Tuesday, March 15, 2011

White Chick U

In many ways, the University of Georgia is a time machine.

When UGA senior Katie Weekly walks to class, she says "Hi, y'all" in a sweet-as-molasses accent to her Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sisters she meets along the way. A 5-foot-4 blonde with blue eyes, she's dressed in J. Crew jeans and a ribbed sweater, and looks and sounds as if she could've stepped off the campus 20 years ago. She has a boyfriend of three years. She wants to be a child psychologist and to raise a family in the South.

Katie is the classic UGA female student, a type that has changed little since the 1980s, but really has its roots in the 1950s - during the post-war boom at the then-all-white university 60 miles northeast of Atlanta.

Katie parties on football Saturdays the way girls did decades ago, perhaps dressed more daringly in strapless dresses but still formally, with pearls. She drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon and grills burgers. She flirts with boys dressed in polo shirts and khaki pants, with curved baseball caps covering their shaggy yet carefully groomed hair. She walks across the tree-shrouded North Campus, which looks much as it did in centuries past, and sips on mint juleps at General Beauregard's, a downtown Athens bar adorned with a Confederate flag.

And, like most UGA students, she only encounters black students sporadically. Forty-four years after the court-ordered integration of the university, UGA remains one of the least-integrated institutions in the state. Only 6 percent of the students are black.

But while so much is the same, something drastic has happened at UGA. Katie Weekly, a student from Duluth who came to UGA with a 3.8 GPA and attends tuition-free on a HOPE scholarship, represents the trend. What used to be a university that served as a geographical melting pot for all Georgians has now become an elite finishing school for white suburban girls.

Black students remain a distinct minority. But rural whites, especially males, are rapidly joining them. Those "country boys" were the very ones who dominated the school when it was all-white.

Now, while the university has skyrocketed in national rankings and academic prestige, its student body has shed any semblance of diversity. Blacks and rural whites are becoming as rare at UGA as Florida Gator bumper stickers. The benefits of the academic improvements are available primarily to a look-alike slice of the population.

Today, 60 percent of UGA students are women and 78 percent of the women are white. Out of a total of 33,405 students, 14,711 are white women. They often come from families that have just moved to Georgia from other parts of the country. The fashions they follow and the products they use have become the campus standards — they wear chic Seven jeans and preppy North Face jackets, and drive SUVs, Mercedes and Beamers. "UGA only represents metro Atlanta," says Bobbie Bagley, a UGA alum and resident of Leslie, a small town in Sumter County. "Anyone from south of Macon is doomed."

Last year, only seven students from Sumter County went to UGA. In 1964, 23 students from that county attended the university.

The phenomenon has caught the attention of the Legislature. At a budget hearing in mid-January, state senators voiced their concern about the lack of rural students attending UGA. University System Chancellor Thomas Meredith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he understood the lawmakers' concerns, but that it's a good problem to have. Since the advent of the HOPE scholarship in 1993, the rankings of UGA and other state institutions have soared.

But not everyone thinks better rankings at the expense of shrinking diversity is a good thing.

"UGA is becoming a suburban bedroom university," says Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus. "But the suburban students aren't the brick and mortar of the university. It's the native Georgians who go to every football game and invest a lot of money into the school. Now their children aren't getting in."

Some alumni now tell their children to look elsewhere, that they'll have trouble getting into UGA. College counselors urge high school students - well aware of the competitiveness and high standards at UGA - to apply to similar schools such as Alabama, Auburn and LSU, or in-state universities like Georgia Southern and Valdosta State.

The suburbs with the best schools get the most students into UGA. In the 2004 UGA incoming class, more than 880 students came from Gwinnett and Cobb counties. Of that class, 300 students came from three high schools: Chattahoochee and Milton in Alpharetta, and Walton in east Cobb. In 1985, 965 students at UGA came from Gwinnett. Today, 3,274 students come from there.

Hooks acknowledges that suburban students are multiplying partly because of the growing population of metro Atlanta. But he argues that newcomer families don't share the same loyalty to the school felt by generations of Georgia natives. They're not lifelong patriots in the Bulldog Nation.

The trend toward white girls has become so pronounced that the school's mascot, Uga, could be replaced by "Bulldog Barbie." Mattel markets a perky blond doll called "University Barbie" that's clad in cheerleading clothes. It could be interchangeable with thousands of young women walking around the Georgia campus.

Many of the UGA chicks are, indeed, blond and blue-eyed girls who grew up in the wholesome, affluent suburbs - just, presumably, like Barbie. But their brains, not their looks, account for their admissions success.

"Everyone knows girls are smarter than boys anyway," says Chuck Byrd of Perry, who has a daughter at UGA. "They work a lot harder in high school while the boys just sit around and drive their red pickup trucks."

UGA has transformed from a sleepy university that only loved football and would admit anyone who could breathe, to a national academic powerhouse that attracts some of the top faculty in the world. Ranked 19th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report, UGA now boasts an average SAT score for incoming freshmen of 1212. The school's rise has created a quandary. Most of Georgia's counties are now underrepresented in Athens.

The problem started in 1991 when then-Gov. Zell Miller pushed through the creation of a state lottery to pay for the new HOPE scholarship. Under his plan, Georgia students with a B average or higher could apply for the HOPE scholarship, which would cover full tuition for four years and give students a stipend — now at $300 — toward books annually. In 1993, the first student received the HOPE scholarship, and in its first 12 years, HOPE has generated $2.5 billion to help more than 800,000 students like Katie Weekly go to college. It's also raised the bar at Georgia's institutions, especially UGA. "The advent of HOPE has increased the academic rigor," says Douglas Bachtel, a rural sociologist at UGA. "When you increase the standards, you shrink the pool."

Since HOPE is based on merit, the kids who usually qualify are the affluent ones from the suburbs. In many cases, Bachtel notes, children who grow up in rural communities aren't instilled with the idea that education is important, or don't have access to tools to further their learning.

"A lot of it has to do with the history and culture of rural Georgia and the community a kid grows up in," Bachtel says. "For the kids in the suburbs, it's expected of them."

Many students at the university drive nice cars bought with the money their parents saved on tuition. Certainly, they can save a bundle. Katie chose UGA over the University of Southern California, which would've cost her parents $156,000 for four years. At UGA, she's able to live off-campus in a downtown apartment and drive a champagne Toyota 4Runner.

While HOPE lets Katie breeze through college financially, it's limited the options for others. What's more, a 2001 federal Appeals Court ruling made it more difficult to increase the student body's diversity. UGA's affirmative action admissions program - a program that gave students a statistical boost if they met any of 12 criteria, in which being non-white was one - was ruled unconstitutional.

The case, brought by three white women who weren't accepted to the university, alleged reverse discrimination. The court sided with the women, saying the admissions policy didn't "represent a compelling state interest for which the university could constitutionally defend its racial preferences."

It proved to be a victory for the "Bulldog Barbies." The admissions office would have to admit students strictly on merit, and that meant, in most cases, admitting those students who aced the SATs and earned high grade-point averages. Critics claimed the decision would decrease the representation of the state population at the school, and that's exactly what has happened: An influx of white women has left minorities and Georgia's small-town folks in the dust.

Albany's Victor Sullivan bleeds red and black. The son and grandson of UGA alumni, he grew up in Sanford Stadium. He watched the Bulldogs from the best seat in the house — UGA Athletic Director Vince Dooley's box — and threw a football around in President Michael Adams' yard. Victor's father, who served as president of the UGA Alumni Association, golfed with Adams and George Benson, dean of the business school. Victor heard his aunts and uncles reminisce about outdoor band parties and ridiculous drunken brawls at Georgia. Even before he was in high school, he told people he was going to UGA, just like his daddy and granddaddy. "I had my heart set on UGA," Victor says. "I thought I'd die if I didn't go there."

But during his senior year at Deerfield-Windsor, a private academy in Albany, Victor started to realize he might not have the grades to get into UGA. With solid B's and a 1050 SAT score, Victor was a good student, but not great. The average GPA of an incoming freshman at UGA these days is 3.7. So he applied to Auburn, Alabama and Valdosta State, as well. In April of his senior year, a letter arrived denying him admission to UGA. Victor says he was disappointed, but understood.

"Athens is a great place and I can see why the school would rather take kids with a 4.0," Victor says. "They have so many students to choose from, so why not take the best?"

Now a freshman at Valdosta State, Victor's working hard to keep his grades up so he can transfer to UGA in the next year or two. He says many of his friends didn't get into UGA and chose Auburn instead.

Victor's plight concerns much of his community: If a private school student whose father and grandfather are alumni and who grew up knowing the top dogs at UGA can't get in, who can?

Public school students stand an even worse chance. Bobbie Bagley, the UGA alum from Leslie, says one of the primary problems is the dismal public school system in rural Georgia. Most of the best teachers don't want to live in rural Georgia or deal with the small-town students, who for the most part, are out of control, she contends. Bagley, who sent her son and daughter to UGA, said they wouldn't have been admitted if she hadn't sent them to Baylor and McCallie, two prestigious private high schools in Chattanooga.

"Until people get control of the public school system, nothing is going to change," Bagley says. "There's got to be a political push to address these problems."

Chuck Byrd of Perry says everyone in the state - black, white, male, female, urban and rural - should be represented at UGA.

"Success is sometimes as dangerous as failure," Byrd says. "When you reach a point where it becomes impossible for a large segment of children graduating from high schools in parts of the state to get in, there's a problem. That's where we're at right now."

The irony is that white, rural Southerners are now in the same boat as African-Americans. Both are minorities on campus.

In June 2003, an opportunity to revise the strictly merit-based method of UGA's admissions arose. That summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race could be used as a factor in admission decisions in a University of Michigan case.

The court saw a need to diversify universities and recognized that affirmative action was needed to achieve that goal. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in the opinion, "We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today."

Some Georgians got their hopes up - a Supreme Court precedent meant the school might be able to make race, or any minority factor, a component in admissions - but little has been done to promote that notion. When it comes to race, nothing ever seems to change at UGA.

"The administration is just placating the public," says Christopher Johnson, an African-American sophomore at UGA. "They're getting good sound bites to the outside and that's about it."

Johnson is referring to the task force UGA created to figure out a way to promote diversity on campus and add minority-conscious criteria back into the admissions process. There was talk of implementing affirmative action for students applying for this upcoming fall, but last month the task force decided to hold off until 2006.

Steve Shewmaker, the university's attorney, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the school needed more time to work through the proposed policy to ensure the school wouldn't get sued again. Black students at UGA scorned the administration's passive effort and claimed it didn't address the issue.

Johnson notes that the issues go deeper than admission policies. Last year, of the 538 African-Americans accepted to UGA, only 202 decided to attend because many black students don't feel welcome at the state's flagship university, even if they're qualified to enroll.

"It's not that we aren't getting in," Johnson says. "It's that no one wants to come to a school that's racially insensitive. Most minority students would rather go to a college that desires their presence and embraces diversity."

Johnson, editor of the minority student magazine InfUSion, says the university puts on a happy face for the press and then sits back and watches. With several racial incidents - including racial slurs being written on dorm room doors and a racially insensitive political cartoon being printed in the student newspaper - Johnson says it's no surprise that minorities would rather go elsewhere.

Keith Parker, associate provost for institutional diversity at UGA, says the school is working hard to recruit minorities and promote diversity forums on campus. Already the admissions office has accepted more black students for next year under the early-admission program than the previous year.

The school is hosting a series of forums beginning this month and encouraging prospective minority students to shadow current minority students during weekend visits. Parker says UGA is also working to recruit in rural Georgia, as the number of rural students in the student body has dwindled.

"We need to give more attention to communities in rural settings," Parker says. "We need to be more aggressive and find ways to bring people from across Georgia to the university."

Parker believes rural students are getting into the university but choosing not to come because of distance. The growth of other state schools, from Georgia Southern to West Georgia, into full-fledged universities, has diverted some rural students.

"Many students want to be able to visit family and friends on a regular basis," Parker says. "But when they spend four to five hours traveling one-way, they choose to go to schools closer to home."

For Katie Weekly, the 40-minute drive home is perfect, and she couldn't imagine herself at any other college. She loves spritzing on perfume, dabbing on lip gloss and brushing her hair before heading downtown to sip on rum and Cokes. She loves chatting about cute clothes and cute boys with her sorority sisters. And she loves cheering until she loses her voice at home football games.

"I love going to Georgia and living in the South," Katie says.

But for others, the sameness that Katie represents at the university is too much - even for other suburban white chicks.

Megan Fraley is one of them. She grew up in the part of Smyrna that's now called Vinings. Megan went to Campbell High School, played the viola and was on the softball team. During her junior year of high school, she started looking at colleges. A HOPE scholarship recipient, she seriously considered UGA and Georgia Southern. But something in Athens made her feel uncomfortable. She found a majority of white suburban kids driving around campus in their BMWs with Greek bumper stickers plastered to the windows. That made her nervous. "I didn't want to be just another white kid from suburban Atlanta," Megan says.

She solidified her decision during a 'Dawg football game. In the fall of her senior year in high school, Megan traveled to Sanford Stadium. She wore a UGA football T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Megan says when she arrived, she got funny looks, and the looks came from females in "their heels and red and black cocktail dresses."

"I couldn't believe I was an outcast for not dressing up for a football game," Megan says. "I mean, it was a football game!"

Without a second thought, she chose Georgia Southern. She realized there was no diversity at UGA, and that she didn't want to be a preppy Greek. Even though only 34 percent of UGA students go Greek, their influence outweighs their numbers.

At Georgia Southern, Megan says her peers came from across all of Georgia, and weren't just suburban, Atlanta-born, upper-middle-class snobs.

Now an operations manager with a transportation company in Atlanta, Megan says she's happy she didn't attend UGA.

"When I run into old high school classmates that went to UGA, it reminds me that I made the right decision," she says. "They're all annoyingly bubbly and snobby."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Daylight Saving

Brian Handwerk

for National Geographic News

Updated March 13, 2011

With daylight saving time (also called daylight savings time) kicking off again, clock confusion is once again ticking away: Why do we spring forward? Does daylight saving time really save energy? Is it bad for your health? Get expert answers below.

When Did Daylight Savings Begin in 2011?

For most Americans, daylight saving time 2011 started at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 13, when most states sprang forward an hour. Time will fall back to standard time again on Sunday, November 6, 2011, when daylight saving time ends.

The federal government doesn't require U.S. states or territories to observe daylight saving time, which is why residents of Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas Islands won't need to change their clocks this weekend.

Where it is observed, daylight savings has been known to cause some problems.

National surveys by Rasmussen Reports, for example, show that 83 percent of respondents knew when to move their clocks ahead in spring 2010. Twenty-seven percent, though, admitted they'd been an hour early or late at least once in their lives because they hadn't changed their clocks correctly.

It's enough to make you wonder—why do we do use daylight saving time in the first place?

How and When Did Daylight Saving Time Start?

Ben Franklin—of "early to bed and early to rise" fame—was apparently the first person to suggest the concept of daylight savings, according to computer scientistDavid Prerau, author of the book Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.

While serving as U.S. ambassador to France in Paris, Franklin wrote of being awakened at 6 a.m. and realizing, to his surprise, that the sun would rise far earlier than he usually did. Imagine the resources that might be saved if he and others rose before noon and burned less midnight oil, Franklin, tongue half in cheek, wrote to a newspaper.

"Franklin seriously realized it would be beneficial to make better use of daylight but he didn't really know how to implement it," Prerau said.

It wasn't until World War I that daylight savings were realized on a grand scale. Germany was the first state to adopt the time changes, to reduce artificial lighting and thereby save coal for the war effort. Friends and foes soon followed suit.

In the U.S. a federal law standardized the yearly start and end of daylight saving time in 1918—for the states that chose to observe it.

During World War II the U.S. made daylight saving time mandatory for the whole country, as a way to save wartime resources. Between February 9, 1942, and September 30, 1945, the government took it a step further. During this period daylight saving time was observed year-round, essentially making it the new standard time, if only for a few years.

Since the end of World War II, though, daylight saving time has always been optional for U.S. states. But its beginning and end have shifted—and occasionally disappeared.

During the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, the U.S. once again extended daylight saving time through the winter, resulting in a one percent decrease in the country's electrical load, according to federal studies cited by Prerau.

Thirty years later the Energy Policy Act of 2005 was enacted, mandating a controversial monthlong extension of daylight saving time, starting in 2007.

But does daylight saving time really save any energy?

Daylight Saving Time: Energy Saver or Just Time Suck?

In recent years several studies have suggested that daylight saving time doesn't actually save energy—and might even result in a net loss.

Environmental economist Hendrik Wolff, of the University of Washington, co-authored a paper that studied Australian power-use data when parts of the country extended daylight saving time for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and others did not. The researchers found that the practice reduced lighting and electricity consumption in the evening but increased energy use in the now dark mornings—wiping out the evening gains.

Likewise, Matthew Kotchen, an economist at the University of California, saw inIndiana a situation ripe for study.

Prior to 2006 only 15 of the state's 92 counties observed daylight saving time. So when the whole state adopted daylight saving time, it became possible to compare before-and-after energy use. While use of artificial lights dropped, increased air-conditioning use more than offset any energy gains, according to the daylight saving time research Kotchen led for the National Bureau of Economic Research[PDF] in 2008.

That's because the extra hour that daylight saving time adds in the evening is a hotter hour. "So if people get home an hour earlier in a warmer house, they turn on their air conditioning," the University of Washington's Wolff said.

In fact, Hoosier consumers paid more on their electric bills than before they made the annual switch to daylight saving time, the study found.

(Related: "Extended Daylight Saving Time Not an Energy Saver?")

But other studies do show energy gains.

In an October 2008 daylight saving time report to Congress (PDF), mandated by the same 2005 energy act that extended daylight saving time, the U.S. Department of Energy asserted that springing forward does save energy.

Extended daylight saving time—still in practice in 2011—saved 1.3 terawatt hours of electricity. That figure suggests that daylight saving time reduces annual U.S. electricity consumption by 0.03 percent and overall energy consumption by 0.02 percent.

While those percentages seem small, they could represent significant savings because of the nation's enormous total energy use.

What's more, savings in some regions are apparently greater than in others.

California, for instance, appears to benefit most from daylight saving time—perhaps because its relatively mild weather encourages people to stay outdoors later. The Energy Department report found that daylight saving time resulted in an energy savings of one percent daily in the state.

But Wolff, one of many scholars who contributed to the federal report, suggested that the numbers were subject to statistical variability and shouldn't be taken as hard facts.

And daylight savings' energy gains in the U.S. largely depend on your location in relation to the Mason-Dixon Line, Wolff said.

"The North might be a slight winner, because the North doesn't have as much air conditioning," he said. "But the South is a definite loser in terms of energy consumption. The South has more energy consumption under daylight saving."

(See in-depth energy coverage from National Geographic News.)

Daylight Saving Time: Healthy or Harmful?

For decades advocates of daylight savings have argued that, energy savings or no, daylight saving time boosts health by encouraging active lifestyles—a claim Wolff and colleagues are currently putting to the test.

"In a nationwide American time-use study, we're clearly seeing that, at the time of daylight saving time extension in the spring, television watching is substantially reduced and outdoor behaviors like jogging, walking, or going to the park are substantially increased," Wolff said. "That's remarkable, because of course the total amount of daylight in a given day is the same."

But others warn of ill effects.

Till Roenneberg, a chronobiologist at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, said his studies show that our circadian body clocks—set by light and darkness—never adjust to gaining an "extra" hour of sunlight to the end of the day during daylight saving time.

"The consequence of that is that the majority of the population has drastically decreased productivity, decreased quality of life, increasing susceptibility to illness, and is just plain tired," Roenneberg said.

One reason so many people in the developed world are chronically overtired, he said, is that they suffer from "social jet lag." In other words, their optimal circadian sleep periods are out of whack with their actual sleep schedules.

Shifting daylight from morning to evening only increases this lag, he said.

"Light doesn't do the same things to the body in the morning and the evening. More light in the morning would advance the body clock, and that would be good. But more light in the evening would even further delay the body clock."

Other research hints at even more serious health risks.

A 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that, at least in Sweden, heart attack risks go up in the days just after the spring time change. "The most likely explanation to our findings are disturbed sleep and disruption of biological rhythms," lead author Imre Janszky, of the Karolinska Institute's Department of Public Health Sciences in Stockholm, told National Geographic News via email.

(Related: "Leap Year: How the World Makes Up for Lost Time.")

Daylight Savings Lovers, Haters

With verdicts on the benefits, or costs, of daylight savings so split, it may be no surprise that the yearly time changes inspire polarized reactions.

In the U.K., for instance, the Lighter Later movement—part of 10:10, a group advocating cutting carbon emissions—argues for a sort of extreme daylight savings. First, they say, move standard time forward an hour, then keep observing daylight saving time as usual—adding two hours of evening daylight to what we currently consider standard time.

The folks behind Standardtime.com, on the other hand, want to abolish daylight saving time altogether. Calling energy-efficiency claims "unproven," they write: "If we are saving energy let's go year round with Daylight Saving Time. If we are not saving energy let's drop Daylight Saving Time!"

But don't most people enjoy that extra evening sun every summer? Even that remains in doubt.

National telephone surveys by Rasmussen Reports from spring 2010 and fall 2009 deliver the same answer. Most people just "don't think the time change is worth the hassle." Forty-seven percent agreed with that statement, while only 40 percent disagreed.

But Seize the Daylight author David Prerau said his research on daylight saving time suggests most people are fond of it.

"I think the first day of daylight saving time is really like the first day of spring for a lot of people," Prerau said. "It's the first time that they have some time after work to make use of the springtime weather.

"I think if you ask most people if they enjoy having an extra hour of daylight in the evening eight months a year, the response would be pretty positive."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Statin's...Recipe for disaster

Dr. Graveline has an interesting background that makes him particularly suited to speak on the topic of statin drugs. He's a medical doctor with 23 years of experience whose health was seriously damaged by a statin drug. His personal questions brought him out of retirement to investigate statins, which he's been doing for the past 10 years.

As a former astronaut, he would get annual physicals at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. In 1999 his cholesterol hit 280 and he was given a prescription for Lipitor.

"When they suggested Lipitor (10 mg), I went along with it because I had no reason to be particularly worried about statin drugs," he says. "I had used it a year or so before my retirement, but I wasn't a big user."

However, it quickly became apparent that something was seriously wrong.

"It was six weeks later when I experienced my first episode of what was later diagnosed as transient global amnesia," Dr. Graveline says.

"This is an unusual form of amnesia wherein you immediately, without the slightest warning, are unable to formulate new memory and you can no longer communicate. Not because you cannot talk, but you can't remember the last syllable that was spoken to you. So nothing you say is relevant anymore. In addition, you have a retrograde loss of memory, sometimes decades into the past."

He "woke up" about six hours later in the office of a neurologist, who gave him the diagnosis: transient global amnesia. He quit taking the Lipitor despite the reassurances from his doctors that the drug was not of concern, and that it was just a coincidence.

He had no relapses during the remainder of the year, but his cholesterol was still around 280 at his next physical. He was again urged to take Lipitor, and he relented.

"I admit I was concerned, but I had talked to maybe 30 doctors and a few pharmacologists during the interval," Dr. Graveline says. "They all said "statins don't do that." So I allowed myself to go back on statins but this time I took just 5 mg.

…[E]ight weeks later, I had my second, and my worst episode. In this one, I was a 13-year-old high school student for 12 hours... This is what convinced me, when I finally woke up, that something was wrong with the statin drugs. And yet, the doctors were, for years after that, still saying that this was just a remarkable coincidence.

This took me out of retirement and I've been actively involved in researching statin drugs ever since."

Statin Drugs: Not Nearly as Safe as You're Told

Dr. Graveline has since published a book about his discoveries called Lipitor: Thief of Memory.

"In trying to reach an explanation, I called Joe Graedon and asked him if he had ever heard of any unusual reactions associated with statins," Dr. Graveline says of his initial investigations.

He was directed to the statin effects study by Beatrice Golomb in San Diego, California, and his story was also published in a syndicated newspaper column. Within weeks, the web site he had created received reports of 22 cases of transient global amnesia, along with hundreds of cases of cognitive damage. At present, over 2,000 cases of transient global amnesia associated with the use of statins have been reported to FDA's MedWatch.

But cognitive problems are not the only harmful aspect of these drugs. Other serious adverse reactions include:

  • Personality changes / mood disorders
  • Muscle problems, polyneuropathy (nerve damage in the hands and feet), and rhabdomyolysis (a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Immune suppression
  • Pancreas or liver dysfunction, including a potential increase in liver enzymes
  • Cataracts

According to Dr. Graveline, a form of Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS may also be a side effect, although the US FDA is resistant to accept the link found by their Swedish counterpart, and has so far refused to issue a warning.

"The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on this in July 2007 when Ralph Edwards, who directs the Vigibase in Sweden (the equivalent of the US MedWatch), reported ALS-like conditions in statin users worldwide," Dr. Graveline says.

He has since forwarded hundreds of cases to MedWatch, but the FDA still has not been moved to act, and doctors are therefore unaware of the connection between this deadly disease and statin use.

"[W]e have anecdotal evidence that if you stop the statin drug early enough, some of these cases regress. That's why we thought it was important that FDA issue a warning, but they haven't," Dr. Graveline says.

Today, all of these adverse effects, including the cognitive problems Dr. Graveline warned about 10 years ago, are supported by published research. MedWatch has received about 80,000 reports of adverse events related to statin drugs, and remember, only an estimated one to 10 percent of side effects are ever reported, so the true scope of statins' adverse effects are still greatly underestimated.

For a more in-depth explanation of how statins damage your mitochondria and DNA, resulting in a variety of health problems, please listen to the interview in its entirety or read through the transcript as he discusses far more than I can include here.

How Statins Harm Your Brain Function

As is often the case with pharmaceutical drugs, the side effects end up teaching us new things about how the human body works. When statins first hit the market, conventional medicine was unaware of the importance of cholesterol for proper brain function. Now, researchers believe that statins' adverse effects on cognition are due to cholesterol insufficiency.

Research also began to emerge in 2001 showing the importance of cholesterol in the formation of memories.

"Then we have… dolichols," Dr. Graveline says. "[W]hen a statin is used, it blocks the mevalonate pathway to get at cholesterol inhibition. It works very beautifully. But in so doing, it blocks CoQ10, dolichols, as well as other major biochemicals…

[D]olichol is one that most doctors have never even heard of before, but it just so happens that dolichols are almost as important as CoQ10 and cholesterol in cell processing."

In fact, dolichols are vital to a number of cellular processes, including:

  • Glycoprotein synthesis
  • Cell identification
  • Cell communication
  • Immunodefense
  • Neurohormone formation

Dr. Graveline goes on to explain that dolichols influence all the hormones involved with your mental condition, including your emotions and moods. And if you do not have sufficient dolichol, your entire process of neurohormone production will be altered—with potentially devastating results.

"[T]here are thousands of reports of aggressiveness and hostility, increased sensitivity, paranoia, depression and homicidal ideation," Dr. Graveline says.

There are also numerous reports of suicide.

"This whole range of what I call personality- or emotion and behavioral responses have to do with the dolichol deficiency brought on by the mevalonate blockade," Dr. Graveline explains.

"It's not just something that occurs in an occasional person… You know we're all the same and yet we're all different… You give one medicine to 10 people and if you're really lucky, in six of them it will do what it's supposed to do. That's the way it is with this. I expect there are some people that won't get any effects of dolichol suppression because they have alternative pathways. The same thing probably holds for CoQ10."

That said, it's important to realize that your brain also requires cholesterol in order for memory formation to function normally. In essence, statins suppress a number of vital elements for proper brain functioning, including cholesterol, antioxidants and co-factors like CoQ10, and dolichol.

At the same time, statins also create mitochondrial DNA and cellular damage, including in your brain.

Your brain uses glial cells as factories for producing its own cholesterol on demand. Unfortunately, glial cells are affected by statins in the same way as your liver cells, or any other cell in our body. So if you take a statin, you're also harming your glial cells and when they cease to function normally, that on-demand cholesterol capability also ceases and your brain can no longer function properly.

The Importance of CoQ10 or, if You're Over 40, Ubiquinol

It's now clear that if you take statin drugs without taking CoQ10, your health is at serious risk as statin drugs deplete your body of this essential co-enzyme. As your body gets more and more depleted of CoQ10, you may suffer from fatigue, muscle weakness and soreness, and eventually heart failure. Coenzyme Q10 is also very important in the process of neutralizing free radicals.

So when your CoQ10 is depleted, you enter a vicious cycle of increased free radicals, loss of cellular energy, and damaged mitochondrial DNA.

Unfortunately, the majority of people who take statins are unaware of their need for CoQ10, and physicians rarely advise their patients to take this supplement along with their statin—at least in the United States. It's also important to supplement right from the start. According to Dr. Graveline, once the mitochondrial damage and mutations are formed they cannot be reversed—no matter how much CoQ10 you take.

So early intervention is key. (Dr. Graveline goes into further detail of how CoQ10 offers protection against mitochondrial DNA damage in this interview, so for more information, please listen to it in its entirety.)If you decide to take a CoQ10 supplement and are over the age of 40, it's important to choose the reduced version, called ubiquinol.

Ubiquinol is a FAR more effective form—I personally take 1-3 a day as it has far-ranging health benefits. Dr. Graveline concurs with this recommendation.

As for dosage, Dr. Graveline makes the following recommendation:

  • If you have symptoms of statin damage such as muscle pain, take anywhere from 200 to 500 mg
  • If you just want to use it preventively, 200 mg or less should be sufficient

There's also evidence that CoQ10/ubiquinol is beneficial for Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, and even cancer, and that large doses may be justified in those cases as well.

In addition, CoQ10 is believed to play an important role in preventing premature aging in general by preventing telomere shortening, which can slow or potentially even reverse the aging process. This is just one of the additional benefits of CoQ10, and one of the reasons why I take ubiquinol daily even though I've never been on a statin drug.

There are no reported side effects of CoQ10 supplementation, and neither I nor Dr. Graveline have ever heard of anyone overdosing on it. The only drawback is cost.

However, if you're taking ubiquinol, here's some cost-saving information for you.

Certified reduced ubiquinol is only manufactured by one company in the entire world, a Japanese company called Kaneca. They own the patent. So, as long as it's certified ubiquinol, you can buy the cheapest brand you can find, because they're all the same.

Other Valuable Antioxidants for Optimal Health—Especially if You're Taking a Statin

CoQ10, or preferably the reduced version, ubiquinol, is at the top of the list of important supplements when you're taking a statin drug. But there are also other antioxidants and nutrients that can be helpful. For example, selenium is also seriously inhibited by statin drugs, and selenium, along with magnesium, are commonly involved as co-factors in a variety of biological functions.

Other important nutrients include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E—An emerging form of vitamin E called tocotrienol is 50 times more powerful than tocopherol, which has been used for the past 60 years. It also helps produce cholesterol and has other biochemical advantages
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • L-carnitine—which helps metabolize fats properly. Since about 70 percent of your muscles' energy comes from fats, it's important to have the ability to metabolize them. INSERT LINE BREAK According to Dr. Graveline: "If you take L-carnitine and find that you suddenly feel much better, then you've just proven you need it for the rest of your life because you're one of those people who have a dysfunction in this capability; you don't have the means to properly burn fats at our muscle level… naturally you would then get weak when exercising. So it's useful for making a diagnosis. If nothing happens after three months of a good dose, then I would say you can forget about L-carnitine."

The Sad Truth: Even Your Doctor has Been Mislead About Cholesterol

That said, aside from taking CoQ10 if you're on a statin, your diet really should be your primary source of nutrients. (For vitamin D, you'd ideally get it from sun exposure.) Supplements are just that; supplemental to an otherwise healthy diet.

"I think that when you have a statin associated muscle or nerve or even brain dysfunction, this is where you've got to go because that's where the trouble is," Dr. Graveline agrees.

"[I]f it's cholesterol inhibition, you just eat more eggs… I can't believe I went 17 years and never ate an egg. I can't believe how gullible I was. I was this young medical doctor; I marched to that band of the cholesterol-causation people… I did everything I was supposed to do, and it was all wrong. I can't believe that I was led astray, maybe for 25 years of my practice! It's so bad to have to look back and realize you've been treating cardiovascular disease erroneously because you were doing what you were asked to do.The sad truth is that cholesterol, our supposed enemy for 35 years, has nothing to do with cardiovascular disease. it is the most important biochemical in your body.

… We all listened to what amounts to brainwashing. The brainwashing that we got from 1955 on, to just recently… They have liberalized the diet stuff recently though, so people are back to eating eggs and drinking whole milk and eating butter. I went around recommending margarine for so long, and margarine is what's causing disease—butter is what's helping to cure it. It's incredible!"

This is true for the majority of our conventional medical professionals. They simply do not know better… which is all the more reason to arm yourself with the information you need to take control of your own health. Shunning statin drugs and addressing your lifestyle is theway to go if you have high cholesterol. For more information, please see my statin index page which includes a plethora of free guidance and clear advice.

More Information

Dr. Graveline covers a lot of information in this interview, so I highly recommend you listen to the entire interview, or read through the transcript. You can also find more information on his web site: www.SpaceDoc.net .

Dr. Graveline's site serves both as a tool for reporting statin complications, and a database of adverse effects, which are then forwarded to the appropriate agencies.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Only In America do we burn our food in Cars

Americans should brace for higher food prices this year now that demand for corn has pushed U.S. supplies to their lowest point in 15 years.

Higher projected orders from the ethanol industry sent corn futures soaring Wednesday, as corn supplies became the latest commodity to plummet. Low levels of wheat, coffee, soybeans and other food staples have already sent prices surging on the global market.

As those reserves decline, U.S. food companies are warning of retail price increases. (Too late!)

The ethanol industry's projected corn orders this year have risen 8 percent, to 13 billion bushels, after record-high production in December and January, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday.

That means the United States will have a reserve of 675 million bushels left over in late August when this year's harvest begins. That's roughly 5 percent of all corn that will be consumed, the lowest surplus level since 1996. (if the harvest isn't hurt by weather conditions)

The price of corn affects most food products in supermarkets. It's used to feed the cattle, hogs and chickens that fill the meat aisle. It is the main ingredient in Cap'n Crunch and Doritos. Turned into corn syrup, it sweetens most soft drinks. (And we put it in gasoline to keep prices down....ha-ha-ha-ha)

The decline in reserves caused corn futures to surge, with prices rising 3 percent to settle at $6.98. Corn prices have already doubled in the last six months, rising from $3.50 a bushel to nearly $7 a bushel. Analysts expect the price increases to continue in coming months.

Major food makers and some restaurants have already said they'll be raising prices this year because they're paying more for corn, wheat, sugar, coffee and chocolate, all of which are at historically high prices. Weather, such as flooding in Australia and droughts elsewhere, has affected many crops this year.

A severe drought in China, the world's largest wheat grower, could force prices even higher. The U.N.'s food agency has warned that the drought is driving up the country's wheat prices, and now the focus is on whether China will buy more from the global market, where prices have already risen about 35 percent since mid-November.

Consumers will likely see price hikes as early as three months from now, though most of the impact won't be felt for another six months, said Scott Irwin an agriculture economics professor at the University of Illinois. Chicken prices are among the first to rise because the bird's life span is so short that higher feed costs get factored in quickly, he said. Price hikes for hogs take about a year and cattle two years, while packaged foods take six or seven months to start rising. (except that we don't factor in fuel or food into inflation, remember?)

Some food makers already began selectively raising prices within the past few quarters. (Really?!)

Those higher prices are filtering into stores. (As in present tense) Supermarkets have resisted price increases for some time, hoping to hold onto their cost-conscious customers in the tough economy. But chains such as Kroger now also say higher prices are coming.

Cereal maker Kellogg Co. said last week it plans to raise prices by 3 to 4 percentage points. Sara Lee Corp. said Tuesday that it will continue (as in past tense) its price increases as it copes with higher commodity costs. The company said the price it pays for coffee beans alone is up 60 percent compared with last year.

And J.M. Smucker Co. said Tuesday that it would raise prices again on Folgers and Dunkin Donuts coffee for the third time this year, by 10 percent on average. A large can of Folgers is already going for around $12 at many markets. (well that's probably a blessing in disguise for the fat-asses out there)

It's not just playing out in the grocery store. McDonald's Corp. said last month that it may raise prices this year as its own food tab rises. The company already raised prices in some markets, including the United Kingdom.

Good Riddance!

NEW YORK (AP) -- These days, guns are more popular than guitars, at least when it comes to video games. The company behind "Guitar Hero" said Wednesday that it is pulling the plug on one of the most influential video game titles of the new century.

Activision Blizzard Inc., which also produces the "Call of Duty" series, is ending the "Guitar Hero" franchise after a run of more than five years. The move follows Viacom Inc.'s decision in November to sell its money-losing unit behind the "Rock Band" video games. Harmonix was sold to an investment firm for an undisclosed sum. Harmonix, incidentally, was behind the first "Guitar Hero" game.

Game industry analysts have long lamented the "weakness in the music genre," as they call it -- that is, the inability of game makers to drum up demand for the products after an initial surge in popularity in the mid-2000s. Music games are often more expensive than your typical shoot-'em-up game because they require guitars, microphones and other musical equipment. While extra songs can be purchased for download, this hasn't been enough to keep the games profitable.

Activision's shares tumbled after the announcement, but investors appear more concerned with the company's disappointing revenue forecast than the demise of the rocker game. As far as investors go, discontinuing an unprofitable product isn't the end of the world, even if "Guitar Hero" fans disagree.

"In retrospect it was a $3 billion or more business that everybody needed to buy, so they did, but they only needed to buy it once," said Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter. "It's much like 'Wii Fit.' Once you have it, you don't need to buy another one."

"Guitar Hero" was iconic and often praised for getting a generation weaned on video games into music. But its end after a mere half a decade is a big contrast to other influential video game franchises, such as the 25-year-old Mario series from Nintendo. "Call of Duty" first launched in 2003, two years before "Guitar Hero."