Archive for December, 2013

Death Cup 4: Was coffee study faked and misleading?

Posted on December 30, 2013. Filed under: Health Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

ABOUT 76% WAS FABRICATED by my calculation, based on the article’s wording.

Now that I have your attention, let’s get the preliminaries out of the way.  Source refresher:  an online article on August 15, 2013, by Jenny Hope, put up at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health, on a blog called MailOnLine.

Tossing a few stinky red herrings around, Dr. Snow-Job (a.k.a., Dr. Lavie of the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans) said:

  • “There continues to be considerable debate about the health effects of caffeine, and coffee specifically, with some reports suggesting toxicity* and some even suggesting** beneficial effects.”
  • Boy, if I read about results like I found*, I would avoid the problem even without definitive evidence.  (It is too aggravating for me to re-read that story, so I sorta just paraphrased that last comment.)

Dr. Snow-Job, knowing his claim differs from the vast majority of earlier studies, emphasized some studies alleging coffee toxicity* while trivializing the many studies claiming its benefits.  Grasping for further validity, he off-handedly alludes to a “genetic coffee addition” that may make some people vulnerable to his alleged harmful effects…

  • So, Dr. Snow…   any ideas about what this gene was doing for about 100,000 years while hanging around our double helices waiting for Folgers, Maxwell House, Maryland Club, Community, and Starbucks to show up so it could take a coffee break?
  • …I mean, other than just being available to prop up your so-called study?

And yet, through all of these “suggestive” studies, this multi-billion dollar a year industry continues to supply hundreds of millions of customers who HAVE NOT been dropping like flies.

Dr. Euan Paul, Executive Director of the British Coffee Association, at the other end of the chain Dr. Snow-Job rattled, rebutted the “study” with:

  • “…the study’s limitations may have skewed the findings.
  • “Previous studies have found either NO LINK between coffee consumption and heart deaths, or a POSITIVE EFFECT ,” he added.
  • “Other factors such as smoking and poor fitness could partly explain the link with premature death.
  • “There is a growing body of data which suggests that coffee is perfectly safe when consumed in moderation — four to five cups a day — and as part of a balanced diet.”

Now, there is something I DON’T understand.  Controversy is the life blood of the “responsible news reporting” industry (a.k.a., The Big P).  That stuff really drives media sales.  According to

  • …Dr. Lavie, 4 to 5 cups a day is excessive consumption.
  • …Dr. Paul, 4 to 5 cups a day is moderate consumption.
  • …Dean (that be me), 4 to 5 cups is time to start my 2nd pot of coffee…   this morning.

So, hey, all you PAU grads, where is the 2-week ongoing coverage to define (according to the media) excessive vs. moderate consumption?  I am sure you experts in yellow journalism could whip up something between your morning and afternoon coffee breaks.  Dr. Lavie won’t mind if you throw his name around a little.  After all, it’s just more publicity.

Dr. Lavie actually took time to run up a list of statistics based on his…   uh…   study.  I found that odd, since I always thought you had to have real numbers from which to create viable statistics.

  • Snow-Job’s stated age parameter for the study is 20-87 years, which implies a study span of 67 years.
  • Dr. Snow’s stated study length is 16 years.
  • The difference between the “real years” (16) and the “implied years” (67) is 51 years.  Thus, 76% of the claimed study range had to be recounted from the participants’ memories.   That is a polite way of saying that the claimed input data would have to be faked.
  • Don’t get me started on the total lack of breakdown on that 43-thousand plus participant figure…   and, when they quit participating because of death or lack of interest.

Cynicism — my general outlook on existence — is held in low esteem by many of my fellow Homo sapiens.  I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE IT:

  • Is the 20-87 age range the starting ages of the subjects or their ages at the end of the study?  If starting ages, the 87-year-olds finished at 103 years of age, and the 20-year-olds at age 36; if it is their ending ages, then the 20-year-olds began the study at age 4.  AM I BEING OVERLY CRITICAL?
  • The 20-year-old starters quit documenting at age 36, years before entering the dreaded death zone of 40-55 years of age (US Mortality Table, year 2011).  That means there is no recorded data on how their coffee-swilling may have influenced their longevity.
  • The over 55-year-old starters…   what can I say?  They started the study already free and clear of the Lavie Death Zone.  That entire group (How many?  What percent of the total?) left no recorded study data for their pre death-zone drinking habits.  In any case, they had all thumbed their noses at the “premature coffee death” hypothesis before they picked up that first pencil

So, Lavie, when you say you applied the results of the study to the under 55 age group to get an inordinate indication of premature deaths…   EXACTLY TO WHICH RESULTS WERE YOU REFERRING?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Doctor Euan Paul, Executive Director of the British Coffee Association, who has agreed to give you an encore reading of his objections to Lavie’s publicity stunt.  Doctor Paul, go ahead.

  • The study’s limitations may have skewed the results.”

Thank you, Sir, for stating the more than obvious in such concise terms.

Comparing the “study” to the US Mortality Table for year 2011 shows an interesting result: 

  • Lavie states 2,500 deaths during the 16 years of the study, with just under 1/3 of these from heart issues.  Annual average of these figures:  156 deaths, 46 from coronary causes.  Annual percentage of Lavie’s coronary related deaths:  29%
  • Death zone figures from the US Mortality Table for 2011 gives 1,852,355 deaths, with 597,689 of those coronary related.  Annual percentage of US coronary related deaths32%

Is it just me, or do the annual percentages show that Dr. Lavie of the Ochsner Medical Center, has just demonstrated —

  • the LONGEVITY BENEFITS of consuming 4 OR MORE cups of coffee per day?  

Since NO ONE on the planet Earth knows a given individual’s projected life span until that person dies, what god-like power gives Lavie or any other researcher the temerity to decree what is “premature” death?

___________

*Yeah, that would be Lavie’s own report.

**He is appalled that other studies differ from his own’

***The Chicken Little ploy.  Tacit admission of bull shit?

______________________________________

Series references:  premature death, 4 cups a day, coffee, Dr. Carl Lavie, Dr. Euan Paul, faked study, cynicism, statistical death zone, researcher, coffee addiction gene, caffeine, health effects, longevity benefits

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Death Cup 3: 5 Things THEY Don’t Want…

Posted on December 7, 2013. Filed under: Health Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

…YOU to know about “shocking” results of “new health studies.” (One thing I don’t want you to know: this is the longest article I’ve posted to date.)

I really hate article titles like thatthe mysterious “they” holding back on something vital to our survival.  I have covered this before in journalistic veracityThe Big P is looking to sell advertising,* whether it is printed, broadcast, or internetted.**  To that end, salacious, frightening, or sympathy-inducing tabloid-type headlines (yellow journalism), passing as legitimate news, are the means employed.  So, I guess I’m just parodying the Yellow J with Yellow S (sarcasm}.

Rejoining Dr. Snow-Job (Carl Lavie) and his heart-clutching “premature death” announcement, we gonna analyze his load of bull sh…   uh…   bull shize manure.  Remember, TYSK means Thing(s)YouShouldKnow.

TYSK 1.  WHAT ARE THE STAKES FOR THE PUBLICIZING RESEARCHER ?

  • Justification of that 16-year long 9-5 salary?
  • Gain publicity to enhance a GRANT MONEY APPLICATION…   you know, razzle-dazzle those grant signers into giving up the loot so that “research” on the current inanity can continue?  You don’t think he is paying for the “study” out of his own pocket, do you?  The man gotta show positive results, or the money train grinds to a halt.  Ditto his employment.
  • Gain publicity that will enhance his (and his organization’s) REPUTATION, which could get him a raise or a better paying post later?

Down here in the coffee-swilling-with-a-Red Bull-chaser segment of society, we just cut through the b.s. and call it what it is:  resume building, a big feature of which involves fluffing up your creds.

TYSK 2.  WHAT WERE THE ORIGINAL PARAMETERS OF THE EXERCISE…   study…   I meant of the STUDY?

  • I mean, c’mon, who embarks on a 16-year, grant-money-approved-tedium of enrolling 43,727 humans from a (presumed) wide spectrum of society to fill out forms weekly recounting from memory*** their coffee consumption (x 52 weeks = 2,273,804 collected forms/year x 16 years = 36,380,864 collected forms for the study)…
  • …WITHOUT HAVING SOME SORT OF PRE-CONCEIVED AGENDA IN MIND?
  • Can the original (and somewhat casual?) study protocols be adhered to over so many years through so many employees with any reliable degree of accuracy?
  • Oooo…   one more step:  let’s say 10 questions on the form; that would be 363,808,640 questions to be entered for the entire study.  Unless the forms were set up for automatic scanning input, that’s an awful lot of carpal tunnel syndrome…
  • …giving us yet another basis for a new grant-money-subsidized “health” study on the downside to such massive keyboard pecking:  carpal tunnel syndrome…   leg and back problems from sitting for so long…   eyestrain from flickering monitors…   marriage problems from the above-stated work-related stress…   which, in this case, could be attributed to coffee-induced stress by proxy.  (If litigators get wind of this, Dr. Snow-Job^ better have some big bank accounts.)
  • For this study, what participant status was designated to constitute DNFIR (Dead:  No Further Input Received)?  If a participant after, say, 8 years, decided to stop this nonsense and quit sending in the weekly questionnaire, was he listed as MIA, thus prompting a visit from a response team to locate and re-indoctrinate him?  Or, did an unimaginative clerk simply list him as KIA and stick him in the “dead” column as a victim of 4CAD/EDS, thus skewing the claimed results?  (If you have been paying attention, you know this is:  4Cups A Day/Early Death Syndrome.)
  • Was the program originally scheduled for 16 years, or did it just take 16 years to figure out how to string all those non-related data bits into a pearl-like necklace that would dazzle the media and, hopefully, the eventual check-signer of the new grant application (who, incidentally, will be harder to dazzle than the slutty Big P)?

TYSK 3.  IT IS THE NEGATIVE, UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS THAT HIT THE BIG HEADLINE

  • cause they are scary and attention-getting.  Lots of people drink coffee; lots of people are uneasy about death.
  • Just note how many “it is believed that (something negative)…,”   “maybe (something negative)…,”   “there are indications that (something negative)…,”   “It could be that (something negative)…,” etc.  etc. are thrown at you.   Can you spell u-n-s-u-b-s-t-a-n-t-i-a-t-e-d?
  • Just note the big-titled sources and mind-numbing statistics listed to give the article the feel of veracity in lieu of verifiable facts.
  • HOW FORTUITOUS for me:  a new release in this study of uncertainties provides an example of expert fear-mongering-for-publicity-space to enhance the status of (…please understand my loathing to use this word) “experts.”  Seems some group has determined that burned breakfast foods have been found to contain a (possibly) harmful substance; the FDA chimed in with a “maybe” warning.  They specified breakfast, so, I guess if you eat the burned toast at lunch you gonna be in the clear.

TYSK 4.  STUDIES ON A GIVEN SUBJECT ARE INTERMITTENT AND CYCLIC:  good, bad, good, bad, good…   you get the picture.

TYSK 5.  THE TIMING OF THE RELEASES AND WHY THEY ARE ALMOST ALWAYS COUNTER TO CURRENT PUBLIC THINKING

  • “Timing” is easy.  “We are running out of money for all the salaries being paid and need to show fruits of research in order to keep the grant bank open.  We want to keep this sweet gig going as long as possible.”
  • Why counter to public thinking?  In a few words, TO GET ATTENTION.  If you have a yellow announcement posted with a lot of other same shade yellow announcements (same old same old), your bid for the fabled 15-minutes of fame does not stand out and your opinion…   uh…   your biased assertions…   uh, hold on now, I think I’ve got it…   your “scientific conclusions” will go unappreciated.
  • Turf-marking amongst the elite “experts.”  Check with author Diana Gainer^^ (New Title 2:  The Human Journey, available at Amazon.com) who noted that, if you dig up old bones that have been previously named, no one remembers you.   If you can claim those bones are a new type, you get to name them and people remember you.  Authoritarians are no different from gangs or wild animal packs guarding their claimed territories assiduously.  Basically, that means…
  • THE RANKER YOUR MARKING MEDIUM (as attested to by Fido the dog and Tom the cat), THE MORE NOTICIBLE YOUR PERSONA.  Others get a whiff of you, and their ears perk up.

I guess I am old-fashioned; if you tell me with authority that PROBLEM “X” is going to kill me, I am expecting more in the way of reasons than “IT IS SUSPECTED THAT…,”   “MAYBE…,”   “THERE ARE INDICATIONS THAT…,”   and ‘IT COULD BE THAT…”   To me, those are all just variations of…

  • “Blow this up your butt and feel the burn — and, by the way, my name is DR. G. WHIZZ, with 2 z’s…   That’s right, TWO Z’s.  And, YES, I AM A DOCTOR!”

That was just a personal aside so that you feel I am close enough to share my dark side; in the interest of “truth in opinionating,” here is TYSK 6, which is my personal itch aggravated by the unholy union of gossip-journalism [which is (1) the typical genre of today’s info media, and (2) doing it for the money) and pseudo-science (which (1) is doing it for the money, and (2) can be grouped with pop-psychology).

  • TYSK 6.  That kind of crap REALLY pisses me off.  (And, judging from comments affixed to Jenny’s article, a lot of others feel the same way.)

The United States Food and Drug Administration recently provided background music for the gossip- and pseudo- adherents with its “burnt-stuff-for-breakfast” warning — lots of if, maybe, it could be, etc.  Next, we can expect to see litigator ambulance-chasing ads such as —

  • “If your bread or sausage, or that of a loved one living or dead, tends to burn when you over cook it, it is NOT your fault, nor that of your dead or living loved one.  YOU MAY BE ENTITLED TO COMPENSATION from the bakers and packers who failed to include FDA approved fire-retardants in the base mixtures.  Contact us at 1-800-FillMyPpockets.  We are…

(Here, you may insert one of the following proven client grabbersChristians…   Big Business Tamers…   Champions of the common people…   et cetera ad nauseum)

  • “…SO YOU CAN TRUST US TO GET YOU WHAT YOU DESERVE.”

 ________________________

*Obnoxious pop-ups

**Posting stuff on the web (my definition)

***Alluded to by Dr. Paul Euan, Executive Director of the British Coffee Association

^Dr. Carl Lavie, Oschner Medical Center, New Orleans

^^I do not know how the science community views Ms. Gainer, but, since she seems to use clarity of thought in her comparisons, I suspect she is persona-non-grata at the annual mutual-admiration meetings of the Science Boys Clubs.

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