Thursday, June 12, 2008

Seeing RED Rice

ABC news reported Monday, June 9th, 2008, that the American J. Cardiology published an article documenting that red rice lowers mortality by 43% in patients who have had a heart attack. Well, this is not news, since there have been many reports that this nutrient works. In fact, the first statin drug to lower cholesterol, lovastatin, was derived from red rice, a fact that ABC did not address at all, even though the authors, Chinese doctors, made it a point to include that vital information in their paper.

The docs also reported that red rice is extremely safe and well tolerated. They saw no side effects while following up on 4,870 patients. But, despite the glowing results, ABC consulted with their medical experts, who cautioned people not to take red rice, because it can have “serious muscle and liver problems,” and that it is very difficult to get a standard dose of red rice from nutraceutical companies. The ABC reporter concluded that it was difficult to know how to take this report on red rice, given the two conflicting opinions.

What is going on here?

In my opinion, Big Pharma cannot stand by and allow this kind of report take form their sales of statin drugs. First of all, ABC and every other network are raking in millions of dollars in TV ads about these drugs.

Second, red rice has been around for hundreds of years, with similar results available in many major journals. Its safety has been documented ad nauseum. True, it also has a tendency to curtail the absorption of the antioxidant CoQ10, a fact that Big Pharma continues to deny as a problem in their statin drugs, despite European pharmaceuticals admitting to it, and advising patients to supplement CoQ10.

The decreased availability of CoQ10 is why statin drugs themselves have significant problems with the liver and muscles. In fact, any athlete can tell soon after initiating these drugs that their muscle function is somewhat compromised. So, here is a case of the kettle calling the tea pot black. Never mind that 4,870 patients taking red rice experienced very few, if any side effects on that study.

When pharmaceuticals first isolated the molecule HMG Coenzyme reductase inhibitor from red rice, they threw away the rest of the rice, arguing that those other antioxidants, sterols, etc were not strong enough, or relevant. Talk about arrogance: they know better than Mother Nature, aka God. This is typical of the poor understanding of natural pharmacology that Big Pharma has. Of course, by isolating the active molecule like that, they may claim they have found a drug. Then, they may patent it, and rake in profits for a long time.

Red rice is hard to find in the USA. Big Pharma made sure the FDA designated red rice as a drug, so, it cannot be sold over the counter. Ironically Big Pharma is now trying to sell their own statins OTC. So, when it benefits Big Pharma, red rice is a drug. But, they still claim it doesn’t work well, and if it does, it is too strong and it may hurt you. Do you see RED rice, too?

Elections 2008

Now that we know who the final two candidates for the Presidency are we can start fighting about who is going to be better for our country. Focusing on the health care issue, I feel that the best candidate just lost (Clinton,) and that the second best is Barack Obama. No, I am not a Democrat. In fact, I feel both parties are puppets in the hands of Big Business, much like it was in America at the time of the “Robber Barons,” when Teddy Roosevelt carried a big stick.

No, I am not complaining about fascists governments, where big corporations practically dictate how elected officials behave. I feel this is the way it has always been in the history of the world. Within a few years of starting any form of government, big business and the wealthy get in bed with government. To “kick against the pricks” (biblical sharp spikes to keep cattle in line to the slaughter, not the street meaning) is unwise, especially when we don’t understand the human tendency to respect our alpha dogs: the rich, the famous and the powerful.

These natural forces have contributed to the chaotic situation we have in health care: how could they not have? Health care is run by big businesses and corporations that have their long fingers in the political process and do not want to lose their power: insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, the AMA and many industries that produce expensive and less than ideal gadgets to care for people (mammograms, bone densitometries, surgery equipment, etc,) at the expense of cheaper modalities, like teaching patients one-on-one about TLC, “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes.”

I remember vividly crying in the Jefferson monument when I read his statement about opposing tyranny over the hearts of men. But, since my high school education in Idaho, I had misunderstood the nature of the debate that Jefferson and John Adams sustained through most of their political careers. Encouraged by our public schools, most of us have sided with the more colorful, handsome, powerful, French-leaning Jefferson and his populist message. Like me, most of us felt that Adams was a rigid New Englander who favored the rich, not the common folk. Thanks to Mr. McCollough’s recent work, I have changed my views and “turned coat.”

Now I see Jefferson, the slave owner, as somewhat idealistic and not as well grounded in reality as Adams was. While Jefferson made quite a splash with his “government for the people, by the people and of the people,” the more austere and frugal non-slave owner Adams maintained that there would always be wealthier people in any society who would naturally tend to abuse their positions of power and influence to curtail the freedoms of the common folk. Realistically, he maintained that the rule of law was the best way to keep those tendencies from overwhelming the more humble segments of our society.

Even though most modern countries have left behind aristocratic forms of government, I feel that their powerful descendants never relinquished power. Their wealth and assets stayed in their families, and so did their powerful influence in their respective countries’ affairs. They have done so, some times covertly and often overtly. Most of these families are internationally related, which has fueled globalization, under the guise of joining people together for us commoner’s benefits.

Again, I am not complaining: this is human nature. Tongue in cheek, the journal Science has proposed that “homo sapiens” be changed to “homo economicus.” I agree. In fact, John Adams says it best: business is a grand and noble enterprise.” (“The Wealth of Nations.”) However, he also stated that “most of the world troubles come from somebody not knowing when to stop and be content.” (“Theory of Moral Sentiment.”)

It is in our nature to trade and barter. Even daily personal communications and relationships are a form of commerce, if you will. If we can do it with respect for one another, protected by the rule of law, it does not matter what color we are, what society we live in, what sex, or age, or even whether we like each other or not (it would be nice if we did...)

With these thoughts in mind, I have been deeply moved to see Senator Obama win the Democratic Party’s nomination, about the same time that I finished reading his most favorite book, “Team of Rivals,” which talks about Lincoln’s leadership style. Hopefully senator Obama will adopt the same lofty ideals if he is elected President, and surround himself with the brightest leaders in the country, from both parties, including those who have openly criticized him during the campaign, including senator Clinton. (That Lincoln was one of the most prominent Americans to warn us that powerful special interests could jeopardize our democracy is very interesting to me.)

I feel that senator Obama’s election is a hopeful reflection of how Adams and Jefferson together helped shape our country: yes, we do have a government of the people, for the people and by the people,” and the rule of law has made it so. But, our democracy is still in peril of being swallowed up by corporations, the military complex and who knows what other groups who will always attempt to impose their special interests by pushing their agendas through our sacred halls of government. Senator Obama’s election is a grand example that there is still hope for us common folk, even though blue collar workers may view him as a typical Harvard-elitist.

Also, I am delighted to see a man of mixed racial background achieve this position in our country for personal reasons. I, too have a mixed racial background. Growing up and well into my young adulthood, my background was a source of much turmoil and conflict. But, as I matured, I see such a background as an asset, even though I occasionally experience a cold handshake, a condescending stare and, thankfully, a rare outright racial putdown. Today, my friends and I joke about my Chilean, Basque and French ancestry, with the secure knowledge that I am an American first and foremost. I wish I could say that such a mixed heritage has not been problematic for some of my patients. But, I have solid evidence that a significant number of complaints about my practice, while couched on billing, miscommunication and my failed attempts to lighten up dealings with humor, are veiled displays of lack of respect because of my skin color.

But I digress.

Senator Obama’s historic run for the Presidency touches “half-breeds” like me in a very personal way. But, if you are 100% white, or of another race, I hope that you too find his unprecedented success inspiring. After all, it is an awe-inspiring example, as he puts it, of our quest for a “more perfect Union.”

Who knows… we may even get a health care system that is better, more democratic, and more in keeping with the rule of law, instead of the covert and overt health care system we have that clearly favors special interests. Even though the ‘business of America is business,” our next President’s administration would do well to return to solid principles of government, like the Roman “salus populi suprema lex,” or “the health of the people is the supreme law of the land.” Perhaps we may shine a more discriminatory light on the Roman dictum that now rules, “bread and circus.” If the powerful wish to control the masses they make food and entertainment readily available and even addicting, so that people think themselves to be free because they can choose between many different brands of bread and circus, while remaining ignorant of key social issues that have the most impact on their lives.

As November approaches, let us vote for the candidate that we feel is best prepared to stand up for the rule of law so that we the people may have better health and a better chance of a successful pursuit of happiness. For me, that means senator Obama. But, I won’t hold my breath that he will drive the more Darwinian money changers from our temples of commerce.