Monthly Archives: July 2014

Harry’s Last Stand

Harry Smith was 91 when he published this book. Born in 1923 he lived in poverty in the Yorkshire towns of Barnsley and Bradford. He experienced an older sister dying of tuberculosis and his father dying of destitution after a mining accident left him unable to get another job. He joined the RAF during WWII and experienced the security of a job, the camaraderie of working us others to achieve something important whilst seeing the horror of warfare. He  notes how he hated all Germans when he arrived in Holland and saw the starving children who reminded him of his own childhood destitution, but turned from that hatred when he arrived in Germany and again saw  starving children. At a time when it was forbidden to fraternize with the enemy he had a secret relationship with a German woman he met amid the destruction of Hamburg whom he later married when that became legal again in 1946. All the details of his early life give us insight into what a country is like without ‘society’. He witnessed the transformation brought about by the welfare state created by the Labour government post 1945 with the National Health Service and workers’ rights and unemployment support.

Harry emphasizes that people today cannot know what it is like without this real big-society state-organized mutual support. He despairs that the current government is in the process of taking this down. He makes a plea that, like him, people argue for keeping it and vote for keeping it. This is not against change, but for change to help the majority.

I found the book inspiring.


Cholesterol disinformation

I read this report Statins could help reduce women’s risk of breast cancer.

I don’t in anyway criticize doing the study; this is what big data sets are good at, they give hints about what to investigate. But the spin on it is disgraceful, although those doing the study say that there is a lot more specific work to do before asserting that high cholesterol leads to increased breast cancer. However, I worry that the companies manufacturing statins will be on to this and will say that although the assertion is not certain yet why take the risk when you can take the safe statins.

I thought that I would like to give a short explanation of what the cholesterol test means. Can I write something in less than 500 words without confusing jargon to clarify how I interpret this research? I find the disinformation on cholesterol outrageous. The outline is not too difficult for people to grasp but I think that this obscuring of fact has been allowed to persist because it gets people onto statins. It was the same with tobacco.

Statins inhibit a precursor of cholesterol as well as of various steroids like sex & stress hormones. Cholesterol sulphate is converted to Vitamin D3 in the skin by sunlight, which is another thing most people in the UK are deficient in. An irony here is that vitamin D is believed to be important in preventing breast cancer; look up Dr Cedric Garland who has done many studies of vitamin D deficiency and disease. Vitamin D deficiency also correlates with development of diabetes; look up Dr Frank Garland (deceased brother of Cedric) on this. There is a good story about the serendipitous nature of scientific insight related to a lecture on the geographical distribution of cancer rates that the brothers attended in 1974. I have been following their work for some years.

In the study I assume that the standard cholesterol blood test was used. This measures total cholesterol in a sample and the bit in the so called HDL. Then the HDL bit is subtracted from the total to give so called LDL cholesterol. The reason for doing this is that it is easy (low cost) to separate the HDL for measurement. LDL is often labelled “bad-cholesterol” quite wrongly. It cannot be bad in itself because it transports fats and cholesterol to where they are needed and we need a lot of fat and cholesterol to be healthy and function. What are these HDL & LDL? They are lipoproteins (High Density & Low Density) that themselves contain cholesterol as a component (which is why they are measured). They are wrappers for fats because fats are not soluble in water and therefore not in blood either. The outside of these lipoproteins attracts water and so dissolve in blood and can be transported with contents via the blood stream to where it is needed; this is like canals were used for the transport of goods; the lipoprotein is the barge. LDL transports its cargo to cells that need the cargo, HDL picks up cargo not used or doscarded and returns it for disposal or reprocessing. The size of the lipoprotein particle depends on the contents. Saturated fats end up in large size lipoproteins. Where is the killer? – it’s sugar – the fructose in sugar is converted by the liver into a kind of fat that ends up in small size lipoproteins. These small LDL, often labelled vLDL are the potential bad ones. So the standard cholesterol test does not distinguish the vLDL from the big LDL. If high cholesterol is correlated as in the report, I suggest that it is eating too much sugar that is the real problem. Sugar is also a great food for cancer cells. People who eat comfort foods with lots of sugar are likely to be stressed, which in itself lowers immune response and may lead to cancers growing that would otherwise have been destroyed.

In all studies of this kind I ask: was there a proper measure of LDL factions, and what other things are people eating (a very difficult thing to know with useful exactness)?

The only unfamiliar jargon word may be lipoprotein. Just as barges are made of steel and wood an brass etc, lipoproteins are made mostly of proteins and fats (lipids) and cholesterol which is a steroid.