Interesting tidbits from my email inbox and life in general:
Leave it to the USDA to both hand out advice and then retract it for all the wrong reasons.
The message seemed innocuous enough, coming as it did from the federal agency tasked with promoting sustainable agriculture and dietary health: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias,” read a United States Department of Agriculture interoffice newsletter published on its Web site this week, “is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative.”
Hmmm, I think the writer for the New York Times might be showing a teensy bit of bias here. The message may be “innocuous” to her, but to me it’s just plain stupid. The idea that raising cattle causes global warming is even more bogus than the “science” produced by the ClimateGate crowd. And just because the USDA is “tasked” with promoting sustainable agriculture and dietary health, that doesn’t mean they’re actually doing either. Is subsidizing farmers to overproduce wheat and corn sustainable? Are the USDA dietary guidelines based on actual science? No and no. I’m surprised the writer doesn’t argue that Meatless Mondays must be a good idea just because so many people are going with it.
Thousands of corporate cafeterias, restaurants and schools have embraced the idea of skipping meat on Mondays in favor of vegetarian options, an initiative of the nonprofit Monday Campaign Inc. and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
Look, lady, just because a bunch of goofs embrace an idea, that doesn’t mean it’s a good one. Countless cafeterias, restaurants and schools also embraced the low-fat diet. Look where that got us.
But by Tuesday afternoon, amid outraged Twitter messages by livestock producers and at least one member of Congress, the agency’s “Greening Headquarters Update” had been removed. “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. The newsletter, which covered topics like the installation of energy-efficient lights on the Ag Promenade and recycling goals, “was posted without proper clearance,” the statement said.
Let me interpret that: some vegetarian zealot at the USDA posted the article without checking with the boss first. Then the USDA caved because of political pressure, which is the wrong reason to cave on anything. Bad advice, withdrawn for the wrong reason.
The folks at PETA reacted to the USDA brouhaha by cementing their reputation as a bunch of vegan lunatics:
PETA upped the ante Thursday, jumping headfirst into a feud involving the Department of Agriculture, the meat lobby and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
In response to a controversial tweet — now retracted — by the USDA in support of the “Meatless Mondays” program, Grassley Tweeted he was planning on eating an extra helping of meat in order to “compensate for stupid USDA recommendation about a meatless Monday.”
But on Thursday, PETA posted a scathing missive on its website, bemoaning the fact that the senior senator is apparently “anxious to show his campaign contributors that he will fight to the death (literally, perhaps) over Americans’ right to be sick and fat.”
I used to be fat and sick. That was during my vegetarian phase.
The post, written by Alisa Mullins, continues on to say: “We’re taking bets (place yours in the comments section below) on how long it will take Sen. Grassley to succumb to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or some other meat-related disease.”
So those are all meat-related diseases, are they? Well, let’s see … Senator Grassley is 78 years old and hasn’t succumbed to a meat-related disease yet. I wonder if PETA would mind if we had placed bets on when these vegetarian celebrities would die:
George Harrison – died of lung cancer at age 58
Robin Gibb – died of liver and colon cancer at age 62
Linda McCartney – died of breast cancer at age 56
Davey Jones – died of heart disease at age 66
Steve Jobs – died of pancreatic cancer at age 56
Bob Marley – died of malignant melanoma at age 36
Apparently it’s not necessary to actually eat meat to die of a meat-related disease.
I’ve read about plenty of bad scientists, but this guy should win some sort of prize:
Dr. Yoshitaka Fujii seems well on his way to becoming the patron saint of scientific fraudsters, setting a record for the most extensive output of fake data. As near as anyone can work out, Fujii started making up data with abandon some time in the 1990s. By 2000, his fellow researchers were already on to him, publishing a comment in which they noted, “We became skeptical when we realized that side effects were almost always identical in all groups.”
But you can’t let such skepticism from your peers slow you down—and Fujii certainly didn’t. Even after the comment was published, two different medical schools hired him as a faculty member. He continued to publish, generally using faked data, racking up an eventual record of 200+ bogus papers.
An investigation later determined that out of 212 studies published by Fujii, only three were based on actual data. His specialty was anesthesia. With such an amazing ability to simply fabricate research, I’m surprised he wasn’t in the nutrition field.
This was an observational study, so we don’t want to make too much of it. But the results were certainly interesting:
The atmosphere of doom, blame and guilt has grown pretty thick around the subject of obesity these days, in case you hadn’t noticed. In documentaries, public health warnings and, increasingly, in their doctors’ offices, obese Americans hear a drumbeat of bad news and reproach. Among the most alarming of the warnings: Obesity will almost certainly cut short these Americans’ lives.
A new study, just published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, says that may not be exactly true. The study, which tracked 50,994 Americans between the ages of 19 and 90 for a total of six years, suggests that obesity itself may not be a harbinger of impending death: Rather, hypertension and type 2 diabetes — admittedly common fellow travelers to obesity — make people more likely to die in the near term.
Put another way: At any given age, an obese person who does not have type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure is no more likely to die sometime in the next six years than is a person of the same age who is of normal weight.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not being fat that kills you. But the foods that are likely to make you fat are also likely to make you sick. You can be fat and healthy, and you can be skinny and sick.
The study deepens the body of emerging research that suggests that body mass index alone is not a terribly good predictor of an individual’s health status — and that, in some cases, carrying a little extra weight appears to confer some benefits.
In fact, the type 2 diabetes patient who is of normal weight — with a BMI between 20 and 25 — was more likely to die of any cause during the six-year study period than was a type 2 diabetes patient who was overweight or — yes — obese, the study found. And the super-thin patient with type 2 diabetes? The underweight (those with BMIs below 20) were far more likely to die during the six-year study period than their obese peers, the study found.
The authors of the study, physicians from the University of California Davis’ department of family and community medicine, acknowledge it may seem they’re splitting hairs here. After all, obesity undeniably makes type 2 diabetes and elevated blood pressure much more likely.
But people of normal, “healthy” weight — indeed even underweight people — get those diseases too. And once you know that it’s those diseases — and not obesity per se — that predict an untimely death, a physician can accurately assess which of his or her patients is at greater mortality risk and should be most aggressively treated.
If you want to live longer, spend less time obsessing with the scale and more time checking your blood sugar.
Slow progress on the knee
I’ve heard about people having surgery for a torn meniscus and walking a week later. I’m still on crutches. At a follow-up appointment today, the surgeon pulled up some before and after photos taken inside my knee during the surgery and explained why: he had to do more than the usual amount of cutting. The meniscus was frayed in several areas and one torn flap had folded under itself.
I also had some kind of thick tendon inside the knee that shouldn’t have been there. He suspects it’s been there since I was born … apparently when a fetus is developing, that tendon shrinks and goes away. Mine’s gone now because he removed it.
The bottom line is that the extra cutting means extra pain, stiffness and swelling. His guess is that if I keep up with the physical therapy exercises, I’ll be walking normally in two more weeks. Let’s hope. The crutches are a bother.
We’re leaving tomorrow for Illinois. I don’t know yet if I’ll write a post on Thursday.
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