Pseudoscience

FDA Wants More Lung Cancer

E-Cigarette - FDA Vaping Rules

E-Cigarette – FDA Vaping Rules

The post Bootleggers and Baptists touched on the corrupt bargain now bringing together a coalition to suppress vaping (close to harmless) as a substitute for cigarettes (cause of most lung cancer deaths.)

The FDA has announced their plan to regulate vaping (and cigars, etc.), which seems designed to drive all vaping products off the market — except those provided by Big Tobacco companies. As usual with the FDA, the process for getting approval will be lengthy and costly, when a simple filing of ingredients (and prohibition of dangerous ones) would be cheap and quick. Only the largest companies will be able to afford the approval process.

The New York Times story:

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration made final sweeping new rules that for the first time extend federal regulatory authority to e-cigarettes, popular nicotine delivery devices that have grown into a multibillion-dollar business with virtually no federal oversight or protections for American consumers.

The 499-page regulatory road map has broad implications for public health, the tobacco industry and the nation’s 40 million smokers. The new regulations would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to Americans under 18 and would require that many people buying them show photo identification to prove their age, measures already mandated in a number of states.

The long-awaited regulations shift the terms of the intense public debate over e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without the harmful tar and chemicals that cause cancer. The devices were introduced about a decade ago and have exploded in popularity. There are an estimated 9 million adult e-cigarette users in the United States.

But they have sharply divided American public health experts. The central question is whether they help people stop smoking — or whether they are a gateway to traditional cigarettes, especially for younger people. Health experts in Britain have decided they are effective in helping people quit, and have urged smokers there to switch to them. American experts have been more cautious, warning that they may eventually result in young people moving from vaping to smoking traditional cigarettes.

The answer is important because smoking is still the largest cause of preventable death, with over 480,000 tobacco-related deaths each year in the United States.

The regulations, which will take effect in 90 days, establish oversight of what has been a market free-for-all of products, including vials of liquid nicotine of varying quality and unknown provenance. Finalizing them has taken years. They stem from a major tobacco-control law Congress passed in 2009 and were first proposed in draft form in 2014….

Perhaps the biggest change is a requirement that producers of cigars and e-cigarettes register with the F.D.A., provide the agency with a detailed accounting of their products’ ingredients, and disclose their manufacturing processes and scientific data. Producers will be subject to F.D.A. inspections and will not be able to market their products as “light” or “mild,” unless the F.D.A. allowed them to. Companies will be prohibited from giving out free samples….

The American Vaping Association, a trade group for the industry, seemed to take that view, arguing in a statement on Thursday that the agency had gone too far. “This is not regulation — it is prohibition,” the group said in a statement. It said the process for submitting an application, in terms of number of hours spent, would exceed a million dollars.

But federal health officials countered that the industry will have ample time to respond to the rules. Companies with products on the market now, including vape shops that mix their own liquids, will have two years to submit an application to the F.D.A. for approval of a product. It can stay on the market for another year while the agency reviews the application.

As for the cost, officials and advocates said it was too soon to tell, but added that there was broad agreement — including in federal statute — that the industry needed to be regulated, not unlike the food industry, for example, and that these rules were a thoughtful way to accomplish that. Mr. Zeller. said that until now the industry had been the “wild, wild West.”

…The rules also impose regulations on all tobacco cigars, a tougher move than originally anticipated as the agency was pondering excluding so-called premium cigars….

“At last, the Food and Drug Administration will have basic authority to make science-based decisions that will protect our nation’s youth and the public health from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah,” Harold P. Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association, said in a statement.

The F.D.A. announcement followed a ruling by Europe’s highest court on Wednesday upholding the right of the European Union to place restrictions on the sale of electronic cigarettes. Europe’s rules are to take effect this month.

So based on so-far-unfounded speculation that vaping will induce kids to smoke regular cigarettes, regulators who purport to care about the millions of deaths due to lung cancer will, in effect, make it more difficult and expensive to quit cigarette smoking by using the much-less-harmful e-cigarettes.

I don’t vape and I suspect vaping has some minor negative health effects, but relatively speaking they’ve already been shown to be minimal. Yet the knee-jerk reaction is to clamp down on something these regulators don’t do or know much about, because it *resembles* cigarette smoking and those poor weak-minded citizens need to be protected. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that vaping threatens tax revenues and the business models of both Big Pharma and Big Tobacco, and the approvals process is designed to suit Big Tobacco while shutting out small companies.

From the Bootleggers and Baptists post:

Tobacco: Vaping equipment, or e-cigs, provide the appearance of cigarettes and a dose of the nicotine smokers crave in a delivery format (evaporated carrier with nicotine and flavoring) that is much less harmful to smoker’s lungs. Many experts recommended smokers switch to e-cigs immediately, since harm to their health would be much reduced. But e-cigs threaten both the makers of the highly-regulated and taxed legacy cigarettes and the makers of smoking cessation products like nicotine gum and patches — often the same companies! So paid “medical authorities” and lobbyists began to work hard to promote the view that the new and untested e-cigs were just as hazardous — if not more hazardous, since their long-term effects were unknown! — than traditional cigarettes. Cato’s Regulation put out a good paper on the Bootleggers-and-Baptists pattern in this new propaganda war:

Now consider the situation with electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and their incumbent competitors: tobacco companies that produce and sell traditional cigarettes and drug companies that produce nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs). The U.S. cigarette market has been regulated, one way or another, since colonial times. Along the way, federal regulation—coupled most recently with the state attorneys general Master Settlement Agreement (MSA, about which we say more later)—effectively cartelized the industry, bringing increased profits to the industry and higher cigarette prices and reduced cigarette consumption throughout the nation. Falling cigarette consumption gladdened the hearts of health advocates, who fought for the elimination of tobacco products, while higher industry profits brought joy to tobacco company owners.

This happy Bootlegger/Baptist equilibrium is now threatened by the exploding sales of e-cigs, a new technology for delivering nicotine to all who want it without simultaneously bringing the harmful combustion-induced chemicals associated with burned tobacco. Today, there are many e-cig producers and numerous small shops selling e-cigs and customized nicotine-dispensing products. It is a rapidly evolving market that has been relatively open to new entrants and innovation in product design. Given the quick growth in e-cig use (much of which comes at the expense of cigarette sales), previous political deals that stabilized tobacco industry profits are at risk. The major tobacco companies are understandably not sitting idle. They, too, have entered the e-cig marketplace and are responding in other ways to the new competition.

The major pharmaceutical companies have not been idle either. The makers of smoking cessation products, including NRTs such as the nicotine patch and nicotine gum, are major players in the politics of tobacco and nicotine. The producers of traditional nicotine delivery devices and NRTs are at work trying to stop the disruptive e-cig producers. These Bootleggers are joined by health advocates (Baptists) who raise questions about unknown potentially harmful effects that may be associated with e-cig use. Both groups—cigarette and NRT producers on the one hand, and health advocates on the other—would like to stop new e-cig producers or severely crimp their ability to compete.

Lawfare between the tobacco industry and state attorneys general was settled in 1998 with the MSA (Master Settlement Agreement), which set the payments due to the states to compensate them for the additional Medicare and Medicaid costs states would bear because of tobacco products. The agreement was carefully designed to send money to the states while protecting the incumbent manufacturers from competition, allowing them to raise prices more than required to pay the fines.

Again from Cato’s paper:

The heart of the MSA was the promised payment of $206 billion by the four participating cigarette companies to the participating states. Those payments would be tax deductible and the costs would be paid by consumers in the form of higher cigarette prices. (Because cigarette consumption is highly price inelastic, the cost of the price increase was largely borne by consumers rather than producers.) The MSA presented state legislatures with a simple choice: either accept the MSA, in which case they would be able to spend their state’s share of the billions of dollars raised from smokers, or reject the proposed statute and their states’ smokers would still pay the higher prices necessary to fund the deal but they would lose their claim on the money. Not surprisingly, every state legislature took the money.

Responsibility for the payments was allocated among the cigarette companies in proportion to their current market share, thereby reducing the incentive for the participating cigarette companies to engage in price competition to increase their respective market shares. The structure of the MSA thus provided a powerful incentive for each company to be satisfied with the status quo.

The MSA also attempted to protect the major cigarette companies from new competition. At the time of the agreement, the four participating cigarette companies accounted for about 99 percent of domestic cigarette sales. Increasing cigarette prices to pay for the settlement risked a loss of market share to marginal competitors or new entrants. Therefore the MSA provided that for every percent of market share over 2 percent lost by a participating cigarette manufacturer, the manufacturer would be allowed to reduce its payments to the states by 3 percent, unless each participating state enacted a statute to prevent price competition from non-participating manufacturers (which each state did). The statutes require nonparticipating cigarette producers to make payments equal to or greater than what they would owe had they been participants in the agreement, to eliminate any cost advantage.

The MSA also included restrictions on cigarette marketing practices agreed to by the participating producers. The advertising limits were portrayed as a public health measure because they reduced advertising that could influence young adults and teens. The limits also reinforced the anticompetitive nature of the MSA by making it more costly for new brands or entrants to secure market share through promotional efforts.

The MSA’s cartel-reinforcing provisions sufficiently suppressed competition to enable cigarette companies to take advantage of the price inelasticity of cigarette demand and obtain record profits. This made it possible for the major cigarette manufacturers to increase prices by more than was necessary to make the mandated MSA payments.

Having made a deal to get big money for states and attorneys while protecting the companies from competition and raising prices more than enough to make the addicted smokers themselves pay the full cost of the settlement, many of the states decided to grab their money immediately by selling municipal (federal tax-free) bonds backed by the MSA payments expected. California alone issued at least $16.8 billion in such bonds, proceeds being used for both immediate expenses and long-term capital improvements. Legislators appear to have forgotten that the supposed purpose of the payments was to cover smoking-related expenses of future medical care for the state’s population, and instead chose to spend the money immediately on unrelated matters while leaving the burden of those health expenses with future taxpayers.

In some cases, however, the bonds are backed by secondary pledges of state or local revenues, which creates what some see as a perverse incentive to support the tobacco industry, on whom they are now dependent for future payments against this debt.

Tobacco revenue has fallen more quickly than projected when the securities were created, leading to technical defaults in some states. Some analysts predict that many of the bonds will default entirely. Many of the longer-term bonds have been downgraded to junk ratings. More recently, financial analysts began raising concerns that the rapid growth of the electronic cigarette market is accelerating the decline of $97 billion outstanding in tobacco bonds…. Lawmakers in several states proposed measures to tax e-cigarettes like traditional tobacco products to offset the decline in TMSA revenue. They anticipate that taxing or banning e-cigarettes would be beneficial to the sale of combustible cigarettes. — Wikipedia on “Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement”

Vested interests, including tobacco companies and the states, now actively seek to suppress e-cigs or at least tax them enough to make up for any lost revenue as they are adopted. This means they are actively working to keep smokers addicted to the most hazardous form of nicotine consumption, with its resultant cancers and other diseases. The original Baptist goal of helping smokers quit the habit to avoid cancer and early death has long since been forgotten.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegregation Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Study: Gut Bacteria on Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners

Since nearly everyone consumes artificial sweeteners in something (toothpaste, protein shakes, diet sodas), there’s impressive coverage of any new study on the topic. This of course is an incentive for the study authors to take their conclusions a bit further than they really should, and the headline writers then compete to jump to even more unwarranted conclusions.

So this Israeli study is everywhere: this writeup, “Saccharin solution? Sugar substitutes may mess with gut bacteria—causing obesity in the process,” from The Economist, is among the responsible ones that carefully mention the context of other studies showing no such effects.

In short, researchers gave mice water with sugar substitutes, sugar, or nothing. These researchers were especially interested in the microbiome and investigated the effects on gut bacteria of the different diets; after a week they dosed them with glucose and noted that the mice on sugar substitutes had higher blood sugar, meaning they had not processed the glucose as effectively (which normally occurs by release of insulin.)

They then killed off the gut bacteria in the mice, and the processing of glucose returned to normal, which supports the theory that the gut bacteria themselves had changed in the presence of artificial sweeteners to increase insulin resistance.

This is very interesting and suggests lots more research possibilities on the influence of our biomes on body processes; it tells us something about mice and artificial sweeteners. But it also reminds us that the response of mice to saccharin was the reason cited to attempt to ban it in the US, but further research in primates showed no significant health concerns at reasonable levels of consumption (though it still tastes bad!)

Reaching for significance (and headlines), the researchers then did something very interesting before publication: they tried to tie their results to human obesity. Noting that some correlation studies show consumption of artificial sweeteners is correlated with weight gain, they suggest the possibility (without claiming it) that human obesity is caused by artificial sweeteners interacting with the gut biome. They recruited 7 (7!) nonusers of artificial sweeteners, gave them maximum allowed doses of saccharin, and observed changes in the gut biomes of 4 of the 7 which looked much like the changes seen in the mice. This result, even if accurate, barely reaches statistical significance.

What can we conclude here? That 90% of human nutrition studies can’t be replicated, meaning no single study means much; that there may well be some very interesting research to be done on the gut flora and fauna, since there are many clues showing the microbiome significantly affects digestive and metabolic processes; that researchers are tempted to direct their results toward headlines which get them notoriety and funding; and that since most studies show reasonable use of artificial sweeteners to substitute for sugar is an aid to weight loss and critical for real diabetics, no one should change their habits because of this study.

Let’s look at the headlines generated by the study:

NYTimes: “Artificial Sweeteners May Disrupt Body’s Blood Sugar Controls”
FT: “Israeli researchers link artificial sweeteners with obesity”
Israel Hayom: “Artificial sweeteners may drive diabetes, Israeli study finds”
ABC: “Study: Artificial Sweeteners May Promote Diabetes”
CBC: “Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity epidemic, scientists say”
WSJ: “Research Shows Zero-Calorie Sweeteners Can Raise Blood Sugar”

Note the better-quality publications (NYTimes, WSJ) avoid sensationalizing the results–it’s especially reprehensible to suggest diabetics should be terrorized and stop using artificial sweeteners, which allow them some semblance of sweetness and have been used for decades without causing problems. The weasel word “linked” in “Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity epidemic, scientists say,” should be a clue to the lack of scientific backing for that headline’s claim.

For further reading, I can recommend the WSJ’s relatively cautious coverage: “Research Shows Zero-Calorie Sweeteners Can Raise Blood Sugar,” by Gautam Naik:

“The scope of our discovery is cause for a public reassessment of the massive and unsupervised use of artificial sweeteners,” said Eran Elinav, a physician and immunologist at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science and lead author of the study, which appeared Wednesday in the journal Nature….

They transplanted bacteria from artificial-sweetener-fed mice or sugar-fed mice into other mice that were bred to have no gut bacteria of their own and that had never consumed a sweetener product. They found that the bacterial transfer from the sweetener-fed mice raised the blood sugar levels in the transplant recipients—suggesting that the gut microbes had triggered the higher sugar levels in mice fed fake sweeteners.

Was the same link true for people? Dr. Elinav and his colleagues examined the relationship between long-term consumption of artificial sweeteners and various metabolic measurements in some 380 nondiabetic people.

They found that the bacteria in the gut of those who regularly ate fake sweeteners were notably different from those who didn’t. In addition, there was a correlation between the sweetener consumption and a susceptibility to glucose intolerance, which is a disturbance in the blood glucose level.

Correlation, however, doesn’t necessarily mean causation. In the next experiment, seven volunteers who normally didn’t consume fake sugar were asked to consume products high in the sweeteners. After four days, four of them had significantly higher blood-sugar levels as well as altered populations of bacteria in their gut—an outcome similar to what was seen in mice.

“This susceptibility to sweeteners [can now] be predicted ahead of time by profiling the microbes in the people,” said Eran Segal, a co-author of the study and computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute.

The results need to be corroborated through a study with many more participants.

Our lead author certainly wants to take artificial sweeteners away from people, or at least require prescriptions! Can’t have anything go unsupervised. Such attitudes tend to indicate a less-than-objective scientist.

Here’s a blog post from Suppversity which goes into detail–they have actually read the paper, while I have only seen pieces. Not all the mice suffered ill effects, and the paper’s authors also managed to not publicize the fact that the effects were seen most strongly with saccharin, less with sucralose, and hardly at all with aspartame. So the news trumpeted around the world was (to be charitable) incomplete.

More on Diet:

Getting to Less Than 10% Body Fat Like the Models – Ask Me How!
Starbucks, Jamba Juice Make You Fat
Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat. Government Guidelines Did!
‘Fed Up’ Asks, Are All Calories Equal?
Fructose: The True Villain?
More on “Fed Up”, Sugar Subsidies, and Obesity
Another Study on Diet Drinks
LeBron James Cut Carbs for Lean Look
Why We’re Fat: In-Depth Studies Under Way
Almonds: Superfood, Eat Them Daily for Heart Health
Fish Oil Supplements Ward Off Dementia
More on Diet Drinks: Best Studies Show They Aid Weight Loss
Vani Hari: “Food Babe” and Quack
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Sugared Soft Drinks: Health Risk? (and What About Diet Soda?)
Gluten-Free Diets: The Nocebo Effect
Acidic Soft Drinks and Sodas: Demineralization Damages Teeth
Fish and Fish Oil for Better Brain Health
Salt: New Research Says Too Little May Be Unhealthy
Bulletproof Coffee: Coffee, Oil, and Butter for Breakfast?

Progressive Neighborhoods: Low Vaccination Rates Create Epidemics

Jenny McCarthy

Jenny McCarthy

This story is getting a lot of coverage, but no amount is enough: pseudoscientific anti-vaccine proponents like Jenny McCarthy, Vani Hari “Food Babe,” and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. are in part responsible for increasing illness and deaths from formerly vanquished childhood diseases like measles and whooping cough. The Hollywood Reporter has done an in-depth investigation of how fashionable pseudoscience is endangering children:

Vaccination rates are plummeting at top Hollywood schools, from Malibu to Beverly Hills, from John Thomas Dye to Turning Point, where affluent, educated parents are opting out in shocking numbers (leaving some schools’ immunization rates on par with South Sudan) as an outbreak of potentially fatal whooping cough threatens L.A. like “wildfire….”

Across California, thousands of children and babies are coughing so violently that their bodies convulse, uncontrollably wheezing and fighting to breathe for weeks. Nearly 8,000 pertussis cases have been reported in 2014 to the state’s Department of Public Health as of Sept. 2, and 267 of those patients have been hospitalized, including 58 requiring intensive care.

Adults can contract the disease, but 94 percent of all cases reported statewide involve children — and the youngest suffer the most. So far this year, three infants under 2 months of age have died statewide from pertussis, a disease commonly known as whooping cough (named for the high-pitched sound that kids make when they inhale after coughing)….

Whether it’s measles or pertussis, the local children statistically at the greatest risk for infection aren’t, as one might imagine, the least privileged — far from it. An examination by The Hollywood Reporter of immunization records submitted to the state by educational facilities suggests that wealthy Westside kids — particularly those attending exclusive, entertainment-industry-favored child care centers, preschools and kindergartens — are far more likely to get sick (and potentially infect their siblings and playmates) than other kids in L.A. The reason is at once painfully simple and utterly complex: More parents in this demographic are choosing not to vaccinate their children as medical experts advise.

Progressives taunt “flyover country” sorts for the anti-scientific beliefs of the minority who don’t believe in evolution and want their religious creation story taught in schools. Meanwhile, progressives are killing people and hurting their own children by adopting pseudoscientific beliefs about harmful side-effects of vaccines that have long since been debunked.

There are risks to vaccinations–idiosyncratic reactions and unusual syndromes have occurred in a miniscule portion of children receiving vaccinations. But having forgotten the much greater danger of death and permanent damage from childhood diseases, these parents believe their own child is better off without vaccines. This goes along with a pseudo-religious belief that “all natural” is a good thing.

It was “all natural” for 50% of children to die before adulthood. It was “all natural” for most people to die before the age of 40. Modern vaccinations and public health measures like improved sewers and water treatment meant you could love your young children without risk of losing them, as used to be the case; and have only two to be likely to see two to adulthood, when before you might have eight to have only three survive. The CDC comments on what a world without vaccination would look like:

Before the middle of the last century, diseases like whooping cough, polio, measles, Haemophilus influenzae, and rubella struck hundreds of thousands of infants, children and adults in the U.S.. Thousands died every year from them. As vaccines were developed and became widely used, rates of these diseases declined until today most of them are nearly gone from our country.

Nearly everyone in the U.S. got measles before there was a vaccine, and hundreds died from it each year. Today, most doctors have never seen a case of measles.

More than 15,000 Americans died from diphtheria in 1921, before there was a vaccine. Only one case of diphtheria has been reported to CDC since 2004.

An epidemic of rubella (German measles) in 1964-65 infected 12½ million Americans, killed 2,000 babies, and caused 11,000 miscarriages. In 2012, 9 cases of rubella were reported to CDC.

It’s great that people are catching on to the benefits of less processed foods and more natural diets. It’s not great that they are starting to believe quacks who promote pseudoscience that will let dangerous diseases run unchecked.

Lemmings gotta lem!


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More on Pseudoscience and Quackery:

Vani Hari: “Food Babe” and Quack
Vani Hari, “Food Babe” and Quack: Where the Money Comes From
Vandana Shiva: Quack
More on Quacks: “Dr. Oz” Testifies He’s a Victim!
“Parallel Science Propaganda Machine”
Mike Adams: Quack Suggests Murdering Monsanto-supporting Scientists
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: Quack

Junk Science: Vitamin Mania

vitamins

vitamins

538, the new platform for stats-oriented analysis from Nate Silver at ESPN, has this good story by Emily Oster about the junky science of vitamins: “Don’t Take Your Vitamins.”

Many medical studies show positive health effects from higher vitamin levels. The only problem? These studies often can’t tease out the effect of the vitamins from the effect of other factors, such as generally healthy living. Studies that attempt to do this typically show no impact from vitamin use — or only a very tiny one on a small subset of people. The truth is that for most people, vitamin supplementation is simply a waste of time.

To get a little more concrete — and to understand how we got to that endless row of vitamins at CVS — it’s useful to look at a couple of examples: vitamin D and vitamin E. These are among the most popular vitamin supplements: In the 2009-2010 NHANES, 34 percent of adults reported taking vitamin D supplements and 30 percent reported taking vitamin E.

One can find plenty of support for this supplementation behavior in the medical literature. A recent review identified 290 observational studies on vitamin D. For the most part, these studies measure the amount of 25-hydroxy vitamin D — the marker of vitamin D concentration — in participants’ blood and analyze the relationship between that concentration and various measures of health.

Using this approach, researchers have found that higher concentrations of vitamin D are linked to less cardiovascular disease, lower overall mortality, less weight gain, less diabetes, less likelihood of getting infectious diseases, less multiple sclerosis, fewer mood disorders, better cognitive function — basically, every outcome under the sun. Based on these studies, vitamin D is pretty much the philosopher’s stone.

A bit less magical, vitamin E has also been credited (again, in observational studies) with everything from better pregnancy outcomes to lower mortality. In the most striking result, a large study published in the early 1990s found a 40 percent reduction in mortality risk from taking vitamin E supplements for two years. This effect is enormous.

But as striking as these results on both vitamin D and vitamin E are, they fall short of the standard for causality. These studies were not randomized controlled trials, which means other factors could have influenced their outcomes. The authors did try to adjust for some variables — age and whether the subjects smoke, for example — but these may not be sufficient. Yet people believe the results: 25 percent of adults reported taking vitamin E in 1989, and the share rose to almost 40 percent by 2003.

As is often the case, striking observational results like these were followed by large randomized controlled trials — many of them. A study run through the National Institutes of Health called the Women’s Health Initiative analyzed the impact of vitamin D and calcium supplementation in 36,000 post-menopausal women. Another large trial out of Harvard — the Physician’s Health Study — looked into vitamin E supplementation among 14,000 male physicians.

In these trials, participants were randomly assigned to take supplements. Because the assignment was random — and the trials were big — the demographic and health characteristics of the supplement group and the non-supplement group were similar before the study started. When researchers looked at participants’ health over the long term, they could therefore be confident that any differences they saw across groups were due to the supplements, and not some other factor.

When the results of these studies came out, they largely refuted the idea that these supplements offered benefits. Vitamin E appears to have no impact on cancer or heart disease. Results from the Women’s Health Study, released in 2005, showed no relationship between vitamin E supplementation and overall mortality. Later results from the men in the Physicians’ Health Study showed the same: no relationship.

For vitamin D, the randomized trials (nicely summarized here) refuted virtually all of the purported benefits to diabetes, weight loss and cancer. For elderly women, there is some evidence of a small reduction in mortality with supplementation, but well below what was seen in observational data and only marginally statistically significant.

Randomized controlled trials are not actually required to draw some conclusions in some cases; the problem is that it is easy and cheap to study correlations, as in those studies that show correlations between blood levels of vitamins and some health benefit. Taking vitamins is part of a constellation of habits of organized, health-conscious people, so naturally people who take vitamins tend to have many other healthy habits and so their vitamin levels often correlate with good outcomes. Researchers do the easy studies first, then get funding for the much more expensive studies to look for causation; in this case, very little causation is turned up. So don’t feel bad about taking vitamins — you can make a case for the multivitamin as insurance against deficiencies you may not be aware of. There is little downside to moderate doses of vitamins. But a good diet with diverse foods generally provides all of the vitamins most people need.

Vitamin D levels in blood correlate with low rates of dementia, for example, but that may well be because people who eat oily coldwater fish regularly are being protected by the fish oils and not the vitamin D they contain.

The “junk science” here is not the correlation studies, but the conclusion that they prove anything that should be acted on.

More on Diet:

Getting to Less Than 10% Body Fat Like the Models – Ask Me How!
Starbucks, Jamba Juice Make You Fat
Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat. Government Guidelines Did!
‘Fed Up’ Asks, Are All Calories Equal?
Fructose: The True Villain?
More on “Fed Up”, Sugar Subsidies, and Obesity
Another Study on Diet Drinks
LeBron James Cut Carbs for Lean Look
Why We’re Fat: In-Depth Studies Under Way
Almonds: Superfood, Eat Them Daily for Heart Health
Fish Oil Supplements Ward Off Dementia
More on Diet Drinks: Best Studies Show They Aid Weight Loss
Vani Hari: “Food Babe” and Quack
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Sugared Soft Drinks: Health Risk? (and What About Diet Soda?)
Gluten-Free Diets: The Nocebo Effect
Acidic Soft Drinks and Sodas: Demineralization Damages Teeth
Fish and Fish Oil for Better Brain Health
Salt: New Research Says Too Little May Be Unhealthy
Bulletproof Coffee: Coffee, Oil, and Butter for Breakfast?

More on Pseudoscience and Quackery:

Vani Hari: “Food Babe” and Quack
Vani Hari, “Food Babe” and Quack: Where the Money Comes From
Vandana Shiva: Quack
More on Quacks: “Dr. Oz” Testifies He’s a Victim!
“Parallel Science Propaganda Machine”
Mike Adams: Quack Suggests Murdering Monsanto-supporting Scientists
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: Quack
Progressive Neighborhoods: Low Vaccine Rates Create Epidemics

Green Coffee Extract for Weight Loss: “Dr. Oz” Hypesters Fined

Green Coffee Extract - Dr. Oz

Green Coffee Extract – Dr. Oz

The FTC has settled with Applied Food Sciences, whose “miracle weight loss” claims for green coffee extract were supported by the quack Dr. Oz but no real scientific studies. The Consumerist has a concise story:

According to the FTC’s complaint [PDF] against Applied Food Sciences, the company sponsored and subsequently relied on the same flawed study that TV’s Dr. Oz used when he touted green coffee extract as “the magic weight-loss solution for every body type” to the millions of viewers of his show.

Among the problems with the AFS-sponsored clinical trials of green coffee extract, the FTC alleges that the principal researcher altered the weights and other key measurements of the subjects, changed the length of the trial, confused which subjects took either the placebo or green coffee extract at various points during the trial.

“When the principal investigator failed to find a publisher for his summary of the purported trial, AFS hired ghost-writers, who – like AFS – themselves received numerous, conflicting data sets from the principal investigator, but accepted the final version as correct,” reads the complaint. “The published study does not refer to these inconsistencies. Moreover, the published study fails to explain why most of the reported weight loss occurred when subjects were taking neither GCA nor a placebo; and fails to disclose that subjects were exercising and/or dieting during portions of the trial.”

And yet AFS repeatedly use this highly flawed research to tout its product to resellers, and even brought along one of the researchers to industry events to talk about his team’s supposed conclusions.

The company’s marketing claimed that its product caused consumers to lose 17.7 pounds, 10.5% of body weight, and 16% of body fat with or without diet and exercise (even though participants in the study were instructed to watch their food intake and exercise more frequently), in 22 weeks….

As part of the deal, AFS has agreed to pay $3.5 million and it can not make any weight loss claims about its products in the future without including at least two adequate and well-controlled human clinical tests….

Dr. Oz’s gushing over green coffee extract, along with some other hyperbolic statements about supposed miracle weight loss drugs, landed him before a U.S. Senate panel in June, where he admitted that his enthusiasm for a product can lead to exploitation by unethical marketers.

“I do think I’ve made it more difficult for the FTC,” the TV personality admitted to the panel. “In the intent to engage viewers, I use flowery language. I used language that was very passionate that ended up being not very helpful but incendiary and it provided fodder for unscrupulous advertisers.”

Much like Vani Hari, the “Food Babe,” he claims his “passion” and concern for his fans excuses hype, lies, bad science, and ripoff products.

This is an excellent example of a fraudulent study to claim scientific proof for a fraudulent product, as discussed in “Parallel Science Propaganda Machine.”

More on Pseudoscience and Quackery:

Vani Hari: “Food Babe” and Quack
Vani Hari, “Food Babe” and Quack: Where the Money Comes From
Vandana Shiva: Quack
More on Quacks: “Dr. Oz” Testifies He’s a Victim!
Mike Adams: Quack Suggests Murdering Monsanto-supporting Scientists
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: Quack
Progressive Neighborhoods: Low Vaccine Rates Create Epidemics

“The Dark Side of Almond Use” – Really?

almonds

The online Atlantic is funding some excellent journalism on California water use — this story is in-depth and worth the time to read, for example.

On the other hand, it is also publishing some of the silliest alarmism on the topic I have seen. First we have “Why Bottled Water Comes From California, Which Can’t Spare Much,” a concern troll of story — bottled water, which uses about 0.01% of California’s water supply (and most of that replacing tap water which would also come from the same sources), is decried as if the water is shipped to places where it is bountiful (most isn’t.) Failure to do math or have any understanding of true problems (like using water for irrigating crops that a very water-thirsty, like rice, in a dry state.)

This week The Atlantic gave us this concern troll: “The Dark Side of Almond Use,” by James Hamblin, (a very young) M.D. and editor there. Clickbait, even high-minded clickbait, is deadly to true understanding — our journalist wants us to feel guilty about eating almonds, a (not especially thirsty) irrigated crop in California’s central valley which supplies much of the world with almond-y goodness. He doesn’t present much evidence of how much water is used to irrigate almond crops or compare the value of that crop with the value of the water used to give us a sense of whether this irrigation is a consequence of the ultra-low rates irrigation users pay for their water, or if it is a reasonable use for the value of the crop:

This week another large study added to the body of known cardiovascular benefits of eating almonds. Every ounce eaten daily was associated with a 3.5 percent decreased risk of heart disease ten years later. Almonds are already known to help with weight loss and satiety, help prevent diabetes, and potentially ameliorate arthritis, inhibit cancer-cell growth, and decrease Alzheimer’s risk. A strong case could be made that almonds are, nutritionally, the best single food a person could eat….

This follows a massive study released last fall from Harvard that found eating nuts decreased mortality rates by 20 percent, and it builds on Jenkins’ work done more than 10 years ago which suggested, in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, “Almonds used as snacks in the diets of hyperlipidemic subjects significantly reduce coronary heart disease risk factors.”

That’s all wonderful, but coverage of almond-nutrition research necessarily affords a narrow vantage on health. It seems like every day someone asks me to dichotomize a health trend: good or bad. Almonds are a great example of why I’m terrible at doing that…. [Ed. note: indeed!]

The only state that produces almonds commercially is California, where cool winter and mild springs let almond trees bloom. Eighty-two percent of the world’s almonds come from California. The U.S. is the leading consumer of almonds by far. California so controls the almond market that the Almond Board of California’s website is almonds.com. Its twitter handle is @almonds. (Almost everything it tweets is about almonds.)

California’s almonds constitute a lucrative multibillion dollar industry in a fiscally tenuous state that is also, as you know, in the middle of the worst drought in recent history. The drought is so dire that experts are considering adding a fifth level to the four-tiered drought scale. That’s right: D5. But each almond requires 1.1 gallons of water to produce, as Alex Park and Julia Lurie at Mother Jones reported earlier this year, and 44 percent more land in California is being used to farm almonds than was 10 years ago.

That raises ecological concerns like, as NPR’s Alastair Bland reported last weekend, that thousands of endangered king salmon in northern California’s Klamath River are threatened by low water levels because water is being diverted to almond farms. Despite the severe drought, as of June 30, California’s Department of Agriculture projected that almond farmers will have their largest harvest to date. If more water is not released into the river soon, Bland reported, the salmon will be seriously threatened by a disease called gill rot. If there’s one disease I never want to get, it’s gill rot…. [Ed note: he places water use for almonds in opposition to water used to preserve salmon runs, as if there are no other uses, like for animal feed, corn, rice, etc., much lower value crops.]

[and now he drags in concern for honeybees, which are not natural but brought in by honeybee keepers]

California’s almond industry is also completely reliant on honeybees to pollinate its almond trees. The industry requires 1.4 million bee colonies, according to the USDA, most of which are brought to the state from across the country. Because of colony collapse disorder, honeybees are a commodity. The almond farmers’ requirements represent approximately 60 percent of the country’s managed colonies. This year many of the mercenary pollinating bees brought to California died due to exposure to pesticides.

Anyway, when I buy almonds, I don’t think about having a hand in killing bees or salmon, or getting someone’s truck stolen or collapsing a road. It’s just a jumble of what’s “good for me,” what I feel like eating, and how much things cost. Michael Specter’s feature on GMOs in last week’s New Yorker gets into how seven billion people on the planet will be 10 billion by the end of the century, and feeding that population might well be the greatest challenge to humanity ever. Thinking about going easy on almonds is sort of analogous to GMO dilemmas or buying organic, where the point isn’t really nutrition, it’s environmental consciousness and sustainability, which always come back to water. Thinking about that side of food makes it hard to write about nutrition in isolation. Anyway, almonds are good for our hearts.

[“I’m very confused but I wanted you to know the whirl of considerations I keep in my head when I’m choosing food. I have no idea how important each of them is proportionally, but my guilt and sensitivity over choosing what foods to eat makes me a good person.”]

For more on almonds and other good supplements for life-extension:

Almonds: Superfood, Eat Them Daily for Heart Health
Getting to Less Than 10% Body Fat Like the Models – Ask Me How!
Low-Dose Aspirin Reduces Pancreatic Cancer
Daily Aspirin Regimen Reduces Cancer Rates
Fish Oil Supplements Ward Off Dementia
Lower Back Pain: Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Paracetamol) Useless
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Gluten-Free Diets: The Nocebo Effect
Scams: Multi-Level Marketing, Herbalife
Fish and Fish Oil for Better Brain Health
Vitamin D: Anti-Dementia?
Salt: New Research Says Too Little May Be Unhealthy

Sex is Better With Love (Claim Women)

Sex Plus Love

Sex Plus Love

I almost didn’t bother writing this up since it’s one of those “studies” that tells us nothing we didn’t already know.

Science Daily writes up research from Penn State’s Beth Montemurro, associate professor of sociology.

We can’t blame Science Daily for exaggerating the significance of the study: the Penn State writeup is headlined “Love Makes Sex Better for Most Women.” The correct headline would have been “Most Women *Say* Love Makes Sex Better.”

From Science Daily:

In a series of interviews, heterosexual women between the ages of 20 and 68 and from a range of backgrounds said that they believed love was necessary for maximum satisfaction in both sexual relationships and marriage. The benefits of being in love with a sexual partner are more than just emotional. Most of the women in the study said that love made sex physically more pleasurable.

“Women said that they connected love with sex and that love actually enhanced the physical experience of sex,” said Beth Montemurro, associate professor of sociology. Women who loved their sexual partners also said they felt less inhibited and more willing to explore their sexuality. “When women feel love, they may feel greater sexual agency because they not only trust their partners but because they feel that it is OK to have sex when love is present,” Montemurro said.

While 50 women of the 95 that were interviewed said that love was not necessary for sex, only 18 of the women unequivocally believed that love was unnecessary in a sexual relationship. Older women who were interviewed indicated that this connection between love, sex and marriage remained important throughout their lifetimes, not just in certain eras of their lives.

The connection between love and sex may show how women are socialized to see sex as an expression of love, Montemurro said. Despite decades of the women’s rights movement and an increased awareness of women’s sexual desire, the media continue to send a strong cultural message for women to connect sex and love and to look down on girls and women who have sex outside of committed relationships. “On one hand, the media may seem to show that casual sex is OK, but at the same time, movies and television, especially, tend to portray women who are having sex outside of relationships negatively,” said Montemurro.

Sociology has a bad reputation as a field because it tended to attract students wanting to coast on political correctness, and it has been rife with junk science and a lack of understanding of statistics since its heyday in the 1970s. That this poll of what women say they think could be presented seriously at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association tells us this poor scientific reputation is justified.

Without doing a study, we know that (as the professor points out) culturally women are “supposed” to not desire sex for its own sake, while men are freer to express such base desires. So naturally most women will protect their self-image and shade the truth for a human (especially female) interviewer. One might get closer to honesty with an online survey, but that also has the issues of the self-selecting sample.

I think that for most secure women and men that sex with a loved partner is a different kind of experience: more meaningful and deeper than casual encounters, yet often less exciting precisely because it is safe and somewhat routine. People in committed monogamous relationships want to believe that their sex is better (and it is almost certainly more frequent than single people get, at least in the first few years) and both men and women would say so out of emotional commitment to their choice. And this is entirely healthy.