Archive for June, 2009

Cheerio to Cheerios?

June 22, 2009

This morning as I dined on Gluten Free Rice Chex, my breakfast cereal of convenience, and checked the news I was startled to learn that the FDA is cracking down on Cheerios.  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/06/19/fda-takes-cheerios-task-boastful-labels/. Yep.  The FDA had this to say :

                                             “Based on claims made on your product’s label,” the FDA said in a letter to manufacturer General Mills, “we have determined (Cheerios) is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation and treatment of disease.”

Cheerios a drug, you say? Indubitably.  If you’ve been in a cereal aisle lately you’ve seen that bright yellow box that may have the heart-shaped bowl of Cheerios on it and the box informs you that Cheerios can help you lower your cholesterol and is heart healthy. Wow.  I mean I can see where people might get the wrong idea.  Standing among the brightly colored boxes of Cocca Puffs, Captain Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, and Frosted Flakes; seeing all that Shredded Wheat, Total, Raisin Bran, and Special K flanked by boxes of sugar-coated toaster pop-ups and all manner of instant oatmeal….I can see how someone might think that the Cheerios are actually a drug.  I mean, if you weren’t paying attention (because your eyes were closed and your hands are totally insensate) you might actually confuse it for a bottle of Excederin or NyQuil.

Apparently, claims such as the ones found on the Cheerios box totally ran amok during the Bush Administration, but the Obama Administration will be cracking down.  Don’t get me wrong, I think claims on labels and in advertising should be true and accurate. So maybe the FDA should start with, gee I dunno, all those weightloss rememedies out there.  But alas, Cheerios got the letter.

As if this was not enough of a thing to get somewhat riled about  I read further down in the article and I found this gem:

                                                       ” Koff argued that the General Mills study was suspect, as the company paid for the research and two staff members helped author it. That is not the type of rigorous, double-blind, peer-reviewed science necessary to back up drug claims.”

In case you didn’nt catch the part that made do a double take I added the emphasis for you. I find this scoffable.  You wanna talk about perr-reviewed science? Okay, bring it. First, there are many studies that support the many health benefits of whole grains, chief among them oats and wheat.  Now, I’m not saying every study or medical professional out there supports the whole-grain-health claims, because I obvioulsy have not read them all.  What I am saying is that there are studies with actual scientific conclusions, and that there are not many dissenters regarding these claims out there.  In fact, I can’t think of any dissent regard the healthful benefits of whole grains. Even those who tout low carb diets acknowledge whole grains have healthful benefits. It’s the refined grains and sugars that are not so good. What I’m saying is, essentially, it’s very hard (if you could do it at all) to find a doctor or dietician that would tell you that eating whole grains would be bad for you in this context. Basically, because the science does not come to that conclusion.

Why then have we thrown science off the global warming bus? (I know, what you’re thinking: Maya, how the hell do you draw a parallel between America’s #1 selling breakfast cereal and the debate on global warming? I’m glad you asked.) Okay global warming, I’m sorry, I mean “global climate change”… Although, about 35 years ago there was hysteria about the impending ice age.  I guess that’s why they changed the term, because climate change could go either way technically, but we all know what they mean.

In case you haven’t noticed – and you may not have because Al Gore has a very robo-hypnotic voice that contibutes to excessive drowsiness, unintentional drooling and staring blankly into the void – the science on global climate change is not conclusive. Oh, you may hear Sean Penn and his red-carpet ilk proclaim that it is, but it just ain’t so. 

 There is a world-wide community of tens of thousands of scientists (there’s a petition they’ve signed and everything) who do not support the idea that climate change is mainly propelled anthropogenically if at all.  In fact, these crazy scientist think that climate change may be caused by something larger than your SUV – you know, like the sun. Not only do they point to the sun (after all it is a big ball of fire hanging round the sky that’s kinda hard to miss, but it probably has nothing to do with the climate…nah, that’s be just nuts!), but also to other various cosmic rays as well as more local causes such as oceans and volcanoes.  They’ve written such books as The Chilling Stars, Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years, The Manic Sun, and The Satanic Gasses just to name a few.

These objectors also point out that the east Antarctic is getting colder, California had billion dollar crop loss due to unusual frost last year, and southern sea ice is growing.  I’d also like to point out (as many of these guys also do) that, according to the geological record the global climate has changed several times on its own from ice to temperate. And I’m pretty sure T-rex and his brontosaurus pals weren’t driving Hummers and Escalades. In addition, during periods of warmth, the world generally does better in terms of food supply and general health and prosperity and less people (especially the elderly and very young) die in larger numbers during cold times not, as headlines would have you believe, during heatwaves.

But, this is in keeping with the alarmist trend and its top three rules: pick a pariah, ignore facts, shout loudly. It is just ridiculous to treat Cheerios like this.  And what about all the other foods that make similar claims such as the Smart Balance brand of butter spreads, Tropicana orange juice, Vitamin Water, or Weight Watchers SmartOnes? Are they drugs, too.  Are we going to need a prescription for our breakfast? Does that mean it’ll be a covered benefit? And who’s gonna pay for that? So many questions, too many directions to go. I’m not saying all those products should all be pulled from the shelves or have to change their labels.  But I am wondering how it came to this, this uber-nanny state.

I went to my local Pharmaca store  (An integrative pharmacy with a lot of supplements) today to pick up some Omega-3’s and Glucosamine and every time I turned over a bottle it said on the label, “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any condition or disease,” or something along those lines.  Will Cheerios be able to do that? But let’s be honest, that’s why people buy those things, to prevent, cure and treat. And we should be allowed to buy those things. We should be able to take care of ourselves.  As it stands now, supplement makers have the responsibility to ensure the safety of their product, not the FDA.  So why do we need the FDA anyway? I don’t know.  My bet is that private industry would’ve produced a similar agency because people just don’t like it when things are unsafe. Such organizations already exist in many industries (And private industry usually does it better than the government): Flight Safety Foundation, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, The Gluten Intolerance Group’s Gluten Free Certification Organization.  

Anyway, didn’t the FDA approve Vioxx? Yeah, in 1999 (Clinton Administration).  Hmmm. And Merck, who manufactured it, voluntarily pulled it in 2004 (Bush Administration). Well, it’s a good thing those guys are so concerned.

It’s not about safety, it’s a bout politics and control.  And they don’t even have the decency to admit it. So, what was that again about peer-reviewed science and policy-making? Let’s have some intellectual honesty here, folks, then we can have a discussion.  And let’s actually let the science shape the policy instead of the the other way around.

 

Links related to the above topics:

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/health-gains-from-whole-grains/index.html (kudos for whole grains)

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/85/5/1353 (whole grain study)

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1363818.ece (Former New Scientist Ed. on challenging the “settled” science)

http://www.google.com/search?q=medieval+warm+period&hl=en&tbs=tl:1&tbo=1&ei=90I8SurqHIj-tAOp3IH4Cg&sa=X&oi=timeline_result&ct=title&resnum=11  (medieval warm period time line)

http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen/230_TakingGr.pdf   (Article by Richard Lindzen about climate change)

http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen/222_Exchange.pdf (by Richard LIndzen about global warming hysteria)

http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/LabelClaims/HealthClaimsMeetingSignificantScientificAgreementSSA/ucm074284.htm  (FDA regulation on soluble fiber and heart disease, it’s very governmental, but I do recommend reading what you can of it as well as checking out the rest of their ridiculous website.)

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No Foreign ORE! Wait, I mean OIL…or is it ORE? Dang it.

June 5, 2009

So, we’ve all heard that we need to get off foreign oil.  I know you’ve seen those snazzy bumperstickers “No war for oil.” Gee, I’ve always wanted a political platform that could fit on a bumpersticker.  Ooh! Okay, mine’s gonna be “Shut up, stupid!”

Now, I’m sure that with all the saturation of these clever phrases and the current theater of war you all think our oil comes solely from the middle east. Well, that’d be wrong-o. And in case you don’t believe me, here is a snippet from pbs.org :                                        

Oil Imports
Where does America get all the oil it needs? The U.S. imports roughly half the total — over ten million barrels of crude oil a day. Canada is the top source, at nearly 1.8 million barrels. Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela are numbers two through five, each exporting more than one million barrels a day. Angola, Iraq, Colombia, Kuwait and Algeria round out the top ten; each exports between 273,000 to 641,000 barrels a day.

 

That’s from here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/pipeline/peopleevents/e_consumption.html

Now, you also may have heard something about the oil we have here in the U.S. There’s a lot in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. But we don’t want to go get it.  Now, that’s a headscratcher to me.  Seems like if you want to start getting off foreign oil, you might want to get it done domestically. Just sayin’.

See, but the argument of foreign oil is slightly misstated.  Yes, there are loud groups out there who want to get us off foreign oil, but the bumpersticker crowd really wants of oil. Just oil.  They want alternative energy. Wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, smart cars, hybrids that run on ethanol, biodiesel, rechargeable batteries, gerbils in wheels… But not the alternative that makes the most sense: nuclear. It’s the most efficient, we have the technology to utilize it, and it is safe (no matter what they screech). Hey, France is doing it, and while that is not necessarily a selling point for me, it seems to be for a lot of people in other arenas such as foreign policy and healthcare and the like. Now, two of the reasons people don’t want nuclear power is because you have to mine uranium and then store the spent uranium. They don’t like it.  Not in their backyard, they tout.  Well, If I had any uranium in my yard I’d let ya dig it up and when you were done using it I’d store it in my freezer for you. Heck, I’m sure that’d be a lot safer than some fresh Gitmo realeasee in my backyard. But, that’s another blog.

So, we don’t like mining and storing uranium…or coal….or copper….or pretty much anything. 

What does that have to do with foreign oil? you ask. M’kay: We have established 1. We don’t like mining and it’s byproducts. 2. We want off oil. There is a huge push for electric cars to jusmpstart this foreign oil thing.  (We won’t talk about what other things we use oil for like industry, home heating and cooking, and making plastic).  The President has even set a goal that by 2016 cars will get at least 35 mpg(even the smart car for two doesn’t get that in the city, check it’s website).  Personally, I can’t wait til we are all driving vehicles made of balsa wood that run on cow farts (which I believe is the true alternative energy source).  No doubt he, and others, would like to see that goal accomplished with prius and smart car type things.

There are the obvious practical problems.  For instance, the smart car is not a family car and the Prius cannot accommodate larger families, or even a smaller family of 3-4 and their daily needs, especially if you throw in Rover and Fido and, what’s that ya say? You’d like to take a roadtrip to Grandma’s…..yeah right.  Oh, and they’re ugly. But on a more serious note, there is the unintended consequence. If we go Prius style there is the problem of the battery.

The battery is made of NiMH cells (Nickel metal hydride). Nickel is one of the pesky metals that has to be mined – you know, as opposed to the ones floating around in the air or growing on trees. We established that we are not big mining fans here in the U.S. (I’m using we in broad, other side, more like them sense, cause I like me a good mine and a heapin’s pile-o-tailings). Well, I guess we’ll have to get that Nickel from somewhere else.  Hmm, I guess that means going foreign. Dang it. Would you like to know which country currently produces the most nickel? I thought so.  It’s Russia. Russia also has the highest yielding nickel mine.http://www.infomine.com/commodities/nickel.asp Has a lot of nickel info including the top nickel mining countries and while Australia and Cananda are on the list so are China, Cuba, and Colombia. And once we get that stuff out of the ground and make the batteries that we one day will have to throw away, where will we put them? Can’t bury nuclear waste at Yucca mountain, And those twisty lightbulbs are full of mercury so if you break one it takes a hazmat team to clean it up, I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to toss them in the ocean.  Well, I guess when the battery in your prius dies you can just turn it in to a nice lawn decoration or a festive holiday center piece – I’m sure Martha will come up with some smashing ideas.

Is one energy better than the other in terms of foreign policy and trade relations and scary dictators with bad clothes and ugly eyewear? You decide.  The point is that if we won’t even go get our own oil, we certainly won’t mine any nickel on U.S. soil. And I’d also like you to think about what people mean when the say “foreign” oil. To me, foreign is foreign: from another land that is not this country.  But I never see any bumper stickers about bad Canadian oil.  So is foreign just when they don’t speak english? because I thought only us jingoistic righty conservatives were like that (sarcasm) not the peace and love and tolerance lefties.

Look, all I’m saying is that you have to think.  Think about practicality, unintended consequences, and what is actually good for us. Don’t just stop at the end of the bumper sticker. And if you just can’t manage that, at least the bumper sticker will be easy to fix, just turn the “L” into and “E”, and if you try really hard you can cram the loop and leg on the “I” to make and “R”. ‘Cause I know you’ve got the Sharpies lying around from making all your protest signs.