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

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

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

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

These kids are all "obese" according to Britain's moronic National Health Service


30 August, 2013

Food addiction DOES exist: Sugar-laden junk activates the same region of the brain affected by heroin and cocaine (?)

The usual naive logic.  It would be more reasonable to say that cocaine mimics the brain effects of food

But the study didn't look at that anyway.  It is far more amusing.  They gave people food that is quickly absorbed and food that is slowly absorbed. They found that the brain activity associated with food eating was greater with the rapidly absorbed food.  What did they expect?  It was a bit like "discovering" that grass is green

It has long been disputed whether or not food can really be classed as addictive but new research has suggested that it really is.

Some experts believe that it is not appropriate to term food as 'addictive' as it is essential to life and not something that people can be weaned off.

But a new study has found that high sugar snacks activate areas of brain that are also stimulated by hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

The research, carried out by the Harvard Medical School, sought to understand why so many people who strongly desire to reach a normal, healthy weight are unable to do so.

Dr Belinda Lennerz, who led the study and reported on it in The Conversation, said a that in theory, weight reduction should be simple  - just cutting down on the number of calories consumed should be easy, yet most dieters continue to overeat.

Dr Lennerz and her colleagues wanted to know whether overeating was perpetuated by processed, tasty food, especially those with a high glycaemic index.

High glycaemic index foods include refined starches and concentrated sugar and cause a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar after consumption. This triggers hunger and sometimes irritability.

The study involved creating two milkshakes - one with a high, and one with a low glycaemic index.

The milkshakes were otherwise identical, with similar calories and taste.

The drinks were then given to 12 healthy, overweight men on different days and in random order.

Four hours after the high glycaemic index shake, participants were hungrier than those who had consumed the low glycaemic index shake.

Experts also carried out functional MRI imaging on all participants.  The images revealed intense activation of the nucleus accumbens, a critical brain area in the dopaminergic, mesolimbic system that mediates pleasure eating, reward and craving.

Similar activation patterns have been found in people after consumption of addictive substances, such as heroin and cocaine.

Dr Lennerz said that their findings 'provide qualified support for the possibility of food addiction'.

She added: 'While food is necessary for life, we eat for reasons beyond our daily energy needs. When overeating becomes a pattern that is hard to break, we say someone is "addicted" to food.'

Finally Dr Lennerz concluded that while more research is needed to examine the concept of food addiction, 'the fact that a food may affect addiction centres in the brain, independent of calories or pleasure, provides the basis to rethink current dietary recommendations'.

Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men

Lennerz BS et al.


Qualitative aspects of diet influence eating behavior, but the physiologic mechanisms for these calorie-independent effects remain speculative.

We examined effects of the glycemic index (GI) on brain activity in the late postprandial period after a typical intermeal interval.

With the use of a randomized, blinded, crossover design, 12 overweight or obese men aged 18-35 y consumed high- and low-GI meals controlled for calories, macronutrients, and palatability on 2 occasions. The primary outcome was cerebral blood flow as a measure of resting brain activity, which was assessed by using arterial spin-labeling functional magnetic resonance imaging 4 h after test meals. We hypothesized that brain activity would be greater after the high-GI meal in prespecified regions involved in eating behavior, reward, and craving.

Incremental venous plasma glucose (2-h area under the curve) was 2.4-fold greater after the high- than the low-GI meal (P = 0.0001). Plasma glucose was lower (mean ± SE: 4.7 ± 0.14 compared with 5.3 ± 0.16 mmol/L; P = 0.005) and reported hunger was greater (P = 0.04) 4 h after the high- than the low-GI meal. At this time, the high-GI meal elicited greater brain activity centered in the right nucleus accumbens (a prespecified area; P = 0.0006 with adjustment for multiple comparisons) that spread to other areas of the right striatum and to the olfactory area.

Compared with an isocaloric low-GI meal, a high-GI meal decreased plasma glucose, increased hunger, and selectively stimulated brain regions associated with reward and craving in the late postprandial period, which is a time with special significance to eating behavior at the next meal.


Violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto DON'T harm children - and could actually be therapeutic, claim experts

This is an old chestnut and the conclusions are familiar but evidence will never stop the mouths of attention -seekers and do-gooders like the nasty little baroness Greenfied

Playing violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat do not harm children and could actually be therapeutic, according to a new study.

Even in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression, researchers found there was no evidence to suggest the games had a negative effect upon their personality.

The findings contradict suggestions that violent video games can contribute to bullying, physical fighting, criminal assaults and even murder.

Clinical psychologist Dr Ferguson studied 377 children, who had an average age of 13 and who were suffering some form of elevated attention deficit or depressive symptoms, to see if violent video games made them more angry or aggressive.

His team at Stetson University, Florida, found that there was 'no evidence that violent video games increase bullying or delinquent behaviour among vulnerable youth with clinically elevated mental health symptoms.'

Instead they found that in some cases playing the violent games was cathartic, helping to reduce their aggressive tendencies and bullying behaviour.

The results, published in Springer’s Journal of Youth and Adolescence, reflect a recent report by the American Secret Service which linked aggressiveness and stress with youth violence rather than playing violent video games.

However the question remains whether the games play a role in the most appalling cases of youth violence, like that of Sandy Hook where 28 women and children were murdered by 20-year-old military game fan Adam Lanza.  Mr Lanza reportedly spent hours each day on video games including Call of Duty.

The general results of their study could not be used to explain these extreme cases explained Dr Fergusson.

He said: 'Statistically speaking it would actually be more unusual if a youth delinquent or shooter did not play violent video games, given that the majority of youth and young men play such games at least occasionally.'


29 August, 2013

Gluten  sensitivity:  Fact or fad?

Gluten sensitivity clearly does exist as an aspect of Coeliac disease but it would seem that it is also sometimes a neurotic reaction to life problems.  Get your romantic life right (for instance) and the gluten sensitivity disappears

Gluten-free is a big buzzword with big bucks behind it. In 2010, the global market for gluten-free products was worth $2.5 billion. Over the next five years, it is expected to grow to more than $5 billion.  But, how much of the buzz behind being gluten-free is bona fide?

A new study raises questions about the hype surrounding the gluten-free phenomenon. According to the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, titled Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: Sense or Sensibility?, there are 4598 Google citations of noncoeliac gluten sensitivity for every science journal article about the condition.

"Considerable debate about noncoeliac gluten sensitivity has recently surfaced on the internet, with a sharp increase in forums, patients or patient groups, manufacturers, and physicians advocating a gluten-free diet," the study's authors said. "Claims seem to increase daily, with no adequate scientific support to back them up."

The researchers acknowledge that "recent studies support the existence of a new condition, noncoeliac gluten sensitivity", but say gluten may not be the problem in a lot of the sensitivity that patients feel.

Gluten is found in products that contain wheat, rye and barley. In the study, the researchers noted that other ingredients in wheat flour or wheat-based foods may actually be causing symptoms that might be attributed to gluten sensitivity.

Yet, another study was specifically designed to establish whether gluten or fructans, which are another component in wheat, was the culprit. In the study, subjects were given bread and muffins that were low in starch. One batch of the bread and muffins contained gluten, the other did not.

The study found that gluten itself may trigger gut symptoms and fatigue in individuals who do not have coeliac disease.

"There was a clear difference in symptoms [between those who had the muffins with gluten and those who didn't]," says co-author of the study and Director of Medicine at the Angliss Hospital in Melbourne, Dr Evan Newnham. "There's a perception that [gluten-free] is a fad and that gluten is an evil food. But trials [like these] establish that it might be a clinical and medical problem."

Indeed, an essay published in the BioMed Central Journal says that gluten is "toxic" to humans and predicts that gluten-related problems are set to rise.

Since the introduction of grains containing gluten to the human diet about 10,000 years ago, selective breeding has seen the gluten content of wheat rise considerably to make it more palatable. The offshoot of this is that it is more harmful to humans. "Wheat varieties grown for thousands of years and mostly used for human nutrition up to the middle ages ... contain less quantities of the highly toxic 33-mer gluten peptide."

The authors say that our gastrointestinal and immunological responses have not adapted and so we remain "largely vulnerable to the toxic effects of this protein complex ... All individuals, even those with a low degree risk, are therefore susceptible to some form of gluten reaction during their life span."

But, because it is only in the last decade that coeliac disease and gluten sensitivities (for which doctors cannot test) have moved into the spotlight the research is still in its infancy. Which makes the distinction between how much is fact or fad a challenging call to make.

And it is not just the medical professionals debating the issue.

Mia Freedman recently expressed her exasperation in a post titled: "Does anyone eat anything anymore?". In the blog, she quotes nutritionist, Joanna McMillan.

"Some people cannot tolerate gluten yet suddenly everyone thinks gluten is bad. The truth is: it is modern refined foods that are causing most of our health problems. Not the individual components of food. We're missing the point."

"It never used to be like this," Freedman says. "Nobody had an intolerance when I was a kid, let alone wanted one."

In response, blogger and author, Sarah Wilson wrote an article titled "What's with all the gluten intolerances?? let me explain..."

"The short form: gluten is a poison," she says. "We tolerate it, and tolerate it, like cigarettes in the lungs. And then. One day. It's too much. Things tip over and BANG we have lung cancer. Or gluten intolerance. Or coeliac's disease."

Wilson also points out that we eat more wheat than ever before and cites the Pottinger cats theory as a possible explanation for the growth of gluten-related problems.

Over a period of ten years, Pottinger conducted a series of diet experiements on cats. "He found the illnesses (including infertility and the same degenerative diseases we're now seeing in humans) took several generations to kick in. And that it took four generations again of being fed good food for normal health to be restored," Wilson said.

"The point being...intolerances haven't just suddenly happened now. They've built up and accumulated over the generations. Our grandparents started eating processed, high-wheat and gluten diets. Now we're copping it."

There is something to this, says Newnham. "Environment, awareness...genes and how [previous generations] have eaten all have a role," he says. "The difficulty is to tease it all out."

Teasing out is exactly what the medical profession is now attempting to do. "While [gluten sensitivities] are anecdotally common, the medical community has been slow on the uptake," Newnham says. "On the whole we do tolerate [gluten], but it's increasingly recognised that there is a subset of the population that doesn't. What we don't know is the prevalence...[it] still needs more research"

If you do believe gluten is causing you problems, Newnham does not see a problem with going gluten-free provided it is done under the supervision of a dietitian or doctor. "But, I'd just like to emphasise that before embarking on a gluten-free diet ensure you don't have coeliac disease. Complications can ensue [if you do] and you can find out with a simple blood test or endoscopy."


Kentucky students to first lady Michelle Obama: Your food ‘tastes like vomit’

Students in a rural Kentucky county — and their parents — are the latest to join a growing national chorus of scorn for the healthy school lunches touted by first lady Michelle Obama.

“They say it tastes like vomit,” said Harlan County Public Schools board member Myra Mosley at a contentious board meeting last week, reports The Harlan Daily Enterprise.

The growing body of USDA meal regulations implemented by the Department of Agriculture under the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010? has long been a signature issue for the first lady.

Denizens of Harlan County don’t much care, though. Their primary concern at the board meeting was a bevy of complaints that local children are starving at lunch — and for the remainder of the school day — because the food on offer in the cafeteria is crappy and there isn’t nearly enough of it.

“Kids can’t learn when they’re hungry!” parents shouted to the board, according to the Enterprise.

Other gripes involved the new bread, which students don’t want to eat because it’s brown wheat bread, and the new milk, which is skim or one percent fat, not two percent or whole. The cafeteria’s chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk offerings are now nonfat.

Jack Miniard, the school district’s director of school and community nutrition, was on hand to explain that the federal government now governs both food choices and portion sizes in most American school districts including Harlan County.

Under the National School Lunch Program, participating schools must provide lunches — including free or reduced price lunches — with minimum amounts of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains. Also, in what presumably falls outside the hunger-free aspect of the act, there’s a calorie cap: 850 for high school lunches, 700 for middle schools and a mere 650 calories for kids in elementary school.

Students can only have one serving of meat or other protein. However, rich kids can buy a second portion each day on their own dime.

Servings of carbohydrates such as potatoes are limited to just a single serving of three-fourths of a cup per student.

On the plus side, students can eat as many fruits and vegetables as they want.

Across the country, students and parents have expressed dissatisfaction with the federal government’s new food regime. Some wealthier suburban school districts are simply backing out of the National School Lunch Program, though doing so can mean giving up a six-figure annual subsidy for the district.


28 August, 2013

Black tea 'combats bacteria linked with tooth decay and gum disease'

As you will see from the abstract below, this is a very shaky finding.  I quote:  "Epidemiological studies indicate that tea drinking in general may protect against tooth loss, certain oral/digestive cancers and Helicobacter pylori infection, although the studies were few in number with differing methodologies."

A comforting cup of tea brings a smile to most people’s faces.  And now, according to scientists, it might make that smile just a little bit brighter.  Researchers have claimed that drinking at least three cups of tea a day can help keep your teeth in good condition, reducing the risk of decay.

A review of existing studies found that black tea helped combat two types of bacteria – Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus – that are both associated with tooth decay and gum disease.

The most effective ‘dose’ of tea was three to four cups a day, according to study leader Dr Carrie Ruxton.

And scientists found that black tea continued to fight decay, even if it had some sugar added to it.

Green tea appeared to have a similar effect – and also helped prevent bad breath by neutralising sulphur compounds that contribute to the condition.

Dr Ruxton, whose review is published in the British Nutrition Foundation’s Nutrition Bulletin, said there was good evidence that tea drinking protects against tooth loss.

‘Evidence specific to black tea suggests that three to four cups a day could help to reduce levels of bacteria in the mouth,’ she said.

‘I’m sure this news is set to be welcomed by dentists and hygienists alike as they continue to educate the nation on the need for greater oral care.’

She said when bacteria in the mouth reacts to carbohydrates, it produces acid that dissolves tooth enamel, resulting in damage that leads to fillings or tooth loss.

Black and green teas appear to reduce inflammation and prevent the adhesion and growth of bacteria that start the chain reaction, she said.

Tea contains antioxidant ingredients known as flavonoids and catechins, tannin-type substances, that have an anti-microbial effect.

The review also shows green tea could aid weight loss, by boosting energy expenditure and burning up more fat.

Regular consumption increases energy expenditure by four to five per cent, while fat oxidation - the elimination of fat that would otherwise be stored - goes up by 10 to 16 per cent.

Dr Tim Bond, spokesman for the industry-backed Tea Advisory Panel, said ‘A relatively little known benefit of tea until recently has been its potential for reducing the risk of dental caries.

'This benefit is thought to be due to a reduction in inflammation in the oral cavity and prevention of the adhesion and growth of bacteria linked to periodontal disease.

‘In terms of weight management, Dr Ruxton’s published review found further supporting effects for green tea when consumed by overweight and obese adults.

‘How green tea might contribute to weight management needs further research, but this latest research review suggests that the catechin ingredients could impact on satiety and thermogenesis and may counter the reductions in metabolism seen when body weight falls.

‘This latest research review already adds to the many health benefits associated with the humble cup of tea including heart health benefits and links with reduced risk of cancers.

'As a result, British people should continue to enjoy their traditional life long habit of drinking tea to help enjoy the many proven and emerging health benefits’ he added.


Emerging evidence for tea benefits

By C. Ruxton


Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world, after water. Associations between regular tea drinking and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease are well established. The mechanism may relate to bioactive compounds found in tea, which exert anti-arteriosclerotic, anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. However, evidence for other diverse health benefits is emerging. The aim of this review was to evaluate research on three new areas of interest in relation to tea drinking: (1) weight management (and glycaemic control); (2) oral health; and (3) gut health. Databases were searched for meta-analytical, human intervention and epidemiological studies published between 1990 and 2013. For weight management, modest, positive effects were found for green tea when ingested by overweight/obese adults, possibly related to thermogenic effects. Epidemiological studies indicate that tea drinking in general may protect against tooth loss, certain oral/digestive cancers and Helicobacter pylori infection, although the studies were few in number with differing methodologies. A growing body of mechanistic studies suggests that tea has anti-cariogenic, anti-adhesive, anti-bacterial and possible pre-biotic effects – all with the potential to impact positively on the pathogenesis of chronic diseases. Clearly, larger trials are needed to confirm these effects in humans and establish optimal intakes. In the meantime, tea drinking appears to be a simple and beneficial way to support health.


Don't quit sugar: nutritionist hits out at top-selling book

A Sydney nutritionist has hit out at top-selling food author Sarah Wilson, claiming her sugar-free diet is dangerous and can damage the body.

"Three years ago I quit sugar, watched my body slowly deteriorate, and then had to claw my way back to health," Cassie Platt said before the release of her own book, Don't Quit Sugar, which she wrote to debunk myths about eating sugar.

"Sugar is our cells' preferred source of energy and is absolutely critical to proper metabolic function. Eliminating it from the diet will do you harm."

Wilson's I Quit Sugar has been on best-seller lists since it was released in January. Random House and Penguin have engaged in a bidding war for the US rights to the book.

Platt, whose philosophy is grounded in clinical research and human physiology, said she wrote her book in direct response to Wilson's, to warn of the dangers of quitting sugar and the long-term effects of doing so.

The nutritionist said eating habits should never be about what you can't have and that approach could lead to trouble.

"Your food choices should be based on biological and metabolic needs. What we eat should fuel our cells, facilitate growth, repair and reproduction and, most importantly, enable your body to function at its very best."

A spokeswoman for publisher Hachette Australia said Don't Quit Sugar showed "exactly how you can use sugar to keep [your] body performing at its peak".

"Through her own experience Cassie leapt aboard the 'quitting sugar' train with horrible results," the spokeswoman said. "Her hair fell out and she had bizarre [menstrual] cycles."

She removed sugar from her diet and "found the results... horrible."

The sweet stuff Platt advocates is natural sugars, the spokeswoman said. The book introduction specifies: "This doesn't green-light soft-drink consumption or a daily candy fix. It simply means that natural sources of sugar - fruit, honey, sweet root vegetables - need to be incorporated into the diet.''

For nutritionist Rosemary Stanton there are grey areas when it comes to the white stuff.  While the body has ''no need for sugar'' there is ''a social need for sweet food'', she said.

''For 45 years I've been telling people to eat less sugar,'' Dr Stanton told Fairfax Media. ''In my experience, going to no [sugar] doesn't work for very long.

"I definitely support eating less sugar - our dietary guidelines since 1979 in Australia have always told us that. But when people go to an extreme and have none - my experience is, they will often break out and blow it.

"If they had allowed themselves a small portion in the first place, that wouldn't happen. You can't go through life happily without having a slice of birthday cake.''

Dr Stanton says there is no harm in stopping eating biscuits, dessert, cake and soft drinks and emphasises that ''36 per cent of adults' calories are from junk foods and soft drinks.

"They are the foods I want to attack - especially when kids' diets are filled with junk with no nutritional value."

Dr Stanton does warn against the danger of stopping eating fruit, though: ''I think that's ridiculous - there's plenty of evidence fruit actually reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and other things. I worry if anyone takes the 'no sugar' message to that extreme.''

For the record, Wilson, who Fairfax Media has attempted to contact, eats fruit. Earlier this year she posted on her blog in response to a report on Channel Nine's A Current Affair story: ''I eat fruit. One of the ACA grabs sees me listing the high-fructose fruits, as requested by the journalist at the time (during an interview a while back).

"I recommend eating the low-fructose fruits where possible: kiwi, berries, grapefruit and so on. If you're doing my eight-week program, I advise cutting out fruit for six weeks. This is to break the sugar addiction and to recalibrate our bodies, just for that short period. I then, at the week-seven mark, invite everyone to reintroduce fruit and read how their bodies take to it.''

Don't Quit Sugar; Why Sugars Are Important For Your Health will be released on November 26.


27 August, 2013

How eating raspberries could increase your chances of becoming a father (?)

This is mostly just theory.  The findings probably reflect social class, with middle class men (who are healthier anyway) being more dutiful about their fruit & veg. intake and more likely to take up food fads  -- such as berry eating

Eating raspberries could help increase the chances of becoming a father, it has been claimed.  They contain high levels of Vitamin C, a key nutrient in male fertility, and magnesium, which is involved in the production of testosterone.  They are also thought to protect sperm from ‘oxidative stress’.

A study by the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that men over 44 with the highest intake of Vitamin C had 20 per cent less damage to their sperm DNA than men who did not eat those foods.

It is also thought that after conception antioxidants may decrease the risk of miscarriage.

Juliet Wilson, a fertility nutritionist, said: ‘Raspberries provide essential nutrients that are known to enhance fertility in men and women.’

A recent study in the USA found that men over 44 with the highest intake of Vitamin C - found in foods such as raspberries, broccoli and potatoes - had 20 per cent less damage to their sperm DNA than men who did not eat those foods.

Juliet Wilson, a leading fertility nutritionist said that one portion of raspberries provided the same amount of Vitamin C as eating 173 grapes.

She said: 'Raspberries have not yet been given the 'super-food' recognition of other berries, but they have a comparable bounty of nutrients which shouldn't be ignored.

'Alongside their many health benefits, raspberries are a perfect snack for couples trying to conceive.  'Together with their high vitamin C content - one portion of raspberries provides the same amount as 173 grapes - they are also a good source of folate, which is known to be essential in key stages of female fertility and early embryo development.

With sperm counts in the average British male falling by almost half in the past 60 years, experts have claimed raspberries maybe the saviour to help fathers-to-be.

The popular fruit contain folate, a key nutrient during conception and throughout pregnancy.

Juliet added that it is not just the vitamins and minerals in raspberries which are beneficial in the bedroom.  The berries also help to maintain a healthy body weight, which is the key to balancing sex hormones and increasing the likelihood of conceiving.

They have the lowest GI of any fruit, meaning their sugar is absorbed into the body slowly.  This, combined with their high fibre content means raspberries are an effective way to control hunger and cravings at only a few calories.

Nick Marston of British Summer Fruits, the body that represents 85 per cent of British berry growers, said: 'Raspberries are often overlooked, but their numerous fertility-boosting properties and antioxidants make them the perfect bedtime snack.

'This year we've had faultless growing conditions with the cool spring and recent warm weather, which have resulted in exceptionally tasty and juicy raspberries - so there's no excuse not to take advantage of this superfood.'


The Correlation Between Intellect and Pulchritude

David Friedman has discovered general biological fitness  -- though he doesn't know it

I have spent much of my life teaching at reasonably good schools. The students who succeed in getting admitted to such schools tend to be well above average, intellectually speaking (in “intellect” I include not only intelligence but also characteristics such as organization and willingness to work that affect academic success).

In my possibly biased observation, the female students at such schools are not only smarter than average, they are better looking as well. That raises an interesting question. Assuming my observation is correct, why would there be a positive correlation between intellect and pulchritude?

One possible answer is that intellect is an input to pulchritude. The abilities that make a woman academically successful might also make her successful in improving her appearance, whether by diet and exercise, choice of clothing, or in a variety of other ways.

Another possibility is that intellect and looks are both affected by some common cause. Poor nutrition, for instance, might affect both. So might genetic factors or environmental ones, pre or post-natal. Something goes right or wrong with the process that builds a human being, and it goes right or wrong with both intellect and whatever determines physical appearance.

Another and perhaps more intriguing possibility is that the correlation is due to selective pressure in past societies. Consider a society where male status is in part dependent on intellectual ability; Imperial China would be one example, since positions in the Imperial civil service were high status and were obtained by success in competitive exams. But the same pattern could be expected in any context where individuals compete for status and success depends in part in intellect.

Further, assume that the society is polygenous—high status males are able to mate with multiple females, whether as wives, concubines, or mistresses. Men prefer attractive women, so men with unusually high intellect will be mating with women with unusually good looks, producing children with both.


26 August, 2013

British food police lose fight to outlaw rare beefburgers after judge rejects claim they are a health risk

Beefburgers cooked rare can remain on restaurant menus after a judge rejected claims by food watchdogs that they are a health risk.

A wine bar and restaurant chain had been told to stop serving the burgers unless they took certain safety precautions.

The ruling by Westminster City Council, backed by the Food Standards Agency, would have set a precedent across the country.

But the company – London-based Davy’s – appealed against the decision and district judge Elizabeth Roscoe backed its policy.

She said: ‘There is a balance to be struck between ensuring the safety of the public and allowing them the freedom of choice that they would wish and have a right to expect.’

The decision will be welcomed by food critics, such as Charles Campion and Prue Leith, who have lambasted efforts by Britain’s food police to ensure meat is cooked through.

The council wanted Davy’s beef supplier to sear and shave the outside of whole cuts of meat to remove any harmful bugs.

Davy’s argued that its suppliers could be trusted to supply beef that could be safely eaten.

But Westminster council’s food safety chief James Armitage warned of a health risk.

He said: ‘There is an emerging trend of eating beef mince raw or rare in all sorts of premises. Most of them don’t have the appropriate controls in place.

‘This is a ticking timebomb. Somewhere, someone is going to go down with E.coli O157 and there could be a very nasty  outbreak. We are not saying burgers should not be eaten rare  or medium – merely that they should be prepared in a way that makes them as safe as practicably possible.’


Let's stop swallowing this barmy health pill hype

There it sits, glistening like a jewel inside a glass bottle. The miracle supplement. The dietary aid that will change your life. The health boost, the wonder pill, elixir of youth, hope in a jar.

All available now at a shop or chemist near you, part of a rapidly growing health supplements industry which makes around £385?million a year in the UK.

All of it aimed at making pampered people in the First World look and feel better about themselves — but does any of it work?

Take a moment to peruse the gilded shelves of gobbledygook and bluster in a health store. Absorb the quasi-medical hocus-pocus that has somehow become an acceptable, High Street standard.

All those pills, balms and tinctures of dubious provenance, sold with the promise of making you sleep, breathe, move, digest, expel, dispel, pee, see or just be a little bit better. All now as mainstream as the syrup of figs and calamine lotion that were the cure-alls of my youth.

How did this happen?

There are infusions to help you lose weight. Pills to safeguard something called ‘your nutritional intake’. Detox kits. Stuff that promises to ‘maintain the normal function of joints and cartilage’. Synthetic multivitamins. And a product in Holland & Barrett that purports to ‘protect your cells from oxidative stress’.

Excuse me but isn’t that .... rust?

Anyway, all of it is part of the merry-go-round of dietary supplements, beloved by many, worshipped by those who rattle with pills from dawn to dusk.

Yet a report from the highly-respected consumer group Which? has accused some big brand health supplement companies of making exaggerated and misleading claims for their products.

Oof, hardly a shock there. Who doesn’t big up their merchandise in one way or another?

Yet manufacturers who make claims about products which do less than they say they do to improve consumers’ health are, I believe, the lowest of the low. They gull people into imagining they are doing something positive for their health, when nothing of the sort is taking place.

Brands such as Seven Seas, Bioglan, Optima, some Boots own brand products, Vitabiotics and Bimuno were all censured. Their products are supposed to give benefits to heart, joints and digestion — and they know exactly how to tap into families’ health concerns about these issues.

According to the Which? study, many of their products fail to deliver the promises splashed across the packaging. Some of the health claims are described as ‘unauthorised’ — but  who would authorise  them? God?

A tragic number of consumers seem to think that a celebrity endorsement by Carol Vorderman (Bioglan Red Krill Oil and Probiotics; Sambucol Immuno Forte supplements), Jennifer Aniston (Smartwater ‘health’ drink), or Lulu (low cholesterol spreads) is all that they need.

When it comes to dietary supplements, consumers become like Alice in Wonderland faced with the Eat Me and Drink Me labels. They want to do what they are told. They want to believe, they really do.
The childlike tendency to have faith in the mumbo-jumbo on the back of bottles and packets of pills can be a powerful one, especially where matters of health and beauty are concerned.

We are all vulnerable, in need of comfort and encouragement. And even in the face of scepticism, many still want to believe. The Which? report may debunk many health manufacturers’ claims, but will it make any difference?

Probably not. Take the case of glucosamine, the most common, most popular non-vitamin, non-mineral supplement taken to boost joint health. Repeat clinical trials prove that there is no advantage to using it — yet millions still do.

They might say, why not? It is not doing me any harm and a great number of doctor-prescribed medicines can be toxic, with terrible side-effects.

There are just too many opportunities for exploitation. In a world where food fraud is a weekly occurrence — English strawberries that are actually from Poland, chickens that aren’t really organic, mozzarella cheese that’s never seen buffalo milk — don’t you think the same thing will happen in the murkier world of health shops?

Pills and potions are impossible for the layman to assess properly.

RATHER than doping up on synthetic vitamins or fish oil capsules harvested from fish reared on farms and fed only chemicals, why not have the real thing instead?

A couple of oranges instead of a vitamin C tablet, effervescent or not. Lots of fresh spinach, ginger, turmeric and garlic instead of vague substitutes offering no proper solutions to health problems or wellbeing.

I can’t help but think that an old-fashioned approach — natural foods and a healthy lifestyle — is probably a far better medicine that all this modish, pseudo-scientific health store rubbish. An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Truer now than it ever was.


25 August, 2013

Eating too much red meat could increase the risk of Alzheimer's: Scientists warn build-up of iron may damage the brain (?)

All that has been shown so far is higher levels of iron in one brain region of Alzheimer's sufferers.  All the rest is theory.  No causal inferences can be drawn from the evidence so far

Eating too much red meat could trigger Alzheimer's, suggests new research.  Scientists found that a build-up of iron - abundant in red meat - could cause oxidant damage, to which the brain is particularly vulnerable.  Researchers say this could in turn increase the risk of Alzheimer's.

Professor George Bartzokis, of UCLA in the United States, said that more studies have suggested the disease is caused by one of two proteins, one called tau, the other beta-amyloid.

As we age, most scientists say, these proteins either disrupt signaling between neurons or simply kill them.

He and colleagues looked at two areas of the brain in patients with Alzheimer's and they compared the hippocampus, which is known to be damaged early in the disease, and the thalamus, an area that is generally not affected until the late stages.

Using brain-imaging techniques, they found that iron is increased in the hippocampus and is associated with tissue damage in that area. But increased iron was not found in the thalamus.

Professor Bartzokis said that most research had focused on the build up of the proteins tau or beta-amyloid that cause the plaques associated with the disease.

But he believes the breakdown occurs further 'upstream', and it is the protein's destruction of myelin, the fatty tissue which enables nerve signals to be sent along fibres, which disrupts communication and promotes the build-up of the plaques.

These amyloid plaques in turn destroy more and more myelin, disrupting brain signaling and leading to cell death and the classic clinical signs of Alzheimer's.

He points out that myelin is produced by cells called oligodendrocytes. These cells, along with myelin itself, have the highest levels of iron of any cells in the brain, Bartzokis says.

He adds that although iron is essential for cell function, too much of it can promote oxidative damage, to which the brain is especially vulnerable.

Hypothesising that elevated iron in the tissues could cause tissue breakdown, he targeted the vulnerable hippocampus, a key area of the brain involved in the formation of memories, and compared it to the thalamus, which is relatively spared by Alzheimer's until the very late stages of disease.

They found increased iron levels in patients with Alzheimer's.

Prof Bartzokis said: 'It is difficult to measure iron in tissue when the tissue is already damaged.'

But the MRI technology we used in this study allowed us to determine that the increase in iron is occurring together with the tissue damage.

'We found that the amount of iron is increased in the hippocampus and is associated with tissue damage in patients with Alzheimer's but not in the healthy older individuals - or in the thalamus.

'So the results suggest that iron accumulation may indeed contribute to the cause of Alzheimer's disease.'

The link to iron could mean that dietary changes and surgical interventions could lower the chances of the developing the disease, he said.

He explained: 'The accumulation of iron in the brain may be influenced by modifying environmental factors, such as how much red meat and iron dietary supplements we consume and, in women, having hysterectomies before menopause.'

He said drugs are already being developed to remove iron from tissue and the new study may allow doctors to determine who is most in need of such treatments.


Does working long hours make you a bad father? Men who do overtime are more likely to have 'delinquent and aggressive' sons

It seems highly likely that the overtime workers were mostly working class -- and they have more pathologies anyway

Boys whose fathers work very long hours are more likely to become tearaways, according to new research.

A study of more than 1,400 children found those whose fathers worked more than 55 hours a week were more delinquent and aggressive than their peers, yet the same phenomenon was not identified in daughters.

Further research now needs to be carried out to discover why this happens in males, and to look for ways to tackle it.

The study was run by the Social Science Research Centre in Berlin, but was based in Western Australia where one in five fathers work at least 55 hours week when their children were between five and eight.

Mothers' working hours did not seem to matter, although few Australian mothers worked long hours, according to the study, and no firm conclusions could be drawn from this comparison.

The culture of working long hours, which has crept into many jobs should be the next policy frontier, said the researchers.

In Germany, 15 per cent of fathers of children aged three and four worked 55 or more hours a week in 2011.

Dr Jianghong Li, of The Social Science Research Centre, Berlin, said: 'It is possible when fathers work very long hours, children are less well monitored after school, especially if mothers also work full time hours.

'There is some evidence pre-adolescent boys are less well monitored than girls when fathers have high work related demands, including long hours, and as a consequence have more conduct problems.'

The children's behaviour was monitored by the researchers when they were five, eight and ten using a recognised checklist.
The researchers claim that the findings may be due to the fact when fathers work long hours, children are less well monitored after school, especially if mothers also work full time hours.

The researchers claim the behaviours may be due to the fact when fathers work long hours, children are monitored less after school, especially if mothers also work full-time. However, they add that more research needs to be carried out into why it doesn't happen with daughters

Dr Li said: 'Although the average amount of time parents spend with their children has increased in recent years, the quantity and quality of parent-child time is still raised as a concern.

'Studies in the U.S and Australia point to a desire among parents to work fewer hours and spend more time with their children and a wish among children parents would come home from work less tired and stressed.

'The findings on fathers' long work hours are associated with higher levels of child behavioural problems is important, given the limited prior research specifically examining fathers' work hours.'

Policy has traditionally focused on enabling flexibility for mothers in balancing their work and family responsibilities.

Added Dr Li: 'The results of this study challenge public and policy concern that mothers' absence due to paid work may have a negative impact on children's development.

'This study provides evidence to support equal opportunities for mothers and fathers to share parenting and work responsibilities.

'Instead of focusing on negative effects of mothers' work hours, policy attention should be given to negative consequences of fathers' long work hours for children's emotional well being.

'Fathers should be given incentives not to work long hours but to have a greater share of parenting responsibilities.'

The findings were reported in the Journal of Marriage and Family.


23 August, 2013

Use of psychedelic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms 'does NOT increase risk of mental health problems' - and may even help (?)

I wonder how well these researchers know the people they describe.  I am surprised that they seem unaware of defensiveness among drug users.  In my observations, users of hallucinogens can be quite defensive about what they do.  And a major aspect of that defensiveness is to deny any adverse health effects on themselves of what they do.  Since the data below is self-report, it is my view that the researchers have simply discovered evidence in support of my observations.  They have discovered defensiveness, nothing else

Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms do not cause mental health problems in users, a new study has claimed.   Researchers in Norway have said they in fact found 'significant associations' between the drugs and fewer psychological problems.

The team, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Neuroscience, studied more than 130,000 random people, including 22,000 who had used the drugs at least once, included in a health survey in the US.

Clinical psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen, who carried out the study with researcher Teri Krebs, said: 'After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment.'

The team studied the 2001-2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health which asked people about mental health conditions including general psychological distress, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and psychosis.

Krebs and Johansen used the data to investigate connections between the use of psychedelic drugs and the mental health issues.

The researchers said rather than finding a connection between their use and an increase in problems, they discovered long-term use of drugs such as psilocybin or mescaline was linked to 'lower rates of serious psychological distress'.

Meanwhile, people who had used LSD in the last 12 months were also associated with lower rates of distress, while those who had used the drug long-term had a lower rate of treatment for mental health issues.

The researchers have said it is not possible to determine the reason behind their discoveries, because of the nature of the study, and warned the drugs could be harmful to some.

They wrote: 'We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others.'

The researchers pointed out that recent trials 'have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics'.

Krebs said: 'Everything has some potential for negative effects, but psychedelic use is overall considered to pose a very low risk to the individual and to society.'

The results are published in the journal PLOS One.


Mums-to-be with unhealthy diets are 'more likely to have badly behaved children'

What utter rubbish!  They have simply discovered that poor people have worse health and behaviour while  poor people are also likely to eat what they like, not what is "approved".  No relationship between diet and health is shown.

Pregnant mums with unhealthy diets are more likely to have children with behavioural problems, a new study has revealed.

Children with a high intake of junk food also have increased symptoms of depression and anxiety and are more susceptible to aggressive outbursts and tantrums.

The study is the first to tackle the impact of early life nutrition as an individual’s diet is already related to common mental disorders in adults and adolescents.

The study involved more than 23,000 mothers and children participating in the ongoing Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.

Researchers from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, worked with Norwegian collaborators on the project. Associate Professor Felice Jacka, researcher with Deakin University’s IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, was the lead author of the study.

She said: 'Early life nutrition, including the nutrition received while the child is in utero, is related to physical health outcomes in children - their risk for later heart disease or diabetes for example.  'It is now more clear than ever that diet matters to mental health right across the age spectrum.

Details of a mother’s diet during pregnancy and their children’s diets at 18 months and three years were recorded using questionnaires.

Their children’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, conduct disorder and ADHD were also measured at 18 months, three years and five years of age.

Socioeconomic factors and the mental health of parents were not included in the research to help determine a clearer relationship between diet and mental health.

Now Professor Jacka believes governments must act to tackle the mental and physical issues caused by eating junk food.

She said: 'There is an urgent need for governments everywhere to take note of the evidence and amend food policy.

'The shift to more high-energy, low nutrition foods developed and marketed by the processed food industry, have led to a massive increase in obesity-related illnesses everywhere.

'They must restrict the marketing and availability of unhealthy food products to the community.'


22 August, 2013

A bad back is more than a pain in the neck

Theodore Dalrymple

As an occasional sufferer from lower back pain, I sympathise deeply with David Cameron, whose lumbago currently prevents him from pursuing deer on Jura. A bad back is an utter misery: there is no position that one can adopt for long that remains comfortable. It is like a nagging spouse: it demands attention and cannot be ignored.

Let us hope, for Mr Cameron’s sake and that of the country, that his lumbago is intermittent rather than continuous. For chronic pain, or chronic illness of any description, is seldom an aid to rational decision-making.

Apart from anything else, it leads to self-medication that may cloud judgment. Dr Hugh L’Etang’s books contain a menagerie of world leaders who have made stupid mistakes under the influence of the drugs they have taken to overcome discomfort of one kind or another. Thus we wish Mr Cameron a swift recovery, for our own good as well as his.

No one who has suffered from lower back pain will deny the misery that it inflicts upon sufferers. But it is not straightforwardly caused by physical injury or pathology: though of course it can be.

Regarding myself as psychologically robust rather than fragile, I was once rather humiliated to discover that my bouts of back pain had a considerable, not to say overwhelming, psychological component. I was in India, and due to return home in a few days, when I was stricken by severe pain that made it almost impossible to walk. There was concurrently a problem with my ticket, but I did not connect the two. The ticket had disappeared into the maw of the airline office (no internet then).

Then, unexpectedly, the ticket was delivered to me – and my pain disappeared within the hour. My anxiety had translated itself into muscular tension, a phenomenon known as “somatisation”, to which I had never before realised that I was prone.

I am far from alone in this; there is a large psychological element to most backache. In his wonderful book Whiplash and Other Illnesses – which is not nearly as well-known as it ought to be – Dr Andrew Malleson has a startling graph showing the rise of backache in Britain over the past 50 or 60 years. In 1950, there were 1.5 million days of lost work caused by backache. By 1995, this had risen to 115 million.

This astonishing increase is unlikely to have been caused by an equivalent increase in the number of physical injuries suffered by the working population. On the contrary, work became ever less physical as the years went by. Perhaps bad posture during sedentary employment explains it (and certainly, whenever I have a twinge of backache, sitting at my computer makes it 10 times worse, as does driving a car).

This does not entirely carry conviction, however – for the fact is that the self-employed suffer far less from work-preventing backache. Indeed, to the frustration of those of us in the medical profession, the whole experience correlates very poorly with objective diagnostic signs. Those whose MRI scans reveal bad backs may suffer no symptoms, while those who suffer may have a spine that shows no abnormality (though all spines degenerate with age). For the majority, no objective cause is found – but you cannot say that the pain is exaggerated or unreal, just because you find nothing on the X-rays.

This, of course, makes backache the more or less perfect condition for malingerers, or those who would defraud insurance companies. This has long been recognised. When railways were still comparatively new, passengers involved in accidents or abrupt halts claimed to suffer from “railway spine”. In his book Injuries of the Spine and Spinal Cord Without Apparent Mechanical Lesion, and Nervous Shock, in Their Surgical and Medico-legal Aspects, the surgeon Walter Page wrote in 1883: “Is the condition before us real or feigned? A right answer is obviously fraught with moment to both doctor and patient, and yet the difficulty of giving a right answer may be very great.”

In a giant textbook from 1917 entitled Malingering, dedicated (ironically?) to the author of the National Insurance Act, Lloyd George, we read: “Our views as to the nature of [backache] sadly lack precision, and up to now the condition has not been correlated with any anatomical lesion… It is easy to complain of 'pain in the back’, difficult to establish the truth of the assertion – a fact of which the fraudulent-minded are well aware.” To this day private detectives are probably better at discerning the truth than radiographers.

Between anatomical lesion and fraud, however, there is a large no-man’s land, probably inhabited by Mr Cameron – and by me. Perhaps also he suffers from that well-known phenomenon, illness that comes on when busy people relax. They have had no time to be ill before.


Toxins warning over chinese medicines

Health regulators have issued a warning over some Chinese medicines, saying they contain "dangerously high" levels of lead, mercury and arsenic.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the unlicensed traditional Chinese medicines included some meant for children.

None have been authorised for use in the UK but investigators have found them readily available on the internet.

One product, which goes by a variety of names, was found to have "extremely high" levels of arsenic by the Swedish National Food Agency (SFNA), the MHRA said.

The product is called Niu-Huang Chieh-tu-pein, Divya Kaishore Guggul or Chandraprabha Vatiand and is used for treating mumps, sore throat, tonsillitis, toothache, skin infections, anorexia and fever in young children.

Another product, Bak Foong Pills, is used to relieve period pain but has been recalled in Hong Kong after it was found to contain up to twice the level of lead permitted by the Hong Kong government.

One product called Hairegenerator, used for hair loss, has also been recalled in Hong Kong after a sample was found to contain 11 times the permitted level of mercury.

The MHRA's head of herbal policy, Richard Woodfield, said people should exercise extreme caution when buying unlicensed medicines.

"The adulteration of traditional Chinese medicines with heavy metals is a significant international problem and can pose a serious risk to public health," he said.

"Natural does not mean safe. To help you choose a herbal medicine that is suitable for you, look for a product that has a Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) or product licence number on the packaging. These products have met the acceptable quality and safety standards.

"If you think you have taken any of these products, please speak to your doctor for advice. If you think you have suffered a side-effect from these, or any medicines, please tell us about it through our yellow card scheme."


21 August, 2013

New study  links Alzheimer's to copper

Study in laboratory glassware only.  Problems as described below

The scientific community is divided on the question of whether copper - found in red meat, vegetables, dairy products as well as pipes that carry drinking water in much of the developed world - causes or prevents Alzheimer's disease.

For the latest study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers looked at how copper in the capillaries may cause a breakdown in the blood-brain barrier, leading to a buildup of the protein amyloid beta, or plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's.

According to lead author Rashid Deane, a research professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, experiments using mice and human cells showed that low levels of copper delivered via drinking water accumulated in the capillary walls that feed blood to the brain.

"These are very low levels of copper, equivalent to what people would consume in a normal diet," said Prof Deane.

The copper caused oxidation which interfered with another protein, called lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1), that would normally clear amyloid beta from the brain, his study said.

Not only did copper appear to prevent the clearance of plaque that is believed to be a prime culprit in Alzheimer's, it also stimulated neurons to produce more amyloid beta.

Researchers described their findings in a press release as a "one-two punch" that "provides strong evidence that copper is a key player in Alzheimer's disease."

"Copper is an essential metal and it is clear that these effects are due to exposure over a long period of time," said Prof Deane in a statement.

"The key will be striking the right balance between too little and too much copper consumption. Right now we cannot say what the right level will be, but diet may ultimately play an important role in regulating this process."

However, other experts who have studied copper and Alzheimer's questioned the paper's findings.

"Research including our own shows the opposite, that copper prevents amyloid from forming the type of structures seen in the plaques," said Christopher Exley, professor in Bioinorganic Chemistry at Keele University in Staffordshire.

Prof Exley and colleagues recently published their latest paper on the topic in the British journal Nature in February.

"As a group we would be thinking, based on everything that we know - and our research has been done with human brains and brain tissues - that if anything, copper would be protective against Alzheimer's."

Prof Exley said a "number of things" in the PNAS paper raised red flags, such as the way they measured the copper amounts and the fact that they used animal models which do not always translate directly to humans.

"You do need a significant amount of tissue to produce results that you have a high level of confidence in. A mouse capillary - these are very, very, very small things," Prof Exley said.

"The amount of copper which they are talking about as being possibly proactive is normal," he added.

"If you took this paper at absolute face value, it is telling everybody that we are all suffering from the effects that this paper is documenting right now because we are all exposed to this amount of copper."

Another outside researcher, George Brewer, emeritus professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan medical school, said the "authors miss an important point about copper toxicity to the brain."

"They don't differentiate copper delivered in drinking water, as they delivered it in their study, from copper in food," Prof Brewer said.

"We have always had copper in food, so it couldn't possibly be the cause of this new AD epidemic," he said.

"If they had added this trace amount of copper to food, rather than putting it in drinking water, it would have had no effect."


Four million patients on statins don't need them: Half of those on cholesterol-reduction pills risk side effects with little chance of benefit, doctors warn

A foolish fad finally fading  -- JR

Up to four million people have been wrongly placed on statins, putting them at risk of side effects with little chance they will benefit from the drugs, doctors warned last night.

More than half of patients put on the cholesterol-lowering pills to prevent  a first heart attack or stroke are in fact ‘ineligible’ for the treatment, a  Birmingham University study found.

It suggests that more than £100 million a year is being wasted because GPs have a scatter-gun approach to prescribing the drugs.

Over the past decade the number of people in Britain on statins has risen from five to eight million. The drugs lower the risk of heart attack and stroke in those at medium and high risk, but they can also produce side effects in up to a fifth of takers.

These can include muscle pain, fatigue, stomach upsets, sleep disturbance and erectile dysfunction.

The study, based on data from 365,000 patients at 421 GP practices and published in the journal PloS ONE, found six in ten statin prescriptions to prevent first heart attack or stroke go to ‘ineligible patients’, such as  middle-aged people with raised cholesterol but no other risk factors.

And among those who are meant to get the pills, such as the elderly, only one in four does so.

Dr Tom Marshall, from the Birmingham School of Public Health and Population Science, said: ‘These are useful drugs but they are not getting to the right people.  'There are lots of people who could benefit who are not on them, and there are lots of people who are on them who will not benefit.’

About a quarter of the population over 40 are on statins. They are the most widely prescribed type of drug in the country by a large margin.  In England alone, statins cost the NHS almost £300 million in 2012.

Dr Marshall said too many GPs were putting patients on statins merely because they had a high total cholesterol reading. This was particularly the case among 55 to 70-year-olds.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London, said part of the problem was that GPs were given cash incentives to check people’s cholesterol level, meaning they focused on that and failed to make a broader assessment of risk.

‘Financial incentives are distorting clinical medicine,’ he warned.


20 August, 2013

Pregnant women CAN drink alcohol and coffee, claims controversial new book that aims to dispel 'motherhood myths'

Pregnant women can drink alcohol and coffee and dye their hair – but should avoid gardening, according to an expert who  aims to dispel ‘motherhood myths’.  Economist and author Emily Oster contradicts conventional wisdom and advocates a much more relaxed approach to pregnancy.

In her book, Expecting Better, she claims a glass of wine a day is fine, plenty of coffee won’t harm the baby and gaining too little weight while pregnant is far more worrying than gaining too much.

The Harvard-educated associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago used her data skills to rewrite the rules of pregnancy.

Last night she told the Daily Mail that food restrictions were ‘overblown’ and that alcohol consumption does not affect the IQ or behaviour of the child.

She said her book – which found the best studies often painted a different picture from official guidelines – was ‘simply to show women the evidence and let them decide for themselves’.

Miss Oster said: ‘Actually getting the numbers led me to a more relaxed place: a glass of wine every now and then, plenty of coffee, exercise when I wanted it.’

Miss Oster’s quest began when she became pregnant three years ago and was advised to give up her four cups of coffee a day.

Unwilling to do so and frustrated by ‘one long list of rules’, she investigated and found that research linking coffee consumption to higher rates of miscarriage was flawed.

She wrote in one article: ‘I ultimately decided that the weight of evidence didn’t support limiting my consumption very much. I decided to continue.’

Her next port of call was alcohol. She looked at a study in the journal Pediatrics, which had concluded that just one drink a day was enough to put unborn children at risk of behavioural problems.

But the research did not reflect that 18 per cent of the women studied didn’t drink at all and 45 per cent of those who enjoyed a daily drink also took cocaine.

She concluded that women should feel comfortable with one or two drinks a week during the first three months and up to one a day after that.

Her research found that dyeing hair was fine and there was little evidence that exercise, while not unsafe, had any benefits. But she found gardening could raise the risks of exposure to a toxoplasmosis parasite living in the soil.  Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite and is acquired from contact with cats and their faeces. A woman contracting it just before or while pregnant can transmit it to her baby.

Miss Oster said: ‘There is some risk to increase birth defects if you do a lot of outdoor gardening when you are pregnant. That can increase rates of toxoplasmosis.’

She discovered sushi was fine and sardines and herring were good for a child’s IQ, but advised against raw milk cheese.

Sceptics were less convinced. A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Drinking during pregnancy can be associated with miscarriage, foetal alcohol syndrome and low birth weight.’  ‘Our advice remains that women who are trying to conceive or who are pregnant should avoid alcohol.’

Netmums website founder, Siobhan Freegard, said: ‘Official guidelines may seem stringent but they are there to err on the side of absolute safety.’


British health police trying to ban rare steaks

The prospect of a rare steak could become even rarer in British restaurants, an influential British chef has warned.  Food guru and critic Prue Leith blames local council officials for trying to enforce rules designed for factories and fast-food chains, which demand meat is cooked through, on small restaurants.

She said: ‘I can see a day when you have to go to France to get a rare steak.  'The same for pink duck breasts, liver or kidneys.’

Miss Leith, a judge on the BBC’s hit cooking series ‘Great British Menu’, added: ‘If you have a really good chef, or course he is going to be good about making sure he is not poisoning anybody.  'Of course, he will be highly aware of hygiene and how bugs grow.

'Almost always when there is a food poisoning scandal, the reason is simple hygiene rules.  'People have left food sitting in a warm kitchen for four hours or have used the same knife - simple stuff.’

Her comments come as top chefs admit they are defying pressures from health inspectors to prevent them from serving rare meat to customers.

Officials are instructing restaurants they should no longer serve duck breast or liver pink and that beef burgers and kidneys must not be bloody, to prevent food poisoning.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) states that poultry, as well as liver and other offal, should not be served pink or rare but be cooked thoroughly, and served steaming hot all the way through to kill off any bacteria.

This advice is only guidance, as restaurateurs are required only to ensure their food is safe by law.  But the guidelines are increasingly being raised by environmental health officers during restaurant inspections, putting pressure on chefs to comply.

But chefs argue they are better qualified to judge when meat is safe and are continuing to serve the dishes to their diners’ request, despite the risk of prosecution.

Alex Jackson, head chef at the Dock Kitchen, in Ladbroke Grove, west London, said he had ignored advice from council officers to stop serving chicken livers pink.

He said: ‘It is a difficult issue. But you would have uproar if people were stopped from eating rare meat for the sake of a few dodgy restaurants.  ‘It is frustrating to be told what you can and can’t cook. We tend to ignore it. You often find that you know more than the people who are telling you not to.’

Chef Michael Caines, of two Michelin star restaurant Gidleigh Park, on Dartmoor, said: ‘It is ridiculous, to be quite frank.  'We are in a Draconian state where we are being told by everybody what to do because people don’t understand what it is we’re doing.

‘If you’ve got a nice piece of fresh liver, it is handled correctly and you are cooking it on the outside, if it is served medium rare I don’t see whey that would be a risk to anyone. Equally the customer has the right to choose.’

Richard Turner, head chef of Hawksmoor, the specialist steak restaurants in central London, said he was prepared to go to court to defend the right to serve steak rare.

He said: ‘Westminster Council has told us we can no longer serve our burgers rare, which is possibly right.  'But for meats that aren’t being played around with, as long as it is from a good source, it is ridiculous to say you cannot eat it rare.  'To say we could not cook duck medium rare would be ridiculous - we have been doing it for 20 years now.

'If they tried to tell us we could not serve steak rare we would probably have to go to court - we would lose our business.’

Last night the FSA defended its guidelines saying it was important to cook poultry, pork and minced meat thoroughly to prevent food poisoning.

An FSA spokesman said: ‘It’s safe to eat rare beef and lamb steak because searing the outside surface of a piece of steak will kill any bugs that might have contaminated the outside.

‘However, the same doesn’t go for minced products like burgers.   'This is because any bugs that may have been on the surface of the raw meat will be spread throughout the burger when the meat is minced, so any pink meat may still contain harmful bacteria, whether raw or in a burger that’s cooked on the outside.’

Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the FSA, added: ‘While I love eating out and enjoy a rare steak as much as the next person, I also accept that there is a serious risk from eating some undercooked foods.

‘We don’t make up cooking times to frustrate creativity in the kitchen. They’re there for an important reason and are the result of careful consideration.  ‘I think the FSA and local authorities to get the balance right between letting chefs do their jobs and protecting public health.


19 August, 2013

Is fruit juice bad for your health?

This is just Lustig still pushing his anti-sugar barrow.  He has very little support from other medical researchers.  Note that other fanatics condemn artificial sweetners so it is sweetness that is wrong!

It sounds like a crazy question, but fruit juice could be worse for you than fizzy drinks.

Juice exudes health and vitality. It is officially one of your 'five-a-day'. It's what they sell in juice bars, those yogafied temples of wheatgrass.

But fruit juice is also, according to the American obesity expert Robert Lustig, basically just sugar and is therefore, in his view, a 'poison'. Lustig is the author of Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth about Sugar (4th Estate, £13.99), published earlier this year. He sees sugar as the major culprit in the obesity crisis. Not so surprising, except for his shock revelation that the worst sugars may be those that appear the healthiest. 'Calorie for calorie, 100 per cent orange juice is worse for you' than sugary sodas, Lustig says.

This sounds alarmist, until you read some of the case studies [case studies prove nothing] from Lustig's childhood obesity clinic in San Francisco. One eight-year-old already has high blood pressure, thanks to a three-glasses-a-day juice habit. A six-year-old Latino boy comes to the clinic weighing 100lb, 'wider than he is tall'. His mother, a poor farm worker, has been letting him drink a gallon of juice a day because a government welfare programme gives them the juice for free.

Obviously, most of us drink nothing like a gallon of juice a day. But our juice portions are still out of whack. Over the past 30 years consumption of fructose – the sugar in juice – has more than doubled. Juice didn't used to be seen as something with which you quenched your thirst; it was more like a vitamin shot, a tiny dose of goodness. A book from the 1920s on feeding children by L Emmett Holt says that you should give toddlers just one to four tablespoons (15-60ml) of fresh orange or peach juice. Compare this with today's 200ml children's juice boxes, which contain about 17g sugar, the equivalent of more than four teaspoons.

The biggest problem with juice, as far as Lustig is concerned, is the lack of fibre. When you eat a whole apple, the sugar is 'nicely balanced' by the fibre, giving 'the liver a chance to fully metabolise what's coming in'. When you down half a pint of apple juice it 'brings a huge dose of energy straight to the liver'. Smoothies are not much better, no matter how pretty the packaging, because when fruit is blended the insoluble fibre is 'torn to smithereens'.


Britain's politicians banned from eating scrambled eggs because risk of salmonella is 'too dangerous'... unless they are made from pasteurised liquid from Holland

MPs were at the centre of a new food scare last night after the Commons banned traditional scrambled eggs and omelettes – because they are ‘too dangerous’.

Chefs at the House of Commons are now forbidden to make two of the most popular light meals in Britain with fresh eggs on the grounds that they could be contaminated with salmonella or other bugs.

MPs at Westminster can still order scrambled egg or omelette, but they will be made with liquid pasteurised egg from Holland instead.  One MP said: ‘Whatever they are made with, they taste disgusting.’

And Tory MP Nicholas Soames, grandson of wartime leader Winston Churchill, is understood to have called the decision ‘absurd’.

Politicians with a sweet tooth have also been affected because mousses made from fresh eggs have been removed from the dessert menu.

Some MPs have backed the move, claiming it is a ‘sensible precaution’, but others say the ruling risks a new outbreak of the panic that led to the resignation of Edwina Currie as Conservative Health Minister in 1988.

She was forced to quit after saying: ‘Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella.’

It provoked fury among farmers and egg producers, and led to a slump in sales.

One MP warned: ‘If MPs cannot  or will not eat scrambled eggs or omelette because they are a health risk, members of the public may say, "If it is too dangerous for MPs, it must be too dangerous for us."'

Another of the MPs hoping to enjoy the traditional snack said: ‘It all started in the Tearoom when staff  told us they were now made with powdered egg, not fresh eggs.  ‘They said it was all to do with health and safety. There was a lot  of anger.’

Mr Soames protested at the decision at a meeting of the Commons Administration Committee that is responsible for Commons catering.

An MP who was also at the meeting said: ‘Nick said that in all his years as an MP, this was the most absurd catering decision he had ever heard. He said we were being  treated like children.’

A Commons spokeswoman said: ‘Dishes such as scrambled eggs, mousses or omelettes which do  not reach a core temperature of 75 degrees Celsius are now made using pasteurised liquid egg, rather than fresh eggs. This is in line with Food Standard Agency advice.’

But last night the food watchdog denied it supported a ban on scrambled egg and omelettes made with fresh eggs.  A spokeswoman said: ‘There is no requirement or guidance for caterers to use liquid egg rather than fresh eggs where the egg is to be fully cooked.

‘For vulnerable groups such as  the elderly, infants under five or expectant mums, there is guidance that caterers could use pasteurised egg in any food that will not be cooked or only lightly cooked, such as mayonnaise.’

The traditional way of cooking scrambled eggs is to use a moderate heat. If the temperature is too hot, the eggs can become rubbery.

TV cook Delia Smith says the only rule with scrambled eggs is to use a medium heat. ‘If the heat is too  high, the eggs will become dry and flaky,’ she said.

Labour MP Thomas Docherty, vice-chairman of the Commons Administration Committee, last night demanded an inquiry into the ban. He said: ‘I have asked managers to find out who took this ridiculous decision.’


17 August, 2013

More than four cups of coffee a day puts you at risk of early death, claim U.S. researchers

"the results did not demonstrate any association between coffee consumption and all-cause mortality in older men and women."  Not much to worry about, then, is there?   It's junk research generally, with lots of holes, some outlined below

The findings come from a large- scale American lifestyle study of 43,727 individuals aged 20 to 87.

The US researchers suspect excessive coffee consumption may adversely affect the body’s metabolism, outweighing some of the known health benefits.

Individuals with a ‘genetic coffee addiction’ may be prone to these harmful effects, they suggest.

But the latest study conflicts with a number of others, which have linked moderate coffee consumption with longevity.

Around 2,500 deaths were recorded over the course of the 16-year study. Just under a third of these were because of heart and artery disease.

Participants who drank more coffee were also more likely to smoke, and had less healthy hearts and lungs.

The risk of death from all causes rose by 56 per cent for men and women younger than 55 who drank more than 28 cups of coffee a week, said a report in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Researcher Steven Blair, of the University of South Carolina, said: ‘Significantly the results did not demonstrate any association between coffee consumption and all-cause mortality in older men and women.’

But the researchers did not explain why coffee did not affect older people in the same way. Coffee contains thousands of  different chemicals, which can have both good and bad effects on health.

Recent research has shown that coffee is a major dietary source of antioxidant, and it may reduce inflammation and boost brain function.

At the same time, coffee stimulates the release of adrenaline, inhibits insulin activity, increases blood pressure, and raises levels of homocysteine, a harmful chemical linked to heart disease and dementia.

Co-author Dr Carl Lavie, from Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, said: ‘There continues to be considerable debate about the health effects of caffeine, and coffee specifically, with some reports suggesting toxicity and some even suggesting beneficial effects.’

Dr Euan Paul, executive director of the British Coffee Association, said the study’s limitations may have skewed the findings.  The use of a questionnaire can result in recall bias, with people struggling to remember how many cups of coffee they have consumed in the past week, he said.

Other factors such as smoking and poor fitness could partly explain the link with premature death.

Previous studies have found either no link between coffee consumption and heart deaths, or a positive effect, he added.

He said: ‘There is a growing body of data which suggests that coffee is perfectly safe when consumed in moderation – four to five cups a day – and as part of a balanced diet.


Could regular sex make you RICH? Study finds employees who have sex four times a week get paid more than those who don't  

Refreshing that this guy is not dogmatic about the direction of the causal arrow.  He allows that it may be higher incomes that get the guy more sex.  And there are plenty of third factors that could be involved  -- such as health and vigor

Researchers found that people who have sex at least four times a week get paid more than people who do not have as much sex – regardless of education or profession.

And a lack of physical intimacy can have a significant impact on a person’s state of mind, the researchers found.  ‘People need to love and be loved (sexually and non-sexually) by others.  'In the absence of these elements, many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and depression that could affect their working life,’ study author Dr Nick Drydakis, an economics lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, told CBSNews.

Dr Drydakis says he decided to study the topic because he believes that people have to meet their basic needs, such as eating, drinking, sleeping and having sex, before they will be able to have successes in other parts of their life.

He studied data from 7,500 people aged between 26 and 50.  The participants, who included both straight and gay couples, were asked about their health, sexual activity, employment status and earnings.

The findings revealed that people who have sex more than four times a week earn five per cent more than those who have sex less than four times a week.

The study also found that people who do not have sex at all earn three per cent less than people who do have sex.

The findings held even when factors such as education and profession were taken into account.

The study revealed that even people who have health problems earn more if they have regular sex.

Dr Drydakis, says that he does not know exactly why sex and earnings are linked but he believes that it could be because people who earn well have the disposable income to go on more dates.

Alternatively, it could be because people who earn well are more attractive to potential partners.

Dr Drydakis’ final theory is that the reason could be that people who have high wages are better able to buy their partner gifts and that they are rewarded with sex.

‘Sexual activity is a key aspect of personal health and social welfare that influences individuals across their life span,’ Dr Drydakis told CBSNews. ‘In terms of policy implications, access to effective, broadly-based sexual health education could be an important contributing factor to the health and well-being of people.’


16 August, 2013

Eating salmon once a week 'reduces risk of rheumatoid arthritis by half'

The esteemed Karolinska is putting out a lot of rubbish these days.  This was a self-report study, open to social desirability bias.  Middle class people probably said the "right" thing more often and they are healthier anyway

Eating salmon at least once a week could halve the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.  Oily fish such as salmon or mackerel had the most marked effect, reducing the risk by 52 per cent, a study found.  The same benefit comes from eating four portions a week of lean fish such as cod or plaice.

The difference is in the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in much higher level in oily fish.

Even eating just one portion of any type of fish each week for 10 years leads to a 29 per cent cut in risk of arthritis, compared with those eating less fish.

Middle-aged and older women are traditionally more at risk of rheumatoid arthritis. The Swedish study, published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, involved 32,000 women born between 1914 and 1948.

They completed surveys on what they ate, in 1987 and again in 1997. During this period, 205 of the women developed rheumatoid arthritis.

After adjusting for factors such as smoking habits, alcohol intake and age,  researchers at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found women with consistently high daily intake in both 1987 and 1997 of omega-3 fish oils had a 52 per cent lower risk of developing the condition.

The study attributed the benefit to the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (Pufa) content in fish.

Rheumatoid arthritis, which affects around 580,000 men and women across England and Wales, is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes pain and swelling in the joints.

It is thought that omega-3 fatty acids block the body’s response to inflammation.

Oily fish contain the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered essential because the body cannot make them from other sources and must obtain them through diet.

The best source is fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines or trout.


Children of overweight women die younger

Of course they do.  They are more likely to be working class.  Some insight shown in the last sentence below

CHILDREN born from obese women are 35 per cent more likely to die prematurely in adulthood, according to a new study that warns of a growing epidemic.

Researchers in Scotland traced 37,709 children of 28,540 women who gave birth between 1950 and 1976.

The children were aged from 34 to 61 at the time of the study published in the online journal

Researchers included the data of 6,551 children that had already died prior to the start of the study.

Of the mothers, 21 per cent were overweight - meaning a body mass index (BMI) or height-to-weight ratio of 25 to 29.9 - and four per cent obese, with a BMI of 30 or more, when they gave birth.

"The offspring of obese mothers were 35 per cent and those of overweight women 11 per cent more likely to die before the age of 55 years than those of normal-weight mothers," said study co-author Rebecca Reynolds, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

The team also found that the children of obese mothers were 42 per cent more at risk of being admitted to hospital for heart disease as adults.

"Our results suggest that the intrauterine (womb) environment has a crucial and long-lasting effect on risk of premature mortality in offspring," the study said.

Other research has shown that conditions in the womb can cause lifelong body changes, which may affect such functions as appetite control and metabolism.

But post-birth factors like diet and exercise or a genetic propensity to be obese could not be ruled out as the cause of the children's health problems.

"Strategies to optimise weight before pregnancy are urgently required," wrote the team - given that about one in five pregnant women in the UK are obese.

"We also need to consider giving good lifestyle advice to children of obese mothers and early monitoring of risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, blood sugar, blood fats and smoking," added Reynolds.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 1.4 billion adults aged 20 and older were overweight in 2008 - a figure that had nearly doubled since 1980.

More than a third of adults were overweight in 2008, and 11 per cent obese. At least 2.8 million adults die every year as a result of weight-related health problems.

Experts commenting on the study stressed the need for further research to confirm a direct, causal link between a woman's obesity and her child's risk of dying young.


15 August, 2013

Unruly kids become fatter adults?

Looking at the actual tables of results attached to the journal article is enlightening here.  Table S3 is particularly interesting.  The major predictor of health was in fact gender.  No surprise when we reflect that women live longer.  The beta weights for all other variables were small to negligible.  And Table S3 shows us that conscientiousness predicted obesity very weakly indeed (beta -0.09) and was marginally significant statistically only by virtue of the large sample size. The other significant results showed that Hawaiian natives were fatter and Japanese Hawaiians were slimmer.  No surprises there.  Much ado about nothing here, I think

Research has revealed that a person's behaviour as a child could have a startling impact on their waistline in their future. The longitudinal study observed a group of Hawaiian schoolchildren in the 1960s and then compared their vital statistics today as 50-year-old adults.

The research found that children who acted in an irresponsible and careless manner compared to those who do not were prone to adult obesity, with the children who exhibited lower conscientiousness also generally experiencing worse overall health as adults.

The Oregon Research Institute (ORI) study examined the relationship between childhood personality and adult health. It showed a strong association between childhood conscientiousness (organised, dependable, self-disciplined) and health status in adulthood, as reported in Science Daily.

ORI scientist Sarah Hampson, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health, Hawaii report these findings in the August issue of Health Psychology.

'Others have shown that more conscientiousness children live longer. Now we have shown that these conscientious children are also healthier at midlife' noted Dr. Hampson, while on a panel on personality and health at the national American Psychological Association meeting in Honolulu.

Hawaiian school-children rated by their teachers in the 1960s as less conscientious had worse global health status as adults. They also had significantly greater obesity, high cholesterol, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Childhood conscientiousness was significantly associated with decreased function of the cardiovascular and metabolic systems.
People who are more conscientious have better health habits and less stress, protecting them from disease

People who are more conscientious have better health habits and less stress, protecting them from disease

This association was independent of the other big five personality childhood traits (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and intellect/imagination), adult conscientiousness, childhood socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and gender.

This is the first study in which all the big five personality traits assessed in childhood have been used to predict objective health status assessed by multiple biomarkers over 40 years later in older adulthood.

More than 2,000 children from entire classrooms in elementary schools on two Hawaiian Islands were comprehensively assessed on their personality characteristics.

The National Institute of Mental Health funded the ORI researchers in 1998 to locate and examine the health-related behaviors and mental and physical health status of these individuals.

Researchers managed to convince almost 75 per cent of those in the original group who could be located (mean age 51 years) to participate.

More than 800 individuals completed a medical and psychological examination supported by subsequent grants from the National Institute on Ageing.

The physical examinations included biomarkers of cardiovascular and metabolic systems such as height, weight, waist and hip circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting blood glucose.

'These findings suggest avenues for further research that may lead to interventions.

'People who are more conscientious tend to have better health habits and less stress, which protects them from disease.

'Self-control is a key part of being conscientious, so our findings confirm the importance of teaching children self-control to enable then to grow up to be healthy adults,' said Hampson.

Childhood conscientiousness relates to objectively measured adult physical health four decades later.

Hampson, Sarah E. et al.


Objective: Many life span personality-and-health models assume that childhood personality traits result in life-course pathways leading through morbidity to mortality. Although childhood conscientiousness in particular predicts mortality, there are few prospective studies that have investigated the associations between childhood personality and objective health status in adulthood. The present study tested this crucial assumption of life span models of personality and health using a comprehensive assessment of the Big Five traits in childhood (M age = 10 years) and biomarkers of health over 40 years later (M age = 51 years). Methods: Members of the Hawaii Personality and Health Cohort (N = 753; 368 men, 385 women) underwent a medical examination at mean age 51. Their global health status was evaluated by well-established clinical indicators that were objectively measured using standard protocols, including blood pressure, lipid profile, fasting blood glucose, and body mass index. These indicators were combined to evaluate overall physiological dysregulation and grouped into five more homogeneous subcomponents (glucose intolerance, blood pressure, lipids, obesity, and medications). Results: Lower levels of childhood conscientiousness predicted more physiological dysregulation (? = ?.11, p < .05), greater obesity (? = ?.10, p < .05), and worse lipid profiles (? = ?.10, p < .05), after controlling for the other Big Five childhood personality traits, gender, ethnicity, parental home ownership, and adult conscientiousness. Conclusions: These findings are consistent with a key assumption in life span models that childhood conscientiousness is associated with objective health status in older adults. They open the way for testing mechanisms by which childhood personality may influence mortality through morbidity; mechanisms that could then be targeted for intervention.


Is sugar an invisible killer? Even 'safe' levels of the sweet stuff could lead to an early death, scientists warn

The old sugar scare rolls on.  Mouse study only.  Using mice to predict human longevity is absurd.  Amusing that there was no effect on obesity, though

   U.S. scientists believe even 'safe' levels of dietary sugar could be having invisible adverse effects on people's health.   Scientists said 'safe' levels of dietary sugar - found in a can of fizzy drink, for example - could be having invisible adverse effects on people's health

Researchers gave mice the equivalent of a healthy human diet plus three cans of fizzy drink a day and found the female animals died twice as fast as those whose food was not largely composed of sugar.

Male mice consuming the sugary diet were less able to hold territory and reproduce, leading scientists to speculate that sugar has a damaging effect on the health of mammals, including humans.

Scientists from the University of Utah said the mice showed no sign of suffering serious physical changes in their bodies.

Writing in the online edition of the journal Nature Communications, the researchers said: 'Our results provide evidence that added sugar consumed at concentrations currently considered safe exerts dramatic adverse impacts on mammalian health.'

Mice on the experimental diet received 25 percent of their energy intake in the form of added sugar, no matter how many calories they ate.

In human terms this was equivalent to a person eating a normal healthy diet plus three cans of sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks a day.

After 32 weeks, more than a third of the female mice fed extra sugar died - twice the number fed a non-sugary diet.

The death rate of males was not affected, but their survival behaviour was.

Males on the sugary diet acquired and held on to 26 percent fewer territories than their normal diet nest-mates and produced 25 percent fewer offspring.

Study leader Professor Wayne Potts,at the university, said: 'This demonstrates the adverse effects of added sugars at human-relevant levels.'

To observe the mice in a more realistic setting, the researchers kept them in room-sized pens rather than cages.

This allowed them to compete more naturally for mates and desirable territories.

Despite the effects on the mice, the sugar-fed animals showed only minor metabolic changes, including raised cholesterol.

The study found nothing unusual in terms of obesity or insulin and blood sugar levels.

'Our test shows an adverse outcome from the added-sugar diet that couldn't be detected by conventional tests,' said Professor Potts.


14 August, 2013

Drinking hot chocolate could prevent ALZHEIMER'S by boosting blood flow to the brain

This is a short-term study of a small group so should not be taken too seriously but it should be noted that normals did not benefit and that anti-oxidants made no difference!

Scientists have come up with  an indulgent way to stave off dementia.  Drinking two cups of hot  chocolate a day may boost memory in pensioners by almost a third.  It is thought chocolate’s ability to boost blood circulation is the reason.

'We're learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills,' said lead author Dr Farzaneh Sorond, from Harvard Medical School.

'As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer's.'

The study, published in the journal Neurology, involved 60 people with an average age of 73 who did not have dementia.

Each volunteer drank two cups of hot cocoa a day for a month and did not consume any other chocolate during the study.

Both their memory and thinking skills were examined, while they also had ultrasounds to measure the blood flow to the brain during the tests.

Almost a third of participants had impaired blood flow at the start of the study, but saw an 8.3-per cent improvement in flow to the working areas of the brain by the end of the study.

This group with impaired blood flow also experienced improved times after taking a test of working memory, with scores falling from 167 to 116 seconds by the end of the month.

In both instances, there was no improvement for those who started out with regular blood flow.

Half of the study participants received hot cocoa that was rich in the antioxidant flavanol, while the other half received flavanol-poor hot cocoa. There were no differences between the two groups in the results.

'More work is needed to prove a link between cocoa, blood flow problems and cognitive decline,' said Dr Paul Rosenberg, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. 'But this is an important first step that could guide future studies.'

Previous research has found that lovers of dark chocolate - with at least 60-70 per cent cocoa - benefit from a protective effect against high blood pressure and the risk of diabetes.

And scientists say it can even benefit those who are already at high risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The beneficial effects have been shown only for dark chocolate which is at least 60-70 per cent cocoa. Milk or white chocolate does not provide the same benefits.

It is rich in flavonoids which are known to have heart protecting effects. Sceptics say the high calorie content of chocolate tends to offset the benefits.

Another study found that eating chocolate reduces blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of diabetes.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'This small study adds to a wealth of existing evidence linking vascular problems and poorer cognition. A cocoa-based treatment would likely be very popular, but it's too soon to draw any conclusions about its effects.

'Dementia is one of the greatest medical challenges we face today, and it's vital that we invest in research to find ways to prevent the condition.

‘Poor vascular health is a known risk factor for dementia, and understanding more about the links between vascular problems and declining brain health could help the search for new treatments and preventions.'


The unhealthy generation who could die before their parents: Millions of British children risk heart disease by shunning vegetables and watching too much television, campaigners warn

"Campaigers" is right.  They are not scientists.  There is no evidence for their assertions.  People are in fact living longer as time goes by and diet "worsens"

Millions of British children are shunning vegetables and watching too much television, creating a  generation who will die younger than their parents will, researchers have warned.

The majority of five to 15-year-olds – some 80 per cent – are not eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, according to the study.

However half of children in this age group indulge in soft drinks, chocolates or sweets every day, researchers found.

The researchers called for a return to traditional outdoor activities as they revealed on a typical Saturday or Sunday a quarter of children aged two to 15 spend at least six hours being inactive.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation which conducted the study with the University of Oxford, said the findings were ‘simply unacceptable’.

‘These figures are a warning that many of our children are in grave danger of developing coronary heart disease in the future if they continue to live the same lifestyle,’ he said.

Teenagers seem to be worse than younger age groups, with around two in five 13-year-olds – 39 per cent of girls and 43 per cent of boys – drinking a soft drink every day.

Almost half of boys and over a third of girls aged 13 also go without breakfast, as do almost a third of 11-year-olds.

This figure is even higher among 15-year-olds, with 57 per cent of girls and 38 per cent of boys going without breakfast.

Most girls and boys aged 13 do not do the recommended one hour of physical activity a day, compared with 20 per cent of 11-year-olds. And almost three-quarters of 13-year-olds watch at least two hours of TV on a weekday, as do 60 per cent of 11-year-old girls and 64 per cent of 11-year-old boys.

The rise of this unhealthy generation will leave Britain unable to compete with other countries, the Prime Minister has warned.

Mr Gillespie told the Times: ‘The healthier a nation is, the more efficient it is.’

He said he has seen some cases of high cholesterol in teenagers that ‘you would expect to see in a stereotypical sedentary truck driver eating a cooked breakfast every day’.

Deaths from heart disease have fallen sharply in recent years, but Mr Gillespie said: ‘We’ve got a generation growing up which will buck that trend and potentially they will be the generation that live less long than the generation above them.

‘It really is as stark as that. If that isn’t a wake-up call, then what is?

‘Our expectations of what childhood is have to change,’ he said.  ‘When I was a child the expectation was that you would be outside. It’s not a question of turning back the clock, it’s a question of regaining that balance. We almost have to reset what we regard as moderation — moderation is not cutting down from two burgers a day to one, it’s cutting down to two burgers a week.’


13 August, 2013

Stilnox/Ambien/Zolpidem:  Give a dog a bad name  ....

A woman dies in an unusual way, with signs of murder and a history of depression. She also has traces of 3 drugs in her.  So what is the headline?  Just one of those drugs is picked on!  We have a scapegoat drug! I have used Zolpidem for insomnia and found it perfectly satisfactory

CONTROVERSIAL sleeping drug Stilnox could have prompted "bizarre" actions that led to the death of a young woman who fell 12 storeys down her apartment building's rubbish chute, a court in Melbourne has heard.

Victorian Coroner Peter White opened the inquest into the death of Phoebe Handsjuk yesterday and heard evidence that the 24-year-old woman's unusual end could have resulted from foul play, suicide or a cocktail of prescription drugs that caused her to enter the chute without having any intention of committing suicide.

She was found in the garbage disposal room of her luxury apartment building in St Kilda Road in Melbourne in December 2010 - the first known such death in Australia.

A forensic pathologist found Handsjuk had suffered recent bruising to her neck, wrist and arm consistent with grip marks, as well as significant blood loss from the fall.

Counsel assisting the coroner Deborah Siemensma told the inquest that Handsjuk's injuries suggested she went down the chute in the hall outside her apartment feet first.

She shared the unit with her boyfriend of 18 months, Antony Hampel.

"Issues have been raised in this case about the competency of the police investigation," Ms Siemensma said.

Handsjuk had a blood alcohol level of 0.16 per cent at the time of her death, and was taking the sleeping pill Stilnox as well as the antidepressant Cymbalta.

Ms Siemensma said the cocktail of prescription drugs and alcohol could have led to her experiencing an "atypical" state of mind that prompted her to go down the chute with "no intent or will to take her own life".

The coroner would hear evidence that Stilnox is capable of causing "bizarre" behaviour in people and has been the subject of warnings from the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Ms Siemensma said.

Handsjuk had suffered from depression since her teenage years and was an avid writer but had left no suicide note, she said.

The inquest heard entry to the garbage chute would be difficult to manage, even for a young and slim woman like Handsjuk, and that broken glass and traces of her blood had been found in her apartment.

Mr Hampel, who opposed the inquest taking place, is scheduled to give his testimony towards the end of the month-long inquiry.

The building's former concierge Betul Ozalup said a friend of Mr Hampel visited her regularly in the weeks after she discovered Handsjuk's body. He brought her wine and chocolates and and told her Mr Hampel had tried to help his girlfriend with her depression. The man had said she "couldn't have been saved, she didn't want to be saved", Ms Ozalup told the inquest, which continues today.


Eating raw garlic twice a week HALVES the risk of developing lung cancer, claims new study

Chewing raw garlic might have some following in China but I doubt that it is much done elsewhere.  In my youth I used to chew raw garlic to help alleviate symptoms of colds but it was so strong it made my tongue swell up!  I think this one might have to be left to the Chinese

Eating raw garlic just twice a week can almost halve the risk of lung cancer, new research shows.

A study carried out in China found adults regularly consuming raw garlic as part of their diet were 44 per cent less likely to suffer the disease.

Even when researchers allowed for whether people smoked - the biggest single cause of lung cancer - they found garlic still seemed to reduce the dangers by around 30 per cent.

Around 40,000 people a year are diagnosed with lung cancer in England and Wales alone.

Smoking is thought to cause at least 80 per cent of cases and fewer than one in ten sufferers are still alive five years after their diagnosis.

Previous studies have suggested garlic can protect the lungs against various conditions, as well as ward off other malignancies such as bowel cancer.

One study at the University of South Australia suggested the popular herb could slash the risk of bowel tumours by nearly a third.

In the latest investigation, scientists at Jiangsu Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention compared 1,424 lung cancer patients with 4,500 healthy adults.

Each one was quizzed on their dietary and lifestyle habits, including how often they consumed garlic and whether they smoked.

The results, published online in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, showed those who ate raw garlic at least twice a week were significantly less likely to get lung cancer, even if they smoked or were exposed to high-temperature cooking oil fumes, thought to be another trigger for the disease.

It's not clear whether cooked garlic would have the same effect.

But previous research suggests the key ingredient seems to be a chemical called allicin, released when the clove is crushed or chopped.

It is thought to dampen down inflammation in the body and act as an anti-oxidant, reducing damage from so-called free radicals to the body's cells.

Other studies have found it may help ward off the common cold, hospital superbugs and even malaria.

In a report on their findings the researchers said: 'Garlic may potentially serve as a preventive agent for lung cancer.'


12 August, 2013

Green tea extract has anti-cancer potential

Study in laboratory glassware only

A green-tea extract could help destroy deadly childhood cancers that are resistant to traditional chemotherapy, ground-breaking NSW research has discovered.

Cancer researcher Orazio Vittorio says a modified antioxidant called catechin can kill 50 per cent of the cells from neuroblastoma cancers within three days in laboratory studies.

On Friday night he was awarded the Kid's Cancer Project Award in the NSW Premier's Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research, which will give him $25,000 to put towards developing potentially life-saving treatment from his research.

Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer to strike infants, and has the lowest survival rate of all childhood cancers.

Catechin, extracted from green tea, is thought to be a promising cancer treatment, but its instability when it enters the body limits its effectiveness.

Dr Vittorio worked with a team of chemists to modify the catechin into a more stable form.

"The modified form of catechin is effective at destroying neuroblastoma cells that are highly resistant to conventional chemotherapy, yet has minimal effects on normal cells," said Dr Vittorio, from the Children's Cancer Institute Australia and the Lowy cancer research centre at UNSW. "Now I'll be able to build on this research and work towards an effective therapy for aggressive neuroblastoma".

Dr Vittorio, who survived kidney cancer five years ago, said that as his as-yet unpublished results were preliminary, he did not know how long it would take to develop treatments. "But as a father of a boy who is two years old and a cancer survivor, I'm doing my best to win this," he said.

His was one of 10 awards valued at $395,000. Premier Barry O'Farrell presented the award for outstanding cancer researcher to Professor John Thompson for his work in melanoma research.

David Currow, the chief executive of the Cancer Institute and Chief Cancer Officer, said as we learnt more about cancer, it was becoming clear no single solution would be found.

"Through our investment in research excellence we are enabling our talented researchers to come up with a wide range of innovative and practical solutions that make a very real difference," he said.


Antioxidants do not improve fertility, study shows
A fad is slowly fading

A new study suggests that antioxidants do not improve a woman's chances of conceiving as previously suggested, according to researchers from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

The study, published in The Cochrane Library, found that women who take oral antioxidants are no more likely to conceive and that there was "limited information" about potential harmful effects.

Other research has suggested that antioxidants could boost fertility within men. A previous study, also from the University of Auckland, showed that partners of men who take antioxidants may be more likely to become pregnant.

The study authors say that around 25% of people planning to have a baby experience trouble conceiving and many take dietary supplements, such as antioxidants, to try and improve their chances of becoming pregnant.

However, the researchers say that there is no sufficient evidence that this is the case, and they add that many of the antioxidants taken are unregulated, with little evidence on their safety and effects.

The researchers conducted an analysis of data from 28 trials involving 3,548 women who were undergoing fertility treatment. The duration of the fertility treatment ranged from 12 days to 2 years, and the age of the women ranged between 18 to 42.

The analysis of the trials showed that a variety of antioxidants were used in the fertility treatment process of some women. These included individual doses or combinations of:

Results of the analysis showed that compared to women taking placebos or being given standard treatments including folic acid, there was no significant increase of women taking antioxidants becoming pregnant.

When it comes to potential side effects of women taking antioxidants as a part of fertility treatment, previous research has suggested that antioxidants could be the cause of fertility problems in females.

However, the results of this most recent study show that women taking antioxidants experience no more adverse affects compared to women who undergo standard treatment or those taking placebos. They add that only 14 of the trials showed adverse effects, such as ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage.

In summarizing the results, the study authors say:

"Antioxidants were not associated with an increased live birth rate or clinical pregnancy rate.

Variation in the types of antioxidants given meant that we could not assess whether one antioxidant was better than another. There did not appear to be any association of antioxidants with adverse effects for women, but data for these outcomes were limited."

The researchers note that the quality of evidence in the trials was "very low to low" due to a poor reporting outcome and the small number of studies included.


11 August, 2013

Red-headed men are less at risk of prostate cancer because of their unusual genes, study reveals

My father was a redhead and all my prostate tests have turned up negative so I rather like this study  -- JR

It may have become something of a magnet for ridicule and discrimination.  But now, it seems, there may be major health benefits to being ginger, especially for men.  New research shows that naturally red-headed men are 54 per cent less likely to develop prostate cancer as those with blond, brown or black hair.

Why hair colour should be such a powerful influence on cancer risk is not clear.

But scientists behind the findings, published online in the British Journal of Cancer, think it might be to do with the way genes that dictate hair pigmentation also influence tumour development.

Britain has some of the largest numbers of ginger-haired people per head of population. Globally, the figure is one to two per cent, but  it is 13 per cent in Scotland, 10 per cent in Ireland and six per cent in England.

Previous studies have hinted that having red hair affects health in other ways.

Scientists at Louisville University in Kentucky, found ginger-haired people feel pain and the cold more than everybody else because their pain threshold may be partly dictated by the same gene that sets their hair colour – MC1R.

Red-heads, being fair skinned, are also known to be more at risk of skin cancer.

But researchers from Finland’s National Institute for Health and Medicine, in Helsinki, and the US National Cancer Institute, based in Maryland, wanted to see if the same genetic factors also influenced a man’s chances of prostate cancer.

Nearly 32,000 cases are diagnosed annually in the UK and 10,000 men die from the disease a year. Men over 50 are more likely to develop a tumour.

The researchers looked at 20,000 men aged 50 to 69 who were recruited to a long-term health study in the late 1980s.  Among the data collected were records of what colour their hair was aged 20.

Researchers found that 1,982 men went on to develop prostate cancer.  Researchers stressed that only one per cent of the men studied had red hair, compared to more than 40 per cent with light brown hair.

Scientists think it is possible that the MC1R gene may help to control the way some cells divide and grow.

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK said: ‘This research does indicate an association between having naturally red hair and a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.  ‘But the strength and exact nature of this association is still unclear.

'We would not wish any man with red hair who has a concern about prostate cancer to hold back from seeking advice.’


Using a mobile phone in the car does NOT make driving more dangerous, claims study

For almost 20 years it has been a wide-held belief that talking on a mobile phone while driving is dangerous and leads to more accidents.

However, new research from Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics and Political Science contradicts this by suggesting talking on a phone while driving does not increase crash risk.

Researchers collected data from mobile network operators and accident reports and found that there was no direct correlation between the number of phone calls made during a certain time period and the number crashes during the same time.

The findings contradict the influential 1997 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine that concluded using a phone at the wheel increased the crash risk by a factor of 4.3.

This figure gave mobile phone calls made while driving the same level of danger as drink-driving.

'Using a cellphone while driving may be distracting, but it does not lead to higher crash risk in the setting we examined,' said Saurabh Bhargava, assistant professor of social and decision sciences in CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

'While our findings may strike many as counter-intuitive, our results are precise enough to statistically call into question the effects typically found in the academic literature.

The research found that dangerous mental distractions exist even when drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. The findings showed that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction times get slower and brain function is compromised.

For the study, Bhargava and the London School of Economics and Political Science's Vikram S. Pathania examined calling and crash data from 2002 to 2005.

During these three years phone operators began offering price plans that included free calls on weekdays after 9pm.

The researchers identified calls made on phones while driving by checking which calls were routed through multiple cellular towers and discovered that the amount of calls made by drivers at 9pm increased by 7 per cent.

They then compared the relative crash rates before and after 9pm using data on approximately 8 million crashes across nine U.S states, as well as the list of all fatal crashes across the country.

Bhargava and Pathania found that the increased phone use by drivers at 9pm had no corresponding effect on crash rates.

Additionally, the researchers analysed the effects of legislation banning mobile phone use while driving and similarly found that the legislation had no effect on the crash rate.

'One thought is that drivers may compensate for the distraction of cellphone use by selectively deciding when to make a call or consciously driving more carefully during a call,' Bhargava said.

'This is one of a few explanations that could explain why laboratory studies have shown different results.'

Pathania, a fellow in the London School of Economics Managerial Economics and Strategy group, added a cautionary note: 'Our study focused solely on talking on one's cellphone.

'We did not, for example, analyse the effects of texting or internet browsing, which has become much more popular in recent years. It is certainly possible that these activities pose a real hazard.'

The findings were published in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.


9 August, 2013

Broad Decline in Obesity Rate Seen in Poor Young Children

A change from the usual claims that obesity is an ever-increasing epidemic.  It may however reflect the economic downturn.  More people are poor and hence less able to splurge on excess food

The obesity rate among young children from poor families fell in 19 states and U.S. territories in recent years, federal health officials said Tuesday, the first major government report showing a consistent pattern of decline for low-income children.

The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the latest to find declines in obesity among American children. Several cities have reported modest drops among school-age children, offering hints of a change in course. But gains were concentrated among whites and children from middle and upper income families, and were not consistent across the country.

Tuesday’s report covered the period from 2008 to 2011 and offered what researchers said was the clearest evidence to date that the obesity epidemic may be turning a corner for 2- to 4-year-old children from low-income families. Children from poor families have had some of the highest rates of obesity, which have remained elevated even as rates among more affluent children in some cities have started to drop.

One in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese. Among low-income children it is one in seven.

The cause of the decline remains a mystery, but researchers offered various theories, like an increase in breastfeeding and a drop in calories from sugary drinks. In interviews, parents suggested that they have become more educated in recent years, and so are more aware of the health issues associated with being overweight.

Health officials had noted a small decline in the national rate for low-income children for the first time in December, but they did not single it out as important because they lacked a geographic breakdown to show whether the pattern had taken hold in many states.

The new report provided the most detailed picture of obesity among low-income Americans, using weight and height measurements from 12 million children age 2 to 4 who participate in federally funded maternal and child nutrition programs. It included data from 40 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Trained health professionals took the children’s measurements.

“This is the first time we have this many states in the U.S. showing a decline,” said Heidi Blanck, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who is an author of the report. “This is really broad. Until now it’s been a patchwork.”

She added: “We really think this is how we’re going to curb the epidemic, by getting really young children.”

Researchers last analyzed these data in 2009, when only 9 states had obesity declines and 24 had increases. In the report on Tuesday, the proportions were reversed, with only 3 states experiencing increases and 19 showing declines; 20 states and Puerto Rico were flat. The declines were modest: No state dropped by more than 1 percentage point.

Researchers agreed that the decline was meaningful. Children who are overweight or obese between age 3 and 5 are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as adults, creating a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. But there was little consensus on why it might be happening.

Dr. Blanck offered several theories. Children now consume fewer calories from sugary beverages than they did in 1999, she said. And more women are breastfeeding, which often leads to healthier weight gain for young children. C.D.C. researchers also have chronicled a drop in overall calories for children in the past decade, down by 7 percent for boys and 4 percent for girls, but health experts said those declines were too small to make much difference.

Another explanation is that some combination of the state, local and federal policies aimed at reducing obesity is starting to have an effect. Many scientists doubt that anti-obesity programs actually work, but proponents of the programs say a broad set of policies applied systematically over a period of time could have a chance.

Tom Baranowski, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine who has been skeptical about government interventions, said obesity has as much to do with genes as it does with behavior. “It could be that we are hitting some sort of a biological limit,” he said, in which “all those who are genetically predisposed to being obese already are.”

At the Union Baptist Harvey Johnson Head Start, a bright preschool in an area of Baltimore where more buildings are abandoned than occupied, the focus is on behavior. Children now get health lessons, field trips to a grocery store, healthier meals and an hour of exercise a day on a new jungle gym. Instructors measure children’s height and weight and a nutritionist counsels parents on what to change.

“A doctor has probably already told them, but when we reiterate it, they can’t run away from it,” said Sherise Yow, a family service coordinator at the preschool.

So when the share of the preschool’s approximately 250 students who were obese or overweight fell to 33 percent in 2013, from 35 percent in 2010, administrators credited those efforts.

Parents interviewed for this article agreed that pushing from childcare programs like Union Baptist, as well as warnings from doctors, had helped. But just as important, they said, was the frightening reality that has swept through low-income communities as the epidemics of obesity and diabetes have taken hold.

Shannon Freeland, a 35-year-old pharmacy tech instructor, said both her grandmothers died in their 50s, one from a heart attack after weighing 300 pounds, and the other from a diabetic coma, after multiple amputations that began with her toes, but ultimately took both legs.

“Grandparents aren’t supposed to pass like that,” said Ms. Freeland, whose first child, Iren, was overweight as a toddler. “They’re supposed to live into their 80s and 90s. But mine didn’t. That’s when it started to click for me.”

She added that, “we were pricking Iren’s finger at age 2and that was scary for me.”

Ms. Freeland said it is still hard to eat better, partly because it is expensive, but also because the pull of McDonald’s is strong with three children at home. She has tried Whole Foods, but can’t afford it. But since going back to college to get her associates degree in public health, she has become much more aware of her family’s food habits. Many of her friends are also back in school, avoiding a grim job market.

“People look at Head Start moms and say, ‘oh they’re just low income and that’s it,'” she said. “I think parents have changed. Our income may still be low, but we’re more educated.”


The lust for meddling in other people's lives goes on and on

The federal government has determined that obesity is a national health epidemic, and while obesity-prevention goals were established at the national level in 2012, the question now is how to determine if those goals are being met -- not just nationally, but in your very own neighborhood.

The federally funded Institute of Medicine (IOM) has just released a report listing 83 ways to "assess the progress made in every community"--and at the national level--in the fight against obesity.

Some of the benchmarks would require new legislation or executive action to change the way we live and work. (See below)

The Institute of Medicine is an independent federally funded organization that works outside of government to provide "unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers," including members of Congress, and the public. Its 2012 annual report said that it received 78 percent of the funding for its programs from the federal government.

It was the IOM that controversially recommended what preventive health services -- including birth control, sterilization and abortifacients -- should be covered without charge under Obamacare.

"Let's Move!" on steroids

The IOM's 83 "indicators for measuring progress" in obesity-prevention include the following, in no particular order. This is  only a partial list.

-- Increase the proportion of walking trips made by adults for leisure or commuting to work;

-- Increase the proportion of recreation and fitness facilities per 1,000 people;

-- Increase the proportion of children aged 0–17 years living in safe neighborhoods;

-- Increase the proportion of trips to school made by walking 1 mile or less or biking 2 miles or less by children aged 5 to 15 years;

-- Increase the proportion of the nation’s public and private schools that provide access to their physical activity spaces and facilities for all persons outside of normal school hours;

-- Increase legislative policies for the built environment (where you live and work) that enhance access to and availability of physical activity opportunities;

-- Have states and school districts adopt policies that prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in schools and require that schools offer a variety of no- or low-calorie beverage options that are favorably priced;

-- Reduce the relative price of low-fat milk (compared to soda/sweetened beverages);

-- Reduce caloric intake by children and adolescents in chain and quick-service restaurants;

-- Increase the number of states that adopt a law imposing an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and dedicating a portion of the revenue to obesity prevention programs;

-- Reduce the density of fast-food restaurants (per 100,000 population);

-- Increase the proportion of physician office visits that include counseling or education related to nutrition or weight and physical activity;

-- Increase the proportion of worksites that offer an employee health promotion program to their employee;

-- Increase the proportion of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old who were exclusively breastfed or given breast milk for their first 6 months;

-- Increase the percentage of U.S. hospitals with policies and practices to support breastfeeding;

-- Increase the proportion of employers that have worksite lactation-support programs;

-- Increase the proportion of school districts that require schools to make fruits or vegetables available whenever other food is offered or sold;

-- Increase the proportion of schools with a School Breakfast Program;

-- Increase the proportion of college and university students who receive information from their institution on inadequate physical activity.

The IOM recommends that an "obesity evaluation task force or other entity should oversee and implement" the National Obesity Evaluation Plan. It says the national plan can be a model for state and regional evaluations -- "providing comparable data that can be used as benchmarks for progress over time."

And while a national plan can show changes in general trends over time, "state and community-level plans provide an additional level of detail," the report states.

Therefore, the IOM outlines a Community Obesity Evaluation Plan with four elements: community health assessment, surveillance, intervention monitoring, and something called "summative evaluation."

According to IOM, “assessment” means looking at the number and distribution of obese people within a community and at efforts to eliminate the problem.

“Surveillance” is the continuous assessment of progress over time.

“Monitoring” means tracking the implementation of various anti-obesity interventions;

And “summative evaluation” seeks to detect changes associated with particular interventions.


8 August, 2013

Eating a big breakfast is more slimming

One wonders why.  This was a study of fat Jewish ladies and I have observed that fat Jewish ladies tend to be devoted to their coffee and cake at morning-tea time.  Perhaps the breakfasters were better able to resist cheating at morning tea time!

Dieters have long been told they should breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.

Now scientists have confirmed the principle...and even quantified the difference it can make to your weight loss.

Researchers gave women most of their calories either at breakfast or dinner, then monitored the two groups over 12 weeks.

The researchers, from Tel Aviv University, found there were other health benefits as well. The breakfast group saw their levels of ghrelin, an appetite hormone, dramatically decrease.

And they say it's not only the food that we eat, but when we eat it that can have a big impact on our health.

So the time of day we eat impacts the way our bodies process food, says Professor Daniela Jakubowicz, of Tel Aviv University in Israel.

At the end of the study, those on the breakfast plan lost an average of 19.1lbs. But the people eating most of their calories at the end of the day lost just 7.9lbs.

The body's metabolism is governed by the circadian rhythm - the biological process that the body follows over a 24 hour cycle.

The breakfast group lost an average of 3.3in from their waistlines, compared to 1.5in for those eating a big dinner.

These results, published in the journal Obesity, indicate that proper meal timing can make an important contribution towards managing obesity and promoting an overall healthy lifestyle.

To find out the impact of meal timing on weight loss and health, Professor Jakubowicz and her fellow researchers conducted a study in which 93 obese women were randomly assigned to one of two groups.

Each consumed a moderate-carbohydrate, moderate-fat diet totalling 1,400 calories daily over three months.

The first group consumed 700 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch, and 200 at dinner.

The second group ate a 200 calorie breakfast, 500 calorie lunch, and 700 calorie dinner. The 700 calorie breakfast and dinner included the same foods.

By the end of the study, participants in the ‘big breakfast’ group had lost an average of 17.8 pounds each, and three inches off their waist, compared to a 7.3 pounds and 1.4 inches for participants in the ‘big dinner’ group.

According to Professor Jakubowicz, those in the ‘big breakfast’ group were found to have significantly lower levels of a hunger-regulating hormone, an indication that they were more satiated and had less desire for snacking later in the day, than their counterparts in the ‘big dinner’ group.

The ‘big breakfast’ group also showed a more significant decrease in insulin, glucose, and triglyceride levels than those in the ‘big dinner’ group.

More importantly, they did not experience the high spikes in blood glucose levels that typically occur after a meal.

Peaks in blood sugar levels are considered even more harmful than sustained high blood glucose levels, leading to high blood pressure and greater strain on the heart.

The findings suggest that people should adopt a well thought-out meal schedule, in addition to proper nutrition and exercise, to optimise weight loss and general health.

Professor Jakubowicz said: ‘Eating the right foods at the wrong times can not only slow down weight loss, it can also be harmful. Our study found those in the big dinner group actually increased fat levels in their body, despite their weight loss.’

She suggests that people could improve their health significantly by cutting out late night snacking.

She said: ‘Mindless eating in front of the computer or television, especially in the late evening hours, is a huge contributor to the obesity epidemic.

‘It increases not only poundage, but the risk of cardiovascular disease - making that midnight sugar rush more costly than it appears.’


British "obesity" insanity again

A healthy and active five-year-old who has his own vegetable patch been branded overweight by a government initiative.

Oliver Knight completed a medical as part of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) to assess his body mass index (BMI).

Measuring 1.085m (3ft 6in), and weighing 45 lb. (20.6kg; 3 stone, 3lb), Oliver's BMI was 91, putting him in the 'overweight' category.

His mother Sharon, 40, was shocked to receive the letter, claiming her son is energetic and loves vegetables, but says she won't tell Oliver about the result because of the way it could affect him.

Mrs Knight said: 'Oliver is such a skinny little thing. I couldn't believe what I was reading.

'Firstly, I can't believe they're doing this to five-year-olds. They're still growing, and they need three meals a day.

'But Oliver eats healthily all the time - we have our own vegetable patch and he loves salad.  'The other mums at school get wound up because their children won't eat as many vegetables as he does.

'And we don't buy sweets or sugary treats, because I have an autistic son and if he eats them it doesn't do him any good.  'He needs to eat healthily, so I just don't have them in the house.'

Mrs Knight says a typical meal in the family household would be chicken, with salad and potatoes, and that Oliver has Weetabix for breakfast plus the healthy lunch the school provides.

She added: 'He exercises all the time, because we have family days out where we go walking or cycling. He's absolutely full of energy.'

Back in February, Oliver took part in a school project on healthy eating.  His mother says that when he got home, he didn't want to eat his tea or breakfast the following day because he was so scared of getting fat, and she's scared that if he sees the letter, the same thing will happen again.

Sharon said: 'There is just no way Oliver is overweight. It's concerning to think that they are saying this to people who are so young.  'They wonder why so many young people have eating disorders, and then they do this. It's really annoyed me.

'As a family, we just eat healthy meals and get out and about. I've been told not to take it to heart, but you can't say that to a child.'

According to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health UK 2-18 years growth chart, a child with a BMI above the 91st is classed as overweight, while a child above the 98th centile is clinically obese.

A Public Health England spokesman said: 'The NCMP is recognised as being fundamental to efforts to tackle childhood obesity in England. It records the height and weight of children in two age groups at state maintained schools every year. The results inform local authorities about levels of obesity in their populations.

'Parents also receive these results because they have said, through focus groups, it's important and they want to be aware of potential issues with their child's health.

'Evidence shows parents and health professionals do not always recognise overweight in children, which is why an objective measure rather than visual assessment is important.'


7 August, 2013

Statin Drugs are Poison

MIT scientist Raymond Francis discusses the ineffectiveness of Statin drugs. He sheds light on why they are used, what damage they cause, and why NOT to use them

I reversed my diabetes in just 11 days - by going on a starvation diet

This seems well-founded and very promising.  It mirrors my own less serious experience.  I have always tested out OK when checked for diabetes but a recent test  now that I am aged 70 showed me as pre-diabetic  -- meaning that I metabolized everything but was slow in doing so. I had recently changed from my customary two meals per day to three.  So I dropped back to two, with substantial food-free intervals between them.  Some symptoms that had been bothering me vanished in only a few days.  It seems my pancreas just needed a holiday -- JR

A family bereavement, high blood pressure, an unavoidable job change. I thought everything came in threes — but I was wrong. There was more bad news around the corner.

I was a fit 59-year-old and had just had an annual health check at my GP surgery. This revealed I had high blood sugar — 9millimoles per litre, whereas a normal level is 4-6mmol/l — and my doctor suggested I could have diabetes.

Further tests confirmed that, yes, I was type 2 diabetic. I was stunned. I have always been a healthy weight (I am 5ft 7in and just 10st 7lb), had no family history of diabetes, ate a healthy diet, never smoked, and I definitely did not have a sweet tooth.

Determined to find a solution, I began researching the condition and how to beat it.

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to keep glucose levels normal (in type 1, the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether), and if I didn’t take action, I would be 36 per cent more likely to die early and could suffer bad sight, poor kidneys, heart failure and strokes. I’d also eventually be on medication.

My GP said that my diabetes was mild enough to be controlled through diet alone, and gave me a wad of leaflets on nutrition for diabetics. I took up salads, cut down on carbohydrates and ate my five-a-day — but progress was slow. Over seven months I shed a stone but my blood sugar was still too high — around 7mmol/l.

Not satisfied with this, further internet research threw up a more drastic approach. Scientists at Newcastle University had devised a radical low-calorie diet that studies suggested could reverse diabetes in under eight weeks.

This involved eating just 800 calories a day (a man’s recommended intake is 2,500) — 600 calories from meal replacement shakes and soups and 200 calories from green vegetables. You also drink three litres of water a day.

The theory behind the diet, which is the brainchild of Roy Taylor, professor of medicine and metabolism at Newcastle University, is based on the fact that type 2 diabetes is often caused by fat clogging up the liver and pancreas, which are crucial in producing insulin and controlling blood sugar.

This is why weight gain is such a risk factor for the condition, particularly if that weight is carried around the belly and abdomen. However, there are some unfortunate people like myself who seem to be disposed to accumulating fat in the liver and pancreas, despite being a healthy weight.

Professor Taylor’s studies have shown that drastic dieting causes the body to go into starvation mode and burn fat stores for energy — and the fat around the organs seems to be targeted first.

This leads to the liver and pancreas becoming unclogged, and insulin and blood sugar levels returning to normal.

One study by Taylor’s team, published in 2011 in the journal Diabetologia, found that out of 11 type-2 diabetics following the diet, all reversed their diabetes in under eight weeks.

Further studies revealed that type 2 diabetics needed to lose one-sixth of their pre-diagnosis body weight to remove enough fat from the pancreas to allow normal insulin production to resume.

After contacting Professor Taylor, and getting the nod from my GP, I decided to follow the diet (experts warn never to start such a drastic regimen without first checking with your doctor). My target weight was 8st 12lb.

But surviving on a soup, two shakes and green veg (necessary to provide some fibre and keep the bowels healthy) wasn’t easy.

The first full day, a Sunday, I woke with no decent breakfast to look forward to — just some watery shake. (The meal-replacement shakes from the shops work fine — I used The Biggest Loser brand, but there are many available.)

After just one day my glucose levels had dropped from 6mmol/l to 5.9mmol/l. Hunger was never far away. But Professor Taylor said that the hunger pangs were something to celebrate, as it meant that the diet was working.

Toast yourself with water, he said, and the hunger will disappear. And it worked: I downed a pint of water and the hunger went.

The weight came off fast. By day three I had already lost 2lb.

Day four saw my glucose level plummet from 5.9mmol/l on the Sunday to 4.6mmol/l. I even started to get used to the idea of a shake for breakfast: thoughts of fresh crusty bread went out of the window. I was training my mind to reduce my choices and yet value the options remaining.

Lunch was my own delicious, thick mushroom soup (I blended mushrooms, onions, veg stock and herbs together), washed down with a cherry-flavoured shake. I gulped down a chicken soup supplement before leaving the office to see a play in the evening.  Concentration levels were fine, but climbing up my local Tube station stairs afterwards was a real slog. I felt tired and lethargic.

The pattern continued each day. I experimented with more soups such as carrot, tomato and pea, baked veg, stir-fried veg, boiled veg and casseroles, liberally seasoned with herbs I’d never used before, such as cumin and paprika.

Some mornings I walked to work fine, others I was in a bit of a daze, and on certain days walking round the office was an effort. My family were concerned about me  getting thinner and somewhat short-tempered.

Day six was a bad day. Despite it being mid July, I wore four layers of clothing to keep warm — and even then my fingers grew numb. I felt tired in the evening, and then constipation set in. Perhaps it was because I was not drinking enough water. Laxatives saved the day and the following morning I recorded my lowest overnight fasting glucose reading — 4.3mmol/l — a real boost.

On day eight I played cricket and it was hard watching teammates stuffing themselves with doughnuts. I had to toast a century-scoring colleague with water.

Three days on, I was down to 8st 13lb with my glucose level down to 4.1 mmol/l.

But I could not ignore concerned comments at work about my ‘shrinking’. Some of my clothes no longer fit me, and even I was slightly alarmed about how thin I had got in the face.

I was known as the ‘disappearing man’ by colleagues. It was time to stop the diet. (I then returned to a healthy wholegrain diet comprising lots of fruit and veg, chicken, fish and non-fatty foods).

Two months later, I got myself tested at the surgery to register a healthy, non-diabetic 5.1mmol/l and was elated when my GP told me: ‘Your diabetes has resolved itself.’

I had stuck to the diet for just 11 days, and reduced my blood sugar to a healthy non-diabetic level. It has remained that way for the past year — my latest reading was 4.9mmol/l. I have kept to just under 9st, joined a gym and gone running three times a week.

On Professor Taylor’s advice, I have also started building up my upper body muscle: bigger muscles soak up more glucose as energy, and thus prevent the body from storing more than it needs.
Professor Taylor started investigating the diet after he became intrigued by the observation that type 2 diabetes is reversed almost overnight in obese patients following gastric bypass surgery for weight loss.

‘The surgeons’ explanation was that it was something clever to do with gut hormones, which help control our appetite, but this was clearly unsatisfactory.’

Professor Taylor instead focused on the fact that patients were unable to eat much in the days following the surgery, and wondered if this could in fact be responsible for reversing diabetes.

‘I realised that this led to a sudden shift of fat away from the liver and pancreas. I thought we could test this by taking people with type 2 diabetes and mimicking the very sharp reduction in food intake after surgery.

‘I predicted this could strip fat out of the liver and pancreas and both organs would return to normal — and our subsequent work has confirmed this.’

And the work continues. Alan Tutty, 54, from Seaburn Dene, Sunderland, is one of 34 volunteers in Newcastle University’s second trial looking at longer term effects of the diet. In eight weeks between last November and January, he, too, successfully reversed his type 2 diabetes, shedding 26lb to reach his target weight of 13st 3lb.

‘Since coming off the diet, my weight has occasionally risen to 13st 9lb, but it’s always crept back down to 13st 5lb,’ he says.

The approach has been met with excitement by other experts in the field. James Walker, consultant diabetologist at Livingston hospital, West Lothian, believes the research challenged conventional thinking.

‘A lot of people have perhaps too simplistically thought that once the pancreas starts to fail, and stop producing insulin, it is an inevitable decline. But this diet challenges that.

‘And what is brilliant is that it works so quickly. We’ve even produced a little diet booklet in West Lothian for patients mainly nicking Roy’s ideas.’

Professor Taylor’s team is now looking at whether it works for those who have had type 2 for many years, and also whether the pancreas stays free of fat following the diet.

The findings are due to be published next year. In the meantime, I’ll stick to my healthy diet to keep myself diabetes-free. I don’t fancy tackling those shakes again.


6 August, 2013

How overcoming adversity DOES help you live longer: Men who survived the Holocaust outlive Jewish men of the same age

Rubbish!  Only the exceptionally robust survived the camps. So of course they live longer.  They are a more select group healthwise

Men who survived the Holocaust live longer than other Jewish men of the same age who did not go through the hell of the Nazi death camps, new research has revealed.

Researchers from Haifa University in Israel found a phenomenon known as 'post-traumatic growth' enabled Holocaust survivors to develop enhanced 'personal and inter-personal skills'.

As a result, male survivors lived up to 18 months longer than Jewish peers who  were not confined to concentration camps during the war.

Holocaust survivors also gained 'new insights and a deeper meaning to life' as a result of their intense psychological ordeal inside the concentration camps, the scientists said.

The study of more than 55,220 Polish Jews found men and women who escaped before Hitler started his campaign of terror had an average life expectancy 6.5 months shorter than those who made it to Israel between the armistice and 1950.

Study leader, Professor Avi Sagi-Schwartz, from the Department of Psychology at Haifa University in Israel, said he was 'surprised' by the finding that male survivors lived for up to 18 months longer.

He said: 'Holocaust survivors not only suffered grave psychosocial trauma but also famine, malnutrition, and lack of hygienic and medical facilities, leading us to believe these damaged their later health and reduced life expectancy.

A common belief among scientists is that psychological trauma shortens life expectancy by damaging the victims's DNA by shortening their 'chromosome ends' which control the lifespan of cells in the body.

This inspired the research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, which is the first of its kind to use the official database of the National Insurance Institute of Israel to look at the entire Jewish population who emigrated before and after World War Two.



Breastfeeding 'lowers Alzheimer's risk'

But why?  Because high IQ is a strong predictor of breastfeeding, and high IQ indicates generally better brain functioning.  So all that they are detecting below is IQ and its effects

Mothers who breastfeed their children may have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease, according to a new study.

The research, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, suggests that the link may be to do with certain biological effects of breastfeeding.

It found that longer periods of breastfeeding lowered the overall risk.

Previous studies have established that breastfeeding can reduce a mother's risk of other diseases but until now little has been done to examine the impact of breastfeeding duration on Alzheimer's risk.

Researchers from the department of biological anthropology at the University of Cambridge, used data gathered from a group of just 81 British women.

However, they said the correlation between breastfeeding and Alzheimer's was highly significant and consistent, although the connection was much less pronounced in women with a history of dementia in their family.

The findings may point towards new directions for fighting the global Alzheimer's epidemic. It also may offer clues as to why people are more susceptible to the disease.

The study argues that there may be a number of biological reasons for the connection between Alzheimer's and breastfeeding.

One theory is that breastfeeding deprives the body of the hormone progesterone, compensating for high levels of progesterone which are produced during pregnancy.

Progesterone is known to desensitise the brain's oestrogen receptors, and oestrogen may play a role in protecting the brain against Alzheimer's.

Another possibility is that breastfeeding increases a woman's glucose tolerance by restoring her insulin sensitivity after pregnancy.

Pregnancy induces a natural state of insulin resistance and Alzheimer's is characterised by a resistance to insulin in the brain.

Dr Molly Fox, from the department of biological anthropology at the University of Cambridge, led the study.

She said: ""Women who spent more time pregnant without a compensatory phase of breastfeeding therefore may have more impaired glucose tolerance, which is consistent with our observation that those women have an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease."


5 August, 2013

Could eating salmon twice a week protect against skin cancer? Omega-3 oils found to destroy harmful tumour cells

This is a study in laboratory glassware only

Eating salmon twice a week could protect against skin cancer, according to new research.  Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish -  which include sardines, mackerel and trout - destroy malignant cells in skin and mouth tumours while leaving healthy ones alone, experiments show.

The finding could even lead to the development of aerosols or gels containing the molecules that zap skin and mouth cancers.

Experiments found the omega-3 fatty acids stopped induced cell death in both early and late stages of the diseases.

Professor Kenneth Parkinson, of Queen Mary, University of London, said: ‘We found the omega-3 fatty acid selectively inhibited the growth of the malignant and pre malignant cells at doses which did not affect the normal cells.

‘Surprisingly, we discovered this was partly due to an over stimulation of a key growth factor (epidermal growth factor) which triggered cell death. This is a novel mechanism of action of these fatty acids.'

Britons are currently advised to eat fish at least twice a week, including one portion of oily fish. A portion is 140g or six ounces.

The finding published online in the journal Carcinogenesis suggests they could be used in both the treatment and prevention of certain skin and oral cancers.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids cannot be made by humans in large quantities so we must acquire them from our diet.

As well as oily fish, flaxseeds and walnuts are also a good source of the molecule that have been shown to ward off heart disease.

The researchers were studying a particular type of cancer called SCC (squamous cell carcinoma), one of the major forms of the disease.

Squamous cells are the main part of the outermost layers of the skin, and also occur in the lining of the digestive tract, lungs and other areas of the body.

Oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC) are the sixth most common cancer worldwide and are difficult and very expensive to treat.

The scientists grew cultures from several different cells lines, including both malignant oral and skin SCCs along with pre malignant cells and normal skin and oral cells, to which they added the fatty acids.

While previous research has linked omega-3 fatty acids with the prevention of a number of cancers, there has been very little work done on oral cancers or normal cells.

Lab member Dr Zacharoula Nikolakopoulou said: ‘As the doses needed to kill the cancer cells do not affect normal cells, especially with one particular fatty acid we used called EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), there is potential for using omega-3 fatty acids in the prevention and treatment of skin and oral cancers.

‘It may be those at an increased risk of such cancers, or their recurrence, could benefit from increased omega-3 fatty acids.

'Moreover, as the skin and oral cancers are often easily accessible, there is the potential to deliver targeted doses locally via aerosols or gels. However further research is needed to define the appropriate therapeutic doses.'


The chemical make-up of your body could indicate how wealthy you are: Rich and poor people's bodies 'contain different toxins'

Another confirmation of the importance of social class

You can tell how wealthy a person is based on the chemical build-up in their body, new research suggests.

Scientists at the University of Exeter discovered that harmful chemicals build up in the bodies of people of all social standings, but that the type of toxicants depends on the person’s wealth.

For example, wealthier people tend to have more of the chemicals associated with eating fish and using sunscreen in their bodies.

By contrast, less affluent people are more likely to have a build-up of the chemicals associated with smoking.

Using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Dr Jessica Tyrrell and her team analysed possible links between a person’s socioeconomic status and the prevalence of chemicals in their body.

They expected to find that people of lower socioeconomic status would have more toxins in their bodies. 

However, this was not the case. Dr Tyrrell said: ‘We’ve found that as people become better off, changes in their lifestyle alter the types of chemicals in their bodies, rather than reducing the overall amount.

‘This realisation has a profound impact on the way we treat chemical build-ups, suggesting we should move to dealing with groups based on lifestyle, rather than earnings.’

By comparing the results from six separate populations, the researchers have been able to show strong associations between 18 different chemicals and poverty ratings.

Individuals with higher incomes had larger amounts of several toxicants, including urinary mercury, arsenic, caesium and thallium, with diet likely to play a key role in their accumulation.

‘The age old adage of “you are what you eat” seems to be true when explaining some of the trends we’re seeing in the data. It’s certainly very likely that fish and shellfish consumption is partially responsible for build-ups in mercury, arsenic and thallium’, said Dr Tyrrell.

The use of sunscreen was also found to be an important factor in the accumulation of benzophenone-3, with people from higher socioeconomic groups more likely to use products containing the chemical.

Those with lower incomes were more likely to have build-ups of urinary lead, cadmium, antimony and bisphenol A.

Cigarette smoking and a poor diet were among the factors likely to lead to the build-up of both lead and cadmium in these groups.

‘Long term exposure to chemicals, even in very small quantities, can lead to a number of adverse health effects such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

‘This study has produced a robust analysis of how the accumulation of these chemicals relates to socioeconomic status, giving us an important understanding that will help to inform strategies aimed at improving health,’ Dr Tyrrell said.


4 August, 2013

How feasting on steak and spinach can cut the chances of Alzheimer's

These findings are explainable as indicating a general syndrome of biological fitness.   Anaemics are less fit so go on to get dementia too

Iron-rich foods such as steak, spinach, liver and nuts could cut the risk of dementia in later life, say researchers.

A study has found that people with anaemia – where levels of red blood cells are lower than normal – were more likely to develop conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

The most common cause of anaemia, besides heavy blood loss, is iron deficiency, suggesting that a dietary change could help protect against dementia.

Researchers made the connection between dementia and anaemia after studying more than 2,500 adults aged between 70 and 79.

‘Anaemia is common in the elderly and occurs in up to 23 per cent of adults aged 65 and older,’ said lead researcher Dr Kristine Yaffe, of the University of California San Francisco.

‘The condition has also been linked in studies to an increased risk of early death.’ Of those who took part in the study, 393 had anaemia at the start, while all those involved were given memory and brain power tests.

At the end of the study, 445 – or about 18 per cent – had developed dementia.

The research found those who had anaemia at the start of the study had a nearly 41 per cent higher risk of developing dementia than those who were not anaemic.

The link remained after considering other factors, such as age, race, sex and education, says a report in the medical journal Neurology.

Of the 393 with anaemia, 89, or 23 per cent, developed dementia, compared to 366 of the 2,159 who did not have anaemia, or 17 per cent.

Dr Yaffe said anaemia may play a role in dementia by reducing oxygen supplies to the brain, which can damage neurons and have been shown to reduce memory and thinking abilities.

Dr Doug Brown of the Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘Maybe our parents were right to tell us that we should eat more spinach.

‘This interesting research suggests that lower iron levels may have a link with cognitive health later on in life.

‘However, more research is needed and we shouldn’t make the jump to claim that anaemia causes dementia.

‘The best way to reduce your risk of dementia is to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Enjoy a balanced Mediterranean diet rich in fruit and vegetables, oily fish and even the occasional glass of red wine, take regular exercise and don’t smoke.’

Dr Eric Karran of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘This large study adds to previous observations of a link between anaemia and a higher dementia risk, but it hard to say with any certainty that anaemia is a causal factor in the condition.’

‘While age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, current research suggests that lifestyle choices may have an influence on our dementia risk.’


How clean water and soap can make a child TALLER: Good hygiene 'increases nutrients absorbed and could add half a centimetre to an under-five'

It is hard to critique a meta-analysis without re-doing the whole project but Cocharane analyses are generally rigorous and the small height advantage reported is reasonable in view of the known relationship between nutrition and height

Simply improving the quality of water and using soap could make children grow taller, according to the first study of its kind.

Researchers found that basic methods to maintain good hygiene could add half a centimetre to a five-year-old as poor personal care can increase the risk of infection in the gut, thereby reducing the amount of nutrients absorbed.

It could also reduce the prevalence of stunted growth, which irreversibly affects physical and mental development of an estimated 165million children worldwide, by up to 15 per cent.

The study's authors say the findings are key to tackling the 'burden of undernutrition' which causes 3.1million deaths annually and accounts for nearly half of all deaths of under-fives.

The study was carried out for the Cochrane Review and authored by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and charity WaterAid.

It examined 14 studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Chile and Nepal using data on 9,000 children.

Yael Velleman, one of the authors and a senior policy analyst at WaterAid, told The Independent that the link between disinfecting water, sanitation and nutrition could explain why children in some countries are shorter than others in equally developed nations.

Five years ago, the World Health Organisation estimated that 50 per cent of childhood malnutrition is associated with repeated diarrhoea or intestinal worm infections.

Professor Tim Wheeler, deputy chief scientific advisor to the Department for International Development (DfID), which funded the research, said the report supports the use of soap and clean water 'as one of the best ways to prevent contracting diarrhoea and stopping children losing the essential nutrients vital for them to grow.'

Lead author, Dr Alan Dangour, who is also a senior research fellow at the DfID, added: 'Providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene is an effective way to reduce the incidence and associated deaths from diseases such as diarrhoea – which remains the third biggest killer of under-fives worldwide.

'For the first time our analysis suggests that better access to these services may also have a small but important impact on the growth of young children.'


2 August, 2013

Australian study: Rich kids thinner

And lower class kids are fatter.  Whenever it is examined, social class is an important health predictor

RICH kids are thinner than their poorer classmates, who are more likely to grow obese in primary school, new research shows.

The Murdoch Children's Research Institute study of 4000 Australian children shows that disadvantaged kids who are overweight or obese by the time they start school are more likely to put on weight as they grow up.

Researchers tracked the children's weight from the age of four and five, to the age of 10 and 11.

It found 15 per cent preschool kids were overweight and 5 per cent obese.

By the age of 10 or 11, 20 per cent of the children were overweight and 6 per cent obese.

Rich kids tended to lose weight as they grew older, but those from poor families were more likely to remain chubby or put on even more weight.

Poor children were nearly four times more likely to remain "persistently obese" than their wealthier classmates.

The difference in weight between rich and poor children more than doubled between preschool and Year 5.

Lead researcher, Professor Melissa Wake, said disadvantaged children had "significantly higher" risks of growing overweight or obese.

"Clearly, targeting children with early overweight and low socio-economic background - particularly those from socially disadvantaged families - must be a top intervention priority," she said.

The research was part of the federal government's longitudinal study of Australian children, and was published today in the international journal PlosOne.


Now that's a cheap way to lose weight - the BREATH DIET that takes just five minutes a day

Most unlikely -- but a randomized study would be needed to evaluate it conclusively

If you are struggling to stick to a diet of carrot sticks and lettuce leaves, news of the latest weight loss technique to be sweeping Japan could be music to your ears.

Former actor, Miki Ryosuke, claims to have lost two stone and five inches from his waist in seven weeks by following his Long Breath Diet.

Mr Ryosuke, 55, claims that followers of the diet just have to spend two minutes a day concentrating on taking long breaths and then exhaling aggressively.

The dieting guru says that he invented the diet by mistake while practicing breathing techniques in an attempt to reduce his back pain, Oddity Central reports.

While he was practicing the breathing techniques, Mr Ryosuke noticed that he was losing weight.

As a result of the discovery, he drew up the Long Breath Diet which involves the dieter taking a specific position before inhaling for three seconds and then exhaling powerfully for seven seconds.

Mr Ryosuke claims that people who practice this breathing technique for two to five minutes a day will see rapid benefits.

Oddity Central reports that there are two ways of practicing the diet.

The first involves tensing the buttocks while standing with one foot in front of the body and placing most of the body’s weight on the back foot.

In this position, the dieter is encouraged to inhale for three seconds while lifting their arms above their head.

They are then told to breathe out while tensing all of their muscles for seven seconds.

The second way of practicing the technique involves the dieter standing upright while tightening their buttocks and placing one hand on their stomach, and the other on the bottom of their back.

They are then told to inhale for three seconds before breathing out for seven seconds, all of the time holding in their stomach.

Jill Johnson, creator of the Oxycise, another weight loss programme based on breathing, told Oddity Central: ‘Fat is made up of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen. When the oxygen we breathe reaches these fat molecules, it breaks them down into carbon dioxide and water.

‘The blood then picks up the carbon dioxide – a waste product of our bodies – and returns it to the lungs to be exhaled. Therefore the more oxygen our bodies use, the more fat we will burn.’

The Long Breath Diet is believed to increase a dieter’s muscle strength and to boost their metabolism by increasing their blood oxygen levels.

However, most experts believe that practicing it for just two minutes a day is not sufficient to see any significant weight loss.

Richard Godfrey, chief physiologist at the British Olympic Medical Centre, says the effectiveness of the technique is highly doubtful.

He said: 'Medium to high intensity work out - such as rowing, brisk walking, or running - over a long period is the only way to burn up fat and elevate metabolism.

'Deep breathing and gentle exercises for five minutes a day is not going to burn up enough calories to transform body shape.'

In fact, Professor Ian Macdonald, professor of metabolic physiology at the School of Biomedical Sciences in Derbyshire, warns breathing too deeply can do more harm than good.

'Inhaling and exhaling too deeply can disturb the balance between carbon dioxide and oxygen in the body needed to neutralise the blood. This can cause light headedness and even make someone faint.'

And, he doubts simply breathing will turn fat into fuel.

'Contraction of muscles caused by exercise mobilises fat stores. But it is only vigorous aerobic sport that triggers enough energy to turn fat into fuel. Deep breathing alone will burn up fat by two per cent at best.'


1 August, 2013

The greatest food in human history

I have been defending, advocating and enjoying McDonald's burgers for many years.  The first words my toddler son learned -- now nearly a quarter of a century ago -- were his McDonald's order -- JR

In terms of cost-per-calorie, no locavore, organic veggie can compete with the McDouble

What is “the cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history” Hint: It has 390 calories. It contains 23g, or half a daily serving, of protein, plus 7% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium and so on.

Also, you can get it in 14,000 locations in the US and it usually costs $1. Presenting one of the unsung wonders of modern life, the McDonald’s McDouble cheeseburger.

The argument above was made by a commenter on the Freakonomics blog run by economics writer Stephen Dubner and professor Steven Leavitt, who co-wrote the million-selling books on the hidden side of everything.

Dubner mischievously built an episode of his highly amusing weekly podcast around the debate. Many huffy back-to-the-earth types wrote in to suggest the alternative meal of boiled lentils. Great idea. Now go open a restaurant called McBoiled Lentils and see how many customers line up.

But we all know fast food makes us fat, right? Not necessarily. People who eat out tend to eat less at home that day in partial compensation; the net gain, according to a 2008 study out of Berkeley and Northwestern, is only about 24 calories a day.

The outraged replies to the notion of McDouble supremacy — if it’s not the cheapest, most nutritious and most bountiful food in human history, it has to be pretty close — comes from the usual coalition of class snobs, locavore foodies and militant anti-corporate types. I say usual because these people are forever proclaiming their support for the poor and for higher minimum wages that would supposedly benefit McDonald’s workers. But they’re completely heartless when it comes to the other side of the equation: cost.

Driving up McDonald’s wage costs would drive up the price of burgers for millions of poor people. “So what?” say activists. Maybe that’ll drive people to farmers markets.

For the average poor person, it isn’t a great option to take a trip to the farmers market to puzzle over esoteric lefty-foodie codes. (Is sustainable better than organic? What if I have to choose between fair trade and cruelty-free?) Produce may seem cheap to environmentally aware blond moms who spend $300 on their highlights every month, but if your object is to fill your belly, it is hugely expensive per calorie.

Junk food costs as little as $1.76 per 1,000 calories, whereas fresh veggies and the like cost more than 10 times as much, found a 2007 University of Washington survey for the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. A 2,000-calorie day of meals would, if you stuck strictly to the good-for-you stuff, cost $36.32, said the study’s lead author, Adam Drewnowski.

“Not only are the empty calories cheaper,” he reported, “but the healthy foods are becoming more and more expensive. Vegetables and fruits are rapidly becoming luxury goods.” Where else but McDonald’s can poor people obtain so many calories per dollar?

And as for organic — the Abercrombie and Fitch jeans of food — if you have to check the price, you can’t afford it. (Not that it has any health benefits, as last year’s huge Stanford meta-study showed.)

Moreover, produce takes more time to prepare and spoils quickly, two more factors that effectively drive up the cost. Any time you’re spending peeling vegetables is time you aren’t spending on the job.

Activists will go anywhere to wave the banner of caring and plant their flagpole of social justice right in the foot of the working class.

Forcing New Yorkers to pay unnecessary high prices, they’ve managed to keep Walmart out of the five boroughs of New York City. The City Council of Washington, DC, recently passed a bill, designed specifically to punish only Walmart, which would mandate a super-minimum wage to benefit a small number of employees while effectively placing a surtax on every Walmart shopper. (Walmart responded by saying it was canceling plans for three stores. The bill may yet be vetoed by Mayor Vincent Gray.)

Fuel prices, like food prices, disproportionately hit the poor, so do-gooders do everything they can to raise energy costs by blocking new fuel sources like the Keystone XL pipelines and fracking. And they are always up for higher gasoline taxes and regulating coal-burning energy plants to death.

If the macrobiotic Marxists had their way, of course, there’d be no McDonald’s, Walmart or Exxon, because they have visions of an ideal world in which everybody bikes to work with a handwoven backpack from Etsy that contains a lunch grown in the neighborhood collective.

That’s not going to work for the average person, but who cares if they go hungry because they can’t afford a burger anymore? Let them eat kale!


10 'unhealthy' foods which are not as bad for you as you think

The McDonald’s double cheeseburger has been described as “the cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history”. With the help of a nutritionist, Daniel Johnson gives you 10 traditionally ‘unhealthy’ foods which may be better for you than you think

1 - Fish and chips

Heavily doused in salt and vinegar, a portion of fish and chips is rarely thought of as a good, nutritious meal. And although it is very high in calories and fat, the fish itself is very nutritious.

A portion provides vitamin C, vitamins B6 and B12, some iron, zinc and calcium, as well as iodine, omega-3 fatty acid and some important dietary fibre.

As Claire Williamson, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, says: “Fish and chips can be eaten as part of a healthy diet, if eaten in moderation.

“Go easy on the chips though - or share a portion - and have some peas or salad with your fish and chips to make it more balanced.”

Unsurprisingly, Ms Williamson recommends you go easy on the salt.

The average portion of chip shop fish and chips has around 840 calories.

2 – Cheese

Cheese is high in fat, particularly saturated fat, and can contribute significantly to the amount of calories in a meal, even if just grated on top.

But some cheeses are particularly nutritious. Cheddar, for example, is high in calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, and is a source of vitamin A, riboflavin and folate.

Our nutritionist says: “Cheese should be included in the diet in moderation. It’s a great choice for children as it’s versatile and appealing while being nutritious.”

She also recommends adults eat more mature cheese, so you are tempted to eat less overall.

1oz of chedder holds 114 calories

3 – Baked beans

As a tinned, convenience food, surely baked beans cannot hold any nutritional value? According to Ms Williamson, baked beans – and other beans or pulses – are an important source of protein and fibre in the diet.

Baked beans also provide calcium, potassium and some iron. And in what will be music to the ears of many a late-night eater: “The combination of beans and toast actually provides a good balance of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), so it’s a good option for vegetarians.”

There are 164 calories in a 1/2 cup serving of Heinz Baked Beans.

4 – Alcohol

A Harvard study of more than 18,000 men found that those who had an average of two drinks every day had a lower risk of a heart attack than those who drink a lot, but less often.

Men also have lower levels of abdominal fat than those who drink only once or twice every two weeks but drink more than four drinks each time, according to researchers at the University of Buffalo.

5 - Pizza

While pizza is not exactly low in fat, if you choose your pizza carefully then there can be a lot of nutritional value. By sticking with a thin crust, whole wheat, half the cheese, either chicken breast or ham, and lots of vegetables, then there is plenty which is healthy.

The cheese gives you some calcium, although it does bring sodium and saturated fat with it. Tomato sauce gives vitamins A and C and the cancer-fighting chemical lycopene. There is also some fibre in the toppings of vegetables.

6 - Fried breakfast

According to research published in the International Journal of Obesity, a breakfast of bacon, sausages, eggs, and beans could be the healthiest start to the day.

Scientists believe that breakfast programmes your metabolism for the rest of the day, and a fatty meal will help the body break down fat later on. Dr Martin Young, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who lead the study, says: “The first meal you have appears to programme your metabolism for the rest of the day.

“This study suggests that if you ate a carbohydrate-rich breakfast it would promote carbohydrate utilisation throughout the rest of the day, whereas if you have a fat-rich breakfast, you (can) transfer your energy utilisation between carbohydrate and fat.”

A full English has around 977 calories.

7 – Curry

Eating a curry once or twice a week could also stave off dementia, research has suggested.

Tests on fruit flies found that those given curcumin, the key chemical in tumeric, lived 75 per cent longer. The research, carried out by academics at Linkoping University in Sweden, could explain why dementia rates are lower among the elderly in India than their Western peers.

Alzheimer’s is linked to the build-up of protein in the brain called amyloid plaques damaging the wiring.

Curcumin did not dissolve the plaque, but accelerated the formation of nerve fibres by reducing the amount of their precursor forms, known as oligomers, from which they were formed.

8 – Chocolate

Obviously a lot depends on the bar, because they are high in both fat and sugar.

But cocoa is rich in a number of minerals and polyphenols, mainly flavonols, the same compounds found in red wine and green tea which are good for your heart. It is particularly prominent in dark chocolate.

Our nutritionist says: “Although it is ‘energy-dense’ there is no clear link between chocolate consumption per se and increased risk of becoming overweight or obese. But choose dark chocolate if you can as it has a higher cocoa content and therefore polyphenol content.”

For those suffering from high blood pressure, chocolate could reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke by 20 per cent over five years, meaning a chunk of chocolate a day could have the same result as half an hour of exercise.

There are 546 calories in 100g of dark choclate.

9 – Eggs

Eggs have traditionally been considered bad for you because they are so high in cholesterol. However a number of studies have attempted to disprove the idea that there is a link between eggs and heart disease.

One in the 2011 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that while a single yolk contains nearly the daily recommended limit for cholesterol, it is the most nutrient-rich part, with iron, zinc, vitamins A and D. The yolk also is extremely high in protein.

There are 155 calories in a boiled egg.

10 – Milk shake

Generally thought of as a high calorie treat, milk shakes are actually highly nutritious, largely due to the milk content, Ms Williamson says.

Semi-skimmed milk is a source of calcium and riboflavin and is high in vitamin B12, an important part of the diet, particularly for children whose bones are still developing.

Ms Williamson recommends: “Add bananas or other fresh fruit to make a smoothie and go easy on the sugar for a delicious, healthy treat.”


Front page to the original of this blog

Posts here by Dr. John Ray

I am pleased to report that when my son was a toddler, the first thing he learned to say was his McDonald's order.

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. More here and here on similar findings

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

Obesity does NOT causes diabetes. But insatiable eating is a prominent symptom of diabetes. So diabetes DOES cause obesity, which accounts for the correlation between the two things. The streets are full of fatties who don't have diabetes. How come? If conventional medical theory were correct we should be in the midst of an epidemic of diabetes. A recent high quality study has also found that fatties are LESS likely to die of diabetes

Elite people frequently express disapproval of red meat eating as a way of expressing their felt superiority to the ordinary people who eat it

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

The "magic" ingredient in fish oil is omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFA in medical jargon). So how do you think the research finding following was reported? "No differences were seen in the overall percentage of infants with immunoglobulin E associated allergic disease between the n-3 LCPUFA and control groups. It was reported as SUPPORTING the benefits of Omeda-3! Belief in Omega-3 is simply a cult and, like most cults, is impervious to disproof. See also here.

"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 in general but there is still a lot of false medical "wisdom" around that does harm to various degrees -- the statin and antioxidant fads, for instance. 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 great and fraudulent scare about lead

Phthalates harmless

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 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.

Controlling serum cholesterol does not of itself reduce cardiovascular disease. It may even in fact increase it

The absurdity of using self-report questionnaires as a diet record

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 Truth About Ancel Keys. Keys was a brilliant man but his concentration on heart disease misled him. He was right that high fat intake predicted high rates of heart disease (though it was ANIMAL fat in particular that was the "culprit") but he overlooked that the same intake predicted LESS mortality from other causes. The same narrow vision led him to be the earliest prominent advocate of the "Mediterranean diet" hypothesis. It's true that Mediterraneans have less heart disease but they have more of other causes of death, so that Mediterranean countries do not have particularly long lifespans when compared with other developed countries. If there are any lessons about diet to be learned from lifespans, it is un-Mediterranean countries like Australia and the Nordic countries that one should look to.

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


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