November 30th 2010, 11:09
Our dog Ollie, as a small, tricolored Cavalier King Charles spaniel, was bred by royal decree and born with a peculiar sense of regal entitlement and a permanent look of disdain. He belongs in a Peanuts cartoon-the curmudgeonly dog whose thought balloon continuously registers exasperation with his clueless owners. He refuses to eat except when it's inconvenient, and is extraordinarily picky, even when fresh organic meat is his for the taking.
Consequently, it's fascinating to see what Ollie eats in the wild, especially when he's out of sorts. Invariably, he heads for certain grasses or leaves and, after feasting on bunches of them, is completely cured.
Animal behaviourists realize that animals, across species, appear to have a natural instinct for determining which plants can heal different diseases. Stories abound of animals eating just the right things to heal themselves. After witnessing sick bears eating Ligusticum roots and getting better afterwards, Native Americans dubbed the plants with a name that means 'bear medicine'.
In her book, Wild Health, animal behaviorist Cindy Engel offers scientific evidence that animals instinctively know how to maintain optimum health. Given a smorgasbord of choice, even animals like rats will choose a nutritionally balanced diet.
Perhaps more extraordinary is the evidence that animals know how to self-medicate against a host of problems, including parasites, infection, skin conditions and accidental poisoning. Scientific evidence shows that animals are somehow able to differentiate among the thousands of toxic secondary compounds in plants that kill internal parasites. A number of species, including rhinoceroses and wild bison, feast on a specific bark known to be toxic to the microbes that cause dysentery.
Even animals in captivity often show a native sense of self-medication superior to their doctors. A captive capuchin monkey with a severe skin infection didn't get better until given access to tobacco leaves, which cured its skin condition permanently.
All this is relevant to two features in this month's issue. In our Special Report (pp 10-4), WDDTY publisher Bryan Hubbard has amassed extra-ordinary evidence that the contents of your fridge or larder not only can protect against illness, but may also cure disease once it takes hold. Cancer, asthma, Alzheimer's, dementia-and a host of other serious and even life-threatening illness-is vanquished by the likes of apple juice, rhubarb, brussels sprouts and blueberries.
Yet, we're eating less and less real food (p 5). A team that recently analyzed McDonald's Chicken McNuggets found that barely half of it is chicken-the rest is taste enhancers and other chemicals, including a compound used in Silly Putty and another used in lighter fluid.
The medicine we take is also increasingly dangerous, even contaminated, as was the case of millions of drugs produced by GSK, for which it has been fined by the American Food and Drug Administration (p 6).
Considering an animal's natural instinct for the healthy, one wonders what animals like Ollie would make of our tendency to consume toxic junk as food and toxic chemicals as medicine.
November 2nd 2010, 09:46
All of us at WDDTY are shaken to the core by the recent disclosures that most studies in the medical literature are marketing dressed up as research. For as many as 90,000 published drug trials, a drug company hired a PR firm-a 'medical education and communication company' (MECC)-to carry out its clinical trials, engaged a 'ghost' to write an article with a positive spin, enlisted a prominent academic to put his name to the paper he's had nothing to do with-and then succeeded in getting it published in a peer-reviewed journal.
This widespread practice came to light a few months ago during the discovery process of a class-action lawsuit against drug manufacturer Wyeth by 14,000 women who developed breast cancer after taking HRT.
The 1500 documents afford an unprecedented glimpse into the underworld of pharmaceutical marketing. The paper trail reveals how an MECC called DesignWrite, hired by Wyeth, launched a major damage-limitation exercise after a major study demonstrated an unequivocal link between HRT and life-threatening illness.
Wyeth's HRT products had reached annual revenues of $2 billion, but nose-dived by 65 per cent in 2002, when the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study found that hormone replacement therapy-specifically Wyeth's version-increased the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, stroke and heart disease.
DesignWrite proceeded to flood the professional press with positive reports of Premarin, cast doubt on the WHI, downplayed the cancer-causing potential of HRT and claimed cardiovascular benefits, while promoting unproven uses of HRT such as for preventing dementia.
A few months later, the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, which produces evidence-based consumer-health information, encountered "serious obstacles" in trying to wrest all sponsored published and unpublished studies from Pfizer on its antidepressant reboxetine. Eventually, it emerged that the company had withheld three-quarters of its patient data from unpublished trials. After these hidden data were finally handed over, the Institute concluded that the drug was "overall an ineffective and potentially harmful antidepressant".
There's no way to determine the full extent of such dirty research, although one review concluded that as much as three-quarters of every journal is ghosted. As Dr Joseph S. Ross of New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine put it: "It's almost like steroids and baseball. You don't know who was using and who wasn't; you don't know which articles are tainted and which aren't."
These disclosures undermine the entire edifice of modern medicine. The BMJ now plans to encourage efforts to "re-evaluate the integrity of the existing base of research evidence"-in other words, virtually the whole of existing medical research needs to be done all over again.
The most insidious aspect of this story is the topic of this month's special report-that the extraordinary disease-fighting power of a simple nutrient like vitamin C has been virtually ignored by the modern medical press. The published medical evidence was promising 70 years ago-long before MECCs were around to tinker with the data.