18 May 2009

Is it about time we learned not to heed 'experts'?

Supports Chapter 11: Our irrational fear of sunlight

The UK's Daily Express today has an article about yet another study saying that we don't get enough sunlight. If we want to avoid conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and live longer we need to get out in the sun more, it says.

In 1997 I wrote much the same article for my column 'Second Opinions' in The Oxford Times. The editor refused to print it because it was in conflict with what we were being told by the health industry. A shame really as the paper was published on 21 June, the first day of summer, and so the timing was ideal for such an article. This was the reason I gave up writing for the paper. Well, the articles took time and they didn't pay much then.

Since then many more studies have also said the same thing.

In the Express's article, 'experts' from authoritative bodies such as Cancer Research UK say that they know about this and that we need more vitamin D and should strive to get out more.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't they the same people who have been scaring us with anti-sun propaganda for the last few decades?

And there are a couple of other points they still aren't telling us:

Firstly, it is important to know that only sunshine around midday produces vitamin D at our latitude. UVB, the active wavelength, doesn't penetrate the atmosphere well, so until the sun is well up in the sky, the atmosphere it has to travel though reduces its strength markedly. Sunshine earlier in the day is mostly UVA. It is UVA which causes sunburn - without the vitamin D benefit.

Secondly, it's also important NOT to use a sunscreen as this filters UVB, thus inhibiting vitamin D production. Sunscreens have also been shown independently to increase skin cancer risk. The really silly thing about sunscreens is that they are very good at screening us from the beneficial UVB, but not very effective at stopping harmful UVA! There is much more on this at http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/sunlight.html and http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/full_spectrum_sunlight.html.

Unlike most Brits who take their holidays by the seaside in the summer, for many years now I have been heading south to an island off the coast of west Africa during the winter, just to keep my Vitamin D levels up. If global 'climate change' continues its now 10-year-long current cooling trend for another decade and a half, as it is forecast to do, I'll have to think about going south during our summer too. The last time I comfortably got out in the garden in the nuddy for any length of time was March!

13 May 2009

Cheerios Are a Drug? FDA's Surprising Letter to General Mills

May 13, 2009

The following story is all over the Internet today. But the question si this:
In the US foods and supplements are not allowed make claims to treat or diagnose a disease. However, the FDA has allowed Cheerios' claims to lower cholesterol for over 10 years, so why have they suddenly changed?


Popular US breakfast cereal Cheerios is a drug, at least if the claims made on the label by its manufacturer General Mills are anything to go by, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said.

"Based on claims made on your product's label, we have determined that your Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug," the FDA said in a letter to General Mills which was posted on the federal agency's website Tuesday.

Cheerios labels claim that eating the cereal can help lower bad cholesterol, a risk factor for coronary heart disease, by four percent in six weeks.

Citing a clinical study, the product labels also claim that eating two servings a day of Cheerios helps to reduce bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, the FDA letter says.

Those claims indicate that Cheerios -- said by General Mills to be the best-selling cereal in the United States -- is intended to be used to lower cholesterol and prevent, lessen or treat the disease hypercholesterolemia, and to treat and prevent coronary heart disease.

"Because of these intended uses, the product is a drug," the FDA concluded in its letter.

Not only that, but Cheerios is a new drug because it has not been "recognized as safe and effective for use in preventing or treating hypercholesterolemia or coronary heart disease," the FDA said.

That means General Mills may not legally market Cheerios unless it applies for approval as a new drug or changes the way it labels the small, doughnut-shaped cereal, the FDA said.

General Mills defended the claims on Cheerios packaging, saying in a statement that Cheerios' soluble fiber heart health claim has been FDA-approved for 12 years, and that its "lower your cholesterol four percent in six weeks" message has been featured on the box for more than two years.

The FDA's quibble is not about whether Cheerios cereal is good for you but over "how the Cheerios cholesterol-lowering information is presented on the Cheerios package and website," said General Mills.

"We look forward to discussing this with FDA and to reaching a resolution."

Meanwhile, the FDA warned in its letter that if General Mills fails to "correct the violations" on its labels, boxes of Cheerios could disappear from supermarket and wholesaler shelves around the United States and the company could face legal action.

According to General Mills, one in eight boxes of cereal sold in the United States is a box of Cheerios. The cereal debuted on the US market in 1941."

11 May 2009

Another blow to the 'Lower Is Better' craze

Low BP associated with increased risk for stroke and heart attack

Researchers found a J-curve relationship between cardiovascular events and blood pressure (BP) at above and below reference levels.

Data results from the American Society of Hypertension 24th Annual Scientific Meeting and Exposition, San Francisco Marriott, San Francisco, CA, May 6 – Saturday, May 9, 2009, show that patients with coronary artery disease who also have low blood pressure are at higher risk for stroke and heart attack.

Researchers examining results from the TNT study analyzed 10,001 patients with coronary artery disease. Patients were assigned to either 10 mg of atorvastatin daily (n=5,006) or 80 mg atorvastatin daily (n=4,995). The primary endpoint was a composite of death from coronary disease, nonfatal MI (heart attack), resuscitation following cardiac arrest and fatal or nonfatal stroke.

Among the 10,001 patients, 982 (9.82%) reached the primary endpoint during the 4.9 follow-up period.

The researchers reported a J-shaped curve relationship between systolic or diastolic BPs both above and below reference BP ranges (130 to 140 mm Hg for systolic, 70 to 80 mm Hg for diastolic) and major cardiovascular events, despite a reduction in LDL levels.

According to the study results, there was a 3.1-fold increase in the risk for major cardiovascular events in patients with a systolic BP of 110 mm Hg and a 3.3-fold increased risk in the group with a diastolic BP of 60 mm Hg.

Following application of a nonlinear Cox model, the lowest event rates were associated with a systolic BP of 140.6 mm Hg and diastolic BP of 79.8 mm Hg for diastolic BP.

Franz Messerli, MD, director of the hypertension program at Saint Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, said in an interview:
“There is no question that a lot of patients are not controlled at present, but the dictum that lower is better is not true in all patients and particularly not true in patients with manifest coronary artery disease . . . In patients with coronary artery disease, you really have to be careful.”
This means that the current 'healthy' guidelines on BP - the 'optimal' level of 120/80 may need rethinking.