Thursday, December 31, 2015

She's got no taste at all

Marrying Bill was bad enough ....


Myth: Antioxidants are good and free radicals are bad

I have been pointing out for years what a crock the antioxidant theory is so I was pleased to read the expose below in "New Scientist"

In December 1945, chemist Denham Harman's wife suggested that he read an article in Ladies' Home Journal entitled 'Tomorrow You May Be Younger'. It sparked his interest in ageing, and years later, as a research associate at the University of California, Berkeley, Harman had a thought "out of the blue", as he later recalled. Ageing, he proposed, is caused by free radicals, reactive molecules that build up in the body as by-products of metabolism and lead to cellular damage.

Scientists rallied around the free-radical theory of ageing, including the corollary that antioxidants, molecules that neutralize free radicals, are good for human health. By the 1990s, many people were taking antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin C and β-carotene. It is "one of the few scientific theories to have reached the public: gravity, relativity and that free radicals cause ageing, so one needs to have antioxidants", says Siegfried Hekimi, a biologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Yet in the early 2000s, scientists trying to build on the theory encountered bewildering results: mice genetically engineered to overproduce free radicals lived just as long as normal mice4, and those engineered to overproduce antioxidants didn't live any longer than normal5. It was the first of an onslaught of negative data, which initially proved difficult to publish. The free-radical theory "was like some sort of creature we were trying to kill. We kept firing bullets into it, and it just wouldn't die," says David Gems at University College London, who started to publish his own negative results in 2003 (ref. 6). Then, one study in humans7 showed that antioxidant supplements prevent the health-promoting effects of exercise, and another associated them with higher mortality8.

Nutrition: Vitamins on trial

None of those results has slowed the global antioxidant market, which ranges from food and beverages to livestock feed additives. It is projected to grow from US$2.1 billion in 2013 to $3.1 billion in 2020. "It's a massive racket," says Gems. "The reason the notion of oxidation and ageing hangs around is because it is perpetuated by people making money out of it."

Today, most researchers working on ageing agree that free radicals can cause cellular damage, but that this seems to be a normal part of the body's reaction to stress. Still, the field has wasted time and resources as a result. And the idea still holds back publications on possible benefits of free radicals, says Michael Ristow, a metabolism researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. "There is a significant body of evidence sitting in drawers and hard drives that supports this concept, but people aren't putting it out," he says. "It's still a major problem."

Some researchers also question the broader assumption that molecular damage of any kind causes ageing. "There's a question mark about whether really the whole thing should be chucked out," says Gems. The trouble, he says, is that "people don't know where to go now".



Finding the Real Conservative

As yet another primary election season heats up, how do we cut through the rhetoric and evaluate candidates? One sure way is to have a measuring stick based on more than personal opinion.

One such standard is the word "conservative." I hear candidates and elected officials use it all the time. What does it really mean? In my opinion, the late Russell Kirk spelled it out better than just about anyone. This all-but-forgotten man laid out ten principles of conservative thought many seem to have forgotten. See how many you recognize.

First, conservatives believe in an enduring moral order. This concept is much broader than religious dogma. Kirk said that human nature was a constant, and moral truths were permanent. That’s not surprising considering that 94% of Americans believe in God, according to pollster George Barna. Surprisingly, Kirk said that a society in which men and women are governed by an enduring belief in moral order—by a strong sense of right and wrong—and by personal convictions about justice and honor—that would be a good society, regardless of the political machinery. Politics do not determine the trajectory of a nation—the people do. Nancy Pearcy put it well when she said that politics is downstream from culture.

Second, tradition in a culture is important and should not be tossed out on a whim. Kirk actually calls this "continuity." What he meant is that order and justice and freedom are the result of centuries of trials and reflections and sacrifice. Change should be gradual and calculated—never undoing traditions as a knee-jerk reaction. Often times, an election cycle bring cries for "change," but true conservatives should always be wary of change. Wary doesn’t mean completely closed to some change though. It just means "slow change." If you look at how our bi-cameral system of government loaded with checks and balances was designed, clearly our founders thought "slow" was good. For this reason, Presidential Executive Orders should be used sparingly.

Third, conservatives adhere to Edmund Burke’s mantra that the individual is foolish, but the species is wise. Using that advice, real conservatives stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before them and look to enduring wisdom. That means not only the Ronald Reagans, but other great thinkers and statesmen beyond our lifetime like T.S. Eliot, Adam Smith, Sir Walter Scott, and of course, Burke himself. Not sure you will see any of these authors on display as you walk in your local library.

Fourth, true conservatives look at the long-term consequences of laws and policies. I fear this principle frequently gets tossed in favor of re-election. Kirk said that rushing into legislation or policies without weighing the long-term consequences will actually create new abuses in the future. We should slow down and look as far as we can into the future.

Fifth, conservatives know good and well that you can’t totally level the economic playing field, and in fact, we should not aspire for it. Robbing one taxpayer to pay another truly violates conservative thought because it is not sustainable. In our society, we have tried to make charity the government’s job, and true conservatives have to take issue with that practice. Churches and non-profits should take serious their role in culture.

Sixth, mankind is messed-up. Kirk didn’t exactly quote the Bible, but conservatives believe that because man is flawed from birth that no perfect social order can ever be created. All that we can reasonably expect, Kirk said, is a tolerably ordered, just and free society, in which evil and suffering continue to lurk. Can morality be legislated? Kirk would say that all laws are an effort to legislate morality, and that is okay.

Seventh, conservatives know that great societies are built upon the foundation of private property. We see it in the Ten Commandments. Policies that seek to redistribute wealth and property should be an anathema to the real conservative. That is one of my issues with COP21, the Paris Agreement on the reduction of climate change, and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Both are a form of wealth redistribution. While getting rich should not be the conservative’s chief aim, the institution of private property has been a powerful instrument for teaching responsibility, shaping integrity, creating prosperity, and providing the opportunities for people to think and act. It is the opportunity to go from rags to riches. This opportunity has given us the Truett Cathys (of Chick-fil-a fame) and others who worked their way up from nothing.

Eighth, conservatives favor smaller government at a federal level, and champion small governments such as county commissions and city councils. Decisions most affecting the lives of citizens should be made locally, and as Kirk would say, voluntarily. That is how I got started. I ran a city council race for a friend. A strong, centralized, and distant federal government tends to be more hostile to human freedom and dignity.

Ninth, the conservative believes in flattening the power —or limiting government. Real conservatives know the danger of power being vested in just a few even it is called benevolent. Constitutional restrictions are necessary, political checks and balance a must, and enforcement of the law a must—all the while balancing the claims of authority with the claims of liberty.

Finally, conservatives should be slow to change. Any thinking conservative would be resistant to hastily throwing out the old way of doing something in favor of something completely new —even in the name of "positive change." Progress, or change, is important—for Kirk said a society would stagnate without it. Change has to be reconciled with the permanent though, and both are important.

When Kirk revised these ten principles in 1993 before his death in 1994, he said that the word "conservative" was being abused. If alive today, he probably wouldn’t be surprised that the distortion has not stopped.

The bottom line is that being "conservative" best describes how you feel about "truth," and whether it is an old thing or a new thing. "Conservative" means you see great value in permanent things. It sounds old-fashioned, and I guess in a way it literally is.

As you evaluate political candidates who use the word "conservative" to describe themselves, ask them what it means and see how close they get to the real definition. I think you will be surprised.



Time to Do Away with the FDA

For individuals suffering from hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus causing liver inflammation, life can be difficult. For 70–85 percent of those with the virus, the condition is chronic, with effects ranging from liver infection to cirrhosis to death.

The nearly 3.2 million Americans suffering from this illness received hope in 2014 with the release of a new drug, Sovaldi. The medicine is nothing short of a godsend for patients. While older treatments are long and not very effective and have a variety of nasty side effects, 90 percent of people taking Sovaldi can expect to be cured in as little as 12 weeks.

The catch? Each pill costs $1,000. A typical course of treatment runs about $84,000.
People have been quick to point out that the price of the drug is prohibitively expensive for many individuals, especially those without adequate medical insurance.

However, before we go pointing the finger at “capitalistic greed,” it’s important to ask some additional questions. Why is only one company allowed to make this product? Why have other competitors not come to the market with cheaper alternatives?

The culprit isn’t capitalism; it’s government, in particular, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA ensures that medicines are “safe,” but the process is agonizingly slow. Currently it takes years to bring new drugs to market. One study found that from 1938 to 2014 the FDA approved only a fraction of the drugs submitted. More important, many approvals were given to but a few companies, namely, Merck, Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer.

This process generates three important effects. First, it effectively grants a government-protected monopoly to those companies. The FDA approval process is so expensive that many smaller companies without the necessary financial resources are prevented from competing. By preventing competitors from coming onto the market, the FDA eliminates the market forces that preclude monopolies. The results are higher prices and fewer drugs, that is, fewer options for patients. For hepatitis patients facing a $1,000 pill, this may literally be a life-and-death issue.

Second, the FDA-approval process can increase drug costs by hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Take Provenge, a prostate-cancer drug. Despite its proven efficacy, FDA mandates have prevented it from going on the market for a full eight years. Researchers estimate that as a result of this delay, patients lost a total of 82,000 years of life. The multiple clinical trials required by the FDA to bring the drug to market meant that the drugmaker needed to increase the price substantially to cover its losses. When the drug was finally released, the therapy cost some $93,000.

The third problem is perhaps counterintuitive. The FDA is said to be necessary to keep unsafe and ineffective drugs off the market because doctors, swayed by pharmaceutical reps or lacking proper information, would prescribe dangerous drugs or worthless to their patients. Actually, in a free market, drug companies and doctors would face strong incentives to make and prescribe medicines that are both effective and safe. If a company manufactured an ineffective drug, it would quickly lose customers in a competitive marketplace. Similarly, if a company created unsafe drugs, it would not only lose customers but would likely be sued. In the same way, a doctor looking to maintain his reputation and practice would face strong free-market incentives to prescribe only safe and effective medicines.

In contrast, FDA regulations encourage both doctors and patients to get lazy about their care. If the FDA is presumed to vouch for the safety of drugs, patients and doctors have less incentive to be concerned about safety themselves. However, the FDA’s track record gives us scant grounds for confidence in the safety of drugs. Between 2004 and 2014 the FDA recalled more than 4,200 medicines. Some 362 were Class I recalls, meaning exposure to drugs could cause serious health consequences and even death.

It’s time to rethink the FDA. While regulating drugs for the sake of the public may sound appealing, it arguably does more harm than good. Ultimately, the FDA increases prices to consumers, slows the production of life-saving drugs, and is alarmingly ineffective.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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