Sunday, May 27, 2007


Particularly if you are a rat. Journal abstract below followed by plain English summary:

Hardwiring the Brain: Endocannabinoids Shape Neuronal Connectivity

By Paul Berghuis et al.

The roles of endocannabinoid signaling during central nervous system development are unknown. We report that CB1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs) are enriched in the axonal growth cones of gamma-aminobutyric acid-containing (GABAergic) interneurons in the rodent cortex during late gestation. Endocannabinoids trigger CB1R internalization and elimination from filopodia and induce chemorepulsion and collapse of axonal growth cones of these GABAergic interneurons by activating RhoA. Similarly, endocannabinoids diminish the galvanotropism of Xenopus laevis spinal neurons. These findings, together with the impaired target selection of cortical GABAergic interneurons lacking CB1Rs, identify endocannabinoids as axon guidance cues and demonstrate that endocannabinoid signaling regulates synaptogenesis and target selection in vivo.


The effects of marijuana are mediated by cannabinoid receptors on neurons in the brain, and a causal relationship between marijuana use during pregnancy and permanent cognitive deficits in the offspring has been identified. Berghuis et al. (p. 1212) now define the molecular hierarchy that controls marijuana actions within single neurons and show that activation of cannabinoid receptors by their natural ligands controls the establishment of functional connections between neurons in the brain. These findings define the cellular context through which prenatal marijuana use perturbs brain development.

Keep the government out of my clogged arteries!

Food Fascism as a civil liberties issue

Do you think lawmakers in Hartford should decide what you can eat when you go out in Greenwich or Stamford or Norwalk? Do you think they should keep unhealthy options away from you?

They've taken one step closer to banning trans fats from being used in any restaurant in the state, not because the production of trans fats uses child labor, not to reduce our dependence on foreign trans fats, and not even because trans fats deplete the ozone. None of those tired excuses for interfering in your life were even trotted out.

This was pure paternalism. They think it's bad for you. Therefore, you shouldn't have the option to decide otherwise. Can't a guy even eat a nice, greasy basket of fries anymore without the nanny state slapping his hand?

Eating trans fat does not cause more crime or put pushers on school grounds ("Hey, buddy, want some trans fat?" is not a commonly heard schoolyard expression).

The worst possible thing trans fat will do is kill you, and you alone-if you eat way too much of it. But it's your life. Who gets to make decisions about your life and the amount of risk you can take?

Can you go skydiving? Rock climbing? Can you attempt to hike Mount Everest, or should we file papers for permission from Connecticut's Senate Deputy Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield), one of the co-sponsors of the trans fat legislation? Can you take stressful or dangerous jobs? Can you drive a car? Can you eat raw fish on rice? Can you enlist and ship out to Iraq?

No one ever forced you to eat trans fats. You can go to another restaurant, or start your own, or eat at home, or order different food. You may not even want the choice of eating trans fat, since you, a healthy person, would never choose it anyway. Perhaps you are okay with this legislation, even though it was underhandedly tacked on as an amendment to a bill to repair a swimming pool.

If you are okay with them making those kinds of decisions for you, then logically you should be okay with them telling you what kind of healthy career opportunities are available to you, what kind of healthy spouses you can marry, what kind of friends you can have, and what kind of person you can vote for, especially if the options they take away from you are ones you weren't really considering anyway.

The real issue isn't even about the trans fat. It's about who runs your life when not a single other person is even remotely involved. As an aside, if you think the government should make this decision for you because otherwise you would be eating up public funds with health-care costs, then that same logic applies to the government deciding your friends, job, dates, hobbies, etc., because otherwise you might be depressed or hospitalized and take up public funds again.

The problem is the size of the government. You can bathe in trans fat in your own home if you want to, because that's out of the government jurisdiction. If they could, they'd regulate that too, but they can't, so they stick to regulating restaurants, because for some reason we've allowed them that leeway without any limits on what they can do with that power.

To paraphrase a famous poem by Martin Niemoller:

First they took the alcohol, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't an alcoholic.

Then they took the marijuana, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a pothead.

Then they took the tobacco, and I didn't speak up, because I didn't smoke.

Then they took the trans fats, and I didn't speak up, because I didn't eat it anyway.

Then they took the chocolates, and I didn't speak up, because I didn't have a sweet tooth.

Then they took my TV and internet, and by that time, there was no one to speak up for me.

They were all at the gym working out.

And I hate exercise

If you let the government take away this choice from you by force, you are authorizing them to do it about other choices as well, and you won't be able to argue later that it's none of their concern. And the next choice they take away might be something you used to like.



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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