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Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

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  • Life's code rewritten in four-letter words
    A TOTALLY new genetic code has been devised, along with machinery that could make it a biological reality. It's an advance that means living cells could be persuaded to make proteins with properties that have never been seen in the natural world.

  • Study: Marijuana provides pain relief
    Smoking pot can soothe tingling or burning pain — but you don't need to get high to find relief.

  • I Can't Believe This is a Static Image

  • Longing for a Past That Never Existed
    There once was a time when all food was organic and no pesticides were used. Health problems were treated with folk wisdom and natural remedies. There was no obesity, and people got lots of exercise. And in that time gone by, the average lifespan was … 35!

    That’s right. For most of human existence, according to fossil and anthropological data, the average human lifespan was 35 years. As recently as 1900, American average lifespan was only 48. Today, advocates of alternative health bemoan the current state of American health, the increasing numbers of obese people, the lack of exercise, the use of medications, the medicalization of childbirth. Yet lifespan has never been longer, currently 77.7 years in the US.

    Advocates of alternative health have a romanticized and completely unrealistic notion of purported benefits of a “natural” lifestyle. Far from being a paradise, it was hell. The difference between an average lifespan of 48 and one of 77.7 can be accounted for by modern medicine and increased agricultural production brought about by industrial farming methods (including pesticides). Nothing fundamental has changed about human beings. They are still prey to the same illnesses and accidents, but now they can be effectively treated. Indeed, some diseases can be completely prevented by vaccination.


  • Imitators That Hide in Plain Sight, and Stay Alive
    Henry Walter Bates returned to England in 1859 with 14,000 species from the Amazon, just in time for Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.”

  • The Ultimate Indignity for an Animal to be Killed by a Plant



 

Comments

A Natural Lifestyle:

this news report tells of a woman taking a "safe and natural" chinese herbal remedy which resulted in her having kidney failure and cancer. http://tinyurl.com/y9h8flu

Yet lifespan has never been longer, currently 77.7 years in the US.

While higher in other countries.

If I remember my anthropology, hunter gatherer communities have longer lifespans than did the sedintary agrarians of the last century. And if you remove births during childbirth, life span was actually not too bad.

I am not one to argue that cheap food and modern medicine haven't made ourlife spans longer. Certainly they have, but we are a species that evolved for survival without those things.

Healthy is about finding a good balance of an easy life and a challenging life with medicine that aids survival but doesn't replace responible living.

I think it's more likely that the US shorter lifespans are actually for other reasons. People don't even wanna walk here.

Obesity, car accidents and gunplay, if memory serves me right.

Norm, you may find this entertaining.

http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum1032.php

Save the vitamins!

Life's code rewritten in four-letter words: There's only one response to this - Bloody Hell!!

I find it totally remarkable & inspiring research, on the level of cracking the genetic code in the first place. i assume you are worried about the possible impications/potential misuses? Research rolls on. This study is only possible because of centuries of preceding work (Watson, Crick & Franklin etc.). I don't find it worthwhile to be worried about the scientific advances themselves. Nevertheless, we clearly have some evolving to do as a species to keep up. Things to think about on the inevitable road to sustainability.

Genies and bottles come to mind.

The genie's already out. It has been for quite some time now.

For a ton of crazy optical trickery and even auditory illusions, check this site out:

http://gethighnow.com/

Re: Plants killing animals -- what about toxic plants? Forget eating flies. How about a few berries taking down an elephant?

Good point about plant toxins. But my objection is the use of the phrase "the ultimate indignity." As if animals are somehow inherently superior?

But I think the second commenter (eli) at 3 Quarks said it best:

I wouldn't call this the ultimate indignity for an animal - that prize should be reserved for the slaughterhouse, no?

word.

Take a look at the first few comments below the "Looking for a Past.." article. They pretty quickly dismantle the primary premise of this hack article: namely that the reason for the 35 year life expectancy was almost entirely due to high infant & childhood mortality.

The author disingenuously uses the misleading 35 year figure to imply that obesity & exercise are not really that important, and that pesticides are just A-OK. Then, she proceeds to lump all forms of cancer (&c) together, implying that there is no good evidence for environmental causes of disease.

Furthermore, notice the total straw-man nature of the characterization of "advocates of alternative health" throughout.

And all this from a site called "Science based medicine"?

Sheesh.

The author disingenuously uses the misleading 35 year figure to imply that obesity & exercise are not really that important, and that pesticides are just A-OK. Then, she proceeds to lump all forms of cancer (&c) together, implying that there is no good evidence for environmental causes of disease.

Is that what you took from this?:

Advocates of alternative health bemoan the incidence of diseases like cancer and heart disease without considering that they are primarily diseases of old age. That both cancer and heart disease are among the primary causes of death today represents a victory, not a defeat. Diseases of old age can become primary causes of death only when diseases of infancy and childhood are vanquished, and that is precisely what has happened.

I didn't get that at all, from the article. Maybe don't read between the lines when there's nothing there?

The fact that many childhood and childbirth diseases have been conquered, totally justifies the 35-year-old figure. It's not much a rant against people who don't like the medicalization of childbirth, as much as a rant against people who criticize scientific medicine like most alties do.

More than a reading between the lines, it was (to use Norm's term) a more 'charitable' view of the perspective of the so-called alternative health advocates.

When people "bemoan" cancer rates rising, they are often pointing to the many good studies showing that cancer rates increase when people are exposed to toxins (whether they be tobacco smoke, chemical spills, asbestos), when they are obese, when they have excessive UV exposure (thinning ozone layer), etc.

By stating that "advocates of alternative health bemoan the incidence of diseases like cancer and heart disease without considering that they are primarily diseases of old age," the author is sweeping the above, well documented environmental causes of cancer under the rug.

It's just the kind of thing that tobacco companies, chemical companies and McDonalds want to hear (and it's just what they try to argue in court cases).

According to USDHS, environmental causes account for 2/3 of all cancers. See this booklet for details.

When people "bemoan" cancer rates rising, they are often pointing to the many good studies showing that cancer rates increase when people are exposed to toxins (whether they be tobacco smoke, chemical spills, asbestos), when they are obese, when they have excessive UV exposure (thinning ozone layer), etc.

By stating that "advocates of alternative health bemoan the incidence of diseases like cancer and heart disease without considering that they are primarily diseases of old age," the author is sweeping the above, well documented environmental causes of cancer under the rug.

I think the context is important here. The author says that the diseases in question heart disease and cancer are PRIMARILY diseases of old age. It doesn't dismiss environmental causes or the role of obesity etc. I think the statement that they are PRIMARILY diseases of old age is a fair one.. I do agree with Andy that the use of ALL uses of alternative medicine are worthless is a little hyperbolic. I think the author probably had in mind the recent analysis of alternative treatments that found $2.5 billion Big, government-funded studies show most work no better than placebos and most is not all.

Sweeping it under the rug would have left out the "primarily." Now if you have some evidence that contradicts that I'd be interested.

Exercise, nutrition, weight control are not alternative treatments they are and have long been standard medicine.

...they are primarily diseases of old age for which the main causes are environmental.

That some of these same environmental causes (obesity, pesticide exposure) are belittled by the author in the first few sentences of the article is my evidence that she's sweeping it under the rug.

Take this analogy:

According to the web site Transportation for America: "Older Americans are two-thirds more likely to be killed while walking than those under 65 years of age."

Therefore, traffic fatalities are primarily a problem for the elderly.

So if I were to say:

advocates of pedestrian safety bemoan the incidence of traffic fatalities without considering that they are primarily a problem for the elderly.

would that be OK?

I mean stop whining about cars being so damn dangerous and drivers being distracted. It's that we got lots of old people out there -- that's the problem!

advocates of pedestrian safety bemoan the incidence of traffic fatalities without considering that they are primarily a problem for the elderly.

would that be OK?

I mean stop whining about cars being so damn dangerous and drivers being distracted. It's that we got lots of old people out there -- that's the problem!

Actually it would be okay to say that if it's true. Saying it doesn't mean that it's not a problem, or that the problem shouldn't be addressed. Nor does it mean we lack sympathy for the elderly. And it certainly doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned. It's not an either or question. . As individuals we bemoan the death of our elderly and are distressed by the problems they have, but as a society we don't grieve over the fact that our elderly die more frequently than others, that's the fate that awaits us all. We do however acknowledge that the problem is dangerous drivers etc.

I'll agree that the author might have been more sensitive, but it is a straw man you've created of her argument.

Oh and I also like where you substitute the weasel word whining for bemoan.

I replied at the bottom by accident.

i think bugjah is right on this.

I can remember supervising a student project many years ago, where the age of death recorded on tombstones in old churchyards were recorded and compared to the ages of death in parish records. The thesis was, roughly, that if one could afford a grave marker that lasted a couple of hundred years maybe one had a lifestyle that improved one's longevity. As I recall (it was 30 or so years ago) the average age at death overal was on the 30s (affected by infant mortality) whereas the average age on tombstones was over 60. It was only a student project and could have done with some more work, but the outcome was interesting.

"overall" whoops!

not to mention "In" the 30s.

I am still suffering from my CAMRA night out.

Figure the pot link would be broken. Doesn't matter -- it relieves pain and it's fun. We've known that for decades, thanks for catching on, researchers. You get the munchies for non-organic food, get the tie-in there? And it's the drug of choice for 3 presidents running...

Re: life expectancies

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/lead1900_98.pdf

1900:

(1) Pneumonia (all forms) and influenza

(2) Tuberculosis (all forms)

(3) Diarrhea, enteritis, and ulceration of the intestines

(4) Diseases of the heart

(5) Intracranial lesions of vascular origin

(6) Nephritis (all forms)

(7) All accidents

(8) Cancer and other malignant tumors

(9) Senility

(10) Diphtheria

I have to agree with bugjah, this rant against "advocates of alternative health" is an ill-defined broadside against . . . who?

Are there people who advocate ending the use of antibiotics? If so, single them out and let them have it. But frankly, it appears to me that one of the greatest threats to the efficacy of antibiotics are agribusiness concerns who load up buildings full of hogs or chickens and pump antibiotics into them for most of their lifespan.

By all means, let the antivaccinators have it. But I'm starting to feel just as threatened by post-agricultural assholes who throw meat from a thousand different cattle into the same vat to make hamburger more cheaply while the number of people inspecting their meat factories is steadily decreased.

I think there is a more-or-less clearly defined group of alt-meddies, the Bill Maher and Huff-poster type.

And, if they are bemoaning child-birth medicalization (which I find extreme even for them, so I emphasize the "if"), then the 35 year figure including childbirth deaths is fitting.

"...clearly defined group of alt-meddies, the Bill Maher and Huff-poster..."

But that's not at all the group they picked on:

...advocates of alternative health bemoan the current state of American health, the increasing numbers of obese people, the lack of exercise, the use of medications,...

Perhaps it is just me, but I'm not at all bothered by a lot of this laundry list. If they want to give some specific evidence that shows that we shouldn't "bemoan" obesity, lack of exercise, and [over]use of medications, then they had better do so. Otherwise, they leave the distinct impression that they think that these aren't legitimate concerns.

Perhaps it is just me, but I'm not at all bothered by a lot of this laundry list. If they want to give some specific evidence that shows that we shouldn't "bemoan" obesity, lack of exercise, and [over]use of medications, then they had better do so. Otherwise, they leave the distinct impression that they think that these aren't legitimate concerns.

That's a decidedly uncharitable view of what was written. Exercise, obesity, and not over using medications is an important part of scientific medicine. Simply because someone does not specifically mention something is not evidence that they hold the opposite view.

Well, as I said, what they wrote lacked focus - it was an ill-defined 'broadside'. If you don't want to be 'uncharitably viewed' why include any mention of obesity and lack of exercise at all when criticizing "advocates of alternative health"? ... and please, give us well-chosen statistics. I really get annoyed when it assumed that numbers are 'boring'; they provide precision like nothing else can. When the guy who made the video linked in the first comment tells us that 165 of every 1000 deaths occurred in infants in 1900 as compared with 5 in 1000 today, it makes a better case for vaccinations than anything else they could say. If you want to blow Jenny McCarthy out of water, you point out that diptheria (or whooping cough or TB) is nowhere to be found as a significant cause of death today.

Mostly I'm complaining about this piece because I don't like seeing legitimate concerns lumped in with illegimate ones - in short, I think they did a sloppy job.

Frankly I'm more bothered by the statement made towards the end:

All the existing scientific evidence shows that all of the myriad claims of alternative health are flat out false. None of it works, absolutely none of it.

I would take the "either it's not proven to work, or it's proven not to work" approach.

Well, what is causing the obesity, heart disease and diabetes epidemic?

Could be caused by the incredible changes in our FOOD? Who knows?

I personally stopped eating CAFO meat, HFCS and most processed foods. Dont really know if this is the cause, but I certainly feel better and have better health overall since I stopped eating those things.

The final paragraph was hyperbole. I think it would only be "weasely" if it was unclear that I was being hyperbolic.

But I think you may be missing my larger point. OF COURSE it's a problem of the elderly. Anyone who looks at the stats on % of cancer patients by age group sees this instantly. It is obfuscating to bring that up, since it is the interaction between age and environmental risk factors that explains most cancers. The 'alternative health advocates' presumably focus on these other factors; the author shifts attention to age. That's obfuscation.

When I give an analogy, and ask why it is substantively different that the author's argument, that is not a straw man argument. A straw man argument is what the author did: define a group of 'alternative health advocates' and give exactly ZERO citations.

This was a response to Norm's comment, above.

The point of the article all else being equal is that modern medicine plays a significant role in longer life spans. Most alternative medicine advocates suggest that it is not science based medicine, but the environment and other factors and that all we have to do is go back to that (non-existent) time when there were no environmental factors no obesity (starvation) etc.

So when the author points to age she is comparing then and now, since lifespan is now considerably greater.

Your analogy misses the point entirely, unless you're making the argument that modern medicine isn't responsible in large part for lifespans.

OK, I will try this one more time.

The point of the article seems to me to be that these so-called 'alternative health advocates' AHAs are a bunch of fundamentalists (her term), since they live in a fantasy land of an imagined past.

She gives the example of heart disease & cancer as a victory of modern medicine, since, she says, people are dying of those diseases since they are living longer due to modern medicine.

Fine. But she totally leaves out the fact that the PRIMARY CAUSES of cancer & heart disease are environmental factors, and these so happen to be some of the very same environmental factors that these so-called AHAs point to as major problems in modern society.

The clear suggestion is that these problems that AHAs 'bemoan' are really best understood as just a symptom of old age. To not mention at all the well-known environmental causes of these, and actually belittling the importance of those same environmental causes (e.g. obesity & lack of exercise), she is obfuscating.

And the way in which she makes sweeping statements about controversial topics (like pesticides actually promoting longevity) while providing zero citations is decidedly non-scientific.

I think these points are so self evident that I'm frankly surprised, Norm, that you're still arguing.

And the way in which she makes sweeping statements about controversial topics (like pesticides actually promoting longevity) while providing zero citations is decidedly non-scientific.

I think these points are so self evident that I'm frankly surprised, Norm, that you're still arguing.

She doesn't say pesticides increase longevity except in the sense of increased agricultural production keeps people from starving. That you don't note the distinction is due to your equivocation. Nor does she claim that heart disease is best understood as a symptom of old age, but that we have more heart disease because people are living longer and the factors that cause heart disease have longer to work. What is self evident to me is that you are still missing the thrust of the article and hanging on to your straw man, but you're right I too wonder why I'm still arguing.

I think it's obvious why she mentions pesticides. It's the same reason she mentions exercise and obesity. These are pillars of what she would refer to as Alternative Health Advocacy. That she bundles these with the use of medications at all is an indication of her ingenuous argumentation.

[i.e. what it does is bundles me [a research scientist who worries about the excessive checmicalization of our food, air, water etc.] with some very fringe wackos who disbelieve in the efficacy of vaccines]

By never once in the entire piece mentioning that many of these pillars of Alternative Health Advocacy (with the exception of medications) have clear support as primary causes for many emergent diseases (including cancers and heart disease) she is obfuscating.

Norm: You have not yet once in any of your 5 or so posts in this thread refuted this basic contention of mine. All you have done is to attach an inaccurate label to my argumentation (straw man), that you incidentally have not once justified.

Nor does she claim that heart disease is best understood as a symptom of old age, but that we have more heart disease because people are living longer and the factors that cause heart disease have longer to work.

This is an extremely generous reading of her article, becuase she never actually says this. She never once indicates anything about causes for cancer and heart disease other than discussing old age.

But I'll even allow that this is what she meant to say. If so: so what? Isn't it obvious to everyone (even the ninniest among alternative health advocates) that these diseases are more prevalent in old people? Is anyone arguing this?

[That is the real straw man here, despite your attempts to deflect that criticism back on me].

She uses the word "bemoan" twice, and tellingly. First, AHAs "bemoan"

the current state of American health, the increasing numbers of obese people, the lack of exercise, the use of medications, the medicalization of childbirth.

They also "bemoan":

the incidence of diseases like cancer and heart disease without considering that they are primarily diseases of old age.

This is totally disingenuous!! I doubt there are many people out there who would argue that the "use of medicalizations [and the] medicalization of childbirth" are responsible for cancers and heart disease...

[the author sure provides no links]

...but the other things in her laundry list (exercise, obesity and general state of health) are definitely high risk factors for cancer and heart disease! So, by the way, is heavy pesticide exposure.

And you call me equivocating?!?

I guess the most remarkable things that I find in your messages in this thread are the ways in which you accuse me of things of which the article you're defending is blatantly guilty.

I tend to agree with your take on the article.

She starts with this whole attitude that we would all be dead by age 15 if only it weren't for medicine. And then starts lumping everything together without much nuance.

It is a rant. and it goes from one that I could enjoy to one that is pretty objectionable when she starts spewing the fundamentalist line.

Good diet and exercise isn't a cure for cancer, but it certainly is a preventative and a vital part of treatment. Cancer is not a problem only because we live long enough to get it. We have spent decades finding out common things are carcinogens. No doubt we will find more.

Diet and exercise are not homeopathy and crystal energy therapy.

There are also no Miracle drugs. All drugs are pretty crude chemical and biological concoctions that have a series of effects on the chemistry of ones body.
The results treat disease/pain or other symptoms at rates better than placebo and do a host of other things to your body and mind at the same time.

Certainly we are all being marketed healthy things with out science to back up those claims and often made a fool by the claim. But the attitude of this rant that those that see chemical rich food as unhealthy should shut up and eat it and just accept that our future cancer is coming is pretty piggish.

All I'm defending is the contention that there was no golden age and that Science based medicine has increased life span. The rest is irrelevant to the point of the post and that is exactly what you continue to miss. But since this is going nowhere I'll retire from the discussion.

Too bad Norm didn't write the post. Then it would have been an uncontroversial one sentence.

As it was, the other 'irrelevant' topics form about 90% of the content of her post. I guess she needs an editor-- like Norm!

Seriously, though, I have no idea how Norm can conclude that all of this other content was irrelevant. Clearly, she is baiting an audience of 'alternative health advocates' whom she accuses of all manner of absurdities:

1) without once providing any citations naming names of these legions of alternative health advocates with thoroughly wacky ideas;

or (and perhaps more egregiously)

2) without providing any citations regarding her more controversial statements (such as lifespan increases being due in major part to the green revolution, and its attendant pesticide use).

This is classic STRAW MAN argumentation. And is decidedly not science based.

These have been my two major points since the outset. I see them as quite relevant to the post.

Instead of directly confronting these accusations of mine, the retired Norm tries to paint my arguments as equivocating, straw man arguments that are irrelevant to the post.

I cannot describe this as anything other than purposefully missing the points of my posts. Norm's too smart to have simply missed my repeatedly stated points.

Another word for this, then, is equivocation.

Enjoy your retirement Norm, see you elsewhere :)

You can read her comments addressing your criticisms. They were made repeatedly there as well.

And no I didn't miss your stated points, how could I you repeated them over and over and over and over again. :) I just think that anyone undertaking a charitable reading of her post and her clarifying comments wouldn't reach the conclusions you did. You have read her comments, right?

And with that clarification I'll return to my retirement.

I read some of her comments, and in the ones I read, she didn't address my major points. Tellingly, she focused most of her comments on this one certain (repeated) poster who was pretty obviously ignorant of the topic.

In the meantime, I saw many well-written & thought out comments to which she apparently failed to reply.

Seems like cherry picking.

Admittedly, though, I only read through about the first 75 or so of the 400+ comments that there were on this article, last I checked.

jeez, you sure got his goat.

Her comments on lifespan hardly provide evidence that she is correct, they simply gives anecdote that contradicts evidence given by commenters.

William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia only 10 days after his inauguration

I mean let me drag out jim Henson's date of death.

To the Claim that agricultural diets decreased the average height of humans she replies

The best measure of evolutionary success is population growth, and by that measure, agriculture was an extraordinary triumph

A point completely counter to her entire article. Which is that good health is the best sign that our tech and ag advances are success.

But I don't think there is a real need to adjudicate her entire piece

I agree with her on the following points

  1. That those that think it would be better and healthier to live in the distant past are ignorant of the facts

2 That medical advances and agricultural production make us largely healthier, and our lives easier.

I disagree with her on the following points

  1. That there are really that many of item 1 from above.

  2. I think her statements lump a lot of reasonable ideas in with homeopath and other make believe.

  3. our evolutionary diet may not lay out a perfect diet or way of life that maximizes our lifespan, but there is a great deal to learn from that diet.

4.Just because a medicine or diet works doesn't mean their aren't side effects. In fact its pretty much guaranteed that they are. Cancer, diabetes, asthma, and many other ailments are clearly rising because of the lifestyle we live in. The idea is to keep our gains and reduce the side effects. Reducing the processing of food, reducing things that are not plentiful in nature (sugar and meat) seem to be a good way to enjoy the plenty without some of the side effects, or the devastating environmental effects of our production of both.

  1. Cancer, diabetes and other ailments aren't going up just because we live longer. That is just stupid.

  2. Her tone is just fucking insulting. She is making a strawman out of these delusional folks that want to live like stone age hunter gatherers. Her facts are exaggerated and her primary point seems to be that those that don't agree that medicine is all good and corporate food is all good are delusional fundamentalists.

red7, you impress the hell out of me sometimes. when i hear the voice of reason speaking thru you, it makes me want to be reasonable myself. (whiny voice)"but it's so haaaaard...)

and no, i don't think this makes you an accomadationist. it's actually much more difficult than being on either side of that accomadationist strawman dichotomy. which is still, as norm realizes, much more funny than just being reasonable. and funny is, for better or worse, good. i wish i could find a way to make it funny to just be reasonable. you're much better at this than i am. hats off etc.

What I got from her post was that people like Bill Maher who believe that eating right and exercise are a panacea, that they are primarily responsible for long lives is wrong. I think you'll find that although those things prolong life that genetic factors are far more telling in how long we live. My family history for example is one of reasonable longevity. My grandparents lived into their nineties, average lifespan of the last couple of generations probably in the eighties. One side of my wife's family on the other hand has a lifespan that averages 60 most of them plagued by heart disease. The point is, and I think scientific studies would probably bare this out is that lifestyle although important is less significant than other factors. Nutrition matters but, not necessarily purchased at Whole Foods Whole Paycheck is going to make a huge difference. I don't find it far-fetched at all to attribute increased cancer to age. The causes, and we don't even need to argue about what they are have longer to take effect. There have always been environmental factors, which have increased as we've moved into cities. Add that to the all we need are alt-med treatments, don't want to use those "toxic" vaccines, or that toxic chemotherapy, and I'll live just as long or longer than those who embrace scientific medicine. Just think of all she wrote in terms of what you know about someone like Bill Maher and I think you'll see the point. I don't know if there are figures on people who live a lifetime on "organic" food and those who purchase what you call "corporate food, but all else being equal I doubt there is a significant difference in life expectancy. Organic food has its problems as well, spoilage for example. If you happen to know of any scientific studies that show that people who eat "organically" have greater life expectancies than those who eat "corporate food." In short people want to believe that they have greater control over how long they'll live if only they live "right," I think that although there are benefits they play a fairly minor role. Those with family histories of heart disease do better watching their diets, but those that watch their diets and take statins, do even better. I'm too lazy to provide citations, but if you have evidence contrary to that view I'm happy to admit I'm wrong. I've rambled a bit, but I'm writing this when normally I'd be sleeping so please be charitable.

i hope you're right about the statins, i've just started taking them myself (along with quitting the booze- 2nd time in a year and a half, wish me luck.) my state-appointed doctor isn't going to check my aura or my chakras or just ask me "how i feel about it", rather i have a long series of blood and other tests scheduled.

on the other hand, i have some friends here i've known for over 20 years, an oldschool couple of california hippies, who've been eating nothing but organic for probably twice that long. they've also been prey to the usual list of alt-med, new age and conspiracy theories during that time- they probably believe in ufo's- but diet has always been their main concern. they're in their 60's now and haven't visably aged a day since i met them. they're almost 20 years older than me and look younger. so go figure.

me, i've been eating pretty healthy for many years, booze and cigs excepted. hopefully that and the statins will be a good combination.

about quitting booze- it makes you all a lot more boring, but c'est la vie. (see hitchens on booze.) i mean, i can't believe i'm even talking about this stuff. i'm boring myself.

they're in their 60's now and haven't visably aged a day since i met them. they're almost 20 years older than me and look younger.

Are their parents still alive? How long did their grandparents live? What's the old family tree lie, adjusting for accidental death, and non health related deaths?

It's anecdotal so take it with a grain of salt, but my wife whose doctor started her on statins early on because of her family history has now lived longer than her mother, and most of her cousins.

Oh, and good luck on the alcohol, it's a real bastard, but good genes can keep you alive my father has always been a serious drinker, and is now 89 years old, so much for living a healthy lifestyle.

ah, that's what i like to hear. i've always loved those stories about 100 year old people being asked their secret to longevity and replying something like "not worrying too much about what i eat, drink and smoke".

still, i'm going with the doc's advice on this, although cigarettes are still a real bitch. thanks for the kind wishes.

Hey JB

I don't know if it's available in Israel, but I've seen several people use Chantix to help them quit (100% anecdotal success in my circle). Still takes some willpower, but from what I hear, you don't crave the nicotine anymore. Pretty pricey stuff here, but since you've got your neighbors paying for it, that's no problem - lucky guy ;)

never heard of it but thanx, i'll check it out. i still think the best way to quit is to have an actual desire to do so. it's been my experience with many things i've quit. i mean, many, many. i mean, a lot. cigarettes are all i have left, it's appropriate they should be the toughest.

googling now.

My great granfather lived to be 100, his wife to be 95.

He smoked cigars and drank. He was a farmer and ate fresh food every day. Bacon eggs, steak, and vegetables. His children all got work in town. All died before their 90th birthday. heart disease, cancer.

Just another anecdote.

i kinda miss bacon sometimes. but i don't think anyone would call it "healthy".

Your primary points are right, but again, the problems with her post is that she

  1. lumps everybody in with the crazies

  2. speaks in absolutes about lifespan and diet when really there is a ton of grey.

I don't think "organic" has anything to do with lifespan. May eliminate a 1 in a million chance that you get cancer from pesticides, but hardly significant.

I think lower sugar intake reduces chances of diebeties.

I think lower fat intake andhigher fresh vegetable intake reduced the chance of heart disease and likely is an important factor in the rate at which cancers grow.

I believe that hormon filled meats and milk are likely a factor in breast, prostate, and testicular cancer.

The first point doesn't need a citation because its obvious, I have read that the second point is supported by research. I will see if I can dig up a link. The third is an educated guess, shared by alot of people, including doctors.

But corporate, or mass produced food is more likely to have extra sugar, very little fresh ingredients and lots of preservatives hormones and other things that some people refer to as "toxins".

THe jury is still out on whether or not the "toxins" have any significant health effects, but the first two definitely do.

THe more I think about it, it sort of boils down to the question.

Why do europeans live longer than folks from the USA?

It isn't genetics. Is it just access to healthcare? If I followed this Dr.'s lead, I guess I would have to be some kind of fundamentalist wackjob just for thinking we should look at their diet, exercise, and stress levels.

Jonathan, I recently gave up alcohol for about two months and I know what you mean about being more boring. I didn't give it up on doctor's orders though. I just didn't have any desire for a beer. It was no doubt because I was taking pain killers which are a hell of a lot better than beer anyway.

However, I'm no longer taking pain killers and decided to have a beer, but now after only one beer I feel slightly sluggish and don't want another one. I just don't have the same enjoyment of the alcohol high as I used to, and I used to sometimes drink up to five beers if I was really enjoying partying with friends. Maybe your doctor could substitute some other high for the beer high to help to quit. It worked for me. I currently have no desire for either pain killers or a lot of alcohol. I still enjoy marijuana though.

Norm said:

What I got from her post was that people like Bill Maher who believe that eating right and exercise are a panacea, that they are primarily responsible for long lives is wrong. I think you'll find that although those things prolong life that genetic factors are far more telling in how long we live.

When I found out that I had breast cancer I immediately began to think to myself, "What did I do wrong? Did I eat too much of something that might have caused this?" Anyway, after years and years of exhaustive research into this topic, it became clear that there is no study which links breast cancer to anything other than genes. I'm not sure about the other types of cancer, though. Clearly smoking increases risk of lung cancer, so this is a solid example of something other than genes being a risk factor for one type of cancer.

Thats the thing about discussing cancer. There are so many different types of cancer, at different stages, and people of differing ages and their general health overall, that any discussion about cancer and its causes and treatment quickly becomes complex .

As concerns chemotherapy, yes it is often beneficial. However, it is also overused in my opinion. I had chemotherapy many years ago and then afterwards I began researching the hell out of anything to do with breast cancer. It was quite complex and had to do with what stage and type of cancer and how one defines risk. It's way too complex to go into and I'm not as versed on all of this like I used to be because at one point some years ago I decided to just stop thinking about cancer all together. It's a shame that I was so selfish to get rid of all the links to fabulous research on a blog that I had, but thoughts of breast cancer were all consuming and one day I just deleted the blog and went on to live a much happier life. Anyway, the point is that this research allowed me to better understand the results of a Lancet study which indicated that the chemo that I endured increased my chances of living longer by only 2 or 3 percent. It was actually the surgery which removed the cancerous mass that was most responsible for allowing me to be alive and still cancer free so many years later. After coming to this conclusion, I verified it with my oncologist and she confirmed that this was true. (She also said that most people will have the chemo even for the 2 percent benefit. Also I'm using the 2 or 3 percent for my particular circumstance. It's not a 2 or 3 percent benefit for everyone. For some, it's ten percent or more) For those in the early stages of breast cancer, it is still not clear why some never again have a recurrance and others have the cancer recur soon and with a vengence, although it seems to recur quickly in women who get it at an early age. But I was young when I found out I had breast cancer and here I am alive and well and it didn't recur with a vengence. I know many women who had breast cancer, had surgery to remove the lump, but never had chemo or took Tamoxifen and are still alive and healthy some twenty or more years later.

I also learned that the scientific community does not share the specifics of the results with the public in an way that people can clearly understand the results. One example is the difference between relative risk and absolute risk. In fact, my oncologist was shocked that I knew so much about all of this.

Now as concerns advanced stages of breast cancer, clearly chemotherapy helps to prolong life by a considerable percentage for some people.

I am tempted to not post this rant because this topic tends to upset people and I think it's a rather boring post, but what the hell.

there is no study which links breast cancer to anything other than genes

That's not really true. While it has been difficult to find singular environmental causes for breast cancer, there are quite a few studies which show that certain environmental exposures do increase breast cancer risk. Actually, alcohol is one. XRays are another.

Here are some links which discuss some of the recent data:

http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/benchmarks-vol4-issue3/page2

http://rex.nci.nih.gov/NCIPubInterface/raterisk/risks120.html

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/docs/brca-fs.pdf

But saying that no singular environmental cause for any class of breast cancer has been found is not the same as saying that "no study...links breast cancer to anything other than genes."

This, from the second link above, is one of the many pieces of data showing that while the cause is not know, environment definitely is involved:

Studies of migrants who immigrate from low-incidence areas to high-incidence areas have found that the rates of breast cancer increase to that of the new country, reflecting changes in lifestyle and environmental factors, showing that international differences in rates are not due to genetic factors.

dear jo ann,

it's great to see you posting again. best wishes for good health. your mental health has always been, in my estimation, better than most of us. may you have a complete recovery, don't get addicted to the pain medication (trust me) and i hope to see you posting more often.

Ah, thanks Jonathan. Although not posting, I've been enjoying reading the blog. As you know, 'cause I mentioned it before, I particularly enjoy your posts because of your casual, humorous writing style and your warm heart.

No chance of getting addicted to pain killers as I ran out. I had the prescription for pain, not because the doc thought they'd be fun. ;) But it's true that if I had free access to them, I could easliy get addicted. They put one in a relaxed dreamy state where one doesn't worry about anything..

"warm heart"? what are you TALKING about? i'm a lean, mean, cyber-insultin' machine! all this personal stuff is just gross! :)

norm, please don't turn this into some kind of "old people's health blog". it'd kill me.

Oh, I see. You want to be like your badass killing machine, jehovo-rama

Oh, and I feel fully recovered. I have more energy than I used to have and feel better than I ever did because I'm not drinking so much booze. So I encourage you to keep up with quiting the drinking.

Or should that be "quitting"?... I don't want to be chastised by our local pedant. ;)

Never completely.

Right. In moderation is the best way.

I prefer punctuated excess, but the result is the same.

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