Friday, November 17, 2006

Happy people may suffer fewer colds

More rubbish research for several reasons. That inborn good health makes you happier seems not to have been considered, for instance

STAYING positive through the cold season could be your best defence against getting sick, new study findings suggest. In an experiment that exposed healthy volunteers to a cold or flu virus, researchers found people with a generally sunny disposition were less likely to fall ill. The findings, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, build on evidence that a "positive emotional style" can help ward off the common cold and other illnesses.

Researchers believe the reasons may be both objective - as in happiness boosting immune function - and subjective - as in happy people being less troubled by a scratchy throat or runny nose. "People with a positive emotional style may have different immune responses to the virus," said lead study author Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "And when they do get a cold, they may interpret their illness as being less severe."

Dr Cohen and his colleagues had found in a previous study that happier people seemed less susceptible to catching a cold, but some questions remained as to whether the emotional trait itself had the effect. For the new study, the researchers had 193 healthy adults complete standard measures of personality traits, self-perceived health and emotional "style". Those who tended to be happy, energetic and easy-going were judged as having a positive emotional style, while those who were often unhappy, tense and hostile had a negative style.

Afterward, the researchers gave them nasal drops containing either a cold virus or a particular flu virus that causes cold-like symptoms. Over the next six days, the volunteers reported on any aches, pains, sneezing or congestion they had, while the researchers collected objective data, like daily mucus production. Dr Cohen and his colleagues found that based on objective measures of nasal woes, happy people were less likely to develop a cold. What's more, when happy people did develop a cold, their self-rated symptoms were less severe than would be expected based on objective measures.

When the researchers weighed other factors that could explain the relationship - like volunteers' perception of their general health, their self-esteem and tendency to be optimistic - happiness itself still seemed to protect against cold symptoms. In contrast, people with negative dispositions were not at increased risk of developing a cold based on objective measures - though they did tend to get down about their symptoms. "We find that it's really positive emotions that have the big effect," Dr Cohen said, "not negative ones."

So can a grumpy person fight the common cold by deciding to be happy? Conventional wisdom holds that personality traits - unlike fleeting emotions - are "very stable and difficult to change," Dr Cohen said. However, he noted that some recent research suggested emotional traits were more amenable to change than traditionally believed.


Psychiatric warning put on flu drug

Yet another case of the medical miracle of today being the iatrogenic disaster of tomorrow. It should however be good news for Relenza -- the alternative to Tamiflu

Federal health officials Monday added a warning to the label on the popular anti-viral drug Tamiflu, citing reports of psychiatric symptoms such as confusion and delirium, particularly in children who have taken the drug for the flu. The drug, used by more than 42 million people around the world since its initial approval in 1999, has been associated with 123 psychiatric cases in the past 10 months, including suicide. Three of the cases resulted in death.

The label change, which urges careful monitoring of children taking the drug, "provides important safety information and is intended to mitigate a potential risk associated with Tamiflu," the FDA said in a statement issued late Monday. "This makes a lot of sense to raise awareness of the issue, especially among health care providers," said Dr. Dean Blumberg, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at UC Davis Medical Center. "If they do prescribe it, they can communicate this and closely monitor their patients."

Tamiflu is the only oral anti-viral drug approved for prevention and treatment of flu in adults and in children as young as a year. Studies show the drug shortens the duration of the illness by a half-day to a day. Taken every day for seven days, Tamiflu can prevent onset of influenza. The drug has been prescribed 8.3 million times in the United States since June 2000, including 1.9 million times this year. In Japan, where Tamiflu is used far more frequently, it was prescribed 24.5 million times from 2001 to 2005, including 11.6 million prescriptions to children 16 or younger. In comparison, the drug was prescribed to U.S. children 900,000 times during that same period.

Ninety-five percent of the cases of neuropsychiatric problems were reported in Japan. In a detailed report prepared for the FDA's pediatric advisory committee, FDA staff described some of the cases in which otherwise normal children exhibited bizarre behavior shortly after taking Tamiflu, also known by its generic name, oseltamivir phosphate. Among them: an 8-year-old boy who tried to run out of his house, couldn't answer to his own name and began growling; a 14-year-old who fell to his death after climbing on his building's balcony railing; and a 14-year-old girl, struck with paranoia, who swore someone was watching her from outside her home and that her salad had been poisoned.

The new, supplementary information on the Tamiflu label states: "People with the flu, particularly children, may be at an increased risk of self-injury and confusion shortly after taking TAMIFLU and should be closely monitored for signs of unusual behavior."It is still unclear how Tamiflu might contribute to such behavior, but experts have noted that in the majority of cases, the symptoms ceased after use of the drug was discontinued.In a prepared statement, Tamiflu maker Roche Pharmaceuticals said that it "agreed with the FDA" on the label revision, but stressed that "there is no evidence of a causal relationship between the use of oseltamivir and the likelihood of neuropsychiatric events in influenza patients."

A report prepared by the FDA's Division of Drug Risk Evaluation cited delirium, suicide, panic attack, delusions, convulsions, depression and loss of consciousness among the symptoms reported in some patients who took the drug. In addition to the 14-year-old who died, two men fell to their deaths after taking Tamiflu, and one of them left a suicide note, the report states. None of the three had any reported psychological or neurological problems before taking the medication. "We are concerned that when/if the use of this drug increases in the U.S. ... there may be increasing cases of adverse consequence in the U.S," the FDA report stated.

The annual flu season in the United States is beginning, and countries around the globe are stockpiling the drug for use in the event of a worldwide influenza pandemic. While seasonal flu affects an estimated 40 million people in the United States annually, an influenza pandemic, in which a new, virulent strain of the disease emerges, could sicken 90 million Americans and kill 2 million, federal officials estimate. While acknowledging that some of the neurological symptoms could be associated with severe influenza itself, the FDA report noted "the peculiar characteristics of these adverse events which are different from the usual influenza-related set of central nervous system symptoms."

Blumberg, of UC Davis, said the drug's benefits are modest for most people who get influenza. But he acknowledged that for anyone hospitalized with complications of flu, or for those who can't tolerate the flu vaccine, the drug can be particularly useful. And Blumberg emphasized that the psychiatric events reported are still relatively rare, and that doctors and patients must weigh the drug's risks against its benefits in a public health emergency. "If there is a pandemic, and people don't have previous immunity, and the complications are much more frequent, more widespread use (of Tamiflu) would outweigh any theoretical risks," he said.



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? And what about butter? It is just about pure fat. Surely it should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). For a summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and no lasting harm from them has ever been shown.


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