Saturday, December 02, 2006


We read:

"Traditionally-made wines from southwestern France and Sardinia boast the highest concentration of complex compounds, called polyphenols, that are linked to greater longevity, a study published on Thursday in the science journal Nature says. Previous studies have generally established that a glass or two of red wine every day helps combat heart and circulatory disease by dilating blood vessels. But the picture has been confused, because not all red wines have the same kinds of polyphenols or in the same concentrations.

In tests using endothelial cells -- the cells which line the arteries and where polyphenols are believed to have their positive affect -- British scientists identified the most active members of the polyphenol family, which are called procyanidins.

They then tested red wines from the Gers department, in the French Pyrenees, and from Nuoro province on the Italian island of Sardinia, where local men are famous for their longevity. Wines from these two regions had remarkably high levels of procyanidins -- often five to 10 times more than wines that were tested from Australia, South Africa and the United States. The secret to the Sardinian and Gers wines lies partly in the grape seeds and in time-honoured wine growing methods, the paper says. In Gers, a local variety of grape called Tannat, which is rarely grown elsewhere, also yields rich amounts of procyanidins.

"The traditional production methods used in Sardinia and southwestern France ensure that the beneficial compounds, procyanidins are efficiently extracted," said Robert Corder from Queen Mary's William Harvey Research Institute in London, co-author of the paper. "This may explain the strong association between consumption of traditional tannic wines with overall wellbeing, reflected in greater longevity."

Source. And the Journal abstract follows:

Oenology: Red wine procyanidins and vascular health

By R. Corder et al.

Regular, moderate consumption of red wine is linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and to lower overall mortality, but the relative contribution of wine's alcohol and polyphenol components to these effects is unclear. Here we identify procyanidins as the principal vasoactive polyphenols in red wine and show that they are present at higher concentrations in wines from areas of southwestern France and Sardinia, where traditional production methods ensure that these compounds are efficiently extracted during vinification. These regions also happen to be associated with increased longevity in the population.

Despite appearances, the study in fact offers NO data on the relationship between longevity and the wine chemicals. All that it found was that pro-cyanadins suppress production of endothelin-1, a protein that constricts blood vessels. That such chemicals are high in the wine of two mountainous regions noted for long life proves nothing. Why? Several reasons: 1) Mountainous regions all over the world are often found to go with longer lives and in many of them grape wine is not drunk at all. 2); A sample of 2 is ludicrously small and enables NO generalizations; 3). It is a basic axiom of statistics that correlation does not prove causation. You need before-and-after studies for that; 4). For all we know, suppressing production of endothelin-1 may have ill effects as well as good effects. The lifespan in wine-drinking countries is not greater than in many other countries (notably Japan) in which little wine is drunk. The "Mediterranean diet" may produce a different pattern of illness but it seems to have negligible effect on the overall lifespan, as I pointed out here on October 12th.; 5). Note the cynical comment following from the wine-writer for "The Times": "Since the early l990s there has been a stream of worthy medical reports confirming this or that wine-producing country and this or that grape variety as containing higher levels than their competitors of cardiovascular-protecting goodies. One minute research pinpoints New World producers like Chile as delivering healthier reds than any other country, the next the thick-skinned cabernet sauvignon grape is the one that doctors love the most".


Common drugs used to treat cancer patients may do more harm than good by killing healthy brain cells, a research study shows. The study, which further indicated that chemotherapy can cause long-term brain damage, gives scientists clues to the causes of "chemo brain", a side effect many cancer patients complain of while under treatment, a summary of the research said.

Mark Noble, a specialist in neural stem cell biology at the University of Rochester, New York, led a research team which tested healthy brain cells with normal clinical doses of chemotherapy drugs carmustine, cisplatin and cytosine arabinoside.

The drugs are often used to treat people suffering certain breast cancers, lung cancer, colon cancer, leukemia, brain tumors and some lymphomas.

The study found that the drugs were more toxic to neural cells than to the cancer cells they targeted. The drugs killed 70-100 percent of brain cells, while only 40-80 percent of the cancer cells were killed. Tested on animal neural cells, the cells kept dying for six weeks after the treatment was administered, the study found.

The scientists were not surprised that all-important dividing stem cells were killed by the drugs, but noted the danger that "the loss of dividing cells has onerous consequences as these populations are responsible for replenishing the other cell types in the central nervous system."

The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of Biology, gave scientists some insight into the causes of "chemo brain": complaints by some four out of five chemotherapy patients of neurological side effects such as loss of memory, loss of vision, seizures and sometimes dementia. "This is the first study that puts chemo brain on a sound scientific footing, in terms of neurobiology and cellular biology," Noble said in a statement.

A study released in October by the University of California at Los Angeles medical school showed that chemotherapy can provoke changes in a person's metabolism and blood flow in the brain for at least 10 years after the treatment has ended.



A prime example of the old logical axiom that correlation does not prove causation

Young women who grow up in cities or move there from rural areas are five times more likely to suffer from bulimia. A scientific study has revealed a startling correlation between cases of the eating disorder, in which sufferers secretly gorge and purge themselves, and the environment in which they live. Researchers found that whereas cases of anorexia, a closely related disorder, appeared to occur at random, bulimics were more than twice as likely to be in urban environments, increasing to five times in large cities.

The distress of suffering from bulimia, which most commonly affects teenage girls and young women, trapping them in a routine of binge-eating and vomiting, was most famously described by Diana, Princess of Wales. She grew up in the country, at the Spencers' family home of Althorp, Northamptonshire, and moved to London as a teenager. A number of mental disorders, including schizophrenia, psychosis and depression, have previously been shown to be linked with urban life.

To test whether bulimia had a link with city life, a Dutch team, led by Hans Hoek, of Gr”ningen University Department of Psychiatry, looked at ten years' data from family doctors in the Netherlands. They listed every case of anorexia or bulimia diagnosed by 63 GP practices between the late 1980s and the late 1990s. The sample represented about 1 per cent of the population.

Dr Hoek, who was the first to suggest a possible link between bulimia and city life in 1995, and colleagues, led by Gabrielle Van Son, report in the British Journal of Psychiatry that 113 cases of anorexia were recorded, and 110 of bulimia. Almost all were in young women. Anorexia tended to be diagnosed at an earlier age (22, on average) than did bulimia (27).

For anorexia, there was little obvious link with where the women lived. The rate was lowest in big cities. But bulimia showed a completely different pattern. In rural areas, only seven out of every 100,000 women had it diagnosed, rising to 16.7 per 100,000 in urban areas and 25.5 per 100,000 in large cities (those with more than 100,000 people).

The researchers came up with two possible explanations: first, that women who suffer from bulimia tend to migrate to cities. They may well have had the condition beforehand, but it becomes apparent only when they leave home and seek medical advice. This explanation would be supported by bulimia tending to be diagnosed when women are older. But the pattern persisted when age was taken into account.

The second explanation relates to opportunity. It may be easier to be bulimic in cities where food supplies are plentiful, and where anonymity means that unusual behaviour is often undetected.

Bulimia, relatively rare before 1970, showed a sudden sharp rise after 1980. This suggests that either psychiatrists had failed to recognise it before, or that it did not exist. Historical searches have failed to find evidence of bulimia, which does suggest that it is a product of today's cultural environment. If so, it is plausible to suggest that whatever is responsible, it is found more prominently in cities than in rural areas.

The late Princess's decision to describe her battle with bulimia has been credited with a significant decrease in severe cases. A recent study by the Institute of Psychiatry in London showed that reported cases of the illness rose to 60,000 after the Princess's revelation. Since she first spoke of it in 1994, the number has almost halved - a trend attributed to the "Diana effect" that persuaded sufferers to seek treatment.



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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