Sunday, July 08, 2007

Boozers more potent: Brewer's droop a myth!

I hate to spoil the party but it COULD just be that potent men drink more. Alcohol has some reputation as a sex substitute

BOOZE may not be quite as toxic to a man's sex life as first thought, with a study finding alcohol appears to protect men from impotence rather than predispose them to it. A review of previous studies on the subject, involving men in South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific, including Australia, found that contrary to popular belief, regular alcohol consumption cut the risk of male impotence by nearly 20 per cent overall. While low-level drinking, of seven or fewer drinks a week, brought a benefit that was too small to be statistically significant, higher levels were effective.

The results, published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, found that moderate drinking - eight or more drinks a week - cut the risk of impotence, known by the medical term erectile dysfunction, by a statistically significant 15 per cent. In Australia, official health guidelines recommend men drink no more than four standard drinks a day, or two drinks a day for women. A standard drink in Australia is defined as containing 10g of alcohol.

The authors, from the University of Hong Kong, said it "appears that alcohol consumption ... is related to sexual function", with moderate consumption giving the highest protection and the benefits reducing the more alcohol was drunk. However, the authors could not tell from the data at what point over eight drinks a week alcohol consumption stopped being beneficial.

They also suggested the "myth" that alcohol might cause ED could have arisen from the well-known tendency for alcohol to enhance desire but impair performance. The authors said this was merely a "short-lived effect of alcohol and will not cause ED permanently". "This study has demonstrated that chronic alcohol consumption is not a risk factor for ED," they wrote.

Chris McMahon, director of the Australian Centre for Sexual Health at the University of Sydney, said the findings were "logical" as moderate alcohol consumption was already known to have benefits for cardiovascular health, which in turn was linked to healthy erections. However, he said the latest review was limited by the quality of the studies on which its findings were based, and further studies were required. "I expect we will see this finding picked up in alcohol advertisements, which is a pity," he said. "This does not constitute a good reason to drink to excess."


False heart disease diagnoses?

Are people really diagnosed just by statistics in Britain? Surely, it should be an investigation (with scans etc.) that is decisive! Amazing!

Heart disease medication is being massively over-prescribed with thousands of people being wrongly told that they are in danger of developing cardiovascular problems, according to a study. A new and sophisticated approach to calculating risk has shed radical new light on the issue. A British Medical Journal study says that there are flaws in the traditional method and suggests that current estimates of the number of people in danger of the disease are 1.5 million too high. Using the new test, the BMJ estimated that the number of people at risk had been overpredicted by 35 per cent.Consequently, many patients have likely been prescribed unnecessarily anti-cholesterol drug statins, inflating the annual 2 billion bill to the NHS.

The study prompted fears that the wrong type of people were being targeted for treatment with its discovery that white middle-aged men had a lower risk than previously thought and women from poorer backgrounds had a significantly higher risk. It also found that one in three women in their 60s are at risk of heart disease. That figure was previously thought to be one in four.

Julia Hippisley-Cox, lead author of the study, told The Guardian: "We are potentially missing the right people for treatment. "If we use this new score it would increase treatment to deprived areas and especially to women. They are being under-treated across the board."

The researchers tracked 1.28 million healthy men and women aged between 35 and 74 over 12 years to April this year and used GP records from 318 general practices. The overblown estimates of heart disease were derived from the traditional way of calculating risk, which involves a score based on smoking, blood pressure and "good" and "bad" cholesterol, along with age and sex. The BMJ study used a new measure which also takes social deprivation [Steady on there! We are not loking at social class at long last are we?] , genetic factors and weight into account, reducing estimates.

As a result, it has concluded that 3.2 million adults under the age of 75 are at risk of developing cardiovascular illnesses compared with the 4.7 million previously estimated. A separate study by the Healthcare Commission says the number of people reported as having heart failure issues was 140,000 fewer than expected.


ACHTUNG! Ve haf vays of making you slim!

According to the German government, Germans are too fat. They're so fat, in fact, that the government has made encouraging weight loss one of the country's main political tasks. In May, the minister for health, Ulla Schmidt, and the minister of consumer protection and agriculture, Horst Seehofer, launched a national health campaign to motivate people to eat healthier food and do more exercise. The government aims to halt the trend towards obesity by the year 2020.

The national action plan is comprehensive and far-reaching. It recommends that health education should play a greater role in kindergartens and schools. Parents should be encouraged to tell their children about the risks of fast food. Adults should be informed about health issues at their workplaces. At state level, communities and sports clubs should encourage people to participate in sports. The anti-obesity campaign hopes to establish new standards of health and nutrition in canteen services in schools, hospitals and workplaces, and it will give funding to scientific research into the consequences of an unhealthy diet.

The government is also putting pressure on the German food industry. It is asking that food manufacturers put more accurate and prominent labelling on their products, in order to warn consumers that certain ingredients might be bad for their health and wellbeing. Although the food industry has broadly supported the government's campaign, its representatives have criticised this call for stricter labelling. Jrgen Abraham, chairman of the German food industry confederation, argued that individuals are fully responsible for what they eat: `Why blame the industry when some individuals just eat too much?'

Fatness has now been successfully transformed into a major issue in German society. Apparently, more than 75 per cent of German men and 59 per cent of German women are considered overweight, a condition said to cause cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, strokes, cancer and depression. The cost of treating such diseases is a major burden on the German state budget, which, the government argues, could easily be reduced by healthier living.

In outlining an economic imperative for national slimming, the government has drawn attention to the bureaucratic and authoritarian edge to its anti-obesity campaign. The campaign has little time for individual choice or free will in matters of food consumption or exercise, and nor does it accept the idea that people should determine what is best for them and their families. Rather, it turns the (highly questionable) measurement of the `right' body-weight ratio, the Body Mass Index (BMI), into a social statement about a person's ability and willingness to adopt a socially acceptable lifestyle. In other words, those who are fat are increasingly seen as `bad' and anti-social people who do not fit in, while those who regularly take exercise and eat well are seen as `good' citizens.

If you take a closer look at the German government's new health campaign, you will see how irrational it is. First of all, it would seem that, in a rush to `educate' the people, the government has exaggerated the personal and social relevance of the obesity issue. It started by exercising some poetic license with the statistics. Reports claiming that Germans are the fattest people in Europe were designed to startle - but such a claim was only arrived at by removing those aged 18 to 24 from the study. So slimmer, younger adults were excluded from the calculations, which allowed government and media scaremongers to say `shock, horror - German adults are the fattest!' Those scientists who have questioned the fat stats have only occasionally been given a platform in the media.

But you need more than just concocted scientific evidence to launch a national campaign on what people eat and how they play: you also need a cultural climate that is open to such interventions. And in today's Germany, the ground has been well-prepared for this kind of government activity.

In Germany, the fatness issue has been harnessed by a government keen to intervene into people's private lives at ever more intimate levels. In recent debates, obesity has been linked to child neglect (that is, parents feeding their children the `wrong' foods and letting them get fat), and it has also been taken as evidence that people have gone consumerism-crazy, misled by the advertising of big food companies. Once body weight has been squeezed into such a moral framework - which raises questions of choice, free will and independence - then it quickly becomes an issue around which all sorts of authoritarian measures can be enforced. And questioning the government's anti-obesity campaign has become tantamount to blasphemy. Health and weight are no longer the subject of a meaningful debate - they are consensus issues on which you raise awkward questions at your peril. Those who disagree with the need to lose weight are regarded as `stupid' or wilfully contrary, and it is hoped that the new emphasis on health education in schools will help to stamp out these unorthodox views.

What can be done with those of us in Germany who argue that the government's all-pervasive health agenda is an attack on personal freedom? In order to silence us, a new line of argument is being developed, one which focuses on the alleged social consequences of obesity. The government now claims that obesity costs the government between 10billion and 20billion euros in terms of health provision and care. In short, those who are overweight are socially irresponsible; they are anti-social.

Official exhortations to live healthily are not a new phenomenon. Indeed, campaigns of this kind have a long tradition in Germany. In the early Seventies, the German Sports Association (DSB), the umbrella organisation for all German sports clubs, launched a marketing campaign to get people to join sport clubs. The aim of the campaign was to reduce the burden on public health institutions, which were then dealing with around 250,000 cases of heart attack a year. Back then, it was said that a third of the male population and more than 40 per cent of the female population were overweight. That Seventies campaign took off, and fitness became a major issue in the lives of Germans.

Back then, politicians certainly jumped on the sport-and-fitness bandwagon, but they didn't play a major role in creating it. The DSB's campaign was largely driven by a need to recruit new sports club members: in 1970, only 17 per cent of the West German population were engaged in sports clubs. Organised sports had suffered a deep crisis as traditional gymnastics became more and more unfashionable. The DSB was looking for new ways to attract a younger generation. Within 10 years, sports club membership rose by 28 per cent, and today more then 75 per cent of German kids between the ages of three and 10 are members of a sports club.

By contrast, today's anti-obesity campaign has a purely political aim. It is designed to strengthen the moral authority of a political class that has lost its traditional bonds with society. By focusing on private matters such as health and weight, the German government is trying to develop new points of contact with people's everyday concerns and fears. It is turning personal lifestyle into a political issue. Where in the past sports campaigns were designed to engage people, and make them join sports activities voluntarily or out of personal interest and enthusiasm, the current health plan puts the economic and social necessity of slimming at the centre of the debate. Government-endorsed slimming and health awareness are no longer about increasing the quality of our personal lives; rather they are about instilling in us a new sense of social duty and even conformity. Indeed, we should remember that for all today's talk about having the `right' Body Mass Index, there is in fact no scientific and enduring definition of what `overweight' is. In the past (and in some cultures even today) being `overweight' was seen as an enviable condition because as it was an indicator of social wealth and economic success.

An isolated government is using the issue of what foodstuff we put in our mouths to `make a connection' and to enforce new forms of authority and standards of responsibility. The German people should tell it to get stuffed.



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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