Archive for the “Bad Medicine” Category

As you’ve probably heard, there was quite a stir across the pond last month when two British medical journals got into a verbal war over statins.  Hostilities began when The Lancet published a study claiming that by gosh, statins are indeed wunnerful, wunnerful drugs  — which means that people who raise doubts about them are killing babies and should perhaps be silenced.

No wait, let me check my notes … okay, slight correction:  The Lancet suggested that statin skeptics are killing adults, not babies.  Sorry for the confusion, but when The Anointed trot out the “we must shut you up because your skeptical opinions could kill the planet—er, we mean people” line, I sometimes get brain-lock.

Anyway, The Lancet specifically warned that those who question the effectiveness and safety of statins might be killing adults with heart-disease risk factors (defined in such a way as to include almost every adult with a pulse) by scaring them away from statins.

Here are some quotes from a U.K. Guardian article that appeared after The Lancet published its pro-statin study:

Statins to lower cholesterol prevent 80,000 heart attacks and strokes every year in the UK, far outweighing the harm from rare side-effects, according to a review of the evidence which aims to put a heated controversy to rest and reassure the public that statins are safe.

The review is published by the Lancet medical journal, whose editor, Richard Horton, likened the harm done to public confidence by the critics of statins to that caused by the paper his journal published on the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in 1998.

“Controversy over the safety and efficacy of statins has harmed the health of potentially thousands of people in the UK,” he wrote in a comment published with the review. In six months after the publication of “disputed research and tendentious opinion” on the side-effects of statins in 2013, a study estimated that over 200,000 patients stopped taking a statin. It predicted there would be 2,000 extra heart attacks and strokes over the next decade as a result.

“Disputed research and tendentious opinion” means there are scientists and doctors out there who – egads! – dared to examine the research and conclude that The Anointed are wrong.  Worse yet, those researchers have managed to catch the ear of the public through books, blog posts, documentaries and even some articles in major media outlets.

The Anointed don’t take kindly to being questioned, which is why The Lancet’s editorial included this gem:

Some research papers are more high risk to public health than others. Those papers deserve extra vigilance. They should be subjected to rigorous and extensive challenge during peer review. The risk of publication should be explicitly discussed and evaluated. If publication is agreed, it should be managed with exquisite care.

Let me interpret that gobbledygook:  Research papers that suggest We The Anointed are wrong should be squashed – for the sake of public health, of course.  We can’t have the little people doubting us.

What we’re seeing here is a ramping up of the Save The Statins Campaign – which is very much like the Save The Grains campaign.  Both are a reaction to the fact that people are deciding those wunnerful, wunnerful products they’ve been told to consume might not be so wunnerful after all – a result of the Wisdom of Crowds effect, which actually is wunnerful.  The Anointed are fighting back with articles that say, in effect, “Damnit, people!  Those negative effects you think you’re experiencing are all in your tiny little heads!  Stop listening to people who disagree with us!  We’re The Anointed, and we know what’s best for you!”

The British Medical Journal has been critical of the statins-for-everyone position taken by The Lancet.  So after The Lancet slammed the critics of statins, the British Medical Journal chimed in to slam The Lancet. This is almost as much fun as a good football game.  (I’m talking about the kind of football where wide receivers make acrobatic catches, running backs collide with linebackers and touchdowns are scored, not the kind where men in shorts run around for two hours, during which perhaps one goal is scored.)

Let’s have the U.K. Daily Mail pick coverage of the game – er, the controversy from there:

Patients who take statins were plunged deeper into confusion last night after the country’s two leading medical journals went to war over the safety of the drug.

The row was triggered by a major review in The Lancet last week that concluded the pills are safe and their benefits far outweigh any harm.  It was the biggest ever review into their use, but now the rival journal The BMJ has cast doubt on the assertions by claiming ‘adverse’ side effects are far more common than the study implied.

Professor Rory Collins, lead author of the Lancet review undertaken by a team of Oxford researchers, concluded the pills were so beneficial that six million more adults should be taking them.

Collins and his cohorts, by the way, receive a ton of research money from the pharmaceutical industry.   I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you.

The Lancet’s editor, Richard Horton, also launched a strong attack on research published in The BMJ that had warned of the possible side effects of the pills.  He said two studies that had appeared in the journal in 2013 resulted in 200,000 patients stopping their statins, potentially harming their health.

Or potentially avoiding diabetes, joint pain, permanently damaged muscles, liver damage and memory loss.

But last night The BMJ defended this research and questioned The Lancet’s claims that the pills are safe and effective.

Writing for the journal, Dr Richard Lehman, a retired GP and Oxford University academic, said muscle pain and fatigue were ‘prevalent’ and ‘recurrent’ in many patients on statins. And Professor Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale University in the US, said many scientists still had ‘persistent concerns’. Also writing for the journal, he added there was a ‘lack of good evidence’ for the pills’ benefits in elderly patients.

Health experts urged the two journals to resolve their differences so they could work together to uncover the truth about statins. Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: ‘I find it unbelievable that the medical establishment should be at loggerheads over whether they are worthwhile or not.

Say what?  I find it entirely believable that there’s an ongoing battle over statins.  It’s believable for the same reason that the Save The Grains Campaign will fail and the Save The Statins Campaign will fail:  once people know something, it’s impossible to persuade them to not-know it – especially when it comes to their own well-being.

I’ve mentioned that I have a co-worker whose wife suffered from migraines for years.  She went from doctor to doctor looking for relief.  One prescription pill after another failed to provide that relief.  Back in the dark ages of, say, the 1990s, that’s where the story would have ended:  with her suffering from migraines and hoping for the magic pill to come along someday.  That’s because in the dark ages, access to information was limited and it generally flowed from the top down.

But we’re not in those dark ages anymore.  Thanks to the internet, the average person has access to almost endless information, and that information flows in every direction.  So here’s how the story ended:  at a dinner party one night, a friend-of-a-friend mentioned that some people have gotten relief from migraines by giving up grains.  He knew this because he’d done some online research on migraines.  So my co-worker’s wife stopped eating grains as an experiment and – voila! – the migraines went away.

She now knows that giving up grains put a stop to her migraines.  She’ll never not-know it – no matter how many pro-grain articles the Save The Grains Campaign manages to place in media outlets.  Likewise, I’ll never not-know that after giving up grains, I waved goodbye to psoriasis, arthritis in my shoulder, a mild case of asthma and frequent belly aches.

The promoters of the Save The Grains Campaign and the Save The Statins Campaign apparently haven’t figured out how the game works now.  They still think it’s the old game, where most people only know what the officially-sanctioned experts decide they should know.  That’s how we ended up with pretty much everyone believing low-fat diets prevent heart disease.  Several prominent researchers disagreed, but the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! crowd won the war and became the information gatekeepers.

That strategy doesn’t work anymore because the gates are gone.  Yes, there are still official proclamations handed down from on high, but those proclamations are easily undermined by the Wisdom of Crowds effect.  If you suffer from migraines and someone who’s done a bit of research online suggests that giving up grains might cure them, you’ll probably give it a try.  If the migraines go away, you’re not going to be persuaded to eat grains again because a researcher funded by the Save The Grains Campaign releases An Official Study saying grains don’t cause migraines.  You know your migraines went away when you dumped the grains, and you can’t not-know it.

That’s why the Save The Statins campaign will fail.  We may be outraged when journals like The Lancet insist side-effects are rare (I saw plenty of outrage on the internet), but seriously, it’s no big deal.  Let the industry-funded hacks at The Lancet and elsewhere publish all the b.s. studies they want.  It won’t make any difference.

My mom dutifully took her statin despite the muscle and joint pains for only one reason:  she didn’t know the statin was the cause of the pains.  But once she knew statins were the cause (because I told her), she couldn’t not-know it.  In fact, I didn’t have to convince her that statins were absolutely, positively the cause of her muscle pains.  I just had to convince her they were a likely culprit.  Going off the statin and experiencing the happy result was the final convincer.   Hundreds of thousands of people are being similarly convinced.

The Save The Statins Campaign is already a failure – although the hacks at The Lancet may choose to not-know it for some time.


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Bacterial pneumonia, once a leading killer of the old and the very young, is caused by (duh) bacteria.  If you kill the bacteria, the pneumonia goes away.  It doesn’t really matter how you kill the bacteria, either.  If a patient is allergic to one drug that kills the bacteria, a doctor can prescribe a different drug that kills the bacteria and – bingo! – the pneumonia goes away. Why?


And how do we know that?


Okay, but let’s suppose we kill the bacteria we believe causes the pneumonia, but the pneumonia remains and the patient dies.  And let’s suppose this happens with multiple patients.  Then what would we conclude?


No, I’m just pointing out some basic logic here.  If we kill the bacteria but the pneumonia remains, we have to conclude that while a bacterial infection may be associated with pneumonia, it isn’t the cause.  That’s what we’d expect any honest scientist to say.

But strangely, this basic logic seems to escape researchers when a cholesterol-lowering drug fails to prevent heart attacks. Here are some quotes from a New York Times article:

It is a drug that reduces levels of LDL cholesterol, the dangerous kind, as much as statins do. And it more than doubles levels of HDL cholesterol, the good kind, which is linked to protection from heart disease.

That’s the Lipid Hypothesis in a nutshell: LDL is dangerous.  It causes heart disease — just like that nasty bacteria causes bacterial pneumonia.  HDL, meanwhile, protects against heart disease.

As a result, heart experts had high hopes for it as an alternative for the many patients who cannot or will not take statins.

Everybody sing: “Oh, we’ve got hiiiigh hopes.  Yes, we’ve got hiiiigh hopes …”

But these specialists were stunned by the results of a study of 12,000 patients, announced on Sunday at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting: There was no benefit from taking the drug, evacetrapib.

No benefit?  But LDL causes heart disease!  Did the drug fail to lower the LDL that causes heart disease?

Participants taking the drug saw their LDL levels fall to an average of 55 milligrams per deciliter from 84. Their HDL levels rose to an average of 104 milligram per deciliter from 46.

Well now, that is an amazing improvement in lipids.  The American Heart Association would be delighted with those numbers … although strangely, I can’t find recommended LDL levels on the AHA site anymore.  Perhaps they hired the former KGB artists who used to make people disappear from official photos once they became an embarrassment to the Kremlin.  Anyway …

Yet 256 participants had heart attacks, compared with 255 patients in the group who were taking a placebo.

In other words, no difference.  A total fail.

“We had an agent that seemed to do all the right things,” said Dr. Stephen J. Nicholls, the study’s principal investigator and the deputy director of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in Adelaide.

Yup.  If high cholesterol – and specifically high LDL – causes heart disease, then you did indeed have an agent that seemed to do all the right things.

“It’s the most mind-boggling question. How can a drug that lowers something that is associated with benefit not show any benefit?” he said, referring to the 37 percent drop in LDL levels with the drug.

Boy, that’s a real head-scratcher.  Let me think for a minute … uh … uh … perhaps the fact that two things are associated doesn’t mean one is causing the other?  I seem to recall a good scientist or two saying as much.

“All of us would have put money on it,” said Dr. Peter Libby, a Harvard cardiologist. The drug, he said, “was the great hope.”

And how are those Enron shares working for ya?

Researchers have hypotheses, but no one is certain what went wrong. “It may be that the LDL level is less important than how it gets changed,” said Dr. Paul Thompson, a cardiologist at Hartford Hospital.

Ah, yes, that must be it.  LDL causes heart disease, ya see, but lowering LDL only works if you do it exactly the right way.  And if you have bacterial pneumonia, it’s not wiping out the bacteria that cures you; it’s how you kill them.  Kill them the wrong way, and you’ll still have pneumonia … even though bacteria cause the pneumonia.

Here’s an alternate hypothesis about why the latest study was a big, fat fail:


That would be the most logical conclusion:  we beat people’s LDL levels down, but they didn’t have fewer heart attacks.  So LDL doesn’t cause heart disease.  But beating cholesterol levels down is a $36 billion per year (and climbing) business.  So we’re getting the illogical conclusion instead:

Cardiologists still have high hopes for a new class of cholesterol drugs, known as PCSK-9 inhibitors, that cause LDL to plummet to levels never seen in drug treatments.

Try to wrap your head around that one:  in a multi-year study of 12,000 people, dramatically lowering LDL levels didn’t prevent heart disease.  But cardiologists have high hopes for a new class of drugs that lower LDL levels EVEN MORE!

Everybody sing: “Oh, we’ve got hiiiigh hopes.  Yes, we’ve got hiiiigh hopes …”

And here’s the reason for those high hopes:

The PCSK-9 inhibitors can cost more than $14,000 a year …

Fourteen grand per patient, per year, year in and year out.  Yeah, that would generate a lot of hope.

… while statins can cost just pennies a day, so determining what portion of patients are truly statin intolerant has become an important question.

Yeah, about that “statin intolerant” problem: funny how research funded by drug companies is starting to demonstrate a real problem with statins isn’t it?  In one of his many great posts, Dr. Malcolm Kendrick predicted this would happen:

For years the experts have informed us that this is utter rubbish, statins are wonder-drugs, and adverse effect free. All of a sudden, now that the pharmaceutical industry is about to launch new cholesterol lowering agents, we are suddenly going to find that, why, after all, statins do cause a whole range of nasty adverse effects.

I watch this stuff with a kind of morbid fascination. The marketing game is on, billions are about to be spent pushing PCSK9-inhibitors. The Key Opinion Leaders who tirelessly promoted the wonders of statins, and who told us that they were virtually side-effect free, are now singing a completely different tune.

Sure enough, a big ol’ study just concluded that lots and lots of people have real problems with statins.  The study was led by Dr. Steve Nissen, one of the long-time pimps for — er, promoters of statins.  Returning to the New York Times article:

A second study presented at the cardiology meeting on Sunday and published online in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed just how vexing the issue is.

The study, directed by Dr. Nissen and paid for by Amgen, a pharmaceutical company, included more than 500 people with extremely high levels of LDL cholesterol who had tried two or more statins and had reported aching or weak muscles so severe that they said they absolutely could not continue taking the drugs.

[The result] indicated that 57 percent of patients actually could tolerate statins. Researchers then randomly assigned the remaining 43 percent to take either Amgen’s PCSK-9 inhibitor, evolocumab, or another cholesterol-lowering drug, ezetimibe, which is often taken by statin intolerant patients but has never been shown to reduce heart disease risk when taken without an accompanying statin. The patients tolerated both drugs.

My, my, my … statins go off patent (thus reducing the cost to just pennies per day), and through sheer coincidence, we get a major new study showing that nearly half of all people can’t tolerate statins – but they can tolerate the new drug that costs $14,000 per year.

And of course, we know this new and very expensive drug will prevent heart attacks because it lowers LDL.  High LDL cholesterol causes heart disease, ya see.  We’ll just continue believing that even when a drug that dramatically lowers LDL fails to prevent heart attacks.

Perhaps someday, after yet another LDL-lowering drug fails to prevent heart attacks, researchers will respond by going before the cameras and announcing that it’s time to bury the Lipid Hypothesis once and for all.

But I don’t have high hopes.


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I’ve written several posts with a variation on the title Bad News For Statins. Those have mostly pointed out the nasty side effects of statins. Doctors who push statins usually dismiss those side effects as a small price to avoid a heart attack – which they insist statins help us do.

But what if statins actually harm our hearts instead of protecting them? That’s what new research says they do. Let’s start by looking at some quotes from an article in the U.K. Express:

People taking the drugs are more likely to suffer from hardening of the arteries, a leading cause of heart problems. In addition, researchers found the drugs block a process that protects the heart. This can “cause, or worsen, heart failure”, according to a study.

Dr Okuyama, of Nagoya City University, Japan, said: “We have collected a wealth of information on cholesterol and statins from many published papers and find overwhelming evidence that these drugs accelerate hardening of the arteries and can cause, or worsen, heart failure. I cannot find any evidence to support people taking statins and patients who are on them should stop.”

But wait … haven’t there been big ol’ studies demonstrating that statins prevent heart attacks? Well, yes, there were some of those — conducted and reported many years ago by the statin-makers. The current study’s lead researcher believes that was a wee bit of a problem:

Dr Okuyama and his team say many earlier industry-sponsored studies, which show the benefits of statins, are unreliable. They claim this is because they were carried out before new European regulations were introduced in 2004 which insisted on all trial findings, both negative and positive, being declared.

The study states that before these new rules came into effect “unfair and unethical problems were associated with clinical trials reported by industry-supported scientists”.

Dr Okuyama’s team looked at studies before and after 2004.

So they compared both old and new studies, since statin-makers are no longer allowed to just bury the results they don’t like. Here’s what Dr. Okuyama’s group concluded in their analysis:

The researchers say the hypothesis that statins protect the heart by lowering cholesterol is flawed and that high cholesterol is not necessarily linked to heart disease.

They also found statins have a negative effect on vital body processes linked to heart health.

They discovered patients taking the drugs were more likely to have calcium deposits in their arteries, a phenomenon directly linked to heart attacks.

Dr Peter Langsjoen, a heart specialist based in Texas who is co-author of the study, said: “Statins are being used so aggressively and in such large numbers of people that the adverse effects are now becoming obvious. These drugs should never have been approved for use. The long-term effects are devastating.”

Meanwhile, the American Heart Association is (of course) still pushing new guidelines that would make even more people eligible for statins. Here are some quotes from a Medscape article I linked in a post about those guidelines back in 2014:

The new American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines for the treatment of cholesterol would increase the number of individuals eligible for statin therapy by nearly 13 million people, an increase that is largely driven by older patients and treating individuals without cardiovascular disease, according to a new analysis.

Among older adults, those aged 60 to 75 years old, 87.4% of men would now be eligible for the lipid-lowering medication, which is up from one-third under the old Adult Treatment Panel (ATP) III guidelines. For women of the same age, the percentage of those now eligible for statins would increase from 21.2% under ATP III to 53.6% with the new 2013 clinical guidelines.

So those guidelines would double the number of women over 60 taking statins and nearly triple the number of men in the same age group. Yup, just what the old folks need: more muscle and joint problems, higher blood sugar, and (if the new study is correct), accelerated hardening of their arteries. Way to go, American Heart Association.

A reader who sent me the link to the U.K. Express article commented in his email, Even after being destroyed with factual information, The Anointed reject what’s best and continue their destructive ways. Just what will make these people change their minds?

The answer is: nothing. Remember, part of what makes them The Anointed is the inability to believe they’re ever wrong. A couple of them are quoted, in fact, in the Express article:

A spokesman for the MHRA, the Government drug regulator, said: “The benefits of statins are well established and are considered to outweigh the risk of side effects in the majority of patients. Any new significant information on the efficacy of statins will be carefully reviewed and action be taken if required”.

Translation: we’ll pretend this study doesn’t exist and go on our merry, statin-pushing way.

Oxford professor Sir Rory Collins has warned that overstating concerns about statins could “cause very large numbers of unnecessary deaths from heart attacks and stroke”.

Oh, I don’t think it’s necessary for us to overstate the concerns about statins, Sir Rory. Merely pointing out the facts should convince intelligent people to stop taking these horrible drugs. Then they’ll avoid very large numbers of unnecessary cases of diabetes, liver damage, muscle damage, joint damage, and memory loss.

I dug up the abstract of the study, and for once, there was a link to a free copy of the full text online. Lots of good stuff in there, but I’ll just quote the paragraphs that wrap it all up:

Pharmacological evidence and clinical trial results support the interpretation that statins stimulate atherogenesis by suppressing vitamin K2 synthesis and thereby enhancing artery calcification. Statins cause heart failure by depleting the myocardium of CoQ10, ‘heme A’ and selenoproteins, thereby impairing mitochondrial ATP production. In summary, statins are not only ineffective in preventing CHD events but instead are capable of increasing CHD and heart failure.

Physicians who are involved in prescribing cholesterol-lowering medications cannot ignore the moral responsibility of ‘informed consent’. Patients must be informed of all statin adverse effects, including the ability to cause CHD and heart failure, onset of diabetes mellitus, carcinogenicity, teratogenicity and central and peripheral nervous disorders besides the well-known rhabdomyolysis and hepatic injury. Most of these adverse effects of statins become apparent after 6 or more years of statin therapy. Chronic administration could ultimately lead to these statin adverse effects as pharmaceutical and biochemical research has now demonstrated.

I’d suggest you give the study a look. Better yet, send it to your statin-taking friends and relatives. You might just save them a world of hurt.


Comments 86 Comments »

Take statins to protect your heart and you’ll live a long time!

No, wait … you’ll just feel like you’ve been living a long time.

Here are some quotes from an article in the UK Express titled Statins: Heart disease drug speeds up ageing process, warns new research.

Statins make regular users become older faster, leaving them open to long-term mental and physical decline, according to disturbing new research.

Scientists have found the heart disease drug badly affects our stem cells, the internal medical system which repairs damage to our bodies and protects us from muscle and joint pain as well as memory loss.

You mean artificially beating down your cholesterol — one of the primary structural components of your brain — can affect your memory? I’d forgotten that. No, wait … I didn’t forget that. Good thing I don’t take statins.

Last night experts warned patients to “think very carefully” before taking statins as a preventative medicine.

And if they’re not on statins yet, they may actually be able to think very carefully.

The new research by scientists at Tulane University in New Orleans has reignited the debate about statin side effects which many doctors say have been played down.

Those are the good doctors. The bad doctors help play down the side effects, often by ignoring them or attributing them to old age. Hey, wait a minute … maybe that aging thing is fooling the doctors.

“Doctor, I think this statin might not be so good for me. I ache all the time, I’m tired, and I’m getting forgetful.”

“Well, that’s not unusual for an 80-year-old man.”

“I’m 62, Doctor.”

“Oh. Well, you seem 80 to me, so my point stands.”

Professor Reza Izadpanah, a stem cell biologist and lead author of the research published in the American Journal of Physiology, said: “Our study shows statins may speed up the ageing process.

“People who use statins as a preventative medicine for health should think again as our research shows they may have general unwanted effects on the body which could include muscle pain, nerve problems and joint problems.”

The scientists who treated stem cells with statins under laboratory conditions found that after a few weeks the cholesterol-busting treatment had a dramatic effect.

Statins prevented stem cells from performing their main functions, to reproduce and replicate other cells in the body to carry out repairs. The researchers found the statins prevented stem cells from generating new bone and cartilage.

Wow, awesome drug. When the patents finally run out, maybe the manufacturers can drop the price and sell high doses of the stuff as rat poison.

Dr Malcolm Kendrick, a GP in Macclesfield, Cheshire, who has studied heart health and statins, said: “Statins just make many patients feel years older. This research reinforces what has long been suspected. The side effects of statins mimic the ageing process.

“I observe patients on statins slowing down. Some are not affected, for some it is a relatively subtle process, but for many it is a serious side effect and one which disturbingly helps us confirm what we have long suspected.”

Kendrick is so honest about the state of modern medicine, I’m surprised he still has a medical license.

Professor Izadpanah said: “People at high risk of heart disease can reduce this risk by taking statins. However, considering the adverse effects of these drugs and their association with so many side effects, it is crucial people are fully aware of the risks before they take the treatment.”

Making people fully aware of the risks isn’t in the interest of the statin-makers or the doctors who prescribe them. That’s why you and I have to keep shouting this stuff from the hilltops.


Comments 81 Comments »

A few years ago, I read a book titled How Doctors Think.  The author (a doctor) described the case of a woman who was rail-thin and complained that eating made her feel sick.  She went from doctor to doctor, at least one of whom suggested she was anorexic and needed to see a shrink to get over it.  Some of the doctors instructed her to eat more pasta, bread and other grain foods to get her weight up.

[Wait … grain foods cause weight gain?  Does the USDA dietary committee know that?  Anyway …]

A dozen or so doctors later, one finally thought to test her for celiac disease.  Bingo.  Eating had been making her sick because she was eating the foods people with celiac disease should never eat – on the advice of doctors.  She was rail-thin because even when she did choke down a meal, she wasn’t absorbing nutrients very well.  Yet doctor after doctor never suspected celiac as the cause of her condition – and their advice was making her worse, not better.

As I mentioned in a recent post, Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis told me over dinner that his next book will explain how to protect yourself against bad advice from doctors – in part by leveraging the Wisdom of Crowds.  I’m currently reading a pre-release copy of Dr. Malcolm Kendrick’s upcoming book Doctoring Data, in which he explains the statistical funny business employed to promote drugs and procedures few of us actually need.  That book includes a chapter titled Doctors can seriously damage your health.

I’m sensing a trend here.  The doctor-as-god attitude held by so many people in previous generations is on its way out – shown the door in part by doctors who are dismayed by the ignorance and incompetence of their colleagues.  (I almost used the word peers instead of colleagues.  Sadly, Drs. Davis and Kendrick have few peers.)  But plenty of non-doctors are hastening the trend by the simple act of offering non-medical advice that actually works.

Here’s an example: a co-worker at BMI told me his wife used to get frequent migraines.  Half a dozen doctors could only suggest different drug therapies, none of which worked very well.  But at a dinner party one night, a friend of a friend suggested she try giving up wheat and other grains.  So she did.  That was the end of her history with migraines.

As my co-worker put it to me, “I’m glad she finally found the answer.  But why did we have to hear about it from some Joe Schmoe at a party?  Why didn’t we hear about it from one of her doctors?”

They didn’t hear about it from any of his wife’s doctors because doctors can’t pass on what they don’t know.  I seriously doubt these doctors were being dishonest or sneaky.  They were simply following the guidelines of the medical establishment – which for the most part views diseases as bad things that just sort of happen and then must be treated with drugs, surgeries, or medical devices.  If you’d rather identify and remove the root cause of a disease, you’re more likely to find an answer in the crowd.

Here’s another example from within the family:  Chareva’s aunt happened to mention in an email that her husband was suffering from neuropathy.  She wasn’t asking for advice, because at the time she was unaware of Fat Head and our interest in diet and health.  With the aunt’s permission, I’ll tell the rest of the story through portions of emails we all exchanged.  (I’ve changed their names.)


Actually, I am fine, Chareva.  John, however, is not.  He has been diagnosed with Severe Nerve Damage (Neuropathy), and after FIFTEEN Specialists and too many tests to count, has been told that there isn’t anything they can do for him.  His present neurosurgeon … formerly from Mayo Clinic in Rochester … will try two surgeries for his hands and lower spine, but no one has any word of hope for us.  The last two years have turned into a nightmare.  He uses a Rollator Walker now, but we may be graduating into one of those Scooter chairs soon.  We just don’t know.

Thanks for asking…


Try eliminating all gluten from his diet. Wheat, oats, barley, rye. Especially wheat. It’s insidious – lurking in almost everything – so read labels. We’ve been grain-free for a couple of years and all sorts of little health issues have cleared up.

We spent a week with Dr. Davis, author of Wheat Belly, last year on the Low-Carb Cruise. (Tom was one of the guest speakers).  I also spent an hour talking to a woman who also suffered from neuropathy. She is a nurse. She went to countless doctors and none of them were any help. She eliminated grains from her diet and the pain stopped.

Google ‘neuropathy’ and ‘wheat’ and see what pops up.

Please try it for two weeks and see if it helps.

Love you,


Chareva…thank you for the FIRST sensible suggestion I’ve had from anyone here…or anywhere else!

I’m going to check out the link you sent me … and I guess I am NOW our Gluten-Free Dietician … at least for a couple of weeks.  I’ll let you know how it works out.

Thank you SO MUCH for caring, Dear Niece!

Love you, too, dear girl!


This has been VERY interesting, Niece!  This morning, I just threw out TEN of John’s favorite cereals!  Glad you warned me about the “wheat” because in every one of those bad boys the wheat was hidden near the bottom of the list of ingredients.

This is so amazing … I’ve known about celiac disease and gluten difficulties for years (friends & co-workers who turned their lives around) … I just never put that together in John’s case.  AND, NEITHER DID ANY OF THOSE DOCTORS he has seen!

The really good news is that (and this is only 5 days since you wrote!) he is telling me he’s actually FEELING better already.  He has more energy.  And he is walking better, and his balance is starting to improve.  Is that possible, to see changes this soon?  I hope so … because THAT is what is keeping on this change of diet.

Thank YOU so much for your suggestions and ideas.  I’ll keep you posted.




That is great news. And yes, it CAN happen in a short amount of time. There are a slew of books and blogs written by people who have given up wheat and their lifelong illnesses have cleared up.

Tom wanted me to pass this on to you: Avoid processed vegetable oils at ALL COST (vegetable oil, corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil). They also produce inflammation.  We eat butter, olive oil, coconut oil and bacon grease. Coconut oil and omega3 fish oil actually reduce inflammation. Good stuff.

Tom recommends two books:

Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint (what you should be eating and why).

Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis (a cardiologist).

Outstanding news. Keep us posted.




Three more improvements.  Two weeks ago, we were in the office of John’s neurosurgeon for another consult…and the dr. asked John to stand up for him.  John tried … but couldn’t do it!  This morning, he showed me that he can NOW stand up easily … and went around “trying it out” on several other chair heights!

He also showed me that his balance is even BETTER than it was a few days ago.  He can stand and move around, and not “totter,” the way he used to.  ALSO … he is now walking with a MUCH more erect posture than he has in months!  Up until this change in his diet, he would walk all bent over his cane, and said he couldn’t stand up, or he would fall over.

Today is just one week since you first suggested gluten-free.

We are FINALLY feeling some hope, thanks to you two.

Love you, too, dear!


Chareva & Tom …

I just had to share:  very early this morning, John told me that he can now make a complete fist with his right hand, and an almost-there fist with the left one.  He hasn’t been able to do that for almost two years!

Also, he told me that yesterday, he “just noticed” that the pain in his shoulder that’s given him a LOT of pain for the last six months is now completely gone!  (Several of his doctors told him it was either arthritis … OR bursitis…OR more neuropathy … OR, “hell, we don’t know!”)  They gave him shots, Lidacane-treated patches, more painkillers.  In 2-1/2 weeks on this diet, the pain is gone.

Can you tell how excited we are feeling?  Chareva, my dear niece, we owe you & Tom a big one!



Sorry it was such a long and painful journey, Charlotte.  Once I dug into the research for my documentary and my blog, I lost of a lot of respect for the medical profession.  I’ve met some outstanding doctors who look for causes instead of merely treating the symptoms, but sadly they’re a minority.

Cheers to you and John.  Keep us posted on his progress.



Hey, Tom!

Did you read about Dick Van Dyke’s “mysterious” neurological disease he’s been fighting for 7 years?  He’s done all the tests that John had … catscans, MRIs, spinal tap, and, I’m sure lots of EMGs.  They all test-out “healthy,” so the doctors are saying the exact same thing John’s doctors did:  “We don’t know what this is or what caused it.”  In HIS case, his symptoms seem to be extreme fatigue, and what he calls “a banging in the head when I lie down.”

Any of this sound familiar?

John continues to get better … and STRONGER … every day.  He, too, suffered from that “fatigue,” but he tells me now that he can feel his stamina coming back.  It’s a real relief for him, because he’s getting a lot of new customers for his custom tile furniture, and now he knows he can keep up with the orders.

Thanks to you guys.

Love to you both,


Tom …

Your movie arrived today, and we are looking forward to watching it this weekend.

Today, we cancelled the surgery that was scheduled for next week for John’s hands (actually involving “unpinching” a nerve in his elbow) because his hands are getting better, and the surgeon had told us that this was what he called “a Hail Mary” procedure, and couldn’t promise much of anything.  THIS from a dr. we actually like & respect (he’s formerly from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and VERY respected in the field of neurosurgery!)  John talked to the dr. himself, and although he was kind & unfailingly polite, he made NO comment when John told him about his change of diet & how much it’s helping.  Typical, isn’t it?

Much love,


Yes, the doctor’s reaction was typical.

Grains?  We don’t know nuttin’ ’bout grains birthin’ no diseases!

Years of debilitating pain, fifteen specialists, no answers — except a suggestion for a “Hail Mary” surgery that might not work.  Then they found an answer because Chareva’s aunt happened to mention her husband’s condition in an email, and Chareva happens to be married to me, and I happen to have read Wheat Belly as part of my work as a health blogger.  I’m the Joe Schmoe in the crowd who had an answer.

That’s why “white-coat awe” is (I hope) a fading phenomenon.  Back in the days when information didn’t flow quickly and freely within a worldwide crowd, doctors could get away with having no answers, or even with wrong answers.  It’s not going to be so easy anymore.


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Here’s another callback for you longtime Fatheads. It’s from the end of a two-parter I wrote on the State of Illinois’ attempt last year to regulate raw milk producers out of business, “The Older Brother’s notes from the sausage factory floor…” At the end, after over a hundred people showed up to politely but loudly protest the state’s heavy-handed actions, I noted:

“I’ve heard from a couple of folks who think the regulators got an education on raw milk… Maybe the bureaucrats would change things up substantially.  Maybe even remove impediments to raw milk while setting a few common-sense protocols, as it fits in with the buy local/real foods programs the state and others talk up.”

Feeling I had a better understanding of bureaucratic sausage-making than those good, honest people, I ended with…

“I’m guessing they’ll lay low for a few months or more, and then pass pretty much all of those rules as is, maybe without the 100 gallon limit.  Or maybe they’ll bump the limit to 500 gallons.  But they didn’t learn anything, and they’re there to pass those rules.

It’s what they do.”

… Well. Sorry to be right again, but really, it was an easy call.

Apparently, in the last week or so, the FDA-funded lickspittles at the Illinois Department of Public Health went ahead and promulgated new rules concerning raw milk because… well, because there were no rules and how can you just let people mind their own business without someone writing rules to give them permission to do their own business and regulations detailing how that business is to be minded.

This go-round, they’ve posted for comment regulations that will require anyone selling raw milk to gather the name, address, and phone number of anyone they sell raw milk to and turn it over to the state on request. They will also be prohibited from milking a cow with any dirt on its udder or belly, and be required to only milk cows in a building with floors and walls that can be cleaned. In other words, you can’t milk a cow outdoors, and you’ll have to build a building for several tens of thousands of dollars to do it in.

These are, of course, only a start. Once they get some regulations on the books, they can keep expanding them and “re-interpreting” them until they’ve driven all raw milk producers out of the market.  Mission accomplished!

I wouldn’t have known about this as my local paper — the one in the state capital and the middle of ag country — didn’t actually mention any of this. It did, however, helpfully print a letter to the editor from one of the FDA’s useful idiots – the (prepare to be impressed) president of The Illinois State Medical Society. Here’s a few of what the medical establishment’s public mouthpiece seems to think are compelling arguments on why educated, intelligent, health-conscious people shouldn’t be allowed to choose to consume milk in the way it’s been consumed for the last 7,500 years or so…


As the Illinois Department of Public Health advances rules governing the sale of raw milk, the Illinois State Medical Society remains opposed to the sale and distribution of “raw” or unpasteurized milk in any form. Federal law prohibits dairies from distributing raw milk across state lines in final package form and about half of U.S. states prohibit the sale of raw milk completely.

Correct answer: So what?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other medical and health organizations, raw milk that is not pasteurized may contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and other bacteria, that can cause serious illness and, in extreme cases, death. And studies show that children, particularly, are most susceptible to illness due to consuming unpasteurized raw milk.

You mean, there might be germs in milk? Like just about any other food out there. Only as the statistics show, not so much. The nice thing about raw milk is that, unlike pasteurized milk, it also contains all kinds of good bacteria that, in addition to controlling the baddies mentioned, also brings both documented and anecdotal benefits. Probably in about another twenty years, the adherents to the type of medicine practiced by the Illinois State Medical Society will discover the wonders of the gut biome. (Don’t tell them now – you’ll ruin the surprise!)

Pasteurization, simply put, is heating milk to a high temperature and then rapidly cooling it to eliminate harmful bacteria, yet maintaining the milk’s freshness for an extended period of time. Even the Illinois Farm Bureau advocates that individuals drink pasteurized milk.

Wow. You mean, the industry group representing the commodity dairy producers who keep their livestock in confinement pens, inject them with hormones and antibiotics, then mix milk from thousands of cows from different producers, to be shipped hundreds of miles, think people should only drink pasteurized milk? The ones who also put artificial coloring and aspartame in their products?

Now, if you’re going to drink milk from one of these producers, you damned well better want it to be pasteurized. That has nothing to do with the environment of healthy dairy cows raised on pasture with sales going to people within driving distance, who can walk around those fields if they want to see what conditions their food is being produced in.

(Don’t worry about that aspartame thing though. The FDA of which the guardian of our health at the Illinois State Medical Society speaks is engaged in an effort, at the behest of these same producers, to allow aspartame to not be listed in the ingredients of your store-bought, “healthy” milk.)

And these commodity producers, having seen milk sales drop over 20% to the lowest levels in thirty years, are more than happy to advise the FDA, the USDA, the Medical Society, and any other economic illiterates, on how to best put small farmers — who are producing a healthy, ethical, vastly superior product at premium prices — out of business.

I’d say that if the good doctor’s medical expertise is in line with his depth of understanding exhibited in the areas of epidemiology and economics, it would explain why there are over 90,000 medical malpractice-related hospital deaths a year.

That’s an interesting number, because coincidentally, according to an excellent breakdown of the real numbers done by Chris Kesser here, that’s about the odds (1 in 94,000) of a person even getting ill from raw milk (not dead – just a reportable tummy ache). The odds of being hospitalized due to raw milk are around 1 in 6 million, or about three times less than dying in an airplane crash. As for dying, well that’s hard to calculate, since the last reportable deaths associated with raw milk were in the late 1990’s, and those were from homemade “bathtub” queso cheese, which was assuredly contaminated by the maker.

Now, back in 1985, both the worst case of food poisoning deaths (52) and the worst case of salmonella poisoning deaths (possibly up to 12) since the CDC began keeping records in 1970 resulted from consuming dairy products. However, both of those cases involved pasteurized milk. You know — the safe kind.

In fact, there has never been a death reported from just drinking raw milk. That’s according to the CDC. But it took a Freedom of Information Act request to get that out of them, cause it tends to mess with their mission, which is to produce press releases that say “Majority of dairy-related disease outbreaks linked to raw milk.”

Not that food can’t kill you. Since that last death associated with raw milk products, people have died from spinach, green onions, cantaloupe, peanuts, drinking water, apple juice, various types of meats, and again, pasteurized milk products, among others.

If the sundry State Medical Societies worked on “physician, heal thyself” and “first, do no harm” instead of acting as the PR wing for the FDA, CDC, USDA and other Big Ag-owned agencies, they could save countless lives. Up to 90,000 just for starts. That’s without even touching all the havoc and suffering they create helping out their other good buddies over at the pharmaceutical companies.

NOTE: If you live in Illinois, you’ve got until October 20th to let your elected representatives know that you’re not interested in less freedom, crappier food choices, and putting small farmers out of business. Remember, nothing gets a bureaucrat’s attention like a lawmaker who’s getting an earful from irritated (but polite, please) constituents two months before an election.


the Older Brother


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