Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wishing Everyone a Safe, Happy and Healthy Holiday

I am taking off to Wyoming for a holiday clan gathering. So best wishes to everyone for a great Thanksgiving (or whatever you celebrate) and I will be back on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Technorati Claim Code

Here is the secret code:


If you aren't Technorati you can just ignore this. So there.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Faith vs Science

While I personally do not see any essential conflict between science and faith, it sometimes seems like the two have been at loggerheads since long before the Catholic Church locked up Galileo Galilee for supporting the Copernican heresy that the earth revolved around the sun. We see this all the time today, from the unproductive argument among Creationism, Intelligent Design and Darwinism to the way science is routinely perverted and misrepresented in the cause of one political position or another.

I was at a nutrition related event a couple of weeks ago and the subject of soy came up in conversation. I offered as how I thought the issue of whether or not soy was beneficial or dangerous was unresolved, and that the science was as yet inconclusive. For example, there is no doubt doubt that soy contains phytoestrogens, which are known to promote the growth of breast cancer cells in animals. However soy also acts as an angiogenesis inhibitor by blocking receptor sites and so competing with the "bad" estorgens. As always in nutirition, thisngs are complex and trade-offs exist. But back to my point....

The group quickly divided itself into "pro-soy" and "anti-soy" factions and rational discussion came to an end. You would have thought that my suggestion that the jury was still out and that soy had some beneficial properties was an exhortation to go forth and kill puppies.

In a recent article on this subject in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado College psychology professor John Horner writes, "There are some who for ideological reasons want to deny science its due. They instead want to pick and choose what scientific discoveries they are willing to believe." We face many serious challenges today. Global warming, malnutrition, viral pandemics, etc. If we are going to address these issues by first deciding what we want to believe, and then ignoring anything that conflicts with our view, we are all in deep trouble.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pills or Shakes?

One often observes a spirited debate between proponents of pill/capsule nutrient delivery systems and those who favor a liquid form. All too often the arguments are made and presented by those offering supplement products in one form or the other, promoting their own products and debunking the alternative. Here is an excellent discussion of the issue by Dr. Richard Drucker, a naturopath, and Dr. Michael Roth, a chiropractor. For myself, I will be using liquid form supplements for many of the reasons presented in their article. Whichever you decide is best for you, make it an informed decision.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wellness, Nutrition Cited as Key to Genuine Healthcare Reform

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hansen speaks with Republican governor Jim Douglas of Vermont about that states experience with heathcare reform. He says Vermont's own state-initiated reforms could serve as a model for national changes in health care policy. Listen to the entire interview, then contact your Federal representatives and demand to know why nothing like this is even being discussed at that level.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brace Yourself for Online Ad Onslaught from Drug Makers

Following up on my earlier discussion of drug advertising on television, yesterday the FDA opened a two day hearing to begin the process of  establishing rules and guidelines for how pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to utilize online information sources such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to "distribute information" online. Over 800 people showed up to make their opinions heard, including drug company representatives, consumer advocate groups, medical professionals and "web company" (Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, etc.) spokespeople.

If you have read my prior post you already know what I think of this cynical ploy to convince yet more people to take drugs they don't need. Nothing said at the first day of hearings makes me change my distaste for it. "Drug advertising “has been one of the few cash cows remaining for traditional media like television and magazines,” says the Wall Street Journal, going on: ”Drug companies spent $4.4 billion on ads for prescription drugs last year....” Google, Yahoo and the others apparently strongly supported the drug companies push for online access direct to consumers because they felt they were "missing out" on the fortune to be made from the ads.

Hopefully somewhere in this circus there will be time to discuss the lack of educational content in TV ads, the increase in consumption of drugs driven by consumers asking their doctors for them and the total absence of any discussion of alternatives to popping expensive pills.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Healthcare" Reform Clears the House

If you have never contacted your US Senator to express your opinion on impending legislation, this might be the time to take the plunge. The US House of Representatives on Saturday passed its "healthcare reform" bill by the narrow margin of 5 votes (220 - 215), only 3 votes more than needed for passage. Regardless of your opinion on healtcare reform or this bill in particular, its fair to say that it is not about reforming the US healthcare system at all but rather changing the rules by which Americans obtain heath insurance. How adding millions of additional people into a system that we already cannot pay for or afford qualifies as "reform" is mysterious to me. How another TRILLION dollars of healthcare spending that will eventually be financed by debt moves us forward toward the goal of affordable healthcare for all our citizens escapes me.

Attention now turns to the US Senate, which is working on its own bill. There are some key differences between the bill that the House approved and the bill the Senate is considering, including:

  • The House bill requires employers to provide coverage; the Senate does not.
  • The House bill pays for the coverage expansion by raising taxes on upper-income earners; the Senate uses a variety of taxes and fees, including a levy on high-cost insurance plans.
  • The House bill costs about $1.2 TRILLION over 10 years; the Senate version is under $900 BILLION.
By far the largest issue as the Senate crafts its final bill is the so-called "public option" to create a government sponsored health insurance program that would compete with private insurers. There is also considerable skepticism about the real cost of the program, particularly the $400B in "savings" to be realized by reducing Medicare program payments to healthcare providers. Current law already includes these cost cutting provisions but the Congress has never allowed a cut to be implemented, voting year by year to rescind them.

However this turns out it will impact YOU and your heathcare and your income. Whichever side of the issue you are on, don't wait until it is too late to make your voice heard.

Friday, November 6, 2009

There's Gold in Them Thar' Pills

Between 1996 and 2000 US pharmaceutical companies spent nearly $2.5 billion dollars on advertising aimed at consumers, a seven-fold increase in spending. Then it nearly doubled again, reaching $4.5 billion in 2006. Criticism of direct-to-consumer advertising has intensified since 2004, after Merck withdrew Vioxx, a heavily advertised painkiller, when a clinical trial showed that it sharply increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes. While accounting for only about 16% of the total spent promoting drugs in 2000 (the rest was spent on promotions aimed at doctors and health care professionals), television ads have come under intense scrutiny of late.

A 2007 study at UCLA suggests that TV ads may influence American consumers to over-medicate. Among the findings were that "the ads had virtually no educational value, failed to describe who is most at risk for which illnesses, what their symptoms might be, and whether non-medicinal alternatives such as changes to lifestyle like exercise and diet might also be viable options." Other troubling conclusions were that the ads: failed to described the symptoms and causes of illnesses,  mentioned the associated risk factors and how common or rare they are only about 1 time in 4; portrayed people losing control over their lives and then regaining it once they took the medication; used emotional appeals to influence viewers; and failed to show lifestyle and behavior change as viable alternatives except to suggest that changes to lifestyle would not be enough to deal with the illness.

For pharmaceutical companies there is a lot of money at stake here. According to the UCLA study Americans are exposed to as much as 16 hours of televised drug ads each week. As many as 1/3 of these viewers go on to ask their doctors about the drug, and as many as 2/3 of those who ask eventually receive a prescription for it. Since 1992, the number of prescriptions used by the average American has risen from 7 to 12. This is an increase of nearly 60% and has added about $180 billion to our annual healthcare spending. Sales of Seldane, one of the first drugs to be advertised on television after the FDA relaxed the rules in 1986, increased from $34 million to over $800 million. It was withdrawn from the market in 1997 due to serious (sometimes fatal) interactions and side effects.

There is no doubt that drugs can save lives. But we need to stop looking at them as harmless miracle cures for chronic conditions brought on by poor lifestyle choices. And when so much money is involved, we need to be doubly alert to look out for ourselves. Prescription medication is now the second-largest cause of "accidental" deaths in the United States, a 5-year 68% increase. Make sure you don't become part of these statistics.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I Can't.... I Don't..... I'm Not.....

The following link is must reading for anyone in network marketing who finds it challenging to handle the common objections that we hear all the time. I didn't know there were 13 of them, but a few of them I hear every day. Kudos to Network Marketing Review for posting this gem.