New Under the Sun:
Volume 4, Issue 9
September begins and I feel like we are back in January watching the devastation from the Tsunami on our TVs. The Gulf Coast now bears a strong resemblance to Aceh, Indonesia and to Sri Lanka. Residents are now refugees. It is estimated that the final death count will be in the thousands. Tens of thousands died in the Tsunami, but there was really no warning it was coming. There was plenty of warning about Hurricane Katrina. Years prior to the event, there were warnings about what a hurricane could do to the area. But the warnings evidently did not pass the cost/benefit test. The high death toll was unnecessary and is appalling for the greatest, richest nation on Earth.
Unlike after the Tsunami when the flood waters quickly receded, the Gulf Coast, especially New Orleans, will be under stagnant, polluted water for weeks. The water provides the perfect breeding conditions for a variety of diseases. We will probably see an upsurge in West Nile and malaria cases. There will also be problems, quite possibly epidemics, caused by a variety of intestinal pathogens. One of the most serious would be cholera. It is of concern to the director of the American Public Health Association. Other health officials downplay that concern. However, Vibrio cholerae 01, the pathogen causing cholera, has a natural reservoir in the shellfish found in the marshes of Texas and Louisiana. It is foolish to ignore the probability that individuals weakened by dehydration, lack of food, and living in what is essentially a sewage-filled swamp, would not be particularly susceptible to the V. cholerae if they eat contaminated shellfish. And desperate, hungry people are bound to eat them if they find them. The only way to avoid an epidemic of cholera is to get anyone currently in the devastated areas out of the region as quickly as possible; and to get them fed, hydrated, and healthy again. Too little, too late, and the disease-ridden Gulf Coast of the Old South will rise again.
Homeopathic Placebos: Homeopathy is extremely popular. One website on homeopathy [http://www.abchomeopathy.com/homeopathy.htm] describes it as “like treating like… if the symptoms of your cold are similar to poisoning by mercury, then mercury would be your homeopathic remedy.” But the dosage is incredibly minute: “…normally one part of the remedy to around 1,000,000,000,000 parts of water. “ Furthermore, no matter how many cold symptoms you experience, if it is decided that mercury is the cure, then that is the only remedy you would take. As a scientist, I have to view this as magical thinking. A recent meta-analytic study supports my conclusion. Analyses were conducted on reports of 110 placebo-controlled homeopathic trials and were matched to 110 placebo-controlled allopathic/conventional medicine trials. Of these trials, it was determined that 8 homeopathic trials and 6 allopathic trials were of higher quality due to the larger number of participants in these studies. Trials were considered to demonstrate significant treatment results if the odds ratio were under 1. The odds ratios for these higher quality trials were 0.88 for homeopathy and 0.58 for conventional medicine. The authors of this analysis conclude that the weak benefit seen for the homeopathic trials can be attributed to the placebo effect. Shang A, Huwiler-Muntener K, Nartey L, Juni P, Dorig S, Sterne JA, Pewsner D, Egger M. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy. Lancet. 2005 Aug 27-Sep 2;366(9487):726-32.
Comment: As the Lancet editors point out, “The more dilute the evidence for homoeopathy becomes, the greater seems its popularity.” The editors further declare that any debate about the effectiveness of homeopathy versus allopathy is spurious and needs to cease. Allopathy provides cures; homeopathy is a grand placebo. This false debate equating homeopathy and allopathy reminds me forcibly of the false debate between evolutionary biology and creationism/intelligent design. One is science based, the other based on mysticism, magic, and wishful thinking. If magical thinking makes you feel better, fine. But don’t confuse it with science. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673605671498/fulltext
Milk, a Health Risk: Contrary to what the dairy producers and their comrades, the USDA, would have you believe, drinking milk can be more detrimental to your health than beneficial. Babies need to be breastfed, but once past toddler age, the benefits of milk decline. Previous studies have found that milk consumption is associated with increased risk for prostate cancer. Although further research is needed, it is thought that the calcium in milk might act to suppress vitamin D production. Vitamin D analogs are used to treat prostate cancer, so interfering with vitamin D production will hamper the tumor suppression activities of vitamin D. Now milk drinking has been implicated in increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 18 case-control studies (where dietary intake information is usually obtained from recall), and of 3 studies that were prospective (where dietary information is usually taken during the course of the study and then compared to those who do and do not develop ovarian cancer during the course of the study). The meta-analysis of the case-control studies revealed an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer among women who drank the most whole milk compared to those who drank the least, but no increased risk with other dairy products. However, the meta-analysis of the prospective studies, a type of study generally considered to be of higher quality, concluded that any dairy intake was associated with increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. In contrast to the prostate cancer studies which focus on calcium as the possible culprit, these studies viewed lactose as the possible problem. Once again, more research is needed to determine exactly how dairy products produce these detrimental effects. Larsson SC, Orsini N, Wolk A. Milk, milk products and lactose intake and ovarian cancer risk: A meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. Int J Cancer. 2005 Jul 28. Qin LQ, Xu JY, Wang PY, Kaneko T, Hoshi K, Sato A. Milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer: meta-analysis of case-control studies. Nutr Cancer. 2004;48(1):22-7. Tseng M, Breslow RA, Graubard BI, Ziegler RG. Dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intakes and prostate cancer risk in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Epidemiologic Follow-up Study cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1147-54.
Comment: We do not yet know what the exact factor or factors are in dairy foods that lead to cancerous outcomes. It could be excessive calcium suppressing vitamin D production. It could be too much lactose which cannot be completely broken down due to inadequate levels of the enzyme lactase, a common condition in those past weaning age. It could be the saturated fats. It could be the milk proteins. Whatever the cause(s), one thing that should be obvious is that the USDA’s dictum to drink three glasses of milk a day may be just as potentially detrimental, even deadly, to your health as is the dermatological dictum to avoid all contact with UVB radiation. If you are concerned about getting enough calcium, first make sure that you are getting enough vitamin D. Then be sure to include plenty of spinach, almonds, and sardines or salmon (eating the bones) in your diet. You will obtain adequate calcium without ingesting potentially risky dairy products. The pre-agricultural human diet, to which we adapted over the course of millions of years, did not include dairy products. Even now, most, perhaps all, humans are not really adapted to eating dairy. If you must eat dairy foods, keep your consumption low, certainly lower than three glasses of milk per day.
Opting Out of History: A news report states that in Texas parents now can opt out of having their children immunized. Occasionally, something goes wrong and the child has a poor reaction to the vaccinations. This is obviously upsetting to the parents. However, any type of medical treatment can occasionally have negative consequences. Should we then cease to use medicines? Parents who opt out of the immunization sequence for their children clearly do not have an historical perspective on childhood diseases and the high rates of morbidity and even mortality associated with the epidemics of the past. Unlike small pox, which survives only in labs, other diseases have not been eradicated. While the incidence of these other diseases is currently low in the United States, if large numbers of parents refuse to have their children vaccinated, these diseases will make an unwelcome return, and in very little time. It took only 5 years of inadequate pertussis vaccinations for the incidence of whooping cough to shoot up in the United Kingdom. Measles, mumps, and rubella are of particular concern since epidemics were frequent until vaccinations began in the mid-1960s. Severe cases of these diseases can result in blindness, deafness, retardation, and even death (primarily from measles). Those who ignore history may be condemning their children to repeat it. For more information on measles, mumps, and rubella, click here: http://www.sa.ucsb.edu/studenthealth/HealthLibrary/Files/Measles,%20Mumps,%20Rubella%20Information.pdf
Opt-Out Law for Childhood Vaccines Worries Doctors. August 10, 2005. The New York Times News Service.
AnthroHealth Tip of the Month: This month’s tip is pretty obvious. Do what you can to help end the suffering on the Gulf Coast. The health of that region affects the health of all of us.
© 2001-2009 Kathleen E. Fuller, PhD. All rights reserved.