Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stop those statins!

Dr. BM Hegde's article on why not to take statins (link attached at the end).

It seems to be very difficult for many people to accept such articles, much less act upon them. Like the quote by Noel Coward at the beginning of the article says "It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit"!

Nowadays, we like to outsource everything to so-called experts. Every article you read says things like "experts are of the view that walking even for two minutes is better than sitting on your butt the whole day" or "experts opine that it is good to eat vegetables; however, make sure that it is low-fat, low-carb, low glycemic index, high protein, low calorie, and germ-free, which is what our supplement ensures. As certified by the world's leading nutritionists, it is better to have our supplement than to have the vegetables themselves"!

Medicine is among the worst cases of this kind of abdication. We don't trust ourselves when it comes to health, but want to listen to the "experts". We have been indoctrinated to believe that good health is a matter of high science, which we cannot understand. The science part is outsourced to scientists, who are paid by the pharma companies, and in most part, are looking at the wrong things anyway.The interpretation part is left to the doctors, who have not been taught about what is health in their entire curriculum, and then for updating their knowledge depend on the pharma salesmen. 

The result? People take drugs like statins, which a little bit of reflection will tell you is a scam. There are tons of other examples from medicine. 

Financial scams are better. At least what you lose is only your money. When it comes to medicine, it's a matter of both your money and your health.

link to article:

Dinesh Gopalan

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On Jayalalitha's acquittal

What happened is not surprising. It almost comes as an anti-climax since this was bound to happen.  - that's the link to my article on this in September - I think it is going as per the script! )

The HC acquits Jayalalitha based on the same document that lists out the reasons for her conviction by the special court! 

Jaya has always been unpredictable, mercurial, imperious, and downright arrogant. To keep someone like her in check it is required to keep a sword of Damocles forever hanging over her head. This is achieved by making a prosecution case that is tight enough to convict if required, and loose enough to acquit if the need arises. The multiple layers of Indian judiciary takes care of the rest. 

After the conviction, Jaya would have sent her emissaries to the Center to work out things. And things do magically workout once she expresses her contrition and assures support to the ruling dispensation. What only needs to be hammered out is the timing of each subsequent move. And the timing of this verdict is brilliant. Just in time to declare early elections, ride in on the sympathy wave, and, can you believe it, an anti-corruption plank! 

But then, this is not the end of the story. I expect an appeal will be filed in the SC, which will of course take its course. In the meanwhile, the prosecution can be as efficient or as lax as it chooses in ensuring a conviction. The sword cannot be put back in its sheath.

Jaya is a great ally to have since she is virtually a goddess who can ensure TN for the BJP. But goddesses are known to be temperamental, and destructive. Basmasura's  hand on top of her head ready to fall and incinerate her if she steps out of line - that is what is required. Which a well-timed appeal will ensure. 

Another goddess who has immense power, and is probably more unpredictable, though not as sophisticated, and needs to be kept in check even more strongly is Didi. The Sarada scam is good for ensuring that. There is enough evidence to convict; the prosecution can be as lax or efficient as it wants; and there are enough layers in the legal system. Being a Kali to Jaya's Durga, Basmasura will have to be deputed to keep an eye on her too.

The other  games being played out in our most populous state, is keeping the Pehelwan and his puppet son in check, along with his lady rival. But they are easier than the two formidable devis - they are much more practical, and not so mercurial. So in their case, the stakes need never be raised this high. A few well placed cases, along with backroom discussion, without too much grandstanding on either side should do the job.

Advantage Modi. Chanakya would have been immensely pleased.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

On unnecessary medical check-ups

An article by Dr. Atul Gawande on unnecessary testing in medicine and the harm it causes.

Personally, I have all along belonged to the school of thought that preventive medical checks are totally unnecessary; the "annual medical check-up" is guaranteed to do you mostly harm, and very little good. Dr. Gawande explains why in a better fashion than I have seen anywhere. I like his analogy of diseases being like turtles or birds; but we treat them like they are rabbits.

My own two-bits:

Remaining free from disease has very little to do with medicine and a lot to do with lifestyle, which includes diet, sleep, exercise, and state of mind. For each of these areas, on how to improve quality of life, advise can be found in several different sources, but never, repeat never, from your doctor. Doctors, especially of the allopathic kind, know very little of how to stay healthy - they only study disease, are obsessed with disease, and with the narrow specialty which each one of them comes to represent. When my son was eight years old, he had a peculiar problem - pains all over his body -  wherever we touched him, it would pain him. The pain was real, but the cause was unknown. We made the mistake, based on a local doctor's recommendation, of taking him to a specialist on Rheumatoid Arthritis. And guess what? His diagnosis was that he suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the solution? Steroids!  One dose was all it took (my son had hallucinations after consuming that dose) to convince us that something was seriously wrong. We asked around and took him to a more enlightened pediatrician who basically told us that it was all in the mind; if we waited for a few days the problem would disappear. And it did! For a carpenter with a hammer all the problems in the world will seem like nails!

And this whole "testing" thing - what is it based on? You get tested for a hundred different things, for each of which "normal" ranges have been established based on some statistical cut-offs. The probability of each marker being awry, even if two percent, leads to an almost certain chance of something being diagnosed as wrong once you look at some forty parameters. And based on that one parameter that looks wrong, you undergo several more tests - the chances are, by the time the tests are done, there will be something wrong with you. Not because something is actually wrong with you, but because the tests say so. Until something is really wrong with you, it is better to let the body take care of itself. Chances are, if you get yourself tested three months later, that particular problem would have disappeared but some other problem would be thrown up by the tests.

Add to this the pressure on doctors to make money. They get cuts (40 percent, and in some cases, even 60 percent of the test fees) from the diagnostic labs. They are employed by hospitals which insist on a minimum success rate, not in terms of curing people, but in terms of getting people admitted to hospital. And the hospitals themselves operate on metrics like "revenue per bed" which of course includes allied services like unnecessary tests and further interventions. Investors in these hospitals demand "profit" and the patient is just a cow to be milked for getting that profit. It does not help that in a lot of these hospitals, the investors are doctors themselves. 

And what about the medicines that are prescribed as a result? Based on suspect statistics, or should I say scam statistics, which in turn are based on tests like cholesterol, which are getting increasingly discredited, people are put on things like statins for life. Completely unnecessary drugs, actually harmful, which cure nothing, and create more problems while solving none. The advantage (to the pharma companies) of course, is that, these drugs are life-long; and they are very likely to cause other complications for which you are likely to take more drugs, not that you will ever know the cause and effect relationship.

Mammograms are also being increasingly discredited. As to the so-called cancers that they can detect, and the desirability of operating for the same, Dr. Gawande's article brilliantly brings out the fallacies of such  thinking.

The tribe of doctors qualifying nowadays are not specialized in overall health and wellness. They all know about a small part of the human body, and study it in isolation from the rest. The body, though, is a holistic system operating on natural and biological principles; not a physical machine where if one part goes phut, you replace it, and the machine runs on. Add to this, the proliferation of for-profit diagnostic centers and hospitals, and what do you get? The more hospitals and test centers there are, it goes without saying, the more sick people there will be in order to fill those beds. The cause and effect cycle works both ways! And the fact that they are for-profit, answerable to shareholders who look for return on investment, means of course, that all of us will end up spending more and more money on these treatments, frequently giving up other things in life in the process. And in a lot of cases, eroding our quality of life due to the treatments and their inevitable after-effects.

The fact that most of us are covered by insurance in one form or another does not help. It makes everyone go in for unnecessary treatment and medications since someone else is paying. That kind of logic is fine while buying jewelry - if someone else is paying, more is better. But not when it comes to health - in health and treatment, less is often better. 

One more personal anecdote  - when my son was born I was working for Shell, where the policy was to cover all costs on maternity, whichever hospital, no limits. The mistake would have been to go to Breach Candy (one of the pricier places in Bombay). We went to the local hospital which was exactly 20 meters away from our house, and the total costs, including delivery and pre-and-post expenses? Rs. 8000. Even though it was 1995, I think that was a pretty moderate sum. A bigger hospital would never have let us off so lightly!

A brilliant article which you must read. Dr. Gawande is now part of my pantheon, along with Dr. B M Hegde.


America's Epidemic of Unnecessary Care
Millions of people get tests, drugs, and operations that won't make them better, may cause harm, and cost billions.
Preview by Yahoo


Posted By Dinesh Gopalan to Personal Finance, Investments, and other things at 5/06/2015 03:56:00 PM

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Raw Sugarcane Juice Nature's Perfect Wonder Food

Appended below is an article on the benefits of drinking raw sugarcane juice, freshly squeezed of course.  

It is a very informative article, and worth reading if you are not convinced about the benefits of having raw fruit and vegetable juices. It is also unfortunate that we need such articles listing the benefits in a "scientific" way of some things that should be intuitively obvious, quite apart from being repeatedly emphasized by naturopaths for ages.

My observations when it comes to juices:

1) Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best to eat; along with the nutrients they provide the fiber as well. However, you can't eat too much of those, and most vegetables are a bit challenging to eat raw.

2) Fruit and vegetable juices are extremely good for health. (till this point, no one disagrees). They should be had freshly squeezed, within minutes of extraction. Allowing it to lie around results in oxidation of most of the beneficial nutrients due to exposure to air.

3) Pasteurization or heating the juice in order to preserve it longer, kills most of the beneficial compounds - it is at best an inert nutritionless (or very low nutrition) liquid after that.

4) The packaged food industry kills it further after that by making it go through more processes, adding chemicals and preservatives, and generally kills whatever little is left in the food.

5) People in India are lucky. In Bangalore, for example, almost every street has a "Sri Ganesha Juice Centre" where freshly squeezed fruit juices are available, generally for between 20 to 40 rupees a glass. However, those who are in the higher economic strata tend to look down on such shops, and prefer to buy "Real" or "Tropicana" from the supermarkets!  The reasons offered are many, including a stated aversion to "unhygienic" (not true - the stalls are very clean) processing. I would put it down to snobbishness and stupidity.

6) They are even advertising coconut water in tetrapacks - why would anyone want to have that when fresh naariyal-paani is available at every street corner, and delivered at home too (at least in most cities in India)?

7) Vegetable juices are a bit tougher to get from the shops. You need to make them at home. For that, a good juicer is necessary. A 'masticating' juicer which crushes in order to make juice, is preferable to the rotary kind. To the best of my knowledge, masticating juicers are not available in India. We got our masticating juicer from the US (Omega brand - check it out) and it is a brilliant piece of equipment.

8) You should consider a juicer and  having fresh carrot juice (50%) mixed with cucumber, beetroot, and any kind of greens (like Palak, moringa leaves, etc.) (the other 50%).  It is always good to keep carrot juice at 50% or more since that is what usually imparts the taste. 

9) Of course, it goes without saying, that you must have the juice within minutes of extraction.

10) Buying organic fruits and vegetables in the first place, would of course be an added bonus!

(article appended below)

Raw Sugarcane Juice Nature's Perfect Wonder Food PDF Print E-mail


Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   

Monday, October 03, 2011

If you've ever had the pleasure of drinking freshly extracted raw fruit or vegetable juices, you know the health value of doing so. Freshly extracted juices contain live enzymes and nutrients that are easily absorbed by the body for quick nourishment.  But did you know that raw sugarcane juice is just as healthful as any other freshly pressed juice, and is in fact something of a Super Hero among plant foods?

Sugarcane is a tall grass with a stout, jointed and fibrous stalk that looks similar to bamboo.  As a member of the grass family, its juice has a high potency equivalent to wheatgrass juice, only with less chlorophyll and more sugar content.  However, counter to what you might think, sugarcane juice contains only about fifteen percent total sugar content, all of which is in a raw unrefined form.  The rest of the juice consists of water brimming with an abundance of vitamins and minerals. Sugarcane is rich in calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.  It also contains iron and vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6, plus a high concentration of phytonutrients (including chlorophyll), antioxidants, proteins, soluble fiber and numerous other health supportive compounds.  Working synergistically, these nutrients provide a supremely health-promoting food which has been studied for its role in fighting cancer, stabilizing blood sugar levels in diabetics, assisting in weight loss, reducing fevers, clearing the kidneys, preventing tooth decay, and a host of other health benefits.

Sugarcane juice is consumed worldwide, and due to its known health benefits, it is a traditional food with a profound presence in the local cultures where it is grown (Brazil and India are the top two producers, though it is grown in over 100 countries). Sucking or chewing on an exposed end of the raw sugarcane is one way to consume the juice, although the juice can also be extracted in larger quantities for drinking, by feeding the large stalks through a slow moving roller pressing machine, similar to an old fashioned wringer washing machine. The locals drink it with a pinch of sea salt and lemon juice, for a natural high-energy drink whose value goes far beyond its sweet taste.

Several scientific studies have revealed that sugarcane is extremely high in a unique mix of compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols are a large class of phytonutrient compounds with powerful antioxidant properties and numerous health benefits.  When consumed as a "whole package," the polyphenols in sugarcane juice work in harmony with the vitamins, minerals, and other cofactors to slow down the absorption of its sugars into the bloodstream, resulting in a very low glycemic index (the effect a carbohydrate has on blood glucose levels), which keeps the body's metabolism healthy and helps maintain a healthy body weight. To give you a comparison, the glycemic index of refined sugar is 64, compared to raw sugar cane which has a glycemic index of  30 to 40 (nearly half that of refined sugar) depending on the soil in which it is grown.

The low glycemic effect of sugarcane juice is actually the least of its health benefits. Due to its high concentration of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and manganese, the juice from raw sugarcane is an alkaline forming food.  Diseases, especially cancer, cannot live in an alkaline environment, so it's no surprise that studies have shown that it has proven effective in helping the body fight against cancer, especially prostate and breast cancer. The antioxidants in sugarcane juice also help to fight against viral and bacterial infections, boost the immune system, and protect against diseases of the liver.  It also improves kidney function by clearing the urinary flow and is believed to be a good treatment for fevers, as it boosts the body's protein levels.  An Australian study also showed that it stablizes blood sugar levels and promotes weight loss in obese rats.  Numerous studies since the 1930's have shown that sugarcane juice has a protective effect against tooth decay, owing to its high mineral content.

Here are some more of sugarcane juice's healing effects:

  • It cures a sore throat, cold and flu.
  • Unlike table sugar, it has no simple sugars. Diabetics can therefore enjoy it without worrying about soaring blood sugar levels (those with type 2 diabetes should still have limited sugarcane juice).
  • It provides glucose to the body, burned by the muscles to provide the body natural energy. It re-hydrates the human body fatigued from heat and physical activity. It's known to boost performance in athletes and manual laborers.
  • It's recommended for fevers which cause great protein loss from the body. Liberal consumption of sugarcane juice provides the body with protein during febrile disorders. It also brings down high body temperatures during fevers.
  • It's an ideal thirst quencher and cooling drink during summers. It keeps the body hydrated.
  • The easily digestible sugar in sugarcane juice helps in speedy recovery from jaundice. The steep fall in glucose levels during jaundice; may be replenished by having 3 to 4 glasses of sugarcane juice daily.
  • It's good for the digestive system and also helps with constipation because of its high potassium content.
  • It has a wide range of compounds in addition to sucrose which bestows it with wound healing properties and strengthens the immune system.
  • Regular intake of sugarcane juice strengthens the stomach, kidneys, heart, eyes, brain and sex organs.
  • It lowers body cholesterol- both LDL and triglycerides.

If you're interested in seeing how sugarcane juice is pressed, here's a link to a short 2½ minute YouTube video that will give you a true appreciation for this wonder food.  Like all freshly extracted juices, sugarcane juice loses its nutritional value very quickly after being extracted, so it's very difficult to bottle without heat pasteuriztion (which unfortunately destroys the live enzymes and most of the beneficial nutrients).



The reason raw sugarcane juice is so healthy is because of all of the life-giving nutrients contained in it.  In the processing of raw sugarcane juice to create refined white sugar, the juice is boiled to evaporate off the water, leaving a dark thick viscous liquid, which is then separated from the sugar crystals.  Most of the nutrients, including the polyphenols, end up in the thick dark liquid, called molasses. Blackstrap molasses, made from the third boiling of sugarcane juice, is the most concentrated form of molasses, and is therefore the most nutritious. It is a healthful sweetener that contains significant amounts of a variety of minerals that promote your health, including iron, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium and manganese.

If you're thinking that by just evaporating off the water you'll get a product called "evaporated cane juice," you'd be mostly wrong.  Organic Whole Cane Sugar or Sucanat, are the only types of raw unrefined sugar that do not separate the molasses from the sugar crystals, and therefore contain most of the nutrients, including the polyphenols, that are found in the raw sugarcane juice.  In the true sense of the term, they are evaporated forms of sugarcane juice, and are very dark course sugar crystals.  However, the term "evaporated cane juice" that you see listed on the ingredient lists of "healthy" food products IS NOT this type of sugar.  According to the CEO of ASSURKKAR Sugar Company in Costa Rica, which provides raw sugar to U.S. companies, the term is wrongly used in the food industry, "prostituted" he put it. "Nowadays the food companies are trying to sell more 'natural' products, so they use the most impressive or high impact wording to call the customers' attention" he said. In reality, the "evaporated cane juice" that is used in food products is a very processed form of sugar, unequivocally the same as refined white sugar.  The only difference is that it goes through one less processing step than white sugar, and has nearly zero nutrients in it.  For more info on natural sugars, you can read my previous article The Truth About Evaporated Cane Juice.