Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Future Smart?" If You Would LIke Beiing a BORG

The book “FUTURE SMART-managing the game changing trends that will transform your world” by James Canton is a must-read. We need to know what most of society is banking on in the future. But, while the author claims to be guided by cutting edge science, he is not above human nature: his biases and background are evident. Mr. Canton is a product of his environment as we all are. His views are understandable given he was on the ground floor when the high tech company APPLE was born. Mr. Canton is proud to have associated with Steve Jobs.

So, if you are fond of that culture, enjoy the book.

If you have doubts, read on.

Mr. Canton makes some predictions I hope come true:

· Future institutions will succeed if they implement the “triple bottom line” of Profits, Social and Environmental responsibility. They will put Social Purpose first and empower people.

· Private entrepreneurship, not governments, will lead the way and provide answers for present vexing problems like pollution, poverty, wars, etc.

· Technology will provide amazing gadgets to make our lives easier.

But, my suspicions were confirmed when I got to the chapter on Medicine.

While reading the book I had to work hard at keeping an open mind. Historically, doubters of new technologies have been left in the dust while those who embraced them conquered the world. I certainly want to avoid the former fate. But, it seems to me that there is a big difference between intelligence and wisdom. I could not avoid a vague feeling that Mr. Canton and others like Kurzweil (“Singularity is Near”) are long on brains but short on wisdom. Just because we CAN does not mean we SHOULD. [1]

These authors maintain that we are close to becoming bionic men, or TRANSHUMAN. By augmenting our faculties (chip implants to learn everything, and I mean everything, replacing organs and limbs with mechanical and 3D-printed devices, and manipulating our DNA or genes, we may live forever and prevent disease altogether.

How does that strike you?

While I am all for improving our lot in life, stamp out suffering and prevent diseases, I feel that not understanding LIFE and DEATH is a major obstacle to seeing high technology under a more balanced light. [2] An irrational fear of death is a sure sign, in my opinion, of not understanding NATURE and a spiritual realm where we continue to live. Death is a mere transition to that realm. Not believing in the natural cycles of DEATH and RENEWAL can get us into a heap of trouble.

Do you believe in History as we are taught in our schools?

I don’t.

I feel that humanity has had MANY DEATHS and REBIRTHS. I believe in ANCIENT ANTIQUITY. We have been around for millions of years and obtained loftier pinnacles of technology, only to destroy ourselves by forgetting the basic principles of LIFE and DEATH noted above. Perhaps NATURE catches up to this “Tower of Babel” mentality that seems to embody a belief that we can harness the powers of creation for our own selfish, blind purposes. Perhaps NATURE takes care of business by wiping us off the face of the Earth now and again to correct the imbalances that super egos tend to bring to unsuspecting societies.

Mr. Canton’s chapter on THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE does not mention NUTRITION. He is totally immersed in the technology-based medicine that fails to consider basic principles of health because they are not as sexy, nor glamorous, nor profitable in the short run; they are in the long run. But, authors like Mr. Canton do not seem to have an interest in the exploding body of evidence pointing in that direction. [3] He has not kept up with the fact that genes are greatly influenced by the foods we eat and the environment we live in, a concept we call Epigenetics. Genetic intervention, even while in utero, has its merits in preventing disease. But, ignoring Epigenetic principles is folly.

Mr. Canton’s vision is a futuristic concession to “Boutique Medicine.” The rich would greatly benefit from the expensive, high tech approach Mr. Canton hopes to see fulfilled.

Do you believe we have enough money for the common folk to enjoy such utopia? Do you envision some low-income person getting implanted with brain chips containing the whole internet, getting augmented by bionic limbs, and getting genetic therapy to live forever?

If you do, enjoy the book.

If you don’t, read it anyway. We need to be prepared to deal with THE BORG.

[1] Conquer Yourself, Conquer the World J Sci Am April 2015

[2] Too much medicine BMJ 2015; 350 :h1217

[3] Science 21 September 2012: Vol. 337 no. 6101 pp. 1466-1467

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sugar Industry and Government


My book LICKING SWEET DEATH has been updated and simplified


If you want to read more on how the real problem is sugar, not cholesterol, check out my previous blog Cut Sugar Not Cholesterol and the JAMA March 3 2015.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Big Food, Big Pharma: Is Science for Sale?


The present owner is very happy with it….

Here is an article reproduced in entirety. It was written by the Head of Research of the British Medical Journal

“We have grown accustomed to allegations of conflicts of interest, biased research, and manipulative marketing on the part of the drug industry. Valentine’s Day is a good time to spare a thought for the same problems as they involve the sugar industry. In a BMJ investigation this week Jonathan Gornall examines the not so sweet side of what might be called “Big Sugar”: large food companies whose products include sugary foods (doi: 10.1136/bmj.h231). Using methods that seem borrowed wholesale from the pharma playbook, they provide consultancies and research support to prominent scientists who also work on nutrition issues for the UK government.

Such strategies mirror those of the drug industry, and the arguments used to defend these associations are strikingly similar. Engagement with the private sector is desirable because it enables “more rapid transfer of the best ideas into new interventions,” and scientists are using the money for “important pieces of research.” These things may well be true. The existence of such financial connections is not evidence of “research malpractice.” It does, however, contribute to perceptions that nutrition science might be for sale.

Perceptions about the trustworthiness of nutritional research matter because consensus has not been achieved on the extent to which sugar contributes to health problems or what should be done about it. Is sugar “pure, white, and deadly,” as the late John Yudkin suggested well over 40 years ago (doi: 10.1136/bmj.e8612)? Much evidence points in that direction (Curr Diab Rep 2012;12:195-203; Am J Clin Nutr 2014;100:65-79). But which way does the causation run? Are we hardwired to crave sweet things? Or do we crave sugary treats because we are manipulated to do so? Policy initiatives to curb sugar intake will be developed on the basis of research on these questions. To gain public cooperation the science must be above reproach.

Sadly, this is not the only area where there is reason to be concerned about corporate influences on public policy. Crowcroft and colleagues examine the controversy over the UK government decision on public funding for a new vaccine (Bexsero) for meningococcal disease (doi: 10.1136/bmj.h308). The problems they outline are all too familiar: “lobbying may have influenced the alteration” of the original decision. Links between some “vocal clinicians” and the drug industry were not disclosed. The lack of transparency makes it unsurprising that “conspiracy theories emerged, including the idea of undue influence of industry.”

This piece could not be timelier, published as it is in the midst of a large US outbreak of the vaccine preventable disease measles (doi: 10.1136/bmj.h622). Powerful commercial interests will advocate widespread use of any new vaccine they develop, even when the benefits do not justify the cost. They may pursue these arguments in ways that undermine public trust in vaccination in general. A cynical public won’t accept that general vaccination is vital for some potent diseases if they believe that vaccines of questionable benefit are being promoted for profit. Crowcroft and colleagues’ conclusion about the lesson of the Bexsero affair should be heeded by all medical researchers, including those in the field of nutrition science: “We risk losing public trust . . . by allowing people with close links to industry to be involved in decision making.” Put another way, we cannot expect the public to have confidence in science that seems to be for sale.”

Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h795

See related blog published this month on the Sugar industry inducing the National Institute of Health to hide evidence that processed sugars are harmful and addicting.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cut Sugar Not Cholesterol

About 20 years ago good studies began to appear in leading journals noting that the real problem with arterial disease is not cholesterol, but sugar. This was at that time and probably still is now, a bit shocking to those who have unquestioningly accepted Big Pharma’s demonizing of cholesterol, [1] a natural molecule needed to patch up leaky arteries, make hormones, and synthesize cell membranes, particularly neurons.

To make a long story short, excessive and processed sugars cause insulin resistance throughout the body. In the liver it causes FATTY LIVER, which leads to poor handling of cholesterol. Because of this and inflammation/oxidation related to insulin resistance, both cholesterol and the lining of the arteries become sticky. This leads to poor patching of arterial leakiness, which results in plaque formation.

If the above were to be addressed with a good diet low in refined sugars, cholesterol would not be a problem in most people. This is why the American Heart Association has recommended TLC first, or Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes before using Statin drugs to lower cholesterol. In other words, it is possible to have high cholesterol and not develop arterial disease. The American Medical Association just published a report noting that if a CT scan shows your coronary arteries clear of calcium deposits, you do not need a Statin drug even though your cholesterol may be elevated. [2] Incidentally, Statin drugs are no more beneficial than an apple a day… [3]

Twenty years ago I had a cardiologist angrily criticize me for saying that sugars are more toxic than cholesterol. I wonder if he will take the time to read the 2015 Dietary Guidelines from the Advisory Committee’s to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Secretary of Agriculture published February 2015. They are summarized below:

WASHINGTON, DC — “ An expert panel has released its new recommendations to the US government for healthy eating in a 570-page report that provides some new advice and supports a pattern that promotes health and prevents disease.

Published this week, the recommendations include advice staples such as focusing on the consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low- or nonfat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts and limiting the consumption of red and processed meat, added sugars, and refined grains. But the recommendations also include some twists, such as giving a green light to a moderate amount of caffeine consumption and no longer trying to control the amount of dietary cholesterol Americans eat.

"Strong evidence shows that it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns," according to Dr Barbara Millen (Millennium Prevention, Westwood, MA) and Dr Alice Lichtenstein (Tufts University, Boston, MA), the chair and cochair of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), and their coauthors. "Rather, individuals can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy dietary patterns, and these strategies should be tailored to meet the individual's health needs, dietary preferences, and cultural traditions."

The recommendations from the committee, 18 months in the making, cite "new scientific evidence" to inform the revisions to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans . The review of the evidence and their recommendations were presented to the US Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture. The departments, which are responsible for writing the US dietary guidelines, will consider the recommendations when they draft their final report later this year.

In the US, approximately 155 million individuals are overweight or obese and 117 million individuals have chronic, preventable diseases.

Taking the Long View

In terms of one of the most important changes, the advisory committee, which is made up of physicians and nutritionists, takes the long view on the nation's food supply and focuses on the sustainability of food choices, something it has not done in the past. As part of the evidence review, the committee said it examined the near- and long-term sustainability of healthy dietary patterns and components of the modern diet, such as caffeine.

There is moderate to strong evidence showing that healthy dietary patterns rich in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as lower-calorie animal-based foods, are associated with more favorable environmental outcomes, such as lower greenhouse-gas emissions and more favorable land, water, and energy use, according to the DGAC.

"Healthy, sustainable dietary patterns also may provide new themes for consumer education and communication on lifestyle practices that can promote food security now and for future generations and create a 'culture of health' at individual and population levels," they add.

Some Surprises in the Report

Aside from accounting for the environmental aspects of food, the committee includes a few more surprises in the report. For example, the recommendations diverge slightly from past guidelines in that they no longer put a limit on the amount of dietary cholesterol individuals should eat.

In the 2010 dietary guidelines, the daily cholesterol target was set at less than 300 mg. Now, says the committee, dietary cholesterol is "not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption" and current evidence suggests there is "no appreciable relationship" between heart disease and dietary cholesterol.

The recommendations also provide good news for coffee lovers in that caffeine is no longer considered an enemy of the people. In fact, the advisory committee says consuming three to five cups of coffee per day can be part of a healthy diet and that data to date suggest that coffee reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This amounts to approximately 400 mg of caffeine per day. The consumption of added sugar, fatty milk, or rich creams with the coffee, though, is not advised.

Regarding sodium, the DGAC points out that Americans still consume way too much, with the average individual consuming nearly 3500 mg per day. As part of the dietary recommendations, the goal is for individuals to cut at least 1000 mg of sodium from their daily diet to get daily intake down to 2300 mg per day, a recommendation in line with the Institute of Medicine . The advisory committee no longer recommends a daily target of 1500 mg for any individuals, even those with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

The committee also recommends consuming no more than 10% of daily calories from saturated fat. Regarding added sugars, the same rule applies, with the recommendation that no more than 10% of calories come from added sugar. This amounts to just 12 teaspoons of sugar per day. Currently, the average American takes in anywhere from 22 to 30 teaspoons daily, often in the form of juices and sugar-laden drinks.

To combat how much sugar is consumed in the US, especially by kids in the form of pop and energy drinks, the guideline authors say that water is the preferred beverage choice. "Strategies are needed to encourage the US population, especially children and adolescents, to drink water when they are thirsty," they write 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee .”

Advisory report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Secretary of Agriculture. Published February 2015

[1] “What if Fat Doesn’t Make you Fat,” York Times Magazine July 7th 2002

[2] AMA Scientific Session Chicago 2015

[3] “A statin a day keeps the doctor away: comparative proverb assessment modeling study,” BMJ 2013; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.f7267. Available at:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Curcumin-Turmeric: A Test of View on Science

The current issue of the National Geographic magazine (March 2015) has an article by Mr. Achenbach, a Washington Post staff writer. He opines that any questioning of “established scientific facts” demonstrates ignorance, denial, and even conspiratorial beliefs. He cites opposition to vaccination, fluoridation and GMOs as examples, issues we have covered in this newsletter. It is not the intention of this blog to prove or disprove those controversial issues, but, to point out some scientific principles Mr. Achenbach did not cover. It is up to you to examine the scientific literature on both sides.

One, science is a never ending quest for truth. It should include a high dose of humility to allow for the fact that each new discovery simply opens another veil yet to be the subject of further search. Closing our minds to further developments in science has been catastrophic. History is littered with such examples.

Two, a true scientist is indeed by definition a skeptic. This does not mean one is to reject opposing points of view, but that we need to be open to consider the evidence regardless of preconceived notions. Does Galileo ring a bell?

Three, we must question the sources from which we get information. Often, money is behind categorical statements that attack, or ridicule the opposition. “The Manufacturing of Consent” ought to ring another bell: google that. For instance, you should study my background. I am happy to report I do not get involved in marketing or selling of any products. As for Mr. Achenbach, he is edited by his newspaper, which is heavily influenced by its advertisers (Monsanto, Big Pharma, etc.)

What does Curcumin have to do with this issue?

Ask about it when you are attempting to gauge someone’s attitudes about non pharmaceutical treatments. If they categorically tell you there is no scientific evidence for the use of curcumin you will know where they are coming from.

Curcumin, as often reported herein is soon to be marketed as an adjuvant, or synergistic agent for cancer chemotherapy. It is also an excellent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory herb, much like aspirin, but no side effects. As such it compares well with Ibuprofen. It thins the blood a bit, so, it is helpful in diseases that promote clotting. Curcumin also lowers insulin resistance and blood pressure. All these salutary actions must have a common denominator. Indeed, it is a good antioxidant, anti inflammatory herb/spice that improves our metabolism. [1]

[1] “Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of curcuminoid-piperine combination in subjects with metabolic syndrome: A randomized controlled trial and an updated meta-analysis,” J. Clinical Nutrition Published Online: January 07, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The State of Science

Mr. X came in last week to tell me about his sad experience with a medical doctor--a scientist if you wish. Unfortunately, it represents that of many other patients through our country. According to Mr. X his doctor dismissed him from his practice because he refused to take a statin drug. The doctor berated him on his preference for natural therapies: “There is no evidence that they work!” Of course, it is a doctor’s right to dismiss a patient from his/her practice.

But, the matter did not end there. The doctor wrote in the patient’s chart, an official document that can have serious consequences on a patient’s health care, that the patient was deluded and depressed and needed to be treated with an anti depressant. He added that the patient was arrogant in his belief that he knew more about him, that is, the doctor.

For sure; the patient did know more about natural therapies. [1] But, why was the doctor not familiar, or receptive, ar at least tolerant of his patient’s wishes ans preferences? Many journals recommend a more consiliatory and cooperative approach when it comes to natural products:


H onor patients’ choices

E ncourage proven practices

R ead about Complementary Alternative medicine

B e honest about what you read

A void criticism

L ist non-pharmaceutical therapies on chart. [2]

In my opinion this encounter reflects a rigidity seen in all fields of Science, not just Medicine. With due apologies to those open minded scientists and doctors who have not succumbed to the pervasive PC attitudes seen in Science, let me elaborate.

Throughout history we find a constant tug of war between the physical world and the non material realm. This struggle is beautifully illustrated by a painting of Raphael depicting Plato and Aristotle in the center of a room crowded with scientists and thinkers taking sides in this ancient argument as Plato points up and Aristotle points down. At times history has favored a more concrete approach like Aristotle’s. At other times a more pensive and spiritual approach has reigned supreme. The Reformation was a Platonic era, while the Enlightenment was more Aristotelian. There is nothing wrong with either approach, if they are tempered by each other. Hence, the balanced figures seen in the middle of Raphael’s painting.

But, alas, such balance is rare and ephemeral. Arguably, the most recent example of this ideal integration of opposites was the dynamic and exciting period when Einstein and his fellow physicists discovered the very boundary between matter and energy, that is, the unseen connecting to the material world. Many of those physicists were deeply spiritual and in awe of the endless implications of their discoveries. They viewed Science as an approximation to truth, not a final proclamation.  They humbly proclaimed they faced a mystery they hoped future generations would embrace and perhaps solve.

Don’t hold your breath. Today, Science is firmly entrenched in a Aristotelian extreme where ideas that do not fit a certain orthodoxy are marginalized and even “excommunicated.” Scientists who question the status quo are cut off from funding to pursue their research, fired, and worse, discredited as quacks. No doubt there are charlatans in all fields of endeavor. They muddy the waters for those who do not bother to look for answers themselves. Therein lies the basic problem: Science in entrenched in a dangerous rut where dogmas are unshakeable despite facts that may point to the contrary. This is not Aristotle’s fault, nor Science’s. It is a failure of understanding our own human nature. We are all susceptible to the self-preserving drive to seek security and shun uncertainly, particularly when the latter may threaten our livelihood.

The following issues may trigger an emotional response in you. In listing them I do not endorse them nor reject them. I only wish to point out how the mere mention of them tends to halt a rational, level-headed discussion. Labels are thrown around and hostility clouds vision. Here we go: MMR vaccinations and Dr. Wakefield, homeopathy, chiropractors, water fluoridation, global warming, near death experiences, consciousness outside the brain milk, GMOs, etc, etc. We could even throw in the Illuminati, UFOs and Elvis’ sightings!

Again, the quick dismissal of these issues without looking at both sides is more a reflection of dogma than of a clear, unclouded and rational evaluation of all the facts available. After, all, a true skeptic scientist does not dismiss any idea until he/she is satisfied with his/her own analysis of the facts, regardless of others’ opinions and pronouncements. Of all the issues that are too quickly dismissed as “alternatives” and lacking in Science, the one that bothers me the most and with which I am daily confronted and challenged, is NUTRITION

I will never forget the day when a cardiologist shook his finger at me: “Hugo, there is no evidence that nutrition has an impact on heart issues!”

An article published in the Salt Lake Tribune January 30th 2015 illustrates the above concepts well. It reports that many doctors are refusing to see patients who choose to forego the MMR vaccination. These doctors argue that “they do not want to be responsible for someone’s death from an illness that was preventable.”

Amazing… What about all the deaths from poor nutrition that could be prevented?

Despite overwhelming evidence that NUTRITION is the most effective, economic and rational tool to help patients, it is routinely dismissed in favor of treating symptoms with drugs. No doubt a pharmaceutical approach helps many patients, especially those in an acute health crisis and those who are unable, or unwilling to change their diet patterns and toxic lifestyles. But, to ridicule a patient and suggest he needs to take an antidepressant because they want a less pharmaceutical approach should give us pause.

“There is no place for dogma in Science. The scientist is free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any error. Where Science has been used in the past to erect a new dogmatism, that dogmatism has found itself incompatible with the progress of science; and in the end the dogma has yielded, or Science and Freedom has perished altogether.” Oppenheimer.

[1] A statin a day keeps the doctor away: comparative proverb assessment modelling study,” BMJ 2013; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.f7267. Available at: One apple = statin in preventing ~9K deaths in 5 yrs.

Drug Discovery and Natural Products: end of an era or an endless frontier?” J. Science 2009;325:161

[2] J. Family Practice Recertification 2000;22:32 #9

Herbal medicine in Europe,” New England Journal of Medicine 2005;352:1176

How to discuss herbal supplements with your patients,” J. Patient Care, July 2004, p20

Monday, January 5, 2015

Money Matters in Medicine

“Entering” the New Year has renewed my cravings for new visions and new paradigms. This is singularly imperative since the old ones are not serving us well. Finishing the book ENTERING THE SHIFT AGE by David Houle about this time has helped me crystallize these ideas. Houle notes that societies have progressed through these stages:




“Shift” as he defines the coming age.

He means a shift into a more conscious, or more socially responsible, cooperative way of living.

Perhaps “Consciousness,” or “Cooperative” age might have been more to the point."

Houle’s book, added to the recent exceptional article “How 21st century capitalism is failing us (BMJ 2014;349:g7516) should give you reason to ponder as you too look into your own crystal ball.

Before you read, on please understand that like the rest of you I am a Capitalist. The problem today is not Capitalism, but Crony-corrupted Capitalism. It is not serving us well anymore. This article was published in a medical journal by doctors who understand that our dysfunctional Health Care system is but a reflection of larger economic, social, political, and even spiritual problems rotting our society.

The authors use the same tools I do to arrive at their conclusions: books written by the best thinking minds of our time. For those who follow my radio show you will be familiar with the three books highlighted in this article. And now, let's step aside and quote from it:

“[Capitalism] requires a thoroughgoing democratic transformation. It leads to unfair inequality

1. “The popularity of Thomas Piketty’s book Capital was perhaps the publishing surprise of the year, but it is paradoxical for three reasons.

Firstly, its 700 academic pages are hardly an inviting bedside read.

Secondly, its appeal was primarily to people already worried by rising inequality.

Thirdly, slower economic growth leads to faster rises in inequality.”

2. Naomi Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything--Capitalism vs the Climate

“Large corporations, particularly fossil fuel companies, have bought off governments and many environmental groups, watering down policy proposals, legislation, and international environmental agreements.”

3. Nicholas Freudenberg’s Lethal but Legal.

“Food, alcohol, tobacco, automobile, pharmaceutical, and gun industries are now the main sources of damage to public health.

Endless conflicts between public and corporate interests.

Corporations use their huge advertising wealth, media, and political influence to defend themselves.

They pack regulatory systems with people who will defend their interests, they buy politicians, and continue to maximise the sales of their products in the face of massive evidence of harm—from obesity, drunkenness, smoking related disease, environmental damage, and so on.”

“Antisocial behaviour of big corporations is a large political problem, their record on tax evasion provides it.

In 2008, the US Government Accountability Office reported that 83 of the country’s biggest 100 corporations had subsidiaries in tax havens.

“[There is a] status competition among consumers… Status anxiety is intensified by greater income inequality… more unequal societies give higher priority to buying status goods. They also work longer hours, save less, get into debt more.

“Rather than benefiting from further economic growth, health and happiness in rich countries is now better served by improvements in the quality of social relations and community life.

“Greater equality would reduce consumerism and improve the social environment.

Production is undertaken in the service of the public good, humanity, and the planet.

The obstacle is that large corporations are so powerful that our democratically elected politicians are afraid to touch them.

“Lobbying politicians and regulators by pharmaceuticals, food processing, arms, energy, alcohol compromises the democratic political process.

Solution: companies owned and controlled directly or indirectly by some or all of their employees, companies with varying degrees of employee representation on boards, consumer cooperatives, mutuals, and credit unions.

Around half the member states of the EU have at least some legal provision for employee representatives on company boards or remuneration committees.

“Democratic companies not only have smaller income differences within them but also enjoy higher productivity… Wholly employee owned companies are also part of the solution to the increasing concentration of capital ownership… More democratic businesses are more ethical.

Perhaps then our salvation lies in a thoroughgoing democratic transformation of capitalism.”

This is the only way we will fix our broken health Care system.