30 November 2003

Green Tea: Drink a lot of it!

There are so many papers in leading medical journals on the positive effects of drinking green tea that I haven't had time to read them all. It's good for preventing heart disease, ulcers, losing weight, you name it. There are dozens of papers on green tea effects on cancer and here is one of the best, because it begins to show the dose response curve, and compares Japanese (a relatively uniform population who all drink green tea) drinking under three cups a dose to those who drink over ten cups a day. The high dose eliminates almost 50% of all cancers and slows down the growth of remaining cancers. Need I say more!

Preventive effects of drinking green tea on cancer and cardiovascular disease: epidemiological evidence for multiple targeting prevention
Nakachi K, Matsuyama S, Miyake S, Suganuma M, Imai K.
Biofactors. 2000;13(1-4):49-54

The significance of drinking green tea in prevention of two of the main lifestyle-related diseases, cancer and cardiovascular disease, was demonstrated in terms of a prospective cohort study on a total of 8,552 general residents in Saitama Prefecture, Japan. On the basis of the follow-up study, we revealed decreased relative risk of cancer incidence for those consuming over 10 cups a day, compared with those consuming below 3 cups: 0.54 (95% confidence interval, 0.22-1.34) for men, 0.57 (0.34-0.98) for women, and 0.59 (0.35-0.98) for both sexes. Furthermore, a significant delay in cancer onset was associated with increased consumption of green tea. Next, decreased relative risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 0.58 (0.34-0.99) for men, 0.82 (0.49-1.38) for women, and 0.72 (0.60-1.04) for members of both sexes consuming over 10 cups a day. Finally, we evaluated the life-prolonging effects of drinking green tea on cumulative survival, using the life table.

19 November 2003

Yahoo News: Heathcare workers worried about the Hartford flu

New Flu Strain Has Doctors and Nurses Worried
Tue Nov 18, 8:41 PM ET by Manuel Ramos

This year's flu season could be brutal, and a new strain going around may not be covered by this year's vaccine.

16 November 2003

AntiAging: Extending our life span

This is the first in a series of notes on a hot paper published recently on the extension of the lifespan of yeast. Why is this important? We are zeroing in on why caloric restriction, the only known life extension agent, works in mice. It is apparently related to the SIR2 gene in mice which is also seen in yeast. An overview of this area of research can be found on Professor Guarente's web site at MIT.

Brad Johnson, who works in Guarente's lab, provides a succinct statement on the issues. "Others in the lab have shown that overexpression of the SIR2 gene in yeast and in C. elegans can extend the lifespan of these organisms. SIR2 is also required for the lifespan-extending effects of caloric restriction in yeast. Caloric restriction can extend lifespan in many different organisms, and this fact, coupled with the proven effects of SIR2 in two evolutionarily diverged organisms, argues that SIR2 genes may have a conserved role in regulating lifespan. Humans have seven different SIR2 homologues. How can we determine if SIR2 genes play a role in human aging? If naturally-occurring polymorphisms in SIR2 genes affect their activity, these activity changes might be tied to different rates of aging or age-associated disease. We are attempting to address the role of SIR2 genes in human longevity by testing for an association of single nucleotide polymorphisms in the human SIR2 genes with lifespan and several physiologic measures of aging in the Framingham Heart Study population. This work is being done in collaboration with Dr. Alan Herbert and his coworkers at Boston University."

15 November 2003

Vaccines and Autism: Congressman Blows the Whistle

There is a lot of controversy on the relationship between mercury in vaccines and autistic children. A recent article in Pediatrics claimed no effect. The author has a strong conflict of interest not revealed by the journal. Fortunately, in this case, a physician congressman blew the whistle. Click here for full text ...


06 November 2003

PBS Documentary: How Alternative Medicine made it at NIH and the nations leading hospitals

If you didn't see this show, you can view it online.

In an attempt to be "unbiased," Frontline gave the critics of alternative medicine more time than they deserved and allowed them to communicate that alternative medicine is a total violation of good science and should be trashed immediately.

They did not mention that it is generally agreed in the medical community that over 85% of the practice of conventional medicine is not evidence based and has never been tested in clinical trials. In fact, this week I attended the Center for Integration of Medicine & Innovative Technology (CIIMIT) annual briefing to stakeholders and variations in physician practice was touted as one of the biggest problems in medicine. CIMIT is one of the leading research consortiums in the United States, maybe the world, and includes all the major hospitals and medical schools in Boston and many of the large hardware, software, and pharmaceutical vendors.

If you have three physicians look at your problem, you are likely to get at least three different treatments. If they give you a drug that has been through a clinical trial, they are likely to give you a dose that is not recommended by the manufacturer (Gleevec was the drug cited at the CIMIT meeting). The Brigham and Women's hospital has published a study showing that over 25% of outpatients are subject to medical error, and in certain cases, like a leading drug prescribed for diabetes, 25% percent of the physicans prescribe the drug to a patient who has conditions on the warning label of the drug that recommend against perscribing of the drug.

I could go on and on about this. The point is that medicine is not as scientific as some would have you believe and there are major problems with its practice. Medical error is the third leading cause of death in this country. A recent report included unnecessary deaths in nursing homes from malnutrition and negligence. With those deaths included, medical error is the number one cause of death in the United States. It is really hard to find a dead patient who took too many vitamin pills.

The only dead person they came up with in the documentary was the overweight baseball player who died in the hot sun, alledgedly from misuse of ephedra. There was no mention of other drugs in this players body, only that the FDA has received 7000 complaints about ephedra. What about aspartame? This neurotoxin has generated more complaints to the FDA than any other drug. How many dead are there? No one knows and nothing is done about it.

There were a couple of issues raised that deserve attention by promoters of alternative medicine:

1. Many supplements do not have in the bottle what the label says. The vendors should be prosecuted and I think there are laws on the books that allow this.

2. Herbs, which I use sparingly, have medicinal affects that may cause negative interactions with perscription drugs. They should have a warning on the label about this, just as prescription drugs have. Given that 25% of physicians do not appear to read warning labels, I doubt the general public is any worse.

3. There are certain things like Bacillus lichiniformis in some supplements which will increase your risk of cancer. Science has not figured this out and the EPA has specifically decided not to regulate it. The NIH should do some real science on this organism. I believe it would have far more benefit that most of the studies they fund today.

There are at least 10 other issues that require serious discussion because the alleged "scientific" logic in the Frontline presentation has fatal flaws that will not hold up to intelligent scrutiny. They include serious misunderstandings of the value and problems with clinical trials, failure to mention that no signficant increase in survival in conventionally treated cancer patients has been seen in the last 25 years since Nixon declared a multibillion dollar war on cancer, a total misrepresentation of the value of the placebo effect, a lack of discussion of the fact that science is thwarted by which treatments get high reimbursements or that amount of treatment depends on the number of specialists of certain types in your area. I'll have to save these and others for further discussion in other notes.