Sunday, April 29, 2007

New drug of abuse

Worm medicine!

A new recreational drug is sending patients to the hospital with life-threatening symptoms! The case of an 18-year-old girl who collapsed in a nightclub last May after taking a tablet containing 1-benzylpiperazine is highlighting the dangers of this new drug. The teenager who was rushed to a London hospital emergency room was one of seven patients admitted with similar symptoms, including high blood pressure and a low body temperature.

Piperazines were developed to control worms in animals in the 1950s. They are chemically similar to amphetamine and are marketed in the United Kingdom in stores and online as the legal alternative to other recreational drugs such as ecstasy. The manufacturers of the drugs claim they are safe, citing that 20 million pills containing piperazines have been consumed in New Zealand with no deaths or significant long-term injuries. But a prospective study in New Zealand shows 80 cases of patients who went to the emergency room with symptoms similar to those from taking amphetamines, such as nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, anxiety and agitation. Fifteen of these patients had seizures after eight hours -- three had potentially life threatening incidents.

The authors conclude, "Clinicians should be aware of the potential presenting features of piperazine toxicity, particularly because commercially available urine toxicological screen kits for drugs of abuse may not detect piperazines."

Source. (Original report in "The Lancet" - Vol. 369, Issue 9571, 28 April 2007, Pages 1411-1413)

Barbecues under attack again

Australians are very frequent barbecuers and are yet one of the world's longest lived populations -- but little bottom-line facts like that must not detain us, of course. Simplistic theories are so much easier

With the backyard grilling season approaching, medical experts have managed the scientific equivalent of pouring cold water on a pile of fiery briquettes: Grilling and other high-heat cooking methods accelerate aging and several serious health conditions.

How food is cooked turns out to be extremely important, said Helen Vlassara, a professor of medicine and geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan. She investigated a relatively new class of toxins called glycation end products, or AGEs, which develop during cooking, particularly when grilling, frying and flame-broiling.

"The highest levels are found in fried chicken, or broiled or grilled meats," Vlassara said.

AGEs, she said, tend to accumulate in the body and have been associated with diabetes and insulin imbalances. But she also sees a strong link between the compounds and aging, Alzheimer's disease, inflammatory disorders, vascular problems and kidney conditions. In addition to frying and cooking, she theorizes that AGEs are probably produced during pasteurization.

Over the years, AGEs build up in the body, Vlassara said, causing damage by rogue oxygen molecules and increasing the likelihood of inflammation, which underlies medical conditions from arthritis to heart disease. Sustained inflammation damages the kidneys, joints, blood vessels, heart and brain, she said.

Writing in the current issue of the Journal of Gerontology, Vlassara described her analysis, which involved testing blood levels of AGEs in 172 test subjects. Men and women were divided into two age groups, those 18 to 45 and those 60 to 80.

Boiling, stewing and poaching are cooking methods that avoid production of AGEs, she added.

Josephine Connolly-Schoonen, a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center, said AGEs need to be taken seriously.

"People have to realize that cooking is a chemistry project," Connolly-Schoonen said. "There are a lot of chemical changes that occur to our food as we cook it. Negative compounds are produced when food is exposed to heat as a result of the sugars in the food, the fat in the food and the protein."

Rashmi Sinha, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, said grilling and frying produce a variety of compounds that can damage DNA, and possibly pave the way to cancer development. Sinha has been studying a DNA-damaging chemical called PhIP, a compound that is produced from the amino acids and creatinine in meats when they are cooked at high levels of heat.



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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