Thursday, October 29, 2009

Deas Vail

One of my very favorite bands -- Deas Vail -- has a new album out, "Birds and Cages." Just got a CD in the mail yesterday. Lots of wonderfully melodic tunes sung by one of the best vocalists in all of rock. Buy it here, here, or here.

UPDATE: Much longer post on Deas Vail here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Great Blog

"The Last Psychiatrist." Lots of long thought-provoking essays on medical and conceptual topics. It's good enough that I'm gradually reading through the entire archives (the fact that it avoids short links to yesterday's news helps). Lots of posts are worth pointing to; a few examples would be The Bubble in Academic Research, Off Label Prescribing, Which is Worse, and Where Does a Tree Get Its Mass.

UPDATE: See also Are Drug Companies Hiding Negative Studies?.

Monday, October 19, 2009

White House Communications Director and Mao

By now, many people have heard about the White House Communications Director who gave a speech including praise of Mao as one of her favorite political philosophers.

The odd thing is that what seems to have impressed her as a deep political thought was this saying of Mao's: "you fight your war, and I'll fight mine." She emphasizes it: "And think about that for a second. You don't have to accept the definition of how to do things, and you don't have to follow other people's choices and paths. OK? It is about your choices and your paths."

That's it? That's her idea of profound political advice? Something so anodyne and banal ("follow your own path") that it has been featured in any number of after-school specials, pop songs, and so on ad nauseam? For that bit of triteness she had to look up one of history's most notorious mass murderers? A word of advice to would-be fans of political philosophy: you're probably better off citing the wisdom of Sammy Davis, Jr..

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Two Dietary Studies on Heart Disease

Both are opposed to the usual advice to avoid dietary fat. Not random experiments, mind you, but still interesting:

Sara Holmberg, Anders Thelin and Eva-Lena Stiernström. Food Choices and Coronary Heart Disease: A Population Based Cohort Study of Rural Swedish Men with 12 Years of Follow-up. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2009, 6, 2626-2638.

Nutritional recommendations are frequently provided, but few long term studies on the effect of food choices on heart disease are available. We followed coronary heart disease morbidity and mortality in a cohort of rural men (N = 1,752) participating in a prospective observational study. Dietary choices were assessed at baseline with a 15-item food questionnaire. 138 men were hospitalized or deceased owing to coronary heart disease during the 12 year follow-up. Daily intake of fruit and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease when combined with a high dairy fat consumption (odds ratio 0.39, 95% CI 0.21-0.73), but not when combined with a low dairy fat consumption (odds ratio 1.70, 95% CI 0.97-2.98). Choosing wholemeal bread or eating fish at least twice a week showed no association with the outcome.
In other words, eating fruit and vegetables was associated with a 70% higher risk of heart disease if not accompanied by dairy fat.
Leosdottir, Margret; Nilsson, Peter M.; Nilsson, Jan-Åke; Berglund, Göran. Cardiovascular event risk in relation to dietary fat intake in middle-aged individuals: data from the Malmo Diet and Cancer Study. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation, October 2007, 14 no. 5, 701-706.

The hypothesis that diets rich in total and saturated fat and poor in unsaturated fats increase the risk for cardiovascular disease is still vividly debated. The aim of this study was to examine whether total fat, saturated fat, or unsaturated fat intakes are independent risk factors for cardiovascular events in a large population-based cohort.

Methods: 28 098 middle-aged individuals (61% women) participated in the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study between 1991 and 1996. In this analysis, individuals with an earlier history of cardiovascular disease were excluded. With adjustments made for confounding by age and various anthropometric, social, dietary, and life-style factors, hazard ratios (HR) were estimated for individuals categorized by quartiles of fat intake [HR (95% confidence interval, CI), Cox's regression model].

Results: No trend towards higher cardiovascular event risk for women or men with higher total or saturated fat intakes, was observed. Total fat: HR (95% CI) for fourth quartile was 0.98 (0.77-1.25) for women, 1.02 (0.84-1.23) for men; saturated fat: 0.98 (0.71-1.33) for women and 1.05 (0.83-1.34) for men. Inverse associations between unsaturated fat intake and cardiovascular event risk were not observed.

Conclusions: In relation to risks of cardiovascular events, our results do not suggest any benefit from a limited total or saturated fat intake, nor from relatively high intake of unsaturated fat.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Swiss Health Care

I like the sound of the Swiss health care system, judging from this New York Times article (which may, of course, be missing all sorts of relevant information).