Monthly Archives: May 2006

Vitamin C and Kidney Stones – More Myth than Reality

I get the following inquiry more often than I care to hear and it is “My doctor told me that excessive vitamin C intake can cause kidney stones. Is this true?” My answer is an emphatic, NO!  This myth was perpetrated by the late Victor Herbert who was a notorious anti-vitamin shill.  The myth has been carried on for decades despite evidence to the contrary. 

For a nice review of the issue, go to Chris Gupta’s blog site and read up on the issue.  So the next time a doctor tells you to cut back on the vitamin C because it causes kidney stones, your response should be – Read the literature and realize what you just said was wrong.

Geocaching – Tried it and Loved it

My family and I tried geocaching this past weekend and fell in love with it. For those of you not familiar with the newest craze sweeping the world, Not only was it fun for my wife and I but our two kids aged 3 and 10 were enamored with the thought of “finding secret treasure”.

So what is geocaching? Basically its a treasure hunt using global positioning sattelite data (GPS).  People hide caches which usually consist of small trinkets and write down the longitude and latitude using a GPS device and post it on a website.  We use this geocaching website aptly name as our site to look for places to hunt for hidden caches.

Lest you think this is a local phenomena, think again.  When we found our first cache yesterday and read the log book, we saw the picture on a stamp of a couple from Alberta, Canada who hiked in the woods a few miles from our home in Reno, Nevada.  Geocaching is an international sport that had treasure hunters spending entire vacations at it.  Also, you don’t have to do this in the woods or away from cities as urban geocaching is catching on as well.

If its family fun your looking for or just an excuse to get outdoors, this is the one for you.

If Sportswriters Didn’t Have Sports….

On a somewhat less than serious blog, I find the statements made by a number of so-called sportswriters comparing Indy race care driver Danica Patrick with former tennis pro Anna Kornikova to show such a lack of intelligence that I ma happy they their carriers otherwise they might not be able to find any other work.  The lack of thought and insight these writers have is staggering. Here are my insights as to why any such comparison is stupid.

  1. Anna Kornikova never risked her life playing tennis.  Danica Patrick risks it everytime she steps on the track.
  2. Anna Kornikova played tournaments all the time many of the with lesser competition. Danica Patrick has won against lesser opponents it’s her lack of wins against the best in the world that the writers have a beef with. Also she has fewer races than Kornikova had matches.
  3. Anna Kornikova wouldn’t have had a chance playing men; she probably would have never scored a point against top notch men. Danika Patrick came in 4th in her first Indy and 8th today.  That is damn good and did better than most men could have done.

Of course they could say that in tennis you have more matches to play before winning a tournament but that doesn’t wash as you have to race to get your position on the starting grid and that has a lot to do with your eventual finish.

So to the overweight sportswriters who likely can’t drive a car over 70 mph and haven’t hit a tennis ball with any more power than a 12 year old girl, glad you have a job, too bad you don’t do it well.

Common Misconception – Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Aren’t Filled with Fraud

One very common misconception is that medical malpractice lawsuits are at the core of our rising medical costs in the U.S. and that many of them are fraudulent. Well a study published in the May 11th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine begs to differ.

What the reviewers found was that 97 percent of the patients who sued for medical malpractice had indeed suffered harm. The study also found that most people who did not suffer injury did not receive compensation so that the system does seem to work there.  The problems came up with the time it took to complete the litigation process which was as long as 6 years. Streamlining the process is where much of the true savings would be although the costs pale in comparison to the drug cost increases over the past 20 years.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – New Genetic Evidence Found

At a conference held in the UK last week, Jonathan Kerr of St. George’s University of London spoke about his looking into the genes of 27 people with CFS and 54 controls where he found differences in 100 genes out of the nearly 47,000 looked at. What came out of the study was a treatment protocol that will be looked at in more depth. It was the use of beta interferon to look into enhancing the immune system and natural killer cells.

An osteopath who also attended the conference claimed that most of the 1,000 cases of CFS he has seen appeared to have problems with lymphatic drainage issues that responded well to massage. Dr. Kerr said “There is a rationale for why it works.  It’s non-specific, but manual lymphatic drainage is a good thing.”

Dr. Basant Puri of the Hammersmith Hospital in London said that many patients he saw responded well to a combination of EPA and evening primrose oils.

The biggest thing to come out of the conference was that underlying causes are different from one person to another and that one solution is unlikely to fit everyone.  Captain Obvious pops his head up and laughs once again. Something I have been saying for about 2 decades is that we are all different biochemically as well as genetically and to try to use a one shoe size fits all model is ridiculous. Modern protocol medicine refuses to take this into account which is why so many people are suffering from side-effects of drug therapies. The idea of metabonomics must overcome this shortfall and force the health care community to treat people as individuals and not as homogenous reflections of population studies. It can be done. Carbon Based Corporation has been doing it for years with their CellMate reports.

Garbage – What you don’t know about it

The latest issue of Discover magazine has a great one page article entitled “20 Things You Didn’t Know About Garbage”.  Here are the highlights:


1. The oldest trash site discovered was in South Africa and it was 140,000 years old.

3. Americans generate 472 billion pounds of trash a year.

4. That only represents 2% of the total trash stream, industrial refuse takes up the rest.

11. Landfills are the #1 man-made source of methane belching 7 million tons into the atmosphere each year.

17. American receive around 100 billion pieces of junk mail a year.

19. Marine researcher Charles Moore found 10 pounds of floating plastic in the North Pacific for every pound of living plankton.

The old term waste not want not kind of takes on a whole new meaning.

America – We’re at the bottom of the heap in newborn survival rates

In a shocking study just published, the United States ranked 2nd worst in the developed world in newborn mortality rates. How can a country as advanced as ours do so poorly?  In my opinion it is because there is no universal health care in this country. The reason I feel that this is one of the contributing factors is because the death rate among neonates in the African-American community is double that of the rest of our society.

It is truly a sad state of affairs when a country as wealthy as ours has such an abysmal record.  We tout how we’ve increased longevity of our citizens while we rack up medical costs that will eventually bankrupt us all. Something has to be done and done sooner than later. 

Pollution claims another victim

The Chinese river dolphin, also known as the baiji, may be just the latest victim of that countries growing pollution problem. Once numbering in the thousands in the Yangtze River, there were thought to be only 100 surviving until a recent 9-day search couldn’t find a single one.  The baiji is now a symbol for the pollution of the waterways of China just as the giant panda is a symbol of the destruction of the forests of that great country.

How many more species dying will it take for us to understand.

Eating Chicken Nuggets and Fries. How bad could it really be?

According to Danish researchers Stender, Dyerberg and Astrup, in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine (April 13, 2006, pgs 1650-1652) the amount of trans fats in fast food like chicken nuggets and french fries is higher in the United States then other places in the world.   The differences were somewhat staggering. In Denmark and Germany, the amount of trans fat in a meal of nuggets and fries was 1 gram and in New York City it was 10 grams. The amount of trans fat used to cook in many European countries was 10 percent and in the U.S. it was 23 percent.

The journal Nature had a nice little synopsis in their April 20th, 2006 issue on page 975 of the Danish study. They point out that 50% of the food samples had levels of trans fats that increased the risk of heart disease, 38% of the fats used by KFC in the Czech Republic were trans fats and only 1% of the oil used in cooking contained trans fats in Spain. 

Bottom line here is that we, as consumers, need to step up our avoidance of places like McDonalds and KFC until they completely halt their use of trans fats. If we make better choices in our day to day lives, we can make a difference.

A Guide to Making Intelligent Choices Regarding Our Environment

So which is worse, using synthetic “peanuts” to ship or shredded newspaper?  In the book “The Consumers Guide to Effective Environmental Choices” from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Drs. Brower and Leon give you easy to apply tips on how to lower your impact on the environment. Instead of suggesting that we go back to living in caves, the authors focus on which things make the most impact on the environment and how the decisions we make on the major things are vastly more important than small ones.

The answer to the question?  Actually, there really isn’t much of a difference. While the synthetic peanuts are slightly more toxic than the newspaper, their weight difference means lower fuel costs in transportation of products so its a wash.


The Consumer\'s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists