From the monthly archives: "March 2010"

It’s not just American children sitting on their rumps these days–children all over the world are chronically inactive. So says a recent study that looked at over 70,000 teens in 34 nations.

Children from Argentina to Zambia are not getting enough exercise, and are spending three or more hours a day watching TV or playing on computers. Whether a country was rich or poor made no difference to the inactivity of their youth; dismal news on the state of modern culture. No knock on technology, but parents of all nationalities need to limit the amount of boob tube and web surfing their children do, and push them more toward physical activity.

The study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, looking at 72,845 schoolchildren aged 13 to 15 from North and South America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The children were surveyed between 2003 and 2007. Children that spent three or more hours a day watching TV, playing on computers or chatting with friends–outside of school time or doing homework–were considered sedentary. Only 25% of boys and 15% of girls worldwide were getting enough exercise. Girls were overall less active than boys in every country except Zambia.

Some of the numbers:

  • Uruguay had the highest percentage of active boys, at 42%, while Zambia had the lowest, at 8%.
  • Girls from India were the most active, with 37% meeting exercise recommendations, while girls from Egypt were the least active, with just 4% getting adequate exercise.
  • Children in Myanmar were the least sedentary, with 13% of boys and 8% of girls classified as sedentary.
  • The most sedentary nations were St. Lucia and the Cayman Islands, with 58% of boys and 64% of girls spending at least three hours a day in sedentary activities.

Once again, parents would be wise to get the kids kicking, playing and using their bodies. Technology is a great thing; but with every great thing comes a downside, and in this case it’s the risk of becoming couch potatoes. Inactivity and the associated risk of childhood obesity is no longer an American phenomenon–it’s gone global. Time to change.

Last night I ran into a guy who ripped me off $5,000. Not one to hold a grudge, we actually had a brief conversation, in which he told me he’s having two knee operations. I told a former assistant of mine of the encounter and she asked (knowing he’s on a long collections list, including with the IRS) how he’s paying for his surgeries. I said, “I’m paying for them–$5,000!” Then it occurred to me: he Obamacare’d me before Obama ever thought of it.

OK people–say goodbye to doctors, and hello to nurses, physician’s assistants and disease educators, because that’s what you’ll be getting under the new health care system. That’s right, primary care physicians are on their way out—in droves. But you’re not surprised, right? I told you just that in this here blog, remember? And for my fellow chiropractors, I made that very clear in my Dynamic Chiropractic article, Chiropractic Suited for Primary Care?, last year.

Awright, good, you knew…just wanted to give a heads up, because new estimates have 40,000 primary care physicians leaving practice within the next decade. That’s how money is saved in a nationalized health system. Reminds me of the time my wife’s esthetician told me that she was a doctor in Russia. “Awesome!” I said. “Not really,” she replied. “Being a doctor there is not like over here, it doesn’t pay much and the hours are long; very few people want to do it.” And now she’s giving facials in Beverly Hills. Nice.

Only 30% of all doctors practice in primary care. If you don’t know, these are the docs that see you first. Don’t know why you’re gassy all day? Primary care physician. Don’t know why your baby toe tingles? Primary care physician. Pissing fire? You get it.

Interestingly, 65 million people currently live in areas designated as having a shortage of primary care physicians, according to the government. But never fear, the new health plan will offer to pay doctors 10% more to serve in those areas. Wow! So if I were to serve in those areas, they’d pay me an additional $3.10 (Medicare pays $31.00 for chiropractic; trust me, it’s my humanitarian gift to society to treat the elderly). Love the government–they sure know how to value a service.

Not only are primary care physicians leaving practice, but when the new health care system takes off in 2014, both the newly insured and existing patients will make a mad rush to doctors’ offices, putting a strain on an already buckling specialty.

No worries, less educated physicians assistants will pick up the slack. They’ll have their government manuals telling them how to handle each condition. Who needs doctors? Differential diagnosis is soooo overated.

I just hope I never see my PCP, Dr. Weiner giving haircuts at the local Fantastic Sams—that’d be awfully embarrassing.

Health care trumps sick care again, but this time on the road. That’s right, health care traveled to sick care’s arena–the illness center–and beat sick care at its own game. Booyah!

A recent Japanese study showed that children taking 1,200 IU of vitamin D supplements daily during the winter and early spring helped prevent seasonal flu and asthma attacks. A timely victory in my analysis of true health care versus government-championed sick care.

Sick care pushes the seasonal flu shot, which my regular readers might recall has been fingered by experts as inconclusive in its effectiveness. Proponents of health care, on the other hand, myself included, really push upping the vitamin D intake. I think 1,200 IU is pretty good for children, and most adults need much more, like 5,000 IU per day. As we become more aware of the pervasiveness of vitamin D insufficiency in all Americans, including children, getting adequate sunlight and supplementing becomes paramount.

The study conducted at Jikei University School of Medicine, Tokyo showed that children taking the vitamin D supplements were almost half as likely as catching the flu as those taking placebo. And as an added benefit, children taking vitamin D were almost six times less likely to suffer an asthma attack. Holy inhalers! That’s quite a hit to pharmaceutical manufacturers. You mean, that a simple $8 bottle of vitamin D can prevent what a $30.00-$60.00 Albuterol inhaler treats. Well bless my Obamacare–I wonder if vitamin D is covered on the plan.

According to Dr. Adit Ginde, of University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health: “This is the first time a study has been done that rigorously shows that vitamin D supplementation can reduce a type of influenza in a dedicated clinical trial.” Ginde and colleagues published a study a year ago showing that asthmatics with lower vitamin D levels were at five times the risk for colds and flu.

Take that, sick care. Another victory in the arena of truth in health. I’ll keep ’em coming.

Get this: Up to one third of breast cancer cases can be avoided through diet and fitness. You don’t say? Yes! Eating less and exercising more can reduce the incidence of breast cancer, said experts at the European breast cancer conference in Barcelona yesterday.

Although better treatments, early diagnosis and mammogram screenings have dramatically slowed breast cancer, researchers estimate that 25 to 30 percent of cases could be avoided if women were thinner and exercised more. The numbers come from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). In fact, the WHO estimates that one third of ALL the world’s cancers are preventable.

Please digest this, people: Cancers are preventable. Hmm. One more time: Cancers are preventable. Geez…

Is this concept a part of our new world health order? Not yet, too avant garde. Let me point out the discrepancy between current medical thinking and the most up-to-date health research and information. This should make us all rest easy since we now have equal access to medical care. Our country’s lawmakers have found it in our best interest to give us more of the system that has brought us medical dependence. We’ll call our current system the “old way,” and the newer, not yet accepted by medical standards (and this includes the Congress and POTUS) approach, the “new way.” Here we go.

New way: “What can be achieved with screening has been achieved. We can’t do much more,” Carlo La Vecchia, head of epidemiology at the University of Milan, said in an interview. “It’s time to move on to other things.”

Old way: Any discussion of weight and breast cancer is considered sensitive because some may misconstrue that as the medical establishment blaming women for their disease.

New way: Dr. Michelle Holmes of Harvard University, who has studied cancer and lifestyle factors, said people might wrongly think their chances of getting cancer depend more on their genes than their lifestyle. “The genes have been there for thousands of years, but if cancer rates are changing in a lifetime, that doesn’t have much to do with genes,” she said.

Old way: Tara Beaumont, a clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, a British charity, said her agency has always been careful about giving lifestyle advice. She noted that three of the major risk factors for breast cancer–gender, age and family history–are clearly beyond anyone’s control. “It is incredibly difficult to isolate specific factors. Therefore women should in no way feel that they are responsible for developing breast cancer,” says Beaumont.

New way: Karen Benn, spokeswoman for Europa Donna, a patient-focused breast cancer group, said it is impossible to ignore the increasingly stronger links between lifestyle and breast cancer. “If we know there are healthier choices, we can’t not recommend them just because people might misinterpret the advice and feel guilty,” she said. “If we are going to prevent breast cancer, then this message needs to get out, particularly to younger women.”

Frickin’ duh!

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. A woman’s chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime is one in eight. Obese women are 60% more likely to develop any cancer than normal-weight women. Many breast cancers are fueled by estrogen, a hormone produced in fat tissue, so experts suspect that the fatter a woman is, the more estrogen she’s likely to produce, which in turn could feed breast cancer. Even in slim women, exercise can help reduce the cancer risk by converting more fat into muscle.

Drinking less alcohol might also help lower the risk. Experts estimate that having more than a couple of drinks a day can boost the risk of breast cancer by 4-10%.

Further, searching for magic bullets is counter-productive. There is no one pill or therapy that will make you healthy and live forever. Please wake up. Women who jumped on hormone replacement therapy to bypass the down-side of menopause increased their risk of developing breast cancer. In the ’80s and ’90s breast cancer rose steadily as obesity and the use of estrogen-containing hormones after menopause increased.

A sharp drop in breast cancer rates occurred as women abandoned hormone-replacement therapy due to a discovered link between the treatments and breast cancer. Experts said a similar reduction might be seen if women ate healthier and exercised more.

New way: Dr. Michelle Holmes, the Harvard expert, said changing diet and nutrition is arguably easier than tackling other breast cancer risk factors.

Well no shiitake, Samurai! That’s the new way; yet, we’re still stuck in the old. But at least we’re ALL stuck in it together.

A very intelligent lady posed an excellent question to me the other day. After asking me what my message to the world is, she said, “Don’t you think that the medical profession should have a hand in changing health care?” I said, “Most certainly, but I don’t think that on its own it can ever change the mind-frame immersed in this non-health system.”Let’s take a step back and talk about what I mean. Obviously, this conversation started because of the celebrated, but not yet passed, health care reform bill. The young lady wanted to know my opinion on this historic measure. Truth is, I don’t really care one way or the other what happens with regard to a national health care policy. Doesn’t change a thing as far as I can see. Politically speaking, though, it was a victory of grand proportions. Obamacare achieved what had been unattainable for more than 60 years–a nationalized American health care law. Bravo!

But from a health perspective, is this really the change we’ve been waiting for? Is this momentous piece of legislation going to improve the health of all Americans? Doubt it. No, more directly: Obamacare might give more Americans medical insurance, but it will worsen health, period!

How do I know? Simple. Medical care is not health care. Emotional non-thinkers think it is. Fine. It’s not and I can prove it. Medical care is sick care–it excels in saving lives. Saving lives is not health care. For the ignorant mind that scoffs at the notion, then certainly medical insurance is right up there with cell phones and Nikes as something every American must posses–because that’s equality. Equality has nothing to do with health. Health is not a right, it is a condition; more accurately, it is self-administered, self-regulated condition. The same morons that believe medical insurance equals health don’t really care about health or health care at all–it’s ideological for them. My foolish party politics are better than your’s are. Nya, nya, nya, nya, nya, nya.

So what would real health care reform look like? It would actually involve improving health (go figure). Should the medical profession have a hand in this? Yes, but they will never seriously push it, because there ain’t no money in healthy people (we can all do that for next to nuttin’). There’s a vested interest in sick people, even if it’s not talked about or simply part of the professional unconscious.

And for all the BS about doctors getting back to their roots and caring for people, well, that’s pure rhetoric. When doctors can’t earn enough to pay their student loans AND turn a profit, you’ll see law school applications go through the roof. Mark my words.

*Note: I will dedicate the rest of the month of March to showing exactly why health care reform isn’t about health. Dare to read and learn, disputers.

Last post I discussed vitamin D insufficiency resulting from too little sun, and I’m not holding back knocking dermatologic scare tactics keeping people out of the sun. The addition of sunscreen lotions to our moisturizing products and makeup has become pervasive. Aside from keeping us from getting our necessary vitamin D, sunscreens have a direct effect on our health.

As a recap, we need sun exposure; sunlight causes the production of vitamin D in our skin. Vitamin D is necessary for many functions, and being low in vitamin D can cause a bevy of problems. I’m not going over all of them here. I’ve written plenty of posts on vitamin D insufficiency; they are all here (here, here, and here). I also recommend reading my article on vitamin D–it’ll direct you on how to get tested and find out your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D insufficiency is epidemic today, and people are developing chronic illness as a result. Educate yourself on the dangers, get tested, take supplements and get sun, that simple.

What I want to discuss is the direct danger of using sunscreen. This product has been so ingrained into our lifestyle that people accept it’s safety as if it were soap. I encourage you to think twice. Let’s look:

Melanin, the brown pigment that is released when skin is exposed to sunlight, absorbs UV radiation and dissipates the energy as harmless heat, blocking the UV rays from damaging skin tissue. It is nature’s amazing photoprotectant–more than 99.9% of these molecules repel photon energy. Compare this to some ingredients in popular sunscreens–the most effective only repelling 81% photon energy, and some as low as 10%.

Because of its poor dissipation of photon energy, sunscreens actually allow more free radical formation. My regular readers know what these damaging chemicals are, but for those of you who don’t, free radicals oxidize molecules and tissue potentially leading to cancer and other degenerative diseases including premature aging.

Not only are sunscreens poor photoprotectants, but some of their ingredients have been implicated as increasing the concentration of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can also cause oxidative damage to DNA, cells and tissues leading to inflammatory diseases and premature aging. In one study, the sunscreen acted as a protector for the first twenty minutes; after 60 minutes, however, it increased the number of ROS in the skin.

Some studies (also here and here) have even implicated sunscreen as increasing the risk of developing malignant melanoma, the deadliest of all skin cancers. However, two meta-analyses (and here) failed to show a causal effect of sunscreen use on melanoma development, despite the correlation found in the other studies. So the jury is still out on whether sunscreen increases the skin cancer risk.

What is pretty clear, though, is the health risk posed by some of the synthetic compounds found in sunscreens. From Wikipedia:

In 2007 two studies by the CDC highlighted concerns about the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone (benzophenone-3). The first detected the chemicals in greater than 95% of 2000 Americans tested, while the second found that mothers with high levels of oxybenzone in their bodies were more likely to give birth to underweight baby girls.

Finally, there has been some concern over nanoparticles used in many sunscreens. Nanoparticles could increase rates of certain cancers or diseases similar to those caused by asbestos.

With all the potential dangers linked to using sunscreens, along with their blocking our vitamin D producing capacity (as well as studies showing sun exposure lowering death rates of cancer patients), why the heck would anybody continue using them regularly? Like I said last post–I’m done. I’m getting my daily sun sans sunscreen. If I go to the beach, I’ll put some on after about twenty minutes, then I’ll get under my umbrella. Short bouts of sun, that’s it. That’s how I’m doing it. How ’bout you?

I’m no sucker–I’m quitting the SPF. That’s right, we’ve been duped…badly. Made suckers by dermatologists, but no more.

SPF or sun protective factor is a measure of sunscreen lotions’ effectiveness at blocking out UV radiation. Sun protective lotions have pervaded our skin products and make-up. It’s everywhere, and it’s screwing people up. Here’s how:

Over the last decade for certain, and probably even longer, I have observed numerous clients (and one family member) in my Beverly Hills chiropractic office, with bandaged healing wounds on their faces, necks, shoulders and arms.

“What the heck is that,” I’d ask. “Oh, my dermatologist says it’s a mild form of skin cancer, so they removed it.” Some people would have like ten of these wounds on their head and shoulder regions. WTF???

OK, I’d think, I’m not going to question the dermatologists–they’re doctors! (hum of Mormon Tabernacle Choir crescendos in background) But why so many now, today? Why not a decade ago? Global warming?

More like dermatologic marketing. When you practice in a relatively useless and heavily impacted specialty like dermatology, the lack of viable cases can lead to stagnant revenue. So…why not scare the pants off people and pick a properly positioned political issue that fits in perfectly with dermatology–skin cancer! Yeah, that’ll work.

OK, so what’s the problem? Skin cancer exists, right? Yes, it certainly does, but the anti-sun campaign has led to some serious health consequences. We are currently in a vitamin D insufficiency epidemic. I’ve been very vocal about the dangers of vitamin D insufficiency, and now I have a personal experience to boot.

My wife and I just got our vitamin D levels checked (if you haven’t done this, then do it soon–I can’t recommend it highly enough). Mine came back at 38, my wife’s 32. Anything over 35 is considered “normal.” So, my wife has entered dangerous territory, yet I’m not without risk either. According to some sources, optimal vitamin D levels are 50-65. And I take daily vitamin D supplements! What the heck???

Here’s what the heck. We’ve been fooled by a medical specialty trying to keep their heads above water–it’s been purely professional survival. Not buying it? Read my article on the dangers of vitamin D deficiency, get your vitamin D levels checked (I’ll bet they’re low), and then we’ll talk. Supplement with vitamin D and STOP using sunscreen regularly–only wear it when you know you’ll be baking in the sun all day. Get that crap out of your daily moisturizers, your make-up and any other daily product the marketing hounds have put it in. My next post will be on the direct dangers of using sunscreens that go beyond not getting enough vitamin D. Stay tuned.

Actor Corey Haim has died at 38. The Lost Boys actor woke up this morning feeling a little weak; as he got out of bed he dropped to his knees. Paramedics took him to St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank where he was pronounced dead.

Although the cause of death is, as of yet, unknown, I suspect drugs were a part of the equation. Haim, a self-reported life-long addict, was taking over-the-counter and prescription medications to battle “flu-like” symptoms. Whether or not drugs shut him down directly by overdose, or the long-term use just weakened him enough to make him succumb to an opportunistic disease, I don’t know; but somewhere drugs played a part–of that I am certain.

Haim discussed his drug abuse with a British tabloid in 2004. “I was working on ‘Lost Boys’ when I smoked my first joint,” he told The Sun. “I did cocaine for about a year and a half, then it led to crack.”

He said that he went into rehab where they put him on a see-saw regimen of stimulants and sedatives. Nice. That’s wisdom.

“I started on the downers, which were a hell of a lot better than the uppers because I was a nervous wreck,” he said.

Drug use, Haim admitted, ruined his acting career and it caused other problems, as well. In 1997, Haim filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, listing debts for medical expenses and more than $200,000 in state and federal taxes.

In a 2007 interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Haim called himself “a chronic relapser for the rest of my life.”

Self-fulfilling prophesy? Mmmhmm. We’ll wait for the coroner’s report, but I think drugs–prescription along with recreational–have claimed another Hollywood life.

Some people are driven by their bodies, and others by their mind. Despite the age-old argument of whether the two entities are separate and distinct, we know one thing for sure–working out the body does wonders for mental health. Take that, Descartes!

A recent study out of Duke University showed that regular moderate exercise and healthy diet together can improve scores on cognition tests. The four-month study conducted by Duke’s nueropsychology department looked at 124 fifty-two year old men and women with high blood pressure (HBP) who were a minimum of 15 pounds overweight, on average. The study was originally designed to look at diet, exercise, and HBP; but the researchers decided to throw in cognitive function as an interesting side investigation.

One third of the participants followed the DASH–Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension–diet, which emphasizes low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables, in combination with regular exercise. One third, followed the DASH diet along with a weight-management program and aerobic exercise. The final third went about on their regular dietary and exercise regimens.

The exercise conducted was moderate–30 minutes three to four times a week, “enough to put the heart up to 75 to 80 percent of its maximum rate,” as one of the researchers said. The weight-management programs were split between two strategies–one centered on reducing portion size and cutting the snacking habit, while the other focused on appetite awareness training, which provided guidelines on food quantity (how much one ate) as well as food quality (types of food). The cognitive tests focused on executive function, learning and psychomotor speed.

Researchers found that the group that exercised regularly and ate well had an overall 30 percent improvement in mental function by the end of the four-month period. They also lost an average of 19 pounds and lowered systolic blood pressure (the higher of the 120/80 reading) by 16 points and diastolic pressure by 10 points. Shazam! All by diet and exercise.

As one of the researchers concluded, “There are neurochemical changes that happen with exercise. There is increased production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which stimulates connection with other brain cells, but also there is some evidence that it helps grow new brain cells.”

On top of that, as I point out in my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, regular exercise increases circulation, oxygen and nutrient transport to the brain; it reduces depression and anxiety; and it leads to increased production of phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the body’s natural opiates…so it FEELS GOOD! Oh yeah, give it to me, baby!

There you have it: Another study showing the enormous benefits of diet and exercise. Now, before you say, “Big deal, tell me something I don’t know,” understand that these finding should shed some light on the notion of mass use of nootropic drugs, otherwise known as smart drugs. When 7% of all college students and 20% of polled scientists using them to enhance memory, problem solving, attention, and mental endurance, I think it’s time to start discussing alternatives.

No drugs are free of side effects, and the notion of the world’s scientists being tweaked out on designer speed is, well….scary (think Norman Osbourne). So that’s why I post these seemingly obvious studies. Yes, we all know that diet and exercise have wide-ranging benefits. But then why isn’t everybody doing them?

Governments don’t lie, do they? Nah. Political parties lie, right? Especially the one you disagree with–they always lie. And your party never lies, right? Governments don’t lie, no way.

Well, one lie hard to pass off for very long is the scientific lie. One such lie is about the efficacy of the flu vaccine. This is one of my staunchest issues, and I’ll never shut up about it: Flu shots are bull turds!

A recent interview with prestigious epidemiologist and flu-vaccine researcher for the Cochrane Collaboration in Britain, Tom Jefferson uncovers exactly why we must question the utility of the flu vaccine (not to be confused with swine flu or H1N1 vaccine), despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) new public health campaign in the U.S. encouraging vulnerable patients–particularly the elderly–to “protect yourself and the ones you love against flu: GET VACCINATED!”

According to Mr. Jefferson, when a systematic review of ALL studies on the efficacy of flu vaccines was conducted, the findings were inconclusive. In other words, they didn’t show effectiveness or non-effectiveness one way or the other. The governments of the U.S., Britain, Australia and Germany, however, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) use a “citation bias” when evaluating flu vaccines, which essentially means they cite studies that agree with their viewpoint, and ignore (or fail to cite) studies that show no effect or disagree with their agenda. What do you know? Keep that in mind Global Warmers.

This isn’t news to me as I’ve pointed out in several posts(here, here, here, here, and here) the use of selective science. This method of subjective objectivity has been running rampant in today’s science, particularly the health sciences. It’s shameful, and buyer beware: You better check many sources when trying to get the truth these days.

He goes on to say that bigger and better studies on flu vaccinations are needed, but somehow governments are largely ignoring this. An “extraordinary situation,” Mr. Jefferson calls it. Not if you understand modern politics, sir.

He believes, as I do, that effective and provable methods for preventing the spread of flu are simple hygienic practices like hand-washing, wearing gloves and masks (a little weird but effective), and distancing oneself from infected people. Duh! And here’s one of my own, not mentioned by Mr. Jefferson: How about just catching the flu? I don’t mean actively seek it out, but being ill has its benefits, you know.

Too avant-garde? OK, then just try washing your your hands. Mr. Jefferson states,

“There is solid evidence that [hygienic practices] work against all [flu viruses], not just specific strains [unlike the flu vaccine, as it is designed]. They are culturally acceptable and cheap, and they reduce transmission rates of other viruses too. A great American, Stephen Luby of the CDC, has published a study from Karachi, Pakistan, that found that physical interventions are lifesavers. He should receive a Nobel Prize for his work, but I’m sure he never will.

I’m sure he will not, either–no money in simple hygiene. But oodles in useless vaccines.

Mr. Jefferson concludes that he is not antivaccination (and neither am I); he has five children, all of them vaccinated. As he says, childhood vaccines have strong evidence to back up their effectiveness, unlike the annual flu shot. “I am not antivaccine. I am anti–poor evidence,” he says.

Bravo! Nothing more refreshing than a scientist dedicated to the truth. Sounds weird, I know, since science is the investigation of truths of the universe. But that’s the way it goes when politics get involved in any endeavor. When it comes to your health, you better find the truth for yourself, because you won’t get it from the government. Governments lie.

You’ve heard of “fake weed,” no? Now you have. It’s what kids are smoking these days. It may be fake, but it’s real. A real drug with real dangers. Time to talk to them youngsters.

Fake weed, also known as K2 and “spice”, is causing hallucinations, vomiting, agitation and other dangerous side effects. Oh it gets you high, alright–but it comes with an added surprise: different responses in different people. Not since LSD have we seen that kind of shenanigans.

K2 was first designed in the organic chemistry lab of Clemson professor John W. Huffman, who studies cannabinoid receptors. Essentially these receptors are the human molecular machinery that responds to THC, the compound in marijuana. The recipe for the compound JWH-018 (his initials) got picked up likely in Europe, although he had heard that people were selling it in China and Korea as a plant growth stimulant well before people started getting high on it.

And have they ever been getting high. Apparently K2 has an affinity for cannabinoid brain receptor (CB1) that’s about 10 times greater than THC. That means it doesn’t take a whole lot to get you wasted. Good for Snoop Dog..bad for your kid.

And worse yet, it comes with unexpected side effects. As a cannabinoid receptor stimulant, one would expect it to behave like marijuana; but some of the symptoms bringing teens into hospitals after using the drug, such as increased agitation and elevated blood pressure and heart rates, didn’t match up with marijuana. Some more unusual side effects include fast heart beat, dangerously elevated blood pressure, pale skin and vomiting, which suggests that K2 is affecting the cardiovascular system. Further, it also is believed to affect the central nervous system, causing severe, potentially life-threatening hallucinations and, in some cases, seizures. Doh!

According to Huffman, “It’s like playing Russian roulette. You don’t know what it’s going to do to you; you’re a potential winner of a Darwin award,” referring to the tongue-in-cheek awards given to people who “do a service to humanity by removing themselves from the gene pool.”

Well, all I can say is…doesn’t surprise me. Think about this: when marijuana becomes legalized, as it pretty much has in California and other states, it’s non-illicit nature will not be enough for either rebel teens nor societal outcasts. Illegal booze led to the formation of the mob, illegal hallucinogenics to Woodstock, and “fake weed” will likely have its counter-culture. I’m not endorsing it, nor am I shrugging it off. I think you’ve got to talk to your kids about this stuff and hopefully steer them away from it. Since laboratory mice that JWH-018 was tested on were euthanized following experiments, nobody really knows the long-term effects. So, kids…just say no, okay?

But if the kids today are anything like those of yesteryear–and they ARE–looks like you’ll be happy if your’s merely hangs out at the local medical marijuana clinic. I see more of these designer drugs on the horizon. Wow–the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The title of this post may seem obvious, but an interesting study has just been published showing that people will choose healthy foods over junk food if the price of the junk is higher. This study shows strong evidence that a junk food tax might help improve overall health, while lowering the obesity epidemic in this country.

The research conducted at the University of Buffalo in New York gave 42 mothers just over $22.00 to spend at a “supermarket” set up in a room at the university and stocked with images of everything from bananas to whole wheat bread to cola drinks and cookies. They were told to imagine that they had no food in the house and they were going to do the shopping for the week to feed the family. They were given the choices of 30 healthy foods, which included healthy beverages, and 30 junk foods, including sodas and other sugary drinks.

The women went shopping five times, the first round having prices on par with what they currently are at local supermarkets. Two times the prices of healthy foods were lowered, and two times the prices of the junk foods were increased. The interesting results were that hiking the prices of junk foods, like what would occur from a so-called “sin tax,” was more effective in lowering overall calories purchased than lowering the prices of healthy foods. Hmmm…you don’t say.

Even more interesting is that lowering the price of healthy foods merely increased the overall calories the women purchased. Wow!

I love this study! First off, although I am a huge proponent of self-responsibility particularly as it relates to health, I do believe that taxing unhealthy behaviors is appropriate. As much as I believe in the live and let live philosophy, in today’s economic and health care environments, peoples’ poor health choices are being paid for by us all. So I think if you want to smoke, smoke, but you’ve got to pay more; want to live off Susie Qs, pay up; boozer for life, no problem, just pay your share. Now obviously, the only way this type of tax would mean anything is if the money would be used to offset health costs. I’ll leave that to policy makers.

But back to the study: Making healthy foods cheaper didn’t lead people to make better choices, they still went for more. In fact, when they saved on broccoli, yogurt, fish and eggs, they just took the savings and bought cookies and chips. Duh!!! So lower food prices obviously are not the answer, not from a health perspective anyway.

“It appears that mothers took the money they saved on subsidized fruits and vegetables and treated the family to less healthy alternatives, such as chips and soda pop,” the authors of the study said.

But raising the price of the crap actually led mothers to choose healthy foods–a sad statement on human psychology, but an awesome perspective on the power of economics. In the experiment, taxing junk foods by 10% resulted in the shoppers buying 14.4% less high-fat and sugary foods and drinks. That meant their week’s shopping contained 6.5% fewer calories, the study said.

Well what can I say? When it comes to making health choices surrounding food, Americans are severely addicted to junk, and in my estimation, sugar in particular. Only continuous education (what I’m trying to do here) is going to change that. But a sin tax is certainly a way to combat obesity, particularly childhood obesity which is rising rapidly. And it can also help subsidize health care costs. With a culture so dependent on sugary junk food, we’re going to need every penny we can get.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Nick Campos - All Rights Reserved.