Posts by Dr. John Ray, monitoring food and health news -- with particular attention to fads, fallacies and the "obesity" war

The original version of this blog is HERE. Dissecting Leftism is HERE (and mirrored here). The Blogroll. My Home Page. Email me (John Ray) here. Other mirror sites: Greenie Watch, Political Correctness Watch, Education Watch, Immigration Watch, Gun Watch, Socialized Medicine, Eye on Britain, Recipes, Tongue Tied and Australian Politics. For a list of backups viewable in China, see here. (Click "Refresh" on your browser if background colour is missing) See here or here for the archives of this site

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".

A brief summary of the last 50 years' of research into diet: Everything you can possibly eat or drink is both bad and good for you

"Let me have men about me that are fat... Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look ... such men are dangerous."
-- Shakespeare

What fast food does to girls


31 August, 2011

Statins could help to fight infections

This is naive rubbish. The side effects of statins are so severe that you have to be pretty robust to stay on them. All we are seeing below is that robust people get fewer illnesses

Statins have been found to cut death from infections that cause illnesses such as pneumonia by a third, which could lead to even more people being prescribed the so–called wonder drugs. Up to seven million people in Britain take the cholesterol–lowering medication, which can save lives by reducing the chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

But "unexpected" findings from British researchers suggest that statins' principal long–term benefit is stopping deaths from infections and respiratory illness.

It could mean that patients at higher risk of developing pneumonia could also be prescribed the drugs, despite a fear that too many "worried well" already take statins, which cost the NHS about £500million a year. A study in The Lancet last month suggested some people taking the drugs were unlikely to gain any benefit.

Prof Peter Sever, from Imperial College London's international centre for circulatory health, said of the latest findings: "This result is very unexpected. The benefits of statins for preventing heart attacks and strokes are well established, but after long–term follow–up the most significant effects seem to be on deaths from other causes."

There was now "an emerging evidence base for statins protecting against infections", said Prof Sever, who presented the results yesterday at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology in Paris. A paper has also been published in the European Heart Journal.

He said: "We know that if you are on a statin and you get pneumonia, you are less likely to die. "There are about 15 observational studies that show statins protect you against worsening infection and death from infection." Prof Sever said the statins appeared to lessen the production of "toxic" inflammatory agents in the blood, which are stimulated by infections.

Prof Sever said: "This study is going to make people think more about the non–cardiovascular benefits of statins."

Prof Sever's team analysed the death certificates of almost 1,000 people. They were among 10,000 volunteers with high blood pressure who had originally enrolled in the Anglo–Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial (Ascot) to test a type of statin, called atorvastatin.

They found that, 11 years after the Ascot trial started, deaths from infections and respiratory problems were 36 per cent lower in those originally given the statin, compared with those given a placebo.

Since the Ascot trial started, there were 37 deaths from infections and respiratory illness in the atorvastatin group, compared with 56 in the control group. Prof Sever said of these differences: "The numbers are large. It's a very robust study."

There was no difference in death rates from cancer.

Prof Sever, whose previous work helped formulate NHS guidelines for statin use, cautioned against widening statin prescription based on a single study. He said: "One swallow does not make a summer."

Studies have shown that statins can cause side effects such as muscle weakness, and liver and kidney problems.

Others also questioned the validity of the data, noting the trial was not designed to look at causes of death other than from cardiovascular disease. Guy De Backer, from Ghent University in Belgium, said: "I want to remain cautious. We all know that these findings can occur by chance alone. They are interesting but they don't stand on their own."

Those given the statin at the start of the Ascot trial were 14 per cent less likely to die during that period. The trial was stopped after three years since atorvastatin had been shown to reduce the chance of a non–fatal heart attack and death from heart disease by 36 per cent.

Prof Sever said the lower rate of deaths from infections and respiratory illness over the 11–year period since the trial began was a "carry over" effect from being given atorvastatin at the start. Prof Sever's study was funded by Pfizer, which makes atorvastatin. However, the academic noted: "I have no reason to believe that atorvastatin is unique in these non–cardiovascular actions."

Atorvastatin, which currently costs £26 per patient per month compared with £2 for a "generic" drug, is also due to come off patent soon.


Free-range eggs 'are no healthier than battery ones' as cholesterol and nutrient levels 'identical'

This is to an extent misconceived. The "free range" people are motivated mainly by anti-cruelty ideas as far as I know

Their richly coloured yolks certainly make them more appealing to the eye and have led some to believe they are more nutritious. But free-range eggs are no better for us than the battery farmed alternative, scientists have found.

It means that while many reasons may remain for buying free-range – such as the welfare of the hens – health benefits are not among them. Researchers discovered that the two types of eggs contained almost identical levels of vitamins and cholesterol.

Free-range hens are allowed to roam freely, while battery hens are confined to cramped cages in large warehouses.

Poultry expert Dr Kenneth Anderson compared the nutritional content of 500 eggs produced by the different methods over two years. The samples were collected on three occasions and sent to laboratories which analysed the levels of certain vitamins and fats.

The U.S. team found that although the yolks of free-range eggs were darker, they were not actually healthier. Levels of vitamin A, needed for healthy skin and bones, and vitamin E, which is essential for protecting the body's cells, were the same.

Dr Anderson also found no difference in the levels of cholesterol, which can clog arteries to cause heart attacks and strokes.

Writing in the journal Poultry Science, Dr Anderson, of North Carolina State University, concluded that 'a significant nutritional advantage of eggs produced by chickens housed on range versus in cages could not be established'. He said: 'The key takeaway from this research is that an egg, no matter where it's produced, is a very nutritious product.

'Eggs from a range production environment did have higher levels of total fat than eggs produced by caged hens, but they did not have higher levels of cholesterol.'

The research also found that both types of egg contained less cholesterol than previously thought.

Last year another study claimed that free-range eggs could in fact be less healthy than those from battery hens as they contained far more pollution. Scientists in Taiwan found levels of potentially toxic substances were up to eight times higher.

They said that up to 17 per cent of free-range eggs contained chemicals linked to these substances, which contribute to a range of health issues in humans including cancer and fertility problems.

Eggs have fallen out of favour in recent decades partly as a result of health warnings over high levels of cholesterol and links to heart disease.

But earlier this year a team from Surrey University claimed that eggs helped dieters to lose weight as they made them feel fuller for longer.


30 August, 2011

Don’t just plod if you want a longer life, say heart experts

OK: Those who cycled fast for between half an hour and an hour a day were likely to live longest. But why? Did they live longer because of the cycling or were they more robust to start with? It really amazes and saddens me to see how sure medical researchers are about the direction of causation. They "just know".

Short stints of intense exercise are better for the heart than just plodding along, according to a study that suggests turning it up a gear could add an extra five years to someone’s life.

The Danish research adds to evidence that moderate exertion, while clearly beneficial, might not be all that is needed to give the best level of protection against cardiovascular disease.

Academics who monitored the health of 5,000 people in Copenhagen who cycled regularly for 20 years, found that most benefit was gained from pedalling intensively for short periods.

Men who said they rode fast could expect to live 5.3 years longer than those who said they rode slowly, while for such women the figure was 3.9 years. Men who believed they rode at an average speed could expect another 2.9 years of life, and such women 2.2 years.

Dr Peter Schnohr, from Bispebjerg University Hospital, told the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Paris: “It is the intensity, not the duration, of cycling that is of the greatest importance in relation to all forms of mortality, or longevity, and it is even more pronounced for coronary heart disease.”

The analysis, based on data from the Copenhagen City Heart Study, suggested those who cycled fast for between half an hour and an hour a day were likely to live longest.

Relative to slow cyclists, they had a 56 per cent lower risk of dying overall during the study period, which included a 74 per cent lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease.

The study was based on people without health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes, aged 20 to 90.

Dr Schnohr argued that governments should advise people to take activity in more vigorous bursts as well as taking regular moderate exercise.

However, the research met with caution from Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation.

He warned that it could be dangerous for inactive people to simply get up and start doing hard exercise. “I would hate the message to get out in the UK that people who are not used to cycling should start doing it short and sharp,” he said.

He said it was interesting in relation to people who already cycled but most people in Britain were not that active. “Current guidelines say that you’ve got to do sufficient exercise to get your heart rate up and get slightly breathless,” he added.


Could New Drug Cure Nearly Any Viral Infection?

Technology Shows Promise Against Common Cold, Influenza and Other Ailments, Researchers Say

Most bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin, discovered decades ago. However, such drugs are useless against viral infections, including influenza, the common cold, and deadly hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.

Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.

In a paper published July 27 in the journal PLoS ONE, the researchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them -- including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.

The drug works by targeting a type of RNA produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. "In theory, it should work against all viruses," says Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory's Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group who invented the new technology.

Because the technology is so broad-spectrum, it could potentially also be used to combat outbreaks of new viruses, such as the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, Rider says.

Rider had the idea to try developing a broad-spectrum antiviral therapy about 11 years ago, after inventing CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields), a biosensor that can rapidly identify pathogens. "If you detect a pathogenic bacterium in the environment, there is probably an antibiotic that could be used to treat someone exposed to that, but I realized there are very few treatments out there for viruses," he says.

There are a handful of drugs that combat specific viruses, such as the protease inhibitors used to control HIV infection, but these are relatively few in number and susceptible to viral resistance.

Rider drew inspiration for his therapeutic agents, dubbed DRACOs (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers), from living cells' own defense systems.

When viruses infect a cell, they take over its cellular machinery for their own purpose -- that is, creating more copies of the virus. During this process, the viruses create long strings of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), which is not found in human or other animal cells.

As part of their natural defenses against viral infection, human cells have proteins that latch onto dsRNA, setting off a cascade of reactions that prevents the virus from replicating itself. However, many viruses can outsmart that system by blocking one of the steps further down the cascade.

Rider had the idea to combine a dsRNA-binding protein with another protein that induces cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell suicide) -- launched, for example, when a cell determines it is en route to becoming cancerous. Therefore, when one end of the DRACO binds to dsRNA, it signals the other end of the DRACO to initiate cell suicide.

Combining those two elements is a "great idea" and a very novel approach, says Karla Kirkegaard, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University. "Viruses are pretty good at developing resistance to things we try against them, but in this case, it's hard to think of a simple pathway to drug resistance," she says.

Each DRACO also includes a "delivery tag," taken from naturally occurring proteins, that allows it to cross cell membranes and enter any human or animal cell. However, if no dsRNA is present, DRACO leaves the cell unharmed.

Most of the tests reported in this study were done in human and animal cells cultured in the lab, but the researchers also tested DRACO in mice infected with the H1N1 influenza virus. When mice were treated with DRACO, they were completely cured of the infection. The tests also showed that DRACO itself is not toxic to mice.

The researchers are now testing DRACO against more viruses in mice and beginning to get promising results. Rider says he hopes to license the technology for trials in larger animals and for eventual human clinical trials.

This work is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the New England Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, with previous funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and Director of Defense Research & Engineering (now the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering)


29 August, 2011

More wishful thinking about chocolate

The sentence highlighted in red below makes the whole thing a bit of a laugh

It's the news that chocoholics have been waiting for - a bar of the dark stuff is officially good for your health. It has long been believed that a small amount of cocoa-rich dark chocolate can be beneficial because of its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

But a major study has now suggested that eating large amounts of chocolate could also be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing heart disease. It backs up the results of earlier studies that generally agree on a potential positive link between eating chocolate and heart health.

Dr Oscar Franco, from the University of Cambridge, carried out a large scale review of the existing evidence to see the effects of eating chocolate on heart attacks and strokes. He analysed the results of seven studies, which had involved more than 100,000 people with and without existing heart disease.

For each study, he compared the group with the highest chocolate consumption against the group with the lowest. Differences in study design and quality were also taken into account to minimise bias.

Five studies reported a beneficial link between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiovascular events. They found that the 'highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37 per cent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 per cent reduction in stroke compared with lowest levels'.

No significant reduction was found in relation to heart failure.

The studies did not differentiate between dark or milk chocolate and included consumption of chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts. But despite the findings, he said they should be taken 'with caution', and will now look at whether other factors could explain the positive effects.

He also advised people to be careful which chocolate they chose to eat. This was because, in particular, commercially available chocolate is high in calories - around 500 calories for every 100 grams - and eating too much of it could lead to weight gain and put eaters at risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, are due to be presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris today.

The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030, nearly 23.6 million people will die from heart disease.


Food hysteria

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has turned his famously sharp tongue against his fellow celebrity chefs. In an interview in this week’s TV Guide, Bourdain calls Paula Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America” for her artery-clogging style of cooking.

“She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations, and she’s proud of the fact that her food is f--king bad for you,” Bourdain said of the Food Network star, who is famous for her butter-heavy recipes.

“I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it is OK to eat food that is killing us,” Bourdain said of Deen and her kitchen creations.

Moving on, Bourdain levels some scathing criticism on Food Network chef-turned-Oprah-wannabe Rachael Ray. “Does she even cook anymore?” Bourdain asked rhetorically. “I don’t know why she bothers,” Bourdain said. “To her credit, she never said she was good at it. I feel bad that she still feels compelled to cook.”

Bourdain says the downside of traveling around the world eating amazing food for his show “No Reservations” is that he doesn’t get to see his wife and kid.


28 August, 2011

'Cancer risk' of perfumed products that go in your tumble-dryer as chemicals are found in air from vents

This ignores the basic truth that the toxicity is in the dose. You could analyse the air from almost any household and find "toxins" in it

Scented laundry products could be releasing cancer-causing chemicals when clothes are tumble-dried, research suggests.

A cocktail of chemicals was found in air emitted through vents during cycles when using both a popular liquid detergent and perfumed dryer sheets.

Although the research was carried out in the U.S., the author of the report is convinced the same problem occurs in British homes, potentially causing headaches, asthma attacks and even seizures.

The research was carried out by Professor Anne Steinemann, an expert on the effects of pollution at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Researchers analysed the fumes emitted from tumble dryers when cycles were run with the detergent and scented dryer sheets. Analysis of the captured gases found more than 25 volatile organic compounds, including seven hazardous air pollutants, coming out of the vents. Of those, two chemicals – acetaldehyde and benzene – are classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens.

The study also found similar chemicals among another 25 fragranced products tested, and all products emitted at least one chemical classified as hazardous.

The findings, published in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, raise worrying questions about the safety of perfumed consumer products.

Professor Steinemann said the research showed that while public concern tends to focus on pollution from cars and industry, risks in the home should not be forgotten.

And, as the research suggests, this problem may not be confined to American homes. ‘The detergent we used is widely used in Britain, so I have every reason to believe the situation there will be very similar,’ Professor Steinemann said.

‘In addition, I have been contacted by a number of people in Britain who say they suffer sickness or headaches when they are standing close to tumble dryer vents.’


The personality diet: Knowing your weaknesses is key to weight loss, says neuroscientist

The theory sounds vaguely plausible but does it work in practice? Theories are a dime a dozen. Finding something that works is a rarity

According to clinical neuroscientist Daniel Amen, slimmers are wasting time and energy trying diet plans which will simply never work - because they are not genetically capable of sticking to them. So instead of heading straight to the gym, he says, they should start with an exercise in self-awareness - identifying their weaknesses and working out what makes them want to eat.

In a controversial new book published in the U.S., Dr Amen defines five categories of overeater: compulsive overeaters, impulsive overeaters, compulsive-impulsive overeaters, sad or emotional overeaters and anxious overeaters. He goes on to argue that his research shows each group must avoid certain foods - and eat more of others - in order to lose weight.

He writes: ‘We looked at the brains of our overweight patients and discovered there was not one brain pattern associated with being overweight: there were at least five different types. ‘This is exactly the reason why most diets don’t work. They take a one-size-fits-all approach.’

Compulsive eaters, he argues, ‘tend to get stuck on thoughts of food’. For these types, high-protein diets are said to be unhelpful, because these foods are thought to increase focus - which compulsive types already have plenty of. Instead, Dr Amen suggests they eat more complex carbohydrates, which help the body produce more serotonin, improving mood.

But serotonin-boosting carbohydrates are, he argues, disastrous for impulsive sorts because they simply lower their control further.

Instead, these types should eat foods such as chicken and oats, which raise levels of dopamine in the brain and boost concentration.

For compulsive-impulsive eaters, Dr Amen suggests focusing on exercise, while emotional types should increase the amounts of omega-3 fatty acids they consume, which help calm the body by reducing inflammation.

Anxious overeaters, who use food ‘to medicate their feelings of tension, nervousness and fear’, should avoid alcohol and caffeine, he argues, and choose a diet high in the amino acid glutamine, which is in lentils, broccoli and nuts.

Dr Amen’s claims have, however, been met with scepticism. Dietician Evelyn Toner said: ‘I agree that a lot of problems with weight are down to personality. There are comfort eaters, bingers or, on the other hand, people who turn away from food completely when they are stressed. ‘But it is about changing behaviour and habits rather than specific foods... a binge eater will overeat no matter what food it is.’

Dietician Priya Tew added: ‘People could read this book and say: “It’s my personality. That’s why I’m not losing weight.” My concern is it could be used as an excuse.’


27 August, 2011

Heart disease risk inherited through genes, not behaviour

Amazing: They have just shown that lifestyle is irrelevant but still cannot help themseves from preaching the lifestyle gospel. There's a lot of religion in all the "sciences" as far as I can see. These guys are just as much men of faith as any Christian

Parents increase their child's risk of coronary heart disease through their genes and not through the family's diet or lifestyle, a new study shows.

Children born to parents with CHD are 40 to 60 per cent more likely to develop the condition themselves, but growing up in an unhealthy household is of little importance.

Although children of people who suffer from the condition were already known to be at increased risk, it was not previously clear whether this was due to genetics or because children of unhealthy parents adopt similar lifestyles.

But a study of more than 80,000 men and women who were adopted as children showed that susceptibility to the disease is transmitted in the womb and not in the home.

Smoking, eating unhealthy food and avoiding exercise still play a major role in an individual's chance of developing CHD, doctors said, but the risk that is passed down through families is based on DNA rather than behaviour.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden, where nearly all residents are registered on a national health care database, compared the medical records of adoptees to both their biological and adoptive parents.

They found that adoptees who had at least one biological parent with CHD had up to 60 per cent more chance of suffering the disease themselves, compared with a control group.

In contrast, growing up in a home with adoptive parents who suffered from CHD resulted in no additional risk for the child, even if both parents had the disease.

Prof Kristina Sundquist, who led the study, said it showed that inherited risk of CHD is genetic and parents' lifestyles are not to blame for passing it on to their children.

She said: "Of course it is always important to think about your own lifestyle but this study shows you cannot blame families for passing on poor lifestyles to their children."

Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director of the BHF, said: "This study tells us that genes are very important but no matter what genes you have, you still need to pay attention to your lifestyle."


Antidepressants 'cut bowel and brain cancer risk'

This is interesting but it would be incautious to assume that what works with depressed people will work with normals.

Furthermore, it can reasonably be assumed that depressed people are (for instance) less active and it may in some way be the lower level of activity (or other factors associated with depression) that produced the effect rather than the medication

A commonly-prescribed type of antidepressant cuts the risk of bowel cancer by up to a fifth, according to a study of 93,000 people.

Tricyclic antidepressants also reduce the risk of glioma - the most common type of brain cancer - by up to two-thirds, found the study by academics at three British universities. Taking larger doses for longer increases the preventative effect, the researchers found.

Although the results, based on data from the General Practice Research Database, are startling, it is highly unlikely such drugs would be widely prescribed to those without mental health problems because of their side-effects. Many are sedatives, for example.

Nevertheless, the academics are excited because they say people at a genetically higher risk of the two types of cancer could be prescribed them.

The finding could also lead to the development of specifically designed pharmaceuticals to tackle bowel and brain cancer, said Dr Tim Bates, of Lincoln University and New-Use Therapeutics, a drugs development company. He explained that tricyclic antidepressants worked by attacking the "Achilles' heel" of some cancer cells, their mitochondria. These are the chemical powerhouses that enable cells to function.

He said: "As cancer mitochondria are biochemically different from mitochondria in normal non-cancer cells, they represent an Achilles' heel." Tricyclic antidepressants appeared to interfere with the normal working of mitochondria in bowel and glioma cancer cells, he added.

He went on: "The cancer prevention action of these drugs may translate into one that is also useful in treating glioma, both in adults and in children, and colorectal cancer."

The study, paid for with £75,000 from the publicly-funded Medical Research Council, compared about 31,500 people with cancer with about 61,500 people without, and was adjusted for age, gender, smoking, obesity and other factors.

It showed that people on tricyclic antidepressants were between 16 and 21 per cent less likely to have developed bowel cancer, with those who had been taking them at higher doses for longer receiving greater protection. Bowel cancer is the second bigger cancer killer in Britain after lung cancer, killing 16,000 people a year.

For glioma, tumours of the brain and spine, which kill up to 2,000 a year, the reduced risk was between 41 and 64 per cent. There was no effect on reducing incidence of other types of cancer.

The research has been published in the British Journal of Cancer.


26 August, 2011

One or two drinks a day 'can protect against dementia' especially in older people

This may be so but it may also show (for instance) that moderate drinkers are more sociable and that sociable people are less likely to get dementia

Drinking could reduce the risk of dementia, especially in older people, according to two new reviews. Experts claim social drinkers may be less likely to suffer mental decline, with a 23 per cent reduction in risk.

US researchers claim middle-aged and older adults who drink moderate amounts – around one to two drinks a day – get protection against suffering Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

An analysis of 143 studies by Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine researchers looked at the effect of drinking on 365,000 participants. It found moderate drinkers were 23 per cent less likely to develop cognitive impairment or dementia. Wine was more beneficial than beer, and there was no difference in the effects for men and women.

But heavy drinking – defined as more than three to five drinks a day – was linked to dementia, although the finding was not statistically significant.

The analysis calculated the risk ratio between drinkers and non-drinkers of developing dementia in studies dating back to 1977.

Researcher Professor Edward Neafsey said ‘We don’t recommend non-drinkers start drinking. But moderate drinking – if it is truly moderate – can be beneficial.’

It is unknown why moderate drinking can have a beneficial effect, but the well-known benefits of alcohol on the heart may result in better blood flow in the brain and mental functioning.

Another explanation is ‘sick quitters’, which means that the comparison group of non-drinkers who do not get mental protection also contains heavy drinkers who quit after damaging their brain cells. But the researchers accounted for this, by looking at studies which excluded former heavy drinkers, and they found the benefits of moderate drinking still held.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, said small amounts of alcohol may make brain cells more ‘fit’. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses that might eventually lead to dementia.

However, the researchers say other things also reduce the risk of dementia such as exercise, education and a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, cereals, beans, nuts and seeds.

Another review by a panel backed by the drinks industry concludes that older people have most to gain from regular drinking, as long as it isn’t heavy consumption.

But light to moderate drinking does not harm the brainpower of younger people, says the review by the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research. It analysed 74 studies, involving more than 250,000 people, that investigated the potential effect of alcohol on mental functions.

These studies were published mainly since 1998, with most people taking part over the age of 55 years. Almost three-quarters were aged 65 and over. Checks for mental impairment and dementia were made using well established questionnaires and other techniques.

The review ‘overwhelmingly found that moderate drinking either reduced or had no effect on the risk of dementia or cognitive impairment’.

It said ‘Overall, light to moderate drinking does not appear to impair cognition in younger subjects and actually seems to reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline in older subjects.’

Heavy drinking was linked to higher risk for brain damage, although it was not statistically significant.

Drinking wine was found to be better for the brain than beer or spirits, but the review sounded a note of caution saying there were relatively few studies that noted the type of beverage and some specifically stated there was no difference.


Social networking increases risk of teen drug abuse: study

This may simply show that drug dependant kids are also more Facebook dependant. The direction of cause is entirely speculative

Time spent social networking increases the risk of teens smoking, drinking and using drugs, according to a national survey of American attitudes on substance abuse.

On a typical day, 70 per cent of teens ages 12 to 17 - 17 million teenagers - spend from a minute to hours on Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites, according to The National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

But for this same age bracket, social-network-savvy teens are five times more likely to use tobacco; three times more likely to use alcohol; and twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not spend any of their day on social networking sites.
Advertisement: Story continues below

"The results are profoundly troubling ... the anything goes, free-for-all world of internet expression, suggestive television programing and what-the-hell attitudes put teens at sharply increased risk of substance abuse," CASA Founder and Chairman Joseph Califano Jr said in a statement on Wednesday.

Knowledge Networks surveyed 1037 teens ages 12 to 17 and 528 parents of these teens over the internet. QEV Analytics conducted the annual telephone survey of 1006 teens 12 to 17, asking questions CASA has used to track trends.

Results revealed that half of teens who spend any time social networking in a given day have seen pictures of kids "drunk, passed out, or using drugs on these sites".

But even beyond the daily teen social networkers, 14 per cent of teens who reported spending no time on such sites in a given day said they have seen pictures of drunk, passed out, or drug-using kids on the sites.

Teens who had seen such pictures were four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, three times likelier to be able to get prescription drugs without a prescription, and twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day at most.

Teens who had seen such pictures were also more than twice as likely to think they would try drugs in the future, and much more likely to have friends who used illegal drugs.

"Especially troubling - and alarming - are that almost half of the teens who have seen pictures ... first saw such pictures when they were 13 years of age or younger," the report said. "These facts alone should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children."

But the surveys, which also questioned adults, found that nine of 10 parents do not think teens spending time social networking are any more likely to drink or use drugs.

Only 64 per cent of parents said they monitor their child's social networking page.

The authors of the report called for parents - still the greatest influence on a teen's decision whether to smoke, drink, or use drugs - to present a consistent and unified front against substance abuse. "In the cultural seas into which we toss our teens, parents are essential to preventing their substance abuse."

The report also urged operators of social networking sites to curb such images and deny use to adolescents who post them. "Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse," it said.


25 August, 2011

Salt: Just a teaspoon a day 'dulls the mind' and increases your risk of Alzheimer's disease (?)

Epidemiological rubbish. Middle class people are more likely to hear and heed the constant warnings about salt and they have better health anyway

Too much salt could be bad for your brain as well as your heart, doctors have warned. Elderly people who have salt-rich diets and do little exercise suffer a quicker mental decline than those who are more prudent with their intake, a study has found. Worryingly, just over a teaspoon of salt a day could dull the mind and raise the risk of Alzheimer’s, the study suggests.

Salt’s danger to the heart is well known but the latest study is the first to link it to deterioration of brain health in the elderly.

The Canadian team tracked the salt consumption and levels of physical activity of 1,262 healthy men and women aged between 67 and 84 over a three-year period. They also assessed the mental health of the participants at the start of the study and once a year for the duration, using a battery of tests more commonly used to diagnose Alzheimer’s.

‘The results of our study showed that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults,’ said Dr Alexandra Fiocco from the University of Toronto.

‘But the good news is that sedentary older adults showed no cognitive decline over the three years that we followed them if they had low sodium intake.’ A high level was defined as more than 3,090mg of pure sodium a day – or just over a teaspoon of salt a day at 7.7g.

This is the equivalent of 15 bags of crisps, three-and-a-half Big Macs or almost two full English breakfasts. But some of those taking part in the study were eating almost three times this, the journal Neurobiology of Aging reports.

The researchers said that knowledge of the link between salt and declining brain power could help people age healthily. ‘These findings are important because they help people know they can be proactive in retaining healthy brains as they age,’ said Carol Greenwood, a professor at the University of Toronto and another one of the authors.

‘Baby Boomers especially need to know that sitting on the couch watching television for long periods of time and eating salty snacks is not good for them.’

Deborah Barnes, a dementia expert at the University of California in San Francisco, said: ‘This is one of the first studies that looks at sodium. It’s another important point about diet. You need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and stay away from processed foods.’

In the UK, the Food Standards Agency recommends that adults should eat no more than 6g of salt, or one teaspoon, per day. But the average Briton’s intake is well over the limit at 8.6g.

Research suggests people who reduce salt in their diet by about 3g a day – the equivalent of six slices of bread – can reduce their chances of developing cardiovascular disease by a quarter.

Children aged one to three should eat no more than 2g per day, rising to 3g per day for four to six-year-olds and 5g for seven to tens.

A recent major review of the evidence on the dangers posed by salt created controversy by concluding that lowering consumption has little effect on health. But other experts say that one in five strokes and heart attacks would be prevented if everyone just ate a third of a teaspoon less of salt a day.


Medical Magellans

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules are supposedly intended to ensure the safety and efficacy of new drugs and medical devices. It is FDA’s technology gatekeeper role—its power to approve or reject medical innovations in a one-size-fits-all fashion—that I would sacrifice willingly.

I seek the freedom to explore the medical frontier, to have access to experimental medicines and medical devices that the FDA has not approved, and to go out (as I’ll explain) as a hero.

I agree that taxes and government spending are out of control. These forms of government intervention are troubling, but at least they are receiving attention. Yet taxing and spending are relatively transparent compared to regulation, whose costs are off budget and whose impacts are diffused throughout the economy. Regulatory reform has received too little attention in the current fiscal debate. That is unfortunate, because the burdens of federal regulations are massive, now estimated at almost $2 trillion annually.

My proposal would save relatively little taxpayer money directly, but the larger impact of a more liberalized medical exploration process would be tremendous. It would enhance individual liberty and the range of medical options for countless Americans. It would also increase economic growth and harness the cost-reducing impact of technological innovation.

It is important to note that the costs imposed by FDA regulation are measured also in terms of human lives. FDA restrictions have significantly increased the costs of research and time of diffusion for the development of new, health-enhancing products. On average, it may take an innovator up to 15 years and as much as $1 billion to move a drug from the laboratory to FDA approval.

Health care innovations face much greater impediments than innovations in most other sectors of the economy. Elsewhere, entrepreneurs conceive new products that they believe offer value to consumers, introduce them to the market, and hope that consumers will buy them.

In health care, nothing can be introduced until it has received FDA approval. However, as a government agency that cannot be made immune to politics, the FDA is highly sensitive to any unintended mishap for which it might be blamed. For example, former FDA Commissioner Alexander M. Schmidt noted in 1974: “In all of FDA’s history, I am unable to find a single instance where a congressional committee investigated the failure of FDA to approve a new drug. But, the times when hearings have been held to criticize our approval of new drugs have been so frequent that we aren't able to count them. . . . The message to FDA staff could not be clearer.”

The message is that the agency should always err on the side of over-caution.

There is no such thing as a perfectly safe drug or medical device, thus approvals sometimes create identifiable “victims.” On the other hand, the victims of FDA intransigence—those who never get a chance to benefit from the health-enhancing treatments that the agency has blocked or delayed—are unknown and politically invisible, and thus the agency is held blameless for them. Medical innovation is an inherently complex process, with just one of every 250 drugs which begins clinical testing ever making it to market.

Clearly, another strategy for medical innovation is needed. Milton Friedman argued that the quality of our health care would advance more rapidly if the FDA were abolished. My suggestion is a bit more modest. I would simply liberalize the FDA’s gatekeeper policies, allowing each of us—if we wish—to escape our “victim” status and to allow us one last chance, at the end of our lives, to dare the unknown, to perform one last heroic act.

At some point, a doctor will say, “Mr. Smith, there’s nothing more I can do for you.” Yet in many cases, although no approved intervention may exist, there will be a list of potential interventions that might address my “incurable” ailment. Must we check out as victims, or might we instead be given the opportunity to go out as heroes?

Naturally, some paths will lead literally to dead ends. Taking the wrong path entails both high costs and great dangers. Unlike Lazarus, we are all on a one-way trip through life, and sometimes fate or our bad choices shorten that trip. We would have to develop a reasonable informed consent protocol: Volunteers should be aware that their selected intervention is unlikely to succeed and that they might experience painful side-effects or an earlier death. They should give up the right to sue, and they may need to bear the costs of treatment themselves. Offsetting this, however, would be the individualist value of being in control of the final leg of one’s life journey. I’d like to have that opportunity, and millions of other Americans would, too.

Thus, my recommendation is to allow us all to elect to perform for our fellow citizens (and our descendants) one final heroic act. As free individuals, shouldn’t we be allowed to volunteer as Medical Magellans to explore those possible passages to a healthier world?


24 August, 2011

Will oats prevent heart attacks?

This is a very confused study with all sorts of potential effects involved. And there was NO evidence of impact on heart disease

Eating more nuts and oats – rather than simply avoiding fatty foods – could boost efforts to reduce cholesterol, say scientists. They found a diet rich in foods known to lower cholesterol levels was more effective than cutting out saturated fats alone.

The diet that worked best in the study also included soy products such as milk, tofu and meat substitutes, while eating more peas, beans and lentils was encouraged.

Canadian researchers discovered that a six-month change to the diet could result in a ‘meaningful’ 13 per cent reduction in blood levels of LDL cholesterol, often known as ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Following the diet for longer would give a predicted reduction of almost 11 per cent in heart disease risk over a ten-year period.

In the study, 345 patients, all of whom suffered from high cholesterol, were split into three groups, one of which was merely recommended to adopt a low-fat diet that included fruit and vegetables.

The other two were advised on a dietary ‘portfolio’ consisting of specific foods known to lower LDL cholesterol such as nuts, oats, soy products and lentils.

One group was counselled during two clinic visits while the other underwent an ‘intensive’ course of seven visits.

After six months the low-fat group had experienced a drop in LDL cholesterol levels of 3 per cent.

However, switching to a diet that actively lowered LDL cholesterol led to a reduction of over 13 per cent: 13.1 per cent in the group that had two visits and 13.8 per cent for the group that had seven visits.

The researchers, led by Dr David Jenkins, from the University of Toronto, reported their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The scientists pointed out that the study participants were already on modified diets aimed at improving their cholesterol readings. Larger reductions in LDL cholesterol might be seen in people with diets ‘more reflective of the general population’, they said.

Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This study is encouraging. ‘However, people need to be aware that following this type of plan in the long term takes commitment. Eating a few nuts or having the odd portion of soya beans won’t make up for an otherwise poor diet.

‘All the people in this trial were already eating a low-saturated fat diet, and this remains our first and foremost advice to people who want or need to reduce their cholesterol.’


Girls at risk of talking too much, scientists find

Girls who talk to their friends at length about their problems could be making them worse, psychologists have warned.

The scientists conducted a series of studies and found that girls hoped to feel more cared for, understood and less alone by talking things through. However, they said it could actually lead to depression and stress. They advised parents to try to persuade their children that there were other tactics to cope with issues than merely talking.

Four different studies were conducted including surveys and observations of nearly 2,000 children and teenagers.

Amanda Rose, associate professor of psychological sciences in the University of Missouri College of Arts and Science, who led the research, said: “Many girls are at risk for excessive problem talk, which is linked with depression and anxiety, so girls should know that talking about problems isn't the only way to cope.”

The research also confirmed the widely held view that boys think that discussing their problems is a waste of time.

Prof Rose added: “For years, popular psychologists have insisted that boys and men would like to talk about their problems but are held back by fears of embarrassment or appearing weak. “However, when we asked young people how talking about their problems would make them feel, boys didn't express angst or distress about discussing problems any more than girls. “Instead, boys’ responses suggest that they just don't see talking about problems to be a particularly useful activity.”

Prof Rose said the study could have help adult romantic relationships and suggest that the why women often insist on talking about problems while men are not interested is that women think it will help, while men have other tactics for dealing with the issues.

She added: “Men may be more likely to think talking about problems will make the problems feel bigger, and engaging in different activities will take their minds off of the problem. “Men may just not be coming from the same place as their partners.”


23 August, 2011

Sugary diet link to womb cancer risk: Regular sweet snacks increase threat 33%

This is just data dredging. After looking at lots of things they found one tiny difference -- as they would by chance alone

Snacking regularly on biscuits, buns or cakes can significantly increase a woman’s chances of developing womb cancer, a study shows.

Women who gave themselves such a treat two to three times a week were 33 per cent more likely to suffer the disease than those who rarely raided the biscuit tin.

Among those indulging more than three times a week, the risk of falling ill with a tumour jumped by 42 per cent.

However, their overall chances were still low as the odds of the average woman in the study developing the disease during the 18-plus years of the research were just over 1 per cent.

The researchers described the size of the effect as ‘modest’ but said it warranted further investigation.

British cancer experts emphasised that it is too early to draw any firm conclusions.

To look for a link between sugary foods and womb cancer, the Swedish scientists studied data from thousands of women who, between 1987 and 1990, had answered dozens of questions on diet, lifestyle, weight and general health. Ten years later, those still alive answered an even more extensive battery of questions on their eating habits.

In 2008, the researchers matched up the women’s answers with their medical records, specifically looking for diagnoses of endometrial cancer – the most common form of womb cancer. They found 729 cases out of the 61,226 women studied.

There was little or no increase in risk from eating certain high-sugar items such as sweets, soft drinks, jam or marmalade.

But women who snacked frequently on cakes, buns or biscuits were up to 42 per cent more likely to get cancer than those who had them once a fortnight or less.

It isn’t clear why some sweet treats were linked to the cancer but others were not.

The study looked at how often volunteers ate such treats but not specifically how much. However, those exceeding a total intake of more than 35 grams of sugar a day – equivalent to about seven teaspoons – faced a 36 per cent increase in tumour risk.

The scientists, from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, say there are several ways that sweet snacks could push up the risk of the disease. One is that sugar overload makes the body release more insulin, which can stimulate the excessive growth of cells in the endometrium, the lining of the womb.

Another is that it boosts levels of the hormone oestrogen, which has been shown to trigger the uncontrolled growth of cells, a key characteristic of cancer.

Their findings were published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Yinka Ebo, senior health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said keeping a healthy weight and staying physically active were the best ways to reduce womb cancer risk.

She added: ‘This study shows eating lots of sugar and certain sugary foods may increase the risk of womb cancer, but we would need to see these results repeated in other large studies like this before we can draw any firm conclusions.’

Endometrial cancer affects around 6,400 women a year in the UK and kills an estimated 1,000 annually.

Risk goes up with age, weight and with having a mother who had the disease. However, having children appears to lower the risk.


That dangerous WATER!

Eloquent confirmation that the toxicity is in the dose

A man died after suffering devastating brain damage after drinking 'pint after pint' of water. His family believe the problems started when an Ecstasy pill was slipped into his drink during an evening out.

Matthew Ellis, 29 died more than seven months later from a chest infection in hospital in Sheffield. He was rushed to intensive care after collapsing at his father's home on Boxing Day last year.

Matthew's mother Maureen warned others about the little known but catastrophic dangers of drinking too much water. The drug made him crave water and the excess liquid he drank caused his salt levels to plummet bringing on a rare brain condition called extrapontine myelinolysis.

Mrs Ellis, 62, said: 'There is no health warning, water is good for you if you have a certain amount,'. 'But we want to make people more aware not to drink that much. Matthew went through absolute hell and it's such a waste of a young life.'

Mrs Ellis, a council technical support officer, said Matthew had been working in Wales before Christmas and had taken time off over the holiday period and was staying in Sheffield with his family. He had been due to start a job at Doncaster Prison in January.

He stayed out late drinking on Boxing Day before going back to spend the night at the home of his 66-year-old father Ken in Lowedges, Sheffield. 'The following day he felt poorly and started drinking lots of water,' said Mrs Ellis.

'He was drinking pints and pints . We don't know exactly home much but he was drinking constantly throughout the day. 'The next day my eldest son Andrew phoned and said Matthew was starting to fit and had nearly fallen down the stairs. Then he collapsed in the kitchen.' He suffered five seizures in the ambulance on the way to hospital and eventually died on August 4.

Mrs Ellis added: 'A consultant told me that Matthew must have unknowlingly been slipped an Ecstasy tablet. 'He never took drugs of any kind. He like to go out but not on a regular basis and might go six months without having a drink.'

He suffered irreversible brain damage after slipping into a coma - and his mother gave the hospital permission to switch off his life support machine. However, he came round again in January although he could no longer remember who he was.

His funeral is due to be held on Saturday.

Nutrition expert Mayur Ranchordas, who lectures in physiology and nutrition at Sheffield Hallam University said water intoxication or hyponatraemia can have devastating effects. He added: 'Extrapontine myelinolysis is a very rare condition. Too much water is actually very, very bad for you.

'Hyponatraemia is quite common among recreational runners on half marathon and marathon events. 'They're not running at a high intensity but they're still stopping at all the water stations, taking on large amounts of water and trying to stay hydrated.'


22 August, 2011

Food is not alone in making us fat - stress, insomnia and allergies are also factors(?)

This is a bit if a cop-out. Various things may impede dieting but your excess of input over output is still what makes you fat

IT'S one of those questions too many people torture themselves with: "Why can't I lose any weight?" You can cut back on the junk food, exercise more frequently but are still unable to shift those unwanted kilos.

A leading American physician will tell an Australian audience today that allergies, stress, insomnia and being toxic are all reasons people struggle to lose weight.

In her new book, A Guide to Solving Your Weight-Loss Puzzle: Why You Can't Lose Weight, Dr Pamela Waritan Smith says that it is not as simple as what you eat and what you burn.

"It's not just calories in and out - if it were that simple everyone in the world would be the way that they want to be," Dr Smith told The Sunday Telegraph.

The co-director of the Metabolic and Nutritional Program at the University of South Florida College of Medicine, Dr Smith said for every extra 0.45kg someone carries on their frame, they put 1.36 million kg of stress on their joints each year.

"Sometimes it's confusing to people if they have an allergic response. You can have two kinds of allergic response, one is what we call an IgE, which can be shrimp, and is pretty immediate, for example, resulting in shortness of breath or a rash.

"The other which is termed as an IgG response, is an allergy which can usually happen a couple of days later. "People may gain weight, get a stomachache or a headache, but they don't equate it to the food (they have eaten)." Symptoms include abdominal pain, backache, dark circles under the eyes, diarrhoea, dizziness, hives, muscle aches and pains, a persistent cough and memory changes.

Her book is being launched today at the Australasian Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine (A5M) Conference in Melbourne, where Dr Smith is giving a series of talks.

Dr Smith said lack of sleep and stress were also contributing to weight gain. "When people stay stressed they put weight on around the middle," she said. "And I do think modern life affects it for many different reasons. "Insomnia and sleep deprivation, people that don't get 6 1/2 hours a night of good solid sleep also suffer."

The book also reveals being toxic is another key factor. Symptoms of toxicity include abdominal bloating, belching, cramping, gas, heartburn and weight gain, depression, itching, muscle aches and pains and skin rashes.

Dr Smith advised seeing a "specialised practioner or physician" to determine if your weight gain was due to allergies or toxicity.


New weapon in battle against C-diff as scientists work out how to stop its poisons

So far this seems to be research in laboratory glassware only

Doctors could soon have a new weapon in the war against C. diff, the superbug that kills thousands of Britons each year. C. diff produces poisons which, in the worst cases, can cause a potentially fatal infection of the abdomen.

U.S. scientists used two molecules to deactivate the toxins, preventing them from causing harm. They now plan to test the technique on people for the first time. A similar strategy could be deployed against other bacteria, say the University of Texas researchers writing in the journal Nature Medicine.

The bug thrives in filthy conditions and has been blamed for almost 18,000 deaths in the last decade – more than MRSA. Numbers are falling, but the superbug was still linked to almost 4,000 deaths in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available.

Although antibiotic treatment does have some success, many patients relapse, with successive bouts of diarrhoea making them weaker and weaker.

C. diff produces poisons which cause diarrhoea, and in the worst cases, a potentially fatal infection of the abdomen.

However, the poisons can only wreak havoc if they can work their way into the cells that line the gut. And US scientists have worked out how to stop them in their tracks. They used two molecules to deactivate the toxins, preventing them from causing harm.

University of Texas researcher Professor Tor Savidge said: ‘Think of these toxins as missiles that the bacteria are producing to go off and detonate inside the cell. ‘One way to defend against the missiles is to send out signals that trick them into either disarming their sensory mechanisms or get them to prematurely detonate.’

The combination worked so well, that the researchers plan to test it on people for the first time. The need to give it to large numbers of people to check it is safe and effective means it is around seven years from widespread use.

It is hoped that targeting the bug in this way would stop the bacteria from developing resistance against the treatment.

Researcher Charalabos Pothoulakis, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said: ‘Identification of new treatment modalities to treat this infection would be a major advance. ‘If we are successful with this approach, we may be able to treat other bacterial diseases in the same way.’

C. diff exists naturally in the stomachs of many healthy adults, where it is kept under control by 'friendly bacteria'. The problems start if the balance of bacteria is disturbed, perhaps by giving someone antibiotics for another infection.

Once the 'friendly' bacteria are killed off, the C diff are able to multiply and produce poisons which cause diarrhoea and, in the worst cases, a potentially fatal infection of the abdomen.

The spread of the bacterium, via hardy spores, is swift and the bug is difficult to wipe out because it is resistant to some standard disinfectants. But simple soap and water can be used to clean the hands, while powerful disinfectants can keep floors bug-free. Hygiene drives are credited with the number of cases in hospital cases plummeting from 33,342 in 2007 to 2008, to 10,414 last year.


21 August, 2011

Drinking moderate amounts of coffee can help ward off non-melanoma?

This is another rodent study and to compare mice skin (normally hair-covered) with human skin is absurd

COFFEE has been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer by helping kill off damaged cells that could otherwise turn into tumours, researchers say. Moderate caffeine drinking, or perhaps even applying coffee to the skin, could be useful in warding off non-melanoma cancer, the most commonly diagnosed of all skin cancers, the study published today shows.

Using mice that had been genetically altered to suppress a protein called ATR, researchers showed the rodents were able to fend off cancer even when exposed to ultraviolet light. The altered mice eventually did develop cancer, but three weeks later than normal mice.

Previous studies have suggested that drinking a cup of caffeinated coffee per day has the effect of suppressing ATR and triggering the die-off of cells harmed by UV rays.

After 19 weeks of ultraviolet light exposure, the engineered mice showed 69 per cent fewer tumours and four times fewer invasive tumours than the control group. However, the protective effects only went so far. After 34 weeks of UV exposure, all the mice developed tumours.

"Eventually, if you treat them long enough, the mice will develop cancer so it is not 100 per cent protection forever," Allan Coffey, one of the study's authors said. "Really, with almost any carcinogen, eventually all the animals will develop tumours."

The team were able to confirm their hypothesis that caffeine - when consumed or applied to the skin - works by inhibiting ATR. Now they say more studies are needed to see how it may work on humans. "We want to see whether caffeine has an effect in people when you give it topically," he said.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the United States, with more than one million new cases each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Non-melanoma types of skin cancer, including basal cell and squamous cell types, are the most commonly diagnosed and are often treatable if detected early.


Raise a glass to the 'red wine pill' to cure everything from obesity to cancer

The old resveratrol religion again. For a start, this is based on mouse studies; and secondly, the company owning the "miracle" drug has given up on it. Obviously later work has not confirmed the early promise. Ya gotta laugh!

In terms of medical achievements, this has got to be the big one – an all-in-one treatment that works against obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Astoundingly, a drug capable of doing just that could be available within three years.

And it gets better. The new treatment could be a godsend for couch potatoes, allowing them to eat as much as they like without putting on a pound. They could even receive all the benefits of exercise without leaving the sofa.

The excitement surrounds a family of drugs based on resveratrol, the ‘miracle ingredient’ in red wine credited with inhibiting the development of cancer and heart disease.

The drugs would activate a gene called SIRT1 that is key to longevity and energy, and their potency would give them the equivalent health benefits of 8,000 bottles of wine.

Mice given one of the drugs, known as SRT1720, did not gain an ounce of weight despite being fed fatty foods, and blood tests suggested they were protected against diabetes. They also showed improved stamina.

Now a follow-up study, led by the U.S. government’s health research arm, has confirmed the drug’s promise. This time, giving it to ‘middle-aged’ mice allowed them to escape many of the dangers of a bad diet, with those eating fatty foods living almost as long as mice fed normally. At high doses, the drug extended the life of the junk food group by as much as 44 per cent.

In addition, it stopped fat from clogging up their livers and, once again, appeared to protect against diabetes. The journal Scientific Reports also states that the treated animals were more active.

The drugs are being developed by Sirtris, a biotech firm bought by pharmaceutical powerhouse GlaxoSmithKline three years ago.

GSK is no longer pursuing SRT1720 [I wonder why?], but three similar – and potentially even better – drugs are already being tested on people. The first of these could be widely available within three years.

Researcher Rafael de Cabo, of the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore, said the drugs offer the promise of a healthy old age. ‘To me, the most tantalising thing about the findings are the health benefits,’ he said. ‘I don’t care much about living five years longer as long as I live what I am supposed to live completely healthy.’

It is not known who the drugs will be aimed at but, initially, they are likely to be reserved for treating and preventing disease in the severely overweight.


20 August, 2011

A baby's first 1,000 days 'determines their health prospects for life'

The article below suffers from a failure in calibration. Severe trauma or deprivation at any stage can obviously affect health. So why is the first 1,000 days picked out? If trauma in that period is particularly harmful, where is the evidence? In fact, the evidence is rather the other way. Brain damage and some other traumas are in fact best recovered from in the very young

You have encouraged them to eat their greens, battled to get them into the best school and sweated with them over their homework – all to give them the best start in life.

But your children’s prospects may have been determined long before all the hard work. A growing body of research suggests the first 1,000 days of a child’s life – the nine months in the womb and the first two years out of it – are vital to their long-term health.

That period can permanently affect everything from a child’s chances of developing diabetes or having a heart attack in old age, to their future weight and life expectancy.

The theory was developed after decades of research by Professor David Barker and his colleagues at Southampton University. They believe there are a series of critical stages in a child’s development. If conditions are not perfect at each step, problems can occur later.

Many of these danger points lie when the baby is still in the womb. Poor nutrition for a mother affects both the unborn baby’s weight and how well the placenta works, while smoking, stress, drugs and alcohol can also take their toll.

Professor Barker believes many health problems can be traced back to poor growth in the womb. He has shown that the lighter a baby is at birth, the higher its odds of heart disease in later life. On average, a baby weighing less than 5lb 7oz is twice as likely to die from a heart attack than one born at 9lb 7oz.

It is thought that when food is scarce in the womb, it is channelled to the fledgling brain, leaving the heart weakened. The seeds of diabetes may also be sown before birth, as the pancreatic cells which make insulin develop in the womb. Conditions in the uterus can also affect weight for years to come, studies suggest.

Professor Barker said many of these early effects are ‘set in stone’ and cannot be undone. He added that the key to health is ensuring women eat well throughout their lives.

He said: ‘It is about building a body that the baby can live off. The baby lives off the mother’s body – not what she snacks on during pregnancy. ‘What we are seeing is a window of opportunity where we can make better people.’


Let’s put a stop to the war on salt

First Lady Michelle Obama has been lobbying strongly this year for food manufacturers to reduce the sodium content of their products.

Her efforts scored a major victory last month when the Council of Better Business Bureaus rolled out new criteria for reducing the sodium, sugar, and fat in children’s food and beverages. Seventeen companies are participating in the initiative, including the Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, and Kraft Foods.

While this will mean higher food prices as producers reformulate their recipes , we are led to believe that this will be a small price to pay for longer lives and better health. However, claims that sodium poses a significant health risk may be unfounded.

Health writer Melinda Wenner Moyer, in an article in Scientific American in July called for an end to the “war on salt,” as there is no conclusive evidence to warrant sweeping and intrusive mandates to reduce or eliminate salt from foods. Moyer cites a 2011 study that found “no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.” And scientists with the European Project on Genes in Hypertension recently published results of another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting a inverse correlation between sodium consumption and heart-disease deaths!

Anti-salt crusaders have long relied on a single study from the 1970s, in which scientist Lewis Dahl found salt to cause high blood pressure in rats. The trouble with Dahl’s study is that he fed the rats the human equivalent of 500 grams of sodium a day. A human would have to eat nearly 1,000 McDonald’s hamburgers a day to achieve the same result!

Dahl also failed to differentiate between population trends. According to Moyer, “People living in countries with a high salt consumption—such as Japan—also tend to have high blood pressure and more strokes.

But as a paper pointed out several years later in the American Journal of Hypertension, scientists had little luck finding such associations when they compared sodium intakes within populations, which suggested that genetics or other cultural factors might be the culprit” [emphasis in original].

Dahl made the common fallacy of mistaking correlation for causation. He and his supporters have failed to control or account for myriad additional variables. Without more certitude, bureaucrats have no basis to either make claims about sodium posing a threat to health or place burdensome regulations on producers.

Yet, many food manufacturers are working to preempt regulation by reducing the sodium content in their products at considerable cost. Those costs are then passed on to consumers—many of whom will simply forgo the less salty, blander versions of those food products, as Campbell’s reversal of its decision to lower many of its soups’ salt content due to weak sales indicates.

This highlights a larger issue: regulators basing their rules on estimates and percentages. Moyer points to a study that “estimated that cutting salt intake by about 35 percent would save at least 44,000 American lives per year.”

Yet people are not percentages. Do we know that there are 44,000 people at death’s door? No, we do not. That is because these people do not exist; they are believed to exist and predicted to exist by experts. But, as Moyer says, “such estimates are not evidence, either; they are conjecture.”

Each person’s individual risk of heart disease is based on many factors, including lifestyle, genetics, and access to health care. Diet, including sodium consumption, is only one of many factors.

It is foolhardy for politicians to lump all individual cases together and make prescriptions for society at large that will limit individual choice and raise our cost of living. The European Project on Genes scientists agreed, noting their conclusions “do also not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level.”

The war on salt is one more way in which politicians are trying to get between you, your children, and your doctor—in this case by removing options from store shelves. Moyer is correct to call for an end to the war on salt—but that is just a skirmish in the larger fight over consumer liberty.


19 August, 2011

Muesli not necessarily a "healthy" choice

Before tucking into your morning muesli be warned, you may be about to eat more fat than there is in a McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder, Choice says.

The consumer organisation tested 159 types of muesli and discovered that the popular breakfast meal isn't necessarily a healthy choice.

"Whilst much of the fat content in muesli is the 'good' unsaturated type, coming from oats, seeds and nuts, the high fat varieties can still pack a high number of kilojoules," Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just said today.

One brand, The Muesli, contains twice as much fat as a McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder, Choice said. And two gluten-free varieties - Sunsol Gluten Free and Nu-Vit Low Fat Fruity Muesli Gluten Free - contain a whooping 43 per cent of sugar, seven per cent more than Coco Pops. "If you are eating muesli to try and lose weight then the overall fat and sugar content needs to be taken into consideration," Ms Just said.

Choice has called for traffic light colour labelling on all mueslis that make nutrition or health claims, which would rate fat, fibre, energy and sugar content.

Choice found almost three quarters of muesli products contain at least one health claim. "The most common are gluten-free and wheat-free claims or relate to fibre and or wholegrain content," the report says. "But low in salt, no added sugar, high protein, low GI and low fat claims are also popular."

The problem, the report says, is that nutrition claims don't tell the whole story. "Morpeth Sourdough Muesli Delux says it has 'no added sugar' but its dried fruit content and added honey result in a product that's almost 28 per cent sugar," Ms Just said.

When out shopping, Choice suggests you check the nutritional information panel and the ingredients list for added sugars such as honey or glucose.


Cheese: "Bad for the Environment"

EVERYTHING is bad for the environment

It’s not news: We need to eat less meat. Producing meat ready for the plate takes large amounts of fuel, fertilizers, pesticides, and water. Eating meat can also put your health at risk and endanger animal welfare. That’s why what you eat matters, says the [crooked] Environmental Working Group, which recently released a “Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health.”

But even vegetarians may be hard pressed by the group’s findings. As it turns out, public enemy number three, right after lamb and beef, is cheese.

EWG partnered with CleanMetrics, an environmental analysis firm, to examine 20 types of meat, fish, dairy, and vegetable proteins and evaluate their impacts on the earth. Together, they looked into fertilizers, pesticides, feed, transportation costs, and how much of the final product was ultimately thrown away, including many more factors.

They found that different foods impact the environment in different ways, and to lessen our footprints on the earth, we need to change our eating habits.

Beef, which ranked second for harmful impact on the earth, emits almost four times as much carbon dioxide than chicken and 13 times more than vegetable proteins, such as lentils, beans, and tofu.

What’s surprising is that chicken, salmon, and even pork made out better than cheese. Cheese wound up high on the list because it takes a lot milk to make a little cheese. Dairy cows release large amounts of methane, which is a worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and let’s not forget the amount of feed and antibiotics that the cows need.

EWG recommends eating less cheese. But it just so happens that cheese is delicious. So, while you may not be able to go without, eat lower-fat cheeses, such as skim mozzarella, gouda, and cottage cheese, which have less effect on the environment and your health.

As another consolation, the ranking is based on the ounce. While big burgers and steaks are typical meal options, it’s rare that someone sits down to eat a wheel of cheese. Most people use it sparingly anyway, though we can still choose local cheeses rather than those flown over from Europe to minimize costs.


18 August, 2011

Omega-3 Reduces Anxiety and Inflammation in Healthy Students, Study Suggests

This is typical of the narrow perspective that typifies believers in popular nostrums. They show no awareness that by inducing one broadly beneficial effect they may also unleash damaging effects elsewhere. Anxiety has its place and suppressing it could (for instance) lead to more risky behavior. And that sort of thing is not just theory. In the same journal there was another recent study which concluded that What Is Good for the Heart May Not Be Good for the Prostate. And what about the finding that high intake of Omega 3 is linked to increased risk of colon cancer??

And since Omega 3 is such a popular religion, there must be thousands of studies of it underway at any one time. In those circumstances, you will get some false positive findings by chance alone. And the effects described below were quite small in absolute terms and hence shaky.

Only long-term controlled studies using a wide range of health indicators could offer anything like secure conclusions

A new study gauging the impact of consuming more fish oil showed a marked reduction both in inflammation and, surprisingly, in anxiety among a cohort of healthy young people.

The findings suggest that if young participants can get such improvements from specific dietary supplements, then the elderly and people at high risk for certain diseases might benefit even more.

The findings by a team of researchers at Ohio State University were just published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. It is the latest from more than three decades of research into links between psychological stress and immunity.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have long been considered as positive additives to the diet. Earlier research suggested that the compounds might play a role in reducing the level of cytokines in the body, compounds that promote inflammation, and perhaps even reduce depression.

Psychological stress has repeatedly been shown to increase cytokine production so the researchers wondered if increasing omega-3 might mitigate that process, reducing inflammation.

To test their theory, they turned to a familiar group of research subjects -- medical students. Some of the earliest work these scientists did showed that stress from important medical school tests lowered students' immune status.

"We hypothesized that giving some students omega-3 supplements would decrease their production of proinflammatory cytokines, compared to other students who only received a placebo," explained Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychology and psychiatry. "We thought the omega-3 would reduce the stress-induced increase in cytokines that normally arose from nervousness over the tests."

The team assembled a field of 68 first- and second-year medical students who volunteered for the clinical trial. The students were randomly divided into six groups, all of which were interviewed six times during the study. At each visit, blood samples were drawn from the students who also completed a battery of psychological surveys intended to gauge their levels of stress, anxiety or depression. The students also completed questionnaires about their diets during the previous weeks.

Half the students received omega-3 supplements while the other half were given placebo pills. "The supplement was probably about four or five times the amount of fish oil you'd get from a daily serving of salmon, for example," explained Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition and co-author in the study.

But the psychological surveys clearly showed an important change in anxiety among the students: Those receiving the omega-3 showed a 20 percent reduction in anxiety compared to the placebo group.

An analysis of the of the blood samples from the medical students showed similar important results. "We took measurements of the cytokines in the blood serum, as well as measured the productivity of cells that produced two important cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa)," said Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology & medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

"We saw a 14 percent reduction in the amounts of IL-6 among the students receiving the omega-3." Since the cytokines foster inflammation, "anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases," he said. While inflammation is a natural immune response that helps the body heal, it also can play a harmful role in a host of diseases ranging from arthritis to heart disease to cancer.

While the study showed the positive impact omega-3 supplements can play in reducing both anxiety and inflammation, the researchers aren't willing to recommend that the public start adding them to the daily diet. "It may be too early to recommend a broad use of omega-3 supplements throughout the public, especially considering the cost and the limited supplies of fish needed to supply the oil," Belury said. "People should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet."
Some of the researchers, however, acknowledged that they take omega-3 supplements.


Being fat may be healthier for you than constantly trying to diet, claim university researchers

It is the perfect excuse to push aside that salad and pat yourself on the slightly rounded tummy. Scientists have shown it may be better to stay fat than go on diet after diet.

A study of thousands of obese men and women found that more than one in three were perfectly healthy or had only slight health problems. Contrary to the much-publicised message that you have to be thin to be well, they were no more likely to die at any given time than someone of an ideal weight. Indeed, they were less likely to be killed by heart disease.

They were also in better health than those who had fought a constant battle with their weight by repeatedly dieting, only to pile the pounds back on.

The researchers say there is more to good health than how a person tips the scales – and some people classed as overweight are fine as they are.

Rather than try to shed their excess pounds, something that can do more harm than good if repeated time after time, they should simply concentrate on not putting on any more weight.

The advice comes from researchers at Toronto's York University who tracked the health of more than 6,000 obese men and women for an average of 16 years. They underwent medical and physical tests and their results were compared with those of thousands of people of normal weight. This clearly revealed that being slim isn't always superior, according to the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

It may be that some people's genes allow them to escape many of the health consequences of being overweight.

Those who are overweight but healthy may also exercise more and eat better than thin people who smoke to suppress their appetites.

And a stressed-out, sedentary person of normal weight may be in worse shape than a plump person who exercises and keeps stress levels under control.

The Canadian researchers said that rather than using body mass index, or BMI, a measure of weight compared to height, to judge whether a person needs to lose weight, doctors should look at overall health.

A previous study found that pensioners who are slightly overweight live longer than those of a normal weight.

The Australian researchers said a bit of extra padding may give someone the reserves needed to recover from falls and illnesses.

It is also possible that concern about the health of the overweight means that problems are spotted and treated earlier.


17 August, 2011

Antioxidants cause cancer?

If you can get your head around the double negatives below, that is what is implied. In other words, antioxidants are good for health, INCLUDING the health of cancer cells. So you need to WIPE OUT antioxidants to avoid cancer. Pity about that

Sam W. Lee and Anna Mandinova of Massachusetts General Hospital have accidentally discovered a compound that kills cancer cells by suppressing enzymes that detoxify free radicals.
A cancer cell may seem out of control, growing wildly and breaking all the rules of orderly cell life and death. But amid the seeming chaos there is a balance between a cancer cell's revved-up metabolism and skyrocketing levels of cellular stress. Just as a cancer cell depends on a hyperactive metabolism to fuel its rapid growth, it also depends on anti-oxidative enzymes to quench potentially toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by such high metabolic demand.

Scientists at the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have discovered a novel compound that blocks this response to oxidative stress selectively in cancer cells but spares normal cells, with an effectiveness that surpassed a chemotherapy drug currently used to treat breast cancer. Their findings, based on experiments in cell culture and in mice, appear online in Nature on July 13.

The plant-based compound piperlongumine (PL), derived from the fruit of a pepper plant found in southern India and southeast Asia, appears to kill cancer cells by jamming the machinery that dissipates high oxidative stress and the resulting ROS. Normal cells have low levels of ROS, in tune with their more modest metabolism, so they don't need high levels of the anti-oxidant enzymes that PL stymies once they pass a certain threshold.

Cancer cells generate a lot more toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) because cancer cells grow at a fast rate. Cancer cells have faster rates of metabolism. So a drug that inhibits the cell's defenses against ROS will selectively cause much higher ROS concentration in cancer cells than in normal cells.

Since normal cells do not generate ROS in quantities that are immediately toxic the drug appears to be highly selective for cancer cells.
The scientists tested PL against cancer cells and normal cells engineered to develop cancer. In mice injected with human bladder, breast, lung, or melanoma cancer cells, PL inhibited tumor growth but showed no toxicity in normal mice. In a tougher test of mice that developed breast cancer spontaneously, PL blocked both tumor growth and metastasis. In contrast, the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (Taxol) was less effective, even at high levels.

"This compound is selectively reducing the enzyme activity involved in oxidative stress balance in cancer cells, so the ROS level can go up above the threshold for cell death," said Lee, a Broad associate member and associate director of CBRC at MGH. "We hope we can use this compound as a starting point for the development of a drug so patients can benefit."


Too much TV has same health effects as smoking and lack of exercise, Australian research finds

This sounds absurd: "every hour of watching shortened the viewer's life expectancy by about 22 minutes". Pretty toxic hours! This is "campaigning" research, I think.

WATCHING TV for six hours a day could shave five years off your life. New Australian-based research has found growing roots on the couch could do as much damage as smoking and lack of exercise.

Experts have previously linked sedentary behaviour with a higher risk of death from heart attack or stroke.

The latest research published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine is the first, however, to study the impact of watching too much TV on life expectancy.

Experts used previously published data on the link between TV viewing time and death from analysis of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study. This was combined with Australian national population and mortality figures for 2008, to construct a "lifetime risk framework".

Three years ago, Australians aged over 25 watched an estimated 9.8 billion hours of TV. Researchers calculated every hour of watching shortened the viewer's life expectancy by about 22 minutes.

Based on these figures and expected deaths from all causes, the authors calculated an individual who watched an average six hours of TV a day over the course of their life, could expect to die five years earlier than someone who watched no TV.

Separate research has shown lifelong smoking can shorten life expectancy by four years for those aged over 50. Using the same risk framework designed to monitor the impact of too much TV, the study calculated just one cigarette could cut 11 minutes from smokers lives - equal to watching 30 minutes of TV.

"These findings suggest that substantial loss of life may be associated with prolonged TV viewing time among Australian adults," the reports authors found. "Because TV viewing is a ubiquitous behaviour that occupies significant portions of adults leisure time, it's effects are significant for overall population health."

VicHealth acting executive manager Irene Venins said the latest research came as no surprise. She said the negative impacts of prolonged periods sitting at a desk at work were well documented and the would be no different at home.

"The proliferation of computers around the office have contributed to prolonged sitting , which in turn is a key contributor to chronic heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis."

Ms Venins said Australians should engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity a day, or face the consequences down the track. "It's time to stand up for our health," she said.


16 August, 2011

The Robert Gordon University, Scotland: Obesity causes Global Warming

But of course! Why didn't I think of that?

Researchers at the university have completed a study that addresses the link between climate change and obesity.
The academics suggest that global weight loss would result in a drop in the production of the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO(2)).

The study was carried out by a trio of researchers within the university's Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology (CORE). It suggests that if every obese and overweight person in the world lost 10 kilograms (or 1.58 stone), the resulting drop in greenhouse emissions would be the equivalent of 0.2% of the CO(2) emitted globally in 2007 (49.560Mt).

The calculations were based on a previous weight loss study that investigated the effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on body weight, body composition and resting metabolic rate of obese volunteers with type 2 diabetes. After six months of following the diet, the volunteers' weight, fat mass, fat free mass and CO(2) production were observed.

Dr Catherine Rolland was one of the lead researchers on the study. She explains: "This decrease can be explained by the principles of respiration - the process by which organisms breathe in oxygen, which is then converted to CO(2) and then exhaled.

"CO(2) production is proportionate to body mass and heavier individuals naturally produce more than those of a healthier weight. The global obesity epidemic, therefore, has resulted in humans producing a higher volume of a major greenhouse gas."

The initial study was carried out by Phd student Ania Gryka as supervised by Dr Rolland and Professor Iain Broom, director of CORE. It was published in International Journal of Obesity on 26 July this year.

The team were inspired to investigate the link between obesity and global warming after reading a paper written by academics Ian Roberts and Robin Stott in November 2010 which put out a call for collective action from health professionals against the causes of climate change.

Dr Rolland continues: "The current climate change has been most likely caused by the increased greenhouse gas emissions, and one of the direct producers of these gases is human beings. As such, Professor Broom felt that we were in an ideal position to present our data in a way that responded to this call by Roberts and Stott.

"While the reality is that global weight loss of this magnitude is unlikely to happen anytime soon, it is clear that working towards this reduction could help meet the CO(2) emission reduction targets and be of a great benefit to global health. It also makes the point that by improving our own health we can play a part in improving the health of our planet."

The CORE team have no immediate future plans for this research, but will continue to contribute to the global understanding and management of obesity.


Since when is food illegal?

I find it shocking and appalling that the government should presume to protect me from people who are willing to sell me food. Consider this item that came in yesterday’s eMail:

“August 3, 2011 - Los Angeles, California - Public Health Officials today descended once again on a buying club, that specializes in raw foods. Club organizer, James Stewart was arrested at his home, the locks to his personal residence were changed, his papers, money and computer seized. At the same time, farmer Sharon Palmer and Weston A. Price Foundation volunteer chapter leader Victoria Bloch Coulter were arrested. All three were charged with Section 182A-Conspiracy to Commit a Crime. Bond for James Stewart was set at $123,000. Bail for Bloch is recommended at $60,000. Bail for Palmer is recommended at $121,000.”

Of all the authoritarian, unmitigated gall! Who are these public health officials who pretend to have any authority about what people sell for food? Furthermore, this family sells fresh, raw food, unpolluted with GMOs or harsh pesticides. I worked on a cattle ranch for over a year, and I know from personal experience how difficult - and unending - farm work can be. Anyone who is working that hard to provide fresh vegetables and raw milk should have a statue built in their honor… not arrested like federal criminals that are a danger to society. The only danger I see in this instance is the presumption of authority demonstrated by the arrogant government agents who dragged these people away in handcuffs. I encourage you to visit the Weston A. Price website to find out how you can help these besieged farmers.

Please do not wait until the shelves at the grocery stores are empty before you lift a finger to help. Please call the local authorities and let them know how outraged you are that this type of tyranny is happening in our country.


15 August, 2011

"Organic" fanatics get a black eye

The great Satan against which "organic" farmers fight is PESTICIDES. And they never cease their criticism of conventional farming on the grounds that the products of conventional farming have dangerous quantities of pesticides in them.

A major organic advocacy organization is the Environmental Working Group (EWG), who regularly demonize common foods, claiming that consumption of them is "dirty".

A couple of food scientists (C. K. Winter and J. M. Katz) have however just taken EWG on and tested their claims. I reproduce below an excerpt from their recent report in the Journal of Toxicology. The report and the findings are crystal clear.

Probabilistic techniques were used to characterize dietary exposure of consumers to pesticides found in twelve commodities implicated as having the greatest potential for pesticide residue contamination by a United States-based environmental advocacy group. Estimates of exposures were derived for the ten most frequently detected pesticide residues on each of the twelve commodities based upon residue findings from the United States Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Data Program.

All pesticide exposure estimates were well below established chronic reference doses (RfDs). Only one of the 120 exposure estimates exceeded 1% of the RfD (methamidophos on bell peppers at 2% of the RfD), and only seven exposure estimates (5.8 percent) exceeded 0.1% of the RfD. Three quarters of the pesticide/commodity combinations demonstrated exposure estimates below 0.01% of the RfD (corresponding to exposures one million times below chronic No Observable Adverse Effect Levels from animal toxicology studies), and 40.8% had exposure estimates below 0.001% of the RfD.

It is concluded that (1) exposures to the most commonly detected pesticides on the twelve commodities pose negligible risks to consumers, (2) substitution of organic forms of the twelve commodities for conventional forms does not result in any appreciable reduction of consumer risks, and (3) the methodology used by the environmental advocacy group to rank commodities with respect to pesticide risks lacks scientific credibility.

1. Introduction

Since 1995, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a United States-based environmental advocacy organization, has developed an annual list of fruits and vegetables, frequently referred to as the “Dirty Dozen,” suspected of having the greatest potential for contamination with residues of pesticides. The EWG cautions consumers to avoid conventional forms of these fruits and vegetables and recommends that consumers purchase organic forms of these commodities to reduce their exposure to pesticide residues.

The annual release of the report has traditionally generated newspaper, magazine, radio, and television coverage, and the report is considered to be quite influential in the produce purchasing decisions of millions of Americans.

In June 2010, the EWG released its most recent “Dirty Dozen” list [1]. Topping the list as the most contaminated commodity was celery, followed by peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale, potatoes, and grapes (imported). According to an EWG news release, “consumers can lower their pesticide consumption by nearly four-fifths by avoiding conventionally grown varieties of the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables” [2].

It is unclear how the EWG could make such a statement since the methodology used to rank the various fruits and vegetables did not specifically quantify consumer exposure to pesticide residues in such foods. Instead, the methodology provided six separate indicators of contamination, including (1) percentage of samples tested with detectable residues, (2) percentage of samples with two or more pesticides detected, (3) average number of pesticides found on a single sample, (4) average amount of all pesticides found, (5) maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample, and (6) total number of pesticides found on the commodity [1]. Each of these indicators was normalized among the 49 most frequently consumed fruits and vegetables, and a total score was developed to form the basis for the rankings.

Since none of these indicators specifically considered exposure (the product of food consumption and residue levels), it is difficult to see how the EWG could substantiate the claim that consumers could lower their pesticide consumption by nearly four-fifths by avoiding conventional forms of the “Dirty Dozen” commodities.

Additionally, the toxicological significance of consumer exposure to pesticides in the diet is also not addressed through an appropriate comparison of exposure estimates with toxicological endpoints such as the reference dose (RfD) or the acceptable daily intake (ADI).

To more accurately assess the potential health impacts from consumer exposure to pesticide residues from the “Dirty Dozen” commodities, this study utilized a probabilistic modeling approach to estimate exposures. The exposure estimates were then compared with toxicological endpoints to determine the health significance of such exposures.

2. Materials and Methods

The EWG rankings were derived from the results of residue findings of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pesticide Data Program (PDP) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Pesticide Program Residue Monitoring from 2000 to 2008 [1, 3, 4]. The PDP is more appropriate for risk assessment as it is not developed for enforcement, provides residue findings for produce in ready-to-eat forms (i.e., washed or peeled), includes many more samples than the FDA program, and relies upon more sensitive analytical methods. As a result, our study relied entirely upon results from the most recent PDP data collected from 2004 to 2008.

And Mischa Popoff is not popping off yet either

Mischa Popoff is what Australians would call a "fair dinkum" (genuine, sincere) organic farmer and he HATES all the fraud and dishonest propaganda in the industry. And he has done his best to expose it. So the Winter & Katz article above made his day. He sent the authors the following email to give them the background on the "organic" racket.
Dear Professor Winter and Mr. Katz:

You’re quite right that the Environmental Working Group’s 'Dirty Dozen' list has several major flaws. Your recent paper in the Journal of Toxicology is a real eye-opener.

Chief among EWG’s flaws is the fact that there is no routine field testing of organic crops under current organic certification standards. None. I guarantee you that everyone at EWG is fully aware of this deep flaw, and it draws into question whether the organic food EWG promotes is even really organic in the first place, which in turn undermines their whole argument before it even gets out of the gate. And yet, the media gleefully plays along promoting EWG’s list of alleged “dirty” foods.

So, instead of handling the whole organic movement with kid gloves – you know, pretending as so many do, in the interests of political correctness, that we support people’s “right to choose” and all that malarkey – I say it’s HIGH time to strike back and expose EWG! Did you know, for instance, that there are also no surprise inspections in the organic industry? Another huge flaw in EWG’s position. But, in the case EWG’s 'Dirty Dozen' list it’s the aforementioned lack of field testing that really undermines their claims. Now hold onto your hat while I tell you that EWG helped write these rudderless standards that omit field testing, and they did so in spite of President Clinton’s attempts to include testing in concert with the American Consumers Union!

Try to imagine the Olympics without athletes being tested for performance-enhancing drugs. Try to imagine Michelin Red Guide inspectors, or indeed even regular health-board inspectors, calling ahead before visiting a restaurant, and never sampling the food. The multi-billion-dollar organic industry − which stakes all of its marketing claims on the myth that it is purer, more natural and more nutritious than the conventional food industry − turns out to be a complete free-for-all.

And now for the fun part. I am an organic farmer, inspector and author! That’s right, I actually believe there could be provable, quantifiable benefits to eating organic food… in some cases at least. But at present there are basically none. So I’m writing to you to ask you to join me in my effort to bring science and objectivity to the business of certifying organic food. This is the only way to stem the advance of the political wing of the organic industry, a wing which includes no farmers and consists mainly of urban activists who’ve never worked a day on a farm in their life. Bringing science to organics will also lead to the elimination of more than half the organic industry’s current commercial volume, a welcome occurrence which would lead to a drastic reduction in funding for EWG and thereby discredit, once and for all, the proliferation of flagrant propaganda such as their 'Dirty Dozen' list. If this is not done, the conventional (including biotech) food sectors, which have safely and nutritiously fed billions upon billions of people over the decades, will continue to be subject to baseless attacks, and even legal victories in court won’t slow the tide of anti-scientific political activism. The activists have to be cut-off at their source: in the media, and be embarrassed into finally conducting routine field testing and surprise inspections across the board no matter how fearful they might be of the consequences.

Please have a look at my website where you’ll see some of the media work I’ve done in this area over the years. My work has been covered by Barron’s and The National Post, and I’ve given countless radio and television interviews. You’ll also see a number of highly-respected academics, business people and journalists copied on this email with whom I have communicated on this important matter over the years. Some might object to having their emails CC’d openly, but most won’t mind you knowing who they are because they appreciate that we all have a responsibility to promote objectivity, especially in the food industry. In one way or another, these people have all expressed support for my efforts to re-introduce the scientific process to the organic industry thereby reducing its political influence and forcing it to finally do what it claims to do: provide better food.

Please pick up a copy of my book Is it Organic? Whatever your assumptions surrounding organic food, I guarantee you’ll be both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised by what I have written. And please consider my suggestion of joining me in my efforts.

All the best!

Mischa Popoff
Author of Is it Organic? The inside story of the organic industry
Some people won't like this book, but you will
Osoyoos BC Canada

14 August, 2011

The story of your life really is written on your face, according to new research

As you will see from the journal abstract, the media article below is a rather florid interpretation of the findings. If I put bluntly what they really found you may understand why: What they found was that men from poor families tend to be uglier. Sorry about that but that is the way the cookie crumbles. The authors speculate that the ugliness was caused by disturbances during childhood but that seems unlikely. Genetic differences are more likely the culprit

Any explanation is going to be complex however when we note that there was no such effect for women. Poor women were NOT more likely to be ugly

In some people, the weather-beaten skin and deep lines that crease their face betray obvious clues about the hard life they have led, but now scientists have discovered everyone's facial features may betray their childhood.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have found it is possible to learn about a person's childhood by looking at how symmetrical their face is.

Using 15 different facial features, they found that people with asymmetric faces tended to have more deprived childhoods and so harder upbringings than those with symmetrical faces.

Their findings suggest that early childhood experiences such as nutrition, illness, exposure to cigarette smoke and pollution and other aspects of a difficult upbringing leave their mark in people's facial features.

Surprisingly, their facial features were not affected by their socioeconomic status in later life, which suggests that even those who manage to undergo a rag-to-riches transformation can never escape their past as it will be written on their face.

It may explain why celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay and Tracey Emin, who had difficult and impoverished childhoods, have such distinctive asymmetric facial features despite having since amassed personal fortunes.

Professor Ian Deary, from the department of psychology at the University of Edinburgh's centre of cognitive ageing, said: "Symmetry in the face is thought to be a marker of what is called developmental stability – the body's ability to withstand environmental stressors [stress factors] and not be knocked off its developmental path.

"We wondered whether facial symmetry would faintly record either the stressors in early life, which we though might be especially important, or the total accumulated effects of stressors through the lifecourse.

"The results indicated that it is deprivation in early life that leaves some impression on the face. The association is not very strong, meaning that other things also affect facial symmetry too."

Professor Deary and his colleagues examined the facial features of 292 people aged 83 who took part in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921, a study that has followed the participants through out their lifetime.

They were able to compare the facial symmetry of the participants to detailed information about their social status at childhood, including their parent's occupation, how crowded their home was and whether they had an indoor or outdoor lavatory.

They examined 15 different "landmarks" on the face, including the positions of the eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

They found there was a strong association between social class and the symmetry of the face in men. Those with more symmetrical faces had more privileged and easier upbringings than those with asymmetrical features.

The results in women were less strong and the researchers want to carry out further studies with other facial markers that may give a stronger association.

The researchers, however, found no correlation between participants social status in later life and their facial features.

Professor Tim Bates, who co-authored the study, added: "A small link from parental status to facial symmetry doesn't mean people are trapped by their circumstances. Far from it – as shown by the high levels of mobility in society, not just people like Gordon Ramsay, but to lesser degrees by millions of people."

The link between facial symmetry and exposure to stress in early life might explain why many studies have found that people with symmetrical faces are considered to be the most attractive.

Lop-sided facial features may unconsciously provide a signal that a person is less desirable as a mate due to the stress they experienced in early life which could leave them vulnerable to disease and premature death.

In their study, which is published in the journal of Economics and Human Biology, the scientists suggest that facial symmetry could be used alongside medical markers such as high blood pressure to identify people who might be at an increased risk of disease.

Professor Dearly, however, insisted there was still a lot of work to do before it could be used like this. "It is a research-based measure and quite tricky to calculate at present," he said.

Symmetry of the face in old age reflects childhood social status

David Hope et al.


The association of socioeconomic status (SES) with a range of lifecourse outcomes is robust, but the causes of these associations are not well understood. Research on the developmental origins of health and disease has led to the hypothesis that early developmental disturbance might permanently affect the lifecourse, accounting for some of the burden of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease. Here we assessed developmental disturbance using bodily and facial symmetry and examined its association with socioeconomic status (SES) in childhood, and attained status at midlife. Symmetry was measured at ages 83 (facial symmetry) and 87 (bodily symmetry) in a sample of 292 individuals from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921 (LBC1921). Structural equation models indicated that poorer SES during early development was significantly associated with lower facial symmetry (standardized path coefficient −.25, p = .03). By contrast, midlife SES was not significantly associated with symmetry. The relationship was stronger in men (−.44, p = .03) than in women (−.12, p = .37), and the effect sizes were significantly different in magnitude (p = .004). These findings suggest that SES in early life (but not later in life) is associated with developmental disturbances. Facial symmetry appears to provide an effective record of early perturbations, whereas bodily symmetry seems relatively imperturbable. As bodily and facial symmetries were sensitive to different influences, they should not be treated as interchangeable. However, markers of childhood disturbance remain many decades later, suggesting that early development may account in part for associations between SES and health through the lifecourse. Future research should clarify which elements of the environment cause these perturbations.


Real Fatsos tend to be poor

An interesting finding below. The relationship between fat and income is not linear. There is a large income range over which you are equally likely to be fat or slim. It's at the extremes that we see an effect of income. Great obesity goes with poverty and the really slim show a slight tendency to be richer.

It's possible however that the lack of a strong overall relationship arises because BMI is a poor measure of fat: You have to have a really strong effect for it to show up via BMI
Overweight and poor? On the relationship between income and the body mass index

Dean Jolliffe


Contrary to conventional wisdom, NHANES [National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of the CDC] data indicate that the poor have never had a statistically significant higher prevalence of overweight status at any time in the last 35 years. Despite this empirical evidence, the view that the poor are less healthy in terms of excess accumulation of fat persists. This paper provides evidence that conventional wisdom is reflecting important differences in the relationship between income and the body mass index. The first finding is based on distribution-sensitive measures of overweight which indicates that the severity of overweight has been higher for the poor than the nonpoor throughout the last 35 years. The second finding is from a newly introduced estimator, unconditional quantile regression (UQR), which provides a measure of the income-gradient in BMI at different points on the unconditional BMI distribution. The UQR estimator indicates that the strongest relationship between income and BMI is observed at the tails of the distribution. There is a statistically significant negative income gradient in BMI at the obesity threshold and some evidence of a positive gradient at the underweight threshold. Both of these UQR estimates imply that for those at the tails of the BMI distribution, increases in income are correlated with healthier BMI values.


13 August, 2011

Middle-aged women on antidepressants like Prozac 'face stroke risk'

The second sentence below is all you need to know, rather remarkably

Middle-aged women who take antidepressants could be nearly 40 per cent more likely to have a stroke, scientists claim. But it is unclear whether it is the pills or other factors linked to depression that raises the risk.

A study of more than 80,000 women aged 54 to 79 over a six-year period found those who had been depressed were 29 per cent more likely to have a stroke.

However, patients who took Prozac, Seroxat or similar medication were 39 per cent more at risk. Until recently there was little research on the long-term dangers of common antidepressants taken by millions of Britons a year.

But only last week a study by British scientists indicated they increased the risk of death, heart attacks and falls in the elderly.

Last year, 23 million prescriptions were written out for Prozac, Seroxat and similar types of drugs known as SSRIs, a rise of more than 40 per cent in four years.

Last night, health experts said women should not stop taking their medication as they could not be sure it was causing strokes.

Patients with depression are often overweight, tend to smoke or fail to exercise, factors that also increase the risk of stroke, the U.S. researchers, from Harvard Medical School, in Boston, told the American Heart Association.

Kathryn Rexrode, senior author of the research said: 'I don’t think the medications themselves are the primary cause of the risk. This study does not suggest that people should stop their medications to reduce the risk of stroke.

'Depression can prevent individuals from controlling other medical problems such as diabetes and hypertension, from taking medications regularly or pursuing other healthy lifestyle measures such as exercise. 'All these factors could contribute to increased risk.'

Dr Peter Coleman, of the Stroke Association, said patients on antidepressants should continue taking them. 'Depression is a very serious condition which needs to be treated carefully by healthcare professionals. This research appears to indicate that women suffering from depression may be less motivated to maintain good health or control other medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which have an associated increased risk of stroke.

'However, it is very hard to determine whether there is a direct link between depression and stroke risk and a lot more research is needed in this area before depression alone can be viewed as a stroke risk factor.

'It’s important that anyone taking antidepressants should continue doing so, and anyone concerned about their overall stroke risk should speak to their GP.'


Working in an office is bad for your brain

This seems reasonable but the evidence offered is very slim

Working in an office is bad for your brain and can make you less productive, according to researchers. A study has found that the hustle and bustle of modern offices can lead to a 32% drop in workers well being and reduce their productivity by 15%.

They have found that open plan offices create unwanted activity in the brains of workers that can get in the way of them doing the task at hand.

Open plan offices were first introduced in the 1950s and quickly became a popular as a way of laying out offices.

The findings are revealed in a programme made for Channel 4, The Secret Life of Buildings, to be broadcast on Monday.

In the television programme, however, a test carried out with presenter and architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff using a cap that measured his brain waves while trying to work in an open plan office revealed intense bursts of distraction.

Dr Jack Lewis, a neuroscientist who conducted the test, said: "Open plan offices were designed with the idea that people can move around and interact freely to promote creative thinking and better problem sovling. "But it doesn't work like that. If you are just getting into some work and a phone goes off in the back ground it ruins what you are concentrating on. Even though you are not aware at the time, the brain responds to distractions."

Modern offices which refuse to allow personal decorations on walls or desks may also not be helping employees. Dr Craig Knight, a psychologist at Exeter University said that allowing employees to personalise their working area could improve their performance in the office. He said: "Companies like the idea of giving their employees a lean space to work in as it is uniform and without unnecessary distractions.

"In the experiments we have run, however, employees respond better in spaces that have been enriched with pictures and plants. If they have been allowed to enrich the space themselves with their own things it can increase their wellbeing by 32% and their productivity by 15%. "It is because they are able to engage with their surroundings, feel more comfortable and so concentrate."

Professor Fred Gage, from the laboratory of genetics at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California, has also conducted studies by comparing the brains of mice kept in bare, clean cages with those kept in more stimulating environments.

He said "In the period of a month we saw the brains of the mice kept in stimulatni environments increase in volume by 15%. The area is highly enriched with blood vessels and we see new neurons being born. "If we can extrapolate that to humans then it shows that having a stimulating environment can optimise our performance and abilities."


12 August, 2011

Eating meals laced with paprika and cinnamon 'protects your body from effects of fatty foods'

This is a ludicrous study: N = 6?? That must be the smallest sample size I have seen. Additionally, it looked only at a few biomarkers, not any health outcome and the long term effects are unknown, including side-effects. Many things look good in the isolation but may not increase longevity overall

Eating a diet rich in spices such as turmeric and cinnamon can protect you from the physical damage caused by fatty meals, say scientists. A team from Penn State University has found a blend of antioxidant spices can reduce the stress that high-fat foods can place on the heart.

When we eat, our bodies use carbohydrate calories for energy and turn leftover calories into triglycerides that are stored in fat cells for later use.

Study leader, Sheila West, said: 'Normally, when you eat a high-fat meal, you end up with high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood. 'If this happens too frequently, or if triglyceride levels are raised too much, your risk of heart disease is increased. 'We found that adding spices to a high-fat meal reduced triglyceride response by about 30 per cent, compared to a similar meal with no spices added.'

Professor West and her colleagues prepared meals on two separate days for six men between the ages of 30 and 65 who were overweight, but otherwise healthy. The researchers added two tablespoons of culinary spices to each serving of the test meal, which consisted of chicken curry, Italian herb bread, and a cinnamon biscuit.

The control meal was identical, except that spices were not included. The team drew blood from the participants every 30 minutes for three hours.

'In the spiced meal, we used rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika,' said fellow researcher Ann Skulas-Ray. 'We selected these spices because they had potent antioxidant activity previously under controlled conditions in the lab.' The spice dose provided the equivalent amount of antioxidants contained in 1.4oz of dark chocolate.

When the meal contained a blend of antioxidant spices, antioxidant activity in the blood was increased by 13 per cent and insulin response decreased by about 20 per cent.

High insulin levels can be toxic over time and cause a build-up of plaque in the arteries. 'Antioxidants, like spices, may be important in reducing oxidative stress and thus reducing the risk of chronic disease,' Prof West said. Many scientists think that oxidative stress contributes to heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.

Ms Skulas-Ray noted that adding two tablespoons of spices to meals did not cause stomach upset in the participants. 'They enjoyed the food and had no gastrointestinal problems,' she said.

In the future, Prof West plans to investigate whether she can get the same results by adding smaller doses of spices to meals.

The findings were reported in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition.


Surging Retractions in Scientific Publishing

The Wall Street Journal reports that retractions of scientific papers have surged in recent years, with the top 3 journals issuing retractions being PNAS, Science and Nature. The graph above shows the increase in the rate of retracted papers.

Pharmalot provides a summary:
[T]here were just 22 retraction notices that appeared in journals 10 years ago, but 139 were published in 2006 and by last year, the number reached 339. Through July of this year, there were a total 210 retractions, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science, which maintains an index of 11,600 peer-reviewed journals.
Meanwhile, retractions related to fraud rose more than sevenfold between 2004 and 2009, exceeding a twofold rise traced to mistakes, according to an analysis published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. After studying 742 papers that were withdrawn from 2000 to 2010, the analysis found that 73.5 percent were retracted simply for error, but 26.6 percent were retracted for fraud. Ominously, 31.8 percent of retracted papers were not noted as retracted (read the abstract).

The conclusion? Either there is more fraud or more policing? Ivan Oransky, the executive editor of Reuters Health and a co-founder of the Retraction Watch blog that began recently in response to the spate of retractions, writes us that the simple use of eyeballs and software that can detect plagiarism has made it possible to root out bad papers.

He also notes, however, that there are more journals, which explains why there are more papers, in general, being published. “So the question is whether there have been more retractions per paper published,” Oransky writes, and then points to this chart to note that were, indeed, many more.

“That’s really no surprise, given the increasing numbers of eyeballs on studies, and the introduction of plagiarism detection software. It’s unclear whether the actual amount of misconduct and legitimate error has grown; it may just be that we’re picking up on more of it,” he continues. “What makes it difficult to tell is a problem we often see at Retraction Watch: Opaque and unhelpful retraction notices saying only ‘this study was withdrawn by the authors.’ How does that make for transparent science? We think journals can do a lot better, by demanding that authors and institutions come clean about what went wrong.”

And why is there more fraud? As the Wall Street Journal notes, there is a lot to be gained - by both researchers and journal editors - to publish influential papers. “The stakes are so high,” The Lancet editor Richard Horton tells the Journal. “A single paper in Lancet and you get your chair and you get your money. It’s your passport to success.”

The Retraction Watch website has recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. One thing you'll notice is that most of the attention to retractions occurs in the medical sciences. Here is a leading question -- is that because that area of research is more subject to error or fraud?


11 August, 2011

That evil meat-eating again

The usual epidemiological rubbish. What they have most likely found is that the poor eat more "incorrect" food and the poor are less healthy anyway.

There is such a lot of anti-meat evangelism around in the health literature that many findings could be "rigged" (consciously or unconsciously) also. Many academic articles contain "disclosure" statements of various kinds. A disclosure of vegetarianism would seem appropriate in this field where applicable

Just two rashers of bacon a day can increase the risk of diabetes by more than 50 per cent, scientists claim. Eating a single sausage, small burger or a few slices of salami every day drastically raises the chances of developing the illness.

Research has found that just 100g of red meat every day – or half a normal size steak – increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes by a fifth. But they found that processed meat, including products made from mince and cold meats such as ham and salami, had a far greater effect.

Just 50g a day, the equivalent of two slices of bacon, one sausage or one small burger, increases the risk by more than 50 per cent.

At least 2.5million Britons suffer from type 2 diabetes, the form linked to obesity, and experts suspect a further million have the condition but have not yet been diagnosed. It occurs when their body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin to control its blood sugar levels. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include feeling very thirsty, needing to go to the toilet and constant tiredness.

Although the illness is treatable with tablets and injections, it can cause serious complications including blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers at Harvard University looked at the health records and diets of more than 440,000 men and women spanning a period of between 14 and 28 years. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that people who ate 100g of red meat a day were 19 per cent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. And those who had 50g of processed meat every day – one sausage or frankfurter or two slices of bacon – increased their risk by 51 per cent.

But the scientists found that those who normally eat one portion of red meat a day could lower their risk by a fifth if they ate other proteins including nuts, low fat cheese or brown rice instead.

There is now widespread evidence that red meat drastically increases the likelihood of major health problems including heart disease, strokes and some types of cancer.

The Department of Health has issued guidelines saying adults should eat no more than 500g of red meat a week. This amounts to three sausages, one small steak, one quarter-pounder and three slices of lamb.

Until now, however, there was little evidence that relatively small amounts of processed red meat could increase the chance of diabetes. The researchers say the risks posed by eating too much red meat are now known to be so great that the public should be advised to cut back and eat poultry, fish and pulses instead.

But Dr Iain Frame from Diabetes UK, said: ‘Based on analysis of previous studies, this research simply suggests eating a daily portion of red meat may increase someone’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. ‘The suggested increased risk is small so people should not be afraid of eating red meat as part of a healthy balanced diet.’


Killer T-cells wipe out leukaemia

THREE US cancer patients were brought back from the brink by a new therapy that turned their own immune cells into tumour killers, wiping out an advanced form of leukaemia, researchers said today.

The breakthrough stunned scientists and although the gene transfer therapy technique is still in development, it could offer hope one day to people who suffer from ovarian, lung, breast and skin cancers.

"We saw amazing results," said Michael Kalos, lead author of the study that appeared in Science Translational Medicine and was published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"These were nasty tumours that were late-stage, a lot of mutations that had bad prognosis," he said. "We saw massive reduction in tumour burden. One patient had over seven pounds (three kilograms) of tumour and it all disappeared."

Two of the three men in the study with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have remained cancer-free for almost a year, while the third has seen a slight recurrence of disease.

"Within three weeks, the tumours had been blown away, in a way that was much more violent than we ever expected," said senior author Carl June, who like Kalos is a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. "It worked much better than we thought it would."

Scientists removed a sample of the patients' T-cells and genetically modified them to attack all cells that express a certain kind of protein, CD19, which includes tumour cells.

They altered them using a lentivirus vector that encodes an antibody-like protein known as a chimeric antigen receptor. The protein is expressed on the surface of T-cells and designed to bind to CD19.

The scientists also engineered the T-cells to start triggering other T-cells to multiply as soon as they attached to a cancer cell, bringing on a faster death for the tumour but avoiding the side-effects of cancer drugs.

"We saw at least a 1000-fold increase in the number of modified T-cells in each of the patients. Drugs don't do that," said Mr June, describing the infused T-cells as "serial killers". "On average, each infused T-cell led to the killing of thousands of tumour cells."

In one case, a 64-year-old man had blood and marrow "replete with tumour cells". He saw little change for the first two weeks after treatment, but then started experiencing nausea, chills and fever.

Tests showed he was undergoing a huge rise in T-cell count, and a condition known as tumour lysis syndrome that can arise when cancer cells are dying off. By day 28, his blood showed no evidence of leukaemia.

A 65-year-old patient saw similar results, with no trace of leukaemia after a year, but a 77-year-old patient saw a slight recurrence of cancer after he was treated with steroids for the symptoms of tumour lysis syndrome. However, his tumour load remains far below what it was before the treatment.

Steven Rosenberg, chief of the surgery branch at the National Cancer Institute, described it as "important" and "impressive". He was not involved with the study but has published research on similar approaches to eradicating B-cell lymphomas and melanoma.

"You are taking advantage of the body's immune system by creating outside the body T-cells that can act against the cancer," he said. "You have to select the particular gene modification for each type of cancer but when you pick it wisely it can be very effective."

The other main form of treatment, bone marrow transplants, carries a minimum 20 per cent risk of dying from the procedure and cure rates hover at around 50 per cent.

While it remains unknown how long the treatment may keep cancer at bay, researchers were excited to see that "memory" T-cells remained months after the cancer disappeared, indicating the body is retaining some protection.

The next step is to try the technique in two children and at least 13 adults with CD19-positive leukaemia.

They are also looking to determine whether the approach could target non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and acute lymphocytic leukaemia, mesothelioma cancer cells, ovarian and pancreatic cancer cells.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the second most common type of adult leukemia after acute myeloid leukemia, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"I'm healthy and still in remission," said one of the three patients, who declined to be named. "I know this may not be a permanent condition, but I decided to declare victory."


10 August, 2011

Curry component could one day cure your tennis elbow by reducing inflammation

Study in laboratory glassware only so far

Eating curry could offer new hope for sufferers of tennis elbow and other forms of tendinitis, says new research. A key ingredient found in Indian curries blocks tendon inflammation in the joints, which causes pain and misery for thousands.

The discovery could eventually lead to the development of a remedy for a painful condition which is on the increase, according to an international team of researchers.

They have shown that curcumin, which gives the spice turmeric its trademark bright yellow colouring, can be used to suppress biological mechanisms that spark inflammation in tendon diseases.

In a paper due to be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers at The University of Nottingham and Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich described laboratory experiments that show the ingredient can switch off the inflammatory cell cycle involved.

Dr Ali Mobasheri of the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, who co-led the research, said: ‘Our research is not suggesting that curry, turmeric or curcumin are cures for inflammatory conditions such as tendinitis and arthritis. ‘However, we believe that it could offer scientists an important new lead in the treatment of these painful conditions through nutrition.

‘Further research into curcumin, and chemically-modified versions of it, should be the subject of future investigations and complementary therapies aimed at reducing the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the only drugs currently available for the treatment of tendinitis and various forms of arthritis.’

Tendons, the tough cords of fibrous connective tissue that join muscles to bones, are essential for movement because they transfer the force of muscle contraction to bones but are prone to injury, particularly in athletes.

Tendinitis (or tendonitis) is a form of tendon inflammation, which causes pain and tenderness near to joints and is particularly common in shoulders, elbows, knees, hips, heels or wrists. Other examples of common tendon disease include tennis and golfer’s elbow and Achilles tendinitis.

The global incidence of tendonitis is on the increase because people are living longer and older people are more at risk of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

At present, standard treatment aims to relieve pain and reduce inflammation using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin or ibuprofen. In more serious cases of tendon injury, steroid injections can be given directly into the tendon sheath to control pain and enable physical therapy to start.

However, NSAIDS and steroids are associated with undesired side effects including stomach ulcers, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, headache, diarrhoea, constipation, drowsiness and fatigue.

There is an acute need for new treatments with fewer debilitating side effects, said Dr Mobasheri. This latest research looked at curcumin, a key ingredient of the spice turmeric, which has been used for centuries in traditional Indian or ‘Ayurvedic’ medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent and remedy for symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome and other disorders.

In the laboratory, researchers used a culture model of human tendon inflammation to study the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin on tendon cells.

The main objective of the study was to observe the effects that curcumin had on the inflammatory and degenerative properties induced by signalling molecules called interleukins. Interleukins are a type of small cell-signalling protein molecules called cytokines that can activate a whole series of inflammatory genes by triggering a dangerous ‘switch’ called NFkB.

The results showed that introducing curcumin in the culture system inhibits NFkB and prevents it from switching on and promoting further inflammation.

Previous research suggests turmeric may be useful in a variety of conditions, including cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.

However, experts say it is difficult to get a big enough dose to remedy medical problems from a curry meal, as 100g of curry powder has to be eaten to deliver a 3.6g clinical dose.

Hundreds of thousands of people suffer inflammation of the tendons each year. Apart from exercise-related injury, the condition can be sparked from repetitive strain on the joints and overuse.


Soy tablets 'do NOT ease menopause symptoms' and could make hot flushes worse

"Alternative" remedy fails when properly tested

Soy tablets do not cut symptoms of the menopause in older women or improve bone strength, researchers have warned.

Many women have turned to natural remedies to cope with symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweating and low mood because, it is claimed, they fear the side effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy. But a two-year study by researchers at the University of Miami of almost 250 women virtually no difference between those taking 200mg soy tablets daily or dummy pills.

Women who took the supplements every day for two years didn't have any improvement in their symptoms compared with those who took a soy-free placebo pill. They also suffered more hot flashes by the end of the study.

Women seeking relief have been left without a risk-free treatment since 2010 after a 15-year study found estrogen and progestin could increase heart and cancer risks. [NOTHING in life is risk-free but the risks with HRT are very small]

Lead author Dr Silvina Levis, said: 'What prompted us to do this study was in the wake of the Women's Health Initiative study when many of our patients stopped using hormone therapy. 'Many of them had just gone to a health food store and started on soy supplements.

'The study was started to try to answer a simple question: will these soy isoflavone tablets help women with the issues they were concerned with?'

Soy is a bean found in foods like soy milk, soy sauce, tofu and miso soup. It is often also used as a meat substitute in vegetarian foods.

Dr Levis and her team randomly split 248 women who had recently hit menopause into two groups. For two years, half of the women took 200 milligrams of soy isoflavones every day - about twice the amount that would be in a soy-rich diet. The other half took placebo pills. None of them knew whether they were getting the real or sham treatment.

Most of the participants were Hispanic, and 182 completed the study.

At their two-year visit, women in both groups had lost the same amount of bone density in their spine and hip since starting the study. They also reported a similar number of menopause symptoms, except more 48 per cent of women in the soy group reported hot flashes compared to 32 per cent in the placebo group.

Women taking the daily soy supplements also reported some of the stomach and digestion problems, such as constipation, that have been linked to soy before. However, there were no serious side effects related to the supplements, the authors report in Archives of Internal Medicine.

'When we started the study we wanted this to work, because it would provide an easy and healthy way to help women in the initial stages of menopause,' Dr Levis said.

After this, she said 'maybe women will reconsider' taking soy tablets during menopause.

William Wong, a nutritionist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said that it doesn't mean soy couldn't have health benefits over a longer period of time - such as if girls started getting more of it during puberty.

Medications including certain anti-depressants may provide relief for menopause symptoms in some women, Dr Levis said.

For bone health, Dr Wong recommended regular physical activity, combined with calcium and vitamin D supplements.


9 August, 2011

Getting along with colleagues helps you live longer?

I think that what this study may really have shown is that people in poor health have a worse social life

A friendly work environment and a positive relationship with your co-workers has long-term health benefits, according to the latest research.

Dr Sharon Toker of the Department of Organizational Behavior at Tel Aviv University's Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration says that employees who believe that they have the personal support of their peers at work are more likely to live a longer life.

"We spend most of our waking hours at work, and we don't have much time to meet our friends during the weekdays," explains Dr Toker. "Work should be a place where people can get necessary emotional support."

Dr Toker and her TAU colleagues Prof. Arie Shirom and Yasmin Alkaly, along with Orit Jacobson and Ran Balicer from Clalit Healthcare Services, followed the health records of 820 adults who worked an average of 8.8 hours a day through a two-decade period. Those who had reported having low social support at work were 2.4 times more likely to die sometime within those 20 years, says Dr Toker.

The 820 study participants were drawn from adults aged 25 to 65. Researchers controlled for various psychological, behavioral or physiological risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and depression, and administered a questionnaire to participants, who were drawn from a wide variety of professional fields including finance, health care and manufacturing.

Researchers asked about employees' relationships with their supervisors, and also assessed the subjects' evaluation of their peer relationships at work, and whether their peers were friendly and approachable, a reflection of emotional and professional support. Dr Toker suspects that the perception of emotional support was the strongest indicator of future health.

During the course of the study, says Dr Toker, 53 participants died, most of whom had negligible social connections with their co-workers. A lack of emotional support at work led to a 140% increased risk of dying in the next twenty years compared to those who reported supportive co-workers, she concluded.

While building a supportive environment for employees may seem intuitive, Dr Toker says that many workplaces have lost their way. Despite open concept offices, many people use email rather than face-to-face communication, and social networking sites that may provide significant social connection are often blocked.

To make an office friendlier to health Dr Toker suggests coffee corners where people can congregate to sit and talk; informal social outings for staff members; an internal virtual social network similar to Facebook; or a peer-assistance program where employees can confidentially discuss stresses and personal problems that may affect their position at work anything that encourages employees to feel emotionally supported, she says.


The hidden risks of top herbal remedies that pharmacists don't tell us about

Herbal medicines can pose serious health risks that consumers are not warned about, researchers say. They surveyed different versions of the five most popular remedies – St John’s wort, Asian ginseng, echinacea, garlic and ginkgo – and found they were commonly sold over the counter with no safety warnings.

Yet St John’s wort, widely used to combat low moods, can reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill. And Asian ginseng, used to boost the immune system, and echinacea, often used to protect against colds, also have their dangers. Even garlic – used to lower high blood pressure – can be dangerous in large quantities.

The researchers at Leeds University’s school of pharmacy surveyed 68 products on sale to the public and found 51 of them (75 per cent) contained no information on precautions, interactions with other medicines or side effects.

Seventy per cent of them (48 of the 68 products) were marketed as food supplements, despite their powerful effects. Just three products contained sufficient information on risks and side-effects. The products were bought at two health-food stores, three chain pharmacies and three supermarket chemists.

Under an EU directive in April this year, certain herbal medicines have to be licensed and carry health information, but of these five products, only St John’s wort and echinacea require a licence. Of the 12 St John’s wort products surveyed by the Leeds researchers, four contained no safety messages, and of 13 echinacea products, nine failed to provide the required information.

The other three remedies do not have to carry any warnings, as long as they make no medical claims.

The fact that so few products provided sufficient information could be because shops are allowed to continue selling old stock, with no warnings, until their expiry date.

Professor Theo Raynor, who led the study, said: ‘The best advice to consumers is “buyer beware”. Herbal medicines ...... should be taken with as much caution as any over-the-counter medicine. ‘Any substance that affects the body has the potential to do harm if not taken correctly.’

He advised consumers to look for the Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) logo, which means remedies have been approved by the Government. ‘People should tell their doctor about herbal medicines they are taking so they receive the best care,’ he added.


8 August, 2011

The attention seeking Greenfield now claims that internet use leads to autism

Greenfield speculates again. Criticizing TV and computer usage is her shtick but we have not yet heard what she thinks of the finding that regular Facebook users have MORE friends in real life than others

A neuroscientist has sparked a war of words after suggesting a link between increased internet use and autism. Baroness Greenfield, former [fired] director of the Royal Institution, believes digital technology could be leading to changes in people’s brains.

The professor of pharmacology at Oxford University has previously argued that constant computer and internet use could be shortening attention spans, encouraging instant gratification and causing a loss of empathy.

But a fellow Oxford professor condemned her remarks on autism as ‘illogical garbage’. Dr Dorothy Bishop, a professor of neuropsychology, wrote an open letter to Baroness Greenfield saying: ‘You may not realise just how much ill-formed speculation parents of [children with autistic spectrum disorders] are exposed to.

‘Over the years they’ve been told their children’s problems are caused by a cold style of interaction, inoculations, faulty diets, allergies, drinking in pregnancy – the list is endless.’

She believes Baroness Greenfield, who was speaking in an interview with New Scientist magazine, has ignored a body of evidence which suggests most, if not all, of the rise in autism is down to a widening of the diagnostic criteria and better understanding of the condition.

She said: ‘Most cases are diagnosed around the age of two, when not many children are using the internet. And this rise has been documented over the past 20 years, long before Twitter and Facebook.’

Baroness Greenfield said: ‘I have never claimed new technologies are causing autism. Rather, I’ve said that the increase in lack of empathy, that is documented scientifically, may be leading to behaviours like that and this should be explored.’

She said one recent Chinese study found excessive internet use can cause parts of teenagers’ brains to waste away. She added: ‘We may be in danger if we are creating an environment for the next generation where a premium isn’t put on eye contact, body language and hugging someone.’


How "light" food options 'have as many calories as ordinary foods'

They are promoted as the lighter option. But many supermarket ‘diet’ ranges are in fact heavier in fat and calories than standard versions.

Keen to catch the eye of the weight-conscious shopper, supermarkets and big brands have spent millions of pounds on formulating lower fat, sugar or salt versions of their most popular products.

But some of those ‘light’ versions actually contain more fat or calories, suggesting that the only pounds that slimmers will be parting with are those in their wallets.

A snapshot survey of supermarket shelves has revealed ‘light’ versions of crisps, salad dressings, biscuits, cereals and yoghurt drinks may not be as low-calorie as they first seem.

Walkers Lights are promoted as having 33 per cent less fat than ordinary crisps and around 115 calories per 24g bag – making them as calorific, weight for weight, as the brand’s Extra Crunchy cheddar and sour cream crisps. This compares to a standard bag of Tyrell’s sea salt and vinegar crinkle cut crisps – which are not even promoted as a ‘diet’ food – containing just 107 calories per 24g.

Salad dressing labels also bear close inspection. For instance, Pizza Express’s Caesar Light dressing, which is widely sold in supermarkets, contains 348 calories and 34.1g of fat per 100ml. In contrast, 100g of standard caesar dressing in the Tesco Finest range contains just 300 calories per 100g and 28.1g of fat.

Marks & Spencer sells its reduced fat rich tea biscuits using the slogan ‘more nice, less naughty’. They contain 34 per cent less fat than the chain’s standard rich teas. But, at 40 calories per biscuit, the calorie count is the same, and two more than in McVitie’s standard rich tea biscuit. McVitie’s Lights on the other hand contain more sugar than its standard Digestive.

How they add up

Kellogg’s Special K is heavily promoted as an aid to weight loss. All but one of its ten flavours contain more calories per 100g than the cereal giant’s sugar-coated Frosties. Special K Honey Clusters, for instance, contain 389 calories per 100g, compared with 375 for Frosties. The cereal also has 3g of fat per 100g – five times as much as Frosties.

Under European rules, the word ‘light’ can only be used to promote food when there has been a reduction of at least 30 per cent in calories, fat, sugar or salt. The anomalies arise because manufacturers use their own products as a benchmark, rather than similar products by competitors.

The 30 per cent rule means foods that are still high in fat, sugar or calories can still be labelled as ‘light’ – simply because levels are lower than in the standard version.

Food companies say they clearly set out the nutritional content of their products on the labels. PepsiCo, which makes Walkers crisps, said Walkers Lights contain fewer calories and less saturated fat per bag than its standard crisps.

Kellogg’s said Special K Original has an average of 114 calories per bowl. Spokesman Paul Wheeler added: ‘Importantly, it has been developed with the right balance of vitamins and minerals especially for the diet of women looking to manage their weight.’

Marks & Spencer said its reduced fat rich tea biscuits are labelled as being low in fat, rather than ‘light’.


7 August, 2011

Book Review of "Junk Medicine" by Theodore Dalrymple (Harriman House Ltd)

Review by Dr. Alick Dowling -- review originaly prepared for the Bristol Med Chi society. The "junk" referred to is alleged drugs of addiction, principally opiates

This book will be of special interest to members of the Bristol Med Chi and the Bristol BMA. Many flocked to hear Theodore Dalrymple at the annual joint meeting in Bristol, Jan 2005. He spoke on ‘The Story of the Corruption of Britain’, summarized in The Spectator 22 Jan 2005 describing his retirement from the NHS in ‘A Doctor’s Farewell’. He has regular columns in the BMJ, Spectator and other outlets such as The Wall Street Journal. In his alter ego he is also an admired book reviewer. This book published in the UK in September appeared last year in the USA as Romancing Opiates. Theodore Dalrymple himself summarized it in the article: ‘Poppycock’ in The Wall Street Journal 25 May 2006.

His sardonic wit is famous and readers familiar with his written style could legitimately wonder how he entices patients to speak so frankly. It seems unbelievable they could actually say what he reports. Those who assume his speech resembles his written style suspect him of invention, but anyone who had the opportunity to talk to him at the Bristol meeting found him courteous, cheerful, smiling readily and listening attentively. It must be difficult for his patients to remain hostile when confronted by an engaging smiling face eager to listen to anything you say. In short, his charm disarms those patients inclined to be surly. A less sympathetic questioner would not have so soothing an effect. Dalrymple’s columns make compulsive reading because he can convey succinctly, yet with humour, their usually bleak message.

In Junk Medicine he questions the long-held belief, popular since 1822 when Thomas De Quincey published The Confessions of an English Opium Eater, that addiction to opiates is a medical problem, when it is not a medical but really a moral or social problem. This message is encapsulated in the subtitle ‘Doctors, Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy’.

It is stated explicitly in the Introduction: “Addiction to opiates is a pretend rather than a real illness, treatment of which is pretend rather than real treatment. How and why addicts came to lie to doctors, how and why doctors came to return the compliment, and how and why society in general swallowed the lies wholesale, is explored in this book.”

At the beginning of his career as a doctor and psychiatrist in prisons Dalrymple accepted uncritically the belief – which he now knows to be a myth – that addiction was a medical problem to be treated by doctors. As the incidence of addiction increased steeply, despite and probably because of, the increasing number of drug clinics he began to think about it more.

He does not rely exclusively on medical or pharmacological sources though these are fully discussed in Chapter 1 ‘Lies! Lies! Lies!’ The title Junk Medicine is not an oxymoron but a reference to Junkie, William Burroughs’s autobiographical first book in 1953. Under the subheading ‘The Addictive Nature of Opiates’ Dalrymple dismisses Junkie in his characteristic way: “This book is a mixture of self-serving lies and exhibitionist frankness typical of the genre of opiate confessional. In one of his rare moments of truthfulness, probably accidental and certainly without realization of the moral significance of what he is saying, the psychopathic Burroughs writes: ‘You don’t wake up one morning and decide to be a drug addict. It takes at least three months’ shooting twice a day to get any habit at all.’ In other words, the establishment of an addiction requires a certain discipline or determination.”

Later in Chapter 1 under the heading ‘The Alleged Horrors of Withdrawal’ we read “But are the withdrawal symptoms from heroin (and other opiates) so very terrible? In the standard view of heroin addiction, they are. But let me quote from some of the major medical textbooks of our day: ‘Although opiate withdrawal is not life-threatening, patients can become extremely dysphoric. (Jay H. Stein, Internal Medicine, 5th edition, St Louis: C. V. Mosby, 1999, p. 2297)’. ‘Dysphoric’ means, of course, unhappy or disgruntled, though ‘dysphoric’ sounds very much more precise, technical, and medical: In other words, they are unhappy or disgruntled because they are not getting what they want. But, to adapt P. G. Wodehouse slightly, which of us is gruntled all the time?”

In the middle Chapter 2 –‘The Literature of Exaggeration and Self-Dramatisation’ The author uses his literary knowledge to explore the historical reasons why such a widely held false belief, including the impossibility that heroin or opiate addicts can stop without unbearable suffering, can be traced back to the mass credulity in descriptions by such writers as De Quincey and Coleridge on opiate addiction. Theodore Dalrymple with his interest in English and foreign literature and writing is akin to another much admired medical writer of the last century, Richard Asher (1912-1969) now out of fashion but well worth reading. The latter was also eager to espouse unpopular causes and was a champion of common sense.

In Chapter 3 ‘The Show Must Go On’ the recurring theme is the influence of bureaucracy. When a ‘Drugs Tsar’ was appointed in the UK, it was only to be expected that there would be an ‘Empire’ for him to administer. And so it was: bureaucrats built the appropriate house of cards that took over the whole edifice of drug treatment clinics. The doctors and ancillary staff who work in them accept the assumptions on which they are run, including the idea, quite contrary to common sense, of substituting methadone for opiates. Though it is a house of cards, it will be difficult to dismantle: the bureaucrats have fixed the cards with glue, and the inmates have no incentive to destroy their place of employment – and has anyone heard of bureaucrats being defeated on their chosen pitch?

In ‘Auxiliary Workers’ Need for Addicts’ Dr Dalrymple tells of how he once pointed out that there was no ‘evidence-based medicine’ to support methadone substitution for opiates; a medical colleague “reacted with something akin to a cry of panic: You’re challenging the consensus, he said, as if to do so were automatically to be wrong, or worse still, wicked. The apparatchik mentality is far from unique to the former Soviet Union.”

Under his final subheading ‘What Is To Be Done?’ the author discusses whether opiates should be legalized. We might expect Theodore Dalrymple, with a reputation for dogmatic statements, to have a decided view, but he puts the alternatives clearly and with moderation, and comes to a conclusion with some reluctance that “on balance, therefore, I think that the arguments against legalization, however formulated, are stronger than those in favour.”

At the end of this section he writes: “I would suggest the closure of all clinics claiming to treat drug addicts, the modern bureaucratic institutionalization of Romantic ideas. This would put an end to the harmful pretence that addicts are ill and in need of treatment. In the former Soviet Union, there was a saying of the workers that ‘We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.’ Drug addicts could say something similar to capture the reality of the current system: ‘We pretend to be ill, and they pretend to cure us.’ Henceforth, instead, doctors should treat addicts only for the serious physical complications of drug addiction: abscesses, viral infections and the like. Addicts would then have to face the truth. Whatever their background, they are as responsible for their actions as anyone else. The truth will not necessarily set them free, but neither will it enchain them in ‘mind-forg’d manacles’.”

The Appendix ‘A Short Anthology of Nonsense’ provides examples to show how the influence of De Quincey and his followers still underlies the view that opiate withdrawal is so difficult and painful that no victim should be expected to undergo something so dreadful. These examples make melancholy reading. It is depressing to realise how many of the young are still wilfully misled by literary traditions that persist in books like Trainspotting, (1993) – later a popular film.

Junk Medicine is a well presented, and well produced book; even its index is worth reading, with many literary references, including Wodehouse and Violet Elizabeth. (Somerset Maugham gets one page reference, though he appears in the Appendix as well as Chapter 3). My only regret is that the impressive structure of the overall argument is not displayed in the list of Contents. That parsimoniously lists only the Introduction, the three Chapters, and the Appendix and Index. To omit the very relevant, witty and instructive subheadings, hidden in the text of the three Chapters, is a shame. These subheadings divide the logical argument into short essays typical of Theodore Dalrymple’s style, a master of concision. They are like a series of gems joined into the three necklaces that constitute the three main Chapters – a total of twenty-seven essays. For example, Chapter 1 has eleven essays distinguished by subheadings such as: The Misconception of the Problem, The Standard or Orthodox View, The Alleged Horrors of Withdrawal, The Alleged Need for Treatment, The New Methadone.

It is a pity that all eleven are not set out in full in the list of Contents as that would help the reader to find gems he wants to re-read. All will bear re-reading. And of course the same is true of Chapter 2, devoted to The Literary Tradition, and of Chapter 3 bringing the argument to its conclusion, divided respectively into seven and nine no less compact and forceful essays.

This book is one to be welcomed wholeheartedly, and needs to be read widely both by doctors, who will enjoy the education it gives so refreshingly, and by the ‘drug-treating community’ who perhaps will not.

Received via email from the author

Device designed to beat obesity helps cure diabetes

Very interesting. Obesity is sometimes held to CAUSE Diabetes but note below that the diabetes remits BEFORE weight loss. It's consistent with the view that obesity challenges diabetes but does not cause it

An implanted sleeve that looks like a giant sausage skin is being used to tackle the most common form of diabetes. The 2ft-long device, developed as an incision-less alternative to a type of weight-loss surgery known as a duodenal switch, can reverse the disease within weeks.

The duodenum is the name for the first 10 to 12in of the small intestine, which attaches to the stomach. A duodenal switch is a keyhole procedure that involves making two incisions at the start and end of the duodenum. The lower part of the intestine is attached to the stomach, forming a new pathway.

Food then bypasses most of the duodenum, which limits absorption.
Long-term risks include hernia and bowel obstruction.

The device, the EndoBarrier, is designed to have the same effects as surgery but is far safer. It is a plastic sleeve that lines the duodenum, meaning food can only be absorbed lower down the intestine.

The procedure is performed under anaesthetic in less than an hour. The sleeve – made from a thin plastic – is inserted via the mouth and passed into the digestive tract using a thin tube. Once in place, a sprung titanium anchor prevents it slipping out. It is removed after a year.

During trials researchers found that in obese patients who also suffered diabetes, the disease went into remission. Initially experts believed it was a result of weight loss – but many patients were able to stop taking their diabetes medication before they began to lose weight.

The discovery has led to clinical trials at three hospitals, which found the implant also seems to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition caused by too much sugar in the blood. Initial symptoms include extreme thirst, tiredness and blurred vision. Sufferers are five times more likely to suffer from heart disease and strokes and can suffer sight loss, nerve damage and kidney disease. Ten per cent of all NHS spending – £9 billion a year – goes on treating diabetes, and £130 million is spent on tablets alone.

Type 2 diabetes occurs due to problems with the way the body handles insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood.

When we eat, the digestive system breaks down food to release the nutrients from it. These nutrients, including glucose, enter your bloodstream. Normally, insulin is produced by the pancreas to move glucose from the blood into the cells, where it is broken down to produce energy.

It is thought that type 2 diabetes is a result of the body being unable to produce enough insulin or because the cells in the body do not react properly to insulin.

Affecting 2.8 million Britons, poor diet, lack of exercise, carrying excess weight as well as a family history contribute to the development of the disease. The condition is treated with drugs designed to increase insulin production or reduce insulin resistance, but these do not stop the progression of diabetes, and some can also have side effects such as nausea, weight gain or liver damage.

With the EndoBarrier, the duodenum is bypassed, altering the balance of hormones in the body leading to a reversal in diabetes symptoms. ‘Food passing through the intestine triggers the release of hormones in the body,’ says Dr John Mason, consultant gastroenterologist at Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust, who implanted the first EndoBarrier in the UK. ‘These hormones have different functions, including signalling that the pancreas gland should release insulin.’

Results from a new study at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, Somerset, show that in 72 per cent of cases, diabetic patients went into remission after the EndoBarrier was fitted, and after a year all had no need for medication.

‘The operation is available only privately,’ says Dr Mason. ‘The NHS has yet to decide on whether it should be a treatment.’ The operation costs £8,000. One patient to benefit is Jason McCullen, 39, an IT consultant from Sale, Manchester. He developed diabetes in 2009. He had the EndoBarrier implanted at Trafford Hospital, Manchester this year. ‘I didn’t feel any pain afterwards. My waist over the past three months has gone from 42in to 38in. And I don’t need medication.’


6 August, 2011

Omega-3 can reduce risk of colds in babies (?)

If I read it aright, this is just a case of data dredging. NO symptom was consistently reduced by the treatment. But SOME symptoms were less at each age point. That sounds like an entirely random set of effects. If you look at enough factors you will find some that differ by chance alone

Babies whose mothers take Omega-3 fish oil supplements during pregnancy suffer fewer colds and shorter illnesses during their first six months of life, researchers have found.

A study of more than 800 babies showed that mothers who took supplements of a particular Omega-3 acid during the second half of their pregnancy had healthier babies.

Infants whose mothers had taken 400mg Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) capsules each day had fewer colds at the age of one month than a control group, although they had longer-lasting rashes.

After three months those whose parents had taken the supplements spent 14 per cent less time ill, and at six months they had less fever, breathing problems, rashes and other illnesses but significantly higher levels of vomiting.

Researchers from Emory University in Georgia, America said the trials conducted in Mexico showed that infants in the group whose mothers had taken DHA were healthier overall.

In a study published in the Pediatrics journal, they said DHA influenced the duration of illness symptoms and reduced the infants' chances of catching colds.

Omega-3 acids play an important role in brain and eye development in foetuses, especially during the last trimester of pregnancy, but previous studies on adults and children have showed varied effects on the immune system and illness.

Additional studies are needed to examine exactly how fatty acids influence infants' immune systems and the potential benefits of taking supplements while pregnant and during breastfeeding, the researchers said.

Prenatal Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation and Infant Morbidity: Randomized Controlled Trial

By Beth Imhoff-Kunsch et al.


Objective: Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) influence immune function and inflammation; however, the influence of maternal DHA supplementation on infant morbidity is unknown. We investigated the effects of prenatal DHA supplementation on infant morbidity.

Methods: In a double-blind randomized controlled trial conducted in Mexico, pregnant women received daily supplementation with 400 mg of DHA or placebo from 18 to 22 weeks' gestation through parturition. In infants aged 1, 3, and 6 months, caregivers reported the occurrence of common illness symptoms in the preceding 15 days.

Results: Data were available at 1, 3, and 6 months for 849, 834, and 834 infants, respectively. The occurrence of specific illness symptoms did not differ between groups; however, the occurrence of a combined measure of cold symptoms was lower in the DHA group at 1 month (OR: 0.76; 95% CI: 0.58–1.00). At 1 month, the DHA group experienced 26%, 15%, and 30% shorter duration of cough, phlegm, and wheezing, respectively, but 22% longer duration of rash (all P ≤ .01). At 3 months, infants in the DHA group spent 14% less time ill (P < .0001). At 6 months, infants in the DHA group experienced 20%, 13%, 54%, 23%, and 25% shorter duration of fever, nasal secretion, difficulty breathing, rash, and “other illness,” respectively, but 74% longer duration of vomiting (all P < .05).

Conclusions: DHA supplementation during pregnancy decreased the occurrence of colds in children at 1 month and influenced illness symptom duration at 1, 3, and 6 months.


Wide waist, narrow mind: How middle age spread can shrink your brain (?)

I see no reason to doubt that diabetes and smoking have an adverse efect on the brain but the attribution of brain deterioration to fat is very weak. Overweight people may be more self-indulgent generally and thus more prone to destructive behaviours such as drug taking. And it could be those behaviours that are the problem, not the fat

An expanding waistline and other middle-age vices are not only bad for your heart – they could cause your brain to shrink, warn researchers. Smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure also take their toll on the grey matter, having an effect on brainpower just ten years later.

Researchers said doctors could use the information to pick out patients at a higher risk of dementia and encourage them to improve their lifestyles while there was still time.

More than 1,300 men and women in their 50s and 60s had their weight and height measured at the start of the U.S. study and had blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes tests.

Scans to measure brain volume were carried out over the next ten years and mental tests were also run on participants.

The brain shrinks with age, even in the healthiest of people. But in those with diabetes, the hippocampus, the brain’s ‘memory hub’, shrank more quickly than in those without the condition. The hippocampus also shrivelled faster in smokers. And those with high blood pressure were more prone to small lesions or areas of brain damage, known as ‘white matter hyper-intensities’.

High blood pressure was also linked to a more rapid worsening of scores on mental tests, effectively ageing the brain by up to eight years.

Those who were obese in their 50s tended to fare poorly on the mental tests in the study at the University of California at Davis, the journal Neurology reports.

Study author Charles DeCarli said: ‘Identifying these risk factors early could be useful in screening people for dementia and encouraging people to make changes to their lifestyle before it’s too late.’

A previous study of American pensioners found that obesity ages the brain by up to 16 years. It is thought that high levels of fat raise the odds of the arteries clogging up, cutting the flow of blood and oxygen.

It is estimated that half of cases of Alzheimer’s could be prevented by lifestyle changes, such as doing more exercise, eating healthily and not smoking.

People who are overweight at 60 are more than twice as likely to get dementia by 75.


5 August, 2011

A disgraceful instance of Orwellian Newspeak

F.D.A. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg writes that “Despite common criticisms that our agency impedes innovation by being slow and bureaucratic, we actually play a proactive role in promoting innovation by ushering new products through the approval process and to market – while making sure they meet the standards of safety and effectiveness that have served the American people well” (“America’s Innovation Agency: The FDA,” August 1).

Orwell would be impressed.

For an F.D.A. commissioner to brag about that agency’s “proactive role” in “ushering new products through the approval process and to market” is like an armed troll who, having seized a bridge in order to extract tribute from all who seek to cross, brags that he plays a “proactive role” in seeing people safely to the other side of the river.

And just as that troll has no business second-guessing the reasons that inspire people to seek to cross the bridge, the F.D.A. has no business second-guessing the risks that each American chooses to bear when deciding which foods and medicines to ingest.


Hidden Truth: The Perils and Protection of Off-Label Drug and Medical Device Promotion

What can you do if you learn you have a life-threatening illness but there is no Food and Drug Administration-approved medicine to treat it? Sometimes, there is nothing to do but hope. Very often, though, your doctor will be able to prescribe a drug or medical device that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a different condition. This practice, called “off-label” prescribing, is perfectly legal, commonly practiced within the medical community, viewed as an essential component of good medical care, and offers greater choice in treatment options for millions of American patients. It is not without controversy, however.

Because the safety and efficacy of off-label uses have not been certified by the FDA, some in government and the public health community have long criticized the practice. And the FDA has long forbidden drug and device makers from disseminating most information about off-label uses, often making it difficult for doctors and their patients to learn about important therapeutic options.

No federal statute explicitly forbids manufacturers from promoting or otherwise disseminating information about off-label uses of their drugs and devices. The FDA has, however, extended its authority over product labeling to encompass manufacturers’ speech in other contexts—including print and broadcast advertisements, brochures and pamphlets, websites, conferences and seminars, and face-to-face communication. The agency bars nearly all speech promoting an off-label use regardless of its veracity, and vigorously enforces this restriction even when the information is not being broadcast to lay audiences, but is provided directly to physicians with sophisticated medical training.

Ironically, physicians and laymen not paid by a drug or device’s manufacturer are free to tout the benefits of off-label uses in any way and to any listener. Doctors are free, and indeed are often encouraged by the federal government, to prescribe drugs and devices for off-label uses. But as legal scholars have noted, if two physicians were to provide identical truthful and non-misleading information about off-label uses to an identical audience, one of them can be hailed as a medical pioneer and the other convicted of a federal crime solely on the basis of the second doctor’s financial ties to a drug or medical device com-pany. Naturally, this inconsistency has raised questions about the constitutionality of the FDA’s treatment of off-label promotion.

Commercial speech is afforded less constitutional protection than pure political or scientific speech. However, the First Amendment forbids the government from regulating truthful and non-misleading commercial speech about lawful conduct in a manner that is more restrictive than necessary to achieve a substantial governmental interest. The FDA insists that its bar on off-label promotion is necessary to achieve three interrelated governmental interests: protecting public health through its certification of drug and medical device safety, preserving the integrity of the drug and device approval process, and ensuring that physicians and patients do not receive inaccurate or biased information that may influence prescribing decisions.

If manufacturers may promote medical products for off-label uses, the argument goes, there is no incentive for them to seek approval for these uses. Thus, the agency has no occasion to evaluate the scientific support for such claims, and physicians and their patients may be persuaded to use products that are unsafe or ineffective. FDA and other supporters of the ban recount sordid stories of snake oil salesmen peddling approved products for off-label uses with unproven, exaggerated, or fraudulent health claims, and they argue that eliminating the ban would open the floodgates for such objectionable conduct.

Section I of this paper examines the convention of off-label prescribing, its role in the practice of medicine, and its broad support within the medical community. It also sets out some of the pros and cons of the practice. Section II discusses the evolution of the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act and the FDA’s role in the drug and device approval process.

Section III turns specifically to the regulation of medical product labeling and advertising, and discusses FDA’s regulation of off-label speech. In particular, that section examines Congress’s and the agency’s effort to carve out limited exemptions for certain types of off-label speech, and it introduces a discussion of the treatment by federal courts of off-label speech restrictions. Section IV examines three recent court challenges to the off-label promotion ban, one of which was still on-going at the time of publication.

Section V discusses the scope of permissible commercial speech regulation and analyzes the constitutionality of off-label speech restrictions in light of applicable case law. It finds that the FDA’s current ban on off-label promotion is unconstitutional, but suggests less burdensome alternative restrictions that likely would pass constitutional muster while still advancing the government’s asserted interests.


4 August, 2011

Lentils and kidney beans 'cut bowel cancer risk' by up to a third

Loma Linda are certainly consistent. They have been pouring out claims like this for many years. I seem to recollect that they have some connection with the Seventh Day Adventist church, which is big on vegetarianism.

It's all nonsense of course. Vegetarians probably look after themselves in lots of ways other than their diet -- less drug-taking, for instance. There is no knowing what lies behind the differences reported

Eating pulses, brown rice, green vegetables and dried fruit could cut the risk of bowel cancer. People who consume pulses such as kidney beans or lentils at least three times a week reduce their risk of developing polyps – small growths in the lining of the bowel which can become cancerous – by a third, researchers say.

Eating brown rice once a week cuts the risk by two fifths, while having cooked green vegetables at least once a day reduces it by a quarter.

The scientists from Loma Linda University in California also found eating dried fruit at least three times a week cuts the risk of developing the growths by a similar amount.

The study is one of the first to look at which specific foods can cut the risk of bowel cancer. It used data from a survey of nearly 3,000 people 25 years ago who were asked how often they ate certain foods.

Participants were then asked to complete a follow-up survey which focused on whether they developed polyps, with around a sixth of participants confirming that they had.

The data was adjusted to take into account possible hereditary conditions, how active people were and whether they smoked, drank or ate certain unhealthy foods.

Study author Dr Yessenia Tantamango said that the high fibre content in these foods helped make them potent weapons in the fight against bowel cancer.

Dr Tantamango, whose findings were published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, added: ‘Pulses, dried fruits, and brown rice all have a high content of fibre, known to dilute potential carcinogens.

‘Additionally, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain detoxifying compounds, which would improve their protective function. Eating these foods is likely to decrease your risk for colon polyps, which would in turn decrease your risk for colorectal cancer.’

‘Our study confirms the results of past studies that have been done in different populations analysing risks for colon cancer.’


Dieting forces the brain to eat itself (and then make you feel hungry)

Another rodent study but there might be something in it

DIETERS, you have a new enemy - your brain. Scientists claim that dieters often struggle to shed the kilos because their brains are secretly working against them.

When the body is starved of nutrition brain cells start eating themselves - a process called autophagy - to keep energy levels up. This in turn causes the body to make fatty acids, which increases feelings of hunger in the brain. Trips to the fridge and biscuit tin ensue.

Writing in the science journal Cell Metabolism, researchers from Yeshiva University in New York said they had successfully managed to stop the chemical reaction in dieting mice.

This kept the mice light and slim, and could lead to successful weight loss treatments for humans. "Treatments aimed at the pathway might make you less hungry and burn more fat, a good way to maintain energy balance in a world where calories are cheap and plentiful," said Dr Rajat Singh, who led the study.


3 August, 2011

Mediterranean diet 'lengthens life by up to FIFTEEN years', researchers claim

What a lot of old dribble! The traditional Australian diet -- heavy in meat and fat -- is about as opposite as can be to the Mediterranean diet -- yet Australians live LONGER than Greeks and Italians

Those who follow a Mediterranean diet combined with exercise, not smoking and keeping to a healthy weight could live up to 15 years longer, researchers say.

The ten-year study by the University of Maastricht followed 120,000 men and women who were aged 55 to 69 in 1986.

The effect is strongest in women, who can live an extra 15 years compared to the least healthy people, while healthy men can enjoy eight years more.

Researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands said keeping to the four healthy lifestyle factors can 'substantially reduce' the risk of an early death.

Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers looked at 120,000 men and women who were aged 55 to 69 in 1986. They calculated a 'healthy lifestyle score' based on smoking, exercise, weight and diet and followed the group until 1996.

A Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, olive oil, fruit, nuts, fish and whole grains, and low in meat and alcohol. Rubbish! The have wine with most meals!]

Piet van den Brandt, professor of epidemiology at Maastricht University, who worked on the study, said: 'Very few research studies worldwide have analysed the relationship between a combination of lifestyle factors and mortality in this way. 'This study shows that a healthy lifestyle can lead to significant health benefits.

'Furthermore, the effects of a Mediterranean diet were more evident in women than in men. 'Within this diet, nuts, vegetables and alcohol intake had the biggest impact on lower mortality rates.'


Having a long life is 'all down to inheriting the right genes'

Smoking, drinking and eating fast food will not stop you living to a ripe old age – if you have the right genes. A study of hundreds of centenarians revealed they were just as likely to have vices as other people – and in some cases they indulged in them more.

Some of them had smoked for 85 years, others got through more than two packets of cigarettes a day. They also exercised less than their shorter-lived counterparts but were less likely to become obese.

The bad news is it is almost impossible to be sure if you are one of the lucky few blessed with the longevity genes. This means, say the American researchers, that there is no excuse for not taking care of your health.

Almost 500 men and women aged between 95 and 109 were asked about how they had lived their lives for the study. Those quizzed were Ashkenazi Jews, whose relatively recent descent from small founder groups means there is less variation in their genes than in the general population, making it easier to spot the effects of genetics. The results were then compared with the answers of a second group who were born around the same time but had had normal lifespans.

If lifestyle was more important than genetics, the results would have shown the centenarians to be less likely to smoke than the others and have led healthier lives. But this was far from the case, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported.

The long-lived men and women were no more likely to have dieted than the others and were more likely to have smoked and drunk.

Researcher Nir Barzilai, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said: ‘This study suggests centenarians may possess additional longevity genes that help to buffer them against the harmful effects of an unhealthy lifestyle.’

But most of us will not be so lucky. He added: ‘Although this study demonstrates centenarians can be obese, smoke and avoid exercise, these lifestyle habits are not good choices for most of us who do not have a family history of longevity.’


2 August, 2011

Could eating grapes save you from skin cancer? Scientists find fruit protects against premature ageing

This was a study in laboratory glassware only. No people involved

Grapes could protect against skin cancer and prevent premature ageing, research has revealed. A study has shown that compounds found in the fruit protect cells from the ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun – the leading environmental cause of skin cancer.

UV rays increase the levels of reactive oxygen species – harmful molecules which damage the cells – in the skin.

Scientists from the University of Barcelona and the Spanish National Research Council have shown that substances called flavonoids extracted from grapes can prevent these from forming in cells exposed to UV rays.

Marta Cascante, a biochemist at the University of Barcelona and director of the research project, said: ‘These encouraging results should be taken into consideration... to develop new photo- protection skin products.’

Cosmetics and drugs containing grape compounds are already available, but the way they act on cells has not been well understood until now.

Dr Cascante, whose report was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, added: ‘This study supports the idea of using these products to protect the skin from cell damage and death caused by solar radiation.’


Beware lettuce addiction!

When Elsie Campbell began having cravings for lettuce, she thought it was a passing fancy. Even when it became an obsession that saw her eating four whole lettuces a day, she still tried to shrug it off as harmless.

Luckily for Mrs Campbell, her husband Jim, a research scientist, suspected there might be something more to it. He worked out that lettuce contains a particular nutrient that is lacking in breast cancer sufferers and that his wife’s urge to eat so much of it could mean she was suffering from the disease.

After a visit to her doctor, the mother of three was diagnosed with breast cancer, but has now made a full recovery thanks to the early diagnosis. She credits her husband’s quick-thinking for saving her life.

‘I’d always eaten it in salads, but suddenly, I just couldn’t get enough of it. I could eat three or four whole lettuces a day. I’d eat a whole iceberg lettuce at work, and sit on the bus on the way home thinking about eating more and more. ‘I’d get home and cut one into chunks and eat it like a watermelon. ‘I knew something wasn’t quite right – and my husband and my sons started to get quite worried about me.

‘Jim started investigating which nutrients and minerals were found in lettuce – and realised they were the same ones that your body can be deprived of when it is fighting cancer.’ Mrs Campbell, from Derby, added: ‘Not long afterwards, I discovered a small dimple on my breast – and my doctor confirmed I had breast cancer.

‘It’s only now that I realise my body was making me eat lettuce to combat the cancer. It was like my body was trying to cure itself.’ Mr Campbell has now created a website,, that he says can help identify if users are suffering from a nutrient deficiency caused by something more serious.

The website asks users to answer a series of questions about themselves – such as whether they have white spots on their fingernails, whether they have a high libido, or whether they crave Marmite. It then analyses the answers and warns of any minerals or vitamins the user may be deficient in – and what that could mean.

The scientist, who has also written a book on nutrient deficiencies, hopes the site will help others spot potential diseases and cancers while they are still in the early stages.

Mr Campbell said: ‘Some chronic diseases, like diabetes and Alzheimer’s, can take 20 years to develop, but your body can give you a clue to what you are dealing with early on if you know what to look for.’

He added: ‘As a scientist, I know that everything has to have a cause and effect. Elsie didn’t start eating lettuce for no reason, so I started to do some research in which minerals and vitamins are found in it. ‘I discovered lettuce, like a lot of green veg, contains sulforaphane – which can attack cancer cells. I wondered if that was the reason why her body was craving it and suggested that Elsie visited the doctor.

‘Coincidentally, she discovered the small dimple on her breast the same day. We were devastated when the doctors told us she had cancer – but relieved that they managed to catch it so early.

‘Her lettuce cravings really were a warning sign – if she hadn’t suspected something was wrong, she would have probably never found the dimple, or certainly would not have been so concerned about it.’

Mrs Campbell, whose lettuce craving began in 2004, was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2005. She had the small lump removed from her breast and had months of treatment but has now been given the all-clear.

She added: ‘Strangely, since the lump was removed, I haven’t wanted to eat a single lettuce leaf – the craving’s completely vanished. ‘I was so lucky Jim spotted the signs when he did – my lettuce addiction probably saved my life.’


1 August, 2011

Obese people's bodies programmed to put on weight, professor says

OBESE people are being warned they face a virtually impossible battle to lose weight because their bodies are programmed to regain any kilos they shed.

Professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne, Joseph Proietto, said once someone lost weight changes in both energy expenditure and hunger-controlling hormones encourage weight regain.

"It is likely that it is these physiological adaptations that make it so difficult to maintain weight loss," he wrote in an article published by the Medical Journal of Australia. "Importantly, if this regulatory mechanism is operating in those who are already obese, public health messages encouraging people to eat healthy food and to exercise are unlikely to have long-term impact on their weight.

"Several studies have shown that although obese people who make the effort can achieve and maintain significant weight loss for one to two years, the weight is usually regained in the longer term."

Prof Proietto said obesity was often attributed to people eating too many high-calorie foods and not exercising enough. But he noted not everyone who indulges in that type of behaviour becomes obese.

He said this was largely because the body acts to prevent obesity by increasing the levels of a protein hormone, leptim, as fat accumulates. But when that process failed, people were likely to become obese.

Prof Proietto said such cases were rare and more people were likely to become obese because of genetic changes caused by environmental factors, either while a baby was still in the womb or in their early years.

He said the battle against obesity should focus on stopping children from becoming obese in the first place and making bariatric surgery more widely available as it was nearly impossible for obese people to lose weight any other way.


Colonic irrigation has no benefits and can even lead to side effects, say scientists

It is a treatment which has been championed by Jennifer Aniston, Kate Beckinsale and Princess Diana. But colonic irrigation actually has no benefits and can even lead to debilitating side effects, a major study has shown.

The process - which can cost up to £90 - involves a therapist flushing about 60 litres of filtered water through a patient’s colon. Those who offer the treatment - known as colonic hydrotherapy by alternative therapists - claim it flushes out toxins in the body. They also say it can lead to weight loss, increased wellbeing and improved skin.

But medics at Georgetown University in the U.S. examined 20 studies published in the past ten years and concluded that the treatment has no benefits. They warn that a colonic can induce side-effects including cramps, nausea, vomiting and renal failure.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Family Practice, also raise concerns that the treatment is being administered by clinics with little or no medical training.

The paper’s lead author Ranit Mishori said: ‘There can be serious consequences for those who engage in colon cleansing. 'It touts benefits that don’t exist.’

NHS advice is that colonic irrigation is a complementary therapy and there is no medical or scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness. However, it says the procedure is safe.


SITE MOTTO: "Epidemiology is mostly bunk"

Where it is not bunk is when it shows that some treatment or influence has no effect on lifespan or disease incidence. It is as convincing as disproof as it is unconvincing as proof. Think about it. As Einstein said: No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.

Epidemiological studies are useful for hypothesis-generating or for hypothesis-testing of theories already examined in experimental work but they do not enable causative inferences by themselves

The standard of reasoning that one commonly finds in epidemiological journal articles is akin to the following false syllogism:
Chairs have legs
You have legs
So therefore you are a chair


1). A good example of an epidemiological disproof concerns the dreaded salt (NaCl). We are constantly told that we eat too much salt for good health and must cut back our consumption of it. Yet there is one nation that consumes huge amounts of salt. So do they all die young there? Quite the reverse: Japan has the world's highest concentration of centenarians. Taste Japan's favourite sauce -- soy sauce -- if you want to understand Japanese salt consumption. It's almost solid salt.

2). We need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. So the conventional wisdom is not only wrong. It is positively harmful

3). Table salt is a major source of iodine, which is why salt is normally "iodized" by official decree. Cutting back salt consumption runs the risk of iodine deficiency, with its huge adverse health impacts -- goiter, mental retardation etc. GIVE YOUR BABY PLENTY OF SALTY FOODS -- unless you want to turn it into a cretin

4). Our blood has roughly the same concentration of salt as sea-water so claims that the body cannot handle high levels of salt were always absurd

5). The latest academic study shows that LOW salt in your blood is most likely to lead to heart attacks. See JAMA. 2011;305(17):1777-1785

PEANUTS: There is a vaccination against peanut allergy -- peanuts themselves. Give peanut products (e.g. peanut butter -- or the original "Bamba" if you have Israeli contacts) to your baby as soon as it begins to take solid foods and that should immunize it for life. See here and here (scroll down). It's also possible (though as yet unexamined) that a mother who eats peanuts while she is lactating may confer some protection on her baby

THE SIDE-EFFECT MANIA. If a drug is shown to have troublesome side-effects, there are always calls for it to be banned or not authorized for use in the first place. But that is insane. ALL drugs have side effects. Even aspirin causes stomach bleeding, for instance -- and paracetamol (acetaminophen) can wreck your liver. If a drug has no side effects, it will have no main effects either. If you want a side-effect-free drug, take a homeopathic remedy. They're just water.

Although I am an atheist, I have never wavered from my view that the New Testament is the best guide to living and I still enjoy reading it. Here is what the apostle Paul says about vegetarians: "For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth." (Romans 14: 2.3). What perfect advice! That is real tolerance: Very different from the dogmatism of the food freaks. Interesting that vegetarianism is such an old compulsion, though.

Even if we concede that getting fat shortens your life, what right has anybody got to question someone's decision to accept that tradeoff for themselves? Such a decision could be just one version of the old idea that it is best to have a short life but a merry one. Even the Bible is supportive of that thinking. See Ecclesiastes 8:15 and Isaiah 22: 13. To deny the right to make such a personal decision is plainly Fascistic.

Fatties actually SAVE the taxpayer money

IQ: Political correctness makes IQ generally unmentionable so it is rarely controlled for in epidemiological studies. This is extremely regrettable as it tends to vitiate findings that do not control for it. When it is examined, it is routinely found to have pervasive effects. We read, for instance, that "The mother's IQ was more highly predictive of breastfeeding status than were her race, education, age, poverty status, smoking, the home environment, or the child's birth weight or birth order". So political correctness can render otherwise interesting findings moot

That hallowed fish oil is strongly linked to increased incidence of colon cancer

"To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact" -- Charles Darwin

"Most men die of their remedies, not of their diseases", said Moliere. That may no longer be true but there is still a lot of false medical "wisdom" around that does harm to various degrees. And showing its falsity is rarely the problem. The problem is getting people -- medical researchers in particular -- to abandon their preconceptions

Bertrand Russell could have been talking about today's conventional dietary "wisdom" when he said: "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.

Eating lots of fruit and vegetables is NOT beneficial

The challenge, as John Maynard Keynes knew, "lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones".

"Obesity" is 77% genetic. So trying to make fatties slim is punishing them for the way they were born. That sort of thing is furiously condemned in relation to homosexuals so why is it OK for fatties?


Some more 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 dietary fat. But Eskimos living on their traditional diet eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. At any given age they in fact have an exceptionally LOW incidence of cardiovascular disease. 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].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

11). 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

12. Fascism: "What we should be doing is monitoring children from birth so we can detect any deviations from the norm at an early stage and action can be taken". Who said that? Joe Stalin? Adolf Hitler? Orwell's "Big Brother"? The Spanish Inquisition? Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde? None of those. It was Dr Colin Waine, chairman of Britain's National Obesity Forum. What a fine fellow!


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 "antioxidant" religion: The experimental evidence is that antioxidants SHORTEN your life, if anything. Studies here and here and here and here and here and here and here, for instance. That they are of benefit is a great theory but it is one that has been coshed by reality plenty of times.

PASSIVE SMOKING is unpleasant but does you no harm. See here and here and here and here and here and here and here

The medical consensus is often wrong. The best known wrongheaded medical orthodoxy is that stomach ulcers could not be caused by bacteria because the stomach is so acidic. Disproof of that view first appeared in 1875 (Yes. 1875) but the falsity of the view was not widely recognized until 1990. Only heroic efforts finally overturned the consensus and led to a cure for stomach ulcers. See here and here and here.

Contrary to the usual assertions, some big studies show that fat women get LESS breast cancer. See also here and here

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

Huge ($400 million) clinical trial shows that a low fat diet is useless . See also here and here

Dieticians are just modern-day witch-doctors. There is no undergirding in double-blind studies for their usual recommendations

The fragility of current medical wisdom: Would you believe that even Old Testament wisdom can sometimes trump medical wisdom? Note this quote: "Spiess discussed Swedish research on cardiac patients that compared Jehovah's Witnesses who refused blood transfusions to patients with similar disease progression during open-heart surgery. The research found those who refused transfusions had noticeably better survival rates.

Relying on the popular wisdom can certainly hurt you personally: "The scientific consensus of a quarter-century ago turned into the arthritic nightmare of today."

Medical wisdom can in fact fly in the face of the known facts. How often do we hear reverent praise for the Mediterranean diet? Yet both Australians and Japanese live longer than Greeks and Italians, despite having very different diets. The traditional Australian diet is in fact about as opposite to the Mediterranean diet as you can get. The reverence for the Mediterranean diet can only be understood therefore as some sort of Anglo-Saxon cultural cringe. It is quite brainless. Why are not the Australian and Japanese diets extolled if health is the matter at issue?

Since many of my posts here make severe criticisms of medical research, I should perhaps point out that I am also a severe critic of much research in my own field of psychology. See here and here

This is NOT an "alternative medicine" site. Perhaps the only (weak) excuse for the poorly substantiated claims that often appear in the medical literature is the even poorer level of substantiation offered in the "alternative" literature.

I used to teach social statistics in a major Australian university and I find medical statistics pretty obfuscatory. They seem uniformly designed to make mountains out of molehills. Many times in the academic literature I have excoriated my colleagues in psychology and sociology for going ga-ga over very weak correlations but what I find in the medical literature makes the findings in the social sciences look positively muscular. In fact, medical findings are almost never reported as correlations -- because to do so would exhibit how laughably trivial they generally are. If (say) 3 individuals in a thousand in a control group had some sort of an adverse outcome versus 4 out of a thousand in a group undergoing some treatment, the difference will be published in the medical literature with great excitement and intimations of its importance. In fact, of course, such small differences are almost certainly random noise and are in any rational calculus unimportant. And statistical significance is little help in determining the importance of a finding. Statistical significance simply tells you that the result was unlikely to be an effect of small sample size. But a statistically significant difference could have been due to any number of other randomly-present factors.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology: below:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correlation coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic conditions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his analysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.

The intellectual Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) could have been speaking of the prevailing health "wisdom" of today when he said: "The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."

The Federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Second Edition says (p. 384): "the threshold for concluding that an agent was more likely than not the cause of an individual's disease is a relative risk greater than 2.0." Very few of the studies criticized on this blog meet that criterion.

Improbable events do happen at random -- as mathematician John Brignell notes rather tartly:
"Consider, instead, my experiences in the village pub swindle. It is based on the weekly bonus ball in the National Lottery. It so happens that my birth date is 13, so that is the number I always choose. With a few occasional absences abroad I have paid my pound every week for a year and a half, but have never won. Some of my neighbours win frequently; one in three consecutive weeks. Furthermore, I always put in a pound for my wife for her birth date, which is 11. She has never won either. The probability of neither of these numbers coming up in that period is less than 5%, which for an epidemiologist is significant enough to publish a paper.

Kids are not shy anymore. They are "autistic". Autism is a real problem but the rise in its incidence seems likely to be the product of overdiagnosis -- the now common tendency to medicalize almost all problems.

One of the great pleasures in life is the first mouthful of cold beer on a hot day -- and the food Puritans can stick that wherever they like