Friday, May 27, 2011

Changing biomarkers may not reduce disease risk

A drug that successfully raises HDL and lowers triglycerides does not reduce heart disease risk. One scientist quoted in the NY Times said that this study indicates that changing biomarkers for disease is not the same thing as preventing the disease. While obvious to many people outside the biomedical world, it's lovely to hear someone from the biomedical complex say that.

Oddly, many folks quoted in the article said that regardless of the study, people should still take the drug or at least talk with their doctor about discontinuing it. Which is a lot like what came out of the National Preventive Services Task Force's report about mammograms for younger women: we want to learn from evidence, but not shake things up.

Throughout the article, different people kept saying that the study implies that raising HDL does not improve heart disease risk, but really they seemed to mean that raising HDL through drugs doesn't work, but as far as I know raising it through exercise and diet does improve heart disease risk.

Everyone already knows the answer: stop eating processed food, start cooking, and exercise. There are no easy answers, but I think that Men's Health magazine has better heart disease prevention than most medical journals. The sooner we get past the nutritional fads that elevate processed foods above unprocessed foods, and use drugs as a short-cut, the healthier we'll be. Isn't it crazy that during the 90s, people saw coconut and chicken with skin and whole milk as dangerous, and pasta and bread and low fat sweetened yogurt as healthy?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Commitment devices versus treatments

Andrew Gelman has an interesting point in a blog entry about religious commitment devices, such as a WWJD bracelet. He says that the bracelet is not a treatment, but rather it goes along with a set of behaviors and commitments, and it's a sign of that. This issue of commitment devices applies as well to my virginity pledge work: like the WWJD bracelent, the pledge may not be an intervention, but rather it could be a sign that someone has a certain identity, so the pledge itself isn't important.

Conversely, Gelman's argument could be critiqued on the grounds that there are folks who have the set of attitudes and behaviors, some of whom have the bracelet and others of them who don't, and conceivably, it would be possible to balance the two groups and get a treatment effect. Whether the treatment effect of wearing a WWJD bracelet could possibly be meaningful is a good question.

More thought needed.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Emerging Adulthood in the Onion

According to the Onion, emerging adulthood never ends, and the country is down to its last 100 adults. The article does raise a serious point. When politicians cite emerging adulthood as a sign of the decline of civilization, do they wonder at what kind of model modern politics sets for adolescents and young adults?

In other Onion news, the Planned Parenthood Abortionplex in Kansas is finally open, offering movies, pedicures, shops, and a million abortions a month. I wonder how many people will think that this article is serious.

** UPDATE ***
Some people do think the Onion article about the abortionplex was literal, such as this person who says REPENT AMERICA.