Archive for the Health Category

At what cost? Subsidized malnutrition.

Posted in current events, Family, Health, Politics, Things that make you go Arrgh! with tags , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by weirleader

Wish I could spare the time to do more than drop on a quick post.  Still, this is largely self-explanatory and utterly disturbing.

First, this video:

Then, this article.

More Environmental Inaction

Posted in Health, Politics on December 20, 2007 by weirleader

In a not-so-surprising ruling, the EPA denied the rights of states to set strict air quality standards independently of the government. A Californian at heart, I’m quite disappointed to see yet another instance of our “hands-off” government illustrating how “hands-off” is really just a euphemism for “hands-off what helps the little guy”.
In this article from the N.Y. Times, Stephen Johnson, head of the EPA, says,

Climate change affects everyone regardless of where greenhouse gases occur, so California is not exclusive. Continue reading

Scientific Hypocrisy

Posted in Health, Science, Technology on December 5, 2006 by weirleader

So I’m listening to Morning Edition today (12/5/06) and they run a story about a group of people trying desperately to get a bill through congress to increase funding specifically for the study of Autism. Sounds like a noble effort, and I can somewhat imagine what it must be like to have children with the disease (we have a friend with children that have symptoms to varying degrees) and to see no progress made in its treatment.

Still, I was moved by a very well-spoken argument which suggested that science is very full of serendipity* and it can actually be helpful to have wide-ranging interests, as often problems can be solved, diseases cured, drugs invented by those initially looking for ‘something else’. The premise is that to get tunnel vision and insist on solely focusing on Autism could really be counter-productive to finding treatment or even a cure. Makes sense to me… I can understand it to be potentially frustrating to those emotionally tied to a search for a cure, but it is well-documented that many scientific breakthroughs have occurred by chance and an observant eye.

But that’s not even the point of this article. What really struck me was moments later when the program shifted to Pfizer and Lipitor and how the recent setback of a drug in development could prove damaging to the industry. Lipitor’s patent is due to expire in the near future and it currently provides (if I understood the program correctly) over 50% of the company’s profits – so they understandably want to find something to fill its shoes before that expiration.

But what are they doing about it? Are they doing R&D all across the board looking for the ‘next big thing’? Nope – they are putting all of their efforts into improving and redefining cholesterol drugs like Lipitor. Funny – I’m pretty sure not moments earlier I heard how focusing on just one thing could be scientifically unprofitable. If drug companies are only worried about profits and the bottom line and have such tunnel vision that they only work on a new variant of the tried-and-true, they deserve the trouble coming their way. Who knows – the next big breakthrough in treating heart conditions might come from whoever is researching Autism…

* for a good read on fortuitous scientific breakthroughs, try Serendipity, by Royston M. Roberts

Cold Turkey

Posted in Health on July 24, 2006 by weirleader

While at the General Convention, Aleksandra (Schab) gave me a book that was recommended to her entitled Sugar Blues, by William Dufty. I believe she tried reading it, but although her spoken English is awesome, the written word does tend to get complex. In any case, it has been eye-opening.

The book came out long ago (1975) and I would venture to guess that Pete would have a field day critiquing the guy’s arguments (some even seem weak to me – and we all know I’m a pushover), but the history alone of sugar is fascinating. Dufty links sugar consumption to the heyday and subsequent downfall of several powerful empires – not purely causative, but a seriously contributing factor. He also points out how sugar addiction (and the profits that accompany it) encouraged the slave trade.

I’ve got a long way to go in my reading, but one of the pieces that struck me immediately was a description of why sugar does what it does (to me, at least). The refining of sugar is compared to the refining of opium into morphine and even further into heroin – we take sugar cane, extract its juices, refine them into the purest crystalline form imaginable and then add it to our food. Essentially, sugar refinement is just improving the delivery method for getting sugar into the bloodstream as quickly as possible. And this brings us to its effects:

“While the glucose is being absorbed into the blood, we feel ‘up.’ A quick pick-up. However, this surge of mortgaged energy is succeeded by the downs, when the bottom drops out of the blood glucose level. We are listless, tired; it requires effort to move or even think until the blood glucose level is brought up again. Our poor brain is vulnerable to suspicion, hallucinations. We can be irritable, all nerves, jumpy. The severity of the crisis on top of crisis depends on the glucose overload. If we continue taking sugar, a new double crisis is always beginning before the old one ands. the accumulative crisis at the end of the day can be a lulu.

After years of such days, the end result is damaged adrenals. They are worn out not from overwork but from continual whiplash. Overall production of hormones is low, amounts don’t dovetail. This disturbed function, out of balance, is reflected all around the endocrine circuit. The brain may soon have trouble telling the unreal from the real; we’re likely to go off half cocked. When stress comes our way, we go to pieces because we no longer have a healthy endocrine system to cope with it. Day-to-day efficiency lags, we’re always tired, never seem to get anything done.” (pg. 47)

Boy, does that ever sum up my experience with sugar bingeing!

Now, I’ll admit some of his arguments seem a little oversimplified and Dufty even comes across that all the worlds ills quite literally are to be blamed on sugar consumption – but as in the above quoted passage, some really dovetails nicely with my experience.

To quote a quote, Dufty cites Dr. Robert Boesler, a New Jersey dentist from the early 20th century as saying:

“Modern manufacturing of sugar has brought about entirely new diseases. The sugar of commerce is nothing else but concentrated crystallized acid. If, in former times sugar was so costly that only the wealthy could afford to use it, it was, from the national standpoint, of no consequence. But today, when, because of its low cost, sugar has caused a degeneration of the people, it is time to insist on a general enlightenment. The loss of energy through the consumption of sugar in the last century and the first decade of this century can never be made good, as it has left its mark on the race. Alcohol has been used for thousands of years and has never caused the degeneration of a whole race.” (pg. 42)

I’m only 80 pages in, but this guy’s got my attention. And while I don’t pin all the ailments of humanity on sugar, I don’t find it farfetched that it might be responsible for a great deal of them.

Oh, and lest you wonder wherefore the title of this entry – I’m going to see just how well I can give up processed sugars (that is, anything but evaporated can juice and raw honey – a tall order!!!) 🙂

(edited: July 24 @ 4pm – the quotes didn’t turn out right the first time)

Falling off the wagon

Posted in Health on July 13, 2006 by weirleader

Just came across an article in Slate (Sugar Babies) that struck a chord. The past several years have got me convinced that sugar is an addictive substance – perhaps without the same kick as nicotine, but addictive nonetheless (quite possible more so due to genetic predisposition).

Ms. Bazelon (and her source, Ms. Mello) make some really good points about how our children are marketed to and the potential effects. When you look at the state of obesity and diabetes in this country, surely this is something we ought not ignore. It’s downright irresponsible to know that targeting children with sugar-related advertising will increase their consumption and still allow it to go unchecked. That being said, I realize this is a free country and a capitalistic one as well – no CEO is going to further his bottom line by developing a conscience (at least, not in the short run).

But that’s where government can come in. I’m not huge on hands-on government, but people are still going to want sweets with or without commercials. We have an identified problem and I would hazard a guess that nobody disputes such a problem exists. Do the responsible thing, just like with nicotine – maybe it’ll just do the trick.

Additional suggested reading: Lick the Sugar Habit, Why We’re Fatter