Wednesday, January 06, 2016
High doses of Vitamin D can be bad for you
I often wonder whether the Left or the Right are more likely to be health freaks. In particular, who is more likely to be a pill popper? I was amused to see how science fiction author and conservative blogger Bill Quick was attached to his "supplements". He clearly believed that his daily dose of vitamins etc kept him healthy. When I made skeptical comments about that (Me, skeptical?) he got on his high horse and unfriended me on Facebook and put a block on my email access to him. I was mightily amused by that act of religious devotion. He even called me unscientific. When a novelist calls an actual much-published scientist unscientific, that is amusing too. It would have been interesting if he had tried to prove it but he did not
Anyway, there is plenty of literature showing that too much of anything tends to be bad for you. I think the craze for high doses of vitamin C has now run its course by now, for instance.
The recent study below is only a small one but getting any significant effect from such a small sample over a short period is interesting. The point of the study was to find out if you could make oldsters (like Bill Quick) less shaky on their pins by dosing them up with a pile of vitamin D. Sadly, the hi-dose vitamin just made them fall over MORE.
Some kind person should pass on a link to this to poor old Bill Quick. His site is Daily Pundit. If it is of any interest, at age 72 I take no pills of any kind. I have a weakness for gin, though
Monthly High-Dose Vitamin D Treatment for the Prevention of Functional Decline: A Randomized Clinical Trial
By Heike A. Bischoff-Ferrari, et al.
Importance: Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with poor physical performance.
Objective: To determine the effectiveness of high-dose vitamin D in lowering the risk of functional decline.
Design, Setting, and Participants: One-year, double-blind, randomized clinical trial conducted in Zurich, Switzerland. The screening phase was December 1, 2009, to May 31, 2010, and the last study visit was in May 2011. The dates of our analysis were June 15, 2012, to October 10, 2015. Participants were 200 community-dwelling men and women 70 years and older with a prior fall.
Interventions: Three study groups with monthly treatments, including a low-dose control group receiving 24 000 IU of vitamin D3 (24 000 IU group), a group receiving 60 000 IU of vitamin D3 (60 000 IU group), and a group receiving 24 000 IU of vitamin D3 plus 300 μg of calcifediol (24 000 IU plus calcifediol group).
Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary end point was improving lower extremity function (on the Short Physical Performance Battery) and achieving 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of at least 30 ng/mL at 6 and 12 months. A secondary end point was monthly reported falls. Analyses were adjusted for age, sex, and body mass index.
Results: The study cohort comprised 200 participants (men and women ≥70 years with a prior fall). Their mean age was 78 years, 67.0% (134 of 200) were female, and 58.0% (116 of 200) were vitamin D deficient (<20 ng/mL) at baseline. Intent-to-treat analyses showed that, while 60 000 IU and 24 000 IU plus calcifediol were more likely than 24 000 IU to result in 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of at least 30 ng/mL (P = .001), they were not more effective in improving lower extremity function, which did not differ among the treatment groups (P = .26). However, over the 12-month follow-up, the incidence of falls differed significantly among the treatment groups, with higher incidences in the 60 000 IU group (66.9%; 95% CI, 54.4% to 77.5%) and the 24 000 IU plus calcifediol group (66.1%; 95% CI, 53.5%-76.8%) group compared with the 24 000 IU group (47.9%; 95% CI, 35.8%-60.3%) (P = .048). Consistent with the incidence of falls, the mean number of falls differed marginally by treatment group. The 60 000 IU group (mean, 1.47) and the 24 000 IU plus calcifediol group (mean, 1.24) had higher mean numbers of falls compared with the 24 000 IU group (mean, 0.94) (P = .09).
JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 04, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.7148
A new financial meltdown looming?
By economic historian MARTIN HUTCHINSON
Imagine a game of Monopoly(™ Parker Brothers) in which the money supply for each player was infinite. You would see a glut of houses on all available spaces, followed in due course by a glut of hotels. Players would never go bankrupt, and all available spaces would be built until they could not physically hold any more wooden house/hotel tokens. Relaxing the normal constraints would make it a very dull game, with little suspense involved.
Well, that’s basically where we are today with the Fed’s monetary policies. The glut of houses happened in 2007; we are now seeing the glut of hotels. Needless to say, just as the housing glut became a deep depression with massive loss of wealth, so too today’s glut of hotels will shortly come to an unpleasant end.
The hotels glut has been building for several years. Having spoken at a hotel conference in 1999, I am the lucky recipient of a weekly newsletter, the International Hotel Investment News, detailing bids, deals and expansion in the global hotel industry. This has been extraordinarily bullish for about five years now, and last week reported that 2015 was yet another record year for lodging transactions, with deal volume up 56% in the first half of the year worldwide and 73% above last year’s level in the United States. Total deal volume in 2015 is expected to come in at $68 billion. The largest of these transactions, Marriott’s takeover of Starwood, is expected to create the world’s largest hotel company with 1.1 million rooms. Overall, IHIF described 2015 as a “dead sprint toward high occupancy and record rates.”
While business and leisure travel have also been increasing year by year, the world’s slow economic growth must put a cap on them – as evidenced by the positively spooky deserted nature of a large luxury hotel in Stamford, CT. in which I spent a day just before Christmas. Not the high season, admittedly, but Stamford is a very prosperous town and a major nexus of the hedge fund and financial sectors – in other words one of the world’s solidest and best hotel markets.
The problem is worldwide; Hong Kong retail sales are reported to be down in absolute terms this year because of a dearth of Chinese tourists. You can bet that Hong Kong hotels, an exuberantly overbuilt market, will also be hurting badly. The Macao casino business, also, is down by about two thirds following China’s crackdown on corruption.
What’s more the hotel space is being disrupted by Airbnb, the agency for private apartment and room lettings, which currently has only $900 million in projected revenues this year but in 2015 raised $1.5 billion in new venture capital on a $25.5 billion valuation, double the valuation of Starwood, the object of the year’s largest hotel M&A transaction. As we know from the retail business in 2008-09, that kind of disruption has to produce bankruptcies somewhere, either of the disruptor (unlikely with such a well-funded operation) or among the disrupted.
You would expect a hotel bubble. The Fed had ensured that banks have oodles of money to lend at ultra-low interest rates, generally below the rate of inflation before the risk premium is added in. That has naturally caused a surplus of investment in real estate, which has apparently stable cash flows that can surplus gigantic amounts of debt if the interest rates are low enough. In 2004-07 the surplus went into housing. Then the market crashed, negating participants’ assumptions about the invulnerability of home values to market decline.
This time around, the memory of pain from housing is too recent, so that sector has remained relatively controlled (though a price rise of 5.2% nationwide in the year to October, at a time when general inflation is about zero, indicates that exuberance has not entirely disappeared.) Retail real estate, too, had produced a lot of losses in 2008-09, as the Internet shook up the sector and consigned major operations such as Blockbuster Video to irrelevance. The hotel sector, on the other hand, has no recent history of major disaster and apparently had the right sort of steady income, especially in the luxury sector, which could be used to support a mountain of debt. Thus in November 2015 the number of hotel rooms under construction was 21% above the previous year (which was already a buoyant market), with some markets such as Los Angeles/Long Beach up over 100%.
The junk bond market is already in trouble, largely because of energy sector financing that depended on $100 oil. During the course of 2016, it is likely to see wave after wave of defaults and downgrades, as companies run into difficulties and discover that their cash flow is insufficient and refinancing possibilities have dried up. The tightening in the junk bond market and the leveraged loan market will also affect the hotel sector, as companies with unexpectedly tight cash flow and big expansion plans find themselves unable to raise the necessary finance.
The result will be a credit market Armageddon, similar to that of 2007-08, but this time not confined to housing. Just as in 2007-08, financial institutions will find themselves caught in the resulting backwash. This time, however, the biggest losers will not be the investment banks caught in the intricacies of securitized housing finance but the banks themselves, which will have lent directly against energy and hotels, without having laid off all the risk on unfortunate German regional banks through securitization. The downturn will prove that it is not necessary to be large and financially sophisticated to get into difficulties; if the Fed pursues extreme monetary policies even the simplest bank business strategy can go drastically wrong.
Monopoly™ was originally invented to show the evils of real estate speculation, and popularize Henry George’s (1839-97) eccentric theories on land ownership, which held that all land should be held in common with any increases in its value taxed at 100% to contribute to the needs of the state. The game failed to move the needle much on the popularity of George’s beliefs, but we can expect that a real financial crisis, which will appear to have been caused by excessive property speculation, will bring George’s theories very much back into vogue.
In 2008, the left asserted that the crisis had been caused by a lack of sufficiently detailed bank regulation, rather than by a combination of crazed Fed monetary policies and Federal meddling with the housing market to achieve social goals thought to be desirable. This time around, apart from a general demand for more regulation and more state spending, it seems unimaginable that we will escape demands for higher taxes. Thus a George tax on land value appreciation (without the George preference for abolishing all other taxes to make way for it) seems a likely demand, concentrated on the rich and with a certain amount of plausibility in the claim that it is relatively economically un-damaging.
Monopoly™ is realistic in that it is an excess of money in the game which produces bankruptcies; if money is limited the smart player concentrates on acquiring railroad stations and reaping the modest but steady rewards from those genuine operating businesses. Only when the amounts of money in the game become huge does the concentration of hotels become excessive and the game become a form of financial Russian Roulette with massive, indeed excessive rewards for the winners and total wipeout for the losers. Sound familiar?
The solution to the current cycle of massive overbuilding in real estate and speculative projects, producing massive and destructive bankruptcy cycles once a decade is simple as in Monopoly™ – reduce the supply of money and make it more expensive to borrow. Our current economy, if operated with sound money and light regulation, would produce all the productivity gains of the halcyon period 1948-73.
Scotland: Another prominent Leftist who thinks she is above the restrictions she wants to place on others
Self-love is very big among Leftists
A nationalist MP who campaigned against the sell-off of social housing has been accused of 'shameless hypocrisy' after buying up ex-council flats.
Dr Lisa Cameron makes thousands of pounds from renting the properties to her constituents, who pay more than tenants in identical homes still in public hands.
A Scottish Daily Mail investigation has uncovered the details of her £628,000 portfolio of seven properties, which includes five ex-local authority dwellings in impoverished areas – three of which were repossessions, sold off at bargain prices after previous owners could not keep up their mortgage payments.
The homes are now rented out on the private market for up to £400 a month – around £150 more than the average council rent for the East Kilbride area she represents.
Dr Cameron's husband, who was declared bankrupt less than three years ago, is responsible for the day-to-day running of the flourishing business.
But at a General Election hustings in April, 43-year-old Dr Cameron vowed to 'oppose the sale of housing association homes', arguing: 'We need to make sure we have affordable homes for people within our communities. We would end austerity to the most vulnerable people and support them in finding homes.'
In recent years there have been up to 4,000 people on the housing waiting list in East Kilbride, and South Lanarkshire Council has struggled with a shortfall of affordable housing.
In 2013, Nicola Sturgeon scrapped the popular right-to-buy policy for council tenants in an effort to prevent the further sell-off of homes.
The First Minister, who has said it is 'absolutely vital that people can access social housing when they need it most', will come under intense pressure to take action against her MP.
The party is still reeling after it suspended another MP, Michelle Thomson, amid a police investigation into allegations of mortgage fraud involving property deals.
On top of the £74,000 Westminster salary to which she is entitled, Dr Cameron receives £150 a month from her company, Psychological Services Scotland, for five hours' work supervising the reports of an assistant forensic psychologist.
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)
Posted by JR at 1:27 AM