Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More crap from the BMJ

From the comments below, one would never guess that sugar is a natural and valuable nutrient and that NO harm from the changes mentioned below has been shown. It's just modern-day Puritanism

Manufacturers have doubled the amount of sugar in some foods in the past 30 years. The increases were seen across dozens of food types. Even fruit was not immune, with companies selecting sweeter varieties to cater for the public's changing palate. The research comes amid increasing concern over the ill-effects of sugar. Rocketing sugar levels have contributed to tooth decay and an increase in the incidence of diabetes.

A recent article in the British Medical Journal said that sugar was as dangerous as tobacco and posed a greater threat to world health. "Sugar should be classified as a hard drug, for it is addictive and harmful," it said.

The latest study, of food composition since 1978, found some of the biggest increases were in breakfast cereals and wholemeal bread. Kellogg's Special K has nearly twice the amount of sugar it did in 1978. At 17g per 100g, it contains a similar amount to vanilla ice-cream. A typical loaf of wholemeal bread had a third more sugar in 2002 than it had 1978. Hovis wholemeal bread has even more sugar, with 3.7g per 100g. Sainsbury's wholemeal bread has 3.5g sugar per 100g. This means there is a teaspoon of sugar in every three slices.

In data from a 1978 industry handbook, cans of tomato soup had 2.6g of sugar per 100g. Many soups today contain double that. Waitrose tomato soup had almost three teaspoons of sugar (6.4g) per serving. Between 1978 and 2002, the average banana's sugar level rose from 16.2g per 100g to 20.9g. Sugar in pears increased from 7.6g per 100g to 10g. Sugar in carrots rose from 5.4g per 100g to 7.4g.

The consumer group Which? revealed last month that ready-meals contained up to 23.1g of sugar per 100g. After a campaign to reduce salt intakes, the Food Standard Agency now wants to reduce added sugar. A spokesman, Ian Tokelove, said: "We naturally have a sweet tooth and manufacturers have been quick to use that to increase sales in a crowded marketplace. It's been one of the first things to be added when companies want to make a product a bit different." Experts say that sugar levels could rise further as a byproduct of the campaign against salt.

Jack Winkler, professor of nutrition policy at London Metropolitan University, said that European trade reforms were making sugar cheaper. "It's hard to think of a more irresponsible policy than cutting the price of sugar in the middle of an obesity epidemic," he told The Sunday Times.

Waitrose said that it was reducing the sugar in its tomato soup. Jenny Walton, of Kellogg's, said that extra sugar was added to some cereals because other ingredients, such as salt, had been reduced. Hovis said: "Hovis Wholemeal does contain a small amount of brown sugar. The quantities do not affect the nutritional benefits of the bread." Sainsbury's said that it was reviewing products to decide whether sugar and salt levels could be reduced.


Math and health care

A good point below from Shiller Math

Every day each of us makes decisions and judgment calls - both in our personal and professional lives - based on our understanding of probability theory. If our understanding is flawed, the consequences can be serious. Here is a case in point:

A hypothetical doctor gives a test for a certain disease to every one of her patients, and her patients are representative of the population, where, on average, one in 1,000 people get this disease. The test has a 5% false positive rate: if the test result is positive for the disease, there's a 5% chance that you do not actually have it. The test has a 0% false negative rate: if the test is negative for the disease, you do not have it.

A patient tests positive for the disease. What is the probability the patient actually has it? See if you can figure it out the answer before reading on...

Over half the doctors surveyed got the answer wrong. This has serious implications for our health care system, our economy, and our well being. If a doctor tells that patient that the probability of having the disease is 95%, most patients would take that as nearly certain and will undergo treatment, no matter how hard or potentially disruptive or even life-threatening that might be. But if a doctor tells that patient that the probability of having the disease is actually under 2%, which is in fact correct, most patients would make very different decisions, such as undertaking additional testing.

Here's the math: Say 1,000 people take the test. On average, one person will have the disease and will test positive for it (there are no false negatives). Of the other 999 people, 5% of them will also test positive, even though they don't have the disease. Five percent of 999 is pretty close to 50, so approximately 51 people will test positive. But only one of the 51 actually has the disease! Under 2%.

Proper understanding of probability helps us make better decisions in life. Who knew good math could cause happiness?


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.


No comments: