Yale and Harvard Study: Gun Violence Is Public Health Epidemic.

Article Image
Close contact to guns through family or acquaintances puts you naturally closer to gun violence.

A study published in JAMA claims gun violence spreads like an infectious disease. The research team – Yale Sociology professor Andrew Papachristos and Harvard students Ben Green and Thibault – looked at over 11,000 shootings in Chicago from 2006 – 2014. The researchers concluded that gun use spreads like a virus due to social affiliation with others, with Papachristos telling Gizmodo: “You don’t catch a bullet like you catch a cold, [but] the power of this analogy is really thinking about the precision with which it moves through a population.”

The total network studied includes over 138,000 individuals. The likelihood a gun is fired is partly dependent on the network you’re involved with. For this reason, Papachristos concludes gun violence should be treated “as a public health epidemic and not just a policing problem.”

Criticism over ‘stop and frisk’ policies in the New York City Police Department is well documented. Across the nation police officers have been captured on camera perpetuating unjust violence, which has resulted in numerous marches, online movements, protests, and counter-violence. Yet rates of gun violence are not going down. It’s more than a policing problem.

If trends continue—nothing hints they won’t—over 33,000 people will die and 200,000 will get injured this year in the United States, far exceeding any other nation. That the 33,000 number bundles together homicides and suicides doesn’t make it any less relevant or problematic. Still, diseases with less impact receive more funding, including HIV, Parkinson’s disease, malnutrition, and intestinal infections. In fact, the other two major causes of death receiving less funding are drowning and falling—pretty self-explanatory, even if conditions vary.

Gun violence is not so easily explained. Second Amendment pundits argue that it’s people, not bullets, causing problems; some conclude it should be treated as a mental health issue on a case-by-case basis. But that’s not how humans operate. No one lives in a vacuum. We’re constantly influenced by our environment and, more specifically, those we navigate our environment alongside.

Yet funding as to why this is and what can be done to stop it pale in comparison to other diseases. Based on deaths alone, gun violence should receive $1.4 billion for research over a decade. The amount it received during the nine years this study ran? Twenty-two million dollars.

David Stark, a medical director at Mount Sinai, parallels gun violence to motor vehicle accidents:

Those kill about the same number of people, but that has been decreasing substantially. … All of that really starts from essential public research that determines the proximate causes of accidents — and it’s only with research that you can start to develop plans and policies and initiatives.

With the incoming administration such policies seem impossible. Of all the lobbying groups, the NRA’s ‘rating guide’ of elected officials is one of the most insidious framing of arguments (that turn into policy). The rallying cry of ‘personal rights’ is easily confused by the true message, ‘sell more guns.’ In this capitalistic thrust forward a nation continues to be held captive by a preventable and treatable disease, if only the people in charge of seeking a cure would live up to the responsibility of doing so.

This is not to imply that a silver bullet would become immediately apparent with a few studies. But it would be a step in the right direction. Often people needing a doctor most visit least, choosing denial of their condition over their health. A small but powerful segment of the American population remains in denial about gun violence even though the doctor is right around the corner.


Yale Neuroscientists Can Now Determine Human Intelligence Through Brain Scans.

Article Image
The human connectome. By Andreashorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Do you feel like you were born to do something? There is just a certain skill like playing an instrument or sport, or a certain subject, like math, which you naturally excel in? It might have to do with the way your brain is wired. Different people have different aptitudes. The repositories for these lie in different parts of the brain and, as scientists are learning more and more, in the connectome or the connections between regions.

Today, neuroscientists can determine one’s intelligence through a brain scan, as sci-fi as that sounds. Not only that, it’s only a matter of time before they are able to tell each individual’s set of aptitudes and shortcomings, simply from scanning their brain. Researchers at Yale led the study. They interpreted intelligence in this case as abstract reasoning, also known as fluid intelligence. This is the ability to recognize patterns, solve problems, and identify relationships. Fluid intelligence is known to be a consistent predictor of academic performance. Yet, abstract reasoning is difficult to teach, and standardized tests often miss it.

Researchers in this study could accurately predict how a participant would do on a certain test by scanning their brain with an fMRI. 126 participants, all a part of the Human Connectome Project, were recruited. The Human Connectome Project is the mapping of all the connections inside the brain, to get a better understanding of how the wiring works and what it means for things like intellect, the emotions, and more. For this study, researchers at Yale put participants through a series of different tests to assess memory, intelligence, motor skills, and abstract thinking.

They were able to map the connectivity in 268 individual brain regions. Investigators could tell how strong the connections were, how active, and how activity was coordinated between regions. Each person’s connectome was as unique as their fingerprint, scientists found. They could identify one participant from another with 99% accuracy, from their brain scan. Yale researchers could also tell whether the person was engaged in the assessment they were taking or if they were aloof about it.

Emily Finn was a grad student and co-author of this study. She said, “The more certain regions are talking to one another, the better you’re able to process information quickly and make inferences.” Mostly, fluid intelligence had to do with the connections between the frontal and parietal lobes. The stronger and swifter the communication between these two regions, the better one’s score in the abstract thinking test. These are some of the latest regions to have evolved in the brain. They house the higher level functions, such as memory and language, which are essentially what make us human.

Axonal nerve fibers in the real brain, by jgmarcelino from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Yale researchers believe that by learning more about the human connectome, they might find novel treatments for psychiatric disorders. Things like schizophrenia vary widely from one patient to the next. By finding what’s unique to a particular patient, a psychiatrist can tailor treatment to suit their needs. Understanding one’s connectome could give insight into how the disease progresses, and if and how the patient might respond to certain therapies or medications. But there are other uses which we may or may not feel comfortable with.

For instance, your child could have their brain scanned to track them at school, according to study author Todd Constable. It might be used to say whether or not a candidate is qualified for a job or should pursue a certain career. Brain scans could tell who might be prone to addiction, or what sort of learning environment a student might flourish in. School curriculum could even be changed on a day-to-day basis to fit student’s needs. And the dreaded SAT might even be shelved too, in favor of a simple brain scan.

Peter Bandettini is the chief of functional imaging methods at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). He told PBS that barring ethical issues, brain scans could someday be used by employers to tell which potential candidate possesses desirable aptitudes or personality traits, be they diligent, hardworking, or what-have-you. Richard Haier, an intelligence researcher at UC Irvine, foresees prison officials using such scans on inmates to tell who might be prone to violence.

We may even someday learn how to augment human intelligence from studies such as this. It’s important to remember that intelligence research is still in its infancy. Yet, according to Yale scientists, we are moving in this direction.

Some fear a Minority Report-like misuse of said technology. Neuroethicist Laura Cabrera at Michigan State University enumerated for WIRED her concerns. What if insurance companies denied coverage based on such a scan, due to a tendency toward addiction or some other predisposition. Of course, just because someone has a higher risk of something, doesn’t mean they will develop it. Without proper guidelines in place and oversight, we could quickly see banks, schools, universities, and other institutions taking part in “neuro-discrimination.” Strong laws will have to be put in place to defend against misuse.

There are limits to what we now know about the human connectome that have yet to be overcome. For instance, we can only look at the connections as they are now. We don’t know how they form or develop over time. And fluid intelligence is merely one type out of several different kinds. We are still far from applying such technology in the real world. But the potential is there.

To learn more about the Human Connectome Project, click here:

Watch the video.URL:



Keanu Reeves Shook The World With Another POWERFUL Message.

Keanu Reeves has long been known to be a stellar actor, one who can play serious and hilarious roles. Something else he’s becoming known for is his wisdom. It’s not something you often find in celebrities.

 Every few months, he gives the world the gift of his thoughts. And now I’ll leave you with them. Enjoy. I hope you take from it what I did.











~ Keanu Reeves


Awakening the Third Eye – Be Careful What You Wish For

Have you ever heard the expression, ‘Be careful what you wish for’? For some people, the opening of the 3rd eye can show them things that they really didn’t want to see. For others, it’s a journey of enlightenment. If you are sure that this is something you want to do, then please read on.

According to wiki, the third eye (also known as the inner eye) is a mystical and esoteric concept referring to a speculative invisible eye which provides perception beyond ordinary sight. In certain dharmic spiritual traditions such as Hinduism, the third eye refers to the ajna, or brow, chakra. The third eye is referred to the gate that leads within to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness.

In New Age spirituality, the third eye often symbolizes a state of enlightenment or the evocation of mental images having deeply personal spiritual or psychological significance. The third eye is often associated with religious visions, clairvoyance, the ability to observe chakras and auras, precognition, and out-of-body experiences. People who are claimed to have the capacity to utilize their third eyes are sometimes known as seers.

On the Above Top Secret website, a person by the name of “pellian” stated the following:

I found a very real technique that will increase your spiritual perception by a thousand fold. I won’t tell anybody what it is or where I learned it because Some may attract very evil entities and possibly destroy themselves over it.

The very first night I tried this I had a very different type of dream which I had not had before. The content doesn’t mean anything but I digress.

The day after I notice that sometimes my awareness would shift and my vision seems different for a moment. I thought that this is really cool. I do the exercises again soon after. same thing at night. I see colors and shapes that follow my vision. These were there if I closed my eye in complete darkness or opened them in the very dim light of my room. These seemed to be objects of some sort that gave off a dim glow and had a woven pattern.

As I practiced it sounds really crazy but I think that these exercises created some sort of energy that attract astral forms. One night, I woke up and saw this thick rope strung from my window sill to the door. At the moment I knew what it was. I made the mistake of touching this animal or thing and felt a jolt like electricity. I was definitely awake I immediately felt very sick and had chills all over my body.

I continued the exercises two weeks later.  I was really close to sleep and a blue ring of light that fluttered like a butterfly came into my room. I turned on the light and the ring persisted of about a second after and I again felt a sting I my side and the same chills. I assure that I am not dreaming and fully awake.

Watch the video. URL:


Atomic Spins Evade Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

New measurements revise the limits of quantum fuzziness.

Many seemingly unrelated scientific techniques, from NMR spectroscopy to medical MRI and timekeeping using atomic clocks, rely on measuring atomic spin – the way an atom’s nucleus and electrons rotate around each other. The limit on how accurate these measurements can be is set by the inherent fuzziness of quantum mechanics. However, physicists in Spain have demonstrated that this limit is much less severe than previously believed, measuring two crucial quantities simultaneously with unprecedented precision.

Central to the limits of quantum mechanics is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which states that it is not possible to know a particle’s position and momentum with absolute accuracy, and the more precisely you measure one quantity, the less you know about the other. This is because to measure its position you have to disturb its momentum by hitting it with another particle and observing how the momentum of this second particle changes. A similar principle applies to measuring a particle’s spin angular momentum, which involves observing how the polarisation of incident light is changed by the interaction with the particle – every measurement disturbs the atom’s spin slightly. To infer the spin precession rate, you need to measure the spin angle, as well as its overall amplitude, repeatedly. However, every measurement disturbs the spin slightly, creating a minimum possible uncertainty.

The alternative approach suggested by Morgan Mitchell’s group at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, could circumvent this problem. The spin angle, they say, is in fact two angles: the azimuthal angle (like longitude on the Earth’s surface) and the polar angle (like latitude). To measure the precession rate, you need only the azimuthal angle. Therefore, by loading as much uncertainty as possible into the polar angle, you can measure the two quantities you need – the azimuthal angle and amplitude of the spin – and therefore measure the spin precession rate much more accurately than previously thought possible. ‘There are experiments that people are doing now that people expect to be limited by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle which in fact are not,’ says Mitchell.

Actually achieving this in practice, however, proved extremely difficult. The team cooled down a cloud of atoms to a few microkelvin, applied a magnetic field to produce spin motion and illuminated the cloud with a laser to measure the orientation of the atomic spins. ‘Not all the technologies we used for the experiment existed when we started,’ says Giorgio Colangelo, another member of the research team. ‘We had to design and develop a particular detector that was fast enough and with very low noise. We also had to improve a lot the way we were preparing the atoms and find a way to efficiently use all the dynamic range we had in the detector.’ The researchers hope that atomic timekeeping and nitrogen-vacancy magnetometry, which uses the precession of nitrogen defects in diamonds to measure magnetic fields, may benefit from the techniques unveiled here in the next few years. ‘We really hope that, in the long term, magnetic resonance techniques such as NMR and MRI may benefit, but right now they are limited by some other effects,’ says Colangelo.

Eugene Polzik of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark is impressed: ‘It sets a new and clever way of measuring certain magnetic field disturbances using an ensemble of quantum spins,’ he says. ‘It would be easy for me to look at this and say “Oh, yes, right: it doesn’t contradict quantum mechanics,” but to figure out how to achieve this, to understand how relevant it is and under what circumstances it is relevant – this is an excellent and elegant development.’


G Colangelo et al, Nature, 2017, DOI: 10.1038/nature21434


Scientists think they’ve pinpointed the group of brain cells that respond to meditation.

A physical link between deep breathing and a calm mind.

 For centuries, people have slowed their breathing to calm their minds. For some of us, this takes the form of meditation or yoga; for others, it’s 10 deep breaths before a panic attack sets in.

Regardless of what you call it, scientific evidence has backed up the fact that our breath can induce a feeling of tranquillity – although no one has ever been able to figure out exactly how that happens. Now, researchers think they might have finally found the answer, pinpointing a small group of neurons in the brain stems of mice that connect the breath with feelings of calm.

 To be clear, the research so far is limited to mice – scientists are yet to replicate the results in humans.

But the mouse brain has many similarities to the human brain, so it’s a good starting point that could begin to explain on a physical level how practices such as meditation and pranayama yoga can bring on feelings of calm and euphoria.

“This study is intriguing because it provides a cellular and molecular understanding of how that might work,” said lead researcher Mark Krasnow from Stanford University School of Medicine.

The group of cells in question belongs to the pre-Bötzinger complex, an area of neurons deep within the brain stem that are known to fire each time we breathe in or out – like a breathing pacemaker.

This structure was first discovered in mice back in 1991, but a similar structure has also been found in humans.

“The respiratory pacemaker has, in some respects, a tougher job than its counterpart in the heart,” said Krasnow.

 “Unlike the heart’s one-dimensional, slow-to-fast continuum, there are many distinct types of breaths: regular, excited, sighing, yawning, gasping, sleeping, laughing, sobbing.”

“We wondered if different subtypes of neurons within the respiratory control centre might be in charge of generating these different types of breath,” he added.

Last year, Krasnow and his team found evidence that a small group of neurons within this pre-Bötzinger complex were solely responsible for generating sighs – without them, mice never sighed, and when they were simulated, the animals couldn’t stop sighing.

In this latest paper, they found a separate group of neurons in the complex that have a more zen function – they appear to regulate states of calm and arousal in response to our breath.

To figure this out, the team identified two genetic markers called Cdh9 and Dbx1 that they noted were active in the pre-Bötzinger complex and appeared to be linked to breathing.

They then genetically engineered mice without any of the neurons that expressed these two genes – taking out a subpopulation of about 175 neurons in the brain stem.

Interestingly, the mice without these neurons still breathed normally, but with key one difference – they breathed more slowly than normal mice.

“I was initially disappointed,” said Kevin Yackle, one of the research team, now at the University of California, San Francisco.

But after a few days, the team noticed something else strange going on – the mice without the Cdh9 and Dbx1 neurons were extraordinarily calm compared to their control group peers. They still showed varieties of breathing, but they were all at a much slower pace.

“If you put them in a novel environment, which normally stimulates lots of sniffing and exploration,” said Yackle, “they would just sit around grooming themselves.” For mice, that’s taken as evidence of a zen state of mind.

“We were totally surprised,” Yackle told Diana Kwon over at Scientific American. “It certainly wasn’t something we expected to find.”

Upon further investigation, the team found evidence that the neurons were forming connections with the locus coeruleus – a region of the brain stem that’s involved in modulating arousal and emotion, and is responsible for waking us up at night and triggering anxiety and distress.

The team concluded that rather than regulating breathing, this little group of neurons was responding to it and reporting their findings to the locus coeruleus so that it could regulate our mood in response.

“If something’s impairing or accelerating your breathing, you need to know right away,” said Krasnow. “These 175 neurons, which tell the rest of the brain what’s going on, are absolutely critical.”

You can see below the pathway (green) that directly connects the brain’s breathing centre to the arousal centre and the rest of the brain.

image 0.img.full.high

The work is definitely a promising step forward, but we need to keep in mind that there’s still a lot we have to learn about how the pre-Bötzinger complex works, particular in humans.

Still, the new paper raises the possibility that “any form of practice – from yoga, pranayama to meditation – that is actively manipulating respiration might be using this pathway to regulate some aspects of arousal,” neurobiologist Antoine Lutz from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, who wasn’t involved in the research, told Scientific American.

While other teams will now need to pursue this research further in mice and eventually humans, Krasnow and his team are now continuing to get a better understanding of what other secrets could be hiding in the pre-Bötzinger complex.

“The pre-Bötzinger complex now appears to play a key role in the effects of breathing on arousal and emotion, such as seen during meditation,” said Feldman.

“We’re hopeful that understanding this centre’s function will lead to therapies for stress, depression and other negative emotions.”


The Big Fat Lie You’ve Been Told About What’s Hurting Your Heart

Despite multiple studies showing that carbohydrates hurt your heart, and not saturated fats, misguided advisories and Big Pharma profiteering both persist.

There is no need to stay away from meat, butter, cheese and eggs to keep your heart healthy. Credit: RitaE/pixabay

There is no need to stay away from meat, butter, cheese and eggs to keep your heart healthy.

I’ve been taught since my undergraduate days in medical college that eating saturated fats was to ask for trouble. Meat (red or white), cheese, butter and egg yolk were prohibited. Repeated guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology and even the World Health Organisation were clear that fats in general, and saturated fats in particular, were to be strictly avoided to prevent a heart attack. The message was to reduce fats to less than 30% of the total calories consumed in a day, and with saturated fats to be kept well below 10%. Why, most people on the planet followed these dietary commandments from the two most powerful and respected cardiology associations.

The AHA declared in 1961 that saturated fats were bad because they increased blood cholesterol, which blocked coronary arteries and caused heart attacks. Surprisingly, the AHA was driven this conclusion by the hypothesis of one physiologist who didn’t bother to submit a shred of evidence. Ancel Benjamin Keys, a physiologist with a PhD from Cambridge University, stamped his ‘diet heart’ hypothesis into the consciousness of Paul Dudley White, a founder-member of the AHA. White was attending to Dwight Eisenhower, then the US president, who suffered his first heart attack in September 1955. Many middle aged Americans were succumbing to heart attacks in the 1950s and the situation demanded convincing answers from the health community. Eisenhower had helmed NATO and, before that, had been the supreme commander of the Allied forces that wrenched Europe back Europe from the Nazis.

Eisenhower managed the brilliant generals George Patton and Bernard Montgomery, and famously warned the American public in his farewell address of the “military-industrial complex”. But as president, he had no clue of the new and rapidly developing “health-pharmaceutical-industrial complex.”

Keys was able to launch his ‘diet heart’ hypothesis because there was little science available in the 1950s that could explain the near-epidemic heart attack among middle-aged Americans. He presented his “seven countries study” that displayed a clear association between eating greater amounts of saturated fats and deaths due to heart disease. The seven countries were the US, Japan, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Italy, Greece and Finland. The method behind the study was seriously flawed, however.

The biggest was that Keys had cherry-picked these countries because they supported his hypothesis. He left out 15 countries that did not reveal any association between saturated-fat consumption and heart mortality. He conveniently ignored Denmark, Sweden and Norway, each of which had relatively few deaths from heart attacks in spite of sporting diets with lots of saturated fats. And Chile, on the other hand, had a high cardiac mortality despite eating little saturated fats. An unbiased investigator would have realised these problems in Keys’ hypothesis – as they do now – but didn’t: they hadn’t been presented with the complete data.

Keys also checked food samples for fats in less than 4% of the 12,000 participants he studied, and when the food was studied it was checked for a single day among the American and for less than a week among the European participants. Keys had been impressed by the large number of long-lived people on the Greek island of Crete, but had tested them when they’d been fasting for more than a month during a religious festival. In this period, more than 60% of the population abstained from meat, butter and cheese. This led Keys to the wrong conclusion that a low-fat diet was the key to longevity.

The AHA was so impressed by the ‘diet heart’ hypothesis that it made an official policy of it, and voila! By 1977, more than 220 million Americans were being urged by the US government to adhere to a low-fat diet. The British, true to form, officially imposed the same diet guidelines by 1984 on their subjects.

Remarkably, the AHA ignored no fewer than six randomised studies – including almost 2,500 heart patients – that showed no difference in mortality between the intervention group (low saturated-fat diet) and the control group (which continued with its regular eating habits). Both the intervention and control cohorts had 370 deaths each. Moreover, no women were being studied, and in the absence of a single primary prevention trial, the AHA and the US government had formulated their advisories.

The food industry also got in on the action. Vegetable oils started being manufactured in the millions of tons. Leading them all was Procter and Gamble, which began to aggressively market cottonseed oil – as well as make a sizeable donation to the AHA, an amount worth $20 million today. The corresponding “diet-food-health-industrial complex” has not looked back in the 60 years since.

The largest randomised trial assessing the effects of a low-fat diet on heart and cardiovascular diseases was the Women’s Health Initiative. It followed up 49,000 postmenopausal women who had been on a low-fat diet (alongside an increased intake of fruits, vegetables and grains) for eight years but had failed to lower their risks of death, heart attack, stroke or diabetes.

Two large reviews and meta-analyses (this and this) involving more than 600,000 participants have also failed to show any reduction in cardiovascular events, or death, by replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils. There was an increase in cardiovascular events due to trans-fats.

The Minnesota, DIRECT, Framingham and PURE studies

In 1967-1973, doctors intervened in the diets of a group of people randomly picked from a cohort of 9,000 for the famous Minnesota Coronary Experiment. The intervened group had saturated fats replaced by a polyunsaturated vegetable oil. The control group continued with their regular American diet. These people were from enrolled from mental institutions and from homes for the elderly. More than 2,500 participants continued on their respective diets for at least a year, and autopsy reports were available for about 140 deaths. This trial’s results were never published until a group of investigators got its hands on all the raw data.

They were dumbstruck to learn that the autopsies revealed 42% of the people in the intervention group had suffered a heart attack against only 22% in the control group. Both groups had similar amounts of atherosclerosis in their coronary arteries.

The other major finding was that, in spite of a 13% reduction in blood cholesterol with a vegetable-oil diet, there was a paradoxical 30% higher mortality in people older than 65 years. To explain this, the investigators hypothesised that the lowered cholesterol had the denser LDL particles that are oxidised more easily and so invade the coronary faster. As it happened, the principal investigator of the Minnesota Coronary Experiment was none other than Ancel Keys.

The other distinct possibility (to explain the mortality paradox) is that polyunsaturated vegetable oils produce hundreds of oxidised molecules that are toxic to the human body. For example, the aldehydes are carcinogenic apart from being able to compromise cognition. Another randomised trial assessing the replacement of saturated fats by corn oil also showed an increased mortality against the control group.

More recently, the DIRECT trial finished up in Israel in 2008. It divided participants into three groups. The first was kept on a low-fat diet; the second, a Mediterranean diet; and the third, a low-carbohydrate high-fat diet. At the end of follow-up period, the low carbohydrate high fat group was found to have lost the most weight, have the highest levels of HDL (a.k.a., ‘good cholesterol’) and have triglyceride levels lower than the high-fat group. In fact, the low-carbohydrate high-fat group also had better metabolic markers across the board.

The Framingham study, which began in 1948 and still continues, has been following the consumption of dietary fats and the development of heart disease among its 5000+ inhabitants, chosen from Framingham, Massachusetts. At the end of the first follow-up, the investigators were unable to find any correlation between fat-intake, cholesterol and heart disease.

But like with the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, the data was never deliberately published. In William Kannel, who served as the study’s the chief investigator in 1969-1979, at one point even stated: “That blood cholesterol is somehow intimately related to coronary atherosclerosis is no longer subject to reasonable doubt.” After a 30-year follow-up, the study reported that 1 mg% per year reduction in cholesterol was associated with 14% increased cardiovascular mortality and 11% total mortality.

Finally: the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) survey examined cardiovascular risk factors around the world in 2003-2009, with more than 150,000 participants. Though the results are yet to be published, a recently leaked (and now unavailable) video stated that there seemed to be no correlation between saturated fats (red meat, white meat, dairy products) and heart disease but a positive correlation between carbohydrates and heart disease. Moreover, a very sensitive cardiac-risk-factor marker was found to have increased with carbohydrates and reduced by saturated fats. Vegetables and fruits had no effect on the marker.

Though the PURE trial was very large, it was an observational that, strictly speaking, can’t explain causality.

So, based on the evidence obtained from well-conducted clinical trials, Keys’s ‘diet heart’ hypothesis is wrong. However, it remains to be seen when the big cardiac bureaucracies will begin to edit their guidelines. The ‘big cholesterol is bad’ maxim remains firmly in place because its persistence allows drugmakers to persist with large profit margins on drugs that may not even be necessary. Precisely this was confirmed by the FOURIER trial presented in the American College of Cardiology Meeting held in March 2017.

FOURIER was a ‘mega-trial’ that randomised 28,000 cardiac patients to a statin-plus-evelocumab versus a only-statins for two years. The annual cost of an evelocumab regime is $14,000 (Rs 9 lakh). In the end, LDL cholesterol levels had plunged to about 30 mg% in the evelocumab group versus about 90 mg in the only-statins group. There was also a 1.5% absolute reduction in stroke and myocardial infarction risks but – get this – no reduction in mortality. Implication: 75 patients will need to be treated for two years to prevent a single heart attack or stroke, at a total cost of Rs 13.5 crore. You’re likely to get a better deal without spending a penny by following the Copenhagen study: 10 minutes of slow-jogging per day reduced mortality by 70% compared to being sedentary the whole day.

It’s difficult to not feel dizzy when confronted by organisations like the AHA and the WHO, which have converted hypotheses into dogma etched on stone without any evidence in the past. But what then would be good and sane dietary advice to a layperson? There has to be an application of common-sense, a request to continue to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. At the same time, there is no need to stay away from meat, butter, cheese and eggs. There is no evidence that eating saturated fats along with reasonable amounts of proteins, with about 45% of calories as carbohydrates will, trigger a heart attack. Au contraire: evidence has emerged that increasing carbohydrates to 55% or more can actually be harmful to the heart. Even the current obesity epidemic and type-2 diabetes are most likely the handiwork of an increased carbohydrate intake that has replaced fats in people’s diets.


%d bloggers like this: