Popping Calcium Tablets? Think Again
Orthopaedic doctors and general physicians are quick to prescribe calcium supplements as being good for our bones. They are already 10 years behind. A 2008 study in New Zealand found that excess calcium (caused by calcium supplements) in the gut could lead to mal-absorption of fat, reducing saturated fat absorption. With less saturated fat absorbed, your cholesterol might fall. The researchers in New Zealand were expecting to lower heart attack rates by giving women calcium supplements because it showed a lower blood pressure, initially. There appeared to be more heart attacks in the calcium-supplemented group.
 
Separately, Women’s Health Initiative, the largest and longest randomised, controlled trial of calcium supplementation, reported no adverse effects. However, the participants were already on calcium supplements before the study started. So, the study was just comparing higher versus lower doses of calcium supplementation rather than supplementation versus no supplementation. The researchers then went back and checked about the women who started out not taking supplements and then were randomised to the supplement group. These women suffered more heart attacks or strokes. Thus, calcium supplements seemed to increase cardiovascular disease risk. 
 
What happens when we take calcium tablets? Apparently, we get a spike of calcium in our bloodstream (this does not happen when we take calcium-rich foods) and can stay up for as long as eight hours. This leads to a situation when your blood clots more easily, leading to a risk of clots in the heart or brain. Is this why, in the months after a hip fracture, risk of dying shoots up, with about one in five women passing away within a year. Hip fractures can shorten the lifespan of men by an average of four to five years. 
 
So, don’t pop the calcium pills; get calcium from foods and sunshine. In a 2012 study, one group of women received sunlight exposure and the other took calcium pills. The group taking pills had significantly increased mortality, living shorter lives than those in the sunshine group. Calcium is best taken as part of the diet with the knowledge that our body itself has a way of adjusting to calcium levels. If our calcium intake goes down, our body starts absorbing more and vice-versa. The top calcium foods are raw milk, kale, sardines, yogurt and broccoli.
 
Bias in Industry-funded ‘Research’ Quantified 
It is an open secret that academic studies are actively supported by food companies. Their conclusions are likely to be biased, corrupting scientific literature and undermining public health. David Ludwig, physician, nutrition researcher, and public health advocate, and New York Times’ bestselling author of Always Hungry? examined the research on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) over a 13-year period during which the field progressed from uncertainty to consensus regarding the adverse health effects of SSBs. What he found was startling. 
 
 
“Among 133 relevant articles in the English literature, the proportion of industry-funded studies was 30% in 2001, decreasing to less than 5% by 2013. Overall, most independent studies (82%) reported adverse effects of SSBs, whereas very few industry-funded studies did so (7%).” Clearly, industry-funded research “systematically misperceived and underestimated the true adverse effects of SSBs on health during a critical time of evolving science. This potentially biased body of work was used by the SSB industry to undermine policy measures to limit consumption — such as taxes—suggesting a strategy by which producers of unhealthful products use flawed science to counter threats to profitability.”
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    The ‘Science’ of Hypertension
    As a researcher in the field for the past half a century, I fail to understand any scientific basis for blood pressure (BP) guidelines. But the drug companies keep coming out with expensive new BP-lowering drugs without any long-term experiential wisdom. Obviously, the reasons for changes in BP guidelines (a lower threshold) would have come because of drug company pressures. It is now known that many guideline writers are under the influence of drug companies. 
     
    Fluids flow in nature by whirling and nothing flows laminarly (i.e., in parallel layers, with no disruption between the layers). In addition, we know little about fluid flow in a closed circuit. Hagioscopic studies of rat’s aorta did confirm that blood flows by whirling, unlike what is taught to us. If that were so, all our scientific assumptions lose their thrust in hypertension. Even if we were to assume that blood flows laminarly, many of the drugs that we use might do more harm than good! One example will suffice. 
     
    In a laminar flow, the outermost layer of blood does not flow but only sticks to the vessel wall. When we use vasodilators (medicines that dilate blood vessels allowing blood to flow more easily), it is the flow speed in the centre that increases. This might bring some damage in the target organs like the kidney! Similarly, all other groups of chemicals try only to make man go away from the sympathetic mode to the parasympathetic mode. This could be done more effectively by yoga and praanaayama without the hazards of those reductionist chemicals called anti-hypertensives! 
     
    We could even use parasympathomimetic like Oubain without making a patient a zombie, like we do now—making him/her lose all his/her life’s enthusiasm. The only scientifically logical drugs are diuretics which lower blood pressure by reducing blood volume; but they also have side-effects. Beyond diuretics, all other BP-lowering reductionist chemicals, when they work, are only working as placebos. So, if homeopathy (criticised as placebo) could reduce BP, what is wrong?
     
    Hypertension is said to be the greatest risk factor for stroke. Maybe it’s right! My personal observation, and a look at Glasgow Stroke Centre audits, surprise me that virgin hypertensives, treated hypertensives, and those with very good control, have all got almost equal share in stroke incidence! In the long run, hypertension is probably not a risk factor. It also showed that even if risk factors are adequately controlled, the real risk still could operate in the patient! 
     
    Lastly, there is this vital story of the NNT (number needed to treat), of our studies, that does not apply to individual patients sitting across your consultation table. They only apply to large cohorts under ideal conditions in people without co-morbidities. This rarely occurs in real-life medical practice. One is not certain if your patient benefits from a drug or not! Statistically, every drug has NNT to show its effect based on drug trials. 
     
    For example, in the famous MRC trial of mild-moderate hypertension, published in 1985, it was shown that to possibly save one patient from stroke in the next five years, one has to treat 850 otherwise healthy patients for five years unnecessarily! The NNT is 850 as we do don’t know who that one patient is among the 850 that are at risk! At the same time, there is the grave danger of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) for every drug. All these must be explained to the patient by the doctor to reduce acceptability. 
     
    Medical practice is a serious business necessitating the doctor to keep up-to-date. First, we should do no harm (primum-non nocere). The drug companies try to brainwash us and we should be careful. Marcia Angell, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, warns us about all these in her classic The Truth About Drug Companies. In every mild to moderate hypertensive, lifestyle changes and yoga should be tried before cursing patients with life-long chemicals. 
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    COMMENTS

    HARENDRA SINGH RAWAT

    2 years ago

    Even ayurveda do not mention hypertension as any type of ailment.

    Rajat Rajwansh

    2 years ago

    Thanks for writing

    Ramesh Poapt

    2 years ago

    Great, sir!

    Junk Starchy Carbohydrates; Cure Diabetes
    Alternative thinking on healthcare is entering the mainstream. Dr Aseem Malhotra, a star cardiologist in the UK, author of Poppi Diet (reviewed in Moneylife) and anchor of several television shows, has scored a huge success in his fight against conventional diet and medicine. He has managed to reduce the insulin requirements by 50% of type-1 diabetic Nathan Gill, member of the European Parliament by cutting sugar and starchy carbohydrates from his diet. Mr Gill has now urged prime minister Theresa May, also a type-1 diabetic, to do the same.
     
    Nathan Gill was so astonished by the dramatic changes to his personal health after following Dr Malhotra’s advice to pursue a low-carbohydrate high-fat diet that he has written an open letter to Theresa May calling for an urgent overhaul of dietary guidelines that promote low-fat foods and advise putting starchy carbohydrates at the base of diet. These government guidelines have been described by Dr Malhotra as a “35 year fad that has driven obesity related illness with disastrous consequences for public health.” 
     
    Mr Gill writes: “Current government advice recommends that people put starchy carbohydrates at the base of their diet. These guidelines are absolutely wrong and have been a major contributor to the obesity crisis in the UK over the past three decades and the diabetes epidemic. I have now concluded that this advice and the promotion of ‘low fat’ foods promoted in official government advice in 1983 has been a thirty-five year diet fad that has replaced millennia of eating satiating and nutritious full fat whole foods with disastrous consequences for public health.” New data from diabetes.co.uk reveals that 30,000 type-1 diabetics have reduced insulin requirements by up to 80% simply by cutting out starchy carbohydrates. 
     
    In the letter, Mr Gill mentions that the harms of sugar consumption on health begin after consuming more than two teaspoons of sugar a day but research by Dr Malhotra, published in the British Medical Journal in 2013, exposed that food labelling in the UK and Europe had, in effect, been advising the public to consume 22.5 teaspoons of sugar a day. 
     
    Exercise Vs Obesity
     
    According to MedPage, a portal for healthcare professionals, more Americans than ever before (31.4%) are obese. At the same time, more Americans than ever before met federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity (54.8%). In 1997, the obesity rate was under 20%. From 1997 to 2006, the rate was stable, hovering at around 40%. Since then, the rate has been rising steadily.
     
    US guidelines specify 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity and 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination. Statistically speaking, the data came from the National Health Interview Survey and, thus, relied on respondents’ self-reports. It is not possible to know whether obesity and physical activity have actually increased or people are responding differently to the survey. 
     
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    COMMENTS

    Anand Vaidya

    2 years ago

    LCHF is a scam. I hope MoneyLife does not promote that in any way.

    REPLY

    Sandeep Kumar

    In Reply to Anand Vaidya 2 years ago

    Can you please elaborate

    Harish Kohli

    2 years ago

    Namaskar Hegde saheb, very happy that you are back. I have been, as the other readers too must have been, missing your articles. Regards

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