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

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

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

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

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

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


30 June, 2012


29 June, 2012

Link between religion and being overweight, Australian  academics find

The way overweight people are stigmatized these days, it's no wonder they turn to the churches,  where they are simply accepted as all part of God's children.

But that didn't occur to the brainiacs below, of course.  It must be wonderful to "just know" by instinct which way the causal arrow points

RELIGION could be fattening, a new Australian study has found.

The study, by two northern NSW academics, has found a link between religion and higher body mass index (BMI) readings.

They say the "sin of gluttony" might not be as frowned upon by religious people as much as other vices such as drinking, smoking and pre-marital sex - and that many religious celebrations might even encourage over-eating.

Southern Cross University business academic Michael Kortt and University of New England colleague Brian Dollery collaborated on the study, which has just been published in the Journal of Religion and Health.

They analysed data from 9408 adults and found religious denomination was "significantly related to higher BMI" - a warning sign of potential health problems heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.  Dr Kortt and Professor Dollery found Baptist and Catholic men had a higher BMI compared with those with no religious affiliations.

They also revealed non-Christian women had lower BMIs.

"There has been a growing body of evidence to suggest that there is a positive relationship between religion and health," the academics said in their paper.  "We have identified a statistically significant association between religion and BMI for Australian men and women."

The study results reflected previous research cited by Dr Kortt and Prof Dollery in their paper, "Religion and BMI in Australia".

"In the first place, religion may both condemn and serve to control certain types of 'aberrant' behaviour such as excessive drinking, smoking and pre-marital sex," the academics said, referring to leading obesity research in the US.

"However, excessive eating, or the sin of gluttony, may not receive the same level of condemnation and could even be viewed as an 'accepted vice' by religious leaders and followers."

Dr Kortt and Prof Dollery also noted research suggesting many religious functions and celebrations revolved around food "which, in turn may (exacerbate) an environment conducive to excessive eating".

The academics noted that people who practised religion at home - for example, by watching TV evangelists - were more likely to consume high-calorie foods and drinks and might prefer a sedentary lifestyle.


The wonders of coffee again

New Yorkers must all be supermen and women at that rate.  They do kinda like their coffee.  What world do the writers of this mush live in?

Drinking coffee could help older people maintain their strength and reduce their chances of falling and injuring themselves, a new study has found.

The decline in muscle strength that occurs as we age can reduce quality of life by making everyday tasks harder.

The process is not well understood, but it is clear that preserving muscle tone is key.

It is known that in adults in their prime caffeine helps the muscles to produce more force. But as we age, our muscles naturally change and become weaker.

So, sports scientists at Coventry University looked for the first time at whether caffeine could also have a strengthening effect on pensioners.

Their study on mice revealed that caffeine boosted power in two different muscles in elderly adults - an effect that was not seen in developing youngsters.

Jason Tallis, the study's primary author, said: 'With the importance of maintaining a physically active lifestyle to preserve health and functional capacity, the performance-enhancing benefit of caffeine could prove beneficial in the aging population.'

The researchers isolated muscles from mice ranging in age from juvenile to elderly, then tested their performance before and after caffeine treatment. The stimulant is found in coffee and a number of soft drinks.

They looked at two different skeletal muscles, which are the muscles we can control voluntarily. The first was the diaphragm, a core muscle used for respiration; the second was a leg muscle called the extensor digitorum longus (EDL), used for locomotion.

Tallis said: 'Despite a reduced effect in the elderly, caffeine may still provide performance-enhancing benefits.'

Consuming caffeine has also been linked to improved thinking processes and improved memory skills in later life.

However, previous research has shown that excessive caffeine intake may cause the body to rid itself of calcium - a nutrient vital in supporting bone strength in later life.  It can also temporarily increase blood pressure, although the long-term effects of this are unclear.

The latest study will be presented at the Society for Experimental Biology this month.


28 June, 2012

Is sitting down bad for you?

Chicken and egg again.   Many of the people who sat down a lot may have done so because they were in poor health anyway

Note that even if the theory below is correct, sitting down could have benefits as well as disadvantages.  It may lead to less wear and tear on the joints, for instance

You may want to sit down before you read this - but best not to. Study after study has shown not only that being inactive is bad for your fitness but also that sitting for long periods each day may shorten your lifespan.

In fact sitting for more than six hours a day can make you up to 40 per cent likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than three hours a day.

Basically, those who sit for longer periods of time aren't getting the consistent and continual physical activity needed to maintain a healthy body.

The facts about the effects of sitting for long periods are confronting in the modern world, which seems designed to encourage or even force workers and students to sit. The hard truth is:

People with jobs that require sitting tend to have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease of people who mostly stand on the job.

After two hours of sitting, good cholesterol drops 20 per cent.

A study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching television and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 per cent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less.

As soon as you sit down, electrical activity in the leg muscles shuts off and calorie burning drops to one a minute.

If you have a desk job or spend a lot of time at the computer, proper chair height, distance from your desk, arm and wrist rests and degree of bend of the arms and legs are important. Sitting with the feet or lower legs under your chair for example, amounts to a contraction of the back of the thigh (hamstrings). Repeated shortening of these muscles results in greater tightness and lack of flexibility, which in turn can create problems with the lower back.

The muscles that are responsible for lifting the legs, as with walking or climbing stairs, are called hip flexors. With excessive sitting, these muscles react in the same way as the hamstrings, shorter and tighter. Postural changes can occur over time related to leaning forward, slouching and rounding the back, crossing the legs etc, taking its toll on the hips, spine and shoulders.

Even if you have a desk job, there are things you can do to help avoid problems related to too much sitting. These include:

When the phone rings, instead of staying seated, make a habit of walking while having the conversation.

If your building has stairs, take them instead of using the lift whenever possible.

Wear a pedometer throughout the day. This can be a real eye-opener as to how inactive you may be. Aim for the recommended 10,000 steps a day.

Use work breaks to get up and move.

Set a goal of standing up and stretching once an hour. Regular stretching relieves stress and can help ease tightness that might otherwise get the better of you.

Sedentary behaviors increase risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in men

By Warren TY et al.


PURPOSE:  The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between two sedentary behaviors (riding in a car and watching TV) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in men in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study.

METHODS:  Participants were 7744 men (20-89 yr) initially free of CVD who returned a mail-back survey during 1982. Time spent watching TV and time spent riding in a car were reported. Mortality data were ascertained through the National Death Index until December 31, 2003. Cox regression analysis quantified the association between sedentary behaviors (hours per week watching TV, hours per week riding in a car, and total hours per week in these two behaviors) and CVD mortality rates.

RESULTS:  Three hundred and seventy-seven CVD deaths occurred during 21 yr of follow-up. After age adjustment, time riding in a car and combined time spent in these two sedentary behaviors were positively (P(trend) < 0.001) associated with CVD death. Men who reported >10 h x wk(-1) riding in a car or >23 h x wk(-1) of combined sedentary behavior had 82% and 64% greater risk of dying from CVD than those who reported <4 or <11 h x wk(-1), respectively. The pattern of the association did not materially change after multivariate adjustment. Regardless of the amount of sedentary activity reported by these men, being older, having normal weight, being normotensive, and being physically active were associated with a reduced risk of CVD death.

CONCLUSION:  In men, riding in a car and combined time spent in these two sedentary behaviors were significant CVD mortality predictors. In addition, high levels of physical activity were related to notably lower rates of CVD death even in the presence of high levels of sedentary behavior. Health promotion efforts targeting physically inactive men should emphasize both reducing sedentary activity and increasing regular physical activity for optimal cardiovascular health.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 May;42(5):879-85.

Popular low-fat diets 'will not help keep the weight off and are bad for your body', claims study

The diet merry-go-round goes on and on

A new study claims that choosing the right diet to match your body's own biology is key to keeping the pounds off.

The popular low-fat diets may not be very good in terms of keeping the weight off, as well as not being good for your health, according to the study, led by the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital.

The study found that diets that reduce the surge in blood sugar after a meal - either low-glycemic index or very-low carbohydrate – may be preferable to a low-fat diet for those trying to achieve lasting weight loss.

Furthermore, the study finds that the low-glycemic index diet had similar benefits to the very low-carb diet without the negative effects of stress and inflammation as seen by participants consuming the very low-carb diet.

The team said that, while weight re-gain is often attributed to a decline in motivation or adherence to diet and exercise, but biology also plays an important role.

After weight loss, the rate at which people burn calories (known as energy expenditure) decreases, reflecting slower metabolism. Lower energy expenditure adds to the difficulty of weight maintenance and helps explain why people tend to re-gain lost weight.

Prior research by Cara Ebbeling, PHD, and David Ludwig, MD, has shown the advantages of a low glycemic load diet for weight loss and diabetes prevention, but the effects of these diets during weight loss maintenance has not been well studied.

Research shows that only one in six overweight people will maintain even 10 percent of their weight loss long-term.

The study suggests that a low-glycemic load diet is more effective than conventional approaches at burning calories (and keeping energy expenditure) at a higher rate after weight loss.

'We’ve found that, contrary to nutritional dogma, all calories are not created equal,' says Ludwig, who is also director of the Optimal Weight for Life Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital.

He said: 'Total calories burned plummeted by 300 calories on the low fat diet compared to the low carbohydrate diet, which would equal the number of calories typically burned in an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity.'

Each of the study’s 21 adult participants (ages 18-40) first had to lose 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, and after weight stabilisation they completed all three of the following diets in random order, each for four weeks at a time.

The randomised crossover design allowed for observation of how each diet affected all participants, regardless of the order in which they were consumed:

 *   A low-fat diet,which reduces dietary fat and emphasises whole-grain products and a variety of fruits and vegetables, comprised of 60 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 20 percent from fat and 20 percent from protein.

  *  A low-glycemic index diet made up of minimally processed grains, vegetables, healthy fats, legumes and fruits, with 40 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 40 percent from fat and 20 percent from protein. Low glycemic index carbohydrates digest slowly, helping to keep blood sugar and hormones stable after the meal.

 *   A low-carbohydrate diet, modeled after the Atkins diet, comprised of 10 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 60 percent from fat and 30 percent from protein.

The study used state-of-the-art methods, such as stable isotopes to measure participants’ total energy expenditure, as they followed each diet.

Each of the three diets fell within the normal healthy range of 10 to 35 percent of daily calories from protein. The very low-carbohydrate diet produced the greatest improvements in metabolism, but with an important caveat: This diet increased participants’ cortisol levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease.

The very low carbohydrate diet also raised C-reactive protein levels, which may also increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

Though a low-fat diet is traditionally recommended by the U.S. Government and Heart Association, it caused the greatest decrease in energy expenditure, an unhealthy lipid pattern and insulin resistance.

'In addition to the benefits noted in this study, we believe that low-glycemic-index diets are easier to stick to on a day-to-day basis, compared to low-carb and low-fat diets, which many people find limiting,' said Ebbeling.

'Unlike low-fat and very- low carbohydrate diets, a low-glycemic-index diet doesn’t eliminate entire classes of food, likely making it easier to follow and more sustainable.'


27 June, 2012

Do daffodils hold the key to treating depression? Compounds in flower can pass through blood brain barrier

This is just speculation so far

A bunch of flowers rarely fails to lift the spirits.  But daffodils could do more than just that – they may hold the key to treating depression, research suggests.

Scientists have discovered that compounds in South African species of snowdrops and daffodils are able to pass through the blood brain barrier, the defensive wall which keeps the brain isolated.

The barrier is a major problem for doctors treating brain conditions such as depression as it contains proteins which push the drugs out as soon as they get in.  Nine out of ten compounds cannot penetrate the brain, research shows.

But Professor Birger Brodin, who carried out the research at the University of Copenhagen, said compounds from the South African flowers Crinum and Cyrtanthus were able to pass through the barrier.

These could eventually be used to help deliver drugs to the brain. Writing in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, he said: ‘Several of our plant compounds can probably be smuggled past the brain’s effective barrier proteins.

‘We examined various compounds for their influence on the transporter proteins in the brain.  ‘Our results are promising, and several of the chemical compounds studied should therefore be tested further, as candidates for long-term drug development.’

He added: ‘The blood vessels of the brain are impenetrable for most compounds, one reason being the very active transporter proteins. ‘So it is of great interest to find compounds that manage to “trick” this line of defence.

‘Studies of natural therapies are a valuable source of inspiration, giving us knowledge that can also be used in other contexts.’

But he warned the study was only the first stage, and it would be a long time before the compound could be developed into useable drugs.


Philly "food desert"  project tests supply and demand

Food deserts are basically a Leftist fantasy anyway but the article below argues that even if we take the concept seriously, government "fixes"  won't fix anything

Food deserts are areas in developed nations where access to fresh and healthy food is limited and inadequate.

In the urban areas of Philadelphia it could be defined as convenience stores outnumbering grocery stores or markets that carry fresh produce.

These convenience stores are a great place to run in and grab a snack while you’re on the go.  In fact, Philadelphia is home to about 2,500 corner stores.  But given that Philadelphians suffer with an obesity rate of about 32 percent, the highest of any large city, some think these convenience stores should be forced into a healthy makeover.

But will adding products like vegetables and fruits to the shelves in these food desert areas result in slimmer waistlines for its customers?

The federal government thinks so and has so far given $900,000 taxpayer dollars to the city for 632 convenience stores to stock up on produce.

Now will Philadelphians opt for that apple over a bag of chips?  Only time will tell, but history, habits and desires do provide some insight.

The Washington Post points out that a similar trial of this sort on a much smaller scale was attempted in the U.K. where a market was brought to an underserved area.  The result:  “Of shoppers surveyed, 45 percent switched to the new store. Their habits, however, barely changed: Consumption of fruits and vegetables increased by one-third of a cup per day — about six grapes or two broccoli florets.”

Unfortunately there is no evidence to prove that more healthy food options result in healthier lifestyles choices.  People eat what they want to eat.  Therefore it doesn’t seem likely that stocking up corner stores with fresh produce is going to change anyone’s eating habits.

Furthermore, if the people residing in these food deserts areas had a high penchant for fresh produce, stores wouldn’t need government subsidies to supply the food.  After all, one apple is likely cheaper than a bag of chips.

Once these subsidies run out, it is likely these stores will go right back to business as usual and continue to supply their customers with what they demand — chips, candy and gum.

How is this any different than what is seen in grocery stores and markets that do sell produce? Where is the candy, gum, 16-ounce sodas and personal chip bags kept at your local grocer? In the checkout line at the front of the store — usually not where you find your apples and oranges. The impulse to buy a bag of candy or chips isn’t going to go away just because more fruit is on the shelf next to it.

Enlisting federal taxpayer dollars to fund this attempt to get a city to eat healthier is a gamble at best and a waste of money at worse.  Some might enjoy the convenience of stopping by the corner store for their usual fill and picking up a head of lettuce for dinner as well.  But chances are that head of lettuce would have been purchased regardless of whether or not it was from a convenience store.

Habits don’t change overnight, and it is certainly not in the job description of the government to try and make that change.

Fast food, soda and chips are available for a reason.  People demand them.

Just because the government supplies more fruits and vegetables in an attempt to combat obesity doesn’t mean people in Philadelphia will jump on board and choose those options over their usual snacks or meals.

Only time will tell if Philadelphia’s food deserts become home to fresh fruits and vegetables in every corner store.  But the real results will show in the waistlines of its people.


26 June, 2012

The latest screech of the food alarmists

The sad thing is that big firms feel obliged to change what they do to get these attention-seekers off their backs.

Coca Cola has been on sale for over 100 years so if there were any harm of the kind alleged it would have been evident years ago

Campaigners are calling for a ban on a colouring linked to cancer which has been found in Coca-Cola sold in Britain.  A chemical in the caramel colouring that gives the drink its distinctive colour has been at the centre of a health alert in the United States.

Coca-Cola has recently switched to a new manufacturing process in America to bring down the level of the suspect chemical, 4-methylimidazole (4-MI).

But this precaution has not yet been taken in other countries such as Britain, where its products are the nation’s biggest selling soft drinks with sales of £1.1billion a year.

The amount of 4-MI found in regular Coca-Cola cans sold in Britain was 135 micrograms – some 34 times higher than the 4mcg level in the US, according to research by the US group Center For Science In The Public Interest in partnership with Britain’s Children’s Food Campaign.

Health authorities in California are so concerned that they have passed a law that requires any can of drink containing a 4-MI reading of 30mcg or more to carry a health warning. If this safety assessment was applied in Britain, all cans of Coke would have to carry a warning.

The contaminant results from the industrial process, involving ammonia, that creates the caramel colouring. Chemical reactions between sugar and the ammonia result in the formation of 4-MI, which has been found to cause cancers in laboratory tests with mice and rats.

The results of the campaigners’ research are to be published in the International Journal Of Occupational And Environmental Health, and today they will write to British health ministers calling for an outright ban on the colouring.

Malcolm Clark, campaign co-ordinator at the lobby group, said: ‘Coca-Cola seems to be treating its UK consumers with disdain. The company should respect the health of all of its customers around the world, by using caramel colouring that is free of known cancer-causing chemicals.

‘The UK Government must regulate to protect public health from companies that aggressively market sugar-laden drinks that lead to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.’

Manufacturers say it is possible to provide a caramel colour that is totally free of 4-MI, however it is four times more expensive.

The CSPI examined regular Coca-Cola from around the world. In the US the 4-MI level was 4mcg per 355ml. The figure was higher in every other country, from 56 in China to 267 in Brazil. Diet Coke and Coke Zero were not included, but earlier tests suggest they tend to have one third less of the contaminant than the standard drink.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in California, which made the warning labels law,  said: ‘Studies published in 2007 by the federal government’s National Toxicology Program showed that long-term exposure to 4-MI resulted in increases in lung cancer in male and female mice.’

California’s experts suggest that regular consumption of 4-MI at its warning label level of 30mcg would cause cancer in one in 100,000 people over their lifetimes.

Coca-Cola strenuously denies there is any human health risk from 4-MI.   It said the decision to change the manufacturing process in the US, made public in March, was to avoid the need to apply ‘scientifically unfounded’ health warnings to cans and bottles.

The British arm of the company said it will change the caramel colouring used in its drinks in this country, but was unable to put a timescale on it.  It said: ‘We intend to expand the use of the reduced 4-MI caramel globally as this will allow us to streamline and simplify our supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution systems.’

The British Soft Drinks Association said there was no need to ban caramel colours containing 4-MI.

A spokesman said: ‘The 4-MI levels found in food and drink products pose no health or safety risks. Outside the state of California, no regulatory agency in the world considers the exposure of the public to 4-MI as present in caramels as an issue.’

The spokesman and Coke said food safety watchdogs in Britain and Europe have both decided the presence of 4-MI in caramel colouring is not a health concern.


First drug in 50 years to tackle C.diff goes on sale today in Brtitain

Hospital hygeine would do an even better job but that is too much to expect in Britain

The first new drug in more than 50 years to tackle the deadly C.diff stomach bug goes on sale today.

It is hoped that Dificlir will save some of the 3,000 lives lost annually to the disease. However, it costs £67.50 a tablet, so hospitals may opt to reserve it for the most severely ill.

Studies have shown that the twice-a-day treatment is just as good as existing drugs at treating the initial infection.

But, crucially, it halves the odds of already-weakened patients relapsing. Relapses affect a quarter or so of the 27,000 C.diff patients treated each year and cost the NHS up to £10,000 a time. They are fatal up to 10 per cent of the time.

Dificlir, made by Japanese firm Astellas, stops the bug producing the poisons that wreak havoc in the gut. It also prevents it from making the spores that help its spread.

Using the new drug should spare 10 in every 100 patients from the pain and indignity of relapsing, said Robert Masterson, a superbug expert from the University of the West of Scotland.

He added that while hygiene drives have led to a fall in the number of C.diff cases in recent years, there is no room for complacency.

Graziella Kontkowski, founder of the patient group c-diff support (CORR), said she hoped better treatment would save lives.

She said that the bug, which thrives in filthy conditions, affects the young and old, and added: ‘I would like to hope that with this new treatment, recurrences of Cdiff will soon be a thing of the past.’

Official guidance on NHS use is due in the next few weeks.


25 June, 2012

Two glasses of wine a day for middle-aged adults 'makes your life better'

Probably just a social class effect

Drinking a couple of glasses of wine each day improves your quality of life, researchers say.  They found that those who drink in moderation had better scores in an index that measures factors including dexterity, emotion, mobility and the ability to understand than those who abstained completely.

U.S. researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine studied 5,404 people at the age of 50, and continued to observe them over a follow-up period.

Most showed a stable pattern of alcohol consumption and ‘persistent moderate drinkers’ were identified.

They found that these regular moderate drinkers – those who consumed no more than 14 drinks a week and no more than three a day for women and four a day for men – scored highest in each section of the Health Utilities Index.

Subsequent changes in quality of life past 50 were similar in all groups, except for those who cut down on drinking from moderate levels – and these showed signs of decline.

The authors write: ‘Overall, this study shows a positive relation between regular moderate alcohol intake and quality of life in middle-aged adults.’

They said it was unclear exactly why continued moderate alcohol consumption seemed to have such a beneficial effect.

Other experts warned that the study did not take into account the reasons for people stopping drinking or cutting down.

Harvey Finkel, from the Boston University Medical Centre, said: ‘As people age, even disregarding medical obstacles, social interactions generally decrease, which leads to both less stimulation to drink and less opportunity to drink.’


No physical benefit from 'exergames': study

Games such as Wii FIt Balanceare of little physical benefit

Getting our sedentary, overweight children off the couch is a challenge. That's why the Nintendo Wii game console, which arrived in the United States six years ago, was such an exciting prospect. It offered the chance for children to get exercise without even leaving the house.

Tennis was one of the games in the Wii Sports software that came right in the box with the console. This was the progenitor of "exergames", video games that led to hopes that fitness could turn into irresistible fun.

But exergames turn out to be much digital ado about nothing, at least as far as measurable health benefits for children. "Active" video games distributed to homes with children do not produce the increase in physical activity that naive parents (like me) expected. That's according to a study undertaken by the Children's Nutrition Research Centre at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and published early this year in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Previous studies have shown that adults and children who play active video games, when encouraged in an ideal laboratory setting, engage in moderate, even vigorous physical activity briefly. The Baylor team wanted to determine what happened when the games were used not in a laboratory, but in actual homes.

The participants in this study were children 9 to 12 years old who had a body mass index above the median and whose households did not already have a video game console. Each was given a Wii. Half were randomly assigned to a group that could choose two among the five most physically demanding games that could be found: Active Life: Extreme Challenge; EA Sports Active; Dance Dance Revolution; Wii Fit Plus; and Wii Sports. The other half could choose among the most popular games that are played passively, like Disney Sing It: Pop Hits and Madden NFL 10.

The participants agreed to wear accelerometers periodically to measure physical activity over the 13-week experiment. To observe how well the intrinsic appeal of active games changed children's behavior, the researchers distributed the consoles and games without exhortations to exercise frequently.

They found "no evidence that children receiving the active video games were more active in general, or at any time, than children receiving the inactive video games."

How is it possible that children who play active video games do not emerge well ahead in physical activity? One of the authors of the Pediatrics article, Anthony Barnett, an exercise physiologist who is a consultant at the University of Hong Kong, explains that the phenomenon is well known in the field.

"When you prescribe increased physical activity, overall activity remains the same because the subjects compensate by reducing other physical activities during the day," he says.

Changing sedentary behavior is extremely difficult, says Dr. Charles T. Cappetta, an executive committee member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. "It may seem that active video games are an easy solution to getting kids off the couch," he says. "But as this study and others show, they do no such thing."

He says that "live sports" – the kind that are outside of the home, without controllers and television monitors – "remain the gold standard to get cardiovascular benefit."

Last year, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a small-scale study of use of the Wii Fit by adults and children in homes over three months and its impact on physical activity and fitness.

"When the Wii Fit was introduced in 2008, it targeted fitness instead of just entertainment," says Scott G. Owens, an associate professor of exercise science at the University of Mississippi and the lead author. "This caught our attention. Anything that comes out that might help kids be more physically active would be of interest to us."

Owens and his colleagues offered Wii Fit games to eight households that responded to advertisements seeking study participants. Before the games arrived,'the researchers used accelerometers to set the baseline of the participants' physical activity and ran fitness tests. Measurements were taken again six weeks and 12 weeks after.

"A major finding was the dramatic drop in daily use after the first six weeks," Owens says.

The Wii Fit was used an average of 22 minutes a day by everyone in the household in the first six weeks, but only four minutes a day in the second six weeks. At the end, health-related fitness measures were essentially unchanged.

Owens says he presented the findings at the 2010 meeting of the Games for Health conference, which focuses on video games.

"The academics who presented at the meeting tended not to be surprised by our findings," he said. "But the exergame developers and marketers were disappointed, I think."

Asked about this study and the one at Baylor, a Nintendo spokesman issued this statement: "While Nintendo does not make any health claims with active-play games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit Plus, we hope that the games encourage users to be more physically active. They are designed to get people up off the couch and to have fun."

For physical activity that brings measurable health benefits, kids need things like real balls, real rackets and real courts.


24 June, 2012

Living near loud traffic increases your risk of having a heart attack

Boring!  Of course people living near busy roads have worse health.  They are poor.  The rich don't live there.  And poverty is a major predictor of ill health

Loud traffic noise increases the risk of heart attack, a study shows.  Researchers say that each ten per cent rise in volume comes with a 12 per cent higher risk of heart attack.

Previous studies had investigated the combined effects of noise and pollution, although the results were inconclusive.

But the latest study of more than 50,000 people has found a ‘clear relationship’ between noise and heart attacks, reports journal PLoS ONE.

Dr Mette Sorenson, of the Danish Cancer Society, said that the reason for the relationship is unknown, but may be due to increased stress and sleep disturbances associated with high traffic noise.

He said: 'In this study residential exposure to road traffic noise was associated with a 12 per cent higher risk of myocardial infarction (MI) per ten decibel exposure to noise, showing a clear dose response relationship.'

Suggesting one possible explanation he said: 'Sleep disturbances can contribute to cardiovascular risk, leading to the hypothesis that exposure to noise during the night might be more harmful than daytime exposure.

'The sleep structure generally becomes more fragmented with age and elderly people are thus more susceptible to sleep disturbances.'

He said it was possible that changes in lifestyle caused by disrupted sleep could play a part.  But he adds: 'Stress and sleep disturbances can cause changes to lifestyle habits, including increased tobacco smoking and thus potentially a stronger association between traffic noise and MI among smokers.

'However we found indications of a high effect of road traffic noise on MI among never smokers.'

He points out that those studied mainly lived in urban areas, meaning other factors could be at play.

But he said: 'The present study shows a positive association between residential exposure to road traffic noise and risk for MI.'


The 1930s' Supersize Me: Bizarre experiment involved man eating only burgers for THREE MONTHS (and he didn't report any health problems)

The elite have hated popular food for a long time

Over 80 years before Morgan Spurlock even thought about eating McDonald's every day for a month, one Minnesota man resolved to chow down on up to 30 burgers a day - for three months.

However, unlike Spurlock's crusading attack on the fast-food giant, unheralded Bernard Flesche devoured burgers three times a day to show how healthy and safe they were and ultimately helpied them become synonymous with America.

Dubbed the 'White Castle Project', the 1932 initiative was the braind-child of White Castle owner Edgar Waldo 'Billy' Ingram, the father of fast-food burgers in the United States who created his patented 'Slyders' in 1921.
Needing to change the public perception of their burgers, White Castle commissioned an experiment in which a man was to eat up to 30 burgers a day for three months to prove they were safe to consume

Needing to change the public perception of their burgers, White Castle commissioned an experiment in which a man was to eat up to 30 burgers a day for three months to prove they were safe to consume

Even though his business was growing, the Wichita, Kansas, headquartered firm was still having difficulty persuading Americans to eat ground beef after the famous journalist and author Upton Sinclair exposed the poor hygiene of meat processing factories in his novel 'The Jungle'.

Nutritionist of the era waded in too declaring 'The hamburger habit is just about as safe as walking in a garden while the arsenic spray is being applied.'

Adding insult to injury, one anti-burger author said that the then unpoular snack was 'about as safe as getting your meat out of a garbage can standing in the hot sun. For beyond all doubt, the garbage can is where the chopped meat sold my most butchers belongs, as well as a large percentage of all the hamburger that goes into sandwiches.'

Deciding that these perceptions may be a problem, Ingram hired Jesse McClendon, Ph.D., a respected biochemist who had taught at Cornell University to research and eventually prove that burgers were safe.

Resolving that human experimentation was the most sensible way forward, McClendon convinced White Castle to endorse his study that would pave the way for thousands of American fast-food outlets and the popularity of cheeseburgers.

Forty-nine-year-old McClendon knew from previous research that dogs fed on lean-meat only diets did not suffer a depreciation in health.

So he proposed to White Castle that he would feed a single experimental human subject only White Castle burgers, bun, onion, pickles and all, plus water for 13 straight weeks.

Bernard Flesche, a University of Minnesota medical student stepped forward as a willing guinea pig for the burger-thon.

'He started out very enthusiastic eating about 10 burgers at a sitting, but a couple of weeks into it, he was losing his enthusiasm,' wrote his daughter almost 75 years later in a letter to her local newspaper in Minnesota about the little known experiment.

His sister even tried to tempt him with fresh vegetables during his three month burger stint but he stuck to his rigid diet of burgers only.

Similar in scope but not size, was Morgan Spurlock's 2004 'Super Size Me' documentary in which he dined at McDonald's restaurants three times a day for a month.

He gained 24 pounds, experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction and took 14-months to lose the weight on a vegan diet.

The documentary changed the public perception of fast-food and the obesity 'epidemic' raging across the developed world.  McDonald's introduced a changed health conscious menu after the success of the film.

However, almost 80-years previous to that famous experiment, Flesche, who had spent 13-weeks eating burgers with no apparent effect on his health, ended his mammoth burger binge.

'The student maintained good health throughout the three-month period and was eating 20-24 hamburgers a day during the last few weeks,' said burger mogul Ingram.

Overjoyed by the success of the experiment, Ingram added that it proved customers 'could eat nothing but our sandwiches and water, and fully develop all their physical and mental faculties.'

The study was heavily promoted nationwide and helped White Castle become one of the largest fast food outlets in the U.S. until the emergence of McDonald's in the 1950s.

Flesche complete his medical studies and died from heart problems at the age of 54.

As a result of his participation in the White Castle study his daughter revealed that 'He never willingly ate hamburgers again.'


22 June, 2012

Popeye had the right idea: Favourite snack of cartoon strongman could cut colon cancer

This work appears to have been with one carcinogen only so is of unknown generalizability

Popeye the Sailor Man had the right idea when he guzzled cans of spinach. Because the cartoon character's favourite food doesn't just give you iron - it could also reduce your risk of colon cancer.

Researchers at Oregon State University found eating the green leafy vegetable reduced the damaging effects of a carcinogen found in cooked meat.

They were studying the complex biological effects of the cancer-causing substance on microRNA and cancer stem cells.

During their animal study they found that the consumption of spinach could partially offset the damaging effects of the carcinogen. In tests with laboratory animals, it cut the incidence of colon tumors almost in half, from 58 per cent to 32 per cent.

'Cancer development is a complex, multi-step process, with damaged cells arising through various means,' said researcher Mansi Parasramka.

'This study showed that alterations of microRNAs affect cancer stem cell markers in colon cancer formation.

'MicroRNAs are very small factors that do very big things in cells,' she said.

Traditionally, cancer was thought to be caused by changes in DNA sequence, or mutations, that allowed for uncontrolled cell growth. That’s still true.

However, there’s also increasing interest in the role played by epigenetics, in which such factors as diet, environmental toxins, and lifestyle affect the expression of genes – not just in cancer, but also cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurological disorders.

Included in this epigenetic equation is the formation of microRNAs – once thought to be 'junk DNA' - which researchers were at a loss to understand. It’s now known that they influence which areas of DNA get expressed or silenced.

There are hundreds of microRNAs, and the OSU scientists monitored 679 in their experiments. When they don’t work right, problems can occur, including abnormal gene expression leading to cancer.

Professor Rod Dashwood said: 'Unlike mutations which are permanent genetic changes in DNA, the good news about epigenetics and microRNA alterations is that we may be able to restore normal cell function, via diet and healthy life style choices, or even drug treatments.'

Epigenetics essentially makes every person biologically unique, Dashwood said, a product of both their genetics and their environment. That includes even identical twins.

The findings of the new study should lead to advances in understanding microRNAs, their effects on cancer stem cells, and the regulatory processes disrupted in disease development, the OSU scientists said.

This might lead one day to tailored or “patient specific” therapies for cancer, Dashwood said.

The research at OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute was recently reported in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, in work supported by the National Institutes of Health.


The moralistic, Malthusian war against fat people

Activists, professors, theologians – everyone is now promoting the depraved idea that human gluttony is plunging the planet into catastrophe

Sometimes, I hear something on a news programme that catches me unaware and makes me think: ‘Surely this is an Ali G spoof?’

It is early Monday morning and a professor from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, holding forth on the danger that human beings’ weight gain presents to the survival of the planet. ‘Having a heavy body is like driving a Range Rover’, he argues, with passion and conviction. Before you can even catch your breath, he is warning of the catastrophic things that will occur when ‘we are all as fat’ as people in America. After lecturing listeners about the need to factor people’s ‘body mass’ into all debates about the environment, he pauses and then reminds us again that fatness is an ‘ecological not just a health concern’.

I look across the breakfast table, and my wife affirms my suspicion that this must indeed be an Ali G moment. But alas, a few minutes later, the twenty-first-century equivalent of a Trollope-like, worldly cleric, the weight-conscious priest Giles Fraser, is on the air to give his ‘thought for the day’. He, too, is morally weighed down by the problem of body mass. His little homily on sustainability is on-message in this Ali G world of ours. When I hear him say that ‘bigger is not always better’, it becomes clear why theology is in trouble. But when he finishes by saying ‘economic growth is like getting fat’, I slowly start to realise that this is more than just a bad joke…

There is something deeply troubling about having a professor, followed by a cleric, casually turning the size of the human body into a marker of moral evil. And they weren’t only talking about the weight of humanity in metaphorical terms. The professor and his London-based team have apparently quantified fatness around the globe. According to their calculations, the weight of the global human population stands at 287million tonnes. Of this mass of human fat, 15million tonnes of it is a result of people being overweight and 3.5 million tonnes is a consequence of full-on obesity. Apparently, American fatties bear greatest responsibility for weighing down the planet: the professor’s team says that although Americans only make up six per cent of the global population, they’re responsible for more than a third of the obesity.

This degraded depiction of human beings is really about morally indicting people for the original sins of eating and breeding. These days we are told that eating too much is as bad as having too many children. So the professor’s report on global gluttony claims that increasing levels of fatness around the world have the same impact on global resources as an extra billion people would. In other words, if people, especially American people, hung out at their local Weight Watchers a bit more, then the planet could be spared the misery and horrors that an extra billion people would bring it.

Sadly, it isn’t only small groups of scaremongers who have a tendency to present people’s eating and breeding habits as the cause of catastrophes to come. The current targeting of people’s allegedly immoral body mass coincides with the Rio+20 conference, the latest UN gathering to discuss sustainability, where the key argument doing the rounds is that human salvation will require a significant restraint of the breeding and consumption behaviour of human beings. This is a very fashionable prejudice these days. Indeed, on the eve of the Rio+20 conference, 105 science academies issued a statement warning that a failure to tackle population growth and overconsumption would have ‘potentially catastrophic implications for human wellbeing’.

‘Less body mass’ and ‘smaller human footprint’ – those are the mottos of today’s morally disoriented scaremongers, whose philosophical and theological outlook continually reduces human life to physical quantities of biological material and carbon footprints. Those who wish to make us feel guilty about our bodies should follow through the logic of their depraved misanthropy, and go whip themselves.


21 June, 2012

Just two tablespoons of olive oil a day could cut heart disease risk among Spaniards

This is probably just a poverty effect: Poor Spaniards can afford less  oil and also have poorer health

Olive oil has long been known to be good for the heart. Now scientists have found out  exactly how good it can be. And it doesn’t take much to enjoy the benefits.

According to their research, just two tablespoons of olive oil almost halves your risk of dying from heart disease. The equivalent of one tablespoon cuts the risk by around 28 per cent.

There have been numerous studies highlighting olive oil’s  benefits to the heart, but few  have investigated the extent to which this translates into reduced death rates.

The results are based on the diets of nearly 41,000 adults in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, which began 20 years ago.

While the research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found olive oil does not appear to reduce cancer deaths, there was an enormous impact on the death toll from heart disease.

Last night British experts said the results showed that olive oil, a large part of the so-called Mediterranean diet which is rich in fish, fruit and  vegetables, played an even bigger part in preventing heart disease than first thought.

The researchers stressed that they had allowed for the benefits  of other ingredients in the Mediterranean diet when assessing olive oil’s powers.

‘These findings are very significant,’ said Dr Charles Knight of the British Cardiovascular Society. ‘This is confirmation that olive oil is good for the heart.’

Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, compounds that can dampen inflammation in the body and possibly reduce the risk of clots.

Spanish researchers studied data on the eating habits of 40,622 men and women between 29 and 69, tracking them for just over 13 years to see what effect olive oil had on death rates. In the study period, just under 2,000 of the recruits died, including 956 from cancer and 416 from heart disease.

The data showed that heart death victims were among the lowest consumers of olive oil. Those who got through 29 grams or more a day – just over two tablespoons – were 44 per cent less likely to die from cardiac problems.


You can't win:  Low-fat salad dressing is 'bad for you'

Choosing a low-fat dressing for your salad might help you keep your weight down because it has fewer calories – but you could lose some other health benefits, a study shows.

It found higher-fat dressings help the body absorb more carotenoids, compounds in vegetables linked with a reduced risk of illnesses including cancer and heart disease.

Researchers from Iowa State University fed 29 people salads dressed with butter, high in saturated fat, canola oil for monounsaturated fat, and corn oil for polyunsaturated fat.

Each salad was dished up with three grams, eight grams or 20 grams of fat from dressings to see if fat dosage made a difference to the overall results.

The participants had their blood tested for absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids, which are compounds associated with a reduced risk of several chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

With all but the canola oil, made from genetically modified rapeseed, the more fat that was used the more carotenoids were absorbed, says the study in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

Canola oil promoted the same carotenoid absorption with three grams of fat as with 20g, suggesting it may be a healthy choice for weight watchers. Olive oil is also rich in monounsaturated fat.

Professor Mario Ferruzzi of Purdue University in the US said: 'If you want to utilise more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings.

'If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there is a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables.'

Results showed corn oil was the most dependent on dose, with the more fat on the salad, the more carotenoids the participants absorbed.

The butter rich in saturated fat was also dependent on dose when drizzled on the salads, but not to a lesser extent.

Canola oil and olive-oil based dressings promoted the same carotenoid absorption at three grams of fat, as they did at 20 grams - suggesting this would be a good choice of dressing for people watching their weight but wanting to remain healthy.

The researchers are taking the study further by trying to understand how meal patterns affect nutrient absorption - determining whether people absorb more nutrients if they eat vegetables at one time or spread throughout the day.

Professor Ferruzzi added: 'Even at the lower fat level, you can absorb a significant amount of carotenoids with monounsaturated fat-rich canola oil.

'Overall, pairing with fat matters.

'You can absorb significant amounts of carotenoids with saturated or polyunsaturated fats at low levels, but you would see more carotenoid absorption as you increase the amounts of those fats on a salad.'


20 June, 2012

A drink a day for pregnant women 'will NOT harm unborn baby's development'

Drinking alcohol while trying to conceive or in early pregnancy – even the occasional binge – will not harm the baby’s development, research has claimed.  It also shows moderate drinking, around one a day, does not affect the child’s IQ and other brain functions.

However, high levels of consumption – nine or more drinks a week – were linked to a lower attention span at the age of five.

The findings contradict official guidance, which says alcohol is best avoided in pregnancy and when trying to conceive.

Previous research has suggested the odd tipple does not affect intellectual or behavioural development, but this is the first significant evidence that occasional binge drinking in the early weeks of pregnancy is unlikely to irrevocably harm the baby.

Danish doctors behind the research said the findings should not be taken as a green light for pregnant women to binge drink, defined as having five or more drinks on one occasion.

Joint author Professor Ulrik Kesmodel, of Aarhus University Hospital, said it was clear that heavy, continuous drinking was detrimental to the unborn child.

Heavy drinking in pregnancy is linked to Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in children, which can cause physical, mental and behavioural problems. Newly pregnant women were often concerned their baby had been conceived at a time when they may have been binge drinking, said Prof Kesmodel.

But he added: ‘These findings, which were unexpected, should bring some comfort to women if they were drinking before they realised they were pregnant.’ A total of 1,628 women, aged 31 on average, were recruited for the research at their first antenatal visit.

Their weekly drinking habits were recorded, with low consumption defined as one to four drinks, moderate as five to eight and high levels as nine or more. Women who did not drink during pregnancy were included for comparison. In Denmark, one standard drink is equal to 12 grams of pure alcohol, compared with a unit of 7.9g in the UK.

Five studies published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology looked at the effects of alcohol on IQ, attention span, and functions such as planning, organisation and self-control in five-year-old children.

They showed occasional binge drinking, or low to moderate weekly drinking, in early pregnancy had no significant effect on the neurodevelopment of children aged five.

No differences in IQ and other tests were found between children whose mothers had up to eight drinks a week in pregnancy compared with those abstaining.

There was also no effect on a child’s selective attention and sustained attention in children of mothers drinking up to eight drinks a week. However, nine or more drinks a week were associated with a lower attention span among five-year-olds.

Prof Kesmodel, a consultant gynaecologist who carried out the studies with Erik Lykke Mortensen at the University of Copenhagen, said: ‘We were not so surprised to find no effects from lower levels of drinking, as previous research suggested this, but we didn’t even find subtle effects caused by low to moderate and binge drinking.

‘But the key message is that drinking during pregnancy is not beneficial and additional studies should be undertaken.’

The Department of Health said: ‘Our advice remains that women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant should avoid alcohol.’


Top heart doctors fret over new blood thinners

No easy decisions.  In principle Warfarin should be avoided like the plague because of its narrow safe range but the alternatives appear to have problems too

For millions of heart patients, a pair of new blood thinners have been heralded as the first replacements in 60 years for warfarin, a pill whose hardships and risks have deterred many from using the stroke-prevention medicine.

But growing complaints of risks and deaths tied to the new crop of drugs have made some top U.S. cardiologists hesitant to prescribe them. Some are proposing a more rigorous monitoring regimen for when they are used.

Most concerns revolve around Pradaxa, a twice daily pill from Boehringer Ingelheim that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 2010 to prevent strokes in patients with an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. It was the first new oral treatment for that use since warfarin was introduced in the 1950s.

"The good news is you now have an alternative to warfarin," said Dr. Alan Jacobson, director of anti-coagulation services at the Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare system in Loma Linda, California. "The bad news is you can kill a patient as easily with the new drug as you could with the old drug" if it is not handled properly.

"The average patient doesn't understand anything about the new drug, or what the risks are, or what other medicines he can or can't take," said Jacobson, citing interactions with common painkillers and other drugs that can alter Pradaxa blood levels.

Xarelto, a once daily pill that Johnson & Johnson developed with Bayer AG, was approved last November for atrial fibrillation. The condition affects about 3 million Americans, causing blood to pool in a storage chamber of the heart, where it can clot and travel to the brain.

Both new drugs were designed to sidestep risks of warfarin, including brain hemorrhages and other dangerous bleeding, and become mainstays of a new therapeutic market worth at least $10 billion a year. Patients taking warfarin require close monitoring and regular blood tests as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.

Doctors have less data and familiarity with Xarelto, which is still being rolled out.

But Jacobson and another dozen physicians interviewed by Reuters expressed similar concerns about both Pradaxa and Xarelto.

They say that real world use of Pradaxa and Xarelto, which do not require regular blood monitoring or frequent doctor follow-up, raises concerns about the risk of stroke, serious bleeding and blood clots if not taken properly, particularly in patients with poor kidney function.

The nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices estimated last month that 542 reports of deaths associated with Pradaxa were reported to the FDA in 2011, topping all other medicines, including warfarin, with 72 deaths. Adverse event reports on Xarelto were not available.

A case study published in March raised alarm in particular, showing an elderly Utah patient on Pradaxa developed a massive brain hemorrhage and died after a minor fall.

European regulators have instructed Boehringer Ingelheim to add warnings about the bleeding risk to Pradaxa's package insert. Almost two dozen U.S. federal lawsuits have been filed against Boehringer Ingelheim alleging harm from Pradaxa.

Boehringer declined to comment on the lawsuits. The German company also declined to comment about the deaths, but said the number of reports of bleeding with Pradaxa were within Boehringer's expectations, given the incidence of bleeding seen in the drug's largest study.

"Research has shown that the number of reported adverse events for a drug peaks during its first few years on the market," when doctors are most likely to file voluntary reports to regulators and drugmakers, company spokeswoman Emily Baier said.

Dr. Robert Temple, a top official in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said few doctors notify the agency about incidents from warfarin because its risks are already well known. So the lopsided number of Pradaxa reports compared with warfarin may not indicate an elevated risk, he said.

"We don't necessarily believe it is real," he said. "But we're watching it. We can't help but notice it."


The makers of Pradaxa and Xarelto say it takes time for doctors to get up to speed on new types of treatments and how to best administer them outside the controls of clinical trials.

"This is a shift in medical practice," said Dr. John Smith, senior vice president for clinical development at Boehringer. "Individual physicians have to determine what the follow-up plan will be, to use common medical-sense judgment."

Dr. Peter Wildgoose, a senior director of clinical development at J&J, said the company has not provided special advice on follow-up care for patients on Xarelto.

"There's nothing more than for any other drug that people regularly take," he said, adding that most atrial fibrillation patients probably see their doctors on a regular basis. "These drugs have been tested long term, for several years at a time, with very good outcomes."

Boehringer Ingelheim and Johnson & Johnson officials stressed there was far less evidence in trials of brain bleeding - the most worrisome side effect of anti-coagulants - in patients taking Pradaxa and Xarelto than those taking warfarin.

In the meantime, warfarin is holding its own, with 33 million U.S. prescriptions filled for atrial fibrillation and other uses last year, according to IMS Health, a healthcare information and services company. Some 2.2 million prescriptions were filled for Pradaxa.

About 130,000 U.S. prescriptions were written for Xarelto in the first three months of 2012. Pradaxa and Xarelto each cost about $3,000 a year, versus just $200 for generic warfarin.

Prominent U.S. heart doctors stress that neither new drug has a known antidote for a bleeding emergency, as warfarin does.

They also say that patients using them should undergo testing ahead of time to ensure good kidney function, be carefully taught potential pitfalls of the drugs and be seen by doctors periodically, especially after a switch is made.

"I have received a dozen phone calls from local colleagues in the last couple of months about bleeding on Pradaxa and have yet to find a single case where that bleeding was not related to improper use of the drug," said Dr. Sanjay Kaul, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Kaul found that many of the doctors failed to test patient kidney function before prescribing Pradaxa, though 80 percent of the drug is excreted in that organ. Weak kidneys allow the medicine to build to unsafe levels in the bloodstream. About two-thirds of Xarelto is eliminated by the kidneys - including 36 percent of the active drug as well as drug that has already been rendered inactive by the liver. Other doctors failed to ask patients whether they had a history of gastrointestinal bleeding, which raises the risk for Pradaxa.

"What really compounds the matter is the lack of a specific antidote to reverse life-threatening bleeding" from Pradaxa, said Kaul, who served on independent panels that advised the FDA on both new medications. Kaul said he had written only one prescription for Pradaxa and none for Xarelto.

Boehringer Ingelheim said it is working on an antidote, but declined to elaborate. Johnson & Johnson said it is not developing an antidote, but is monitoring early efforts by other drugmakers to come up with one. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co, which is developing a blood clot drug called Eliquis that is similar to Xarelto, declined to comment on the antidote issue.


Warfarin thins the blood by blocking Vitamin K, while Pradaxa directly inhibits thrombin - a protein involved in clotting. Xarelto and Eliquis - which Bristol-Myers is developing with Pfizer Inc - interferes with a protein called Factor Xa.

Richard Purkiss, an analyst with Atlantic Equities, sees the new blood clot drugs reaching combined global annual sales of $10 billion for stroke prevention and other uses, with Eliquis commanding up to a 60 percent market share, based on data showing it was more effective and safer than warfarin, including less bleeding and risk of death from all causes.

Neither Pradaxa nor Xarelto were able to claim both superiority and better safety than warfarin, or reduced risk of death.

Only 25 percent of Eliquis is eliminated by the kidneys - and the rest by the liver - which some doctors say could make it more appropriate than Pradaxa or Xarelto for older patients and those with kidney problems. The FDA is expected to make a decision on Eliquis by June 28.

Michael Liss, portfolio manager at American Century Investments, predicts Eliquis will overtake Pradaxa and Xarelto within six months after it is introduced. He expects it to capture peak annual sales of up to $4 billion, with Pradaxa and Xarelto dividing up another $3 billion.

Dr. Kenneth Bauer, head of hematology for the Veterans Administration health system in Boston, said the FDA should never have approved Pradaxa and Xarelto for patients with severe kidney dysfunction, since such patients were excluded from large studies. Nor should the agency have approved an untested 75-milligram half dose of Pradaxa for such patients, he said.

"These are people whose kidneys are already damaged ... and even at the smaller dose (of Pradaxa), you risk overdosing yourself," Bauer said.

The FDA said it routinely approves adjusted doses of medicines, and noted that patients with severe liver dysfunction were included in smaller studies of Xarelto and Pradaxa.

Boehringer Ingelheim's Smith said the FDA cleared the lower dose of Pradaxa after conducting its own analysis of how it performs in the bloodstream.


Almost 15 percent of Americans over the age of 80 are believed to have atrial fibrillation and face a fivefold higher risk of stroke if untreated.

Dr. Richard Besdine, director of the Center for Gerontology at Brown University, said he had switched only two of his approximately 100 elderly patients from warfarin. He is unlikely to switch many others for at least a few years.

"If there's an adverse event lurking in the closet for a new drug, it's most likely to come out in patients that are old and frail and taking multiple medications. They're the canary in the coal mine," he said.

Even so, Besdine - like many other doctors now on the sidelines - believes the new drugs may eventually displace warfarin as doctors become familiar with them.

Others note that warfarin's disadvantages have led as many as 70 percent of prospective patients to refuse to take it, leaving plenty of room for the new drugs.

Dr. Robert Califf, a Duke University cardiologist who headed the largest study of Xarelto, noted warfarin is still one of the biggest causes of U.S. emergency room fatalities.

"We shouldn't lose sight of what warfarin is like in the real world," he said.


19 June, 2012

Seven cups of tea a day 'raises incidence of prostate cancer by 50%' among Glaswegians

Some reasonable reservations expressed below about these unusual results.  I will refrain from making jokes about Glasgow

Men who drink lots of tea are far more likely to develop prostate cancer, researchers have warned.  They found that those who drank seven or more cups a day had a 50 per cent higher risk of contracting the disease than men who had three or fewer.

The warning comes after scientists at the University of Glasgow tracked the health of more than 6,000 men for four decades.

Their findings run counter to previous research, which had suggested that tea-drinking lowers the risk of cancer, as well as heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

The study, led by Dr Kashif Shafique, began in 1970.  Participants aged between 21 and 75 were asked to complete a questionnaire about their usual consumption of tea, coffee and alcohol as well as their smoking habits and general health, and had to attend a screening examination.

Just under a quarter of the 6,016 men were heavy tea drinkers, consuming seven or more cups a day. Of these, 6.4 per cent developed prostate cancer over the next  37 years.

Researchers found that the subjects who drank the most tea were often teetotal and led healthy lifestyles.

As a result, they may have been at a lower risk of death from ‘competing causes’, effectively giving them more time to develop prostate cancer, the journal Nutrition and Cancer reports.

Dr Shafique said: ‘Most previous research has shown either no relationship with prostate cancer for black tea, or some preventive effect of green tea.  'We don’t know whether tea itself is a risk factor or if tea-drinkers are generally healthier and live to an older age, when prostate cancer is more common anyway.'

He added that those drinking the most tea were less likely to be overweight or drink alcohol, and more likely to have healthy cholesterol levels.

‘However, we did adjust for these differences in our analysis and still found that men who drank the most tea were at greater risk of prostate cancer,’ he said.  Dr Shafique did stress, however, that his team was ‘unaware of any constituent of black tea that may be responsible for carcinogenic activity in prostate cells’.

Previous research has found health benefits from flavonoids – antioxidant compounds in tea that are thought to control inflammation, reduce excess blood clotting and limit narrowing of the arteries.

Of seven previous studies on black tea and prostate cancer, four found a potentially protective effect while the remainder found no effect either way.

Dr Kate Holmes, head of research at The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: ‘Whilst it does appear that those who drank seven or more cups of tea each day had an increased risk of developing prostate cancer, this did not take into consideration family history or any other dietary elements other than tea, coffee and alcohol intake.

‘It is therefore unclear as to whether there were other factors in play which may have had a greater impact on risk.’

Almost 80 per cent of Britons drink tea, consuming an estimated 165million cups each day. The British tea industry is thought to be worth more than £700million a year.

Dr Carrie Ruxton of the Tea Advisory Panel, an educational body funded by the industry, said just 92 men in the Glasgow study drank more than seven cups a day and went on to develop prostate cancer.

She added: ‘We’re lacking the complete picture because we don’t know what other dietary factors were involved. Other research suggests tea has a protective or neutral effect on prostate cancer, and the authors acknowledge there is no known ingredient in tea that is cancer-causing.

‘Tea-drinking may be a marker for some sort of behaviour that can raise the risk of prostate cancer, but the study does not show it is a cause.’

Prostate cancer strikes 40,000 British men each year, causing more than 10,000 deaths


More publicity for the serious side effects of Statins

Which were once almost universally pooh-poohed as minor

Women on statins, the anti-cholesterol drugs, are at risk of fatigue, a U.S. study has found.  Two in five women taking the pills had less energy than before, with one in ten reporting they felt ‘much worse’.

While experts stress that patients should never stop taking their pills before speaking with their doctor, it has been suggested that for some women, this side-effect could outweigh the benefits of the drug.

This news comes on top of previous research that suggested women may not benefit from statins as much as men.

So should women carry on taking the pills? We asked the experts...


Statins reduce the amount of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, which can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries, raising the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Statins are recommended for those with heart disease or a high risk of developing it.

Around five million Britons are taking statins, though last month, a review by researchers at the University of Oxford said everyone over 50 could benefit from them.


The new study into fatigue involved two leading statins, pravastatin and simvastatin.

The researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine looked at more than 1,000 adults, a third of them women, and the effects of statins on energy levels and exercise capacity.

Participants were randomly given a placebo or a statin at an average dose — pravastatin (40mg) or simvastatin (20mg).

The effect appeared to be stronger for simvastatin.
Statins are recommended for those with heart disease or a high risk of developing it

Statins are recommended for those with heart disease or a high risk of developing it


Most people think cholesterol comes from our diets — in fact, most is made in the liver.  Statins work by blocking enzymes involved in the production of cholesterol.

However, many hormones, including oestrogen, are also metabolised by the liver and it’s thought statins may interfere with this, says Dr Sovra Whitcroft, a gynaecologist at the Surrey Park Clinic in Guildford.

‘As oestrogen promotes sleep, any disruption to its levels could lead to tiredness.’


The list of officially acknowledged side-effects has grown. Initially these included upset stomach, headache or insomnia. Memory problems were added in 2009.

However, GPs point to other side-effects such as irritability and ‘generally feeling old’ that are never mentioned in studies, yet are common.

Another concern is hair loss.  Dr David Fenton, a consultant dermatologist in London, says this is a rare side-effect he has witnessed.

‘Women shed more hair than they should, and it can exacerbate any genetic tendency towards the female equivalent of male pattern baldness. I see many with thinning patches.’

A recent Greek study, published in the International Journal of Cardiology, suggested up to 10 per cent of patients reported myopathy — muscle pain.

‘There has not been a post-marketing surveillance study of statins,’ says Dr Malcolm Kendrick, a Cheshire GP and author of The Great Cholesterol Con.  ‘So no one really knows what the adverse effects may be or how many people experience them.

‘Some say side-effects are vanishingly rare. But many patients I see have probable side-effects from a statin with a significant impact on their quality of life.’

And many experts agree women seem to suffer more side-effects than men.  Dr Richard Karas of Tufts University Medical Center in Boston, U.S., says because women are smaller and tend to be older when prescribed statins, this might contribute.

However, the British Heart Foundation reports only one in every 10,000 people who take statins will experience a potentially dangerous side-effect.

The NHS estimates statins save 7,000 lives a year, so the risks are seen to be outweighed by the benefits.


It's generally accepted that for people who have had a heart attack, stroke, or have heart disease, statins can be a life-saver.

But more controversial is whether women benefit in the same way as men.  When it comes to preventing another stroke or heart attack (known as ‘secondary prevention’), a key study, the Jupiter trial, found that taking rosuvastatin cut the recurrence rate in men and women.

As Kausik Ray, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at St George’s University, London, points out, the five-year study ‘was so successful at reducing the incidence of deaths it was stopped after two years’.  ‘It found that healthy women at risk of heart attacks benefited significantly as much as men from taking statins.’

However, Dr Kendrick points out that while the recurrence rate dropped for both genders, the death rate dropped only for men.

As well as preventing a second heart attack or stroke, statins are also increasingly being used as ‘primary prevention’ — before there’s any sign of heart disease, let alone a symptom such as angina or a heart attack.

Here, the picture about the benefits for women is less clear.  A major review by the Cochrane Library (a highly regarded research organisation) said there was no evidence for using statins for primary prevention unless the patient was deemed at high risk of cardiovascular problems.

The review also pointed out most of the trials were conducted on white, middle-aged men.

So we can’t necessarily assume the findings will apply to older people, who may be at greater risk of adverse effects, and women, who may be at lower cardiovascular risk (thanks to their better lifestyles, oestrogen — which protects the heart — and their naturally higher levels of ‘good’ cholesterol).

For instance, when researchers from Harvard Medical School re-analysed eight major studies in 2007, they concluded there was no evidence statins worked as primary prevention for women.  ‘My view is that statins are, for women, completely useless for primary and secondary prevention,’ says Dr Kendrick.

However, Professor Ray disagrees, pointing out that in the Jupiter trial, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 40 per cent of the nearly 18,000 participants were women.

‘The evidence clearly shows that women at risk of heart disease benefit to a similar extent as men, though the number of women in trials is small,’ he says.


‘It's difficult to monitor fatigue — you can’t measure it like cholesterol,’ says Professor Ray.  ‘The latest study is useful, but it is not going to change what we do.

‘Fatigue is a common symptom, especially in women, but can be due to other causes.

For example, you may have an underactive thyroid and in premenopausal women fatigue could be related to anaemia. These conditions are often not picked up.’ 

Dermatologist Dr Fenton points out that tiredness could also be a side-effect of the lifestyle measures many implement when prescribed statins.

‘Losing weight, taking up exercise and restricting a diet by eating less red meat can all cause tiredness. It’s vital to check iron levels.’

Even if the fatigue is linked to statins, don’t stop taking the drug automatically, especially if you’re at high risk for future events, e.g., you are diabetic.

‘If you have a strong family history of heart disease, and a poor lifestyle, or have multiple risk factors, putting up with fatigue may be more sensible than being at risk of heart attack,’ says Professor Ray.

‘You need to discuss this with your GP.’


‘You can certainly try taking them in a different way,’ says Professor Ray.  ‘For example, I’d recommend you take a drug holiday, under medical supervision. Stop taking your statin for a week (which is how long it will take to clear your system) and then see how you feel.’

‘Or you could ask to be swapped to a long-acting statin, such as rosuvastatin, a 5mg twice-weekly tablet, which may suit your body’s digestion.’

Statins have been linked to low levels of co-enzyme Q10 — a natural compound found in cells which is important for turning glucose into energy.  ‘This may cause tiredness, but you can’t measure levels in the body, so you can only see if taking a supplement helps by trial and error.  'It can’t hurt and might help,’ says Professor Ray.


18 June, 2012

Chewing on chewing gum  keeps memories from sticking in the brain

There could be something in this.  Doing more than one thing at a time may be a distraction

Chewing gum can be annoying to people around you and it leaves a sticky mess behind, but now researchers say it can also hamper your memory.  According to experts from Cardiff University in the UK, people who chewed gum had a harder time recalling lists of letters and numbers than those who avoided the habit.

Researchers believe that the motion involved in chewing impedes the brain's ability to memorize serial lists. Just like tapping your finger or foot may distract you from accomplishing the same task, continual movements like chomping on a piece of gum can also interfere with your short-term memory.

The study, published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, challenges the prevailing notion that chewing gum — at least when it is flavored — is a performance enhancer that can boost brain power.

It also provides further proof that human beings are bad at multitasking, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Some previous studies have argued that gum improves concentration by triggering an increase in blood flow through the brain, said lead author Michail Kozlov, of Cardiff University.

But his team found that an oral activity such as gum chewing can interfere with the process that is normally used to remember verbal content.

The study found that it made no difference whether the volunteers chewed vigorously or naturally

As part of the study, the researches gave subjects tasks to perform while chewing gum and without gum.

In one test, the volunteers were told to masticate vigorously and asked to remember a sequence of randomly ordered letters, such as P, V, B, C, D, G, T. Another group repeated the experiment, but chewed at a natural pace.

In the second test, students chewed the flavorless gum and tried to pick up the missing item in the sequence.

The study found that it made no difference whether the volunteers chewed vigorously or naturally. In both cases, ‘chewing has an overall adverse affect on serial recall,’ researchers wrote.

The jury is still out, however, on the role of flavor. In a 2002 study, the participants chewed mint-flavored gum and performed better on short-term word and memory tasks than those who did not chew gum.

But because chewing gum loses its flavor in several minutes, ‘it seems advisable that chewing gum is only considered a performance enhancer as long as its flavor lasts,’ the researchers noted.


Bloomberg taking more bites out of the big  Apple

Last week I scoffed at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg taking a big gulp out of liberty in his city by banning the sale of large sized soft drink servings on his anti-obesity crusade, and warned that if he could do such evil with soda pop he could do it with other foods too.  I just didn’t think he’d move to do it so quickly.

But that is the nature of the statist mind. When they find themselves in positions of power they begin trampling upon individual liberty without so much as a backward glance. They enjoy interfering, meddling, and dictating into the lives of others. It makes them feel good.

I’ve always thought it was a mayor’s job to represent his town to the world, preside over city council meetings, see that the trash is picked up regularly, and oversee the responsibilities of the city’s employees.  It is inconceivable to me that the duties of a city mayor might include overseeing a food police department.

Now his target is set on large sized popcorn containers at movie theatres, milkshakes and “milk-coffee beverages" throughout the city, and who knows what other treats and snacks might come under the microscope next.

His New York City Board of Health expressed their approval last Tuesday for his soda pop proposal and now is hard at work thinking of other draconian methods to trim the fat from the waists, thighs and butts of the Big Apple’s obese denizens.

Member Bruce Vladeck proposed limiting movie-theater popcorn containers. "The popcorn isn't a whole lot better than the soda," he said. Another member suggested limits for milkshakes and "milk-coffee beverages."

While they’re at it, why stop with popcorn and milkshakes? Why not ban the sale of big candy bars, Twinkies, pizza slices, double dip ice cream cones and foot long hot dogs?

That great old tyrant, Ivan the Terrible, the first Tsar of Russia, was said to have once issued a royal decree proclaiming that all the men in his empire should not shave their beards, must not shave their moustaches, or pluck them, upon penalty of death.

And Ivan demonstrated much ingenuity in his death sentences, including burning barefaced men at the stake, impaling them on poles and boiling them in pots.

It seems to me that Mayor Bloomberg is doing his level best to imitate the Russian Tsar American style as he takes another enormous bite of liberty out of his big fat apple.


17 June, 2012

Bloomberg off with the fairies

Bloomberg arrogance doesn't need facts

 Most children and youth who consume soft drinks and other sweetened beverages, such as fruit punch and lemonade, are not at any higher risk for obesity than their peers who drink healthy beverages, says a new study published in the October issue of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. The study examined the relationship between beverage intake patterns of Canadian children and their risk for obesity and found sweetened beverage intake to be a risk factor only in boys aged 6-11.

"We found sweetened drinks to be dominant beverages during childhood, but saw no consistent association between beverage intake patterns and overweight and obesity," says lead author Susan J. Whiting. "Food and beverage habits are formed early in life and are often maintained into adulthood. Overconsumption of sweetened beverages may put some children at increased risk for overweight and obesity. Indeed, boys aged 6-11 years who consumed mostly soft drinks were shown to be at increased risk for overweight and obesity as compared with those who drank a more moderate beverage pattern."

The authors determined beverage consumption patterns among Canadian children aged 2-18 years using cluster analysis where sociodemographics, ethnicity, household income, and food security were significantly different across the clusters. Data were divided into different age and gender groups and beverage preferences were studied. For this study the sweetened, low-nutrient beverages, categorized according to Canada's Food Guide, consisted of fruit-flavoured beverages, beverages with less than 100% fruit juice, lemonades, regular soft drinks, and sweetened coffees or teas.

The authors found the main predictors of childhood obesity in Canadian children were household income, ethnicity, and household food security.

The study "Beverage patterns among Canadian children and relationship to overweight and obesity" appears in the October issue of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.


Martha Payne isn’t the only schoolkid who has fallen victim to Britain's school-dinners authoritarianism

By Brendan O'Neill

How lovely that the Twitterati has come out in support of Martha Payne, the nine-year-old girl whose school-dinners blog, “Never Seconds”, was temporarily banned by Argyll and Bute council. Little Miss Payne has been taking photos of her school dinners every day for two months, and posting them online with comments about how unappealing they were. And in an era when officialdom and commentators are obsessed with what schoolkids eat during their lunchbreaks, as if it makes a blind bit of difference to their future fortunes, her blog became an internet sensation. Her local council, not best pleased by the adverse publicity and clearly possessed of a bizarre authoritarian streak, decided to ban the blog. The ban has now been overturned, after tweeters and celebs correctly pointed out that it was wrong and rotten for a council to censor a child’s after-school blogging. Good work, Twitterati.

But what a shame that these decent folks’ opposition to council heavy-handedness in relation to school lunches is so spectacularly partial. What a shame, for example, that they haven’t offered solidarity to those millions of children who have been banned from bringing sweets and crisps into schools, which, as I once reported for the BBC, has given rise to a black market in junk food in school playgrounds. What a shame they didn’t speak out when councils, behaving like a Tuckshop Taliban, stormed into schools and shut down tuckshops and vending machines that sold chocolate or Coke. What a shame they didn’t have anything to say when mothers in Yorkshire who passed chips through the schoolgates to their children were slated in the media and depicted as Viz-style “Fat Slags” in The Sun. What a shame they didn’t complain when it was revealed that some schools are taking it upon themselves to raid children’s lunchboxes – made for them by their parents! – in order to confiscate anything “unhealthy”.

What a shame, in other words, that only one kind of authoritarianism in relation to school dinners is criticised – namely that which censors people from revealing how crap such dinners are – while other forms of authoritarianism, which control both what children can eat and even what their parents can provide them with, are tolerated. Like stern headmasters, it seems concerned hacks will only give their nod of approval to nice, polite, healthy schoolchildren, while withholding it from the rabble, from kids who eat chips and cake with the blessing of their stupid parents. Those kids, it seems, can be censored and censured and controlled as much as is necessary.


15 June, 2012

Revolutionary idea!  Target fat taxes at  fat people!

Why punish the innocent and the guilty alike?  No system of justice has ever recognized that as just  -- until we come to the Obesity warriors

Susanne Eman, a mother of two from the United Kingdom, weighs 343 kgs and wants to be the world’s fattest person. Her target weight is 730 kgs, and she is well on her way to achieving her goal. Yet there are a number of anti-obesity campaigners who want to tax her fat dream. Taxes are not the answer. The obese should pay for their obesity – but they should pay market rates, not government taxes.

These campaigners also want to impose a ‘fat tax’ on meals such as Burger King’s 510 calorie bacon sundae and KFC’s 540 calorie Double Down. Last year, Denmark introduced a tax on butter, milk, pizza, oil and other foods containing more than 2.3% saturated fat. Hungary has also implemented a fat tax on foods with a high fat, salt or sugar content.

Fat tax zealots also want soft drinks to be taxed more and have convinced New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban the sale of sugary drinks more than 470 ml. And in Australia, the Obesity Policy Coalition claims that more than 70% of Australians want fatty foods to cost more and healthy foods to cost less.

Fat taxes increase costs for everyone, irrespective of an individual’s girth, and importantly, do not take into account factors such as the lack of physical activity that contribute to obesity. Additional taxes imposed by the government on what we choose to eat and drink are clearly not the answer.

Rather, the additional costs of obesity should be borne directly by the obese and not by other taxpayers or businesses. This guarantees that people who are responsible and disciplined in managing their weight are not subject to a ‘fat tax,’ while ensuring the market charges the obese for the additional costs they impose on society. Some private sector businesses have started responding to the additional costs that obesity entails: several airlines require obese passengers to purchase a second seat, and insurance companies are factoring obesity into premium costs.

Susanne Eman should be free to be fat. She should pay for it too, but not through another new tax that will punish the healthy when they want to try a bacon sundae.


Pesky!  Drinking, smoking or being overweight 'does not harm men's fertility'

It's the advice every man trying to become a father wants to hear – have a drink and relax.  Researchers said yesterday that they have evidence that it probably won't harm their chances of starting a family. Nor will smoking, taking drugs or being overweight.  They found men with unhealthy lifestyles were likely to be just as fertile as those living more sensibly.

Under NHS guidelines issued in 2004, GPs are supposed to warn men diagnosed with infertility of the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs.

To try to improve sperm quality, infertile men are also urged to avoid being overweight and not to wear tight underwear.

The quantity of 'swimming sperm' available is regarded as critical to attempts to conceive, and infertile men are advised to cut out unhealthy habits to improve it. This leads to extra strain for many childless couples at an already stressful time. But a British study suggests many factors that were thought to contribute to sperm problems have little impact.

Estimates suggest around 30 per cent of men in couples seeking IVF treatment are subfertile, and 2 per cent are 'totally' infertile, while some studies show dramatic falls in average sperm counts. In some cases, fertility treatment is delayed or withheld on the NHS until couples improve their lifestyles.

However, the number of swimming sperm a man produces appears virtually unaffected by lifestyle choices, claim a team of scientists from Manchester and Sheffield universities.

They recruited 2,249 men from 14 fertility clinics around the UK and asked them to fill out detailed lifestyle questionnaires. Information from 939 of the men who produced low numbers of swimming sperm was then compared with information from 1,310 who produced higher numbers.

The results, reported in the journal Human Reproduction, showed that men with poor quality sperm were 2.5 times more likely to have had testicular surgery, and twice as likely to be of black ethnicity.

They were also 1.3 times more likely to do manual work, not wear loose boxer shorts, or not to have had a child before. But men's use of tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs made little difference.

Even being overweight, as measured by body mass index, did not affect sperm quality. The number of swimming sperm broadly correlates with how fertile a man is likely to be. It also often determines the type of fertility treatment that is offered. Study leader Dr Andrew Povey, of Manchester University, said: 'Our results suggest that many lifestyle choices probably have little influence on how many swimming sperm they have.

'For example, whether the man was a current smoker or not was of little importance. Similarly, there was little evidence of any risk associated with alcohol consumption.  'This potentially overturns much of the current advice given to men about how they might improve their fertility.'

Co-author Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at Sheffield University, said men should still take care of themselves, without feeling the need to 'become monks'.

But he added: 'Although we failed to find any association between common lifestyle factors and the number of swimming sperm, it remains possible that they could correlate with other aspects of sperm that we have not measured.  These include the size and shape of sperm or the quality of the DNA.'


14 June, 2012

Poor brushing of teeth linked to premature cancer deaths as bacteria increase risk by up to 80%

So:  People who take care of their teeth take better care of their health generally?  That's all you need to say to explain the results below.  There's also probably a social class effect involved.  Note the last sentence below

Failing to brush your teeth properly could increase the risk of dying prematurely from cancer, researchers claim.  They found a link between high levels of dental plaque, or bacteria, and dying from cancer up to 13 years earlier than might otherwise be expected. Those with the most bacteria on the surface of their teeth and gums had an 80 per cent increased risk of premature death.

Researchers say infection and inflammation play a role in up to one in five cancers, and is a key element in gum disease caused by dental plaque.

Gum disease causes bad breath, bleeding gums and, if untreated, cavities, receding gums and tooth loss after plaque settles between teeth and under the gumline.

It has been linked to chronic health problems including heart disease, thought to be caused  by inflammation passing from the gums into the bloodstream, although US researchers have recently suggested the link may be coincidental.

Similarly, the Swedish researchers behind the latest study have admitted their findings do not prove a causal link between cancer and dental plaque. Poor mouth hygiene may be an indicator of other lifestyle factors associated with cancer.

The study tracked the health of 1,390 randomly selected adults from Stockholm for 24 years, starting in 1985.

All the participants were in their 30s and 40s at the start of the monitoring period, when they were questioned about factors likely to increase their cancer risk, such as smoking and wealth.

Their mouth hygiene was also assessed to find out their levels of dental plaque, tartar, gum disease, and tooth loss.  None had overt gum disease, but all had varying levels of plaque on the tooth and gum surface.  By 2009, 58 had died, around a third of whom were women (35 per cent). Of these deaths, 35 were caused by cancer.

The average age of death was 61 for the women and 60 for the men according to the study, published in the online journal BMJ Open.

The women would have been expected to live around 13 years longer, and the men an additional 8.5 years, so their deaths could be considered premature, said study leader Professor Birgitta Soder, of the department of dental medicine at the Karolinska Institute, Huddinge.

Deaths among the women were predominantly caused by breast cancer, while those among the men were attributed to a range of different cancers.

The original dental plaque index in those who had died was higher than in those who had survived. They had values of 0.84 to 0.91, indicating that the gum and teeth surface had been covered with plaque.

The values among the survivors were consistently lower, between 0.66 to 0.67, indicating that their teeth and gums were only partially covered with plaque.

Even after known risk factors were considered such as age, smoking, lower educational attainment and frequency of dental visits, links between the amount of dental plaque and premature death remained strong.

However, the absolute risk of premature death was low.

Dr Paul Pharoah, reader in cancer epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, said the results suggested higher levels of plaque are associated with ‘higher all-cause mortality’.

‘Over the 24 years of follow-up the average death rate was two per thousand per year.  ‘For the 2.5 per cent of the population with a plaque index about one higher than average (1.7 compared to 0.7) the average death rate would be about three per thousand per year.

‘That means that a small proportion of the population with the worst level of plaque  are at a slightly increased risk  of dying. This association may not be causal.’


Elderly warned that taking fish oil pills 'does not prevent brain decline'

One more bit of quackery down the drain  -- but they are not letting go of their creed easily

Older people taking fish-oil supplements to boost memory and brain power could be wasting their time and money, a study suggests.

Researchers found supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids do not appear to prevent mental decline in old age.  A review of trials lasting up to three-and-a-half years failed to show such benefits, even though previous research suggested omega-3 can help keep brain cells healthy.

It was thought that fish-oil supplements, rich in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, might slow or prevent mental decline as they are found in reduced amounts in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from an international collaboration that reviews existing data looked at three trials on the effects of omega-3 taken in the form of capsules or added to margarine.  The benefits were compared with those of sunflower oil, olive oil or regular margarine.

A total of 3,536 people over the age of 60 took part in the trials, which lasted between six and 40 months. None had any initial signs of mental decline or dementia.

Participants taking omega-3 scored no better in standard tests of memory and mental performance than those not given supplements, according to findings published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

‘However, these were relatively short-term studies, so we saw very  little deterioration in cognitive function in either the intervention groups or the control groups.

‘It may take much longer to see any effect of these supplements.’
Further studies were needed, he said, stressing that omega-3 in fish oil might have other benefits.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, an independent nutritionist and scientific adviser to the Health Supplements Information Service, said: ‘Two thirds of Britons never eat oily fish, they do not have omega-3 in their diet and supplements are a good alternative.’


13 June, 2012

Diesel exhaust causes lung cancer: WHO report

If the WHO said it, it is probably wrong.  They should be renamed the "Health Fashion Organization". 

And their methodology supports that conclusion.  Their "findings" are not  the product of a proper peer-reviewed meta-analysis.  Their findings are  the conclusions of   an 8-day "working group".  How can they expect us to take them seriously?

And I know a lot of the studies they will have been looking at  -- mostly epidemiological rubbish or studies of badly abused rodents

Exhaust from diesel engines causes lung cancer, a World Health Organisation agency said for the first time, citing a review of studies.

Diesel exhaust also was linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, based in Lyon, France, said in a statement today. The group published the findings after a review over eight days by a panel of scientists. An earlier review, in 1988, classified diesel engine exhaust as "probably carcinogenic."

The finding is alarming for Australia, as sales of diesel-powered vehicle have more than doubled – from 110,608 to 266,886 – between 2005 and 2011. That figures doesn't include heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses, which are almost exclusively powered by diesel.

The agency isn't providing guidelines on what level of exposure is carcinogenic, leaving it up to national and international regulatory authorities to weigh its conclusion, Christopher Wild, director of the agency, told reporters today on a conference call.

"The scientific evidence was compelling and the working group's conclusion was unanimous: Diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans," Christopher Portier, chairman of the IARC working group, said in the statement. "Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide."

The review of older studies may not take into account advances in diesel technology over the last decade, Steve Hansen, a spokesman for the Diesel Technology Forum in Washington, said in an e-mailed statement. The group represents global diesel engine manufacturers, automakers and oil refiners. Members include Deere, Ford Motor and BP.

Lower emissions

Nitrogen oxide emissions from heavy-duty trucks and buses have been reduced by 99 percent and particulate emissions by 98 percent over the past 10 years, Hansen said.

Australia's Green Vehicle Guide, which lists new cars according to their environmental and emissions performance, marks down diesel vehicles for their particulate emissions.

The site says:

"While diesel vehicles perform comparatively well on fuel consumption and produce lower levels of greenhouse emissions, their contribution to air pollution is generally higher than that of comparative petrol or LPG vehicles. Of most concern are particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions which can cause a range of adverse health effects. These emissions are generally higher in diesel vehicles compared to petrol or gas vehicles."

The site acknowledges that vehicles fitted with particulate filters perform better.

"Diesel vehicles meeting the new Euro 5 standards have much lower PM emissions than vehicles built to current standards."

While the amount of particulates and chemicals are reduced with particulate filters, it is not yet clear how they may translate into health effects, the IARC said. "Research into this question is needed."

The IARC had been planning since 1998 to re-evaluate the cancer-causing potential of diesel fumes. The concern was re- emphasised by the publication in March of results from a US National Cancer Institute study that found exposure to diesel fumes increased risk of death from lung cancer in miners, the agency said.

By classifying cancer risks, the IARC provides scientific advice to governments. The agency lists substances as carcinogenic, probably carcinogenic, possibly carcinogenic, not classifiable and probably not carcinogenic.


ABOUT FACE!  Older fathers now said to be GOOD for their children's health

CHILDREN born to older fathers inherit a change in their DNA that could mean they live longer and healthier lives, according to research.

When both the father and paternal grandfather are older when they have children, the DNA linked to longevity and protection against diseases including cancer is even more pronounced, the study of 1779 young adults found. US researchers from Northwestern University and Washington University investigated what effect older fathers had on their children's telomeres.

Telomeres are "caps" found at the end of strands of chromosomes. They have been likened to the plastic tips on shoelaces because they stop DNA strands unravelling and cells degrading with age.

Researchers tested the blood of males and females in their early 20s in the Philippines and found those with older fathers - who had children from their late 30s to early 50s - had longer telomeres.

"In most cells, telomeres shorten with age. But in sperm, telomeres lengthen with age," lead researcher Dan Eisenberg, from Northwestern University's Department of Anthropology, said.  "Men who reproduce at an older age father children with longer telomeres compared with men who reproduce at a younger age.

"An individual's telomere length increased not only with their father's age at their birth, but also further increased with their paternal grandfather's age at their father's birth.

"This suggests delayed paternal reproduction can lead to cumulative, multi-generational increases in telomere length in descendants, which could promote longevity."

The study said the telomeres lengthened whether the father and children were rich or poor, overweight or fit.

Australian men are becoming fathers later in life, with the median age of fathers increasing from 31 to 34 between 1990 and 2010, and more men are becoming fathers in their late 50s and early 60s.

In 2010, 777 men aged 55 to 59 fathered a child, up from 674 in 2004 and 516 in 2000. The number of men in their 60s having babies has also increased from 226 in 2000 to 408 in 2010.

Previous studies have linked older fathers with increased chances of having children with health problems, with a recent US study of 132,000 men finding children of those over 45 were nearly six times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder.

Another US study showed men over 50 had a 15 per cent higher chance of having a baby with birth defects.


12 June, 2012

How statins 'leave 40% of women patients exhausted': Those at low risk better off NOT taking them, scientists say

At last the truth is leaking out.  Side effects used to be stated at around 1 or 2%.  Now a multitude of terrors are being admitted

The energy-sapping effect of taking statins is greater than previously thought, scientists said last night.  Women taking the anti-cholesterol drugs are particularly at risk of fatigue, they warned.

Two in five women patients had less energy than before, with one in ten saying they felt ‘much worse’.  Overall, around a fifth of those taking the drug reported they had less energy, fatigue upon exertion or both compared with non-users.

Researchers say the side-effects are greater than expected, and some people at low risk of heart disease may be better off not taking them.

More than eight million adults at risk of heart attacks and strokes are already taking statins and some experts believe the benefits mean all healthy adults over 50 should be taking them.

At present statins are restricted to people with a 20 per cent risk or more of having a heart attack or stroke during the next ten years.

Although some patients had already reported fatigue or exercise intolerance when placed on statins, previous trials had not looked at exertion fatigue or impaired energy in patients on statins compared with placebo treatments.

More than a million prescriptions for statins are written each week, compared with just a few  thousand 30 years ago.

Used to reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood, they make up nearly a fifth of all medicines prescribed for heart and circulatory disease, totalling 61million prescriptions in 2011 in England alone.

Statins are normally given to patients with high cholesterol levels after a heart attack, stroke or bypass surgery.

Some studies suggest they may protect against other health problems, including blood clots, Alzheimer’s and eye disorders, by maintaining a healthy supply of blood to the brain. They may also cut the risk of dying from pneumonia.

The most serious adverse reaction is myopathy in about one in 1,000 users, resulting in muscle pain, tenderness and weakness.   This condition can progress to rhabdomyolysis – a complete breakdown of muscle cells that may lead to kidney failure and death.  In some patients muscle weakness may persist even after stopping the drugs.

Other side-effects include cataracts, constipation or diarrhoea, headaches, loss of appetite and loss of sensation or pain in the nerve endings of hands and feet.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Products Agency has warned about additional risks of sleep disturbances, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, depression and, very rarely, interstitial lung disease.

Studies show the risk of type 2 diabetes is raised by 12 per cent with high-dose statins compared to moderate doses.

In a study of more than 1,000 adults, a third of whom were women, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, looked at the side-effects of the drugs on energy levels and exercise capacity.

In the trial headed by Beatrice Golomb, associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, participants, were randomly given identical capsules containing either a placebo or one of two statins at relatively low potencies: Pravastatin at 40mg or simvastatin at 20mg. People with heart disease and diabetes were excluded.

Those taking part rated their energy and fatigue with exertion relative to a resting base line, on a five-point scale, from ‘much worse’ to ‘much better.’

The ones taking statins were significantly more likely than those on the placebo to report worsening energy levels, fatigue after exertion, or both, says a report in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Both statins contributed to the finding, though the effect appeared to be stronger among those on simvastatin.

Professor Golomb said: ‘Side-effects of statins generally rise with increasing dose, and these doses were modest by current standards. Yet occurrence of this problem was not rare, even at these doses, and particularly in women.’

Although the study found  overall a worsening of fatigue for one in five people, four in ten women on simvastatin cited worsened energy or exertional fatigue, two in ten cited worsening in both, or rated either one as ‘much worse’.

But one in ten women rated both energy and exertional fatigue as ‘much worse’.

Professor Golomb said: ‘Energy is central to quality of life. It also predicts interest in activity.  ‘Exertional fatigue not only predicts actual participation in exercise, but both lower energy and greater exertional fatigue may signal triggering of mechanisms by which statins may adversely affect cell health.’

She said doctors should take account of these side-effects before prescribing statins for groups where there is little evidence they save life.

Professor Golomb said this included most patients without heart disease, women and those over 70, even if heart disease was present.


Is healthy eating making you miserable? Flax seeds, bean sprouts and ricemilk may be what the nutrition Nazis WANT you to eat, but experts are warning the results can be life-wrecking...

Attending a friend’s hen party in a restaurant a decade ago, I found myself accosted by a well-known socialite. ‘You’re drinking white wine?’ she asked, scandalised. ‘But it has no health benefits whatsoever! You should have red wine — it’s full of antioxidants.’

The idea that you could drink wine for pleasure rather than for its nutritional value was clearly something that hadn’t occurred to her. At the time, I found her attitude hilarious. Now it’s ubiquitous.

An increasing number of diet-obsessed women are evaluating everything they eat based on the ‘goodness’ that a specific food contains. It’s been labelled ‘nutritionism’ — instead of simply eating foods because we like them, we construct meals based around the nutrients that we hope to get out of them.

Mary McCartney, photographer daughter of Paul, and author of a new vegetarian cookery book, recently described her usual breakfast:

‘I make myself a disgustingly healthy smoothie every morning. I see it as an insurance policy — if I’ve had something virtuous for breakfast, it doesn’t matter so much if things go a bit haywire later on.

I blend one spoonful of Amazing Grass Green Superfood Powder, one scoop of whey protein, one cup of rice milk, one spoonful of Omega 3-6-9 Oil and a handful of flax seeds with a banana.’ It’s less an alternative to a slice of toast and Marmite, and more a chemistry experiment.

So when did eating well become so complicated and so joyless?
As Michael Pollan, author of the bestselling In Defence Of Food, has pointed out, humanity has been feeding itself successfully for millennia, but now that the scientists have got involved, our relationship with what we eat has altered.

We now wait to be told what we should eat rather than decide what we’d like to eat. But, ironically, if you’re cutting out whole food groups in your quest for vitality and longevity — for example, by becoming a a raw food-munching vegan— then you might actually be making yourself miserable by missing out on essential mood-boosting, serotonin-rich foodstuff.

Nutrition therapist Ian Marber even warns that obsessing about whether food is healthy or unhealthy may actually be one of the reasons you are getting fatter. He says: ‘The trouble with dividing up foods into “good” and “bad” is that people think if something’s good for you, they can eat as much of it as they like. But all food is fattening if you eat enough of it.’

Actress Lysette Anthony, 47, became a victim of nutritionism while living in L.A., its spiritual home.  ‘I was fantastically neurotic about what I ate,’ she says. ‘I used to go to a juice bar every morning and pay a ridiculous amount to drink ground-up blades of grass.

‘Then I had to sit very still for five minutes so I wouldn’t be sick. I loathed it. I also ate egg-white omelettes to avoid the cholesterol in the yolk, which is an incredibly boring way to eat. It made my life a misery.’

Now she’s back in the UK and starring in Lady Windermere’s Fan in Manchester, she finds she needs to eat four meals a day to cope with the demands of the role.

She breakfasts on toast, has avocado sandwiches for lunch, protein and vegetables for dinner — ‘You can’t eat carbs before you put on a corset!’ — then whatever she likes once the curtain comes down.

‘I’ve gone back to the good old adage of having a little of what you fancy,’ she says, ‘and I’m fighting fit as a result.’

But she hasn’t quite shaken off her belief in nutritionism. ‘I still force myself to eat lots of red cabbage because it’s anti-inflammatory,’ she admits.

By contrast, Marber says: ‘I never look at food and think: “Ooh, that’s a good source of fibre or Vitamin C.” I eat it if I want to and I don’t add up the calories.’

He believes that by focusing on the nutrients in food rather than on the food itself, we have lost touch with our instinct for what we should be eating. ‘People have forgotten food is a source of nourishment and pleasure. It’s supposed to be delicious.’

Would he eat a cream cake? ‘Of course — just not after every meal. It’s all about balance. We in the West are lucky to have this choice. Many have little food or fewer choices. It seems a little ungrateful not to enjoy a more relaxed diet.’


11 June, 2012

Ban birthdays!

That would be the usual logic of the do-gooders faced with the sort of stats below

A NEW study has revealed you are 14 per cent more likely to die on your birthday.  The Swiss study, published in the Annals of Epidemiology, analyzed 2.4 million deaths over a 40-year period and showed that the "birthday blues" can be lethal, The Independent reported Sunday.

Results extracted from a vast amount of data concluded that there were 13.8 percent more deaths on birthdays when compared with any other day of the year. The risk increased with age, with the figure rising to 18 percent in people aged over 60.

Birthday fatality figures for individual diseases show that there was an 18.6 percent increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, and a higher risk of up to 21.5 percent for strokes on birthdays. There was also a 10.8 percent rise in deaths among people with cancer.

A 34.9 percent rise in suicides amongst men was noted and a 28.5 percent increase in accidental deaths. There was also a 44 percent rise in fatal falls on birthdays.

Researchers are divided when it comes to explaining why people are more likely to die on their birthdays. One possible explanation -- the postponement theory -- suggests that gravely ill people wait until their birthday in an attempt to reach another milestone. But some researchers say the postponement theory is not entirely supported by their findings.

Alternatively, the anniversary theory argues the birthday event itself is responsible for the increased likelihood of death.

Authors of the study said stress played a significant part in birthday deaths, attributing fatalities to an "anniversary reaction" more commonly understood as the "birthday blues."


Boys as young as SIX are falling victim to anorexia as cases of eating disorder rise among both sexes in Britain

Is it any wonder after all the propaganda about "obesity" pumped out in the schools?

It's widely known as a devastating condition that can destroy the lives of teenage girls.  But new statistics show that anorexia is a growing problem among boys - and is affecting children as young as six.

Figures reported in The Sun show that 167 boys in England and Wales were treated for the disease between 2007 and 2011 - an increase of 65 per cent on the previous five years. Five of the victims were under the age of ten, including one six-year-old.

The eating disorder is also on the increase amongst girls. In the last five years, 1,662 sufferers under the age of 17 were treated, compared to 1,192 reported cases between 2002 and 2006. In the past decade 125 primary school age girls have been hospitalised, including seven nine-year-olds. 

One sufferer told how he nearly died after his weight dropped to just four-and-a-half stone.  Ollie Roche, 19, from Plymouth, Devon was just 16 when he was rushed to hospital three years ago.  'My body had actually started to eat itself on the inside to keep me going and my heart was shrinking,' Mr Roche, who has now made a full recovery, told The Sun.

A spokesman for eating disorder charity Beat added: 'Boys nowadays are experiencing as much pressure as girls when it comes to body image.  'There certainly needs to be more emphasis put on education in schools to build children's self-esteem.'

Medical experts have previously blamed the surge in eating disorders among boys on an obsession with looking good by having bulging biceps and a six-pack stomach.

They say children who are increasingly exposed to unrealistic body images are more likely to develop dangerous eating disorders.

Last year GPs were warned to be on the lookout for the potentially fatal conditions, which include anorexia and bulimia, after a rise in the number of those affected.

It is thought that many men may be reluctant to admit they have a problem as the issue has until now been seen as something affecting mainly teenage girls.


10 June, 2012

Tomatoes 'help keep skin young' and protect against sunburn

Tomatoes are very widely eaten so we should all be brimming with good health. And regular pizza eaters should  be a health elite.  The study was however a very small one and appears to have been supported by Heinz, a major supplier of tomato paste

Forget the expensive skin creams, tomatoes may provide the best defence to keeping skin looking young and safe from sun damage, say scientists.

Tests show that eating tomato paste could help protect against sunburn and skin ageing caused by sunlight exposure.

The age-defying ingredient is lycopene - the natural pigment that makes tomatoes red - with highest levels found in processed or cooked tomatoes used in ketchup, paste, soup and juice.

Professor Mark Birch-Machin from Newcastle University, will present details of the research today (thurs) at the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

In the study, women eating a diet rich in processed tomatoes had increased skin protection, as seen by a reduction in skin redness and less DNA damage from ultraviolet (UV) exposure.

Researchers compared the skin of 20 women, half of whom were given five tablespoons (55g) of standard tomato paste with 10g of olive oil every day for 12 weeks.

The effects on their skin were compared with the remaining volunteers, aged between 21 and 47, eating just olive oil for the same length of time.

The volunteers were exposed to UV rays found in sunlight at the beginning and end of the trial.

The researchers found significant improvement in the skin’s ability to protect itself against UV among those eating tomato paste.

Compared with the other women, the tomato-eating group had 33 per cent more protection against sunburn in the form of less redness.

The researchers calculated that protection offered by the tomato paste to be equivalent to a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 1.3.

Skin samples taken from groups before and after trial showed an increase in levels of procollagen, a molecule which gives skin its structure and loss of which leads to skin ageing and lack of elasticity.

There was also less damage to mitochondrial DNA in the skin, which is also believed to be linked to skin ageing.

Dermatology scientist Prof Birch-Machin said the tomato paste eaten was not overly excessive, but the amount that would be consumed from a lot of tomato-based meals.

He said ‘Eating tomatoes will not make you invincible in the sun but it may be a useful addition to sun protection along with sunscreen, shade and clothing.

‘The protective effect of eating tomatoes on our mitochondria is important as they are the energy producers in all our body cells including skin.

‘Therefore being kind to our mitochondria is likely to contribute to improved skin health, which in turn may have an anti-ageing effect.’

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, which can reduce the inflammatory response to UV damage by neutralising harmful molecules that are produced in the skin as a result.

Sun damage from UV exposure includes premature wrinkles and skin cancer.

The highest levels of lycopene are found in processed tomatoes used in ketchup, soup and juice which are more easily absorbed into the body.

The typical daily intake of a British adult is less than one milligram, about 25 times less than the amount found in studies to protect against disease.

Previous research suggests 8oz of tomato juice, 150gm of pasta sauce, or one lycopene tablet a day are sufficient to boost blood lycopene levels.

Other international experts at the meeting, which is supported by Heinz, include Professor Indika Edirisinghe, from the Illinois Institute of Technology in the US, who suggests processed tomatoes can improve high blood pressure in people at risk of heart disease.

Studies on 28 volunteers following high and low tomato diets for 6 weeks found that blood pressure in men and women was significantly lower in those with elevated blood pressure.

Work by Dr Mridula Chopra from the University of Portsmouth suggests cooked tomatoes may intercept cancer growth or even kill prostate cancer cells.

Dr Chopra’s research shows that lycopene inhibits the proliferation of prostate cancer lines.

In test tube studies, lycopene reduced the adhesion and invasion properties of prostate cancer and has been shown to intercept mechanisms important to cancer initiation, progression and cell death.

While further clinical trials are needed, Dr Chopra said further trials are need, but in the meantime he recommends eating three to four servings of processed tomato products per week for prostate health.


Little-used arthritis drugs could prolong life

Thousands of rheumatoid arthritis patients could live longer if they were given a little-used class of drug which cuts the death rate in sufferers by almost 50 per cent, according to a new study.

Patients who had been taking biologic treatments — currently only prescribed in severe cases when traditional therapies fail — were significantly less likely to die from health problems in the following three years.

The researchers found that those who had recently used the biologic therapies, called anti-tumour necrosis factor drugs (anti-TNFs), were half as likely to die as those who had only taken the common drug type, disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS).

Patients taking rituximab, another type of biologic treatment, had about a 40 per cent lower chance of dying than those who had only taken DMARDS.

Researchers from the German Rheumatism Research Centre in Berlin studied the death rate amongst almost 9,000 sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis and presented their findings at the annual conference of the European League Against Rheumatism. The scientists estimated that 21 in every one thousand people using the standard drugs would die over a 12-month period within the three-year study, compared with 11 using anti-TNFs and 13 taking rituximab.

Dr Joachim Listing, who led the study, said: “It is well-known that patients with RA have lower life expectancies than the general population.

“Our study demonstrates the positive impact that biologic treatment can have on patient’s life expectancy. These drugs are helpful to prevent premature death in patients with heavily active disease.”

Although patients do not die directly from arthritis, the new research suggests that biologic drugs may reduce the risk of death from other causes. Separate studies have suggested that by reducing the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, biologic drugs could lower the risk of heart disease and infection.

Another paper presented at the conference reported that using anti-TNF drugs for one, two or three years cut patients’ risk of heart attacks by 24 per cent, 42 per cent and 56 per cent respectively.

Biologic treatments, which came into use in 1998, are genetically engineered drugs that copy the effects of natural antibodies produced by the immune system to lower inflammation. They are very effective but are also more expensive than traditional treatments, and are only prescribed to an estimated 46,000 of the 650,000 rheumatoid arthritis patients in Britain, usually in cases where cheaper treatments are not sufficient to relieve patients’ symptoms, or cause adverse side effects.

A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK said: “Biologic drugs really have transformed the treatment of severe rheumatoid arthritis and the lives of millions of patients around the world, and for the first time the concept of being able to achieve remission in rheumatoid arthritis is an achievable reality, rather than just an aspiration.

“Achieving and sustaining remission in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis remains a major goal for our researchers and others — and the more it can be achieved the longer the life expectancy will be for patients.”

A third study presented by Roche, the drug manufacturer, at the conference indicated that patients who cannot take methotrexate, the most common treatment, are four times as likely to go into remission if they use RoActemra, a biologic drug made by Roche, than with another biologic drug known as Humira.


8 June, 2012

LOL: The miracle molecule: Hidden vitamin found in BEER and MILK can make you stronger, slimmer and healthier

I'm not going to criticise this one!

If you were planning on having a quick pint tonight, then this will be welcome news.  Beer may contain a vitamin which can fight obesity and improve muscle strength, scientists claim.

The ‘miracle molecule’, which has been found in milk and may also be present in beer and some foods, has no side effects and could even lengthen lifespan, they say.

The snag is that the molecule, called nicotinamide riboside (NR), is extremely small, difficult to find and expensive to synthesise.

Johnan Auwerx, head of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland, said experiments using mice revealed the molecule’s potential.

In an article in the specialist journal Cell Metabolism journal, Mr Auwerx called the results 'impressive'  'NR appears to play a role in preventing obesity,' said Mr Auwerx.

Working with Weill Cornell  Medical College in New York, his team found mice on a high-fat diet that were fed NR gained significantly less weight – 60 per cent – than mice eating the same diet without NR supplements.

And none of the NR-treated mice had indications that they were developing diabetes, unlike the untreated mice.

Mice which were fed NR supplements over a ten-week period had better endurance performance than those who were not.

They were also in better shape – and this was confirmed by observations of their muscle fibres under the microscope.

The molecule works by becoming trapped in cells where it boosts the metabolism, much like resveratrol, which is found in wine. No side effects were discovered during the experiments.

'It really appears that cells use what they need when they need it, and the rest is set aside without being transformed into any kind of deleterious form,' said study author Carles Canto in a statement.

Mice who had been fed the molecule also performed better in endurance tests, as well as in tests measuring heat loss.

The researchers believe an increase in the molecule reflects an improvement in mitochondrial function, the part of the cell that supplies energy.

Mitochondria are thought to play a part in the aging process. It is hoped that by stimulating mitochondrial function with the NR molecule, scientists may see increases in longevity as well as other health improvements.

But the molecule is difficult to reproduce and extremely small. 'At the moment, we can’t even measure its concentration in milk, so it’s impossible to know how much you would have to drink to be able to observe its effects,' Mr Auwerx added.

Research will continue with human testing at some point in the future.


Salt, Official Truth, and the New York Times

The New York Times recently published an interesting op-ed on the subject of salt. Its thesis is, first, that we have been and are being told by a variety of authoritative sources that we ought to consume less salt, second, that there is not and never has been adequate scientific support for that claim, and third that there is now evidence suggesting that the official advice is not merely mistaken but dangerous, that reducing salt consumption to the recommended level might well be bad for one's health.

What struck me about the piece was not mainly its contents—I had seen reports in the past on evidence that reducing salt consumption was bad for one's health—but its placement. I am not a regular reader of the Times, but my impression is that, in other contexts, it is sympathetic to arguments from official truth, arguments that start with some version of "all scientists agree that" and treat anyone who disagrees as either misinformed or in the pay of some interest group that wants the truth suppressed. Global warming is the obvious example, but I think there are others. So it was interesting to see them publish a piece debunking one version of that argument.

A close parallel to the case of salt is the case of saturated fat. A few decades back, the official wisdom, promoted by more or less the same sorts of authorities that now tell us to eat less salt, was that saturated fat was bad for the heart and one should therefor switch from butter to margarine. Further research eventually led to the conclusion that, while saturated fat was somewhat bad for the heart, trans-fats were much worse—and the margarine we were being told to switch to was made from hydrogenated vegetable oil, hence replaced saturated fats with trans-fats. In that case, as best I can tell, the official advice was not merely wrong but lethally wrong, a fact which led to less skepticism about official truth than it should have. Any readers better informed about the subject—nutrition is not an area where I can claim any expertise—are welcome to correct my account, but I think it is accurate.


7 June, 2012

LOL!  Why that spare tyre could be GOOD for your health: Hard-to-shift fat helps to regulate your immune system

It has long been known that fat cells have complex functions but this takes the cake (literally)

Dieters desperate to get rid of that spare tyre can finally let it all hang out.  That muffin-top could actually help to regulate the immune system and provide a first line of defence against infection and viruses.

A hard-to-shift beer belly could even help regenerate damaged tissue after an injury.

The fatty membrane in the belly, called the omentum, has never seemed to serve much of a purpose.  But now the research by scientists in Chicago has shown it can be a health benefit - and their discovery could lead to the development of new drugs for organ transplant patients with auto-immune diseases such as Lupus and Crohn’s disease.

The omentum lines the abdominal cavity, covering most abdominal organs, and is where fat tissue is stored.

The research team found that cells from this membrane can differentiate into lung-type cells and bone cells.  They now believe the omentum may be assist tissue healing and regeneration.

'We now have evidence that the omentum is not just fat sitting in the belly,' said Dr Makio Iwashima, from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

The team also found that the cells can suppress the immune system's response to an infectious agent.  This discovery could lead to new drugs to help transplant patients avoid the rejection of new organs.  Many drugs currently available can have serious side effects.


 Liquorice: Possible health benefits

Are you a liquorice lover? In news that will have fans reaching for the allsorts, The Atlantic has published an article suggesting that liquorice root contains anti-diabetic properties.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany identified a group of natural substances within liquorice root called amorfrutins. Testing on mice, the scientists found that the consumption of amorfrutins reduced blood sugar levels and inflammation that would otherwise be present in the mice suffering from Type 2 diabetes. The amorfrutins also prevented the development of a fatty liver - a common side-effect of type 2 diabetes and a high-fat diet.

Type 2 diabetes generally affects people who are already overweight or obese, causing the body to become resistant to insulin. Another action of amorfrutins is to bind to a nuclear receptor called PPARy which activates various genes that reduce fatty acids and glucose in the blood. The reduced glucose level prevents the development of insulin resistance, thereby blocking the cause of Type 2 diabetes.

But before you march off to your nearest Darrell Lea, take note. "The amount of amorfrutin molecules in a piece of licorice available for human consumption is far too low to cause the same beneficial effects that were identified in the diabetic mice." In response, the researchers developed a method of extracting sufficient concentrations of amorfrutins from the Amorpha fruticosa bush in which they are also found, which could be used to produce amorfrutin extracts on an industrial scale.

So is there any benefit to be had in eating liquorice sweets? Well, it depends on the sweet. What you're looking for is products containing liquorice extract or liquorice root. You won't get the same medicinal properties from anise oil, which is what is used to flavour many commercial liquorice products. Even if the sweet does contain extract, the quantity is usually far too small to have any sort of health benefit. As nutritionist Catherine Saxelby notes, Darrell Lea liquorice contains just 3 per cent liquorice extract, coming in after flour, sugar, molasses, and glucose syrup on the ingredient list.

Manufacturers of liquorice sweets are quick to point out that liquorice is a low-fat food. Saxelby says that while liquorice is a healthier snack than milk chocolate, care must be taken with portion size. "There's nothing wrong with having a few pieces of liquorice three or four times a week, so long as it's your only "treat food" that week," says Saxelby. "It's not safe for coeliacs though; the main ingredient of liquorice is wheat flour." Those with high blood pressure should also avoid the salty Dutch variety of liquorice, she says. Liquorice is slightly lower in sugar and carbohydrates than most other lollies, and contains small amounts of protein, iron and calcium.

Real liquorice also contains glycyrrhizin, a substance obtained from the root of the liquorice plant. Glycyrrhizin is the active agent in liquorice that combats illnesses such as upper respiratory infections, and is said to lessen the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. But the amount of real liquorice found in liquorice sweets is not standardised, making it far more safe and effective to take the recommended quantity of liquorice root or extract as a pill or powder. Those with high blood pressure may want to consider the deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) form of the product. In spite of its benefits, continued consumption of large amounts of glycyrrhizin may reduce blood potassium levels, lead to water retention, and increase blood pressure.


6 June, 2012

Prescription for better health: give the have-nots a hand up (?)

Leftist economist Ross Gittins has got his facts pretty right below but really has no clue about how to explain them.  Let me offer a sorites that even an economist might understand:

* Rich men tend to have a wider choice of women than poor men do

* Men tend to prefer attractive women

* Rich men are more likely to marry attractive women

* Attractive women tend to have better health. 

*  Health is highly hereditary

*  Therefore  rich men will tend to have healthier children.

Which item in that sorites do Leftists aim to abolish?  -- JR

It's a well established fact and most of us have at least heard of it. It's also a surprising fact. But it's a fact that doesn't get nearly as much attention as it deserves - not from our politicians, the media or the public.

It's known to social scientists and medicos as the "social gradient" or the "social determinants of health". And it means there's a strong correlation between socio-economic status and health. The higher your status, the better your health.

To put it the other way, the lower a person's social and economic position, the worse their health. And the health gaps between the most disadvantaged and least disadvantaged socio-economic groups are often very large.

One organisation that's taken a great interest in the phenomenon is Catholic Health Australia. It has commissioned the national centre for social and economic modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra to produce two reports on the subject, one of them released this week. It has also produced a policy paper of its own. I'll be drawing on all three documents.

You may think the explanation is pretty obvious: the more money you've got, the better health care you can afford. You can also afford a more nutritious diet. And the better educated you are, the more aware you're likely to be of the risks to health from smoking, excessive drinking and insufficient exercise.

These things are part of it, no doubt, but it's not that simple. Medicare is, after all, free or cheap to all. And who doesn't know that smoking damages your health?

There's growing evidence that status and power affect health. The lower you are in the hierarchy, the worse your health is likely to be. A fair bit of it seems to be psychological.

A study of men in England found life expectancy of 78.5 years for a professional worker, 76 years for a skilled non-manual worker and 71 years for an unskilled manual worker.

According to a paper by the American College of Physicians, job classification is a better predictor of cardiovascular death than cholesterol level, blood pressure and smoking combined. And non-completion of high school is a greater risk factor than biological factors for the development of many diseases.

The earlier report from NATSEM found that if people in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia had the same death rate as those in the most advantaged areas, up to two-thirds of premature deaths would be prevented.

Among Australians aged 25 to 44, only 10 per cent of those who are least disadvantaged report having poor health, whereas for those who are most disadvantaged it's up to 30 per cent. Among Australians aged 45 to 64, the most disadvantaged are up to 40 per cent less likely to have good health than the least disadvantaged.

Early high school leavers and those who are least socially connected are 10 per cent to 20 per cent less likely to report being in good health than those with a tertiary education or a high level of social connectedness.

Those Australians who are most socio-economically disadvantaged are twice as likely as those who are least disadvantaged to have a long-term health condition. More than 60 per cent of men in jobless households report having a long-term health condition or disability, and more than 40 per cent of women.

The socio-economic factors best at predicting whether people smoke are education, housing tenure (whether you rent, are paying off your home or own it outright) and income. Less than 15 per cent of individuals with a tertiary education smoke.

Among women aged 25 to 44, less than 20 per cent of those in the most advantaged socio-economic classes are obese, compared with up to 30 per cent of those in the most disadvantaged classes. The likelihood of being a high risk drinker for younger adults who left school early is up to two times higher than for those with a tertiary qualification.

See what this is saying? There are two ways to improve the nation's health. One way is to spend a lot more taxpayers' money on health care. That's the solution we're always hearing about, especially from doctors.

The other way is to reduce socio-economic disadvantage; to narrow the gap between the top and the bottom, not just in income but also in educational attainment (completing secondary education), housing tenure (more affordable rental accommodation) and the way people are treated at work.

This is the solution we rarely hear about. It too would cost money, of course. But it would make more people happy as well as healthy. And it would also save taxpayers money. Just how much is what NATSEM attempts to estimate in this week's report.

If the health gaps between the most and least disadvantaged groups were closed (an impossible ideal, but one we could work towards), up to 500,000 Australians could avoid suffering a chronic illness. Up to 170,000 people could enter the labour force, generating up to $8 billion a year in extra earnings.

That would produce savings in welfare payments of up to $4 billion a year. Up to 60,000 fewer people would need to be admitted to hospital annually, producing savings of $2.3 billion. Up to 5.5 million fewer Medicare services would be needed each year, saving up to $275 million. And up to 5.3 million fewer prescriptions would be needed each year, saving the pharmaceutical benefits scheme up to $185 million a year.

But the real point is that when we choose to allow the gap between rich and poor to widen each year - including by allowing the dole to stay below the poverty line - we're casting a blind eye to the ill health it causes.


Children 'made rude, uncooperative and aggressive by video games' with some playing for more than two hours a day during term-time

This is all just one-eyed assertion.  How do they know if the kid would not be doing drugs except for the alternative excitement of gaming?

Children are becoming aggressive, rude and uncooperative because of their addiction to computer games, research suggests.  Even during term-time they are spending 16 hours or more a week playing games outside school hours.

And one 15-year-old boy admitted spending 18 hours a day playing computer games during his school holidays.

The British Association of Anger Management warned yesterday that the youngsters start to withdraw from family life and interaction with friends but many parents ignore the problem in order to avoid confrontations,

It surveyed 204 parents of children aged nine to 18 about their use of computer games. Forty-six per cent said their sons or daughters had become ‘less co-operative’ since they started playing video games.

Forty-four per cent said they were more ‘rude or intolerant towards others’, 40 per cent said they were more impatient, 36 per cent reported an increase in ‘aggressive behaviour’, 29 per cent cited more mood swings and 26 per cent said their offspring had become more reclusive.

Twenty-eight per cent admitted their children spent 16 hours  or more a week playing com- puter games.

Mike Fisher, director of the association, which provides one-to-one sessions for children, said: ‘We get a fair amount of young people that are referred to us by their parents, whereby they are playing up in their school and home life.  There’s a very high percentage that we work with who are compulsive, obsessive online gaming addicts.’

Children being treated through anger management programmes range in age from 13 to 17.

Mr Fisher said: ‘The typical situation that we are faced with is where the young person gets very irritable and aggressive when they’re asked to clean their rooms, do their homework or to come to dinner when they really want to finish their game.

Their brains are being orientated to the point where their capacity to delay gratification has been diminished radically.

‘Classic addiction symptoms are wanting to isolate themselves in their room and play games all day. Any distraction from the addiction and they become hostile and impatient.  ‘Other symptoms are poor concentration, not eating enough, not brushing their teeth or even bathing.’

He said that weaning children off computer games involves parents setting ground rules such as limiting the number of hours a day that they can play and making clear that any misbehaviour will lead to a week-long ban.

‘The parents also have to learn  to deal with the aggression of  the young person because often their anger holds the whole  family hostage,’ he added.  ‘A lot  of parents want peace and quiet and the child learns that by being angry, they’ll get their own way.  We train parents to hold the boundaries.’

In April Alison Sherratt, a teacher in Keighley, West Yorkshire, warned that children as young as four are hitting classmates as they re-enact scenes from violent 18-rated computer games.


5 June, 2012

Bloomberg's Soda Farce

Even the big-government left is lining up against the proposal

Just how bad an idea is the plan by the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, to limit the size of sugary-drink cups (okay, pails? Buckets? Delivery devices?) to 16 ounces?

Even the big-government left is lining up against the proposal.

The Democrat who is speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, told the New York Post, “We may be getting too close to Big Brother….I just think we ought to step back and look at the freedoms that we have been given in this country and reflect on them.”

The former governor and attorney general of New York, Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, who wasn’t shy about using his powers against Wall Street banks and insurance companies, said on television, “This I just don’t think works,” and framed the issue as “Come on guys, let me lead my life.”

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, said on ABC News’s This Week program that “Obesity is a national problem. I don't think you can solve it by banning one of many sugary things out there. And besides, people will just cross over the Hudson and get a Big Gulp over there.”

USA Today, not usually a font of libertarianism, had an editorial declaring “Bloomberg’s plan is short on logic and long on intrusion,” and asking, “what’s next? Will New York, home to the towering corned beef sandwiches, soon allow them to be piled only 3 inches high?” The New York Times ran its own editorial opposing the ban, describing it as “overreaching” and “too much nannying.”

On “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart mocked what he called “a terrible idea” that “combines the draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect.”

Before tilting back that lemonade and toasting the common sense of Eliot Spitzer, Donna Brazile, and the New York Times editorial writers, though, it’s worth pausing to examine just how we got here.

It’s President Obama’s fault.

That is not to absolve Mayor Bloomberg of all responsibility — we’ll get to him in a moment. But Bloomberg resorted to his portion-control power play only after the Obama administration, after ten months of deliberation, rejected an earlier, more sensible, Bloomberg plan to prevent food stamp recipients in the city from using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to pay for soda or other sugary drinks.

It’s Mayor Bloomberg’s fault, too. More precisely, the whole episode is an example of how Bloomberg’s vast wealth, while a great political advantage, is also a liability. The fortune works in Bloomberg’s favor because it conveys the impression that he “can’t be bought.” It also helps pay for direct mail, campaign commercials, and other election-influencing tactics that increase Bloomberg’s clout. But the mayor’s money also can serve to exacerbate the “yes-man” dynamic that can be an unfortunate feature of boss-subordinate relationships even when the boss isn’t independently wealthy.

In this case, Bloomberg could have been saved a lot of embarrassment by having an aide with the stature and independence to tell the mayor that his idea was ridiculous before it was announced. But when the boss has the power to bestow a $400,000 bonus on a deputy mayor for campaign advice, as he did on Patricia Harris, or to install another deputy mayor, Daniel Doctoroff, as the president and CEO of his privately held financial information company, what underling is going to jeopardize a potentially lucrative future by saying “no”?

Friends who have gone to work for big grant-giving foundations have told me that all of a sudden, everyone laughs at their jokes. Bloomberg suffers from the same bubble-effect threefold — as the mayor, as a major philanthropist, and as a rich and successful businessman.

Bloomberg can try to adjust for his wealth and power by encouraging his staff to stand up to him when they think it is appropriate, the same way that even the lowliest Toyota employee can stop the assembly line if there is a problem. But the most dangerous effect of Bloomberg’s wealth is not on the mayor’s staff, but on his own personality. It breeds arrogance rather than humility. It doesn’t have to be that way; there are plenty of humble rich people and plenty of arrogant politicians who are not rich.

But imposing this regulation — which, the New York Times reports, applies to sweetened coffee but not to Venti cappuccinos, to “delis” but not “convenience stores” — is an act of arrogance, not only when it comes to the confidence in the ability to draw such apparently arbitrary distinctions, but when it comes to the role of government.

New Yorkers love energetic and ambitious politicians. If Bloomberg had confined himself to reforming New York’s public education system by expanding charter schools, to bringing the city’s crime rates to record modern lows with intelligent policing, and to rebuilding the city after September 11, 2001, and the financial crisis with a pro-business tone, he might go down in history as one of our greatest mayors. Now, he risks being remembered as a laughingstock: the scourge of the Big Gulp, the mayor who, in trying to teach self-control to obese New Yorkers, neglected the same virtue of restraint when it came to the use of his own public power.


Drinking four or more cups of tea can lower the risk of middle-aged related diabetes

How brainless can you get?  Is tea drinking the only way in which Britons differ from other populations?

The British habit of tea-drinking can help lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes - but only if you drink four or more cups a day. A study of European populations found that countries that drank four cups a day - the British average - had a 20% lower risk of developing the illness.  Tea drinking ranged from an average of none a day in Spain to four a day in the UK.

The study found that benefits seemed to be most obvious among heavy tea drinkers - drinking a mere one to three cups a day doesn't lower the risk.

A research team led by Christian Herder from the Leibniz Center for Diabetes Research at Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf, Germany, said previous analyses showed tea consumption was associated with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.

‘Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes, but dietary factors may also play a role. One dietary factor of interest is tea consumption.

'Tea consumption may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by influencing glucose digestion, glucose uptake, and by protecting beta-cells from free-radical damage. This beneficial effect may be due to the polyphenols present in tea.’

But it was unclear if tea is associated inversely over the entire range of intake.  He wrote ‘Therefore, we investigated the association between tea consumption and incidence of type 2 diabetes in a European population.’

It was done in 26 centres in eight European countries, and consisted of 12,403 incident type 2 diabetes cases plus thousands of others without the disease.

Tea drinking ranged from an average of none a day in Spain to four a day in the UK.

Herder wrote: ‘Increasing our understanding of modifiable lifestyle factors associated with the development of type 2 diabetes is important, as the prevalence of diabetes is increasing rapidly.

‘In line with this, no association was observed when tea consumption was studied as continuous variable. This may indicate that the protective effect of tea is restricted to people with a high tea consumption.


4 June, 2012

Vegetarian diets can be good for you

The basis for this article is a literature review conducted by affiliates of the Seventh Day Adventist church.  It does not yet appear to be online but there is no doubt that a very disciplined vegetarian diet can be adequate

A DIET of fresh fruit and vegetables is better than once thought, new research finds.  It puts to rest the long-held belief a vegetarian diet was likely to lack protein and iron.

The review published in today's Medical Journal of Australia, shows a well-planned, plant-based diet can meet the nutritional needs of adults and children.

Scientists found fruit and vegetable-based diets reduced the risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton said there were no significant health differences in babies born to vegetarian mothers.

The study, Is a vegetarian diet adequate?, showed there was no noticeable difference in the growth of vegetarian children compared to children who consumed meat as part of their diet.

"The average Aussie eats significantly more protein than is required by the body," Dr Stanton said.  "Not everyone needs or wants to become vegetarian, but eating more plant-based meals is a good recipe for our own health and that of the planet."


Government Junk Food Junkies

A study from the University of Tennessee which was cited in Reuters indicates that despite what Mayor Bloomberg may think, limiting people’s options on food, even junk food, does not help them to lose weight.

So if the Great Twinkie Prohibition of 2012 is not going to be successful at controlling the national waistline, what will it control? My guess is free agency and the free market. After all, if our dear leaders are so intent on managing our sugar and carbs, a la Mayor Bloomberg., shouldn’t they be concerned with the dietary choices of those people on assistance programs? How long will it be until someone decides that those the same stringent regulations that are being applied to those in the free market can be applied to those on SNAP?

And you on the Left, don’t tell me that people buying junk food on SNAP cards doesn’t happen. Once on a Sunday evening I had to run up to the radio station to handle a technical issue. It being summer, ice cream seemed seasonally apropos. So on the way back I stopped at a convenience store for a gallon of Rocky Road. The woman in line ahead of me had a stack of frozen pizzas and a six pack of Pepsi. She paid for it with food stamps. I thought to myself that what those items were probably not what the food stamp folks had in mind when they devised the program. But it was after all, food. (The woman also pulled a roll of twenty dollar bills out of her pocket and bought several cartons of cigarettes. But that is another story for another time.)

Will the time come when one cannot purchase “all that and a bag of chips” with a SNAP card?

Probably not. Feast your eyes, if not your stomach on this from the SNAP to Health website:
“For several years now, cities and states across the country have expressed interest in limiting the purchase of certain foods and beverages with SNAP benefits. However, because the criteria for SNAP purchases are federally-regulated policies, any states that wish to place their own restrictions must apply to the USDA for a waiver. To date, the USDA has rejected all applications for waivers. In 2010, the debate over restrictions of SNAP purchases was revived when New York City applied for a waiver to permit restrictions of sodas with SNAP benefits. The waiver was also rejected, but it raises the question of how to weigh the issue of the regulation of SNAP purchases and the rights of SNAP clients against the emerging obesity epidemic in the United States.”

Funny how when it comes to the government freebies, the government has to “weigh the issue” of the junk food versus and the obesity epidemic over which we should all be panicking. However, when it comes to cash on the barrelhead, or on the soda cup, Democrats are more than willing to clamp down on the exchange of goods and services. I guess it just doesn’t pay to take a Slim Jim out of the same hands you hope will pull the metaphorical lever for you in November.

In the end it boils down to the same old issue that has driven the left for years-government control versus personal responsibility. Congressman Rob Bishop once commented that conservatism is about allowing people to make choice for themselves but it is also about those same people taking responsibility for their choices- be it homeownership, personal spending, healthcare insurance or even what they choose to toss down their throats. It’s their decision, but it is also that person’s responsibility to manage and pay for the outcome.

If someone wants a Big Gulp, or a Super Big Gulp, or for that matter wants to drag a 55 gallon drum into the store, or even intubate themselves with a tube running from the fountain and into their gullet that is fine with me as long as their drink and subsequent heart bypass are on their nickel and not mine. But that would mean less government regulations and lower taxes, something that is heresy among Democrats.


3 June, 2012

How to lose weight and stay slim: Buy a mango and eat it all (even the skin you would normally throw away)

This appears to be a study in laboratory glassware only so is just theory

MANGOES could help you lose weight and stay slim – but only if you eat the skin you would normally throw away, a study suggests.  In tests, extracts from mango skin appeared to ‘inhibit the development of human fat cells’.

The secret is in phytochemicals that act as natural fat busters and are found only on the outside of the fruit, according to researchers in Australia.

Professor Mike Gidley, of the University of Queensland, said: ‘We know mangoes have many excellent nutritional properties but more work needs to be done to understand the complex natural compounds found in these and other fruits.

‘This research reminds us that we should be looking at the whole fruit when considering how to take advantage of natural goodness.’

The study could lead to the development of a supplement to fight obesity.


Meat and greet: modern hunger for caveman diet

There may be something in this.  It does seem to lead to weight loss

CLEAN-CUT, articulate and with minimal body hair, Nick Karp is no grunting Neanderthal. But his diet suggests otherwise.

He's one of a growing tribe of Melburnians who follow a "paleo diet", consisting only of foods a hunter-gatherer would eat. Cooked meat is a staple - paleolithic people had fire - and vegetables, fruit and nuts are permitted. Excluded are foods introduced after the agricultural revolution, such as dairy, grains, sugar and the Happy Meal. "It's about eating the way our ancestors did over millions of years," says Karp, 31.

The concept was popularised by US science professor Loren Cordain in his 2002 book The Paleo Diet. Converts now attend regular conferences in the US - including this weekend's paleo-centric "Low-Carb Cruise" of the Caribbean - while a Melbourne lecture series on sugar last month featured guests speaking about the benefits of a paleo diet.

A major source of paleo converts is the global chain of CrossFit gyms, which also advocate paleo exercises or "caveman training". This could include short bursts of running (catching prey), heavy lifting (carrying prey home) and various other high-intensity movements (dodging woolly mammoths).

Karp is a CrossFit trainer at a Caulfield gym and has converted dozens of clients to a paleo diet and exercise regimen. "It's a true, all-round fitness that prepares your body for anything," he says. He also sells "paleo snacks" made with almond meal and coconut online, and says a paleo lifestyle is not anti-modern, just sensible. "It's not like we're dragging our knuckles along the ground."

Paleo advocates are sensitive to Cro-Magnon comparisons. Sydney accountant Suzanne Crawt runs the Australian Paleo Network website, with about 20,000 monthly page views. "A paleo diet just makes sense, it is how we've eaten for millions of years. We've only been eating these other foods for 10,000 years … It's the modern diet that's the fad."

Crawt, 32, started a paleo diet in 2010, and lost 17 kilograms in three months. She says her asthma also disappeared. As well as the paleo diet, she advocates exercises based on heavy-lifting and sprinting - "and definitely not chronic cardio".

Melbourne has a "paleo meet-up" group with 60 members who attend regular dinners, barbecues and health seminars. They report benefits including more energy and relief from chronic gastric discomfort, or irritable bowel syndrome.

Software developer Adrian Wheat, 36, says his switch to a paleo diet two years ago has eliminated his eczema. "It's a simple diet, you can cook Jamie Oliver or Donna Hay - just leave the pasta and the grains out," he says.

Musician Mikaela Felstead had a "paleo-diet wedding", with snacks of vegie and meat sticks. As she is now five months pregnant, she makes "broth from meat bones for calcium, and other than that, all my dietary needs are covered".

Her friend Angelie O'Brien suffers from a strain of lupus and says the paleo diet has allowed her to drastically cut down on her medication. "It makes complete sense for me. Eating grains can compromise the health of your gut, and that triggers a chain reaction of problems," O'Brien says.

The Dietitians Association of Australia says the diet has its merits, but is still a "fad". "It's great that it advocates fresh fruit and vegetables and restricts food high in salt and sugar, but it excludes whole grains that contain protein, fibre and B-group vitamins, and are protective against bowel cancer and other chronic diseases," says spokeswoman Pip Golley.

But Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, at the University of Sydney, one of the pioneers and proponent of diets based on a low glycaemic index, says a paleo diet could be beneficial. "We've got very little research to go on regarding the paleo diet … but I've long been an advocate of eating more like our ancestors did," she says. "It does make sense - cereals are a two-edged sword for many people."

She says the benefits of a diet high in meat depend heavily on the quality of meat, and favours meat from pasture-fed, free-range animals.


1 June, 2012

Millions risk overdosing on paracetamol by ignoring the recommended daily limit

I will never understand why paracetamol is so often promoted as safe.  Unless you are bleeding somewhere, aspirin is much safer

Millions of people are at risk of unintentionally overdosing on Britain's most popular painkiller, scientists have warned.  Nearly a quarter of adults taking paracetamol are misusing the drug by exceeding the recommended limit with a 24-hour period.

This can lead to accidental overdoses and acute liver damage, according to researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago, who have called for 'urgent attention' to address the problem.

Many users ignore the manufacturer's dosage instructions, while some, particularly the elderly, forget how many tablets they have taken.

Others fail to realise that they are taking various medications containing the active ingredient acetaminophen.

Doctors recommend a maximum daily dose of eight 500mg paracetamol tablets, to be taken no more than two at a time during each four-hour period.

One consequence of an overdose of acetaminophen causing liver failure is a potentially fatal build-up of fluid in the brain.

Lead researcher Dr Michael Wolf and his team looked at the prevalence and potential misuse of pain medication containing acetaminophen as well as the likelihood of overdosing.

They interviewed 500 adult patients receiving care at outpatient general medicine clinics in Atlanta, Georgia, and Chicago, Illinois, between September 2009 and March 2011.

Over half the patients reported some acetaminophen use and 19 per cent were 'heavy users', taking it every day, or at least a couple of times a week, during the previous six months.

The researchers tested whether these patients understood the recommended dosage and were able to self-administer over-the-counter acetaminophen appropriately.

They did this by testing if the patients could work out the proper dosing of a single pharmacy medication over a 24-hour period and then assessing the risk of their 'double-dipping', or simultaneously taking two acetaminophen-containing products, and thereby exceeding the recommended dose.

The scientists found that nearly a quarter of the participants were at risk of overdosing on pain medication using a single paracetamol product, by exceeding the 4g limit in a 24-hour period

Five per cent made serious errors by dosing out more than 6g. In addition, nearly half were at risk of overdosing by 'double-dipping' with two acetaminophen-containing products.

Dr Wolf said: 'Our findings suggest that many consumers do not recognise or differentiate the active ingredient in over-the-counter pain medicines, nor do they necessarily closely adhere to package or label instructions.

'Given the prevalence of the problem, risk of significant adverse effects, and lack of a learned intermediary - for instance, a physician to guide decision making and counsel consumers on proper use - we believe this to be a serious public health threat requiring urgent attention.'

The research is published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.


Dark chocolate can help heart-risk patients and cut diabetes (?)

People are too  pesky so this study was run on a "model"

Lovers of dark chocolate have known for some time that their favourite treat can help protect them against high blood pressure and cut the risk of diabetes.

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

Although regular chocolate eating doesn’t work quite as well as drugs, the researchers say it has virtually no side effects and, perhaps not surprisingly ‘high rates of compliance’.

A team of researchers from universities in Melbourne, Australia, used a mathematical model to predict the effects and cost effectiveness of daily dark chocolate consumption in 2,013 individuals at high risk of heart disease over a decade.

They all had metabolic syndrome – a mix of problems including raised blood pressure, obesity, high fat levels in the blood and an inability to control blood sugar levels – but no history of heart disease or diabetes and they were not on blood pressure drugs.

Daily consumption of 100g of dark chocolate could potentially avert 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people treated over ten years, according to the study published on

This could be considered an effective intervention, said the researchers. It would be cost-effective too, costing £25 a year per head of population.

This would cover advertising and possible subsidising of dark chocolate for the less well-off.

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

It is rich in flavonoids which are known to have heart protecting effects.

Sceptics say the high calorie content of chocolate tends to offset the benefits.

Previous research shows eating chocolate reduces blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of diabetes.


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 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

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

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

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


Some more problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize dietary fat. But Eskimos living on their traditional diet eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. At any given age they in fact have an exceptionally LOW incidence of cardiovascular disease. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

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

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

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

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


Trans fats: For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

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

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 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