Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

Did Flu Drug Companies Perpetuate a Billion Dolllar Scam Around the World?

Friday, April 18th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

shutterstock_79142374

One of the few laws of political science is that when governments make mistakes, they tend to be whoppers. Luckily for them, the public’s memory is short, and the outrage of today soon declines into the apathy of tomorrow.

From several articles published in a recent edition of the British Medical Journal, it appears that many governments around the world, including those of Britain and the US, may have made such a mistake in stockpiling billions of dollars’ worth of anti-flu medications, bought principally from Roche, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world as measured by capitalization.

First the governments overestimated the virulence of the new flu epidemic the drugs were supposed to counter, no doubt a forgivable mistake in the circumstances; but then it stockpiled the  supposedly anti-flu drugs on the basis of inadequate evidence. It took published studies at face value without apparently realizing that the drug companies had withheld a great deal of data – 150,000 pages of it, as it turned out. When, after what seems like a rear-guard action to prevent it, the drug companies released all the data, re-calculation showed that the drugs were not quite useless, but had practically no value from the public health point of view. At best they reduced the duration of symptoms by a few hours and in some cases prevented the development of symptomatic disease. But they also caused serious side effects, and neither prevented deaths nor serious complications nor the rate of hospitalization. They did not prevent the spread of the infection either.

Read bullet | 5 Comments »

The New Charlotte’s Web Medicine

Friday, April 18th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

My home state of Colorado is a guinea pig for the pros and cons of marijuana legalization. Other states are observing closely to see if they should move down the path towards legalization.

There’s plenty of bad news to go around. Police in other states are pulling over Colorado drivers with no justification other than the green license plate. (We’re all stoners now, I guess.) A college student named Levy Thamba fell to his death from a high balcony during spring break after eating a marijuana cookie. And last week a Denver man who ate pot-infused candy became incoherent and paranoid and shot his wife to death.

Is there good news? Turns out there is. Colorado Springs is the source of the Charlotte’s Web strain of medical marijuana that has sent parents with gravely ill children flocking to the city for treatment.

130807090216-char-web-horizontal-gallery

The strain was developed by Joel Stanley and his brothers in their Colorado Springs medical marijuana facility. They’d read that marijuana strains that are high in a chemical called CBD can help to shrink tumors and prevent seizures. The chemical in marijuana that gets users high is called THC, and since it has an adverse affect on seizures the Stanley’s bred it out of the plant.

Their first patient, 5 year old Charlotte Figis, was so affected by a genetic seizure condition called Dravet’s Syndrome that she was not expected to live much longer. Today, she’s almost seizure free. The Stanley brothers named the strain after their first little patient, and it’s showing the world what medical uses marijuana can offer.

Today there are nearly a hundred families with gravely ill children who have relocated to Colorado Springs, purchasing a treatment for their children that would have landed them in prison just a few years ago. Medical marijuana is well known to help in the treatment of nausea in cancer and AIDs patients, but the strains now being investigated may uncover new lifesaving medicines such as Charlotte’s Web.

The recreational use of marijuana is proving to be the problem it was predicted to be, but while the stoners fill the headlines the researchers in medical marijuana are quietly making amazing advances in the treatment of illnesses. That’s some very good news indeed.

****

Image via CNN Health.

Read bullet | Comments »

‘Training’ vs. ‘Exercise’: What’s the Difference?

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

Starting Strength Seminar

“Physical fitness.” “Physical activity.” “Working out.” “Exercise.” “Training.” These are all terms that get haphazardly applied to the things we do when we intend to make some type of improvement in our body’s physical capacity. They all have separate and very specific meanings, and understanding them is important if you are to make the right choice about which one to apply to your situation.

“Physical activity” is a rather low standard to hold oneself to, since it merely means movement. Physical activity, according to the American Heart Association website, is defined as “anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.” The world is full of unhealthy people, some of whom are sedentary and some who move all day. Mere movement does not correlate with a significant improvement in physical capacity. It may be a step in the right direction, but a look at its specific recommendations indicates that any steps would be tiny ones.

“Physical Fitness” has a more specific definition. By Kilgore and Rippetoe in 2006 in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online [9(1):1-10]:

“Possession of adequate levels of strength, endurance, and mobility to provide for successful participation in occupational effort, recreational pursuits, familial obligation, and that is consistent with a functional phenotypic expression of the human genotype.”

This is a description of what fitness entails, and describes a reason to be fit based on the genetics we possess. But it doesn’t say anything about how to accomplish this task, either the process or the components thereof.

Most people decide that the thing to do to get fit is something called “working out.” A “workout” is a term that refers to the period of time spent exercising — the exercise event. Us guys go to the gym for the purpose of “getting a workout” before we know much about it. To most of us guys, getting a workout means hitting the bag, running a few laps, getting sweaty, tired, and maybe doing arms a little. A few curls.

That makes “working out” the same thing as “exercise.” The term “exercise” best describes a physical activity performed for the sake of the effect it produces on your body today — right now — or immediately following the workout. If you’re just exercising, the workout itself is the point. Yoga, Pilates, cardio on the treadmill, a group class of any kind — basically punching your time card at the gym is “exercise.” For most people, “exercise” probably involves doing the same thing in the gym every time you go, because the effect is predictable. You want to get hot, sweaty, and tired, because it makes you feel that something positive has occurred. And it has. For many people, the acute effect of “exercise” is all that is necessary for an improvement in their physical wellbeing.

The modern fitness industry is built exclusively around the “exercise” model.

Read bullet | 15 Comments »

Are Diet Supplements Dangerous?

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

 shutterstock_62784814

If something is either essential or good for the health, surely more of it must be good for you? Such at any rate is the reasoning of half the American population who, between them spend more than $30 billion on dietary supplements, that is to say $200 a head per annum. All things considered, these supplements must be pretty safe, unlike prescription drugs, for few people die or have serious side-effects from them. Whether they do any good, other than as placebos, is another question entirely of course.

According to an article in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine there are 85,000 different supplements and combinations of supplements on the market, meaning that each of them sells, on average, approximately $375,000 worth per year. Given the popularity of some, this must mean that many are in a very small way of business indeed. It is the job of the Food and Drug Administration to monitor the safety of all these preparations: a task, one might have supposed, quite beyond the capacity of even the largest bureaucracy.

Not all the supplements are safe. One, called OxyElite Pro, caused hepatitis and even liver failure, first spotted by a liver transplant surgeon in Honolulu. It was used by body-builders to “burn off” fat, and it is isn’t difficult to find people on the internet who mourn the fact that the product has been withdrawn from the market, despite its potentially dangerous side-effects (one person died).

Dietary supplements do not undergo the rigorous testing, either as to efficacy or safety, that pharmaceuticals undergo. The author of the article points out that many supplements contain newly-devised amphetamine-like stimulants, anabolic steroids, untested chemical analogies of Viagra and various antidepressants, and weight-loss substances that have already been banned from the pharmaceutical market.

Read bullet | 14 Comments »

The Brains of Brawn

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

AmericanBody

If you’re a skeptical gym rat — someone who likes to stay fit, but raises an eyebrow at flash-in-the-pan fitness trends — your curiosity will be piqued by a new book on the history of fitness and exercise in America.

Making the American Body: The Remarkable Saga of the Men and Women Whose Feats, Feuds, and Passions Shaped Fitness History by Jonathan Black is a fascinating whirlwind tour through fitness history, starting with a brief review of ancient Greece and the first Olympics before fast-forwarding to the Chicago World’s Fair.

I went into this book expecting to learn many damning things about gurus who offer false promises of health and pleasure with one hand while taking all your money with the other. What surprised and encouraged me, as I read, was that many fitness pioneers seemed genuinely interested in making people healthier, and helping them to feel more confident and empowered. Mixed with that impulse was, of course, the desire to sell something to those people, and pressure to achieve body image goals — for the bulk of fitness trends, that meant simply fitting into fashionable clothes, but for some of the larger than life (literally) it meant sculpting a body that would make a Greek god quake in his sandals.

The most rewarding strands of the book told the stories of the great bodybuilding pioneers — men (and a few women) who took big muscle out of the circus ring and onto the beach. The personalities that created the American bodybuilding scene were as epic as the muscles they grew. The feuds between lifters, posers, dopers, and hopers is as thrilling as the rush of endorphins after a heavy lift (at least, I think so, remembering that one time I tried it).

Read bullet | Comments »

You Can’t Wish Away the Fertility Gap

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Jill Knapp begs us to “Please Stop Asking Me When I’m Going to Have Children.”

Being that I am still a newly-wed and have just moved to a new city, I am in no rush to have a kid. This is an unacceptable answer to a lot of people. The constant reminders that your clock is ticking and that you don’t want to be confused for your child’s grandparents when they grow up are not making us move any faster. Having children is a big responsibility.

What Jill doesn’t understand is that her fertility is not subject to whim or wishful thinking. Her chances of getting pregnant decline rapidly after 30. By age 40, less than 5 out of every 100 women will be successful at conception. When the Jills of this world decide they want children at 36 or 38 or 42, they enter a long, often fruitless quest for safe pregnancy and childbirth.

shutterstock_183773678

Men achieve fertility at 12 years old and can father children all the way to 96. Women have a narrow fertility window of around 16 to 40. That’s a fertility gap of up to fifty years!

Read bullet | 76 Comments »

Get Fit or Die

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg
via

Pudgy Stockton (via)

Do we work out for health or beauty? Yes.

I’m in the middle of reading Making the American Body: The Remarkable Saga of the Men and Women Whose Feats, Feuds, and Passions Shaped Fitness History by Jonathan Black. (Full review to come.)

So far, it’s enormously entertaining and enlightening, and I’m recommending it to friends already. Interestingly, it focuses more on the clash of personalities (and marketing styles) than on the fitness methods themselves. But what stood out to me is how so many marketing campaigns for fitness regimes, dating all the way back to the nineteenth century, played on fear and shame. Apparently every era of American society has teetered on a crisis of emasculation and/or unhealthiness. And that crisis also happens to necessitate buying lots of new equipment, accessories, and specialty food, so we can fit into the clothes that exalt the body type that the fitness trend tells us we must have.

Another thing that stood out to me was the changing shape of the “ideal” woman. One of my favorite stories from the book so far (and a welcome note of positive, encouraging marketing) was that of Pudgy Stockton. Pudgy’s nickname originated in her chunky teen years, but she shed the pounds and gained a very different reputation on Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach. A smiling, playful fitness icon, Pudgy is credited with demonstrating to women of her generation that females can lift weights without losing their femininity — and that lifting can even enhance their womanly curves. It was refreshing to see a female fitness icon who didn’t look like she could fit through the eye of a needle — but was still healthy, attractive, and feminine.

Read bullet | 11 Comments »

Good and Bad News for Reducing Heart Attack Deaths

Monday, March 24th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

shutterstock_182595746

Good and bad news often go together, for what is good news for some is bad for others. Shareholders in pharmaceutical companies that produce statins will have been heartened (no pun intended) by a paper in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine in which the authors calculated that, under the new guidelines of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association with regard to lipid levels in the blood, 12.8 million more adults in the United States alone would be “eligible” for (i.e. ought ideally to have) treatment with statins. In fact, very nearly half the population older than 40 ought to take them, and seven eighths of the population over 60. As a man over sixty who never has any blood tests done, my heart sinks (again no pun intended). We are all guilty of illness until proven healthy: not good news.

The authors compared the therapeutic consequences of the old guidelines with the new. In effect the new guidelines lowered the threshold for treatment. According to these guidelines, anyone over 40 with known cardiovascular disease should receive statins, irrespective of their level of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL); while anyone with a level of 70 milligrams per decilitre or more and who has diabetes or a statistical risk of a heart attack of more than 7.5 percent within the next ten years should also receive them.

Taking a rather small sample of adults over 40 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey whose blood lipids were measured and extrapolating it to the U.S. population as a whole, the authors conclude that, if the new guidelines were put into practice rather than the old, 14.4 million adults in the U.S. who would not have been “eligible” for treatment under the old guidelines would now be “eligible” for it, while 1.6 million who would have been “eligible” under the old guidelines would no longer be “eligible.”

Read bullet | 21 Comments »

3 Reasons Why You Need to Lift the Barbell Over Your Head

Monday, March 24th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

rip1

Pressing a barbell overhead is one of the oldest exercises in the gym. It might well have been the first exercise invented after the first barbell was discovered. Since it is performed while standing with the bar in the hands — after the bar is cleaned from the ground to the shoulders, or taken from the rack at shoulder height — the entire body is involved in the exercise. From the floor to the hands, the job of pressing the bar overhead is shared by all the muscles in the body.

But for some bizarre reason, the press has acquired the entirely undeserved reputation as a dangerous exercise for the shoulders.

Due to a poor understanding of the mechanics of the movement, doctors and physical therapists commonly advise against performing this perfectly natural and perfectly safe exercise. The alleged problem is an injury known as “shoulder impingement,” and nothing could be further from the truth. The correctly performed press (incorrectly-performed exercises do not count) is not only perfectly safe for the shoulders — more importantly, the press is the best exercise for keeping shoulders strong and injury-free. Here’s why.

Read bullet | 31 Comments »

Schrödinger’s ♡bamaCare

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

HEP CAT

Let’s get metaphysical with Jay Sekulow:

Does “ObamaCare” truly exist? Are we actually living with the law that was passed with so much fanfare four years ago?

Gallup says the number of uninsured dropped very slightly from 17.1% of Americans to 15.9% — a result so insignificant that it’s close to the poll’s 1% margin of error and still 1.5% higher than the number of uninsured when President Obama took office.

Did you catch that? Almost four years after ObamaCare was signed into law – rammed through Congress via procedural trickery and against the will of the majority of Americans – a higher percentage of Americans are uninsured than before the law was passed.

How could this happen?

♡bamaCare!!! neither exists nor doesn’t exist. The law is neither known nor settled, as its strictures blip in and out of reality by the exigencies of the moment. Mandates are taxes, penalties are fees, mandates are suggestions, deadlines contain no discernible dates.

It is Schrödinger’s Law, existing in a permanent state of undeterminable impermanence.

****
Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

Read bullet | Comments »

10 Controversial Medical Questions Answered by Dr. Dalrymple

Saturday, March 15th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

 shutterstock_161044562

Editor’s Note: Dr. Theodore Dalrymple has been contributing thoughtful pieces on medicine, culture, and politics to PJ Media for a number of years. This is the beginning of an attempt to collect and organize some of his writings on similar subjects. Here is an assortment of 10 articles weighing in on perpetual medical controversies.

1. Is obesity a disease or a moral failing?

2. Should an alcoholic be allowed a second liver transplant?

3. Are psychiatric disorders the same as physical diseases?

4. Do doctors turn their patients into drug addicts?

5. As life expectancy increases will the elderly become too much of a burden on society?

6. Is marijuana a medicine?

7. Is nutrition really that important for good health?

8. Is drug addiction really just like any other illness?

9. Are obese children victims of child abuse?

10. Should you vaccinate your kids?

Read bullet | 9 Comments »

The Deadlift: 3 Reasons Why Just Picking Up Heavy Things Replaces Most of Your Gym

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

Seatlle Starting Strength Seminar

The deadlift may be the simplest and easiest exercise to learn in all of barbell training. You pick up a loaded barbell and set it back down, keeping the bar in contact with your legs the whole way. There are a few subtle complications — the bar should move up and down the legs in a vertical line over the middle of the foot, the bar should start from a position directly over the mid-foot, and you should keep your back flat when you pull. But that’s really about all there is to it. The deadlift is one of the basic movements of which strength training is composed.

Pulling things off the ground is a part of your human heritage, and bending down to pick them up is what your knees and hips are for. With the bar in your hands and your feet against the floor, your whole body is completely involved in the exercise, which means the deadlift makes the whole body strong. It would be very difficult to invent a more natural exercise for the body than picking up a progressively heavier barbell.

“Kinetic chain” is an exercise term that refers to the musculoskeletal components (the “links”) of an exercise between the load (the barbell) and the base of support (your feet against the floor). The kinetic chain in the deadlift is essentially the entire body, and everything between hands and floor is doing its anatomically-determined proportion of the work of moving the bar. This means that your legs, hips, back, lats, arms, and grip contribute the fraction of the lifting that their individual positions on the skeleton and their relationships to each other permit.

Here’s the best part about barbell training: if you use good technique, your anatomy sorts out each bodypart’s contribution so that you don’t have to.

These large exercises — essentially normal human movement patterns loaded with a barbell to make them progressively heavier — eliminate the need for dozens of smaller exercises, and the strength you obtain is directly applicable to your job of being an active human.

Deadlifts are important, and you should be doing them. Here’s 3 reasons why…

Read bullet | 69 Comments »

Obama: Give Up Your TV and Phone to Fund Other People’s Healthcare

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

obamaphone

By now you may have caught the LIBRE Initiative report of President Obama telling a town hall audience to consider cutting personal expenses to afford health insurance under the [Un]affordable Care Act. Here’s the quote:

[Obama] responded to a question received via email, from a consumer who makes $36,000 per year and cannot find insurance for a family of three for less than $315 per month. The President responded that “if you looked at their cable bill, their telephone, their cell phone bill… it may turn out that, it’s just they haven’t prioritized health care.” He added that if a family member gets sick, the father “will wish he had paid that $300 a month.”

Imagine a Republican politician saying the same thing. The leftist media would go apoplectic.

While that may appear to be a partisan double standard, the truth has more to do with ideology than parties. A Republican telling people to prioritize healthcare expenses over their cable or cell phone would likely do so in a free-market context where such priorities would serve the consumer’s individual interest. Obama, by contrast, asks people to sacrifice for the sake of others.

Obamacare depends upon its mandated enrollments to fund its mandated benefits, a process designed to redistribute wealth. Since paying for others is considered morally superior to paying for yourself in Obama’s worldview, he advises cancelling your cable or cell phone to pay for Obamacare. A Republican offering the same advice in a free-market context would be castigated not primarily for the notion of prioritization, but for the notion of self-reliance. Prioritizing to benefit yourself — bad. Prioritizing to benefit others — good.

The philosophical underpinning of Obama’s comment is altruism, the idea that you exist for the sake of others. The countervailing idea, that you exist for your own sake, is egoism. Obama gets away with his comment not because he’s a Democrat so much as because our culture embraces altruism and bristles at egoism.

Critics of the president would do well to focus on that point rather then the “audacity” of suggesting families might need to prioritize one expense over another. Indeed, families will always need to prioritize one expense over another. That’s part of being an adult in the real world. An alternative to Obamacare should not promise a world without prioritization, but a world where the priorities which individuals choose redound to their own benefit.

Read bullet | 42 Comments »

4 Weight Loss Myths Exposed

Saturday, March 8th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

unicorn-croppedEditor’s Note: This article was first published in June of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…

The hypothesis: a slow carb diet with intermittent fasting, along with continuing to work for greater integration of exercise into my daily life, will help me lose weight and improve my still-too-high blood sugar. This is the third experiment of a 13 weeks duration, in an ongoing series. Follow my daily updates at Facebook and join me on Fitocracy to follow my progress there, of which there will be some. Honest.

13 Weeks: Season 3, Week 3

I’ve been personally interested in weight loss and associated things pretty much my entire life. Long-time readers will remember me mentioning being insulted about my weight — told I was repulsive, in fact — when I was seven or eight. I first started actively dieting, hoping to lose weight and not be repulsive, when I was about 12, and immediately ran into trouble with it. After a certain length of time, even strictly following a 1200 kcal a day diet, I’d stop losing weight.

Since this was well-known to be impossible, it must have been that I was cheating on the diet. I knew I wasn’t, but who’s going to believe a 12 year old?

Fast forward to when I was working on my PhD at Duke Medical School. By this time I was considerably more sophisticated — well, except emotionally, I still felt basically that I was repulsive — and I had started reading seriously about weight regulation. I discovered that a whole lot of things I’d been told were absolutely certain, weren’t. Many of those things are still generally believed, and I think they keep people from doing what is useful, get them to do a lot of things that aren’t particularly useful, and frankly cause many people to despair.

Myth #1: The “Ideal” Weight Is Healthiest.

This one has made recent news. Our idea of what is an ideal weight comes originally from studies done by life insurance companies. The insurance company actuaries spend their time trying to decide how much to charge for an insurance policy, which is essentially a bet: you are betting the insurance company that you will die young, and the insurance company bets you will live to a ripe old age. (I’ve explained the basic math of insurance on PJM before.) So insurance companies, primarily MetLife, did studies in the ’50s and computed ideal weights from them.

These studies were very empirical, and they really were aimed entirely at determining how much to charge middle-aged white people for insurance. They did a good job of that, but they didn’t account for any number of confounding factors. However, once they had published the tables, these tables went from being essentially descriptive — “middle aged people seem to live longest in these height/weight ratios” — to be taken as prescriptive — “everyone’s ideal weight is given by these tables of height/weight ratio.” Now we define these “ideal weights” in terms of body-mass index, BMI, which sounds much more precise and scientific, but turns out to be simply a height/weight ratio.

Pretty much anyone can see that BMI is questionable — for example, a champion bodybuilder with a competition body fat of 3 percent may well have a “very obese” BMI. (On the other hand, it’s unclear that very low body fat is necessarily healthy either — in fact, we know it’s certainly not healthy for women.)

The problem is that epidemiology, the study of health and disease across large populations, keeps finding results that don’t quite fit this idea of ideal weight. Most recently, a study by Katherine Flegel and others published in January of this year showed that the notion of ideal weight was massively oversimplified. The study found two things: first, that for younger people, BMI doesn’t have any strong effects, and as you get older, the BMI associated with the least likelihood of dying increases.

In other words, if you don’t want to die the data suggests you actually want a slightly higher BMI as you get older.

What’s more, other studies say that BMI isn’t as good a predictor as simply the length of your belt — the larger your waistline, the more likely you were to have a whole lot of different health problems like type-2 diabetes. (This one does fit the bodybuilder example, too — bodybuilders do generally have small waists.)

Now, this can be taken too far — there’s no doubt that real obesity has bad effects on your health. (My knees would tell you that, if asked. And if knees could talk.) But the truth is that being a little overweight is either not harmful or may actually be helpful.

Read bullet | 10 Comments »

Maybe, You Should Gain Weight

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe
skinnyTom

BEFORE

(image credit: Thomas Campitelli, The Aasgaard Company 2013)

Not everybody that goes to the gym wants to lose weight.

This may come as a surprise to some of you who either need to lose a few pounds or think everyone wants to be skinny. Many underweight men would love to be bigger, stronger, and more physically imposing, and gaining muscular bodyweight is a simple process.

Popular culture is currently at war with the notion that a man should be big and strong, because popular culture is at war with the idea of independence and self-sufficiency, and a big strong man literally embodies the concept.

We are inundated daily by print and video advertising, as well as by essentially every non-action/adventure film, with images of men who weigh about 150 pounds at 5’9” (that’s 10 stone 10 for the Brits, and about 68 kg at 175 cm for the rest of Europe). The image of Obama’s “Pajama Boy” is burned indelibly into the national conscience, but it made a very small blister.

But many of us believe that a grown man weighs 200 pounds. He just does.

Bigger and stronger is better than being underweight for your health, your athletic performance in the vast majority of sports, and your longevity, as well as for your appearance.

Many regard this perception as petty and superficial, believing that intellectual pursuits are the true crowning glory of humanity, and that brutish size and strength belongs in the past, with animal skins, stone tools, and sloping foreheads.

But they are wise enough not to say this in our presence.

In reality, the typical human reaction to a well-behaved larger man is a positive and respectful one. More importantly, anyone who has gone through the process of gaining muscular bodyweight will attest to the benefits of having done so, completely aside from the difference in the way he is perceived by others.

This article – and my upcoming PJ Media series — is for those of you for whom this makes sense. Since this might be the first time you’ve read such a thing in the media, listen up.

The process is simple. This doesn’t mean that it’s easy; it’s just not very complicated.

Read bullet | 103 Comments »

Euthanasia for the Insane?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple
Jack-Kevorkian-9364141-1-402

Dr. Jack Kevorkian

A moment’s reflection is all that should be necessary to convince anybody that our passions are not necessarily engaged by public controversies in proportion to the numerical or statistical importance of the question in hand. The debate over euthanasia and physician assisted suicide (PAS) is deeply impassioned everywhere; but not even the most enthusiastic advocate of euthanasia supposes – at least not yet supposes – that the question will ever affect other than a very tiny percentage of people.

The fact is that man is an animal that quarrels over symbols, and euthanasia is as much a matter of symbolic as of practical importance. How else are we to explain the fact, cited in an article in a recent edition of The Lancet about the new Belgian law extending the benefits of euthanasia to children, that there have been dozens of bills before the Belgian parliament desiring either to extend or to limit the scope of the current euthanasia legislation?

Reading the article and the articles to which it was linked, I came across two statements, one startling and the other importantly revealing. The starting fact was the following:

Recent studies have shown that the proportion of deaths that are the result of euthanasia or PAS in Oregon, USA as a whole, and The Netherlands, are 0.09%, 0.4%, and 3.4%, respectively.

Assuming this to be no misprint, why should the rate of physician-assisted suicide be more than four times higher in the United States as a whole than in Oregon, which is one of only four states (with a total of only 5 percent of the U.S. population between them) to permit it? Is it under-reported in Oregon? Is it carried out surreptitiously and illegally elsewhere? Are all the figures so inexact as to be virtually bogus? And if they are bogus, what does that tell us about the whole matter?

Another question is why there should be nearly forty times as many deaths by euthanasia and PAS as there are in Oregon. Is unbearable end-of-life suffering forty times more frequent in Amsterdam than in Portland? This is prima facie most unlikely. The pattern of disease in most western countries in very similar, and both in Oregon and the Netherlands cancer is by far the most common cause of requests for easeful death. Is there something sinister in the disparity?

Read bullet | 18 Comments »

7 Basic Steps to Help You Complete your ‘Get Healthy’ New Year’s Resolution

Saturday, March 1st, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

91407d4e50aeb068cfa770afbe05448d

“Exercise more” or “lose weight” are both popular New Year’s Resolutions.  Unfortunately, sometimes our busy lives, lack of willpower, insecurities, or confusion as to where to start keep us from accomplishing exercise goals.  It doesn’t need to be this difficult.  You need to do as Nike says and “just do it.”

Here are 7 steps to get you started:

Step 1: Make Exercise a Priority in Your Life

Only YOU can force yourself to work out, run, play kickball–whatever you do.  You need to make the conscious decision to make time in your schedule to get some activity in. Look through your calendar.  Make two categories—label one MUST-DO ACTIVITIES and the other WILD CARD ACTIVITIES.

“Must-do activities” are things you have to complete that day in order to survive/avoid jail—such as, take a shower, cook dinner, pick up the kids, do laundry, or complete your taxes.

“Wild Card Activities” are things that you would like to do after the “must-dos” are done and aren’t necessarily time-dependent.  Examples are: spray-paint the ugly, rusty mailbox, finish the last chapter in that funny book, watch that movie you borrowed from your neighbor, etc. Sort your activities into these two categories. For most people, “exercise” ends up in the WILD CARD ACTIVITY section. This is a no no. The key is to train your mind to view “exercise” as a “Must-do” activity–and follow through.  As soon as you convince your brain that exercise is a priority, your body will follow.

Step 2: Hold Yourself Accountable

Tell your spouse, friends, kids that you are planning on making a lifestyle change.  They are sure to be encouraging and might even join you!  If others know about your new commitment, they will be sure to ask you about it…and you won’t be able to hide on the couch, eating chips.

Other ideas:

- Join a work-out class or running group—having other people around you, sweating and feeling miserable (with you), will motivate you to keep going.

-Bring the family dog on that jog or roller-blade ride—he will have limitless energy and will keep you smiling through it all.

-If you really need someone to keep you in line, hire a trainer or get your fitness-guru friend to help out.

Read bullet | Comments »

Boston Children’s Hospital Pioneers ‘Parent-Ectomy’

Friday, February 28th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 3.20.18 PM

From The Boston Globe:

“They were making the white-knuckled trip from Connecticut because 14-year-old Justina wasn’t eating and was having trouble walking. Just six weeks earlier, the girl had drawn applause at a holiday ice-skating show near her home in West Hartford, performing spins, spirals, and waltz jumps.

But now Justina’s speech was slurred, and she was having so much trouble swallowing that her mother was worried her daughter might choke to death.

Justina had been sick on and off for several years. A team of respected doctors at Tufts Medical Center in Boston had been treating her for mitochondrial disease, a group of rare genetic disorders that affect how cells produce energy, often causing problems with the gut, brain, muscles and heart.”

At the advice of her specialist Dr. Mark Korson, Justina was taken to Children’s Hospital, rather than Tufts Medical Center where she had standing appointments and ongoing care. Korson wanted her seen by the gastroenterologist that had treated Justina for some time, until he left Tufts to practice at Children’s.

Much to her parent’s dismay, Justina was never allowed to see the doctor, in spite of the fact he knew her case well. Instead, she was assigned a new team of doctors.

Within three days her diagnosis was completely disregarded and her parents were informed that the new team was withdrawing their daughter from her medications. In spite of the fact Justina was physically deteriorating, the Children’s Hospital doctors believed Justina’s problems were psychiatric in nature.

When Justina’s parents objected, they were met with a letter demanding acceptance of the new diagnosis and treatment. The letter also forbid the parents any outside consultation, transfer to a different hospital or even a second opinion.

When Justina’s father arrived he was more than a little upset:

“We have standing appointments for her at Tufts,” he said. “Enough is enough. We want her discharged.”

[Justina's father] assumed it was their right as Justina’s parents to remove their daughter and take her to the hospital of their choice. But behind the scenes, Children’s had contacted the state’s child protection agency to discuss filing “medical child abuse” charges, as doctors grew suspicious that the parents were harming Justina by interfering with her medical care and pushing for unnecessary treatments.

When it became obvious that Justina’s parents were not going to comply, but rather looked for ways to transfer her, the hospital placed a “minder” in her room around the clock to monitor the parents.

Filing charges allowed the hospital to get an emergency order to strip away all parental authority and protection. Justina’s parents were then escorted out of the hospital by security.

Justina has spent over a year in the hospital, locked away on a psychiatric ward, beyond the reach of her parents. Once Justina was locked behind the doors of a psychiatric unit, parental visits became more and more restricted.

As a ward of the state, there was basically no supervision of her care– and the hospital bill is allowed to spiral out of control. One can only imagine what it costs to live in a hospital for a year.

As troubling as this family’s plight is, what’s more worrisome is the fact that this is not an anomaly. Within 18 months this hospital was involved with at least five different cases the Globe could find,where a disagreement over a medical diagnosis resulted in parents losing custody of their sick children.

“It happens often enough that the pediatrician who until recently ran the child protection teams at both Children’s and Massachusetts General Hospital said she and others in her field have a name for this aggressive legal-medical maneuver. They call it a ‘parent-ectomy.’”

The Blaze reports that Massachusetts State Reps. Marc Lombard and Jim Lyons have begun circulating a resolution in hopes of persuading the Department of Children and Families to start the process of reuniting Justina with her parents.

“Parent-Ectomy” is a profound abuse of children, parents and moral authority.

Can you think of a more immoral abuse of power than a hospital that will use the legal system as a weapon to capture and steal sick children away from their parents until every last dime is squeezed out?

Photo taken from Justice for Justine

Read bullet | 17 Comments »

How Much Would You Pay to Survive Four Months Longer with a Terminal Disease?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

shutterstock_173672336

When I was young enough still to consider myself rational, I was irritated by patients who tried any remedy in desperation to save themselves from their fatal disease. I have long since mellowed and when an acquaintance of mine with glioblastoma, a rapidly fatal brain tumor, decided recently to go to India to try Ayurvedic medicine, all I could do was wish him luck – sincerely so. After all, the scientific medicine — which he would continue to take while there — offered him little enough hope, a few months at most. (This case, incidentally, illustrates an important point: alternative medicine, so called, is not generally alternative, it is additional.)

Two trials of a very expensive monoclonal antibody, bevacizumab, in glioblastoma, published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, make disappointing or even dismal reading. This antibody is directed at vascular endothelial growth factor that promotes the growth of new blood vessels; glioblastoma is a tumor particularly rich in new blood vessels, and so it was hoped that by preventing them from forming, tumor growth would either be prevented or at least slowed. Early results were promising but as has so often been the way in the history of medicine, early promise is not fulfillment of promise.

In one trial, for example, 637 patients with this terrible tumor were randomized to conventional treatment plus placebo and conventional treatment plus bevacizumab. Although the latter had a slightly longer period free of progression of the tumor, their overall length of survival was not increased, and indeed they suffered so many more side effects that the overall quality of their lives was worse. The patients taking bevacizumab survived on average 15.7 months; those taking placebo survived 16.1 months. The authors of the paper end:

In conclusion, we did not observe an overall survival advantage first-line use of bevacizumab in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma. Furthermore, higher rates of neurocognitive decline, increased symptom severity, and decline in health-related quality of life were found over time among patients who were treated with bevacizumab.

This makes rather odd the concluding words of an editorial that accompanies the trials in the Journal:

Finally, it is worth noting that despite its limitations, bevacizumab remains the single most important therapeutic agent for glioblastoma since temozolemide. Ongoing and future trials will better define how and when it should be used in this population of patients for whom so few treatment options currently exist.

Clearly the viewpoint of the oncological researcher is not that of the sufferer of the disease: he is looking far into the future, while the poor patient (all the poorer if he has to pay for his drugs) is thinking rather less far ahead.

Read bullet | 35 Comments »

Forget What You’ve Heard: 4 Reasons Why Full Squats Save Your Knees

Friday, February 21st, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

Squat5

(image credit: Thomas Campitelli, The Aasgaard Company 2013)

The idea that below-parallel squats are bad for the knees is complete nonsense that for some reason will not go away. This mythology is mindlessly repeated by orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, registered nurses, personal trainers, dieticians, sportscasters, librarians, lunch-room monitors, and many other people in positions of authority with no actual knowledge of the topic and no basis in fact for their opinion.

I have been teaching the below-parallel squat for 37 years, and have taught hundreds of thousands of people — in my gym, through my books and videos, and in my seminars — to safely perform the most important exercise in the entire catalog of resistance training. Yet here in 2014, well into the 21st century, we still hear completely uninformed people — who have had ample opportunity to educate themselves yet have failed to do so — advise against performing squats under the assumption that they look scary or hard and are therefore “bad for the knees.

Here are four reasons why this is not true, and why you should immediately start squatting correctly if you entertain the notion that you’d like to be stronger. 

1. The “deep” (hips below the level of the knees) squat is an anatomically normal position for the human body.

It is used as a resting position for millions of people everywhere, and they squat into it and rise out of it every time. There is nothing harmful about either assuming a squatting position — whether sitting down in a chair or into an unsupported squat — or returning to a standing position afterward.

If you look at the knees and hips, you’ll notice that they seem suspiciously well-adapted to doing this very thing. Infants and children squat down below parallel all the time in the absence of pediatric medical intervention. These things should indicate to the thinking person that there is nothing inherently harmful in assuming this anatomically normal position. The fact that you haven’t been squatting is no reason to seek justification for not having done so.

The world powerlifting record for the squat is over 1,000 pounds. My friend Ellen Stein has squatted 400 at the age of 60 at a bodyweight of 132 pounds. Everybody seems to be okay.

Yes, friends, we’ve been squatting since we’ve had knees and hips, and the development of the toilet just reduced the range of motion a little. The comparatively recent innovation of gradually loading this natural movement with a barbell doesn’t mean that it will hurt you, if you do it correctly.

You don’t get to do the squat incorrectly and then tell everybody that squatting hurt your knees.

Disclaimer: This discussion refers specifically to the strength training version of the movement, the one designed to make you progressively stronger by lifting progressively heavier weights. If you are doing hundreds of reps of unweighted squats, your knees and everything else are going to be unavoidably and exquisitely sore.

Read bullet | 56 Comments »

The 1 Reason You Aren’t Getting Stronger

Friday, February 14th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

shutterstock_106143704

The application of stress, the recovery from that stress, and the subsequent adaptation that results from the process is the central organizing principle of everything that has to do with physical improvement. From physical and occupational therapy to preparation for the Olympic Games, the stress/recovery/adaptation cycle is not just a good idea, it’s the law.

It is May 15, and you decide that this year you are going to get a suntan — a glorious, beautiful, tropical suntan. So you decide to catch some rays outside at lunchtime. You lie on your back for 15 minutes and flip over to lie on your belly for 15 minutes. Then you come in and eat lunch, and go back to work. That night, your skin is a little pink, so the next day you just eat lunch, but the following day you’re back outside for your 15 minutes-per-side sunbath.

You are faithful to your schedule, spending 30 minutes outside every day that week. At the end of the week, you have turned a more pleasant shade of brown, and — heartened by your results — resolve to maintain your schedule for the rest of the month.

The critical question: what color is your skin at the end of the month?

If you ask a hundred people this question, ninety five will tell you that it will be really, really dark. But in fact it will be exactly the same color it was at the end of the first week. Why would it be any darker?

“Stress” is that which causes a perturbation of the steady state of a system — in this case, your physiology. If the stress is mild, it causes no response. It doesn’t disrupt the situation enough to be noticed. If the stress is too great, it can kill you. This is what happens when you fall off a building or get mauled by a bear.

Read bullet | 61 Comments »

People As Houseplants: The Harvard View of Humanity

Friday, February 7th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

plant

Every once in a while, I tune into the local lefty talk station to satiate my mild but persistent masochism. I made it through about ten minutes recently, including commercials. Somewhere in the mix I heard mention of a recent study conducted by advocates of a single-payer socialized healthcare system which claims that over 17,000 people will die unless states expand Medicaid.

Forbes does a decent job of debunking the Harvard/CUNY study. But I don’t need Forbes. I don’t even need to look at the study. I know the claim proves false on its face, because it defies objective reality.

Saying people will die unless states expand Medicaid is like saying your neighbor will starve unless you buy his lunch. It proceeds from a worldview which regards people as houseplants, wholly dependent on external care. My neighbor does not need me to feed him. He needs to obtain food to feed himself. Indeed, if my neighbor needs me to feed him, it can be said that I need him to feed me, in which case we’re both right back were we started.

You know who will die unless they are fed? Prisoners.

Prisoners need to be fed, because they lack the freedom to pursue sustenance on their own. Perhaps that lends some credibility to the study’s claim. Since our healthcare system makes it impossible for people to seek care in a market driven by individual judgment, we just might need the slop doled out by the state.

Read bullet | 5 Comments »

Squats, Presses, and Deadlifts: Why Gyms Don’t Teach the Only Exercises You Need

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 - by Mark Rippetoe

Starting Strength Seminar

(image credit: Thomas Campitelli, The Aasgaard Company 2013)

Strength training is quite popular these days, and is getting more popular as people realize the benefits of approaching their exercise program with a definite goal in mind. Stronger is more useful. Stronger is better. Stronger even looks better. And stronger is a straightforward process — lift a little more weight today than you did last time, and keep doing so for as long as possible.

But as simple as this process is, it can become unnecessarily complicated without a basic understanding of the nature of the exercises that make you strong most efficiently. The best exercises to use are the ones that involve the most muscle mass, the greatest number of joints, and that require you to balance yourself while you’re doing them. Put a bar on your back and squat below parallel, press a bar overhead, pick a bar up from the ground and set it back down. These are normal human movement patterns that can be turned into progressively heavier exercises that make you strong the way your body moves naturally.

You normally use your strength while standing on the ground and applying force with your hands and upper body. The hips and legs generate the force, it is transmitted up your torso and out through your arms. The press and deadlift are perfect examples of this precise application, and the squat is the best way to build strength in the hips, legs, and back. Add the bench press for upper body strength, and chin-ups for arm and upper back strength, and you have all the bases covered.

But if that’s true, why is it that when you go to the gym you are immediately shown two hours worth of movements that are not deadlifting, pressing, or squatting?

Why are you shown an array of exercise machines that divide the body into small groups of muscles to be worked separately, when the body actually uses them all at the same time? And when the Certified Trainers move you over to the large colorful balls and have you do balancing tricks on them, one foot at a time, is it really an improvement?

No, it’s not. Here’s why:

Read bullet | 81 Comments »

Getting Healthy In 13 Weeks

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
You have to know when to leave them wanting more.

You have to know when to leave them wanting more.

In Which The Writer Takes A Curtain Bow.

You’ve probably noticed a marked lack of updates on the getting healthy in thirteen weeks post.  At least I hope you did, because otherwise I’m going to go in the backyard and eat worms.

Okay, let’s suppose you did notice I was gone (“How can we miss you, if you just won’t go away?) and were wondering where this series had gone.

First let me explain how things have been going: we’re three weeks in.  I’ve lost six pounds, slept better and not gotten sick.  The last is a bit of an achievement.

I’ve cut down on carbs, except for today (there’s a long story behind that, but let’s just say today was a bad day.  Tomorrow is not defined by today and I’ll get back on that horse.)  I’ve taken a walk every day that’s been at least 20 at a time I can walk (unfortunately, that’s about 3 days in the last three weeks.)  I have tried to do stuff around the house that can be considered “exercise.”  This has not included formal exercise, more’s the pity.  And I’ve done exactly zero relaxing/fun activities, though I’ve tried to persuade one of my best friends that doing covers actually falls under that category.  It does, I think, or at least it “pulls from the same side” and is fun – sort of – because I’m learning so much new stuff.  It’s not exactly or fully relaxing though, because it’s stuff that must be done.

And here we come upon the purpose of this post.

I’ve mentioned before that when my husband and I were first married, we were so ridiculously, so profoundly broke that we couldn’t make a budget.  Whenever we made a budget we always came to the same conclusion “there’s no way we can survive this month.”

But we always sort of did.  Because one month when we’d hit rock bottom, had an empty fridge and $5 in the bank, they had a sale on chicken in the nearby supermarket.  We bought two chickens, roasted them, and lived on chicken for a week.  Another time Dan’s company had a party, and he brought back enough sandwiches to last us for two weeks.  (They’d seriously overbought food.)  Another time the store I worked for threw away a whole bunch of candles and knick knacks while clearing a back storage room.  So, I told Dan to drive around back, and we had a garage sale, which allowed us to replenish food AND (very important and how you know we were newly weds) toothpaste until the next pay check.

So we coasted from pay check to pay check, dependent on miracles, until we started making a little more, and we could survive without these harrowing incidents.  Then we budgeted, but it was so tight that if we had to buy saline solution one week, it threw us off.

Anyway, I’ve jokingly said that’s how tightly budgeted I am on time.  This is part of the whole “Taming the workmonster” thing with Charlie.

Read bullet | Comments »