Thursday 5 July 2012

Do your own blogging... which I look at all the stories I've been meaning to write about and finally admit that I never will. So instead, here are some webpages that caught my eye last month with some very brief comments. You do the rest.

From the New York Times, an admission that decades of anti-salt propaganda has been based on pathetically little evidence:

“You can say without any shadow of a doubt,” as I was told then by Drummond Rennie, an editor for The Journal of the American Medical Association, that the authorities pushing the eat-less-salt message had “made a commitment to salt education that goes way beyond the scientific facts.”

Still, where's the harm in telling people to eat less salt?

With nearly everyone focused on the supposed benefits of salt restriction, little research was done to look at the potential dangers. But four years ago, Italian researchers began publishing the results from a series of clinical trials, all of which reported that, among patients with heart failure, reducing salt consumption increased the risk of death. Those trials have been followed by a slew of studies suggesting that reducing sodium to anything like what government policy refers to as a “safe upper limit” is likely to do more harm than good.

Oops! And what do you suppose the anti-salt lobby resort to when their hypothesis is questioned?

Proponents of the eat-less-salt campaign tend to deal with this contradictory evidence by implying that anyone raising it is a shill for the food industry and doesn’t care about saving lives. An N.I.H. administrator told me back in 1998 that to publicly question the science on salt was to play into the hands of the industry. “As long as there are things in the media that say the salt controversy continues,” he said, “they win.”

Sound familiar?

In the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, former BMJ editor Dr Richard Smith and colleagues make the obvious, but rarely acknowledged, point that maybe—just maybe—people in public health have ideological and political goals which makes them a teensy-weensy bit biased. An interesting article and one which mentions public choice theory, so hurrah for that.

Our message is simple: we must recognize that we are all conflicted and declare accordingly. A view of the world that sees employees of private for-profit companies as conflicted and doctors, or employees of public or academic bodies, as not, is naïve, potentially deceptive and likely to distort reader response to new information.

Meanwhile, a study has found that, contrary to popular belief, smoking and drinking do not affect male fertility.

Smoking and drinking has 'little effect' on sperm counts

Lifestyle advice given to tackle male infertility may be futile and could delay other options, according to researchers in the UK.

Their study in the journal Human Reproduction said smoking, alcohol consumption and being obese did not affect semen quality.

It's a good job we waited for some empirical evidence before sticking dodgy warnings on cigarette packs, eh?

What? We didn't? Oh well.

Down in New Zealand, a man has been caught growing tobacco worth $2 million. And this is the country that wants to go for all-out tobacco prohibition by 2025? Hey, what could go wrong?

On the related issue of counterfeit cigarettes, ASH Scotland's lie-fest continues with this particularly ill-informed and dangerous remark...

The Transcrime report argues that ‘counterfeit tobacco products have been proved to cause even more serious damage to human health’ than legal cigarettes. This is simply not true, indeed research by the Canadian government has concluded that contraband tobacco poses the same risk of harmful health effects as legal cigarettes.

Utter nonsense, as the briefest fact-checking reveals. These ASH cretins really need to be stopped before they cause any more damage. F2C Scotland has more on this.

In California, Prop 29 has been defeated. It would have added an extra dollar to the price of a pack of cigarettes. In an extraordinarily close contest, it was finally rejected. This was a very interesting outcome as it shows that a large proportion of nonsmokers are prepared to vote against what appeared to be a free ride. The money raised was supposedly earmarked for cancer research, but it seems that Californians realised that what this really meant was that Stanton Glantz and his cronies would be given untold millions to add to their already lavishly funded tobakko kontrol programmes and decided that the dollars would be better kept in the pockets of taxpayers.

Stanton Glantz himself accepted the verdict with good grace and commended the electorate on its collective wisdom. I'm joking of course. He blamed it all on the tobacco industry and the media. He was particularly angry about the LA Times, which approves of higher tobacco taxes but disagrees with giving hundreds of millions of dollars to UCSF to research seventh-hand smoke. Glantz was so lost for words that he started making them up.

The LA Times perseveration reminds me of a kid who knows they did something wrong and is coming up with constantly changing explanations for why.

I guess it's too much for a University professor to know a word like 'perseverance'.

Speaking of the LA Times, here is another of those 'treat food like tobacco' opinion pieces...

Over the last few months, we’ve weighed in on how best to curb the growing obesity problem in this country: peer pressure, educating kids, banning sugary drinks, going retro. Perhaps the solution is simpler than we think. Identify the enemy (sugar, corn) and kill it. Stop eating it, stop subsidizing it, stop promoting it. In fact, slap warning labels on processed foods and put 'em in the same category as tobacco, so that at least consumers will know that microwaveable low-fat creamed corn isn't the good idea they think it is.

And speaking of California, the Golden State has found something else to ban: foie gras...

It is the kind of furtive atmosphere that might have been found in 1920s speakeasies as miscreants knocked back homemade liquor.

But this is California almost a century later – and this time it is not drinkers who are being driven underground, but subversive gourmets who cannot live without a quick fix of foie gras.

From July 1 the golden state will be the first in the US to outlaw this controversial delicacy, made from the livers of specially fattened ducks, but enthusiasts are not letting it go without a fight.

They have dubbed the ban "foie-mageddon" and a final stand has been launched in the form of secret last minute dinner parties.

It's hard not to agree with this gentleman...

"I think in California they just love to ban everything. If someone looks like they're having more fun than them, they'll ban it. I'm going to have to go to Las Vegas or Reno in future."

Over in Alberta, Canada, it looks like the tobacco control snake-oil still isn't working...

Youth smoking on the rise in Alberta, Stats Can says

More young Albertans are taking up the smoking habit, Alberta Health said in its annual report released Thursday, particularly those aged 20 to 24.

While the smoking rate for that age group declined between 2003 and 2009, it started to trend upward in 2010.

Alberta brought in a tobacco display ban in July 2008. This is hardly the first time a rise in youth smoking has occurred after displays are banned — see page 31 of The Dark Market (PDF).

And finally, after it was revealed that the Causeway Cannibal was not on 'bath salts'—or any other strong street drug or legal high—there are questions that need answering.

"There is no doubt in anybody's mind the guy was on something or he was totally insane," Aguilar said Wednesday.

Clue: he was totally insane. But that isn't good enough for some folk...

Although toxicology tests searched for many known drugs and compounds, Aguilar said further investigation may be warranted. "My guess is that this is a drug they don't know the compounds of yet," he said.

Yeah, that'll be it. Don't let science get in the way of your insupportable hunch.


ThomasBHall said...

Wasn't the cannibal guy supposedly on bath salts a certified schizophrenic? From the Medical Daily article:

Eugene was arrested eight times since the age of 18, four times on charges related to marijuana, and had allegedly threatened to murder his mother. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but authorities are unsure whether he ever sought treatment.

But friends are nonetheless surprised, as he had apparently been reforming his life. He was participating in bible study, reading the Koran, and told friends that he was attempting to stop smoking marijuana. His girlfriend says that she believes that the cause of his behavior lies in something supernatural, with a curse put over him.

Anonymous said...

I caught that one a couple weeks ago Chris about the male fertility. Seems our side got their study out first followed by a few days later the one that says it harms male fertility.........


I used one against the other in a comments section last week.

Anonymous said...

Chris you might wanna check out this study from this morning. It has ASH's finger prints all over it yet no mention they funded it.

We know theres a connection perhaps you can find it.

Looks like ASH is doing damage control!

One fifth of UK customers more likely to visit pubs following smoking ban

One-fifth of customers visit pubs more frequently as a result of the 2007 smoking ban, according to a new survey of nearly 5,000 people.
Customer intelligence company Market Force Information surveyed 4,817 UK customers to see how they felt about socialising in pubs.

It found that five years on from the introduction of the smoking ban, 22.4% of respondents said they visited a pub more frequently. Of those 22.4%, 92% were non-smokers.

Meanwhile, 70% of parents are more likely to take their children to the pub with them than they were before.


dearieme said...

Allow me to sing the praises of the junkfoodscience blog. The blogger has stopped adding to it but her old posts are very good. Here's one on salt, for instance.

David C said...

A few caustic comments and the link works fine. Thanks for all your hard work Chris - keep it up!

Mark Wadsworth said...

That's a good compendium.

It stands to reason that the "healthy" amount of salt to eat is "somewhere in a wide range between not much and quite a lot" because we know that some cultures eat a lot and others not so much and there's no big difference in life spans etc.

Iain Clark said...

As someone with high blood pressure who likes saltly food it would be a pity, to say the least, if I've been avoiding salt for no reason.

And I've known for a long time smoking and drinking don't effect fertility much, as my 3 kids can testify.

Jonathan Bagley said...

I've been puzzled by the anti salt campaign for several years. The main UK anti salt body appears to be CASH (consensus action on salt and health). In 2009 and 2010 it received two thirds of its £300,000 annual income from a property company called OMC Investments,
through the Marcella Trust
OMC stands for Octav (Botnar of Nissan notoriety), Marcella/Marcela?, his wife and Camelia, his daughter. See the bottom of this page.
I can understand why some people, for quasi religious reasons, want rid of tobacco and alcohol - they provide enjoyment without paying a price, but why distort scientific evidence about salt? Why has salt become such an emotive subject and why, in the face of so much evidence to the contrary, have the authorities deemed it to be harmful? Any ideas?
Last year R4's More or Less interviewed Prof Graham MacGregor of CASH. During the interview he claimed that salt is as dangerous a tobacco. I emailed the programme, suggesting this was very irresponsible and the person who replied agreed and said that maybe they would come back to salt at some future date.

Anonymous said...


"The modern salt saga started in 1904 with a paper by Ambard and Brochard who showed an association between salt intake and blood pressure in six patients. On the basis of these observations they created a salt–blood pressure hypothesis."

"In the introduction of his 1960 paper Dahl defines his position, namely that salt is deleterious. Salt is compared with fall-out, carcinogens and atherogenic factors, and later in the paper with tobacco, alcohol, and fat"


SteveW said...

Every time a piece of junk 'science' gets published, somewhere a small kitten both is and isn't killed, probably.

Devil's Kitchen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.