Cranberry Health Claims: A Thanksgiving Turkey?

By Steven Milloy
November 22, 2006, FoxNews.com

“Research shows benefits of cranberries” proclaimed an Associated Press headline this week – a gentle nudge, I suppose, just in case you forgot to make cranberries part of your Thanksgiving dinner. Continue reading Cranberry Health Claims: A Thanksgiving Turkey?

Day of Reckoning for DDT Foes?

By Steven Milloy
September 21, 2006, FoxNews.com

Last week’s announcement that the World Health Organization lifted its nearly 30-year ban on the insecticide DDT is perhaps the most promising development in global public health since… well, 1943 when DDT was first used to combat insect-borne diseases like typhus and malaria. Continue reading Day of Reckoning for DDT Foes?

Bald Eagle-DDT Myth Still Flying High

By Steven Milloy
July 6, 2006, FoxNews.com

Pennsylvania officials just announced success with their program to re-establish the state’s bald eagle population. But it’s a shame that such welcome news is being tainted by oft-repeated myths about the great bird’s near extinction. Continue reading Bald Eagle-DDT Myth Still Flying High

FDA May Make Breathing Difficult for Asthmatics

By Steven Milloy
January 26, 2006, FoxNews.com

The government may tell asthmatics to “take a hit” for the environment. But that “hit” won’t be from their inhalers, which might be taken away.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted this week to recommend removing the “essential use” status that permits inexpensive, nonprescription asthma inhalers, like Primatene Mist, to remain on sale.

Powered by chlorofluorcarbon (CFC) propellants, the inhalers shoot epinephrine into the lungs of asthmatics, allowing them to breathe during potentially life-threatening asthma attacks. But environmentalists labeled CFCs a threat to the ozone layer in the 1980s, leading to an international phase-out of CFCs under the 1987 Montreal Protocol.

Nonprescription inhalers – and millions of asthmatics – have so far survived the Montreal Protocol because CFC use in inhalers is deemed to be “essential” and, therefore, exempt from the ban. Wyeth Consumer Healthcare estimates that 3 million Americans use its Primatene for mild or intermittent asthma and about 700,000 use Primatene alone because they can’t get prescriptions or lack health insurance, according to the Seattle Times (Jan. 25). Wyeth says that substitute non-CFC inhalers won’t be ready until 2009 or 2010 – and probably at a much higher cost.

But the FDA panel was apparently swayed by arguments that CFC-inhaler use threatens the ozone layer and public health. The hypothesis-of-hysteria is that CFCs thin the stratospheric ozone layer which, in turn, allows more solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation to reach the Earth’s surface which, in turn, increases the risk of skin cancer, cataracts and other health problems.
But asthmatics should not have to gasp for air because of this guesswork.

First, accepting for argument’s sake that ozone depletion alarmism is justified, only a trivial amount of CFCs would be released into the atmosphere due to inhaler use. No detectable damage to the ozone layer would likely result.

Global CFC production peaked pre-ban at over 1 million metric tons. But in 1999, for example, the U.S. requested an “essential use” exemption of only about 4,000 metric tons for inhalers – hardly a return to the old days when CFCs were used in a wide range of consumer and industrial products.

Back to the real world, however, the ozone depletion hypothesis has a great big hole of its own.

No one disputes the basic chemistry of ozone depletion – chlorine atoms from CFCs released into the environment can find their way into the stratosphere where they can chemically react with and “destroy” ozone.

It should be noted, however, that CFCs aren’t the only source of chlorine atoms in the stratosphere – Mother Nature, in fact, may supply most of them. Also, ozone is also continually being created so we won’t ever run out of ozone.

In any event, none of the alleged environmental and public health horrors of CFC-induced ozone “destruction” have ever been observed despite extensive study – one of the best kept secrets of environmentalism.

While overexposure to UV is a risk factor for some types of skin cancer and cataracts, no scientific study has ever demonstrated a link between ozone depletion and such overexposure or any health effects.

A December 2003 article in the journal Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences, for example, would only go so far as to say that “The potential health effects of elevated levels of ambient UV-B radiation are diverse, and it is difficult to quantify the risks.”

The absence of evidence linking ozone layer thinning with health effects isn’t surprising because the phenomenon was never thought (by experts, anyway) to lead to more than a trivial (10 percent) increase in UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface.

As there is about a 5000 percent increase in UV radiation moving from the poles to the equator, a 10 percent increase in the mid-latitudes equates to a move 60 miles to the south – “hardly a source for health concerns,” says physicist Dr. S. Fred Singer of the Science and Environmental Policy Project.

It’s not even clear that ozone depletion, in its pre-phaseout heyday, ever increased the amount of UV radiation hitting the Earth’s surface. “There has been, of course, a determined search for a secular increase in [UV radiation] to match the presumed depletion of ozone. But no such trends had been observed,” says Dr. Singer.

And a little common sense about UV radiation goes a long way. Life flourishes in the tropics where UV radiation levels are far higher than in the quite inhospitable polar regions.

Yes, there is an “ozone hole,” but that label is more appropriately applied to the Montreal Protocol than the ever-changing thickness of the ozone layer over the Antarctic polar region.

Former Vice President “Ozone Al” Gore acknowledged in a recent presentation I attended that the real value of the Montreal Protocol was that it demonstrated the global political power of the environmental movement.

But while getting a junk science-fueled international treaty signed may have been a valuable political exercise for environmentalists, the Montreal Protocol can hardly be considered a success if it winds up needlessly depriving asthmatics of available, affordable and effective medication.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, and is an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

No Fizz in Soda Scare

By Steven Milloy
July 16, 2005, FoxNews.com

The food police filed a petition this week with the federal government to require that regular (non-diet) soft drinks carry health warning labels. But scientific data, including a new study published this week, expose such soda scaremongering for what it is — junk science-fueled nanny-ism.

Anti-fun food activists at the self-proclaimed “Center for Science in the Public Interest” called on the Food and Drug Administration to require a series of rotating health notices on containers of most non-diet soft drinks.

Warnings suggested by CSPI include: “The U.S. Government recommends that you drink less (non-diet) soda to help prevent weight gain, tooth decay and other health problems”; “To help protect your waistline and your teeth, consider drinking diet sodas or water”; “Drinking soft drinks instead of milk or calcium-fortified beverages may increase your risk of brittle bones (osteoporosis)”; and “This drink contains caffeine, which is a mildly addictive stimulant drug. Not appropriate for children.”

Ironically, the day after the CSPI news conference calling for the warning labels, a study published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet undercut CSPI’s claims concerning weight gain.

Researchers studied the role of physical activity in relation to changes in bodyweight in about 2,300 adolescent girls for 10 years from ages 9-19 and reported that exercise, rather than eating, was key.

“These results suggest that habitual activity plays an important role in weight gain, with no parallel evidence that energy intake had a similar role,” concluded the researchers.

This new study is consistent with what scientists know about sugar intake and weight. “There is no clear and consistent association between increased intake of added sugars and [weight],” stated a 2002 report from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine titled, “Dietary Reference Intakes on Macronutrients.”

And let’s not forget about the more recent 15,000-child study spotlighted last fall in this column in which Harvard University researchers concluded that, “although snack foods may have low nutritional value, they were not an important independent determinant of weight gain among children and adolescents.”

While consumption of dietary sugars has been linked with dental caries (search), it’s not a simple relationship that merits a special warning label on soft drinks.

“Many factors in addition to sugars affect the caries process, including the form of food or fluid, the duration of the exposure, nutrient composition, sequence of eating, salivary flow, presence of buffers, and oral hygiene,” wrote researchers in a 2003 article entitled “Sugars and Dental Caries” published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Emphasizing the complexity of the issue, the researchers noted, “Since the introduction of fluoride, the incidence of caries worldwide has decreased, despite increases in sugar consumption.”

The researchers also noted a study linking white bread with caries. Will CSPI also demand that consumers be warned about the risk of tooth decay that might be posed by sandwich bread, French bread and pizza?

CSPI’s suggested warning about soft drinks increasing the risk of osteoporosis is also without merit. As discussed in an earlier column, there simply is no evidence that soft drinks are replacing milk in the diet of children and adolescents. That same column spotlighted a CSPI-inspired researcher who previously attempted to link cola consumption with bone fractures in high school girls; but her statistics were weak and she had no credible explanation for how cola consumption could lead to bone fractures.

By the way, while CSPI ostensibly worries about soft drinks replacing milk, it actively campaigns against the consumption of whole milk and 2 percent milk, advocating consumption of only 1 percent milk and skim milk. CSPI accuses the dairy industry of “putting profits ahead of the hearts of American’s school-aged children,” even though the activist group can’t point to a single child whose heart health has been compromised in the slightest by milk.

As to caffeine and children, a 2002 review of the science in Food and Chemical Toxicology concluded, “Overall, the effects of caffeine in children seem to be modest and typically innocuous.”

Of course children should avoid overconsumption of caffeine — that’s just common sense — but they can safely consume the typical amounts found in soft drinks.

CSPI attempted to legitimize its petition by having it endorsed by folks like New York University’s Marion Nestle, Harvard School of Public Health’s Walter Willett, and Harvard Medical School’s JoAnn Manson — all individuals well-known to readers of this column as having anti-food industry and anti-soft drink biases. Their goals seem to be the demonization of the food industry and of its products, and to dictate what we eat and drink. Placing scary warning labels on soft drinks would certainly further that twisted agenda.

The bottom line on soft drinks is that, like virtually everything else in life, moderation is the key. Soft drinks can be part of a healthy lifestyle — along with a balanced diet, plenty of exercise, sufficient sleep, good oral hygiene and other common sense lifestyle habits. If consumers need to be waned about anything, it should be CSPI’s alarmist antics.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and is the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

Kyoto Count-Up

By Steve Milloy
February 22, 2005, FoxNews.com

Feb. 16, 2005, is a day that may well live in scientific and economic infamy. That’s the day that the international global warming treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol (search) went into effect around the world — but, fortunately, not in the U.S. and Australia. Continue reading Kyoto Count-Up

Scientists Stonewall on Spurious Soda Scare

By Steven Milloy
January 27, 2005, FoxNews.com

Harvard University researchers denied this week the charge that they omitted material information from a study they used to scare the public about soft drinks causing diabetes.
Study author Walter Willett told the Washington Post last August, “The message is: Anyone who cares about their health or the health of their family would not consume these beverages. Parents who care about their children’s health should not keep them at home.”

Among the criticisms of the study contained in my FOXNews.com column from last August, I noted that the researchers failed to mention in their write-up the directly relevant, but contradictory, results of an earlier study done by one of the members of the Harvard research team.

Intrigued by the researchers’ omission, Ian Murray and Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute wrote a letter to Journal of the American Medical Association, which was published this Jan. 26 in the journal.

Murray and Kazman wrote, “We were surprised that the [August study] did not discuss or cite the results of an apparently contradictory study [published in Diabetes Care in April 2003] that found that intake of total sugars and different types of sugars [sucrose, fructose, etc.] does not seem to raise the risk of type 2 diabetes (search). This was particularly striking since both articles share a co-author.”

As is its policy, JAMA provided the Harvard researchers the opportunity to respond to CEI’s letter. “[Because the Diabetes Care study] was not directly relevant to our study on soft drinks, we did not consider it an important reference,” responded the Harvard researchers. “The earlier study did not specifically address soda consumption,” they added.
They also wrote that “other studies have suggested” that the human body metabolizes sugar-sweetened beverages differently than sugar-sweetened foods.

With respect to the researchers’ latter point, it may or may not be true that sugar-sweetened beverages are metabolized significantly differently than sugar-sweetened solid foods — that remains to be studied — but that notion is irrelevant in this case because neither the JAMA nor Diabetes Care studies specifically examined the difference, if any, between soft drinks or solid food consumed on an empty stomach.

What is relevant is that the researchers failed to disclose key contradictory data amid their effort to sow panic about soda consumption. The Diabetes Care study did include significant data on soda consumption. The researchers knew it, have now (finally) acknowledged knowing it, and are now trying to downplay its significance by putting out a smokescreen that is not supported by data in either study in question.

The Harvard researchers tried to further distract JAMA (search ) readers by pointing to two other studies they seem to hope bolsters their soda scare: One study supposedly showed that a school-based educational program discouraging the consumption of sweetened soft drinks reduced obesity in children; another study supposedly showed that “consumption of sugars, mainly in the form of sugar-sweetened soft drinks, resulted in an increase in energy intake and weight in overweight men and women.”

First, neither study has anything to do with the focus of the JAMA and Diabetes Care studies — that is, whether sugar or soda consumption increases diabetes risk. So these references are just misdirection, pure and simple.

In the school study, while there appears to have been some reduction in obesity and being overweight among the kids who went through the intervention program, the data do not indicate that consuming fewer sugar-sweetened beverages was the reason. The kids in the intervention group consumed fewer carbonated soft drinks in total, but not fewer sugar sweetened drinks.

In the other study, it’s no wonder the already overweight men and women who drank lots of sugar-sweetened soft drinks gained even more weight than the control subjects in the study — the controls consumed fewer calories because they drank diet sodas instead of sugar-sweetened sodas!

The Harvard researchers have yet to make a credible case that soda consumption increases the risk of type 2 diabetes — but I am becoming quite convinced that they don’t really care about credibility in the first place.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and is the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

No Beef Behind Red-Meat Cancer Scare

By Steve Milloy
January 14, 2005, FoxNews.com

Eating a hamburger a day can increase your risk of colon cancer, according to a new study. Is it time to switch to chicken, fish or tofu ? Or is time to ask your congressman to check into whether the National Cancer Institute is spending its budget wisely? Continue reading No Beef Behind Red-Meat Cancer Scare