Category Archives: Health

Why The CDC Is Failing

It’s forgotten and diffused its mission:

…as the impact of communicable diseases has lessened, public-health medicine—which concerns itself with community-wide solutions to health problems—began to look more intensely at treating and preventing conditions that don’t originate with germs. The focus of researchers and doctors turned especially to conditions thought to underlie cardiovascular disease. But unlike battles against germs, isolating the key cause of such problems has proved elusive, because multiple factors—from genetics to diet to personal habits, like smoking—are all potentially contribute.

Advocates like Frieden have plunged ahead anyway, sometimes proposing simplistic solutions to complex problems, often without much data to back up their claims. As New York City’s health commissioner, Frieden engineered a law requiring food chains to post calorie counts on menus, though there was no evidence that the availability of such information has any effect on eating habits. Frieden also led a campaign to cut salt consumption despite studies that had shown, in fact, that some individuals fared poorly on a salt-restricted diet. Frieden’s campaign led one world-renown hypertension expert to proclaim that New York was attempting to engineer a giant uncontrolled experiment. As time passed, Frieden’s practice of recommending sometimes outrageous solutions to health problems based on few facts grew more disconcerting. In 2007, he even proposed a campaign to persuade uncircumcised adult men in New York to get circumcised to reduce their risk to HIV; a study in Africa had concluded that the practice helped lower infections there. But Frieden’s proposal was widely derided and quickly dismissed because of the vast differences between the two populations and the preliminary nature of the research.

Read the whole thing. This is a microcosm of the more general problem of government getting involved with things that it both has no business doing, and at which it is monumentally incompetent. A small step to fix it would be to can Frieden, and explain why, and refocus the CDC on germs, but that’s far beyond this president’s ideology or ken.

[Update a while later]

Will ebola be good for the CDC?

Public health experts were, in a way, too successful; they beat back our infectious disease load to the point where most of us have never had anything more serious than Human papillomavirus or a bad case of the flu. This left them without that much to do. So they reinvented themselves as the overseers of everything that might make us unhealthy, from French Fries to work stress.

As with the steel mills, these problems are not necessarily amenable to the organizational tools used to tackle tuberculosis. The more the public and private health system are focused on these problems, the less optimized they will be for fighting the war against infectious disease. It is less surprising to find that they didn’t know how to respond to a novel infectious disease than it would have been to discover that they botched a new campaign against texting and driving.

Don’t get me wrong: Fighting infection is still one of the things that the public health infrastructure does, and though I hope it doesn’t come to that, I expect that our system will do a much better job next time. But the CDC did not botch the job because there’s something wrong with Barack Obama, or government, or the state of Texas, or private hospitals. They dropped the ball because the public health system no longer needs to work so many miracles, and consequently hasn’t had much practice. We shouldn’t have let public health give us such an inflated belief in the power of government. But we also shouldn’t forget that with the right task and the right tools, government is still capable of doing some wondrous things.

Only if it is focused on what it does well, and the right incentives are in place. That is not the case for much of the current federal government.

Curing Alzheimer’s

…with a ketogenic diet?

Ketone esters are in a class of supplements called “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS by the FDA. They are expensive, difficult to find, and taste nasty (I’ve smelled some, and it was a bit like salty urine). There are no long term studies of the safety of these supplements in humans, though high ketone levels were maintained in severely obese, fasting patients for 6-8 weeks and there seemed to be no side effects. The main risk might be an exacerbation of gout, but truly, the long term consequences are unknown. For someone with dementia facing an inevitable downward spiral and life in a long term care facility, the question of benefits versus risk is a different calculation than in someone without that condition.

After a few days of escalating doses, Mr. Newport was brushing his own teeth, spontaneously dressing and bathing himself again, had improvements in mood, and was able to recite the alphabet. After 6-8 weeks, his memory improved and he started to do yard work again. After 20 months, he maintained definite improvement, with his cognitive function seeming to wax and wane with rising and falling ketone levels in his blood.

While this report is just a single case study, it does merit more clinical investigation. Given the severity and cost of the disease, the possibility of a far more effective treatment than what we currently have must be explored further.

It actually wouldn’t surprise me at all. Alzheimer’s may be just one more modern illness caused by the awful official dietary advice over the past six decades.

Obama’s Great Ebola Error

The last time a president tried to make a health crisis about national security, fifty million people died.

It’s not surprising, really. Wilson was our first truly fascist president (complete with racism). Obama is simply following in his (and Roosevelt’s) footsteps.

And meanwhile, we don’t really have anything resembling a national response. So I guess ebola is just another thing that the president has no strategy on.

[Update a while later]

Well, this was inevitable. Ebola is the GOP’s fault. Because they’ve been in charge of the CDC, with its emphasis on junk nutrition science and gun control, while its budget rose.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The problem with the argument that it’s Republicans’ fault.

As Glenn says, if Congress was smart, it would force the CDC to shift funding from all the junk science it’s been doing, and start focusing on actual infectious diseases. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world in which Congress is smart.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The CDC is losing its grip. The country’s in the very best of hands.

The Disintegrating Obama Presidency

Steve Hayes has a long piece (necessarily, because it’s such a target rich environment) on how it is chock full of fail.

[Update a couple minutes later]

This isn’t from the essay, but rather from Jonah Goldberg’s latest “newsletter” (so no link), but it seems apt:

Islamic State took Fallujah and Mosul months ago and he kept calling it the “jayvee team.” As recently as August, he was telling Tom Friedman that it was ridiculous to arm the Syrian rebels. In September, he was wistfully complaining that the Islamic State made a mistake in beheading those Americans because it aroused U.S. public opinion for war. In other words, doing nothing about the Islamic State was Obama’s foreign policy until the domestic political situation made his foreign policy untenable. Chess Masters think many moves ahead, novices respond to whatever their opponent’s latest move is. Total amateurs just move pieces based on shouts from the crowd watching the game. Obama’s like a kid looking for approval every time he touches a piece.

It’s sad because it’s true.

The Collapse Of The Obama Presidency

Don’t let this crisis go to waste:

Are the young struck by the dashed hopes of Obamacare? Give them a copy of Friedrich Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit. They can’t believe the Secret Service farce? Introduce them to James Q. Wilson on bureaucracy. They’re befuddled by the exploitation of an unfortunate incident in Ferguson? Have them read Edward C. Banfield’s The Unheavenly City (especially the chapter he titled “Rioting Mainly for Fun and Profit”). Liberalism’s domestic policies aren’t working quite the way they were supposed to? Acquaint them with Irving Kristol: “I have observed over the years that the unanticipated consequences of social action are always more important, and usually less agreeable, than the intended consequences.”

Similarly, we should be running ads telling them that “We told you so.”

Coffee

Is it ruining your productivity?

In other words, that euphoric short-term state that you enter after drinking coffee is what non-habitual caffeine consumers are experiencing all of the time. The difference is that for coffee drinkers, the feeling doesn’t last. “Coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it’s taking you to new heights,” Bradberry explained. “In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.”

See, for me, the thing is that I can’t even tell whether or not I’ve had any. I just drink it for medicinal purposes. In fact, even though I now drink two cups almost every morning, I don’t consider myself a “habitual” drinker, because that implies that it’s a habit. It really isn’t, for me. I sometimes forget to drink it.

Artificial Spleens And Genetic Surgery

This seems like a big breakthrough, not just for people without spleens, but for iatrogenic disease in hospitals:

To test the device, Ingber and his team infected rats with either E. coli or Staphylococcus aureus and filtered blood from some of the animals through the biospleen. Five hours after infection, 89% of the rats whose blood had been filtered were still alive, compared with only 14% of those that were infected but not treated. The researchers found that the device had removed more than 90% of the bacteria from the rats’ blood. The rats whose blood had been filtered also had less inflammation in their lungs and other organs, suggesting they would be less prone to sepsis.

The researchers then tested whether the biospleen could handle the volume of blood in an average adult human — about 5 litres. They ran human blood containing a mixture of bacteria and fungi through the biospleen at a rate of 1 litre per hour, and found that the device removed most of the pathogens within five hours.

That degree of efficacy is probably enough to control an infection, Ingber says. Once the biospleen has removed most pathogens from the blood, antibiotics and the immune system can fight off remaining traces of infection — such as pathogens lodged in the organs, he says.To test the device, Ingber and his team infected rats with either E. coli or Staphylococcus aureus and filtered blood from some of the animals through the biospleen. Five hours after infection, 89% of the rats whose blood had been filtered were still alive, compared with only 14% of those that were infected but not treated. The researchers found that the device had removed more than 90% of the bacteria from the rats’ blood. The rats whose blood had been filtered also had less inflammation in their lungs and other organs, suggesting they would be less prone to sepsis.

The researchers then tested whether the biospleen could handle the volume of blood in an average adult human — about 5 litres. They ran human blood containing a mixture of bacteria and fungi through the biospleen at a rate of 1 litre per hour, and found that the device removed most of the pathogens within five hours.

That degree of efficacy is probably enough to control an infection, Ingber says. Once the biospleen has removed most pathogens from the blood, antibiotics and the immune system can fight off remaining traces of infection — such as pathogens lodged in the organs, he says.

Note that it could also be effective against ebola.

On another front, eliminating bad proteins using RNA interference.

Faster, please.

Public School As Child Abuse

Example #43,675,219:

Stuarts Draft fifth-grader Grace Karaffa appeared before the school board Thursday night, saying she had requested the substance while on the playground after suffering chapped lips.

“I was told I couldn’t use it. Then later that day they (lips) started to bleed so I asked for Chapstick again and I was told that it was against the school policy for elementary kids to have Chapstick,” Grace said.

Grace asked the school board to change its policy. “Chapstick allows the human body to heal the lips themselves and protects them in any weather from drying out,” she said. She concluded her speech by saying, “Please school board, allow us to have Chapstick.”

I don’t know if you have to be a moron to be a school-board member, but it certainly seems to help.