The Power of the Placebo

placebo-effect-one-a-day

The placebo effect is a very interesting bane in scientific research. It cannot be easily dismissed, nor can it be readily explained. Yet it is a factor in clinical research, and scientists must deal with it scientifically as an abnormality. The real question is the placebo the only actionable method of action at work, or is the procedure, drug or chemical being tested (the alternative hypothesis) actually “doing something”. Should we have research that accepts where the placebo is scientifically effective, and where it isn’t?

Scientists rarely study the placebo effect, because it can be problematic to isolate variables. In addition, allopathic medicine tends to think of the placebo effect as a negative factor. Researchers and doctors could accept it as a viable and ethical factor to healing if fully disclosed. That is to say is there enough evidence to warrant using the good side of the placebo, scientifically, to improve the quality of care and treatment?

Placebo effects have been shown to be less of a factor in some disease states such as cancer (Chvetzoff & Tannock, 2003) or infection, and more of a factor in things like pain management (Hunter, 2007). If the placebo effect is a tool for healing, is there justification to use it when it has been proven to work?

One of the most profound discoveries on the strength of the placebo effect was a study using Novocaine from dentists (citation pending). These dentists were given a placebo and told to administer it as Novocaine to their patients. Even though the doctors didn’t do anything different in administering the placebo the effect the placebo was, as you would expect, very low. However, when the doctors were given blinded placebo, not knowing if they were giving real Novocaine or the placebo, the placebo rates went up statistically higher. Somehow, patients felt that they were getting the real thing, and the only change was the doctors were blinded. But the most profound aspect of this study came from looking at the doctors were all given a placebo, and told it was real Novocaine. The rate of agonistic effect was very high. In other words, for some reason, doctors were able to transfer the belief that the treatment would reduce pain. If they believed it, so did their patients.

Is it possible then to realize that there is value in the placebo effect? Should “above the board” disclosure include the use of clinical situations that contribute to areas where a placebo effect is a part of the treatment? Where do we draw the line, when the placebo effect should be used, or when it shouldn’t be used. Clearly patients expect the cost of their medication or treatment should be above and beyond the value of the placebo. Scientist are now starting to explore the ethical use of the placebo.

References:

Chvetzoff, G., & Tannock, I. F. (2003). Placebo effects in oncology. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 95(1), 19-29.

Hunter, P. (2007). A question of faith. EMBO reports, 8(2), 125-128.

The “Mac-Do” Effect

Most people have been to McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, or any number of favorite fast food restaurants. Our first experience is either as a young child when our parents seek to provide relief from proper parenting, by purchasing some “happy meal,” where the purpose of the food is anchored in the toy included in the meal or our attempt to save some money during our growing up years. Thus, the last 30 years we have seen a surge in the growth in the fast food industry in markets globally, where fast food formats have become infused into the diets and cultures of peoples around the world in what I call the “Mac-Do” effect. That is: traditional culinary delights in many countries have been displaced by french fries, cheap hamburgers, soda’s and deserts and with each emerging generation some sort of sick homogenization of a poor global diet has emerged, leading to poor health and dietary behaviors, and a loss of thousands of years of culinary perfection.

I’m sure executives of fast food chains don’t have a hidden agenda to destroy culinary excellence, and lately many have diversified their menu’s to include healthy alternatives, yet I believe the damage has already been done. Young children and youth globally often prefer a diet laden with bread and sugars over traditional foods. In many asian countries, for example, young people are consuming alternate foods that “taste better,” and no longer eat rice and fish. In western cultures, the migration from vegetables and local meats and dairy have given way to sodas and fried foods. But the problem goes well beyond fast food restaurants but includes choices of beverages and snacks. Coca Cola, for example, leads the way as a drink choice over water or juice, and even as a juice choice, most turn to processed juices with corn syrup and have little “fruit” in them, if at all. They are less expensive, and in developing countries where income is spent on energy, housing, and electronics, there is often little “leftover” to help pay for good food.

The “Mac-Do” effect has also changed the way the food industry works. Instead of large local farms producing food aligned by centuries of genetic cultivation, large corporate entities now produce low cost ingredients making alien foods cheaper to manufacture and consume. While not all of these foods are represented in the fast food menu, they are profoundly represented in grocery stores and local shops, nearly completely displacing tradition food in marketplaces for younger generations.

The net effect is both a high caloric diet of non-native foods, but densely calorically packed cheap foods, low in nutrition leading to disease and dietary complications including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. But more profound is the loss of generations of culinary mastered dishes and dietary flavors, that for centuries aligned to the dietary requirements both nutritional and in a medicinal capacity. Younger generations find their tastes are changing and with it the benefits of thousands of years of culinary perfection.

In a recent article, a study shows diabetes and obesity linked to a number of nearby fast-food outlets: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/11/diabetes-obesity-fast-food-outlets-study More emerging research support this and other studies.

The solution to this may exist in re-localizing food choices, in a return to native foods, but the pressure from a profit-centered economy built around food is enormous and dynamically powerful. The “Mac-Do” effect may be stopped through education programs both proactive by groups and councils to promote proper diet and by reacting to nutritions decay of world health populations now more susceptible to “cheap food.” Either way, times are changing, and some foods are disappearing and are being changed, if we recognize this, we may be able to change it. For me, I hope we can retain the perfection in a diverse food marketplace, and personally, I resist the homogenization of a global food economy by always selecting local dishes as much as possible.

Diet drinks linked with heart disease and death

dietsodasI find it amazing most people think diet soda is healthy because it has less to no calories.  Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.  Billion dollar companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi aren’t really interested in health and wellness, right?  Of course a 12 can of “Coke” with nearly 40g of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), is chemically toxic, containing a dramatic “punch” of processed sugar that is nearly instantly converted into belly fat, increases insulin resistance (over time), and increase cancer risks due to an increase sugar intake that feeds out of control cancer cells.

However a recent study shows that diet soda consumption is linked with an increase in heart disease and increased mortality rates.

Reference: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101536768

This study shows: “Researchers found women who drank two or more diet drinks a day were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular “event,” and 50 percent more likely to die, than women who rarely touch such drinks.”.  The research also notes: “The women who drank the most drinks were also more likely to smoke, to be overweight, to have diabetes and to have high blood pressure, Vyas noted.”.

Either way, its pretty clear that diet soda’s content of ingredients is not a mix for health success.  Aspartame, a sweetner, is linked to increased cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Phosphoric acid, added to provide a “kick”, reduces calcium absorption. Caffeine (also found in many things), isn’t really a big problem, but long term can lead to issues related to sleep problems, or addictions.  If Aspartame isn’t used, Acesulfame potassium is, and its linked to brain tumor growth and risks of hypoglycemia.

Diet soda’s might be a very dangerous and hidden element in our daily habits.  I’m sure those who have their daily “diet Coke” would admit, its not “good for them”, however it may be time to reevaluate weather drinking diet soda’s is harmful!  We widely accept cigarette smoke and drugs this way, while I don’t think diet soda is on the same scale, I think historically we think of them as harmless, and that’s clearly not the case.

Other links: http://grist.org/scary-food/2011-02-16-aspartame-soda-caramel-bpa-diet-soda-kill-you/  and http://www.livestrong.com/article/521667-harmful-effects-of-soda-acidity/

Amazon has sellers with Counterfeit Supplements

amazonlogoI buy from Amazon all the time, if you find the right seller, you get a really good deal., and Amazon themselves has good prices on the goods they sell.  What most people don’t understand is Amazon is a marketplace.  There are thousands of “sellers” like those on eBay or other places like Craigs List etc.  A recent article talks about one aspect that I agree.  Do not buy dietary supplements and healthcare products off Amazon.  Its too risky.  Its easy to validate if your iPod cover works, or if your book is the the “real deal”, but there are many reports of sellers selling vitamins or other supplements and they are not what they say.

I also don’t understand why somebody would not buy a food supplement from the best quality and reliable source possible, but then I guess to “save a dollar” is ever present on ones mind.

Be that as it is, please be careful.  If you buy off Amazon, buy something where the selling is Amazon themselves, not a 3rd party nameless merchant.  I would contact the company that makes that product and ask them if Amazon sales are authorized.   Contact the seller in advance and ask them where they source the product, and if they would give you their name and phone number, to discuss the nature of the product.  These are simple yet effective things anybody can do.

Source: http://m.naturalnews.com/news/043057_Amazoncom_counterfeit_products_misrepresentation_and_fraud.html

Other links: http://www.marilynglenville.com/beware-fake-health-supplements-amazon/

http://www.beyondhealthnews.com/wpnews/index.php/2013/12/heads-up-fake-dietary-supplements-selling-on-amazon/

Antioxidant Vitamin’s May be Harmful

VitaminsVitamin’s Harmful?

Recent large scale studies now suggest that Vitamin supplements such as Vitamin C or Vitamin E may not be healthy, and may be harmful.  Scientists have known for a long time that free radical damage was the cause of most of the major diseases related to the natural aging process, and at its root, the process that is paired with natural aging.  In an attempt to curb this process, even scientists suggested that Antioxidant supplements like C or E would lower the levels of oxidative stress in the body, reducing the signs and effects of aging.

Most people think that if some is good, better is more, so many companies addressed this problem by suggesting that their customers use products that are high in dosages of Vitamins.. particularly those with antioxidant capacities.   However, recent research shows that this may not be the case, and infact taking antioxidant vitamins especially in larger dosages, disrupt a set of complex systems in the body, where the body uses free radical damage to help destroy cancer cells, fight infection and other problems.  By injecting external sources of these chemical ingredients, customers may be doing more harm than good, suggesting that the days of “vitamin supplements” is coming to and end.

For example Nature World News recently reported:  that vitamin C and E reduce the body’s ability to train for endurance events such as marathons. see: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/5854/20140203/vitamin-c-e-negatively-affect-endurance-training.htm and http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/20140103054005.shtml

Another example found that vitamin C and E accelerate Lung Cancer in Mice.  The study suggests that external chemical antioxidants interrupt the system that the body uses to destroy tumor cells. see: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/6/221/221ra15.abstract

And another example a research article suggest vitamin’s such as β-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements are harmful and other antioxidants, folic acid and B vitamins, and multivitamin and mineral supplements are ineffective for preventing mortality or morbidity due to major chronic diseases. see:  http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1789253

But why is this?  Well its simple.  The body was designed to work naturally.  While true, the amount of toxins and exposure are harmful, adding supplements to the body aren’t effective.  Rather the natural approach is to stimulate the natural systems and processes used in the body.  These natural pathway’s like Nrf2 are much more effective, and research shows that Nrf2 activation and support may be a much more effective way to help the body cope with many physical stress situations.  see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2965188/

I’m still a supporter of vitamin’s however, but they must come from a wholefood sources, not a chemical one.  But additionally, and importantly, using external sources of antioxidants is simply not an effective method to lower oxidative stress.  Studies also show that in most cases they are simply not effective in doing that, and the body actually metabolizes them to create additional free radicals, or in maybe a Kinase inhibitor (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC444845/).  Kinase receptors are responsible for signaling to vital cell proteins such as Nrf2 who’s job is to naturally regulate the body’s own antioxidants.

In conclusion the latest research suggests some harmful side effects to external vitamin supplementation.  This new trend suggests a better approach would be to assist the body in the natural system response to fighting oxidative stress.  Instead of taking antioxidants (with the potential side effects), that the body simply makes its own, like Superoxide Dismutase, Catalase and Glutathione. Having said that, a whole food source of vitamins for those who are deficient may be in order.

More related links: 

https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2014/02/more-evidence-for-antioxidant-supplements-to-cause-harm.php

http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20140121/LIFESTYLE20/301210008/Antioxidants-powerful-tool-war-aging

Heart Disease not prevented by Multivitamins

In a recent study, it was shown that multivitamins does not offer benefits for the prevention of heart disease. I found the study particularly interesting because Centrum Multivitamin’s used in the study are just cheap bad chemical vitamin’s, not wholefood vitamins. This is something I’ve said for a long time, cheap chemical vitamins are not healthy, and don’t help. Infact they can be harmful. However, while the study addresses Heart Disease, it did indicate that it can reduce the risk of Cancer. I suppose the real proof is in the quality of the vitamin, real food being the best source, and then wholefood supplements being the next best approach. If somebody is going to take any form of a supplement or vitamin, it should have peer reviewed, clinical research to suggest it is effective. The supplements that I endorse do, as is the case with wholefood vitamins. I get my wholefood vitamins at our local health food store.

Ref: http://www.healthaim.com/study-heart-disease-not-prevented-by-multivitamins/

Revelar – A Measure of Oxidative Stress

I’ve been watching this one for a while now. The gold standard in measuring oxidative stress is a test known as TBARS, it is a well-established screening and monitoring of lipid peroxidation. Its often called reactive species test or lipid peroxidase test. See my this page about where to get a TBARS test. But most of us aren’t going to draw blood, and unless we have access to a lab, its very hard to conduct the test. Even labs that can do it, must follow the protocol exactly. There must be an easier way to measure oxidative stress.

About a year ago I inquired of the manufacturer of a product called Revelar. According to them, their device detects and measures aldehydes in the breath. Aldehydes are known to be indicators of free radical damage. Does it work? I don’t know, but it appears promising. They have a new model that is better they claim than the old one. The device is expensive, both the “machine” and the testing items would cost the patient about $30 per test (meaning after you do a few hundred tests you’ve paid for the machine). So most people don’t have the money to buy one.

So what’s next? We’ll we stay tuned. Im sure that as it comes out, we’ll know much more about how viable it is. I suspect many small doctors offices will purchase the device. They’ll try a varienty of methods to lower oxidative stress. Time will tell, but it looks promising.

See Revalar for more details.

American Cheese is not Cheese

I’m not sure why such pride is taken in labeling American Cheese “American”. Is it american to take something good and real and imitate it with favor and color? Maybe. However, American Cheese is not cheese, it just isn’t. It doesn’t even taste good. Sure its cheap, its only redeeming value I suppose, however its certainly not healthy. It used to be it contained real cheese, but no longer. What’s in American cheese? Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Sodium, Phosphates, Lactic Acid, Coloring and crap. Count me out on American Cheese. Why can’t we have good cheese and call that American Cheese! Part of the problem I think is how its processed, so manufactured, maybe that’s the American icon being represented.

Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_cheese

BPA Levels From Eating Canned Soup and Free Radicals

BPA is nasty stuff.  This study, shows how BPA increase from those who eat canned soup, in just 5 days.  Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics found in water bottles and food storage containers. BPA is known to disrupt the endocrine system in the human body and may contribute to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, prostate gland, cardiovascular disease, hormone sensitive cancers such as breast and prostate, and immune system dysfunction. Harmful exposure levels are not known at this time and are currently being researched. The amount of BPA that leeches into food and drink varies depending on the age of the container, the temperature of the food/drink, and the type of container.

Did you also know that BPA is related to free radicals?  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12865045

This article showed how BPA Injected into mice, increased hydrogen peroxide in the mouse organs.  Hydrogen peroxide is a very strong free radical molecule.

Need more confirmation, see http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001393510900084X