FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC ARCHIVE  
Monitoring food and health news

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

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A major cause of increasing obesity is certainly the campaign against it -- as dieting usually makes people FATTER. If there were any sincerity to the obesity warriors, they would ban all diet advertising and otherwise shut up about it. Re-authorizing now-banned school playground activities and school outings would help too. But it is so much easier to blame obesity on the evil "multinationals" than it is to blame it on your own restrictions on the natural activities of kids

NOTE: "No trial has ever demonstrated benefits from reducing dietary saturated fat".

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31 July, 2007

Counterproductive propaganda

Anti-smoking ads have opposite effect on teens

The more exposure middle school students have to anti-smoking ads, the more likely they are to smoke, according to a new University of Georgia study. Hye-Jin Paek, an assistant professor at UGA, found that many anti-smoking ad campaigns have the opposite effect on teenagers, backfiring because they actually encourage the rebellious nature of youth. "They don't want to hear what they should do or not do," Paek said. Instead, she said, ads should focus on convincing teens their friends are heeding the anti-smoking warning because peer pressure has the most direct effect.

Paek and co-author Albert Gunther from the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined surveys from 1,700 middle school students about their exposure to anti-smoking ads and their intention to smoke. The study will be published in the August issue of the journal "Communication Research." The study is the latest in a string of research showing that anti-smoking campaigns often have ad little to no impact on teens. In 2002, a study commissioned by an ant i-smoking foundation found tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris' youth anti-smoking campaign was making students more likely to smoke.

Paek said the data showed middle school students are more like to be influenced by the perception of what their friends are doing, and that anti-smoking campaigns should be more focused on peer relations. "Rather than saying, 'don't smoke,' it is better to say, "your friends are listening to this message and not smoking," she said. "It doesn't really matter what their peers are actually doing."

Source




"Ideal" weight for mothers promoted

Damned if you do and damned if you don't

Mothers who gain or lose a great deal of weight between pregnancies could be putting themselves and their babies at risk, experts have said. Even quite small changes in body mass index (BMI), of one or two units, between pregnancies are enough to have effects, say Jennifer Walsh and Deirdre Murphy, two obstetricians from Dublin. An increase of this size has been linked with a doubling of the risks of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and having a large baby. Greater increases in weight between pregnancies add to the risk of stillbirth and other complications, they say in an editorial in the British Medical Journal.

On the other hand, they add, women losing a lot of weight run a greater risk of having premature babies, or babies of low birth-weight. The message is that women should try to maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy ? and to be the same weight at any subsequent pregnancies.

Dr Walsh, a specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at Coombe Women's Hospital in Dublin, and Professor Murphy, Professor of Obstetrics at Trinity College Dublin, say: "Women of reproductive age are bombarded with messages about diet, weight and body image. "There is growing concern on the one hand about an epidemic of obesity, and on the other about a culture that promotes `size zero' as desirable, irrespective of a woman's natural build. "Pregnancy is one of the most nutritionally demanding periods of a woman's life, with an adequate supply of nutrients essential to support foetal wellbeing and growth. "With at least half of all pregnancies unplanned, women need to be aware of the implications of their weight for pregnancy, birth and the health of their babies. "We should ensure that women of low body mass index attain a healthy weight before conception to reduce the risk of preterm birth and low infant birth-weight. "We should also counsel women with a history of previous preterm birth to maintain a healthy weight to prevent recurrence."

The authors cited studies on the effects of weight gain and weight loss. The first, a Swedish study, followed 207,534 women from 1992 to 2001 to examine the link between changes in body mass index and the impact on a baby and mother's health. The second, which was published last year in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found that women whose BMI fell by five or more units between pregnancies had a higher risk of premature birth than women whose weight remained stable or increased. The effect was heightened among women who had already experienced one premature birth.

Tam Fry, board member of the National Obesity Forum, said: "I think these doctors are absolutely right. "It's fundamental that we teach girls at school not only to lose weight for their own health but also because of the risks to their child of entering motherhood being overweight." Being overweight was associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, which could result in difficulty conceiving, he said. "There is a known association between overweight and obese parents and the likelihood of a child being overweight themselves. "Women should be aiming for a normal weight before they have their second child. "Women also go the other way and starve themselves to plummet to a goal weight. They try to get down to a certain weight, and that is also wrong."

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


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



30 July, 2007

The war on obesity is a war on the poor

`It's the poor wot gets the blame.' That was a popular refrain during the First World War, but it could just as easily be a rousing chorus from the trenches of the War on Obesity. Today there is an assumption that behind every flabby child waddling down the road there are parents who are as thick as mince, with barely enough money to send their overweight offspring to the chip shop for their dinner on the way back from fetching mum and dad's fags. However, two recent pieces of research give the lie to this sketch, suggesting that the middle classes are just as prone to eating crap food and having fat children as the poor.

Just over a week ago, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) published research which showed that the poor, far from having a nutrition-lite diet of fat and sugar, actually ate much the same kinds of foods as everyone else (1). In a detailed survey of the eating habits of 3,278 people from households in the most materially deprived sections of the population, the FSA found that the most significant differences in eating habits were related to age, not social class. Younger people, regardless of social class, tended to consume more low-fibre, high-fat, high-sugar and processed foods than older generations. Poor people were no more likely to be overweight or obese than the better-off.

Then, last Sunday, the UK Independent on Sunday declared that `the nation's higher-paid working mothers bear much of the responsibility for the country's ticking obesity time bomb, and not the poorer working-class families who are usually blamed.' (2) Another study, carried out by University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital, found that children growing up in households with incomes greater than œ33,000 per year were more likely to be obese than those in homes with the lowest incomes. Apparently, middle-class households where the mother works are particularly affected: `Long hours of maternal employment, rather than lack of money, may impede young children's access to healthy foods and physical activity.'

The news that middle-class kids get fat too shouldn't be a shock to anyone. It became frontpage news over the past week only because the problem of obesity has, until now, been readily blamed on the ignorance and moral failings of the working classes; that these `middle classes get fat!' findings have been treated as stunning is testament to the extent to which obesity has been associated with moral turpitude amongst the lower classes. And yet, at the same time as these latest studies seem to have exhonerated the poor, they have also found a new enemy in the War on Obesity: working mothers.

Women who hold down a job, run a home and raise children have got enough on their plates already. Now, apparently, they have to bear responsibility for their children's ill-health, too. As Dr Colin Waine, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, told the Independent on Sunday: `I do not wish to condemn these women but I do think the priority has to be the health of the child and its continued health into adulthood. We are in danger of raising a generation of young people with a much shorter life expectancy than previous generations.' (3) Unfortunately, Dr Waine sounds a bit like those people who say `I'm not a racist, but.' No doubt he will assure us that some of his best friends are working mothers.

Whether being a working mother really is going to make your children fat or not (and we shouldn't leap to conclusions on the basis on one study), the question really should be: does it matter? The fact is, the relationship between ill-health and obesity is a complicated one. It certainly appears to be the case that the very overweight have a lower life expectancy than those who are lighter. But whether this is strictly to do with how much fat they have round their waists is another matter. It is not only the amount of body fat they have that makes the very overweight different to slimmer individuals. For example, obese people tend to take less exercise and there's good evidence that exercise (which in this case means walking regularly rather than running marathons) can offset most of the risks of heart disease, type-II diabetes and so on that are associated with being fat. Moreover, somebody who is capable of being really fat (most people wouldn't get really fat even if they stuffed their faces) may have other physiological problems that increase their propensity for chronic diseases. But for the rest of us - from those of `ideal' weight to the mildly obese - the risk of an early death is pretty much the same across the board.

Nor can we predict an individual's adult health from his or her size as a child. As a thought-provoking new paper by the Australian academic Michael Gard bluntly notes, `no study in the history of medical science has ever established a causal link between childhood fatness and adult ill-health or premature death' (4). So, why all the attention given to obesity in general, and childhood obesity in particular? It's not as if obsessing about our weight has made us any happier (or thinner). For Gard, obesity has become a morality play for those who would like to intervene in our lives: `Unfortunately, many commentators talk about the war on obesity as a war between good and evil; good food versus bad food, wholesome physical activity versus evil technology; and responsible versus irresponsible parenting. If we then factor in the inconvenient fact that obesity research has not produced a "smoking gun" which implicates anyone in particular, the stage is set perfectly for protracted and unhelpful arguments about what research does or does not say about the causes of obesity.' (5)

As the American commentator Paul Campos has noted, the best way to win the War on Obesity is to stop fighting it. But the War on the Poor will carry on regardless of the results of studies into eating habits - after all, it's a war that's been raging for well over a century and serves to confirm the innate superiority of those with a bob or two in their pockets. This extract from a popular English Victorian magazine could have been the product of many a modern-day hack: `The Bethnal Green poor. are a caste apart, a race of whom we know nothing, whose lives are of quite different complexion from ours, persons with whom we have no point of contact.' (6)

Such an explicit statement of the idea that some people are simply of better `stock' than others would be unacceptable today. Nonetheless, the same idea is implicit in the logic of modern thinking on poverty and obesity. Wealthy people who cook decent meals with fresh ingredients are seen as being morally superior - they care about their health and their children's health, and they care for the planet, too. Poorer people, who apparently only eat microwaveable meals or pizzas biked to their homes during an episode of EastEnders, are looked upon as sinful and slothful - they are, in Jamie Oliver's immortal words, `white trash' and `tossers' who allegedly care little for their own wellbeing or that of their families. Today, the sense of a divide between rich and poor is articulated most frequently through issues of health and diet.

The search for some form of moral superiority, rather than a real concern with health, is the driving force behind the authorities' War on Obesity. That is why a campaign ostensibly against fatness can easily shift its attention from feckless `chavs' to working mothers: because it is underpinned by moralistic judgements about our lifestyle choices rather than hard scientific facts about our eating habits. First `white trash' families and now mums who dare to work - the War on Obesity is a war against those who make the `wrong' choices, who refuse to play by the rules laid down by the new elite, and who instead do things their own way. In this sense, the demand that we `eat healthily' and have the correct body shape (whatever that might be) is at root a demand that we conform.

Source




Attack on HIV broadening

HIV laboratories around the world are humming. New discoveries and treatments are tumbling out of the research pipeline at a remarkable pace, one that promises HIV patients a longer, healthier life. This, for a disease that was a death sentence when it was first identified 26 years ago.

Little wonder that when nearly 6000 experts on HIV and AIDS from 133 nations gathered in Sydney this week for the fourth International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, they buzzed. "This is an enormously exciting time," says John Kaldor, deputy director of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the University of NSW. "Over the past two years people have made striking improvements in therapy, especially for people in whom several regimens have already failed. People have also made significant developments in what are considered biomedical tools -- like microbicides -- to help break the cycle of transmission."

Much, too, has been learned about how the insidious human immunodeficiency virus infects its victims, wreaks such damage and is so hard to beat. According to long-time HIV-AIDS researcher Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, new insights into the mechanisms by which HIV harms humans have underpinned development of over 25 anti-HIV drugs. "These medications have had an enormous impact in reducing mortality wherever they have been used," says Fauci who, as a clinically and scientifically trained infectious diseases and immunology specialist, was one of the first experts in the world to see, treat and attempt to unravel HIV infection. "Patients I followed 25 years ago would die within months of getting seriously ill. Now I'm following patients for 10, 15 years. They're doing just fine. The triumph has been great."

Entire new classes of drugs promise to keep the triumphs coming, particularly for patients who are developing resistance to the various combinations of existing drugs. To the outsider they sound baffling, but these classes -- integrase inhibitors, fusion inhibitors, CCR5 antagonists and maturation inhibitors -- promise to bring the biggest improvement in HIV treatment since the discovery in the mid-1990s that combined drug treatment, called Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), greatly improved viral suppression.

To get a feel for what such drugs are and do, it's necessary to understand why HIV is such a knotty scientific problem. Firstly, as Fauci explains, it attacks the immune system: "Virtually all of the viruses that have been scourges of mankind -- or even viruses that have been trivial -- are viruses that come in and affect the lung, or the skin, or the brain, or the gastrointestinal tract and the immune system is intact and is able to fight the particular virus," he says.

Not so HIV. It targets the immune system itself, perversely destroying the very mechanism the body entrusts with its own defence. Moreover, it's a retrovirus, a virus that has the ability to insert itself directly into its victim's genetic material. It can hide out there. HIV also replicates quickly. That quick turnover enables the virus to mutate, to change its appearance so fast that even when it does stick its viral head over the parapet, the immune system cannot effectively respond. It's a triple whammy. HIV infects the immune system. It's a retrovirus. It mutates rapidly. "You put those three things together and you have a real problem," Fauci concludes.

Still, researchers did target the culprit and have built weapons to fight it. The first anti-HIV drug, AZT, was licensed in 1987, and works by inhibiting the HIV enzyme reverse transcriptase which the virus uses to convert its single strand of RNA into double-stranded DNA, a necessary first step prior to splicing itself into the host cell's genome.

AZT was hailed as a wonder drug, but the euphoria soon faded when it became apparent that HIV's high rate of mutation quickly allowed resistance to the drug to develop. Later, other "anti-retroviral" drugs were developed, and these are generally now combined into triple or even quadruple drug cocktails to prevent drug resistance developing. Among the most successful antiretrovirals now are Lamivudine, Viread and Ziagen.

US infectious diseases specialist Joseph Eron says the most exciting prospects among the new drugs about to become available are integrase inhibitors. These work by blocking another enzyme, integrase, which HIV uses to insert its genetic material into the host cell's DNA. Two such drugs are in development and one, raltegravir, is already available on a trial basis in Australia.

More are on the way. Last week several biotech companies reported on laboratory, or early trials of even newer drugs. "There is now an opportunity for even our most treatment-experienced (resistant) patients to get their viral load (down) to undetectable levels," claims Eron, from the University of North Carolina. He predicts some of these drugs will be options for first-line therapy.

Southern California-based molecular biologist John Rossi goes further. Last week his group at the City of Hope Beckman Research Institute began the first of two trials of a treatment combining genetically engineered HIV with the healing power of blood stem cells.

So far, the method involves removing HIV-infected stem cells from a patient's bone marrow, growing new versions tweaked to fight HIV, and then returning the rejigged cells to the patient. "As long as these cells persist in the patient we will have resistance to HIV infection, with the goal that there would be reduced viral load," said Rossi, who believes the treatment could eventually be given as a shot or pill and combined with conventional treatment.Meanwhile, scientists such as Perth-based Simon Mallal are giving older drugs a new lease on life. On Wednesday he announced that by using high-tech DNA screening techniques, he and his colleagues at the new $20 million Institute for Immunology and Infectious Diseases, to be built at Murdoch University, have developed and trialled a test to determine if a patient will develop life-threatening reactions to abacavir, a drug sold under the brand name Ziagen, and as combination pills that combine it with AZT or other drugs (one such combination pill being Trizivir). "We've entered the era of personalised medicine," says Mallal.

As Fauci's long-lived patients attest, all these advances in HIV research are working. In fact, treatment is so successful that at the conference British expert Brian Gazzard raised a new conundrum facing HIV clinicians: geriatric AIDS.

According to Gazzard, chairman of the British HIV Association, it's becoming clear that HIV infection increases the risk of suffering any of the "geriatric giants": heart disease, dementia and cancers. What's more, increasing numbers of people are becoming infected with HIV later in life.

Research has also revealed that HIV infection is the cause of serious organ damage that, until now, was blamed on the toxic effect of anti-retroviral cocktails. The finding has triggered a scientific rethink of when HIV people should begin drug therapy.

Usually, patients don't start therapy until the level in their blood of a type of immune cell called CD4 cells drops below a certain point. Fauci says experts now want to conduct trials to test the emerging notion that earlier treatment is better. He also wants more data on another treatment question: to treat or not to treat. "I've been convinced as the years go by that you many not necessarily treat someone who has a trivial level of virus and whose CD4 count is really very good," he observes. After all, a "trivial" level of HIV is the goal of researchers struggling to design a vaccine against HIV. A vaccine, says John Kaldor, is the holy grail of HIV prevention. "From the very early days of HIV we've been hunting for a vaccine," he says. "But a vaccine is considered a huge (scientific) problem and will be one for a long time."

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


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



29 July, 2007

POT ROTS YOUR BRAIN

Reading the report below in conjunction with various previous reports (e.g. here and here) does lead to the view that cannabis can do serious harm. That is no reason for banning it, though. Alcohol and motorcars do serious harm too. It is more an argument for legalizing it so that any problems can be better dealt with

Cannabis users are 40 per cent more likely to develop a psychotic illness than non-users, a study has found. Heavy users are more than twice as likely to suffer mental illness, according to a group of British academics, who calculate that about one in seven cases of conditions such as schizophrenia is caused by cannabis.

The warnings come as the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary signalled that the "softly softly" era for cannabis may be coming to an end. Gordon Brown said last week that the Home Office would be consulting on whether it had been right to downgrade cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug in 2004. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, is to ask the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to review the evidence.

The paper, published in The Lancet, is written by a group of seven psychiatrists and psychologists from Bristol, Cardiff, London and Cambridge. They have pooled the findings from 35 studies in a number of countries, including the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain, and concluded that there is "a consistent association between cannabis use and psychotic symptoms, including disabling psychotic disorders".

They admit that they cannot be certain that the association means that there is a simple cause and effect, but say that policymakers "need to provide the public with advice about this widely used drug". They go on: "We believe there is now enough evidence to inform people that using cannabis could increase their risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life."

As well as looking at psychotic illness, they looked for evidence that cannabis could cause affective disorders such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Almost all the studies point towards an increased incidence of such disorders. The evidence is less strong, the writers say, but is still of concern.

The study was welcomed by many experts, but others counselled caution. Leslie Iverson, of the University of Oxford, a member of the advisory council, said: "Despite a thorough review the authors admit that there is no conclusive evidence that cannabis use causes psychotic illness. Their prediction that 14 per cent of psychotic outcomes in young adults in the UK may be due to cannabis use is not supported by the fact that the incidence of schizophrenia has not shown any significant change in the past 30 years."

But Robin Murray, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, called it "a very competent and conservative assessment of what research studies tell us about the relationship between cannabis and psychiatric disorders". He said that the risk could be even higher then the authors had estimated, because the cannabis available today was stronger than in the past. "This report cannot tell us whether the risk is higher with the use of the skunk-like preparations which are now widely available, and which contain a higher percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol," he said. "My own experience suggests to me that the risk with skunk is higher. Therefore, their estimate that 14 per cent of cases of schizophrenia in the UK are due to cannabis is now probably an understatement."

Martin Barnes, chief executive of Drugscope and also a member of the council, said: "Cannabis is not harmless, and although it has been known for some time that the drug can worsen existing mental health problems, it may also trigger the onset of problems in some people." "The challenge is to ensure that information on cannabis use and the associated risks is understood by teachers and health professionals working with young people and conveyed in ways that young people will listen to. Since reclassification, cannabis use has continued to fall. We need to make sure this trend continues."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: "The Lancet report justifies SANE's campaign that downgrading a substance with such known dangers masked the mounting evidence of direct links between the use of cannabis and later psychotic illness. The debate about classification should not founder on statistics but take into account the potential damage to hundreds of people who without cannabis would not develop mental illness. "While the majority can take the drug with no mind-altering effects, it is estimated that 10 per cent are at risk. You only need to see one person whose mind has been altered and life irreparably damaged, or talk to their family, to realise that the headlines are not scaremongering but reflect a daily, and preventable, tragedy."

Martin Blakeborough, director of the Kaleidescope Project and a member of the council, said that it would be a waste of public money for the same panel, with the same evidence, to review the issue again. "There is significant danger in reviewing cannabis again, as it takes experts' minds off more important issues. Classification itself, although important, is not as urgent as the increasing epidemic of hepatitis B and C among drug users and the wider community, or the increase of stimulant drugs in our community."

Source




Diabetes drug bad for hearts?

The risk sounds small when you look at the alternatives. There is a more extensive report here that sets out the rather odd findings and says that the results of the study are inconclusive

Drugs prescribed to 100,000 patients in Britain to treat diabetes double the risk of heart failure, a study has suggested. The finding is a blow to GlaxoSmithKline, whose drug Avandia is one of the drugs involved. The new analysis, which pools data from 78,000 patients, finds that one in fifty patients treated with either Avandia or a similar drug, Actos, for two and a half years would be admitted to hospital with heart failure.

The two drugs reviewed in the new analysis in Diabetes Care are prescribed to millions of patients to treat type 2 diabetes. They are approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for use on the NHS. The drugs already carry a warning that they are not suitable for patients suffering from, or at risk of, heart failure. But the new study suggests an increased risk even for those who have never suffered the condition. Two advisory panels for the US Food and Drug Administration are now reexamining both drugs.

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine in May linked Avandia to a 43 per cent increased risk of heart attacks. The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) said that its Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) is carrying out a reevaluation of both drugs. The new research was carried out at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Wake Forest University in North Carolina, in the US. It was led by Yoon Loke, a clinical pharmacologist at UEA. The experts suspect that the drugs cause fluid retention, which could trigger heart failure.

Alastair Benbow, the European medical director of GlaxoSmithKline, said: "Long-term studies have not shown an overall increase in heart deaths between patients taking Avandia and other diabetes drugs. "Heart failure can be well managed by using diuretics, and we have to remember that type 2 diabetes itself has devastating consequences, including stroke, blindness, amputation and kidney failure."

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


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



28 July, 2007

Food faddists damage kids' TV

Children are losing high-quality television programmes that reflect their lives because of underfunding and the pursuit of ratings, campaigners say. Floella Benjamin, the former Play School presenter who led the campaign to create a children’s minister, said it was shameful that so little home-grown television was now made as channels increasingly relied on cheap imports. She told the Social Market Foundation in London that more government funding and legislation was urgently needed. Incentives were vital to help not-for-profit organisations to produce high-quality public service shows for children. Doing so, she said, would prove that the Government was serious about its policy of every “child matters”.

The ban on advertising food high in fat, sugar and salt has cut the advertising income generated from children’s programmes by £30 million, a third of the total. ITV responded by scrapping new commissions and long-running hits, including My Parents Are Aliens, pictured right. Drama repeats have replaced children’s programmes on ITV1 at teatime as the channel competes for ratings with Channel 4.

Laurence Bowen, producer of My Life as a Popat, pictured left, the award-winning ITV children’s comedy about an larger-than-life Indian family living in West London, said that the popular series ended because of budget considerations.“Without a broadcasting Bill that can give Ofcom the teeth to really insist that ITV does children’s programmes, and without any other government legislation to follow that, it’s dead.”

Professor Jackie Marsh, of Sheffield University, said her research suggested that television played an important role in a child’s cognitive, linguistic, emotional and social development. The Government needed to encourage broadcasters to make programmes that reflected the daily lives, cultures and concerns of young people. “Not to do so would deny children their rights to a rich and varied diet of cultural activities.”

Source




Switching off genes fights HIV without drugs

THE newest generation of HIV drugs are so potent they can almost eradicate the virus in those who are infected, scientists say. AIDS researchers have outlined the latest cutting edge treatments, including a new class that appears to dramatically limit the effects of the disease. Also showing promise is an experimental therapy in which HIV genes in infected cells are "switched off", effectively allowing sufferers to control their condition without drugs.

An American HIV specialist Dr Joseph Eron told the International AIDS Society conference in Sydney there were more than 20 antiretroviral treatments on the market, but most excitement was being generated by a new class of drugs called integrase inhibitors. These drugs work differently in that they block the HIV virus from infecting new cells. Two drugs are being developed with one, Raltegravir, already available for trials in Australia. Data presented at the congress shows the medication, to be put forward for licensing in the US in September, is more potent than its predecessors and has fewer side effects.

Used in combination with a cocktail of the best drugs available, it was found to be far superior for treating HIV in people who have become resistant to other medications. "There is now an opportunity for even our most treatment-experienced patients to become fully suppressed, to get their viral load to these undetectable levels," said Dr Eron.

Geneticists, too, have come up with new ways to fight the disease. HIV gets into human genes and damages the cells by producing more HIV. A molecular biologist, John Rossi, and colleagues at the City of Hope Beckman Research Institute in California have worked out how to turn off this HIV gene, potentially allowing the disease to be controlled for long periods without drugs.

Professor David Cooper, director of Australia's National Centre for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, said drug and genetic developments had put eradication in the spotlight. "These new drugs, new strategies mean we are talking about eradication . and that's very exciting."

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


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



27 July, 2007

"Obesity" found to spread socially

There's an element of naivety in the report below. They have certainly rediscovered the old truth that like flocks with like but to say that somebody else CAUSES you to be overweight is hyperbole. As is usual in politically correct research, they have ignored the role of social class. Working class people tend to be fatter and tend to live in their own localities. That alone may well explain most of the results

Are your friends making you fat? Or keeping you slim? The answer may be yes, to both. Obesity spreads among friends and family members in a sort of social contagion, a study has found. So your chances of becoming obese may almost triple if a close friend is that way.

Part of the reason seems to be that each person influences the "social norm" for his or her circle, researchers theorized. That is, "people come to think that it is okay to be bigger since those around them are bigger," said Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School in Boston, one of the study's authors. "Consciously or unconsciously, people look to others when they are deciding how much to eat, how much to exercise and how much weight is too much," added coauthor James Fowler of the University of California San Diego.

Surprisingly, the influence seems stronger among friends than among family members, the researchers added. The study appears in the July 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Fowler and Christakis scoured data covering 32 years for over 12,000 adults who underwent repeated medical tests as part of the Framingham Heart Study, a longterm project administered by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Archived records from this study reveal not only family members of the participants, but also friends, whose names they wrote down so that researchers could find them if they moved.

Fowler and Christakis used this data for a new purpose: drawing up a giant map of the participants' social networks. The map also includes information on the participants' bodymass index, a commonly accepted measure of body fat. Among the first things the researchers noticed was that -- consistent with other studies finding an obesity epidemic in the U.S.the whole network grew heavier over time.

Also obvious were distinct clusters of thin and heavy individuals, Fowler and Christakis said. Statistical analysis found that these clusters couldn't be attributed only to people making friends with others of comparable weight: rather, they gain or lose weight under friends' influences.

There's "a direct, causal relationship," said Christakis. "It's not that obese or non-obese people simply find other similar people to hang out with." Nor could the effect be chalked up only to similarities in lifestyle and environment, such as people eating the same foods or living in the same area, the researchers added. "Your friend who's 500 miles away has just as much impact on your obesity as [one] next door," said Fowler, a political scientist and expert in social networks.

If a person that a participant listed as a friend was obese, the researchers found, the participant's own chances of becoming obese rose 57 percent. If two people listed each other as friends, the effect multiplied in strength: increase in obesity risk shot up 171 percent. Among siblings, they found, if one becomes obese, the likelihood for the other to do so rises 40 percent; among spouses, 37 percent. No effect was found among neighbors, unless they were friends too.

Fowler and Christakis said they believe people affect not only each other's behaviors but also, more subtly, social norms. They came to this conclusion partly because the study also identified a larger effect among people of the same sex.

The study suggests that in addition to looking for genes and physical processes behind obesity, researchers "should spend time looking at the social side," said Fowler. There are profound policy implications, he added. The social effects extend three degrees of separation -- to your friends' friends' friends -- [indicative of a social class effect] so "when we help one person lose weight, we're not just helping one person, we're helping many," he said. "That needs to be taken into account by policy analysts and also by politicians who are trying to decide what the best measures are for making society healthier."

But "It's important to remember," Fowler said, "that we've not only shown that obesity is contagious but that thinness is contagious."

Source




Britain: Radiation phobics exposed as nutters

People who believe that mobile telephone masts are causing them to feel unwell are deluding themselves, according to a study at Essex University. The three-year study, one of the largest of its kind, found that such people do experience symptoms when they know that they are exposed to radio waves, but they cannot detect when the waves are turned on and off, disproving their belief that they are “radiosensitive”. In double-blind trials -- in which neither participants nor experimenters knew whether the signals were on or off -- no health effects were detected. The finding adds to earlier research suggesting that radiosensitivity is an illusion.

Professor Elaine Fox said that radiosensitivity complainants had genuine symptoms, but phone masts were not the cause. In the past, she said, similar symptoms were reported in relation to TV sets and microwave ovens. It appears that about 4 per cent of the population claim to experience symptoms and tend to project them on to new technologies. The project was designed to investigate whether the effect was caused by phone masts.

Volunteers who claimed to be radiosensitive were matched against those who did not. Both groups were told when the signals were being switched on and off. The radiosensitive group reported headaches and malaise, but the team concluded that the symptoms were triggered by the knowledge of exposure. The researchers then conducted the double-blind trials. If radiosensitivity were a real phenomenon, alleged sufferers should have been able to detect changes and report symptoms. They did not.

Two of the 44 sensitive individuals, and 5 of the 114 controls, judged correctly when the mast was on or off in all six 50-minute tests -- exactly the proportion expected by chance. Professor Fox said: “Belief is very powerful. There are real, clinical effects.” David Coggon, of the University of Southampton, said: “This is consistent with earlier research in suggesting that symptoms of electrosensitivity are psychological in origin.” The study was funded by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme, with half of the money provided by Government and half by the mobile phone industry.

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


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



26 July, 2007

Cancer risk: Will the statin fad now come to an end?

The British government recently decided that statins should be given even to healthy people if their serum cholesterol is high. Will they now back down? One hopes that they will. Amusing that the report below says that the cancer risk is low so don't worry. Similar risks elsewhere -- e.g. with HRT -- have led to loud cries for the medication concerned to be withdrawn from use. So we have another example of a "scientific" recommendation that is agenda-driven rather than fact driven. As it happens, the recommendation attached to this research is right. It is just a pity that similar recommendations are not routinely offered for low probability risks. They often are not. Note however that there are substantial other reasons not to take statins: Muscle-wasting anybody?

Lowering cholesterol with statins may slightly increase the risk of cancer, a study suggests. It is not clear whether the cancer cases are caused by the drugs, or are a consequence of the low levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol produced by taking them. The result, which amounts to one extra case of cancer for every 1,000 patients treated, surprised the researchers who discovered it. They were looking for new evidence on the known side-effects of statins on the liver and muscle wasting.

"This analysis doesn't implicate the statin in increasing the risk of cancer," said the study leader, Professor Richard Karas, of Tufts University School of Medicine, in Boston. "The demonstrated benefits of statins in lowering the risk of heart disease remain clear. However, certain aspects of lowering LDL with statins remain controversial and merit further research." The team reviewed the results of 13 previous trials, involving more than 41,000 patients and all published before November 2005. They detected higher rates of cancer among the patients whose use of statins achieved the lowest levels of LDL cholesterol.

This may be important because recent statin trials have shown that a more aggressive lowering of LDL produces greater benefits to the heart. There are moves to lower the cholesterol targets aimed at by GPs, on the assumption that doing so will do no harm. But there have been suggestions that there may be a greater risk of side-effects if a more aggressive statin treatment is used.

The researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that the degree of damage to the liver increased with greater statin doses, but that there was no such effect in muscle wastage. They said the best strategy may be to combine statins at moderate doses with other drugs.

As for cancer, conclusions are difficult to draw. No single form of cancer predominated, so if there is a side-effect of having a very low level of LDL, it would have to apply to all types of cancer. And previous statin trials have not shown any direct effect on cancer risk. But those trials did not compare cancer risk with the degree of lowering of LDL cholesterol.

John LaRosa, of the State University of New York, cast doubt on the findings. If they were caused by a lowering of cholesterol, the effect must have been very rapid, as the trials lasted five years or less. Other explanations, he said, were chance, or simply that people who would otherwise have died of heart disease were living longer, and dying of cancer.

June Davison, cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation, said: "We have known about the association between low cholesterol levels and cancer for some time now. While this [research] highlights an association between low levels of LDL and cancer, this is not the same as saying that low LDL or statin use increases the risk of cancer. There is overwhelming evidence that lowering LDL cholesterol through statins saves lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes. These findings do not change the message that the benefits of taking statins greatly outweigh any potential risks. People should not stop taking statin treatment on the basis of this research."

Source




Hope for new drug to control Alzheimer's

SCIENTISTS have developed a chemical compound hailed as the "holy grail" of Alzheimer's research that could stop the disease and enable sufferers to improve memory and learning ability. The man-made chemical created by Scottish researchers was able to prevent the death of brain cells and slow the progression of the disease in rats. It is hoped it will lead to drugs, particularly for early stage Alzheimer's and dementia.

Researchers at the University of St Andrews and scientists in America succeed in blocking the build-up of a toxic protein called amyloid in nerve cells, which kills the cells and collects in clumps called senile plaques. "We have shown that it is possible to reverse some of the signs associated with Alzheimer's disease," said lead researcher Frank Gunn-Moore.

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


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



25 July, 2007

An ethical and legal minefield for an ambulance service

Adrenalin (epinephrine) does appear to revive people so one can only speculate that this is some sort of bureaucratic quantification exercise

Heart-attack patients will be used as guinea pigs in a controversial medical trial proposed by the Queensland Ambulance Service. Paramedics attending to cardiac arrest cases will inject either a life-saving drug - adrenalin - or a placebo into the patient. Neither paramedic nor patient will know -- only the trial operators.

Adrenalin is used to make the heart beat if it has stopped. A placebo such as a saline solution, will produce no response in a patient suffering a heart attack. Medical experts said the idea of the trial was to evaluate the value of adrenalin in a cardiac arrests and potential side-effects, and was vital to achieving advances in medicine.

But it has been slammed by frontline ambulance officers. "Let's keep these trials out of the ambulance service and get back to concentrating on the basics such as adequate staffing levels and better response times," one paramedic said.

The University of Western Australia recently started a trial to "determine the efficiency of adrenalin on the survival of patients suffering cardiac arrest". The three-year-study was being funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

A spokeswoman for Queensland Ambulance Commissioner Jim Higgins confirmed interest here in the trial of adrenalin. The QAS has sought medical ethics approaal from Queensland Health to participate in this trial" she said. "It is not happening here yet. We don't have a timeframe for Queensland." The spokeswoman declined to elaborate further on QAS plans for the trial.

But one senior paramedic expressed outrage yesterday. "I don't think these trials have any place in an emergency pre-hospital setting," he said. "The patient would have no say in participating in such a trial - they are, after all, in cardiac arrest - and you have to ask yourself, `Would this be acceptable for a member of my family in cardiac arrest?' "The answer of course would be No. "I wonder how the Premier, Emergency Services Minister or Commissioner would react if a loved member of their family had a cardiac arrest and a paramedic turned up and started injecting something other than adrenalin, "This is inappropriate use of the ambulance service." The paramedic said that if the trial went ahead, some patients would be injected with a placebo that would not save their lives. "And the QAS would have sanctioned this in the name of a clinical trial," he said.

Details of the trial came to light after a Sunday Mail report last week- and revealed concerns by ambulance officers about a mix-up of drugs. Adrenalin had been "potentially" incorrectly labelled as pethidine or mixed with pethidine. The drugs have the opposite effect. Pharmaceutical supply giant Astra-Zeneca issued a nationwide recall last month, admitting "there is a risk to patient safety through administering an incorrect product". A batch of 75,000 ampoules of adrenalin imported from Britain was under question. One "rogue" ampoule was found at a hospital in NSW, which prompted the recall.

Queensland paramedics said the deaths of two patients - who were supposedly given adrenalin but did not respond - should be investigated. Queensland's Health Quality and Complaints Commission said it would look into the allegations. AstraZenaca's market access director Liz Chatwin said no other wrongly labelled ampoules had been found last week. Testing on the rogue ampoule had yet to be done by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The above article by Darrell Giles appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on July 22, 2007




Dubious logic behind the proposed British "Fat tax"

Britain is in the midst of an epidemic of chronic ill-health and obesity. Something Must Be Done. Already, the school canteen has been the battleground for Jamie’s jihad on junk. Everything on the supermarket shelf must be labelled for calories, fat, salt and sugar so we can make ‘informed choices’. (And heaven help us if we make the wrong choices, because the National Health Service won’t.) And now the idea of making the ‘wrong’ foods more expensive - the so-called ‘fat tax’ - has been revived as a way of saving us from ourselves.

And yet, critics of the fat tax have generally failed to make the most important point about this latest wheeze: regardless of whether a ‘fat tax’ would have the desired effect of making some people eat healthier, we simply should not allow the government to micro-manage our lives in this way. We should tell the food- and fat-obsessed authorities to get stuffed.

Researchers from Oxford and Nottingham, writing in the latest issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, looked into the possible effect of applying value added tax (VAT) to some items of food that are currently not subject to this tax (1). Using an economic model (actually an Excel spreadsheet), the researchers tested the effect of adding VAT to the main sources of saturated fat in our diets, like whole milk, butter, cakes and pastries, and cheese. They then went further and applied a scale of how ‘unhealthy’ a range of foods were, experimenting with their data to find out what would be the best way of applying the tax to decrease cholesterol levels and lower salt and sugar intake amongst the population. Based on various studies into cardiovascular disease in the past, they have concluded that an optimum application of VAT on fatty foodstuffs could avert ‘up to 3,200 cardiovascular deaths’ per year.

Their idea may have provided some food for thought - or fodder for phone-in shows at least - but the results of the report were not nearly as impressive as the news stories suggested. The researchers estimated that the total reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease would be 1.7 per cent. Or, as the researchers themselves put it in their conclusions: ‘The potential changes in nutrition that would result from an extension of VAT to further categories of food would be modest.’

So modest, in fact, that the only sensible conclusion is not to bother with such a tax at all. The only reason that the researchers’ work generated such dramatic headline figures is that a large number of people die from cardiovascular disease in the UK. If you multiply this death toll by the tiny percentage the researchers found, you get quite an impressively high number of lives allegedly ‘saved’ by the tax. The problem is that in terms of any individual‘s risk from disease or ill-health, a ‘fat tax’ will make as much difference as urinating in the ocean.

Actually, it’s worse than that. The researchers treat the results of epidemiological studies as if they produced accurate measurements of the effect of a risk factor. However, correlation does not equal causation. There are so many confounding factors and built-in inaccuracies in such studies that to treat the figures produced as anything more than very rough estimates is totally inappropriate. Even a broad conclusion that X causes Y should only be drawn if the correlation is strong, consistent and biologically plausible (see An epidemic of epidemiology, by Rob Lyons).

The trouble is that when there have been big studies on the effect of changing diets, the results have been extremely disappointing. To give a recent example: in February 2006, a massive American study found that those put on a low-fat diet had the same death rates as those who ate what they pleased. As the lead researcher, Barbara V Howard, told the New York Times: ‘We are not going to reverse any of the chronic diseases in this country by changing the composition of the diet.’

The authors of the ‘fat tax’ report also make assumptions about how people might react to such a tax. They don’t believe that everyone will start eating salad and oily fish every day just because their usual fare is slightly more expensive. But they do believe that some people will change their behaviour a bit, enough to have an effect on disease rates. But what if they overestimate people’s sensitivity to such things? Perhaps people will react in unexpected ways: there’s evidence that many people react to such taxes by cutting down on ‘healthy’ food rather than junk, in order to balance their budgets. The results of a simple model of economic behaviour and the behaviour of people in the real world are two very different things.

So, it is far from clear that a ‘fat tax’ would work at all (3). But is it even legitimate to try to tinker with our food choices in this way? Many people point to the apparently similar case of applying swingeing taxes to cigarettes and alcohol. Yet, ‘health’ is often the spurious justification for taxes which are really more about balancing government budgets than improving the nation’s health. And if such taxes really did work, surely we would all be non-smoking teetotallers by now?

Efficacy aside, should we really allow the government to determine, through fiscal nudges and prods, how we choose to conduct our private lives? Who are they to tell us whether we should eat broccoli or burgers, chickpeas or cheddar cheese? It’s one thing for your parents to nag you as a child to eat your greens; it’s quite another for the health authorities to nag us when we’ve reached adulthood, and in the process to infantilise us all. Maybe campaigners for liberty should recognise that defending freedom in the twenty-first century will involve standing up for the freedom to choose what passes our lips as well as traditional issues like free speech.

A more active defence of our personal autonomy is a pre-requisite for maintaining a healthy body politic. Instead of a fat tax, the best thing would be to give the meddling health fanatics a big fat finger.

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 July, 2007

DOES QUININE PREVENT DIABETES?

It would be very encouraging to those who like a gin and tonic if so. "Tonic" is quinine water. From the research below, it seems that a quinine derivative is beneficial in some cases. Popular summary below followed by journal abstract. It must be noted that the population studied was NOT a general population sample -- so no generalization is possible without further research

Drugs that protect against malaria may also prevent diabetes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, claims a study in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine has long been a safe and inexpensive treatment for joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. The study included 4905 adults with rheumatoid arthritis - 1808 had taken hydroxychloroquine and 3097 had never taken the drug. None of the patients showed any diabetes symptoms at the start of the study, and they were followed for an average of 21.5 years. During this time, diabetes was diagnosed in 54 patients who had taken hydroxychloroquine and in 171 patients who had never taken it. Those who had taken hydroxychloroquine for any length of time had a 38 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes compared with those who had not. Patients who took hydroxychloroquine for more than four years had a 77 per cent lower risk of diabetes compared with those who had never taken the drug.

Source

Abstract:

Hydroxychloroquine and Risk of Diabetes in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis

By Mary Chester M. Wasko et al.

Context: Hydroxychloroquine, a commonly used antirheumatic medication, has hypoglycemic effects and may reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus.

Objective: To determine the association between hydroxychloroquine use and the incidence of self-reported diabetes in a cohort of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Design, Setting, and Patients: A prospective, multicenter observational study of 4905 adults with rheumatoid arthritis (1808 had taken hydroxychloroquine and 3097 had never taken hydroxychloroquine) and no diagnosis or treatment for diabetes in outpatient university-based and community-based rheumatology practices with 21.5 years of follow-up (January 1983 through July 2004).

Main Outcome Measures: Diabetes by self-report of diagnosis or hypoglycemic medication use.

Results: During the observation period, incident diabetes was reported by 54 patients who had taken hydroxychloroquine and by 171 patients who had never taken hydroxychloroquine, with incidence rates of 5.2 per 1000 patient-years of observation compared with 8.9 per 1000 patient-years of observation, respectively (P < .001). In time-varying multivariable analysis with adjustments for possible confounding factors, the hazard ratio for incident diabetes among patients who had taken hydroxychloroquine was 0.62 (95% confidence interval, 0.42-0.92) compared with those who had not taken hydroxychloroquine. In Poisson regression, the risk of incident diabetes was significantly reduced with increased duration of hydroxychloroquine use (P < .001 for trend); among those taking hydroxychloroquine for more than 4 years (n = 384), the adjusted relative risk of developing diabetes was 0.23 (95% confidence interval, 0.11-0.50; P < .001), compared with those who had not taken hydroxychloroquine.

Conclusion: Among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, use of hydroxychloroquine is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes.

JAMA. 2007;298:187-193




DOES HRT ROT YOUR BRAIN?

There seems to be a determination to find something wrong with HRT but the scares about heart disease and cancer have proved poorly founded. So let's take a look at dementia. The study reported below is one of the "panic" studies but the key point to note, however, is the usual one in this field -- that only a tiny percentage (one fifth of one percent) of the HRT takers got Alzheimers. So even if the relationship is causative it is a very low risk as medical risks go -- rather less than the risk of getting a superbug infection in a British public hospital, for instance. Women who take some "herbal" remedies probably undertake much greater risks. It should also be noted that findings concerning women who go straight on to HRT after menopause and those who go on to it much later do seem to differ and it is the late adopters who are concerned below.

Hormone therapy doubled the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia in women who began the treatment at age 65 or older, a large study has found. The finding disappointed many researchers and doctors, who had hoped for the opposite result: that hormone therapy would prevent Alzheimer's disease. "No one anticipated this outcome," said Dr. Marilyn Albert, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins, in a statement issued by the Alzheimer's Association.

The new report on dementia, being published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is one more piece of bad news about hormone therapy. Indeed, it is the latest in a string of studies showing that purported benefits do not exist and that the hormones actually raise the risk of several serious diseases, including some they were thought to prevent.

The latest finding is based on a four-year experiment involving 4,532 women at 39 medical centers. Half took placebos, and half took Prempro, a combination of estrogen and progestin, the most widely prescribed type of hormone therapy. In four years, there were 40 cases of dementia in the hormone group, and 21 in the placebo group. Translated to an annual rate for a larger population, the results mean that for every 10,000 women 65 and older who take hormones, there will be 45 cases of dementia a year, with 23 of them attributable to the hormones.

"The clear message is that there's no reason for older women to be taking combination hormone therapy," said Dr. Sally A. Shumaker, the director of the study and a professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, N.C. Researchers said the risk to individual women was slight, and that even though the numbers worked out to a doubling of the risk, 23 cases for every 10,000 women should not be cause for alarm. "A small number doubled is still a small number," said Dr. Samuel E. Gandy, vice chairman of the medical and scientific advisory council of the Alzheimer's Association, and director of the Farber Institute of Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

Still, Dr. Shumaker said, women 65 and older who are taking Prempro or other hormone combinations should discuss why they are taking the drugs with their doctors and decide whether to quit.

Because the women in the study were 65 or older, it is not known whether the findings apply to younger postmenopausal women. It is not known, either, whether the results apply to women who take other hormone combinations or estrogen alone. Women who take estrogen alone are being studied separately. Estrogen alone can cause cancer of the uterus and so is prescribed only for women who have had hysterectomies. But adding progestin protects the uterus, so women who have not had hysterectomies are given combination treatment.

The report on the study is accompanied in the journal by two other reports that also have unfavorable findings on combined hormone therapy and the brain. One study found that women on the drugs did not perform as well on cognitive tests as women on placebos; the other confirmed previous research showing that the combination therapy increased the risk of stroke.

About 2.7 million American women take combination hormone therapy, including 1.2 million who use Prempro. Wyeth said that the majority of users were 51 to 55 years old, and only 14 percent of all new prescriptions were for women 65 or older. The hormones were never approved to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease. They are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for only two purposes: to treat menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal irritation; and to prevent the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. But because the hormones can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, strokes and heart attacks, the agency recommends that women use the lowest dose for the shortest time possible, and that they consider other treatments to prevent osteoporosis.

Last July, a large federal study of the combination therapy was halted ahead of schedule because the drugs were found to cause a small but significant increase in the risk of invasive breast cancer. That study, the Women's Health Initiative, also found that hormones increased the risks of heart attack and stroke, which they were once thought to prevent. The drugs increased the odds of blood clots as well. The study, which included 16,000 women, was the first and the largest to compare women on hormones with a group taking placebos. Many women gave up hormone therapy after the study came out. Before it was published, about 6 million women were taking combination therapy.

After the disappointing findings, the last great hope for hormone therapy was that it might protect the brain and help prevent Alzheimer's disease. Some women, encouraged by their doctors, clung to that belief and continued taking the drugs despite the negative reports, figuring that the risks would be worthwhile if hormones could offer that protection from dementia. The dementia study is part of the Women's Health Initiative. Dr. Shumaker said it was the most comprehensive and rigorous study to investigate whether combination hormone therapy could prevent Alzheimer's. "Unfortunately, the risks outweigh the benefits," she said. [In her opinion]

The theory that estrogen might prevent Alzheimer's was based on earlier, survey-type studies suggesting that women on hormones had lower rates of dementia than women not on hormones. But those studies were not considered as reliable as the Women's Health Initiative, because they were smaller and did not contain control groups. Evidence also came from studies in test tubes and in laboratory animals showing that estrogen seemed almost to nourish the brain, making new connections sprout in areas that control learning and memory. The new study suggests that what goes on in the body is much more complicated than what happens in laboratory rats and test tubes. Even if hormones have some good effects on brain cells, Dr. Shumaker said, those benefits may be offset by harmful effects.

She said that it was not known how the combination therapy might increase the risk of dementia, but one possibility was that it increased the risk of blood clots and clogged tiny blood vessels in the brain, which might injure brain cells and contribute to Alzheimer's disease and a condition called vascular dementia.

Some researchers have suggested that hormone therapy may help protect the brain if women take it around the time of menopause, when natural hormone levels plummet, instead of waiting until age 65. They think there may be a "critical period" in which hormone therapy can protect brain cells from the sudden withdrawal of hormones and that once the period is over the damage is done and it is too late. But no one knows whether such a period exists, and no studies now under way will answer that question.

Dr. Gandy said that some of the most promising earlier results on hormone therapy and the brain came from studies of estrogen alone, and that the progestin in the combination pills might cancel out estrogen's good effects. He said that another part of the Women's Health Initiative, still in progress, was studying women who take estrogen alone. That study is scheduled to be completed in 2005. "That is the most likely place to show any benefit against Alzheimer's, if indeed one does exist," Dr. Gandy said.

Dr. Wolf Utian, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, agreed that benefits might come from estrogen alone, and suggested that research should be done to find out whether hormone regimens that use lower doses over all and give progestin only on some days of the month might have less of a negative effect than Prempro and other treatments that use progestin every day.

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


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



23 July, 2007

SMOKERS TEND TO BE DEPRESSED -- AND IT'S GENETIC

Popular summary below followed by abstract. Note that the genes predisposing to smoking also predispose to generally bad behaviour -- which helps to explain the long-known fact that smoking tends to be part of a syndrome of general social disadvantage: Smokers tend to be dumber, poorer etc. The present finding shows how broad that syndrome is

SMOKING and depression have a common genetic link, according to a new study in the journal Twin Research and Human Genetics. The study found that nicotine dependence and major depression are both associated with extreme rebellious behaviour during childhood and adolescence -- a condition known as "conduct disorder". In 1992, the research team conducted telephone interviews with 3360 pairs of male twins aged 35 to 53, who served in the military during the Vietnam War. Fifty-six per cent of the pairs were genetically identical twins, and 44 per cent were fraternal twins who shared half their genes. Answers from each twin were compared to estimate the genetic and environmental influences on nicotine addiction and major depression. Genes that increased a person's risk of developing nicotine addiction and major depression were also found in those with conduct disorder. The findings may also help to explain why smoking seems to run in some families, say the authors.

Source

Journal Abstract follows:

Common Genetic Risk of Major Depression and Nicotine Dependence: The Contribution of Antisocial Traits in a United States Veteran Male Twin Cohort

By Qiang Fu et al.

Many studies that found associations between depression and nicotine dependence have ignored possible shared genetic influences associated with antisocial traits. The present study examined the contribution of genetic and environmental effects associated with conduct disorder (CD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) to the comorbidity of major depression (MD) and nicotine dependence (ND). A telephone diagnostic interview, the Diagnostic Interview Schedule-III-R, was administered to eligible twins from the Vietnam Era Twin (VET) Registry in 1992. Multivariate genetic models were fitted to 3360 middle-aged and predominantly white twin pairs (1868 monozygotic, 1492 dizygotic pairs) of which both members completed the pertinent diagnostic interview sections. Genetic influences on CD accounted for 100%, 68%, and 50% of the total genetic variance in risk for ASPD, MD and ND, respectively. After controlling for genetic influences on CD, the partial genetic correlation between MD and ND was no longer statistically significant. Nonshared environmental contributions to the comorbidity among these disorders were not significant. This study not only demonstrates that the comorbidity between ND and MD is influenced by common genetic risk factors, but also further suggests that the common genetic risk factors overlapped with those for antisocial traits such as CD and ASPD in men.

Twin Research and Human Genetics. Volume: 10, Issue: 3, June 2007, 470-478




SOME HOPE FOR CROHN'S DISEASE

Popular summary followed by journal abstract. The benefit conferred by the drug seems rather weak, sadly. Only a net 8% of patients showed some benefit from the drug after 6 weeks, rising to 10% after 26 weeks. Still no real light at the end of the tunnel

CROHN'S disease -- an inflammatory disorder of the gastrointestinal tract -- affects an estimated 28,000 Australians and has no known medical cure. But a study in the New England Journal of Medicine this week has found that a new drug called certolizumab pegol is an effective treatment for adults with the disease. The drug acts by blocking a protein called tumour necrosis factor (TNF), which is a major cause of gut inflammation. The study involved 662 patients with moderate to severe Crohn's disease, who were randomly assigned to receive certolizumab pegol or a placebo. After six weeks, 35 per cent of patients who received the drug showed improvement in their symptoms, while improvement was seen in 27 per cent of patients who received the placebo. The only side effect of certolizumab pegol was a small increase in the risk for serious infection, including one case of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Source

Abstract:

Certolizumab Pegol for the Treatment of Crohn's Disease

By: William J. Sandborn et al.

Methods: In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we evaluated the efficacy of certolizumab pegol in 662 adults with moderate-to-severe Crohn's disease. Patients were stratified according to baseline levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and were randomly assigned to receive either 400 mg of certolizumab pegol or placebo subcutaneously at weeks 0, 2, and 4 and then every 4 weeks. Primary end points were the induction of a response at week 6 and a response at both weeks 6 and 26.

Results: Among patients with a baseline CRP level of at least 10 mg per liter, 37% of patients in the certolizumab group had a response at week 6, as compared with 26% in the placebo group (P=0.04). At both weeks 6 and 26, the corresponding values were 22% and 12%, respectively (P=0.05). In the overall population, response rates at week 6 were 35% in the certolizumab group and 27% in the placebo group (P=0.02); at both weeks 6 and 26, the response rates were 23% and 16%, respectively (P=0.02). At weeks 6 and 26, the rates of remission in the two groups did not differ significantly (P=0.17).

Serious adverse events were reported in 10% of patients in the certolizumab group and 7% of those in the placebo group; serious infections were reported in 2% and less than 1%, respectively. In the certolizumab group, antibodies to the drug developed in 8% of patients, and antinuclear antibodies developed in 2%.

Conclusions: In patients with moderate-to-severe Crohn's disease, induction and maintenance therapy with certolizumab pegol was associated with a modest improvement in response rates, as compared with placebo, but with no significant improvement in remission rates.

NEJM Volume 357:228-238; July, 2007

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

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 July, 2007

Milk gets some praise

Considering how fattening it is, praise for milk is a bit unexpected. The findings are however very weak -- a slight difference between extreme groups found only by aggregating a variety of not-very-comparable studies. Certainly no reason for anybody to increase their milk intake

Calcium and vitamin D, whether from food or supplements, may help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a research review. A number of studies have found links between type 2 diabetes risk and calcium, vitamin D and dairy food intake. When the results from these studies are combined, the new review found, people with the highest intakes of vitamin D and calcium had an 18 percent lower risk of diabetes than those with the lowest intakes. Similarly, people who ate the most dairy food had a 14 percent lower diabetes risk than those who ate the least dairy.

Though it's not clear why calcium and vitamin D are linked to diabetes risk, lab research has pointed to some possibilities, according to the review authors, led by Dr. Anastassios G. Pittas of Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston. Both nutrients may be important in the functioning of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, and in the body's proper use of insulin, the researchers explain in their report, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Insulin is a hormone that helps move sugar from the blood into the body's cells to be used for energy; type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin, allowing blood sugar levels to soar. Only a limited number of studies have tested whether calcium or vitamin D supplements can improve the body's insulin sensitivity and blood sugar metabolism. And the studies that have been done have reached conflicting conclusions, the review found.

A few trials have, however, suggested that the supplements may forestall type 2 diabetes in people who are on the verge of developing diabetes, or "pre-diabetic," based on their blood sugar levels, according to Pittas and his colleagues. It's too soon to recommend calcium or vitamin D for managing diabetes, the researchers conclude, but more clinical trials are warranted. Many Americans do not get enough vitamin D or calcium, they note, and supplementing people's diets with the nutrients would be an easy, inexpensive way to prevent or treat type 2 diabetes.

Source

Journal Abstract follows:

The Role of Vitamin D and Calcium in Type 2 Diabetes. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

By Anastassios G. Pittas et al.

Context: Altered vitamin D and calcium homeostasis may play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus (type 2 DM).

Evidence Acquisition and Analyses: MEDLINE review was conducted through January 2007 for observational studies and clinical trials in adults with outcomes related to glucose homeostasis. When data were available to combine, meta-analyses were performed, and summary odds ratios (OR) are presented.

Evidence Synthesis: Observational studies show a relatively consistent association between low vitamin D status, calcium or dairy intake, and prevalent type 2 DM or metabolic syndrome [OR (95% confidence interval): type 2 DM prevalence, 0.36 (0.16-0.80) among nonblacks for highest vs. lowest 25-hydroxyvitamin D; metabolic syndrome prevalence, 0.71 (0.57-0.89) for highest vs. lowest dairy intake]. There are also inverse associations with incident type 2 DM or metabolic syndrome [OR (95% confidence interval): type 2 DM incidence, 0.82 (0.72-0.93) for highest vs. lowest combined vitamin D and calcium intake; 0.86 (0.79-0.93) for highest vs. lowest dairy intake]. Evidence from trials with vitamin D and/or calcium supplementation suggests that combined vitamin D and calcium supplementation may have a role in the prevention of type 2 DM only in populations at high risk (i.e. glucose intolerance). The available evidence is limited because most observational studies are cross-sectional and did not adjust for important confounders, whereas intervention studies were short in duration, included few subjects, used a variety of formulations of vitamin D and calcium, or did post hoc analyses.

Conclusions: Vitamin D and calcium insufficiency may negatively influence glycemia, whereas combined supplementation with both nutrients may be beneficial in optimizing glucose metabolism.

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 92, No. 6 2017-2029




Gene may be a fountain of youth

One of the genes that protects people from cancer may also help delay ageing, according to a study published yesterday. The findings could lead to new drugs that prevent or fight cancer while extending healthy youth and lifespan, said Manuel Serrano, a researcher at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, who worked on the study.

Dr Serrano said researchers genetically changed mice to have an extra copy of a key cancer-fighting gene called p53 and found it also played an important role in delaying ageing. "Everyone agrees that the ageing is produced by the accumulation of faulty cells," Dr Serrano said. "In other words, p53 delays ageing for exactly the same reason that it prevents cancer." The study was published in the journal Nature.

Previous cancer studies have shown that p53 can cause premature ageing symptoms by killing too many cells when it goes into overdrive, but Dr Serrano said his research strictly regulated the gene so that it turned on only when needed. The gene -- and another that regulates signals to p53 -- did their normal job of producing a protein that kills damaged cancer cells. But the researchers found that mice with an extra copy of the genes actually lived longer even when stripping out the impact of having less cancer. "This is the first anti-cancer gene tested for its effect on ageing," Dr Serrano said. "The mice lived 16 per cent longer in their average lifespan."

The p53 gene makes sure that damaged cells destroy themselves and do not divide uncontrollably to cause a tumour. The role of p53 in cancer has been known for many years. Dr Serrano said he and his team applied this knowledge to ageing and targeting damaged cells. "The expectation is that having more p53, mice will have a stricter quality control for cells, hence less cancer and less ageing," he said.

Dr Serrano said other research had shown that mice and worms that ate less had slower metabolisms and lived longer. His study offers evidence that the mice can benefit from the extra copy of the genes without being starved.

The study opened up possibilities for drugs based on p53 to delay ageing, but researchers would need to find the right balance in boosting the gene to prevent potentially harmful effects, he said. "There are a number of chemical compounds that have been developed by the big pharmaceutical companies and these compounds are able to boost p53 in the organism," he said. "These compounds are being tested now for their possible anti-cancer activity and hopefully in the light of our study also for their possible anti-ageing activity."

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 July, 2007

Hostility linked to heart disease risk

This is very old news but it probably bears repeating. One previous reference -- from 25 years ago: Diamond, E. L. (1982) The role of anger and hostility in essential hypertension and coronary heart disease. Psychological Bulletin 92, 410-433.

PEOPLE who seem to always be looking for a fight may find themselves at greater risk of heart disease, a new US study suggests. Researchers found that adults whose spouses rated them high on the "antagonism" scale were more likely to have calcium build-up in their heart arteries, an indicator of artery-clogging plaque. The relationship was mainly apparent in older, rather than middle-aged, adults. A number of studies have found a link between hostile temperament and heart disease.

These latest findings, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, suggest that a specific component of hostility - antagonism - is particularly hard on the heart. For the purposes of psychosocial assessment, antagonism refers to a person's tendency to be suspicious of others, argumentative, competitive or emotionally cold. The study subjects included 300 middle-aged and older married couples in which neither spouse had been diagnosed with coronary heart disease.

Dr Timothy Smith and colleagues at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City had participants answer questions about their own temperament and that of their spouses. The researchers also used CT scans to gauge the amount of calcium in study participants' arteries. Calcium is a component of the plaques that harden and narrow the coronary arteries in people with heart disease. A high calcium "score" indicates elevated risks of heart attack and stroke. As mentioned, people with higher antagonism scores, based on their spouses' answers to a standard questionnaire, were more likely to have significant calcium build-up in their arteries.

However, when Dr Smith's team considered study participants' own ratings of their temperament, there was no link between hostility and coronary calcium. In contrast, no plaque build-up was observed in people whose hostility was mainly characterised by outbursts of anger. More research, they said, is needed to understand why argumentative people might have a higher heart disease risk.

Other researchers have theorised that chronic hostility may contribute to heart problems both directly and indirectly. Negative emotions have physiological effects, like raising blood pressure and stirring up stress hormones, which can take a toll on the cardiovascular system over time. In addition, people with hostile personalities may be resistant to adopting healthy habits or following medical advice.

Source




The official "obesity" obsession is hurting a lot of young people

PANIC over childhood obesity has contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of teenage girls starving themselves, vomiting, abusing laxatives and smoking in an effort to shed weight, the author of a national study released today said. The study of 8950 children and adolescents showed an almost doubling of girls aged 12 to 18 engaging in "eating-disordered behaviour" because they believed they were overweight, said Jenny O'Dea, associate professor of nutrition and health education at the University of Sydney. Youth Cultures of Eating showed 18 per cent of girls surveyed in 2006 had starved themselves for at least two days, up from from 9.9 per cent in 2000.

The study, funded by the Australian Research Council, also showed 11 per cent used vomiting for weight loss, up from 3.4 per cent. Eight per cent smoked to suppress appetite, up from 2.4 per cent. The report noted that obesity declined among wealthy teenage girls, from 4.6 per cent in 2000 to 3.9 per cent in 2006.

The number of obese children, boys and girls, was "levelling off", Dr O'Dea said, with a rise from 5.1 per cent in 2000 to 6.4 per cent in 2006. She said the heavy focus on childhood obesity and media attention on "skinny celebrities" such as Paris Hilton were to blame for the increase in eating-disordered behaviour. "I think there has been undoubtedly a media panic and a moral panic about childhood obesity in the last six years and I would certainly suggest that some of that comment has got into the minds of teenage girls who think that losing weight will make them a better and a happier person - that's a big myth," she said. "What schools need to do is tread very, very carefully with obesity prevention and only give positive messages and never do anything that is critical and negative."

The executive officer of the Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity, Tim Gill, agreed there had been "some degree" of panic but said campaigns had been very sensitive. Dr Gill said there had not been any emphasis on weight loss, but on such things as increased physical activity. "There is a difference between clinical eating disorders and self-reported [eating-disordered] behaviour," he said. The level of clinical eating disorders among girls was "very, very low and has been for some time". "The problem of obesity is of equal if not of greater concern . so it would be wrong to stop focusing on obesity for fear that it might increase eating disorders," Dr Gill said. "[But] there has been some moralising . even the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health have both moralised this issue, saying it's a lack of self-control and a lack of will."

The executive officer of the Eating Disorders Foundation, Greta Kretchmer, said the obesity epidemic had "almost been a scare campaign" and there had been an increase in teenage girls calling the foundation's helpline over the past five years. "We're certainly aware that there is an increase in eating-disordered behaviour," she 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


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



20 July, 2007

Vitamin C myth blasted

The idea that vitamin C supplements can ward off colds is a myth, a major review of the evidence has concluded. The analysis of data from 30 studies involving more than 11,000 people found no evidence that high doses of the vitamin have any effect against colds for the average person.

The research, conducted by Australian and Finnish scientists, found that extra vitamin C is beneficial only for people under extreme physical stress, such as marathon runners and soldiers, who are 50 per cent less likely to catch a cold if they take daily supplements. For people living ordinary lives, any benefits conferred by vitamin C are so small that they would not be worth the effort or expense, the researchers said. Professor Harri Hemil„, of the University of Helsinki, who led the meta-analysis, said: "It doesn't make sense to take vitamin C 365 days a year to lessen the chance of a cold."

The analysis appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, published by the research organisation, the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organisation that evaluates medical research. Scientists pooled information from studies, spanning several decades, that looked at the effect of taking daily supplements of at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C.

The belief that vitamin C can prevent or treat the common cold was championed in the 1970s by the Nobel prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling, who encouraged people to take 1,000 milligrams of the vitamin daily. This is more than 17 times the recommended daily amount of 60 milligrams, which can be obtained from a single glass of orange juice.

Source




Veggies won't cure your cancer

But that is such a heresy that the researchers don't want to believe their own results

Eating very large amounts of fruit and vegetables does not improve the survival chances of women with breast cancer, scientists have found. A study of more than 3,000 women who had been treated for the disease showed that boosting fruit and vegetable consumption way beyond normal guidelines did not help them to live longer. Women who obeyed the super-strict eating rules imposed by scientists over seven years were just as likely to die or suffer a recurrence of breast cancer as those on a healthy "five-a-day" diet. In about 17 per cent of cases in both groups the cancer returned and 10 per cent of the women died.

Half the patients were placed on a low-fat diet which included five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. The other half were asked to make enormous changes to their diet. As well as limiting the fat they consumed to no more than 20 per cent of total calories, they were expected to eat five servings of vegetables, plus 470 millilitres of vegetable juice, three servings of fruit and 30 grams of fibre a day.

Many women in the intervention group found the regime tough - but after four years they were consuming on average 65 per cent more vegetables, 25 per cent more fruit, 30 per cent more fibre and 13 per cent less fat than their colleagues on the easier "control" diet.

However, the results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that all the extra effort was in vain. Professor Marcia Stefanick, from Stanford University School of Medicine in California, who led the Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study, said: "I was really surprised and, frankly, a little disappointed by the results. We expected the twofold increase in vegetables and fruits, plus the increased fibre and reduced fat, to make a difference in the recurrence rates."

However, she pointed out that rates for the recurrence of breast cancer in the control group were much lower than expected. At the start, the researchers had anticipated that 30 per cent of the "five-a-day" dieters would suffer a relapse. She said many of the women had already adopted a healthier diet than the average American. "I would certainly hope that people don't interpret these results as evidence that eating a lot of vegetables doesn't make a difference in breast cancer," she said. "What it shows is that getting more than the recommended amounts doesn't change the recurrence rate for women who have already had treatment for early-stage breast cancer."

Previous animal studies have shown that plant-derived foods contain anticancer agents. Research also suggests that high-fat diets might be linked to increased cancer risk.

The WHEL study was the largest trial ever undertaken to assess how diet affects breast cancer recurrence. Co-researcher Dr Cheryl Rock, from the John Moores Cancer Centre at the University of California, San Diego, said: "We recognise that several other studies have shown clearly that eating more than five fruits and vegetables a day can make major differences in disease risk, such as in lowering blood pressure and reducing risk of stroke and heart disease." Liz Baker, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "This study certainly doesn't mean that women who have had breast cancer should stop eating fruit and veg."

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 July, 2007

Growth hormone a stroke remedy

INJECTING human growth hormone directly into the brain in the days and weeks after a stroke could lead to improved recovery rates. New research also reveals the treatment could enhance the recovery of newborn babies whose brains are injured because of a lack of oxygen during labour and of people who sustain brain trauma in motor vehicle and other accidents.

Research by University of Auckland scientists Arjan Scheepens and Praneeti Pathipati showed laboratory rats whose brains were injected with animal growth hormone made remarkable recoveries from stroke-like events. "The rats regained 100 per cent of their motor skills within seven days, much faster than untreated animals, and their memory functions improved as well," Dr Scheepens told The Australian during an international neuroscience conference in Melbourne yesterday. "Because people have been using growth hormone for 50 years its pharmacological safety is well known, so we think clinical trials on humans could start pretty much straight away." He estimated that commercial application was five to 10 years away.

Dr Scheepens said the research had enormous potential, given that no effective treatment existed for stroke unless the victim made it to hospital in the first two to three hours after the incident. Very few did. That treatment involved injecting thinning agents to allow blood flow to be restored to affected areas of the brain, and even then it was only effective in halting further damage, he said. "The most exciting aspect of our breakthrough is that it shows a positive effect when the growth hormone is given at a point in time much later than those first hours," Dr Scheepens said. "The rats received injections four days after the stroke, and there was significant improvement."

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows an estimated 340,000 Australians have some form of acquired brain injury. Dr Scheepens's work may come too late for those who have already incurred injuries but it offers hope for future victims.

The research team first discovered that growth hormone, not normally produced in the brain, was generated as a self-protection mechanism after brain injuries such as a stroke. They found it eventually led to neuron regeneration, and experimented with boosting those regeneration levels by injecting synthetic growth hormones directly into the brain. "The potential we found for humans was a more complete recovery if done in conjunction with physical therapy," Dr Scheepens said. "It's one thing making new brain cells, but you have to tell them where to go. "Future treatment would be a combination of a slow release of the growth hormone via a pump inserted under the skin near your neck with a needle into the brain, and the physical therapy. "The physical therapy would force the neurological growth to be where it's needed."

He said the risk of side effects was small, as the quantity of growth hormone involved was thousands of times less than the levels used by rogue athletes looking to boost muscle mass. Growth hormone is essential for the development of bones, tissues, muscles and the brain, especially in puberty. It is believed growth hormone levels drop as people age.

Synthetic human growth hormone is promoted as an anti-ageing therapy, an industry viewed with scepticism by scientists who say there is little proof to support it. Dr Scheepens said the traditional view that the brain did not have the capacity to regenerate, and so any damage done by excessive drinking was permanent, had long been debunked. "In the last 10 years the neuroscience world has accepted that you do make new neurons throughout your life, and that is particularly important for memory and cognition," he said. "Neurogenesis is an established fact."

Source




A rare good-news report about mobile phones

Refreshing after the endless speculative claims that mobiles will give you cancer

A new study has found mobile phones have enhanced the lives of most Australians. Researchers from the Australian National University, working with colleagues from New South Wales and New England, found only 3 per cent of people believed mobiles had a negative impact on their lives. More than half of those questioned said their mobile phones helped them achieve a better work-life balance. Three-quarters of people said carrying a mobile made them feel more secure.

Research Professor Judy Wajcman says overwhelmingly people use their mobile to phone family and friends. "What it seems to us, when we look at our findings overall is that the mobile phone is not primarily a work tool," he said. "Indeed, one of the principal uses of the mobile phone is to strengthen ties with kin and close relationships, close friends."

The project was based on collaboration between university-based researchers and the peak organisation of mobile phone service providers, the Australian Mobile Telecommunication Association (AMTA), under the umbrella of the Australian Research Council Linkage grant scheme. The report says AMTA's mission is 'to promote an environmentally, socially and economically responsible and successful mobile telecommunications industry in Australia'. The collaboration follows a workshop held in May 2004, jointly sponsored by AMTA and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

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


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



18 July, 2007

Folic acid dangers

The evidence of harm so far seems to be mainly epidemiological but is nonethless of concern when you are forcing the stuff on millions of people. A very high standard of proof that the stuff is NOT harmful would seem to be required in those circumstances. It should be noted that Joel Mason specializes in studies of folate. His epidemiological study was suggested by laboratory and clinical findings

Since the institution of nationwide folic acid fortification of enriched grains in the mid 1990s, the number of infants born in the United States and Canada with neural tube defects has declined by 20 percent to 50 percent. Concurrent with the institution of fortification, however, the rate at which new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in men and women increased, report scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition.

Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University. Joel Mason, MD, director of the USDA HNRCA's Vitamins and Carcinogenesis Laboratory, and his colleagues analyze the temporal association between folic acid fortification and the rise in colorectal cancer rates, and present their resulting hypothesis in an article in the recent issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

Nationwide fortification of enriched grains is generally considered one of the greatest advances in public health policy, says Mason, who is also an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. But since the time that the food supply in North America was fortified with folic acid, we have been experiencing four to six additional cases of colorectal cancer for every 100,000 individuals each year in comparison to the trends that existed before fortification.

Our analysis suggests that this increase is not explained by chance or by increased cancer screening. Therefore, it is important to analyze risks and benefits of fortification, and encourage scientific debate in countries that are considering instituting or enhancing folic acid fortification.

Mason and his colleagues analyzed data from national cancer registries, one in the United States and another in Canada. The US data were derived from the nationwide Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registry that publishes cancer occurrence rates and survival data, covering approximately 26 percent of the population. The Canadian data were obtained from Canadian Cancer Statistics, an annual publication by the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute of Canada.

In 1996 and 1998, there were abrupt reversals in the 15-year downward trends in colorectal cancer rates in the United States and Canada, respectively. Since peaking in 1998 in the United States and in 2000 in Canada, the rates have not returned to their earlier levels. Eventhough folic acid fortification of enriched grains including bread, cereal, flour, rice, and pasta did not become required until 1998, large food companies began voluntary fortification in 1996, first in the United States and later in Canada.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin that is essential for cell growth. After intestinal absorption, folic acid is converted to methyltetrahydrofolate, found naturally in foods such as leafy green vegetables, legumes and citrus fruits. The body's response to folic acid appears to be complex, says Mason. While fortification of the food supply is clearly beneficial for women of child-bearing age and their offspring, it is possible that it may, coincidentally, be associated with the increase in colorectal cancer rates. Our report is intended to create a foundation upon which to further explore that possibility.

As Mason and his colleagues note, there is a compelling body of scientific evidence suggesting that habitually high intakes of dietary folate are protective against colorectal cancer. Mason explains, however, that there are several reasons why we may have inadvertently created the opposite effect with folic acid fortification. First, folates pivotal role in DNA synthesis also makes it a potential growth factor for malignant or pre-malignant cells, and when administered in large quantities to individuals who unknowingly harbor cancer cells, it could paradoxically enhance cancer development. The addition of substantial quantities of folic acid into the foodstream may have facilitated the transformation of non-malignant growths into cancers, or small cancers into larger ones, he says. Second, the fact that a synthetic form of folate is used for fortification may be important, suggests Mason. As the total amount of folic acid ingested increases, the mechanism that converts folic acid to methyltetrahydrofolate can become saturated. The leftover folic acid in the circulation might have detrimental effects, as it is not a natural form of the vitamin.

At a time when a number of countries are debating whether or not to institute or enhance folic acid fortification, Mason and his colleagues urge caution and debate. We must examine the effects of folic acid fortification on the population as a whole, which includes better defining the nature of the relationship between folic acid fortification and colorectal cancer, says Mason. Improved monitoring and further research in this field is important to our understanding of the long-term public health effects of fortification.

Source

Journal abstract follows:

(From: Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 16, 1325-1329, July 1, 2007)

A Temporal Association between Folic Acid Fortification and an Increase in Colorectal Cancer Rates May Be Illuminating Important Biological Principles: A Hypothesis

By Joel B. Mason et al.

Nationwide fortification of enriched uncooked cereal grains with folic acid began in the United States and Canada in 1996 and 1997, respectively, and became mandatory in 1998. The rationale was to reduce the number of births complicated by neural tube defects. Concurrently, the United States and Canada experienced abrupt reversals of the downward trend in colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence that the two countries had enjoyed in the preceding decade: absolute rates of CRC began to increase in 1996 (United States) and 1998 (Canada), peaked in 1998 (United States) and 2000 (Canada), and have continued to exceed the pre-1996/1997 trends by 4 to 6 additional cases per 100,000 individuals. In each country, the increase in CRC incidence from the prefortification trend falls significantly outside of the downward linear fit based on nonparametric 95% confidence intervals. The statistically significant increase in rates is also evident when the data for each country are analyzed separately for men and women. Changes in the rate of colorectal endoscopic procedures do not seem to account for this increase in CRC incidence. These observations alone do not prove causality but are consistent with the known effects of folate on existing neoplasms, as shown in both preclinical and clinical studies. We therefore hypothesize that the institution of folic acid fortification may have been wholly or partly responsible for the observed increase in CRC rates in the mid-1990s. Further work is needed to definitively establish the nature of this relationship. In the meantime, deliberations about the institution or enhancement of fortification programs should be undertaken with these considerations in mind.




New cancer test reduces breast biopsies

A NEW technique is available for the first time in Australia to give women an instant test for breast cancer, without the pain and anxiety of waiting for biopsy results. Using the technology called elasticity imaging, health professionals can distinguish between benign breast lumps and malignant tumours, which are firmer in consistency.

Queensland Diagnostic Imaging (QDI) has tested more than 40 patients at the North West Private Hospital, on Brisbane's northside, using the Siemens ultrasound technology. One was 33-year-old Antonia Croker, who found a breast lump which was increasing in size during her third pregnancy. As a radiographer, she was keen to get the lump checked out as quickly as possible - but wanted to try the new ultrasound technology. "I like the fact we can get the results on the same day and not having to send away the samples for biopsies,'' Ms Croker said. "The fact I don't have needles and that sort of thing is very pleasant.''

The lump turned out to be benign but women who wanted another check could still choose to have a biopsy, she said. A US-based expert in the detection of breast cancer, Dr Richard Barr, said the ability to visualise tissue elasticity with ultrasound was an enormous advance in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Dr Barr, professor of Radiology at Northern-Eastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, said a US study last year showed the technique correctly identified 17 out of 17 cancerous tumours.

It also identified 105 out of 106 harmless lesions when checked against biopsies of women's breast tissue. It also eliminated the need for 50 to 70 per cent of biopsies, he said. "We're hoping we will be able to significantly reduce the number of biopsies that are done on benign lesions,'' Dr Barr said. "We are in the process now of getting a lot of other sites around the world up and running to see if they can reproduce these results.''

The technology had been approved for use in the US, Australia and other countries but testing of more than 2000 women would continue for the next year, he said. The Siemens technology was also being expanded to ultrasound other parts of the body for other diseases. "One of the things we are interested in is radio frequency ablation when we stick a needle into a tumour and use heat to cook the tumour and kill it,'' Dr Barr 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


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



17 July, 2007

An "incorrect" breakfast can be very good for your memory

EATING a less "healthy" breakfast cereal could improve your memory, Australian research suggests. A study has found that high-glycaemic index cereals, which are generally heavier in carbohydrate and sugar, help young people remember words better in the short term. The findings, presented to a world brain conference in Melbourne, may support pre-exam bingeing on glucose-rich foods, but the researchers caution that eating unhealthy foods is not a sustainable tool for memory.

Michael Smith, a PhD student at the University of Western Australia, compared the impact of low- and high-GI cereal on the ability of healthy teenagers to remember a list of words. The glycaemic index is a measure of how quickly carbohydrate breaks down in the body. Low-GI foods have a gradual effect, believed to be beneficial, while those with a high GI are rapidly digested and cause drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

Mr Smith found that the rapidly digested cereals brought memory benefits. "The adolescents that ate the high-GI cereal could actually recall a lot more words than those in the other group," he said. The researchers recruited 38 people aged from 14 to 17 and fed them either a high-fibre bran-based low-GI cereal or a popular corn cereal that is high-GI.

The teenagers were then asked to remember 20 words, including the names of fruit and vegetables, spices and tools. Results showed that when recalling the list 40 minutes later, the high-GI group was more prone to forgetting. But after 60 minutes they were recalling 1.5 more words on average than low-GI cereal consumers.

Mr Smith said while the difference was small it was significant and was the first time high-GI cereals had been shown to have such benefits. Studies have shown that low-GI foods are better for memory.

Source




Internet defeating paternalistic Australian baby laws

If it's OK with the father concerned, why shouldn't couples know more about the biological fathers of their children?

Desperate Australian couples are buying sperm from anonymous "designer donors" through overseas websites. The donor dad's religious beliefs, university major, temperament, ethnic ancestry and even voice recording are available at the click of a mouse. The trend has astonished IVF experts because the commercial trade in sperm is illegal in Australia and donors in Victoria must be registered.

Ethicists say the situation makes a mockery of Australian laws. They worry that detailed online menus let parents try to craft their child's characteristics before conception. Donors are scarce in Victoria and experts warn the state's sperm banks could be depleted in two years.

Major US clinic California Cryobank confirmed it had shipped 20 vials to Australia in the past five years. The sperm bank advertises physical traits - even offering photographs of the donor as an infant. The results of a temperament test, which assess the donor as having one of four temperament types, are also available for a fee. Voice recordings of donors, sketches of his facial features, in-depth medical histories and even high school test results can be bought.

In Australia, donor details are generally limited to ethnicity and medical history, to ensure the donor's features match those of the social father. Specimens from the US site cost between $US250 and $US500 and a donor dossier can be bought for an additional fee. It offers anonymous and known donors, all medically screened, and ships vials in liquid nitrogen to any specified address.

Commonwealth and some state laws make it illegal to sell or receive human sperm or eggs in a commercial transaction in Australia. Offenders face up to 15 years' jail under Commonwealth human cloning laws, but donations with cash subsidies for out-of-pocket expenses are allowed. In Victoria, donor details are recorded so a child can track down his or her biological parent later in life.

British clinic First 4 Fertility, which destroys donor details after a year and is not regulated by health authorities there, says it has also shipped to Australia and wants to expand its business. "We're looking at how we can find a partner in Australia to run a parallel service to ours there," spokesman John Gonzalez said.

Monash IVF's Adrianne Pope said buying sperm abroad was dangerous because it could complicate a child's efforts to trace his or her paternity. Dr Pope said a chronic shortage of donors could be forcing couples to look overseas. "I'd imagine lack of supply is an issue," she said. "We will reach a point where we will run out, probably in the next two years, if we don't start to see a change."

To import sperm to Victoria, a person must have permission from a regulator, the Infertility Treatment Authority. Failure to comply carries a two-year jail term or fines of $25,000. Clinics and donors wanting to use imported sperm must sign a form promising it has not been bought commercially.

Bioethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini questioned the level of details available on the online sites. "I'd be very surprised if Australian clinics were offering that much information - it's more likely to be medical information," Dr Tonti-Filippini said. "When you get into that sort of detail it's a trade, and in Australia there's a very strong reluctance to trade around these things. "There are some basic respect issues involved when you start selling people's sperm, or eggs for that matter. "The idea that you can be conceived by some sort of trade is not one that most Australians would support."

About one in six Australian couples is infertile. Donor Conception Support Group spokeswoman Leonie Hewitt believed the online commercial sperm trade was thriving. "I've heard of it being done, and my concern would be what happens when that child grows up and wants to know its identity and medical history," Ms Hewitt said. "It's not just semen, it's eggs as well." Ms Hewitt said she knew of a Sydney couple who had imported sperm from Sweden and said hopeful couples had been bringing it in from Britain for years. She called for a national donor register similar to Victoria's.

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


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



16 July, 2007

Why do overweight workers earn less?

I am not very au fait with the intricacies of American health insurance but the authors below seem to be saying that overweight workers cost the employer more to insure so the employers pay them less in wages. I would favour a social class explanation. Overweight people are more likely to be working class and hence more likely to be of low intelligence and hence less valuable to an employer. I guess that explanation is too obnoxious for most people but there is plenty of evidence for each step in the reasoning. The truth is rarely politically correct

Obese workers earn less per hour than their thinner colleagues—a finding that is surprisingly robust and does not appear to be explained by differences in education, age, or training. This obesity wage gap is greater for female workers, but it is also true for men. Most often, economists attribute the gap to discrimination against the obese. Occasionally, economists argue that in some jobs (think of supermodels), thinner workers are more productive than obese ones.

My colleague Kate Bundorf and I have developed evidence that favors a different explanation. We think an important reason for the obesity wage gap is that the costs of health insurance are passed through to obese workers. This would be consistent with the theory of wage pass-through, because expected medical expenditures and hence the value of health insurance are greater for obese workers than for thin workers.

In our research, we examined the wage path over a decade for a nationally representative cohort of 12,686 people ages 24 to 31 years old in 1989. For our study, we focused on full-time workers but excluded pregnant women. We separated the workers into two groups: one with health insurance provided by their employer and one without.

We first looked at the wage paths for the group with health insurance (see figure 1). As expected, given the discussion so far, obese workers earn less than thinner workers and the gap grows as the cohort ages and becomes more likely to use medical care. By 2000, obese workers were earning nearly $4.60 an hour less than thinner workers. This wage gap is at least as big as the expected difference in medical expenditures between obese and thin workers.



We then looked at wage paths for the group without health insurance (see figure 2). For this group, the obesity wage gap never develops—thin and obese workers earned about the same, on average, exactly what one would expect to find under the theory of wage pass-through.

Our evidence has important implications for pooling in health insurance between thin and obese workers. Because wages are lower for obese workers only at jobs where health insurance is provided, the obesity wage gap would seem to undo whatever nominal pooling there is of health insurance premiums. If there is no real pooling, Carl and Lenny do not pay for Homer’s body weight decisions and there is no public health crisis.

This reasoning does not extend to government-provided health insurance, which is also common in the United States but less so than private coverage. In 2004, there were 174.2 million Americans covered by employer health insurance, 39.7 million covered by Medicare (provided by the federal government to elderly and disabled people), and 37.5 million covered by Medicaid (provided by states to the poor). Under both Medicare and Medicaid, enrollees’ premiums do not depend on body weight and are always much lower than expected medical bills. In many cases, enrollees are not charged premiums at all. Unlike in employer-provided health insurance, there is no wage pass-through that can undo pooling between obese enrollees and taxpayers.



Much more here




New IVF wisdom: Autoimmune syndrome can cause infertility

After three failed attempts at IVF, Julia Kantecki began to lose hope that she and her husband Robert would ever conceive a child. "My baby dream was slipping away. I was 40 and fearful of shrivelling into menopause and a childless future," says Julia, 45, a former marketing director. Robert, 56, had had a vasectomy 20 years earlier and IVF was the couple's only chance of having a child together.

Since her mother had had five children without a problem, Julia, who lived in Doncaster at the time, assumed everything would go smoothly. So it came as an enormous disappointment when she failed to become pregnant. The worst part was that the IVF doctors couldn't offer any definitive explanation for the failure. But her experience is far from unusual - although many women assume that the wonders of modern medicine mean they will conceive easily with IVF, in fact the success rate is around 20 per cent. Julia's doctors simply suggested she might get lucky if she kept trying. She did keep trying, twice over - but without any luck.

Conventional medicine holds that IVF failure and miscarriage are the result of hormonal problems, abnormalities of the uterus, genetically defective embryos or ageing eggs. But doctors from the Alan E Beer Center for Reproductive Immunology, in San Francisco, believe they may be caused by a woman's immune system going into overdrive and wrongly attacking her embryos as if they were foreign bodies. The Beer Center, which has treated more than 7,000 couples for fertility-related immune problems, claims a pregnancy success rate of 85 per cent within three natural cycles or IVF attempts.

While on holiday with her mother, Julia visited a clinic run by Dr Beer. She was told that three IVF failures indicated possible immune problems. Blood test results showed that Julia had abnormally high levels of natural "killer" (NK) cells - thought to help keep the body from developing cancer - and harmful antibodies that doctors at the clinic said were attacking her embryos. "They told me that my body was treating pregnancy as if it was dealing with a cancer and killing my babies before they'd had time to implant in my uterus properly," says Julia. An added complication was an inherited clotting disorder making her susceptible to developing blood clots in the placenta, which could also endanger her embryos.

The good news, one of the nurses told her, was that they knew exactly how to treat these conditions. With the right medications, she stood an 80 per cent chance of having a baby.

It was in the Eighties that Alan Beer, an academic who had trained in immunology and obstetrics, began to suspect that NK cells produced by an over-active immune system could damage embryos and cause implantation failure. He tested women who were miscarrying and suffering IVF failure and found that they had abnormally high levels of NK cells. These, he believed, could attack both the developing embryo and hormones essential to maintain pregnancy. "When women tell me they're always healthy and never get infections, alarm bells start ringing since it suggests their immune systems are working overtime," says Dr Raphael Stricker, who took over as medical director of the Beer Center after the death of Dr Beer last year.

The theory is that this can be redressed artificially, with drugs. "Immune therapy for reproductive failure is a temporary measure. "It's designed to replicate the natural suppression of the immune system at the very beginning of a normal pregnancy," explains Dr Stricker. "The drugs involved are taken for the least amount of time and prescribed at the lowest doses possible."

For Julia, the Beer Center's theories were a revelation. "I was shocked that my body might be such a non-baby friendly environment," she says. "Symptoms like the mild arthritis I had in my fingers, which is also apparently an immune problem, now made sense. "It all sounded too good to be true - but it was worth a try."

She returned home with her first prescription for the drugs, but her GP dismissed the treatment as "unorthodox". Among the UK medical establishment, such methods are regarded as at best unproven and at worst akin to "snake oil". The concern is that vulnerable women undergoing such unproven treatments risk being financially exploited and exposed to potentially dangerous drugs. However, the consultant she saw at Doncaster Royal Infirmary was, says Julia, more "open-minded" and agreed to prescribe the drugs privately.

A few weeks before undergoing her next IVF cycle, she was given a course of prednisolone - a corticosteroid that would suppress her immune system and stop it attacking the embryo - and heparin injections to thin her blood, which would prevent blood clots from blocking the placenta. Three embryos were transferred and two weeks later, she got the result she had waited so long to hear. "To my absolute, total disbelief and delight, the test was positive," she recalls. "At first I was a bit stunned. Robert and I both cried later when the news sank in that I was really pregnant." To their amazement, successive scans revealed a good-sized baby with a strong, regular heart beat.

Even after the pregnancy was achieved it was vital she continued to take the drugs to prevent her NK cells from increasing and killing her growing baby. Julia's consultant assured her that the dose was very low and would have no effect on her baby. Towards the end of the pregnancy her intake of prednisone was gradually reduced and, a few weeks before the anticipated delivery date, she stopped taking the bloodthinning anticoagulant, in case doctors needed to perform an emergency Caesarean. In August 2003, Julia gave birth to her son Thomas.



Her experiences inspired her to help other women find out more about reproductive immunology and she approached Dr Beer with the idea of writing a book - they called it Is Your Body Baby Friendly? Dr Beer died in May 2006, just after its completion. "Without Dr Beer's determination to identify the immune reactions that cause reproductive failure and his pioneering use of immunotherapy, our son would not be here," says Julia. "The debt we owe him is immeasurable."

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


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



15 July, 2007

Israelis oppose HRT panic

The UK-based International Menopause Society (IMS), headed for the past two years by Israeli menopause specialist and Tel Aviv University (TAU) Professor Amos Pines, announced good news this month for women around the world: controversial estrogen replacement therapy in fact decreases the chances of heart disease among its users during the early postmenopausal period.

Research like this and continuing education on women's health issues are the mission of the IMS. It is this research and education, Pines suggests, that is in danger of being smothered in political issues.

An active member of the IMS for the past 12 years, Pines, a member of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, was voted in as IMS president for a three-year term by the society's board. It was his academic merit and enthusiasm for education on women's health that made him an obvious choice. A board of 12 international members voted him in.

One of the most meaningful and recent projects the IMS has undertaken is to reverse public opinion on the risks of hormone replacement therapy. After a 2002 Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study was published, more than half of menopausal women everywhere stopped using this effective anti-hot-flash and mood-balancing therapy prescribed by their doctors.

"Some people called it a tsunami," recalls Pines, "It was a catastrophic event in the history of menopause. And we were the only society to raise our voices against the new NIH guidelines. We believed that the interpretation of the study was not right and led to the wrong conclusions and misleading media coverage. Too many women stopped taking hormones and they suffered for no valid scientific reason."

Source

Some good sense in the press release from Prof. Pines below:

Response to the Lancet paper on ovarian cancer in the Million Women Study

The Million Women Study (MWS) has reported new data on the risk of ovarian cancer in postmenopausal hormone users1. The study showed a 20% increase in risk when current users were compared with never users. No increase in risk was recorded in women using HRT for less than 5 years, and past users had the same risk as never users. Risk did not vary significantly with types of HRT.

While the data derived from the MWS are not much different from several other studies, such as the Nurses’ Health Study, the Women’s Health Initiative study did not show an increased risk of ovarian cancer2. The IMS would like to comment:

* Following the previous analysis of the MWS on breast and endometrial cancers, there were many reservations concerning the methodology and these are still pertinent

* Most epidemiologists would consider that a relative risk of 1.2 is of minimal clinical significance but will inevitably reach statistical significance with very large numbers.

* Risk is far better reported in absolute numbers rather than relative risk or percentage. The absolute risk for ovarian cancer in the MWS was only one extra case per 2500 women after 5 years and mortality was one per 3300 over 5 years.

It is most regrettable that the risks for all gynecological cancers have been added together to produce an estimated increase in risk of 62% for hormone users. Endometrial cancer should be prevented by combined hormone therapy, and adding percentages is inappropriate and will inevitably cause further unnecessary distress to the many women who are benefiting from HRT.




"Fat tax" proposal shows a severe case of imaginitis

Once you make unproven assuptions, all sorts of crazy conclusions are possible. More crazy epidemiology

A "fat tax" on salty, sugary and fatty foods could save thousands of lives each year, according to a study published on Thursday. Researchers at Oxford University say that charging Value Added Tax (VAT) at 17.5 percent on foods deemed to be unhealthy would cut consumer demand and reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes. The purchase tax is already levied on a small number of products such as potato crisps, ice cream, confectionery and chocolate biscuits, but most food is exempt.

The move could save an estimated 3,200 lives in Britain each year, according to the study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. "A well-designed and carefully-targeted fat tax could be a useful tool for reducing the burden of food-related disease," the study concluded. The team from Oxford's Department of Public Health said higher taxes have already been imposed on cigarettes and alcohol to encourage healthy living. They used a mathematical formula to estimate the effect of higher prices on the demand for foods such as pastries, cakes, cheese and butter.

However, they said their research only gave a rough guide to the number of lives that could be saved and said more work was needed to get an exact picture of how taxes could improve public health. Any "fat tax" might be seen as an attack on personal freedom and would weigh more heavily on poorer families, the study warned. A food tax would raise average weekly household bills by 4.6 percent or 67 pence per person.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has previously rejected the idea as an example of the "nanny state" that might push people away from healthy food.

The Food and Drink Federation has called the proposed tax patronizing and says it would hit low-income families hardest. It suggests that people eat a balanced diet. The British Heart Foundation said it does not support the tax. "We believe the government should focus on ensuring healthy foods are financially and geographically accessible to everyone," it said.

Source




Laser improves corneal transplants

Patients who need sight-saving eye surgery could get their vision back more quickly and avoid infection with a revolutionary laser-surgery technique, surgeons say. Corneal graft surgery, one of the earliest forms of transplant operation, has been performed for more than 100 years without any fundamental changes to the methods used. But although the operation itself is fairly straightforward, recovery often takes a long time.

By using the latest technology designed for laser eye surgery, surgeons can now achieve a better fit for grafts, putting the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle and helping to accelerate the healing process. Patients can recover perfect vision with or without their spectacles or contact lenses after about six months, roughly halving the recovery time.

The surgery involves the removal of the central part of the cornea, the clear front window of the eye, and its replacement with a corneal graft - about only 0.5mm thick - from a donor. Traditionally surgeons have done this under the microscope using a "cookie-cutter" knife, with the circular graft being secured to the eye with tiny stitches. But the latest femtosecond lasers can cut the cornea into a precise tongue-and-groove pattern to achieve a better fit with the graft, meaning that surgeons need to use fewer sutures and can remove them more quickly after the operation.

Each pulse of light from the lasers is extremely short, lasting only 50 to 1,000 femtoseconds (or quadrillionths of a second). These ultra-short pulses are too brief to transfer heat or shock to the material being cut, which means that extremely fine cuts can be made with no damage to surrounding tissue.

Previously, patients have had to attend regular check-ups for at least a year to ensure that the stitches did not slip out of place and allow bacteria to infect the eye. Sheraz Daya, an eye surgeon who has pioneered the use of the technique in Britain at the Centre for Sight clinic in East Grinstead, West Sussex, said that patients also recovered their sight more quickly than usual after the operation. Of six NHS and private patients whom Mr Daya has operated on using the technique, most recovered perfect vision after six months, he said, including two who now no longer need to wear spectacles.

He suggests that the lasers could be used in about half of the 2,500 corneal transplant operations carried out in Britain each year. "Rather than trying to attach the flat surface of the eye to a flat surface, with the femtosecond laser we can precisely cut the graft to fit on the eye, forming a stronger bond," Mr Daya told The Times. "This means fewer stitches are required, and they can be taken out after just a few months. Patients can cut down on the time off work and also recover their vision quicker, as it is usually fuzzy or misty in the affected eye until the cornea settles down. Most get an acceptable degree of vision back within three months, which becomes perfect by about six months." Dr Daya added that the new technique also reduced the chances of fragile cornea grafts being torn during the cutting process.

Larry Benjamin, honorary secretary of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and an eye surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Buckinghamshire, said that the new technique could also avoid astigmatism, where the transplanted cornea becomes misshapen, producing blurred images, and may require further surgery.

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 July, 2007

Protein to fight tooth decay



A MOUTHWASH based on a protein found in children with kidney failure could help protect young teeth. Pediatric dentist Kerrod Hallett hopes to start trials of the mouthwash in five to 12-year-olds at Gold Coast and Townsville schools next month. The mouthwash is based on a protein called urease, found in high levels in the saliva of children with chronic renal failure. "We've noticed in these children over a number of years that their teeth were not decayed," Associate Professor Hallett said. "We believe there's something in their saliva that's stopping germs from growing in their mouths and we think the material responsible is a by-product of urea called urease."

Because the children's kidneys fo not function properly, they are unable to excrete urea from the body effectively. "The body's got to get rid of urease somehow so the next best avenue is to get rid of it in saliva," Professor Hallett said.

He has been working with Oral Biotechnologies, a company in Portland, Oregon, to produce the mouthwash containing a synthetic version of urease, fluoride and sodium hypochlorite to mask the taste. A human trial of 250 children at Musgrave Hill State School on the Gold Coast and Vincent State School in Townsville will begin once Professor Hallett receives the first batch of mouthwash. Half will receive the experimental mouthwash once a day by a dental therapist for a month and half will be given a placebo rinse.

Professor Hallett said researchers will test the plaque of the children's teeth before treatment and 120 days afterwards for levels of a bacteria known as mutans streptococci (MS). MS is found in high levels in children with dental decay. The State Government has provided $300,000 over three years for the trial.

Professor Hallett said about half of all Queensland children had varying degrees of tooth decay when they started school. About 2000 pre-schoolers a year in Queensland need a general anaesthetic before the age of four to remove decayed baby teeth.

Source




Gene therapy reported to wipe out pancreatic cancer in mice

A newly engineered therapy, which embeds a gene in pancreatic cancer cells, shrinks or eradicates tumors, inhibits the deadly disease's spread and prolongs survival in mice, researchers say. "This vehicle, or vector, is so targeted and robust. that it can be used for therapy and perhaps for imaging" of tumors, said MienChie Hung of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Hung is senior author of a study on the therapy, published in the July 9 edition of the research journal Cancer Cell.


The system is an example of gene therapy -- the insertion of genes into the body in order to correct some genetic malfunction. Gene therapy is still in its infancy despite some early successes; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved any such therapies.

Researchers call the new system for pancreatic cancer a versatile expression vector, nicknamed VISA. It includes a gene known to kill cancer cells, along with molecular components that target the gene's activity to the disease tissue. The components are all packaged in a fatty ball called a liposome, which is delivered intravenously.

"We are working to bring it to a clinical trial," said M. D. Anderson's James Abbruzzese, a member of the research team. He estimates it will take a year or two to complete FDA requirements for a Phase I clinical trial, which could serve as a first step to approval.

About 37,000 cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed annually in the United States. Early diagnosis is extremely hard, so the disease is often discovered at a late stage after it already has spread, or metastasized. Fewer than four percent of patients survive five years after diagnosis, one of the lowest cancer survival rates.

In a test of the therapy against two aggressive lines of pancreatic cancer in two different types of mice, researchers loaded the VISA system with a mutant version of a gene named Bik. The gene produces a protein molecule that naturally forces cancer cells to kill themselves. The team created the more lethal mutant and named it BikDD. Untreated mice in both experiments all died within 40 days. The VISABikDD mice lived much longer, researchers said, with at least half surviving for 14 months with no detectable sign of cancer recurrence.

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 July, 2007

Women warned against late start on HRT

The study reported below would seem to be a very close replication of another much-criticized study that was prematurely terminated some years ago. Media report below followed by journal abstract. The basic point to note is again that only a tiny proportion of women (a fifth of one percent) in the study suffered any heart disease. Such low numbers are a very poor indicator of a causal relationship. As a sufferer from a REAL iatrogenic illness, I can assure everyone that a real iatrogenic illness is much more relentless than anything reported below. The time factor is however the big unknown. Many adverse outcomes of medication take years to emerge. But the study below simply has no information on that. I do understand why they had to stop the study after 12 months. Having ANY women dying on you would be too big a risk legally and heart attacks do take you perilously close to death. So the result basically is an unknown. But even if the adverse relationship is causal, most medications and most things we do every day do carry risks -- often much greater risks than described below. It should also be noted that even the authors below are not critical of women who go straight on to HRT after menopause. Apparently the few deaths they observed were among women who were in their 60s before they started taking HRT. That group would of course have a higher mortality anyhow. Note also that there is some very direct evidence that estrogen therapy is beneficial to the heart

WOMEN have again been advised not to start hormone replacement therapy many years beyond menopause, after a second major study showed it could increase the risk of heart attacks and blood clots. The study, which involved nearly 5700 women in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, found the risk of clots increased more than seven-fold. The risk of heart attack, stroke and other heart-related events was significantly higher among older women who were randomly assigned to take it an average of 15 years after menopause.

The reports' authors stress HRT is a safe, short-term treatment when initiated in younger women shortly after menopause, when it is used to reduce symptoms such as hot flushes. The latest findings, published today online by the British Medical Journal, echo the shock results of a 2002 US study that found women aged 50 to 79 who took a combined oestrogen and progestogen pill were at greater risk of stroke, breast cancer and clots in the lungs, compared with women given a dummy pill. That result overturned hopes that HRT could be used to reduce heart risk, and millions of women stopped taking HRT as a result.

Today's study was stopped in 2002 when the US results became known, by which point only one-quarter of the planned 22,300 subjects had been enrolled. The 5692 women who had joined the study, including 319 in Australia, had been followed up for barely one year, instead of the planned 10 years. Even with the limited data to analyse, the results showed that the increased risk from HRT translated to an extra 27 heart attacks or blood clots in a year per 10,000 women treated. Although there were only 11 heart attacks, clots or other cardiovascular events, all were recorded in women taking hormones.

On the other hand, bone fractures dropped by a third among women taking HRT compared with those who were not, although this finding was statistically doubtful due to the low numbers. Study co-author Alastair MacLennan, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Adelaide, said that as the trial was stopped before many younger women were recruited, it remained unclear what age cut-off should apply - in other words, when the benefits of starting a woman on HRT no longer outweighed the risks. "That's the $64,000 question," Professor MacLennan said. "People starting HRT under the age of 60 need not be at all concerned."

If women started HRT before this age and if "they need to take HRT for 15 years because of symptoms which may still be persisting, they are not putting themselves at risk". In a BMJ editorial published online today, senior lecturer in women's health at Auckland University Helen Roberts said HRT had "come full circle". Current advice was that women needing relief from menopausal symptoms should take the lowest dose to relieve them. "Healthy women in early menopause are at low absolute risk whether they take hormones or not, and they are unlikely to face substantially increased risks when using hormones for a few years," she says.

Source

Main morbidities recorded in the women's international study of long duration oestrogen after menopause (WISDOM): a randomised controlled trial of hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women

By Madge R Vickers et al.

Abstract

Objective: To assess the long term risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy (combined hormone therapy versus placebo, and oestrogen alone versus combined hormone therapy).

Design: Multicentre, randomised, placebo controlled, double blind trial.

Setting: General practices in UK (384), Australia (91), and New Zealand (24).

Participants: Postmenopausal women aged 50-69 years at randomisation. At early closure of the trial, 56 583 had been screened, 8980 entered run-in, and 5692 (26% of target of 22 300) started treatment.

Interventions: Oestrogen only therapy (conjugated equine oestrogens 0.625 mg orally daily) or combined hormone therapy (conjugated equine oestrogens plus medroxyprogesterone acetate 2.5/5.0 mg orally daily). Ten years of treatment planned.

Main outcome measures: Primary outcomes: major cardiovascular disease, osteoporotic fractures, and breast cancer. Secondary outcomes: other cancers, death from all causes, venous thromboembolism, cerebrovascular disease, dementia, and quality of life.

Results: The trial was prematurely closed during recruitment, after a median follow-up of 11.9 months (interquartile range 7.1-19.6, total 6498 women years) in those enrolled, after the publication of early results from the women's health initiative study. The mean age of randomised women was 62.8 (SD 4.8) years. When combined hormone therapy (n=2196) was compared with placebo (n=2189), there was a significant increase in the number of major cardiovascular events (7 v 0, P=0.016) and venous thromboembolisms (22 v 3, hazard ratio 7.36 (95% CI 2.20 to 24.60)). There were no statistically significant differences in numbers of breast or other cancers (22 v 25, hazard ratio 0.88 (0.49 to 1.56)), cerebrovascular events (14 v 19, 0.73 (0.37 to 1.46)), fractures (40 v 58, 0.69 (0.46 to 1.03)), and overall deaths (8 v 5, 1.60 (0.52 to 4.89)). Comparison of combined hormone therapy (n=815) versus oestrogen therapy (n=826) outcomes revealed no significant differences.

Conclusions: Hormone replacement therapy increases cardiovascular and thromboembolic risk when started many years after the menopause. The results are consistent with the findings of the women's health initiative study and secondary prevention studies. Research is needed to assess the long term risks and benefits of starting hormone replacement therapy near the menopause, when the effect may be different.

Source




Autism: the truth

As the leaked and incomplete results of a study on autism again raise fears among parents, the scientist leading the research tells our correspondent that the new reports are alarmist and wrong

If you want to stoke parental anxiety, there are few better ways than announcing a dramatic rise in the incidence of autism. That is exactly what happened at the weekend with a story that the incidence of autism was far higher than previously thought - as many as one in 58 children - with the MMR vaccine back in the dock as a possible culprit.

The story was the result of the leak of an unpublished report put together by a team of British scientists including Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, head of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University and one of the most authoritative figures in the field.

One of the two team members reported as resurrecting the discredited theory that MMR causes autism is Dr Carol Stott, a developmental psychologist who once worked at ARC. Baron-Cohen says she left ARC some time ago. She is now listed as a member of staff at Thoughtful House, a research centre in developmental disorders in Texas. Thoughtful House is run by Dr Andrew Wakefield, the gastroenterologist who first raised the possibility of a MMR-autism link in 1998. The other figure named as having revived the MMR-autism link was Dr Fiona Scott, who still works at ARC as an honorary research associate and runs training courses on how to diagnose autism. Scott has issued a statement denying that she privately believes in any link between MMR and autism.

Baron-Cohen says the news story is alarmist and wrong. He does not believe that MMR has anything to do with autism. "We are gobsmacked, really, at how this draft report has got out," Baron-Cohen says. "It was only in the hands of the authors - about half a dozen people. There are three professors listed, including me, and none of us was contacted. It was also seen by two PhD students for whom I have the utmost respect because they are very careful scientists. "I don't believe that the MMR vaccine causes autism and I don't believe that there are hidden environmental reasons for any rise in cases. For the moment, we should assume [any rise] is more to do with diagnostic practice." Baron-Cohen says that health services are more geared towards early diagnosis, and there has been a broadening of the autism spectrum. Children that would have been thought eccentric or withdrawn a decade ago are now being given diagnoses such as Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism in which intellect is unimpaired but social interaction is compromised.

It transpires that Wakefield is up before the General Medical Council's Fitness to Practise panel next week, on charges of serious professional misconduct. Two other doctors - Professor John Walker-Smith and Professor Simon Murch - who co-authored the original controversial 1998 Lancet paper with Wakefield, face similar charges, all relating to that single, disputed paper, which was later retracted. If found guilty, all face being struck off.

The draft report was leaked a week ahead of their GMC appearance. Baron-Cohen puts it like this: "We think it [the report] has been used. They've picked out the one figure that looks most alarmist." Cambridge University is now trying to hunt down the source of the leak.

So, what are the facts on autism? Does the one-in-58 figure hold up? Baron-Cohen says their study of Cambridgeshire children, which has been running for five years, comes out with a range of figures from one in 58, to one in 200, depending on various factors. The draft report, he says, "is as accurate as jottings in a notebook". He adds that the data is with public health officials, who are crunching the numbers.

A definitive number from the study, the professor hopes, will be published this year. It is possible that the one-in-58 figure comes from ARC's use of the Childhood Asperger's Syndrome Test (CAST), a questionnaire that parents can use to assess whether their child may have autism. The ARC team has used it on Cambridgeshire children in mainstream schools. However, it does not provide a diagnosis and is known to result in a high number of false positives. Around half the children flagged up by CAST as possibly having autism turn out not to.

In the meantime, he says that the best, most carefully conducted studies all show around 1 per cent of children lie on the autism spectrum and there is no reason to suspect that this has suddenly changed. There has been a gradual rise over decades, he says, but this reflects the fact that children are more routinely assessed, greater public awareness, and a wider diagnostic net. The National Autistic Society also quotes a figure of 1 per cent for the incidence of autistic spectrum disorders. Benet Middleton, the NAS's director of communications, says that, having spoken to Baron-Cohen, the charity had no plans to revise its figures. Middleton says: "This is an unpublished study that has not been peer-reviewed, and there are lots of reasons why studies don't get published. The research that's been published and peer-reviewed suggests a rate of 1 per cent. "The news story made a connection between two unrelated issues [the incidence of autism and the MMR vaccine]. I don't think that was a valid connection." Middleton adds that the charity does not advise parents whether or not to have the MMR jab, but instead directs them to their GP.

Baron-Cohen says that the results will be published eventually: "We've been sitting on this data since 2005 because we wanted to get the best advice. There's a number of different estimates for this population [the Cambridgeshire schoolchildren] depending on how you count. We need to work out which figures are the most reliable. "Research is sometimes slow but it is better to go slowly and get it right. Now things have been taken out of our hands and it's very dismaying."

Source




THE DEADLY MMR HOAX

`If the MMR vaccine was not the cause of my son's autism, then why has he got traces of measles virus in his bowels?' This was the question put to me five years ago by one of the parents involved in the litigation against the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), who was a passionate supporter of the campaign led by the former Royal Free Hospital researcher Andrew Wakefield who first claimed a link between MMR and autism. The claim, made in 2002 by a team led by Dublin pathologist John O'Leary, that the measles virus RNA had been detected in gut biopsies of children with autism and gastro-intestinal disturbances, appeared to provide powerful vindication for Wakefield's hypothesis that a distinctive inflammatory bowel condition - dubbed `autistic enterocolitis' - was the mediating link between MMR and autism.

Testimony in a US court last week by London-based molecular biologist Stephen Bustin comprehensively exposed the unreliability of O'Leary's findings, based on an investigation of his laboratory carried out in early 2004. `It has been incredibly frustrating', Professor Bustin told me on his return from the USA. `For three years we have been unable [for legal reasons] to reveal our findings. Now, based on the publicly available information, I want to get the message out about the O'Leary/Wakefield research: there's nothing in it.'

Bustin's revelations follow a series of studies, using the most rigorous analysis techniques, which have failed to replicate O'Leary's results, while other researchers have disputed the existence of `autistic enterocolitis' as a distinctive disease entity (see footnotes 1-3). All these results are reassuring to parents of autistic children, whose anxieties have been needlessly provoked by the Wakefield campaign. Parents facing decisions about immunisation can also be reassured that the MMR-autism scare has been shown to have no basis in science.

Though it is good news for parents, the testimony of Bustin and other expert witnesses was yet another blow for the anti-vaccine campaigners as Andrew Wakefield returns to London next week from his new base in a private clinic in Texas to face charges of professional misconduct at the General Medical Council.

The hearings in the USA mark the culmination of two parallel anti-vaccine campaigns. In the UK, following Wakefield's now notorious 1998 paper in the Lancet, which first advanced the MMR-autism thesis, parents of more than 1,400 children were drawn into litigation against vaccine manufacturers. This collapsed in 2004 when the Legal Services Commission realised that, in the absence of scientific evidence for the thesis, the claim had no chance of succeeding. Meanwhile in the USA, campaigners blame the mercury-based preservative thimerosal in some vaccines for the apparent increase in the prevalence of autism. The facts that the prevalence of autism has continued to rise after the removal of thimerosal from vaccines and that MMR has never contained thimerosal have not deterred campaigners from trying to link mercury and MMR in the causation of autism, through a series of speculative and improbable pathways.

In the `omnibus autism proceedings' in the US Court of Federal Claims in Washington DC, the families of more than 4, 800 children are claiming damages from the $2.5billion government fund set aside to compensate people harmed by vaccination. Over 12 days last month the court heard the first test case put forward by the petitioners - that of 12-year-old Michelle Cedillo, whose parents believe that the combination of early childhood immunisations containing thimerosal with MMR at 16 months resulted in the development of autism, inflammatory bowel disease and a range of additional disabilities.

Unfortunately for the petitioners, and to the embarrassment of some of their supporters, there was no real contest - in terms of personal expertise or scientific substance - between the expert witnesses put forward in support of the vaccine-autism theory and those challenging this hypothesis. For example, Marcel Kinsbourne, a long-retired paediatric neurologist who admitted that he had not treated children for 17 years and who has become a professional expert witness, appearing in hundreds of vaccine litigation cases, appeared on questioning to lack any relevant specialist knowledge. Vera Byers, an immunologist, also long-retired, claimed a series of qualifications and academic attachments - including one to Nottingham University - that turned out to be bogus. On questioning, her faculty status at the University of California at San Francisco boiled down to attending courses, using the library, and, bizarrely, `going to their parties'.

Another elderly witness, environmental toxicologist Vasken Aposhian from Tucson, Arizona, caused bemusement by apparently denying the significance of dose levels of mercury and conflating in vitro, laboratory studies, with in vivo studies in animals and humans. By contrast, the experts testifying against the vaccine-autism theories included a range of doctors and scientists actively engaged in relevant clinical activity and research, such as the autism specialist Eric Fombonne, now in Montreal, but well-known in the UK for his many years at the Maudsley in London, Cleveland paediatric neurologist Max Wiznitzer, and Baltimore virologist Diane Griffen.

Whereas the petitioners' experts were unable to produce convincing evidence that mercury and MMR had combined to make Michelle autistic, the respondents' experts produced powerful evidence against this thesis.

* Michelle's developmental record, including videos at 9, 12 and 15 months - before her MMR - revealed early abnormalities of social interaction, motor delays and other features consistent with a diagnosis of autism;

* Blood tests and other investigations revealed no evidence of `immune suppression' or of an abnormal reaction to MMR;

* Biopsy specimens taken at endoscopy did not show changes consistent with inflammatory bowel disease.

The respondents' expert witnesses all expressed their sympathy for Michelle and their respect for her parents; they were equally unanimous in dismissing the notion that any vaccine was the cause of her condition.

Then, in more than 100 pages of testimony, Stephen Bustin, introduced as the author of the `bible of PCR' (`polymerase chain reaction' - the basic investigative technique of molecular biology), produced what he describes as `just a summary' of his investigation of the O'Leary lab. One of the first things that he thought `peculiar' when he arrived was that the door of the adjoining lab was labelled `Plasmid Room'. As he explained to the court, plasmids are used to replicate DNA molecules in bacteria for experimental purposes; Bustin said he was alarmed because contamination is the bane of PCR studies. `You never want to have any plasmid DNA anywhere near your lab when doing PCR', he says. And yet, he said in the Washington court, there was plasmid DNA, in thousands of millions of copies, just next door to O'Leary's lab.

Parents who received the results of their children's biopsy specimens from the O'Leary lab tended to think of the tests in terms of familiar bench tests: you stick litmus paper in acid and it turns red, in alkali and it turns blue. Straightforward, black and white (at least red and blue) easily done, easily confirmed. Nothing could be further from the reality of PCR testing, as Bustin's exhaustive explanation of the complexities of this technology to the Washington court confirms. His investigation revealed problems in O'Leary's lab at every step of the process, from the quality of the preparations used to the conduct of the testing, the use of controls, the analysis and interpretation of data. His conclusions were categorical: `The assay used was not specific for measles and it was not properly carried out.' The positive results were positive for DNA - confirming contamination, because `if it's DNA it can't be measles' (measles is an RNA virus).

For Bustin it was `a scientific certainty' that the O'Leary lab had failed reliably to identify measles virus RNA in Michelle or any other child (and this includes claims, reported in other studies, that the O'Leary lab had identified measles RNA in blood and cerebrospinal fluid). Bustin's devastating testimony effectively destroyed the only piece of positive evidence that has been produced in support of the MMR-autism thesis since it was launched nearly a decade ago. It raises further questions for Professor O'Leary, for the lawyers who led the UK litigation, and for Dr Wakefield.

In May Professor O'Leary delivered his inaugural lecture (on the unrelated subject of cancer genetics) as head of the department of pathology at Trinity College Dublin (4). It seems that his status in Ireland has been unaffected by the damaging disclosures in Washington, which have received little publicity on this side of the Atlantic. Though it is not clear how O'Leary, a pathologist rather than a virologist, became involved in his collaboration with Wakefield, it is known that he set up a commercial company - Unigenetics - which received around 800,000 pounds in legal aid funding from the UK litigation. Though he supervised the lab, it has emerged that much of the work was carried out by graduate - or even undergraduate - students. Though O'Leary has disassociated himself from Wakefield's campaign against MMR, he has never admitted that the notion - firmly believed by many parents - that his lab had at least confirmed the presence of measles virus in their guts, was entirely false.

Bustin's report on the O'Leary lab was key to the collapse of the anti-MMR litigation in the UK. When the lawyers at the Legal Services Commission discovered this authoritative investigation concluding that O'Leary's findings were unreliable they realised that, putting this together with the wider evidence against the MMR-autism thesis, the litigation had no chance of succeeding. Yet the lawyers leading the campaign refused to acknowledge openly that the scientific case against the MMR-autism link was overwhelming and advise their clients to conclude the action. Instead, they continued to pursue the case, allowing it to drag on for a small number of families, acting without legal aid funding, for a further three years.

This not only prolonged the ordeal for these families, it prevented the Bustin study from being made public. Indeed, lawyers for the UK families continued to resist the disclosure of this important investigation until the bitter end - until the eve of the US hearings when the High Court ruled in favour of allowing this testimony, prepared for the UK litigation, to be heard in Washington. (Of the 15million in legal aid funding spent on the MMR litigation, around 8million went to the solicitors, 1.7million to barristers, 4.3million was shared among expert witnesses; the children, of course, were left with nothing.)

When Andrew Wakefield made a rare public appearance in the UK at a (largely sympathetic) conference of parents of autistic children in Bournemouth in February, I asked him why it was that, after 10 years of promoting his MMR-autism theory, he had failed to win the support of a single autism specialist, paediatrician or paediatric gastroenterologist in the UK (who is not exclusively in private practice or a beneficiary of the litigation)? He refused to answer. The Washington hearings have raised further questions. Nicholas Chadwick, now a biochemist in Manchester, told the court how he, as a postgraduate student in Wakefield's team at the Royal Free, conducted PCR studies for measles virus on biopsy specimens of the 12 children included in the Lancet study. His studies showed that all specimens were negative (and that earlier results had shown `false positives' resulting from contamination). Wakefield suppressed these results and Chadwick insisted on his name being removed from the published paper, which declared that `virological studies were underway' to investigate what Chadwick had already investigated and found negative results. This information, first disclosed in Brian Deer's 2004 television documentary, has now been presented in a court of law and still demands a full explanation (5).

As Wakefield staggers towards his date with the GMC, his supporters claim that he has been the victim of a conspiracy by the medical establishment and big pharma. The revelations in Washington seem to suggest that something approximating to the opposite is true: Wakefield appears to have been the beneficiary of a conspiracy of silence that has prevented the truth about his research from being revealed. As a junior member of the Royal Free team, Chadwick was apparently deterred from blowing the whistle by familiar concerns about his own position. Others in a position to reveal the falsity of his claims - and those emerging from the O'Leary lab - were deterred from doing so for a range of motives, from personal and professional loyalty to the inclination to give a colleague the benefit of the doubt. Still others were restricted by considerations of confidentiality and legality.

What now for Stephen Bustin? He says that, after three years of enforced silence on this subject, he is keen to get wider publicity for the message that science shows no link between MMR and autism. He has written to the Lancet summarising his findings. After years of anxiety and confusion, parents of children with autism will welcome the triumph of quality science over junk science even if we have had to wait a long time for 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


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



12 July, 2007

Bowel cancer: Genetic finding brings screening closer

RESEARCHERS have identified for the first time a gene that triggers bowel cancer, a move that could bring closer a genetic screening test for the disease. The gene, carried by about half the population, appears to increase the risk of developing bowel cancer by 20per cent. Bowel cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, accounting for about 13,000 new cases a year. So far, faulty genes have only been implicated in about 5 per cent of all cancers, and 5 per cent of bowel cancers.

In the case of bowel cancers, the genetic defects so far associated with the disease are all thought to be associated with faulty cellular repair mechanisms, meaning that the body loses the ability to kill off cells that start to divide abnormally.

The latest findings, published in international journal Nature Genetics, suggest a faulty gene found on chromosome 8 may trigger bowel cancer, and account for 10per cent of all cases of the disease. Ian Olver, head of Cancer Council Australia, said the implications of the discovery were "several-fold", including the fact that people carrying the gene were 20 per cent more likely to develop bowel cancer. "Now that we have a gene associated with a bigger percentage of bowel cancer cases, we are closer to developing a screening test for bowel cancer," Professor Olver said.

Although the new gene was only responsible for 10 per cent of cases by itself, by adding various other genes associated with an increased risk for the disease researchers could build up "a genetic profile for people likely to develop bowel cancer", Professor Olver said. "It really is a step forward - we have done a lot better at discovering the genes responsible for breast cancer. "Bowel cancer was lagging behind and this has taken it a major step forward."

Up to about 30 per cent of bowel cancers are thought to have a hereditary element, suggesting that even with the new discovery there is much scientists have yet to discover about which genes are involved and how bowel cancers start. The bowel cancer gene identified in the new research is found on the same chromosome as genes already linked to prostate cancer.

Source




Anti-smoking drug may curb drinking

Given that 85 percent of alcoholics also smoke, a drug recently approved as a stop-smoking aid may turn out to be a pharmaceutical two-for-one deal. Varenicline, marketed by Pfizer as Chantix to help people stop smoking, helped rats kick their drinking habit, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This paves the way for clinical studies using this drug to treat alcoholism. "Varenicline is the first drug on the market for nicotine cessation that's not nicotine itself. It's safe," said Selena Bartlett, senior author on the study. "We were surprised to find that this drug also serves to reduce alcohol drinking in animals."

Bartlett directs preclinical development at the Ernest Gallo Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco. For the study, researchers trained rats to drink in order to test the drug's effect on alcohol consumption. Although visions of rats stumbling in a drunken stupor are off the mark, Bartlett's lab got rats to be "social," "chronic" or "heavy" drinkers. When the drug was given at the dose that stems nicotine craving in animals, the amount of alcohol consumed decreased by about half. If given over six days, alcohol intake was reduced over the whole period.

Since "withdrawal" from a drug could lead to an even greater desire for alcohol, Bartlett's team monitored drinking after the last dose of varenicline was given. Coming off the drug did not result in a bad rebound -- alcohol intake was not more than it had been before taking the drug.

Why would a stop-smoking drug curb alcohol craving? Nicotine and alcohol both trigger the brain's reward system. While food, sex and exercise tickle the system, drugs hijack the system and send it into overdrive. The reward comes when nicotine binds to a protein that triggers a "feel-good" chemical called dopamine. A craving comes when the amount of dopamine drops. Varenicline works by binding to the same protein and blocking nicotine. It results in a lower, but constant, level of dopamine, reducing the craving that leads to relapse. Since alcohol indirectly activates the same protein as nicotine, varenicline likely curbs alcohol craving in the same way that it helps with nicotine.

Approval of the drug in humans for alcoholism may be faster than for a drug that has never been tested in humans. In addition to medication, behavioral treatments such as Alcoholic Anonymous are available. The group is neutral on using drugs to curb craving, said Ivo V., an AA member and chair of public information for the Sacramento chapter. (The group does not give out full names of its members.)

Scientists look at alcoholism as a disease. The chronic nature, relapses, genetic links and changes in the brain associated with alcoholism make it a disease, explained Dr. Charles O'Brien, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania medical school. Alcoholism is where schizophrenia was in the 1960s because of its public stigma and a lack of attention from drug companies, Bartlett said. "It's really exciting to see that you can help people," Bartlett said, "especially in areas where there is very little help right now."

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 July, 2007

Study finds alcohol doesn't kill off brain cells

NEW research, to be revealed at a conference of some of the world's top neuroscientists in Cairns today, has found alcohol does not kill off brain cells as always thought. For years imbibers have been told a big night on the drink wipes out entire sections of human brain cell function with much the same destructive equivalent as a napalm bombing strike.

According to Queensland Brain Institute director Professor Perry Bartlett, this is not true. There is no evidence drinking alcohol leads directly to the death of brain cells, he said. "Some of the best studies, done in Italy, show a bottle of wine a night can reduce the risk of dementia in old age," Professor Bartlett said.

In moderation, alcohol has positive benefits for blood vessel health and stroke prevention. And, as an added bonus, new brain cells are generated every day of our lives. Research by Professor Bartlett and his team has found we all have an inbuilt repair kit replenishing the more than 100 billion cells - or neurons - in our brain.

Source




British kids refuse to oblige the food Fascists

When Jamie Oliver revolutionised school meals he was lauded by teachers, health-conscious parents and politicians keen for some reflected glory. His campaign has, however, proved less popular with the children. There has been a 20 per cent fall in the uptake of secondary school meals since Jamie's School Dinners was screened two years ago, according to official figures. Numbers have reportedly fallen to about four in ten pupils - thought to be the lowest level since provision became mandatory in 1944. Older pupils in particular are rejecting the organic and healthy meals in favour of packed lunches or takeaways.

The latest figures are from a survey by the Local Authorities Catering Association. The full results will be presented at a conference on Friday. A spokeswoman for LACA said: "There's definitely a drop in secondary school meal numbers. It's not because of Jamie Oliver but because of changes in Government regulations on school foods since 2006. There has been a withdrawal and banning of some foods, such as fizzy drinks.

"From September, all school food will be affected by new regulations. Homemade biscuits and cakes will no longer be available as snacks, instead there will be bread-based products. At the moment it's early days and children are reacting. We've got to have a realistic approach to this. I think the numbers will rise in the long term."

Source




FOOD FASCISM GETS EVER MORE EXTREME

Sheer Puritanism. Not mentioned below is that lifespans have grown considerably since the 1940s

SIXTY years after the end of war-time food rationing, a leading nutritionist is calling for the return of the ration books. A 1940s diet could control the epidemic of obesity afflicting Australia and much of the developed world, says nutritionist Rosemary Stanton.

Apart from reducing the amount and variety of fatty foods available, rationing would reintroduce older values such as sharing and cutting down on waste. "During war time if you noticed the apples in the bowl were getting a bit wrinkly, you stewed them," Dr Stanton said. "Today you just chuck them out."

Rationing in war-time Australia was less severe than much of the rest of the world, and the only foods to which it applied were tea, sugar, butter and meat. Meat was rationed to the equivalent of 900g a week, butter to 450g a fortnight; sugar to 900g a fortnight and tea to 450g every five weeks. "Austerity meals" were served in Australian restaurants and hotels, limiting expenditure to five shillings (about $15 at today's values) for dinner, four shillings for lunch and three shillings for breakfast.

"There was very little incidence of heart disease or diabetes during the war years, and obesity was almost unknown," Dr Stanton said. People grew their own fruit and vegetables, and swapped foods with their neighbours, both of which should be encouraged today, she said. "We were restrained in the amount of fatty foods we could buy, whereas today there are no limits. This leads to waste and the massive amount of food we throw away.

Her latest book, Healthy Eating for Australian Families, includes a recipe for chocolate cake Dr Stanton discovered in an old World War II recipe book.

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


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



10 July, 2007

Does reported racism cause breast cancer?

Typical epidemiological garbage. I would not be particularly surprised to find that whiny women DO get more cancer -- but even that link does not seem to have been established. Comment below by Michael Fumento

"Breast Cancer Link to Racial Discrimination" No doubt some demagogues who would have us think every problem blacks have is due to persistent racism would have no problem with that headline. But problematic the study remains. The headline comes from a study conducted at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. In it, black women completed a questionnaire in 1997 that included questions on perceived discrimination in two domains: "everyday" discrimination (such as being treated as dishonest) and major experiences of unfair treatment due to race (such as job, housing, and police). From 1997 to 2003, 593 incident cases of breast cancer were found.

Although I haven't been able yet to obtain a full copy of the study, it appears there was a weak non-statistically significant association between women claiming discrimination and breast cancer. No significance means even that apparent weak association means nothing. So the authors sliced the data at the 50-year mark and - voila! - statistical significance. Among women under 50, those who reported discrimination on the job had a 32% higher rate of breast cancer than those who didn't report it. There was a 48% increase for those who reported discrimination in all three situations - housing, job, and police - relative to those who reported none.

"These findings," concluded the authors, "suggest that perceived experiences of racism are associated with increased incidence of breast cancer among U.S. black women, particularly younger women."

Now here's what they didn't tell you. First, overall breast cancer rates are much lower for black women than for white women, with 118 cases per 100,000 for blacks versus 132 per 100,000 for whites for the years 2000-2004. That doesn't exactly jibe with racism as a carcinogen.

Second, not only was there no significant association until the authors starting slicing the data, but even after the slicing the data were barely within the realm of statistical significance. In other words, the association is far weaker than it appears.

Third, there is no known biological explanation for the alleged phenomenon. The one suggested in the news stories is stress. Stress can indeed cause terrible health problems, as I have documented in countless articles. With faux media-spread syndromes, we're literally making people sick by telling they should be sick. Stress can even kill, as with heart disease. But although many have looked, nobody has yet found a link between stress and cancer.

Assuming the Howard study shows any kind of connection between perceived racism and breast cancer, "perceived" may be the key word. People who perceive things differently from other people are different from other people. There may be a link between discrimination-perceivers and non-perceivers that we ought to look for.

Meanwhile it is true that younger black women (those under 54) have a slightly higher rate of breast cancer than their white counterparts, 94 versus 91 per 100,000 for 2004. Why might that be? And why might older black women be less at risk? There are many differences between black and white women that we know of that do have biological plausibility. The most obvious is genetics. This notwithstanding a recent quote from a black doctor that - I'm not making this up - anybody who says blacks and whites are genetically different is a racist. So blacks are just darker than whites because they spend more time in the sun, right?

Meanwhile, we know that Ashkenazi Jews are especially prone to breast cancer because of specific identified genes. Therefore we must scientifically conclude that ... Mike Fumento is both a racist and an anti-Semite. Yet we know of many other differences, such as weight, diet, and smoking. Bottom line: If you're really interested in exploring differences between breast cancer rates among different groups, you should probably devote your resources to paths that actually might lead to answers rather than to headlines.

Source




The pumpkin cure for diabetes

Early days but you never know ...

The humble pumpkin could end the need for people with diabetes to have insulin injections. Compounds found in the vegetable could potentially replace or drastically cut the daily number of injections for diabetics, a new study published yesterday in the journal Chemistry and Industry suggests. Research showed that pumpkin extract promotes regeneration of damaged pancreatic cells in diabetic rats, boosting levels of insulin-producing beta cells and insulin in the blood.

A group at East China Normal University found diabetic rats fed the extract had only 5 per cent less plasma insulin and 8 per cent fewer insulin-positive (beta) cells than healthy rats. Research leader Tao Xia said: "Pumpkin extract is potentially a very good product for pre-diabetic persons, as well as those who already have diabetes." Insulin injections would probably still be necessary but the extract would seriously reduce the amount of insulin they had to take, he added.

David Bender, sub-dean at the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London, told the journal: "This research is very exciting. "The main finding is that feeding pumpkin extract prevents the progressive destruction of pancreatic beta-cells ... but it is impossible to say whether pumpkin extract would promote regeneration in humans. I think the exciting thing is that this may be a source of medication that could be taken by mouth." The protective effect of pumpkin is thought to be due to antioxidants and D-chiroinositol, a molecule that mediates insulin activity.

Diabetes is estimated to affect more than 230 million people, almost 6 per cent of the world's population, according to the World Diabetes Foundation. The rats used in the study represented type I diabetes.

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 July, 2007

RATCHETING UP THE FOOD SCARE

Junk food, transfats could cause blindness. That's why you see millions of blind people walking around. What rubbish! Just another of the many assertions based on the myth that dietary antioxidants are beneficial. Taking antioxidants can in fact cause premature death

AUSTRALIA faces an epidemic of blindness because young people are eating too much junk food, health experts have warned. Alarming new research has revealed a poor diet can lead to the eye disease macular degeneration, which causes blindness in later life. In recent years, MD numbers have skyrocketed and now the disease affects a staggering one in seven Australians over 50 - about 850,000 people. The disease causes progressive damage to the central part of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye which enables people to see detail clearly.

Poor nutrition reduces the levels of antioxidants in and around the eye's retina and enables waste products caused by fatty foods to damage the eye. Specialists say MD used to only affect people in their 70s, but now they are seeing people as young as 40 suffering from it. Leading optometrist Allan Ared, a Sydney specialist with clients in Queensland, said transfats in processed foods were a significant risk. "Macular degeneration is a modern-day epidemic, but if you look back 100 years, we never had a problem with this disease," he said. "It's only in the last 10 to 15 years that experts even became aware of what MD was.

"What's happened is processed foods have altered our nutritional intake and we are now eating foods every day that our ancestors only ate on special occasions. "That bag of chips you eat today may certainly impair your vision tomorrow." [The guy should be prosecuted for talking such lies]

Experts advise people to eat vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc, as well as foods rich in antioxidants, such as dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, nuts, wholegrains, meat, fish and seafood. Clinical studies [I'd like to see them] show high-dose vitamin and zinc supplements can reduce the progression of MD by 25 per cent. Alison Muir, national education co-ordinator for the Macular Degeneration Foundation, recommends people cut down on junk food. "This disease is increasing and it is partly because we have a lot of processed foods in our diets now," she said.

Source




CATS ARE BAD FOR YOU

Keeping a cat can irritate the lungs and exacerbate the symptoms of asthma, even in people who have no specific allergy to the animals, researchers say. Up to 15 per cent of people are allergic to them, with their sensitivity attributed to a reaction against at least one particular protein that is secreted from the cat's skin.

A Europe-wide study by a team from Imperial College, London, took samples from the mattresses of 1,884 people with certain common allergies. They found that increased exposure to cat allergen was associated with greater sensitivity of the respiratory system in the volunteers, and encouraged symptoms of wheezing or breathlessness in those who were not known to be allergic to cats.

The increased symptoms, known as greater bronchial responsiveness (BR), suggested that reduced exposure to cats may be beneficial for allergic individuals, regardless of their specific allergies, the researchers said. "This was an unexpected finding," Susan Chinn, lead author of the study, said. "We presupposed that we would find increased responsiveness only in those individuals . . . whose blood tests showed that they were allergic to cats. But our study suggests that all allergic individuals have signs of asthmatic responses if exposed to cat allergen, even if blood tests show that they are not allergic to cats." Dr Chinn and her team report their findings in this month's issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

The study included measurements of house dust mite and cat allergen in mattress dust samples, and data on sensitisation to four main allergens - cat, house dust mite, Cladosporidium (a common mold) and timothy grass. Participants were given a methacholine challenge test, a medical procedure used to diagnose asthma, and the results were compared with the allergens found in the mattress samples.

This study lends weight to previous research that found asthma to be strongly related to indoor allergens. However, that all patients exposed to cats showed greater responsiveness was unexpected. "Our primary results showed no correlation between levels of house dust mite and BR among individuals with sensitisation to any of the four tested allergens," said Dr Chinn. "But even moderate exposure to cat allergen resulted in significantly greater responsiveness."

The researchers said that they could not rule out the possibility that cat allergen exposure could be a proxy for exposure to endotoxins, which are found in bacteria that is thought to encourage asthmatic symptoms. Such compounds are found in higher concentrations in the homes of cat owners. "Based on the current research, it appears that many individuals could benefit from reduced cat ownership and exposure," Dr Chinn said. "However, because the findings were unexpected, it is important that results are replicated in other studies before firm recommendations are made.

Muriel Simmons, the chief executive of the charity Allergy UK, said yesterday that the link between cat allergy and asthma was well established. "We know that cat allergens are among the most sticky and resilient particles, and the most common source of allergies after the house dust mite. Even if you move into a house where cats have previously lived, allergens can maintain even after thorough cleaning."

Source




AIDS medicine cuts through drug resistance

There might be something in this but the research methodology leaves much to be desired

AN EXPERIMENTAL AIDS drug taken in combination with a recently approved medication dramatically reduced the amount of virus in the blood of patients with a history of drug resistance, two international studies have found. The studies, published yesterday, reported that up to 18 per cent more drug-resistant patients experienced a drop in the amount of virus in their blood to undetectable levels after 24 weeks than among those taking a standard drug regimen. The results with the experimental drug etravirine give a much-needed boost in the fight against drug resistance among HIV patients, particularly those resistant to the class of drugs known as non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, or NNRTIs.

"There are a lot of patients out there who need salvage therapy with a new NNRTI and it looks like we'll have one," said Mark Wainberg, director of the McGill University AIDS Centre in Montreal, who was not part of the study. Between half and 60 per cent of patients on antiretroviral medications developed resistance to a drug in this class, said Dr Wainberg, who has consulted for the maker of etravirine, Tibotec Pharmaceuticals. The company plans to seek approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for etravirine in coming months. The drug, previously known as TMC125, blocks one of the enzymes needed for replication by the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

The two studies, funded by Tibotec, followed 1203 patients with HIV in 18 countries. The patients had severely compromised immune systems and were resistant to NNRTIs and another commonly used class of drugs known as protease inhibitors. About half the patients were given etravirine and a protease inhibitor from Tibotec called Prezista, which was approved by the FDA last year. The remainder were given Prezista and a placebo. Patients in both groups were also given other AIDS drugs depending on the recommendation of their doctors. [So control goes down the drain with a large Whooosh!]

William Towner, one of the study authors, said that using several drugs at once had proven to be an effective strategy against the quickly mutating AIDS virus. One of the studies found that 62 per cent of patients on the etravirine regimen suppressed the virus to undetectable levels, compared with 44 per cent in the placebo group. The other study reported successful viral suppression in 56 per cent of the etravirine group compared with 39 per cent in the placebo group.

Most side effects were mild or moderate and occurred at about the same rate in the experimental and control groups. Rash, however, occurred slightly more often in the etravirine groups.

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 July, 2007

Boozers more potent: Brewer's droop a myth!

I hate to spoil the party but it COULD just be that potent men drink more. Alcohol has some reputation as a sex substitute

BOOZE may not be quite as toxic to a man's sex life as first thought, with a study finding alcohol appears to protect men from impotence rather than predispose them to it. A review of previous studies on the subject, involving men in South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific, including Australia, found that contrary to popular belief, regular alcohol consumption cut the risk of male impotence by nearly 20 per cent overall. While low-level drinking, of seven or fewer drinks a week, brought a benefit that was too small to be statistically significant, higher levels were effective.

The results, published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, found that moderate drinking - eight or more drinks a week - cut the risk of impotence, known by the medical term erectile dysfunction, by a statistically significant 15 per cent. In Australia, official health guidelines recommend men drink no more than four standard drinks a day, or two drinks a day for women. A standard drink in Australia is defined as containing 10g of alcohol.

The authors, from the University of Hong Kong, said it "appears that alcohol consumption ... is related to sexual function", with moderate consumption giving the highest protection and the benefits reducing the more alcohol was drunk. However, the authors could not tell from the data at what point over eight drinks a week alcohol consumption stopped being beneficial.

They also suggested the "myth" that alcohol might cause ED could have arisen from the well-known tendency for alcohol to enhance desire but impair performance. The authors said this was merely a "short-lived effect of alcohol and will not cause ED permanently". "This study has demonstrated that chronic alcohol consumption is not a risk factor for ED," they wrote.

Chris McMahon, director of the Australian Centre for Sexual Health at the University of Sydney, said the findings were "logical" as moderate alcohol consumption was already known to have benefits for cardiovascular health, which in turn was linked to healthy erections. However, he said the latest review was limited by the quality of the studies on which its findings were based, and further studies were required. "I expect we will see this finding picked up in alcohol advertisements, which is a pity," he said. "This does not constitute a good reason to drink to excess."

Source




False heart disease diagnoses?

Are people really diagnosed just by statistics in Britain? Surely, it should be an investigation (with scans etc.) that is decisive! Amazing!

Heart disease medication is being massively over-prescribed with thousands of people being wrongly told that they are in danger of developing cardiovascular problems, according to a study. A new and sophisticated approach to calculating risk has shed radical new light on the issue. A British Medical Journal study says that there are flaws in the traditional method and suggests that current estimates of the number of people in danger of the disease are 1.5 million too high. Using the new test, the BMJ estimated that the number of people at risk had been overpredicted by 35 per cent.Consequently, many patients have likely been prescribed unnecessarily anti-cholesterol drug statins, inflating the annual 2 billion bill to the NHS.

The study prompted fears that the wrong type of people were being targeted for treatment with its discovery that white middle-aged men had a lower risk than previously thought and women from poorer backgrounds had a significantly higher risk. It also found that one in three women in their 60s are at risk of heart disease. That figure was previously thought to be one in four.

Julia Hippisley-Cox, lead author of the study, told The Guardian: "We are potentially missing the right people for treatment. "If we use this new score it would increase treatment to deprived areas and especially to women. They are being under-treated across the board."

The researchers tracked 1.28 million healthy men and women aged between 35 and 74 over 12 years to April this year and used GP records from 318 general practices. The overblown estimates of heart disease were derived from the traditional way of calculating risk, which involves a score based on smoking, blood pressure and "good" and "bad" cholesterol, along with age and sex. The BMJ study used a new measure which also takes social deprivation [Steady on there! We are not loking at social class at long last are we?] , genetic factors and weight into account, reducing estimates.

As a result, it has concluded that 3.2 million adults under the age of 75 are at risk of developing cardiovascular illnesses compared with the 4.7 million previously estimated. A separate study by the Healthcare Commission says the number of people reported as having heart failure issues was 140,000 fewer than expected.

Source




ACHTUNG! Ve haf vays of making you slim!

According to the German government, Germans are too fat. They're so fat, in fact, that the government has made encouraging weight loss one of the country's main political tasks. In May, the minister for health, Ulla Schmidt, and the minister of consumer protection and agriculture, Horst Seehofer, launched a national health campaign to motivate people to eat healthier food and do more exercise. The government aims to halt the trend towards obesity by the year 2020.

The national action plan is comprehensive and far-reaching. It recommends that health education should play a greater role in kindergartens and schools. Parents should be encouraged to tell their children about the risks of fast food. Adults should be informed about health issues at their workplaces. At state level, communities and sports clubs should encourage people to participate in sports. The anti-obesity campaign hopes to establish new standards of health and nutrition in canteen services in schools, hospitals and workplaces, and it will give funding to scientific research into the consequences of an unhealthy diet.

The government is also putting pressure on the German food industry. It is asking that food manufacturers put more accurate and prominent labelling on their products, in order to warn consumers that certain ingredients might be bad for their health and wellbeing. Although the food industry has broadly supported the government's campaign, its representatives have criticised this call for stricter labelling. Jrgen Abraham, chairman of the German food industry confederation, argued that individuals are fully responsible for what they eat: `Why blame the industry when some individuals just eat too much?'

Fatness has now been successfully transformed into a major issue in German society. Apparently, more than 75 per cent of German men and 59 per cent of German women are considered overweight, a condition said to cause cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, strokes, cancer and depression. The cost of treating such diseases is a major burden on the German state budget, which, the government argues, could easily be reduced by healthier living.

In outlining an economic imperative for national slimming, the government has drawn attention to the bureaucratic and authoritarian edge to its anti-obesity campaign. The campaign has little time for individual choice or free will in matters of food consumption or exercise, and nor does it accept the idea that people should determine what is best for them and their families. Rather, it turns the (highly questionable) measurement of the `right' body-weight ratio, the Body Mass Index (BMI), into a social statement about a person's ability and willingness to adopt a socially acceptable lifestyle. In other words, those who are fat are increasingly seen as `bad' and anti-social people who do not fit in, while those who regularly take exercise and eat well are seen as `good' citizens.

If you take a closer look at the German government's new health campaign, you will see how irrational it is. First of all, it would seem that, in a rush to `educate' the people, the government has exaggerated the personal and social relevance of the obesity issue. It started by exercising some poetic license with the statistics. Reports claiming that Germans are the fattest people in Europe were designed to startle - but such a claim was only arrived at by removing those aged 18 to 24 from the study. So slimmer, younger adults were excluded from the calculations, which allowed government and media scaremongers to say `shock, horror - German adults are the fattest!' Those scientists who have questioned the fat stats have only occasionally been given a platform in the media.

But you need more than just concocted scientific evidence to launch a national campaign on what people eat and how they play: you also need a cultural climate that is open to such interventions. And in today's Germany, the ground has been well-prepared for this kind of government activity.

In Germany, the fatness issue has been harnessed by a government keen to intervene into people's private lives at ever more intimate levels. In recent debates, obesity has been linked to child neglect (that is, parents feeding their children the `wrong' foods and letting them get fat), and it has also been taken as evidence that people have gone consumerism-crazy, misled by the advertising of big food companies. Once body weight has been squeezed into such a moral framework - which raises questions of choice, free will and independence - then it quickly becomes an issue around which all sorts of authoritarian measures can be enforced. And questioning the government's anti-obesity campaign has become tantamount to blasphemy. Health and weight are no longer the subject of a meaningful debate - they are consensus issues on which you raise awkward questions at your peril. Those who disagree with the need to lose weight are regarded as `stupid' or wilfully contrary, and it is hoped that the new emphasis on health education in schools will help to stamp out these unorthodox views.

What can be done with those of us in Germany who argue that the government's all-pervasive health agenda is an attack on personal freedom? In order to silence us, a new line of argument is being developed, one which focuses on the alleged social consequences of obesity. The government now claims that obesity costs the government between 10billion and 20billion euros in terms of health provision and care. In short, those who are overweight are socially irresponsible; they are anti-social.

Official exhortations to live healthily are not a new phenomenon. Indeed, campaigns of this kind have a long tradition in Germany. In the early Seventies, the German Sports Association (DSB), the umbrella organisation for all German sports clubs, launched a marketing campaign to get people to join sport clubs. The aim of the campaign was to reduce the burden on public health institutions, which were then dealing with around 250,000 cases of heart attack a year. Back then, it was said that a third of the male population and more than 40 per cent of the female population were overweight. That Seventies campaign took off, and fitness became a major issue in the lives of Germans.

Back then, politicians certainly jumped on the sport-and-fitness bandwagon, but they didn't play a major role in creating it. The DSB's campaign was largely driven by a need to recruit new sports club members: in 1970, only 17 per cent of the West German population were engaged in sports clubs. Organised sports had suffered a deep crisis as traditional gymnastics became more and more unfashionable. The DSB was looking for new ways to attract a younger generation. Within 10 years, sports club membership rose by 28 per cent, and today more then 75 per cent of German kids between the ages of three and 10 are members of a sports club.

By contrast, today's anti-obesity campaign has a purely political aim. It is designed to strengthen the moral authority of a political class that has lost its traditional bonds with society. By focusing on private matters such as health and weight, the German government is trying to develop new points of contact with people's everyday concerns and fears. It is turning personal lifestyle into a political issue. Where in the past sports campaigns were designed to engage people, and make them join sports activities voluntarily or out of personal interest and enthusiasm, the current health plan puts the economic and social necessity of slimming at the centre of the debate. Government-endorsed slimming and health awareness are no longer about increasing the quality of our personal lives; rather they are about instilling in us a new sense of social duty and even conformity. Indeed, we should remember that for all today's talk about having the `right' Body Mass Index, there is in fact no scientific and enduring definition of what `overweight' is. In the past (and in some cultures even today) being `overweight' was seen as an enviable condition because as it was an indicator of social wealth and economic success.

An isolated government is using the issue of what foodstuff we put in our mouths to `make a connection' and to enforce new forms of authority and standards of responsibility. The German people should tell it to get stuffed.

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 July, 2007

Asthma in the genes too

A PREVIOUSLY unknown gene may be the solution to the puzzle of childhood asthma. The link between the gene and the disorder is so strong that scientists may have a complete understanding of what causes asthma within three years, predicts the team leader, British respiratory physician William Cookson. "I'm upbeat that we're going to do it," said Dr Cookson, with the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London.

Along with European and US colleagues, Dr Cookson reported overnight in the journal Nature that mutations in the novel gene ORMDL3 had a strong association with childhood asthma. "It's a potential target for therapy," Dr Cookson said. "But we're not completely sure what this gene does." His team found the mutations and the gene by comparing DNA from thousands of people with and without childhood asthma.

Molecular biologist Carolyn Williams, head of the genetics unit at the Lung Institute of Western Australia, said the result was extraordinary. "In all the years we've been looking. we've never found such a strong line between a genetic mutation and asthma," she said. Although numerous genes have shown small effects on susceptibility to childhood asthma, Dr Cookson said none had proved as closely tied as ORMDL3.

New data analysed by epidemiologist Guy Marks of Sydney's Woolcock Institute of Medical Research showed roughly 11 per cent of Australian children had asthma. "This is an important study in adding to knowledge of genetic risk factors of asthma," said Associate Professor Marks, who also heads the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring. Associate Professor Marks said childhood asthma was caused by a combination of poorly understood genetic and environmental factors.

Peter Le Souef, a respiratory physician at the University of Western Australia in Perth, praised Dr Cookson's team's gene-scanning prowess. "They're the best in the world at it," he said. But Professor Le Souef said Dr Cookson's three-year timeline was overly optimistic. "We need to see how the finding replicates in further populations of children, as well as knowing its function," he said. To that end, Dr Cookson's group hopes to nail down ORMDL3's role in the body, asthmatic and otherwise.

Source




"Alternative" medicine bad for pregnancy

But it COULD just be that women who are less healthy are more likely to take risks with quack remedies

Women who use complementary therapies while trying to conceive by IVF are less likely to get pregnant than those who use conventional medicine alone, research indicates. A study of 818 Danish fertility patients revealed that pregnancy rates were about 20 per cent lower among users of alternative medicine, such as reflexology and acupuncture, than among those who did not use such treatments. The findings could mean that complementary medicines that have a biological effect, such as herbal remedies or nutritional supplements, interfere with fertility drugs or other aspects of IVF treatment.

Women who turn to alternative medicine, however, tend to be more stressed by their infertility, and may have been trying for longer to get pregnant. The lower success rate could reflect that these patients are willing to try anything to improve their chances of having a child. "It may be that complementary therapies diminish the effectiveness of medical interventions," said Jacky Boivin, of Cardiff University, who led the research. "Or it may simply be that persistent treatment failure encourages women to seek out complementary and alternative therapies."

Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, said: "Similar associations have been made in cancer patients. Those who use complementary or alternative medicine [CAM] are on average more distressed and more depressed. The important question is whether the chicken or the egg came first. "The most likely explanation is that those women who are prone to stress and have more health problems are more likely to try CAM. So CAM could only be a marker, and not the cause of stress and lower success rates."

The study, which was conducted with the University of Copenhagen, found that 31 per cent of the fertility patients had used an alternative treatment, with reflexology and nutritional supplements the most popular. Such patients suffered from greater stress, and the researchers said that they could have turned to complementary medicine to address this. Previous small studies have indicated that techniques such as acupuncture may help with relaxation.

Dr Boivin said: "We found that women who went on to use complementary therapies, for example reflexology and nutritional supplements, during their treatments were more distressed and emotionally affected by their fertility problems than nonusers. "This difference in stress may mean that women used complementary and alternative therapies for stress reduction, and if this were the case it would be important for future research to establish whether these achieve this goal more effectively than conventional psychological therapies."

The team now intends to follow up the patients over five years to assess pregnancy rates over a longer period. "It is important to do this because we are concerned that, with persistent treatment failure, women might become more and more susceptible to deceptive advertising about ineffective complementary and alternative therapies or other unproven treatments," Dr Boivin said.

Source




Organic produce has more flavonoids: So what?

The flavonoid faith rolls on

Organic fruit and vegetables may be better for the heart and general health than eating conventionally grown crops, new research has found. A ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce found that they had almost double the quantity of antioxidants called flavonoids which help to prevent high blood pressure and thus reduce the likelihood of heart disease and strokes. Alyson Mitchell, a food chemist, who led the research at the University of California, believes [Isn't faith wonderful?] that flavonoids can also help to stave off some forms of cancer and dementia.

She found that levels of quercetin and kaempferol, both flavonoids, were on average 79 and 97 per cent higher, respectively, in organic tomatoes. Her findings are due to be published in full in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Dr Mitchell said that previously it had been hard to make comparisons between organic and conventionally grown produce because of difficulties in comparing soil quality, irrigation practices and the handling of harvested produce. But for this study researchers used data from a long-term project in which standardised farming techniques were used to reveal trends in crop productivity. The team believes [More faith!] that the different levels of flavonoids in tomatoes are due to the absence of fertilisers in organic farming.

Plants produce flavonoids as a defence mechanism; they are triggered by nutrient deficiency. Feeding a plant with too many nutrients, such as inorganic nitrogen commonly found in conventional fertiliser, curbs the development of flavonoids. The lower levels of flavonoids in conventional tomatoes were caused by "over-fertilisation", the research team concluded.

The Soil Association is now pressing the Food Standards Agency to review its guidance on the merits of organic as opposed to conventional fruit and vegetables. Peter Melchett, its policy director, said that there was now a rapidly growing body of evidence which showed significant differences between the nutritional composition of organic and nonorganic food.

Recent research in Europe found that organic tomatoes contained more vitamin C, B-carotene and flavonoids than conventionally grown tomatoes. Organic peaches and organic apple puree were also found to have more antioxidants. Lord Krebs, the former chairman of the Food Standards Agency and now Master of Jesus College, Oxford, said that even if such benefits existed, higher flavonoid levels did not make organic food healthier. "This depends on the relevance of the differences to the human body," he said. "Tomato ketchup has higher levels of lycopene [a strong antioxidant] than either organic or conventional tomatoes. So if you wanted lots of lycopene you should eat tomato ketchup."

The Food Standards Agency, however, has commissioned a three-year study into the benefits of flavonoids. It said: "There is accumulating evidence that dietary flavonoids. . . may in large part explain the cardiovascular disease benefits of increased fruit and vegetable intake."

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 July, 2007

Shocking news: Baby genetic screening highly counterproductive

It's been killing lots of babies. A very sad example of how destructive the "precautionary principle" can be

GENETIC screening, often seen as the best hope for older women undergoing IVF treatment to have a child, is ineffective and actually reduces rates of pregnancies, scientists say.

The surprise finding from a controlled clinical trial involving 408 women is a major setback for a technology that is used increasingly in fertility clinics worldwide. Couples aiming for a test-tube baby can pay between $3500 and $5830 for a pre-implantation genetic screening test. The idea is to study the genetic make-up of embryos before transfer to the womb to make sure they are likely to survive.

But, while the concept is plausible, Dutch researchers found screening in women aged 35 to 41 years made matters worse. After 12 weeks, only 25 per cent of women undergoing in vitro fertilisation whose embryos had been screened were pregnant, against 37 per cent in the control group. Eventual live birth rates were also lower, at 24 versus 35 per cent.

Just why screening cuts the chance of a viable pregnancy is unclear, but Sebastiaan Mastenbroek from the Academic Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam said the test itself may be to blame. "It is possible that the biopsy of a cell from an early embryo on day three after conception hampers the potential of an embryo to successfully implant, though the effect of biopsy alone on pregnancy rates has not been studied," he said. Usually embryos have reached the eight-cell stage of development by day three but sometimes there may be as few as four cells, which could make the procedure riskier.

Other factors may be the limited number of chromosomes that can be analysed, which may lead to the transfer of embryos that appear normal but in fact contain faults, and many embryos are "mosaic", where a cell does not properly reflect the genetic make-up of the whole.

Dr Mastenbroek and colleagues presented the work at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in France. The research was also published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, alongside a recommendation from the team that pre-implantation should no longer be performed routinely in older women undergoing IVF therapy.

Source




All diets pretty useless

Looking for that perfect diet? Researchers have bad news - all diets have just about the same result, and none of them are great, US. researchers reported on Monday. A typical diet helps people lose an average of 6 per cent of their weight, typically 10 to 15 pounds (5 to 7 kg), and most people put it all back on after five years. Weight loss drugs are similarly ineffective in the long run, said Dr Michael Dansinger of the Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston.

"It's disappointing but I am optimistic that we can do better in the future. We are learning some of the factors that improve the effectiveness (of diets)," said Dansinger, whose study is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The news is bad for those who hoped a gentler approach to dieting might be more effective over the long-term. Programs that made people eat fewer calories worked better, as did those that involved more frequent visits to either diet groups or to a counsellor's office.

But there is good news - even a small, temporary weight loss can benefit health, Dansinger said. "A modest weight loss of 6 per cent that is partially maintained for five years is likely to have important health benefits such as delaying the onset of diabetes," he said in a telephone interview.

Dansinger and colleagues looked at the results of 46 trials that included nearly 12,000 people. About half were on diets. Dansinger said it was difficult to find good studies that included a control group not on a diet. It was also hard to find studies that followed people for more than three years. The only commercial program included in the study was Weight Watchers. Most were government or university-sponsored programs. No studies that included food or shakes were included because they did not include a non-dieting group for comparison. "The results we found, 6 per cent weight loss after one year, is in the same ballpark as most of the studies of weight loss, including studies of weight loss medications," Dansinger said.

"We also found the weight loss gradually goes away so that about half the weight loss was gone within three years and almost all the weight loss was gone within five years. That that is also similar to what has been found with weight loss medications." Dansinger said some of the studies included exercise, but his analysis was not designed to tell whether exercise helped weight loss last longer. Nearly two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese, with a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and cancer.

Source




Herbal toxicity a threat

HERBAL remedies could cause liver failure in some people so severe they needed a transplant to survive, a leading gastro-enterologist warned yesterday. University of Queensland liver disease professor Darrell Crawford warned about the potential dangers of the over-the-counter remedies at the launch of the Australian Liver Foundation in Brisbane yesterday. He said the most common cause of herbal hepatitis was black cohosh, a herbal preparation used to treat menopausal symptoms. But he also warned about the dangers of valerian, sometimes taken to treat insomnia, and skullcap.

"I don't think there's a lot of awareness that herbal and complementary therapies can cause liver failure," Professor Crawford said. "They can be bought over the counter, non-scripted in most chemist shops or outlets."

One of the aims of the new foundation will be to increase community awareness about liver disease, which affects about two million Australians. Professor Crawford's warning comes only weeks after the death of a 62-year-old woman of Rosewood, west of Brisbane, from liver toxicity after drinking goji juice. The woman, who was taking medication for type 2 diabetes and arthritis, died after drinking about a litre of the juice in just over a month. Tests of the goji juice and from a liver biopsy are continuing to determine whether the juice may have been responsible.

Professor Crawford, the incoming president of the Gastroenterological Society of Australia, urged people who recommended natural products as alternative treatments to be aware of the potential adverse side-effects. He said herbal hepatitis could occur in people without evidence of pre-existing liver disease.

Queensland Health last week cracked down on two companies which distribute goji juice for illegally describing the product as a treatment for cancer and other diseases. The companies were directed to remove the claims from their promotional material because of breaches of the Food Standards Code. Professor Crawford said he was also concerned about the increase in the number of Australians, including children, with liver diseases directly linked to obesity.

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 July, 2007

Scanner risks "exposed"

The article below is complete rubbish based on unexamined myths. It has been known for around a century that low doses of ionizing radiation are hormetic (beneficial). A lot of people on the outskirts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the A-bombs fell lived and are living to ripe old ages. And both cities are still major industrial centres



GENERAL practitioners are exposing their patients to high doses of radiation, and potentially cancer, by ordering unnecessary CT scans, a study has found. Researchers reviewed 50 requests for computed tomography scans of the chest at two private radiology practices in Cairns between August 2004 and March 2005. About two-thirds were considered inappropriate and could have been avoided or replaced by tests with lower radiation exposure, they said.

Cairns Base Hospital respiratory physician Graham Simpson, one of the study authors, said CT scans exposed patients to 400 times the radiation of an X-ray. "GPs are requesting these because they're scared of getting sued. In the current climate, everyone wants to do every hi-tech test they can so that nobody can say that they didn't do everything," Dr Simpson said. "All the GPs I've spoken to have been absolutely horrified when they've learnt what the dose of radiation involved is. "Nobody ever really thinks that that can have a consequence of causing cancer down the track but they should."

Medicare Australia statistics show that more than 235,000 CT scans of the chest were performed by private radiology practices in 2004-05. That excludes those performed in public hospitals and those billed to the Veterans Affairs Department. "Assuming that 70 per cent of requests (the average of the estimates from the two radiology practices) come from GPs and that two-thirds are inappropriate, this means that there may be an annual cost to Australian taxpayers of over $35 million for unnecessary CT examinations of the chest," the authors wrote in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.

They said the International Commission on Radiological Protection had estimated an overall risk of one fatal cancer for every 2000 to 3000 CT scans of the chest performed. That translates to about 40 fatal cancers a year in Australia. Dr Simpson said the figure did not include avoidable CT scans being ordered for other parts of the body.

In a corresponding editorial in the MJA, radiologists Richard Mendelson and Conor Murray said specialists were aware that diagnostic imaging was often inappropriately used. "Perhaps up to a third of radiological examinations are totally or partially unnecessary," they wrote. However, they said prohibiting referrals for CT scans by GPs would result in unacceptable stress on specialist services, long waiting times and, probably, increased costs. The radiologists called for more education for GPs and for specialists to take on a wider consultative role.

Source




Dark chocolate helps the heart

As a regular eater of dark chocolate, I won't criticize this one! At least it was a control-group study instead of epidemiological crap

EATING a little bit of dark chocolate every day can reduce blood pressure without causing weight gain or other side effects, according to a study published in the United States. Previous research has shown that eating chocolate can lower blood pressure, but doctors have worried that any benefit could be offset by high doses of sugar, fat and calories.

The study conducted by German researchers at the University of Cologne sought to examine the effect of consuming small amounts of dark chocolate - which has lower levels of sugar and fat, said the study appearing in the July 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

A clinical trial carried out between January 2005 and December 2006 showed that 6.3 grams (30 calories) of dark chocolate a day was associated with a small but significant lowering of blood pressure, the study said.

The trial was carried out on 44 adults from 56 to 73 years old, including 24 women and 20 men, who suffered from pre-hypertension or stage one hypertension. Participants were randomly assigned over 18 weeks to eat either dark chocolate containing 30 milligrams of healthy polyphenols or white chocolate, which has no cocoa.

For those who ate dark chocolate, their average systolic blood pressure was lowered by 2.9 millimeters of mercury and diastolic blood pressure by 1.9 millimeters without a change in body weight, plasma levels of lipids or glucose, the study said. Systolic refers to the top reading for blood pressure, and diastolic the bottom reading. Consuming dark chocolate also helped reduce the prevalence of hypertension, or high blood pressure, from 86 percent to 68 percent, it said. The participants who ate white chocolate saw no reduction in their blood pressure.

While eating dark chocolate resulted in a relatively small reduction in blood pressure, "the effects are clinically noteworthy,'' the study said. For a population, a three millimeter reduction in systolic blood pressure would reduce the relative risk of stroke deaths by eight percent and the risk of coronary artery disease by five percent, the authors wrote.

The results of the trial were "intriguing,'' the study said, as having heart patients eat small amounts of dark chocolate would be much simpler than the conventional approach which requires patients to change their entire diet. Eating dark chocolate "is a dietary modification that is easy to adhere to and therefore may be a promising behavioral approach to lower blood pressure,'' the authors wrote. The researchers said future studies should examine the effects of dark chocolate in other populations and look at results over a longer period.

Source




Now this is what I like to hear:

A glass of wine 'could cure your sore throat'. The research concerned does however appear to have been very simplistic



A regular glass of wine helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease and sore throats, say researchers. Both red and white varieties have powerful germ-killing ingredients, claim the Italian scientists. Their findings add to a growing body of research that demonstrates the health benefits of wine. Moderate consumption of red is already known to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's.

However, the drink's antibacterial qualities, although well- known by the ancient Romans, have been little investigated, said Professor Gabriella Gazzani, writing in the American Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Professor Gazzani's team used bottles of supermarket Valpolicella and Pinot Nero for their research, pouring the wines into bowls containing bacteria. "Overall, our findings seem to indicate that wine can act as an effective anti-microbial agent against streptococci bacteria and upper respiratory tract infections," she said.

The professor added, however: "We should still drink wine because it tastes good, goes well with food and is a pleasure to share with company. And we should still brush and floss our teeth the accepted way."

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 July, 2007

Fat-dissolving chemical

Scientists have developed an chemical injection that can remove unwanted fat without the use of surgery. The technique could help to prevent the onset of obesity-linked illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as offer plastic surgeons a new tool for enhancing body parts.

Scientists from Georgetown University, in Washington, made the breakthrough while studying the effect of stress on weight gain. They found that mice in distressing situations put on more weight despite eating the same amount of calories as those in a stress-free environment. Not only were the stressed mice much fatter, they began to exhibit the effects of obesity. They had the glucose intolerance seen in diabetes, elevated blood pressure, inflammation in the blood vessels, and fat in their livers and muscles.

Zofia Zukowska, who led the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, said stressful situations such as “disagreements with your boss, taking care of a chronically ill child, or repeated traffic road rages” could amplify weight gain. The findings were based on a naturally produced chemical that can activate and de- activate cells in fat tissue. The chemical, called neuropeptide Y2 receptor (Y2R), has long been linked to obesity. When the scientists injected the stressed mice with a drug that blocks Y2R, the mice lost 40 per cent of their belly fat. Dr Zukowska said: “It had a profound effect on overall metabolism. We don’t think this is something that would be used for gross obesity but for reshaping the body . . . that would be all very good.

Stephen Baker, a professor of plastic surgery at Georgetown University Hospital, hailed the findings. “We don’t expect that a person will be able to eat everything he or she wants, chase it down with a blocking agent, and end up looking like a movie star. We are encouraged that these findings could improve human health.”

Source




New test detects DNA damage

This test appears to be well-validated but would appear to detect gross problems only. The claims about the healing powers of vitamins should be taken with a large grain of salt

A TEST for DNA damage that claims to counter diseases such as cancer, by helping people identify when they are not getting enough essential nutrients in their diet, was made available to the public yesterday. The test, which has been developed by the CSIRO, costs $650. However, independent experts caution it should not be seen as a complete summary of health risks, nor a reliable way of telling whether someone will develop cancer in later life. Federal Ageing Minister Christopher Pyne launched the test, which is available through a private Adelaide-based clinic called Reach 100.

The test, which is endorsed by organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency to check for DNA damage caused by radiation, looks for damage in white blood cells. DNA damage occurs naturally with ageing as cells make mistakes in copying the genetic code as they divide. This tendency to make mistakes was likened by test inventor and CSIRO principal scientist Michael Fenech to "a photocopier running out of toner". Dr Fenech said the damage could be limited - and to some extent, reversed - if individuals ensured they had an adequate intake of nine nutrients known to affect DNA damage.

The nutrients are: the B-group vitamins riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenate (B5), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12); two forms of vitamin A, retinol and beta-carotene; and vitamin E.

John Barlow, deputy director of the National Ageing Research Institute, cautioned that although the test had been widely validated, the DNA damage detected by the test was large-scale. "This test won't find a mutation in the BRCA gene, which has been known to cause some breast cancers, and it won't find a mutation in the p53 gene ... involved in cell death, and causes cell growth and cancer."

Source




Yeasty discovery



AN essential ingredient in two Aussie favourites - Vegemite and beer - could hold the key to unlocking a cure for cancer. Scientists have found the yeast cell is similar to the human cell, pioneering the way for cancer treatments, according to Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Sir Paul Nurse. "The way in which you control cell division in yeast is exactly the same way in which you control it in humans," Sir Paul said. "This means that we can now use yeast to study the processes that go wrong in cancer."

In Melbourne for the 23rd International Conference on Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology, Sir Paul said yeast could also help in finding remedies for other human diseases such as diabetes. "Because we can work much more efficiently with yeast we can make tremendous progress," he said.

Sir Paul shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with two other scientists for his work in identifying and isolating the cyclin dependent kinase gene, known as CDC2, crucial in cell division in yeast and humans. The discovery has helped lessen the need for experiments on humans and animals, and has enabled investigations to be conducted much faster, Sir Paul said. Sir Paul will speak at a free lecture on Friday at the Lower Melbourne Town Hall, from 12.30-2pm.

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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3 July, 2007

Smoking bans

On July 1, bans on public smoking came into force in Britain, Australia and, I believe, in various other places. Prof. Brignell has some comments on the dubious science behind the bans. That smoking has some benefits -- such as protecting from Alzheimers -- is routinely overlooked. A few excerpts:



In February, the Australian Bureau of Statistics published a national health survey taken in 1989-90. To much surprise, it revealed that, generally, the health of smokers is better than that of many former or non-smokers. Unsurprisingly, the worst sufferers from hypertension caused by stress were the ex-smokers (16.1 per cent) and the "never smoked" (13.4 per cent); the steady smokers registered 7.4 per cent.

It is well known that smoking , particularly at work, relieves stress, and to outlaw it increases demands on hospital beds. Even the US Surgeon General, in 1964, recognised that Parkinson's disease (a degenerative disorder of the nervous system) occurred at around half the rate among smokers. In the International Journal of Epidemiology , in 1991, a review of 11 studies showed that non-smokers suffered 50 per cent more Alzheimer's disease than smokers. And researchers at Erasmus University Medical School , Rotterdam , found that more non-smokers had early-onset dementia than smokers.

In Daily Telegraph, Dr. James Le Fanu wrote: "Smokers have a 50 per cent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's and the more smoked, the greater the protection." The New England Journal of Medicine. in 1985, reported that endometrial cancer of the womb occurs at around 50 per cent the rate among smokers as non-smokers. Colon cancer and ulcerative colitis also seem to be about 30 and 50 per cent respectively less frequent among smokers according to articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association and in the New England Journal of Medicine, in 1981 and 1983. The American government's first Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has found that osteo-arthritis is five times less likely to occur among heavy smokers than non-smokers.

I do not claim that smoking by those with unhealthy diets cannot activate illness (that passive smoking may be dangerous is a preposterous joke). But we urgently need a serious, objective, unbiased study of the causes of ill health, including the advantages and disadvantages of smoking, the impact of faulty diet and of inherited genes. It requires open minds, not the blinkered political correctness of the Department of Health. Telling the truth would unmask the futility of the many millions of pounds of public money wasted on ill thought-out and unscientifically based attacks on smoking. The campaign against smoking has certainly caused more crippling illness and premature death than if it had never begun.

Why has this assault on freedom happened in Britain today?

This is the culmination of one of the most ruthlessly dishonest campaigns in modern times. When the forces of political correctness broke out of their fastness in California , the storm troopers in the van were the anti-tobacco zealots. Tobacco was the symbolic evil and its defeat would be the demonstration of their power. In America they relied mainly on statistical fraud, but in more secretive Britain they were able simply to invent numbers and increase them steadily.

Political power now resides in Brussels , among an unelected elite who have no regard for truth or science. They produce and propagate the really big lies. As Booker reports, for example, they claim 20,000 passive smoking deaths for the UK, which pro rata for population is over thirty times higher than the demonstrably fraudulent EPA claim for the USA . There is no actual evidence that anyone, anywhere has ever died of passive smoking.

Source




XDRs: Deadly bugs hit Australian public hospitals

A NEW breed of killer bacteria is invading Australian hospitals, endangering patients and forcing staff to revert to old-fashioned infection control measures. [About time! Proper aseptic procedures should never have been abandoned. Neglect of them has created the present problem] The mutant infections - dubbed XDR for "extreme drug resistance" - cannot be treated with available medicines. Experts say it will take at least 10 years to develop new drugs to kill the virulent bugs, which can result in blood poisoning and death. In the meantime, Australian hospitals have no option but to "return to the pre-antibiotic era" in an attempt to stem the infections' spread.

Professor David Paterson, consultant infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, revealed the extent of the XDR crisis in the latest edition of the journal Critical Care Medicine. "The XDR problem is here," he said. "We are returning to the pre-antibiotic era where some infections are untreatable. "Strict infection control practices must now be routinely enforced and antibiotics that are still helpful should be prudently and optimally used."

He told The Sunday Mail that drug companies had failed to develop new antibiotics [With so much of their time, attention and money devoted to fending off attacks from predatory lawyers, is it any wonder?] to combat XDR infections because it was not profitable enough. It will become a much bigger issue in the future, he warned.

XDR bacteria, which can be passed through human contact, are forecast to be a massive threat to intensive care units. Critically ill patients with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable. Staff will be forced to adopt stricter handwashing, disinfection and protective measures. "Prevention is of paramount importance," Prof Paterson said.

E-coli and other common bacteria that cause pneumonia and urinary or respiratory infections are among those that have developed resistance to various modern antibiotics. They would have been treatable in the past, before mutating into their more resilient forms. Prof Jeffrey Lipman, co-author of the study and the hospital's director of intensive care, said the unrestricted use of antibiotics had fuelled the growth of highly resistant bacteria. There had not yet been any confirmed deaths from XDRs "but we are worried about it," he said. Hospitals needed to be more aware of the XDR risk and take preventive action, he said.

Disease specialists are now experimenting with combinations of older types of antibiotics, which were considered too strong to be used in the past. Golden staph, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, has become a leading cause of post-surgery infections in hospitals around the world in recent years.

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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2 July, 2007

THE FOLATE BANDWAGON ROLLS ON

There is no doubt that folate is very beneficial during gestation. But medicating everyone with it is a different matter altogether. For some groups -- including many of the elderly -- it can cause problems. So the bandwagon has to be given a good push wherever possible. The study below would seem to be a case in point. It is one of the lowest quality epidemiological analyses -- where many studies have to be combined to find an effect. Even then there was only one study found with anything like convincing results and it is open to all the usual criticisms of epidemiological studies. I hate to be repetitive but I think what it in fact showed is that poor people both eat less well and get more depressed. In other words, it is likely that poverty caused the depression observed, not folate

FOLATE, which will be added to bread flour after a meeting last week of Australian and New Zealand food ministers, isn't just for pregnant women. New research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has found a link between low levels of folate -- a B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables -- and depression. Researchers combined the results of 11 previous studies involving 15,315 participants aged between 15 and 87. In seven of the studies, participants had a blood test for folate levels and were assessed for depression. The proportion of people with low folate and depression was compared to the proportion with low folate and no depression. In three of the studies, people with clinical depression had their folate levels tested, and the proportion with low folate was compared to the proportion with low folate in a non-depressed control group. The final study used food diaries to assess folate intake in 2313 men, and then followed them for 15 years to record any cases of depression. Overall, low folate levels increased the risk of depression by 55 per cent.

Source




The latest wacky "obesity" idea: marked plates!

A demonstration that fatties eat less when you are watching them. But what do they do later on? No need to guess. As with all diets, they will tend to revert, not to their old food intake, but to eating MORE than before

OBESE people could lose weight and control their diabetes by using plates and cereal bowls marked with proper portion sizes, concludes a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The portion control plates were divided into sections for carbohydrates, proteins, cheese and sauce, with the rest left open for vegetables. They allowed for an 800-calorie meal for men and a 650-calorie meal for women, while the cereal bowls held a 200-calorie meal of cereal and milk. The study involved 122 obese patients with an average age of 56. Half were randomly assigned to use a portion control plate for their largest meal each day and a portion control bowl for breakfast. The other half of the participants received standard care, including dietary assessment and advice. After six months, those using the portion control dishes lost an average of 1.8 per cent of their body weight, while those receiving standard care lost an average of 0.1 per cent. More people decreased their use of diabetes medications after six months in the portion control group compared to the standard care group (26.2 per cent vs. 10.8 per cent).

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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1 July, 2007

Cancer link for sweetener?

RESEARCHERS have strengthened a link between aspartame - a common sweetener in soft drinks, medicines and sugar-free sweets - and cancer in rats. The chemical is sold under the brand name NutraSweet. The study, conducted by a team of Italian scientists, demonstrates that aspartame is particularly potent when animals are exposed in the womb. The research was recently published online in Environmental Health Perspectives, a US government sponsored, peer-reviewed journal.

This study raises "serious questions about the safety of the artificial sweetener aspartame", said Mike Jacobson, executive director for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a public health watchdog group based in Washington, DC. He hoped the Food and Drug Administration would re-evaluate the chemical.

But industry group, Calorie Control Council, disagrees. Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian for the council, said the study's methodology was faulty and its results would unnecessarily alarm people. "It is difficult to understand why the National Institute of Environmental Health Safety would publish such studies in Environmental Health Perspectives when the design and execution did not follow guidelines set up by the National Toxicology Program," Dr Hubrich wrote.

The study, from the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences - an independent, non-profit foundation based in Bologna, Italy - indicated that cancers were more common in rats exposed to the sweetener than in animals that were not exposed. "On the basis of our scientific data, we believe that aspartame should be avoided as much as possible, especially by pregnant women and children," Morando Soffritti, the lead researcher on the study, wrote in an email.

The acceptable daily intake of aspartame is 40ml per kilogram of body weight in Australia and the European Union. That's a lot of aspartame. For a 68kg adult, that's about 18 cans of diet soft drink each day. For a 23kg child, it's closer to six cans a day. But aspartame isn't just in soft drink. It is also in yoghurts, sugar-free desserts, gums and medicines. It is therefore likely that daily aspartame consumption is often underestimated, according to Dr Soffritti.

In the subject rats, the Italian scientists discovered a statistically significant dose-related increase of malignant tumours in rats fed the artificial sweetener. The high-dose group showed statistically significant increases in tumours - as much as 15 percentage points higher in males - while the low-dose group showed minor increases in lymphomas and leukemias in both sexes, and breast cancers in females. The results, Dr Soffritti said, "call for urgent reconsideration of regulations governing the use of aspartame as an artificial sweetener". "This is not just an opinion," he said, "but in the US, it is also the law."

Others, however, maintain there is no risk. James Swenberg, professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the University of North Carolina, said the study did not follow the National Toxicology Program's methodology, and the results were therefore suspect. [And anything backed by the extremist "Centre for Science in the Public Interest" is suspect too]

Source




New York City Fast Food Outlets Protest New Calorie-Posting Rules: Eateries Refuse to Cooperate, Calling Plan an "Eyesore"

Burger King, McDonald's and Wendy's are among the chains planning to defy New York City's new rule that they begin posting calories on menus Sunday, the AP reports. Other big fast food eateries like Taco Bell and KFC aren't saying whether they will comply, but with just days to go until the deadline, the menu boards in their Big Apple restaurants remain unchanged.

All are hoping a New York Restaurant Association lawsuit in federal court will get the new regulation thrown out. Meanwhile, the city won't fine anyone for violating it until October. "We are not trying to avoid providing this information to customers," Wendy's spokesman Denny Lynch told the AP. He noted that the company has made nutritional information available for 30 years on fliers and posters.

However, New York is the first city in the country to require certain fast food restaurants to list calorie counts next to menu items in type that is at least as large as the price. Lynch says adding all those numbers will make menus impossible to read.

"You'll either have to have a Times Square-sized menu board, or it could look like a bad day at the eye doctor's office," said Jack Whipple, president of the National Council of Chain Restaurants. Fast food chains also say they have been unfairly singled because the new rule only applies to restaurants that serve standardized portions and offer nutritional information voluntarily.

Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, had a different take: "They are afraid that when people see these eye-popping calorie numbers, they might switch to a smaller size," he said. "They feel it is gong to hurt sales."

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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