Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Science News "They" Don't Want you to Know

Every week the news readers will breathlessly tout some breakthrough by heroic geniuses in white lab coats that ten years from now might, just might, give people with terminal cancer three more weeks to live. For some mysterious reason, they have completely ignored what I happen to think is actually an important discovery, coming out of a major Big Science project and published in a leading medical journal. Try to figure out why.

Kiyah J. Duffy et al, with Barry Popkin as senior author, report on 20 years of longitudinal data from the CARDIA Study in the new Archives of Internal Medicine. (You are a mere commoner, so you only get to read the abstract.)

The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study (they apparently changed the Y to I in the acronym so they could put the logo on their jackets) recruited more than 5,000 people in four U.S. cities, and managed to follow 72% of them for 20 years. That is pretty damn impressive and it gives us information we can't get any other way. Of course, they didn't discover any new drugs or surgical procedures, they just found out something very important about the world we live in.

During those 20 years, the price of milk, fresh fruits and vegetables rose; and the price of sugar and soda fell -- by 48%. And why, you may ask, did the price of soda fall? Because you, the American taxpayer, paid to subsidize the growing of sugar. (I'm not sure about the price of pizza, which also fell but not as much.) Since the people were in different places at different times, the investigators were able to estimate the effect of changes in the relative prices of foods on people's diets.

It turns out that raising the price of a soda buy a buck will result in reducing average daily calorie intake by 124, lower average body weight, and lower insulin resistance, i.e. lower risk for diabetes. The authors estimate that the proposed 18% tax on junk food in New York would result in an average weight loss of 2.25 kg per person per year.

Bob Roehr in the new BMJ reports that an analysis presented at the American Heart Association conference found that consumption of soda can be blamed for 130,000 cases of diabetes and 14,000 cases of coronary artery disease in the U.S. in the decade of the '90s. Stopping that holocaust would be much bigger news than any medical breakthrough. And oh yeah -- it wouldn't cost a penny, it would save money, although it wouldn't be so great for Jack Frost or Pepsi.

So who are "They" and why don't "They" want you to know? Inquiring minds . . .

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