Questions About Calcium

As a dietitian, I usually enjoy Katherine Tallmadge's writing about healthy eating, but her recent column on the alleged link between calcium consumption and weight loss ["Counting Calcium," Health, June 30] omitted crucial information.

The main research supporting this questionable theory was funded by the dairy industry -- a fact that Tallmadge unaccountably failed to mention. These studies also tend to exhibit small sample sizes or other serious limitations.

And what about the countervailing evidence? For example, Tallmadge might have discussed the work of Susan Barr, a nutrition researcher at the University of British Columbia, who has found that most studies show that neither supplemental calcium nor increased dairy intake help people lose weight.

Indeed, some members of research groups consuming added dairy actually put on extra pounds. Drink milk, lose weight? I doubt it.

-- Brie Turner-McGrievy


Hog Heresy

Stephen Hunter made an interesting error in his otherwise excellent review of the life and legend of Marlon Brando [Style, July 3]. Hunter's first paragraph refers to the motorcycle against which Johnny Strabler is leaning as his "hog." Strabler's bike was a Triumph, a British bike, not a Harley Davidson -- to which the hog moniker is most often attached.

-- Rick Flowe


Alcohol-Related Awareness

Your July 4 editorial "Back and Fourth, Safely" equated drunken-driving highway deaths and "alcohol-related" highway deaths. They are not the same at all. The misnamed "alcohol-related" term has nothing to do with drunken driving. All it means is that those involved in the accident had some level of alcohol in their system. It does not mean that they were legally impaired or at fault. The victim could have been sitting at a bus stop after having one beer and been crushed by a careless though sober driver.

Real drunken-driving deaths are tragic, but those numbers are much lower than the silly "alcohol-related" statistics bandied about by those seeking to scare the public, raise money and make drinking all but impossible. In addition, these pied pipers are behind efforts at criminalizing non-impaired drivers and supporting Soviet-style checkpoints that are a gross waste of taxpayer money as well as an infringement on our basic rights as Americans.

-- Michael McGuire

Falls Church

A Tenor Typo?

The July 3 Style review of the Irish Tenors' performance at Wolf Trap referred to the tenors as "the Emerald Isle's reply to the more popular trio of two Italians and one Spaniard."

Surely the author is not referring to the Three Tenors, whose members are Italian Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras (born in Barcelona), and Placido Domingo (born in Madrid).

I would be delighted to know which popular trio consists of two Italians and one Spaniard.

-- Joseph Bernardi

Martinsburg, W.V.

Dangers in Ignorance

The July 1 op-ed "Dangers in Early Detection" demonstrated physicians' ignorance about insights into tumor aggression via the identification of specific tumor signatures. Researchers have found specific proteins in prostate cancer that signify aggressive cancers. While tests for this protein aren't widely available, they are being developed with help from the National Cancer Institute. In addition, in 1997 researchers found aggressive papillary thyroid cancer signatures in children who lived near Chernobyl.

Welch and his colleagues should get up to speed with the current knowledge about genetic signatures, which demonstrates that every cancer is different.

-- Holly Mullaney

Stephenson, Va.