FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC -- ARCHIVE  
Monitoring food and health news

-- with particular attention to fads, fallacies and the "obesity" war
 

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28 February, 2007

Popular painkillers claimed to increase risk of heart disease

This is another chicken and egg finding where the authors boldly but incautiously say the chicken came first. It seems more reasonable to conclude that people with health problems -- including high blood pressure -- are more likely to take painkillers. But I guess that is too unsurprising to get an article devoted to it into a medical journal

Popular painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen can raise blood pressure and thus the risk of heart disease among men, US researchers report. Men who took such drugs for most days in a week were about a third more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure than men not taking them, the researchers found. Their findings, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, reinforce a study published in 2002 that these commonly used drugs raise blood pressure in women. "This is a potentially preventable cause of high blood pressure," Dr John Forman of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who led the study, said.

Millions of people take the painkillers as pills every day to treat headaches, arthritis, muscle pulls and other aches and pains. "These are the three most commonly used drugs in the United States," Dr Gary Curhan, who also worked on the study, said in an interview.

For their study, the researchers looked at a continuing study of male health professionals. After they filtered out everyone who already had high blood pressure and other problems, they had 16,000 men whose records they checked for four years. Men who took acetaminophen (paracetamol), sold generically and under the Tylenol brand name, six or seven days a week were 34 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure than men who did not take analgesics.

Men who took aspirin that regularly were 26 per cent more likely to have high blood pressure than non-users. For non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, which include ibuprofen and naproxen, the increased risk was 38 per cent. Men who took 15 or more NSAID pills a week were 48 per cent more likely than non-users to have high blood pressure. The drugs can affect the ability of blood vessels to expand, and may also cause sodium retention - two factors that can both raise blood pressure. Being overweight reduced the risk from acetaminophen, but raised the risk from NSAIDS, the researchers found.

But men who were advised by a doctor to take an aspirin a day to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke should not stop taking them, cautioned Dr Curhan. "The benefit outweighs the risk," he said in an interview. The American Heart Association issued its own advisory based in part on the report's findings. "We advise physicians to start with non-pharmacologic treatments such as physical therapy and exercise, weight loss to reduce stress on joints, and heat or cold therapy," said the Association's Dr Elliott Antman, also of Brigham and Women's Hospital.

The Heart Association was especially worried about the use of COX-2 inhibitors, prescription arthritis drugs designed to be safer than NSAIDS. Many have been found to actually raise heart risk and cause strokes. "We believe that some physicians have been prescribing the new COX-2 inhibitors as the first line of treatment. We are turning that around and saying that, for chronic pain in patients with known heart disease or who are at risk for heart disease, these drugs should be the last line of treatment," Dr Antman said.

Dr Curhan said it would be important to study patients directly, not simply look at their medical records, to fully understand the risks and what might be causing the effect. "Even if we can't explain the direct mechanism, it seems pretty clear," he said.

Source



Garlic 'doesn't work' for cholesterol: Researcher claims

But the study is based on very limited sampling -- non-sampling, actually -- and a relatively short time period. On balance, however, the conclusion is probably right -- at least as far as the narrow range of health effects examined is concerned. The journal abstract is here

Eating garlic raw or in supplement form does not lower "bad" cholesterol levels, despite widespread health claims for the pungent plant bulb, researchers said today. "It just doesn't work," said Christopher Gardner of the Stanford Prevention Research Centre in California. "There's no shortcut. You achieve good health through eating healthy food. There isn't a pill or an herb you can take to counteract an unhealthy diet."

Some of the claims that garlic lowers cholesterol emanate from laboratory experiments but there is no proof it reacts in the body the same way, Gardner wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine. In test tubes and some animal subjects the compound released from crushed garlic, allicin, has been found to inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol. But in Gardner's study of 192 subjects who had slightly elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol that tends to clog arteries, garlic had no impact. "Our study had the statistical power to see any small differences that would have shown up, and we had the duration to see whether it might take a while for the effect of the garlic to creep in. We even looked separately at the participants with the highest versus the lowest LDL cholesterol levels at the start of the study, and the results were identical," Gardner said.

The participants' cholesterol levels ranged from 130 milligrams per deciliter of blood to 190 milligrams - any higher and their doctors would have prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, he said. The study's funding came from the US National Institutes of Health. The participants were divided into four groups: one ate a clove of garlic six days a week, usually in a gourmet sandwich prepared for them; two other groups consumed the equivalent amount of garlic either in a popular garlic supplement pill or powder, one of which advertised itself as "aged" garlic that removed the bad-breath problem; and the other group consumed a placebo. Gardner said other health claims ascribed to garlic - that it strengthens the body's immune system and combats inflammation and cancer - needed to be studied, too.

Garlic's healthy reputation goes back to the ancient Egyptians, and it was widely consumed by the Greeks and Romans. Its juice has also been used as an antiseptic. Its assumed benefits may have something to do with it growing wild around the Mediterranean, where diets are often rich in healthy olive oil, fish, nuts and fruit. Garlic can be helpful in spicing up healthy dishes, such as stir fry or Mediterranean salads, Gardner said. "But if you choose garlic fries as a cholesterol-lowering food, then you blew it," he said.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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27 February, 2007

Better to get it up your nose?

The study by Belshe et al. reported below seems to show that nasal sprays trump standard flu injections but it it did not compare like with like. It is an amazingly rubbishy research design for a top-ranking medical journal such as NEJM to report -- with the effect of vaccine type and administration method hopelessly confounded

FLU shots in the arm or thigh could soon be a thing of the past for kids, with new research in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that a nasal spray vaccine is 55 per cent more effective at preventing flu attacks than the traditional injection. The study involved 8475 children aged between six months and five years, from the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Around half the children received the standard flu injection, containing influenza virus particles that are unable to grow (inactivated vaccine). The other half received a nasal spray of live influenza virus that has been modified so that it doesn't cause illness (live attenuated vaccine). The nasal spray is a more effective vaccine, suggest the authors, because it mimics the way the body normally encounters the flun-- through the nose and mouth. They emphasise, however, that it can cause wheezing in children under 12 months.

Source. The journal abstract is here.



ARE WALNUTS GOOD FOR YOU?

They may well be but a recent study by Corwin et al. purporting to prove it is pretty laughable. Media summary below. Full article here. A tiny and highly unrepresentative sample examined over a very short time-period makes the "research" concerned little more than a student exercise. It is a classical example of sophisticated statistics applied to low-quality data

Walnuts and linseeds could help to protect bones from osteoporosis, according to research in the latest edition of Nutrition Journal. These foods, as well as soybeans and canola oil, contain high levels of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. There were a total of 23 participants in the 24-week study _ 20 men and three women. They were divided into three groups, and for six weeks they ate either the control diet (called the ``average American diet'') or one of two other diets rich in fatty acids. Participants then had three weeks off to eat whatever they liked, followed by another six weeks on one of the other diets. This continued until each participant had spent six weeks on each diet. Different chemicals are released into the blood when bone is being formed and when it is being broken down. Researchers found that those on the high omega-3 diet had much lower levels of bone breakdown than the controls.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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26 February, 2007

OVERFEEDING IS NOW CHILD ABUSE IN BRITAIN

Overweight adults are already being denied some medical services in Britain. This criminalization of fat is therefore a harbinger of worse discrimination to come. I suppose however we should be glad that the social workers now seem to have given up on witchcraft scares as a way to attack families. At least fat is not imaginary. Progress of a sort, I guess. Wouldn't it be nice, though, if they concentrated on (say) children of drug addicts instead of on ordinary decent families? Social work schools are covens of Leftism and the ingrained Leftist hatred of ordinary decent people happily getting on with their lives is always the best predictor of whom social workers will target. You can be sure that no social worker will ever mention how small the difference is between the average lifespans of slim and overweight people. A "crack" baby, or a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome, on the other hand, DOES have serious problems.

Note further that dieting normally promotes weight GAIN so the intervention described below is as ill-conceived as it is authoritarian


An eight-year-old boy who weighs 14 stone, more than three times the average for his age, may be taken into care if his mother fails to improve his diet. Connor McCreaddie, from Wallsend, near Newcastle upon Tyne, has broken four beds and five bicycles. The family claims to have a history of intolerance to fruit or vegetables. On Tuesday his mother and grandmother will attend a formal child protection conference to decide his future, which could lead to proceedings to take him into care.

Connor could be placed on the child protection register, along with victims of physical and sexual abuse, or on the less serious children in need register. The intervention of social services is a landmark in the fight against youth obesity. The boy's mother, Nicola McKeown, said: "If Connor gets taken into care that is the worst scenario there could be. Hopefully, we will be able to work through it and come up with a good plan and he will just be put on the at-risk register or some other register. That wouldn't be so bad because, hopefully, there will be some help for us at the end of it."

Two specialist obesity nurses, a consultant paediatrician, the deputy head of Connor's school, a police officer and at least two social workers are expected to be on the panel deciding what action should be taken. One National Health Service source said: "We have attempted many times to arrange for Connor to have appointments with community and paediatric nutritionists, public health experts, school nurses and social workers to weigh and measure him and to address his diet, but the appointments have been missed. "Taking the child into care or putting him on the child protection register is absolutely the last resort. We do not do these things lightly but we have got to consider what effect this life-style is having on his health. Child abuse is not just about hitting your children or sexually abusing them, it is also about neglect." The source added: "The long-term health effects of obesity such as diabetes are well known and it is concerning that Connor is more than twice the weight he should be. There has to be some parental responsibility."

Source



ALTERNATIVE BLOOD PRESSURE DRUG

An over-the-counter alternative remedy available through chemists and health shops is just as effective at reducing high blood pressure as powerful prescription drugs, without causing their undesirable side-effects such as heart and kidney problems, Australian research suggests.

The new study has found the remedy - an antioxidant found naturally in the body called co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) - reduces systolic blood pressure (when the heart is contracting) by up to 17mm of mercury and cuts diastolic pressure (heart at rest) by up to 10mm. Frank Rosenfeldt, head of the cardiac surgical research unit at Melbourne's Alfred Hospital and lead author , says this is "in the ballpark" of reductions generally achievable with prescription drugs.

The study, just published online by the Journal of Human Hypertension (doi:10.1038/sj.jhh.1002138), combined the results from 12 previous trials involving 362 patients. The authors said their results meant there was a "convincing case for conducting a high-quality prospective randomised trial of CoQ10 in order to validate the results". "Until the results of such trials are available, it would seem acceptable to add CoQ10 to conventional anti-hypertensive therapy, particularly in patients who are experiencing intolerable side-effects," they wrote.

Currently four main drug classes are used to treat high blood pressure, or hypertension: ACE inhibitors, diuretics, beta blockers and calcium channel blockers. Side-effects from these drugs can include heart and kidney malfunction, cough and depression. However, CoQ10 typically costs just over $50 for a bottle of 60 50mg capsules - making it significantly more expensive for patients than these existing drugs, subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Patients pay just the $30.70 co-payment for a PBS drug - or just $4.90 if they are a concession-card holder.

Rosenfeldt says CoQ10 is already taxpayer-subsidised in Hungary, Italy and Denmark, and should be added to the Australian PBS. However, he said patients should discuss their treatment with their own doctor before taking CoQ10, as it could prove dangerous if combined with other medications: "If they were on anti-hypertensive therapy and took this on top, they might get low blood pressure."

Other independent experts say the findings are interesting, but agree with the authors' call for further research. Philip Barter, director of the Heart Research Institute in Sydney and author of over 200 research papers in international journals, said although the new study had pooled results from 12 trials, only four were double-blind, randomised controlled trials - those that give the most reliable results - and even these were based on very small groups of participants. "I don't want to dismiss the analysis - it's interesting," Barter said. "But before I was prepared to recommend this as a form of treatment, I would like to see it put to the test in a bigger trial where it would be looked at alongside other treatments - many of which are now long out of patent thus available as cheap generic drugs."

Source

Journal abstract:

Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of hypertension: a meta-analysis of the clinical trials

By F L Rosenfeldt et al

Our objective was to review all published trials of coenzyme Q10 for hypertension, assess overall efficacy and consistency of therapeutic action and side effect incidence. Meta-analysis was performed in 12 clinical trials (362 patients) comprising three randomized controlled trials, one crossover study and eight open label studies. In the randomized controlled trials (n=120), systolic blood pressure in the treatment group was 167.7 (95% confidence interval, CI: 163.7-171.1) mm Hg before, and 151.1 (147.1-155.1) mm Hg after treatment, a decrease of 16.6 (12.6-20.6, P<0.001) mm Hg, with no significant change in the placebo group. Diastolic blood pressure in the treatment group was 103 (101-105) mm Hg before, and 94.8 (92.8-96.8) mm Hg after treatment, a decrease of 8.2 (6.2-10.2, P<0.001) mm Hg, with no significant change in the placebo group. In the crossover study (n=18), systolic blood pressure decreased by 11 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 8 mm Hg (P<0.001) with no significant change with placebo. In the open label studies (n=214), mean systolic blood pressure was 162 (158.4-165.7) mm Hg before, and 148.6 (145-152.2) mm Hg after treatment, a decrease of 13.5 (9.8-17.1, P<0.001) mm Hg. Mean diastolic blood pressure was 97.1 (95.2-99.1) mm Hg before, and 86.8 (84.9-88.8) mm Hg after treatment, a decrease of 10.3 (8.4-12.3, P<0.001) mm Hg. We conclude that coenzyme Q10 has the potential in hypertensive patients to lower systolic blood pressure by up to 17 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by up to 10 mm Hg without significant side effects.

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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25 February, 2007

WHAT FUN! JUST THE SMELL OF FOOD CUTS SHORT YOUR LIFE

If you are a fruit fly

When animals are reared on a near-starvation diet, they live much longer than those that eat freely. Even the fruit fly Drosophila has this reaction to a low glucose diet, and lives considerably longer on a 5% than on a 15% sugar-yeast diet. This effect of dietary restriction is easily reversed when flies consume more food. Libert et al. report a less expected effect: Just the smell of the flies' food (yeast) can inhibit some of the effects of dietary restriction and shorten the flies' life span by 6 to 18%. Flies lacking an essential part of their odor receptors, which results in their having greatly impaired senses of smell, live longer than flies with intact odor sensation.

Journal abstract below:

Regulation of Drosophila Life Span by Olfaction and Food-Derived Odors

By Sergiy Libert et al.

Smell is an ancient sensory system present in organisms from bacteria to humans. In the nematode Caeonorhabditis elegans, gustatory and olfactory neurons regulate aging and longevity. Using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, we showed that exposure to nutrient-derived odorants can modulate life span and partially reverse the longevity-extending effects of dietary restriction. Furthermore, mutation of odorant receptor Or83b resulted in severe olfactory defects, altered adult metabolism, enhanced stress resistance, and extended life span. Our findings indicate that olfaction affects adult physiology and aging in Drosophila, possibly through the perceived availability of nutritional resources, and that olfactory regulation of life span is evolutionarily conserved.



Genome scan finds new genetic links to autism

I have often said that there is no such disorder as autism but rather several quite distinct disorders that have communication difficulty in common. The now commonly used phrase "autism spectrum disorders" recognizes that too. The common genes found below may therefore be the ones that affect communication difficulty in particular

The first results from a scan of the world's largest collection of DNA from families affected by autism point to two new genetic links that may predispose people to the brain disorder. The research journal Nature Genetics reported the findings in its Feb. 18 online edition. "This largescale study reveals that autism is an extremely diverse condition. [with] numerous genetic origins, rather than a single or few major causes," said Daniel Geschwind of the University of California, Los Angeles, site of one of the study's 13 research centers.

Autism is a complex disorder that strikes as early as 2 or 3 years of age. It disrupts a child's ability to communicate and develop social relationships. Scientists suspect the disease is highly hereditary. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in 150 American children is diagnosed with autism or one of its related conditions. Affecting four times as many boys as girls, autism diagnoses have multiplied tenfold in the last decade, for unclear reasons.

The consortium searched for genetic commonalities in autistic people from nearly 1,200 families. The scientists scanned the DNA for variations in gene copy numberstiny tracts of extra or deleted genes thought to be possibly tied to autism.

The large number of families "permitted us to organize autistic children with similar features of this disorder into smaller groups, where gene linkages may be more easily detected," said the university's Rita Cantor.

The results implicated a previously unidentified region of chromosome 11; and neurexin 1, a member of a gene family believed to play a key role in communication between brain cells.

The neurexin finding also highlighted a group of brain cells called glutamate neurons and the genes affecting their development and function, suggesting these are critically involved in autism and related disorders, researchers said.

Scientists cautioned that more studies with even more subjects will be needed to full explain heredity's role in autism. "We are optimistic" that this approach will lead to improved treatments, Geschwind said.

Families who participated had more than one member diagnosed with one of three genetically related diseases: autism, pervasive developmental disorder or Asperger's syndrome.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



24 February, 2007

Australia: Brainless Greenie logic arrives in the health field

Read the following report and see if you can find the flaw in it. Answer below

Global warming will take a toll on children's health, according to a new report showing hospital admissions for fever soar as days get hotter. The new study found that temperature rises had a significant impact on the number of pre-schoolers presenting to emergency departments for fever and gastroenteritis. The two-year study at a major children's hospital showed that for every five-degree rise in temperature two more children under six years old were admitted with fever to that hospital. The University of Sydney research is the first to make a solid link between climate changes and childhood illness.

"And now global warming is becoming more apparent, it is highly likely an increasing number of young children will be turning up at hospital departments with these kinds of common illnesses," said researcher Lawrence Lam, a paediatrics specialist. "It really demonstrates the urgent need for a more thorough investigation into how exactly climate change will affect health in childhood."

Dr Lam said the results, collated from The Children's Hospital at Westmead admissions, back up beliefs that children are less able to regulate their bodies against climate change than adults. The brain's thermal regulation mechanism is not as well developed in children, making them more susceptible to "overheating" and at risk of developing illness, he said. "They're particularly at risk of extreme changes, much more than other people."

The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, analysed several different climate factors, including UV index, rainfall and humidity, collected from the Bureau of Meteorology in 2001 and 2002. Temperatures were the only negative risk factor, with findings linking heat to both fever and gastro disease but not to respiratory conditions.

Surprisingly, rates of gastroenteritis were lower on days with a high UV factor probably, says Dr Lam, because the rays "sterilised" the ground, killing more germs and reducing risk. He said it was still unclear whether the heat directly triggered the illnesses or whether other heat-related problems, like pollution, were responsible. A longer-term study was needed add strength to the findings, Dr Lam said.

Source

The finding concerned Sydney, which is MUCH cooler than Cairns, in tropical North Queensland, where I come from. The only major difference between Sydney and Cairns is the weather and the scenery so if hot weather causes fever, North Queensland should be RIFE with fever cases, right? I have never heard anyone say that it is, either anecdotally or otherwise, and I am quite sure that it would be widely known in North Queensland if it were true. I have, however, heard many cases of people getting ill when they move to a COLDER climate.

It is true that certain nasty viruses (Ross River Fever, Dengue Fever) thrive best in hot climates so some elevated morbidity from that source would be expected. Overall, however, there is no noticeable inferiority in the health of North Queenslanders -- perhaps because there are also various health problems that are greatest in COLD climates. One notes that elderly people often move to warmer climates for the sake of their health. And surely it is WINTER when 'flu is most prevalent!




Group size dictates how much you eat?

The heading on this study must deserve some sort of medal for overgeneralization. That the result might be situation-specific, age-specific etc. seems not to have been considered. Abstract follows:

Eating in larger group increases food consumption

By Julie C Lumeng and Katherine H Hillman

Objective: To determine if children's food consumption is increased by the size of the group of children in which they are eating.

Design: Crossover study.

Setting: University preschool.

Participants: 54 children, ages 2.5-6.5 years.

Interventions: Each child ate a standardized snack in a group of 3 children, and in a group of 9 children.

Main Outcome Measures: Amount each individual child consumed, in grams.

Results: Amount eaten and snack duration were correlated (r = .71). The association between group size and amount eaten differed in the short (< 11.4 minutes) versus the long (> 11.4 minutes) snacks (p = .02 for the interaction of group size and snack duration). During short snacks, there was no effect of group size on amount eaten (16.7 ~ SD 11.0 grams eaten in small groups v. 15.1 ~ 6.6 grams eaten in large groups, p = .42). During long snacks, large group size increased amount eaten (34.5 ~ 16.0 v. 26.5 ~ 13.8, p = .02). The group size effect was partially explained by a shorter latency to begin eating, a faster eating rate, and reduced social interaction in larger groups.

Conclusions: Children consumed 30% more food when eating in a group of 9 children than when eating in a group of 3 children during longer snacks. Social facilitation of food consumption operates in preschool- aged children. The group size effect merits consideration in creating eating behavior interventions.

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



23 February, 2007

A WIN FOR VIDEO GAMERS

Playing Video Games May Contribute To Keyhole Surgery Skills

A small US study suggests that surgeons who played video games have better keyhole surgery skills than those that did not. The study was performed by US scientists at Beth Israel Medical Centre in New York and is published in this month's issue of the Archives of Surgery. The researchers did the study because although anecdotal observations suggest that young surgeons who played video games were better at performing laparoscopies (keyhole surgery) than those who do not, this had not been empirically investigated.

Laparoscopy is a type of surgery where the surgeon has to handle small instruments and go into the patient's body via a small hole or incision, hence the term "keyhole surgery". The surgeon does the operation using a television screen to see where to move the instruments; her or she cannot look straight at the place they are operating on because it is inside the body and the keyhole is too small. The researchers found a strong link between ability to play video games and performing well in keyhole surgery.

The researchers studied 33 surgeons based at New York's Beth Israel Medical Centre. The participants had to play three different video games for up to 25 minutes to assess their current skill, and also answer questions on their past experience of playing video games.

Their surgical skill were measured during a course that took one and a half days to complete. On the course the participants carried out a range of simulated laparoscopic and suturing procedures where their completion time and error rates were measured. The researchers also took note of the participants' level of surgical training, number of cases of laparoscopy performed, and the years they had been in medical practice.

They then ran a cross-sectional analysis to compare participants' laparoscopic and suturing skills against video game experience and video game scores. The results showed that 9 young surgeons who had played video games for at least 3 hours a week made 37 per cent fewer mistakes and worked 27 per cent faster than 15 surgeons who had never played video games. The 9 surgeons with past experience of video game playing also scored 42 per cent higher overall on the range of surgical skill tests. Also, the correlation between video gaming skill and surgical skill as measured by the simulation, was stronger than either the surgeon's training or experience measured in duration. The researchers concluded that video games could help train surgeons who perform keyhole surgery.

In an invited critique that accompanies the same issue of the journal, Doctor Myriam Curet re-iterates the warning that the researchers made in their article ""indiscriminate video game play is not a panacea," and invites the media not to distort the message in this study. She said parents still need to keep a check on their children's video gaming hours and the types of games they are playing.

And looking at the robustness of the article, she points out that it has limitations such as the small sample size. She also draws attention to the jump from the results to the conclusion. The results showed that it was past experience of video gaming that correlated to present level of surgical skill.

Perhaps the most useful contribution that this study makes is that it has opened a door that invites further investigation. One of the authors of the study, Dr Douglas Gentile did a survey in 2004 on video game playing by American teenagers and found that over 90 per cent of them are playing for an average of 9 hours a week. Excessive game playing takes the place of physical exercise, and has been linked to poorer performance at school and aggressive behaviour. Dr Gentile advises that parents should not view this study as supporting the notion that it is OK for children to play video games for more than 1 hour a day. That will not help them get into medical school, he said.

Source

Journal abstract follows:

The Impact of Video Games on Training Surgeons in the 21st Century

By: James C. Rosser et al.

Background: Video games have become extensively integrated into popular culture. Anecdotal observations of young surgeons suggest that video game play contributes to performance excellence in laparoscopic surgery. Training benefits for surgeons who play video games should be quantifiable.

Hypothesis: There is a potential link between video game play and laparoscopic surgical skill and suturing.

Design: Cross-sectional analysis of the performance of surgical residents and attending physicians participating in the Rosser Top Gun Laparoscopic Skills and Suturing Program (Top Gun). Three different video game exercises were performed, and surveys were completed to assess past experience with video games and current level of play, and each subject's level of surgical training, number of laparoscopic cases performed, and number of years in medical practice.

Setting: Academic medical center and surgical training program.

Participants: Thirty-three residents and attending physicians participating in Top Gun from May 10 to August 24, 2002.

Main Outcome Measures: The primary outcome measures were compared between participants' laparoscopic skills and suturing capability, video game scores, and video game experience.

Results: Past video game play in excess of 3 h/wk correlated with 37% fewer errors (P<.02) and 27% faster completion (P<.03). Overall Top Gun score (time and errors) was 33% better (P<.005) for video game players and 42% better (P<.01) if they played more than 3 h/wk. Current video game players made 32% fewer errors (P=.04), performed 24% faster (P<.04), and scored 26% better overall (time and errors) (P<.005) than their nonplaying colleagues. When comparing demonstrated video gaming skills, those in the top tertile made 47% fewer errors, performed 39% faster, and scored 41% better (P<.001 for all) on the overall Top Gun score. Regression analysis also indicated that video game skill and past video game experience are significant predictors of demonstrated laparoscopic skills.

Conclusions: Video game skill correlates with laparoscopic surgical skills. Training curricula that include video games may help thin the technical interface between surgeons and screen-mediated applications, such as laparoscopic surgery. Video games may be a practical teaching tool to help train surgeons.



DO FOLATE AND B12 STOP YOU FROM GOING BATTY?

It seems so -- but you need both together

Folate and vitamin B12, two important nutrients for the development of healthy nerves and blood cells, may work together to protect cognitive function among seniors, reports a new epidemiological study from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (USDA HNRCA). According to Martha Savaria Morris, PhD, epidemiologist at the USDA HNRCA, "we found a strong relationship between high folate status and good cognitive function among people 60 and older who also had adequate levels of vitamin B12." The study, published the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also determined that low vitamin B12 status was associated with increased cognitive impairment.

Using data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2002, Morris and colleagues found that people with normal vitamin B12 status and high serum folate, which is a measure of folate in the blood, had higher scores on a test of cognitive function. Blood tests were used to determine folate and vitamin B12 levels, and the cognitive function test assessed aptitudes such as response speed, sustained attention, visual spatial skills, associative learning, and memory. Cognitive impairment was identified when a subject fell into the bottom 20th percentile of the distribution on the test.

"People with normal vitamin B12 status performed better if their serum folate was high," explains Morris, corresponding author of the study. "But for people with low vitamin B12 status, high serum folate was associated with poor performance on the cognitive test." Seniors with low vitamin B12 status and high serum folate were also significantly more likely than seniors in other categories to have anemia, a condition caused by reduced amounts of hemoglobin in oxygen-carrying red blood cells, or by a deficiency in the number or volume of such cells.

"For seniors, low vitamin B12 status and high serum folate was the worst combination," says Morris. "Specifically, anemia and cognitive impairment were observed nearly five times as often for people with this combination than among people with normal vitamin B12 and normal folate." Vitamin B12 deficiency, which affects many seniors due to age-related decreases in absorption, can impact the production of DNA needed for new cells, as well as neurological function.

Vitamin B12 is normally consumed in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, and folate is found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and beans. Although folate occurs naturally in many foods, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1998 required that all enriched cereal-grain products be fortified with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, in order to help prevent birth defects in infants.

Morris notes that the study's results are inconsistent with the idea that high folate status delays detection of vitamin B12 by masking one of its key signs: anemia. "When folate fortification was considered, opponents raised the possibility that because more folate might mask anemia, many cases of vitamin B12 deficiency would go undetected, causing people with the condition to suffer neuropsychiatric consequences. But in our study, the people with low vitamin B12 who also had high serum folate were more likely to exhibit anemia and cognitive impairment than subjects with low vitamin B12 status and normal serum folate. So although having high serum folate had an impact on cognitive function in our study, it did not cure anemia, as opponents of food fortification have suggested."

Senior author Jacob Selhub, PhD, director of the Vitamin Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA and professor at the Friedman School, says, "Our findings support the often-expressed idea that many seniors would benefit from more folate, but the research shows that we must look at the effects this would have on seniors with age-related vitamin B12 deficiency, who may be more numerous than once realized. There are also indications that too much folic acid and too little B12 is a general phenomenon that affects other systems in the body, and might be a factor in some other diseases."

As with any epidemiological study, Morris cautions that the results show association and not causation. She also notes that because the study only measured levels of total folate in the blood, it is uncertain whether the results were due to unmetabolized folic acid in the body. "We encourage further studies of these relationships and their underlying mechanisms," write Morris and her colleagues at Tufts. "We hope our findings both inform the continuing debate about folic acid fortification and influence future efforts to detect and treat low vitamin B12 status among seniors."

Source

Journal abstract follows:

Folate and vitamin B-12 status in relation to anemia, macrocytosis, and cognitive impairment in older Americans in the age of folic acid fortification

By: Martha Savaria Morris et al.

Background:Historic reports on the treatment of pernicious anemia with folic acid suggest that high-level folic acid fortification delays the diagnosis of or exacerbates the effects of vitamin B-12 deficiency, which affects many seniors. This idea is controversial, however, because observational data are few and inconclusive. Furthermore, experimental investigation is unethical.

Objective:We examined the relations between serum folate and vitamin B-12 status relative to anemia, macrocytosis, and cognitive impairment (ie, Digit Symbol-Coding score <34) in senior participants in the 1999-2002 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Design:The subjects had normal serum creatinine concentrations and reported no history of stroke, alcoholism, recent anemia therapy, or diseases of the liver, thyroid, or coronary arteries (n = 1459). We defined low vitamin B-12 status as a serum vitamin B-12 concentration <148 pmol/L or a serum methylmalonic acid concentration >210 nmol/L-the maximum of the reference range for serum vitamin B-12-replete participants with normal creatinine.

Results:After control for demographic characteristics, cancer, smoking, alcohol intake, serum ferritin, and serum creatinine, low versus normal vitamin B-12 status was associated with anemia [odds ratio (OR): 2.7; 95% CI: 1.7, 4.2], macrocytosis (OR: 1.8; 95% CI: 1.01, 3.3), and cognitive impairment (OR: 2.5; 95% CI: 1.6, 3.8). In the group with a low vitamin B-12 status, serum folate >59 nmol/L (80th percentile), as opposed to ~ 59 nmol/L, was associated with anemia (OR: 3.1; 95% CI: 1.5, 6.6) and cognitive impairment (OR: 2.6; 95% CI: 1.1, 6.1). In the normal vitamin B-12 group, ORs relating high versus normal serum folate to these outcomes were <1.0 (Pinteraction < 0.05), but significantly <1.0 only for cognitive impairment (0.4; 95% CI: 0.2, 0.9).

Conclusion:In seniors with low vitamin B-12 status, high serum folate was associated with anemia and cognitive impairment. When vitamin B-12 status was normal, however, high serum folate was associated with protection against cognitive impairment.

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



22 February, 2007

SECONDHAND SMOKE EFFECTS ARE REAL

There has been a lot of very weak research purporting to show adverse effects of "secondhand" tobacco smoke -- i.e. smoke inhaled by a nonsmoker as a byproduct of being in the presence of a smoker. The research below would seem to bypass the usual criticisms -- though it should be noted that it provides no data on longevity effects. Given the known reduced longevity of smokers, however, the findings must be considered as very suggestive. Journal abstract follows:

Exposure to Secondhand Smoke and Biomarkers of Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Never-Smoking Adults

By Andrea Venn & John Britton

Background--Exposure to secondhand smoke has been associated with a disproportionately high risk of coronary heart disease, thought to be mediated through inflammation, platelet aggregation, and/or endothelial dysfunction. The epidemiological association between objectively measured exposure to secondhand smoke and biomarkers of heart disease risk has not been investigated, however.

Methods and Results--We have investigated the cross-sectional relation between secondhand smoke exposure, measured objectively as cotinine, and recognized biomarkers of heart disease risk, namely C-reactive protein, homocysteine, fibrinogen, and white blood cell count, in 7599 never-smoking adults from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Compared with subjects with no detectable cotinine, those with detectable but low-level cotinine (range, 0.05 to 0.215 ng/mL) had significantly higher levels of both fibrinogen (adjusted mean difference, 8.9 mg/dL; 95% CI, 0.9 to 17.0; P=0.03) and homocysteine (0.8 æmol/L; 95% CI, 0.4 to 1.1; P<0.001) but not C-reactive protein or white blood cell count. Effect estimates of similar magnitude and significance were seen in subjects in the high category of cotinine exposure (>0.215 ng/mL). The increased levels of fibrinogen and homocysteine seen in relation to secondhand smoke exposure were equivalent to ~ 30% to 45% of those seen for active smoking.

Conclusions--Passive smokers appear to have disproportionately increased levels of 2 biomarkers of cardiovascular disease risk, fibrinogen and homocysteine. This finding provides further evidence to suggest that low-level exposure to secondhand smoke has a clinically important effect on susceptibility to cardiovascular disease.



Smoking has 'heroin effect' on brain

SMOKING causes long-lasting changes in the brain similar to changes seen in animals when they are given cocaine, heroin and other addictive drugs. A US study of the brain tissue of smokers and nonsmokers who had died showed that smokers had the changes, even if they had quit years before, the team at the National Institute on Drug Abuse said. "The data show that there are long-lasting chemical changes in the brains of humans," Michael Kuhar of Emory University in Atlanta, who was not involved in the study, said. "The chemical changes alone suggest a physiological basis for nicotine addiction."

A team led by Bruce Hope of NIDA, one of the National Institutes of Health, analysed levels of two enzymes found inside brain cells known as neurons. These enzymes help the neurons use chemical signals such as those made by the message-carrying compound dopamine. Smokers and former smokers had high levels of these enzymes. Hope said other studies had seen the same thing in animals given cocaine and heroin - and it was clear that the drugs were causing the effects. "This strongly suggests that the similar changes observed in smokers and former smokers contributed to their addiction," he said.

Experts on smoking have long said that nicotine is at least as addictive as heroin. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 20.9 per cent of all adults smoke in the US, which adds up to 45 million people. More than 20 per cent of high school students smoke.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



21 February, 2007

BREASTFEEDING AIDS SOCIAL MOBILITY?

This is a truly terrible piece of research. It relies on people's recollection of what happened 60 years ago. Given the frailties of memory at that distance, the answers are far more likely to depend on stereotypes rather than on what actually happened. And note that the recollections called for are not even what the person did 60 years ago. The respondents were asked what their MOTHERS did when they were babies! No wonder the authors took nearly 10 years to get such nonsense into print! It's breastfeeding propaganda, nothing more. All that the article actually shows is that people who have done well in life THINK that they were breastfed

The secret to popularity may be set in the way mums feed their babies. A 70-year study in Britain has found those who were breastfed are more likely to climb the social ladder than those who were bottle-fed. The results have been backed by the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Spokeswoman Karen Ingram said breast milk aided cognitive and motor development, which contributes to social skills. "We know through research that the attachment to a mother through breastfeeding can help children attach to others, which makes them more secure and independent," she said.

More than 3000 babies from England and Scotland were monitored from birth in 1937-39. The findings were based on 1414 adults who are still being examined. The study found those who were breastfed were 41 per cent more likely to move up the social ladder as adults than those who had been bottle-fed.

The prevalence of breastfeeding was not dependent on income, siblings, or social class at birth, allowing researchers to disregard other social factors that may have influenced results. The authors suggest breastfeeding influences brain development, which then leads to better exam results and job prospects and greater income.

Source

Journal abstract follows:

Breastfeeding in infancy and social mobility: 60 year follow-up of the Boyd Orr cohort

By Richard Michael Martin et al.

Objective: To assess the association of having been breastfed with social class mobility between childhood and adulthood.

Design: Historical cohort study with 60 year follow up from childhood into adulthood.

Setting: 16 urban and rural centres in England and Scotland.

Participants: 3182 original participants in the Boyd Orr Survey of Diet and Health in Pre-War Britain (1937-39) were sent follow-up questionnaires between 1997-1998. Analyses are based on 1414 (44%) responders with data on breastfeeding measured in childhood and occupational social class in both childhood and adulthood.

Main outcome: Odds of moving from a lower to a higher social class between childhood and adulthood in those who were ever breastfed versus those who were bottle-fed.

Results: The prevalence of breastfeeding varied by survey district (range: 45% to 86%) but not with household income (p = 0.7), expenditure on food (p=0.3), number of siblings (p = 0.7), birthorder (p = 0.5) or social class (p = 0.4) in childhood. Participants who had been breastfed were 41% (95% CI: 10% to 82%) more likely to move up a social class in adulthood (p=0.007) than bottle-fed infants. Longer breastfeeding duration was associated with greater odds of upward social mobility in fully adjusted models (p for trend = 0.003). Additionally controlling for survey district, household income and food expenditure in childhood, childhood height, birth order or number of siblings did not attenuate these associations. In an analysis comparing social mobility amongst children within families with discordant breastfeeding histories, the association was somewhat attenuated (odds ratio: 1.16; 95% CI: 0.74 to 1.80).

Conclusions: Breastfeeding was associated with upward social mobility. Confounding by other measured childhood predictors of social class in adulthood did not explain this effect, but we cannot exclude the possibility of residual or unmeasured confounding.



Breastfeeding has negligible effect on babies' IQ

It is one of the most hotly debated topics in pregnancy and early motherhood. Does breastfeeding really boost a baby's intelligence? Now the largest scientific study yet carried out has settled the issue. Breastfed babies are indeed smarter - because their mothers are. Mothers who breastfeed tend to be more intelligent, more highly educated and to provide more stimulation at home. The higher IQ of their babies is therefore mostly inherited, accounting for 75 per cent of the difference between them and bottle-fed babies, the researchers found.

The rest of the difference is down to the environment in which they are raised. Breastfed babies have mothers who are older and better educated, and live in nicer homes where they get more attention. When all these factors were taken into account, breastfeeding made less than half a point's difference in the intelligence scores - laying to rest a myth that has held sway for almost 80 years.

Geoff Der, a statistician from the Medical Research Council's social and public health sciences unit at the University of Edinburgh, said: "This question has been debated ever since a link between the two was first discovered in 1929. We found 73 articles which dealt with the link." He added: "Breastfed children do tend to score higher on intelligence tests, but they also tend to come from more advantaged backgrounds."

The study, published online by the British Medical Journal today, is based on US data on the breastfeeding history and IQs of 5,000 children and 3,000 mothers, which was not available in the UK. Mr Der concluded: "There is no reason why the same findings would not apply here."

The researchers also looked at families where one child was breastfed and the other wasn't. This confirmed the findings that breastfeeding made no difference to IQ. Mr Der said: "Intelligence is determined by factors other than breastfeeding. But breastfeeding has many benefits for both mother and child. It is definitely the smart thing to do."

In England and Wales, 77 per cent of babies are breastfed but more than a third of mothers stop within the first six weeks. Nine out of 10 mothers in the professional and managerial class start breastfeeding, compared with just over six out of 10 among manual workers.

Breastfeeding boosts the baby's immune system and protects against infections, and reduces the risk of asthma and eczema in childhood. It also reduces the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity in adulthood.

But Rosie Dodds, policy researcher at the National Childbirth Trust, said evidence from parts of the world where breastfeeding is more common among poorer women cast doubt on the claim that it had no link with intelligence. In the Philippines, where bottle feeding is a sign of status preferred by working mothers, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2005 found that babies who were breastfed had higher intelligence, despite their more deprived backgrounds.

Ms Dodds said: "We cannot rule out an influence of breastfeeding on intelligence especially in babies born prematurely who may have missed out on what their biological growth would have been. Breastfeeding is more likely to provide the nutrients they need to grow and develop." Another study of 14,600 babies, half of whom were breastfed, conducted by University College hospital, London, and published in the US journal Pediatrics this year, found there were more developmental delays among the children who were bottle fed.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



20 February, 2007

TV still being demonized

Strange that no good effects of TV are mentioned -- typical of propaganda. For just a few examnples of the good effects that might have been mentioned, see here. Anything popular is hated by the Left and there is a lot of Leftism and its accompanying low ethical standards in academe so all the adverse findings about TV must be viewed with deep skepticism. For the record, I personally almost never watch TV, although I have two of them -- very old ones

Watching too much television as a child may trigger serious health problems such as autism and obesity, and in girls the early onset of puberty, a scientist has claimed. So great are the dangers, says Aric Sigman, that watching television should be banned for children under three years old and severely restricted as they grow older. Writing in the journal Biologist, Dr Sigman says that the average six-year-old child in Britain will have already spent a year watching television, and claims that the simple act of staring at a bright television screen, regardless of a programme's content, can damage a child's health.

Dr Sigman identified 15 negative effects that, he says, television can have on youngsters, ranging from short-sightedness and diabetes to premature puberty and autism. "We may ultimately be responsible for the greatest health scandal of our time," he writes. "Given the evidence, it would be prudent to cordon off the early years of child development as a time when screen media is excluded and then introduced judiciously as the child matures. "To allow children to continue to watch this much screen media is an abdication of parental responsibility. Truly hands-off parenting."

Dr Sigman's report, which is based on his analysis of 35 scientific studies, claims that television viewing affects levels of melatonin, a hormone linked to when puberty occurs in girls. Melatonin levels increase in the evening, at the onset of darkness, but staring into a bright screen during this period hinders its production.

Research has shown that melatonin affects puberty in females more than males. "Animal studies have shown that low melatonin levels have an important role in promoting an early onset of puberty and linked to reproductive function in several sexually mature animals," Dr Sigman says. Girls have been reaching puberty earlier since the 1950s, which previous research had blamed on an average increase in female weight, but he claims that lower melatonin levels may be another cause.

Dr Sigman, a member of the Institute of Biology and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, says that watching television also damages sleep patterns, causes over-eating and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. "Television may induce us to eat more [by] causing our brain to monitor external non-food cues - the television screen - as opposed to internal food cues telling us that we have stuffed ourselves and can stop eating." Low attention spans and poor educational achievement could also be linked to television viewing habits.

Source



HANDY TO KNOW: KILL DEM BUGS FAST

But the dishcloths etc. must be WET first



Sponges and dishcloths are a common source of pathogens which cause food poisoning because the bacteria, which come from uncooked eggs, meat and vegetables, thrive in the damp conditions. It has been estimated that a kitchen sponge may contain 10,000 bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, per square inch.

Professor Gabriel Bitton, a expert in environmental engineering at the University of Florida, and colleagues contaminated kitchen sponges and plastic scrubbing pads in dirty water which contained faecal bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites and bacterial spores.

They then zapped the cleaning equipment in a microwave for varying lengths of time. After two minutes on full power, 99% of bacteria were inactivated. And E. coli bacteria were killed after just 30 seconds.

Bacillus cereus spores - which are largely associated with vegetables or foods in contact with soil and are normally quite resistant to radiation, heat and toxic chemicals - were completely eradicated after four minutes in the microwave.

Professor Britton said it was likely to be heat, rather than radiation, that proved fatal as microwaves worked by exciting water molecules. He recommended microwaving damp not dry sponges to minimise the risk of fire and to only microwave non-metal scrubbing pads. Two minutes every other day would be sufficient for people who cook regularly, he said.

"Basically what we find is that we could knock out most bacteria in two minutes. "People often put their sponges and scrubbers in the dishwasher, but if they really want to decontaminate them and not just clean them they should use the microwave," he said.

The team also looked at whether the microwave oven could be used to sterilise contaminated syringes. It was found to be an effective method but took far longer - up to 12 minutes for the Bacillus cereus spores.

Professor Hugh Pennington, a food safety expert at the University of Aberdeen said heating was an effective way of sterilising kitchen equipment. "If you want to make sure you have a clean sponge there's nothing wrong in popping it in the microwave but I'd rather people didn't use sponges."

He added that most cases of food poisoning occurred when people were preparing raw chicken and then used the same surface to prepare ready to eat foods such as salad. "I don't think it would make a difference to food poisoning figures but I can't see anything wrong in it. He said heat was an obvious method of sterilisation.

Source



Surprise! Severe headaches make you depressed

WOMEN who suffer from severe headaches are more likely to be depressed, according to a new study in Neurology this week. Researchers surveyed 1032 women from six headache clinics in the US. Of these, 593 reported episodic headache (fewer than 15 headaches per month) and 439 had chronic headache (more than 15 headaches per month). Overall, 90 per cent of the women experienced migraines, and 18 per cent suffered from current major depression. Those with chronic headache were four times more likely than those with episodic headache to have symptoms of major depression. Among women diagnosed with severely disabling migraine, the likelihood of major depression increased 32-fold if the patient also reported other physical symptoms, including low energy, trouble sleeping, nausea and muscle pain.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



19 February, 2007

Sleep yourself slim?

The following three reports are from here. I have not so far been able to access the journal abstracts. All seem a bit dubious

SLEEPING in and starting school later would be popular with kids, and it could even keep their weight down. A new study in the journal Child Development has found that children aged three to 18 are at greater risk of being overweight if they don't get enough sleep.

Even just one extra hour of sleep made a big difference to body weight, reducing young children's chance of being overweight from 36 per cent to 30 per cent, and reducing older children's risk from 34 per cent to 30 per cent. The study was conducted in two stages, approximately five years apart, and involved 2,182 children. At the start of the study and again five years later, diaries were kept by either the children's carers or the children themselves, recording bedtime, time asleep and wake time during one weekday and one weekend day. Later bedtime was linked to being overweight in children aged 3 to 8, and earlier wake time had the greatest effect on weight in those aged 8 to 13.



Loneliness causes Alzheimers?

LONELY people are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, according to a study in the latest issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. Over a four-year period, researchers studied 823 adults who had an average age of 80 and were free of dementia at the start of the study. Loneliness was measured on a scale of one to five, with a higher score indicating a more intense feeling of loneliness. At the start of the study, the average loneliness score was 2.3, and this was tested again at yearly intervals. Over the next four years, 76 participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. For each point on the loneliness scale, the risk of Alzheimer's disease increased by 51 per cent. So a person with a high loneliness score (3.2) had 2.1 times the risk of developing the disease as a person with a low score (1.4). The authors stress that further studies are needed to discover how negative emotions may cause changes in the brain.



Cure for Crohn's?

NALTREXONE - the drug used to ease withdrawal symptoms from drugs and alcohol - could soon be used to treat sufferers of a painful intestinal condition known as Crohn's disease. The study, published this week in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, involved 17 patients with active Crohn's disease. They were treated with a low dose of naltrexone (4.5mg per day in tablet form) for 12 weeks, and monitored for any improvement in their symptoms. While the study did not include a group of patients taking placebo tablets for comparison, 89 per cent of participants showed an improvement in their symptoms with naltrexone treatment, and 67 per cent reported that their symptoms disappeared. The only side effect of naltrexone was sleep disturbance in some patients. The authors note that a thorough placebo-controlled trial is now required to prove the drug's effectiveness.

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



18 February, 2007

VACCINES AGAINST BAD HABITS?

Vaccinations have long had a starring role in preventing a variety of diseases. But now, researchers are aiming the needle at a new set of targets-smoking, obesity, and illicit drugs. These vaccines, currently in development, could give people a novel way to boost their health and vanquish their vices.

Vaccines have been doing their part to eradicate disease since the 18th century, typically by jump-starting the immune system to fight infectious bacteria and viruses such as those that cause the flu, cholera, or tetanus. But in 1974, narcotics researcher C. Robert Schuster, then at the University of Chicago, and his colleagues published the first evidence that vaccines could rev up the immune system against a different type of target-heroin. In a twist on their typical preventive role, these vaccines stop substances from satisfying an already-addicted user's cravings.

Normally, the immune system doesn't recognize heroin and other drugs as foes worthy of attack. That's because drug molecules are significantly smaller than the foreign proteins on bacteria and viruses that trigger the body to defend itself, says immunologist Michael Owens of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. "In general, the cutoff in size for the immune system to recognize something as foreign will be about 10,000 daltons in weight. Most drugs of abuse are less than 500 [daltons]," he says. One dalton is about the weight of a single hydrogen atom.

To get the immune system fired up to fight heroin, Schuster and his team decided to make a vaccine by attaching heroin molecules to something that reliably triggers a response in healthy people and other animals. They used a protein from cows' blood. When the immune system senses the large, foreign protein with drug molecules piggybacked onto them, it pumps out a variety of antibodies, explains Owen. Some antibodies recognize pieces of the protein, but others home in on the drug. "The small drug molecules are just along for the ride," adds vaccine researcher Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., but the immune system generates antibodies against them nonetheless.

After Schuster's team gave the vaccine to heroin-addicted rhesus monkeys that could self-administer the drug by pushing a lever, the animals did so significantly less often than they had previously. The researchers hypothesized that the vaccine somehow prevented the monkeys from getting high, taking away their incentive to keep using the drug.

However, notes Owens, the idea of vaccinating against illegal drugs didn't immediately catch on. Methadone, a drug that satisfies heroin's cravings without causing a high, was already in use in the 1970s for treating heroin addiction, and Schuster's team wasn't seeing as strong an effect with its vaccine. Over the next few decades, however, researchers began to see the value of Schuster's approach for treating other types of addiction. For example, vaccines to help smokers such as Harrison quit are now advancing through clinical trials.

One of these vaccines, called NicVax and manufactured by Nabi Biopharmaceuticals in Boca Raton, Fla., works by attaching multiple nicotine molecules to a protein taken from Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a species of bacteria that occasionally infects people. When a smoker lights up and draws the addictive drug into his or her bloodstream, antibodies glom on to individual nicotine molecules, explains Nabi scientist Henrik Rasmussen. As a result, the formerly tiny molecules morph into clumps made of nicotine and antibodies. Those clusters are far too big to cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the brain's feel-good centers, an action that normally cements nicotine's addictive power.

Smokers still experience the typical array of withdrawal symptoms, including cravings for cigarettes. But after learning that cigarettes are no longer satisfying, Rasmussen notes, people find that their cravings quickly decline. "People can still smoke, but they don't get the rush, they don't feel good, and they don't keep the addiction. You take away the reason they smoke," he says.

After the promising results in animals, Nabi scientists began a series of clinical trials 4 years ago to test whether NicVax is safe and effective in people. In 2005, the company released its latest results. Sixty-four smokers who were all interested in quitting participated in that trial. Some of them received various doses of the vaccine, delivered in a series of injections over 6 weeks. Others got a series of placebo shots.

Only 9 percent of the placebo group successfully laid off cigarettes for 30 days-a standard criterion that the U. S. Food and Drug Administration uses to define smoking cessation. However, of those smokers who got the highest vaccine dose, 33 percent passed the 30-day test of success. Moreover, even smokers who got the vaccine but didn't quit smoking, lit up significantly fewer cigarettes after the trial than smokers who got the placebo did.

Nabi is currently performing a similar trial with 300 smokers at nine sites across the country. The company expects to announce the results of this larger study in April or May, says spokesperson Tom Rathjen.

With the market hot for new smoking-cessation products, Nabi has some competition. Two other companies-Cytos Biotechnology of Zurich and Celtic Pharma of Hamilton, Bermuda-are developing their own versions of nicotine vaccines. Celtic is also working toward a vaccine based on similar technology to fight cocaine addiction. All these vaccines are currently going through clinical trials.

If these vaccines eventually head to the market, they'll be welcomed by addicted people, who currently have few effective treatment options, says vaccine researcher Janda. He and his team saw a similar possibility for people struggling against obesity.

However, these vaccines also have their disadvantages, says Owens. It can take weeks or months for an antibody to reach an effective concentration in the blood, so a patient's response to these treatments would be delayed. Furthermore, long-lasting antibodies aren't always desirable. For example, in the case of the antiobesity vaccine, doctors would need to end patients' treatments once they reached their target weight, rather than have patients continue to drop pounds.

With that in mind, Owens, Janda, and other researchers are crafting vaccines that work in a different way. Rather than prompting the body to create its own antibodies, these passive vaccines consist of custom-made antibodies to be pumped directly into a patient's bloodstream. They'd go to work right away against a habit-driving substance but then degrade and be cleared from the circulation in a few weeks, says Owens.

Janda's team is planning to develop a passive version of its antighrelin vaccine, while Owens and his colleagues have such vaccines in the works against a variety of addictive drugs, such as phencyclidine (PCP), methamphetamine, and cocaine. Each of these vaccines has had some success in limiting the amounts of drugs that addicted lab animals choose to self-administer.

More here



New York City Bans Science

This article is from last December but it is still very much to the point

The New York City Board of Health this week banned the use of trans fats by restaurants. The decision is directly traceable back to the "research" of Harvard University's Alberto Ascherio and Walter Willett, the promoters-in-chief of trans fats hysteria.

Now that the Board has deemed their dubious trans fats research suitable for dictating public policy, New Yorkers ought to hope that Ascherio and Willett don't press the Board to implement some of their other published research that is similar in "quality" to their trans fats work.

New Yorkers could, for example, see restaurants banned from serving potatoes, peas, peanuts, beans, lentils, orange juice and grapefruit juice. Ascherio-Willett reported an increase in the risk of heart disease among consumers of these foods in the Annals of Internal Medicine (June 2001). Although none of those slight correlations were statistically meaningful -- and, in all probability, were simply meaningless chance occurrences -- a similar shortcoming didn't seem to matter to the Board when it came to their trans fats research.

Indian restaurants could be banned from cooking with sunflower oil. Ascherio-Willett once found that consumers of Indian food cooked in sunflower oil were up to 3 times more likely to suffer heart attacks than consumers of Indian food cooked in mustard oil (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2004).

Sure it was only one study and even they acknowledged the need for more research -- but that didn't stop Ascherio-Willett from recommending the switch in cooking oils.

Red meat might disappear, too. Ascherio-Willett reported a 63 percent increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes associated with iron intake from red meat (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan. 2004). They didn't bother to verify how much iron from red meat any of the study subjects consumed and, therefore, don't actually have a firm basis for linking red meat consumption with the disease - but what the heck, they don't really know the quantity of trans fats consumed by any of those study subjects either.

It's not looking good for dairy products either. Ascherio-Willett reported in the Annals of Neurology (Dec. 2002) that consumption of dairy products was associated with an 80 percent increase in the risk of Parkinson's Disease among men. Although they concluded at the time that the finding needed further evaluation, why should the Board wait for more research? That could take forever. If the inconsistent and contradictory trans fats research doesn't require further evaluation, I can't imagine why it would be necessary for dairy products.

Regular (sugar-sweetened) soft drinks ought to be history as well. Willett linked them with weight gain and diabetes in women (Journal of the American Medical Association, Aug. 25, 2004). It didn't even matter that the same study also inexplicably linked diet soft drinks with a similar risk of diabetes.

It's really odd that when their research inadvertently debunks itself and other food myths, almost no one learns of it. And that's true for their trans fats research, as well. The Board's notice of its decision to ban trans fats tries to bolster its case by playing on popular misconceptions about saturated fat. The notice states that, "trans fat appears even worse than saturated fat." The Board apparently isn't familiar with the several Ascherio-Willett studies that fail to link saturated fat with heart disease and stroke.

The public's 30-year long fear of saturated fat and the Board's statement is, in fact, without a scientific basis. It's simply astounding that the Board can get away with exploiting one debunked myth to help propagate another.

Just to show that not all the Ascherio-Willett research is about simply banning foods - after all, it is possible that at some point the public will tire of being nannied - the Board may want to consider requiring restaurant patrons to order caffeinated coffee with every meal. One Ascherio-Willett study reported that the risk of type 2 diabetes was reduced by a statistically significant 54 percent among men who consumed 6 or more cups of coffee per day (Annals of Internal Medicine, Jan. 6, 2004). The Board might also want to mandate the daily consumption of pizza by men. Ascherio-Willett reported that men who consume more than 10 servings of pizza per week reduce their risk of prostate cancer by one-third (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dec. 1995).

It's not that either coffee or pizza is a proven "health" food - far from it - but the Board should consider their great distraction potential. Just as the ancient Roman emperors distracted citizens with bread and circuses while taking away their freedoms, the Board could easily distract New Yorkers with coffee and pizza as it dismantles consumer choice in restaurants bit by bit. Come to think of it, why is the Board's trans fats ban limited to restaurants? What about grocery stores and convenience shops? If trans fats are so bad, why should you be able to purchase food in a store that is too dangerous to be served in a restaurant?

The Board's trans fats ban has dramatically lowered the bar for scientific proof. It's such a sad spectacle that the Board of Health ought to be renamed the Bored of Science.

Source



Brain can repair nerve cells

The first firm evidence that the adult human brain can make new nerve cells has been discovered by scientists, raising the prospect of a new approach to treating neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

While it has long been known that the brains of adult mice and rats are capable of producing new neurons from stem cells, previous research has been unable to establish whether a similar capacity exists in humans. A study led by Maurice Curtis of the University of Auckland in New Zealand has now shown that this exists. The findings are published in the journal Science.

Mark Baxter, Wellcome Trust senior research fellow at Oxford University, said: "This opens another direction by which we may discover ways to repair human brains that are damaged from injury or diseases, and underscores the importance of animal research in guiding biomedical research in humans."

Source

Journal abstract follows:

Human Neuroblasts Migrate to the Olfactory Bulb via a Lateral Ventricular Extension

By Maurice A. Curtis et al.

The rostral migratory stream (RMS) is the main pathway by which newly born subventricular zone (SVZ) cells reach the olfactory bulb in rodents. However, the RMS in the adult human brain has been elusive. Here we demonstrate the presence of a human RMS, which is unexpectedly organized around a lateral ventricular extension reaching the olfactory bulb (OB), and illustrate the neuroblasts in it. The RMS ensheathing the lateral olfactory ventricular extension, as seen by MRI, cell specific markers and electron microscopy, contains progenitor cells with migratory characteristics and cells which incorporate BrdU and become mature neurons in the OB.

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



17 February, 2007

Fish-diet mothers `have brighter children'

Official American mercury-scare advice is dead wrong. The Greenie-inspired American advice is actually harmful. How surprising!

Women who eat fish during pregnancy have brighter children, according to a study. The evidence suggests that advice to expectant American mothers to limit fish consumption for fear of mercury poisoning is misguided. The study supports the contrary advice, given by the Food Standards Agency in the UK, which backs fish as a healthy food. The FSA simply advises mothers to avoid shark, swordfish and marlin, and restrict their intake of tuna.

The new research into children's behaviour and intelligence suggests that women who follow the US "advisory" issued in 2004 to limit consumption, or cut fish out of their diet altogether, may miss nutrients that the developing brain needs - and so harm their children.

The findings come from a study of almost 9,000 British families taking part in the Children Of The 90s project at the University of Bristol. The lead researcher, Joseph Hibbeln of the US National Institutes of Health, and the Bristol scientists, including Professor Jean Golding, compared the amount of fish eaten by pregnant mothers with the development of their children up to the age of eight.

Seafood - fish and shellfish - is the predominant dietary source of long-chain omega3 fatty acids, which are essential for development of the nervous system. Middle-class women are more likely to eat fish, but even after adjusting for social class [Rare good sense] and 27 other factors, including breast-feeding, the link between fish and children's development held true. This suggests that fish-eating is not simply a marker for social class.

Mothers who ate more seafood than the US guidelines (340 grams, or three portions a week) had children who were more advanced in development tests measuring fine motor, communication and social skills as toddlers, had more positive social behaviours and were less likely to have low verbal IQ scores at the age of eight. Those children whose mothers had eaten no fish were 28 per cent more likely to have poor communication skills at 18 months, 35 per cent more likely to have poor fine motor coordination at age three and a half, 44 per cent more likely to have poor social behaviour at age seven and 48 per cent more likely to have a relatively low verbal IQ at age eight, when compared with children of women who ate more than the US guidelines advised.

Dr Hibbeln said: "We have found that when women had low levels of seafood consumption, the outcome is exactly the opposite of what was assumed by the United States advisory. Unfortunately, the advice appears to have had the unintended consequence of causing harm in a specific developmental domain - verbal development - where protection was intended. We recorded no evidence to lend support to the warnings of the US advisory that pregnant women should limit their seafood consumption. "In contrast, we noted that children of mothers who ate small amounts, 340g per week, of seafood were more likely to have sub-optimum neuro-developmental outcomes than children of mothers who ate more seafood than the recommended amounts." The findings are published in this week's issue of The Lancet....

Harvest of the sea brings health benefits on a large scale

- Evidence that fish - especially oily fish - is good for health has come from many sources

- Long-term studies in the Netherlands have shown that people who eat fish are less likely to develop heart disease

- The Japanese, for whom fish [particularly that wicked Tuna] form a significant part of the diet, have the greatest life expectancy in the world

- Omega 3 fatty acids in fish have been linked to lowered risks of asthma, dementia, depression and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis

- The only concern has been the presence of low levels of methyl mercury in some kinds of fish. But the only known cases of mercury poisoning from fish come from Japan, where in the 1950s and 1960s [Huge] industrial pollution of the sea caused problems for people living in Minamata and Niigata

Source



The double standards of the food Fascists

As the playboy of the activist community, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has a problem with commitment. Since the group's tumultuous relationship with the food industry began in 1971, CSPI has made judicial passes at almost everyone in the room, filing lawsuits against Quaker Oats, General Mills, Ben & Jerry's, Pinnacle Foods, Frito-Lay, Procter & Gamble, Smucker's, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

CSPI recently added Coca-Cola and Nestl, to its little black(ball) book. According to a February 1 press release, the food police came after the two companies over the "calorie burner" claims labeled on cans of Enviga, a new green-tea-based drink. Spokesman David Schardt insisted CSPI's lawsuit is justified, because "there is no clear evidence that what's in Enviga will help you control your weight."

But evidence is available. In fact, 4,000 references in scientific literature pertain to Enviga's key ingredient (EGCG), and many other studies [Click here, here,here, and here] show that green tea increases the number of calories burned. The latest report in the medical journal Obesity specifically documented subjects drinking Enviga and confirmed a 4 percent jump in metabolism.

With thousands of studies behind Enviga's label, how much clearer does CSPI want the evidence to be? If the food police used their own threshold as the gold standard, the bar would be set much lower. A December 24 Washington Times column challenged the lack of research behind CSPI's trans fat tirade:

Three studies from Europe analyzed the levels of trans fat in individuals who died from heart disease. Each found no statistically significant association between trans fat and the risk of heart disease, refuting Mr. Jacobson's claim that trans fat "takes years off your life." Perhaps, the reason no connection was found is because the trans fat-LDL-heart disease thesis is not, in fact, true.



Source



Separating trans fat from fiction

The December 24 Washington Times column mentioned above is no longer online so I reproduce it below:

New York recently became the first major city to make it illegal for restaurants to use trans fats. Claiming trans fats are a major cause of heart disease, the city's Board of Health voted unanimously to remove the fats from menus. Chicago is also considering legislation to severely restrict trans fat levels in restaurants.

Similar campaigns are under way elsewhere, including Miami, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Earlier this year, the misnamed Center for Science in the Public Interest teamed up with a Washington, D.C., law firm to sue KFC to prevent its use of trans fats.

Why are trans fats suddenly the latest target for the food police? According to CSPI's Michael Jacobson, Col. Saunders' famously white suit is just a front for some deeply worrying behavior. In the KFC kitchen, the Colonel's heirs are cooking up a deadly mess of trans fats-soaked food that can, Mr. Jacobson claims, "literally take years off your life." Some trans fat scaremongers predict New York's ban could prevent up to 500 deaths a year from cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately, the scientific reality is very different from the food police's rhetoric. The trans fats-as-dietary villain story is based upon on the link between low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) and heart disease. It is this bad guy of the cholesterol family -- LDL -- that supposedly causes heart disease, and trans fats supposedly elevate LDL cholesterol levels.

The problem, however, is that the evidence for such a LDL-heart disease connection is extremely sketchy. For example, the definitive government study of the LDL-heart disease connection is a 1989 government review, Diet and Health, which references seven studies claiming to implicate LDL as a cause of heart disease.

Yet, only one study is statistically significant. It found LDL was a risk factor for heart disease only in a small population sample of women ages 40-44 and men ages 35-49. So, the foundation of the trans fat peril -- that trans fat raises LDL cholesterol levels -- is empirically very shaky.

But the science gets even worse for the trans fat storytellers. Three studies from Europe analyzed the levels of trans fat in individuals who died from heart disease. Each found no statistically significant association between trans fat and the risk of heart disease, refuting Mr. Jacobson's claim that trans fat "takes years off your life." Perhaps, the reason no connection was found is because the trans fat-LDL-heart disease thesis is not, in fact, true.

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



16 February, 2007

DYSLEXIA CURE?

It's three weeks into the school term and you can barely turn on a radio without hearing an advertisement for the Dore Program, a supposed "miracle cure" for dyslexia, and other reading problems. But amid the hype is coming a sober warning from reading experts that parents may be wasting their money and valuable learning time on a program whose claims have not been independently scientifically verified and may, in fact, turn out to be the equivalent of educational snake oil.

The Dore Program may or may not work, but, "I think its theoretical basis is feeble", says Professor Max Coltheart, the scientific director of Macquarie University's Centre for Cognitive Science. He joins learning difficulties expert Kerry Hempenstall,from Melbourne's RMIT University, and a child psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg, in criticising the program because there is no independent scientific evidence that it works.

Billed as the "answer" for children struggling to read, whether they have dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or Asperger's syndrome, the Dore Program uses a series of physical exercises over 12 to 15 months which it claims will develop a fist-sized area at the back of the brain known as the cerebellum, which controls motor skills and balance, and is also believed to be important in developing language skills. The program claims the exercises, such as threading beads or throwing a bean bag from hand to hand while balancing on one leg, create "new neural pathways which speed up the processing of information". The price tag is a hefty $4970.

The Dore Program has achieved phenomenal growth since arriving in Australia five years ago, claiming to have successfully treated more than 10,000 people at 13 treatment centres across Australia, including five in NSW, with a third Sydney centre, in Parramatta, due to open soon. "We are opening all the time," a Dore spokesman said yesterday. The company's website is full of testimonials from Australians who say their children's lives have been transformed by the program. Says Linda, of Singleton, whose son Chris received two As in exams for the first time: "We don't have to rely on medication any more. It is wonderful to see Chris using his own ability without drugs." The town of Parkes has embraced the program to the point that a clinic has been installed in a primary school and the council has subsidised children to be treated. Now Parkes proudly proclaims itself a "learning difficulty-free zone", a claim scoffed at by reading experts.

But the publicity for the Dore Program has been largely uncritical. When its British multimillionaire founder, Wynford Dore, was in town last year promoting his book, Dyslexia: The Miracle Cure, he was treated to a sycophantic 13-minute interview by 2UE's John Laws, who began by crediting himself with the program's success in Australia: "We started it all, together, many years ago." The program's website claims it is "fully researched and proven", citing a laudatory paper published in the scientific journal Dyslexia, whose independence has since been called into question. In fact, five editorial board members of Dyslexia resigned in protest late last year after the paper was published, amid allegations that one of its authors was paid $75,000 by Dore.

Nature magazine this month followed up with an editorial critical of Dore, claiming the editor of Dyslexia is a "long-time collaborator" with the study's other author, "with whom she has published over 30 articles and book chapters". Dore's national marketing manager, Murray Fay, yesterday countered the knockers by pointing to 30,000 happy customers around the world. And he says any criticism is fuelled by "the medical profession [which is] feeling challenged and threatened" by a treatment which is "completely drug-free".

But what most disturbs reading scientists in Australia is the aggressive way Dore protects its image, threatening legal action against critics raising legitimate concerns, as Coltheart discovered last year. Then the president of the registered charity Specific Learning Difficulties Association NSW, he posted links on its website to an International Dyslexia Association statement that the Dore Program "is not supported by current scientific knowledge". Dore immediately sent Coltheart a threatening legal letter and a nervous association took down the offending links, thus denying parents valuable information.

There are no miracle cures for dyslexia or ADHD. In fact, says Coltheart, all the scientific research shows that effective teaching, tailored to a child's particular reading difficulty, is the best treatment. "Virtually any child who's not, frankly, brain-damaged can learn to read. It doesn't require high intelligence," he says, citing the case of a Down syndrome child with an IQ of 70 who was taught to read.

"But parents are desperate," says Coltheart. If schools were doing a proper job of teaching children to read, there wouldn't be such a hunger for unproven programs like Dore. That so many parents are spending so much money on untested products in the burgeoning remedial reading industry is an indictment on the Australian education system. But it is not the fault of teachers, who are doing their heroic best with little preparation. As the report of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, (of which I was a committee member) showed, a teacher can graduate with a bachelor of education having spent less than 10 per cent of course time learning how to teach reading. A year after the report was released, there is no sign that anything has changed.

Source



BRITAIN'S PRIZE QUACK -- AND SOME SAD FACTS ABOUT THOSE MAGIC ANTIOXIDANTS

If you know anything about biological science, some of the quack stuff noted below will have you in fits

Call her the Awful Poo Lady, call her Dr Gillian McKeith PhD: she is an empire, a multi-millionaire, a phenomenon, a prime-time TV celebrity, a bestselling author. She has her own range of foods and mysterious powders, she has pills to give you an erection, and her face is in every health food store in the country. Scottish Conservative politicians want her to advise the government. The Soil Association gave her a prize for educating the public. And yet, to anyone who knows the slightest bit about science, this woman is a joke.

One of those angry nerds took her down this week. A regular from my website badscience.net - I can barely contain my pride - took McKeith to the Advertising Standards Authority, complaining about her using the title "doctor" on the basis of a qualification gained by correspondence course from a non-accredited American college. He won. She may have sidestepped the publication of a damning ASA draft adjudication at the last minute by accepting - "voluntarily" - not to call herself "doctor" in her advertising any more. But would you know it, a copy of that draft adjudication has fallen into our laps, and it concludes that "the claim `Dr' was likely to mislead". The advert allegedly breached two clauses of the Committee of Advertising Practice code: "substantiation" and "truthfulness".

Is it petty to take pleasure in this? No. McKeith is a menace to the public understanding of science. She seems to misunderstand not nuances, but the most basic aspects of biology - things that a 14-year-old could put her straight on.

She talks endlessly about chlorophyll, for example: how it's "high in oxygen" and will "oxygenate your blood" - but chlorophyll will only make oxygen in the presence of light. It's dark in your intestines, and even if you stuck a searchlight up your bum to prove a point, you probably wouldn't absorb much oxygen in there, because you don't have gills in your gut. In fact, neither do fish. In fact, forgive me, but I don't think you really want oxygen up there, because methane fart gas mixed with oxygen is a potentially explosive combination.

Future generations will look back on this phenomenon with astonishment. Channel 4, let's not forget, branded her very strongly, from the start, as a "clinical nutritionist". She was Dr Gillian McKeith PhD, appearing on television every week, interpreting blood tests, and examining patients who had earlier had irrigation equipment stuck right up into their rectums. She was "Dr McKeith", "the diet doctor", giving diagnoses, talking knowledgeably about treatment, with complex scientific terminology, and all the authority her white coat and laboratory setting could muster.

So back to the science. She says DNA is an anti-ageing constituent: if you "do not have enough RNA/DNA", in fact, you "may ultimately age prematurely". Stress can deplete your DNA, but algae will increase it: and she reckons it's only present in growing cells. Is my semen growing? Is a virus growing? Is chicken liver pate growing? All of these contain plenty of DNA. She says that "each sprouting seed is packed with the nutritional energy needed to create a full-grown, healthy plant". Does a banana plant have the same amount of calories as a banana seed? The ridiculousness is endless.

In fact, I don't care what kind of squabbles McKeith wants to engage in over the technicalities of whether a non-accredited correspondence-course PhD from the US entitles you, by the strictest letter of the law, to call yourself "doctor": to me, nobody can be said to have a meaningful qualification in any biology-related subject if they make the same kind of basic mistakes made by McKeith.

And the scholarliness of her work is a thing to behold: she produces lengthy documents that have an air of "referenciness", with nice little superscript numbers, which talk about trials, and studies, and research, and papers . but when you follow the numbers, and check the references, it's shocking how often they aren't what she claimed them to be in the main body of the text. Or they refer to funny little magazines and books, such as Delicious, Creative Living, Healthy Eating, and my favourite, Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet, rather than proper academic journals.

She even does this in the book Miracle Superfood, which, we are told, is the published form of her PhD. "In laboratory experiments with anaemic animals, red-blood cell counts have returned to normal within four or five days when chlorophyll was given," she says. Her reference for this experimental data is a magazine called Health Store News. "In the heart," she explains, "chlorophyll aids in the transmission of nerve impulses that control contraction." A statement that is referenced to the second issue of a magazine called Earthletter......

Shortly after the publication of McKeith's book Living Food for Health, before she was famous, John Garrow wrote an article about some of the rather bizarre scientific claims she was making. He was struck by the strength with which she presented her credentials as a scientist ("I continue every day to research, test and write furiously so that you may benefit ." etc). In fact, he has since said that he assumed - like many others - that she was a proper doctor. Sorry: a medical doctor. Sorry: a qualified conventional medical doctor who attended an accredited medical school.

Anyway, in this book, McKeith promised to explain how you can "boost your energy, heal your organs and cells, detoxify your body, strengthen your kidneys, improve your digestion, strengthen your immune system, reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure, break down fat, cellulose and starch, activate the enzyme energies of your body, strengthen your spleen and liver function, increase mental and physical endurance, regulate your blood sugar, and lessen hunger cravings and lose weight."

These are not modest goals, but her thesis was that it was all possible with a diet rich in enzymes from "live" raw food - fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and especially live sprouts, which "are the food sources of digestive enzymes". McKeith even offered "combination living food powder for clinical purposes" in case people didn't want to change their diet, and she used this for "clinical trials" with patients at her clinic.

Garrow was sceptical of her claims. Apart from anything else, as emeritus professor of human nutrition at the University of London, he knew that human animals have their own digestive enzymes, and a plant enzyme you eat is likely to be digested like any other protein. As any professor of nutrition, and indeed many GCSE biology students, could happily tell you.

Garrow read the book closely, as have I. These "clinical trials" seemed to be a few anecdotes in her book about how incredibly well McKeith's patients felt after seeing her. No controls, no placebo, no attempt to quantify or measure improvements. So Garrow made a modest proposal, and I am quoting it in its entirety, partly because it is a rather elegantly written exposition of the scientific method by an extremely eminent academic authority on the science of nutrition, but mainly because I want you to see how politely he stated his case.

"I also am a clinical nutritionist," began Professor Garrow, "and I believe that many of the statements in this book are wrong. My hypothesis is that any benefits which Dr McKeith has observed in her patients who take her living food powder have nothing to do with their enzyme content. If I am correct, then patients given powder which has been heated above 118F for 20 minutes will do just as well as patients given the active powder. This amount of heat would destroy all enzymes, but make little change to other nutrients apart from vitamin C, so both groups of patients should receive a small supplement of vitamin C (say 60mg/day). However, if Dr McKeith is correct, it should be easy to deduce from the boosting of energy, etc, which patients received the active powder and which the inactivated one.

"Here, then, is a testable hypothesis by which nutritional science might be advanced. I hope that Dr McKeith's instincts, as a fellow-scientist, will impel her to accept this challenge. As a further inducement I suggest we each post, say, 1,000 pounds, with an independent stakeholder. If we carry out the test, and I am proved wrong, she will, of course, collect my stake, and I will publish a fulsome apology in this newsletter. If the results show that she is wrong I will donate her stake to HealthWatch [a medical campaigning group], and suggest that she should tell the 1,500 patients on her waiting list that further research has shown that the claimed benefits of her diet have not been observed under controlled conditions. We scientists have a noble tradition of formally withdrawing our publications if subsequent research shows the results are not reproducible - don't we?"

This was published in - forgive me - a fairly obscure medical newsletter. Sadly, McKeith - who, to the best of my knowledge, despite all her claims about her extensive "resesarch", has never published in a proper "Pubmed-listed" peer-reviewed academic journal - did not take up this offer to collaborate on a piece of research with a professor of nutrition. Instead, Garrow received a call from McKeith's lawyer husband, Howard Magaziner, accusing him of defamation and promising legal action. Garrow, an immensely affable and relaxed old academic, shrugged this off with style. He told me. "I said, `Sue me.' I'm still waiting." His offer of 1,000 pounds still stands; I'll make it 2,000.....

Let me be very clear. Anyone who tells you to eat your greens is all right by me. If that was the end of it, I'd be McKeith's biggest fan, because I'm all in favour of "evidence-based interventions to improve the nation's health", as they used to say to us in medical school. But let's look at the evidence. Diet has been studied very extensively, and there are some things that we know with a fair degree of certainty: there is convincing evidence that diets rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, with natural sources of dietary fibre, avoiding obesity, moderate alcohol, and physical exercise, are protective against things such as cancer and heart disease.

But nutritionists don't stop there, because they can't: they have to manufacture complication, to justify the existence of their profession. And what an extraordinary new profession it is. They've appeared out of nowhere, with a strong new-age bent, but dressing themselves up in the cloak of scientific authority. Because there is, of course, a genuine body of research about nutrition and health, to which these new "nutritionists" are spectacularly unreliable witnesses. You don't get sober professors from the Medical Research Council's Human Nutrition Research Unit on telly talking about the evidence on food and health; you get the media nutritionists. It's like the difference between astrology and astronomy.....

I've got too much sense to subject you to reams of scientific detail - I've learned from McKeith that you need theatrical abuse to hold the public's attention - but we can easily do one representative example. The antioxidant story is one of the most ubiquitous health claims of the nutritionists. Antioxidants mop up free radicals, so in theory, looking at metabolism flow charts in biochemistry textbooks, having more of them might be beneficial to health. High blood levels of antioxidants were associated, in the 1980s, with longer life. Fruit and vegetables have lots of antioxidants, and fruit and veg really are good for you. So it all made sense.

But when you do compare people taking antioxidant supplement tablets with people on placebo, there's no benefit; if anything, the antioxidant pills are harmful. Fruit and veg are still good for you, but as you can see, it looks as if it's complicated and it might not just be about the extra antioxidants. It's a surprising finding, but that's science all over: the results are often counterintuitive. And that's exactly why you do scientific research, to check your assumptions. Otherwise it wouldn't be called "science", it would be called "assuming", or "guessing", or "making it up as you go along".....

So what can you do? There's the rub. In reality, again, away from the cameras, the most significant "lifestyle" cause of death and disease is social class. Here's a perfect example. I rent a flat in London's Kentish Town on my modest junior doctor's salary (don't believe what you read in the papers about doctors' wages, either). This is a very poor working-class area, and the male life expectancy is about 70 years. Two miles away in Hampstead, meanwhile, where the millionaire Dr Gillian McKeith PhD owns a very large property, surrounded by other wealthy middle-class people, male life expectancy is almost 80 years. I know this because I have the Annual Public Health Report for Camden open on the table right now.

This phenomenal disparity in life expectancy - the difference between a lengthy and rich retirement, and a very truncated one indeed - is not because the people in Hampstead are careful to eat a handful of Brazil nuts every day, to make sure they're not deficient in selenium, as per nutritionists' advice.... How can I be sure that this phenomenal difference in life expectancy between rich and poor isn't due to the difference in diet? Because I've read the dietary intervention studies: when you intervene and make a huge effort to change people's diets, and get them eating more fruit and veg, you find the benefits, where they are positive at all, are actually very modest. Nothing like 10 years....

I am writing this article, sneakily, late, at the back of the room, in the Royal College of Physicians, at a conference discussing how to free up access to medical academic knowledge for the public. At the front, as I type, Sir Muir Gray, director of the NHS National Electronic Library For Health, is speaking: "Ignorance is like cholera," he says. "It cannot be controlled by the individual alone: it requires the organised efforts of society." He's right: in the 19th and 20th centuries, we made huge advances through the provision of clean, clear water; and in the 21st century, clean, clear information will produce those same advances. Gillian McKeith has nothing to contribute: and Channel 4, which bent over backwards to dress her up in the cloak of scientific authority, should be ashamed of itself.

More here

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



15 February, 2007

Antibiotic Ketek more dangerous than thought

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced its new decision to restrict use of antibiotic Ketek (Telithromycin) based on reports of severe adverse effects associated with this drug.

The antibiotic Ketek was originally approved in 2004 and is manufactured by Sanofi Aventis. From now on, the drug is no long indicated for use in patients with acute bacterial sinusitis and acute bacterial exacerbations of chronic bronchitis. However, Ketek will remain on the market for the treatment of community acquired pneumonia of mild to moderate severity, which is acquired outside of hospitals or long-term care facilities. In addition, the FDA requires that the drug maker put on the label a "boxed warning", FDA's strongest form of warning to indicate that Ketek is contraindicated (should not be used) in patients with myasthenia gravis, a disease that causes muscle weakness.

The federal agency also worked with the manufacturer to develop a Patient Medication Guide, which is to be distributed along with each prescription, to inform patients of the risk of the drug and advise them how to use it safely. "Today's action is the result of comprehensive scientific analysis and thoughtful public discussion of the data available for Ketek, and includes important changes in the labeling designed to improve the safe use of Ketek by patients and give healthcare providers the most up-to-date prescribing information," said Steven Galson, M.D., Director, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Specific drug-related adverse events including visual disturbances and loss of consciousness are to be strengthened on the label. Warnings for hepatic toxicity (rare but severe symptoms of liver disease) were already strengthened in June 2006, according to the FDA. A joint advisory committee comprised of FDA's Anti-Infective Drugs and Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory committees advised that the benefits of the drug outweigh its risk for patients with community acquired pneumonia. But they said for patients with acute bacterial sinusitis or acute bacterial exacerbation of chronic bronchitis, the risk is too great to allow the antibiotic for these conditions. The committee also recommended a boxed warning as well as Medication Guide for the drug.

On January 20, 2006, the FDA advised the public that the Annals of Internal Medicine had published an article reporting three patients who experienced serious liver toxicity following administration of Ketek (telithromycin). These cases had also been reported to FDA MedWatch. Telithromycin is marketed and used extensively in many other countries, including countries in Europe and Japan..... There have been reports of side effects on the liver, including severe liver disease. In some cases, liver damage worsened rapidly and happened after just a few doses of Ketek. If you develop signs or symptoms of hepatitis (liver disease), such as tiredness, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea, jaundice (yellow color of the skin and/or eyes), dark urine, light-colored stools, itchy skin, or belly pains, stop your medication and immediately contact your healthcare provider.

Source

Note: You can't win. The above drug may be bad for your liver but if you switch to the less powerful and more common Keflex (cephalexin) you endanger your kidneys!



SIESTAS ARE GOOD FOR YOU

As a confirmed afternoon napper, I am not going to criticize this study, weak as it is:



Men who take siestas can lower their risk of death from coronary heart disease by as much as 64 per cent, even when other factors such as diet, age and exercise are taken into account. The findings, from American and Greek scientists, suggest that dozing off after lunch could play an important role in fighting stress, with benefits for cardiovascular health.

The study of Greek adults showed that the effects were strongest among working men. It remains unknown whether working women get similar benefits from siestas because only six of those involved in the research died during the study period. Researchers have long noted that death rates from heart disease appear to be lower in countries where taking a siesta is common practice - typically the Mediterranean region of Europe and parts of South and Central America. It was not known, however, whether this reflected a health benefit from the naps themselves, or because people in these regions tend to follow a Mediterranean diet.

In the new research, a team from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens studied 23,681 Greek men and women aged between 20 and 86, who did not have a history of heart disease or serious medical condition when they enrolled. Their siesta habits, diet and exercise were then monitored between 1994 and 1999, and the subjects' long-term health was followed up for an average of six years and four months. During this period 792 participants died, of whom 133 died of heart disease. Once the influence of diet and exercise was taken into account, there was still a big benefit to napping.

Among working men, the risk of dying of heart disease was 64 per cent lower in those who took regular or even occasional naps. Retired and non-working men had a smaller but still significant benefit: they had a 36 per cent reduced risk. "We interpret our findings as indicating that among healthy adults, siesta, possibly on account of stress-releasing consequences, may reduce coronary mortality," said Androniki Naska, who led the study. "The fact that the association was stronger in working men, who likely face job-related stress, than non-working men is compatible with this hypothesis," the report said. "This is an important finding because the siesta habit is common in many parts of the world, including the Mediterranean region and Central America."

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



14 February, 2007

Britain: New cancer drug to save a thousand lives a year

More than a thousand women a year will survive breast cancer thanks to a type of drug that improves survival rates by 17 per cent, new research shows today. A study of 4,742 post-menopausal women found that switching from the present gold-standard breast cancer treatment tamoxifen to the new drug exemestane after two or three years resulted in the dramatic fall in death rates. The study followed the progress of women who were treated for a total of five years and monitored for a further three. Women were assigned randomly to a full five years of tamoxifen, or treatment with tamoxifen followed by exemestane.

Giving women tamoxifen after surgery already reduced the risk of dying by 33 per cent. After another two to three years of exemestane, plus a further three years of posttreatment follow-up, survival was found to be significantly improved. The chances were 50 per lower than they would have been with no drug therapy. An estimated 31,000 post-meno-pausal women have breast cancer diagnosed in Britain each year. In 80-85 per cent of cases, the disease is fuelled by oestrogen. Whereas tamoxifen interferes with the activity of the hormone, exemestane reduces the levels produced in a woman's body.

The charity Cancer Research UK, whose scientists were involved in the study, said that the treatment would prevent an estimated 1,300 deaths each year. Professor Charles Coombes, director of The Cancer Research UK Laboratories and head of cancer medicine at Imperial College, London, said: "This is the first time any hormone treatment has been shown to reduce the death rate more than tamoxifen alone. "Switching drugs also seems to avoid the side-effects of long-term tamoxifen therapy, such as cancer of the womb and deep vein thrombosis."

Professor John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK, said: "These results are really very encouraging... We will continue to follow the results of this study to see how well the women fare in the longterm." The drug, sold under the brand name Aromasin, is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence as an alternative to tamoxifen after two to three years. However, it is not available everywhere.

Source



Mice study shows that one severe genetic disability can be "switched off"

It's very loose terminology to refer to the syndrome as "autism", as autistic people normally have physical health within the normal range

A severe form of autism has been reversed in mice, offering the best indication yet that it could be possible to treat a condition that affects more than 10,000 children in Britain. Rett syndrome is the most physically disabling of the autism spectrum disorders, leaving many children unable to speak, walk or use their hands, and has long been considered incurable. It also causes breathing difficulties and primarily affects girls, 1 in 10,000 of whom has the condition.

Research at the University of Edinburgh has shown that these symptoms can be treated successfully in mice by activating a single gene which, when defective, causes Rett syndrome. The findings, which are published in the journal Science, surprised scientists, who had not thought that restoring the MECP2 gene's function would be a promising approach to therapy. If it is possible to develop drugs that mimic MECP2, or the protein it produces, they could be used to treat Rett syndrome even at an advanced stage, said Adrian Bird, who led the research. He said, however, that while the study suggested a mechanism by which a new drug may work, much more research was needed before a therapy became available.

Professor Bird discovered in 1990 that the MECP2 gene was involved in Rett syndrome, but felt that it would be difficult to treat the disease simply by improving its function. In his most recent study, Professor Bird reactivated MECP2 in mice that had been born with the gene switched off and the symptoms of Rett syndrome. After four weeks the mice, some of which had been close to death, recovered, becoming almost indistinguishable from normal mice, and their movement and breathing problems disappeared.

"The results we came across were entirely unexpected," Professor Bird said. "It had been thought that Rett syndrome is irrevocable, but our findings show that the damage to nerve-cell function is, in fact, reversible." Chris James, director of the Rett Syndrome Association UK, which, along with other charities, helped to fund the research with the Wellcome Trust, said: "This is a very significant step on the road to future therapeutic approaches to Rett syndrome. It will give hope to those families affected by Rett syndrome."

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



13 February, 2007

Now shopping carts are bad for you

Particularly if you are a neurotic. Maybe people should wear gloves all day!

When he was campaigning for office last fall, Fred Allen, a freshman Arkansas legislator from Little Rock, heard from a number of older women who were afraid to go to the grocery store because of what might lurk on their shopping cart handles. "They mentioned that they didn't want to go shopping because the shopping carts were nasty," Mr. Allen said.

As a result of those encounters, Arkansas is poised to become to the first state in the nation to officially encourage groceries to offer sanitary wipes to customers who use shopping carts. Both houses of the legislature have passed Mr. Allen's first bill, called the Arkansas Health-Conscious Shopper Program. Gov. Mike Beebe will sign it into law but has no other comment on the matter, Matt DeCample, his spokesman, said. According to the text of the legislation, it is intended to "increase awareness of Arkansas shoppers, infants and young children about potential contamination from contact with a shopping cart handle."

A few grocery chains across the country have offered sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer to customers over the past few years, and several companies have created gadgets to shield shopping cart handles. But the bill is the first piece of legislation in the country that tries to regulate the practice, although it does not require businesses to participate.

The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services will be charged with creating "guidelines for businesses in the appropriate types and use of sanitation wipes" for shopping cart handles. "The majority of the people don't realize the amount of germs and bacteria on shopping carts," Mr. Allen said, citing a 1999 University of Arizona study that listed shopping carts as among the dirtiest of public surfaces. Mr. Allen said he had learned of the study from a report on the syndicated television show "Inside Edition."

The only resistance Mr. Allen said he had faced was from the Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association over the word "rules," which appeared in the original bill. Mr. Allen appeased the organization by changing it to "guidelines." "There's not much difference between rules and guidelines," he said.

Though bolstered by his first legislative success, Mr. Allen said he had no plans to promote the sanitation of other public handles, like those of doors, vending machines and escalators. "I'm not going to be Howard Hughes," he said.

Source



Is breast milk a ‘junk food’?

The British Food Standards Agency's clumsy new and allegedly 'scientific' model is demonising perfectly healthy food

‘If breast milk were a commercially available product you wouldn’t be able to advertise it, though you could still advertise Diet Coke. That doesn’t make sense, does it?’

Nigel White, secretary of the British Cheese Board, is more than a little cheesed off by the UK Food Standards Agency’s new attitude to various foodstuffs. Next month, the Office for Communications (Ofcom) will enact its ban on TV advertising of junk food to children. But first, a model had to be constructed whereby foods could be judged ‘unhealthy’, and therefore subject to the ban, or ‘healthy’, and therefore not subject to the ban. The arbitrary and clumsy model conjured up by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will mean that foods such as cheese, raisins and bran flakes – as well as breast milk, if it were available in shops – will be branded ‘unhealthy’ and thus banned from kids’ TV.

The FSA aimed to formulate a scientific schema for judging the healthiness or otherwise of food products. It devised the ‘Nutrient Profile Model’, a complicated system based around overall energy (number of calories) and the percentage of salt, sugar and saturated fats in a product per 100 grams (regardless of the average serving size). According to this model, cheese, alongside honey, certain cereals, marmite and a host of other pretty nice and healthy foods, will be classified as junk foods to be hidden from children. And according to the same Nutrient Profile Model, chicken nuggets, microwaveable curries, oven chips and diet fizzy drinks – which are seen by many today as ‘junk’ – are healthy foods and therefore it’s okay to show them on kids’ TV.

So sweetened carbonated water will be promoted to children, but cheese, which has been part of children’s healthy diets for decades, and which is packed with calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and A and B vitamins, will not. Some mistake, surely? Not according to the FSA, which, despite protests from food representatives, is standing by its model.

The model was supposed to take total calories, saturated fats, sugar and salt per 100g and balance these ‘negative’ aspects against the ‘redeeming features’ of the food, which may be in ‘the form of fibre, fruit and vegetable content, or protein’. But the Cheese Board’s Nigel White tells me: ‘We think they tried numerous iterations of this model, whereby for different levels of calories per 100g they had different bands, so between 0 to 100 would be one point, and over 1,000 would be 10 points, and then they would calibrate this for salt, sugar and fats.’ These points are then used to work out if there’s ‘too much’ of these things in a certain food product, and whether that makes it unhealthy. ‘But the bands where you score between 0 and 10 points have almost been plucked out of the air because they bear no relation to anything. They have been designed to hit certain foods and to make sure they come into that zone’, White argues. Items such as cheese, raisins and bran flakes have, he says, been ‘caught in the crossfire’.

Cheese should not be demonised, he says. He points out that in other EU countries they eat on average 10 to 15 grams more cheese per head than Britons do, and they don’t have any grave health or obesity problems. ‘The frustrating thing for me and my cheese makers is that the FSA has dressed this up as being a science-based approach to nutrition and changing people’s diets. But it isn’t science-based. It’s flawed. It’s scientifically weak, and it comes up with obtuse results.’

White argues that the FSA’s strange model doesn’t take into consideration the size of the serving – so yes, cheese does have a high number of calories, due to the fact that it is an energy-dense foodstuff, but it is typically served in ‘matchbox-sized’ 30 to 40g portions. So measuring cheese on the basis of a 100g chunk, as the FSA has done, ends with skewed results. White points out that a 30g serving of cheese provides around 30 to 40 per cent of a growing child’s daily calcium needs, and according to government figures 45 per cent of children in the UK have diets deficient in calcium.

Here we can see how today’s obesity panic ends up eating itself: arbitrary measures of the health content of cheese will mean it is banned from advertising on TV by the government bodies Ofcom and the FSA, while elsewhere the government worries that children aren’t getting enough calcium, which is prevalent in cheese.

Is the ban, supported by the FSA’s model and enforced by Ofcom, likely to have a detrimental impact on the sale and consumption of cheese? White says it will. The amount of cheese advertising on TV is minimal, but this is ‘the thin end of the wedge’, he says, because once a product is categorised as ‘unhealthy’, branded as junk, then other restrictions can quickly fall into place. This might include ‘communicating anything about your product… what a company can put on the packaging… whether it can say “this product is naturally high in calcium”, which cheese is…. All these things will fall into line and cheese will just be regarded as a junk food’, he says.

‘And it’s not. If you asked a hundred nutritionists whether they think children should be eating some cheese, they would all say yes.’

The Cheese Board is raising the issue in parliament and winning support for its cause. Why aren’t the raisin board and cereal board, and the food industry in general, following suit and taking a stand against the FSA’s seemingly mad model? Andrew Leyland, editor of The Grocer, a prominent trade magazine for the food and drinks industry, says it is because ‘every time [food representatives] put their head above the parapet they’re gunned down by various factions within the media and the public watchdogs’.

Leyland’s magazine has launched a campaign called ‘Weigh It Up’, which also challenges the FSA’s Nutrient Profile Model. Leyland tells me that the food industry has been cowed into submission by officials and lobbyists, who seem to treat food like it is tobacco, and the food industry as if it’s the new tobacco industry. ‘The FSA is constantly briefing against the food industry as if it sees them as the public enemy number one’, he says. According to Leyland, the FSA fails to take into account the efforts made by industry to promote healthier eating, and when anyone else tries to point this out they are accused of being ‘apologists’ for the industry and its alleged untold crimes against the nation’s arteries.

‘Whenever we raise our point about healthy and nutritious foods being banned [such as honey and bran flakes] the FSA says, “Oh well, you would say that, you’re The Grocer, you’re supported by the food industry!”. It’s schoolboy tactics. It’s not actually having a serious debate. They’re like a student union with a big budget. But actually, what they should say is, “You know what? This isn’t working yet. We need to think again.”’

It seems that thinking again would indeed be a wise move. The Ofcom ban and its framework in the FSA’s Nutrient Profile Model appear to be ill-thought-out symptoms of the political and media-whipped hysteria over our expanding waistlines. No matter that we’re healthier and living longer than ever before, apparently we must be constantly told what to eat, when to eat it, how much exercise to take, and so on.

The latest strand in food classification, which is used to justify draconian bans on TV advertising, could lead to the development of a fetishistic attitude to food, where we see certain grub as ‘good’ and other grub as ‘bad’. Yet the idea that a particular food is evil is ridiculous; mother’s old adage that ‘a bit of whatever you fancy does you good’ should surely still hold true. The confusion caused by the FSA model and the Ofcom ban shows how silly it is to make arbitrary judgements about food and to demonise certain foodstuffs. The ban is as irrational as it is unnecessary – and it could ultimately lead to the creation of abnormal, obsessive attitudes to the things we eat when we’re hungry.

Surely that’s not the ‘message’ we want to be sending to the nation’s kids? 

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



12 February, 2007

Hope for asthma sufferers

Scientists appear to have found the cold-fighting protein that asthmatics lack - thus potentially saving many lives

About one child in eight in the UK has asthma, and one adult in twelve. For most of them the cold season is misery. Common cold viruses trigger about 85 per cent of asthma attacks in children, and 60 per cent of those in adults, so picking up a winter bug isn't just annoying, it can be life-threatening. "A cold is never just a cold," says Jackie Fielding, the mother of Michael, who has had a 16-year struggle with acute asthma brought on by viruses. "It's his worst enemy."

What if you could stop people with asthma reacting so badly to cold and flu viruses? It could transform millions of lives at a stroke. A London researcher believes that he may have found the key to doing just that. On February 19, at a Body&Soul-sponsored event, Professor Sebastian Johnson, one of the UK's leading asthma specialists, will describe new research that, for the first time, explains exactly why people with asthma are so susceptible to bad, attack-inducing colds. It paves the way for new drugs that could prevent cold-induced acute attacks within five years, and bring relief to families such as the Fieldings.

It's all to do with a virus-fighting protein. Johnson has discovered that this protein is singularly lacking in people with asthma. For his research, at Imperial College London, he examined cells from the lungs of volunteers with and without asthma after they had been deliberately infected with the same cold virus. He found that the lung cells of the people with asthma produced half the usual levels of a type of interferon, a protein generated by the immune system to neutralise viruses. This means that when they get a cold, they simply can't fight it off and it gets worse and worse, making their airways more inflamed, and causing a full-blown asthma attack.

Having identified the missing protein, Johnson is working with drug companies to find a way of replacing it in asthmatics and making them as good at fighting off infection as the rest of the population. "These are exciting findings and have opened up new avenues of asthma treatment that haven't been thought of before," says Johnson, who is a professor of respiratory medicine, and investigator with the Medical Research Council's Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma at Imperial College London.

His discovery follows 18 years of research, prompted by the simple question: why do people with asthma react so badly when they get a cold? His earlier studies - looking at spouses of asthmatics infected with exactly the same germs - demonstrated that viruses persisted in the system of people with asthma longer, replicating more, going deeper into the respiratory tract and causing more damage than in the rest of the population.

His latest experiments used new techniques of molecular analysis to test cells from the lungs of volunteers with and without asthma, and found in the asthma group low levels of infection-fighting lambda interferon proteins. Exactly why people with asthma have such low levels is still a mystery. According to Johnson, one explanation could be that the process of allergic inflammation in asthma itself suppresses the protein. Another is that people with asthma have a defect in the signalling pathway that leads to the release of the protein, a defect that could be linked to the reasons people develop asthma in the first place. "We know that those who have very low exposure to infections in childhood seem to be more likely to develop asthma," says Johnson. "And it could be that because of this low exposure they never develop the immune responses they should." This would fit with the so-called "hygiene hypothesis", a theory that allergies arise because we do not condition our immune system by exposing it to germs early in life.

What he's hoping is that simply replacing the deficient protein will provide the answer for asthma sufferers. A similar protein called interferon beta is already used to treat multiple sclerosis and some types of leukaemia, but in large doses by injection. Asthma sufferers would need much lower doses fed into the respiratory tract by inhaler. "I'm working with one drug company on this," says Johnson. "If the results look good, and we're really lucky, it could be available in four years." Asthma UK, which supported the research, says Johnson's research is a "break-through in understanding" and the British Lung Foundation says it will be "invaluable in improving the treatment of people with asthma".

So how does Johnson feel about being behind such a significant medical step forward? "It's been a gradual process of discovery since 1989, and I got excited at each stage. The problem is that each discovery leads to new questions, and you just want to answer those." Having provided some answers about virus infections, there's another puzzling question to be worked on, this time concerning bacteria. Johnson's analysis of samples from 114 schoolchildren suggested that the bacterium chlamydia (a different type from the one involved in sexual infections) is also involved in acute asthma attacks.

The bacteria sit in most of our lungs causing low-level mischief but, in people with asthma, it seems to burst into activity once a cold virus takes hold. Perfecting antibiotic drugs that could target this bacteria could substantially reduce the severity of asthma attacks, and Johnson believes that he's found a drug that could help people to recover three days faster. The results of early trials were published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year. "I will feel I've made a major contribution when I see the treatments on the shelf," he says.

Source



SELENIUM GOOD FOR AIDS?

You can get it at any health-food shop. Journal abstract below:

Suppression of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Viral Load With Selenium Supplementation: A Randomized Controlled Trial

By: Barry E. Hurwitz et al.

Background: Despite findings that selenium supplementation may improve immune functioning, definitive evidence of its impact on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease severity is lacking.

Methods: High selenium yeast supplementation (200 mu-g/d) was evaluated in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Intention-to-treat analyses assessed the effect on HIV-1 viral load and CD4 count after 9 months of treatment. Unless otherwise indicated, values are presented as mean ~ SD.

Results: Of the 450 HIV-1-seropositive men and women who underwent screening, 262 initiated treatment and 174 completed the 9-month follow-up assessment. Mean adherence to study treatment was good (73.0% ~ 24.7%) with no related adverse events. The intention-to-treat analyses indicated that the mean change (delta = 32.2 ~ 24.5 vs 0.5 ~ 8.8 mu-g/L; P<.001), and greater levels predicted decreased HIV-1 viral load (P<.02), which predicted increased CD4 count (P<.04). Findings remained significant after covarying age, sex, ethnicity, income, education, current and past cocaine and other drug use, HIV symptom classification, antiretroviral medication regimen and adherence, time since HIV diagnosis, and hepatitis C virus coinfection. Follow-up analyses evaluating treatment effectiveness indicated that the nonresponding selenium-treated subjects whose serum selenium change was less than or equal to 26.1 mu-g/L displayed poor treatment adherence (56.8% ~ 29.8%), HIV-1 viral load elevation (delta = -25.8 ~ 147.4 cells/mu-L). In contrast, selenium-treated subjects whose serum selenium increase was greater than 26.1 mu-g/L evidenced excellent treatment adherence (86.2% ~ 13.0%), no change in HIV-1 viral load (delta = +27.9 ~ 150.2 cells/mu-L).

Conclusions: Daily selenium supplementation can suppress the progression of HIV-1 viral burden and provide indirect improvement of CD4 count. The results support the use of selenium as a simple, inexpensive, and safe adjunct therapy in HIV spectrum disease.

Source



NOT MUCH LIGHT ON DEMENTIA YET

But brain-exercise may help

This week the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released a report highlighting the social and economic burdens that dementia creates - and predicting the number of people living with dementia will skyrocket from 175,000 at last count in 2003 to 465,000 by 2031 as the population continues to age....

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for about 60 per cent of all cases. The average healthy person loses about 1 per cent of their brain cells every year, but that number climbs to 5 per cent in people with dementia. As brain cells shrink or disappear, abnormal material builds up as "tangles" in the centre of the brain cells, and "plaques" outside the brain cells. They disrupt messages within the brain, damaging connections between brain cells, which eventually die. The result is that information cannot be recalled. As Alzheimer's disease runs its course on each area of the brain, certain abilities are lost and personalities can change dramatically, says David Ames, professor of psychiatry and old age at the University of Melbourne....

As yet dementia has no cure, though more than 100 trials for drugs are in progress in Australia, including some that could have a preventative function.... Increasing evidence shows that keeping your mind active and staying socially engaged could go some way toward achieving that. A metanalysis of 29,000 people across 22 research studies found that people with a history of complex mental activity were 46 per cent less likely to develop dementia than those who had less active minds. The research was published in the journal Psychological Medicine (2005;35:1-14).

Playing games or just keeping your mind exercised through hobbies or continuing education can all have a protective effect, says professor Michael Woodward, who heads the Memory Centre at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne and developed the content for Mind Your Mind. "It doesn't have to be specifically crosswords or sudoku, but certain mental activities are better than others," Woodward says. Sitting in front of the TV is not as effective as engaging in social events, card games or board games, or physical activity such as walking, dancing or even knitting.

The more mentally demanding the activities are, the better. The reason is that the more your brain is stimulated, the greater connections form between the neurons in your brain. "What that does is it creates more reserve, so you have more protection from the damage that amyloid (a plaque deposited in your brain that is found in patients with Alzheimer's disease) does - there's a greater buffer," Woodward says.

Surveys by Alzheimer's Australia have found most people know that their genes and getting older increase their chance of getting the disease, but much of the public is unaware that lifestyle factors are associated with increased risk, says Lynette Moore, executive director of Alzheimer's Australia Victoria, which is managing the Mind Your Mind campaign.

Having cardiovascular disease increases your risk of dementia, and not surprisingly the risk factors for both seem to overlap. "High cholesterol and high blood pressure in mid-age does increase people's risk of dementia in their 70s and 80s," Moore says. "If you're carrying a particular gene you're more likely to get it, but even adjusting for that, lifestyle factors do make a contribution. There are no guarantees but it's worth a go to adopt a healthy lifestyle - that way you have the best chance possible."

To do that, experts recommend many of the same things that help prevent cardiovascular disease: get at least 30 minutes' of physical activity a day, eat a balanced diet that's low in saturated fat and rich in fruits and vegetables, don't smoke, limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

Research is still in progress, but there is also some evidence that diets that are high in antioxidants, as well as some vitamins and minerals such as folate and vitamin B12, may also provide some protection, Woodward says. A healthy diet and exercise also reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity, which are all other risk factors for dementia. Injury to your head also increases your risk so taking precautions such as protective gear when you play sport is also important.

Still, there are no hard and fast rules. The evidence shows that at a population level people with certain risk factors are more likely to have dementia, but at an individual level you could have several of the risk factors but never develop dementia. And the opposite is also true. "Unfortunately the biggest risk factor for dementia is something we can't address: getting older," Ames says.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



11 February, 2007

NITROGLYCERIN IS GOOD FOR PREMMIE BABIES

Nitroglycerin - the explosive chemical in dynamite - can significantly improve the health of babies born prematurely, finds a new study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The chemical, given as a skin patch to women in premature labour, was able to improve the outcome for babies with fewer side effects for the mother than other drugs. Babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are at high risk of death or disability, so women who go into premature labour are given drugs to prolong the pregnancy. But until now, none has been shown to improve the outcome for babies.

The study involved 153 Canadian women who had gone into premature labour between 24 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. They were randomly assigned to receive either a nitroglycerin patch or an inactive placebo patch, and their babies were monitored for any illnesses after birth. Compared to the placebo, women with the nitroglycerin patch had half the risk of delivering their babies before 28 weeks of pregnancy, and gave birth to healthier babies. However, the nitroglycerin patches caused more side effects for the mother - most commonly headache and skin irritation - than the placebo.

Source

Journal abstract from here or here reproduced below:

Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of transdermal nitroglycerin for preterm labor

By Graeme N. Smith et al.

Objective

Despite advances in perinatal medicine, the incidence of preterm birth continues to increase. The primary goal of tocolytic therapy is to reduce neonatal morbidity and mortality. While studies have demonstrated a prolongation of pregnancy, no tocolytic has been shown to improve neonatal outcomes. The objective of this randomized placebo-controlled trial was to determine the effect of transdermal nitroglycerin on neonatal outcomes in women who present in preterm labor.

Study design

We randomized 153 women in labor between 24 and 32 weeks to receive either transdermal nitroglycerin or placebo patches. The primary outcome was a composite of neonatal morbidity (chronic lung disease, intraventricular hemorrhage, periventricular leukomalacia, necrotizing enterocolitis) and mortality. Secondary outcomes included birth within 48 hours, birth before 28, 34, and 37 weeks, number of doses of antenatal corticosteroids received, side effects, and adverse events.

Results

Infants born to transdermal nitroglycerin treated mothers (n = 74) had a statistically significantly reduced composite outcome compared to placebo treated mothers (n = 79) (relative risk 0.29 [95% confidence interval 0.08, 1.00] [p = 0.048]; risk difference ?0.10 [95% confidence interval ?0.19, ?0.01); number needed to treat 10 [95% confidence interval 5, 100]). Birth prior to 28 weeks was reduced (relative risk 0.50, 95% confidence interval 0.23, 1.09). Transdermal nitroglycerin caused significantly more maternal side effects (relative risk 1.41, 95% confidence interval 1.06, 1.86).

Conclusion

Transdermal nitroglycerin may reduce neonatal morbidity and mortality as a result of decreased risk of birth before 28 weeks.



FOLATE SEEMS TO HELP WITH HARE-LIP TOO

Its role in preventing neural tube defects is of course already known

Folate supplements taken during early pregnancy can reduce the baby's risk of the facial birth defects known as cleft lip and palate by more than one third, concludes a study in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal.

Folate (or folic acid) is a B vitamin found in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and whole grains, and the recommended daily intake for adults is 400 micrograms (mcg). Taking extra folate before and during pregnancy is known to reduce the risk of the birth defect spina bifida.

Researchers studied 377 babies with cleft lip and/or palate, 196 babies with cleft palate alone and 763 babies with no facial defects. Mothers were surveyed to determine their intake of folate and other vitamins from both diet and supplements. Taking folate supplements of at least 400mcg per day reduced the chances of cleft lip (with or without cleft palate) by 39 per cent. Women with folate-rich diets who also took folate supplements had the lowest risk of having a baby with a cleft lip.

Source

Journal abstract below

Folic acid supplements and risk of facial clefts: national population based case-control study

By Allen J Wilcox et al.

Objective: To explore the role of folic acid supplements, dietary folates, and multivitamins in the prevention of facial clefts.

Design: National population based case-control study.

Setting: Infants born 1996-2001 in Norway.

Participants: 377 infants with cleft lip with or without cleft palate; 196 infants with cleft palate alone; 763 controls.

Main outcome measures: Association of facial clefts with maternal intake of folic acid supplements, multivitamins, and folates in diet.

Results: Folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy was associated with a reduced risk of isolated cleft lip with or without cleft palate after adjustment for multivitamins, smoking, and other potential confounding factors (adjusted odds ratio 0.61, 95% confidence interval 0.39 to 0.96). Independent of supplements, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and other high folate containing foods reduced the risk somewhat (adjusted odds ratio 0.75, 0.50 to 1.11). The lowest risk of cleft lip was among women with folate rich diets who also took folic acid supplements and multivitamins (0.36, 0.17 to 0.77). Folic acid provided no protection against cleft palate alone (1.07, 0.56 to 2.03).

Conclusions: Folic acid supplements during early pregnancy seem to reduce the risk of isolated cleft lip (with or without cleft palate) by about a third. Other vitamins and dietary factors may provide additional benefit.

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



10 February, 2007

Bilingualism delays dementia?

Do bilinguals differ from monolinguals only in being bilingual? Unlikely. So the generalizations below are suspect. The effects claimed could be due to other factors associated with bilingualism -- such as higher IQ. Low IQ people would seem much less likely to develop substantial bilingualism

After school, Carlos and Carmen Nguyen shuttle between two sets of grandparents in happy bursts of English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. Their parents love the way languages open their children's eyes to the family's heritage and to other cultures. Yet when they began their multilingual journey, they never imagined that Carlos and Carmen, now 6 and 9, also might be developing brains especially good at ignoring distractions and better able to withstand aging. "This is incredible," said the children's mother, Irene Bersola-Nguyen, a child development lecturer at California State University, Sacramento, who has been trading delighted e-mails with friends and colleagues about the latest study on the bilingual brain.

A team of Canadian researchers who studied people being treated for dementia found that those who regularly used two languages reported their first symptoms of a fading mind about four years later than those who used only one language. That work, published in February's edition of the journal Neuropsychologia, follows a 2004 study that found older bilingual people were better at paying close attention despite distractions. "Language pays off big time," said Ellen Bialystok, lead researcher on both studies and a scientist with the Baycrest Research Centre for Aging and the Brain in Toronto.

Bialystok and others cautioned that so many factors contribute to healthy aging, it would be premature to say language skills definitely delay dementia. Still, growing indications that bilingualism may deliver lifelong benefits in cognition have captured the attention of educators and researchers. "Ellen Bialystok is a pioneer in this field, and she's generating quite a buzz," said Tamar Gollan, a University of California, San Diego, psychiatry professor who studies bilingualism. "People all over the world are replicating her findings for some of her earlier work."

Few places in the United States have more at stake in understanding the bilingual brain than California, where a staggering 42 percent of people age 5 and older speak a language other than English at home. In Sacramento County, it's 29 percent. With the immigrant population and the proportion of those who are fully bilingual both expected to grow, California could be a living laboratory for examining the impact of what we gain -- and lose -- from speaking more than one language.

There are clearly losses as well as gains, said Gollan, whose own research probes the subtle deficits of bilinguals. Yet when she weighed them, she came down soundly on the side of raising her own small children with two languages.

Bialystok, who began studying bilingual kids decades ago, believes one key to their special brainpower lies in the way they must constantly decide which language to use and which to suppress. For people who use two languages daily, "every time you want to speak one language, the other language is activated" in the brain as well, she said. "That means you need a mechanism so that you're only drawing from the right pool (of words). It's going be a mechanism that works extremely fast ... while you're producing sentences. It's way below your radar for detecting what's happening." So bilinguals get far more practice than monolinguals in using the part of the brain that focuses our attention, helping us sort through conflicting information and ignore distractions. Using two languages seems to bolster rapid decision-making, multi-tasking and perhaps memory.

To measure the effect in older adults, Bialystok used one of the many psychological tests designed to confound us, because we have to respond to information with conflicting cues. It may be a picture that requires you to move your left hand, which shows up on the right side of a computer screen. Or it may be the word "green," written in red letters. In such tests, bilingual people in their 70s did noticeably better than monolingual people. With lots of practice, the one-language speakers eventually caught up.

Fergus Craik, a senior scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute who collaborates with Bialystok, said ongoing research seems to point to memory advantages. Bilingualism may bolster the kind of memory that lets us recall specific things that happened to us or recognize a person out of context, Craik said.

Both researchers suspect that bilingualism may delay dementia in the same way that other intense mental activity is believed to, whether it's playing an instrument or solving puzzles. Not everyone is convinced the "use it or lose it" strategy for maintaining a healthy brain has been proven, but it's something "we're all thinking about," said Dr. Charles DeCarli, a UC Davis neurology professor who heads the UCD Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

Source



Implantable pacemaker the future of weight loss?

DIETS and exercise may not be the future for weight loss. A pacemaker-like device, which blocks hunger nerves, has been successfully trialled at Adelaide's Flinders Medical Centre, with stunning results. The first person to be implanted with the device lost 20 kilograms in a year without changing her dietary habits or exercise regime. The Adelaide medical centre was one of three in the world to trial the new device, developed by EnteroMedics Inc.

Flinders' Professor of Digestive Surgery James Toouli (Toouli) said the instrument was placed under the abdominal skin and powered by parts worn outside the body. The device then intermittently blocked hunger signals carried by vagus nerves - two large cables which go from the brain to the gastrointestinal tract. "The vagus are the most important nerve that go to the digestive system," Prof Toouli said today. "These nerves control the movement of the stomach and they control some of the secretions used for digestion, and by blocking these intermittently, what it does is it slows downs the aching of the stomach so consequently people don't feel as hungry."

The theory of blocking the hunger nerves came from clinical observations from past surgery where patients had the nerves divided. "It was noted in those people if they were overweight, they actually would lose weight," Prof Toouli said. "Instead of dividing the nerves we now block them with this pacemaker-type device. "And the reason why this is better than dividing them ... is the body always recuperates if we do something permanent and those nerves do regenerate in time. "So if you can just block them intermittently but not destroy them, then the effects are most likely to last for a long time."

Flinders trialled the device on 10 people including 32-year-old Sarah Polkinghorne, who lost 20kg in a year after having her vagus nerves blocked for a total of 12 hours a day. The group was told not to alter their exercise or dietary habits. A smaller improved version of the device is now being trialled. "The idea is that this will be implantable, the whole thing," Prof Toouli said. "At the moment what we call the neuroregulator is implantable but the person has to actually apply an external device in order to send messages to the nerves. "Ultimately what we are working towards is a fully implantable thing just like a pacemaker so it would be put in and left there for a number of years with a rechargeable battery.

"These early trials are geared towards trying to work out the dosage and how often this thing needs to be turned on so that it will optimise the fully implantable device, which is still very much in a prototype stage." Prof Toouli hoped the device would be widely available in the future. "That is certainly our view," he said. "As always with these things, cost comes into it and these things have not been worked out yet, but it's really very promising."

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



9 February, 2007

Cloning madness

California politics lately seems a parody of itself. Starting in February, San Francisco will become the first city in the country to require employers to give paid sick leave to their workers - full- and part-time, permanent and temporary. They will be able to miss work even when they aren't sick, but wish to stay home (ostensibly) to help a domestic partner or a family member. Then there is legislation soon to be introduced into the State Assembly that would criminalize the spanking (or slapping or whacking) of children under four. The coup de grace, however, is a Senate bill that would require the labeling of meat and milk obtained from cloned animals if such products are approved for human consumption.

This last proposal is not only unwise and unwarranted, but is also almost surely unconstitutional. Introduced by Senator Carol Migden (D-San Francisco), it comes several weeks after the U.S. FDA made public a preliminary decision to permit the consumption of food from cloned animals.

The FDA's decision was based on voluminous - and incontrovertible - scientific data. Scientists have known for years that the clones are indistinguishable genetically, biochemically and nutritionally from the parent. As one farmer who owns a pair of clones of a prize-winning Holstein cow observed, they are essentially twins of "a cow that was already in production."

Cloning technology of one sort or another is widely applied to a variety of foods that we consume routinely and uncontroversially. As the authoritative journal Nature Biotechnology observed in a January 2007 editorial:

"The irony in all this is that food from clones has been a part of our diet for years. Many common fruits (e.g., pears, apples, oranges and lemons) and several vegetables (e.g., potatoes and truffles) are clones. And most of us have probably ingested meat and dairy products from livestock cloned by natural reproduction (monozygotic siblings), mechanical embryo-splitting or even nuclear transfer from an embryonic donor cell into an enucleated oocyte. Regulators traditionally paid scant attention to clones as a group-and rightly so."

What of Senator Migden's attempt to require labeling of products derived from cloned animals or their offspring? She needs to do some research. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act requires that food labels be truthful and not misleading, and federal law prohibits label statements that are likely to be misunderstood by consumers even if they are, strictly speaking, accurate. For example, although a "cholesterol-free" label on a certain variety or batch of fresh broccoli is accurate, it could run afoul of the FDA's rules because it could be interpreted to as implying that broccoli usually does contain cholesterol, even though in fact it does not.

Analogously, instead of educating or serving a legitimate consumers' "right to know" certain information, mandatory labels on food from cloned animals would imply a warning, or at least would be misconstrued by some consumers as a suggestion that food from cloned animals differs in an important way (such as safety or nutrition) although it does not. The FDA's current approach to labeling, which has been dubbed "need to know," has been upheld both directly and indirectly by various federal court decisions.

In the early 1990s, a group of Wisconsin consumers sued the FDA, arguing that the agency's decision not to require the labeling of dairy products from cows treated with a protein called bovine somatotropin, or bST, allowed those products to be labeled in a false and misleading manner. However, because the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate any material difference between milk from treated and untreated cows the federal court ruled that "it would be misbranding to label the product[s] as different, even if consumers misperceived the product[s] as different."

In another case, several food industry associations and firms challenged a Vermont statute that required labeling to identify milk from cows treated with bST. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a labeling mandate grounded in consumer perception, rather than in a product's measurable characteristics, raises serious constitutional concerns. The court held that food labeling cannot be mandated simply because some people would like to have the information, and ruled both the labeling statute and companion regulations unconstitutional because they forced producers to make involuntary statements contrary to their views when there was no material reason to do so.

Because the State of Vermont could not demonstrate that its interest represented anything more than satisfying consumer curiosity, it could not compel milk producers to include that information on product labels. In the words of the decision:

"We are aware of no case in which consumer interest alone was sufficient to justify requiring a product's manufacturers to publish the functional equivalent of a warning about a production method that has no discernable impact on a final product. . . . Absent some indication that this information bears on a reasonable concern for human health or safety or some other sufficiently substantial governmental concern, the manufacturers cannot be compelled to disclose it."

The overarching issue here is important: There exists no consumers' "right to know" obscure information about food. "Were consumer interest alone sufficient," said the court, "there is no end to the information that states could require manufacturers to disclose about their production methods."

Source



Australia: "Healthy" food a hard sell for school canteens

School canteens are struggling to break even after banning the sale of high-fat and pre-packaged foods in order to comply with state government guidelines on healthy eating. A study backed by the Australian Research Council has found that many canteens could be forced to close unless federal and state governments provide extra funding to help carry through healthy eating guidelines.

Researcher Claire Drummond, who is undertaking a national study on canteen food services and healthy eating, said government schools that had introduced healthier foods were finding it difficult to make a profit by selling salads, baguettes and fruit. "A lot of the canteens need to make a profit just to survive," Ms Drummond said. "Something is going to have to give and the Goverment is going to have to provide a lot more support or funding, otherwise they're going to fail."

Healthy eating guidelines have been introduced to schools in NSW and Queensland and will be mandated in South Australia by the end of the year. While the guidelines are working well, Ms Drummond said some government high schools were struggling because they lacked volunteer support. Without volunteers, schools have been forced to pay for additional staff or outsource services. A lack of volunteers means there is little time to prepare healthy meals. "The high schools are completely worried about that because they can't get volunteers and primary schools are going that way as well," she said. "(And many) canteen managers have basically come from being a parent to a manager and a lot of them don't have the skills, the dietary background."

The University of South Australia PhD candidate said some high schools were struggling to replace vending machines, chocolate drives and barbecue fundraisers. "They're everywhere in high schools, they're a great source of revenue when the school canteen is closed," she said.

Ms Drummond called for a national approach to provide additional funding. The federal Government last year provided one-off $1500 grants to schools to buy ovens and establish vegetable patches to help them implement the strategies, but Ms Drummond said that had not been offered this year.

At St Peter's Woodlands Grammar School at Glenelg, in Adelaide's west, canteen manager Wendy Manning has introduced low-fat alternatives to pies and pasties. But many children would rather buy high-fat foods than salad rolls. "Lollies are cheaper than fruit at the moment," Ms Manning said.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



8 February, 2007

Cheap, safe drug kills most cancers -- but being held up by the need for regulatory approval

New Scientist has received an unprecedented amount of interest in this story from readers. If you would like up-to-date information on any plans for clinical trials of DCA in patients with cancer, or would like to donate towards a fund for such trials, please visit the site set up by the University of Alberta and the Alberta Cancer Board. We will also follow events closely and will report any progress as it happens.

It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their "immortality". The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe. It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.

Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks.

DCA attacks a unique feature of cancer cells: the fact that they make their energy throughout the main body of the cell, rather than in distinct organelles called mitochondria. This process, called glycolysis, is inefficient and uses up vast amounts of sugar.

Until now it had been assumed that cancer cells used glycolysis because their mitochondria were irreparably damaged. However, Michelakis's experiments prove this is not the case, because DCA reawakened the mitochondria in cancer cells. The cells then withered and died (Cancer Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2006.10.020).

Michelakis suggests that the switch to glycolysis as an energy source occurs when cells in the middle of an abnormal but benign lump don't get enough oxygen for their mitochondria to work properly (see diagram). In order to survive, they switch off their mitochondria and start producing energy through glycolysis.

Crucially, though, mitochondria do another job in cells: they activate apoptosis, the process by which abnormal cells self-destruct. When cells switch mitochondria off, they become "immortal", outliving other cells in the tumour and so becoming dominant. Once reawakened by DCA, mitochondria reactivate apoptosis and order the abnormal cells to die.

"The results are intriguing because they point to a critical role that mitochondria play: they impart a unique trait to cancer cells that can be exploited for cancer therapy," says Dario Altieri, director of the University of Massachusetts Cancer Center in Worcester.

The phenomenon might also explain how secondary cancers form. Glycolysis generates lactic acid, which can break down the collagen matrix holding cells together. This means abnormal cells can be released and float to other parts of the body, where they seed new tumours.

DCA can cause pain, numbness and gait disturbances in some patients, but this may be a price worth paying if it turns out to be effective against all cancers. The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can't make money on unpatented medicines. The pay-off is that if DCA does work, it will be easy to manufacture and dirt cheap.

Paul Clarke, a cancer cell biologist at the University of Dundee in the UK, says the findings challenge the current assumption that mutations, not metabolism, spark off cancers. "The question is: which comes first?" he says.

Source



A Clarion Call for Health Independence

Lorenzo's Oil (1992) is one of the best movies you've never seen. This incredible drama hit the big screen for two seconds before skidding into rental stores, where it failed to find the wider audience it deserves. Lorenzo's Oil is a compelling reality-based story of parental devotion and the triumph of truth over authority. It is a beautifully acted and skillfully directed tribute to the power of love to prevail, it seems, over death itself.

The movie opens in 1983. Augusto (Nick Nolte) and Michaela (Susan Sarandon) Odone watch in horror as their only son, Lorenzo, rapidly degenerates from a disease so rare that no one is pursuing a cure. Indeed, at first, no one knows what is happening to the five-year-old. Lorenzo is ultimately diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy. ALD is an inherited, sex-specific genetic disorder passed from mother to son in which the myelin sheaths - the fatty coverings that surround and protect nerve cells in the brain - deteriorate, resulting in physical and mental breakdown. (As a disease, it is related to multiple sclerosis.) In more practical terms, the breakdown means that Lorenzo dissolves from being a precocious and delightful child into a violently disturbed boy who is finally unable to perform simple biological functions such as swallowing.

The boy is going to die and soon; that is the consensus of every doctor and scientist whom the Odones consult. Lorenzo is going to live; that is the quest of his parents. They have no medical or scientific training. Augusto is an Italian economist; Michaela is an Irish-American linguist. Nevertheless, as Augusto states, "When you are in a strange country, you learn the language." At first, the Odones speak the language (medicine) in a conventional manner. Because ALD is both a newly discovered disease and a rare one, there is little hard data or funding available. At first, they accept the experimental treatments, the need for control-group research, and other standard slow-moving approaches. But Lorenzo does not have the luxury of time.

Soon the Odones are ransacking medical libraries and pursuing every footnote on human or animal research that bears even remotely upon ALD. They pursue information from doctors and researchers with a passion commonly associated with stalkers. Eventually, the Odones organize an international symposium to discuss ALD. A division of labor emerges through which Augusto becomes the primary researcher and Michaela the caregiver, but each participates equally in the crusade to save Lorenzo.

Many doctors are hostile, not helpful. Clearly, they are annoyed and offended by aggressive lay people who do not accept their authority but, instead, have the audacity to seek a cure. Even some members of a support group for parents of ALD boys condemn the Odones for not facing the reality of their son's impending death. Alone and racing against death, the Odones persist for three years before finding the clue that leads them not to a cure but to a treatment; oleic acid can destroy the fatty acids that are destroying Lorenzo's brain. Augusto develops a formula he calls "Lorenzo's Oil" - a combination of two fats extracted from olive oil and rapeseed oil. The formula proves remarkably effective in presymptomatic boys with the ALD gene because of its ability to halt the body's production of the specific acids that attack the myelin sheaths.

Dr. Hugo Moser, the world's foremost authority on ALD, subsequently conducted a 10-year study in which 120 presymtomatic boys with the gene for ALD were given Lorenzo's Oil. Eighty-three of them remained disease-free. From the data, Moser concluded Lorenzo's Oil reduced the onset of disease by half. Augusto later received an honorary Ph.D. for his work.

For Lorenzo himself, however, the discovery came too late. The treatment could not repair the extensive damage to his brain. The real life Augusto shifted his attention to research on the regeneration of brain tissue. The movie ends with a 12-year-old Lorenzo who has improved significantly enough to be able to communicate through sign language. Today, Lorenzo is 28 years old. Although he has little body function, his mind is alert and he is reported to enjoy music and listening to books.

Several factors combine to make Lorenzo's Oil a superb film. The acting is exquisite. Saradon, of whom I am generally not a fan, received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her role. The director and co-author, George Miller, whose credits include Mad Max and The Witches of Eastwick, produces a near-flawless movie that is brilliantly edited. He also provides a fine emotional balance. A medical doctor himself, Miller does not demonize the experts who obstruct the Odones' quest. He condemns the mechanistic approach now prevalent in medicine without condemning the people who employ it. To this end, Peter Ustinov is perfectly cast as a sympathetic, well-meaning doctor who simply cannot help as long as he stays within protocol. Miller's background also imbues the movie with a medical accuracy that is disturbing and difficult to watch but never gratuitously so. You hate to see Lorenzo suffer but his suffering, after all, is the crux of the film.

The movie's themes are haunting. Perhaps the most obvious one is the power of parental love. This theme is best captured by Sarandon's fierce portrayal of Michaela, which reveals a maternal devotion that is literally frightening in its intensity. The power of marriage is an equally strong theme. It is inconceivable that the Odones could have endured Lorenzo's illness, their financial difficulties, and the scorn of the world without having each other. Especially today when marriage (or partnership) is often viewed as disposable, it is heartening to view a family who will never abandon or give up on itself.

On a more political level, the overriding theme is "Question Authority." Early in Lorenzo's Oil, Augusto requests medical material to better understand what is happening to his son. Without meaning offense, a doctor assures Augusto that he could not make possibly make sense of the studies. The Odones do not stop questioning even when the responses are openly hostile. Their willingness to tolerate both unlikely theories and the skepticism those theories elicit is precisely what leads them to the source of an effective treatment: olive oil. It is not merely that experts are shown to be fallible and constrained by narrow thinking. It is that ordinary people are shown to be capable of realizing their own self-interest even in "expert only" areas.

Finally, Lorenzo's Oil is a counterargument to the assumed need for government funding and law to regulate all things medical in order to ensure progress and quality care. The movie is a clarion call for individuals to take control of their own bodies and their own medical well being. It is the triumph of personal responsibility over bureaucracy, the individual over the system.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



7 February, 2007

Want greens with that? Hearty McDonald's gets tick of health approval

Health experts have confirmed what kids have been telling their parents for years: McDonald's really is good for you. In what is being touted as a world first, the local arm of the giant fast food chain that feeds 1 million Australians a day has earned the approval of an independent health organisation. The National Heart Foundation yesterday confirmed it would bestow its distinctive red tick of approval on a range of modified McDonald's meals, some of which include the standard hamburger, chicken burger and even the inscrutable chicken nugget. But there is a catch. You can't have fries with that. Or a fizzy drink. And there will be no option for substitution or supersizing.

McDonald's Australia has been working with the Heart Foundation for the past 12 months, modifying its recipes to reduce the levels of salt, saturated fat and kilojoules, virtually eradicate its trans fat use and add more vegetables to each approved meal. The salt content in the chain's deli-style bread rolls had to be cut by more than 40 per cent. And after what the foundation described yesterday as a rigorous system of trial, test and rejection, nine meal combinations eventually met the tick's demands: less than 2 per cent saturated fat, virtually no trans fat, and a minimum 75-gram serve of vegetables in every meal, which in itself must not provide more than a third of an adult's daily energy needs.

Monique Blunden, the communications manager for the foundation's tick program, said the ingredient changes made to the new McDonald's menu, which will come into effect by the end of the month, meant that even the standard Big Mac, fries and soft drink would be marginally more healthy than the original. However, the real health benefits would come through convincing people to substitute this typical fast food order with, for example, the tick-approved meal of lean beef burger, garden salad and orange juice. This would result in a 70 per cent reduction in saturated fat, a third less salt and half the kilojoules. If just 10 per cent of customers make such a swap, collectively they will remove 294 tonnes of saturated fat from their diet each year, according to the foundation.

To maintain the integrity of the tick system, McDonald's will allow twice-weekly independent audits at randomly selected outlets. Ms Blunden said the foundation was not expecting other chains to immediately follow the lead of McDonald's. "Some were more interested than others," she said. "But it was McDonald's who took us seriously."

Source



Now shiftwork gives you cancer!

Theory runs wild

Shiftwork must be examined as a potential trigger of cancer in the wake of the cluster of cases at the ABC's Brisbane studios, experts say. Scientists looking into the breast cancer cluster at Toowong say shiftwork has the potential to disrupt body cycles, possibly triggering dangerous changes.

The call comes as the ABC is expected to officially call for expressions of interest this week to find a more permanent home after a fruitless search for space in Brisbane's record tight office market. The broadcaster was forced to abandon its headquarters last year due to concerns over the high frequency of cancer cases. Of the 10 women who developed invasive breast cancer while working at the Toowong site since 1994, three did shiftwork most of the time, six some of the time and one not at all.

A panel of experts put the likelihood of the cluster occurring by chance at a million to one, but no cause has been identified. However, population health experts said yesterday that shiftwork might be to blame. "There's certainly a biological rationale as to why shiftwork might cause breast cancer because it's related to the whole relationship of hormones in the body," said occupational cancer expert Lin Fritschi, of the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research. "Some of the interesting information has come from flight attendants who have very disrupted sleep/wake cycles."

If shiftwork does put women at heightened risk of breast cancer, many Australians may be affected. In November 2003, 12 per cent of full-time female workers and 14 per cent of part-timers had done shiftwork in the preceding month.

Eminent public health specialist, Professor Bruce Armstrong, said working in an illuminated environment over a long period of time led to suppression of the hormone melatonin. "There's evidence that the hormone melatonin has effects that reduce breast cancer risk," he told the ABC's Health Report. "If it is unusually suppressed then, in principle, the risk of breast cancer is increased." Professor Armstrong, who led the investigation into the ABC cluster, said that although research on female shift workers suggested an increased risk of breast cancer, it was "nothing like the six-fold" spike seen at the ABC.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



6 February, 2007

McDonalds vindicated: 'Supersize me' revisited under lab conditions

If you had bumped into nursing student Adde Karimi last September, he probably wouldn't have had much time to stop and chat. He was too busy stuffing his face with burgers, cola and milkshakes. It takes a lot of planning to get 6600 calories of junk food down you in a day, he explains. If you are not a born glutton, serious overeating also requires a high level of commitment. Karimi's motivation was commendable. "I did it because I wanted to hate this type of food," he says. He also did it for science.

Even if you have never tried to cure your cravings for fast food by overdosing on it, you may be getting a sense of deja vu. That's because Karimi was a volunteer in an experiment based on the 2004 documentary Super Size Me. In the movie, film-maker Morgan Spurlock spent 30 days eating exclusively at McDonald's, never turning down an offer to "supersize" to a bigger portion, and avoiding physical exertion. Karimi followed a similar regime, gorging himself on energy-dense food and keeping exercise to a minimum.

That is pretty much where the similarities end, though. By the end of Spurlock's McDonald's binge, the film-maker was a depressed lardball with sagging libido and soaring cholesterol. He had gained 11.1 kilograms, a 13 per cent increase in his body weight, and was on his way to serious liver damage. In contrast, Karimi had no medical problems. In fact, his cholesterol was lower after a month on the fast food than it had been before he started, and while he had gained 4.6 kilos, half of that was muscle.

The brains behind this particular experiment is Fredrik Nystrom from Linkoping University in Sweden. In the past year he has put 18 volunteers through his supersize regime, and what fascinates him most is the discovery that there was such huge variation in their response to the diet. Some, like Karimi, took it in their stride. Others suffered almost as much as Spurlock, with one volunteer taking barely two weeks to reach the maximum 15 per cent weight gain allowed by the ethics committee that had approved the study. We are used to being told that if we are overweight the problem is simply too much food and too little exercise, but Nystrom has been forced to conclude that it isn't so straightforward. "Some people are just more susceptible to obesity than others," he says.

Nystrom had been intrigued by Spurlock's experiment ever since seeing the movie when it came out, but was bothered by its unscientific nature. So when one of his PhD students unexpectedly quit, freeing up some research money, he decided to have a go at replicating it under clinical conditions.

Things got off to a good start. Following one of his regular lectures to medical students on the perils of obesity, Nystrom casually asked whether anyone would be interested in taking part in an experiment involving as much free food as you can eat. The response was very positive, he recalls. As it happened, most of the volunteers were male. "The boys are very committed," says Nystrom, "but it has been really tough to get girls to sign up." He wanted 10 of each, but in the end has had to settle for 12 men and six women.

Eat, drink and be lazy

The first batch of seven healthy, lean volunteers began their month-long challenge in February 2006. First Nystrom calculated their normal daily calorie intake and then asked them to double it in the form of junk food, while also avoiding physical activity as much as possible. Nystrom allowed them to do just 1 hour of upper body weight training per week. "I thought it would help some of the guys to stick to the diet if they believed that some of the extra weight could be in the form of muscle bulk," he says. Aside from that, though, they were encouraged to be as slothful as possible, and were issued with bus passes and pedometers to help.

In another difference from the movie, Nystrom didn't order his volunteers to eat only at McDonald's. They were also allowed to eat pizza, fried chicken, chocolate and other high-fat food whenever they could no longer stomach burgers.

During the experiment Nystrom's volunteers had weekly safety check-ups to monitor their health. In addition, they were subjected to a barrage of tests and examinations before starting the diet and again afterwards to find out what it had done to their physiology, metabolism and mental health. "We've done almost every test apart from a muscle biopsy," Nystrom says.

His team used a state-of-the-art X-ray technique called DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) to measure body composition, including muscle, fat and bone density. They subjected the volunteers to glucose tolerance tests to look for early indicators of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, plus a new spectroscopy test to assess the amount of fat in the liver. They measured their basal metabolic rates before, after and during the experiment, using a standard measure of how much oxygen they inhaled and carbon dioxide they exhaled over a period at rest. They took blood samples and measured levels of hormones such as thyroxine that play a role in setting metabolic rate. And in a bid to work out exactly what metabolic changes occur in fat cells during a fatty diet, the researchers even screened mRNA, the molecule that acts as an intermediate between genes and the proteins they code for. "We looked at all proteins - that's around 30,000," says Nystrom.

Overeating has psychological effects too, so the students were also subjected to four questionnaires to assess how they were feeling before and after the experiment. Nystrom also kept a paternal eye on their welfare whenever they came to him for money. They were spending up to 300 kronor per week on food, he notes, so these meetings were quite regular. He now estimates the final cost for the experiment at around 100,000 kronor, none of which came from the food or restaurant industries.

Surprisingly, the volunteers' most common niggles were not about food at all, but about the lack of exercise. Although few were fitness freaks in their normal lives, it seems they missed cycling and walking more than they missed being lean. Another regular and surprising complaint was about feeling full all the time - clearly the sensation of hunger is something we don't appreciate until it has gone.

Nystrom cannot disclose the full results of his experiment until the study is published later this year. Even then it will take years of analysis to coax the detailed implications from all the data. However, New Scientist can reveal some unexpected early results.

I talked to volunteer Lotta Karlsson while she was in her final week of eating 5000 calories a day. She had already gained 9.1 kilograms, almost the maximum allowable increase over her starting weight of 60 kilos. "I feel [psychologically] very, very good," she said, "but the physical part is bad. I'm so clumsy and I don't like what I see in the mirror. It looks like I am four or five months pregnant."

Even Karimi, who seems remarkably immune to obesity, noticed some nasty side effects of his unhealthy diet. "I felt disgusting. Even if I washed my hands and face, I still felt dirty - as if there was grease all over me." He had previously been very fit, but describes how during the experiment just walking became a laborious process. "I had difficulty keeping up with the other guys. When I took 15 or 20 steps I started to sweat." Worse still, although his libido wasn't affected, his sexual performance was. "I just didn't have my usual stamina," he says.

Sweating it out

Many of the subjects were shocked at how difficult it was to eat enough calories each day. "They came up with some interesting tricks," Nystrom says. One male volunteer would regularly drink a milkshake fortified with a tub of cream. Another, who was particularly dedicated to the cause, found himself 1000 calories short one bedtime, so he just downed some olive oil. Karimi puts his success down to good planning. Karlsson resorted to adding cream to her meals and snacking on chocolate, cheese and high-calorie drinks between times. "I have to eat almost all the time," she said during the experiment.

Nystrom also has some initial results from the tests. Take the liver, for starters. When it is under stress it releases large amounts of enzymes into the bloodstream. Nobody is entirely sure why: maybe they are released by dying cells or perhaps produced by overworked cells. Either way elevated liver enzymes are a bad sign - and the main reason why Spurlock's doctor urged him to quit his binge. Yet none of Nystrom's first batch of volunteers had this problem, which initially led him to suspect that Spurlock might have had an underlying susceptibility to liver dysfunction.

Now that the Swedish experiment is complete, however, Nystrom has revised this opinion. "The liver enzymes did increase a lot in some of the last study subjects," he says. If he can find out what factors affect this variability, the supersize experiment may hold some vital clues for anyone hoping to understand and alleviate the growing problem of obesity-linked liver disease.

Then there is cholesterol. Over recent years it has become clear that it is very difficult to substantially change your cholesterol levels by changing your diet. Nystrom's findings push that notion to the limit. Not only did many of his subjects show very little change in the amounts of cholesterol and other fatty biomolecules circulating in their bloodstream, some of them even had less low-density lipoprotein - "bad cholesterol" - and an increase in the "good" form, high-density lipoprotein. It's not clear why a junk-food diet should improve your blood lipids, but it may be down to the precise composition of the diet. With receipts for all the food his volunteers bought, Nystrom has the means to find out whether there is any correlation between certain foods and blood fat levels.

The big mystery, though, is weight gain. Why do some people pile on so much more than others while consuming the equivalent amount of food? Nystrom's hunch is that it is down to variations in metabolism - some of us are simply better at handling calories than others. If you are lucky, your body can adapt to cope with an extra cream doughnut or even a blow-out dinner by burning off the excess energy in the form of heat. He suspects many of his volunteers fall into this category because they were all slim on their normal diet and because they often commented on feeling warm all the time while overeating. "They certainly looked hot and sweaty when they came to me for more money," he says.

Cold comfort

If Nystrom is correct, this is what makes his study so unusual and potentially valuable. Most research into obesity is done on people who are already overweight - in other words, those who are least resistant to calories. The ability to turn excess food into fat has been an adaptive advantage throughout most of human evolutionary history when our ancestors had to deal with alternating feast and famine. But the erratic availability of food has not been the only factor influencing the evolution of human metabolism.

"In cold areas people might have adapted more to cope with temperature and so be more likely to burn off excess calories as heat," says Nystrom. People with this type of metabolism seem better able to cope with today's "obesogenic" world, and Nystrom hopes that by studying them he will be able to identify new approaches to tackling the obesity epidemic. "Because we have such a huge amount of data we should be able to start teasing apart some of the influences that make some people more susceptible to obesity than others."

By now, Karlsson will be pedalling furiously on the exercise bike she has installed in her living room and Karimi will be pumping iron in the gym. When I spoke to him a month after finishing his blowout he had already lost 1 kilogram. He was still on six meals a day, but eating a much more healthy diet and enjoying being hungry. Best of all, the aversion therapy to fast food seemed to have worked. "I haven't touched a burger since I stopped. I don't think I will for a year," he says.

Downsize me

The study at Linkoping University in Sweden is the first to try to replicate Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me under laboratory conditions. The backlash against his film has, however, prompted several alternative experiments in the past couple of years designed to vindicate the fast food industry. You may question the funding, motivation and scientific credibility of these, but they do seem to confirm the simple truth that you can lose weight no matter what you eat, provided you consume fewer calories than you burn.

In 2004, Dutch journalist Wim Meij spent 30 days eating solely at McDonald's, but choosing mostly salads. He lost 6.5 kilograms.

Also in 2004, US documentary film-maker Scott Caswell lost 8.6 kilograms after a month of eating only at McDonald's. He charts his progress in a movie Bowling for Morgan, but gives no details about what he ate, except that he avoided supersize meals and drank only water or diet soda.

The 2005 film Me and Mickey D follows New Hampshire resident Soso Whaley as she spends three 30-day periods eating 2000 calories a day at McDonald's. She lost a total of more than 16 kilograms.

After 90 days eating only at McDonald's but limiting herself to a daily maximum of 1400 calories, North Carolina construction worker Merab Morgan claims she lost more than 16 kilograms. Following a similar regime but eating 2500 calories a day and sticking to diet drinks, Texan air force sergeant Deshan Woods claims to have shed around 6 kilos over 90 days.

To make the point that obesity is not so much a matter of what you eat but how much, James Painter from Eastern Illinois University got two students to eat fast food for a month in portions calculated as appropriate for their size. Both lost a little weight and their taste for fast food. Painter made a film of his experiment, Portion Size Me, which he hopes will be used by nutritionists to educate students' fast-food choices.

Source



NEW ANTI-CANCER DRUG IN AUSTRALIA

Women whose breast cancer has advanced despite all available treatments - including Herceptin - will have access to a new drug before it is approved for use in Australia. Tykerb was so successful in an international trial of women with late-stage or metastatic HER2 positive breast cancer, it has been made available through oncologists prior to approval by the Therapeutic Goods Association. It will be offered at 13 sites around Australia, including the Mater and St George hospitals in Sydney.

Tykerb gives fresh hope to women whose cancer has spread despite treatment with other therapies, including Herceptin. When taken in combination with chemotherapy drug Xeloda, it was shown the average delay in the time it took the cancer to progress was 36.9 weeks, compared with 19.7 weeks for patients treated with chemotherapy alone. Medicare data shows 52 per cent of women with end-stage breast cancer do not respond to Herceptin.

In addition, Tykerb, a once daily oral drug, substantially reduces the risk of HER2 cancer metastasising in the brain. Oncologist Professor Fran Boyle is already using the combination therapy on 10 patients at the Mater Hospital. "There has been a clear need for alternative treatments to help women with metastatic breast cancer in this advanced setting," she said. "This is a big deal for a small number of women."

Patients enrolled in the expanded access program will not have to pay for the drug, but it will be offered only to women who have tried other therapies without success. Once regulatory approval is gained, the program will end but women already being treated will continue to be provided with free treatment.

GlaxoSmithKline said clinical trials of the drug for early-stage breast cancer would begin this year. The company will eventually apply to put Tykerb on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Herceptin, which costs patients about $50,000 a year, was put on the PBS in October.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare predicts the number of Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer will rise from 13,261 in 2006 to 14,800 in 2011. Of these, about 25 per cent will have HER2 positive breast cancer, a more aggressive form of the disease.

Carol Galluzzi volunteered for the Tykerb trial at the end of last year after 10 months of Herceptin failed to reduce the size of the tumour in her breast. After paying more than $21,000 for seven Herceptin treatments, the trial was a welcome financial relief. She takes five tablets daily in addition to an oral chemotherapy drug and said her quality of life had improved greatly since switching treatments. "I can look after my grandkids now where before I just didn't have the energy - and there aren't as many side effects."

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



5 February, 2007

Britain: Anti-obesity message 'is driving girls to anorexia'

Focus on food 'leads to bullying'; Health policy may have gone too far

Children are becoming obsessed with calorie-counting and face increased playground bullying about their weight as a result of the Government’s antiobesity campaign, experts said yesterday. Pupils are overloaded with information about healthy eating, which can lead to a preoccupation with food and fuel the development of eating disorders, according to the specialists.

Ministers have raised the spectre of an increasingly unhealthy society, citing the statistic that more than 13 per cent of British children are already obese and promising millions of pounds for nutritious school meals and cooking lessons. Obese children have been put on the child protection register, and the Department of Health has attempted to weigh every primary school child in England to assess the scale of the problem.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the Eating Disorders Association, told The Times that the focus on healthy eating has made life more difficult for many young people. “I am concerned that the emphasis on childhood obesity is having a backlash. We know people who are bullied about their shape are far more likely to develop eating disorders and there is now even more focus on overweight young people,” she said.

Health campaigners have pushed successfully for clearer nutritional labelling on food, but Ms Ringwood argued that for those vulnerable to eating problems, the prevalence of information on calories and fat content is unhelpful.

“Even things intended to be helpful, such as traffic lights for high-fat foods, play into the hands of people who are obsessed about eating. It gives them more to obsess about.”

She wants ministers to broaden their message to address the emotional relationship people have with food. “I can see why the Government had to go for a broad brush approach at first, but nothing so far has touched on the emotional aspects of eating,” she said.

“It’s all very well being able to count calories, but eating is an emotional experience too. As well as the advice on eating five fruit and vegetables a day, we should be helping people understand how food makes us feel. It is not just fuel.”

David Wood, consultant psychiatrist at the Ellern Mede Centre, a residential unit for children with eating disorders in North London, argued that there was a “cultural anxiety” about obesity which young people could latch on to. He also suggested that the pro-health message might have gone too far. “There are some important details about healthy eating that we should recognise but most of us, as long as we eat a balanced diet, can actually manage quite a few McDonald’s if we choose,” he said.

“There is a moralistic tone to the healthy eating agenda — but also about consumption more generally — which suggests that if you give in to ‘base’ desires such as eating chocolate and cream you are somehow weak.”

The focus on food, he argued, was part of a trend. He said: “It is about living in a highly-developed consumer society, where there is too much of everything, so that if you can restrain yourself are a superior being. And anorexia is all about self-regulation, and so its sufferers latch on to this message.”

Source



'Everyone our age thinks they eat badly'

For the inpatients at Rhodes Farm, a specialist residential centre in North London for children with eating disorders, the Government's constant mantra of obesity epidemics, nutritious school meals and five-a-day is weighing heavily on some very slight shoulders. "When I first started to lose weight, it was because I thought I ate unhealthily," says 17-year-old Helen. "Everyone our age thinks that they are eating unhealthily because they have chocolate. You're told no fat, no sugar...Then when you come here and you are made to eat it's even harder, because it goes against all the messages."

Claire, who at 12 is among the youngest of the 19 girls and one boy currently at the centre, agrees. "More and more people cut foods out - they think you can't eat things that are perfectly normal to have."

Dee Dawson, the medical director of Rhodes Farm, argues that the current healthy eating drive needs to be steered away from children. "A lot of the propaganda leads you to believe that if you keep cutting down you will keep getting healthier," she says. "I never hear about a bottom line, below which cutting down is a bad thing." She also worries that low-fat diets have become the ideal, rather than balanced eating, plus exercise. "Children need fat. If they run around and exercise, as they should, they burn a lot of calories.

"It's almost impossible these days for a child to get through school without her feeling like she should be dieting or eating something special. They have mums who jog and worry about carbs, Jamie Oliver telling them not to do things, notes home saying they shouldn't bring certain things in packed lunches, vending machines being taken out of schools. A child should not even be thinking about their diet, their weight."

She says that for boys and younger girls, "size zero" was not an issue. "Anorexic boys are usually athletes, who see thinness as the way to be successful and go too far. Girls at 12 don't want to look like Victoria Beckham - they' re too young. That becomes an issue when they get older and start to develop. And let's get things in proportion; these children have huge other problems too."

Source



BUSYBODIES CRITICIZING HEROIC MOTHER

When the kid grows up, what do you think he will say about the busybodies who said he should never have been born? He's living a "wrongful life" is he?

A 56-year-old woman who has given birth in a Brisbane hospital is believed to be the oldest IVF mother in Australia. The woman, who was 36 weeks' pregnant, gave birth last week after undergoing treatment at the Queensland Fertility centre. Sources said the woman was the recipient of a donor egg after raising three other children aged from their mid-teens to mid-30s. They said the mother also required treatment with the heart drug Digoxin following the birth at the Mater Hospital on Tuesday.

The mother has refused to comment on the case but The Sunday Mail has been told she was forced to move suburbs because of "negativity towards her pregnancy". Her husband is believed to be aged in his mid-30s.

The case is being investigated by the Fertility Society of Australia Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee - which provides accreditation for IVF clinics - over whether it breached the self-regulating industry's code of practice. But because there are no age limits in the code, which stipulates only against any fertility treatment that may be harmful to the mother or baby, the body is unable to take any action against the clinic. "I am not aware of any older women than this," RTAC chairman Ossie Petrucco said yesterday.

It is the second time in two years the clinic has been targeted by RTAC. In 2005, founding QFG director Warren DeAmbrosis was scrutinised after he helped Brisbane woman Dale Chalk fall pregnant with her second set of quads - believed to be a world first. The high-powered IVF Directors Group, comprising medical directors from every IVF clinic in Australia and New Zealand, stopped short of punishing Dr DeAmbrosis but pushed for the industry to do everything it could to avoid such an outcome again.

According to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data, the success rate for women aged between 40 and 44, who had undergone fertility treatment, was 7.1 per cent, compared with 33.5 per cent for women aged 23 to 24 years. The average age of women undergoing treatment in 2004 in Australia and New Zealand was 35.4 and their partners were 37.8.

In 1998, an Adelaide woman, 53, gave birth to triplets after undergoing an IVF treatment with embryos she and her husband had stored years earlier. In January 2005, 66-year-old Romanian woman Adriana Iliescu became the world's oldest mother after giving birth to a daughter after conceiving through IVF with a donor egg.

Meanwhile, a simple test that more than doubles the chance of having a healthy baby could transform the IVF process. Scientists have found a way to test the genetic make-up of a woman's eggs, allowing the best to be chosen. A trial has produced more than 30 healthy babies and dramatically increased the success rate. Perfected by doctors in Las Vegas, comparative genomic hybridisation counts the number of chromosomes in an egg. Up to 75 per cent of miscarriages are thought to be due to embryos having the wrong number of chromosomes, with eggs from older women particularly likely to be defective.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



4 February, 2007

MOTHERS SHOULD GET PLENTY OF SALT

Otherwise the salt regulation in their babies appears to be damaged. Note that the sample for the study leaves a lot to be desired, however

Craving salty foods could be a sign that you didn't get enough salt in the womb. A new study in the American Journal of Physiology concludes that babies born with low salt levels in their blood are more likely to have a high-salt diet later in life, putting them at greater risk of adult obesity compared to those born with normal blood salt levels. The study included 41 children aged 8 to 15 years, with an average birth weight of 1.2kg (considered low birth weight).

They were given tomato soup with different concentrations of salt, and tea with a range of sugar levels, and asked to rate their preferences. The children and their parents were interviewed about their normal food and seasoning intake and the children were allowed to eat freely from a table of salty and sweet snacks. Children with the lowest blood salt levels at birth ate double the number of salty snacks, and ate an average of 1.7g more salt per day, compared to those with higher salt levels at birth.

Source

Journal abstract follows

LOWEST NEONATAL SERUM SODIUM PREDICTS SODIUM INTAKE IN LOW-BIRTHWEIGHT CHILDREN

Adi Shirazki et al

Forty-one children aged 10.5~0.2y (8.0-15.0), born with low birth weight of 1218.2~36.6g (765-1580) were selected from hospital archives on the basis of whether they had received neonatal diuretic treatment, or as healthy matched controls. The children were tested for salt appetite and sweet preference including rating of preferred concentration of salt in tomato soup (and sugar in tea), ratings of oral spray (NaCl and sucrose solutions), intake of salt or sweet snack items, and a food seasoning, liking and dietary questionnaire. Results showed that sodium appetite was not related to neonatal diuretic treatment, birth weight, or gestational age. However, there was a robust inverse correlation (r= -0.445, p<0.005) between reported dietary sodium intake and the neonatal lowest serum sodium level (NLS) recorded for each child, as an index of sodium loss. The relationship of NLS and dietary sodium intake was found in both boys and girls, and in both Arab and Jewish children, despite marked ethnic differences in dietary sources of sodium. Hence, low neonatal serum sodium predicts increased intake of dietary sodium in low birthweight children some 8-15 years later. Taken together with other recent evidence, it is now clear that perinatal sodium loss, from a variety of causes, is a consistent and significant contributor to long term sodium intake.

Source



DAIRY FOODS GET A REPRIEVE

By adding plant sterols to them. No doubt it will all be found to be a big mistake in 10 years time. Trans fats were a solution to high cholesterol once too. Now they are a villian

Dairy foods have traditionally been considered off-limits for people battling high cholesterol. But now some dairy products are part of the solution. Cholesterol-lowering plant sterols are being added to some low-fat milks and low-fat yoghurts for the first time in Australia. These new enriched products have the potential to lower blood cholesterol levels by up to 15 per cent in six to 12 weeks.

An estimated 6.4 million Australians, 51 per cent of the adult population, have high blood cholesterol, a major risk factor in stroke and heart disease. Diets high in fatty meats, full-fat dairy food, processed meats such as salami and sausages, snack foods such as chips, take-away foods, cakes, biscuits and pastries are often to blame. Alcohol, smoking and sedentary lifestyles are also factors.

But consuming 2-3g per day of plant sterols -- natural chemicals found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and cereals -- has been found to reduce absorption of LDL or "bad" cholesterol, which clogs and blocks the arteries with fatty deposits. Plant sterols have been added to margarines for several years but Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) ruled last November that low-fat milk, low-fat yoghurt and breakfast cereals could also be enriched with plant sterols.

Heart Foundation national nutrition manager Barbara Eden said the enriched products could have a significant impact on the health of people with high cholesterol. "Swapping from your regular milk, cereal or margarine to those which have plant sterols is an easy way to improve your risk of cardiovascular disease," she said. But Ms Eden said the product switch had to be part of a "suite of lifestyle changes people should be making if they have high blood cholesterol". "They might need to increase physical activity or decrease the amount of saturated fats in their diet and replace them with poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, or make sure they have more soluble fibre," she said.

Baker Heart Research Institute director Prof Garry Jennings said plant sterols worked differently to drugs that lower cholesterol, providing those on medication for the condition with an extra weapon. Under the FSANZ standard, products must state if they contain plant sterols and the amount contained per serving. Labels must also advise that plant sterols should be eaten as part of a healthy diet and that they are not suitable for children under five, pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers.

Dairy giant National Foods has already launched a plant sterol-enriched low-fat milk and low-fat yoghurt under the Heart Active label. Spokesman Rupert Hugh-Jones said people could get the suggested 2-3g by eating two to three serves of plant sterol-enriched food each day. "One serve is equal to a 250ml glass of milk or a 200g tub of yoghurt," he said. "This simply means enjoying plant sterol-enriched low-fat milk with cereal, in a latte, hot chocolate, as a smoothie or in cooking, or a tub of plant sterol-enriched low-fat yoghurt as a nutritious snack."

A survey by Galaxy Research, commissioned by National Foods, found diet was the most popular way to manage high cholesterol, used by 79 per cent of Australians aged 40-plus. Exercise was used by 64 per cent, medication by 39 per cent and herbal or natural remedies by 16 per cent. But only 51 per cent of those trying to manage their cholesterol had been able to lower it.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



3 February, 2007

BOYS GROW TITS

Could this be an alternative to boob jobs?

Boys have been warned against using oils or hair gels that contain lavender or tea tree oil after three reported cases of them growing breasts. Researchers in the US believe that the oils may have hormone-like properties that lead to gynaecomastia — the growth of breasts. When the boys stopped using the oils, the breasts disappeared. Writing in New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers say that the repeated use of such oils may disrupt hormonal function.

One of the boys was aged 4, and his mother said that she had applied a lavender-based “healing balm” to his skin. A 10-year-old had regularly used a styling gel containing lavender and tea tree oil, applying it to his hair and scalp. The third boy, who was 7, had used lavender soap and skin lotions. In all cases the problem was resolved within a few months of the boys giving up the products.

The researchers, at the US National Institutes of Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, say that the oils “may possess endocrine-disrupting activity that causes an imbalance in oestrogen and androgen pathway signalling”. They investigated this by growing breast cancer cells in test tubes and adding diluted extracts of lavender and tea tree oil. These experiments showed that the oils had activity that mimicked the female sex hormone oestrogen.

To have the effects found in the boys, the oils would need to have penetrated the skin, and the team did not investigate whether this was possible. They point out that the development of breasts is not uncommon during puberty in boys, but is extremely uncommon before puberty. There is no known physiological cause. Usually, exposure to an environmental chemical is identified as the cause. This can also happen, very occasionally, in older men, the researchers say. They say: “This report raises an issue of concern, since lavender oil and tea tree oil are sold over the counter in their ‘pure’ form and are present in an increasing number of commercial products, including shampoos, hair gels, soaps and body lotions.” Because of the small number of cases that were studied, further work was needed to confirm the link, they said.

Products that contain the oils are usually sold as “natural” aids to relaxation or skin care. Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of a plant called Melaleuca alternifolia, native to Australia. It is claimed to offer cosmetic and medical benefits, including combating bacterial and fungal infections. Lavender oil is used in aromatherapy and massage oils. Boots, the pharmacist, said that it sold pure lavender and tea tree essential oils, “but as with any essential oil we don’t recommend them for children or pregnant women”. The shop was not withdrawing products or issuing safety warnings because the chances of receiving sufficient doses to cause hormone imbalance through the skin was unlikely, the spokeswoman said. “This is a preliminary study. As long as customers follow advice about how to use cosmetics and medicines correctly, we regard our products as safe.”

Source



SLEEPING PILLS MAKE YOU FAT

Some users of a popular sleeping pill have been binge-eating while sleepwalking, leading to enormous weight gains. In one report lodged with the Federal Government's drug reaction committee, a woman put on 23kg over seven months while taking the powerful prescription drug Stilnox. It was only when she was discovered eating in front of an open fridge while asleep that the problem was resolved. In other reported cases:

ANOTHER user who had experienced mysterious weight gain was found by a relative taking food from a fridge and kitchen cupboards while asleep.

A WOMAN woke up with a paint brush in her hand, having painted her front door in her sleep.

TWO Australians claimed to have driven while asleep.

ONE user described walking around his house like a mad man while asleep.

SIXTEEN Australians were discovered exhibiting bizarre behaviour while sleepwalking.

The Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee received 104 reports of hallucinations and 62 reports of amnesia since 2001 from users of Stilnox, the brand name for zolpidem. A 20-pill pack of Stilnox sells for $30 to $35. ADRAC yesterday warned users to be aware of potential side effects, but did not call for the medication to be stripped from shelves. The product remained on the market despite a 2002 ADRAC review which found about 75 per cent of the reports about the drug described one or more reactions, particularly hallucinations, confusion, depression and amnesia.

An ADRAC spokeswoman said it was imperative the drug remain available. "It is important for some people with insomnia to have it at their disposal," she said. "But even then we only recommend a person use it for less than four weeks due to tolerance and loss of effect with repeated use." The spokeswoman said ADRAC felt it was worth advising doctors that Stilnox should only be used as a last-resort drug.

Melbourne Health director of pharmacy David Ford said he had not met any patients with major side effects from Stilnox. "It seems like these cases reported to ADRAC are one-off events," Mr Ford said. Clinical trials of Stilnox had found no major side effects, with some of those involved reporting mild drowsiness, he said. "It would be interesting to see if those who experienced these extreme side effects had taken Stilnox with another prescribed drug, or even illicit drugs or alcohol, which may all exacerbate the effect," Mr Ford said.

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



2 February, 2007

Los Angeles catches the Trans fat bug



Los Angeles County's 34,000 restaurants will be encouraged over the next 18 months to stop using trans fat under an incentive program announced Tuesday by city and county officials. Under the program, Los Angeles County restaurants that voluntarily stop using the partially hydrogenated oil will receive a decal that can be posted at the establishment based on certification by the Health Department. Health officials also plan to convene a task force to educate the public on the harmful effects of the substance, and instruct eateries in county buildings to limit the trans fat in food.

County officials had hoped to regulate whether eateries use trans fat, but a report by the Department of Public Health found only the state can regulate what eateries cook with. "We have to protect the citizens of Los Angeles County," said Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke. "They depend upon our public health facilities, they depend upon our ability to look at restaurants to make sure those restaurants are clean, but they also depend on us to develop the kind of guidelines that will ensure that when you go into a facility ... you know what you're buying."

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support the voluntary effort, as did the Los Angeles City Council. "Trans fats are bad for us and they can and should be eliminated from our food," said Councilman Jose Huizar. "Scientific and health communities agree that trans fats are toxic. In fact, we know they contribute to high levels of bad cholesterol and low levels of good cholesterol."

Trans fat, often found in margarine, shortenings, baked goods and fried foods, is believed to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. It is also thought to increase a person's level of bad cholesterol. Butter and natural oils, such as soy, corn, peanut and olive, do not contain trans fat.

Trans fat intake contributes to 30,000 heart disease-related deaths in the United States every year, said public health director Dr. Jonathan Fielding. Replacing trans fat with another oil will not reduce the number of calories or fat in food, Fielding said. "This will have no impact on the greatest epidemic we have in Los Angeles County -- overweight and obesity," Fielding said. "What we're talking about with trans fat is substituting one fat for another and this really needs to be the beginning of a dialogue with consumers about reducing fat overall."

In response to the L.A. County report, Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D- Compton, drafted a bill that would give local governments the power to regulate eateries. The bill will likely be discussed by the Assembly in March, officials said. New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago have made similar attempts to ban or restrict the use of trans fat.

An effort to ban trans fat in New York City was unsuccessful, however the city has developed a plan to restrict the use of the partially hydrogenated oil. In New York, food items must contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

A spokesman for the California Restaurants Association said he supports the effort to replace ingredients with trans fat. "Our industry has been actively moving away from trans fat for quite some time now," said Andrew Casana with the Los Angeles Chapter of the California Restaurants Association. "I don't think a day goes by where we don't see a new chain say that they've found a new oil that is trans-fat-free."

Those food chains that have agreed to eliminate trans fat from their foods include Wendy's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Arby's, Ruby Tuesday, Chili's, Loews Hotels, Royal Caribbean International, Johnny Rockets and Starbucks.

Source



Nutty "ethical" worries about bottled water

I have a bottle on my desk, another in the cup holder in my car, still another rolling around in my gym bag and a case of them in my garage. I thought I was being health-conscious. But now I'm hearing that when it comes to the ethics of bottled water, the glass may be half empty.

The United Church of Canada urges people to refrain from purchasing bottled water, if possible. So do the National Coalition of American Nuns, a liberal group of about 1,200 sisters, and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, a grass-roots environmental movement. In addition, the United Church of Christ and the National Council of Churches teamed up on a documentary decrying the dangers of water privatization. The fear: As water becomes a commodity instead of a natural resource, access will suffer - and so will those among us who can least afford to pay.

"The use of bottled water in the U.S. is more a lifestyle issue than a necessity," [Undoubtedly true. So lifestyle choice is bad?? I guess that to the Fascists it is] Sister Mary Ann Coyle, of the nuns' coalition, told The Christian Century magazine in a story this month. "In this country we should do more to push (avoidance of) bottled water unless we need it."

The U.S. leads the world in drinking bottled water, consuming more than 7.5 billion gallons in 2005, according to the bottled water industry, which thinks this campaign is wrongheaded. The real problem, that side argues, is getting clean water to everyone.

I e-mailed Mark Woods, a philosophy professor at the University of San Diego who specializes in environmental ethics. As it happened, he was traveling overseas after attending a conference. "I'm in Bombay, India, right now and there is a heated controversy over companies coming into villages, fencing off the communal water people have used for centuries, creating bottled water, and selling the water to the villagers at prices they can't afford," Woods wrote.

I e-mailed him again: Do you think it is unethical for Americans to drink bottled water? His response: "Given the fact that virtually all tap water in the U.S. is safe, yes it is probably unethical for Americans to drink bottled water when they have tap water options."

The reports I've read say this opposition is more a trickle than a flood - for now. "We're just beginning to recognize the issue as people of faith," Cassandra Carmichael, director of eco-justice programs at the National Council of Churches, told Religion News Service.

While we in this country are guzzling the bottled stuff, water is scarce for about a third of the world's population, according to RNS. "The moral call for us is not to privatize water," Carmichael said. "Water should be free for all."

I called Thomas English, who chairs the environmental task force at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church, and asked him about the issue. His response: "Why waste your money?" He thinks it's "kind of dumb" to pay for bottled water when you can get water from your spigot at home. So much to think about as I stare at my now-empty 16.9-ounce bottle, which I will recycle (I promise). Which leaves me with one final question: Got milk?

Source

****************

Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


*********************



1 February, 2007

Your weight is unacceptable. Wear this yellow star

A "Times" correspondent on the anti-fat fascists

Herman Goering was the exception. Injured in the Beer Hall Putsch, you see. Left dependent on narcotics and painkillers and not as active as he once was, except for the odd boar hunt, so he put on a bit of timber. Goering apart, though, one does not come across too many fat Nazis. Himmler could have dropped a few pounds, maybe, and if we had ever found him, it is a fair bet that Bormann piled it on in later years — he was a bit jowly even in 1941 — but the rest of them? Lean, mean, anti-Semite machines. Goebbels was positively emaciated. Rudolf Hess had a jaw like Sam the Eagle from The Muppet Show. As for Hitler, well we won’t get into that whole vegetarian cliché, but he didn’t look much like a guy who nagged the cook for seconds. Got a bit chunky in the bunker, mind, but you can hardly blame him for that. He wasn’t getting out much any more.

Sometimes, in our complacent, it-couldn’t-happen-here way, we muse on who would man our gas chambers if it ever did. And, while I may be going out on a limb, my current guess would be: thin people. Oh, I know that might be a generalisation. I am sure there are some thin folk out there who believe in tolerance and humanity in all its variety, just as it is quite possible there is the odd fat person who is of some worth to the human race. It is merely that the enlightened thin do not seem to be getting much radio time at the moment. Those sucking up the oxygen of publicity, as well as most of the air in the room, would appear to be from an SS Infanterie Truppen wing of slightness, whose response to what they have (somewhat lazily) styled the obesity crisis is a lurch nearer to the wearing of yellow stars for anyone with a BMI that does not meet the approval of whatever celebrity charlatan the BBC is paying to bully telly-tubbies this week. Fat Men Can’t Hunt. You Are What You Eat. Fat Camp. Tax the Fat. Coming soon: Gas the Fat. Go on, you know you want to.

There is a real epidemic in Britain right now, but it affects the mind, which is why none of these deep thinkers have worked out that it would appear mutually exclusive to have an obesity crisis (people getting fat, getting ill, costing the NHS a fortune, dying young) hand in hand with a pensions crisis (people staying healthy, retiring early, costing the state fortunes, living for ever). Should we then pay an additional tax for not eating fast food? So great is our confusion, the nationwide shock that Jade Goody was an appalling individual appeared directly related to her having shed a few pounds and having a makeover in recent months. What, you mean getting slimmer does not make you a better person? So a nasty fat girl is still be a nasty thin girl, but in smaller clothes? Come to think of it, that Osama bin Laden is, like, the slimmest guy I’ve seen. Slow down, you’re giving me too much to think about here.

There was a letter in The Times yesterday that summed up the new fat politics in all its sanctimonious smugness. “The time has surely come for luggage and owner to be weighed together — and the owner charged accordingly,” said A. Halfwit from Hertfordshire. “This might help to lessen the country’s obesity problem and reduce global warming as a large percentage of the population would have to lose weight or not fly, owing to higher costs.” No, it would mean the fat poor would no longer be able to take up cheap flights, rich fatties being unaffected by this triumph of intelligence and continuing to sit in first-class stuffing their faces across the Atlantic. That is what happens when you reduce everything to a pound note. And, yes, I’ve read the yearly cost of blubber to the NHS and I’ll play the game: provided we apply the same rules to everybody.

Take Richard Hammond. The Hamster. The nation’s favourite Top Gear daredevil. God, we love him. But, I mean, 288mph? Should we really have to pay for that? Look, if we’re taxing people for bad lifestyle choices, why stop at banoffee pie? Bullying is actually a lucrative little cottage industry. Take Gillian McKeith, who has carved out a fine career humiliating the hefty. A little touchy herself, someone at this newspaper once put the doctor part of her title in quotation marks and she was very angry, which she would be, having invested so much time and money with one of America’s finest non-accredited correspondence schools to earn it. In fact, Dr McKeith is so important she was recently cited by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority. Admittedly it was for selling medicinal products without a licence but, hey, recognition is recognition.

One of the gurus of the new intolerance, Dr McKeith believes that that “each sprouting seed is packed with the nutritional energy needed to create a full-grown healthy plant”, which just goes to show what can happen if you don’t pay attention in science classes; or maybe the last few pages of your coursework got lost in the post, doctor.

We listen to these clowns and they infest our consciousness. I can make you thin, boasts Paul McKenna on the cover of his latest book. Yes, and so can cancer. So can a prison sentence. I know a guy did time for serious assault, came out never looked better. My father-in-law, just a teensy bit on the stout side since he stopped playing football, got a terminal brain tumour, sorted that right out. Weight fell off him.

Ultimately, we trade vices, all of us, without exception. Smokers, drinkers, philanderers, fast drivers, hooligans, incompetent DIY enthusiasts, people too dumb to keep the strimmer away from their Wellington boots. Everybody is to some extent reckless or self-indulgent, which is why the world will always need lifeguards and mountain rescue teams.

So what is the answer? Acceptance. Tolerance. “We must love one another, or die,” wrote W. H. Auden, a sentiment that, while impossibly optimistic, still makes more sense than anything yet uttered by Dr McKeith and her army of faeces-sifting fascists.

Source



Some people will believe anything

Television coverage of the purported healing properties of olive tree leaves have sparked a frenzy in Greece and caused one violent death. Extensive media reports over the past week about the leaves' alleged ability to cure illnesses including cancer have triggered an angry response from doctors and pharmacists. "In this country where charlatans thrive, you are whatever you claim to be," heart surgeon and former health minister Dimitris Kremastinos told Greek media overnight.

Last week several chat shows, including on state television, said a thick, green drink made of raw olive leaves and water, mixed in a blender, was doing wonders for cancer patients. Several elderly guests said they were cured by the drink and self-described therapists mixed the juice on live television. The news spread like wildfire and the television shows fielded a flood of inquiries about the drink's recipe.

Supermarkets on the oil-producing island of Crete and in Athens started stocking the leaves that, in some cases, cost more than the oil itself, which is renowned for its health benefits and known as liquid gold in Greece.

An argument at the weekend between two brothers over whether they should give the leaf juice to their third brother, who was suffering from cancer, ended with one stabbing the other to death. "When such an issue leads to the murder of one brother over the leaf juice then the frenzy has become uncontrollable," Mr Kremastinos told the Eleftherotypia newspaper.

Scientists said only doctors could prove or disprove the benefits of such a drink. Mr Kremastinos said there was no scientific evidence to support the claims and said years of analysis would be needed to come to a conclusion. "I would suggest this nonsense stops so that scientists can go on with their work," Thessaloniki University chemistry professor Eugene Kokalou said. "The work is to find out if this drink has any health benefits."

Source

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Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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