Skip to comments.The Top 5 Bogus Public Health Scares
Posted on 08/12/2013 7:06:42 PM PDT by neverdem
How activist misinformation wastes time, money, and harms Americans
Health activists, nutrition nannies, medical paternalists, and just plain old quacks regularly conjure up a variety of menaces that are supposedly damaging the health of Americans. Their scares ranging from the decades-long campaign against fluoridation to worries that saccharin causes cancer to the ongoing hysteria over biotech crops to fears of lead in lipstick. The campaigners usual solution is to demand that regulators ban the offending substance or practice. Here are five especially egregious examples.
5. Americans should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, in order to reduce everybody's risk of heart disease, strokes, and high blood pressure.
You hear this one all the time. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. A June 2013 report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest asserted(PDF) that "Immediately reducing average sodium consumption levels to between 2,200 mg to 1,500 mg per day would save about 700,000 to 1.2 million lives over 10 years." These nutrition nannies have been urging the U.S. government to lower the upper limit of daily recommended sodium intake to just two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt.
A May 2013 study by the Institute of Medicine calls those recommendations into question. Contrary to years of anti-salt dogma, consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day may actually harm people suffering from congestive heart failure. There was also "no evidence for benefit and some evidence suggesting risk of adverse health outcomes" if the person with a low-salt diet has diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or pre-existing cardiovascular disease. "The evidence on health outcomes," the report concluded, "is not consistent with efforts that encourage lowering of dietary sodium in the general population to 1,500 milligrams per day."
4. Vaccines cause autism.
In 1998 the British researcher Andrew Wakefield claimed in The Lancet that he had identified an association between vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) and the onset of autism. Thus was launched one of the more destructive health scares of recent years, in which tens of thousands of frightened parents refused to have their children vaccinated. Anti-vaccine cheerleaders such as the actress Jenny McCarthy fanned those fears.
Years of research and numerous studies have thoroughly debunked this scare. For example, the Institute of Medicine issued a 2011 report, "Adverse Effects of Vaccines(PDF)," that found no association between MMR vaccination and autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees that "there is no relationship between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism rates in children." The Lancet finally retracted the infamous Wakefield study in 2010. Also in 2010, Britain's General Medical Council banned Wakefield from the practice of medicine(PDF) after concluding that his paper had been not just inaccurate but dishonest.
3. Cell phone use causes cancer.
The fear here is that radio frequency waves emitted by cellular phones are associated with higher risk of various brain cancers. One anecdotal report even suggested that women who secreted their cell phones in their bras were more likely to get breast cancer.
It is true that in 2011 the hyper-precautionary International Agency for Research on Cancer classified cell phones as a "possible carcinogen." But as a somewhat snarky response(PDF) in the Journal of Carcinogenesispointed out, the agency classifies coffee and pickles as possible carcinogens, too. Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute flatly states that "to date there is no evidence from studies of cells, animals, or humans that radiofrequency energy can cause cancer." A 2012 comprehensive review of studies in the journal Bioelctromagnetics found "no statistically significant increase in risk for adult brain or other head tumors from wireless phone use."
2. High fructose corn syrup is responsible for the obesity "epidemic."
This particular scare was launched by a 2004 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which noted, "The increased use of HFCS in the United States mirrors the rapid increase in obesity." The authors pointed out that American consumption of HFCS had increased by more than 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990, and they estimated that Americans consumed an average of 132 kilocalories of HFCS per day. Digesting fructose, they suggested, failed to send signals to brain to tell people to stop eating.
Since this scare was unleashed, a lot of research has investigated many different hypotheses about how HCFS might be worse for people than table sugar (sucrose). Most have turned up nothing significant.
A 2012 review article in the journal Advances in Nutrition(PDF) summarized this research: "a broad scientific consensus has emerged that there are no metabolic or endocrine response differences between HFCS and sucrose related to obesity or any other adverse health outcome. This equivalence is not surprising given that both of these sugars contain approximately equal amounts of fructose and glucose, contain the same number of calories, possess the same level of sweetness, and are absorbed identically through the gastrointestinal tract." Another 2012 review article, in the Journal of Obesity, concluded, "In the past decade, a number of research trials have demonstrated no short-term differences between HFCS and sucrose in any metabolic parameter or health related effect measured in human beings including blood glucose, insulin, leptin, ghrelin and appetite."
So if HFCS is not to blame for the fattening up of Americans, what is? How about pigging out? The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that in 1970 Americans consumed an average of 2,169 calories per day. In 2010, the figure was about 2,614. Sweeteners such as sugar and HFCS provided only 42 of this 445-calorie increase.
1. Exposure to trace amounts of synthetic chemicals is a major cause of cancer.
Rachel Carson's passionate 1962 book Silent Spring warned that we "are living in a sea of carcinogens." More recently, a 2010 report issued by the President's Cancer Panel(PDF) declared, "The true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated."
But is that so? As the American Cancer Society's Cancer Facts & Figures 2013(PDF) notes, "Exposure to carcinogenic agents in occupational, community, and other settings is thought to account for a relatively small percentage of cancer deathsabout 4% from occupational exposures and 2% from environmental pollutants (man-made and naturally occurring)." The same group rejected the President's Cancer Panel's conclusion as well, arguing that it "does not represent scientific consensus."
In fact, at the same time human ingenuity has been generating all these useful synthetic compounds, both cancer incidence and death rates have been falling. While Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the United States, a 2013 report by the National Cancer Institute confirms that overall cancer death rates continue to decline, and that over the past decade the incidence of cancer continues to fall for men and holds steady for women.
Once a bogus health alarm has been launched, more careful researchers must waste years and tens of millions of dollars battling the misinformation. In the meantime, worried Americans actually harm their health by refusing to get their kids vaccinated, or squander their money on such items as chemical-free products. Scaremongering, unfortunately, can be both lucrative and a source of gratifying media attention, so it's not likely to go away anytime soon.
That's not long term.
Total sugar content was calculated as well as percent fructose in the beverages that use HFCS(55) as the sole source of fructose. Results showed that the total sugar content of the beverages ranged from 85 to 128% of what was listed on the food label. The mean fructose content in the HFCS used was 59% (range 47-65%) and several major brands appear to be produced with HFCS that is 65% fructose.
Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans. Visceral adiposity means belly fat.
HFCS started being used as a sweetener in soft drinks in the early 1970s in the U.S. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease started being diagnosed about a decade later.
I do know that consuming high-fructose corn sweetener cleans me out like Tid-Y-Bowl.
No it doesn’t. There’s study after study that says it metabolizes just like sugar.
Number one of all time is the DDT ban. Hundreds of millions of dead people from that one.
Sorry. I know what it does to me. It gives me gas something fierce. Sorry that ain’t good enough evidence for you.
I like, and agree with the article. I don’t buy into HFCS scaremongering.
White Castles do it for me.
But, but, but the corn lobby! And their government subsidized studies! And their government subsidized farming! Who are you going to believe? Them or your lying eyes?
The hospital in which I had my first child provided me with a nutritional consult before I was discharged. She walked me through the finer points of “nutrition,” during which she encouraged massive amounts of grain and low-fat “health food” options. She particularly went over low-fat dairy when I told her formula was not an option, gushed over the fact that I planned to nurse, and the lectured me like I was a child on the different types of fats. Her head almost exploded when she finished warning me about sat fats and I asked her why it was then a component of breast milk. I thought smoke was going to come out of her ears.
Quit being a jerk. I know my own body. I know what that stuff does to me. Mainly, gives me gas like the Marcellus Shale.
Go back and read the post again, please?
Pay particular attention to paragraphs 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
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Seriously. Give it up. I know what that stuff does to me. If you cannot deal with that fact, stuff it.
I talked to a nutritionist a year ago, and of course she asked me about my diet. Did I eat any eggs was one thing she asked me. I told her, yes, I occasionally eat eggs. She asked how many. I told her four or five at a time. Talk about heads exploding. The fact that I only have eggs about once a month or longer was not enough to calm her down. I was in danger of imminent collapse from a heart attack. However, as you can read, I'm still alive. And eggs this weekend sounds mighty inviting.
Black Agnes and I get flamed all the time when we discuss what certain foods do to our children. The “scientists” show up and point out studies to prove us wrong. To paraphrase another FReeper (if I remember who I will give him/her all due credit), if it wasn’t for science being wrong there would be no science.
As usual, the gay community didn’t police itself when AIDS became a killer and instead ‘heterosexual AIDS’ was the cause célèbre especially with a high profile case like Magic Johnson.
Except the epidemic predicted never happened, condoms or no condoms. Rather than admire heterosexuals’ good fortune, the militant gays attacked anyone who pointed out the myth.
Hey, nutritionist, life is fatal—may as well enjoy it while you can!
Yeah I hate that too. One simply refused to believe even the possibility that anyone anywhere could have any adverse reaction to Aspartame, even though there were 3 or 4 of us on the thread with our personal testimonials.
I can’t even let this one go by. I have been studying both sides of this debate for the last 25 years. I would ask you to consider the facts of just one of the, “life saving vaccines”, for Pertussis aka whooping cough. Between 1900 and 1935, mortality rates due to whooping cough dropped by 79 percent in the United States. Yet, the vaccine (DTP and DTaP) wasnt introduced until 1940.
Today, those who have been immunized are the most susceptible to whooping cough. Researchers with the CDC publicly stated in 2002 that, the number of infants dying from whooping cough is rising, despite record high vaccination levels. In 2009, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recognized the trend too. In the article titled, Whooping Cough Vaccine not as Powerful as Thought, the publication highlighted a recent cluster of 18 whooping cough-infected students. Seventeen of those students 95% of those infected had been immunized with five doses of DTaP vaccine.”
This is repeated vaccine after vaccine. The most damaging as of late is the HPV. The horror stories of this vaccine are terrifying. The benefits minimal. The lead researcher for Merck on this vaccine turned against the vaccine when she saw the outcomes. Please do your due diligence before immunizing those you love. I have MD friends who do not immunize their children, they aren’t drinking the kool aid the government is giving them.
Yep. The poor guy doesn’t get it when he’s being teased.
(Not like that’s ever happened to me, of course!)
There's study after showing that fructose is metabolized differently from glucose. Fructose promotes de novo lipogenesis, especially in he gut.
Not according the the scientists employed directly by ADM, corn farmers or working for corn growing states’ universities!
Sooooo, if a farmer want fat pigs and steers, why does the feed ‘em corn, hmmmm?
Nice that the post where I clearly set up the tease, did the tease and then made a possibly significant scientific observation that he inspired by his experience got nuked, though...
I have to agree with dirtboy on this one. While studies may show what NAV said, it causes a whole lot of gas in me. So, for the sake of getting along with others, I have had to skip it.
Yes, and it was CRYSTAL CLEAR that I did as well, in my set-up to the tease, which so deeply offended him.
The video is about an hour, but well worth the time.
Are you sure that it's HFCS causing those problems, and not another sweetener?
Sorbitol and xylitol are commonly used as sweeteners, and do have the exact effect that you describe. They are metabolized very slowly by your body, but the bacteria in your gut like them just fine. When the bacteria eat those sweeteners, they produce a lot of gas. Plus, those sweeteners cause an influx of fluid into your gut, which has laxative properties. It does not take a large dose to get those effects; chewing a few sticks of sugar-free gum will do the trick.
Given that sucrose is exactly 50% fructose/50% glucose, and HFCS has variable portions of both sugars (the most common HFCS has 55% fructose/45% sucrose), there is no biochemical basis for HFCS to have that effect on you if sugar and honey do not. Honey is almost identical to HFCS, except that it also has the flavor components added thanks to its being regurgitated by bees. Agave syrup, a popular "natural" sucrose substitute, is almost all fructose.
Since fructose is sweeter than sugar, the total quantity of sugar used can be decreased to get the same level of sweet taste. Thus, anything made with higher quantities of fructose should have less sugar overall. This may not equate to fewer calories, since other ingredients may be added to make up the bulk lost by decreasing the sugar.
I wouldn’t put too much weight on the slightly different metabolic pathways taken by fructose vs. glucose. Humans have always consumed both sugars. The only thing going on with many of these studies is that the metabolism of fructose has been scrutinized closely, and interpreted as if its consumption is something new. It is not. Honey (identical to HFCS, but with bee flavoring) was consumed long before humans discovered sucrose.
Don’t mistake a lowered death rate for lowered incidence of a disease. Mortality rates declined because health care improved between those years, but the disease itself did not go away. Children still got whooping cough, many of them still died, and many others were permanently brain damaged by the disease.
The original whooping cough vaccine, made from killed Bordatella pertussis was extremely effective and induced long-lasting immunity. However, it caused some very uncomfortable side-effects, such as fever. Because of the side-effects, a new “acellular” pertussis vaccine was introduced in the 1990s, containing only a few proteins extracted from the bacteria. It does not cause the side-effects, but it only induces immunity for a few years. In order to keep the immunity active, boosters need to be administered periodically. Right now, pregnant women are advised to get a pertussis booster every time they are pregnant, in order to protect their newborns. Anyone anticipating being around a newborn is also recommended to get a pertussis booster. Whooping cough is most fatal in newborns, since they are born with a very undeveloped immune system and cannot fight off the bacteria.
Also, there are no credible horror stories for the HPV vaccine. It has only been around for about a decade, but studies show that the incidence of HPV is already dropping. In other words, it is a public health success.
I have no idea why some people are so driven to defend a stupid sweetener that is viable mainly because of a stupid sugar embargo. I know what I experienced about 30 years ago in figuring this out.
What was the big push right after Obama’s first election? I can’t remember the name but it was all panic in the media about some super virus.
I'll put it this way: there is no biochemical mechanism that could possibly explain that. To your body, mixtures of fructose and glucose are identical whether they come from table sugar, HFCS, or honey. The same enzymes digest them all. If you cannot digest fructose, I would expect to see those symptoms when you consume any sugar that contains fructose--including table sugar.
When you eat a sugar that you cannot digest, the symptoms are similar to what you describe. Lactose (milk sugar) is one such sugar, for many people. The sugar in beans is another. The non-sugar sweeteners sorbitol and xylitol have that effect, too.
Seriously. You are questioning my personal, direct experience where I eliminated a major cause of gas in my diet through reading labels. And you say there is no biochemical mechanism? My personal biochemical mechanisms beg to differ, and that is far more real than any jibberish you can post in the internet. And please, stuff it. I really don't care about your defense of HFCS. I just avoid it where I can, and that works for me.
And please, never respond to me again on FR on this subject.
It is a habit of mine to respond when people post scientific nonsense. If you do not want me to respond to it, do not post it. Furthermore, I do not keep a list of names of scientific illiterates who do not want to be educated.
You’re an ass. Seriously, get a grip. I am posting my own experience, not some esoteric B.S.
No, I just have little patience for people who refuse to think logically.
Yes, I get that you were posting your personal experience—which you misinterpreted because you jumped fully onboard the anti-HFCS bandwagon and don’t want to consider any other explanation. I did not insult you; I gave you enough information to try to figure out what really caused the experience you described. The problem is that you are emotionally attached to the anti-HFCS belief, and you don’t want facts to interfere with that belief.
I’ll bet anything that you eat honey just fine—even though it is chemically identical to HFCS.
As I said, if you do not want to be corrected on scientific nonsense, don’t post it.
Sorry, moron, I took a scientific approach. I examined the foods that gave me gas such as yogurt and sweetened sodas, noticed the HFCS, switched to the same foods without such, and it substantially reduced the problem. And BTW, I don't eat honey, so that strawman won't hunt, either.
And I am not on a liberal-type anti-HFCS bandwagon, I just don't like what it does to my digestive tract. I do have a conservative dislike for the reason it is so widely used - because of sugar tariffs that initially were meant to suppress the Castro regime but that now that protects Florida sugar growers. I do also think people eat too many refined carbs, but that is a larger issue.
You come across as someone connected to a company like Cargill or ADM that makes HFCS by the traincarload and who are major players in DC lobbying, i.e. corruption.
I believe that sweet junk foods sweetened with HFCS tend to do the same to me as to Dirtboy. I accept that the problem is not HFCS in itself for the reasons you describe, but has got to be something in the make-up of these foods which correlates highly with the presence of HFCS. Fortunately I do not particularly care for the taste of these products and yearn for the cane-sugar sweetened snacks of years gone by. For me, HFCS has taken about 18 pounds off me ‘cuz I can’t find any snacks to eat! Table sugar and honey definitely don’t create digestive problems for me and I have had plenty of each in the last 24 hours (Kool-Aid and raw honey). Lactose does give me problems but that is dealt with by lactase supplements.