Giving strokes the brush

I have always said, and still maintain, that you can brush your teeth after every meal, water-pick them, floss them, and go to the dental hygienist every month and you will still get cavities and gum disease if your diet is loaded with sugar and other carbohydrates and is deficient in animal protein and fat.

Well, it has been known for some time that infected teeth and gums (a condition known as periodontal disease) can lead to heart disease. Recent research has now shown that there is also a connection to cerebrovascular disease and stroke.

The study was done at the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, State University of New York in Buffalo. It included 9,962 adults age 25 to 74 years. The results showed periodontitis was significantly related to ischemic strokes, which are brought on by blood clots that block blood flow to the brain.

While it is true that most gum and dental diseases are secondary to a bad diet, we have an aging population that, because it is aging, has a reduced capacity to resist infection and to overcome it once it is established. You read it all the time: "This disease is especially dangerous to the very young and the elderly."

Let's face it, your immune system isn't what it used to be.

Make sure your diet contains plenty of animal protein and fat. Avoid sugar and carbohydrates. See your dental hygienist semi-annually. If infection or inflammation is found, tell her you would like a follow-up visit in two weeks to be sure everything is cleared up. It would be a good thing to get a Panorex (an X-ray that looks like a smiley face with teeth) once a year to look for occult infection and fractures. Just remember, your teeth are your friends only so long as you keep them infection-free.

Study sour on sugar pills

In a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, Danish researchers claim "no placebo effect" in the dozens of studies they surveyed. This goes against thousands of years of evidence from cultures all over the world. That doesn't mean they are wrong, but one meta-analysis study in 3,000 years doesn't make them right either.

In spite of the skepticism, these Danish doctors are presuming to tell the doctors in the rest of the world that, for "ethical reasons," placebos should no longer be given to patients. It's great to be self-confident, but isn't that a little over the edge?

"The shoe is on the other foot now. The people who claim there are placebo effects are going to have to show it," said Dr. John C. Bailar III, who wrote an editorial on the report.

It has been done many times, John, and placebo effect has been as high as 50 percent, and even more, in some studies. There is a glaring omission in this survey. The researchers did not report how effective the conventional treatments were. Were they any better than the placebo?

The Danish researchers' report will not settle the issue on the placebo effect. Subjective responses from patients are notoriously unreliable, so the issue can never truly be settled.