Friday, October 20, 2006

ADHD drug risk for kids

Makers of drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have been ordered to strengthen risk warnings after some child users suffered heart problems and depression. The Senate has heard that the Therapeutic Goods Administration received more than 200 complaints about medications including Ritalin, Strattera and dexamphetamine. The TGA responded by asking manufacturers to include more information with medications and in information sheets sent to doctors.

In March, The Australian revealed that children as young as five had suffered strokes, heart attacks, convulsions and hallucinations from taking ADHD medication. In an answer to a question on notice tabled in the Senate, Health Minister Tony Abbott revealed the TGA had received 123 reports of adverse reactions involving ritalin, including complaints that it caused headache, nausea, anorexia, somnolence and depression. There were 23 reports about atomoxetine, sold under the brand name Strattera, including four of aggression in users. There were 60 reports about dexamphetamine, including seven of agitation, five of tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and four reports each of hypertonia (abnormally tight muscles), hyperkinesia (muscle spasm) and insomnia.

Mr Abbott said the Government was funding work by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians to update the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Guideline (1996).


Danes now protected from a mythical danger

Who cares if the food is dearer and spoils more quickly?

Two years ago Denmark declared war on killer fat, making it illegal for any food to have more than 2 percent transfats. Offenders now face hefty fines - or even prison terms. The result? Today hardly anyone notices the difference. The french fries are still crispy. The pastries are still scrumptious. And the fried chicken is still tasty. Denmark's experience offers a hopeful example for places like Canada and the U.S. state of New York, which are considering setting limits on the dangerous artery-clogging fats.

Transfatty acids are typically added to processed foods such as cookies, margarine and fast food. They are cheaper to produce than mono-saturated fats, and give a longer shelf life to the foods they are added to. Producers also argue that removing transfat from processed food will change certain tastes and textures beloved by consumers. But they have been called the tobacco of the nutrition world. They lower good cholesterol while raising bad cholesterol. Even consuming less than five grams of transfat - the amount found in one piece of fried chicken and a side of french fries - a day has been linked with a 25 percent increased risk of heart disease. "No other fat at these low levels of intake, has such harmful effects," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist at Harvard's School of Public Health.

It is still too early to tell if removing transfat from food in Denmark has improved the country's health. Although the Danish health ministry reports that cardiovascular disease has dropped by 20 percent in the last five years, similar reductions have been reported in other countries that are making an effort to combat heart disease by measures such as regulating the food and tobacco industries, and by educating the public about the need to exercise. In countries that are making no effort to regulate the amount of transfat in food, such as Hungary and Bulgaria, heart disease rates have continued to climb. Denmark is the only country to have outlawed the fat, passing a law in June 2003 that made it illegal for any food to contain more than two percent of transfat.

For Danes like Troels Nyborg Andersen, the government's decision means he feels less guilty about his fast-food habit. "I know transfats are bad, but you don't think about that when you're hungry," said the 27-year-old Copenhagen native, chomping a hamburger. "It's good that the Danish government got rid of transfats so that I don't have to worry about it." That was the rationale that motivated the transfat ban.

"We wanted to protect people so that they would not even have to know what transfat was," said Dr. Steen Stender, one of the leading Danish experts who lobbied for the anti-transfat law.

Though obesity rates are rising in Denmark, they are far below those of most countries: just 11.4 percent of the Danish population was obese in 2005, less than half of Britain's obesity rate, estimated at 23 percent.

When faced with the prospect of a transfat ban, industries typically rebel. Other countries in the European Union initially objected to Denmark's ban, arguing it would be economically unfair since their foods could not be legally imported into Denmark. Many producers were also concerned about the possible change in texture and taste without the additives.

Preserving the delicacy of the traditional Danish pastries was a major concern at Copenhagen's famed La Glace cafe, renowned for its pastries and cakes. When the transfat law kicked in, its bakers began experimenting. "There was a bit of a crisis," admitted Marianne Stagetorn Kolos, La Glace's owner. The first attempts were disastrous. The transfat-free margarines melted too soon, destroying the flakiness of the 81-layered pastries. "Everything was flat," Stagetorn said. Luckily, the problem was solved by switching margarine suppliers.

Customers like Anne Petersen haven't noticed. The pastries "taste just as good as they always did," said the 59-year-old sales assistant, who favors the raspberry pastry. "If it wasn't for the law, I never would have known that there wasn't any transfat."

Stender and other health experts say Denmark's transfat ban should be adopted worldwide. "There's no reason it cannot be done elsewhere," he said, explaining that the food in Denmark is not markedly different from food anywhere else. "If you removed transfat from the planet, the only people who would feel the difference are the people who sell the transfat."



Just some 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 salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. 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? [/sarcasm].


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