Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eeek! Snakes on a Plate!

How the Latest Health “Solutions” Are Like a Comedy Turned Scary!
By James J. Gormley
its-a-mad-mad-mad-mad-world126967837995133 When I was a kid, one of my “absolute favorite” movies was Stanley Kramer’s madcap 1973 comedy, It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

When I first saw it on CBS in 1978, I loved the antic chaos, the slapstick stunts and the total zaniness of the movie --- hard to not be a sillifest when you have the likes of Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney and Jonathan Winters, to name only a few of the comedic greats who graced the celluloid of this film.

What does this have to do with health freedom or health politics? Well, unfortunately: plenty.

In fact, America seems to be in the midst of an unprecedented convergence of varied and sundry strange health “solutions” that are no less wacky than Kramer’s cinematic masterpiece but, unfortunately, not funny … and also rather horrific.

Here are a couple of the latest “strange but true” ideas that would be laughable if they weren’t attracting widespread media attention --and even some supporters!

Food from cloned cattle or cloned meat grown in vats
According to Spence Cooper in a
blog post on  “Recent news reports indicate some U.S. cloned cattle have been created from the cells of dead animals […] And since the U.S. approved cloning over two years ago, you may have already grilled a cloned steak this summer from beef cells extracted from a dead carcass.”

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 2008, the alleged purpose of using the technology would be to improve the taste or “quality” of meat and milk that we all consume every day. Because of the cost of cloned cows ($15-20,000 a cow), it is predicted that the offspring of cloned animals will be used (or consumed), not the clones themselves.

Small consolation that. When even the farmers are against something like this, you know it must be really bad. In a written statement at the time, the National Farmers Union said: “Consumers have the right to know if the food they feed their families comes from a cloned animal.”

In addition to ethics, the “right to know” is really what it boils down to: labeling and for consumers being able to make informed choices as to whether they are buying food from clones, cloned offspring, GMOs or what have you, although labeling will most likely not be required.

As I wrote in a Nutrition Industry Executive article, in December 2006, entitled “The FDA’s Strange New World,” the FDA had begun campaigning for cloned animals as early as 2001. In the January-February 2001 issue of FDA Consumer, an FDA writer enthused: “Transgenics can turn animals, such as cows, sheep and goats, into pharmaceutical factories.” Gee, isn’t that a reassuring dream?

“Should there be any limits as to how far we as a species can go in manipulating the fabric of life?” I asked in Better Nutrition magazine back in October 1997. “Or should we, like Dr. Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s nightmare, proceed with the ultimate arrogance that nature is not only up for our unlimited exploitation but for our boundless tinkering, as well?”

mcstatin image Statins with that burger?
In a paper that ran in The American Journal of Cardiology,   Dr. Darrel Francis and colleagues from Imperial College London (U.K.) suggest that giving out statin drugs to people at fast-food restaurants will help reduce heart disease risks caused by the fat-drenched meals.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, is none too pleased with the suggestion of the “MacStatin” that the authors propose. In a BHF blog post by Dr. Mike Knapton, the foundation says:

“Promoting a pill for junk food would lead us towards medicalizing a huge swath of our population when really people need to take more responsibility for their own health.”
In the Cardiology article, the authors write: “We envisage a future in which fast food restaurants encourage a holistic approach to healthy eating. On ordering an unhealthy meal, the food will arrive labeled with a warning message […] and on the tray, next to the ketchup, will be a new and protective packet, ‘MacStatin,’ which could be sprinkled onto a Quarter Pounder or into a milkshake.”


If that represents a “holistic approach,” then I imagine the authors have a bridge to sell me, or to themselves.

Gormley Take-Away: I envisage a future in which food is food --- not grown in Franken-vats or derived from cloned animals or plants or spiked with statin drugs or any other pharmaceutical. I hope that we all can work toward such a tomorrow and that we can leave the comedies and fright-fests to the movie makers, not on our plates.

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