From The News …

      48 Comments on From The News …

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Sugar finally getting the blame for cancer

We’ve been told since the 1980s that we should all be on low-fat diets to prevent cancer. Evidence has been mounting that sugar is the more likely culprit (I wrote about that in a 2013 post), but I haven’t seen much to that effect in the major media outlets.

So I was pleased to see an article in the Los Angeles Times pointing the finger at refined carbs:

In August of 2016, the New England Journal of Medicine published a striking report on cancer and body fat: Thirteen separate cancers can now be linked to being overweight or obese, among them a number of the most common and deadly cancers of all — colon, thyroid, ovarian, uterine, pancreatic and (in postmenopausal women) breast cancer.

I know what you’re thinking: If they’re linking cancer to obesity, they’re going to say it’s because people just eat too much or eat too many cheeseburgers. Wait for it …

The studies reflect whether someone is overweight upon being diagnosed with cancer, but they don’t show that the excess weight is responsible for the cancer. They are best understood as a warning sign that something about what or how much we eat is intimately linked to cancer. But what?

It’s a pleasant surprise when a newspaper article points out that correlation doesn’t prove causation.

Lewis Cantley, the director of the cancer center at Weill Cornell Medicine, has been at the forefront of the cancer metabolism revival. Cantley’s best explanation for the obesity-cancer connection is that both conditions are also linked to elevated levels of the hormone insulin. His research has revealed how insulin drives cells to grow and take up glucose (blood sugar) by activating a series of genes, a pathway that has been implicated in most human cancers.

Hallelujah. A researcher sees a connection between a disease and obesity and doesn’t immediately blame the obesity. And there I was, getting psyched up to bang my head on my desk.

The problem isn’t the presence of insulin in our blood. We all need insulin to live. But when insulin rises to abnormally high levels and remains elevated (a condition known as insulin resistance, common in obesity), it can promote the growth of tumors directly and indirectly. Too much insulin and many of our tissues are bombarded with more growth signals and more fuel than they would ever see under normal metabolic conditions. And because elevated insulin directs our bodies to store fat, it can also be linked to the various ways the fat tissue itself is thought to contribute to cancer.

Having recognized the risks of excess insulin-signaling, Cantley and other metabolism researchers are following the science to its logical conclusion: The danger may not be simply eating too much, as is commonly thought, but rather eating too much of the specific foods most likely to lead to elevated insulin levels — easily digestible carbohydrates in general, and sugar in particular.

Cancer, diabetes, heart disease … for years, almost all the diseases of civilization were blamed on animal fats. Lots of the (ahem) “experts” still want to blame fats (just read the previous post for an example), but it’s nice to see the tide turning.

She doesn’t eat animal fats, but she’s too annoying for the Swiss

Honestly, really and truly, I don’t care if people choose to be vegans. I only care when they won’t shut up about it. (Q: how can you spot the vegan in the room? A: Don’t worry, she’ll tell you.) Apparently the Swiss share my aversion to the preachy types:

A Dutch vegan who applied for a Swiss passport has had her application rejected because the locals found her too annoying. Nancy Holten, 42, moved to Switzerland from the Netherlands when she was eight years old and now has children who are Swiss nationals.

Does that make her a Vegan Dreamer?

However, when she tried to get a Swiss passport for herself, residents of Gipf-Oberfrick in the canton of Aargau rejected her application.

Ms Holten, a vegan and animal rights activist, has campaigned against the use of cowbells in the village and her actions have annoyed the locals. The resident’s committee argued that if she does not accept Swiss traditions and the Swiss way of life, she should not be able to become an official national.

I bet when she heard the news, she shouted something like Gipf Oberfrick!!

Ms Holten told local media: “The bells, which the cows have to wear when they walk to and from the pasture, are especially heavy. The animals carry around five kilograms around their neck. It causes friction and burns to their skin.”

Let’s see … a cowbell weighs about 11 pounds, and the average cow weighs 1,600 pounds. Yeah, I can see how that would really be a burden.  It would be like asking a human to carry a set of keys, a smartphone and a wallet all at the same time.

Ms Holten, who describes herself as a freelance journalist, model and drama student, has also campaigned against a number of other Swiss traditions like hunting, pig races and the noisy church bells in town.

Boy, I just can’t imagine why the local Swiss don’t want her as a fellow citizen.

Give it time, we’ll all have “high” blood pressure

In Fat Head, I described how members of the National Cholesterol Education Campaign (Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks was one of them) redefined “high” cholesterol in the 1980s so that most of us fall into that category – which created millions of instant patients for statins.

Now new blood-pressure guidelines will apparently redefine millions of people as hypertensive:

New guidelines lower the threshold for high blood pressure, adding 30 million Americans to those who have the condition, which now plagues nearly half of U.S. adults.

Okay, stop right there. If nearly half of U.S. adults have “high” blood pressure and we’re about to add another 30 million, doesn’t that once again mean that average is being defined as high, just like with cholesterol?

High pressure, which for decades has been a top reading of at least 140 or a bottom one of 90, drops to 130 over 80 in advice announced Monday by a dozen medical groups.

“I have no doubt there will be controversy. I’m sure there will be people saying ‘We have a hard enough time getting to 140,'” said Dr. Paul Whelton, a Tulane University physician who led the guidelines panel.

But the risk for heart disease, stroke and other problems drops as blood pressure improves, and the new advice “is more honest” about how many people have a problem, he said.

Perhaps. But my suspicious side wonders if these new guidelines are appearing just in time for a new wonder drug to hit the market – the process Dr. Malcolm Kendrick described in his book Doctoring Data.

For people over 65, the guidelines undo a controversial tweak made three years ago to relax standards and not start medicines unless the top number was over 150.

Now, everyone that old should be treated if the top number is over 130 unless they’re too frail or have conditions that make it unwise.

Uh-huh. Sorry, but I think this is about selling drugs. And by the way, Dr. Kendrick also stated in Doctoring Data that no clinical studies have proved that lowering blood pressure actually saves lives.

Finally, a good use for Crisco

When the Bears went to the Super Bowl in 1986 and 2007, I was delighted. Excited. Ecstatic. But it never occurred to me to climb a city light pole to express my enthusiasm. Apparently that’s a potential problem among Eagles fans, and Philly officials found a good way to deal with it.

As the Philadelphia Eagles geared up for a championship playoff game at their home stadium on Sunday, the police were preparing to keep the city’s boisterous football fans safe.

They put up barricades, Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department, said in an email. They assigned officers to patrol on foot, on bikes and on horses. And they broke out cans of Crisco, slathering up street poles to try to stop people from climbing them.

The Guy From CSPI would no doubt approve. If city officials slathered those poles with lard, CSPI Guy would be out there with a megaphone and yelling, “Stop! The arterycloggingsaturatedfat will soak into your skin and give you heart disease!”

And of course, people with good taste would be licking the poles. So Crisco it is.

By the way, after I finished watching yesterday’s games, Alana showed me a note she saved to her iPad in November. She had asked me which two teams I’d pick to be in the Super Bowl if I had to place a bet. I told her the Patriots and the Eagles, and she saved the prediction as note, perhaps to wave in my face if I turned out to be wrong.

So I got that right. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I’m in a four-man football pool and ended up in last place this season. Obviously I’m better at predicting the final outcome of a season than the individual games.

Nonetheless, I’ll predict the winner of the only remaining game: Eagles.  I want as much Crisco as possible to end up on light poles instead of in the food supply.


48 thoughts on “From The News …

  1. Firebird7478

    My Eagles brethren didn’t climb the poles so that was a success. A few however, tried to hump them. 😉

    E-A-G-L-E-S! EAGLES!

  2. Lori Miller

    With high blood pressure and cholesterol, I wonder if any correlation with heart disease comes down to age.

    The Swiss woman reminds me of someone on a forum I belong to where people ask questions about moving to a different city. She was a very tattooed, animal rights activist vegan whose mother had moved to Indiana, and she got it in her head to move to a country-club Republican area. We all suggested she move to a hip neighborhood in Indianapolis or stay in LA. Naturally, she…re-posted her questions under a different name. Hippy-dippy types are the biggest my-way-or-the-highway people I know of.

    I’ve used WD-40 to spray poles and signs so that kids can’t stick slap tags on them (at least, they come off easier), but something like Pam spray might be just as good.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Heh-heh-heh … well, I learned years ago that a fraction of the population is unable to recognize satire. Back in the 1980s, Newsweek published a satirical “My Turn” essay I wrote on why it was a good idea to have the government decide what everyone should be paid. (This was in response to the “comparable worth” nonsense being floated at the time.) They sent me all the letters they received in response, and some people clearly thought I was supporting the idea, not making fun of it. So it goes.

  3. Tom Welsh

    “In August of 2016, the New England Journal of Medicine published a striking report on cancer and body fat…”

    Pleased as I am about the sensible content of the article, how did the LA Times rush it out so fast? Just 18 months after the paper was published…

  4. Judy B

    Totally agree on the new blood pressure “guidelines.” One of the doctors actually had the temerity to say that millions had been deprived of the benefits of treatment. My reaction was the same – another way to sell drugs!

    (Tom, I believe that Crisco is made from vegetable oil. I don’t think it is a good product to eat. If I am wrong, I am sure that someone will chime in….)

      1. Bob Niland

        It depends. Crisco® is a brand name for a line of oil and “shortening” products, which are not all necessarily troubling. The non-GMO organic coconut product looks fine.

        What is worth avoiding in the other products are the industrial grain and legume oils high in Omega 6 linoleic acid (and about which the NF panel will tell you next to nothing useful). Hydrogenated fats are also often present, although they claim low/no transfats.

        The original 1911 product, being hydrogenated cottonseed oil, might also have been the original transfat. I often wonder what role it played in Ike’s heart disease in the 50s, since that (aided by smoking of course) developed before the rise of the n6 oils, mutant wheat, HFCS, DGA, low-cholesterol, low-fat, low-salt, and other modern menaces.

        1. Thomas E.

          I have yet to find where Dr. Cate’s takedown on vegetable oil is incorrect

          She definitely believes that all hot pressed seed oils need to be removed from the diet. And there are no commercial oils from seeds that are not hot pressed.

  5. Thomas E.


    There might be a nuance you are missing on the new hypertensive guidelines. It is very possible that the majority of the adult population are hypertensive.

    Reading “Deep Nutrition” and other sources have given me the impression that vegetable oil, NALFD, and well, in general metabolic syndrome can all cause hypertension for all except those with amazing genetics, and can handle the dietary assault on our bodies.

    We know that the SAD contains lots of vegetable oil and fructose. So, it is conceivable that by the time the average person hits 30 years old they have a mild case of NALFD and vegetable oil toxicity (for lack of the better term) and thus as a population we are hypertensive.

    So, maybe the new ranges are correct, and this is just another canary in the coal mine of health??

    When you look at the number of people who have, or are pre-typeII-diabetic, I am, sadly, finding the notion that more than 50% of the adults are hypertensive plausible. As much as I detest the apparent ethics/morals of the leadership of the pharmaceutical companies.

    best regards,

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      There is that possibility. But since reducing high blood pressure with medications hasn’t apparently been shown to save lives, I’m immediately suspicious when the definition of “high” is redefined downwards.

      1. Thomas E.

        So, I am not going to argue that the “health industry” is being completely unbiased and altruistic on this one. At the end of the day, they are businesses. To which my doctor, more or less admits, there is a significant amount of pressure on him for the general good. He does not like grains, but his believe is if we all stopped eating grains then we would run short of food production. He is much more on our side, but still has to moderate his standard of care.

        But, on this one they might have a leg to stand on. This goes back to the same analogy as saturated fat causing heart disease.

        In this case hypertension may very well be the symptom of the disease, and of course treating symptoms does not fix the root cause.

        Just as statins may push off the heart attack, they don’t fix the root causes.

        From my knowledge, I believe that long term Hypertension can lead to addition inflammation in the vascular system. Where the line is, well, the new guidelines might be correct, might not.

        In either case, the proximate cause of the disease is going to likely be an poor diet.

        Thanks again for your hard work in keeping these discussions alive!

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Agreed. Lots of people see their blood pressure drop quite a bit when they dump sugars, grains, and industrial seed oils.

  6. Emily

    “Ms Holten, who describes herself as a freelance journalist, model and drama student”

    Go figure that she’s annoying. She could spend her time feeding the homeless or fighting against the factory farm system, but that would be real work, and she’s probably too annoying for the people who actually work at that stuff too.

    One of my grandmothers had severe problems because of low blood pressure. I never see this talked about in the media for some reason. Maybe the medication for it’s cheap in generic form. I also rarely see the media talk about the perils of being underweight, but I think that’s because large numbers of them are trying to be extremely thin and have a class-based prejudice against overweight and even “normal” weight people.

  7. Dianne

    All interesting stuff, but darn, I know my doc is going to jump on the bandwagon for the new BP standards. Oh, well, I ignore her on statins, I can ignore her on this one too.

    I wonder if the City of Philadelphia cleaned the Crisco off the street poles after the tumult and the shouting died, or if they waited for people to complain about getting the stuff rubbed off onto their coats. BTW, many years back when we lived in Oregon my husband and I loved feeding the birds, but there was a squirrel who liked to hog the sunflower seeds. So we hung the feeder far off the ground on a slender wrought-iron pole, thinking the squirrel couldn’t shinny up metal the way he could climb tree bark. Wrong. So I got a small can of Crisco and painted the pole. Mr. Squirrel jumped part way up the pole and slid back down. He tried again with the same results. Then he sat at the foot eyeing the pole and the feeder full of lovely seeds up at the top. A little later, I looked out to see him methodically eating the Crisco from the bottom up. The more he ate, the higher he climbed, until once again he was in sole possession of the feeder with no intention of sharing with the chickadees.

    Undaunted, I bought a book called “Outwitting Squirrels” written by Bill Adler in 1988 and since updated. It contained a lot of stratagems for defending your bird feeders from these crafty rodents, but the general conclusion was that it can’t be done.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Critters are quite determined. We learned that with raccoons.

      The article mentioned that the city planned to let rain wash away the Crisco.

    2. Firebird7478

      Torrential rains around here may have washed all that away, which means it has gotten into the drainage system. Just what this city needs, more busted water pipes.

          1. Tom Naughton Post author

            Well, scientists feed rats Crisco all the time to (ahem) “prove” that a high-fat diet is bad for humans.

            1. Walter

              That proof has more errors than an early Mets game.

              I read the description of modern Crisco on Wikipedia. Ugh. They use the 0.5 per serving exemption that allows the reporting of zero grams of transfat per serving, of course. The saturated fat is produced by hydrogenation which results in unsaturated and monounsaturated fats which are not found in nature. Transgendered fats anyone?!

              I am dubious that this results in a healthier product than the original.

              The other trick would be to use industrial seed oils to “prove” high fat diets unhealthy.

              Oh, I forgot, rats are not human, albeit some humans are rats.

  8. Valerie

    Hypertension treatment is definitely beneficial for people with very high blood pressure (malignant hypertension). If memory serves, it has also been proven beneficial for people with stage-two hypertension. It is only for people with stage-one hypertension that the benefits are dubious.

    Could be that most people treated for hypertension are in the stage-one category. I don’t know. Still, your dismissal of antihypertensive therapy goes a bit too far.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Perhaps. I still wonder if it’s treating a symptom of a problem rather than the problem itself. If it’s very high blood pressure that’s the problem, I don’t see the point in lowering the standards.

      1. Thomas E.

        I would guess Hypertension is a symptom of other miladies.

        I would suggest the root cause is NAFLD, free radicals from trans fat in vegetables oils, other chemicals messing with the endocrine system, insulin resistance, and so on.

        1. Walter

          And excessive stress. From “Pogo” by Walt Kelly

          Porky Pine

          Don’t take life so serious, son, it ain’t nohow permanent.

  9. K2

    Thanks, Tom, for pointing out the article and the slow awakening to the very likely truth. I’m using it as my own wake-up call. Six months ago my a1c was the low end of pre-diabetes, despite being quite thin and an almost 40-year runner. Genetics and not taking warning signs seriously will catch up with you. I’ve coasted these past few months and suspect there isn’t a lot of change, but I want to be solidly in the non-diabetic range. Knowing that sugar and/or high insulin can greatly increase cancer risk, as well as other chronic illnesses, might be the slap in the face I needed.

    Several years ago I asked a physician if my grandmother’s diabetes could be linked to her breast cancer. The answer was, of course, “no, no connection.” It is encouraging to see sparks of acknowledgement that maybe the “conventional wisdom” is leading us down a dangerous path.

    Looking forward to the movie coming out. 🙂 Take care.


    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Take those warnings seriously, please. Chareva’s father thought he could ignore the high blood sugar because he was lean and muscular and active. It all caught up with him. He became an insulin-dependent type 2 diabetic, then was hobbled by a stroke. You don’t want to end up there, even if you never develop cancer.

      1. K2

        That’s very sobering. I appreciate your sharing those details, Tom. I will take that to heart.

        Please know how much your blog and movie are educating people, and your new book and movie doing so for the next generation. I am sure in addition to commenters that there are untold numbers of silent readers who greatly benefit from your work. I hope you draw great satisfaction from that.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Thank you. It kind of sunk in when Abel James told me more than 250,000 people had left a star rating during the time Fat Head was on Netflix, and most viewers don’t leave a rating. (I didn’t notice that, but he did.) The Gravitas version on YouTube is up to 655,000+ views.

  10. Alex

    Re: “Q: how can you spot the vegan in the room? A: Don’t worry, she’ll tell you.”

    Reminds me of a silly venn diagram I saw. It consisted of three interlocking rings: I’m a vegan, I do CrossFit, I go to Burning Man. The intersection in the center: I never stop talking.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      If Alzheimer’s is a form of insulin resistance in the brain, which many researchers now suspect, it’s a logical possibility that sugar is a culprit.

      1. Nowhereman

        I’ve heard that theory and that for many years now some scientists have been pushing for Alzheimer’s to be classified as Type 3 diabetes. It definitely makes sense since we now know from some of the recent clinical trials that cutting back sugars and carbs as well as increasing healthy saturated fats can reverse or partially reverse the disease.


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