Why Your Doctor Is Clueless About Diet

Because, despite decades of government recommendations telling us what kind of diet we should eat (a low-fat, high-carb, grain-heavy one), there is actually very little science to support such claims:

Quoting The New York Times:

“We don’t know what the best diet is,” said Dr. Michael Lauer... When it comes to diet and heart disease, doctors -- and patients -- have been going on hunches. [...]

“Diets are an extreme case of accepting evidence we want to believe,” said Dr. J. Sanford Schwartz, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

That includes doctors, he added, who overlook that the evidence for the low-fat diets they often recommend is the sort “we would never accept in the practice of medicine.”

Those low-fat diets sound sensible -- eat fruits and vegetables, fish and lean meats.  Cut back on salt- and sugar-laden sodas and potato chips.  Cut or sharply limit most fats, including olive oil and nuts.  But such diets have not been tested in the way the Mediterranean diet was tested.

Doctors are in a bind, said Dr. Daniel J. Rader, a heart disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania.  When patients ask what to eat, he said, “you have to give them something.”

“Given the importance of diets and given the decades of dietary recommendations we have given to people, you would think we would have had more dietary studies with hard endpoints to get at these questions,” Dr. Rader said.  But the best they have are studies that look at intermediate markers of risk, like cholesterol levels.  In the end, he said, “most doctors just give dietary platitudes.”

Actually, it’s worse than that: because the government decided to start giving out dietary advice before there was solid scientific evidence to support that advice, they now have a vested interest in keeping that narrative going even in the face of evidence against it, since the government can’t admit when it has made a mistake.

Posted by Anthony on reply

The Real Cause of Our Health Care Problems (Or: How Bureaucrats Destroy Industries)

Steven Brill just published a long article called Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.  It’s a good article and worth reading, despite being far too long at 11 pages.  There’s so much repetition that it probably could have been 5 pages instead, and it’d be a better piece for it.

It’s surprising to me, though, that the author fails to identify (or at least, fails to state) what is the clear cause of the outrageously expensive medical bills that he details in the article’s several anecdotes.

He spends a lot of time pointing out exactly how much profit is being accumulated by many "non-profit" hospitals, and how much they are paying to their executives and administrators.  It’s the same as the situation with "non-profit" colleges and universities: the term non-profit is purely a marketing term, and a deceptive one at that, since hospitals, colleges, and universities are among the richest organizations in the country.  They are making tons of profit -- tens of millions of dollars per year in many cases -- they just aren’t structured in a way that it gets distributed to shareholders.

The problem is that medical bills are insanely inflated, and the implication seems to be that the cause is these rich fatcats running the hospitals -- or at the very least, those rich fatcats are evil even if they aren’t actually the cause.

The author correctly identifies chargemaster prices as part of the problem.  He gives many examples of chargemaster highway robbery, such as pills or alcohol wipes that cost several dollars each in the hospital even though their actual price in the free market is pennies each.  And he recounts how administrator after administrator was unable to explain to him exactly where the chargemaster prices come from or why they’re so high.

He also goes into detail about Medicare and private insurance and their strengths and weaknesses, including how a lot of insurance is limited to a few thousand dollars of coverage while medical bills routinely reach tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands.

Despite all the good reporting and detail provided on these many aspects of our health care system, nowhere does the author state the simple economic fact that is at the root of the problem: the decoupling of the customer from the payment.  In other words, the person receiving the service is not the person who pays the bill.

Whenever you insert a third party between a buyer and a seller, whether that third party is an insurer or the government, the result is an interruption of the price signal and a distortion of the market.  In many cases this leads to a bubble, as we’ve seen in housing and higher education.  When "someone else" is paying the bill, the buyer has no incentive to care about the price, which means that the seller -- whose goal is profit, after all -- will raise prices.

So when the government pumps billions of dollars into the housing market to "make housing affordable", the actual result is that prices skyrocket until the market is destroyed.  When the government pumps billions of dollars into higher ed to "make college affordable", the actual result is, again, skyrocketing prices as the bubble inflates.  And "making health care affordable", as Obamacare purports to do, by making it "free" for many people, outlawing copays, etc, will again in fact cause the opposite to occur: it will get more expensive.

There are many problems in the U.S. health care system, but none are more important or more fundamental than this one.  Hospitals, drug companies, and medical device makers can only charge outrageous prices because patients don’t pay them directly.  Further decoupling the patients from the prices will exacerbate the problem, not solve it.

The failure of politicians to understand this most basic economic principle has led to massive damage and suffering in our health care, housing, and education markets.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

ObamaCare Diagnosed in One Sentence

Quoting Dr. Barbara Bellar:

So, let me get this straight.  We’re going to be gifted with a healthcare plan that we’re forced to purchase and fined if we don’t, which purportedly covers at least 10 million more people without adding a single doctor but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn’t understand it, passed by a Congress that didn’t read it but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a President who smokes, with funding administered by a Treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes, for which we will be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government that has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a Surgeon General who is obese — and finally, financed by a country that’s broke. ... What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by Anthony on reply

Obama's Agenda: To Fundamentally Transform America

Quoting Daniel Henninger:

Last year, Mr. Obama began to be criticized by some of his supporters for being insufficiently transformative while holding the powers of the presidency -- this despite passing the biggest social entitlement since 1965, an $800 billion stimulus bill, raising federal spending to 24% of GDP and passing the Dodd-Frank restructuring of the U.S. financial industry.  Naturally an interviewer this week asked Mr. Obama why he hadn’t been more "transformative."  The president replied that he deserved a second term, because "we’re not done."  In term two, it will be Uncle Sam, Transformer. [...]

The question raised by the Catholic Church’s battle with ObamaCare is whether anyone can remain free of a U.S. government determined to do what it wants to do, at whatever cost. ... Anyone who signs up for more of this deal by assuming that it will never force them to fall into line is getting what they deserve.

Posted by Anthony on reply

The Inanity of Blaming Your Problems on Businesses

These Occupy Wall Street kids are really upset that, after taking out loans, you have to pay them back; that sometimes the only jobs available pay less than you’d like; and worst of all, that some Americans make more money than you do.  It’s a laundry list of typical far-left complaints, mostly absurd and therefore not worth paying much attention to, except when the complainants flock together and start blocking traffic.

Of course anyone with half a brain can see that it’s all a lot of misdirected hostility:

Quoting Doug Mataconis:

This "corporations run the government" meme has been around since the 1970s, and it’s no more true now than it was then.  As Rick Moran points out, if corporations really ran the government would we have an EPA, OSHA, SEC, the EEOC, the FHA, the Department of Labor, or any of the other number of state and federal agencies that regulate corporate behavior?  If corporations truly "ran" the government, then why would any of these organizations exist?

Corporations do influence the government, of course.  But then so do labor unions, the legal profession, the medical profession, special interest groups based on one form of racial or ethnic grievance or another, and lobbying interests ranging from Iowa corn to Texas oil.  The problem isn’t corporations, the problem is that we have a government that has its fingers in nearly every aspect of the economy.  That means that policy makers have the ability to pick economic winners and losers every day, and it’s only natural that those policies would be of concern to the people that they’re going to impact most directly, the businesses affected by them.  That’s lobbying and petitioning the government for redress of grievances, not "running the government."  This kind of reflexive anti-business mentality seems to be quite common in some sectors of society, but it has little basis in reality and seems firmly entrenched in resentment and envy rather than an honest examination of the country’s political system.

If you’re mad about the bailouts, then you march on the corrupt government that distributed them, not on the businesses that received them.  The too-big-to-fail businesses -- including banks and automakers -- should have been allowed to fail; the fact that they were instead bailed out represents a problem in the government, not in the businesses.  It’s idiocy to expect a failing business to not accept a handout.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Obama's Speech: So Full of Lies

It’s infuriating to hear the president state so many things that are so misleading or outright false.

Quoting Barack Obama:

In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus.  But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts

Tax cuts are not spending.  When you confiscate money from the people, then give a portion of that money back to the people, you haven’t "spent" anything.

Quoting Barack Obama:

To make matters worse, the recession meant that there was less money coming in, and it required us to spend even more – on tax cuts for middle-class families; on unemployment insurance; on aid to states so we could prevent more teachers and firefighters and police officers from being laid off.

When a liberal brings up "cops and firemen and teachers", it means there’s a load of BS coming your way.  By "prevent [them] from being laid off" what he means is "keep them rolling in their outrageously lavish pensions", because the truth is that that’s where the vast majority of the bankrupt states’ money is going: to pensions that they can’t afford to pay, but can’t adjust because of union BS.

Quoting Barack Obama:

This balanced approach asks everyone to give a little without requiring anyone to sacrifice too much.

False.  Half of the country pays ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in federal income taxes, and you aren’t asking them to start paying their fair share.

Quoting Barack Obama:

The only reason this balanced approach isn’t on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a cuts-only approach – an approach that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all.

False.  The wealthiest Americans ALREADY pay the vast majority of the taxes in this country.  But apparently, to Barack "Social Justice" Obama, confiscating anything less than 100% of these evil successful Americans’ wealth means that they are "not contributing anything at all".

Quoting Barack Obama:

We all want a government that lives within its means

False.  The government itself clearly does not want the government to "live within its means".  If it did, it wouldn’t be continually growing, always hiring more government workers, and never firing any of them.

Quoting Barack Obama:

Keep in mind that under a balanced approach, the 98% of Americans who make under $250,000 would see no tax increases at all.  None.

OK you delusional nutcase, which is it?  Is it "balanced", or are 98% of Americans not going see their taxes increase at all?

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Love the Sun, Ditch the Sunburn

Mom and I were talking the other day about getting sunlight on your skin to make vitamin D, while not getting so much sun as to get a sunburn.  Your body makes something like 10,000 IU of vitamin D from just 10 minutes of midday sun exposure -- assuming a decent amount of uncovered, non-sunblocked skin is exposed -- so it’s pretty easy to get enough D without getting burned.  But then mom brought up an interesting question: why is it that, as kids, we were able to play outside in the sun all day with no sunblock and not get sunburned, whereas today, just an hour of sun will often cause a sunburn?

One theory is that ozone depletion, which has led to more ultraviolet light reaching Earth’s surface, is the cause of the increased sunburn incidence, but there doesn’t seem to be much solid evidence for that.  It makes sense and I think it’s a factor, but probably not the whole story.

A few days after this conversation, Mark Sisson wrote a piece on natural sunburn prevention in his usual thorough and well-referenced style.  It turns out that avoiding the sun, avoiding saturated fat, and loading up on omega-6 fats (e.g. vegetable oils) all increase the likelihood of getting a sunburn when you do get a rare bit of sun exposure.  Of course those three things are all recommended by the US government, and by now I’m well beyond the point where I’m surprised that US government recommendations actually cause harm rather than helping.

I didn’t realize this until I read Mark’s article, but since I switched to a more primal/paleo diet earlier this year, I’ve been able to get a lot more sun exposure without getting sunburned.  Last year, after hearing Steve Gibson’s comments on vitamin D and then deciding to go out and get some midday sun a few times per week, I could only get about 20 minutes before starting to burn, as I discovered one day when I tried to push it up to 30 minutes.  But this year, although I again started at 20 minutes, I have since pushed it up to about 45 minutes and I’m not getting burned at all.  The only difference is that this year, with my new way of eating, I’m consuming much less frankenfood like vegetable oil, and much more natural saturated fat.

Be sure to read Mark’s whole article on the topic for more natural ways to prevent sunburn, and don’t miss the comments, which are full of people reporting a complete lack of sunburn since having gone primal.

And if you’re worried about skin cancer, then you should seek the sun, not avoid it.  Sun exposure protects against skin cancer, as long as it’s not overexposure.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

Protecting the Innocent

Quoting John Adams:

It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished.  But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, "whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection," and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.

Obviously, if Casey Anthony killed her daughter, then she deserves to be punished for that.  But if she didn’t, yet she is still accused of having done so, then she deserves to be protected from punishment.  The system is designed to err on the side of avoiding wrongful punishment, and a jury of Casey Anthony’s peers reviewed the evidence and concluded that there was reasonable doubt as to whether she committed the murder as charged.

Corrupt officials and broken mechanisms within the system already conspire to wrongfully punish the innocent; Anthony Graber and Louis Gonzalez III are just a couple of the victims of this evil.  There are so many federal laws now, with more being created all the time, that we are virtually all guilty of breaking some absurd law or another, and could all be thrown into prison at pretty much any time.  We desperately need the system to require a high standard in order to convict a person of a crime; our lives and our freedom depend on it.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Rabbit Inspectors: Your Government At Work

Quoting Jerry Pournelle:

A man in Missouri sold about 600 rabbits for ten to twelve bucks each in 2008 and 2009.  He made about 200 bucks profit.  The United States Department of Agriculture discovered that he did this without a Federal License.  Apparently you can’t sell bunny rabbits in rural Missouri without the permission and license of the government in Washington.  The United States Department of Agriculture is on this case: they have assessed a fine of Ninety Thousand Dollars ($90,000.00).  If he doesn’t agree to pay this fair and reasonable assessment, he will be subject to a fine of $10,000 for each rabbit sold, although they might be willing to round this down to half a million dollars. [...]

I don’t know what else this branch of the United States Department of Agriculture does, but given this example of their work I am pretty sure we could do without it.  I suspect the entire Department could be eliminated, but perhaps that’s a bit drastic: but surely the Republic need not borrow money to pay people whose work is to assess a $90,000 fine for selling six hundred bunny rabbits. [...]

This branch of the USDA may be doing something worthwhile in preparing this pamphlet and finding unlicensed rabbit sellers, closing them down, and assessing fines; it may be a Good Thing for the Federal government to prevent cruelty to bunny rabbits and Easter chicks and ducks; but do we need to go into debt to do this? [...]

In times of economic crisis do we need rabbit inspectors?
Posted by Anthony on reply

What the Government is Really Feeding Us

By now you’ve probably seen the "improved" version of the government food pyramid, which is the food plate:

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Of course, it’s the same old scientifically-discredited message: load up on fruit (sugar) and grains (more sugar) and avoid fat.  And what do you get when you follow the government’s advice?  All of this can be yours:

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The solution is painfully obvious to anyone with half a brain: just eat real food.  Eat the foods that people have ALWAYS eaten, for the vast majority of human history, instead of the grains, vegetable oils, and other processed foods that modern man has invented.  In other words:

posted image

(Images via @robbwolf’s Twitter feed.)

(show full-size image viewer)

Posted by Anthony on reply
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