President Obama – Precision Medicine Initiative and support for science and research! #SOTU

Is sugar the new tobacco? Industry trying to silence #science

Sugar is in the news in a big obese way. Are tobacco and sugar similar? On the surface, perhaps not that much. However, science shows that both are extremely harmful to our health, shorten our lives, and both have been sold to us by industries claiming that they are not unhealthy.

We all know that smoking and tobacco are bad for us, and that a lot of scientific studies have shown how and why tobacco is harmful. However, not too recently, tobacco companies used many tactics to silence the science showing how deadly their products were in order to maintain profits. However, following the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), it became public knowledge that the companies were actually knowingly selling a harmful product. AND advertising it to children and teenagers.


Fast forward about 15 years to today, and it seems that we are seeing a similar situation, but this time with industries that have an interest in selling sugar. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a summary of how sugar interests are undermining science that clearly shows the harmfulness of sugar (Also see the report, Added Sugar, Subtracted Science (2014)).

A major factor that has kept us in the dark about sugar’s detrimental impacts is the role that industry has played in keeping it that way. Sugar interests—food and beverage manufacturers along with industry-supported organizations such as trade associations, front groups, and public relations firms—have actively sought to ensure Americans’ consumption of high levels of sugar continues.

The summary gives a list and explanation of how sugar interests are undermining the science.

1. Attacking the science

2. Spreading misinformation

3. Deploying industry scientists

4. Influencing academia

5. Undermining policy

Sounds really similar to the methods that tobacco companies used to undermine science, right?

This is all driven home by a new study showing that obesity has a huge impact on our life expectancy (published in PLOS Medicine). So much so, that obesity is as bad, or worse, for us than smoking (see below). And don’t forget, a huge part of the obesity epidemic involves high intake of sugar, and that sugar is a major contributor to diabetes.


Class III obesity is associated with substantially elevated rates of total mortality, with most of the excess deaths due to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and major reductions in life expectancy compared with normal weight.

We found that the reduction in life expectancy associated with class III obesity was similar to (and, for BMI values above 50 kg/m2, even greater than) that observed for current smoking.

Read the full summary by the Union of Concerned Scientists for more information on how we are slowly succeeding at beating out the sugar interests, just like we did for tobacco. Science will prevail!


Vaccines cause diabetes: Extreme confusion over ‘literature review’ #scarequotes

There has been a flurry of news articles and blog posts on the interwebs concerning a recently published ‘review’ that claims a link between vaccines and a number of health issues including diabetes. The mini-review, published in Molecular and Genetic Medicine (no longer part of NCBI PMC? see below… just sayin’) by J. Bart Classen, focuses on induced immune overload. This phenomenon is supposedly an immune response to vaccinations that is to blame for diabetes, metabolic disorders, autism… and the list goes on. Just for clarification, the theory of induced immune overload essentially ignores the potential immune response that would be caused by any of the many diseases we currently vaccinate against.


Interestingly, the articles and blog posts refer to the review as a new ‘paper’ or ‘study.’ Misleading much? This REVIEW just summarizes old studies and REVIEWS the literature (that’s what reviews do). Nothing new here. No new data. No new in-depth analysis. Just applying a few new papers to an old (tired) idea. There is not even a correlation analysis of the data from those new papers (not one figure or table). That makes the titles below quite erroneous indeed.

vaccinetitle vaccinetitle2

The articles and blogs, as you can tell from the titles, claim the REVIEW found a link between diseases and vaccination. And who can blame them when the review ends with, “The author believes that the sum of the data described and reviewed in this paper supports a casual relationship.” Really? a causal relationship? A REVIEW of data that doesn’t even show correlation, claims to have found a causal relationship? In my opinion, the author doesn’t know the difference between correlation, causation, or just a bunch of ideas strung together. Also, this REVIEW of the literature is a little biased: 10 of the 42 citations are the author’s previous work. Ouch. But, this is not new for J. Bart Classen:

This idea (induced immune overload) relies on the flawed work of one doctor (Classen), who gathered data on a slew of vaccines and failed to follow standard study protocols. No other study — including those using the same data — could reproduce the results. The CDC and the Institute of Medicine have both dismissed any possible link. This argument also ignores the obvious and well-established fact that diabetes rates in children are climbing because obesity rates are climbing. – Amy Wallace in wired article

What does the CDC say about diabetes and vaccines?

Can vaccines cause diabetes?

No. Carefully performed scientific studies show that vaccines do not cause diabetes or increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes. In 2002, the Institute of Medicine reviewed the existing studies and released a report concluding that the scientific evidence favors rejection of the theory that immunizations cause diabetes. The only evidence suggesting a relationship between vaccination and diabetes comes from Dr. John B. Classen, who has suggested that certain vaccines if given at birth may decrease the occurrence of diabetes, whereas if initial vaccination is performed after 2 months of age the occurrence of diabetes increases. Dr. Classen’s studies have a number of limitations and have not been verified by other researchers.

See below for links to a few of the many articles that show no link, correlation, or snippet of a relationship between vaccines and diabetes. Essentially, the people that wrote news articles or blogs about this publication confused a REVIEW article, with a real scientific study or something with new scientific evidence (a biased REVIEW at that). Not surprising given that J. Bart Classen is an anti-vaccination advocate (even wikipedia knows that). Smells a little like conflict of interest, doesn’t it?

Just to be clear, there is little to no data that supports a relationship between vaccines and diabetes, or any other diseases mentioned in the REVIEW by Classen, or by the blogs and articles that mis-cite the review. Is induced immune overload made-up? Who knows, but until there is good data supporting it, and its role in causing other diseases, all of this is just anti-vaccination propaganda.

Further reading and other studies:

Chemotherapy + childhood diabetes + gay dads = cool week for brain imaging studies

Three really interesting brain imaging studies were reported this week. I post news articles from each, and the NCBI link for those available, some are ahead of press, so I couldn’t post those, but looked through them.

1) A small study showed that women have significant decreases in brain activity during a multi-tasking task using fMRI following chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. This study may validate complaints of cognitive impairment after chemotherapy (


2) Children with new-onset diabetic ketoacidosis show morphological and functional changes that impact gray and white matter over a period of 6-months using MRI ( (


3) This in-depth study analyzed changes in the brains of parents that are involved in primary or secondary care of children using fMRI. In addition to imaging, subjects were also analyzed for parental behavior and hormonal levels. This study compared changes in the brain associated with caregiving of mothers that were primary-caregivers, fathers that were secondary-caregivers, and fathers that were primary-caregivers. To make things more interesting, the authors compared heterosexual mothers (primary) and heterosexual fathers (secondary), to homosexual fathers (primary). The study defined brain networks (mentalizing and emotional processing) involved in caregiving and found that gay fathers have brain changes similar to mothers in the emotional processing network and similar to fathers in the mentalizing network. Essentially gay fathers have co-activation of both networks… super dad. Personally, I would love to see comparisons with heterosexual fathers (primary), heterosexual mothers (secondary), and homosexual mothers (both primary and secondary), but I realize this is probably beyond the scope of a single paper (