FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC
By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Now 'Fat-free' is not always best, nor is spinach: "Reduced fat does not necessarily mean low fat, raspberry flavoured yoghurt may not contain raspberries at all, and Popeye was wrong - spinach is not a good source of iron. These are some of the food myths busted by the Australian Consumers' Association in a Choice Online publication. The internet booklet focuses on food, diet and food labelling. Choice Online spokeswoman Clare Hughes said just because a food was described as fresh or natural it did not mean it was healthier than some other foods. "A claim that a product is baked not fried does not mean the product is lower in fat," she said. "Baked products may contain just as much fat as food cooked in fat if they contained lots of fat to start with. "Also fat-free foods are not necessarily the best choice if you are trying to lose weight because fat free does not necessarily mean kilojoule free." Other myths exposed in the booklet include: * Organic foods are better for you. Choice Online says nutritionally there is little evidence to support this, nor is there evidence that organic foods taste better... * Soy crisps are healthier than potato chips. Choice Online says they may sound healthier but, cooked in vegetable oil, they contain just as much fat... * Reduced fat does not mean low fat. Choice Online says a product needs only to have 25 per cent less fat than a regular brand to meet reduced fat requirement... When it comes to spinach, it is an excellent source of fibre, folate and vitamin C but its high levels of iron are not much use to the body because it also contains oxalic acid that prevents much of the iron from being absorbed.
Now even the dreaded radiation is good for you: "The good news came in the form of a study published in the journal Cancer which found that low doses of radiation, given every weekday for one or two weeks, could improve outcomes for non-small-cell lung cancer. The cancer was one of the deadliest and most common forms of lung cancer, according to radiation oncologist Michael Mac Manus from Melbourne's Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Associate Prof Mac Manus and his colleagues were amazed to find that some patients with advanced tumours lived for as long as five years with the new treatment. Usually they would have been expected to live less than six months. "All experienced doctors will have come across an occasional case where a patient has survived for a long time when they shouldn't have, so we thought we would look at a very large database of patients with incurable lung cancer to see how many of them survived," Prof Mac Manus said. "We were surprised to find that 1.1 per cent survived for five years. Some of them survived for 10 years and (one of) the patients appears to have been cured. "The long-term survival was an unexpected effect of the radiotherapy"
Alzheimers? No problem! "Research news in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture Compounds in blackcurrants could prevent Alzheimer's disease and the characteristics of British berries suggest they do it best, writes Jennifer Rohn in Chemistry & Industry magazine. New research led by Dilip Ghosh of the Horticulture and Food Research Institute in New Zealand, shows that compounds in blackcurrants have a potent protective effect in cultured neuronal cells against the types of stress caused by dopamine and amyloid-b, a peptide associated with Alzheimer's disease... Blackcurrants and boysenberries, more common in the US, both contain anthocyanins and polyphenolics. British blackcurrants are bred to be darker, which means they have more anthocyanins and are likely to be more potent. Compounds from these berries are already known to act as antioxidants, but a role in neuroprotection has not been demonstrated previously, according to the researchers. The mechanism of action is unclear".
FOOD FASCISTS ATTACK ADVERTISING VIA THE COURTS
"Look!" exclaims my 3-year-old daughter, pointing excitedly at a box of cookies in the supermarket. "It's Dora! And Boots!" I nod and smile. "Yes, it is," I say, and we move on. I do not feel injured by this exchange. But according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a D.C.-based health nanny group, if I lived in Massachusetts the incident would be worth at least $25 in statutory damages.
Using that sort of reasoning, CSPI, the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and two Massachusetts parents who would rather sue multinational corporations than stand up to their own children are seeking billions of dollars in damages from Viacom (which owns Nickelodeon, home of "Dora the Explorer" and Kellogg, maker of sugary breakfast cereals and other food products CSPI thinks your kids shouldn't eat. The plaintiffs say it's not about the money.
I believe them. This lawsuit, which CSPI and its allies plan to file under a Massachusetts consumer protection statute prohibiting "unfair or deceptive acts or practices," is really about censorship. By threatening onerous damages, CSPI aims to achieve through the courts what it has unsuccessfully demanded from legislators and regulators for decades: a ban on food advertising aimed at children.
The lawsuit argues that Viacom is on the hook for $25 "at a minimum" every time a kid in Massachusetts sees one of its characters attached to a "nutritionally poor" food product or sees an ad for such a product on Nickelodeon or in another Viacom outlet. By CSPI's reckoning, Kellogg owes $25 whenever a child sees one of its ads, so an Apple Jacks commercial on Nickelodeon is worth $50 per viewer every time it airs. "The injury continues ... each time a parent purchases one of these items," says CSPI in a letter announcing its intent to sue. So if a parent, helpless to resist a preschooler's demands, actually buys the Dora cookies or the Apple Jacks, that's another $25 in damages. You can see how the bill starts to add up.
But all the talk of injuries and damages is a charade. As obesity litigation advocate Richard Daynard notes in this month's American Journal of Preventive Medicine, one advantage of suing food companies under state consumer protection statutes is that it "avoids complicated causation issues." Most of these laws "do not require a showing that the defendant's misbehavior caused a specific illness," writes Daynard, a Northeastern University law professor who plans to join CSPI in using such statutes to stop soda manufacturers from selling their products in schools. Indeed, "many state consumer protection statutes do not require a showing that individual plaintiffs relied on the [defendant's] misrepresentations."
Under the theory pressed by CSPI in its suit against Viacom and Kellogg, you don't even have to show that the companies misrepresented anything. CSPI argues that children "are intrinsically deceived and abused by encouragement to eat unhealthy junk foods," and it's seeking an injunction to stop all such encouragement.
While I have no doubt that advertising encourages children to request certain products, what happens after that is up to their parents. Neither Viacom nor Kellogg has the power to dictate whether SpongeBob SquarePants Wild Bubble Berry Pop-Tarts are purchased, how often and in what quantities they're eaten, what else children eat or how much exercise they get.
"Nickelodeon and Kellogg engage in business practices that literally sicken our children," says CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson. Given the difficulty of demonstrating a causal connection between seeing Dora the Explorer on a box of cookies at age 3 and dying from obesity-related heart disease half a century later -- precisely the difficulty CSPI is trying to avoid by filing this kind of suit -- it would be more accurate to say these business practices figuratively sicken people like Michael Jacobson. The question is how much weight the law should give to Jacobson's queasy gut.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
More pseudo-science about food: "Eating your greens will do more than please your mother: new evidence shows five servings of fruit and vegetables a day can slash your risk of having a stroke by 26 per cent. A review of previous studies, conducted by British and Australian experts, found that even eating between three to five 80g servings a day cut strokes by 11per cent, compared with people who ate fewer than three servings a day. The authors said that while a reduction in stroke from fruit and vegetable consumption was already known, this was the first time researchers had been able to quantify the benefit. The findings suggested that heeding recommendations on fruit and vegetable intake could save lives and prevent thousands of strokes a year.... Their review, published yesterday in The Lancet, looked at the results of eight previous studies that together involved more than 250,000 people who were followed up for an average of 13 years.... The study authors conceded their results might be affected by observational bias. People who ate a lot of fruit and vegetables were probably likely to share other characteristics known to reduce stroke risk - being less likely to smoke or be overweight, and more likely to exercise and to have lower intakes of salt and saturated fat.
Yuk!: "Over the last two years, three women with strange skin conditions have sought help from Dr. Michael A. C. Kane, a plastic surgeon in New York City. One had bumps the size of capers bulging from her lips. One's forehead was red with inflammation. And a third had ridges that looked to Dr. Kane like worms nestled below her eye sockets. All of these problems had been caused by injections of liquid silicone, one of the most controversial substances in cosmetic medicine. Long used without official sanction and then banned by the Food and Drug Administration, liquid silicone was finally approved for medical use in 1997: to hold detached retinas in place. And it has been gradually regaining popularity, as doctors use it off-label to fill wrinkles, furrows and acne scars or add volume to lips and cheeks".
FDA: You're eating crushed bug juice: That ice cream you're eating or the lipstick you're wearing just might contain extract from crushed bugs. On purpose. And the government thinks you should know. The Food and Drug Administration proposed Friday requiring food and cosmetic labels to list cochineal extract or carmine if a product's ingredients include either of the two red colorings that have been extracted from the ground bodies of an insect known since the time of the Aztecs.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Don't trust the "latest" medical research: "When a trial of 908 volunteers found that using anti-inflammatory drugs could reduce the risk of mouth cancer, it caused considerable excitement among cancer researchers. The Harvard School of Dental Medicine described the study as impressive, claiming it might lead to earlier identification of pre-cancerous cells. Conducted by Dr Jon Sudbo, a previously-published researcher and cancer expert from the well-respected Radium Hospital in Oslo, Norway, the study was published in The Lancet, one of the world's most respected medical journals. So it came as a shock when revealed earlier this month that Sudbo's study was fiction, based on 908 patients who did not exist. To make matters worse, the fraud was not discovered by The Lancet or his colleagues, but by Camilla Stoltenberg, a director of epidemiology at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo. Sudbo said the study was based on information collated from a public health database. Stoltenberg, responsible for the database, knew it did not contain the sort of information Sudbo cited".
THE FOOD FASCISTS HAVE GONE TOO FAR THIS TIME
I enjoyed the haggis I had on my Burns Night. Attacking a central part of the Scottish heritage is certainly not wise. The Scots are very proud of their heritage
Scotland's national dish, haggis, has become the latest foodstuff to be targeted as part of a drive to combat growing levels of obesity among British children, prompting outrage among producers. According to health officials in Scotland, the delicacy -- a sheep's stomach lining stuffed with offal, oatmeal, onions and seasoning -- contains too much fat and salt and should only be given to youngsters once a week.
But the guidance has angered makers of the "love it or hate it" foodstuff, which is traditionally eaten with a tot of whisky on Burn's Night, the annual January 25 celebration of the life of the legendary Scots poet Robert Burns. "With good neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), there's nothing more nutritious than haggis," said Alan Pirie, of butchers James Pirie and Son, the current holders of the sought-after title "Scottish Haggis Master". "It's made of all natural ingredients -- there's no rubbish in it at all. To compare it with processed meat like chicken nuggets or hot dogs is just ridiculous. It's a big knock for us for it to be compared to those."
Haggis was placed on a "restricted" list of foods issued to nurseries, playgroups and childminders as part of a drive by the Scottish Executive in Edinburgh to improve the health of pre-school children under five. The numbers of obese children in Scotland is twice the British average; 20 percent of three-and-a-half-year-olds were overweight, 8.6 percent obese and four percent severely obese in the 2004-05 school year, official statistics show. Mortality rates among adults, particularly in the densely populated "Central Belt" between Glasgow, in the west, and Edinburgh, in the east, are also among the highest in Europe, mainly through alcohol, smoking and a high-fat diet.
The Scottish Executive, which has made a number of moves to improve the nation's health, including an imminent ban on smoking in public places, insisted haggis was not being outlawed but should be eaten in moderation. "The nutritional guidelines are intended to give advice on how to provide a balanced diet over a week," said a spokeswoman. Preventing an obesity epidemic in Britain has been the subject of a number of government initiatives in recent years, including improving school dinners in England and Wales with the help of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Soy not much help in health of hearts: "Veggie burgers and tofu might not be so great at warding off heart disease after all. An American Heart Association committee reviewed a decade of studies on soy's benefits and came up with results that are casting doubt on the health claim that soy-based foods and supplements significantly lower cholesterol. The findings could lead the Food and Drug Administration to re-evaluate rules that allow companies to tout a cholesterol-lowering benefit on the labels of soy-based food. The panel also found that neither soy nor the soy component isoflavone reduced symptoms of menopause, such as 'hot flashes,' and that isoflavones don't help prevent breast, uterine or prostate cancer. Results were mixed on whether soy prevented postmenopausal bone loss."
Sex makes you a more confident speaker: "People who are nervous about public speaking should first have penetrative sex to ease the stress, although masturbation is unlikely to have the same effect, according to an unusual study. Stuart Brody, a psychologist at Britain's University of Paisley, compared the impact of different sexual activities on blood pressure when a person later undergoes a stressful experience. Mr Brody asked 24 women and 22 men to keep a diary of their sexual activities for two weeks. The volunteers then underwent a stressful ordeal that involved making a speech in public and doing mental arithmetic out loud. The study, to be published in next Saturday's New Scientist, revealed volunteers who had had penetrative sex during the previous week or so had the least stress, and their blood pressure returned to normal fastest after their test. Penetrative sex was far more effective in this regard than masturbation or oral sex. Those who had abstained completely from any sexual activity had the highest stress levels and blood pressure of all".
Monday, January 23, 2006
NOW THE FOOD FASCISTS ARE CLAIMING THAT A MODERN DIET IS SENDING US MAD
Panic: 'Why what we eat has led to rise in mental problems', says the Daily Telegraph, reporting a new study prepared by the food campaign group Sustain and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF). The report surveys research on the effect of various nutrients and foods on mental development and illness. The report suggests that industrialised farming and changing patterns of eating may be leading to the loss of vital nutrients and imbalances which can effect brain formation, concentration and memory. The suggestion is that rising levels of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia and Alzheimer's may all be related, in part, to diet.
Don't panic: Coverage of the Sustain/MHF report has been much more definitive about the conclusions drawn than the report itself. At the very start, the author notes that it is not a systematic review of the literature and that there is a distinct bias towards studies that show a link between diet and mental health. So, the author suggests the report should not be read as a definitive statement on the science, but as an awareness-building exercise. 'Advocacy research' might be nearer the mark.
Even some of the basic assumptions need to be called into question. It is far from clear that there has been a real increase in mental health problems over the last few years. In a society increasingly obsessed with health and the inability to find a wider meaning to life, many behaviours previously regarded as normal variations of personality are being redefined as mental illness. Moreover, if there has been any increase in mental health problems, those same navel-gazing trends must be a prime candidate as an explanation. Increasing levels of drinking, drug-use and the decline of traditional patterns of family and working life could all represent a stronger explanation than our failure to eat enough oily fish.
In the foreword, Professor Tim Lang of City University makes the analogy with heart disease and diet. The heart disease-diet link is well-established now, he suggests, and the mental health-diet link must surely follow. In reality, while our diets are allegedly getting worse, death rates from coronary heart disease for those under 75 have tumbled in the past 30 years. Far from confirming his case, the analogy only illustrates how 'common sense' explanations of ill-health need to be treated with caution.
Still, the provisional nature of the research hasn't stopped Sustain from packing the report's recommendations with their own particular hobby-horses. For example, 'All prison facilities should instigate sustainable food policies and practices so that all residents and staff are encouraged to choose culturally diverse and appropriate meals, snacks and drinks that promote their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.' What have cultural diversity and sustainability got to do with whether we getting enough selenium or iodine in our food?
It is true that at a fundamental level, 'we are what we eat' - but we are much more than the sum of the nutrients that make up our bodies, and our minds are much more than the chemical make-up of our brains.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Jap makes young wine old: "Aging is the name of the game when it comes to fine wine. Top producers mature their brews in oak barrels; connoisseurs will keep a bottle in the cellar for years so they can savour the complex bouquet at its peak. For Hiroshi Tanaka, all that waiting is just a waste of time - and he says he's got the machinery to prove it. Tanaka claims to have perfected a machine that can transform a bottle of just-fermented Beaujolais Nouveau into a fine, mellow wine in seconds, all by zapping it with a few volts of electricity. "We can now electrolyze young wine and ship bottles of fine wine out in no time at all," declared Tanaka, president of Japanese startup Innovative Design and Technology, which runs a small laboratory in Hamamatsu, west of Tokyo. "Think of the savings we'll make. Shorter production time, no need for storage, no need to invest in barrels," he said."
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Suspended animation success: "Researchers are testing potentially life-saving techniques for keeping humans in a state of suspended animation while surgeons repair their wounds. US doctors have developed a method of inducing hypothermia to shut down the body's functions for up to three hours. In tests, they reduced the body temperature of injured pigs from 37C to 10C before operating on them and then reviving them. Now they are applying for permission to test the procedure on casualty patients without a pulse who have lost large amounts of blood, New Scientist magazine reported. It is thought this method and others could one day be used on car crash and gunshot victims, as well as in the battlefield to treat wounded soldiers. A surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Hasan Alam, has tested the technique about 200 times on pigs, with a 90 per cent success rate".
Friday, January 20, 2006
Mozart Kitsch: "Austria has pulled out all stops to splurge almost $120 million on the biggest birthday bash the little country has ever seen. Throughout this year, the hills, valleys, towns and cities will be alive with the sounds of Mozart music, with classical concerts, music contests, street parties, street musicians, fireworks, banquets and dancing. There are umbrellas, watches, tea cups, ashtrays, commemorative plates, beach towels, handkerchiefs, diaries, pencils and even baby bottles emblazoned with Wolfer's bewigged portrait. The local Stiegl brewery has launched a Mozart Gold beer; there's a new Hiedler Mozart Vintage wine from last year's harvest; an enterprising butcher woke up with a recipe in his head for a new Mozart sausage; and the Alpenmilch dairy has just invented nougat, marzipan and chocolate-flavoured Mozart yoghurt drinks. But the supreme example of Mozart kitsch is "Mozartkugeln", sugary blobs of pistachio, marzipan and hazelnut nougat dipped in chocolate, invented in 1890 by Salzburg confectioner Paul Fuerst and sold to English-speaking visitors as "Mozart Balls"."
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Wine and cheese not such a good idea: "It is supposed to be the perfect way to round off a gourmet meal: a wedge of ripe stilton or creamy brie complemented by a glass of fine red wine. Science, however, suggests that wine and cheese - the combination that launched an entire genre of naff parties - are actually false friends. Far from enhancing the bouquet of a quality red, even a cheese as mild as mozzarella will dull the palate to the complex and subtle aromas that make a wine great. Research by a team at the University of California, Davis, suggests that wine buffs should avoid pairing cabernet sauvignon with camembert or pinot noir with Pont l'Ev^que if they want to appreciate their cellars to the full. Hosts seeking to disguise a bottle of cheap plonk, however, should serve up the cheese course straight away. Cheese is an equal opportunities flavour-killer and will mask a bad wine's astringent taste as effectively as it will the rewarding berry tones of a good vintage".
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Apple a day not so healthy, say new food advertising rules: "The natural goodness of fruit could prove its downfall under draft rules that govern how food can be advertised. The proposals by trans-Tasman food regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand have upset nutritionists and growers, who say they will prevent certain fruits from being legally classified as healthy. Under the draft rules, the amount of sugar will be taken into account, meaning apples, pears and most stonefruit will be disqualified from health claims because their natural sugar levels exceed 16g per serving. The draft standard aims to help people choose better food, but nutritionists say it could harm healthy-eating campaigns such as 5+ a Day, which encourages people to have five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily".
OBESE GOVERNMENT WATCH
Post lifted from The Corner
The Nurse, it seems, is becoming a Chef. From the New York Times:
"Last summer, [New York City's] health department launched a campaign against trans-fats. Often used by restaurants and in packaged foods, trans-fats are thought to cause cholesterol problems and increase the risk of heart disease. After restaurant inspectors found that 30 percent of the city's 30,000 eateries were using oils that contain trans-fats, the department began urging a citywide ''oil change.'' Officials sent letters to food service operators and started teaching workers about trans-fats along with their required food safety training. The city plans another survey this spring to measure the results of the project. Officials next want to tackle portion sizes. Towering pastrami sandwiches, bagels with gooey schmears of cream cheese and pizza slices that spill over paper plates may be the city's culinary landmarks, but the health department says the Big Apple is out of control."
The only thing that is "out of control" is Bloomberg's determination to boss everyone else around. And as to where this is all going to lead, look no further than Elk Grove, Illinois:
"Worried that measures to limit smoking don't go far enough, Elk Grove Village officials are considering banning the sale of cigarettes, apparently the first time that has been seriously proposed in Illinois, experts said. Mayor Craig Johnson said the village would be hypocritical to consider a current proposal to restrict smoking in bars and restaurants without going after cigarettes themselves."If we think smoking is so detrimental to the community that we should ban it, then we should think about a ban on selling cigarettes," Johnson said Wednesday after formally proposing the idea Tuesday to the Village Board."
Words fail me.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Now margarine is bad for you: "Since butter was fingered as the route to a heart attack in the 1970s, many health-conscious consumers have switched to margarine or, increasingly, one of the low-fat alternatives on the market.... Take the latest breed of spreads that promise to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein, the so-called "bad" cholesterol or LDL, thereby cutting your risk of heart attack. These spreads contain plant sterols, also known as phytosterols, which are naturally occurring parts of all plants and have been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels by an average of 10 per cent. Plant sterols block the body's ability to absorb cholesterol, reducing the level of it in the blood. But as with most good things, there is a hitch. "While they certainly lower LDL cholesterol levels, they deplete the levels of beta carotene and other carotenoids in the body," says nutritionist Rosemary Stanton. Beta carotene is the major source of vitamin A in the western diet and there is growing evidence that carotenoids protect the eyes and have anti-cancer properties"
More news from the Department of Psychobabble
A sarcastic post about the British "obesity" campaign from a British doctor
"Greetings comrades and good news from the Health Commissariat. Comrade Flint has been made a Hero of the Soviet Union (third class) for designing and instituting the new five-year plan to help comrade doctors advise patients about obesity".
Meanwhile, back at the coalface, Dr Crippen is looking for his chocolate digestive biscuits that the reception staff have hidden to assist him with his flagging New Year's Resolution.
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) is working day and night, on your behalf and at your expense, to formulate a national strategy to help family doctors advise patients who are overweight.
In the House of Commons earlier this month, Comrade Flint, an under secretary of state for health said:
"The Department is developing an obesity care pathway as an interim tool to assist the frontline health professionals in managing overweight and/or obese patients, until the availability of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's definitive guidance in 2007. As part of the process of developing this tool, early drafts were shared with some potential users to ascertain their views on how it might best be applied."
"An interim obesity care pathway". That sounds good! And in another year or so, we will have the "definitive tool". Wonderful! Hang the expense. This is better than "getting a picture of the night" from Sue and Dave.
Dr Crippen will struggle on with the soon to be out-moded equipment he has used to diagnose obesity for the last twenty years. This is a complex photo-electric receptor apparatus which has integral bionic micro-electronic circuitry calibrated automatically to orientate and binocularly co-ordinate the three-dimensional spatial presentation of the propositus in relationship to a complex wooden matrix specially designed by skilled craftsman to admit and contain all members of the population with guaranteed confidence levels up to and including the mean and three standard deviations of the population norm.
In other words, he glances at the patient as they enter the door, and knows instantly if they are overweight.
Then, in the absence of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's definitive guidance, he says:
"Gosh, you are bit over weight. Why don't you eat less?"
Is this why we cannot afford to treat breast cancer?
My thanks to Comrade Wat Tyler for drawing my attention to the existence of Caroline Flint.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Now softdrinks are good for you: "Fizzy soft drinks may rot your teeth but new research suggests the sugary refreshments also boost the memory. Contrary to conventional health messages, which have branded the high-sugar drinks as unhealthy, researchers in Scotland found that people who consumed 50g of sugar - just over the amount in one can of soft drink - could boost memory retention by almost one-fifth. Neuroscientists from Glasgow Caledonian University said the effects might also help combat dementia in the elderly - and might eventually lead to better ways of treating memory problems in old age".
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Testing for prostate cancer is bad for you: "In a carefully designed study, researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs looked at a group of over 500 patients who had died of prostate cancer, and compared their records with a similar group who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer but had not died from it. They found that those in the first group were just as likely to have been screened for prostate cancer using the PSA test as those in the second group. In other words, PSA testing conferred no survival benefit for these patients...... And the risks of prostate cancer screening are such that it should not be entered into lightly. As usual in debates about screening, there is no such thing as a harmless test. PSA testing is harmful in two ways. Firstly, it has a false negative rate of at least seven per cent. This means that for every hundred men who have the test, 10 will have a raised PSA. All these 10 men will need a prostate biopsy, but only two or three of them will have cancer. So seven or eight cancer-free men will end up having uncomfortable biopsies of their prostate, with potentially serious side-effects such as septicaemia. Secondly, even more problematically, PSA testing does not differentiate between aggressive and potentially fatal cancers, and those which might have had a benign course, never troubling their host. Post-mortem studies have shown that around 40 per cent of men who die aged over 70 have prostate cancer. In the past, most of them would have been blissfully unaware of this fact. In the era of PSA testing, much more of this hidden and harmless prostate cancer is being picked up.... One critic has accurately described this as the 'the eradication of a disease: how we cured symptomless prostate cancer'. Formerly symptomless prostate cancer now has a new symptom: 'a disabling state of anxiety resulting from (men's) knowledge of their PSA level.'"
Dripping drops out of popularity: "Britons have long had a passion for Chiantishire. Now consumers are turning to olive oil as a wonder food said to help to prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer. According to analysis by Mintel, sales of olive oil have risen by almost 40 per cent in five years, and for the first time the value of standard cooking oils has been overtaken by olive oils. The market is now worth 104 million pounds a year and within five years is predicted to reach 230 million pounds."
Friday, January 13, 2006
The Incorrect Colonel
After I read the following, I decided to eat at KFC tonight:"Pamela Anderson is leading a charge to remove a bust of KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders from the state Capitol. The actress called the Kentucky native's likeness "a monument to cruelty" to chickens in a statement issued by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal rights group. The statement did little to ruffle feathers in Gov. Ernie Fletcher's office. "Colonel Sanders was one of Kentucky's most distinguished citizens, a great entrepreneur and a fine charitable man of faith"
Human beings are omnivores. We have evolved to eat both meat and plant products. If the PETAnuts want to risk their health with an abnormal diet, that is their privilege -- but trying to force their weird value system on the rest of us is sheer arrogance and insolence.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Meningococcal warning signs: "Noticing your sick child has cold hands and feet, leg pain and abnormal skin colour could make the difference between life and death. Researchers have discovered these are all early warning signs of the dreaded meningococcal disease, which can kill a child within 24 hours. Experts have urged parents and doctors to be more alert for these signs, saying they could give doctors a few vital hours' head-start to begin life-saving treatment. Although meningococcal infection often causes a trademark rash that does not go pale when pressed, this symptom occurs so late it leaves little time to start treatment. While the rash and other classic symptoms such as a stiff neck and headache typically appear as late as 22 hours after first falling ill, the British researchers found 72 per cent of children have the early warning signs - the hallmarks of blood poisoning - within the first eight hours".
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Now getting out of bed is dangerous! "Getting up in the morning is the first, and for many people, the most perilous moment of the day. You can sprain an ankle on the stairs, scald a hand while making tea or be floored in an ungainly tussle with your underwear. But according to researchers, grogginess after waking should be treated more seriously for how it impairs thinking and memory skills - and the implications for doctors, firefighters and other staff roused straight into action upon waking. A study by scientists at the University of Colorado suggests that the performance of people immediately after waking is as bad as, or worse, than if they were drunk. The research showed that short-term memory, counting skills and cognitive abilities were impaired in the groggy period, known as sleep inertia".
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Obesity 'worse than adultery': "Most Italians feel more guilty about over-eating than they do about cheating on their partners, a survey has found, suggesting people in Casanova's native land care more about staying slim than staying faithful. The survey, by psychology magazine Riza Psicosomatica, found that excessive eating and spending topped the list of what people considered the most guilt-inducing vices. Sexual infidelity came bottom of the list of the magazine's "seven deadly sins", behind neglecting your friends and family, failing at your work and not looking after one's physique."
Monday, January 09, 2006
Australian diet author rejects red meat cancer link
How awful for the food Fascists: Eating lots of steak will not give you cancer
The CSIRO yesterday stood by its Total Wellbeing Diet book, saying scientific evidence shows there is no link between red meat and colo-rectal cancer. Veteran nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton has asked Prime Minister John Howard to review the government-sanctioned diet which recommends a high intake of red meat. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet recommends a red meat intake more than double the Government's own Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. The CSIRO's book sets down 800g of red meat a week or an average of 114g a day and at least 400g of fish a week or 57g a day.
Dr Stanton said the diet was better than the Atkins diet because it included carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables. But it still raised serious health issues - including the increased risk of bowel cancer. But co-author of the diet Manny Noakes said she stood by both the research and the diet. "The scientific evidence indicates that colo-rectal cancer is not related to fresh lean red meat intake," she said. "What is often overlooked is that abdominal obesity and lack of exercise contributes significantly to the risk of colo-rectal cancer as well as diabetes and heart disease. "The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet promotes exercise as well as an eating pattern which includes protective foods such as fish, wholegrains, fruit and vegetables." More than 550,000 copies of the book have been sold in Australia.
Constant attacks on Wal-Mart hurt the poor in yet another way: "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the nation's largest food retailer, said Thursday it will no longer donate nearly-expired or expired food to local groups feeding the hungry. Instead, that food will be thrown away, a move several Sacramento charities consider wasteful. Olan James, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the policy, which applies to all 1,224 Wal-Marts, 1,929 Supercenters and 558 Sam's Clubs, is an attempt to protect the corporation from liability in case someone who eats the donated food gets sick."
HO HUM! MORE DISAGREEMENT ABOUT FOOD CORRECTNESS
Not that the food fascists will care. As long as they are dictating to people, what they dictate does not interest them. But, for the rest of us, skepticism about the whole thing is the only rational response to what we read below. Enjoy a juicy steak tonight!
It might be a best-seller, but a leading nutritionist says a popular [Australian] Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) diet is baffling those battling the bulge.
Prime Minister John Howard has been asked to review the book The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, on concerns from Rosemary Stanton and medico John Tickell that the diet recommends high amounts of red meat. The pair wrote to Mr Howard, saying the high meat content in the diet contravenes the government's own dietary advice. The Government's Australian Guide to Health Eating recommends consumption of 65 to 100g of lean red meat three to four times per week, but the new book advocates up to 300g of meat daily.
Ms Stanton said today the popular diet from the government-related agency, which has sold more than 500,000 copies in Australia so far, was better than the Atkins diet because it did allow a small amount of grains-based food. But she said it was confusing those desperate to shed the kilos. "They're (dieters) saying why do our dietary guidelines tell us to eat 65 to 100g of lean red meat three to four times a week," Ms Stanton told Macquarie Radio. "And yet the CSIRO diet says 200g of meat at night and then another 100g of meat, chicken or fish at lunch. What do I do? Which one do I follow?"
She said the diet was based on a CSIRO study of 100 women. Half the women were put on a red meat diet while half were put on a diet equally low in calories and equally low in fat, but with much less meat. Both groups achieved a relatively similar weight loss.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Curry and Chop Suey under threat in UK: "The neighbourhood curry house and Chinese takeaway risk being replaced by kebab shops as an unexpected consequence of Britain's new immigration policy. Chinese and Indian restaurant and takeaway owners are campaigning to persuade the Government to continue letting thousands of Asian people into the country to help to make the curries. But ministers have refused, telling caterers to speak English in their kitchens so that vacancies can be filled by workers from Eastern Europe.... The first lobby of Parliament by representatives of Britain's 250,000-strong Chinese community has urged politicians to make a special case to save the locally stir-fried chop suey. Britain's many Chinatowns emerged from the migration of young workers from Hong Kong in the 1960s. Today those workers are retiring and their children have achieved such academic and professional success that few wish to remain in catering... Ashraf Uddin, the secretary-general of the Bangladesh Caterers' Association, said that at least 20,000 workers a year were needed to work in Britain's 10,000 Indian restaurants. He said that the Government had told them to take Eastern Europeans. "Unless they know our culture, our language, our way of working, it's a complete mess," he said."
Friday, January 06, 2006
Diet pills fail health test: Dieters could risk high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems and even DNA and thyroid problems by taking some over-the-counter slimming pills, the Australian Consumers Association has warned. The ACA has completed a study of literature on active ingredients in slimming pills in time for the thousands of Australians who have made a new year's resolution to lose those extra kilos. The study showed the ingredients could be dangerous, while the benefits were nothing more than marginal. ACA senior food policy officer Clare Hughes said many slimming pill products did not have to be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration and, therefore, went on the market without government evaluation. Pills containing the chemical capsaicin in hot chillies and red peppers or the rind of Seville oranges might increase metabolism, but there was no compelling evidence that they assisted weight loss, according to the ACA study".
Coffee good for women: "Women with BRCA1 gene mutations, which confer a high risk of developing breast cancer, might decrease their risk by drinking a lot of coffee, according to a multicentre team of investigators. Dr. Steven A Narod, of the University of Toronto, Ontario, and colleagues examined the association between coffee consumption and the risk of breast cancer among 1690 high-risk women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. The study included women from 40 clinical centres in four countries. A self-administered questionnaire was used to assess the average lifetime coffee consumption. The likelihood of developing breast cancer among BRCA mutation carriers who drank 1 to 3 cups of coffee daily, 4 to 5 cups, or 6 or more cups was reduced by 10 per cent, 25 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively, compared to those who drank no coffee, according to the report in the International Journal of Cancer. When the investigators classified the women by mutation status, they found significant protection from coffee for women with a BRCA1 mutation, but not for carriers of a BRCA2 mutation.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Alien microbes under the microscope!: "A paper to appear in a scientific journal claims a strange red rain might have dumped microbes from space onto Earth four years ago. But the report is meeting with a shower of skepticism from scientists who say extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof-and this one hasn't got it. The scientists agree on two points, though. The things look like cells, at least superficially. And no one is sure what they are. "These particles have much similarity with biological cells though they are devoid of DNA," wrote Godfrey Louis and A. Santhosh Kumar of Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, India, in the controversial paper. "Are these cell-like particles a kind of alternate life from space?" The mystery began when the scarlet showers containing the red specks hit parts of India in 2001. Researchers said the particles might be dust or a fungus, but it remained unclear. The new paper includes a chemical analysis of the particles, a description of their appearance under microscopes and a survey of where they fell. It assesses various explanations for them and concludes that the specks, which vaguely resemble red blood cells, might have come from a meteor. A peer-reviewed research journal, Astrophysics and Space Science, has agreed to publish the paper."
Napoleon's lousy defeat revealed: "The history books say that after reaching Moscow in 1812, Napoleon's army was laid low by the Russian winter and then finished off by hunger, battle wounds and low morale as it straggled back to France. The truth, say scientists, is more intriguing but rather less poetic: the biggest destroyer of the Grande Armee was Pediculus humanus -- the human louse. A team led by Didier Raoult of France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) examined the remains of Napoleon's soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, 800km west of Moscow. Samples of earth, cloth and teeth recovered from the site suggest that more than 30 percent of these troops were killed by bacterial fever transmitted by lice. The parasites caused relapsing fever, through the bacterium Borrelia recurrentis; trench fever, a condition well known in the Western Front of World War I, caused by the germ Bartonella quintana; and typhus, caused by the Rickettsia prowazeki bacterium.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
New "natural" boob jobs coming up: "A fully functional breast has been grown from a stem cell found in female mice, in a study that promises insights into recurring breast tumours and a fresh approach to plastic surgery.... If the findings prove applicable to people, scientists hope to develop drugs that target abnormal breast stem cells to eliminate not only tumours but also the source tissue from which they arise. In the longer term, it may also be possible to use mammary stem cells to grow breast tissue for reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy, or even for use in breast enhancement operations. In the study, which is published today in the journal Nature, a team led by Jane Visvader, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, isolated mammary stem cells from the breast pads of female mice for the first time. They transplanted one of these cells into the mammary fat pad of a living female mouse from which all breast tissue had been removed. The cell divided and eventually gave rise to all the normal types of cell found in the mouse breast, and the gland worked normally to produce milk".
Vaccine against the shits: "Two new vaccines could cut the toll of a virus that infects almost all children by the age of three. Rotavirus, which causes gastroenteritis, kills at least half a million children under the age of five every year in poor countries. In Britain, thousands of children need hospital treatment for the infection every year, though it is seldom fatal. The symptoms are vomiting, fever, stomach pain and diarrhoea. In severe cases, it causes severe dehydration and death if left untreated. Trials of two new vaccines, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest that the infection may be conquered. Rotateq, made by Merck, prevented 98 per cent of severe disease, while GlaxoSmithKline's Rotarix prevented 85 per cent".
Monday, January 02, 2006
No caviar! "The worldwide trade in caviar was effectively suspended today when the UN said it could not approve export quotas for the expensive delicacy for the coming year. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) said that it was unable to set export quotas for the Caspian Sea basin, where 90 per cent of the world's caviar is produced, because it did not have enough information about the region's fish population and the illegal trade in the eggs... Caviar traders said today's news reflected the parlous state of the world's most important population of sturgeon, but would not interrupt supplies. The harvesting season runs from late spring to late summer, so as long as CITES approves a quota within the coming months, no trade will be stopped".
Detox diets are a waste of time and money, say scientists: New year detox products that purport to rid the body of harmful chemicals accumulated through seasonal over-indulgence are a waste of time and money, leading scientists said yesterday. Most of the pills, juices, teas and oils that are sold for their detoxifying effects on the body have no scientific foundation for their claims, according to toxicologists and dieticians. They will not influence the rate at which the body rids itself of toxins, and any beneficial effects would be matched at much lower cost by drinking plenty of tap water, eating fruit and vegetables and getting a few early nights. The entire market for detox products, which is worth tens of millions of pounds a year, rests on myths about the human body that are hitting consumers in the wallet, the experts' report has found".
THE INCORRECTNESS OF COKE
If it's big and successful, the Left will hate it. That's all you need to know. But they will always dream up some pretext to cover the hatred that is their real motivation, of course. For an institution that practices racial disrimination against whites, however, the claim by U Mich. to care about human rights does ring very hollow
The University of Michigan suspended sales of Coca-Cola products on its three campuses over allegations that the company permits human rights and environmental abuses abroad. The suspension, which begins Jan. 1, will affect vending machines, residence halls, cafeterias and campus restaurants. Coke's contracts with the university are worth about $1.4 million.
The university and the company say they will continue to negotiate. "The University of Michigan is an important school, and I respect the way they worked with us on this issue," said Kari Bjorhus, a spokeswoman for The Coca-Cola Co., told The Detroit News. "We are continuing to try hard to work with the university to address concerns and assure them about our business practices."
Michigan's decision was prompted by a complaint last year from Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality. The student group accused Coke of draining local groundwater in India and conspiring with paramilitary groups in Colombia to harass and harm union members. The company has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The university, which has more than 50,000 students, decided not to renew its contracts when Coke said it was unable to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to cooperate in an investigation of circumstances in Colombia. The university and several other colleges had offered to fund the investigation. Bjorhus said Thursday that a pending civil lawsuit prevented the company from participating. In a statement on the company Web site, the company said allegations involving its operations in Colombia are false and the company has been "an exemplary member of the business community" there.
At least nine schools have stopped selling Coke products, citing Colombia as one of the reasons, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
POLITICALLY CORRECT "SCIENCE"
More darts than laurels should be distributed in 2005 in the fields of public health and health journalism. Here are the year's Top Ten health absurdities:
1. Harvard's School of Public Health bestowed its highest award for public-health achievement on Erin Brockovich. Brockovich claimed trace levels of the chemical chromium-6 caused diseases in a California community. She orchestrated a $330 million settlement from a utility company - pocketing a couple million herself. There was no evidence that the chemical traces made anyone sick, but that didn't deter Dean Barry Bloom from honoring her for "efforts on behalf of all of us."
2. Iowa banned the use of the preservative thimerosal in childhood vaccines (over 20 states are considering similar laws), though the mainstream medical community is unanimous in its conclusion that the additive is safe. The restriction makes it more difficult to protect children and adults from diseases - such as a possible avian-flu pandemic.
3. Environmentalists claimed that toothpaste, antiperspirant, lipstick, and eyeliner cause cancer. As usual, there was no human data to back up the claims, but some cosmetic companies yielded to the chemo-terrorists and reformulated their products, passing the costs - but no benefits - on to consumers.
4. When McDonald's announced that it would put nutrition information, including caloric content, on its wrappers, the Ralph Nader inspired "food police" were outraged. Instead of serving up compliments, they issued stinging criticisms - insisting the nutrition data belonged on the menu boards as well.
5. The EPA, claiming PCBs cause cancer, prevailed in its case against General Electric, forcing GE to begin removing traces of the chemicals from the Hudson River. The National Cancer Institute says there is no evidence that exposure to PCBs causes human cancer. The cost of the cleanup - an estimated $750 million - will be passed on to consumers and shareholders.
6. To fight obesity, schools around the U.S. banned vending machines dispensing soda, even diet soda - replacing it with calorie-laden apple juice.
7. Having won major settlements against Big Tobacco, the same attorneys plotted lawsuits against Big Food - claiming food companies are legally accountable for the nation's obesity epidemic. Plaintiff lawyers dismiss individual responsibility for nutrition decisions, saying soft-drink companies use caffeine to addict children to "empty calories."
8. The news this year about preventing deaths from breast cancer was apparently too good to report: The media gave short shrift to this spring's Lancet article noting that breast-cancer death rates were plummeting. There was scant coverage of the fact that new pharmaceuticals, in conjunction with standard treatments, now prevent almost all recurrences of breast cancer in women with early-stage disease.
9. Kevin Trudeau's book on Natural Cures which argues that "medical science has absolutely, 100 percent failed in the curing and prevention of disease," and says that tap water can kill you and that organic food is our only hope - is one of 2005's best-selling advice books.
10. Republican and Democratic lawmakers urged "drug importation" from price-controlled countries (like Canada) to lower U.S. drug prices. They didn't tell consumers that a) drug-importation plans are a Trojan horse that is sneaking price controls into the United States and b) countries with price controls do not generate new blockbuster drugs. If such policies were in place here, restricting financial incentives, the current pace of drug innovation and development would be a thing of the past.