Saturday, March 03, 2007


The fresh-air lovers are on to something

Preventing the spread of disease in a hospital may be as simple as opening a window, an international team of researchers reported on Monday. The low-tech solution could help prevent the spread of airborne infections such as tuberculosis -- and ironically, old-fashioned hospitals with high ceilings and big windows may offer the best design for this, they reported. They worked better than modern "negative pressure" rooms, with expensive design aimed at pumping out infected air, the researchers report in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.

"Opening windows and doors maximizes natural ventilation so that the risk of airborne contagion is much lower than with costly, maintenance-requiring mechanical ventilation systems," wrote Rod Escombe of Imperial College London and colleagues in their report. "Old-fashioned clinical areas with high ceilings and large windows provide greatest protection. Natural ventilation costs little and is maintenance free," they added.

For their report, Escombe and colleagues tested the air in eight hospitals in Lima, Peru. Wards built more than 50 years ago, with large windows and high ceilings, had better ventilation than modern rooms that relied on natural ventilation. And they were also superior to the mechanically ventilated rooms, they reported in their study, available online here.

Tuberculosis is spread by bacteria that can float in the air and the researchers calculated what their findings might mean for the spread of TB. They estimated that in mechanically ventilated rooms, 39 percent of susceptible people would become infected after 24 hours of exposure to an untreated TB patient. This compared to a 33 percent infection rate in modern rooms with windows open and 11 percent in a pre-1950-style room. "We found that opening windows and doors provided median ventilation of 28 air changes/hour, more than double that of mechanically ventilated negative-pressure rooms ventilated at the 12 air changes an hour recommended for high-risk areas," they wrote.

Experts are looking at these factors in trying to prepare for a pandemic of influenza. "The current practice of sealing in the local environment is probably the wrong route for hospital wards," Peter Wilson of University College London Hospitals added in a commentary on the study.


Star British chef backs the Big Mac

Marco Pierre White, the chef turned restaurateur, came out as an unexpected champion of McDonald's yesterday claiming that it offered better food than many restaurants. White, the first and youngest chef in Britain to be awarded three Michelin stars, said he especially admired the consistency of the food served by the hamburger chain and its excellent value for money.

Speaking after Prince Charles's call to ban the fast food chain, he said the prince was "wrong and foolish" and that he, like many chefs, regularly enjoyed a Big Mac. "McDonald's offers better food than most restaurants and the general criticism of the company is very unfair," he said. "Their eggs are free range and the beef is from Ireland, but you never hear about that. You have to look at whether restaurants offer value for money, and they offer excellent value. "It is wrong and foolish for the prince to call for a ban especially as I suspect he has never tried a Big Mac."

White, 44, who quit the kitchen and now runs several restaurants including L'Escargot and Mirabelle, said: "With McDonald's you know exactly what you are getting. "I have been to restaurants where I have paid 15 pounds for a main course and thought I would have preferred to have gone to McDonald's." "I am not saying that you should live off them but there is a time and a place for McDonald's. "I don't eat there every day, but if I feel like one, I just stop off and you know what you get. I'm quite happy to go in there."

However his views were not shared by other chefs who sided with Prince Charles. The Prince made his remarks on a trip to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Antony Worrall Thompson, the television chef, said he agreed that fast food outlets were a problem. "What he's basically saying is correct. We need to get back to cooking from scratch. "But why didn't he mention Burger King and the other fast food outlets? It's the whole industry producing ready meals and fast food that is the problem. The Michelin-starred chef Georgio Locatelli said: "I'm fully behind Prince Charles. He is spot on. McDonald's should be banned."

A spokesman for McDonald's welcomed White's support. He said: "It is good that he is so well informed. He has expressed an opinion based on fact." He said the ingredients for their food were almost entirely sourced from British farmers and producers. In all more than 17,000 farmers supplied the chain.


Britain: Honey cures superbug?: "A new method could be used to tackle MRSA: the honey of Australian bees. The natural remedy is being used by the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, a centre of excellence for heart surgery. It uses honey from a colony of bees only found in Queensland to clean infected wounds, along with dressings containing a gum extracted from seaweed. The honey seals the injury and the seaweed extract draws and absorbs the harmful bacteria."


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.