch your calories, you can order a Miller Lite, a Bud Lite, an Amstel Light, etc. They’re all advertised as low-calorie, low-carb beers. But when most of us go out for a beer, we want to have a good time – not to have finger-wagging nanny-staters shove the calorie count in our faces.

The New York Post recently surveyed a selection of New York state brewers to find out what they think about the new rules. (The Post, delightfully, refers to government health regulators as “FDA busybodies.”) Brewers are nervous, fearing new regulatory costs and decreased sales.

I wouldn’t worry about those decreased sales. See above. Most beer-drinkers don’t give a hoot about the calories. If they do, they order a light beer.

Yet from the FDA’s perspective, this is pretty simple. “Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home, so making accurate and easy-to-see calorie information available for these foods is an important part of an overall effort to help consumers make their own informed choices for themselves and their families,” said Lauren Kotwicki, a press officer at the FDA.

Gee, Lauren, thanks so much for the help. I want to make informed choices when I’m in a bar, and by gosh, I just couldn’t do it without FDA regulations. I mean, it’s not as if I could look up the calorie counts on Google.  Or just order a light beer.

How many people really know the nutritional information of beer and wine, even people who are conscious of calorie counts in other foods?

Very few, because they don’t give a @#$% when they’re ordering beer or wine.  But if they want to know, they’ll spend five seconds on Google.

And those calorie counts can be high: Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot, for example, is a very popular barleywine-style ale, and tops out at a whopping 330 calories and 30.3 grams of carbohydrates.

And how do you know about that whopping calorie count? Did you (just taking a wild guess here) look it up online in about five seconds?

If the point of the FDA’s labeling push is to discourage people from consuming too many calories, evidence is dubious that the strategy will work. A Washington Post survey from 2011 indicated that sales of high-fat, high-calorie products did not much decrease after nutritional labeling on them became mandatory.

Other studies reached the same conclusion.  And yet despite no evidence whatsoever that calorie-count laws lead to people eating and drinking less, the FDA is moving ahead and forcing brewers to absorb the cost of providing calorie-counts that will be ignored … because that’s what The Anointed do. Failure is never a reason to abandon a Grand Plan.

Those danged vegans are ruining the planet.

How’s this for perfect timing? Two weeks ago, I wrote a post responding to a loony-leftie BBC writer who thinks governments should discourage eating meat to save the planet. But according to an online article in Science Daily, she’s the one responsible for global warmi—er, climate change:

Contrary to recent headlines — and a talk by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference — eating a vegetarian diet could contribute to climate change.

In fact, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie.

Well, that’s it, then. Next time I see some vegan chomping down on a veggie burger, I’m going to walk over and scream, “Stop ruining my planet, you selfish bean-brain!” Then I’m going to demand that governments around the world apply “price reform” to make vegetarian meals prohibitively expensive. Fair is fair.

On one hand, the results showed that getting our weight under control and eating fewer calories has a positive effect on the environment and reduces energy use, water use and GHG emissions from the food supply chain by approximately 9 percent.

Oh, no. Now we’ll have loony BBC writers calling for governments to slap climate-change taxes on people who are overweight. That will suck … especially since the diet most governments recommend for losing weight is bad for the planet, according to the study.

However, eating the recommended “healthier” foods — a mix of fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood — increased the environmental impact in all three categories: Energy use went up by 38 percent, water use by 10 percent and GHG emissions by 6 percent.

“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy. “Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”

So this holiday season, do your part to save the planet – eat more bacon.

Nutritionist vs. The Philadelphia Eagles

Sports stars make a lot of money endorsing food products. Peyton Manning appears in ads for Papa John’s pizza. The 1985 Super-Bowl Bears (ah, those were the days) did commercials for McDonald’s. Michael Jordan appeared on boxes of Wheaties. It’s been happening forever, but a “nutrition advocate” is very upset with a recent endorsement by the Eagles:

South Philly-based nutrition advocate and TV food personality Christina Pirello is steamed over the Eagles’ proclamation that Dunkin Donuts’ Sweet Black Pepper Bacon Sandwich is the team’s official breakfast sandwich.

She calls the croissant creation “deadly,” given its 560 calories (300 of them from fat, including four strips of bacon). “It’s the complete trifecta to steal our collective health — fat, sugar and salt,” Pirello wrote in an open letter to team owner Jeffrey Lurie, chastising the team for setting a poor example for the fans.

Fat, sugar, salt … I only see one bad ingredient in that list.

“I thought my head would explode,” Pirello writes.

That’s probably because you don’t eat enough fat.

“I find it completely mind-boggling that you would be so irresponsible as to allow our team to send the message to fans that this is something they eat and endorse eating.”

You need to look at the big picture, lady. The sandwich consists of a croissant, bacon, egg and cheese. You notice what’s NOT in that list? That’s right … no lettuce, cucumbers, eggplant or celery. Those foods contribute to global warmi— er, climate change. So the Eagles are just doing their part to save the planet. They should probably receive an award of some kind from Al Gore.

“Look, I’m not going all vegan on you, expecting the players to endorse tofu and sprout sandwiches, but there are far better choices for this team to promote than pure unadulterated junk food. Dunkin Donuts may be paying you a lot, but if all your fans drop dead of heart disease, your gorgeous green stadium will have a lot of empty seats with tickets unsold.”

If the Eagles end up with a lot of empty seats in the stadium next year, it will be because they couldn’t win a division where every team currently has a losing record.

Tomorrow is my last day of work before an end-of-the-year vacation that will be filled with visiting family in Illinois, Christmas (of course), putting together the family 2015 DVD, and (I hope) finishing my first rewrite of the book.  Barring some news I simply can’t ignore, this will be my last post until after New Year’s.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Festivus, and a Happy New Year to all of you.

 

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In our last episode, we heard from a BBC reporter (and member of The Anointed) who believes governments should use information campaigns and “price reform” to discourage people from eating meat … all because of a cockamamie theory that forcing her preferences on the rest of us will somehow reduce global warmi—er, climate change.

Soon after that post, a reader sent me a link to a site promoting a discount on life insurance for vegetarians. The name of the page suggests it’s a lead generator, so I don’t know if any insurers are actually offering such a discount. Could just be a way to get your name on a marketing list.

If insurers really and truly do offer discounts for vegetarians, however, it raises some interesting possibilities … such as, how do they know people won’t just lie on the form? The only qualifying question on the page is How long have you been a vegetarian? What’s to stop people from entering 25 years and then going out for a ribeye? Would insurers check on people?

There have been plenty of cases where sandbaggers filed workers’ comp insurance claims, insisting they couldn’t work because of on-the-job injuries, then were caught on videotape playing basketball, hiking, building an addition on the house, etc. If insurers start offering cheaper rates for vegetarians, will they hire camera-wielding spies to follow policyholders to restaurants?

If so, I sense a business opportunity. There are all kinds of meatless foods out there designed to look and taste like meat: soyburgers, veggie hotdogs, tofurkeys, etc. Imagine the insurance-discount demand for foods that look like tofu and beans, but are actually made from chicken, beef and pork.

“Yes, waiter, I’ll have the (ahem) veggie chili.” (wink, wink)

“So that’s the— oh, you mean the veggie chili, not the real vegetarian chili.”

“Yes, but please keep your voice down. They may have the place bugged.”

Anyway, that’s not the topic of the post. This is:

Some months back, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post titled A Vegetarian Diet Will Make You Sick And Crazy. I took the kind of weak-ass observational study that vegetarian zealots like to wave in our faces and (like them) assumed the study actually proved something. But in this case, the study didn’t exactly support the notion that going meatless is the key to a superior life:

A new study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria finds that vegetarians are more physically active, drink less alcohol and smoke less tobacco than those who consume meat in their diets. Vegetarians also have a higher socioeconomic status and a lower body mass index. But the vegetarian diet — characterized by a low consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol that includes increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products — carries elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders.

A reader recently sent me a link to an article from Women’s Health online that offers similar warnings on the mental-health front:

More and more women are vegging out…of their minds. New research suggests that along with shedding pounds, slashing cancer risk, and boosting life expectancy, vegetarianism could come with lesser-known side effects: Panic attacks. OCD. Depression.

Notice the assumption that vegetarian diets really and truly do slash cancer risk and increase life expectancy. Sure, that’s what some observational studies show – because (as the University of Graz study noted) vegetarians on average are more physically active, drink less alcohol, smoke less, etc. Other observational studies, however, don’t show any difference in life expectancy at all.

But to continue with the article …

Drew Ramsey’s 35-year-old patient had always been fit and active, but her energy had flatlined. When she did manage to drag herself to the gym, it didn’t help. She felt anxious and was often on the verge of tears for no reason, even when she was with friends. Worst of all were her panic attacks, a rare occurrence in the past but now so common that she was afraid of losing her job because she had trouble getting out of bed, and she’d become terrified of taking the New York City subway.

It may sound like an episode of House, but Ramsey had a hunch. He’d seen a dramatic link between mood and food before (he even researched it for his forthcoming book Eat Complete), and guessed that his patient’s well-intentioned meat-free diet was the very thing causing her mental deterioration. Sure enough, six weeks after adding animal protein back onto her plate, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent.

But she’ll be slashing her cancer risk and extending her life expectancy while lying in bed and feeling anxious.

It’s tough to argue with the science—and with a movement that’s been endorsed by everyone from Gandhi to Beyonce.

Say what? I argue with the science all the time – because most of it is crap.

And it’s natural to assume that peak mental health and a perpetually blissed-out attitude are just two more side effects of the glowing vegetarian lifestyle.

No, what’s natural is eating meat. Humans have been doing it forever. Chimpanzees (our nearest genetic relatives) not only hunt, they do it in organized packs with assigned roles.

So it was startling last year when Australian researchers revealed that vegetarians reported being less optimistic about the future than meat eaters. What’s more, they were 18 percent more likely to report depression and 28 percent more likely to suffer panic attacks and anxiety. A separate German study backs this up, finding that vegetarians were 15 percent more prone to depressive conditions and twice as likely to suffer anxiety disorders.

I’m not startled. I was a vegetarian.

“We don’t know if a vegetarian diet causes depression and anxiety, or if people who are predisposed to those mental conditions gravitate toward vegetarianism,” says Emily Deans, M.D., a Boston psychiatrist who studies the link between food and mood.

True, we don’t want to confuse correlation with causation. But let’s recall what happened with Dr. Ramsey’s patient:

Sure enough, six weeks after adding animal protein back onto her plate, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent.

If she was just a person who happened to have a mental condition and gravitated towards vegetarianism, then it’s quite a coincidence that after adding meat to her diet, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent.  But whichever way the arrow of causality points — going vegetarian causes mental problems in some people, or people with mental problems are more likely to go vegetarian — it’s not a flattering correlation.

Name some “brain foods.” Well, there’s avocado. Olive oil. Nuts. Red meat? Not so much. Yet anthropological evidence shows that, long before we could choose to subsist on cashew cheese and tofu, animal flesh provided the energy-dense calories necessary to fuel evolving cerebellums. Without meat, we’d never have matured beyond the mental capacity of herbivores like gorillas.

Which is one of the many reasons I don’t believe meat causes the diseases it’s sometimes “linked” to in observational studies. Mother Nature isn’t stupid … and it would be stupid to design us so that the food that increased our brain size and made us human also ruined our health.

Just like Drew Ramsey’s patient, Isabel Smith was active and energetic and thought a vegetarian diet was the perfect complement to her health-conscious lifestyle. But after a few weeks sans meat, she found herself uncharacteristically weepy. “I was tired and frustrated and got upset more easily, especially over things that wouldn’t normally bother me,” she says.

Like a blog that promotes a diet that includes meat? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard from some of those easily-upset people. I usually tell them to go eat a steak and get back to me, but they rarely do.

Shortly after she started eating meat again, she noticed an uptick in her mood.

So much for that whole eating meat makes you angry and aggressive nonsense.

The twist? Smith is a registered dietitian. One who now understands personally what she studies professionally: Not everyone is cut out for a life without meat.

Yes, but you see, we need to discourage people from eating meat to save the planet. The Anointed have spoken.  And if a lot of people who give up meat because of “price reform” end up feeling depressed and having panic attacks … well, too bad.  That’s the price they have to pay.

Besides, they may get a discount on life insurance.

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Decades ago, The Older Brother opined that when the loony lefties want to violate someone’s constitutional rights, they just claim it’s to save the children. Then if you oppose the loony lefties, they claim you don’t care about children.

Apparently that strategy was limited in its usefulness, because eventually the loony lefties replaced “it’s to save the children!” with “it’s to save the planet!” That’s why Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, eventually quit the organization. He saw environmentalism being hijacked (as he put it) by the political and social causes of the left.  Science took a back seat to politics.  As Dr. Moore put it in an essay he wrote back in March:

There is a powerful convergence of interests among key elites that support the climate “narrative.” Environmentalists spread fear and raise donations; politicians appear to be saving the Earth from doom; the media has a field day with sensation and conflict; science institutions raise billions in grants, create whole new departments, and stoke a feeding frenzy of scary scenarios; business wants to look green, and get huge public subsidies for projects that would otherwise be economic losers, such as wind farms and solar arrays. Fourth, the Left sees climate change as a perfect means to redistribute wealth from industrial countries to the developing world and the UN bureaucracy.

You’ve got to hand it to the loons; they know a useful weapon when they see it. I mean, heck, it’s one thing not to care about children, but who wants to be accused of not caring about THE ENTIRE PLANET?!

Want to achieve your lifelong goal of transferring wealth from rich countries to poor countries? No problem. Just claim the rich countries are damaging the poor countries by warming the planet, then demand compensation. The U.N. will happily back you on the idea. Want to use the power of government to discourage people from eating meat? Again, no problem. Just claim that the meat-eaters are causing global warmi—er, climate change.

If you’ve read any of my posts about The Anointed, you’ve likely already spotted the pattern. But as a refresher, here’s how The Anointed go about their business (as described by Thomas Sowell in his terrific book The Vision of the Anointed):

  • The Anointed identify a problem. This is now THE BAD.
  • The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem. This is now automatically THE GOOD. (By sheer coincidence, the Grand Plan almost always involves restricting other people’s freedoms and/or confiscating more of their money.)
  • Because they are so supremely confident in their own theories, The Anointed don’t believe they should be required to provide evidence that the Grand Plan will work.  In fact, The Anointed are always so sure the Grand Plan will work, they will happily impose it on other people — for their own good, of course.
  • Because the Grand Plan is THE GOOD, The Anointed are sure anyone who opposes it is either evil or stupid.
  • When the Grand Plan fails, it can’t possibly mean The Anointed were wrong, because The Anointed are never wrong. Failure can only mean the Grand Plan didn’t go far enough — so we need to do the same thing again, only bigger.

So with that in mind, let’s take a peek at an article on the BBC News site titled Can eating less meat help reduce climate change?

As the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21) draws near, the international spotlight is more focused on climate change than at any time since the Copenhagen talks of 2009.

But amid all the talk of decarbonising energy and transport systems, one crucial area remains in the shadows. The livestock sector produces about 15% of global greenhouse gases, roughly equivalent to all the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet.

Wait a second … that would mean every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet combined produce just 15% of greenhouses gases, right? And yet you people expect me to believe if you force me to buy fluorescent bulbs for my house, we’ll stop global warmi— er, climate change?

Who is eating all this meat?

Bad people, no doubt.

The US has one of the highest levels of meat consumption in the world at about 250g per person per day, almost four times the amount deemed healthy by experts.

That would explain why Native Americans who lived primarily on buffalo meat were always dropping dead of heart disease and cancer.

At the other end of the scale, Indians average less than 10g of meat per day.

They also have one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world. Somebody should inform those health experts of yours.

Left unchecked, shifting diets, coupled with a growing population, would see global consumption increase by more than 75% by 2050. What is being done about it? Very little.

Mean consumption is unchecked?!  You mean nobody is applying force to stop it?!  Oh, nooooooo! Please, tell me somebody in government is going to do something!!

Why not? Governments fear a backlash from voters over interference in such a personal choice as diet.

Naww, they shouldn’t fear a backlash if they try to take away our meat. Armed revolution, maybe, but not a simple backlash.  But what would be really cool is if governments left this whole thing “unchecked” not out of fear, but because they decided it’s none of their business how much meat we eat.

And because public awareness of the link between diet and climate change is so low, there is very little pressure on governments to do anything about it.

Boy, I just don’t know what’s wrong with the voters these days. You’d think they’d stop worrying about high unemployment, runaway government debts, runaway college costs, insurance premiums being doubled because of the “Affordable” Care Act, terrorism, etc., etc., and put that whole meat-causes-global-warmi-er-climate-change issue at the top of their “government needs to do something!!” list.

Are there any grounds for optimism? Yes.

You mean governments are going to finally admit they’re generally incompetent and stop mucking around in our lives?

Even though COP21 is highlighting the need for climate action and, though a deal seems likely, the pledges made in advance of the summit would put us on a path to warming of about 3C by the end of the century, leaving much work to be done if we are to get to 2C.

Riiiiiiiight. Because those models that predict worldwide temperatures decades into the future have turned out to be so darned accurate.

But reining in excessive meat consumption could close the gap by as much as a quarter and will represent an attractive strategy for governments in need of credible and affordable solutions.

I’m sorry, but for a second there, I thought you put the words credible and affordable in the same sentence with governments – you know, like the government that gave us the Food Pyramid and the “Affordable” Care Act.  Surely I was mistaken.

But reining in excessive meat consumption could close the gap by as much as a quarter and will represent an attractive strategy for governments in need of credible and affordable solutions.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

Governments should seize this opportunity.

If seizing the opportunity means seizing more taxpayer money, you’ll have no problem selling them on the idea.

The first priority is to increase public awareness – both to allow people to make informed choices about what they eat and to build support for further action.

Ah, I see.  So you’re not advocating for the use of force.  You’re all about allowing us to make our own choices. Well, no problem, then.

But it is clear that information campaigns alone will not suffice.

Uh … meaning?

Governments should use the full range of policy levers available to them.

Doncha just love the Orwellian rhetoric of the loony left? We need information campaigns so people can make informed choices – and then we need to force them to make the decisions we know are best.

Changing the food served in public organisations – to offer a greater share of vegetarian and vegan options – would provide a boost to sustainable suppliers and issue a powerful signal to the millions of people who eat in public offices, schools, the armed forces, hospitals and prisons.

And when the “powerful signal” doesn’t do the trick …

Price reform will also be needed to reflect environmental costs and incentivise behaviour change at the scale needed.

In other words: @#$% FREE CHOICE! WE NEED TO TAX THE @#$% OUT OF MEAT SO PEOPLE WILL EAT LESS OF IT.

Will the public accept government intervention in our food choices? Focus groups carried out by Chatham House in four countries suggested that as long as the public could see a strong rationale for change, they would come to accept government intervention on diets.

Great. Fabulous. Awesome. Individual rights? Naww, who the heck needs those? Ya see, if we can convince most people that taxing the @#$% out of meat is a good idea, then it’s okay … even if it means people who don’t want to eat less meat have to cut back because they can’t afford it anymore. Remember, folks, when The Anointed impose their will on you, it’s for your own good – and the good of the planet, of course.

What’s more, the public appears to expect that governments will take action in the public good.

Excuse me while I go laugh my ass off at that one ….

HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!

… Okay, I’m back.

With a strong enough signal from governments and the media about why we need to change our eating habits, the public is likely to come to accept initially unpopular policies.

Riiiiiiight. Once The Anointed in government and The Anointed in the media convince enough people that eating meat is bad, they’ll want you to use force to make them eat less of it. I mean, it’s not as if they’d just make that informed decision for themselves.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make an informed decision and choose to eat a burger for dinner.

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