High Carbs, Harvard, Insurance, and Avoiding Doctors

“Undercover insects?  Talking iguanas?  This isn’t a research station, it’s a three ring circus.  You should charge admission.” – Star Trek, Voyager

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Pugsley bravely researching a high-carb diet. The Sugar Research Foundation® thanks him for his bravery!

In 1967, a member of the Board of Directors of the Sugar Research Foundation® (yes, that was a real thing) published a statement that noted there were significant flaws in studies that linked high sugar consumption to heart problems.  The Sugar Research Foundation© paid for the work that went into backing up the statement.  No problems, right?

Perhaps the Official Song of the Sugar Research Foundation™?

The statement came from (in part) the Chairman of Harvard®’s Public Health Nutrition Department, and was published as research in the New England Journal of Medicine©.  From what I’ve read, his position at the Sugar Research Foundation™ and their funding of the study wasn’t mentioned.  Surely no bias from a Harvard© man?

This study resulted (at least partially) in the Low Fat/High Carb craze, and increasing amounts of obesity and heart disease.  So, to recap history:

  • 1967: Carbs Good
  • 1972: Atkins – “Not so fast.”
  • 1978: Carbs Good
  • 1981: Atkins – “Really, dudes, you’re wrong.”
  • 1980’s and 1990’s: WE SAID LOW FAT.  Oh, and bread works like sugar, so have as much sugar as you want.  A Milky Way® is like six pieces of bread.  Or a potato.
  • 1999: Atkins – “Dudes, not working.  Chill and have a steak.”

I could keep going.

Is it just me, or does medical research follow the model shown in the video?

Right now it seems as though the tide has finally turned in Dr. Atkins favor, probably for good, though the Wikipedia for “Atkins Diet” reads like the ghost of the Sugar Research Foundation® lurks over it to this very day.

Let’s think about cows.  Hmmm, first time I’ve ever written that sentence.

Prior to being turned into tasty steaks, cattle are taken to a feedlot, which is just that, a lot where they feed the cows.  A lot, as in mass quantities.  A cow will enter the feedlot weighing 700-800 pounds, and exit 400 pounds heavier in 4 months.  That math is easy – 100+ pounds a month (that’s like 6,000 kilograms an hour).  What do they feed the cows?  Lots of high energy grain, combined with a little bit of protein and a little bit of fat.  And they gain massive amounts of weight.

Had Harvard™ (a location where they seem to be confused) just checked the Hereford (a cattle breed) heifers (a specific cattle descriptor) then they would have known that it’s clear how to make someone gain weight, and it’s precisely the diet he suggested is better than Grandma’s steak and eggs.

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What cows might look like to a Chairman of Harvard®’s Public Health Nutrition Department.  At least they’re mammals?

Let’s talk about salt.  Here are two headlines about salt consumption health effects from August, 2017:

  • High Salt Diet Can Double Risk of Heart Failure
  • Pass the Salt: The Myth of the Low Salt Diet

There are Similar debates on statins (do they do anything but mess with your muscles OR are they a miracle?), B vitamins (generally good for you OR increase risk of cancer) and eggs.

Eggs used to be a miracle food.  Then, in the 1970’s?  Evil death in the full shell.  Now?  The kind of cholesterol in an egg isn’t the kind of cholesterol in your body.  Eggs are eggsactly what a body needs!  Today, anyway.

This has led me to two conclusions:

  • Journalists will write up anything for a Friday deadline if it gets them to Bennigan’s© faster so they can have a Bloomin’ Onion® and a scotch and soda before going to the fedora store. (I may have messed this metaphor up, but I’m working on a Friday deadline . . . .)  If they read the medical studies, most of them don’t remotely have sufficient background in biology or statistics to understand it, because the tough math tests at journalism school allow them to take their socks off so they can use their toes for counting.
  • Medical research is (shudder) even worse than journalism about medical research.

I’ll concentrate on the last point.

Doug Altman wrote an article for The BMJ.  What is The BMJ?  It used to be called the British Medical Journal, but the password got hacked and it was renamed by a group of 12 year old boys.

Back in 1994, Altman wrote an article for The BMJ called The Scandal of Poor Medical Research.  It’s behind a paywall, and I think it’s better if I just make up the content anyway.  Actually, Richard Smith gives a pretty good synopsis of the article in The BMJ Blog (LINK).  Much of the research was bad because “. . . of inappropriate designs, unrepresentative samples, small samples, incorrect methods of analysis, and faulty interpretation.”  And, presumably, he thought that medical research had an ugly, fat mother, too.  And that’s the positive news.

It gets worse.  Career interests (like our Harvard Sugar Daddy) influence research.  And, to quote an article in The Lancet, “85% of medical research dollars are wasted.”  Presumably that ($240 billion in 2010) would pay for a lot of pantyhose and elephant rides.  I think in layman’s terms that means the researchers either evil, stupid, or evil AND stupid.

And remember, medical research isn’t Scottish . . . it’s crap.

So, medical research is horribly broken.  What about medicine?

My general theory when it comes to doctors is to avoid them.  I got sick for the first time in about eight years last month.  Rather than go into a doctor (respiratory thing that was moving into my lungs) for a prescription, I was able to log onto a website and talk to a doctor.  My wait time as I was sitting in my basement in a fever-induced cold sweat?   Five minutes.  Visit duration?  Five minutes.  Cost?  $60.  The amoxicillin that cured me?  $20.  Genius.

What about hospitals?  Don’t go there – people die there!  And my theory is backed up by data.

What does the data say?

That some facets of medical science are getting to be amazing:

  • Trauma medicine, such as treating car accident victims, firearms victims, et cetera has saved tens of thousands of lives.
  • Medical imaging has allowed better diagnosis, and antibiotics have saved millions.
  • Bandaids® are much more colorful and have cartoon images on them.

However:

More people are killed by doctors than by guns.  Not on a rate basis, on an absolute basis.  It appears that the best estimate that the Internet has of those killed in the United States accidently by their doctors is somewhere between 250,000 and 400,000.  Every year.  Since only about 10,000 deaths a year from guns are not suicides, that means doctors kill 25 to 40 times more people than guns every year.

Wow.  And I thought that Clint Eastwood was tough.

Young Doctors in Love, yup, the urine sample scene.  Bonus?  Sean Young before the crazy hit her.

I know, these are accidents, the people were sick, and some of them might not have made it anyway.  Sure.  But for numbers this big to exist there really is a problem in the system.  And I’m pretty sure that all of the things we’ve done over the last twenty years have made it worse, not better, with a medical system that pits insurance against doctor against malpractice attorney in a constantly escalating struggle of money and power.

Is there another model?  Sure.  Canada, with rationed care?

Also, there are places like the Surgery Center of Oklahoma (LINK).  They don’t take insurance, but they have a fixed price list on the Internet.  Need a pacemaker?  $11,400. (Average cost after Medicare?  $20,000+.)  Knee replacement?  $15,499.  (Average cost after Medicare?  Hard to tell.  Probably $10,000 to $15,000.)

Downside?  You have to visit Oklahoma.

I know that our current system of insurance was driven by government wage and price controls during World War II – you couldn’t offer someone more money to come to work for you, but you could offer them insurance and pensions.  Note that these are precisely the systems that are exploding right now and distorting our economy to the point where they are consuming more resources in both the private sector and the public sector.

The Mrs.’ solution?  Outlaw insurance.

It sounds better and better every day.  Have a steak while you’re waiting.

Note That John Wilder is NOT a doctor so for heaven’s sake, DO NOT follow my advice without talking to your doctor.  Or Shaman.  Or whatever groovy stuff you do.  Also, I am long a company that makes Statins, but they’re not gonna be helped by this article.  I don’t plan on selling it anytime soon since the yield is pretty good (this is NOT investment advice, I’m just sayin’ and disclosin’).  I don’t plan on taking any positions in any company over the next four or five days, and haven’t recently.

 

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom – How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.