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Friday, April 27, 2012

Nutrition: Led Astray by Bad Science and "Big Pharma"

Over the last few years there has been a lot of questioning about the nature nutritional supplements have on things like cancer.

Once recent study, documented here and here, describes how reserachers "looked at observational studies of several supplements including anti-oxidants, folic acid, vitamin D, and calcium."

According to the second link the study authors found: “The importance of oxidative stress for carcinogenesis does not establish that the administration of supplemental antioxidants will protect against the carcinogenesis that oxidative stress may induce” and “Supplementation by exogenous antioxidants may well be a two-edged sword; these compounds could, in vivo, serve as pro-oxidants or interfere with any of a number of protective processes such as apoptosis induction.”

In lay terms these substances might cause more harm or even cancer than any good they cause.

Now this to me brings out a very important distinction that I have so far never seen.

The big pharma/medical science complex is always looking at direct cause/effect type scenarios - particularly on the cancer front.  They like the results to show things like "all thing being equal cancer growth without X was 50% and with X was 25%."

They call this evidence.

But human bodies and lives are not lab dishes nor are they "closed" laboratory environments and I think this really makes most of this "studying" just a lot of foolishness.

The first thing to become a real "science" is that the medical world is going to have to figure out how to deal with the placebo effect.  This is well documented and very powerful.  It can heal you, make you operate as if you have no problems when you do, it can even kill you - and its all in your mind.

Now being based on allopathy - the science of opposites - modern medical thinking says you treat something "wrong" with an opposite, e.g., if the cancer is growing you find something to stop it from growing.

But your body isn't a closed system - like a set of billiard balls on a table demonstrating particle physics.  What I mean by this is that as long a no one shakes the table (nor are there any earth quakes, etc.) precisely rolling one ball into another based on physical laws results in the same outcome.  If there were not true then trick-shot pool artists would not exist.

Yet this is what the concept of allopathy is all about.  I roll ball A into ball B at a given speed and angle and I expect a certain result - B rolls into the pocket say.  Now, if I take ball C and precisely roll it into the path of B I can prevent B from rolling into the pocket, or send it back in the direction of A or whatever.

And if humans functioned like machines or billiard balls this would all make perfect sense.

But we don't.

In the real world imagine that same pool table on the back of an old pickup truck.  The truck is rolling down a rocky creek bed. 

In the bed of the pickup truck is the pool table and its not tied down to anything so its bucking and sliding around as the truck bounces over the rocks in the creek bed.

Now on the table are the two balls we talked about before A and B.

And, on a horse running along side the truck, is our pool hustler - cue in hand - ready to make a shot.

Now even if this is the same pool table that was in a nice, clean, quiet bar - and even if the balls and the equipment and people are all the same - is it reasonable to expect our pool shark to be able to make the same kind of shots he would in the quiet bar?

Of course not.

Yet medical science thinks that the "real world" people live in is based on the "quiet bar" model where actions have predictable opposite reactions.

And, when this doesn't work, medical science says "well, we're really stuck with a bunch of pickups running down the creek bed so instead of simple experiments we'll use statistics over a broad range of pickups."

So eventually we have some sort of statistics that show a kind of cause and effect.

But really there is a lot of noise in this - different pickups, creek beds, pool sharks, horses, and so on.

What not accounted for in all this is what's different or the same about the environment for these experiments - maybe only some of the creek beds are really bumpy - maybe a lot are smooth.  Maybe some pool sharks are excellent horsemen - or their brother-in-law is driving the truck more slowly to make his job easier, and so on...

So these experiments are more "open" than a quiet bar where we can produce simply, predictable cause and effect results.

And so it is with nutrition.

Medical science basically assumes that the average "Joe" just wakes up one day and takes a supplement - say calcium - to prevent cancer.

Then they look at what happens to "Joe" after that - compared to all the other "Joe's" in a given study does a given "Joe" have a greater chance of his cancer returning.

But what is left out here?

Well, for one thing what was the nutritional state of Joe's body before we studied him?  Was he suffering from malnourishment?  What was he thinking about his body image (the placebo effect)? What genetics did Joe have for or against him? and so on...

Since as far as I know there is no known science that tells us if a person is at some "optimal health." 

There is no way to measure this reliably.

So we don't know what's wrong (or might be going wrong) to begin with (for example, as I contend, most people in the US are malnourished to begin with which predisposes them to certain modern health problems). 

We also don't have a way to compare the results of a person taking a supplement versus that same person doing something else (obviously because that person can only do A or B - not both at the same time).

We can't control for things like TV ads that people see that suggest they have certain health problems and should be worried about them.

Worse - nutrition, at least from my perspective, takes a long time - many years before you figure out what's good for your body - and it takes a long time to correct deficiencies with proper supplementation.

And no one really wants to wait around trying to get people into some known state of health before the study even starts.

And on and on and on and on...

So the bottom line to me is that these kinds of studies are meaningless.  They tell us that if some people take this or that they might have a greater epidemiological risk of A or B - but since we don't know where they started we really no nothing...

Worse - studies like this act as negative noise to scare people away from questioning their basic nutrition.

So sadly, at least so far, I have no real way to measure or even scientifically analyze what I am doing with my own nutrition save for experimenting on myself.

And the best I can do with that is comparing where I was versus where I am and were I stand against others over time. 

How do I feel?

How do I perform?

There are other nutritional-based ideas that probably also come into play: relative acidity of people's bodies, things like that - again all driven by diet but not taken as part of the big picture.

The bottom line is that "science" does not work well in large, complex open systems (just like global climate).

Image if medicine use a "model" of you to treat you...

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