Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Severe dieting makes you drunk!

PEOPLE on very low-calorie diets could be accused of drink driving, even if they have not had a drop. The rare phenomenon is documented in the latest issue of the International Journal of Obesity. Researchers at Sweden's Karolinska University Hospital were approached by a 59-year old non-drinker after he registered positive for alcohol when blowing into an in-car ignition interlocking device that would not allow him to drive. As a glider pilot who supervised private aviation, the man had been surprised and upset about the positive result, which occurred while he was undergoing a weight loss program involving a very low calorie diet.

Researchers found the positive test to be the result of a chemical reaction that took place when fat was broken down at a fast rate. When this happened, ketone bodies (acetone, acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate) were produced, which could then be converted to a secondary alcohol known as isopropanol, said the lead researcher, Wayne Jones, who is also on Sweden's National Board of Forensic Medicine.

Edward Ogden, clinical forensic scientist and senior research fellow at Melbourne's Swinburne University, said it was possible that sober people could blow a false-positive test, however they would not be charged with drink-driving. Alcohol ignition interlock devices and roadside random breath testing units measure alcohol on the breath using fuel cells, which cannot distinguish between ethanol and isopropanol. "But with any random breath test, the police would then invite you to the booze bus for a second test using an evidential instrument which measures the presence of alcohol on the breath in three different ways, including the use of infra-red at two different wavelengths," Dr Ogden said. It was almost impossible that further testing would record a positive result, he said. "From the point of view of a police prosecution, it's a non-issue, but if you happened to have an interlocking device, it may pose a problem," he said.

The NSW Police Director of Clinical Forensic Medicine, Anthony Moynham, said the possibility of the alcohol interlock device giving a false positive reading "cannot be discounted". "This reported incident in one obese male subject in Sweden is interesting but not sufficient to change our thinking," he said.


Cannabis: An apology from "The Independent"

In 1997, this newspaper launched a campaign to decriminalise the drug. If only we had known then what we can reveal today... Record numbers of teenagers are requiring drug treatment as a result of smoking skunk, the highly potent cannabis strain that is 25 times stronger than resin sold a decade ago.

More than 22,000 people were treated last year for cannabis addiction - and almost half of those affected were under 18. With doctors and drugs experts warning that skunk can be as damaging as cocaine and heroin, leading to mental health problems and psychosis for thousands of teenagers, The Independent on Sunday has today reversed its landmark campaign for cannabis use to be decriminalised.

A decade after this newspaper's stance culminated in a 16,000-strong pro-cannabis march to London's Hyde Park - and was credited with forcing the Government to downgrade the legal status of cannabis to class C - an IoS editorial states that there is growing proof that skunk causes mental illness and psychosis. The decision comes as statistics from the NHS National Treatment Agency show that the number of young people in treatment almost doubled from about 5,000 in 2005 to 9,600 in 2006, and that 13,000 adults also needed treatment.

The skunk smoked by the majority of young Britons bears no relation to traditional cannabis resin - with a 25-fold increase in the amount of the main psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabidinol (THC), typically found in the early 1990s. New research being published in this week's Lancet will show how cannabis is more dangerous than LSD and ecstasy. Experts analysed 20 substances for addictiveness, social harm and physical damage. The results will increase the pressure on the Government to have a full debate on drugs, and a new independent UK drug policy commission being launched next month will call for a rethink on the issue.

The findings last night reignited the debate about cannabis use, with a growing number of specialists saying that the drug bears no relation to the substance most law-makers would recognise. Professor Colin Blakemore, chief of the Medical Research Council, who backed our original campaign for cannabis to be decriminalised, has also changed his mind. He said: "The link between cannabis and psychosis is quite clear now; it wasn't 10 years ago."

Many medical specialists agree that the debate has changed. Robin Murray, professor of psychiatry at London's Institute of Psychiatry, estimates that at least 25,000 of the 250,000 schizophrenics in the UK could have avoided the illness if they had not used cannabis. "The number of people taking cannabis may not be rising, but what people are taking is much more powerful, so there is a question of whether a few years on we may see more people getting ill as a consequence of that."

"Society has seriously underestimated how dangerous cannabis really is," said Professor Neil McKeganey, from Glasgow University's Centre for Drug Misuse Research. "We could well see over the next 10 years increasing numbers of young people in serious difficulties."

Politicians have also hardened their stance. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has changed his mind over the classification of cannabis, after backing successful calls to downgrade the drug from B to C in 2002. He abandoned that position last year, before the IoS revealed that he had smoked cannabis as a teenager, and now wants the drug's original classification to be restored.



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.