Archive for the “Bad Science” Category

Several people have emailed to ask if I’m going to watch and critique What The Health, the latest vegan-propaganda movie.

Uh … no.  I see no reason to torture myself.  I’m pretty sure I can guess what kind of “science” they quote throughout: the same cherry-picked observational studies they cite in all the other vegan-propaganda films and books.  I dealt with the topic long ago in a post titled To The Vegetarian Evangelists.

I did hear that the film claims eating one egg damages your health as much as smoking five cigarettes.  To any vegans who believe that, I’ll make you an offer: I’ll continue eating three eggs per day, and you start smoking 15 cigarettes per day.  Then we’ll compare health status 10 years from now.

Nina Teicholz, author of the terrific book The Big Fat Surprise, already shredded What The Health on the Diet Doctor blog.  ‘Nuff said.

But just for grins, I thought I’d post a speech given by Dr. Georgia Ede in which she goes through the (ahem) “evidence” that the World Health Organization (WHO) cited when it claimed meat is a carcinogen — a claim repeated in What The Health.  (If you think WHO’s stance on meat is anything other than political, you need to seriously rethink their motivation on this and almost every other issue.  Same goes for the United Nations, the parent organization of WHO.)

Anyway, here’s the speech.  Enjoy.

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I’ll turn 59 in November. That means in just 15 months, I should start taking a statin. That’s the conclusion of a new study reported in the U.K. Independent online:

Almost every older person should be taking statins, a new study has found. Almost all men over 60 and women over 75 should be taking the drugs, the research found. And more than a third of people between 30 and 84 should be allowed to do so.

Sure, let’s put all older people on statins. Society would really benefit by having more older folks with memory problems and damaged muscles.

The sweeping findings could suggest that GPs will be asked to prescribe the drugs to the majority of their patients, leading to huge strain on doctors.

That was, of course, my first concern as well. Oh my goodness! If we start giving statins to all older people, won’t that be a strain on doctors?!

The research looked to investigate the effects of guidance that was set by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in 2014. That controversial ruling allowed many more people to receive statin therapy on the NHS, since it suggested that anyone with cardiovascular disease should be given the drug, and anyone with a more than 10 per cent chance of developing it in the next 10 years should take it too.

The latest study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, examined the algorithm endorsed by Nice for the assessment of CVD risk and compared it to data from the 2011 Health Survey for England to estimate the number of people who are eligible for statin therapy under the guidance.

Let me explain how that algorithm works: if you’re a male older than 60 or a woman older than 75 and still have a pulse, statistics say there’s a decent chance you may have a heart attack at some point in the future, so the algorithm says you should be on statins. The actual health of your heart doesn’t figure into it much.

Last month, I admitted that I’m a member of the anti-statin cult that Dr. Steve Nissen (America’s Statinator-In-Chief) blames for scaring people away from these wunnerful, wunnerful, life-saving drugs. So you won’t be surprised that I’m under orders from the cult leaders to explain why guidelines that would put nearly all older people on statins are complete nonsense. (I’m also under orders to smack myself in the head with my t-post hammer if the post doesn’t draw at least a thousand views, but I’m negotiating on that one.)

Advertisements for statins throw out impressive-sounding claims, such as reduces the risk of heart attack by 33 percent! If you didn’t know any better, you’d think a third of the people taking statins are saving themselves from a heart attack.

But of course, that’s not the case. That figure is derived from results like this: in a statin trial lasting some number of years, two of every 100 patients with known heart disease who took the statins had a heart attack, while three of every 100 patients with known heart disease who took a placebo had a heart attack. Two is one-third less than three, so the relative reduction is 33 percent.

But in absolute terms, it means for every 100 patients who took the drug, one was saved from a heart attack. So the number needed to treat (NNT) is 100. That’s the figure that matters.

There’s a site called The NNT that provides exactly those kinds of figures. Here’s what it says on the home page:

We are a group of physicians that have developed a framework and rating system to evaluate therapies based on their patient-important benefits and harms as well as a system to evaluate diagnostics by patient sign, symptom, lab test or study.

We only use the highest quality, evidence-based studies (frequently, but not always Cochrane Reviews), and we accept no outside funding or advertisements.

The b.s. guidelines suggested by the new study say almost everyone over a certain age should be on statins, whether they actually have heart disease or not. Here’s what The NNT tells us about statin trials conducted on people who don’t already have heart disease:

Benefits:
None were helped (life saved)
1 in 104 were helped (preventing heart attack)

Compare the statin groups to the placebo groups, and the combined results say not a single death was prevented by the statins. The statins prevented an average of one non-fatal heart attack for every 104 people who took them for five years.

Wowzers. Doesn’t that make you want to run out and fill that statin prescription as soon as you turn 60?

But wait, let’s not forget to look at the other side of the equation:

Harms:
1 in 50 were harmed (develop diabetes)
1 in 10 were harmed (muscle damage)

And keep in mind, these figures are mostly from studies published by the makers of statin drugs. In other words, they’re the most positive studies. We don’t know how many studies conducted by Big Pharma were simply dumped because the results were less-than-positive. Here’s what the gang at The NNT says on the subject:

Virtually all of the major statin studies were paid for and conducted by their respective pharmaceutical company. A long history of misrepresentation of data and occasionally fraudulent reporting of data suggests that these results are often much more optimistic than subsequent data produced by researchers and parties that do not have a financial stake in the results.

The combined results of these mostly-positive studies say 10% of the people on statins suffered muscle damage. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) the figure in the real world is much higher. When Big Pharma conducts these studies, they screen out patients who report side effects from other drugs. So the population that goes into the study is less likely to experience side effects than the population at large.

But what the heck, let’s suppose the figure is actually the 10% reported in the studies instead of the 25% or greater I suspect we’d find in the real world. And let’s suppose you’re a man 60 or older, or a woman 75 or older, with no previous heart attacks or known heart disease. Let’s put you in a group of 100 of your peers and give you all statins. Here’s what would happen, according to the most positive data Big Pharma can produce:

  • One of you will be prevented from having a non-fatal heart attack, but none of you will be prevented from actually dying. (And preventing the one non-fatal heart attack will likely only apply to the men.)
  • Two or more of you will develop diabetes you wouldn’t otherwise have had (which increases the odds of heart disease or stroke down the line).
  • Ten or more of you will end up with damaged muscles, thus seriously reducing your quality of life.

I think we should ignore this latest edition of the Statins For Everyone! guidelines.

At least that’s what the cult leaders told me to say.

 

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Boy, I was really hoping we wouldn’t be found out. But now that it’s out in the open, I guess it’s time to admit it: I’m a member of a cult. Dr. Steve Nissen, the nation’s statinator-in-chief, exposed the cult in a recent editorial. Here are some quotes from an article in CardioBrief:

A leading cardiologist has unleashed a blistering attack on “statin denial,” which he calls “an internet-driven cult with deadly consequences.”

In an editorial in Annals of Internal Medicine, Steve Nissen (Cleveland Clinic) expresses grave concerns over statistics showing that only 61% of people given a prescription for a statin were adherent at 3 months. “For a treatment with such well-documented morbidity and mortality benefits, these adherence rates are shockingly low. Why?” he asks.

Good question: why are so few people taking their life-saving statins? Since I’ve employed several Svengali-like deception and persuasion techniques in my posts, many of you who read this blog probably think people are avoiding statins because the drugs don’t work as well as the pharmaceutical companies want us to believe.  Or because the side-effects are worse than reported by pharmaceutical companies.  Or because statins damage muscles.  Or because there’s no evidence statins prevent heart attacks in women or the elderly.  Or because statins screw up people’s brains.

But Dr. Nissen (who by pure coincidence receives a ton of money from pharmaceutical companies) has figured out the real reason:

Nissen writes that “we are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of our patients to Web sites developed by people with little or no scientific expertise, who often pedal ‘natural’ or ‘drug-free’ remedies for elevated cholesterol levels.” The anti-statin forces employ two distinct strategies, “statin denial, the proposition that cholesterol is not related to heart disease, and statin fear, the notion that lowering serum cholesterol levels will cause serious adverse effects.” Nissen admits that some patients will have statin-related adverse effects but “intolerance in many patients undoubtedly represents the nocebo effect.”

That is, of course, what happened with my mom. The only reason she experienced awful muscle and joint pains while on statins is that she believed they might cause muscle and joint pains. Granted, she didn’t believe statins could cause muscle and joint pains until she complained to me about the pains and I asked if she was on statins. But that’s the power of cult-like thinking: it can go backwards in time and cause a nocebo effect.

Anyway, now that the cat’s out of the bag, I may as well tell you about the cult. To make the confession more convincing, I clipped some “signs and practices of cults” from the internet as headings.

Authoritarian leadership. Cult members are expected to completely submit to a leader who is seen as a prophet, apostle, or special individual with unusual connections to God.

Our authoritarian leader is, of course, Dr. Uffe Ranvskov. All of us who joined the cult have a 10-foot-tall picture of him somewhere in our houses or apartments. We’re required to bow to the picture six times per day while chanting “cholesterol does not cause heart disease.”

Dr. Malcolm Kendrick is our Maximum Leader’s … uh, I mean Dr. Ravnskov’s second-in-command. His picture is only six feet tall and we only have to bow to it on Sundays. However, we all know that any command Dr. Kendrick issues is coming directly from Dr. Ravnskov and should be treated as such.

Opposition to Independent Thinking. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

I’m on the email list for THINCS (The International Network of Cholesterol Sceptics), and I can tell you there’s never any debate or discussion among the members. It’s just one email after another agreeing with whatever Dr. Ravnskov says.  This is, of course, exactly the opposite of what happens with doctors, who are constantly debating the risks and benefits of statins while attending seminars sponsored by Pfizer.

And I can attest to that bit about punishment. Remember when I told you all how I banged myself in the head with a t-post hammer while building a chicken yard? Well, that’s not what happened. I made the mistake of wondering aloud if perhaps statins were okay for some people. I was alone in the back pasture and didn’t think anyone was listening. But sure enough, I got a call from Dr. Ravnskov within the hour.

“Listen, doubter,” he told me. “Your brain clearly isn’t working correctly. I want you to go to the tool shed, grab a 16-pound steel hammer, and smack yourself in the skull with it. Do this, or be banished.”

Love Bombing. Cult members show great attention and love to a person to help transfer emotional dependence to the group.

After he ordered me to hit myself in the head with a hammer, Dr. Ravnskov had several cult members drop by and tell me how awesome I looked with a big wound on my head. Then we all played checkers and they let me win every game.  I never felt more loved.

Isolation. Subservience to the group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

I was hoping all those farm reports including pictures of Chareva and the girls would provide some cover. But the truth is, they left two years ago … perhaps because Chareva asked me why I’m always posting about the dangers of statins, and I offered to smack her in the head with a 16-pound steel hammer to help get her mind right.  Anyway, doesn’t matter.  Those pictures of us working on the farm together are all old.  I now live alone and dedicate all my time and energy to whatever Dr. Ravnskov asks of me.

Group Think. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel.

Yes, that happens all the time in our cult. I don’t know how I feel about it because Dr. Ravnskov hasn’t told me yet.

Salvation. Members are often promised salvation from an apocalyptic future through association with the group and its Special Knowledge.

I can’t explain this one in great detail. I’ve only reached level nine in the cult, which means I haven’t been given all the details on the master plan. (To reach level 10, I have to start giving them 90% of my income instead of the current 75%.)

I do know, however, that the plan came to Dr. Ravnskov in the form of secret messages in Beatles songs. The gist of it is that if we convince everyone to stop taking statins, the current leaders in society will all die of heart attacks. With a leadership void created, the oppressed masses will rise up and kill all the oppressors and all the good doctors who prescribe statins. The cult members, of course, will be hiding out in the desert until it’s over. Then we’ll emerge from hiding, and the formerly oppressed people will welcome us as heroes and put us in charge. Then we’ll oppress them by refusing to let them take statins and other miracle drugs.

If for some reason the oppressed people decide instead to put themselves in charge and oppress us, we’ll all drink a special concoction of coconut oil and bacon fat, at which point a spaceship will pick us up and take us to another universe, where we’ll be placed on a planet with no human population, but an endless supply of eggs. Then our task will be to eat eggs and populate the planet.

I’m not sure how a planet without humans can be full of chickens to lay eggs, but like I said, I haven’t been given all the details.

Mind-Altering Practices. Meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, and debilitating work routines are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader.

I don’t know if we do this one or not. But I have to stop writing now. Dr. Ravnskov just called and told me to go out and mow the entire back of the property, then do it again tomorrow.

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In last week’s post, we saw how media shills for the Save The Grains Campaign have been warning us that if we ditch the grains, we’ll develop diabetes, fill up with mercury, then get sick and die. And lest we assume they’re being overly dramatic, they assure us these claims are backed up by research.

Well, it’s true … really lousy research in the form of weak observational studies. The SBC News article that flatly declared we need whole grains to avoid diseases and death, for example, cited this study as proof:

Methods

The study included 367,442 participants from the prospective NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study (enrolled in 1995 and followed through 2009). Participants with cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and self-reported end-stage renal disease at baseline were excluded.

Results

Over an average of 14 years of follow-up, a total of 46,067 deaths were documented. Consumption of whole grains were inversely associated with risk of all-cause mortality and death from cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, respiratory disease, infections, and other causes.

Same old garbage. Researchers send out food questionnaires over a period of years and follow up by examining medical records. Then they look for correlations – and by gosh, they tend to find exactly the correlations they were seeking.

Food questionnaires are notoriously unreliable. And even if people could accurately remember what they’ve eaten over a period of years, the correlations merely tell us that people who choose whole grains over white flour have better health outcomes.

Does that prove that whole grains are better than white flour? Not really. It could simply be that since whole grains have been declared health food, health-conscious people are more likely to consume them. Health-conscious people are different from I-don’t-give-a-@#$% people in all kinds of ways. Even the authors of the study acknowledged as much:

In our study cohort, both whole grains and cereal fiber were correlated with high levels of physical activity and better health status, as well as with low BMI, low levels of smoking, and low intakes of alcohol and red meat. However, our results were less likely due to the potential confounding of these factors because careful adjustment for these factors in our analyses did not significantly change the results. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the positive associations may still be related to residual confounding of non-measured covariates.

Researchers can try to adjust for all the confounding variables, but it’s nearly impossible. Sure, you can try to balance out factors like smoking and alcohol consumption, but how do you know the I-don’t-give-a-@#$% people aren’t lying about how much they drink? Do the health-conscious people get more sleep, take more supplements, and generally have a better attitude on life that results in less stress? The researchers don’t know.

But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the researchers really and truly teased out every possible confounding variable, and that people who eat whole-grains foods are really and truly healthier than people who eat white-flour foods. So what? That doesn’t in any way prove that whole grains prevent diseases.

To use my favorite analogy, if we compare people who smoke filtered cigarettes to people who smoke non-filtered cigarettes, the people who smoke filtered cigarettes will have lower rates of lung cancer. But only an idiot would look at those results and declare that filtered cigarettes prevent lung cancer, so people who don’t smoke at all are going to get lung cancer. That’s the logic of “whole grains prevent disease, so going grain-free will make you sick.”

Another Save The Grains Campaign article I didn’t mention last week was a hit piece on Pete Evans, the celebrity chef from Australia. (He visited the Fat Head farm in 2015.) The article was titled We Put Pete Evans’ Paleo Diet And Dairy Claims To A Clinical Dietitian. Here are some quotes:

“Pete Evans does an amazing job in his own field. But the concern is because he isn’t trained in any nutritional science, he doesn’t have the knowledge to be administering this kind of health advice. And a lot of it isn’t backed by evidence,” Accredited Practising Dietitian Melanie McGrice told The Huffington Post Australia.

Riiight. Because the standard-issue advice from dietitians is based on such rock-solid science, as we’ll see in a minute.

“I think there are some good aspects about the Paleo diet, for example its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, and cutting down on highly-processed and packaged foods. He supports these aspects,” McGrice said.

“But it falls down in its restriction of core food groups like grains and legumes. The latest research shows that grains and legumes are protective against conditions such as hypertension and other cardiovascular markers.”

Do dietitians ever ask themselves why grains are a “core food group”? Do they ever wonder how humans managed to thrive without the “core” food for 99% of our time on earth? Do they ever ask themselves if human health improved after we took up eating grains a mere 12,000 years ago? Apparently not.

As for the science, the quote from the Accredited Practising Dietitian had a link under the words latest research in the online article. So I followed the link. But before we go there, let’s review what the dietitian said:

“The latest research shows that grains and legumes are protective against conditions such as hypertension and other cardiovascular markers.”

So obviously the link will take us to a study demonstrating that grains and legumes – all of them – protect us against hypertension and cardiovascular markers. Now here are some quotes from the study:

Health claims regarding the cholesterol-lowering effect of soluble fiber from oat products, approved by food standards agencies worldwide, are based on a diet containing ≥3 g/d of oat β-glucan (OBG).

Yup, the study is about oat bran. That’s it. Not legumes, and certainly not all grains. Oat bran. And why is oat bran such wunnerful, wunnerful health food?

The objective was to quantify the effect of ≥3 g OBG/d on serum cholesterol concentrations in humans and investigate potential effect modifiers.

So it’s a study (actually a meta-analysis of studies) of oat bran’s effect on cholesterol levels. And by gosh, it turns out oat bran lowers cholesterol. The study lists the results in mml/l, but in terms of mg/dl (the units we use in the U.S.), oat bran lowers cholesterol by about 11 points.

Wowzers! If a food lowers cholesterol, it absolutely, positively MUST reduce heart disease, right?

Wrong. In the past couple of years, some embarrassing studies from the 1960s were “re-discovered.” In a study published in The Lancet, men who switched from animal fats to soybean oil experienced an average drop in cholesterol of 60 points. That’s a huge drop. And the result? Here it is:

The total number of men who had a major relapse at any time in the trial was 45 in the test group and 51 in the controls; of these major relapses 25 in each group were fatal. None of the differences found is significant.

A change in diet produces a big drop in cholesterol, but no reduction in heart attacks. So why the heck should we just assume a ten-point drop produced by oat bran will save us from heart attacks? Obviously we shouldn’t.

The “rediscovered” Sydney Diet Heart Study was even more embarrassing. The intervention group switched from animal fats to safflower oil. Their average cholesterol levels dropped by nearly 40 points. And here are the results:

The intervention group (n=221) had higher rates of death than controls (n=237) (all cause 17.6% v 11.8%, hazard ratio 1.62 (95% confidence interval 1.00 to 2.64), P=0.05; cardiovascular disease 17.2% v 11.0%, 1.70 (1.03 to 2.80), P=0.04; coronary heart disease 16.3% v 10.1%, 1.74 (1.04 to 2.92), P=0.04).

Big drop in cholesterol, but also a higher death rate – from all causes, including heart disease. Same thing happened in another “rediscovered” study that was conducted and then apparently buried by Ancel Keys.

So let’s follow the (ahem) “logic” of the hit piece on Pete Evans: he can’t be right because he tells people to avoid legumes and grains, and legumes and grains are good for you. We know this because of the latest research! … which consists of an analysis concluding that oat bran will lower your cholesterol. That means all legumes and grains must help to prevent heart disease, even though the effects of oats tell us nothing about the effects of other grains, and even though diets that produced a big drop in cholesterol in other studies also produced a higher death rate from heart disease.

Got that?

To summarize, the evidence presented by shills for the Save The Grains Campaign consists of 1) meaningless observational studies that compare the effects of whole grains to white flour (and therefore tell us nothing about the effects of ditching grains), and 2) one meta-analysis that tells us oats will reduce cholesterol, but in no way proves oats (much less other grains) will prevent heart attacks.

Now let’s look at an actual clinical trial – you know, the type of study that can tell us something useful. I like the opening of the abstract very much:

Recommendations for whole-grain (WG) intake are based on observational studies showing that higher WG consumption is associated with reduced CVD risk. No large-scale, randomised, controlled dietary intervention studies have investigated the effects on CVD risk markers of substituting WG in place of refined grains in the diets of non-WG consumers.

Perfect. They acknowledge that nearly all the studies purporting to demonstrate the wonders of whole grains are observational, then set up the central question: what if we have people who don’t normally consume whole grains start eating them? That eliminates the problem of comparing health-conscious to I-don’t-give-a-@#$% people.

The researchers divided the subjects into three groups: the control group continued their usual diet (i.e., a diet with almost no whole grains), a second group added 60 grams of whole grains for 16 weeks, and a third group switched to 60 grams of whole grains for eight weeks, then 120 grams of whole grains for another eight weeks. Then the researchers measured markers of cardiovascular risk, which they defined as:

BMI, percentage body fat, waist circumference; fasting plasma lipid profile, glucose and insulin; and indicators of inflammatory, coagulation, and endothelial function.

That’s a lot of markers. If whole grains are such wunnerful, wunnerful health foods, that third group must have rocked the house compared to the other groups. Here are the results:

Although reported WG intake was significantly increased among intervention groups, and demonstrated good participant compliance, there were no significant differences in any markers of CVD risk between groups.

Nothing. Epic fail. A big, fat zero. That’s after nearly four months of gobbling those heart-healthy whole grains. Perhaps to save their future funding, the researchers suggested that four months may not be long enough for whole grains to confer their magical health benefits.

Yeah, that’s one possible explanation. The other is that whole grains aren’t health food – no matter how hard the media shills for the Save The Grains Campaign want us to believe otherwise.

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During the time I was going a little batty trying to finish a version of the Fat Head Kids film, what I refer to as the Save The Grains Campaign was in full swing. I didn’t respond to any of the articles, but did save them for later. Let’s look at some of the horrors that will be visited upon us if we ditch bread and cereals, at least according to media shills for the Save The Grains Campaign.

Horror #1: You’ll die

No, seriously. If you don’t eat whole grains, you’ll get sick and die. That’s the warning from the opening of an article from SBS News in Australia:

Think avoiding all grains is healthier, helps you lose weight? Just like fruit and veggies, we need wholegrains to avoid disease and death.

Goodness. I stopped eating grains as anything other than a very occasional indulgence almost eight years ago. As a result, I also waved goodbye to arthritis, psoriasis, twitchy legs, frequent bellyaches, gastric reflux and a mild case of asthma. In fact, I’m pretty much never sick with anything. So now I’m wondering which disease caused by wholegrain deficiency is lurking under the surface, waiting to kill me.

To avoid dying, the article suggests eating more grains like Quinoa. But the writer offers other options as well:

But there’s no need to go fancy – brown rice, rolled oats, muesli and popcorn are wholegrains, too.

And later, after admitting that some people can’t tolerate gluten:

Those people can eat gluten-free wholegrains, such as rice, quinoa, corn and buckwheat.

Okay, then. You gluten-intolerant people still need grains to avoid dying from a grain-deficiency disease, so load up on the rice.

Horror #2: You’ll fill up with so much mercury, you’ll be able to measure the temperature outside by watching the mercury rise in your eyeballs.

I may have exaggerated it a bit, but here’s the warning against gluten-free diets from an article in Natural Blaze:

According to a new report in the journal Epidemiology, people who eat a gluten-free diet may actually be at higher risk for exposure to arsenic and mercury.

This is quite concerning considering the growing popularity of the gluten-free diet with a quarter of Americans having gone gluten-free in 2015. That was a 67% increase from 2013.

Just think when the global warming really kicks in and all that mercury starts rising. We may see gluten-free people’s heads explode in the South.

The cause for the increased risk for arsenic and mercury exposure, however, is not necessarily a result of the gluten-free diet itself.

Say what? You mean a lack of gluten in your diet doesn’t cause your body to fill with toxic metals? And here I was, thinking gluten must plug holes in our skin where mercury naturally seeps in from the atmosphere.

Instead, it appears to be due to the fact that many gluten-free products contain rice flour as a substitute for wheat. Rice has been known to bioaccumulate both arsenic and mercury, as well as other toxic heavy metals, from water, soil or fertilizers.

I see. So we need to eat grains to avoid dying, but some people can’t tolerate gluten and should get their death-preventing grains from rice … but the rice will fill them with mercury. Man, I’m starting to think maybe we’d be better off with no grains whatsoever in our diets. But that can’t be right, because …

Horror #3: You’ll develop Type 2 diabetes

Here are some quotes from a U.K. Telegraph article titled Is going gluten-free giving you diabetes?

Gluten-free diets adopted by growing numbers of health-conscious consumers enhance the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, scientists have warned.

A major study by Harvard University suggests that ingesting only small amounts of the protein, or avoiding it altogether, increases the danger of diabetes by as much as 13 per cent.

Wow. So in addition to plugging the holes in your skin where mercury seeps in, gluten somehow creates a protective shield against dangerous diabetes.

The findings are likely to horrify the rising number of people who are banishing gluten from their daily diet, encouraged by fashionable “clean eating” gurus such as Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley.

I have, in fact, noticed a lot of horrified expressions on faces in my area recently, but I figured it was because so many people are moving here from Illinois and California.

The Harvard team examined 30 years of medical data from nearly 200,000 patients. They found that most participants had a gluten intake of below 12g a day, which is roughly the equivalent to two or three slices of wholemeal bread.

Within this range, those eating the highest 20 per cent of gluten had a 13 per cent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with those eating up to 4g a day. The study showed that those who eat less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fibre, a substance known to protect against diabetes.

Apparently Type 2 diabetes is like a virus that attacks and invades your body unless you have some kind of protection against it – protection that can only come from cereal fiber.

Boy, if only we could test that idea by comparing the before-and-after health status of humans who didn’t eat any grains at all, then started eating grains after being conquered by grain-eating people with better weapons. I’m sure the record would show that they were riddled with Type 2 diabetes until they were forced to become “civilized” and live on grains.

Unfortunately, the humans who didn’t live on gluten-containing grains quickly became extinct. I know this because …

Horror #4: Your babies will die

Here are some quotes from a U.K. Daily Mail article with the rather long title of Malnourished seven-month-old baby dies weighing just 9lbs in Belgium after his parents fed him a gluten-free diet which included quinoa milk.

A malnourished seven-month-old baby has died weighing just 9lbs after his parents fed him a gluten-free diet which included quinoa milk.

That’s horrible and I hope the parents are prosecuted. But since we were told earlier we need to eat grains like quinoa to avoid dying, I’m trying to figure out how the gluten-free aspect of the diet caused a baby to die.

The parents, who run a natural food store in their hometown, fed their child on a special milk diet.

According to their lawyer Karine Van Meirvenne the parents thought Lucas had an eating problem. Van Meirvenne said: ‘Lucas had an eating disorder. He got cramps when he was fed with a bottle and his parents tried out alternatives. Oat milk, rice milk, buckwheat milk, semolina milk, quinoa milk. All products which they also sell in their store.’

Gluten-free was the problem? I’ll bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) the parents had the baby on a vegan diet. Only a shill for the Save The Grains Campaign would blame a lack of gluten without asking if the parents are also vegans.

So there you have it. Eat your grains and your gluten, or you’ll develop diabetes, fill up with mercury, then get sick and die. Oh, and your kids will die too.

This is, of course, complete nonsense. But the shills for the Save The Grains Campaign assure us there’s just scads and scads of evidence that whole grains prevent disease. We’ll look at some of that evidence in an upcoming post.

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I hadn’t planned to write another post about the American Heart Association’s “presidential advisory” report, but I came across a couple of items that speak volumes about why the report is nonsense.

Zoe Harcombe tweeted a link to a press release by the crop science division of Bayer. It was titled Bayer and LibertyLink Soybeans Help Protect Hearts in America’s Heartland. Here are some quotes:

In an effort to support heart health and improve the wellness of rural Americans nationwide, Bayer is proud to announce its support of the American Heart Association (AHA). The effort, which runs through 2017, supports the AHA’s Healthy for Good™ movement to inspire all Americans to live healthier lives and create lasting change by taking small, simple steps today to create a difference for generations to come.

For each bag of LibertyLink soybean seed sold for the 2017 season, Bayer will contribute 5 cents to the AHA’s Healthy for Good movement for a total maximum donation of $500,000.

A donation of up to half a million dollars. Pretty good payday for the American Heart Association – which of course recommends soybean oil as a “heart-healthy” replacement for butter and lard.

In the same tweet, Harcombe points out that the AHA’s report gives soybean oil a positive mention 12 times. Not bad. That’s $41,667 per mention. If only I could cut the same deal with the producers of bacon.

So at the risk of repeating myself, it’s important for people who believe the AHA is a neutral reporter of cardiovascular science to understand this: if the Diet-Heart Hypothesis ever goes away, so does the American Heart Association. The “presidential advisory” report was little more than financial self-defense against the growing (and correct) belief that arterycloggingsaturatedfat! hysteria was based on bogus science.

Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks, the author of the report, was quoted in several media articles as wondering why the heck anyone would think coconut oil is a healthy fat. It raises cholesterol just like any other saturated fat, ya see, so it’s got to be bad. And there are no long-term clinical studies proving any benefits.

Several bloggers pointed out that both the Kitavans and the natives of Tokelau people have a high intake of coconut fat – 50% of total calories in the case of the Tokelau people. And yet they have very low rates of heart disease. If saturated coconut fat causes heart disease, why aren’t the people who eat the most of it clutching their chests and dropping dead?

Of course, we’re just making observations here, and observational studies don’t prove anything, right? Well, it depends.  If we find a correlation between A and B, it doesn’t prove A is causing B to happen. But a lack of a correlation between A and B is pretty strong evidence that A doesn’t cause B to happen.

In the Fat Head Kids book, I wanted to give youngsters a very brief science lesson on observational studies. After all, if they’re interested in health, they’re going to be seeing a lot of Some Food Linked To Some Disease headlines as they grow up. So in a chapter on how bad science led to the current dietary advice, we explained observational studies like this:

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Let’s suppose Dr. Fishbones visits a tiny world called The Planet of Tragic Fashions and gathers a bunch of data on all the residents. When he runs that data through a computer, he notices a surprising connection.

Captain! I’ve discovered that residents who get just-above-the-butt tattoos are more likely to develop cancer! We’ve got to put a stop to those tattoos, Captain!

Is Dr. Fishbones correct? Do his findings prove that the tattoos are causing cancer?

That would be incorrect, Captain. Dr. Fishbones conducted what’s called an observational study. In an observational study, we look for traits and behaviors that seem to occur in the same people. We may notice for example, that people who play basketball are often very tall. So we could say playing basketball is linked to being tall. We might also say basketball is correlated or associated with being tall.

But it would be illogical to conclude that playing basketball makes people taller. As Dr. Fishbones should know, just because a behavior and a result are linked, it doesn’t mean the behavior causes the result. Just-above-the-butt tattoos may be “linked” to cancer, but it could simply be that people who get tattoos are more likely to smoke. Or drink large sodas. Or play with toxic chemicals. These other factors are what we scientists call confounding variables.

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Here’s what we didn’t explain in the book: if people who get tramp stamps have higher rates of cancer, it doesn’t mean the tramp stamps cause cancer … but if tramp stamps DO cause cancer, people who get them will have higher rates of cancer.

So if we observe that people with tramp stamps DON’T have higher rates of cancer, we can be pretty certain the tattoos don’t cause cancer. (A researcher who didn’t want to let go of the tattoos cause cancer hypothesis would, of course, speculate that perhaps there’s a “protective factor” in some brands of tattoo ink.)

Anyway, the point is that Dr. Sucks has no actual evidence that coconut oil causes heart disease. All he could do is say it raises LDL, and therefore it must cause heart disease. But the evidence from populations who eat a lot of coconut fat (which wasn’t considered in the “totality of the evidence”) suggests rather strongly that coconut oil doesn’t cause heart disease.

But since the coconut-oil makers aren’t finding ways to funnel a half-million dollars into the AHA’s coffers, we’re told the stuff will kill us and we should switch to soybean oil instead. That’s why advice from the American Heart Association is irrelevant, if not dangerous.

Speaking of which, here’s a photo someone tweeted. It’s from back before the AHA added a low-sugar requirement for its heart-check logo. This pretty much says it all.

Bacon and eggs will kill you, but low-fat Pop Tarts full of sugar, processed flour and other bits of industrial garbage are good for your heart. That’s the kind of advice we’ve received from the AHA over the years.

Like I said, the AHA has a low-sugar requirement now. But while producing Fat Head, I bought a box of Cocoa Puffs with the AHA’s seal of approval on the box. That was in 2008. So I was curious when Dr. Frank Sacks became chairman of the AHA’s nutrition committee. Was it during the time “healthy” low-fat food like Cocoa Puffs and Pop-Tarts sported the heart-check logo?

I couldn’t find online exactly when he was chairman. But a 2008 article from the Washington Post described him as the vice-chairman at the time. I also found papers listing him as a member of the committee as far back as 2001. So yes, he was on the AHA’s nutrition committee back when they were telling us Pop-Tarts and Cocoa Puffs were heart-healthy foods.

The irony here is that in the latest report, Sacks claims the reason cutting back on saturated fat failed to reduce heart disease in many studies is that people made the mistake of replacing saturated fats with sugars and processed carbs.  Gee, I wonder what inspired them to do that?

‘Nuff said.

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