Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Better to get it up your nose?

The study by Belshe et al. reported below seems to show that nasal sprays trump standard flu injections but it it did not compare like with like. It is an amazingly rubbishy research design for a top-ranking medical journal such as NEJM to report -- with the effect of vaccine type and administration method hopelessly confounded

FLU shots in the arm or thigh could soon be a thing of the past for kids, with new research in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that a nasal spray vaccine is 55 per cent more effective at preventing flu attacks than the traditional injection. The study involved 8475 children aged between six months and five years, from the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Around half the children received the standard flu injection, containing influenza virus particles that are unable to grow (inactivated vaccine). The other half received a nasal spray of live influenza virus that has been modified so that it doesn't cause illness (live attenuated vaccine). The nasal spray is a more effective vaccine, suggest the authors, because it mimics the way the body normally encounters the flun-- through the nose and mouth. They emphasise, however, that it can cause wheezing in children under 12 months.

Source. The journal abstract is here.


They may well be but a recent study by Corwin et al. purporting to prove it is pretty laughable. Media summary below. Full article here. A tiny and highly unrepresentative sample examined over a very short time-period makes the "research" concerned little more than a student exercise. It is a classical example of sophisticated statistics applied to low-quality data

Walnuts and linseeds could help to protect bones from osteoporosis, according to research in the latest edition of Nutrition Journal. These foods, as well as soybeans and canola oil, contain high levels of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. There were a total of 23 participants in the 24-week study _ 20 men and three women. They were divided into three groups, and for six weeks they ate either the control diet (called the ``average American diet'') or one of two other diets rich in fatty acids. Participants then had three weeks off to eat whatever they liked, followed by another six weeks on one of the other diets. This continued until each participant had spent six weeks on each diet. Different chemicals are released into the blood when bone is being formed and when it is being broken down. Researchers found that those on the high omega-3 diet had much lower levels of bone breakdown than the controls.



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 and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they 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.