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Is There Any Wonder That People Become Confused?

Written by Wellness Club on April 11, 2009 – 1:33 am -

Dr. Myatt is currently deep in research for an upcoming paper on an increasingly common modern disease, hepatitis C. In this research she reviews hundreds of papers and references and studies – some of them big name scientific studies, some of them anecdotal reports, some of them promoting natural therapies, many more promoting allopathic Big Pharma drug offerings.

There is a lot of misinformation out there – much of it promulgated by Big Pharma and Big Medicine who really don’t have a workable solution for hepatitis C, but don’t want to give any ground to the possibility that there might be natural alternatives to their often-toxic drug treatments.

As an example, Dr. Myatt came across this article in the government’s National Library of Medicine PubMed service – the place where your allopathic doctor goes for his information (if your doctor bothers to research at all). This study was published under the heading of "Hepatology" (the study of diseases of the liver) and titled Herbal product use by persons enrolled in the hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) Trial.

I’ll include the text of the abstract at the end of this article, but here is the short course:

  • The authors / researchers looked at the herb silymarin (milk thistle) use by hepatitis C patients
  • The authors / researchers found that no beneficial effect of silymarin was found on hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA levels
  • The authors / researchers conclude that only a well-designed prospective study can determine whether silymarin provides benefit to persons with chronic hepatitis C

Whew! Heady stuff! Almost anyone quickly reading this brief abstract would be compelled to conclude that milk thistle has virtually no benefit or place in the treatment of hepatitis C. But wait – let’s read the authors words a little more carefully for when we do we begin to recognize a classic example of obfuscation and doublespeak:

Univariate analysis showed significantly fewer liver-related symptoms and better quality-of-life parameters in users than nonusers, but after reanalysis adjusted for covariates of age, race, education, alcohol consumption, exercise, body mass index, and smoking, only fatigue, nausea, liver pain, anorexia, muscle and joint pain, and general health remained significantly better in silymarin users. In conclusion, silymarin users had similar alanine aminotransferase and HCV levels to those of nonusers but fewer symptoms and somewhat better quality-of-life indices.

Translation please? Here it is…

"We found that milk thistle helped patients feel better – so we re-worked the analysis to try to juggle the numbers the way we wanted them to be, and even after working hard to show otherwise we had to admit that it looks like milk thistle has a beneficial effect in hepatitis C patients"

At no time, in the 2000 years or so of the recorded use of milk thistle has anyone ever claimed it to be an "anti-viral" herb. Immune enhancing, yes. Liver protective, yes. But not antiviral. So why look for an antiviral effect? Perhaps so that they could then say that "it doesn’t work"?

Folks, if these results had been obtained with a prescription drug Big Pharma would be shouting it from the very rooftops and pressing for it to be added to drinking water like their favorite toxin fluoride. It would be in the nightly news and on the front pages of major newspapers. But it’s just a lowly and unpatentable and unprofitable natural herb that must be discredited at any cost – even if that "cost" is scientific and medical honesty. Even if that "cost" is the quality of life enjoyed by hepatitis C sufferers.

 

Here is the full text of the abstract – judge for yourself:

Herbal product use by persons enrolled in the hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) Trial.

Authors: Seeff LB, Curto TM, Szabo G, Everson GT, Bonkovsky HL, Dienstag JL, Shiffman ML, Lindsay KL, Lok AS, Di Bisceglie AM, Lee WM, Ghany MG; HALT-C Trial Group.

Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

Herbal products, used for centuries in Far Eastern countries, are gaining popularity in western countries. Surveys indicate that persons with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) often use herbals, especially silymarin (milk thistle extract), hoping to improve the modest response to antiviral therapy and reduce side effects. The Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) Trial, involving persons with advanced CHC, nonresponders to prior antiviral therapy but still willing to participate in long-term pegylated interferon treatment, offered the opportunity to examine the use and potential effects of silymarin. Among 1145 study participants, 56% had never taken herbals, 21% admitted past use, and 23% were using them at enrollment. Silymarin constituted 72% of 60 herbals used at enrollment. Among all participants, 67% had never used silymarin, 16% used it in the past, and 17% used it at baseline. Silymarin use varied widely among the 10 participating study centers; men were more frequent users than women, as were non-Hispanic whites than African Americans and Hispanics. Silymarin use correlated strongly with higher education. No beneficial effect of silymarin was found on serum alanine aminotransferase or hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA levels. Univariate analysis showed significantly fewer liver-related symptoms and better quality-of-life parameters in users than nonusers, but after reanalysis adjusted for covariates of age, race, education, alcohol consumption, exercise, body mass index, and smoking, only fatigue, nausea, liver pain, anorexia, muscle and joint pain, and general health remained significantly better in silymarin users. In conclusion, silymarin users had similar alanine aminotransferase and HCV levels to those of nonusers but fewer symptoms and somewhat better quality-of-life indices. Because its use among these HALT-C participants was self-motivated and uncontrolled, however, only a well-designed prospective study can determine whether silymarin provides benefit to persons with chronic hepatitis C.

PMID: 18157835 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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