Sunday, May 20, 2007

Heart risks no bigger for smaller babies

Smaller babies may not be as vulnerable to heart disease later in life as first thought, according to Australian research that challenges world health warnings. A report by the George Institute for International Health claims that the well recognised link between birth weight and coronary heart disease has been overestimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO says small babies are more likely than bigger newborns to develop heart problems as adults, but research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows the difference is not that significant. "There was support for a small association between birth weight and an individual's future risk of heart disease (but) the relationship is not as strong as earlier studies have suggested," said lead author Dr Rachel Huxley, director of nutrition at the institute based at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. The researchers found any effects that birth weight may have on heart disease were dwarfed by other risk factors operating in adult life, such as smoking and obesity. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, accounting for 38 per cent of all deaths in 2002 and claiming the lives of more than one in three adults.

The study suggests that one kilogram higher birth weight is associated with a 10 to 20 per cent reduced risk of heart disease later in life, compared with smaller sized babies. However, researchers say intervening during pregnancy would have little effect on boosting the baby's size, and would only translate into a two per cent lower risk of heart disease. "By comparison, interventions that focus on getting individuals to make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, exercising and eating sensibly would substantially lower the risk of heart disease and are more achievable than strategies aimed at increasing birth weight," Dr Huxley said.


Self-help quack makes a fortune

She was named by Time as one of the world's 100 most influential people, but there are some secrets Rhonda Byrne would rather not divulge to the universe. She has amassed a $48.5 million fortune sharing The Secret with the world, but the overnight self-help guru and former Channel Nine producer, who claims simply asking the "universe" and using the "law of attraction" can do everything from cure cancer to create fortunes, has become increasingly secretive about her roots back home in Australia.

Late last month reports surfaced in Britain about Byrne's mother, Irene Izon, 74, who lives on Melbourne's outskirts. "She has made so much money that I have to pinch myself," Izon told a British journalist, David Cohen. "We talk on the phone most days. I miss her. I am so proud of her. Last week, she told me she'd made $20 million in just a few months, which just blows me away, and that she was giving away 10 per cent to charity. She said she wants to fly me over to visit her in Los Angeles in the summer. Though when I asked her last week, she said she hadn't bought the plane ticket. She is very generous giving all those millions to charity, but I have to admit she hasn't given me a single dollar, though I'm expecting she'll send me some financial help soon. That's what she told me. In the meantime, I'm OK. I get by on my state pension of $1050 a month."

Since Cohen's piece ran in London's Evening Standard and in Edinburgh's Scotsman, Izon and family have gone to ground. Izon's number has disappeared from directories and her mobile is permanently switched off. "You have to contact her publicity people ... The entire family has been instructed by Rhonda not to talk to the media," a family member told PS.



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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