Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fish-diet mothers `have brighter children'

Official American mercury-scare advice is dead wrong. The Greenie-inspired American advice is actually harmful. How surprising!

Women who eat fish during pregnancy have brighter children, according to a study. The evidence suggests that advice to expectant American mothers to limit fish consumption for fear of mercury poisoning is misguided. The study supports the contrary advice, given by the Food Standards Agency in the UK, which backs fish as a healthy food. The FSA simply advises mothers to avoid shark, swordfish and marlin, and restrict their intake of tuna.

The new research into children's behaviour and intelligence suggests that women who follow the US "advisory" issued in 2004 to limit consumption, or cut fish out of their diet altogether, may miss nutrients that the developing brain needs - and so harm their children.

The findings come from a study of almost 9,000 British families taking part in the Children Of The 90s project at the University of Bristol. The lead researcher, Joseph Hibbeln of the US National Institutes of Health, and the Bristol scientists, including Professor Jean Golding, compared the amount of fish eaten by pregnant mothers with the development of their children up to the age of eight.

Seafood - fish and shellfish - is the predominant dietary source of long-chain omega3 fatty acids, which are essential for development of the nervous system. Middle-class women are more likely to eat fish, but even after adjusting for social class [Rare good sense] and 27 other factors, including breast-feeding, the link between fish and children's development held true. This suggests that fish-eating is not simply a marker for social class.

Mothers who ate more seafood than the US guidelines (340 grams, or three portions a week) had children who were more advanced in development tests measuring fine motor, communication and social skills as toddlers, had more positive social behaviours and were less likely to have low verbal IQ scores at the age of eight. Those children whose mothers had eaten no fish were 28 per cent more likely to have poor communication skills at 18 months, 35 per cent more likely to have poor fine motor coordination at age three and a half, 44 per cent more likely to have poor social behaviour at age seven and 48 per cent more likely to have a relatively low verbal IQ at age eight, when compared with children of women who ate more than the US guidelines advised.

Dr Hibbeln said: "We have found that when women had low levels of seafood consumption, the outcome is exactly the opposite of what was assumed by the United States advisory. Unfortunately, the advice appears to have had the unintended consequence of causing harm in a specific developmental domain - verbal development - where protection was intended. We recorded no evidence to lend support to the warnings of the US advisory that pregnant women should limit their seafood consumption. "In contrast, we noted that children of mothers who ate small amounts, 340g per week, of seafood were more likely to have sub-optimum neuro-developmental outcomes than children of mothers who ate more seafood than the recommended amounts." The findings are published in this week's issue of The Lancet....

Harvest of the sea brings health benefits on a large scale

- Evidence that fish - especially oily fish - is good for health has come from many sources

- Long-term studies in the Netherlands have shown that people who eat fish are less likely to develop heart disease

- The Japanese, for whom fish [particularly that wicked Tuna] form a significant part of the diet, have the greatest life expectancy in the world

- Omega 3 fatty acids in fish have been linked to lowered risks of asthma, dementia, depression and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis

- The only concern has been the presence of low levels of methyl mercury in some kinds of fish. But the only known cases of mercury poisoning from fish come from Japan, where in the 1950s and 1960s [Huge] industrial pollution of the sea caused problems for people living in Minamata and Niigata


The double standards of the food Fascists

As the playboy of the activist community, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has a problem with commitment. Since the group's tumultuous relationship with the food industry began in 1971, CSPI has made judicial passes at almost everyone in the room, filing lawsuits against Quaker Oats, General Mills, Ben & Jerry's, Pinnacle Foods, Frito-Lay, Procter & Gamble, Smucker's, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

CSPI recently added Coca-Cola and Nestl, to its little black(ball) book. According to a February 1 press release, the food police came after the two companies over the "calorie burner" claims labeled on cans of Enviga, a new green-tea-based drink. Spokesman David Schardt insisted CSPI's lawsuit is justified, because "there is no clear evidence that what's in Enviga will help you control your weight."

But evidence is available. In fact, 4,000 references in scientific literature pertain to Enviga's key ingredient (EGCG), and many other studies [Click here, here,here, and here] show that green tea increases the number of calories burned. The latest report in the medical journal Obesity specifically documented subjects drinking Enviga and confirmed a 4 percent jump in metabolism.

With thousands of studies behind Enviga's label, how much clearer does CSPI want the evidence to be? If the food police used their own threshold as the gold standard, the bar would be set much lower. A December 24 Washington Times column challenged the lack of research behind CSPI's trans fat tirade:

Three studies from Europe analyzed the levels of trans fat in individuals who died from heart disease. Each found no statistically significant association between trans fat and the risk of heart disease, refuting Mr. Jacobson's claim that trans fat "takes years off your life." Perhaps, the reason no connection was found is because the trans fat-LDL-heart disease thesis is not, in fact, true.


Separating trans fat from fiction

The December 24 Washington Times column mentioned above is no longer online so I reproduce it below:

New York recently became the first major city to make it illegal for restaurants to use trans fats. Claiming trans fats are a major cause of heart disease, the city's Board of Health voted unanimously to remove the fats from menus. Chicago is also considering legislation to severely restrict trans fat levels in restaurants.

Similar campaigns are under way elsewhere, including Miami, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Earlier this year, the misnamed Center for Science in the Public Interest teamed up with a Washington, D.C., law firm to sue KFC to prevent its use of trans fats.

Why are trans fats suddenly the latest target for the food police? According to CSPI's Michael Jacobson, Col. Saunders' famously white suit is just a front for some deeply worrying behavior. In the KFC kitchen, the Colonel's heirs are cooking up a deadly mess of trans fats-soaked food that can, Mr. Jacobson claims, "literally take years off your life." Some trans fat scaremongers predict New York's ban could prevent up to 500 deaths a year from cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately, the scientific reality is very different from the food police's rhetoric. The trans fats-as-dietary villain story is based upon on the link between low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) and heart disease. It is this bad guy of the cholesterol family -- LDL -- that supposedly causes heart disease, and trans fats supposedly elevate LDL cholesterol levels.

The problem, however, is that the evidence for such a LDL-heart disease connection is extremely sketchy. For example, the definitive government study of the LDL-heart disease connection is a 1989 government review, Diet and Health, which references seven studies claiming to implicate LDL as a cause of heart disease.

Yet, only one study is statistically significant. It found LDL was a risk factor for heart disease only in a small population sample of women ages 40-44 and men ages 35-49. So, the foundation of the trans fat peril -- that trans fat raises LDL cholesterol levels -- is empirically very shaky.

But the science gets even worse for the trans fat storytellers. Three studies from Europe analyzed the levels of trans fat in individuals who died from heart disease. Each found no statistically significant association between trans fat and the risk of heart disease, refuting Mr. Jacobson's claim that trans fat "takes years off your life." Perhaps, the reason no connection was found is because the trans fat-LDL-heart disease thesis is not, in fact, true.


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.


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