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


31 July, 2013

Breastfeeding 'can enhance a child's IQ': Longer a mother chooses to feed baby the better their intelligence scores aged seven

The journal article ("Infant Feeding and Childhood Cognition at Ages 3 and 7 Years") is here.  It is a great rarity in that it takes basic precautions against confounders.  Both maternal IQ and social class were controlled for.  A major reservation, however, is that IQ measured at age 7 is not at all stable and, moreover,  environmental influences tend to wane as the individual gets older.  So it is perfectly possible that the beneficial effect of breastfeeding might be completely washed out by the time the individuals studied reach adulthood

The apparent decision by the Duchess of Cambridge to breastfeed has been given a boost by fresh evidence showing it can help raise a baby’s IQ.

The longer the child is breastfed – ideally exclusively – the higher the intelligence scores are at the age of seven.

The study also found breastfeeding can enhance language skills from the age of three.

The US researchers recommend babies are solely fed on breast milk for the first six months and are given the chance to breastfeed until a year old.

However, British experts warned that delaying the introduction of solid foods until six months at the earliest might leave some babies feeling hungry.

It emerged yesterday that the Duchess has at least one maternity dress made for breastfeeding and was given encouragement in hospital to help her baby George start on her milk.

Earlier research has shown breast milk protects babies against stomach bugs, chest infections, asthma and allergies, and confers health advantages in later life.

But only a small number of women in the UK breastfeed their babies for long periods and the number of new mothers starting in 2011 fell slightly to 73.9 per cent.

Barely 2 per cent of babies are breastfed exclusively for six months.

The latest study included 1,312 mothers and children who had taken part in Project Viva, a long-term investigation of pregnancy and child health in the US.

It found seven-year-olds breastfed for the first year of life were likely to score four points more in a test of verbal IQ than bottle-fed children.

Verbal intelligence scores at seven increased by 0.35 points for every extra month of breastfeeding.

Three-year-olds also benefited, having higher scores in a language-acquisition test the longer they had been breastfed. Exclusive breastfeeding had the greatest effect.

The US team of researchers reported the findings in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The scientists, led by Dr Mandy Belfort, from Boston Children’s Hospital, said: ‘Our results support a causal relationship of breastfeeding in infancy with receptive language at age three and with verbal and non-verbal IQ at school age.

'These findings support national and international recommendations to promote exclusive breastfeeding through age six months and continuation of breastfeeding through at least age one year.'

A number of factors that might have influenced the results, including home environment and mothers' IQ, were accounted for by the researchers.

Children took part in several tests, including the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test at age three and the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test at age seven.

Certain nutrients in breast milk may benefit the developing infant brain, it has been suggested.

One of these is docosahexaenoic (DHA), which is abundant in fish.   Part of the research looked at whether mothers' fish consumption was linked to the benefits of breastfeeding but the results were not statistically significant.

It is thought that chemicals naturally present in breast milk can aid brain development, but skin to skin contact and bonding during breastfeeding may also play a part.

But Clare Byam Cook, an independent breastfeeding counsellor and former midwife, said: ‘It’s best to keep an open mind about what your baby’s individual needs are.  'Many babies feel hungry if they only get breast milk and most need solids before six months.’

She said mothers who can breastfeed their babies easily are giving them a great start in life.

She said: 'Most women who give up find it too difficult to continue.  'They are not unaware of the benefits to the baby, they have been brainwashed into thinking if they don't their baby will miss out and it can be a very worrying time.

Ms Cook, the author of Top Tips For Breast Feeding and Top Tips For Bottle Feeding, said there was new evidence that breastfeeding exclusively for six months may not be best for baby, putting them at risk of allergies, food aversion and even obesity.

Babies can be safely given solid foods at least eight weeks earlier in life than official Department of Health guidelines telling women to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, according to researchers.


Influential  autism study an 'elaborate fraud,' British journal finds

A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.

"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."

Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May. "Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession," BMJ states in an editorial accompanying the work.
Explainer: Autism and vaccines

Speaking to CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," Wakefield said his work has been "grossly distorted" and that he was the target of "a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any attempt to investigate valid vaccine safety concerns."

The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80% by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.

In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.

"But perhaps as important as the scare's effect on infectious disease is the energy, emotion and money that have been diverted away from efforts to understand the real causes of autism and how to help children and families who live with it," the BMJ editorial states.

Wakefield has been unable to reproduce his results in the face of criticism, and other researchers have been unable to match them. Most of his co-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he had had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers -- a serious conflict of interest he failed to disclose. After years on controversy, the Lancet, the prestigious journal that originally published the research, retracted Wakefield's paper last February.

The series of articles launched Wednesday are investigative journalism, not results of a clinical study. The writer, Brian Deer, said Wakefield "chiseled" the data before him, "falsifying medical histories of children and essentially concocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccine scare."

According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers. Godlee said the study shows that of the 12 cases Wakefield examined in his paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism.

"It's always hard to explain fraud and where it affects people to lie in science," Godlee said. "But it does seem a financial motive was underlying this, both in terms of payments by lawyers and through legal aid grants that he received but also through financial schemes that he hoped would benefit him through diagnostic and other tests for autism and MMR-related issues."

But Wakefield told CNN that claims of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism "came from the parents, not me," and that his paper had "nothing to do with the litigation."

"These children were seen on the basis of their clinical symptoms, for their clinical need, and they were seen by expert clinicians and their disease diagnosed by them, not by me," he said.

Wakefield dismissed Deer as "a hit man who has been brought into take me down" by pharmaceutical interests. Deer has signed a disclosure form stating that he has no financial interest in the business.

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, said the reporting "represents Wakefield as a person where the ends justified the means." But he said the latest news may have little effect on those families who still blame vaccines for their children's conditions.

"Unfortunately, his core group of supporters is not going to let the facts dissuade their beliefs that MMR causes autism," Wiznitzer said. "They need to be open-minded and examine the information as everybody else."


30 July, 2013

One to infuriate the food freaks

While it may not be the obvious choice to hold a wedding reception, one couple who chose their local McDonald's could at least guarantee their guests' food would arrive quickly.

Fast-food fans Steven Asher and Emily Marshall had spent the past year enjoying a string of romantic dates at the Golden Arches, so it seemed like the obvious place to toast their nuptials when they tied the knot on Saturday.

They arrived in a stretch limo and dined with their 33 guests in a roped-off area at their local branch in Bristol.

Emily tucked into a chicken nugget meal with a coke, while Steven had the Chicken Legend meal with a strawberry milkshake.

The couple were treated to a bottle of champagne by fast food bosses - but had to make do with soft drinks at McDonald's because of its alcohol ban.

Steven, 28, and Emily, 21, are familiar faces at the restaurant and dine there twice a week when they can afford it.

The pair decided to celebrate the start of their new life together at McDonald's, because they wanted to make it 'as memorable as possible'.

Stephen, who works at a warehouse for a chilled food company, today described it as 'the happiest day of our lives'.

He said: 'When I saw Emily in her dress for the first time I couldn't believe my eyes, she looked absolutely beautiful.

'We were both shaking throughout the ceremony, we were so nervous.

'But it was a great day and everyone seemed to find our reception at McDonald's really interesting.

'Everyone enjoyed themselves - everyone loves McDonald's don't they?"


Dementia Rate Is Going DOWN

A new study has found that dementia rates among people 65 and older in England and Wales have plummeted by 25 percent over the past two decades, to 6.2 percent from 8.3 percent, a trend that researchers say is probably occurring across developed countries and that could have major social and economic implications for families and societies.

Another recent study, conducted in Denmark, found that people in their 90s who were given a standard test of mental ability in 2010 scored substantially better than people who had reached their 90s a decade earlier. Nearly one-quarter of those assessed in 2010 scored at the highest level, a rate twice that of those tested in 1998. The percentage of subjects severely impaired fell to 17 percent from 22 percent.

The British study, published on Tuesday in The Lancet, and the Danish one, which was released last week, also in The Lancet, soften alarms sounded by advocacy groups and some public health officials who have forecast a rapid rise in the number of people with dementia, as well as in the costs of caring for them. The projections assumed the odds of getting dementia would be unchanged.

Yet experts on aging said the studies also confirmed something they had suspected but had had difficulty proving: that dementia rates would fall and mental acuity improve as the population grew healthier and better educated. The incidence of dementia is lower among those better educated, as well as among those who control their blood pressure and cholesterol, possibly because some dementia is caused by ministrokes and other vascular damage. So as populations controlled cardiovascular risk factors better and had more years of schooling, it made sense that the risk of dementia might decrease. A half-dozen previous studies had hinted that the rate was falling, but they had flaws that led some to doubt the conclusions.

Researchers said the two new studies were the strongest, most credible evidence yet that their hunch had been right. Dallas Anderson, an expert on the epidemiology of dementia at the National Institute on Aging, the principal financer of dementia research in the United States, said the new studies were “rigorous and are strong evidence.” He added that he expected that the same trends were occurring in the United States but that studies were necessary to confirm them.

“It’s terrific news,” said Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Duke University, who was not involved in the new studies. It means, he said, that the common assumption that every successive generation will have the same risk for dementia does not hold true.


29 July, 2013

Fennel could help beat PMT, study claims

It's not clear if this was double blind and the sample sizes were small  but this will undoubtedly fire up the herb enthusiasts

Fennel could help millions of women beat the monthly misery of pre-menstrual tension, researchers have claimed.

Young women who took drops made from the plant’s seeds felt less depressed and found it easier to get on with their jobs, their friends and their family.

It is believed that the liquorice flavoured seeds could help to rebalance the female sex hormones which lay behind some of the symptoms of PMT, the Daily Mail reported.

Around three-quarters of women suffer with PMT, with up to 40 per cent claming that it impacts on their quality of life, and minority becoming violent or suffering severe depression.

PMT is also said to have an economic impact with time off or loss of productivity estimated to cost employers £3,000 a year for every female staff member.

Scientists in Iran, where fennel already has a variety of medical uses, looked the affect it had on 36 women who were split into three groups.

One group took a fennel extract from three days before their period until three days afterwards, the second exercised regularly and the third did nothing differently.

The symptoms eased for those exercising, but the biggest difference was for those taking the fennel supplement, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology’s annual conference heard.

Dr Hassan Pazoki, of Urmia University, said: “After eight weeks, the severity of symptoms had reduced so much that they could do their jobs and have a normal relationships with their friends and family. Depression was also reduced.”

His team believe that combining exercise with the fennel extracts could have an even bigger impact.

Although bitter, the drops do not have any side effects.

But Professor John Studd, of the London PMS and Menopause Clinic, dismissed the findings, claiming any impact was likely to be psychological.

Earlier this year a separate study suggested that eating broccoli, sesame seeds and other plant foods rich in iron could help combat PMT.

The benefits of eating fennel have been rumoured for many years, and it was introduced to Britain by the Romans, whose warriors are said to have eaten it to make them strong.


The formula for a happy life? Stay curious, live in the moment and look after your health

This is just opinion and the stress on living in the moment is undoubtedly tendentious.  DELAY of gratification is normally found to have desirable outcomes

For years philosophers have sought the secret to a fulfilling existence, but now one man claims to have discovered it - and come up with a formula.

Research into what makes people feel happy has led renowned professor, Dr Todd Kashdan, to produce an equation called the Feel Good Formula.  In it, he identifies six factors which, when put together in the right combination, make a happy soul.

The factors are: Live in the moment (M), be curious (C), do something you love (L), think of others (T), nurture relationships (N), and take care of you body (B).

The winning formula is Feeling Good = (Mx16 + Cx1 + Lx2) + (Tx5 + Nx2 + Bx33).

Dr Kashdan reviewed the results of nationwide research carried out into how Brits truly feel, inside and out.

Dr Kashdan, author of ‘Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life’ drew upon his years of experience to analyse the research.

Whilst it may not appear obvious how a combination of letters and numbers will make you feel good, Dr Kashdan believes this formula is the perfect prescription for a happy soul.

He said: 'There is no single secret to feeling good, but when these six ingredients are carefully attended to, in the right doses, you will be on target for a happy life.

'Transform’s research shows that Britain is in need of a bit of a lift and it is great to be working with them on this mission to inspire a more upbeat Britain.

'Each of the ingredients requires a bit of work.  'Just know that your hard work will lead to the greatest rewards possible.'

Steven Taylor, Marketing Director at Transform Cosmetic Surgery said: 'We are delighted to have such a well respected figure as Dr Kashdan involved on the Feel Good Campaign and couldn’t be more pleased that the partnership led to the creation of an actual formula to Feel Good.

'We hope that the Feel Good Formula will continue to help boost spirits and put a smile on faces across the UK.'


28 July, 2013

Could coffee help prevent depression? Two cups a day 'may reduce the risk of suicide by 50%'

This is naive.  Since most Americans and Europeans drink coffee, this is really a study of the minority who do not drink coffee.  But who are they?  Mostly people who are caffeine sensitive, probably.  So the findings could equally well be held to show that sensitive people get more depressed

Drinking between two to four cups of coffee every day appears to reduce the risk of suicide in men and women by 50 per cent, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reviewed data from three previous US studies and found the risk of suicide amongst adults who drank several cups of caffeinated coffee on a daily basis was about half that of that compared to those who drank decaffeinated coffee, very little coffee or no coffee at all.

The study, of 200,000 men and women, examined data which outlined their caffeine consumption both coffee and non-coffee sources – including tea, caffeinated soft drinks, and chocolate.

However for the majority, coffee was the main caffeine source and over the average 6 and-a-half year assessment period,  there were just 277 deaths from suicide.

‘Unlike previous investigations, we were able to assess association of consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, and we identify caffeine as the most likely candidate of any putative protective effect of coffee,' said lead researcher Michel Lucas, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH.

Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system but may act as a mild antidepressant by increasing production of certain 'feel good' neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline.

This could explain why previous epidemiological studies have found a lower risk of depression among coffee drinkers in past, the researchers reported.

In spite of the findings, the authors do not recommend that depressed adults self-medicate by increasing their caffeine consumption as an increase could result in unpleasant side effects.

‘Overall, our results suggest that there is little further benefit for consumption above two to three cups a day or 400 mg of caffeine a day,’ the authors wrote.

The researchers didn’t observe any major difference in risk between those who drank two to three cups of coffee per day and four or more cups a day, most likely due to the small number of suicide cases in these categories.

However, in a previous HSPH coffee-depression study, the investigators observed a maximal effect among those who drank four or more cups per day.

In fact one previous large Finnish study showed a higher risk of suicide among people drinking eight or nine cups per day. Few participants in the two HSPH studies drank such large amounts of coffee so the impact of six or more cups a day of coffee was not addressed in these two studies.


Does smoking make you a bad parent? Survey finds smokers feed their children less, buy them smaller birthday presents and raid their money box to fund their habit

Not surprising.  Smokers are mostly lower class

The dangers of smoking during pregnancy or near a child have been well-documented, but new research has found that that smoker parents are also less caring towards their children.

A survey has discovered that nicotine addict mothers and fathers cut back on Christmas presents for their children, buy them less clothing and even feed them less to fund their daily cigarette habit.

The poll, which examined the lifestyle behaviour of smokers, also discovered that some people stole from friends, applied for credit cards and even asked strangers on the street for money when desperate for their fix.

The research was carried out by pharmaceutical company Pfizer as part of their Don't Go Cold Turkey Campaign and asked 6,271 smokers about how they funded smoking in tougher economic times.

It revealed that while 60 per cent of smokers refused to pay more than £8 for a packet of cigarettes, one per cent - which equated to 31 people - were willing to pay an astonishing £40.

The most alarming statistics related to smoking parents however. It found that many were often more willing to reduce their child's quality of life than go without cigarettes.

A shocking 20 per cent admitted to having bought their children fewer or cheaper clothes and shoes  to save money instead of quitting smoking.

A worrying 17 per cent admitted to cutting back on food and drink for their children, 35 per cent reduced the amount of treats they gave them and 20 per cent said they even cut back on Christmas and birthday presents to continue smoking.

Nearly nine per cent - which equated to 350 of those polled - had stolen money from their child's money box.

Just under 13 per cent said they had stopped taking their children to after school groups, 17 per cent admitted to having cut back on toy purchases and just under seven per cent had even refused to send their children on school trips to save money rather than quit their habit.

Almost 65 per cent of those polled admitted to feeling under financial pressure and 50 per cent said they were concerned about falling into debt but all still continued to feed their tobacco habit.

And a significant number of smokers admitted to engaging in reckless and even dishonest behaviour to fund the habit.

Nearly 1,000 people had dipped into their life savings to make sure they could afford cigarettes and 275 had even stolen from friends of family members.


27 July, 2013

Teenagers who smoke cannabis damage their brains for LIFE and may be more likely to develop schizophrenia

Mouse study only so even if the damage is as described, quantifying it is a large problem.  The damage in people could be real but maybe trivial

Teenagers who regularly smoke cannabis suffer long lasting brain damage and are in much greater danger of developing schizophrenia.
American researchers say the drug is particularly dangerous for a group of people who have a genetic susceptibility to the mental health disorder - and it could be the trigger for it.

Asaf Keller, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said the results highlight the dangers of teenagers smoking cannabis during their formative years. The study found that even short-term exposure to cannabis impaired brain activity, with the damage continuing into adulthood

The study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, exposed young mice to the active ingredient in marijuana for 20 days.  It found that their brain activity was impaired, with the damage continuing into adulthood.

The past 20 years has seen major controversy about the long-term effects of marijuana, with experts divided over its long-term effects on teenagers.

Previous research has shown that children who started using marijuana before the age of 16 are at greater risk of permanent brain damage, and have a significantly higher incidence of psychiatric disorders.

‘Adolescence is the critical period during which marijuana use can be damaging,’ said the study's lead author, Sylvina Mullins Raver, a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
‘We wanted to identify the biological underpinnings and determine whether there is a real, permanent health risk to marijuana use.’

The scientists began by examining cortical oscillations in mice. Cortical oscillations are patterns of the activity of neurons in the brain and are believed to underlie the brain's various functions.  These oscillations are very abnormal in schizophrenia and in other psychiatric disorders.

The scientists exposed young mice to very low doses of the active ingredient in marijuana for 20 days, and then allowed them to return to their siblings and develop normally.

‘In the adult mice exposed to marijuana ingredients in adolescence, we found that cortical oscillations were grossly altered, and they exhibited impaired cognitive abilities,’ said Raver.

‘We also found impaired cognitive behavioural performance in those mice. The striking finding is that, even though the mice were exposed to very low drug doses, and only for a brief period during adolescence, their brain abnormalities persisted into adulthood.’

The scientists repeated the experiment, this time giving marijuana to adult mice that had never been exposed to the drug before.

Their cortical oscillations and ability to perform cognitive tasks remained normal, indicating that it was only drug exposure during the critical teenage years that impaired brain activity.

‘We found that the frontal cortex is much more affected by the drugs during adolescence,’ said Keller.  'This is the area of the brain controls executive functions such as planning and impulse control. It is also the area most affected in schizophrenia.’

Keller now wants to know whether the effects can be reversed. ‘We are hoping we will learn more about schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders, which are complicated conditions,’ he said.

‘These cognitive symptoms are not affected by medication, but they might be affected by controlling these cortical oscillations.’


Blood pressure drugs may boost brainpower: Side effect of medicines slows dementia patients' mental decline

Very preliminary findings

Doctors have long recognised that taking blood pressure drugs may slow the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Now researchers have uncovered the first evidence that the drugs, called ACE inhibitors, may actually boost brainpower.

Those with high blood pressure are more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s and similar diseases, but the study found their memory and thinking skills were protected by the drugs they were taking.

ACE inhibitors – whose names  include ramipril, captopril and perindopril – have become increasingly popular in the past ten years, particularly for younger patients.

Researchers in Ireland and Canada investigated drugs which target a specific biochemical pathway called the renin angiotensin system – a hormone system which is thought to affect the development of Alzheimer’s.

The study compared the rate of cognitive decline in 361 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia (caused by problems in blood supply to the brain), or a mix of both. Of that group, 85 were already taking ACE inhibitors; the rest were not.

The researchers also analysed the impact on 30 patients, with an average age of 77 years, who were taking the drugs for the first time.

They were assessed over six months, using the Standardised Mini Mental State Examination or the Quick Mild Cognitive Impairment tests.

Those taking ACE inhibitors experienced marginally slower rates of cognitive decline than those who were not, found the study in the journal BMJ Open.

Meanwhile, the brainpower of those patients who had been newly prescribed ACE inhibitors actually improved, the experts from University College Cork in Ireland and McMaster University in Ontario, Canada found.

It is the first evidence to suggest these drugs may not only halt cognitive decline, but may actually improve brainpower.

The researchers said: ‘Although the differences were small and of uncertain clinical significance, if sustained over years, compounding effects may well have significant clinical benefits.’

They warn that ACE inhibitors are harmful to some patients, so if larger studies confirm they work well in dementia, it may be only certain people with high blood pressure who stand to benefit.

Previous studies have linked other forms of blood pressure medication with anti-dementia benefits.

Dr James Pickett of the Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘Any drug which halts cognitive decline is potentially exciting because it has the ability to radically improve quality of life.’

But Dr Simon Ridley of Alzheimer’s Research UK said: ‘This is a short study with a small number of participants. It is unclear if the [improvement] could be due to the control of blood pressure, a different effect of the drugs or another factor.’

Among the most widely used ACE inhibitors are perindopril (also known as Coversyl), ramipril (Tritace), captopril (Capoten), trandolapril (Gopten), fosinopril (Staril), lisinopril (Zestril and prinivil).

They work by stopping the  body from creating the hormone angiotensin II. This has a variety  of effects but essentially relaxes blood vessels and helps reduce the amount of water re-absorbed by  the kidneys – helping decrease blood pressure.


26 July, 2013

Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have children with 'bad behaviour or ADHD'

So WHO were the "Mothers who smoke during pregnancy"?  Mostly lower class women and lower class people have more health problems anyway

Children are more likely to be unruly and badly behaved if their mothers smoked in pregnancy, claim researchers.

The risk of antisocial behaviour rose among children whose mothers smoked.

They were more likely to have poor attention spans and show disruptive behaviour such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

An analysis of three existing studies from New Zealand, the U.S. and Cardiff analysed rates of conduct problems between the ages of four and 10 years.

Such problems include bad behaviour and attention difficulties.

The study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry found a link between maternal smoking and conduct disorders that rose with the amount of cigarettes smoked.

Lead researcher Gordon Harold of Leicester University, said: 'The increase is relative to the frequency of smoking.'

Dr Theodore Slotkin, of Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina, in a linked editorial in the journal, added: 'The conclusion is incontrovertible: prenatal tobacco smoke exposure contributes significantly to subsequent conduct disorder in offspring.

'We now know that the consequences of prenatal tobacco exposure are not restricted to perinatal risk, but rather extend to the lifespan and affect the quality of life for countless individuals.'

Previous U.S. research has suggested that later behavioural problems in children may be linked to drinking during pregnancy.

Earlier this week research revealed that nicotine addict mothers and fathers cut back on Christmas presents for their children, buy them less clothing and even feed them less to fund their daily cigarette habit.

The poll, which examined the lifestyle behaviour of smokers, also discovered that some people stole from friends, applied for credit cards and even asked strangers on the street for money when
desperate for their fix.

The research was carried out by pharmaceutical company Pfizer as part of their Don't Go Cold Turkey Campaign and asked 6,271 smokers about how they funded smoking in tougher economic times.

It revealed that while 60 per cent of smokers refused to pay more than £8 for a packet of cigarettes, one per cent - which equated to 31 people - were willing to pay an astonishing £40.

The most alarming statistics related to smoking parents however. It found that many were often more willing to reduce their child's quality of life than go without cigarettes.

A shocking 20 per cent admitted to having bought their children fewer or cheaper clothes and shoes  to save money instead of quitting smoking.


Could your daily vitamin pills take years OFF your life?

They're taken by thousands to boost their health but recent studies have found some supplements could do more harm than good 

Vitamin pills are big business - from chewable ones for children and tablets especially tailored for women going through the menopause to essential oils for dodgy joints and high-dose vitamin C to pep up your immune system, there’s a supplement for everyone.

But can vitamins actually be bad for your health?

It seems that your daily pill can do more harm than good. Indeed, last week saw the revelation that fish oil capsules have been linked to high levels of prostate cancer - a shock for the millions who take fish oils or omega-3 fatty acids every day in the quest to ease joint pain, improve heart health and fight mental decline.

A study of more than 2,000 men found that those with the highest levels of omega-3 in their blood were 71 per cent more likely to develop the most lethal form of prostate cancer, and 44 per cent more likely to develop low-grade prostate cancer.

And it’s not just omega-3 that is under scrutiny. According to Dr Alan Kristal, who led the study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, there is surprisingly little evidence that any vitamin or mineral pills prevent disease - unless people are suffering from a nutrient deficiency.

‘As we do more and more of these studies, we find high doses of supplements have no effect or increase the risk of the disease you are trying to prevent,’ he says. Yet millions of busy Britons take vitamins to compensate for a poor diet.

One in three of us takes a supplement, and we spend about £209?million a year on vitamin pills. The message last week from experts was not to panic.

For most people, taking multivitamin and mineral supplements at the recommended dose is safe.

So amid all this confusing and sometimes contradictory advice, which supplements work and, more importantly, which ones are safe?


While they might be the most wide-ranging supplement in the UK - providing 100 per cent of our daily allowance of everything from vitamin B to copper - there is little evidence that they do any good.

In 2010, French researchers followed 8,000 volunteers who had taken either a multivitamin or a dummy placebo pill for six years.

They found that those who popped the vitamin pill were just as likely to suffer heart disease or cancer as those taking the placebo.

That work followed a 2008 major review of 67 studies - involving 230,000 people - which found no evidence that multivitamins prolonged life.

Some studies have even suggested that high doses could do more harm than good.

In 2011, the Iowa Women’s Health Study looked at the health of more than 38,000 older women and found that women who regularly took multivitamins were 2.4??per cent more likely to die over the 19 years of the study.

Their research also showed that use of vitamin B6 increased the risk of death during the study by 4.1?per cent, folic acid by 5.9?per cent, iron by 3.9?per cent, magnesium by 3.6?per cent, zinc by 3?per cent and copper by 18?per cent.

However, the study didn’t take into account the fact that many people start taking heavy doses of vitamins only when they develop serious diseases such as cancer.

But Dr Kristal says: ‘Dozens of studies of multivitamins show that they do absolutely nothing at the recommended doses.’

So if your diet contains plenty of fresh food and your five-a-day, it’s unlikely a multivitamin pill is essential.

Doctors have known since the 1750s, when British sailors were first issued with limes, that vitamin C is essential for health. It helps to heal wounds, strengthens the body’s connective tissues and keeps cells healthy.

But despite the many health claims made about vitamin C, there is little evidence that it does much good as a supplement.

While it does appear to shorten the duration of colds, there is little real proof that it staves off illness, Dr Kristal says.

And the high doses recommended by some supporters of alternative medicine may do more harm than good.

In February, an 11-year study of more than 23,000 men found that those who took high doses of the supplement - typically 1,000?mg - were twice as likely to develop kidney stones compared to men who took no pills.

A 2002 study showed that 1g doses of vitamin??C and vitamin E almost trebled the risk of premature death among postmenopausal women in any year.

The Department of Health says adults need 40?mg a day but doses up to 1,000?mg a day are unlikely to cause harm. Anyone worried about their intake should decide whether they are exceeding their safe daily dose.

For example, the effervescent vitamin drink Berocca contains 476?mg. One tablet of a supplement like this, combined with a diet of fresh fruit, could tip you over the safe dosage.


25 July, 2013

Restaurant menu calorie counts don't work - and may even make diners consume MORE, study finds

This is by now a common finding but the people who "just know" what the truth is don't care about evidence

Calorie counts on food menus do not motivate people to make healthier choices, according to new findings.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania analyzed the purchasing behaviors of 1,121 adults at two McDonald’s restaurants in New York City.

They found that even when they provided information on 'ideal' dietary intakes for each day or per meal, diners did not change their orders.

Commenting on the results, lead researcher Dr Julie Downs said: 'Putting calorie labels on menus really has little or no effect on people’s ordering behaviors at all.'

She and her team found that the majority of participants actually ended up consuming more calories than recommended per meal - 650 for women; 800 for men.

Calorie counts have become a hot topic of debate over recent years, especially in light of America's worsening obesity epidemic.

Nutrition advocates say if people knew how simple it is to cut their caloric intake, they would make better decisions.

As a result, several states and municipalities across the country including New York, Philadelphia and California, have already introduced mandatory menu labeling.

And soon nationwide regulations will go into effect as part of the Affordable Care Act, although a precise date has not been set.

However, Dr Downs argues the 'well-intentioned' policy is unrealistic and 'not going to help curb' the obesity trend.

'The people who set these policies aren’t very representative,' she explained.

The results suggest that consumers, especially at fast-food venues, tend choose taste, value, and convenience over nutrient content.

According to the American Heart Association, among Americans age 20 and older, 154.7million are overweight or obese.

The recent study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.


Sweeteners are not bad for you: Take the scare stories about diet drinks and sweets with a pinch of salt, experts say

Aspartame, xylitol and Stevia might sound like Doctor Who villains, but in fact they are sugar substitutes, or sweeteners.

Most of us have been consuming them in some form since the first of them, saccharin – dubbed ‘the poor man’s sugar’ – was formulated by German chemists more than 100 years  ago.

And fears about their potentially toxic effects date back almost as far.

Diabetes, cancer, strokes, seizures, hypertension, vomiting, dizziness – all have been cited as risks from sweetener consumption.

Yet none of these claims has stuck, and today sweeteners are a global industry worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

They are found in more than 6,000 products from drinks and desserts  to cakes, chewing gum and  ready meals.

Last week a new study emerged, with Purdue University in Indiana claiming that diet drinks containing the artificial sweetener aspartame (such as Coke Zero) are no healthier than their full-sugar counterparts and could contribute to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease.

The report author, Professor Susan Swithers, suggested this could be because the chemical fails to trigger the ‘full’ feeling in our brain, so we over-indulge elsewhere.

She also proposed  a link between aspartame and metabolic syndrome, a much-disputed term denoting a combination of symptoms that increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Catherine Collins, principal dietician at St George’s Hospital, London, strongly disputes the findings of the Purdue University research.

‘There are many, many factors involved in us feeling full or satisfied, and indeed experiments have shown that chocolate cravings are noticeably reduced the moment you eat the first piece, before the sugar even hits your bloodstream, so this study proves nothing,’ she says.

It is sugar (sucrose), with its high calorific content and need for insulin to break it down, that poses the real risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes, Collins argues.

‘Sweeteners have either zero calories or are very low in calories that aren’t absorbed anyway, so are effectively zero calorie,’ she adds.

‘So the suggestion that these products are no better at preventing weight gain or diabetes, or that they in fact cause them, is unfounded, as the accepted scientific evidence demonstrates.’


The spectre of sweeteners as carcinogens first surfaced in the 1970s when saccharin (found in Sweet’N Low) was discovered in one study  to raise the risk of bladder cancer  in rats.

A wealth of later research in humans found no link. Equally, aspartame, the most commonly used sweetener, was blamed in 1996 as the cause  of the spike in brain tumours in Americans between 1975 and 1992.

Subsequent studies again found no relationship.

The sweetener sodium cyclamate was banned in the US in 1969 after a study found that rats fed the equivalent of 250 cans of diet drinks  a day developed bladder tumours.

Further studies failed to replicate these findings, but the ban remains. Sodium cyclamate is deemed safe in Europe and 50 countries worldwide – but is not routinely found in UK products.

Dr Paul Mulholland, an oncologist at University College London who specialises in brain tumours, says: ‘I am not aware of any risk factors for brain cancer apart from radiation.’


Collins says: ‘The problem with many of these studies looking at links between cancers, seizures, hypertension and sweeteners – and the way they are reported – is that  too often people confuse correlation with causation.

'For example, an analysis of Mail on Sunday readers would probably find that they have higher levels of bowel cancer than people in Africa, but that’s because this group lives in a Western country with a particular diet, not because reading a newspaper causes cancer.’

The concerns about sugar substitutes are, she argues, based on a misunderstanding of the wider data.

One such misunderstanding is that aspartame is harmful because the body breaks it down into toxic substances – methanol and formaldehyde. But they’re not absorbed and the amounts are negligible: a can of Diet Coke produces 20mg of methanol, half the amount produced by the same quantity of fruit juice .

‘The fact is, sweeteners are safe,’ adds Collins. ‘Both the American Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority approve them. Those who cast doubt about their safety can often have a vested interest in doing so.’

A major review was conducted in 2006 by the EFSA, which concluded: ‘Extensive scientific research ...... together with a history of more than 20 years of safe use, support the conclusion that aspartame is safe.’

Doctors and dieticians warn that there can be unfortunate side effects to some sweeteners. ‘Sugar alcohols in particular – the xylitols and sorbitols – are not absorbed by the gut and will in larger doses, and especially in people who already have irritable bowel syndrome, cause bloating and diarrhoea,’ says consultant gastroenterologist Neil Ikin, from London’s Homerton hospital.

Collins, however, recommends such sugar alcohols, which are often found in chewing gums, as they have consistently been shown to help fight plaque and tooth decay  by preventing bacteria in the  mouth from forming the acids that attack teeth.

The message, it seems, is clear: sweeteners won’t cause any ill effects. Just as long as you don’t have IBS.


24 July, 2013

USDA Funds $25K Study on Whether Kids’ Preference for Fat, Sugar Leads to Obesity

Good to see them researching the question instead of just leaping to conclusions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding a study to determine if “preference for fat and sugar may have a role in overweight and obesity development” among African-American adolescents in Alabama.

The department announced the $25,000 grant to Tuskegee University in Tuskeegee, Ala., in April.

“This project will document taste preferences for fat and sweet foods in African American adolescents and enhance the research infrastructure and capacity in obesity, food product development and sensory evaluation research at Tuskegee University,” the USDA press release from April 2, 2013 said.

The project description from Tuskegee focused on “upgrading a computerized data collection and analysis system for sensory response in obesity and food product development.”

“Alabama ranks sixth nationwide with 36.1% of its children, ages 10-17 years, falling into the obese category,” the project summary said. “Increased preference for fat and sugar may have a role in overweight and obesity development.”

The study will evaluate taste preferences for African-American children in selected Alabama counties ranging in ages 12 to 17.

“It is hypothesized that a preference for fat and sweet foods would predict weight gain among African Americans,” the project description said.

The children will be recruited for the study through advertisements.

“Firstly, participants will be presented with randomly ordered solutions such as non-fat milk, whole milk, half and half, and cream containing different levels of sugar by weight,” the project description said. “Participants will rate the foods for sweetness, creaminess, and pleasantness using a 9-point hedonic scale.”

“Secondly, participants will also be asked to give lists of their favorite foods,” the description continued. “Foods will be grouped into high-fat, high-sugar, high carbohydrate, high protein categories, and participants will indicate their preferences using the 9-point hedonic scale.”

The project description said that the main objective is to “develop a community based, nutrition education program with and specifically for rural southern African Americans to prevent weight gain and decrease cancer risks” and “to investigate relationships between dietary patterns and markers for cancer risks among these children. Participants will be invited to volunteer for the preference testing before and upon completion of the study.”


Regulations Prompt Schools to Ditch Federal Lunch Subsidies

Approximately 200 school districts across the country have opted out of federal lunch requirements, leaving them free from regulations Michelle Obama pushed in 2010, but without federal subsidies for school lunches.

“It was basically about watching the amount of food get thrown away last year. The kids just didn’t like what we had to offer them,” said Gary Lewis, superintendent of Catlin Public Schools in Illinois. “The new guidelines from the federal level for us were too restrictive.”

Through the lunch program, the federal government dictates the type, amount, and even color of food in public schools.

Federal lunch programs began because students were coming to school malnourished, said Kay Brown, a director at the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“We still have hunger, and we have problems with obesity and all the challenges that presents,” she said. “The solution to that is the right amount of nutritious food.”

Brown presented a GAO report to Congress in June on the effects of 2010’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The report recommended changes to the law because GAO’s investigation found it increased useless calories in meals and food waste in cafeterias. About 200 schools have dropped the federal program because of its regulations and costs, according to the School Nutrition Association.

Higher Costs for Schools

The act will cost taxpayers another $3.2 billion over its first five years, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. Districts are reporting fewer students purchasing lunch and costly equipment upgrades to cook the new menu.

Because of the regulations, Catlin lost somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000 last year, Lewis said. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake district in New York served 22 percent fewer lunches and lost about $100,000.

“That was upsetting to everybody – the board of education, the school lunch manager,” said Christy Multer, a district spokesman. “She’s expected to operate her program in the black, to cover the cost of offering the lunches to students from the sales…. If you offer food that students don’t like, they won’t buy it.”

What Kids Won’t Eat

The HHFKA requires that schools serve a fruit or vegetable to students, even if those students will not eat it. GAO inspectors visited an elementary school that served children oranges, which many threw in the trash, Brown said.

“In that particular case, the effect is more on the nutrition the kids are not getting,” Brown said.

She said she saw similar waste in seven of the 17 schools she visited, but noted that most of the waste occurred in the youngest grades, and lunch period length may have been a factor.

The act mandates which kinds of vegetables students should be served – one from each of five categories per week. Many students readily eat beans within soup or chili, Multer said, but won’t eat them measured out in little cups the way the regulations directed.

The lunch manager was further challenged by requirements that food vendors hadn’t caught up with, Multer said. Three-ounce chicken patties, a more popular meal at the district, didn’t fit the 10-ounce-per-week cap for a protein-based entrée, which averages two ounces per day. Many students were disgruntled at seeing part of the patty cut off.

 “We wanted to give it a full year’s try, and we did,” Multer said. “We were hoping that maybe it would bounce back, the kids would get used to it, but it didn’t.”

Multer and Lewis said their districts will still offer free and reduced-price lunches, but local and not nationwide taxpayers will foot the bill.

“Some school districts have figured out a little better than others how to change their menus, or how to change the nutritional contents of the lunch program and make it appealing to kids,” Brown said. “Some have been introducing over a period of time some more healthy foods. .... Over time, acceptance was improving.”

Balancing Authority, Responsibility

Multer said her district provided healthy lunches before HHFKA, and so do many districts. Each district’s challenges are different, Brown said.

“There’s such huge variety from one [school district] to another,” she said. “Some have really diverse populations, and they have to decide what kinds of ethnic foods students will accept, and some have fewer students eligible for free and reduced-price meals, and who can go off campus to buy their own food.”

Parents are an important part of keeping kids healthy, Multer said.

“The question becomes: What’s the role of the parent to ensure that each child is exposed to a wide variety of vegetables for their health versus the role of the school district?” she said. “Schools also have an obligation to work with parents to ensure that. We need to involve parents in that. I think the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has called attention to this and maybe this is something that will promote more parents to take a more active role in their children’s eating.”

Taking responsibility for school lunches means upset parents are now the district’s fault, Lewis noted, which makes them more responsive to parent concerns.

“How do you ensure healthy children and healthy adults?” Multer asked. “Some things you can legislate and some things maybe you can’t legislate. You can’t legislate kids to like sweet potatoes.”


23 July, 2013

Now resveratrol bites the dust

More evidence that anti-oxidants are a BAD thing.  A simpleton's theory runs up against the facts

Health supplements containing the ‘miracle ingredient’ from red wine could undo the positive effects of exercise, experts have warned.

A daily dose of the antioxidant resveratrol cancelled out many of the benefits of a two-month-long exercise programme, a study found.

With exercise alone, blood pressure and levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and other harmful blood fats were lowered.
Undoing all that hard work... A daily dose of the antioxidant resveratrol cancelled out many of the benefits of a two-month-long exercise programme, a study found

Undoing all that hard work... A daily dose of the antioxidant resveratrol cancelled out many of the benefits of a two-month-long exercise programme, a study found

But if combined with a course of supplements, most of the positive effects vanished, research published in the Journal of Physiology reports.

Resveratrol has become increasingly popular as study after study has credited the compound with health-boosting properties, from extending life and battling obesity to warding off heart disease and obesity.

However, most research is carried out on mice or rats, rather than in the human body.

Resveratrol, which is found in the grape skins that give red wine its colour, is supposed to boost health by mopping up dangerous oxygen molecules known as free radicals that attack cells and tissues and are blamed for health problems from ageing to cancer.

The Danish scientists behind the latest study say these free radicals may be needed for the body to recover after exercise.   Without them, many of the benefits of exercise, such as lowering blood pressure and increasing oxygen uptake, may disappear.

In the study, 27 men in their mid-sixties were asked to perform eight weeks of high-intensity exercise training – with half the group given 250mg of resveratrol a day and the other group receiving a placebo.

Scientists expect to get the same result from women and younger men.

Despite the findings, wine lovers need not worry about the effect of the odd glass of red on their exercise routine.

The amount of resveratrol in the supplements studied was far higher than can be obtained from drinking wine alone.

However, it could easily be obtained from supplements.


When fruit and vegetables are BAD for you: Getting your five-a-day is responsible for HALF of all food poisoning cases

Fruit and vegetables are responsible for 46 per cent of food poisoning cases, recent research shows.  The study by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that leafy vegetables, namely lettuce and spinach, are the worst offenders.

It also showed that meat and poultry are responsible for 22 per cent of food poisoning cases.

The study found that every year one in six people in the U.S. fall ill with food poisoning – about nine million people.  The majority of cases of foodborne illness caused by leafy vegetables are caused by pre-cut greens which are bought in plastic bags.

The reason for this is that these products tend to be eaten raw. In contrast, the bugs in meat and poultry that many people would expect to be the cause of most cases of food poisoning, are usually killed during cooking.

Dr Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia's Centre for Food Safety explained to Modern Farmer that lettuce is particularly dangerous as harmful bacteria can form within the plant tissue.  This means that when the lettuce is washed, the bacteria will not be washed away.

He added that leafy greens can cause E.Coli, salmonella, and listeria.  These bugs tend to come from animals which carry them in their intestines.  If the animals’ manure gets into soil or water, it can contaminate vegetables.

Salmonella is especially likely to be transmitted in this way as manure can be blown around by the wind when it dries out, and salmonella is known to be tolerant to drying.

In extreme cases, contaminated bagged salad can cause fatal kidney failure, according to Dr Doyle.

Dr Doyle says that the only way to prevent lettuce-related food poisoning is to ensure that farmers are doing something to kill bacteria in the field, as soon as the leaves are picked.

He believes that farmers should be using disinfectants to achieve this – he says that currently they typically use chlorine but that this is not very effective at killing bacteria.

However, Dr Doyle accepts that the odds are in the consumers favour as millions of bags of salad are sold every year and the number of food poisoning cases is small.

This data is supported by a recent study from the Food Standards Agency which showed that there are 120,000 extra cases of food-related illness during a British summer.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, a microbiologist, believes this is not due to undercooked meat so much as poor hand, surface, and utensil hygiene when people are cooking outside.


22 July, 2013

High intake of saturated fat & sperm quality in Danish men

Below are some excerpts from a skeptical writer.  I can only echo her point that sperm motility is the key factor in fertilization and the numbers show no effect of fat on motility

“Eating a fatty diet could reduce a man’s sperm count by 40%” said the Daily Mail – enough to put every man off his bacon & egg. The Globe and Mail warned similarly: “Eating too much saturated fat may decrease sperm counts.”

The headlines came from a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” High dietary intake of saturated fat is associated with reduced semen quality among 701 young Danish men from the general population.” Unfortunately only the abstract is on free view – I’ve got hold of the full article to see what it’s all about.

As the article title confirms – the study involved 701 Danish men who signed up for military training between April 2008 and June 2010. The men “delivered a semen sample, underwent a physical examination, and answered a questionnaire comprising a quantitative food-frequency questionnaire to assess food and nutrient intakes.” The food questionnaire was intended to review the three months prior to the military training sign up appointment.

The full article states (in the introduction) “We therefore examined the associations between dietary fat intakes and semen quality among 701 young Danish men from the general population, hypothesizing that a high intake of saturated fat is associated with reduced semen quality.” So, the researchers hypothesised that saturated fat intake is associated with reduced semen quality before doing the study. As Einstein said, if you know what you’re looking for, it ain’t research!

The conclusions of the study were: “…men in the highest quartile of saturated fat intake had a 38% (95% CI: 0.1%, 61%) lower sperm concentration and a 41% (95% CI: 4%, 64%) lower total sperm count than did men in the lowest quartile. No association between semen quality and intake of other types of fat was found.”

Table 2 is interesting. This has semen volume, sperm concentration, total sperm count and motile sperm (the latter gives an indication of the quality of the sperm – their ability to move effectively towards an egg) against the different quartiles for total fat, SFA, MUFA, PUFA and even gets down to omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Let’s just take the part of the table for SFA vs the sperm measurements:

This tells me that the ‘best’ intake of saturated fat for semen volume, sperm concentration, total sperm count and motile sperm is 11.2-13.27% of dietary energy (a bit precise, but that’s what it suggests). There’s barely any difference between the third and fourth quartiles and the second quartile is ‘better’ than the first. This is notwithstanding all the variables stacked against the quartiles as they go up from 1 to 4 for everything else – alcohol, smoking, STD’s, age, being underweight etc.

Table 3 tries to “take into account confounders”. However, it only tries to take into account BMI, alcohol consumption, smoking and the period of abstinence before the sample. It doesn’t appear to take into account the nearly three times higher incidence of STDs and there being more men in Q4 over 20 than in Q1. Even if all attempted confounders have been perfectly accounted for (and I can’t see how, from the SFA data in Table 2 being unremarkable and the different attributes in Table 1 being significant), surely the difference in age in Q4 and the highly significant difference in the incidence of STDs could alone explain any difference in sperm quality? (Again – not that the difference in sperm quality in Table 2 is much to get excited about).

Table 3 also no longer mentions motility – that’s the statistic to get excited about if you’re trying to conceive – why was this dropped? Did it not give ‘the right’ answer?

It also makes no sense to claim an association with saturated fat and not total fat or any other fat. Saturated fat cannot be eaten alone. Every single food on the planet that contains saturated fat also contains monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat – there are no exceptions. The extracted numbers from Table 1 confirm that total fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat all increased from Quartile 1 to Quartile 4 and yet we are led to believe that only saturated fat is associated with sperm concentration and sperm count.

Not only is this not plausible, no plausible mechanism is offered for any possible explanation for proposed association throughout the article. How can saturated fat intake (alone from other fat intake and total fat intake) impact sperm concentration and sperm count?

If the period of abstinence tells us anything, a much more interesting headline could have been “Men who eat more saturated fat have sex more frequently!”


Statins risk for women: Taking cholesterol-lowering drug for more than ten years 'doubles chances of the most common breast cancer'

The statin religion is unraveling at long last

Women who take statins for more than a decade face double the risk of contracting the most common type of breast cancer.

Alarming findings raise new concerns over the long-term safety of a widely prescribed medicine in the UK.

Previous studies have suggested the cholesterol-lowering drugs, used by an estimated eight million men and women, can reduce the risk of certain cancers – including the breast form of the disease.

However, most research looked at patients who had only been on them for five years or less.

The latest findings identified invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) which starts in the ducts of the breast before spreading inwards. It accounts for around seven out of ten breast cancer cases.

The experts at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, US, also found the chances of getting invasive lobular carcinoma, which accounts for ten to 15 per cent of breast cancers, went up almost 2.5 times in some women on statins long-term.

Around 48,000 women in Britain are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, equal to around 130 a day. A woman has a one in nine chance of developing the disease at some point in her life.

The reasons why the anti-cholesterol pills might stimulate cancer growth are unclear.

The researchers said one explanation may be that statins affect hormone regulation in the body, especially as the study found women on the drugs were significantly more likely to suffer cancers driven by the hormone oestrogen.

They said it’s possible that while short-term use does appear to have a protective effect against breast cancer, in the long-run statins may damage certain chemical pathways that lead to growth of tumours.

The report found: ‘As more women are taking them and for longer durations it is possible we will observe effects that prior studies could not detect.’

Last night, leading UK cancer bodies called for urgent research to clarify the risks to women.

But they urged patients on statins not to stop taking them without consulting their GP.

Sally Greenbrook, from the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘Any study suggesting a potential link between statins and breast cancer risk should not be taken lightly. But these drugs are extremely effective at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.’

Jessica Harris, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘There’s been a huge amount of research into the link between statins and cancer. ‘But so far there’s no conclusive answer, with some studies showing a reduced risk, some no link, and others showing a raised risk.’

Statins have also emerged as a major weapon against heart disease in the last 20 years.

The latest research, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, examined how long-term statin use affected breast cancer risk in women aged between 55 and 74.

The researchers studied just under 2,000 women diagnosed with either IDC or ILC between 2000 and 2008 and a separate group of 902 women of a similar age profile but who were free of cancer.

Around 370 men a year in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer – but the latest research did not investigate the cancer risk of men taking statins.


21 July, 2013

Why ARE high-flying women more at risk of developing breast cancer?

Nobody seems to know why.  I note however that fat is protective against breast cancer and career women would be mostly slim

Jan O'Mahony loved her job as a GP, but it was highly demanding, especially when she started taking on extra managerial responsibilities.

She often found herself working in the evenings, which she had to juggle with running a home, raising two daughters and worrying about her two elderly parents. It all added up to a hectic lifestyle that will sound familiar to millions of British women.

‘It was pressurised and I can remember times when I felt exhausted, but it became second nature,’ says Jan, 59, from Leeds. ‘Certainly my husband Don was concerned, but I convinced him I was fine and it was what I wanted to do - and it was. I loved my job. There was no reason to worry about my health.’

Then, at the end of a holiday in October 2009, Jan noticed a lump in her breast. Concerned, she immediately went for tests - and her worst fears were realised.

‘I knew, just from the nature of the lump, that it could be cancer. But it's still a horrible shock when you hear those words,’ she recalls. ‘It's something that's on your “dread list” as a woman.’

Signed off work to begin surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she started to take stock.  ‘I started to worry about the stress of my job, and what role it might have played in me getting cancer,’ she says. ‘Breast cancer doesn't develop overnight and I'm not saying that was the cause of it, but in the two years prior to the diagnosis, I was under a lot of pressure.

‘I also wondered if putting myself back in that situation would affect my risk of recurrence.’

Anyone told they have a serious illness will instinctively look for a reason. Often there is none. But in the case of breast cancer, research is increasingly showing that one particular group is at more risk: professional women.

The latest findings, published in June in the journal Social Science & Medicine, are dramatic. Researchers analysed data from about 4,000 women over a 55-year period and found that women in professional jobs were nearly 70 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer than housewives or women in ‘lower-status occupations’.

'There's no doubt stress affects your immune system. I don't know what part it played in my illness, but this coloured my view in terms of coming back to work'

So why are high achieving women such a high risk group? Might 'having it all' also unfortunately include breast cancer? Putting off babies to forge a career may be one factor. Breast cancer is commonly driven by the hormone oestrogen, and it's known that having children, and breastfeeding before the age of 30, offer natural protection because they reduce the total number of menstrual cycles a woman has, lowering her oestrogen levels.

Some 49,564 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK in 2010, up from 37,107 women in 1995. Experts suggest this rise is partly driven by the fact that women are delaying their families until later in life: nearly half of all births in England and Wales are now to women over 30, according to the Office of National Statistics.

And women in demanding careers are the group most likely of all to put off having children, or not have them at all. They also have smaller families. ‘There's no doubt professional women are more likely to get breast cancer,’ says Lester Barr, consultant breast surgeon at South Manchester University and Christie Hospitals, and chairman of the charity Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention.

‘There's definitely a link and it's probably a combination of factors. First, professional women tend to have fewer children, they have them later in life and they may breastfeed for less time, all of which are risk factors for breast cancer because of its relationship with the oestrogen cycle.’

Mr Barr adds that alcohol - which has also been linked to breast cancer - is another factor. Figures published last year showed professional middle-aged women were drinking more than teenagers for the first time, downing 9.1 units a week on average.

'Research found that the longer the woman held a job, the greater the risk of cancer, and that being in authority over others was a risk factor'

‘Women are drinking twice as much as they did and professional women tend to have a glass of wine every day to relax,’ he says. ‘Another drive may be more use of the contraceptive pill, and more use of HRT to avoid menopausal symptoms in a high-pressure job.’

Both the pill and HRT change oestrogen levels in women and so may encourage cancer to develop. A 2011 study estimated that just over three out of 100 breast cancers in women in the UK are linked to HRT use.

However, the latest study offered another explanation for professional women's susceptibility to breast cancer: stress. The researchers said that lifestyle and hormonal factors could not fully explain the increased incidence of tumours among this group, and believe the pressures of entering a male-dominated workplace could also have had a role.

‘Women who entered managerial occupations in the 1970s experienced prejudice and discrimination due to prevailing cultural attitudes that men made better leaders than women,’ said Dr Tetyana Pudrovska, who led the study.

‘Exercising job authority was particularly stressful for women... we believe women are still facing the same kind of stresses, and therefore the increased risk is likely to be there today.’

The research found that the longer the woman held a job, the greater the risk of cancer, and that being in authority over others was a risk factor. And this is just the latest evidence to suggest a relationship between stress and cancer.

In 2007, a study of 36,000 Swedish working women aged 30 to 50 found those who felt stressed at work were 30 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who felt in control of things.

Experts have suggested that consistently high levels of the stress hormone cortisol may inhibit the immune system, allowing cancerous cells to flourish.

Jan O'Mahony may never know if the strain of taking on too much did play a role in her illness, but after the shock of being diagnosed with early stage cancer, and the trauma of treatment and recovery, she decided to give up her job completely.

‘Thankfully, I got a good prognosis, and I wanted to put myself at the lowest possible risk of recurrence,’ she says. ‘There's no doubt stress affects your immune system. I don't know what part it played in my illness, but this coloured my view in terms of coming back to work. You only get one crack at life and I had to listen to what my heart was saying.’

She adds that now she has more free time she is able to lead a healthier lifestyle. It's well known that regular exercise, a balanced diet and keeping a healthy weight are all protective against cancer and its return.

'When the cancer came back, I wondered if continuing to work at such a fast pace was the reason why'

‘I've got a better balance in my life now,’ she says. ‘I think women, and particularly my generation, tend to just take things on without thinking about it. As I'd got older I'd found exercise harder and harder to fit in. Now I do Pilates and go to the gym every week and I've lost weight.’

About 55,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Just over 80 per cent of cases occur in women aged over 50

So could too many deadlines contribute to a tumour? The theory that stress causes cancer is still controversial. Analysis of 12 trials in six countries, published in the British Medical Journal, found no link between work-related stress levels and cancer.

One problem is that stress is notoriously difficult to define. For this reason Dr Pudrovska's paper has been criticised by some experts.

‘What one person considers stressful might be enjoyable to another,’ says Dr Hannah Bridges, senior information officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer. ‘The researchers didn't ask the women what their stress levels were.’

Whether high-achieving women are putting themselves under so much pressure it's making them ill may be open to debate. But it often takes something as serious as cancer to get us to reassess our priorities.


Taking omega-3 fish oil supplements may increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer by 70%

Is the fish-oil religion dying at last?

A supplement taken by millions for its health benefits may trigger aggressive and lethal prostate cancer, research has shown.

Omega-3 fatty acids, derived from fish oils and lauded for their anti-inflammatory properties, were found to increase the risk of high-grade disease by 71 per cent.

Taking omega-3 was also associated with a 44 per cent greater chance of developing low-grade prostate cancer. Overall, the fatty acids raised the risk of all prostate cancers by 43 per cent.

High blood concentrations of all three omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in supplements, EPA, DPA and DHA, were linked to the findings.

Scientists conducting the study compared blood samples from 834 men diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 1,393 participants without the disease.

The results add to evidence published in 2011 by the same U.S. team which associated high blood levels of DHA with a doubling of the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

Co-author Dr Thodore Brasky, from Ohio State University, said: ‘What's important is that we have been able to replicate our findings from 2011 and we have confirmed that marine omega-3 fatty acids play a role in prostate cancer occurrence.’

Writing in the online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the scientists said the evidence suggested that the fatty acids played a role in prostate cancer development.

People tempted to up their intake of omega-3, particularly by means of supplements, ‘should consider its potential risks’.

Omega-3 fish oils are one of the most fashionable and popular supplements on the high street.

They are said to have a plethora of health benefits, including protection against heart attacks and strokes, staving off arthritis, boosting brain power, and preventing behavioural disorders in children.

Each year Britons reportedly spend around £116 million on fish oil supplements. Globally, omega-3 sales run into billions.

The new study involved men participating in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (Select), which investigated potential ways to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

No benefit was seen from selenium and an increased number of prostate cancers occurred among men taking vitamin E.

Men with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than those with the lowest levels.

In terms of blood concentration, the difference between the two groups was somewhat greater than the effect of eating salmon twice a week, said lead scientist Dr Alan Kristal, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

‘We've shown once again that use of nutritional supplements may be harmful,’ he said.

Further research is needed to uncover the mechanisms that might cause omega-3 to drive prostate cancer, said the researchers.

One potentially harmful effect was the conversion of omega-3 fatty acids into compounds that can damage cells and DNA, they added.

Omega-3 was also thought to contribute to immunosuppression, the dampening down of the immune system.

It was not known to what extent omega-3 might affect the progress of prostate cancer in men who already had the disease.

‘It's important to note that these results do not address the question of whether omega-3s play a detrimental role in prostate cancer prognosis,’ said Dr Brasky.

Each year around 41,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer and 11,000 die from the disease.


19 July, 2013

Later retirement helps prevent dementia, French study finds

Hasn't it occurred to anyone that earlier retirement might be brought about by dementia?  That would be the most parsimonious explanation of the findings below

NEW research boosts the "use it or lose it" theory about brainpower and staying mentally sharp. People who delay retirement have less risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, a study of nearly half a million people in France found.

It's by far the largest study to look at this, and researchers say the conclusion makes sense. Working tends to keep people physically active, socially connected and mentally challenged - all things known to help prevent mental decline.

"For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2 per cent," said Carole Dufouil, a scientist at INSERM, the French government's health research agency.

She led the study and gave results today at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Boston.

About 35 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer's is the most common type. What causes the mind-robbing disease isn't known and there is no cure or any treatments that slow its progression.

France has had some of the best Alzheimer's research in the world, partly because its former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, made it a priority. The country also has detailed health records on self-employed people who pay into a Medicare-like health system.

Researchers used these records on more than 429,000 workers, most of whom were shopkeepers or craftsmen such as bakers and woodworkers. They were 74 on average and had been retired for an average of 12 years.

Nearly 3 per cent had developed dementia but the risk of this was lower for each year of age at retirement. Someone who retired at 65 had about a 15 per cent lower risk of developing dementia compared to someone retiring at 60, after other factors that affect those odds were taken into account, Ms Dufouil said.

To rule out the possibility that mental decline may have led people to retire earlier, researchers did analyses that eliminated people who developed dementia within 5 years of retirement, and within 10 years of it.

"The trend is exactly the same," suggesting that work was having an effect on cognition, not the other way around, Ms Dufouil said.

France mandates retirement in various jobs - civil servants must retire by 65, she said. The new study suggests "people should work as long as they want" because it may have health benefits, she said.

June Springer, who just turned 90, thinks it does. She was hired as a full-time receptionist at Caffi Plumbing & Heating in Alexandria, Virginia, eight years ago.

"I'd like to give credit to the company for hiring me at that age," she said. "It's a joy to work, being with people and keeping up with current events. I love doing what I do. As long as God grants me the brain to use I'll take it every day."

Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the US Alzheimer's Association, said the study results don't mean everyone needs to delay retirement.

"It's more staying cognitively active, staying socially active, continue to be engaged in whatever it is that's enjoyable to you" that's important, she said.

"My parents are retired but they're busier than ever. They're taking classes at their local university, they're continuing to attend lectures and they're continuing to stay cognitively engaged and socially engaged in their lives."


It’s a mad world: Rotten Apple edition

By Rick Manning

In case the NY city elections are not special enough, New York’s current wacky, billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg  is back at it.  Still smarting from his large soda ban going by the wayside, Bloomberg signed an edict demanding that every resident of the City compost their waste.

Yes, keeping your smelly coffee grinds, egg shells, banana peels and food scraps in a container to decompose for a long period of time is now required in the City.  Even composters think this idea is nuts.

The Washington Times quotes Jeff Stier, the New York City-based director of risk analysis for the National Center for Public Policy Research, a composting supporter as saying, “…we live in a big city, not on a farm, and while composting is a great idea in certain circumstances, it doesn’t make sense to mandate that all New York residents save their rotting food,” he says. “Consider the increased risks from disease-carrying vermin, a problem the city still hasn’t conquered, from all of the pre-compost material sitting around our dense living spaces.”

Considering the rats that New York City voters are likely to elect to local office in the months ahead, why is anyone surprised that the current Mayor wants New Yorkers to save their rotten apples unfazed by the likelihood of attracting the four legged kind?

Ole’ Blues Eyes would be weeping if he could see the City that never sleeps now.


17 July, 2013

Sweets, fast food and fizzy drinks linked to bowel cancer for the first time

It was just another correlational study and the authors acknowledge that no causal relationbship was demonstrated. Probably just a social class effect.  More details  here

Eating sweets, fast food and drinking fizzy drinks may lead to bowel cancer, a study has found.  Research show that high-energy snack foods are a risk factor of colorectal cancer – alongside a lack of exercise and smoking.  This is the first proof of a connection between the disease and a diet high in sugar and fat.

A research team examined more than 170 types of foods, including ‘healthy options’ such as vegetables and fish, and high sugar snacks such as chocolate and fruit drinks and fatty options like crisps.

As well as established risk factors of colorectal cancer - a family history of cancer, low exercise and tobacco, the team identified new ones.  Among them were a high intake of high-energy snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks.

The ‘positive connection’ found between diet and bowel cancer is the first proof of the popular theory.

The study, published in the latest edition of the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, builds on previous research into the link between bowel cancer and diet.

Dr Evropi Theodoratou from Edinburgh University’s School of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences, who carried out the study said: ‘What we have found is very interesting and it merits further investigation using large population studies.

‘While the positive associations between a diet high in sugar and fat and colorectal cancer do not automatically imply "cause and effect", it is important to take on board what we’ve found - especially as people in industrialised countries are consuming more of these foods.’


Top psychiatrist: 'We are turning childhood into a disease'

FOR any parent, having to accept your child needs psychiatric drugs must be agonising. But when Susan Bevis's 13-year-old daughter Amy suffered a breakdown after a vicious campaign of school bullying, drugs seemed the only option - as instructed by psychiatrists.

Amy's ordeal began when she simply fell out with a clique of girls. The situation steadily worsened and she faced constant online bullying as well as being physically attacked in class. Gangs started to follow her home, and the family house and car were damaged. Neither the police nor school seemed able to do anything.

Under this terrible strain, Amy began to break down. After months of sleeplessness and extreme anxiety, she said she'd begun to hear voices in her head. Her mother sought medical help. Instead of being offered counselling and social support, Amy was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having 'first-rank schizophrenia', which means she had signs of the condition.

Susan was initially sceptical, but was so anxious to get help she reluctantly agreed to Amy being given medication - this was Risperdal, an antipsychotic that changes the way chemicals in the brain work.

The effects of the medication

"The results were shocking," recalls Susan. "After only a matter of weeks, her slim body ballooned, her legs were like tree trunks, her eyes became dead-looking, her hair was lank and she felt constantly tired."

Although Amy's 'schizophrenic' symptoms were relieved, she was bullied even more. Worried, Susan researched the drug. "The official information said it had never been trialled on children. I was shocked. Amy wanted to come off it, so I agreed" she said.

Worryingly, Amy seemed to relapse, suffering from hallucinations again. "But in fact, she was suffering withdrawal symptoms from the drug," says Susan. After weeks of agony, the symptoms began to subside. The solution to her problems was to move school.

Susan, now a single mother, scrimped and saved to send Amy to a theatre school - "it was the making of her," she says. "My daughter has wanted to be an actress since she was four. It gave her an interest - and an interest is a way of distracting a child from trauma."

Amy is 22 now and is, says her mother, "happy and on top of the world". She's starting her career on the stage, having graduated with a university degree in theatre arts. "The truth is that my daughter never had "first-rank schizophrenia" - she was being bullied and was under terrible stress."

Susan is full of scorn for the psychiatric community's readiness to label children as mentally ill then give them powerful and potentially damaging drugs. She's become a vociferous critic on the subject, appearing at conferences and pressure groups.

She is particularly dismissive of the way psychiatrists often make their diagnosis using the profession's 'bible' - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), just published in its fifth version (DSM-5).

Inside DSM-5

The manual is written by an influential committee of American psychiatrists and lists official diagnoses and symptoms - its clinical definitions are used by professionals the world over as a guide for labelling psychiatric illnesses, and giving drug treatment.

One of the major criticisms is that the number of new psychiatric diagnoses added to it is rising exponentially. In 1952, the manual was 130 pages long. The fifth edition has 992 pages. And this latest edition has controversially added new diagnoses such as 'Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder', which essentially makes children's temper tantrums a mental illness.

Critics believe the manuals are "disease mongering" - inventing labels for conditions that don't really exist, but are normal, albeit difficult, facets of human nature.

"If you look at the DSM-5 there is a diagnosis for everyone. But there is no scientific proof to back many of them," says Susan, adding, only half in jest: "No doubt they would have a diagnosis for me, as I have challenged the psychiatrists about their care."

One might expect such scepticism from a mother with a bad experience of the psychiatric profession. But the fact is that spiralling numbers of children are being diagnosed with "mental health problems" that may often be merely behavioural.

Let's look at ADHD as an example. According to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, ADHD affects about 6.8 per cent of Australian children. Other estimates suggest the prevalence rate among 6 to 17-year-olds in Australia is around 11 per cent.

Recent British figures show that 650,000 children between the ages of eight and 13 are on the drug Ritalin for ADHD. The New York Times reported that 11 per cent of American children have been diagnosed with ADHD.

The psychiatrist who agrees

Now, one of the world's leading psychiatrists has blown the lid off this burgeoning problem.

Dr Allen Frances chaired the taskforce that wrote the previous version of the DSM, in 1994. At the time, he was described by the New York Times as "the most powerful psychiatrist in America". But now he admits his version of the manual helped open the floodgates for an epidemic of over-diagnosis of children's mental illness and mass over-medication, with potentially devastating side-effects.

"In the past 20 years, diagnosis rates of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have tripled, while autistic disorder and childhood bipolar disorder have each increased by a remarkable 40-fold," says Dr Frances, an emeritus professor at Duke University School of Medicine in South Carolina.

"This is not because our kids have suddenly become sicker, it's just that diagnoses are applied to them more loosely."

He fears the latest edition will make the problem even worse. The result has been a bonanza for the pharmaceutical industry. For example over the past 20 years, the worldwide value of the market for ADHD drugs alone has grown from $18 million to $18 billion a year.

And the long-term effects of these drugs on children remains a perilous unknown, because rigorous safety checks were not performed on children before the medicines were launched.

"It is a mass public health experiment that has been done without anyone's informed consent," says Dr Frances. "We have no idea about the long-term effects.

"We do know that in the short term antipsychotic drugs cause tremendous weight gain. A child weighing 50 kilograms will put on 5.5 kilograms in only 12 weeks. This is bound to be a factor for diabetes and heart disease. There is also controversy over whether the long-term use of brain-stimulating drugs causes children to grow up likely to become adult drug abusers."

The fear is that Ritalin-type medications are so similar to amphetamine or cocaine they create addictive yearnings in young brains that may lead to later drug abuse. There are also concerns that ADHD medication damages young brains in similar ways to cocaine which, ironically, may make them into impulsive and antisocial adults.

"Whatever the long-term effect of these stimulant medications, we do know that they are being over-used massively because of over-diagnosis," says Dr Frances. "And being wrongly told you have a mental problem at a young age can have a crippling effect for life."

Temper tantrums on the list

Dr Frances is particularly worried by the new addition to DSM-5 of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.

"The idea of turning temper tantrums into a mental disorder is terrible," he says. Futhermore, "the criteria for diagnosing it were pretty much conjured out of thin air".

Tellingly, in France, where they shun the DSM, the proportion of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than half a per cent. In Britain it's around 4 per cent. It is estimated one in every 100 Australian children is on medication to treat ADHD symptoms.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is keen to play down the influence of the manual, claiming that they pair the DSM information with "another set of psychiatric-illness classifications - the International Classification of Disease, which is published by the World Health Organisation," says a spokeswoman.

"The Royal College recognises there are some valid criticisms of the DSM approach. All diagnostic classifications in medicine have been, and always will be, evolving and ready to be improved in response to new scientific evidence."

In the meantime there is more medication on the way. In February drug regulators in the UK granted a licence for a new class of ADHD drug, Elvanse, approved for children six and older who haven't responded to Ritalin-type medication, despite a list of known side-effects, such as anxiety, weight loss, stunted growth and heart problems. The drug is not yet available in Australia but is also licensed in Canada.

As Dr Frances knows only too well, it is very easy to add new diagnoses and drugs for children. But it is very difficult indeed to reverse this pharmaceutical tide. As his interview with Good Health drew to a close, he gave a deep sigh and warned: "We are turning childhood into a disease.


16 July, 2013

Just ONE pint of beer boosts heart health by improving blood flow and make arteries more flexible

This is in line with many other studies

Drinking a pint of beer a day could improve the health of your heart, research shows.  Scientists found blood flow to the heart improved within a couple of hours of polishing off two-thirds of a pint - and that the effect was more powerful than drinking a non-alcoholic equivalent.

Arteries became more flexible and blood flow improved within a couple of hours of drinking the equivalent of two-thirds of a pint.

But alcohol-free beer did not have the same powerful effect, the study found.

The findings, by researchers in Greece, support previous evidence that moderate beer consumption may protect against heart disease.

Some evidence suggests a pint a day may reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by up to 30 per cent.

But this is believed to be one of the first studies to look at what actually happens to the cardiovascular system immediately after a pint is downed.

Britain guzzles its way through 130 pints of beer per person a year.

Scientists at Harokopio University in Athens recruited 17 non-smoking men aged in their late twenties and early thirties.
The research adds to the body of evidence that beer helps to maintain a healthy heart

The research adds to the body of evidence that beer helps to maintain a healthy heart

Each one had their cardiovascular health measured within an hour or two of drinking 400ml of beer - equivalent to just over two-thirds of a pint.

They later they had the same tests done after drinking the same amount of alcohol-free beer or a measure of vodka.

Researchers tested for endothelial function - a measure of how easily blood passes through major arteries - as well as aortic stiffness, a check designed to assess whether blood vessels are nice and relaxed or beginning to harden.

The results, published online in the journal Nutrition, showed all three drinks had some beneficial effect on the stiffness of arteries but beer had the greatest benefit.

In a report on their findings the researchers said: ‘Endothelial function was significantly improved only after beer consumption.’

They said the combination of alcohol and antioxidants in beer may be crucial to the drink’s healthy effects.

Darker beers, like stouts and ales, have been shown to be better for the heart than lager.

Heart disease is Britain’s biggest killer. Around 270,000 people a year suffer a heart attack and nearly one in three die before they reach hospital.

Fatty diets, lack of exercise and smoking are all key risk factors.

Although excess alcohol consumption is thought to increase the dangers of heart disease, moderate intake of beer and wine has been shown to have a protective effect.


Could SKIMMED milk be contributing to obesity epidemic? Low-fat dairy can encourage weight gain, say experts

This is one of many examples of theory failures

For years, people have swapped a creamy pint of whole milk for a watery bottle of skimmed to help boost their weight loss efforts.

But new research has discovered that drinking skimmed milk might in fact be making us bigger, not smaller.

Government guidelines currently recommend that people consume ‘moderate amounts of milk and dairy, choosing reduced fat versions or eating smaller amounts of full fat versions or eating them less often.’

It is generally thought that by drinking skimmed milk you can get whole milk’s benefits – Vitamin D, calcium and protein amongst others - without the fat and calories.

By reducing the fat, the skimmed milk is certainly lower in calories, but the authors of the study - David Ludwig, of Boston's Children Hospital, and Dr. Walter Willett, of the Harvard School of Public Health - believe lower calorie beverages do not necessarily mean lower calorie intake.

They say there is very little data to back up the idea that skimmed milk promotes weight loss or management and that because reduced fat foods might not be as filling, they could lead consumers to compensate by eating and drinking more.

A previous study actually found that those who drank low fat milk had a higher chance of being overweight later on in life, according to Time Magazine.

‘Our original hypothesis was that children who drank high fat milk, either whole milk or two per cent, would be heavier because they were consuming more saturated fat calories,’ said author of the study Dr. Mark Daniel DeBoer, an associate professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Virgina School of Medicine.

‘We were really surprised when we looked at the data and it was very clear that within every ethnicity and every socioeconomic strata, that it was actually the opposite, that children who drank skim milk and one-percent were heavier than those who drank two-percent and whole.’

It should be noted that even full-fat milk only contains three to four per cent fat anyway.

In addition to this, companies trying to sell reduced-fat milk products may also increase sugar levels to make them taste better.

One glass of low-fat chocolate milk contains 158 calories - 68 of them coming from solid fats and added sugars - while a glass of unflavoured, semi-skimmed milk has 122 calories, with 37 of them coming from solid fats and sugars.

‘Somehow this low-fat milk has become so entrenched in the nutritional psyche, it persists despite the absence of evidence,' said Mr Ludwig.

‘To the contrary, the evidence that now exists suggests an adverse effect of reduced-fat milk.'

Finally, it should not be forgotten that research has shown that skimmed milk also provides less nutrients than whole.

Full-fat dairy is a vital source of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K as well as calcium and phosphorus, the minerals that work with vitamin D for build strong bones.

But the term 'fat-soluble' means that these vitamins need to be delivered in or with fat for the nutrients to be available to the body. Taking the fat out makes it difficult or even impossible to absorb them.

The new study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.


15 July, 2013

Having divorced parents increases the risk of cancer and heart disease, experts warn

As Terman & Oden showed long ago, high IQ people divorce less.  High IQ helps them to make their marriages work.  So this is just another instance of lower class people having worse health

Having divorced parents increase your risk of cancer and heart disease, according to new research.

A broken home in childhood has been linked to raised inflammation in adulthood, that can lead to a host of illnesses including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Youngsters whose mother and father split up before they reached 16, regardless of whether they were married, had 16 per cent higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) at the age of 44.

CRP is found in the blood, and increased amounts are a sign of inflammation in the body, a known risk factor for disease.

The study is based on data from 7,462 people in the 1958 National Child Development Study, which has followed them since birth.

The University College London researchers also found that people with divorced parents were more likely to be less materially well off, and to achieve fewer educational qualifications.

They believe that this could explain the increase in inflammation.

Epidemiologist Dr Rebecca Lacey said: ‘Our study suggests it is not parental divorce or separation per se which increases the risk of later inflammation but that it is other social disadvantages, such as how well the child does in education, which are triggered by having experienced parental divorce which are important.’

She said the findings underline the importance of supporting separating families in order to help reduce the risk of later disease.

The study added that ‘pathways through education appear to be particularly important and supporting children through education may be beneficial’.

Previous research has found divorce can have a 'domino effect' triggering a string of reactions that knock a child down.

They are more likely to smoke, fall behind academically and in social skills, and be more susceptible to sickness.

There is also an increased likelihood of them dropping out of school and turning to crime, and a greater chance of them ending up getting divorced themselves.

A higher risk of stroke and premature death have also been linked to the emotional trauma of seeing your parents break up.


My God!  A politician who goes by evidence!

Britain: A proposed law to force firms to sell cigarettes in plain packets will be scrapped today.

Ministers have spent over a year considering the idea, which campaigners say is backed by a majority of MPs and the public.

But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will tell Parliament there is not enough evidence it would have a significant impact.

It comes as the Home Office also prepares to scrap its planned ban on two-for-one drinks deals, another measure aimed at improving public health.

In Australia, the only country to adopt plain packaging, all cigarette packs are drab green, which research suggests non-smokers and young people find less appealing.

A Whitehall source said: ‘Only Australia has done it so far and they only did it at the end of last year. So it is not clear yet whether or not it would actually have any effect. It is very hard to tell, which is why it is being shelved for now.’

Smoking causes over 100,000 deaths a year in the UK. Last April, displaying cigarettes in supermarkets was banned, and this will be extended to all other shops from April 2015.

David Cameron supported plain packs at first, but the Government has cooled on the idea.

While health groups have called it a ‘golden opportunity’ to cut smoking-related disease, industry insiders say plain packs will lead to more counterfeit cigarettes and less tax revenue. Some Tory MPs condemned it as a ‘nanny state’ measure.

The Prime Minister has also abandoned a ban on multi-buy drink offers, such as two-for-one or supermarket ‘meal deals’ with free wine, amid fears it would affect responsible consumers rather than problem drinkers.

The Home Office is expected to shelve the idea next week along with plans for a minimum alcohol price per unit of 45p.  A Government source said the ideas were ‘dead and buried’.

Instead, selling alcohol below cost price, or the rate of duty plus VAT, will be banned – affecting only a handful of products.


14 July, 2013

Leave our packed lunches alone, Nanny Staters

James Delingpole

I like Henry Dimbleby. He's a delightful fellow, he runs a top notch, high-end fast food chain (Leon) and if I'd been in his shoes when the call came from 10 Downing Street to volunteer as Britain's latest school dinners czar I'm sure I too would have said "yes."

But I'm sure I would have hated myself every day thereafter. Why? Because my new job would have entailed coming up with Nanny Statist crap like this:

     "Mr Dimbleby said: "More than a half of our children bring packed lunches into school and two-thirds of those have crisps in them and two-thirds have confectionery in them.  "The best schools – the schools that have good food – find ways of making packed lunch the less exciting option. Some of them ban packed lunch altogether."

"Mr Dimbleby", it seems to me, is coming perilously close to suggesting that the decision as to what children eat at school should be a matter for the State rather than parents. Can he really believe this? Is there nothing about saying this sort of thing that makes him uneasy?

I mean sure, I agree with him on the principle that a good, well-prepared hot meal at lunchtime is probably more filling and nourishing than a packet-bread sandwich and a packet of crisps. Problem is, not all school canteens offer quite the same range and quality you might find in – oh, I don't know, let's pluck a random example from the air, shall we? – Bekynton.

Having put children through the state system myself I know whereof I speak. A new caterer arrived at my daughter's primary school to much fanfare and for a while the food was great and most parents gratefully abandoned packed lunches (which, let me tell you, are a real hassle for a parent to prepare because they have to be done fresh in the morning when you're already in a rush having breakfast and getting ready for the school run) and welcomed the new regime. But then standards began slipping to the point where my daughter (who, like a lot of children whose staple diet is gastro-porn TV programmes from the Great British Bake Off to Masterchef, genuinely cares about food) couldn't eat the stuff any more. Again: is "Mr Dimbleby" seriously suggesting that schools should force children to go on eating in the canteen regardless of how disgusting they find the food?

You hear similar arguments from well-heeled progressive types on the school system generally. "If only public schools were abolished and all those pushy middle-class strivers were forced to put their children through the state system, standards would rise across the board." Well, possibly. What would more likely happen is that all those scrubbed, diligent, nicely spoken, polite young poshos would be dragged down to the level of the lowest common denominator. And in any case it's not an experiment which has any right being attempted anywhere in a Western notionally free-market economy. Why not? Because it's illiberal bordering on the totalitarian, is why.

Get this, nice Henry Dimbleby! Get this, David Cameron! It is not the government's job to dictate to children what they can and cannot eat. That decision should be the parents' and the parents' alone. This even applies when parents make the wrong decision (as many parents undoubtedly will). Sure some children may end up obese, sure others may find it difficult concentrating in class – but allowing families the right to make wrong decisions is one of the prices we pay for living in a free society.

Creating a better society through improved diet has long been the dream of domineering politicians. Here's one, quoted in Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, sounding like he'd do very well on one of David Cameron's task forces.

    The artificial is everywhere; everywhere food is adulterated, filled with ingredients that supposedly make it last longer, or look better, or pass as 'enriched', or whatever else the industry's ad men want us to believe… [W]e are in the hands of the food companies, whose economic clout and advertising make it possible for them to describe what we can and cannot eat….we shall take energetic steps to prevent the ruin of our people by the food industries.

You can almost hear the harpies at MumsNet applauding every word, can't you?

Yup, he sure knew a thing or two about the importance of nutrition, did good old Heinrich Himmler.


Human trials for wonder drug that shrinks cancerous tumors to begin next year

Mouse data.  May not generalize to people

A drug that helps the immune system to break down cancerous tumors has been developed and is set to begin human testing early next year.

The drug, developed by researchers at the University of Stanford, has been successful on different of cancers - including  breast, bowel, prostate, ovarian and brain - and could even be a cure, they said.

The drug's effectiveness centers on its relationship with a protein called CD47, which is found on the surface of cancer cells in high quantities.

The protein prevents the cancer from being engulfed and eaten by immune cells called macrophages, which serve as the body's garbage trucks by eating old or damaged cells.

The researchers made antibodies that would bind to the CD-47 on the cancer cell so that when a macrophage came along, it did not see CD-47 on the cell and engulfed everything.

So when the drug masked this 'don't-eat-me signal', it allowed the immune system to attack the cancer, destroying some entirely and shrinking others.

Tests on mice showed it to work on a broad range of cancers and with minimal side-effects. Given to mice with human tumors, the antibody made them shrink and, in some cases, disappear.

When the CD47 antibodies were injected into the mice, they produced positive results for all types of cancer, research showed.

The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which first published the findings of Dr Irv Weissman earlier this year, adds that the drug 'dramatically' increased survival rates.

Dr Weissman, from the Stanford University School of Medicine, said: 'Blocking this "don't-eat-me" signal inhibits the growth in mice of nearly every human cancer we tested, with minimal toxicity.

'This shows conclusively that this protein, CD47, is a legitimate and promising target for human cancer therapy.'

Now the lab has received a $20 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to conduct studies on humans.

Weissman told The Great Falls Tribune that the trials will start in 2014, as early as February or as late as April, depending on when it is cleared with the Food and Drug Administration.

The team of researchers at Stanford plan on starting a small 10-100 person phase I clinical human trial of the cancer therapy next year, with the focus on leukemia patients.

A similar trial will take place in the United Kingdom, the Tribune reported.

But Weissman told the paper he was approaching the study with some apprehension.

'Everybody should know that no matter how good studies are, no matter how strong the principle is, when you get to humans there could be variations in humans that could make it not work, so we're prepared for that,' he said.

Weissman added that it will take at least five years after the completion of the trial to determine whether their CD-47 trial is even successful.

The New York Post added that people are already rushing to sign up to be part of the potentially ground-breaking study.


12 July, 2013

CDC admits long-standing error, there is no benefit in reducing salt

Theory proven wrong by multiple facts.  I have been saying this for years  -- JR

A recent report commissioned by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reviewed the health benefits of reducing salt intake and the take-home message is that salt, in the quantities consumed by most Americans, is no longer considered a substantial health hazard.

What the CDC study reported explicitly is that there is no benefit, and may be a danger, from reducing our salt intake below 1 tsp per day. What was absent about the report was is the difference between healthy mineral salts and iodized table salt.

It may be that we’re better off with more salt than less, up to 2 or even 3 tsp per day. How did it happen that such standard medical advice drifted astray, then went un-corrected for so long?

This review by the National Academies Institute of Medicine (IOM), commissioned by CDC, considered dozens of studies, from cross-cultural (less reliable) to prospective, randomized with control (most reliable). Most studies showed no relationship between salt intake and any health outcome. Some seemed to indicate that more salt had a beneficial effect.

One 2008 study the committee examined, for example, randomly assigned 232 Italian patients with aggressively treated moderate to severe congestive heart failure to consume either 2,760 or 1,840 milligrams of sodium a day, but otherwise to consume the same diet. Those consuming the lower level of sodium had more than three times the number of hospital readmissions — 30 as compared with 9 in the higher-salt group — and more than twice as many deaths — 15 as compared with 6 in the higher-salt group.

Another study, published in 2011, followed 28,800 subjects with high blood pressure ages 55 and older for 4.7 years and analyzed their sodium consumption by urinalysis. The researchers reported that the risks of heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure and death from heart disease increased significantly for those consuming more than 7,000 milligrams of sodium a day and for those consuming fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day.

To translate this last study into teaspoons: the finding was that anything between 1-1/2 and 3 tsp of salt per day is just fine, and there were adverse effects from eating more than that or less than that. Most Americans who are not consciously restricting salt fall in this range (1-1/2 to 3 tsp).

People who are on low-salt diets for medical reasons are getting as little as 1/2 tsp, and they’re well into the range where dearth of salt is harming them. The worst impact of low salt is on insulin sensitivity. Loss of insulin sensitivity is a big risk factor for all the diseases of old age.

Salt is the most common and readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world. So how could a mineral which we’ve bathed in and absorbed in all foods since our existence be so harmful for the human body? Two words. It isn’t. Actually, the opposite is true. A low salt diet will actually increase your risk of death.

World renowned salt researcher Dr. Brownstein states that even in those individuals with high blood pressure, the lowering effect is quite modest at best when reducing salt. Many researchers imply that any effect on blood pressure is not a direct consequence of salt at but other minerals acting on the body. Still, Dr. Brownstein will tell you that he learned in medical school the traditional party line that salt = hypertension (high blood pressure). A myth of mammoth proportions.

A study by lead researcher Dr. Niels Graudal, of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, adds to a growing body of research questioning the long-term benefits of a low-salt diet. A review of seven previous studies published in the journal the Cochrane Library found that a moderate reduction in salt intake did not reduce a person’s risk of dying or having heart disease.

In a systematic review published by The Cochrane Library, British scientists found that cutting salt consumption did not translate into lower death or heart disease risk. “With governments setting ever lower targets for salt intake and food manufacturers working to remove it from their products, it’s really important that we do some large research trials to get a full understanding of the benefits and risks of reducing salt intake,” said Rod Taylor of Exeter University, who led the review.

WHY have we been told that salt is so deadly? It has what nutritionists like to call “biological plausibility.” Eat more salt and your body retains water to maintain a stable concentration of sodium in your blood. This is why eating salty food tends to make us thirsty: we drink more; we retain water. The result can be a temporary increase in blood pressure, which will persist until our kidneys eliminate both salt and water.

The scientific question is whether this temporary phenomenon translates to chronic problems: if we eat too much salt for years, does it raise our blood pressure, cause hypertension, then strokes, and then kill us prematurely? The answer is no.

A paper published in the American Journal of Hypertension warns that once average daily consumption dips to below 6.25g, the risk of heart attacks and strokes starts to increase once more.

Restricting salt consumption increases levels of cholesterol and triglycerides — both of them harmful fats which cause heart disease — and also leads to insulin resistance (the early stages of type-2 diabetes). Diets low in salt also increase the levels of fat and hormones in the blood that are known to increase the risk of heart disease.


Iodine:  The IQ mineral

Table salt is normally iodized and that should be the end of any problems.  Enter the "war on salt", however, and iodine deficiency may build up -- and dire health outcomes may result

Unless you were a regular at the sushi bar or ate fish twice a week it used to be hard to get enough iodine in your diet – but there are signs that putting iodised salt in our bread has made this easier. Nearly four years ago concerns about iodine deficiency led to bread being fortified with iodised salt. Measures of iodine concentrations in the urine of school children in Tasmania show that iodine intake is higher now than before fortification began.

But we’re not out of the woods yet – there are also signs that pregnant women may not get enough iodine to ensure the optimal brain development of their unborn babies, says Associate Professor Karen Charlton of Wollongong University’s School of Health Sciences. Research by Charlton and her team suggests that many pregnant women may be low in this mineral which is essential for an unborn baby’s developing brain.

While adults need 150 mcg of iodine daily, the need for this mineral jumps by 50 per cent during pregnancy and breastfeeding - and that’s more than a few slices of bread with iodised salt can deliver. But although the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends iodine supplements for women who are pregnant or planning to be, Charlton says the message isn’t loud enough. 

“In surveys we’ve done in the Illawarra region, about 40 per cent of women attending public antenatal clinics said they don’t take iodine supplements. Women aren’t aware how important iodine is in pregnancy and my feeling is that many women aren’t given advice to take a supplement," says Charlton. “But new research has linked a low iodine intake in pregnancy with a reduced IQ in children.” 

One UK study published in the medical journal The Lancet in May, reported that children of women with  a mild to moderate iodine deficiency in pregnancy had lower scores for verbal IQ, reading accuracy and reading comprehension, compared to children born to women with adequate iodine intakes. A study from Tasmania’s Menzies Research Institute has also attributed better scores on the NAPLAN school test in nine-year-olds to differences in iodine intakes of their mothers in pregnancy.

“There are many factors affecting a child’s intellectual development, including childhood experiences and the parents’ education level – but these studies controlled for other factors and still found an impressive association with iodine intake in pregnancy,” Charlton says.

Most adults should be able to get enough iodine with three slices of bread (unless it’s organic bread which isn’t required to have iodised salt) and two to three serves of dairy food daily, a couple of serves of fish or seafood weekly and sushi now and again, Charlton says. But this may not be enough for pregnant women – especially those who don’t eat much bread or are wary of eating fish in pregnancy.

How did we get to be low on iodine to begin with? There are a few reasons - low iodine levels in soil, less use of iodine-based cleaning products in the dairy industry which once boosted the iodine content of our dairy food, the fact that we now eat so much processed food which uses non-iodised salt and that we tend to use non-iodised salt at home.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding Karen Charlton suggests a multivitamin containing 150mcg of iodine – although women with a thyroid problem should talk to their doctor because too much iodine can exacerbate some thyroid conditions.

Can a healthier iodine intake in childhood make up for a shortfall in the womb?

“No - most brain development occurs during pregnancy,” explains Professor Cres Eastman, Asia Pacific regional co-ordinator for the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders. “But an adequate iodine intake is still important in childhood and children who don’t drink milk or eat bread – foods that are often the main  source of iodine in childhood – need a daily supplement of 100mcg of iodine.”


11 July, 2013

Women who work shifts are 80% more likely to have fertility problems such as miscarriage

Just a social class effect

Women who work shifts are more likely to have reduced fertility levels, new research has revealed.  Shift work also increases the chance of menstrual disruption, while night work increases the risk of miscarriage, the study found.

The annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in London heard that previous research has linked shift work, which causes sleep deprivation and disruption to the body clock, with ill health.

But little was known about the effects of shift work on reproductive health and fertility.

Dr Linden Stocker headed a study by the University of Southampton which found links between shift patterns and fertility problems.

The study is a meta-analysis of all studies on the subject published between 1969 and January 2013 and included data on 119,345 women.

It found that those working shifts had a 33 per cent higher rate of menstrual disruption than those working regular hours, and an 80 per cent increased rate of reduced fertility.

Women who worked only nights did not have an increased risk of menstrual disruption or difficulty conceiving, but they did have a 29 per cent increased rate of miscarriage.

The investigators describe their findings as ‘novel’, but in keeping with other studies.

Dr Stocker said: ‘If replicated, our findings have implications for women attempting to become pregnant, as well as for their employers.’

She added: ‘Whilst we have demonstrated an association between shift work and negative early reproductive outcomes, we have not proven causation.

‘In humans, the long-term effects of altering circadian rhythms are inherently difficult to study. As a proxy measure, the sleep disruption demonstrated by the shift workers in our study creates short- and long-term biological disturbances.

‘Shift workers adopt poor sleep hygiene, suffer sleep deprivation and develop activity levels that are out-of-sync with their body clock.

‘However, if our results are confirmed by other studies, there may be implications for shift workers and their reproductive plans.

‘More friendly shift patterns, with less impact on circadian rhythm, could be adopted where practical - although the optimal shift pattern required to maximise reproductive potential is yet to be established.’

She said that the underlying biological disturbances involved in reproductive difficulties ‘are complex and not the same across all the disease processes’.

‘Indeed,’ she said, ‘it is probable that completely different causes underlie menstrual dysfunction, miscarriage and subfertility.

‘This may explain why the effects of different types of shift work are seen in some groups of women, but not others.’


Taking high doses of vitamins could reduce your life expectancy by up to a quarter

Taking vitamin pills in high doses could be bad for your health, say scientists.

A study found that voles who were given a lot of vitamins C and E had a reduced lifespan of up to a quarter.

Researchers said the findings, published in Biology Letters, raise questions about the benefits of popping the supplements.

The human body does not make or store vitamin C and gets its supply from fruit and vegetables. It only needs 40mg a day to keep cells healthy and promote healing.

Vitamin E helps maintain the structure of cells and is found in foods such as nuts, seeds, and cereals.  A man needs just 4mg a day and a woman should have 3mg. But tablets containing up to a hundred times this amount are available in health food shops.

Researchers fed field voles large quantities of Vitamin E or C from the age of two months and compared their longevity to groups given a regular diet.

They say that voles were used for the study as giving such high quantities of vitamins to humans would be unsafe.

High doses of dietary antioxidants, such as vitamins, are commonly suggested to slow the process of cellular ageing by lessening the damage to proteins, lipids, and DNA.

Previous research had shown the lives of mice could be extended by giving them supplements, but the opposite was found to be true in voles. They had much shorter lives on average if given extra Vitamin E or C.

But despite these effects, the vitamin supplements had some effect in decreasing damage caused by aging.

Professor Colin Selman, of Glasgow University, said: ‘When we began our research we expected voles' lifespans would be boosted by the vitamin supplements in a similar way to the mice we had tested previously so we were surprised to see that was not the case.

‘Our findings suggest major differences exist in the effects of high doses of antioxidants on oxidative damage and lifespan across species.’

Britons spend £175million a year on supplements and pills containing antioxidants claimed to help combat disease.

Most popular are Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene - the pigment found in carrots, tomatoes and broccoli which the body converts into Vitamin A.

Ten million Britons take these vitamins regularly but some scientists have dismissed them as useless while others have branded them dangerous.

Professor Selman said: ‘There's been a lot of research suggesting at best vitamin supplements produce no benefit and at worst can have deleterious effects.  ‘Vitamin E pills have been linked with prostate cancer and an increased risk of all-cause mortality for example.

‘Most of the benefits have been shown in lab rodents so it's interesting the supplements were reduced the lifespan of voles which usually live for about 500 or 600 days.

‘What we did not look at is what they actually died of so it would be important to discover that in the future.’

Professor John Speakman, of Aberdeen University, said: ‘It's unlikely randomised controlled trials examining the effects of antioxidant supplementation on human lifespan would be possible so we are dependent on the results of animal studies.

‘It's impossible at this stage to extrapolate the results from this small amount of data we have on voles and mice but it does suggest caution is warranted in the use of high doses of antioxidant vitamins.’

Graham Keen, Executive Director of the Health Food Manufacturers' Association commented: 'The vitamin and mineral supplements industry has an exceptional record of both safety and efficacy, in the UK and worldwide.

'Figures published by the Food Standards Agency showed that there were only 11 reported reactions to food supplements over an 11 year period, the majority of them in the lowest category of harm.'


The above is an animal study only but there are other findings of similar conclusions:  here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here, for instance. 

10 July, 2013
Athletic schoolgirl, 11, who does gymnastics, plays hockey and goes hiking is told by British authorities she is OVERWEIGHT

Aged 11, Katie Lee is a  picture of health – and sporty to boot with a love for hockey and hiking with her fellow Scouts.  But the NHS scheme that monitors primary school children’s weight bizarrely believes  that she is fat.

Katie’s mother Emma was outraged when she received a letter describing her daughter, who stands 5ft 5in tall and weighs 9st 10lb, as ‘overweight’.

Former nurse Mrs Lee, 34, described the scheme as ‘ridiculous’, saying it leaves girls feeling ‘sensitive’ about their weight and prone to eating disorders.  She said: ‘I was so cross when I got the letter.  ‘Katie’s tall and slim – far from overweight. They tell you she is overweight when obviously she’s not – she is very athletic.

‘The first thing she said when she saw the letter is “I’m not fat”. They also sent me a healthy eating leaflet, like I couldn’t look after my children.

'They hadn’t even seen my daughter. This is the sort of thing that gives young girls eating disorders. She is at a vulnerable, impressionable age, getting ready to leave primary school.

‘She is very fit and active, she takes the dogs out for a walk in the mornings and walks to meet friends. She is also in the Scouts and hikes for miles at the weekend. She plays hockey, rounders, touch rugby and does gymnastics.’

Katie was weighed at her primary school for The National Child Measurement Programme, set up in 2005 as part of a government strategy to tackle the growing obesity crisis in young people.

Under the scheme, children in their first and last year of primary school are weighed and measured to work out their body mass index, which is calculated by dividing weight in pounds by the square of height in inches.

Results are divided into categories labelled ‘underweight’, ‘normal’, ‘overweight’ or ‘very overweight’.

But Mrs Lee, who lives with her greengrocer husband, James, 37, and their children, Liam, 12, Katie and Lily, six, in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, thinks the Government should overhaul the scheme.

She said: ‘It’s not compulsory and I think the parents of overweight children may opt out of doing it, so whatever the results are being used for the system is flawed.

‘I think there needs to be something else, not just weighing and measuring, maybe that’s OK in reception but by Year 6 children’s bodies are changing with puberty.  ‘It’s just not black and white, there is a lot of grey.’

Mrs Lee is not alone in her anger  at NCMP. A survey carried out by the Institute of Education found more than half of parents whose children were classed as ‘overweight’ did not agree with the findings.

The 2010 research found that 53 per cent either disagreed or strongly disagreed with results that their children were fat.

One mother surveyed said: ‘You have said that my son is 1?lb overweight, but as long as my son is happy and healthy that is all that matters, and do you realise that with your comments you could cause people to panic and reduce their intake and cause anorexia.’

A spokesman for Public Health England said: ‘The measurement process is overseen by trained healthcare professionals in schools.

‘The children are weighed and measured and their BMI is then calculated by internationally recognised tables. We do not comment on individual cases.’


Cost of Complying with Michelle Obama’s School Lunch Overhaul? $3.2 BILLION!

As schools continue to grapple with the school lunch menu overhaul pushed by First Lady Michelle Obama, some are realizing their headache isn’t just from a lack of food.

The program involves way too much green -- and we’re not talking lettuce and brussel sprouts.

We mean the estimated $3.2 billion schools will have to find to implement the new federal regulations. Many schools are also losing money due the unpopular Obama menu.

“New school lunch regulations mean financial losses for Pittsfield Public Schools,” reported the Berkshire Eagle in Massachusetts.

The school district expects a program operating loss of more than $100,000 due to a required equipment upgrade, as well as fewer lunches and snacks being sold.

Congressman Todd Rokita, a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, noted at a recent hearing, “Because the law requires students to take fruits and vegetables for lunch, even if they have no intention of eating them, schools are struggling with increased waste. After implementing the new standards a year early, one Florida school district estimated students threw out $75,000 worth of food.”

“At Dedham High School in Massachusetts, providing the required vegetables in 1500 meals each week costs the district about $111 a day -- but administrators report many students just throw the fresh vegetables right into the trash,” his statement read.

A New York district experienced a 50 percent decline in the number of student purchasing hot lunch.

“This decline in participation made it more difficult for the school to afford to serve lunches and breakfasts that met the federal meal requirements. As a result, the district’s food operation went $59,000 in the red and local leaders ultimately decided to opt-out of the National School Lunch Program,” Rokita said.

The USDA estimates implementation of the new guidelines will cost $3.2 billion over five years. Given that it’s a government estimate -- and if Obamacare is any guide, the cost for schools will likely be much higher.


9 July, 2013

Packed lunches should be banned because they're making children fat, claim British government advisers

Absolutely no proof offered for their claims

Parents who make packed lunches for their children should stop, as it is making them fat, government food advisers warn.

Restaurateurs Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent argue school dinners are healthier than packed sandwiches, crisps and fizzy drinks, in a report to be published next week.

The report will also suggest that take-up must rise to at least 50 per cent to improve nutrition in meals and to save school dinners.

The co-founders of restaurant chain Leon have spent a year visiting more than 60 schools in the UK and say school dinners are ‘miles better’ than when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver began his war on Turkey Twizzlers in 2005.

‘Many parents mistakenly believe their child is better off with a packed lunch,’ the restaurateur’s write in the Sunday Times.

‘For the sake of the nation’s health we want parents to switch to school meals.’

The pair argue that the fact that 20 per cent of children are obese by the time they leave primary school is a direct result of more than half bringing packed lunches or buying food outside of school.

The pair’s school lunch plan, which will be launched this week alongside education secretary Michael Gove, also puts it down to head teachers to improve quality and take-up of school lunches.

‘A lot of heads will feel exasperated by this,’ Ian Bauckham, head of Bennett Memorial Diocesan school in Tunbridge Wells, Kent told The Sunday Times.

‘Many focus on a limited number of high priorities and we already have a big agenda to raise academic standards.’

As reported earlier this year, cooking lessons at school will become compulsory for children ages seven to 14 from September as the Government aims to ensure they can make up to 20 dishes before taking their GCSE exams.

Leon fast food chain founders Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent were tasked last year by Mr Gove, 45, with moving on the campaign for better school meals begun by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, 37.

They suggest parents should spend the £1.2billion that annually goes on packed lunches on school meals instead, and double the take-up percentage over five years, reported the Sunday Times.

Mr Dimbleby and Mr Vincent’s chain has 13 restaurants in London and the South East, specialises in burger, chicken and fish dishes and has an emphasis on sustainability and providing good nutrition.

Jamie Oliver's 2005 crusade led to the Feed Me Better campaign, after which then Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to take steps to improve school dinners.

It saw the creation of the School Food Trust, which saw £60million spent on education and support for school administrators to improve foods in schio


Education protects against MS symptoms

This is just another example of middle class people being healthier

HIGHER levels of education have been linked to better outcomes for patients with multiple scelerosis.

In a study of 50 clinically diagnosed MS patients, Italian researchers sought to determine whether education worked as a prophylactic effect against neuro-psychological deterioration caused by the disease. MS affects attention, memory, executive functioning and information processing. It also causes chronic fatigue and has widespread negative impact on day-to-day life.

Of the 50 patients, 17 had less than 13 years of schooling and did not have a senior high school qualification and 33 had more than 13 years of schooling and at least a university-level diploma.

At the beginning of the trial, both groups were given a battery of tests for vigiliance, alterness and attention with no difference between the two groups discernible.

They were also classified according to occupation: low skill and professional “based on the cognitive complexity and cognitive effort needed to carry out the job efficiently”.

They were then further divided into three groups: low occupation and low education; low occupation and high education and high occupation and high education.

The patients were then put through another series of tests finding that those with low education performed worse than matched healthy controls, but there was no difference between high education and the controls.

“These results indicate that low education is a risk factor for cognitive impairment in people with neurological disease such as MS where high educational level could be considered a protective factor,” said lead investigator Elisabetta Ladavas from the University of Bologna.

The results were published in the most recent edition of the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.


8 July, 2013

Could bone marrow transplants cure HIV? Two men who had procedure stop taking medication after virus 'disappears' from their blood

These findings concern two very ill men so offer no generalizability of themselves

Two men with HIV have been able to stop taking their medication after receiving bone marrow transplants.  Experts say it is too early to describe them as ‘cured’ – but the Aids virus shows no signs of returning in either patient.

The men, who had HIV for about 30 years, received transplants to treat blood cancer several years ago. One stopped taking anti-HIV drugs four months ago, while the other stopped seven weeks ago.
Both men had suffered with blood cancer and had undergone bone marrow transplants (marrow being prepared pictured) to treat that disease. No one expected the procedure to have such a dramatic and beneficial side effect

Both men had suffered with blood cancer and had undergone bone marrow transplants (marrow being prepared pictured) to treat that disease. No one expected the procedure to have such a dramatic and beneficial side effect

Their US doctors say keeping them on the drugs after their transplants first took place prevented their new supplies of healthy blood cells from becoming infected by HIV. The patients’ old, diseased cells were then attacked by the new ones.

The International Aids Society conference in Malaysia heard that now, even though the patients have stopped taking antiretroviral drugs, the virus cannot be detected in their blood. Normally, the disease can only be kept under control with lifelong treatment.

Working out why the bone marrow transplants had such a strong effect could lead to new treatments for the 34million living with Aids. An estimated 100,000 Britons have HIV, including 20,000 who have not been formally diagnosed.

Timothy Henrich, of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said the men ‘are doing very well’, but warned: ‘While these results are exciting, they do not yet indicate the men have been cured. Only time will tell.’

One possibility is that the virus is ‘hiding’ in another part of the body, such as the liver or brain, and could re-emerge in the coming weeks.

Dr Michael Brady of the Terrence Higgins Trust stressed that bone marrow transplants are ‘complex and expensive’, and could be more dangerous than daily medication.

However, he added: ‘While this is by no means a workable cure, it does give researchers another sign-post in the direction of one.’

The first person reported to be cured of HIV, American Timothy Ray Brown, underwent a stem cell transplant in 2007 to treat his leukemia. He was reported by his German doctors to have been cured of HIV two years later.

Brown's doctors used a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that provides resistance against HIV. So far, no one has observed similar results using ordinary donor cells such as those given to the two Boston patients.

Kuritzkes said the patients will be put back on the drugs if there is a viral rebound.

A rebound will show that other sites are important reservoirs of infectious virus and new approaches to measuring these reservoirs will be needed in developing a cure, Henrich said.

‘These findings clearly provide important new information that might well alter the current thinking about HIV and gene therapy,’ Kevin Robert Frost, chief executive of The Foundation of AIDS Research, said in a statement.

'While stem cell transplantation is not a viable option for people with HIV on a broad scale because of its costs and complexity, these new cases could lead us to new approaches to treating, and ultimately even eradicating, HIV.'


Kids Cheer as School District Opts Out of Michelle Obama’s Lunch Menu

Students in at least one school district will be saved from Michelle Obama’s “restrictive” federal school lunch takeover.

The federal school lunch guidelines that garnered much discontent among students, school staff and parents, are set to fully go into effect in the fall.

But students in the Catlin, Illinois district won’t be enduring the rumbling tummies of other students around the country.  "We're going to have the freedom to do more stuff with our own program, and we want to give people options," Superintendent Gary Lewis told The News-Gazette.

School officials decided to pull out of the National School Lunch Program earlier this spring, after seeing a decline in the number of meals that were served and too much food going into the garbage last year, the paper reported.

"When the federal government changed the nutrition guidelines, they became very restrictive," said Lewis. "If a kid is hungry, they're not going to be able to concentrate in class. We need to work to make sure they're full. That will increase their potential.

"We had to not only offer vegetables but vegetables of a certain color, and we had to offer them so many times a week. I will eat kale. But if I tried to get my 11- and 7-year-old to eat kale, they will look at me like, 'What are you putting on my plate?'"

The superintendent told the paper he received “numerous complaints from students and parents about the new food offerings.”

As a result of opting out, the school district will be increasing its meal prices “slightly” to compensate for the loss of the government subsidy.

Catlin is the latest of many school districts throughout the nation to opt out of the Michelle Obama-promoted overhaul.


7 July, 2013

British children's diets worse today than in wartime: And now illnesses of 1940s are making a comeback (?)

There is so much politically correct dishonesty in this article that one wonders if there is any truth in it all.  We see no mention  that most of the rickets observed is in brown-skinned people originating from the Indian subcontinent  -- particularly among Moslems who cover up a lot.  Brown skin is not very efficient in turning sunlight into vitamin D and shrouding most of your skin in  billowing garments reduces that capacity manyfold.  And in the weak sunlight of Britain that matters. It is mainly immigration and cloudy skies, not fast food that lies behind the upsurge in rickets.

A secondary cause is the modern tendency to keep children indoors for "elf 'n safety" reasons.   That also prevents skin from doing its job.  Again, food is not the culprit.

One notes that no figures are given on the vitamin content of (say) a Big Mac meal.  I think I know why.  A Big Mac meal in fact has lots of nutrients.  If eating bread, meat, salad and potatoes is an unhealthy meal we are all in trouble. 

I don't know enough about the demographics of citrus-eating to comment on the claims about scurvy but I imagine that the claims about it are as dishonest as the claims about rickets.  I note however that tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and McDonald's hamburger fillings do include tomato. I note also that potatoes are rich in several micronutrients, especially vitamin C and potato chips are of course a prominent part of a McDonald's meal

The onus of proof for their claims is clearly on the pundits below and they have not even tried to give evidence for their claims.  It is all just careless assertion

Wartime diseases are making a comeback among children because their junk food diets are worse than during rationing, warn experts.  Conditions such as scurvy and rickets are being fuelled by too many takeaways and microwave meals, it is claimed.

But poor nutrition has not stopped many from becoming obese, it is feared, as they are putting on weight from eating the wrong sorts of food.

Doctors’ leader Mark Temple said it was a ‘great tragedy’ that some families gain less goodness from their food than those coping with rationing in the Second World War.

‘Food standards are worse now than they were during the rationing during the war,’ he said. ‘That’s a strong indictment on the food industry.’

Latest figures show that  10 per cent of pupils are obese when they start school. The  proportion doubles to almost 20 per cent in those about to start secondary education.

Dr Temple, chairman of the  British Medical Association’s  public health medicine committee, said: ‘Obesity is a major health threat and we ought to be doing something about it.’

Sioned Quirke, a member of the British Dietetic Association, warned that relying on fast food was leading to a rise in diseases last commonly seen during the early 20th century.

Working in the Rhondda Valleys, South Wales, she has seen rising numbers of childhood illnesses thought to have been eradicated.

‘Rickets and scurvy are coming back,’ she said. ‘When I was training ten years ago, we thought we would not come across them.   ‘These conditions are long-term. If the bones are affected by vitamin deficiency, they are affected for life.’

Last year, child health experts said the incidence of rickets  rose four-fold in the last 15 years as young children were not getting enough vitamin D.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said cases went up from 183 in 1995/96 to 762 in 2011.

Latest figures for 2008 show that 94 children were treated in NHS hospitals for scurvy. However, many health authorities classify it as malnutrition rather than as a separate condition.

Miss Quirke said: ‘For some groups, diet and nutrition has reverted to being as poor as it was 100 years ago.  ‘The difference between now and then is that this is out of choice. People say fruit and vegetables are not affordable when they are.’

Rickets is caused by a lack of  calcium and vitamin D from foods like oily fish and eggs, making bones soft and malformed. Scurvy can be caused by a lack of vitamin C, which is vital to make collagen. If this protein is not replaced, tissue breaks down, leading to muscle and joint pain. The gums may also bleed and swell.

Vitamin C cannot be made by the body so must come from food.

Rationing began in January 1940 and one person’s typical weekly allowance was: a fresh egg; 4oz margarine and bacon (about four rashers); 2oz butter and tea; 1oz cheese; and 8oz sugar.

The RCPCH has issued a series of leaflets for doctors highlighting signs of deficiency.


The trans fat hysterics have a new target

For the facts on Trans fats, see here

A BATTER-LADEN fried fish dish which packs two weeks' worth of harmful trans fat in a single serving has been named the worst restaurant meal in America.

The Big Catch meal, sold at the fast food chain Long John Silver's, contains 33 grams of trans fat and 3700 milligrams of sodium, said the Centre for Science in the Public Interest.

People should limit themselves to two grams of trans fat daily, according to the American Heart Association, and most people should eat 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, according to the Institute of Medicine.

"Long John Silver's Big Catch meal deserves to be buried 20,000 leagues under the sea," CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said in a statement announcing the group's pick of worst restaurant meal in America.

"This company is taking perfectly healthy fish - and entombing it in a thick crust of batter and partially hydrogenated oil. The result? A heart attack on a hook."

The fish is battered and fried in partially hydrogenated soybean oil, and sold with onion rings and hush puppies (deep-fired cornmeal batter). Its total calorie count is rather low for a fast food meal - just 1320 (5520kJ), CSPI said.

But its artery-clogging trans fat is twice the level of the worst KFC dish, which had 15 grams of trans fat before a 2006 CSPI lawsuit led the chicken chain to stop using partially hydrogenated oil.

"Trans fat from partially hydrogenated oil is a uniquely damaging substance that raises your bad cholesterol, lowers your good cholesterol, and harms the cells that line your blood vessels," said Walter Willett, nutrition department chair at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"It might have been defensible to use hydrogenated oil in the 1980s, before trans fat's harmfulness was discovered, but no longer."

Long John Silver's introduced the "Big Catch" in May, describing it as "the largest fish we have ever offered weighing in at 7-8 ounces (200-225g) of 100 per cent premium Haddock caught in the icy waters of the North Atlantic."
But that claim did not stand up to the scrutiny of CSPI inspectors, who picked apart the breading from the fish and said they found "an average of about four and a half ounces of actual fish and almost three ounces of oil-soaked batter."'

Long John Silver's, which calls itself the "largest quick service seafood restaurant in the world," did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CSPI said it plans to sue the chain if it continues to use partially hydrogenated oil in its deep-fryers and if it continues to misrepresent the amount of fish in the meal and the nutrition information for the side items.

The group's researchers found that the meal's onion rings were advertised to contain seven grams of trans fat but actually contained 19.5 grams.


5 July, 2013

'Ban school run and make pupils walk': Britain's new public health chief's bid to battle childhood obesity

Ivory tower Fascist

The school run should be banned in a bid to battle childhood obesity, says Britain’s new public health chief.

He argues that parents should not drive children to school but make them walk instead to help them keep fit.

Professor John Ashton, who takes over as president of the Faculty of Public Health today, argues that a century of progress in preventing diseases and lengthening life is stalling as obesity soars.

A lack of exercise and diets dependent on junk food has combined with other factors such as stress and poverty to create a crisis which he says is ‘in danger of writing off a generation.’

Professor Ashton says that British cities should be re-engineered to tackle modern health problems and that fears about a ‘nanny state’ should not stop the government action to improve health.

He said: ‘We’re used to this idea that our children are not going to be as well off as we have been. But I don’t think anybody has really expressed yet that they may not be as healthy either.

‘One of the things we should be doing is really strictly prohibiting cars stopping outside school to drop kids off but having drop-off points, if at all, a few hundred yards away so at least the children get to walk a quarter of a mile each day form the dropping off point... it would make a difference.’

In an interview before taking up his new role, Professor Ashton told the Times that he blamed a poor quality NHS and council leadership for failing communities.

He said: ‘We’ve had 100 years of progress in statistics of longevity and health and wellbeing, and there’s evidence now that things are stalling.

‘The golden generation, now in their 90s, have really benefited from traditional lifestyles — walking to school and work, not going everywhere in the car, not having junk food — but that’s been coupled with the benefits of modern medicine.

‘What we’ve now got is generations coming through where there’s been a deterioration of lifestyles.

‘The Victorian public health movement was driven by one simple idea — the sanitary idea, which was about separating human and animal waste from food and water.

Professor Ashton, the former director of public health in Cumbria, also added that sensible town planning is an important part of giving people the kind of environment that helps keep them healthy.

He added:  ‘Here we’ve got more of an ecological crisis, where we’ve created a habitat for ourselves where people don’t live the way we used to live.

‘We don’t expend 3-4,000 calories a day, we eat high density food, we’re not living in the way the human species evolved.

‘We need to have places where we live that support healthy living, so we do walk for some distance every day, make it easier to take exercise, to cycle, to eat healthily.’

But his radical ideas have been met with sceptics by some parenting groups.’

Justine Roberts, chief executive of Mumsnet, said: ‘I suspect there will be a mixed reaction to this because some people will find it quite hard to manage in practical terms.’


The spinach myth has lessons

Popeye's love of spinach is born out of one of history's easiest mathematical errors.

A mathematician and scientist has revealed that spinach's iron content was miscalculated by a German chemist when he misplaced a decimal point.

His mistake gave birth to Popeye's obsession with the vegetable, which the cartoon character eats in vast quantities to boost his strength.

Popeye's testimony that he is 'strong to the finish, 'cause I eats my spinach' is apparently born from a mistake 50 years before he became popular.

Samuel Arbesman talks about how scientific errors can lead to popular myths in his book, 'The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date'.

In 1870, German chemist Erich von Wolf was researching the amount of iron in spinach and other green vegetables.

When writing up his findings in a new notebook, he misplaced a decimal point, making the iron content in spinach ten times more generous than in reality.

While Mr von Wolf actually found out that there are just 3.5 milligrams of iron in a 100g serving of spinach, the accepted number became 35 milligrams thanks to his mistake.

This caused the popular misconception that spinach is exceptionally high in iron, which makes the body stronger.

If the value was true, eating a generous serving of spinach would be comparable to munching on a small piece of paper clip.

The story goes that cartoon creators aware of spinach's miraculous health properties had the idea that Popeye should eat spinach to increase his strength.

It is believed that the cartoon character is responsible for boosting consumption of spinach in the US by a third.
The myth of spinach's extraordinary iron content led to the creation of Popeye

While Mr von Wolf's error was spotted and corrected in 1937 when someone re-checked his maths, spinach is still popularly thought to be one of the most iron-rich vegetables, perhaps helped by the cartoon character.

In 1981, the British Medical Journal published an article to try and debunk the spinach myth.

Mr Arbesman uses the Popeye story to illustrate how humans have a tendency to ignore re-examining evidence and admitting when we are wrong.

He said that the reason such errors spread and lead to well-believed myths are because it is easier to spread a 'fact' that sounds correct than to delve deeper.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, an 180g serving of boiled spinach contains 6.43 milligrams of iron, compared to a 170g hamburger that contains a maximum of 4.42 milligrams of iron

Spinach also contains iron absorption-inhibiting substances, including high levels of oxalate, which are said to render most of the iron found in spinach of no use to the body


4 July, 2013

A male fertility treatment increases risk of intellectual impairment and autism in children

This sort of thing has been expected from the beginning.  ICSI is a last ditch procedure.  It is NOT standard IVF.  That ICSI is so widely used in the NHS is of concern.  Lazy government doctors who can't wait for normal fertilization?

A common form of fertility treatment increases the risk of children developing autism and mental disabilities in later life, a new study has found.

Researchers have reported that children born following an IVF treatments for male infertility are 51% more at risk of developing intellectual impairments than those born by normal conception.

Around half of the 48,000 IVF treatments carried out annually in Britain use this form of fertility treatment, known as intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

It is used where the men are deemed to be almost completely infertile and involves injecting the sperm directly into their partner’s egg.

However, the technique is already considered to be controversial as it has been linked to an increased risk of birth defects.

The study also found that in the most severe cases of male infertility, where men require surgery as part of the treatment, children were more than four times more likely to develop autism.

However, the number of men who undergo this are small so the numbers of actual cases are extremely low.

Dr Avi Reichenberg, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, who led the study, said: "About 50 per cent of IVF treatments use ICSI in the UK.

“Our study shows that these treatments developed to manage male infertility are associated with an increased risk for developmental disorders in the offspring.

“Whilst intellectual disability or autism remain a rare outcome for IVF, being aware of the increased risk associated with certain types of IVF means offspring at risk can be identified and potentially monitored for developmental disorders.”

The study, which is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analysed data from more than 2.5 million births in Sweden, of which 30,959 were conceived using IVF treatment.

They found that among those children who were conceived naturally, the risk of mental disability, defined by an IQ below 70 and an inability to perform every day skills such as learning, communication or social relationships, was just 62 out of every 100,000 births.

Standard IVF increased the risk by around 18 per cent, but when children who had been born as twins or triplets were taken into account this increase disappeared.

This is because even naturally conceived twins and triplets have an increased risk of developing a mental disability in later life, however, mothers who undergo IVF are more likely to give birth to multiple children in one pregancy.

However, among those children conceived following IVF with ICSI, the risk increased by 51 per cent compared to natural conception, with 93 out of every 100,000 developing a mental disability. This remained high even after taking twins into account.

In the UK, this would be equivalent to 22 of the 24,000 births achieved using IVF with ICSI would have an intellectual disability.

A subset of the patients who had received IVF with ICSI saw the men need surgery to retrieve their sperm. This increased the risk of the children developing severe autism by 4.6 times standard IVF.

However, the number of patients who have to undergo surgical ICSI are extremely low and when the researchers looked at children who had been born alone the risk disappeared.

It is unclear why the risk is so much greater in multiple births using this technique than in the general population.

The researchers claim this presents a strong argument for an increase in the use of IVF techniques that transfer just a single fertilised egg into the mother as this would help to reduce the chance of twins or triplets being born.

Dr Karl-Gösta Nygren, co-author of the paper from the department of medical epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet, said: “I find these results reassuring as the risk is very small. The risk of birth defects is much higher.

“Some of these risks are even preventable, so using single egg transfer could prevent multiple births for example.

“There is a strong argument for extending the use of single egg transfer to diminish these risks.”

He added that it is likely the increased risk created by the use of ICSI is due to defects carried in the sperm rather from the procedure itself.

The use of ICSI has attracted criticism in recent years as it can cause sperm that contain genetic defects to be selected and injected into an egg when they would not normally survive to make the arduous journey to the egg.

It has also caused ethicists to question whether such techniques should be used as it circumvents one of the ways nature has evolved to prevent poor quality genes from being passed on.

A recent found, for example, that in 10 per cent of births using ICSI, the baby had a birth defect, compared to less than six per cent in natural births.

Dr Alan Pacey, a fertility expert at the university of Sheffield and chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: “The main message of the paper is a positive one, suggesting that any risk of these disorders is very low in comparison to children conceived naturally.

“It does highlight the importance of preferentially using standard IVF rather than ICSI.”

Between one and two per cent of the children born in the UK are conceived through IVF.

Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, which helps children with learning disabilities, said that she has noticed an increase in the number of children she was working with who had been conceived through IVF.

She said: “Over the past 20 years, we are seeing an increase in the percentage of children at an older age who were conceived as a result of IVF.

“We have 75 to 80 new families coming in to see us a year. The incidence of IVF in their developmental history in the past two years is 10 per cent while 20 years ago

“Obviously there are more children being conceived through IVF but these figures still seem higher than they would normally be without it being an additional risk factor.”  “More attention needs to be paid to this.”


'Unhealthy' multibuys targeted in new British obesity crackdown

This is just opinionation.  Where is the evidence that multibuys have any health effects?

Supermarket multibuy promotions on fatty foods could be scrapped in a new obesity crackdown by the Government. 

Minutes from a Department of Health working group reveal big retailers and food companies may also have to set aside a percetange of marketing spend for "healthier" products instead of promoting fizzy drinks, confectionery and crisps.

A new code could also be introduced to restrict the use of cartoon characters on food that is high in sugar and salt.

The details come two weeks after the Government unveiled plans for traffic light front-of-pack labelling system to show how much fat, salt, sugar and how many calories are in each product.

The "high level" Department of Health working group includes Mars UK, Tesco, caterers Sodexo and consumer watchdog Which?.

Multibuys such as buy-one-get-one-free and 3 for 2 are a staple of the weekly shop for millions of households across the country.

But Government officials fear they are feeding the obesity crisis costing the NHS billions of pounds.

A Department of Health spokeswoman last night insisted the proposals were just that, and they were simply part of a number of possible new "responsibility deals" with the food industry. More talks are planned.

Mary Creagh, Labour's shadow environment secretary, said supermarkets would only act if new legislation was introduced.  She said: "The Government has already promised there will be no new legislation in this area. The supermarkets will only do what they decide to do."

Labour unveils a new Food Policy tomorrow, centred around promoting UK-made products in a bid to protect shoppers from global price shocks.

It wants more food manufacturers to seek protected status enjoyed by the likes of Quality Meat Scotland, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Cornish Pasties.


3 July, 2013

Being HAPPY makes you FAT

Oh dear, my jeans don't fit. Not at all. If I lie on the bed, suck in my breath and pull with all my might, I can just about get the zip up half way, but after that it just won't budge. As for the button - ha! - it's practically laughing at the idea it will ever be done up again.

And I wouldn't mind, but these are my stretchy jeans. The ones usually reserved for my bloated, hormonal, post-Christmas days. The jeans I dig out when I'm feeling my very biggest. Which means I am now bigger than my biggest.

I should be in a state of self-loathing, diet-starting panic. But as I look down at my full belly, note the beginnings of back fat poking out under my bra and assess the extra padding on my hips, all I can do is laugh and shrug.

Who cares if I've filled out a bit? What's a few extra pounds (ok, 15) between friends? In the old days I'd have been considered attractively Rubenesque.

Anyway, it doesn't matter what I look like on the outside, it's what's on the inside that counts. Yes, my thighs are chafing, but I'm happy! Boy, am I happy - and that's the problem.

Forget putting on the pounds when you're miserable, the time I put on weight is when life is good. And life has been good of late. A three-month sabbatical travelling around the U.S. and a love affair - or two - have reignited my appetite for life, laughter… and food.

Cheeseburgers, chips, pasta, pancakes dripping in maple syrup with strawberries and cream, more pancakes .... temptations I would normally run a mile from have been welcomed with open arms - or, rather, an open mouth.

Of course, we all go over the top when we're away, and I'd expected my indulgence to stop once I'd got home. But here I am, still eating, drinking and being merry - too content to care that half my wardrobe is now a no-go area.

It turns out I'm not a comfort eater, I'm a happy eater.

But it's not just me. While the received wisdom is we reach for the crisps and chocolate when we're down in the dumps, new research shows it could be happiness that makes us pile on the pounds.

A study published last month found that if you are the kind of person who lets your mood affect your eating - that's about 75 per cent of us - you are likely to eat more calories when you are happy than when you are down.

In experiments carried out by psychologists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, 87 students were shown clips from films or TV shows in order to evoke a positive, neutral or bad mood.

To get them into a happy state, the students watched Mr Bean and When Harry Met Sally. To get them in a neutral mood, they were shown a fishing documentary. And for the negative mood, the students watched a clip from the film The Green Mile, when John, an innocent prisoner, is executed.

Straight after viewing the clips, they were offered crisps and chocolates, then researchers measured their calorie intake after each scene.

Students classed as emotional eaters by earlier psychological tests scoffed more after watching the happy clips than the negative one.

The researchers concluded: 'These findings could be of value for the treatment of obesity. They underline the importance of positive emotions on overeating, which are often overlooked.'

How true. When I'm stressed, my appetite vanishes. When I'm sad and lonely I might reach for the Dairy Milk and takeaways, but only for a couple of nights.

Soon, my self-loathing kicks in and I tell myself I will be happier if I could just be half a stone lighter; more loveable and less single if I was just a dress size smaller.

A strict regime of broccoli and chicken follows.

When I'm really happy, on the other hand, my food personality changes. Instead of assessing every item as a 'good' or a 'bad' food, spending every day battling between pizza and salad, cake and fruit, I think: sod it! Who cares what side of 11st I am? I'm a good person. Life's short. Live it - eat the cheesecake!

This is a common pattern, says food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson. 'There are two very different mechanisms going on when we eat when we're happy and when we eat when we're sad,' she says.

'When we feel down or bored, we eat to bring about a change in our physiognomy. Food gives us a surge of sugar and feel-good serotonin, which can lift our mood temporarily.

'When we're relaxed and happy, we don't obsess about calories. We shrug off cultural ideas of what we should or shouldn't eat, what we should or shouldn't weigh, and we eat because it's  a great source of pleasure.'

In other words, being happy can make us ignore that voice in our head that says: 'You're not going to eat that, are you?' and helps us to live in the moment.

Psychologist Linda Papadopoulos adds: 'Think of any celebration, from birthdays and weddings, to a Friday night takeaway, and it involves eating. Enjoying food without measuring the calories or judging yourself is a healthy part of enjoying life.'

This 'living for the moment' theory is why most of us put on weight when we go on holiday. But why have I not gone on a diet since coming home?

I think it's because for the first time in my life I am not judging myself on the size of my hips. After the adventures I've had, I'm so happy in my (expanded) skin, it doesn't matter where the dial rests on the scales.

And I've been amazed to find I've had more male attention in the past few months than in a lifetime. All those years of shrinking in the corner because I felt big .... what a waste!

I've recently been seeing a lovely man who claims to love my wobbly behind and generous hips. 'But you should have seen me before,' I said when we first met. 'I was slimmer. You're catching me at my heaviest!'

I showed him a photo of what I thought represented the skinnier me and he looked mystified. 'You're crazy, I can't see a difference,' he said. 'Now, what do you want for dinner?'

And there you go. No wonder I couldn't give two hoots for calories at the moment.

Linda adds: 'When we're in a state of happiness, our self-esteem is high and we know that, for most of us, a few extra pounds doesn't make a difference. This is why people in happy relationships tend to put on weight.

Research has consistently shown that women put on weight once they get married. A stone here, half a stone there, most of the time we're the only ones who can tell the difference.

On that basis, I think we should have steak for dinner. With creamy mashed potatoes, Bearnaise sauce and chocolate cake for afters. The diet can start tomorrow  - or not.


'Drinking fruit juice is the fastest way to gain weight

Not so "healthy"?

With forecasters predicting a warm July and summer holidays looming, many people will be swapping their chocolate bars for so-called healthy snacks.  However, many of these diet favourites may be worse for your waistline than you think.

Dietitians at Tesco have compiled a list of the top traps that catch out unsuspecting dieters.

These include the unlikely culprits of honey, olive oil, fruit juice, and low-fat yoghurt.  Fruit juice is dense in calories - there are just 150 in a small glass - and contains no fibre which can cause a 'sugar crash' leaving many lethargic and hungry.

Catherine Matthews, nutritionist at Tesco Diets, said that fruit juice is ‘the fastest way to gain weight’.  She said: ‘It takes less than a minute for most people to drink 150 calories.’

Another issue is fruit juice's lack of fibre. When we eat fruit, fibre forms a protective layer that acts as a barrier to the intestine. This slows absorption of sugar, so the liver can to deal with the sugar steadily.

In fizzy drinks, fruit juices and smoothies, the barrier has gone, which leads to the liver being overloaded.

This triggers two things: Firstly, this overload provides a sudden burst of energy which very quickly tapers off, leading to what many experts describe as a 'sugar crash'. This can cause many people to end up feeling lethargic, irritable and even more hungry than they did before.

Secondly the high levels of fructose - fruit sugar - that are not burned off are converted to fat.

And if you thought smoothies were better, you'd be wrong.

Ms Matthews explained : ‘You may think a fruit or veggie smoothie is packed with vitamins and minerals, but it is [like juice] also laden with sugar. Some contain as much sugar as fizzy drinks.’

A recent study for MailOnline revealed that many ‘healthy’ drinks are actually worse for you than cakes and biscuits.

It found that a single serving of so-called healthy fruit juice contains the same amount of sugar as three-and-a-half doughnuts, or 13 hobnob biscuits.

It also revealed that a single 250ml serving of white grape juice contains the same amount of sugar as four Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts.

The study also found that a bottle of Blackcurrant Ribena contains the same amount of sugar as 13 Oreo biscuits and that a Costa Massimo Red Berry Cooler contains the same amount of sugar as 16 Nature Valley Oats and Honey Granola Bars.

She went on to say that olive oil is the worst offender as, despite its health-giving properties, it is still oil and every teaspoon contains about 50 calories.

Speaking to The Times, Ms Matthews also warned about other diet-busters such as honey, which is extremely high in sugar, and of low-fat yoghurts and biscuits which sometimes contain more calories than the full-fat versions. The sugar is added as a way to make up for the flavour lost when the fat is taken out.

However, these are not the only potential dangers for dieters – slimmers are also being warned to watch out for wine as, while a glass or two can have some health benefits, a large glass can contain as much as 225 calories.


2 July, 2013

Fitness makes you happier, more productive (?)

The results below were probably a "Hawthorne effect" or placebo effect.  It was most likely the enthusiasm of the specialist teachers that enlivened the students, not better exercises.  Note the third-last paragraph below

Sports teachers have a previously unsung role in the academic development of children, researchers have found - a position at odds with the gradual disappearance of specialist physical education teachers across the country.

A multimillion-dollar study into the effect of physical education for primary school children has found aerobic fitness levels have a direct correlation with literacy and numeracy test results.

There's a clear relationship, the fittest schools are the ones which got the best results.

Eight years ago, Dick Telford, the first sports scientist at the Australian Institute of Sport and now an elite running coach and adjunct associate professor at the Australian National University medical school, embarked on the Lifestyle of our Kids (LOOK) study.

His team secured $3 million in funding from the Commonwealth Education Trust to begin the most comprehensive study of its kind in the world.

They looked at two things: the effect of physical activity and the value of having specialist physical education in primary school.

They tested more than 850 year 2 students at Canberra primary schools. The children underwent numerous tests, including full body scans, blood tests, lifestyle questionnaires and hand-eye co-ordination measures. The tests were repeated each year through to year 6.

In 13 schools, Dr Telford's team installed specialist physical education teachers, provided free of charge by the not-for-profit Bluearth Foundation, to take two 50-minute classes a week.

The other 16 schools were the control group, where physical education was provided by classroom teachers.

Along the way, Dr Telford made the decision to also look at NAPLAN scores as part of the research.

"I started to prick up my ears to a few comments from the teachers saying they thought the kids were starting to concentrate better in class … that triggered my idea of measuring the NAPLAN. When I measured and found there was statistical significance, real results between the two groups, I must admit that was a bit of a surprise.

"There's a clear relationship, the fittest schools are the ones which got the best results."

Controlling for socio-economic factors, they were able to predict the average NAPLAN results in a primary school just by knowing the average fitness level of the children.

The study has produced reams of data, and will revisit the now-adolescent children this year to test again, something researchers aim to do every decade to measure long-term effects of the early health indicators and physical education.

But Dr Telford feels there is already evidence to justify reintroducing specialist PE teachers, even before seeing the long-term results of instilling an early enjoyment of physical activity.

"The Bluearth teachers, because of their training, they were able to really engage all the kids in the class."

Funding is an issue, as PE teachers are seen as the most expendable, but Dr Telford says there are ways to improve the situation.

"The way to do it is to have a specialist PE teacher, accessible to the generalist primary school teachers, to continually motivate them and professionally develop them… that's a real workable option."


Is food labelling making you FAT? People eat more if a portion is labelled 'small' - even if it is huge

These results obtained under experimental conditions may not be replicated in real life

The way food is labelled affects affects how much we eat of it, according to new research.  Scientists discovered that people are more inclined to eat more – sometimes double – of a portion if they believe it to be ‘regular’ or ‘small’.

However if a portion is termed as being ‘large’, people tend leave some of the food they have been given.

Dr Brian Wansink and Dr David Just, of the Food & Brand Lab at Cornell University, have discovered that people tend to eat more of an item if its size is termed 'regular' than if it's termed "double size" - even if the actual portion is the same.

‘If labels are used as size information [for food], policies governing normative names could help reduce food consumption or reduce waste,’ the researchers wrote in the study.

For the study, researchers served participants either one portion of a lunch item, such as spaghetti, or two portions.

For some of the participants, the single portion of food was called ‘half-size’ and the double portion was called ‘regular’, while for the other participants, the single portion was called ‘regular’ and the double portion was called ‘double size’.

Researchers found that participants ate more of the food when eating from the ‘regular’-labelled portion, compared with eating from the ‘double-size’-labeled portion - even though the portion sizes were exactly the same.

Dr Wansink and Dr Just also discovered that a person’s willingness to pay for food was also dependent on food labels.

If a food is considered a ‘half size’, they are only willing to pay half the price as a ‘regular’ portion, even if the actual portion sizes do not reflect their labels.

Dr Wansink and Dr Just previously found that the colour of a plate could influence how much a person ate.

Research published in the Journal of Consumer research found that people served food on tables with a higher colour contrast between the plate and the tablecloth ate more than those who were served the same amount of food without a noticeable contrast.

This meant that white and black plates in particular might cause a person to eat more.

 The most recent study was published in the journal Health Economics.


1 July, 2013

Eating two portions of oily fish could protect women against breast cancer (?)

A meta-analysis -- where GIGO (Garbage in produces Garbage out)

Women eating two helpings a week of oily fish such as salmon may gain protection against breast cancer, claim researchers.  A major review of studies found adding this amount of fish to the diet cuts the breast cancer risk by up to 14 per cent.

Fish supplies omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain development and also thought to reduce inflammation of the brain, cardiovascular system and other cells.

But surveys suggest nine out of 10 children and two-thirds of adults in Britain never bother to eat it.  The best dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish because the human body cannot produce them.

Previous research has suggested that omega-3 is the most promising type of fat to cut cancer risk, but results have been inconsistent.

A team of researchers based in China set out to investigate the link between fish and omega-3 intake and the risk of breast cancer.

They measured intake from both dietary sources and blood tests, according to a report in the British Medical Journal.

They reviewed and analysed the results of 26 studies from the United States, Europe and Asia involving over 800,000 participants and over 20,000 cases of breast cancer.

The latest study found an extra 0.1 g or 0.1 per cent of energy per day derived from omega-3 fatty acids in fish was linked with a five per cent reduction in risk.

Overall, omega-3 fatty acids from fish sources was linked with a 14 per cent cut in breast cancer between the highest and lowest levels of intake.

The risk was lowest in Asian populations, probably because fish intake is much higher in Asia than in western countries, say the authors.

Further analysis suggested that more protection came from eating more oily fish - an extra 0.1 g or 0.1 per cent of energy per day derived from omega-3 fatty acids in fish was linked with a five per cent reduction in risk.

To achieve this level of risk reduction, women should eat one to two portions a week of oily fish such as salmon, tuna or sardines.

The authors say their analysis, together with previous publications, supports a ‘protective role’ of omega-3 fatty acids from fish on the incidence of breast cancer.

They say the study provides ‘solid and robust evidence’ which could be enhanced by additional research comparing women’s omega-3 dietary intake and breast cancer incidence, it says.

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 human body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids and the best dietary source is oily fish.  Types of fish that contain high levels include tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies.

White fish is also a healthy food including cod, haddock and plaice although it contains lower levels of essential fatty acids.

Katherine Woods, Research Information Manager at Breast Cancer Campaign said the research may have failed to account for women with healthier diets being leaner.

She said ‘While this research reported a reduction in breast cancer risk of 14 per cent for women consuming the highest levels of a particular type of fatty acid, it is important to note that body mass index (BMI) was not factored into the findings which could go some way to explaining this link.

‘Further research is needed in order to understand any links between BMI, fatty acids found in fish and breast cancer risk.

‘Maintaining a healthy weight, exercise and reducing alcohol intake can help reduce the risk of breast cancer and other diseases.’

Sally Greenbrook, Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Senior Policy Officer said ‘It’s difficult to say with any certainty which foods or dietary factors have an impact on breast cancer risk, since we all eat a variety of different foods, and our diet changes over our lifetime.

‘The study found that fatty acids found in fish could be associated with a lower risk of breast cancer, but there’s not enough evidence yet to suggest eating fish will reduce a person’s individual risk. However, we do recommend that all people eat a healthy balanced diet for their general health and wellbeing, of which fish can certainly form a part.’


Where’s My PBJ? Menu Changes Are Driving Children Out of American Lunch Lines

Food authoritarianism run wild

 The attempt to legislate nutrition is causing problems in the nation's public schools.  Food waste is up and the number of students buying school lunches is down, witnesses told a congressional panel on Thursday.

And the maximum weekly limits on protein and grain servings, although temporarily suspended, are particularly troublesome:

"Under the grain and protein maximums, our cafeterias faced the choice of either eliminating these daily alternatives or offering them only four days a week, leaving students confused and upset on Fridays," said Sandra Ford, director of food and nutrition services for Manatee County School District in Bradenton, Florida.

"On the first day of school, one of my elementary school students burst into tears in the cafeteria because he couldn't get his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Meanwhile, we haven't been able to find whole grain sandwich wraps that meet the weekly grain limits, so we've had to cut our wraps in half. How would you feel if suddenly your favorite sandwich was served on just half a wrap?

"These menu changes have driven children out of our program," Ford told a House Education and the Workforce subcommittee.

The Agriculture Department, which oversees the school lunch program, has lifted the grain and protein limits through the 2013-2014 school year, but the temporary reprieve leaves school cafeterias in limbo.

"We brought back our daily sandwich choices to the menu," Ford said, "but how will students respond if we are forced to take away their sandwiches again next year?"

Cheeseburgers gone

Kay E. Brown, who works for the Government Accountability Office, told the subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education that all of the school food authorities (SFAs) her team visited were challenged by the meat and grain limits:

"Because regulations issued in January 2012 by USDA placed limits on the amounts of meats/meat alternates and grains that can be included in a school lunch, all eight SFAs we visited modified or eliminated some popular menu items, leading to negative student reactions in some districts," Brown said.

"Officials in one of the districts we visited told us that, in response to the new limits, cheeseburgers were removed from the elementary and middle school lunch menus because adding cheese to the district's burger patties would have made it difficult to stay within the weekly meat maximums.

"In another district, the SFA reported that it switched from using shredded cheese on the chili dog to processed cheese sauce because it does not count as a meat alternate."

To comply with the maximum grain limit, one of the districts started serving potato chips instead of whole grain chips "because the potato chip did not count as a grain."

Brown said the grain maximums also affected popular lunch items, such as sandwiches: "For example, four districts we visited reduced certain grain options used for sandwiches, such as the sub roll and the tortilla wrap, and two districts stopped serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a daily option in elementary schools because the weekly grain maximum did not allow for a sandwich to be served every day."

Brown noted that SFAs in four of the districts reported “negative” student reactions to the menu changes; and some said the changes resulted in fewer students buying school lunches.

“For example, the tortilla wrap size change in one district was followed by a significant decrease in the number of students selecting their lunches from the previously popular deli sandwich line in the high schools, as well as a decrease in the overall percentage of students purchasing school lunches in those schools.”

Another district's switch away from a sub roll contributed to a student boycott of school lunch that lasted for 3 weeks.

The USDA regulations also set daily minimum and maximum calorie levels for school lunches, depending on a student’s grade, but this also posed problems:

Five of the SFAs reported that the limits on meat and grain servings made it difficult to plan menus that met the minimum 750-calorie level for high school lunches. "To comply, some SFAs added foods to the menus that, while allowable, generally do not improve the nutritional value of lunches,” Brown said.

"For example, in three of the districts we visited, the SFAs reported adding pudding to certain high school menus to bring the menus into compliance with the calorie minimum. Some SFAs also added gelatin, ice cream, or condiments such as butter, jelly, ranch dressing, or cheese sauce to become compliant, according to the districts we visited and the SFA and industry groups we spoke with.

"While these additional menu items provided needed calories to lunches, they also likely increased the amount of sugar, sodium, or fat in the meal, potentially undercutting the federal law's goal of improving the nutritional quality of lunches.”

Into the trash

Food waste also is a problem, Brown said. Students take the food they are required to put on their cafeteria tray, but they don’t have to eat it. “Although none of the districts we visited had fully analyzed food waste over the past few years to determine if it changed during school year 2012-2013, six of the SFAs we visited told us they believe food waste has increased because of the new lunch requirements."

Brown noted that student participation in the school lunch program decreased in the 2012-2013 school year – another indication that students don’t like the changes. “Most of the SFAs we visited reported that they experienced decreases in lunch participation in school year 2012-2013 in part because of the new lunch requirements,” Brown said.

The GAO is recommending that the USDA permanently remove the weekly meat/meat alternate and grain maximums for school lunches and modify federal regulations to allow school districts flexibility in complying with the defined calorie ranges for schools with students in both the grades 6-8 and 9-12 groups.

Burdensome regulations

In his opening statement, Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), the subcommittee chair, said the purpose of the hearing was to look at "burdensome regulations."

"Providing students healthier meals is a laudable goal we all share, but the stringent rules are creating serious headaches for schools and students," Rokita said.

"Because the law requires students to take fruits and vegetables for lunch, even if they have no intention of eating them, schools are struggling with increased waste.” He noted that one Florida school district estimated students threw out $75,000 worth of food, and at Dedham High School in Massachusetts, administrators report many students throw away the required fresh vegetables that cost the district about $111 a day to provide.

"Smaller portions, limited options, and unappetizing entrees have caused some students to protest new cafeteria food. High school students, athletes in particular, claim the calorie limits leave them hungry, and have resorted to bringing additional meals and snacks from home. Other students have simply stopped participating in the school lunch program altogether. According to the USDA in February, the average daily participation in the school lunch program had dropped about 3 percent in the past year," Rokita said.

“The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service estimated the cost of compliance with new nutrition standards will reach $3.2 billion over the next five years. With states already facing large budget deficits, these regulations are placing an unnecessary burden on schools and districts at the expense of low-and middle-income students.”

Rokita said Congress has a responsibility to “put these programs on a more sustainable path for the future.”

According to GAO, the National School Lunch Program, established in 1946, provides low-cost or free lunches in participating schools to about 31 million children each month. At the federal level, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the program, which is administered by states and local SFAs. In fiscal year 2012, the federal government spent over $11 billion on the National School Lunch Program.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which reauthorized the National School Lunch Program, required changes to the federal lunch requirements with the intention of reducing childhood obesity and improving children's diets. Under that law, schools must offer both fruits and vegetables daily, offer more whole grain foods, serve only fat-free and low-fat milk, and limit the amount of grains and meats/meat alternates served each week.


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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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