Thursday, March 20, 2014

Can the rich buy healthiness?

If you are very rich, can you buy healthiness?  It's an interesting question. We know that those with money can afford better 'medical care', but can they buy 'health'?

What if money is no object? How much would you pay to raise your health 'as high as possible'? Presumably, if you can raise your health as high as possible, you will suffer much less illness. When you do suffer an illness, you will recover much faster. If you can raise your health, you will live longer, healthier, look younger.  What's not to like?  If I had the money, that's what I'd want.

But, if I had money, what would I spend it on, to improve my healthiness? There are lots of 'theories' of how to improve healthiness. Eat a healthy diet and exercise are the two most often suggested. But what's the complete list?

From the Hierarchy of Healthicine, we can see the entry points for improving healthiness. The hierarchy contains the layers genetics, nutrition, cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, minds, spirit and communities. Some of the layers are not available for direct action.  We cannot improve the health of our cells directly, but we can improve our nutrition, on the expectation that it will improve the health of our cells.

In the image on the left, we can see the entry points for impoving healthiness.  We can improve our nutrition - buying and eating healthier food. We can improve our systems health (our circulatory system, our respiratory system, etc.) by doing exercises specifically designed to improve each are.  We can join a gym and hire a coach, and track the improvements in our body healthiness. We can even hire someone to provide mental exercises that will help ward off the effects of an aging brain.

We can improve our spirits easily - just go out and buy something nice: a new car, a second or third house, a yacht.

We can improve our individual community healthiness through philanthrophy. By giving time, or in our case, money, to selected communities, we can improve our community healthiness, and lift our spirits as well.

In each of the areas, we can find many possible ways to improve our healthiness with dollars.  Does that mean it's possible to buy healthiness with money?

No. There's something missing. What's missing? 'nothing'.

Each of the entry points in the hierarcy has two sides. Health is about balance - you can't improve your health by eating more and more.  It's healthy to not eat some foods, and in many cases, its healthy to eat less.  But you can't buy 'less'. You can't buy 'nothing'. No matter how much money you have, you can't buy the food required for 'fasting'.

And it's not just nutrition that gives us problems.  Exercise - physical or mental - has the same issue. If you are exercising for health, you need to take time out for rest and recovery. If you are working your brain hard through mental exercise, or by living a stessful 'life on the edge', or even by partying all the time - the action most needed to improve your health might be sleep. But you can't 'buy sleep'.

Our spirits can be lifted by purchasing nice things, but that lift is only temporary - if we really want to health our spirits we need spiritual exercise, which cannot be 'bought'.

When we arrive at they layer for community healthiness - the balancing factor is independence. In this case, we can spend money on either side of the balance, but we will find that spending money does not demonstrate independence, rather dependence on money.  And spending money on our communities, or giving money to our communities - our family, our church, our government, etc., will not take the place of active participation in those communities. Just giving money can actually lead to communities that are less healthy. Many people with money wat to think of themselves as 'rugged individuals', an important attribute. But independence, and individualism taken to excess can put your health, and the health of those around you 'out of balance'.

A more complete diagram of the entry points to improve healthiness shows both sides:

 How much 'time' are you prepared to improve your health? How much is your time worth? What are you willing to spend to improve your health? What else are you willing to 'pay', or 'give up'?

Aye, there's the rub. Frankly, we don't know what actions might maximize our health.

And even if we decide on some specific actions, whether they be expensive or not - after three months, or three years, we will have no idea if our health has improved! We might think we are healthier. We might guess that we are healthier. But there is no science. We have many theories of illness, but none of healthiness.

If we lose weight, are we healthier? There are many ways to lose weight that are 'unhealthy'. Maybe for some people, losing weight is healthy, but for others - there is little point in losing weight.

Are rich people healthier? We know that rich people tend to live longer. Is that because they are healthier, or is it because they can afford better medicines when they are sick? Frankly, we don't know. We might assume that rich people are healthier, in general. But we have no way to know for certain. We don't measure healthiness.

The concepts in this post are an expansion of the ideas in the book:
Healthicine, the Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness.

to your health, tracy

Thursday, March 6, 2014

When I let loose my dog, my spirits fly free

When I'm in Arequipa, Peru, I walk Otto, the dog, every morning. When we're in the city, with lots of people, children, cats, and dogs, I keep him close - to keep himself and others safe from his exuberant spirit.  But once we reach the fields in the countryside, I ask him to sit quietly while I unhook the leash - and he's off. When I let loose my dog, my spirit flies free.

In the distance, I can hear the church bells, and the recorded music calling the parishoners: choir music, organ music, Spanish hymns, and the occasional hymn from John Lennon - Imagine is a local favorite here in Arequipa.

My spirits lift, as his freedom lifts his body.

What are our spirits? How can we make our spirits healthier? In the book Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness, spirits are defined as "Our spirits are our wills, our desires, our longings, to be, or not to be." Do we need religion, or faith in God to have strong spirits. Are spirits only about religious spirituality? I don't think so.

When Otto runs free, he reminds me that I "want to be". My spirit soars with him, as he floats over the fields, ignoring the peruvian burrowing owls that screech above him, searching out the smells of the earth.

When I stop to think about it, I also realize that Otto has become part of my communities - and my community healthiness. When I walk with him and he runs with me - we both grow healthier.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vitamin D: Science vs the Media

In early December, 2013, the Lancet published a paper measuring the effects of Vitamin D supplements on illness. On January 24th, 2014, seven weeks later, the media woke up and published many 'reports' on the unstudied effects of Vitamin D supplements on health (not on illness).  Should you trust the science? or the media?

The Science:

On Dec 6, 2013, the Lancet journal of Diabetes and Endocrinology (the study of hormones) published a paper titled: "Vitamin D status and ill health: a systematic review". You can click the link to see the conclusion yourself. They reported that:

"Investigators of most prospective studies reported moderate to strong inverse associations between 25(OH)D concentrations and cardiovascular diseases, serum lipid concentrations, inflammation, glucose metabolism disorders, weight gain, infectious diseases, multiple sclerosis, mood disorders, declining cognitive function, impaired physical functioning, and all-cause mortality. High 25(OH)D concentrations were not associated with a lower risk of cancer, except colorectal cancer. "

English translation: In most prospective studies, where Vitamin D concentrations are measured in patients, low Vitamin D is correlated with increases in cardiovascular disease, serum lipid concentrations, inflammation, glucose metabolism disorders, weight gain, infectious diseases, multiple sclerosis, mood disorders, declining cognitive function, impaired physical functioning, and all-cause mortality. High Vitamin D levels were associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer, but not other cancers.

"Results from intervention studies did not show an effect of vitamin D supplementation on disease occurrence."

English: when Vitamin D was supplemented, in scientific studies, no disease effect was shown - positive or negative.

and "Supplementation in elderly people (mainly women) with 20 μg vitamin D per day seemed to slightly reduce all-cause mortality."

English: Vitamin D supplements help elderly people to live longer, but more details are not available.

and "The discrepancy between observational and intervention studies suggests that low 25(OH)D is a marker of ill health."

English: It seems (but we're not sure) that low Vitamin D is a result of ill health, but not necessarily a cause.

Important Distinction:

None of the studies measured "health".  The studies measured Vitamin D concentrations, and Vitamin D supplementation, and illness, and mortality.  There were no studies that measured health.

The News:

Note; For some reason, all of the news reports came on the same day, January 24th, more than 6 weeks after the study was published.

WebMD: "Vitamin D Supplements Don't Help Your Health: Review", by By Robert Preidt, Health Reporter. Jan 24, 2014.
- health was not measured, only illness.

International Business Times: "Is Vitamin D The ‘Sunshine’ Supplement? Study Finds Healthy People Are 'Unlikely' To Benefit ", by Zoe Mintz, Jan 24, 2014.
 - for some reason, the International Business Times chooses to put the words 'sunshine' and 'unlikely' in quotes, although these words did not appear in the actual scientific study's conclusion.
 - headline says 'healthy people unlikely to benefit'? Does that mean that the elderly people in the study who clearly benefited from longer lives - were not 'healthy' according to the International Business Times?

The Guardian Liberty Voice: "Vitamin D Supplements Do Not Improve Health", by Jean-Paul Gauthier. Jan 24, 2014.
 - health was not measured, only illness.

The Daily Mail: "Why taking Vitamin D Supplements is 'pointless'", by Jenny Hope, Medical Correspondent.
 - The Daily Mail decides to put the word 'pointless' in quotes, although it did not appear in the scientific study's conclusion.
 - Jenny ignores the evidence and goes on to reach conclusions that are not supported by the research study.

CBS News: "Vitamin D supplements won't protect against disease in healthy adults", by Ryan Jaslow, Health Editor.
 - most of the studies were not of healthy adults, they were studies of disease, and supplementation effects on disease.
 - there was no attempt to determine which study subjects were 'healthy', so this conclusion has no scientific basis.

I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, but the fact that the news was reported by many organizations on the same date is difficult to explain.

How is it that the news reporters can make such simple mistakes?

Maybe the simplest answer is that scientists, and news reporters, consistently confuse 'health' with illness.  Scientific studies study illness, and the effects of specific actions (in this case, supplementation with Vitamin D) on illness.  There is no attempt made to measure health, or healthiness.  But news reporters want to report on 'health', so the attempt to translate 'illness studies' into 'health studies', and the result, frankly, is nonsense.

to your health, tracy

Monday, December 23, 2013

Annals of Internal Medicine Claims Black is White: Further Explorations

The Annals of Internal Medicine today published an editorial titled "Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements". The editorial tells us that three separate research projects studied the effects of 'supplements' on different chronic illness, and found no significant disease benefit from 'supplements'.  

What's right with this picture? Seriously? What healthiness was measured? The editorial says: "most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death". The use of supplements is not justified because they cannot prevent death? So who can prevent death? Medicines can extend life, but they can't prevent death. And chronic disease? What medicine can prevent the chronic diseases that were tested? None. Should we "stop wasting our money on medicines"? Well, maybe we should. 

The research studies, of course, selected 'specific supplements', and specific illnesses. They did not study 'all supplements' nor to 'all supplement combinations'.  They didn't try to identify which supplement products work better than others. And most importantly, they didn't study health.  But, the Annals of Internal Medicine sees fit to extend their conclusions from "we could not find a supplement that works" to "all supplements" and from illness to health. It's as if three clinical studies found that three medicines could not prevent chronic disease and death - so we should give up on medicines?

Black is not white. Healthiness is not illness.  Illness is the blackness in our lives.  It is simple and bad.  Healthiness is full of light, and colours, with beautiful hues, saturations, tones and harmonies of color. If we want to measure the effects of supplements on healthiness, we need to measure healthiness.  And if we are to measure the effects of supplements on health - we need to select what we believe are the BEST POSSIBLE supplements you can buy and test those.  Those are, after all, the most likely to provide benefit.

Did the studies test the best vitamins?  No.  One commenter at wrote: "The only MULTIvitamin mentioned was Centrum Silver, the most highly advertised and consequently the largest selling multivitamin... [which] is known to be compacted so tightly that it passes like a bullet through the digestive system." How good is Centrum Silver?  According to the Nutrisearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements, there are 32 products available in the USA that received a score of 4 stars. Centrum Silver received a score of 0.5 stars.  One-half of a star. Is Centrum Silver an appropriate 'representative product', on which to base general conclusions about multi-vitamin value? Certainly not.  Choosing Centrum Silver to study the benefits of multivitamins is like choosing a random third place athlete in a small school in the countryside for our Olympic competition. Nonsense. Is this what passes for science, in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

Was health measured? No. Even in the studies related to patients who had suffered previous myocardial infarction, there was no attempt to measure the healthiness of the circulatory system before, during or after the study.  Duh...  

Seriously.  What might we learn, when we take the top ten BEST vitamins, according to the best vitamin researchers. Test the circulatory system health of patients and then administered the vitamins for 6 months, and then measure circulatory system healthiness again? 

But no-one will do this study, because no 'one' company will sponsor it.  There is no vested interest. 

But there's another problem with this technique. No-one knows how to measure circulatory system healthiness.  We can say that one person's circulatory system health is good, and someone else's is not so good - but we have no actual measurement techniques that are scientifically solid enough to be used in a research study. It's much easier, and more common, as in the study referenced, to simply select people who have had heart attacks, and study to see if they have more heart attacks. The study coordinators would have to invent measurements of circulatory system healthiness.  It's easy to measure heart attacks and death, much more difficult to measure health. 

Imagine if you will, a scientific study of the effects of supplements on health.  Here's how it would work:

1. Select a random group of people who are not sick. You could, if you wish, choose people of a selected gender and age group, but then the results would only be valid for that gender, for that age group.  So, select a random group of people, of varying ages and genders, who are not sick, and who are currently not consuming supplements.

2. Measure the healthiness of the people selected.  Measure their physical healthiness and their mental healthiness.  Measure their spiritual healthiness and their community healthiness.  Measure the healthiness of their circulatory systems, their respiratory systems, their hormonal systems.  Measure the healthiness of their teeth, their blood and more.

3. Have participants take one of the top ten high quality supplement products, or a placebo (or one of the supplements shown by the Annals of Internal Medicine to be useless), for three months, at least.  Six months preferred.  

4. Measure their healthiness again at the end of the study.

But, there's a problem.  We have many medical systems that can measure illness. But we have no standards for measurement of healthiness. We can measure blood pressure - for diagnosis of hypertension, but not blood health. We can measure cholesterol, for diagnosis of 'high cholesterol', but we can't measure cholesterol health - without reference to illness. We can measure tooth decay, but not tooth health. And we have virtually no useful techniques to measure spirit health, nor community health. Every so called 'health measurement' relies on measuring illness, not healthiness. 

The hierarchy of healthicine stretches from genetics to nutrients, to cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, mind, spirit, and community, but if you have no illness - our medical systems diagnose "health" - and that's the end of it.  

So, I have to laugh when the Annals of Internal Medicine say that supplements don't improve healthiness.  Frankly their statements have no basis in scientific fact. Their conclusion states "With respect to multivitamins, the studies published in this issue and previous trials indicate no substantial health benefit." But the truth is - no study measured health, nor health benefit. Medical studies are designed to study illness and illness benefit. Extrapolation from studies of illness, to conclusions about healthiness is unscientific and irresponsible. 

But seriously, what's really going on here?  Is the Annals of Internal Medicine encouraging health? No. Are they encouraging health freedom? Not.  It is clear that if three studies of medicines showed no benefit against chronic disease - studies would continue, with different medicines, until we get it right.  No one would be silly enough to recommend we 'stop wasting our money on medicines'.  In fact, if three studies of medicines 'failed', the studies would probably not be published.  Medical Journals don't publish 'failures' unless they are about supplements. 

Several years ago, I published a post The Food Myth, in which I noted the tendency of medical researchers to dismiss supplements in favour of foods (which they don't need to test via research).  Later, I wrote The Medicines Myth, where I noted that the top 10 selling medicines don't actually cure any diseases. Maybe it's time to write The Supplement Myth, and explore the myth that Vitamins are not 'vital' and 'essential minerals' are not really essential at all and besides, everybody who lives on the SAD (Standard American Diet) gets plenty of these essential nutrients in their fast foods. 

The Annals of Internal Medicine is simply wrong.  And the truth is - they are so wrong that the majority of North Americans know they are wrong.  Maybe it's time for some disclosure? It would be interesting to see some statistics on supplements consumed by contributors to the Annals of Internal Medicine.  How does their published "editorial opinion" compare with their actual behavior? 

to your health, tracy

This post is an expansion of a post initially published on  GreenMedInfo specializes in collecting and presenting evidence on non-prescription health products.  Eg. GreenMedInfo is dedicated to looking for, finding and presenting evidence that the Annals of Internal Medicine is officially denying with an unscientific wave of their editorial hand. I have been a GreenMedInfo supporter for just over 2 years - they do great work. They are widely recognized as the world's largest and most referenced health resource of its kind, receiving over 1 million visits a month.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and President Kennedy

I was eleven years old when President Kennedy died.  I remember coming home from school at lunch and hearing the news from my mom.

A few days ago at my local drugstore, I noticed the appearance of John F Kennedy memorial magazines. But a quick glance confirmed the truth.  Nobody knows. It's official. But it's OK, we can still sell magazines. We don't have free press, but we can pretend. We can print lots of "beautiful pictures" and happy stories.

November 22, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the death of President John Kennedy. It's official. Nobody knows what happened. You can be sure someone knows.  You can be certain that several people know what happened.  But you don't know.  The news media doesn't know, or doesn't dare. Fifty years later and the best we can do is, as Wiki, the new authority, reports "Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of the crime and arrested that evening, but Jack Ruby shot and killed him two days later, before a trial could take place."

To be perfectly honest, we don't even know if the President was assassinated.

The FBI officially maintains that Oswald was the lone assassin.
The Warren Commission officially concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin.
United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that those investigations were flawed and that Kennedy was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy.  Note: Probably comes before 'assassinated'.

Officially, we don't know.  Why don't we know? Because some organizations, some community or group of communities, doesn't want us to know. According to a Fox News poll conducted in 2004, 74% of Americans thought there was a cover-up. The other 26 percent are simply not paying attention.

Almost fifty years later, on November 3, 2013, the Washington Post published this headline: "5 decades later, some JFK assassination files still sealed; researchers demand ‘transparency’" The documents are still 'covered up'. The cover-up is written into law.

Where are the Julian Assanges and Edward Snowdens of the Kennedy assassination?

There are many who claim that Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are criminals, who released secret information, creating danger to the public. What about those who create danger to the public by hiding information?

The first key to freedom is information.  The first key to healthy communities, healthy organizations, is information. Can "Freedom of Speech" exist when it's illegal to speak the truth.

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business" author Patrick Lencioni articulates some key components of organizations: integrity, clarity, minimal politics, minimal confusion.

Where is the integrity fifty years after the death of a president? Where is the clarity? All we have is the remnants of a politically tense, confused time.

In 1914, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."  Almost one hundred years later - we still live under the misconception that secrecy benefits society.

When Julian Assange and Eric Snowden make information public, they make our communities, our organizations, our governments, healthier.  Like many 'healthy' actions, there may be some pain, but in the long term, we all gain. When will we learn the truth about John Kennedy?

History has shown us, that although the information freed by Julian Assange was top secret, was HUGE in quantity, and clearly demonstrated that some of our communities - our diplomats, our soldiers, our political figures, are conducting themselves in a dishonest, illegal, unhealthy fashion, the world did not end.  We ate the forbidden fruit.  And we're still here. When Eric Snowden told us, in no uncertain terms, that many of our government organizations are breaking our laws, taking away our the rights declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights who suffered? Only Eric Snowden.

Eric Snowden and Julian Assange and others like them, work to improve the healthiness of our communities. Community healthiness starts with information.  We need more than freedom to speak 'our political opinion'.  We need the freedom to speak the truth. That's the true test of free speech.

The top layer of the Hierarchy of Healthicine is communities. Our communities range from our friends and families to churches, corporations, associations and governments.  If we want to impove our healthiness, we need to address the health of our communities. What did John F. Kennedy have to say on this?

The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy

When I was eleven, I was a child. Today, I try to maintain some of my childhood innocence - and the frankness that comes with it.  I love the quote by Pablo Picasso: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

I hope that someday soon, some child, maybe a 70 or 80 year old child, will tell us what really happened to President John F Kennedy. He wants us to know the truth.

to your health, tracy

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Healthy Bodies to Healthy Communities

I am working on my book project, Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness. As a result, I haven't posted much on this site, or on Writing a book gives me a chance to collect and align many of the ideas I have explored in the past few years.

I'm immersed in looking from a 'health' perspective, which is very different from our normal 'illness' viewpoint. Sometimes, as I work, something very new and interesting comes up.  This post gives a preview of some of the new ideas to be found in the book.

Many medical and alternative medical practitioners refer to healthiness of body, mind and spirit.

They're missing the next layer: Community.

The Hierarchy of Healthicine begins with genetics and nutrients and rises through the layers of cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, minds, spirits, to the top layer: communities. There are five general entry points to improving healthiness: nutrition, physical exercise, mental exercise, spiritual exercise and community involvement.  We've always known that nutrition, or diet is a large factor in healthiness. Nutrition has been studied extensively - although mostly with regards to illness rather than healthiness.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The GMO Blues (a.k.a. The Organicular Blues)

There was a young man who ate GMOs.
He ate GMOs owned by Monsanto.
But he didn't know he ate GMOs,
No labels you know.

The young man was fat, so he drank diet juice

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Myth of Alternative Medicines

The world seems to be divided on medicines... There are the medicines your doctor recommends, and 'alternative' medicines.  Doctors typically recommend 'patent' medicines (although they might not use that name). Some doctors promote 'natural medicines', others prefer 'Chinese medicines', others like 'traditional' medicines. It seems there are many different types of medicine.

What are Alternative medicines?