Low-Carb Diets NOT Associated With Psychological Disorders

…at least in Iranians. From Nutrition Journal:

Adherence to the low carbohydrate diet, which contains high amount of fat and proteins but low amounts of carbohydrates, was not associated with increased odds of psychological disorders including depression, anxiety and psychological distress. Given the cross-sectional nature of the study which cannot reflect causal relationships, longitudinal studies, focusing on types of macronutrients, are required to clarify this association.

Source: Adherence to low carbohydrate diet and prevalence of psychological disorders in adults | Nutrition Journal | Full Text

At Longhorn Steakhouse in Amarillo, TX

I’d have been surprised if the researchers did find a linkage. But you don’t know for sure until y0u do the science.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Most paleo diets are low-carb, including mine.

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U.S. Healthcare Costs $11,000 per person per year

Hospital care accounts for 33% of money spent on healthcare

From UPI Jan. 31, 2020:

Despite spending far more on health care than other wealthy nations, the United States has the lowest life expectancy and the highest suicide rate, new research shows.

For the study, researchers at The Commonwealth Fund compared the United States with 10 other high-income nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom—and with the average for all 36 OECD nations.

In 2018, the United States spent almost 17 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare. That’s more than any other high-income country and twice the overall OECD average. For example, New Zealand and Australia spent 9 percent of GDP on healthcare.

U.S. healthcare spending now tops $10,000 per person, and much of it is driven by private insurance costs such as premiums, according to The Commonwealth Fund report published online Jan. 30.

Source: U.S. health stats remain low despite trillions in healthcare spending – UPI.com

The numbers above are outdated. U.S. health care spending grew 4.6 percent in 2018, reaching $3.6 trillion or $11,172 per person.  As a share of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, health spending accounted for 17.7 percent.

Click to learn what that money is spent on.

Click to learn why U.S. healthcare is so expensive.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Why not try to avoid healthcare spending by getting and staying as healthy as possible? Let me help now. And for less than $20.

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Tea May Postpone Death and Prevent Heart Disease

One of my favorite green teas

For years we’ve been hearing about the potential longevity and cardiovascular benefits of green tea. If memory serves, most of the data comes from Japanese studies. Now a Chinese observational study finds 15–20% reductions in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and death, compared to non-tea drinkers. Most of the participants drank green tea, and they did so at least thrice weekly.

From the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology:

Using large prospective cohorts among general Chinese adults, we have provided novel evidence on the protective role of tea consumption on ASCVD events and all-cause mortality, especially among those who kept the habit all along. The current study indicates that tea might be a healthy beverage for primary prevention against ASCVD and premature death.

Source: Tea consumption and the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality: The China-PAR project – Xinyan Wang, Fangchao Liu, Jianxin Li, Xueli Yang, Jichun Chen, Jie Cao, Xigui Wu, Xiangfeng Lu, Jianfeng Huang, Ying Li, Liancheng Zhao, Chong Shen, Dongsheng Hu, Ling Yu, Xiaoqing Liu, Xianping Wu, Shouling Wu, Dongfeng Gu,

The researchers point out that results may not apply to non-Chinese populations.

Steve Parker, M.D.

h/t to Jan at The Low Carb Diabetic (click link for more details about the study)

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Nuts Have Fewer Calories Than We Thought

natural cashews, cashew apple

Cashews fresh off the tree. They’re actually fruits, not nuts. And while I’m being pedantic, peanuts aren’t nuts – they’re legumes.

…but you’ll still gain weight if you eat too many.

From RD Franziska Spritzler at DietDoctor:

There’s no denying that nuts are both nutritious and delicious. Yet for years, people have been cautioned to avoid eating too many because they’re also high in calories.

But last week, the USDA reported that nuts are actually lower in calories than originally thought. According to researchers who conducted a serious of studies over the past seven years, many nuts are 16 to 25% lower in calories than currently listed in the USDA nutrient database. The reason? Apparently, we don’t digest and absorb all of the calories from nuts.

Although the USDA’s database hasn’t yet been updated with the new values….

Source: Researchers Reveal That Nuts Have Fewer Calories Than Previously Thought — Diet Doctor

Steve Parker, M.D.

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If You Have T2 Diabetes, You May Already Have Fatty Liver

Stages of liver damage. Healthy, fatty, liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. Vector illustration

I’ve written before about fatty liver here, here, and here, for example. Fatty liver by itself may not be very harmful but sometimes it progresses to liver inflammation called steatohepatitis. Which can lead to cirrhosis. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the second leading cause for liver transplantation in the U.S., after viral hepatitis.

You only have one liver, so be nice to it.

How common is fatty liver in the U.S. among those with T2 diabetes? From Diabetes Care:

The overall prevalence of NAFLD [non-alcoholic fatty liver disease] was >70% (47% with NAFL [non-alcoholic fatty liver] plus 26% with NASH [non-alcoholic steatohepatitis], for a total of >18 million patients with T2D having NAFLD (not including patients in the U.S. with undiagnosed T2D).

Source: Time to Include Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis in the Management of Patients With Type 2 Diabetes | Diabetes Care

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: One way to get fat out of your liver is to lose excess fat body weight. Let me help you.

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Pharmacy Benefits Managers: One Reason You’re Paying Too Much for Drugs in the U.S.

paleobetic diet, low-carb diet, diabetic diet

Don’t blame him

The American Prospect has an eye-opening article from 2017 that sheds light on pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs). Ever heard of them?

Author David Dayen starts with comments from pharmacy owner Frankil talking about how he determines how much money he makes on retail sale of a drug:

Like any retail outlet, Frankil purchases inventory from a wholesale distributor and sells it to customers at a small markup. But unlike butchers or hardware store owners, pharmacists have no idea how much money they’ll make on a sale until the moment they sell it. That’s because the customer’s co-pay doesn’t cover the cost of the drug. Instead, a byzantine reimbursement process determines Frankil’s fee.

“I get a prescription, type in the data, click send, and I’m told I’m getting a dollar or two,” Frankil says. The system resembles the pull of a slot machine: Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. “Pharmacies sell prescriptions at significant losses,” he adds. “So what do I do? Fill the prescription and lose money, or don’t fill it and lose customers? These decisions happen every single day.”

Frankil’s troubles cannot be traced back to insurers or drug companies, the usual suspects that most people deem responsible for raising costs in the health-care system. He blames a collection of powerful corporations known as pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. If you have drug coverage as part of your health plan, you are likely to carry a card with the name of a PBM on it. These middlemen manage prescription drug benefits for health plans, contracting with drug manufacturers and pharmacies in a multi-sided market. Over the past 30 years, PBMs have evolved from paper-pushers to significant controllers of the drug pricing system, a black box understood by almost no one. Lack of transparency, unjustifiable fees, and massive market consolidations have made PBMs among the most profitable corporations you’ve never heard about.

***

In the case of PBMs, their desire for larger patient networks created incentives for their own consolidation, promoting their market dominance as a means to attract customers. Today’s “big three” PBMs—Express Scripts, CVS Caremark, and OptumRx, a division of large insurer UnitedHealth Group—control between 75 percent and 80 percent of the market, which translates into 180 million prescription drug customers. All three companies are listed in the top 22 of the Fortune 500, and as of 2013, a JPMorgan analyst estimated total PBM revenues at more than $250 billion.

***

PMBs initially came about as a means of saving costs. Why hasn’t that panned out?

The biggest reason experts cite is an information advantage in the complex pharmaceutical supply chain.

***

This lack of transparency enables PBMs to enjoy multiple hidden revenue streams from every other player. “It’s OK to have intermediaries, we have Visa,” says David Balto, an antitrust litigator and former top official with the Federal Trade Commission. “But these companies make a fabulous amount of money, even though they’re not buying the drug, not producing the drug, not putting themselves at risk.”

The PBM industry is rife with conflicts of interest and kickbacks. For example, PBMs secure rebates from drug companies as a condition of putting their products on the formulary, the list of reimbursable drugs for their network. However, they are under no obligation to disclose those rebates to health plans, or pass them along. Sometimes PBMs call them something other than rebates, using semantics to hold onto the cash. Health plans have no way to obtain drug-by-drug cost information to know if they’re getting the full discount.

***

It’s a long article and I confess I haven’t read the whole thing yet. I’ve read enough to rile up my sense of indignation! Pharmaceutical companies and health insurers don’t seem too upset. Because costs associated with these third-party shenanigans is simply passed on to the consumer—that’s you—in higher insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. PBMs are a target for future healthcare reform.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Reduce your needs for drugs with a healthy diet and lifestyle. I can help.

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Metformin: More Than Just a Diabetes Drug?

Metformin? A shirt from 1967?

Medical Xpress has an article about the possible future uses of metformin for weight loss, prostate cancer treatment, and tuberculosis treatment. It didn’t mention metformin as an anti-aging drug.

From the article:

Among medications, metformin has a long and storied past. The compound destined to become metformin was first isolated during the Middle Ages from the French lilac, a plant scientifically known as Galega officinalis. Ground flowers and leaves were administered by healers to patients suffering from constant urination, a hallmark of a disorder that later would become known as diabetes. The active ingredient in French lilac, a plant also called goat’s rue, was identified hundreds of years later as galegine, which triggered a striking reduction in blood glucose.

By the 1950s, scientists were able to exploit folk medicine uses and develop the drug that became metformin.

Source: Wonder drug? Exploring the molecular mechanisms of metformin, a diabetes drug with Medieval roots

Don’t believe everything you read. The article claims metformin’s effectiveness in type 2 diabetes is primarily due to weight loss. Conventional thinking is that it’s mostly due to decreased production and release of glucose by the liver. I guess time will tell which theory wins out. In either case, it’s a good initial drug for T2 diabetes if diet and exercise prove inadequate.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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What Exactly Is the Healthy Lifestyle That Prevents Dementia?

Yes, some cases of dementia are preventable. If you have a genetic predisposition to develop dementia, the deck is stacked against you. But it’s not hopeless. A healthy lifestyle will help you, too.

The research at hand was done in the UK and involved over 500,000 older adults of European ancestry, free of dementia and cognitive impairment at baseline.

So what are the healthy lifestyle characteristics linked to lower risk of dementia, whether you have genetic risk or not?

  • Physical activity
  • Not smoking
  • Healthy diet
  • Judicious alcohol consumption

Lifestyle details from the research report:

A healthy lifestyle score was constructed based on 4 well-established dementia risk factors (smoking status, physical activity, diet, and alcohol consumption) assessed at baseline using a touchscreen questionnaire. Participants scored 1 point for each of 4 healthy behaviors defined on the basis of national recommendations (full details in eTable 1 in Supplement 1). Smoking status was categorized as current or no current smoking. Regular physical activity was defined as meeting the American Heart Association recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week (or an equivalent combination) or engaging in moderate physical activity at least 5 days a week or vigorous activity once a week. Healthy diet was based on consumption of at least 4 of 7 commonly eaten food groups following recommendations on dietary priorities for cardiometabolic health, which are linked to better late-life cognition and reduced dementia risk. Previous studies of alcohol consumption and dementia risk support a U-shaped relationship, with moderate consumption associated with lower risk. Therefore, moderate consumption was defined as 0 to 14 g/d for women and 0 to 28 g/d for men, with the maximum limit reflecting US dietary guidelines.

Source: Association of Lifestyle and Genetic Risk With Incidence of Dementia | Dementia and Cognitive Impairment | JAMA | JAMA Network

What do they consider a healthy dementia-preventing diet? At least four of the following food groups and consumption levels:

  • Fruits: 3 or more servings a day
  • Veggies: 3 or more servings a day
  • Fish: 2 or more servings a week
  • Processed meats: no more than 1 serving a week
  • Unprocessed red meats: no more than 1.5 servings a week
  • Whole grains: 3 or more servings a day
  • Refined grains: no more than 1.5 servings a day

Regarding alcohol, the guideline is no more than one drink a day for women, and no more than two a day for men. “One drink” is 14 grams of pure alcohol. In human terms, one drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (e.g., vodka, whiskey, gin).

We don’t know if the paleo diet would help prevent dementia or not.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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How Much of U.S. Healthcare Cost is Waste?

Are ALL the clerks and administrators in hospitals necessary?

25% according to an article at JAMA Network.

Let’s face it, there’s always going to be some waste. The authors of the study at hand figure that, whatever the dollar amount of waste is, we can reduce it by 1/4. Which could be $250 billion.

A prior study indicated that 30% of healthcare spending may be considered waste. Is that still valid?

Researchers reviewed the pertinent literature from January 2012 to May 2019 focused on the 6 previously identified “waste domains”:

  1. failure of care delivery
  2. failure of care coordination
  3. overt-reatment or low-value care
  4. pricing failure
  5. fraud and abuse
  6. administrative complexity

Waste-related costs were converted to 2019 dollars.

From the abstract:

Findings

The review yielded 71 estimates from 54 unique peer-reviewed publications, government-based reports, and reports from the gray literature. Computations yielded the following estimated ranges of total annual cost of waste: failure of care delivery, $102.4 billion to $165.7 billion; failure of care coordination, $27.2 billion to $78.2 billion; overtreatment or low-value care, $75.7 billion to $101.2 billion; pricing failure, $230.7 billion to $240.5 billion; fraud and abuse, $58.5 billion to $83.9 billion; and administrative complexity, $265.6 billion. The estimated annual savings from measures to eliminate waste were as follows: failure of care delivery, $44.4 billion to $93.3 billion; failure of care coordination, $29.6 billion to $38.2 billion; overtreatment or low-value care, $12.8 billion to $28.6 billion; pricing failure, $81.4 billion to $91.2 billion; and fraud and abuse, $22.8 billion to $30.8 billion. No studies were identified that focused on interventions targeting administrative complexity. The estimated total annual costs of waste were $760 billion to $935 billion and savings from interventions that address waste were $191 billion to $282 billion.

Conclusions and Relevance 

In this review based on 6 previously identified domains of health care waste, the estimated cost of waste in the US health care system ranged from $760 billion to $935 billion, accounting for approximately 25% of total health care spending, and the projected potential savings from interventions that reduce waste, excluding savings from administrative complexity, ranged from $191 billion to $282 billion, representing a potential 25% reduction in the total cost of waste. Implementation of effective measures to eliminate waste represents an opportunity reduce the continued increases in US health care expenditures.

Source: Waste in the US Health Care System: Estimated Costs and Potential for Savings | Health Care Policy | JAMA | JAMA Network

Here’a radical idea. Why not stay out of the healthcare system as much as possible by getting and staying as healthy as possible? I have few ideas how…

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Getting and staying healthy will help you avoid wasteful healthcare spending. Let me help.

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Suicide Rate Among Young Americans Is Skyrocketing

This too shall pass

From The New York Times:

After declining for nearly two decades, the suicide rate among Americans ages 10 to 24 jumped 56 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And for the first time the gender gap in suicide has narrowed: Though the numbers of suicides are greater in males, the rates of suicide for female youths increased by 12.7 percent each year, compared with 7.1 percent for male youths.

If you or someone you know needs help dealing with suicidal thought, please please please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Steve Parker, M.D.