CRISPR takes American Medicine to a dangerous level

While European Governments and companies have held back, the Americans race ahead developing CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat).

What does it do? Well it is James Bond meets Mission Impossible and then some. Having cracked the layout of the Human Genome, this system would enable scientists to see what bit had gone wrong in a sick person, and then change it.

At the moment, the scientists are beavering away, taking cells out of sick people, trying to change the relevant gene sequence and then put the cells back. Who needs chemotherapy drugs?

But the real breakthrough would come if the changes could be made in situ, without any cells being taken from the body. If you had cancer or diabetes, you could just be zapped, and health would return in days.

Of course, the technology could be used more widely. For example, defects at birth could be altered, allowing a long and happy life.

But what about students? Could their genome be altered to make them brighter?

Or prisoners – could their genome merely be altered to stop them robbing or murdering.

Or militant Muslims, what of them?

In America, CRISPR is in the public eye now and dubbed the Microsoft Word of genetics.

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Big Pharma providing ‘Useless and sometimes harmful drugs’

The Queen’s former doctor, also former-president of the Royal College of Physicians Sir Richard Thompson is part of a group of six eminent doctors warning about the negative influence of pharmaceutical companies in the public health arena. The group has called for an urgent and independent public enquiry into drugs firms’ ‘murky’ practices by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

One of the group’s other experts, NHS cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, two years ago (along with 11 other cardiologists), told the UK Prime Minister to adopt the colourful Mediterranean Diet as a way of ‘preventing all the chronic illnesses that beset the Western World’, instead of ‘popping pills’. Then, one of the targets was statins.

The new group claims that too often patients are given useless and sometimes harmful drugs that they simply do not need. They claim public funding is often allocated to medical research because it is likely to be profitable, not because it will be beneficial for patients.

Crucially, whilst they accuse the NHS of failing to stand up to Big Pharma, they argue that the latter are developing medicines they can profit from, rather than those, which are likely to be the most beneficial to patients.

But the strongest words were left to last. Thompson and his colleagues accuse the NHS of ‘over-treating’ its patients, arguing that the side-effects of too much Big Pharma medicine is leading to countless deaths’.

Examples of the over-claims and money wasting include half a billion pounds on Tamiflu that was neither needed nor worked, and statins, where the original clinical trial data has never ever been published.

Only recently statins have been shown to double the risk of diabetes.

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Dr Byers, supplements and increased cancer risk – Same turgid old stuff.

It seems every five years or so, someone is appointed to jump up and warn us all about Vitamin Supplements and their dangers.

This time Dr Byers got the short straw.

The problem is that we’ve heard it all before, the same research, the same generalisations – and we know the answer.

Out comes the same one-off research study (following an indicative study) on beta-carotene and smoking. Then there is research on vitamin E which has little benefit and may even do harm.

Neither supplement would I touch anyway. Both mass market supplements in the main are deficient, synthetic copies of the real thing. In nature beta-carotene is available in cis- and trans- forms, but only one is used in the common supplement. Vitamin E is worse. Most studies involve synthetic alpha-tocopherol, just one of the eight variants found in nature. In my book it should not even be called vitamin E (it’s fraud).

Synthetic vitamins, for me, carry the same basic risks as synthetic drugs. Natural vitamin E is easy to come by. Put out a bowl of nuts and seeds – a handful of sunflower and pumpkin seeds will give you the four tocotrienol vitamin Es – shown to be much better than tocopherol in fighting cancer anyway.

Folate supplementation is, quite possibly, a threat to all these highly profitable cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which are under soooo much pressure at the moment from leading heart specialists. They have been linked to a range of secondary illnesses from diabetes to eye sight problems; and research is now questioning whether they do lower death rates from heart attacks and strokes.

Folate, again, is a vitamin you should get from your diet – eat your greens!!!! If you are short you are in trouble. If you have a healthy microbiome (gut bacteria) and eat properly you will be fine; too much you might be in trouble. It has an RDA in ‘micrograms’ for that reason.

But what I love is the way the ‘research’ extrapolates a study on synthetic beta-carotene and smoking to warn the listeners on supplements in general. It would be like me saying that since one drug, Vioxx, killed 48,000 Americans and is now banned, people should be careful when using any drugs because their benefits are questionable and there is clear evidence of significant risks.

Mass market vitamin supplements have limited benefits, although Centrum produced a study a couple of years back showing their multivitamin reduced cancer risk by 7 per cent – this would extrapolate to 22,000 less people with cancer in the UK alone next year. In 2003, the French produced the Su Vi Max study which had followed 17,000 people on selenium and zinc, vitamins E and C and beta-carotene – that showed 31% fewer male cancers (but little change for women); and 37% less deaths overall from cancer over the study period.

I am much more interested in bioactive natural compounds such as vitamin D, curcumin, fish oils, sulforaphanes, CLA, MCP and another 60 with Epigenetic benefits. Now they are interesting. Even Dr Young S. Kim of the NCI in her research on foods that could stop cancer stem cells re-growing, said these could be taken as quality supplements.

Ok. It’s diary time. Which doctor, or preferably professor wants to author this same study on the risks of supplements in 2020?

I’ll have this Junk Science article ready to re-run then too.

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Is Wikipedia misleading the public on health?

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, contains errors in nine out of 10 of its health entries, and should be treated with caution, say scientists in the USA.

The research covered in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association stated that ‘Most Wikipedia articles representing the 10 most costly medical conditions in the United States contain many errors when checked against standard peer-reviewed sources. Caution should be used when using Wikipedia to answer questions regarding patient care’.

But then, the whole area of ‘volunteers’ ‘editing’ articles has been fraught with allegations of bullying, offensive comment to contributor writers and is, anyway, clearly open to bias and even misuse and abuse by people with agendas such as skeptics or pharmaceutical companies.

A spokesman for Wikipedia UK stated to the BBC that “Wikipedia can be edited by anybody, but many volunteers from the medical profession check the pages for inaccuracies”. Well, that’s all right then. And, of course, none of these volunteers have any links whatsoever to Pharmaceutical companies.

Entries for some areas of health such as Complementary and Integrative Medicine, even though written by scientists of competence, are known to have been sabotaged and altered by people with such agendas. This has received a great deal of negative comment on the Internet.

The American researchers in the study compared entries on Wikipedia on conditions such as heart disease, lung cancer, depression and diabetes with peer-reviewed medical research.

They said most articles in Wikipedia contained “many errors”.

Lead author Dr Robert Hasty, of the Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine in North Carolina, said: “While Wikipedia is a convenient tool for conducting research, from a public health standpoint, patients should not use it as a primary resource because those articles do not go through the same peer-review process as medical journals.”

Yet, often when patients search for a health topic, Wikipedia is in the top two or three headings listed – it is the sixth most popular Internet site in the world. It is incorrectly read by many people with health problems as if it is some sort of consumer bible.

There are now even ‘clones’ of Wikipedia, like the Skeptic ‘gutter rag’ RationalWiki, which can feature totally subjective ‘articles’ using repeated 4 letter words and claims so wild they border on the false and defamatory. Readers looking for health information might easily mistake these clone sites for the real thing, making their quest for health even more difficult. It’s becoming a mess.

Wikimedia UK, its British arm, said it was “crucial that people with health concerns spoke to their GP first “.

Worryingly, Wikipedia UK claim that about 70% of physicians and medical students use the website.

Stevie Benton, at Wikimedia UK, said there were a “number of initiatives” in place to help improve the articles, “especially in relation to health and medicine”.

He said the charity had a project to bring together volunteer Wikipedia editors with a medical knowledge to identify articles that need improvement, find credible sources and make entries more “accurate and more readable”. Presumably this team will include practitioners in complementary medicine too. We can only hope. We can’t have the bias and errors being judged by more of the same, surely?

A couple of years ago it was announced that help was at hand – Wikipedia would be working with Cancer Research UK to review cancer-related articles by clinical researchers and writers to keep them accurate and up-to-date.

This may help with the accuracy, but it’s hard to know how that endorsement is going to make the Internet claims of bias go away.

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What’s in your Vitamin Supplement??

People simply do not realize the rubbish that can be in cheaper vitamin supplements. And by ‘people’, I mean not just the sick, but doctors, researchers and even the scientists who prepare reports praising or condemning them.

Synthetic, deficient and dangerous?

The cheaper versions are often simply synthetic, and deficient versions of the real thing, like Thai copies of Gucci handbags. Should you be surprised when the handle drops off?

But this is your health you are messing with. And matters can get worse when you realise what ‘fillers’ and even toxic ingredients can be incorporated in the tablet.

Unfortunately, most research studies simply talk about ‘vitamin E improving your immune system’ (positive) or ‘vitamin E doing more harm than good’ (negative) without any sensible or responsible comment on the vitamin quality used.

Vitamin E is a classic example of confusion – even the mighty Memorial Sloan-Kettering Medical School gets its commentary wrong on its website!

Vitamin E is available in nature in 8 related forms – 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. These cousins appear in foods from grains to greens. Memorial Sloan-Kettering refers to all the foods in nature you can find vitamin E within. However, Memorial Sloan-Kettering then refers to vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol, which it is not. Alpha-tocopherol is but one constituent. It certainly is NOT present in all those foods mentioned.

The same applies to UK high street vitamin E, which, thanks largely to EU ‘health’ restrictions is this same constituent form – alpha tocopherol – and, worse, invariably synthetic and made by the petrochemical industry. In a review of a number of research studies by the Nordic Cochrane Institute it was concluded that the ‘vitamin E’ was of little benefit and arguably did more harm than good. A similar issue is found with beta-carotene, which in nature is available in cis- and trans- forms, but in cheap varieties is just one synthetic copy.

To put this in context, experts are agreed that natural vitamin E is effective against ageing, cancer, oxidative damage, diabetes, eye problems and more. Conversely, synthetic petrol-derived vitamin E is an endocrine disrupter!

Unwanted additives

Next there are the ‘innocent additives’. Typically these may include cows’ dairy products, sugar (like maltodextrin), gluten, corn starch, soy products, hydrogenated vegetable oil and yeast.

Then there are warnings on bottles about contra-indications, some of which are relevant while others are little more than scaremongering clap-trap. Inconsistency rules. Sadly, the same doctors who advise patients not to take vitamin supplements whilst taking drugs routinely forget to mention that many drugs have contra-indications with grapefruit and its juice, or with dried meats and eggs.

Fillers and ‘excipients’

The American International Pharmaceutical Council has stated that, ‘Excipients are substances other than the pharmacologically active ingredients, which are included in the manufacturing process or are contained in a finished product. In many products, excipients make up the bulk of the total dosage form’ (Czap, AL, The Townsend Letter For Doctors and Patients, July 1999, Vol.192; pg.117-119).

And it should be noted that such fillers and additives in supplements can ‘cause allergic reactions, impede absorption, and have undesirable physiological effects’. Often manufacturers call such ‘fillers’ by words like ‘glaze’ or ‘natural vegetable coatings’.

Typical compounds include:

1. Magnesium stearate – used as a flow agent to keep manufacturing equipment working smoothly. Made from cottonseed oil. (Concerns have been raised about GMOs, pesticides, T-cell damage and inhibition of drug absorption, but all seem overclaims)

2. BHT (butyl hydroxyl-toluene) – laboratory made chemical, added to various foods and supplements, to prevent rancidity and oxidation. Supplements of it go with claims that it can treat lipid-coated viral disease. But Berkeley Wellness newsletter expresses concerns over safety – the Center for Science in the Public Interest lists BHT in its “caution” column. It may be harmful in high doses.

3. Boric acid – known to have anti-fungal and anti-yeast activities, it has been used as an antiseptic, insecticide and even a flame retardant. It is also connected to DNA damage.

4. Cupric sulphate – Green Med Info is concerned it can contribute to heavy metal toxicity. Can be used as a herbicide, fungicide and pesticide.

5. Sawdust – although you won’t find it on the label some tablets have been shown to contain sawdust.

6. Talcum powder – the same is true for talcum powder, which may have even been dyed.

7. Sodium benzoate – Used as a preservative to stop the presence of moulds and bacteria. Has a known effect against mitochondria.

You get what you pay for

While, there is ample evidence that the levels of the above are small and that they have no negative effects at those concentrations, the question is, ‘Why take cheap supplements containing them?’

In 2012 at The National Cancer Institute, Dr Young Kim produced a study on controlling stem-cell cancer tumours and their re-growth. In that study, Kim identified certain food compounds that could prevent a cancer re-growing, and went on to say, ‘All of the bioactive compounds could be found in quality supplements’.

So what is a quality supplement? The point is that many supplements simply do not fit the bill. Take common vitamin C. Research covered in Cancer Watch at the charity CANCERactive showed that supplementation with standard vitamin C did not increase plasma concentrations of anti-oxidant at all, whereas antioxidant activity from vitamin C from a squeezed orange lasted about 24 hours. According to research, only about 7% of vitamin C from a cheap supplement even makes it into the blood stream. Liposomal vitamin C (which can cost over 40 pounds a bottle) is a different matter. Natural vitamin E with all 8 tocopherols and tocotrienols can cost over 65 pounds.

The crucial questions then become, ‘How much are you prepared to pay for quality nutritional supplements?’, and, ‘Even at these high prices, are you clear you are not introducing chemicals of concern into your body?’

At least now you know what to look out for!

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One Great Fat Myth

As health experts like Mercola and Woollams have been telling you repeatedly, eating fat is not as bad for you as Health Authorities have led you to believe. There are certainly good fats and oils like fish oils, extra virgin olive oil, nut and seed oils, like flaxseed, coconut and walnut oil that clearly promote health. But is saturated fat and cholesterol so bad?

According to top American cardiologist Dr Chauncey Crandall, Director of the Palm Beach Cardiology Clinic, ‘No’. In his Heart Health programme he talks about the importance of cholesterol in your brain, as a precursor to vitamin D and hormones, to aid digestion and support the essential transporting functions of cell membranes. He lays the blame for heart disease on glucose and refined carbohydrates and preservatives in foods, talking of their role in chronic diseases from diabetes, to heart disease, to cancer.

Crandall argues that chronic inflammation caused by a number of factors from food additives to red meat and cows’ dairy causes inflammation in arteries, causing the fat to ‘stick’ to the walls. After calcium deposits collect on top of the fat, your fate is sealed.

Mercola has been talking about the importance of fat for 30 years; Woollams has been talking about the dangers of glucose and refined carbohydrates in the diet for a decade. CANCERactive has covered the dangers of glucose and the benefits of a Ketogenic Diet for almost as long.

If saturated fat is not so bad after all, what is the problem?

The FDA takes action on Trans Fats at last:

It would seem that the research often quoted by Mercola and Woollams on the dangers of trans fats has at last been heeded. Originally thought to have been so refined as to be inert, trans fats have increasingly been shown to be dangerous and even cancer causing. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., has studied the research and now announced that trans fats “are not generally recognized as safe for use in food.”.

Meanwhile Walter Willett, M.D., of Harvard School of Public Health has opined that the FDA conclusion is “strongly supported by massive scientific evidence that trans fat has many adverse effects on health’.

The benefits of Saturated Fat:

According to an article published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (October 22), saturated fat is NOT the cause of heart disease. In fact, the opposite is true. According to BMJ, : “The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades. Yet scientific evidence shows that this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risks. Furthermore, the government’s obsession with levels of total cholesterol, which has led to the overmedication of millions of people with statins, has diverted our attention from the more egregious risk factor of atherogenic dyslipidaemia’.

Woollams in these columns and in his book ‘The Rainbow Diet’ (where he talks about the French Paradox – they eat more fat and consume more alcohol than many other natures but have less heart disease and less cancer) has talked about exactly this point and the mythology surrounding fat and the drive to get everybody on often unnecessary statins. Statins that can increase risks of diabetes and other illnesses by more than 30 per cent whilst reducing levels of essential coenzyme Q10 in the heart, muscles and brain.

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