Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Gastro-Physics of Dietary Anti-Matter

"People watch," next time you’re in the grocery line. There’s always someone with carts that bulge with every conceivable kind of diet food. Flats of turkey bacon prop listlessly against the fat free half & half and Olestra cookies. At first glance, this is clearly someone who is completely health conscious, diet minded, and watching what they eat.

But peek beneath the basket to the lower rack – where you normally find dog food, kitty litter, and other toxic chemicals – and you will see the case of Pepsi or Mountain Dew. Diet foods and junk foods in the same cart might suggest mental illness, a slippage into delusional optimism, or some other form of brain rot.

However, unbeknownst to the rest of us, these folks are actually brilliant physicists, only disguised as profoundly confused shoppers, so as not to attract any attention. They throw you off their trail with very characteristic behaviors, like chasing a candy bar with a Diet Coke.

Yes, we can now release the fact that these scientists are members of the little know branch of their field known as Gastro-Physics, and they are actually testing a high-level theory regarding matter and anti-matter. Just as matter can be annihilated by anti-matter, they will show how calories can be eliminated, erased, eradicated, exterminated, and just forgotten about altogether if you consume them within their Universal opposite.

Oreos and low fat milk cancel perfectly, and M&Ms are vaporized into the next astral plane when thrown into a trail mix bag with a few Spanish peanuts.

Sorry for the dive into the rigors of this phenomenon, but the calorie cancellation must happen within a certain time frame, if you are serious about blipping away that ingot of taffy you just ate.

It’s like your mother explained, logically, that swimming after you eat a baloney and cheese sandwich at the beach will make you drop like a rock to the bottom of the ocean, unless you wait the required 30 minutes or so.

In just the same way, Gastro-physicists indicate that full cancellation can only take effect if the diet product smashes into the junk food within 7.45 minutes. These guys are brilliant.

So the next time you see cleverly disguised Gastro-Physicists conducting their experiments in your grocery store, don’t sneer. They’re not as daft as they seem.

Monday, October 11, 2004

History of the Oktoberfest

The Royal Wedding12th October 1810

Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on 12th October 1810.

The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields have been named Theresienwiese ("Theresa's fields") in honor of the Crown Princess ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the "Wies'n".

Horse races in the presence of the Royal Family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.

The Oktoberfest continues in 1811
In 1811 an added feature to the horse races was the first Agricultural Show, designed to boost Bavarian agricultureThe horse races, which were the oldest and - at one time - the most popular event of the festival are no longer held today. But the Agricultural Show is still held every three years during the Oktoberfest on the southern part of the festival grounds.

In the first few decades the choice of amusements was sparse. The first carousel and two swings were set up in 1818. Visitors were able to quench their thirst at small beer stands which grew rapidly in number. In 1896 the beer stands were replaced by the first beer tents and halls set up by enterprising landlords with the backing of the breweries.

The remainder of the festival site was taken up by a fun-fair. The range of carousels etc. on offer was already increasing rapidly in the 1870s as the fairground trade continued to grow and develop in Germany.

172nd Oktoberfest 2005

Today, the Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world, with an international flavor characteristic of the 21th century: some 6 million visitors from all around the world converge on the Oktoberfest each year.

And since the Oktoberfest is still held on the Theresienwiese, the locals still refer to the event simply as the "Wies'n". So "welcome to the Wies'n" means nothing other than "welcome to the Oktoberfest"!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Dietary Weapons of Mass Distraction (WMD)

As hoards of low-carb proponents invade the nutritional landscape, the increasingly tired low-fat guard seems to be giving way before their steady march and drumbeat.

This invasion is a preemptive strike to find and remove the stockpiled food molecules that could be used to attack your health and explode your weight. Low-carb campaign hawks insist they are out there, ready to be launched against us at any moment. We know where they are – stockpiled in bread, rice, and potatoes.

International food observers are investigating the suspicious links between the axis-of-evil molecules and the thin, healthy people of the world. The French, for example, have flagrantly thumbed their noses at U.S. efforts once again by eating white bread baguettes twice per day, every day. Even worse, they steadfastly deny any relationship between daily carbs and weight or health problems. The Communist Chinese, ever a nettle for Western efforts, eat their high-carb rice every day, in blatant disregard of U.S. dietary resolutions.

Opinion at home is far from unanimous, as shown by our own scientists in a recent Tufts University study directly comparing the effectiveness of low - carb, low - fat, Weight Watchers, and Zone approaches. The question was simple. If done correctly, which theory actually works the best to lower weight?

The result? Micromanaging carbs was no more effective than counting up points or fats or anything else. Thus, the investigators came up empty handed – the carb content of the food was irrelevant to weight loss.

Without definitive proof that carbs present a threat, and with recent evidence showing their irrelevance to weight loss itself, carbs have become the dietary “weapons of mass distraction". The resulting campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people, by stoking fears of these molecules, distracts us from the real culprit -- domestic Biggie Sized habits of personal overconsumption.

Dietary WMD not only divert us from more pressing problems at home, but pre-emptive invasions of this region of the nutritional world will lead to a quagmire of weight and health problems. Already the neo-Atkins’ intelligencia have rolled back fruit and vegetable consumption because of carb levels that – we now find out – were never a problem to begin with.

It becomes clearer by the day that this nutritional war was founded upon dubious premises with no plan to win the long-term weight management peace. Will we have the courage to admit our past misunderestimates? Or will we "stay the course"? Only time, and our waistlines, will tell.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Politics versus Pate: Arnold Must Decide

The California Conundrum

The California Assembly and Senate passed S.B. 1520 - sponsored by Senate president John Burton (D-San Francisco) - to ban California fois gras by 2012, and to prohibit the sale of the products.

Animal advocates have long argued that the production of pate de foie gras - involving the feeding of ducks and geese to swell their livers up to 10 times their normal size -- amounts to undeniable animal cruelty. Gov. Schwarzenegger now must choose between politics and pate.

Losing Weight Like You Eat Your Ice Cream

“Life is like a box of chocolates,” drawled Forrest Gump.

Metaphors are great. Writers use them all the time because, simply put, they get your attention and really drive a point home.

That’s because life and a box of chocolates have as much in common as French Toast for breakfast and a French Toast to your health.

But you know a punch line is coming to connect the dots and relate two rediculously unrelated things. So you wait, listening sharply to catch the thread that makes it make sense.

“You never know what you are going to get.” Aaahhh, riiigghhtt!

The mismatch, mental twisting, and surprise resolution slam the point home. There. That’s the micro-anatomy of our most common literary tool. So how about a metaphor for eating healthy?

Losing weight is like eating a single scoop death-by-chocolate ice cream cone. Okay, that nailed the “man, this strains reason” part. But now let me explain.

First of all, real connoisseurs know that you must linger over your ice cream: chasing runners, keeping it off the pavement, and pushing it right to the bottom of the cone without bathing in it. These are all vital factors. It’s a process.

And that’s the point. It just takes time, and when you’re finished with that ball, you think … perfect!

Now imagine that same single scoop of ice cream, but this time placed in the deep empty hollow of a cereal bowl. We see it down there, sad and lonely, and invariably decide that it needs 3 more scoop buddies.

That’s because we believe we are getting gypped somehow if our food doesn’t fill the space.

Now. What does this have to do your dinner tonight? Well, the space you serve your food in matters. If you put dinner on a gigantic platter, you’ll end up with helpings 2, 3, and 4 on the plate all at the same time. And if it’s in front of you … you’re going to eat it.

So a basic message you can take home and try tonight is simply to begin on smaller plates. This trick exploits one of the bedrock laws of the Universe.

There’s four of them in all: E=MC2, Finder’s Keeper’s, The Conservation of Matter and Energy, and the big one – Your Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Stomach.

Simply handling this last law prevents the drastic overeating so typical of American buffet trough-feeders. And, repealing this law of nature doesn’t require any higher math or even a physics degree.

Take the first step to solving your portion problems by beginning with a smaller space for your food. Next, eat your food like you eat your ice cream – a little at a time. Enjoy it by making it last.

Small bites increase the length and pleasure of the meal. When your focus is more on enjoyment than consumption, that smaller amount becomes … perfect!

Your calories drop with your portion sizes and you love your food more – just like lingering over your single scoop death-by-chocolate ice cream cone!

Aaahhh, riiigghhtt!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Urban Sprawl is unhealthy

Urban sprawl leads to fat sprawl.

Feel like you're own fat is sprawling out of control?
There may be a link between your belly bulge and urban sprawl.

Read the whole story.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Tempest in a tea cup, Wisdom in a sake cup

What an oxymoron the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has turned out to be. This vegan organization has one colossal ax to grind with their archrival, Darth Atkins. This is an old score that they’ve unfairly flung in front of the public before, all in the effort to squash the low carb idea and its adherents.

The first time was when Robert Atkins suffered his fatal accident, a cranial blow that caused edema – when water accumulates within the tissues. This tragic condition, obviously, caused his body to fill with fluid and thus, his overall weight to rise.

The so-called “Responsible Physicians” seized on this dying man’s condition by calling Atkins obese – which he was not – and telling everyone who would listen that his diet killed him – which it did not.

In the end, all they accomplished is to add bitterness and confusion to nutrition science by their shrill, unfair attacks on those who happen to disagree with them.

So, after maligning a dead man, they’ve now put up Florida businessman Jody Gorran to sue the Atkins Corporation. Gorran – channeling those Responsible Physicians – made the following claims. First, Atkins was a doctor and Gorran was on his diet. Second, he had to have heart angioplasty to clear his arteries after 2 years on the diet. And third, he reasoned, of the 40,000 factors that affect weight and health … the Atkins approach must have been the very one to have done it to him.

Of course, I’m no low carb acolyte, and do anxiously encourage the lemmings to rebound back from the intoxication with this high protein approach. But you still have to be fair, or you lose integrity, credibility, and confuse everyone in the process. That’s why the Responsible vegans need to go sit in time out, before heading off to their anger management therapy.

But from our perspective, their messy food fight is about more than one group flinging their high carb carob at Atkins’ sausage-n-cheese omelet. It’s about hearing an off-key chorus of competing messages from different camps of experts. In the midst of all this confusion, dietary decisions get left in the hands of you and me. We could pick the Krispy Kreme diet if we wanted, or low fat, or low carb, and find some scientific validation for any of it.

So what’s the sane middle ground? What lies between low fat and low carb? And most importantly, what rational guidance are we supposed to draw upon when planning dinner or a grocery store trip?

The best solution is to step back out of the niggling experts and think more intuitively about a healthy lifestyle approach.

For example, browsing through the import store this past week, on the hunt for a Sake set for a birthday present, one particular set bore a list of ten rules for living. I would love to see these simple maxims advised as basic common sense strategies.

Eat less sugar, more fruit
Use little salt, more vinegar
Put less food in the mouth, chew more
Eat less meat, more vegetables
It is better to give than to receive
Control your temper, laugh more often
Speak fewer words, take more action
Worry less, get plenty of sleep
Sit less, walk more
Wear only as much clothes as you need, bathe often

Rules like these work, have as much to do with your lifestyle as anything else, and ultimately improve your weight and health. The various diet experts may gnash their teeth at some pet idea mislaid, but you and I will find it hard to disagree with such basic common sense.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Surviving September

With summer completed and school back in session, it’ll be time to settle back into another fall routine. And, even though the flexible schedules of summer have gone, this is actually a very good thing for your weight and health.

In the summer, schedules can be hectic, haphazard, jumbled. This plays havoc with your weight control efforts because you end up eating on the run, at odd times during the day, or out of sync with any rhythm you have established.

Just as your sleep is affected by its normal cycles, your body also needs predictability when eating. Uneven eating patterns leads to multiple between-meal snacks, and these only provide extra calories.

Dr. Barbara Rolls at the Penn State University has shown that, when you eat between-meal snacks, you are not going to eat less at the next meal. In fact, they have no bearing at all on how much your body is hungry for later on. So all those calories are just piled onto the total.

This really makes September very much like January in many ways. January is the “diet month” because people will have eaten poorly at office parties and family reunion grazing fests for 6 straight weeks – and they're finally ready to turn over a new dietary leaf.

In the same way, we typically slip-n-slide off our normal eating schedules through the summer months, only to return to normalcy and "real life" in September.

So September is the perfect time make fresh schedules and routines that fit a new, relaxed lifestyle. Put space in your day for relaxation, so you aren't so stressed through the day. This will keep you from cramming too many activities around your life this fall. Make sure you sit down for dinner (not in your car), and enjoy those around you.

To create the schedule that serves you best, do right away, because once life kicks into high gear again, it will be more difficult to shift gears and shuffle priorities again.

What to include on your schedule:
time to eat at the table, to unwind, to do an exercise you really love. You might try getting up a half hour early (if you’re a morning person) or staying up a half hour later, to sit in the quiet of your home. Have your mate with you, your pet, or your favorite book. The point is to turn off the noise, and turn on a moment of sanity.

What to exclude from your schedule:
unneeded activities, excess car time, stressful people. You can’t be all things to all people and, while you’re trimming down your weight, it’s really okay to cut back on your harried time commitments as well. You’ll be more effective if you focus on just a few things at a time. Walk away from stressful people, who just contribute to the angst of those around them. You need peace in your life.

These tips are great starters for not only surviving September, but for living a thin and healthy life throughout the year.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A Martian Anthropologist Takes A Look At Our Food

A Martian Anthropologist Takes A Look At Our Food

We go to the store and turn on the television to be confronted by the most amazing shades of neon, and a circus of novelty products – all of which are sold in the food section of every local grocery store.

But we have to ask ourselves a very basic question: are these products even food at all? Never before has humanity had to think about this.

Nevertheless we are deluged with a wash of inventions that are counterproductive to our weight and health. We serve our children and ourselves the chemicals that send them and us circling the drain of metabolic disorders that will be imprinted for life. By giving in to clever corporate messages we treat Fruit Roll Ups as fruit, sodas as a viable substitute for milk, and cheese goldfish as a dairy product.

We live in the middle of the parade, and so often it can be hard to see how strange it all is, until you adopt an outside point of view. For example, let’s assume you were observing from another planet, and you saw a group of animals bolting down chemicals concoctions rather than the food they were ecologically “designed” for. Objectively, what would you make of that?

First, you’d scratch your bald Marian head and wonder why these people – who claim to seek good health and long life – would choose to put something in their mouths that, no duh, will naturally lead to ill health. But it’s even more odd to realize that they actually seek those items out.

And in a twist of earthly irony, these people are often led to unhealthy chemicals in response to the very problems caused by the chemicals in the first place! Examples include hydrogenated oil products as a prevention for heart disease, or sugar-filled low fat foods as the means to lose weight.

All this would make you baffled at the ludicrous nature of these self-imposed problems.

The animals, of course, are us. Seen from the outside, our attempts to deal with our weight and health by eating sugary “weight loss” slurries and candy bars passing off as diet aids can seem so bizarre. Especially when the answer is so basic and straightforward. In fact, it may be exactly because the answer is right in front of us that we cannot see it.

Eat food.

What criteria would you and your green-skinned Martian anthropologist colleagues use to classify something as a food? First of all, you have to identify the food chameleons.
Ø Being sold in the food section does not make it a food.
Ø Being 600 times sweeter than sugar does not make it a food.
Ø And unfortunately, even looking like food does not make it a food.

So we really must re-define food in a sane, thoughtful way, and hold to that definition. Foods can come in two categories: obvious foods and derived foods.

Obvious foods include things like apples, eggs, carrots, fish, and beans.
Ø Were all alive at some point
Ø Will normally go bad in a couple of days (with some exceptions like honey)
Ø May be found in a biology textbook
Ø Are not inventions

Derived foods, such as bread, cheese, ice cream, pasta, chocolate, can also be included in the food category.

Ø Are composed of parts that all satisfy the above criteria
Ø Can be made in the home
Ø All the parts can be found on a grocer’s shelf

So don’t be suckered by inventions and ads. And don’t wait for the latest food product invention to produce heart-valve problems, suicidal thoughts, or liver malfunction before you avoid them!! Get a head start on your health, throw away your inventions, and eat real food.

Will Clower, Ph.D.

Will Clower is the award-winning author of The Fat Fallacy and founder of The PATH Curriculum, The PATH Online, and Newsletter.

The PATH: America’s weight solution.
Dr. Clower can be reached on his website

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Beer, Chocolate, and Other Forbidden Health Foods

Beer, Chocolate, and Other Forbidden Health Foods

What if someone discovered a substance that "significantly inhibited arteriosclerosis"? You might expect that it would soon be advised as a treatment.

Furthermore, what if this same substance had "antioxidant quality clearly superior to that of vitamin antioxidants and to that of the phenol ingredients, suggesting synergism among the antioxidants in the mixture"? All the more reason to recommend it.

But I seriously doubt that you'll ever hear anyone recommend you have this healthy substance, because it comes in brown bottles, pints, and from microbreweries.

Dr. Vinson and colleagues at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Scranton analyzed 15 lagers, 6 porters and ales, 11 light and nonalcoholic beers, to see what effect these had on markers for heart disease. They found that “lager significantly decreased cholesterol and triglycerides, and both beers acted as in vivo antioxidants by decreasing the oxidizability of lower density lipoproteins”.

Click Here to Read The Study Abstract Itself

Moreover, beer - that pedestrian source of the "beer gut" - also happens to be a fantastic source for the phenols that protect your heart. The authors listed the order of phenol concentration: ales > lagers > low calorie > nonalcoholic. In other words, the stronger the better, and that low calorie beer is also low-heart-protective as well.

But this seems bizarre. Beer is bad for you, right? Now beer is good for you? Who in their right mind would recommend beer-drinking as a health remedy?

Beer has always been considered "bad" for you because it could be over-consumed to the point of becoming harmful. The same is true for wine, and these are just two of a long list of forbidden foods, which we have been told to avoid even though they have fantastic health properties. Consider pizza, chocolate, cheese, eggs, ... the list goes on and on.

Yes, you can over-consume chocolate. Yes, you can over-consume beer, wine, pizza, cheese and all the rest. But if we’ve learned anything from our past 30 years of overeating, it’s that anything can be bad for you if taken in the wrong amounts. If you take too much of your life-saving heart medication, it becomes bad for you; if you overdo aspirin it can be bad for you; if you eat too much fiber, you’re going to be sorry.

The funny thing is that no one advises you not to take medications because they could have negative consequences if they are overused - quite the opposite. We are inundated with drug ads. The FDA is flooded with new drug trial applications every month.

But when it comes to food, we suddenly lose our nerve. We cringe at the thought that someone might overdo it, drink too much beer or eat too much pizza. And so, we lower the bar for everyone, and tell people to avoid it altogether. Medical advice either avoids the subject, or explicitly advises us not to even go there.

We have deferred responsibility for abstinence.

This is ultimately harmful for the people who are supposed to be served by the advice in the first place. To favor medication over food is a mistake. To encourage people avoid wonderful foods instead of teaching moderation is a shame.

But what if we did look at food like a drug? Even then, we should be able to have our chocolate and eat it too. For example, Barry Sears (of the Zone diet) and Dean Ornish (low free eating proponent) have famously urged us to think of our foods as drugs. Drugs typically come with strict instructions on the amounts to be consumed. So why don't we simply include dose amounts on our foods as well?

Something like this:
-- Chocolate is good for you at 1 small square per day, bad for you at 6.
-- Pizza is good for you at 4 slices per week, bad for you at 4 pizzas per week.
-- Coffee is good for you at 2 cups per day, bad for you at 6.
-- Beer is good for you at 2 12 oz bottles per day, bad for you at 2 6-packs per day.
-- Wine is good for you at 1-2 6 oz glasses per day, bad for you at 1-2 bottles per day.

What if we accept the following premise, "over-consumption of any food can make it bad for you" . Then we could also say that there are no "forbidden" foods -- just foods that must be consumed in varying degrees of moderation.

No forbidden foods? No forbidden drinks?

This sounds fantastic, but remember that it also means all foods have the potential to be bad for you. All of them. The only thing that separates "good for you" from "bad for you" is your own eating habits. A small amount of beer, for example, may protect your heart, but a large amount will kill your liver.

Seen in this way, your good or bad health depends on your behavior, doesn't it?
The beer itself is just a sideshow.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Sound-bite Science

Sound-bite Science

“The Carb-Cancer Link”! Now there's a headline that gets your attention, and so does a recent study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. This article was used to confirm our newest darling diet fad, by stating that those carbs really are bad and can even cause breast cancer – one more reason to hop on the float, and ride along with the parade.

However, behind the headline startle lie the messy details. For example, this study was done on Mexican women whose main sources of carbohydrates included “tortillas, soda, and bread.” Soda was one of their top three sources of carbohydrates. Not beans, not fruits, not nuts, not vegetables. Nevertheless, the tie-in to the carb craze was seized upon for the headline.

Nowhere in this story does it point out that the Asian diet is predominantly composed of carbohydrates, that the thin French and Italians eat white flour baguettes twice per day every day, or that none of these healthy cultures rely on sodas as their principle beverage.

Nowhere does this story point out that the USDA’s top 20 food sources of antioxidants (which prevent cancer) are almost all on the to-be-avoided list of high-carb foods.

The headlines might have proclaimed “Soda Linked To Cancer” or, if you want to keep it on a more molecular footing, “High Fructose Corn Syrup Linked To Cancer.” But in choosing the most effective angle for this story, we were only served up carbs. Choosing the attention-getting headline is a completely arbitrary, half-full versus half-empty distinction decided not by the science but by the media.

All facts aside, they need a headline that sells.

For our part, most of us look at the media as if it were perfectly objective. And, to the degree that high fructose corn syrup is a carbohydrate, their take on the current study is factually accurate. But their concern about holding the attention span of a typically ADHD public readership will always play the largest role in the story angle. They tell the story we want to hear.

That’s why consumers get the news distilled for their own consumption. This creates a self-sustaining social inertia (like all fad diet trends). Dr. Atkins, for example, had the very same program and results back in the mid 1970’s, but it got no play because the lemmings at the time were heading in a different direction. Gaggles of low-fat eating, low-fat research, low-fat products, and low-fat news stories filled our lives.

That’s why the “carbs can cause cancer” headline is so ironic. Only a few years ago, the exact opposite result was pasted in equally large letters on the front page of health sections: “Fats Linked To Breast Cancer”. We were urged by organizations and their advertisers to eat up all the low-fat products and supporting stories they could produce.

Hence the inertia. The public moves in a direction (like low carb dieting). Companies turn demand into a supply of products, and advertise on the stations that report on the benefits of these products. Completing the circle, the public receives news stories as gospel from the organizations that prepare the stories we most want to consume. This feed-forward mechanism keeps the movement going and growing.

After all, we have no stomach for boring advice like … “don’t eat so damn much.” No one would read that story. We want quick fix, responsibility-absolving solutions.

Melanie Polk, RD, Director of Nutrition Education at American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) seems to agree. "Four out of five Americans … say they'd rather cut out entire categories of food from their diets than look for healthy ways to scale back their overall consumption," said Polk in a recent interview.

So if you want to sell papers or magazines or get click-throughs, you’ll be much more effective by confirming the lemming’s low carb trajectory than by advising balance, low volume eating, or eliminating all trash food from your diet. How many times, after all, can you repeat this common sense approach and still have people buy, read, or click-through?

In the end, sound-bite science leaves us with a chimera beast: a head of data, a body of entertainment, and a long trailing tail of self-fulfilling stories. But this animal (this form of health news) will never go away.

So reader be reminded that, as always, you are here to be entertained.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Legal Deference Is Bad Medicine

FDA legal deference is bad medicine

Janssen Pharmaceutica Products never hid damaging results, they “minimized potentially fatal safety risks and made misleading claims about the drug,” according to a recent report in the New York Times. The product in question, Risperdal, is given to more than 10 million people worldwide. It was not until a doctor asserted that children could be hurt or killed by these drugs that the FDA obtained this admission by the company.

First there was the lawsuit. Then the drug company came clean about the side effects.

Zoloft – prescribed for depression – can produce suicidal thoughts in children, but this incredible oversight was not revealed when the FDA approved the drug. These are not isolated cases, according a 2002 study in the Journal of American Medical Association. There have been seven drug recalls after reports of death and severe health complications in the last 10 years. The complete list food and drug recalls and alerts, month by exhaustive month, may be found at

This constant stream does not reflect poorly on the FDA, which can only make decisions based on the quality of information they receive. The drug applications come from companies with a vested interest in convincing the FDA to approve. Corners often get cut, and the data get selected to optimize chances of acceptance. Hence, the recalls.

At present, the current Administration is arguing in court that FDA decisions should be immune to legal challenge. The argument basically states that, if the FDA approved it, you cannot sue the drug maker for any ill effects it causes you. This curious deference to a governmental agency gives the FDA an ultimate say so, over which the individual has no recourse.

The Administration, however, argues that preventing litigation in these cases is good medicine. Freeing multi-billion dollar companies from the threat of lawsuits, it is contended, will provide a permissive environment for them. Otherwise, they might be too timid to develop a potentially lifesaving drug.

Even a quick glance at the FDA list of new drug trials argues against this possibility. To date, hundreds of new drug trials have been applied for, despite the present legal environment.

The irony is that the new authority given to the FDA does not benefit them in anyway. They make decisions based on data received in applications, and would never know if a drug company picked the best 1% of the data to submit, and neglected to reveal the rest. It is a common error to assume that the FDA performs the research themselves. It does not, but only evaluates the “best case” proposals it receives from pharmaceutical companies who desperately want their drugs approved.

Legally asserting that the FDA’s decisions are final gives unprecedented protection for the drug companies. Once any drug is accepted by the agency, the company would be completely immune to liability.

In the meantime, anyone who suffered from an undisclosed side effect of a drug would have nowhere to turn. The law would shield the company, there’s no one to vote out of office, and no one to contact (does anyone know the Board of Directors for Pfizer? Would you write them a letter?). Basic rights in this case would be forfeit.

Although this position is being actively pursued by the Administration, it’s unclear that it would ever pass Constitutional muster. In fact, Duke University law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky remarked that “The Supreme Court has expressly ruled that FDA regulations do not preempt state law and local regulation.”

We cannot speculate on the motivations of the Administration in becoming the champion for this Constitutionally questionable legal stance that empowers corporations at the expense of consumers. But we can say that it would produce a situation in which individuals would lose their most basic protections.

Will Clower, Ph.D.

Will Clower is a Pittsburgh-based health writer and founder of The PATH. He can be reached by email:

Monday, July 19, 2004


The USDA just released a great study showing the top 20 food sources of anti-oxidants.
The majority of these were on the "to be avoided" list for low carb diets.
The point is that there are a million ways to lose weight, and not all of them are healthy.
Finding the balance between good health and weight loss is the trick.

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