The following is not exactly a news article – but rather a very important extract from the Canadian Government’s own website, and should be required reading for any journalist proposing to write about a health issue, or on any kind of study where a direct causation is impossible to establish. Essentially, somebody somewhere at the federal level of the Canadian government understands the problem of "hot topic bias" and why meta-analysis and cherry-picked studies such as those used regularly by the tobacco-control propagandists are notoriously unreliable. Unfortunately, with our government being such a large bureaucracy, the folks in charge health policy and doling out research grants have not yet clued in. This failure on the part of our government is to our great detriment as a society. All news articles about the latest and greatest danger to our health should be read with the following statements kept at the forefront of one's critical screen.
Problems of Sample-based Studies
In a sample-based approach, investigators conduct custom-designed and mostly localized studies to investigate associations. However, these studies are prone to biases, including those that Sackett14 called "positive results bias," "hot topic bias," "wrong sample size bias," "expectation bias" and data dredging bias," and a number of biases reviewed elsewhere by this author.15,16 (Population-based studies are also susceptible to these biases, but to a lesser extent than sample-based studies.)
Consider a situation where an exposure and a disease are not associated. Due to problems in study design, data collection or analysis, or by chance, a sample-based study may incorrectly determine that there is an association. When published, this false positive study can create a hot topic bias, that is, more investigators will become interested in the topic.
In this case, let’s say 100 studies may be designed. If the type I error rate (significance level) of these studies is chosen at the conventional 0 05, then on average, 5 of the 100 studies will show false positive results. Since positive results are more likely to be submitted by investigators to scientific journals (positive results bias) and accepted by editors (editor’s bias), this will lead to an even bigger hot topic bias, and another false positive research cycle will begin. (In the case of a hot topic, it is unlikely that all of the 95 correctly negative studies will go unpublished, and letters to the editor will almost certainly follow. Although the hot topic bias could thus be somewhat self-corrected, the overall tendency for the bias remains.)
Through this biased process, an investigator can almost always "prove" something out of nothing. results of such an unsystematic, non-population-based approach would likely focus efforts in certain narrow areas, ignoring some other major and real issues. While sample-based studies have provided a tremendous amount of knowledge, their limitations due to false positive research cycles must be recognized.
2007 - After having redefined the criteria for high cholesterol, obesity,
diabetes and hypertension, the medical and pharmaceutical instances are now redefining
heart attacks. Read a critical view on
this ‘’future epidemic’’ here: Epidemics
disease deaths dropping dramatically for the past half century, the world’s top
four organizations representing heart disease interests have all gotten
together to change the definition ... of a heart attack.
changed from BMI ≥ 27 to BMI ≥ 25 by the U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood
Institute in 1998, instantly increasing by 43% the numbers of Americans, an
additional 30.5 million, deemed ‘overweight.’
changed from a total cholesterol ≥ 240 to ≥ 200 in 1998 increasing by 86% the
numbers of Americans labeled has having high cholesterol, an additional 42.6 million
“Hypertension:”Definition changed in 1997 from 160/100 to
140/90, instantly adding 35% more Americans, 13.5 million, to the rosters of
hypertensive. A new definition for ‘prehypertension’ in 2003 increased to 58%
the Americans believing they have hypertension.
“Diabetes:” Definition changed from a fasting glucose
of ≥ 140 to ≥ 126 in 1997 by the American Diabetes Association and WHO Expert
Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus, increasing
by 14% and 1.7 million the people diagnosed with diabetes. With the proposal of
a new term, ‘prediabetes’ by the First International Congress on Prediabetes,
and promoted by the International Diabetes Federation (sponsored by 12
pharmaceutical companies), 40% of the adult population was added to the
rosters believing they have diabetes and are in need of treatment.
October 29, 2007 - If nothing else, this study by doctors of the KS Hedge Medical Academy, proves that there is no consensus on the smoking issue and that science has not proven anything beyond the shadow of a doubt. Epidemiology cannot prove causation. Speculation and weak or strong correlations is the best it can do and individuals should be offered all sides of the story and be left free to make decisions for their own body according to their own beliefs and instincts.
Smoking out the facts
David Warren, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2007
According to three doctors at the KS Hegde Medical Academy in Mangalore, India, writing in the journal Medical Hypotheses, giving up smoking can kill you. Arunachalam Kumar, Kasaragod Mallya, and Jairaj Kumar were "struck by the more than casual relationship between the appearance of lung cancer and an abrupt and recent cessation of the smoking habit in many, if not most, cases."
In 182 of the 312 cases they had treated, an habitual smoker of at least a pack a day, for at least a quarter-century, had developed lung cancer shortly after he gave up smoking.
They surmised a biological mechanism protects smokers against cancer, which is strengthened by years of determined smoking. When the smoker quits, "a surge and spurt in re-activation of bodily healing and repair mechanisms of chronic smoke-damaged respiratory epithelia is induced and spurred by an abrupt discontinuation of habit," and "goes awry, triggering uncontrolled cell division and tumour genesis."
An evolutionary argument could support this hypothesis. Man is the only animal who cooks his food, and thousands of generations of our ancestors, pent up in smoke-filled caves, could easily account for this biological mechanism.
Since the findings of Kumar, Mallya, and Kumar coincide with my own medical hypothesis, based on my own anecdotal evidence, I hasten to embrace them. Several deceased friends and family, starting with my paternal grandfather, perished shortly after they quit smoking -- not only from lung cancer, but from other causes ranging from previously undiagnosed heart disease to industrial accident.
The same general principle would apply: that a body long accustomed to a (frankly addictive) substance, goes haywire when the substance is removed. In the good old days, people instinctively understood things like that, without the need for medical research. And it was inconceivable that, for instance, hospitals would prevent patients from smoking, who were already medically challenged on other fronts.
Other medical literature has documented other risks of non-smoking, that include neurotic depression, violent irritability, and obscene weight gain. But these tend to be discounted because they lead to death only indirectly.
Likewise, indirect evidence for the dangers of not smoking comes from the 150th anniversary number of Atlantic magazine. P.J. O'Rourke points to (actual, serious) U.S. historical statistics showing that, in the period 1973-94, annual per capita consumption of cigarettes fell from 4,148 to 2,493. In the same period, the incidence of lung and bronchial cancer rose from 42.5 to 57.1 cases per 100,000 population.
In the past I have flagged UN statistics showing that life expectancy was nicely proportional to tobacco consumption, internationally -- so that, for example, Japan and South Korea were respectively first and second in both life expectancy and tobacco consumption. The lowest tobacco consumption was in Third World countries, where we also found some of the shortest life expectancies.
I think we could also find historical statistics showing there is a reliable, worldwide relationship between rising tobacco consumption, and rising life expectancy, nation by nation, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
As Al Gore likes to say, "the science is irrefutable."
The weakness in that last statement being, that there is no such thing as irrefutable science. There is nothing in the whole history of science that is not tentative. And while, in astronomy, I remain convinced that the Earth revolves around the sun, I would not put all my money even on that proposition, but, given attractively long odds, reserve a penny bet on the sun going round the Earth.
If my reader is planning to give up smoking in the face of what I report, then courage to him, and I will avoid saying, "Go ahead, make my day." I am not in the pay of the tobacco lobby -- on the contrary, I seem to be paying them -- and am in principle indifferent to what substances others decide to use or abuse. My dander rises only when they try to interfere with my own freedom, through the childish, petty, and essentially totalitarian public campaigns against harmless smokers -- buttressed by scientific claims weaker than the above.
There is one more hypothesis with which I would like to leave my reader. It is that the kind of quack "science" that was used to ban smoking has now mutated into the kind that is used to flog global warming. It should have been resisted then; it should certainly be resisted now.
October 19, 2007 - Once you’ve let epidemiology get away with dictating public policy based on minimal risk factors in one issue like with the smoking issue, there is no telling where the slippery slope will take you. If risk factors as low as 1.13 or 13% increased risk, are now used to spread fear when not so long ago they would have been considered insignificant, there is no telling how long before a form of prohibition, abusive taxation, disallowing drinking in a bar (no we shouldn’t laugh), will take place. The following article combines most of the elements used in public healthcare that usually preclude coercive policies aimed at limiting your choices and personal decisions. They are easily recognizable:
a) Even moderation can pose a serious threat to your health
b) Risk factors expressed in their percentage form in order to induce fear, when we in fact know that they are so minimal they should be dismissed as insignificant
c) Quitting (not moderation) reverses the risk
d) Suggesting that a big number of diseases are caused by alcohol (60 diagnoses)
e) High number of ‘’caused’’ deaths (93,000), when in fact we know these are only estimates based on epidemiology with all its biases and confounding factors
f) Third biggest ‘’cause’’ of preventable death
g) Straight forward suggestions of strategies – restricting happy hour, and two-for-one promotions, training wait staff to make sure drinkers aren't overserved, and increasing taxes
h) Presenting the alcohol industry as a major obstacle with strong lobbying powers
i) Dismissing as insignificant the benefits of alcohol – they even suggest confounding factors that could have influenced the studies that showed benefit, while not considering even one confounding factor in their own studies
Mounting evidence finds even moderate drinking may increase your risk of breast and colon cancer
Something to ask yourself: Is it worth it?
By Judy Peres | Tribune staff reporter
October 17, 2007
You eat your veggies, you exercise at least a few times a week, you gave up cigarettes and hormone-replacement pills, and you have a glass of red wine every day, all because you care about your health.
But one of these things is not like the others.
While your attention has been elsewhere, scientists have amassed persuasive evidence that drinking alcohol -- any form of alcohol, even in moderate amounts -- can pose a serious threat to your health.
Researchers have known for nearly 20 years that drinking alcoholic beverages can cause cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and liver. But those diseases don't get much publicity. This year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer added breast and colon cancer -- two of the four major killer cancers -- to the list of malignancies known to be fostered by alcohol.
The risk is "dose dependent," meaning the more you drink the higher the risk.
According to comprehensive reviews of the scientific evidence, people who average just over one drink a day (100 grams of alcohol in a week's time) increase their chances of developing colon cancer by about 15 percent. For those who consume about four drinks daily, the risk is 40 percent higher.
Women who have one to two drinks a day increase their breast cancer risk by 13 percent. With four drinks, the risk is 50 percent higher. That's twice the increase in relative risk attributed to Prempro, the hormone pill tested in the Women's Health Initiative, the well-known study that found the risks of hormone replacement outweigh the benefits.
Last month, yet another study reinforced the fact that even a glass or two of wine a day increases breast cancer risk. Yes, even red wine.
Drinking small amounts of alcohol -- a shot of hard liquor or a glass of beer or wine -- on a consistent daily basis does have a few proven health benefits.
Specifically, it reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by blocked arteries by 10 to 15 percent. That's probably because alcohol increases good cholesterol and prevents blood platelets from clumping together.
"On the other hand, alcohol is detrimental for more than 60 diagnoses," said Juergen Rehm, head of public health and regulatory policies at the Ontario Center for Addiction and Mental Health.
"That red wine stuff -- how it was supposed to be protective -- was hyped completely out of whack by the media," Rehm said. "And whatever protective effect there is, is not about the red wine -- it's about the alcohol."
According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol consumption is the third-biggest cause of preventable death in the U.S., after smoking and obesity. The centers estimate that in 2001, the most recent year for which data is available, drinking caused nearly 93,000 deaths.
That includes more than 12,000 cancer deaths, comparable to the 13,674 killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents.
The same data show that about 30,000 fatal heart attacks were prevented by moderate alcohol consumption, which is defined as fewer than two drinks a day for men and less than one drink a day for women. But Dr. Robert Brewer, head of the CDC alcohol team, said the evidence for alcohol preventing heart attacks is less reliable.
"We need to be cautious about interpreting the studies that suggest a benefit," said Brewer. "People who drink moderately are different from people who don't drink -- they exercise more, they have better medical insurance, their body-mass index is lower." In other words, they might have had fewer heart attacks because of factors other than alcohol intake.
Scientists don't know exactly how alcohol changes the cancer picture. Some researchers are analyzing the influence of alcohol on estrogen levels, which can affect the risk of breast cancer. But alcohol also affects liver function, which could impair the body's ability to get rid of potential cancer-causing agents.
The good news for worried drinkers, Rehm said, is that quitting seems to eventually reverse the added risk.
In a study published last month in the International Journal of Cancer, Rehm and his colleagues showed that the risk of head-and-neck and esophageal cancer decreased significantly within 10 years of giving up booze and was the same as that for non-drinkers after 20 years.
Some experts say society should take the public health risks of alcohol much more seriously and limit consumption.
Traci Toomey, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, said several strategies have been shown to work, including restricting happy-hour and two-for-one promotions, training wait staff to make sure drinkers aren't overserved, and increasing taxes.
"Taxes on alcohol haven't kept up with inflation, so the real price is much lower than it used to be," she said. "Excise taxes should be indexed to inflation."
But that would involve taking on the alcohol industry. Jim Mosher, who studies alcohol policy at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, said "the power of the alcohol lobby" makes it almost impossible to raise state or federal taxes on alcoholic beverages.
October 11, 2007 - The Heartland Institute just published a long article that highlights the flaws of epidemiological studies that have become a travesty to science and how such studies would never pass muster in a court of law. Is it any surprise that we don’t hear of any law-suits from second hand smoke victims, when we know all too well how lawyers in the U.S.A. would seize such a golden opportunity to make a mint for themselves and the alleged victims of second hand smoke? The fact is that second hand smoke harm has not and cannot be proven no matter how dubiously the interested parties – taxpayer money grabbing anti-smoking groups, the pharmaceutical industry, and health agencies – have managed to convince opportunistic politicians of the opposite. The Heartland Institute article, Where's the Consensus on Secondhand Smoke? can be read at: http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=22150 . The article is a good synopsis of everything we have been documenting in the tobacco section of our website and is worth the read. It mostly explains the flaws in U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona’s report and the interests various parties have to continue promulgating the second hand smoke ‘’health scare’’.
October 9, 2007 - The following New York Times article very lucidly explains the ‘’science by consensus’’ phenomenon, or what we call ‘’The Emperor’s New Clothes’’ syndrome. For those who want to refresh their memory, please read the Hans Christian Andersen classic metaphor at: http://www.wordinfo.info/words/index/info/view_unit/3712
October 9, 2007
Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus
By JOHN TIERNEY
In 1988, the surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, proclaimed ice cream to a be public-health menace right up there with cigarettes. Alluding to his office’s famous 1964 report on the perils of smoking, Dr. Koop announced that the American diet was a problem of “comparable” magnitude, chiefly because of the high-fat foods that were causing coronary heart disease and other deadly ailments.
He introduced his report with these words: “The depth of the science base underlying its findings is even more impressive than that for tobacco and health in 1964.”
That was a ludicrous statement, as Gary Taubes demonstrates in his new book meticulously debunking diet myths, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” (Knopf, 2007). The notion that fatty foods shorten your life began as a hypothesis based on dubious assumptions and data; when scientists tried to confirm it they failed repeatedly. The evidence against Häagen-Dazs was nothing like the evidence against Marlboros.
It may seem bizarre that a surgeon general could go so wrong. After all, wasn’t it his job to express the scientific consensus? But that was the problem. Dr. Koop was expressing the consensus. He, like the architects of the federal “food pyramid” telling Americans what to eat, went wrong by listening to everyone else. He was caught in what social scientists call a cascade.
We like to think that people improve their judgment by putting their minds together, and sometimes they do. The studio audience at “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” usually votes for the right answer. But suppose, instead of the audience members voting silently in unison, they voted out loud one after another. And suppose the first person gets it wrong.
If the second person isn’t sure of the answer, he’s liable to go along with the first person’s guess. By then, even if the third person suspects another answer is right, she’s more liable to go along just because she assumes the first two together know more than she does. Thus begins an “informational cascade” as one person after another assumes that the rest can’t all be wrong.
Because of this effect, groups are surprisingly prone to reach mistaken conclusions even when most of the people started out knowing better, according to the economists Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer and Ivo Welch. If, say, 60 percent of a group’s members have been given information pointing them to the right answer (while the rest have information pointing to the wrong answer), there is still about a one-in-three chance that the group will cascade to a mistaken consensus.
Cascades are especially common in medicine as doctors take their cues from others, leading them to overdiagnose some faddish ailments (called bandwagon diseases) and overprescribe certain treatments (like the tonsillectomies once popular for children). Unable to keep up with the volume of research, doctors look for guidance from an expert — or at least someone who sounds confident.
In the case of fatty foods, that confident voice belonged to Ancel Keys, a prominent diet researcher a half-century ago (the K-rations in World War II were said to be named after him). He became convinced in the 1950s that Americans were suffering from a new epidemic of heart disease because they were eating more fat than their ancestors.
There were two glaring problems with this theory, as Mr. Taubes, a correspondent for Science magazine, explains in his book. First, it wasn’t clear that traditional diets were especially lean. Nineteenth-century Americans consumed huge amounts of meat; the percentage of fat in the diet of ancient hunter-gatherers, according to the best estimate today, was as high or higher than the ratio in the modern Western diet.
Second, there wasn’t really a new epidemic of heart disease. Yes, more cases were being reported, but not because people were in worse health. It was mainly because they were living longer and were more likely to see a doctor who diagnosed the symptoms.
To bolster his theory, Dr. Keys in 1953 compared diets and heart disease rates in the United States, Japan and four other countries. Sure enough, more fat correlated with more disease (America topped the list). But critics at the time noted that if Dr. Keys had analyzed all 22 countries for which data were available, he would not have found a correlation. (And, as Mr. Taubes notes, no one would have puzzled over the so-called French Paradox of foie-gras connoisseurs with healthy hearts.)
The evidence that dietary fat correlates with heart disease “does not stand up to critical examination,” the American Heart Association concluded in 1957. But three years later the association changed position — not because of new data, Mr. Taubes writes, but because Dr. Keys and an ally were on the committee issuing the new report. It asserted that “the best scientific evidence of the time” warranted a lower-fat diet for people at high risk of heart disease.
The association’s report was big news and put Dr. Keys, who died in 2004, on the cover of Time magazine. The magazine devoted four pages to the topic — and just one paragraph noting that Dr. Keys’s diet advice was “still questioned by some researchers.” That set the tone for decades of news media coverage. Journalists and their audiences were looking for clear guidance, not scientific ambiguity.
After the fat-is-bad theory became popular wisdom, the cascade accelerated in the 1970s when a committee led by Senator George McGovern issued a report advising Americans to lower their risk of heart disease by eating less fat. “McGovern’s staff were virtually unaware of the existence of any scientific controversy,” Mr. Taubes writes, and the committee’s report was written by a nonscientist “relying almost exclusively on a single Harvard nutritionist, Mark Hegsted.”
That report impressed another nonscientist, Carol Tucker Foreman, an assistant agriculture secretary, who hired Dr. Hegsted to draw up a set of national dietary guidelines. The Department of Agriculture’s advice against eating too much fat was issued in 1980 and would later be incorporated in its “food pyramid.”
Meanwhile, there still wasn’t good evidence to warrant recommending a low-fat diet for all Americans, as the National Academy of Sciences noted in a report shortly after the U.S.D.A. guidelines were issued. But the report’s authors were promptly excoriated on Capitol Hill and in the news media for denying a danger that had already been proclaimed by the American Heart Association, the McGovern committee and the U.S.D.A.
The scientists, despite their impressive credentials, were accused of bias because some of them had done research financed by the food industry. And so the informational cascade morphed into what the economist Timur Kuran calls a reputational cascade, in which it becomes a career risk for dissidents to question the popular wisdom.
With skeptical scientists ostracized, the public debate and research agenda became dominated by the fat-is-bad school. Later the National Institutes of Health would hold a “consensus conference” that concluded there was “no doubt” that low-fat diets “will afford significant protection against coronary heart disease” for every American over the age of 2. The American Cancer Society and the surgeon general recommended a low-fat diet to prevent cancer.
But when the theories were tested in clinical trials, the evidence kept turning up negative. As Mr. Taubes notes, the most rigorous meta-analysis of the clinical trials of low-fat diets, published in 2001 by the Cochrane Collaboration, concluded that they had no significant effect on mortality.
Mr. Taubes argues that the low-fat recommendations, besides being unjustified, may well have harmed Americans by encouraging them to switch to carbohydrates, which he believes cause obesity and disease. He acknowledges that that hypothesis is unproved, and that the low-carb diet fad could turn out to be another mistaken cascade. The problem, he says, is that the low-carb hypothesis hasn’t been seriously studied because it couldn’t be reconciled with the low-fat dogma.
Mr. Taubes told me he especially admired the iconoclasm of Dr. Edward H. Ahrens Jr., a lipids researcher who spoke out against the McGovern committee’s report. Mr. McGovern subsequently asked him at a hearing to reconcile his skepticism with a survey showing that the low-fat recommendations were endorsed by 92 percent of “the world’s leading doctors.”
“Senator McGovern, I recognize the disadvantage of being in the minority,” Dr. Ahrens replied. Then he pointed out that most of the doctors in the survey were relying on secondhand knowledge because they didn’t work in this field themselves.
“This is a matter,” he continued, “of such enormous social, economic and medical importance that it must be evaluated with our eyes completely open. Thus I would hate to see this issue settled by anything that smacks of a Gallup poll.” Or a cascade.
September 27, 2007 - Alcohol will become the new smoking if they set their mind that that’s what they want it to become. We looked at the abstract of the study that is being referred to in the following article, and it appears that just like second hand smoke, the relative risks (RR’s) do not warrant the fear that this article is trying to instill in people. In fact, the researchers themselves indicate that the relative risk for head and neck cancer is weak. As for the RR for esophageal cancer increase within 2 years of alcohol cessation, at 2,50, it is lower than 3,0 -- the preferred RR level of some epidemiologists before they deem the conclusions of a study as reliable. You can view the abstract of the study here.
It is interesting to note that the abstract and the article in the Science Daily, do not indicate permissible levels of alcohol consumption and seem to suggest that total abstention would be the only sensible preventive measure. Are we to conclude that the slippery slope will lead us to a ‘’no level of alcohol is safe’’ campaign followed by coercive legislation and abusive taxation for ‘’our own good’’?
Alcohol And Cancer: Is Drinking The New Smoking?
Science Daily — Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have clarified the link between alcohol consumption and the risk of head and neck cancers, showing that people who stop drinking can significantly reduce their cancer risk.
According to CAMH Principal Investigator Dr. Jürgen Rehm, existing research consistently shows a relationship between alcohol consumption and an increased risk for cancer of the esophagus, larynx and oral cavity. Dr. Rehm and his team analyzed epidemiological literature from 1966 to 2006 to further investigate this association and their results, published in the September issue of the International Journal of Cancer, showed that:
- The risk of esophageal cancer nearly doubled in the first two years following alcohol cessation, a sharp increase that may be due to the fact that some people only stop drinking when they are already experiencing disease symptoms. However, risk then decreased rapidly and significantly after longer periods of abstention.
- Risk of head and neck cancer only reduced significantly after 10 years of cessation.
- After more than 20 years of alcohol cessation, the risks for both cancers were similar to those seen in people who never drank alcohol.
These results have important implications for tailoring alcohol policies and prevention strategies, especially for people with a family risk of cancer.
Said Dr. Rehm, "Alcohol cessation has very similar effects on risk for head and neck cancers as smoking cessation has on lung cancer. It takes about two decades before the risk is back to the risk of those who were never drinkers or never smokers."
Alcohol is the 'drug of choice' for Canadians, with 60% of Ontario adults consuming alcohol on at least a monthly basis. The direct and indirect costs to society of alcohol abuse are substantial: $5.3 billion in Ontario alone, second only to the social burden of tobacco. This burden takes into effect the cardioprotective effects of alcohol, which, unlike its link to cancer, has received a great deal of public attention.
Dr. Rehm notes that more research is needed on the effects of alcohol cessation on other types of cancer -- especially breast, liver and colorectal cancers, for which the International Agency for Research on Cancer has also classified alcohol as carcinogenic -- and on the effects of alcohol type, drinking patterns, and the joint effects of smoking and alcohol cessation on the risk of cancer.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
September 16, 2007 - Another very informative article on epidemiology just appeared in the New York Times magazine. The article, in agreement with what C.A.G.E. has been saying about ‘’junk science’’, explains why we can’t trust much of what we hear about diet, health and behavior-related diseases and why public policy should not be based on epidemiology alone. Since it is a very long article, we will not post it here. You can read it at the following link:
Do We Really Know What Makes Us Healthy?
September 15, 2007 - Millions of dollars are being spent on epidemiological studies -- money that can be spent on serious scientific research to find the true causes and cures of various ailments. The following article draws a very easy to understand portrait of what epidemiology is all about. The bottom line is, that apart from a few exceptions that show strong evidence time after time, public policy and our well-being should not be based on epidemiological studies, because what is true today, can very well become the complete opposite tomorrow. We are happy to see that the mainstream media is catching on.
Scientists do the numbers
Coffee is good for you -- no, it's bad. Epidemiological studies can come up with some crazy results, causing some critics to wonder if they're really worthwhile.
By Andreas von Bubnoff, Special to The Times
September 17, 2007
SAGITTARIANS are 38% more likely to break a leg than people of other star signs -- and Leos are 15% more likely to suffer from internal bleeding. So says a 2006 Canadian study that looked at the reasons residents of Ontario province had unplanned stays in the hospital.
Leos, Sagittarians: There's no need to worry. Even the study's authors don't believe their results.
They're illustrating a point -- that a scientific approach used in many human studies often leads to findings that are flat-out wrong.
Such studies make headlines every day, and often, as the public knows too well, they contradict each other. One week we may hear that pets are good for your health, the next week that they aren't. One month, cellphone use causes brain cancer; the next month, it doesn't.
"It's the cure of the week or the killer of the week, the danger of the week," says Dr. Barry Kramer, associate director for disease prevention at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. It's like treating people to an endless regimen of whiplash, he says.
Take the case of just one item: coffee. Drinking two or three cups per day can triple the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a 1981 study. Not so, concluded a larger follow-up study published in 2001.
Coffee reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, found a 1998 study. Not so, according to one published later, in 2005.
"I've seen so many contradictory studies with coffee that I've come to ignore them all," says Donald Berry, chair of the department of biostatistics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
"What about the man on the street?" asks Stan Young, a statistician at the National Institute of Statistical Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C. "He reads about coffee causing and not causing cancer -- so many contradictory findings he begins to think, 'I don't trust anything these scientists are saying.' "
These critics say the reason this keeps happening is simple: Far too many of these epidemiological studies -- in which the habits and other factors of large populations of people are tracked, sometimes for years -- are wrong and should be ignored.
In fact, some of these critics say, more than half of all epidemiological studies are incorrect.
The studies can be influential. Often, in response to them, members of the public will go out and dose themselves with this vitamin or that foodstuff.
And the studies also influence medical practice -- doctors, the critics note, encouraged women to take hormones after menopause long before their effects were tested in randomized clinical trials, the gold standard of medical research.
Some of epidemiology's critics are calling for stricter standards before such studies get reported in medical journals or in the popular press.
Young, one of the foremost critics, argues that epidemiological studies are so often wrong that they are coming close to being worthless. "We spend a lot of money and we could make claims just as valid as a random number generator," he says.
Epidemiology's defenders say such criticisms are hugely overblown.
They are "quite simplistic and exaggerated," says Dr. Meir Stampfer, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
What's more, some things simply cannot be tested in randomized clinical trials. In certain cases, to do so would be unethical. (Care to assign half the people in a trial to smoke cigarettes?)
In other cases, a trial of adequate size and duration -- say, to test whether coffee drinking raises or lowers the risk of Parkinson's disease -- would have to control the habits of huge numbers of people for decades. That would not only be hugely expensive but also virtually impossible.
Stampfer cites examples of findings of epidemiology that, he says, have stood the test of time: smoking's link to lung cancer, to name the most notable.
Watching for clues In epidemiological studies (also called observational studies), scientists observe what's going on -- they don't try to change it. From what they observe, they reach conclusions -- for example, about the risk of developing a certain disease from being exposed to something in the environment, lifestyle or a health intervention.
There are different ways to do this. Cohort studies follow a healthy group of people (with different intakes of, say, coffee) over time and look at who gets a disease. They're considered the strongest type of epidemiological study.
Case-control or retrospective studies examine people with and without a certain disease and compare their prior life -- for how much coffee they drank, for example -- and see if people who got the disease drank more coffee in their past than those who didn't.
Cross-sectional studies compare people's present lifestyle (how much coffee they drink now) with their present health status.
Epidemiological studies have several advantages: They are relatively inexpensive, and they can ethically be done for exposures to factors such as alcohol that are considered harmful, because the people under study chose their exposure themselves.
But epidemiological studies have their minuses too, some of which are very well known. Suppose a study finds that coffee drinkers are more likely to get a certain disease. That doesn't mean coffee caused the disease. Other, perhaps unknown, factors (called "confounders" in the trade) that are unrelated to the coffee may cause it -- and if coffee drinkers are more likely to do this other thing, coffee may appear, incorrectly, to be the smoking gun.
A much clearer picture of the role of coffee on disease could be found, in theory, via a randomized clinical trial. One would divide a population into two, put one group on coffee and the other not, then follow both groups for years or decades to see which group got certain diseases and which didn't.
The problem, however, is that such a study is very expensive and takes a long time, and it can be difficult to control people's lives for that length of time.
Despite their shortcomings, epidemiological studies are often taken seriously, so much so that they can change medical practice. Such was the case after dozens of epidemiological studies, including one large, frequently cited one that came out of Harvard in 1991, had shown that taking estrogen after menopause reduces the risk of women getting cardiovascular disease.
"There was such a belief," even with the medical community, that hormone replacement became part of standard medical practice, says Dr. Lisa Schwartz, associate professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., even in the face of an increased potential risk of breast cancer. In fact, some scientists and doctors said it would be unethical to do a randomized clinical trial to check if the hormone effect was real.
But in the hormone epidemiological studies, women choosing to take hormones may well have been healthier in other ways, Kramer says. And that fact -- that they were healthier -- could explain the lower risk of heart disease, not the hormones.
"To get hormone therapy, you have to go to a doctor and have to have insurance," Kramer says. "That means you are in the upper strata of society."
Eventually, a randomized clinical trial was conducted, as part of the so-called Women's Health Initiative. Findings published in 2002 not only found no protection to the heart but actually reported some harm.
Epidemiology's detractors say they have no trouble finding other cases than hormones where frequently cited and sometimes influential epidemiology studies have later turned out to be wrong or exaggerated.
In 1993, Harvard University scientists published two cohort studies reporting that vitamin E protected people from coronary heart disease.One, the Nurses Health Study, followed over 87,000 middle-aged female nurses without heart disease for up to eight years. It found that the 20% of nurses with the highest vitamin E intake had a 34% lower risk of major coronary disease than those with the lowest fifth of intake.
The other study followed almost 40,000 male health professionals without heart disease for four years -- and found a 36% lower risk of coronary disease in those men taking more than 60 IU of vitamin E per day compared with those consuming less than 7.5 IU.
In the three years after these studies appeared, each was cited by other research papers more than 400 times, according to John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Ioannina, Greece. Vitamin E therapy for heart patients became widespread -- a 1997 survey published in the American Journal of Cardiology reported that 44% of U.S. cardiologists reported routine use of antioxidants, primarily vitamin E.
The therapy was finally put to the test in a Canadian randomized clinical trial of about 2,500 women and 7,000 men aged 55 years or older who were at high risk for cardiovascular events.
The findings -- reported in 2000 -- showed that an average daily dose of 400 IU vitamin E from natural sources for about 4 1/2 years had no effect on cardiovascular disease.
Yet, Schwartz says, seven years after that finding, her patients continue to take vitamin E in the belief that it will protect their hearts. "I am still taking people off of vitamin E," she says of her patients, some of whom have heart disease.
Study of studies In a provocative 2005 paper, Ioannidis examined the six most frequently cited epidemiological studies published from three major clinical journals between 1990 and 2003. He found that four of the six findings were later overturned by clinical trials.
Vitamin E didn't protect the heart in men or women. Hormone therapy didn't protect the heart in women. Nitric oxide inhalation didn't help patients with respiratory distress syndrome.
Another finding turned out later to be exaggerated: Taking flavonoids reduces coronary artery disease risk only by 20%, not by 68% as originally reported.
The only finding of the six that stood the test of time was a small study that reported that a chemical called all-trans retinoic acid was effective in treating acute promyelocytic leukemia.
The studies that overturned each of these epidemiological findings, Ioannidis says, "caused major waves of surprise when they first appeared, because everybody had believed the observational studies. And then the randomized trials found something completely different."
To be fair, Ioannidis also tested whether the most frequently cited randomized studies held up. He found that these had a much better track record. Only nine of 39 oft-cited ones were later contradicted or turned out to be exaggerated when other randomized studies were done.
True, Ioannidis looked at only six studies. But Young says he sees the same trend in his own informal counts of epidemiological claims. "When, in multiple papers, 15 out of 16 claims don't replicate, there is a problem," he says.
Belief can be costly, Young adds. For example, one part of the large, randomized Women's Heath Initiative study tested the widely held belief -- based in large part on epidemiological studies -- that a low-fat diet decreases the risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease, or stroke.
The findings suggested that there was no effect. "$415 million later, none of the claims were supported," Young says.
Other scientists, while more cautious than epidemiology's most outspoken detractors, agree that there are many flawed studies. When Kramer first saw Ioannidis' number, "I said to myself, 'It can't be that bad,' " he says. "But I can't prove that it isn't. I know there are a lot of bad studies out there."
Ioannidis, Kramer says, is voicing what many know to be true.
Method in doubt Why does this happen?
Young believes there's something fundamentally wrong with the method of observational studies -- something that goes way beyond that thorny little issue of confounding factors. It's about another habit of epidemiology some call data-mining.
Most epidemiological studies, according to Young, don't account for the fact that they often check many different things in one study. "They think it is fine to ask many questions of the same data set," Young says. And the more things you check, the more likely it becomes that you'll find something that's statistically significant -- just by chance, luck, nothing more.
It's like rolling a pair of dice many times without anyone looking until you get snake eyes and then claiming you'd only rolled it once. Often, epidemiological researchers ask dozens, maybe hundreds of questions in the questionnaires they send to the people they study. They ask so many questions that something, eventually, is bound to come out positive.
That's where the Canadian star sign study comes into play, Young says. It was only because the authors deliberately asked a lot of questions -- to prove a point -- that it was able to come up with significant results for something that couldn't be true.
The study's lead author, statistician Peter Austin of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, says that once he cleaned up his methodology (by adding a statistical correction for the large number of questions he asked) the association between Leos and internal bleeding and Sagittarians and leg-breaks disappeared.
On the defensive Many epidemiologists do not agree with the critics' assertion that most epidemiological studies are wrong and that randomized studies are more reliable.
"Randomized studies often contradict one another, as do observational studies," says Harvard's Stampfer, who is an author on both the frequently cited vitamin E and hormone replacement studies that Ioannidis says were later refuted.
Instead, Stampfer says, the two types of studies often test different things. "It's not an issue here that observational studies got it wrong and randomized trials got it right," he says, referring to the hormone replacement studies. "My view is that [both] were right and they were addressing different questions."
For one thing, the randomized studies on hormone replacement and vitamin E that Ioannidis cited in his 2005 paper looked at different populations than the observational studies they refuted, says Stampfer, who takes vitamin E himself.
In the hormone replacement case, the observational studies looked at women around the age of menopause. The randomized trial looked at women who were mostly well past that age.
In fact, Stampfer says, a recent reanalysis of the Women's Health initiative data suggested a trend that hormone therapy may be less risky for younger than older women. The effect was not statistically significant, but, Stampfer says, it's further support for the idea that hormones have different effects depending on when women start taking them.
And the vitamin E studies? The 1993 observational studies followed people who didn't have heart disease. The randomized study looked at people with known heart disease who were on many other medications. All those meds could easily override the effect of vitamin E, says Dr. Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was a coauthor on the hormone and the vitamin E epidemiological studies.
And finally, the low-fat trial from the Women's Health Initiative. It's not surprising, Willett and Stampfer say, that this gold-standard trial failed to find what epidemiology had -- that low-fat diets ward off heart disease, colorectal cancer and stroke. The women in these trials didn't stick to their diets.
"The compliance with the low-fat diet was definitely far lower than anticipated," Willett says, "and probably far worse than even acknowledged in the papers."
Such arguments do not sway epidemiology's detractors.
Each time a study doesn't replicate, "they make a specific argument why the studies are different," Young says. He concedes that epidemiology did uncover the truth about the risks of smoking -- but only because the effects are so strong."Even a blind hog occasionally finds an acorn," he says.
Yet epidemiologists warn that discarding results because of a correction for multiple testing may risk missing true and important effects -- especially in cases where there's a good biological reason suggesting an effect, such as in studies of drugs that have been shown to work in animal experiments. And setting the bar too high might sometimes be dangerous, says Sander Greenland, a professor of epidemiology and statistics at UCLA. "Do you want to screen for medical side-effects with the attitude, 'So what if we miss side effects?' " he asks. "That's deadly. That's ridiculous!"
The debate is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. "If you put five epidemiologists and five statisticians in a room and have this debate," Young says, "and try to get each one to convince the other side, at the end of the day it will still be five to five."
Unfortunately, there are a number of policy makers and more mainstream advocates who are using Cameron’s statistics," Cianciotto said. "So I think we have to pay attention to him so that he doesn’t continue to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes."
July 27, 2007 – Once we have allowed society to dictate lifestyle choices to citizens, there is just no telling how many fanatical and opportunistic individuals disguised as scientists will peddle their personal preferences and beliefs through junk science to try to influence public policy. The apathy of the public and all those scientists and politicians who looked the other way using political correctness and the ‘’for your own good’’ mentality when it came to the tobacco issue, have opened the door to compare everything to smoking in order to peddle other standards. How far are we willing to let this go before a massive indignation forces public health to but out of our lives and looks after what they’re paid for: infectious diseases?
Study Comparing Gay Life Span & Smoking Disputed
by Arielle Chavkin
EDGE Boston Contributor
Thursday Jul 26, 2007
In March 2007, at a Philadelphia meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, EPA President Dr. Philip Henline waited for Drs. Paul and Kirk Cameron to present what he had expected would be a poster presentation, "Federal Distortion of Homosexual Footprint." According to the information submitted for prior review by the study’s authors, the presentation would discuss findings on the true size of the gay community as a result of the exclusion of adults over the age of 60 in government tallies.
The study that Dr. Paul Cameron and his son, Dr. Kirk Cameron, presented to the prestigious group of mental-health academics and professionals purported to "prove" that homosexuality is more lethal than smoking. The study, it turns out, was funded by the Family Research Institute, the conservative Christian Colorado Springs-based think tank that proclaims as its "one overriding mission: to generate empirical research on issues that threaten the traditional family, particularly homosexuality, AIDS, sexual social policy, and drug abuse." Dr. Cameron serves as chairman of FRI.
The stated goal of the study was to demonstrate that legally married heterosexual couples live nearly 24 years longer then homosexual couples. The study used statistics gathered by Drs. Cameron from Denmark, Norway, the United States and Canada. "Smoking is condemned because it is associated with a reduction in longevity of 1 to 7 years," Cameron wrote in the study. "It is inconsistent to condemn smoking yet celebrate homosexuality when the decrement in life span for those practicing homosexuality approximates 20 or more years."
EPA President Henline had expected to see a poster presentation entitled "Federal Distortion of Homosexual Footprint." According to the information submitted for review by the authors of the study, the original presentation was meant to discuss findings on what the authors said was an exaggeration of the size of the gay community as a result of the exclusion of adults over the age of 60 in official government tallies.
The final study’s full title, "Federal Distortion of Homosexual Footprint (Ignoring Early Gay Death?)," does, in fact, begin study by attempting to prove that the size of homosexuals would decrease if it didn’t include those over the age of 65. The reasoning? The vast majority of homosexuals don’t live long enough to reach into their sixth decade.
To support this "early demise" theory of queer life in Scandinavia and North America, Cameron gathered statistics from Denmark and Norway regarding the number of deaths of those men who were in same-sex relationships. He then compared that number to those in heterosexual relationships. In Norway, all men at birth in the study who married have an average life expectancy of 76.5. Contrast that to all of the gay partnered men in the study , who have an average life expectancy of only 51.7. For women, the difference was 56.4 to 80.9, respectively.
Many informed observers, however, believe Cameron’s methodology is at best unsound. Jim Burroway, editor of the Box Turtle Bulletin, a gay news website, complains that Cameron’s ignored what he calls "the obvious question: Who are the people who are entering domestic partnerships?"
The surprising answer, according to Burroway is that in terms of age, they are only slightly older than their heterosexual counterparts. But since domestic partnerships have only been around for a few years, the same-sex group simply hasn’t been around long enough to accumulate enough qualified people who are old to make a significant data base.
This violates one of the most fundamental concepts in set theory. Consider this: People entering your set are a certain average age, and your set hasn’t been around very long. Then those who die in that set aren’t going to be very old, either. "Often," Burroway said, "I find Cameron ignores the elementary, hoping nobody will notice."
Cameron apparently gathered his statistic from the Washington Blade, a local Washington, D.C., gay newsweekly. "Each obituary with enough detail was coded for age-at-death, whether the individual as gay or lesbian, whether the deceased was partnered at time of death, and whether the death was due to HIV/AIDS or some other cause," Cameron writes in his study.
Obituary studies like this one are nothing new for Cameron. He has relied on them to gather data before. In 1992, he and colleagues William J. Playfair and Steven Wellum wrote a similar study for the Family Research Institute entitled "The Homosexual Lifespan" that used mined similar data.
Dr. Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, believes that data from obituaries is at best unreliable. Among the many gay men and lesbians who wouldn’t be in a Washington Blade obituary: those outside of gay life; those in the closet; those whose families didn’t send in an obituary or hid the deceased’s sexuality; and those who died too quickly for an obituary to be written. Finally, as Burroway notes, "The gay press is largely urban, and generally doesn’t cover rural areas."
Cameron’s study of obituaries shows no discernable difference in the mortality statistics in more tolerant countries (Canada, Norway, Denmark) from those in the more intolerant ones (United States). In other words, according to Cameron’s research, discrimination doesn’t have an effect on death rates of homosexuals. His conclusion is that "...if society wants to excuse from good citizenship those who engage in same-sex relations, because it meets the approval of gay activists, it will have to do so without claiming any health benefit."
As if it weren’t enough to assert that being gay is a sentence of early death, Cameron then discredits gay adoption. He claims it is "ill-advised since, on average, a homosexual couple aged 35 yr. would be about as close to demise as a man-woman couple age 55 yr." [sic].
He even takes aim at funding for patients with HIV. Since nobody has to smoke or participate in gay sex, "disproportionate expenditures on HIV seem unfair, given that the association between HIV infection and same-sex sex is similar to the association between lung cancer and smoking." (He fails to mention that the government, either through programs like Medicaid or heavy subsidies of hospitals and other treatment facilities, in fact does take care of smokers suffering from related illnesses.)
Cameron assumes that men-on-men sex is the only means of contracting HIV. In fact, the Center for Disease Control calculates that non gay sex-induced cases of HIV accounted for well over one-third of all such reported cases in 2005.
According to Jason Cianciotto, Senior Fellow at the Task Force, it is Cameron’s ability to complicate and cloak his data that makes him so effective. "He has really mastered the art of pulling the wool over peoples’ eyes who aren’t knowledgeable enough about social science research to decipher what he writes."
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Cameron has written about "the homosexual lifestyle." Other works include "Child Molestation and Homosexuality," "Gay Foster Parents More Apt to Molest," "Violence and Homosexuality" and "The Psychology of Homosexuality".
At this point, the question becomes how seriously should anyone take Cameron’s work? Or rather, with how much fervor should it be repudiated? "Unfortunately, there are a number of policy makers and more mainstream advocates who are using Cameron’s statistics," Cianciotto said. "So I think we have to pay attention to him so that he doesn’t continue to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes."
Burroway agrees. "I can’t tell you how many times his statistics manage to make their way into legitimate news media outlets, often without the person repeating the statistics knowing where it came from," he said. "So I think it’s very important to immediately analyze everything he puts out and get the real story so people can discover how bad his science really is."
To read Cameron’s "study," go to http://www.disc.ua.es/~gil/CameronHomosexualFootprint.pdf
To read Jim Burroway’s repudiation on the box Turtle Bulletin, go to http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/Articles/000,018.htm
July 25, 2007 - All we needed was to invent ‘’second hand obesity’’ to de-normalize the obese the same way the smokers have been de-normalized. Well guess what folks, we found a way. Obesity is contagious a study indicates! Will we soon have separate sections in restaurants and bars, will we have Designated Obesity Rooms, or will we totally ban the obese from public places so that they don’t contaminate others? This is beyond junk-science, this is insane !
From Time with partnership with CNN
Obesity Is Contagious, Study Finds
Wednesday, Jul. 25, 2007 By LAURA BLUE
Wondering why your waistline is expanding? Have a look at those of your friends. Your close friends can influence your weight even more than genes or your family members, according to new research appearing in the July 26 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The study's authors suggest that obesity isn't just spreading; rather, it may be contagious between people, like a common cold.
Researchers from Harvard and the University of California, San Diego, reviewed a database of 12,067 densely interconnected people — that is, a group that included many families and friends — who had all participated in a major American heart study between 1971 and 2003. The participants met with heart researchers every two to four years. To facilitate study follow-up, the researchers asked participants to name family members and at least one friend who could be called on if the participant changed addresses. It was that information the NEJM authors mined to explore obesity in the context of a social network.
According to their analysis, when a study participant's friend became obese, that first participant had a 57% greater chance of becoming obese himself. In pairs of people in which each identified the other as a close friend, when one person became obese the other had a 171% greater chance of following suit. "You are what you eat isn't the end of the story," says study co-author James Fowler, a political scientist at UC San Diego. "You are what you and your friends eat."
It's not just that people who share similar lifestyles become friends, Fowler says. He and co-author Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School considered the possibility — and were surprised. For one thing, geographic distance between friends in the study seemed to have no impact: friends who lived a 5-hour drive apart and saw each other infrequently were just as influenced by each other's weight gains as those who lived close enough to share weekly take-out meals or pick-up basketball games. The best proof that friendship caused the weight gain, says Fowler, is that people were much more likely to pattern their own behavior on the actions of people they considered friends — but the relationship didn't work in the other direction. If you had named another person as a friend, and your friend became obese, than you were more than 50% more likely to get fat too. But if your friend had not named you as a mutual friend, and you became obese, it would have no significant impact on your friend's weight.
The obvious question is, Why? Spouses share meals and a backyard, but the researchers found a much smaller risk of gaining weight — a 37% increase — when one spouse became obese. Siblings share genes, but their influence, too, was much smaller, increasing each other's risk 40%. Fowler believes the effect has much more to do with social norms: whom we look to when considering appropriate social behavior. Having fat friends makes being fat seem more acceptable. "Your spouse may not be the person you look to when you're deciding what kind of body image is appropriate, how much to eat or how much to exercise," Fowler says. Nor do we necessarily compare ourselves to our siblings. "We get to choose our friends," says. "We don't get to choose our families."
Fowler and Christakis say that the contagion-effect should hold just as much for weight loss as it does for weight gain. "I would hope this influences individuals to get friends and families involved in decisions about health," Fowler says. After all, he says, a weight-loss plan may be more effective if the people closest to you are on board. And, if you're successful, your good health will help others achieve a healthy weight too. The impact extends not just to your friends, it turns out — but also to your friends' friends, and even to their friends. Fowler and Christakis found that the ripple effect of a weight gain was significant to three degrees of separation.
For policy analysts, then, the lesson is that public-health interventions may well be far more cost-effective than previously acknowledged. Helping one person lose weight can have a snowball effect through an entire social network, affecting social norms among the target person's friends and acquaintances. "There's been a lot of talk about limiting portion size, getting rid of vending machines in schools," says Thomas Sander, a civic-engagement specialist at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, not involved in the research. Those interventions may be useful, he says. "This study suggests that if we're fighting obesity without taking into account the social aspect, we're going to be acting with our hands behind our backs." Most people recognize that smoking behavior and drinking behavior are influenced by group standards. But such thinking is relatively new for obesity, still so often thought of as an individual's moral failing or clinical condition. Next up for Fowler and Christakis's consideration: how a social network can influence an individual event — like a heart attack. "There are all kinds of processes," says Fowler, "and we'd like to know whether they spread like this."
On September 16th in this Junk Science C.A.G.E. section, we posted an article on Dr. Richard Smith’s book about conflict of interest in the medical journals. "Medical journals have many problems and need reform. The research they contain is hard to interpret and prone to bias and peer review. The process at the heart of journals and all of science, is deeply flawed." is what Dr. Smith, ex editor of the BMJ stated.
The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), recently published an article about a study conducted by David W. Kuneman and Michael J. McFadden that offers important new information to policy makers in regards to the Helena, Pueblo, Piedmont, and Bowling Green studies which attempted to prove that smoking bans result in immediate reductions in heart attacks.
We find it very regretful that medical journals that have the responsibility of serving the public interest by looking at all sides of an issue, refuse to publish a study that can influence important policies which affect the daily lives of citizens and businesses.
Albeit Kuneman and McFadden are the only ones that we have heard of having conducted a serious study on the issue, they are not the only ones that disagree with the findings of the Helena & al studies. Here’s how Dr. Michael Siegel feels about them as reported in an article in Nature Magazine: "It's quite common to see major year-to-year changes in heart attacks, sometimes as much as a 50% increase or decrease," says Michael Siegel, an epidemiologist at Boston University School of Public Health. Attributing such changes to a ban is impossible, he says.
A Study Delayed: Helena, MT's Smoking Ban and the Heart Attack Study
By Michael J. McFadden and David W. Kuneman
Near the end of 2005, we (David W. Kuneman, a retired pharmaceutical chemist, and Michael J. McFadden, author of Dissecting Antismokers' Brains) and the SmokersClubInc. Newsletter issued a press release and published the outline and results of a study (1) that should have made media headlines around the world while bringing the juggernaut of smoking bans, if not to a crashing halt, at least to a stumble.
Using a database of fully verifiable public data and covering a subject base literally 1,000 times as large as that covered by a previous and heavily publicized study in Helena, Montana (2), the new study showed clearly that claims -- ostensibly bolstered by that Helena study -- of drastic and instant reductions in heart attacks upon the implementation of smoking bans simply do not occur in larger populations. Such a result should have rocked both the media and medical worlds. Thousands of news stories, expert statements, and legislative testimonies based upon the Helena results had resulted in profound lifestyle and economic impacts upon the lives of tens of millions of people and had now been found to be in grievous error.
Instead, the study's announcement was greeted with virtual media silence.
Please refer to the link http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsID.990/news_detail.asp for the rest of the article.