Friday, December 29, 2006


The article excerpted below says that it does. I will leave it to demographers to comment more fully on it as I could not with a quick search find the figures upon which it is supposedly based. The article says that it is based on this report and that report says in turn that it is based on this report but I cannot find national life expectancy tables in either. This table, however, may be the one referred to.

There are well-known flaws in studies of this kind, however. For instance, pre-term babies are often delivered live in the USA and some die subsequently. Those deaths feed into the figures and so lower overall life-expectancy. In many other countries, however, such babies would die very soon after birth and would not be recorded as live births -- thus removing the effect of preterm births on their figures. See here.

Other factors to bear in mind are that some countries (such as Communist Cuba) probably "massage" their figures to make themselves look good and that the U.S. population is not homogeneous. Blacks die younger, for instance. So overall figures again tell us little. And American mothers often delay childbearing into their 30s, which unfortunately is associated with higher risk to the babies born (more mongolism, for instance, and mongols die young).

Additionally, trust in United Nations figures is laughably gullible. Anybody who thinks that the U.N. does not have political agendas (almost invariably of a Leftist and anti-American kind) does not know much.

If you had a choice between two countries, one with a few thousand dollars more annual income and the other with a longer life expectancy, which would you go for? The most common way for countries to be ranked is by gross domestic product per person - a measure of economic output. On this gauge, the mighty US tops the list, apart from a few super-rich aberrations such as the tiny state of Luxembourg.

But the relative performance of countries according to life expectancy tells another story. Being born in the richest country doesn't mean you can expect to have the longest life. There are nine countries with a life expectancy at birth of more than 80, but the world's richest and most powerful nation, the US, is not one of them. Life expectancy there is 77.5 years, more than 4.5 years shorter than Japan, which tops the longevity list on 82.2 years (followed by Hong Kong, Iceland, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Canada, Italy and Israel).

In 1950 America ranked near the top 10 for life expectancy but figures published last month in the UN's Human Development Report 2006 show it has fallen to 30th. One outcome of this relative decline is that citizens in some countries much poorer than the US - such as Chile, Costa Rica and even Cuba - have longer life expectancy than the average American. On average, Chileans can expect to live longer than the average American, even though GDP per person is about a quarter of America's. A Cuban male has a better chance of surviving until 65 than an American male, even though GDP per capita in the US is about eight times Cuba's. The figures suggest Americans have, on average, traded longevity for higher incomes over the past 50 years.

Many factors contribute to a nation's life expectancy, including education, environmental conditions, working conditions and access to new medical treatments and technologies. Our lifestyles and social structures also affect our health. Research by an expatriate Australian professor, Michael Marmot, from University College, London, has shown greater control over life circumstances, especially at work, reduces chronic stress and has positive health effects.

What makes America's place in global longevity rankings all the more surprising is how much of its national resources are devoted to health. The US allocates about 15 per cent of GDP to health expenditure, far more than any other advanced country. By comparison, Australia spends about 9.5 per cent and Britain 8 per cent. One of the reasons for this is the very high cost of American health services. The ratio of doctors' incomes to the average employee is 5.5 in the US compared with 2.2 in Australia and 1.4 in in Britain. US health expenditure averages $US5711 ($7268) a person a year compared with Cuba's $US623 (adjusted for purchasing power) but Americans still have a lower life expectancy at birth. (Cuba has the world's highest proportion of doctors, with 449 per 100,000 people, but they put up with much lower wages than their US counterparts.)

More here

Indigestion remedies linked to fractures?

Taking potent drugs to combat indigestion can increase the risk of breaking hip and other bones, researchers say. Drugs that restrict the production of acid in the stomach are among the most effective and best-selling treatments in the world, with sales worth more than £7 billion a year. But a study of nearly 150,000 British patients by American researchers found that they increased the risk of hip fracture by as much as 44 per cent.

The study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may decrease cal-cium absorption or bone dens- ity in certain patients, leading to increased risk of fractures.

Many of the one in twenty people who visit doctors in Britain each year complaining of heartburn are prescribed acid-suppressive drugs — or PPIs — to alleviate their problems. Prescriptions for PPIs such as omeprazole — sold under the brand names Losec, Prilosec and Zegerid — rose by more than 5,000 per cent during the 1990s.

A team from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, analysed data from the UK General Practice Research Database, which contains information on millions of British patients.

Limiting the study to people aged over 50, the researchers examined 13,556 hip fracture cases and 135,386 control patients. After screening for other factors that might lead to a fall or brittle bones, they found that more than one year of PPI therapy was associated with a 44 per cent increased risk of hip fracture.

They suggest that elderly patients taking high doses of PPIs for long periods should boost their calcium intake.



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].

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 use of extreme quintiles to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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