Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …
Sugar finally getting the blame for cancer
We’ve been told since the 1980s that we should all be on low-fat diets to prevent cancer. Evidence has been mounting that sugar is the more likely culprit (I wrote about that in a 2013 post), but I haven’t seen much to that effect in the major media outlets.
So I was pleased to see an article in the Los Angeles Times pointing the finger at refined carbs:
In August of 2016, the New England Journal of Medicine published a striking report on cancer and body fat: Thirteen separate cancers can now be linked to being overweight or obese, among them a number of the most common and deadly cancers of all — colon, thyroid, ovarian, uterine, pancreatic and (in postmenopausal women) breast cancer.
I know what you’re thinking: If they’re linking cancer to obesity, they’re going to say it’s because people just eat too much or eat too many cheeseburgers. Wait for it …
The studies reflect whether someone is overweight upon being diagnosed with cancer, but they don’t show that the excess weight is responsible for the cancer. They are best understood as a warning sign that something about what or how much we eat is intimately linked to cancer. But what?
It’s a pleasant surprise when a newspaper article points out that correlation doesn’t prove causation.
Lewis Cantley, the director of the cancer center at Weill Cornell Medicine, has been at the forefront of the cancer metabolism revival. Cantley’s best explanation for the obesity-cancer connection is that both conditions are also linked to elevated levels of the hormone insulin. His research has revealed how insulin drives cells to grow and take up glucose (blood sugar) by activating a series of genes, a pathway that has been implicated in most human cancers.
Hallelujah. A researcher sees a connection between a disease and obesity and doesn’t immediately blame the obesity. And there I was, getting psyched up to bang my head on my desk.
The problem isn’t the presence of insulin in our blood. We all need insulin to live. But when insulin rises to abnormally high levels and remains elevated (a condition known as insulin resistance, common in obesity), it can promote the growth of tumors directly and indirectly. Too much insulin and many of our tissues are bombarded with more growth signals and more fuel than they would ever see under normal metabolic conditions. And because elevated insulin directs our bodies to store fat, it can also be linked to the various ways the fat tissue itself is thought to contribute to cancer.
Having recognized the risks of excess insulin-signaling, Cantley and other metabolism researchers are following the science to its logical conclusion: The danger may not be simply eating too much, as is commonly thought, but rather eating too much of the specific foods most likely to lead to elevated insulin levels — easily digestible carbohydrates in general, and sugar in particular.
Cancer, diabetes, heart disease … for years, almost all the diseases of civilization were blamed on animal fats. Lots of the (ahem) “experts” still want to blame fats (just read the previous post for an example), but it’s nice to see the tide turning.
She doesn’t eat animal fats, but she’s too annoying for the Swiss
Honestly, really and truly, I don’t care if people choose to be vegans. I only care when they won’t shut up about it. (Q: how can you spot the vegan in the room? A: Don’t worry, she’ll tell you.) Apparently the Swiss share my aversion to the preachy types:
A Dutch vegan who applied for a Swiss passport has had her application rejected because the locals found her too annoying. Nancy Holten, 42, moved to Switzerland from the Netherlands when she was eight years old and now has children who are Swiss nationals.
Does that make her a Vegan Dreamer?
However, when she tried to get a Swiss passport for herself, residents of Gipf-Oberfrick in the canton of Aargau rejected her application.
Ms Holten, a vegan and animal rights activist, has campaigned against the use of cowbells in the village and her actions have annoyed the locals. The resident’s committee argued that if she does not accept Swiss traditions and the Swiss way of life, she should not be able to become an official national.
I bet when she heard the news, she shouted something like Gipf Oberfrick!!
Ms Holten told local media: “The bells, which the cows have to wear when they walk to and from the pasture, are especially heavy. The animals carry around five kilograms around their neck. It causes friction and burns to their skin.”
Let’s see … a cowbell weighs about 11 pounds, and the average cow weighs 1,600 pounds. Yeah, I can see how that would really be a burden. It would be like asking a human to carry a set of keys, a smartphone and a wallet all at the same time.
Ms Holten, who describes herself as a freelance journalist, model and drama student, has also campaigned against a number of other Swiss traditions like hunting, pig races and the noisy church bells in town.
Boy, I just can’t imagine why the local Swiss don’t want her as a fellow citizen.
Give it time, we’ll all have “high” blood pressure
In Fat Head, I described how members of the National Cholesterol Education Campaign (Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks was one of them) redefined “high” cholesterol in the 1980s so that most of us fall into that category – which created millions of instant patients for statins.
Now new blood-pressure guidelines will apparently redefine millions of people as hypertensive:
New guidelines lower the threshold for high blood pressure, adding 30 million Americans to those who have the condition, which now plagues nearly half of U.S. adults.
Okay, stop right there. If nearly half of U.S. adults have “high” blood pressure and we’re about to add another 30 million, doesn’t that once again mean that average is being defined as high, just like with cholesterol?
High pressure, which for decades has been a top reading of at least 140 or a bottom one of 90, drops to 130 over 80 in advice announced Monday by a dozen medical groups.
“I have no doubt there will be controversy. I’m sure there will be people saying ‘We have a hard enough time getting to 140,'” said Dr. Paul Whelton, a Tulane University physician who led the guidelines panel.
But the risk for heart disease, stroke and other problems drops as blood pressure improves, and the new advice “is more honest” about how many people have a problem, he said.
Perhaps. But my suspicious side wonders if these new guidelines are appearing just in time for a new wonder drug to hit the market – the process Dr. Malcolm Kendrick described in his book Doctoring Data.
For people over 65, the guidelines undo a controversial tweak made three years ago to relax standards and not start medicines unless the top number was over 150.
Now, everyone that old should be treated if the top number is over 130 unless they’re too frail or have conditions that make it unwise.
Uh-huh. Sorry, but I think this is about selling drugs. And by the way, Dr. Kendrick also stated in Doctoring Data that no clinical studies have proved that lowering blood pressure actually saves lives.
Finally, a good use for Crisco
When the Bears went to the Super Bowl in 1986 and 2007, I was delighted. Excited. Ecstatic. But it never occurred to me to climb a city light pole to express my enthusiasm. Apparently that’s a potential problem among Eagles fans, and Philly officials found a good way to deal with it.
As the Philadelphia Eagles geared up for a championship playoff game at their home stadium on Sunday, the police were preparing to keep the city’s boisterous football fans safe.
They put up barricades, Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department, said in an email. They assigned officers to patrol on foot, on bikes and on horses. And they broke out cans of Crisco, slathering up street poles to try to stop people from climbing them.
The Guy From CSPI would no doubt approve. If city officials slathered those poles with lard, CSPI Guy would be out there with a megaphone and yelling, “Stop! The arterycloggingsaturatedfat will soak into your skin and give you heart disease!”
And of course, people with good taste would be licking the poles. So Crisco it is.
By the way, after I finished watching yesterday’s games, Alana showed me a note she saved to her iPad in November. She had asked me which two teams I’d pick to be in the Super Bowl if I had to place a bet. I told her the Patriots and the Eagles, and she saved the prediction as note, perhaps to wave in my face if I turned out to be wrong.
So I got that right. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I’m in a four-man football pool and ended up in last place this season. Obviously I’m better at predicting the final outcome of a season than the individual games.
Nonetheless, I’ll predict the winner of the only remaining game: Eagles. I want as much Crisco as possible to end up on light poles instead of in the food supply.