Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fat-dissolving chemical

Scientists have developed an chemical injection that can remove unwanted fat without the use of surgery. The technique could help to prevent the onset of obesity-linked illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as offer plastic surgeons a new tool for enhancing body parts.

Scientists from Georgetown University, in Washington, made the breakthrough while studying the effect of stress on weight gain. They found that mice in distressing situations put on more weight despite eating the same amount of calories as those in a stress-free environment. Not only were the stressed mice much fatter, they began to exhibit the effects of obesity. They had the glucose intolerance seen in diabetes, elevated blood pressure, inflammation in the blood vessels, and fat in their livers and muscles.

Zofia Zukowska, who led the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, said stressful situations such as “disagreements with your boss, taking care of a chronically ill child, or repeated traffic road rages” could amplify weight gain. The findings were based on a naturally produced chemical that can activate and de- activate cells in fat tissue. The chemical, called neuropeptide Y2 receptor (Y2R), has long been linked to obesity. When the scientists injected the stressed mice with a drug that blocks Y2R, the mice lost 40 per cent of their belly fat. Dr Zukowska said: “It had a profound effect on overall metabolism. We don’t think this is something that would be used for gross obesity but for reshaping the body . . . that would be all very good.

Stephen Baker, a professor of plastic surgery at Georgetown University Hospital, hailed the findings. “We don’t expect that a person will be able to eat everything he or she wants, chase it down with a blocking agent, and end up looking like a movie star. We are encouraged that these findings could improve human health.”


New test detects DNA damage

This test appears to be well-validated but would appear to detect gross problems only. The claims about the healing powers of vitamins should be taken with a large grain of salt

A TEST for DNA damage that claims to counter diseases such as cancer, by helping people identify when they are not getting enough essential nutrients in their diet, was made available to the public yesterday. The test, which has been developed by the CSIRO, costs $650. However, independent experts caution it should not be seen as a complete summary of health risks, nor a reliable way of telling whether someone will develop cancer in later life. Federal Ageing Minister Christopher Pyne launched the test, which is available through a private Adelaide-based clinic called Reach 100.

The test, which is endorsed by organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency to check for DNA damage caused by radiation, looks for damage in white blood cells. DNA damage occurs naturally with ageing as cells make mistakes in copying the genetic code as they divide. This tendency to make mistakes was likened by test inventor and CSIRO principal scientist Michael Fenech to "a photocopier running out of toner". Dr Fenech said the damage could be limited - and to some extent, reversed - if individuals ensured they had an adequate intake of nine nutrients known to affect DNA damage.

The nutrients are: the B-group vitamins riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenate (B5), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12); two forms of vitamin A, retinol and beta-carotene; and vitamin E.

John Barlow, deputy director of the National Ageing Research Institute, cautioned that although the test had been widely validated, the DNA damage detected by the test was large-scale. "This test won't find a mutation in the BRCA gene, which has been known to cause some breast cancers, and it won't find a mutation in the p53 gene ... involved in cell death, and causes cell growth and cancer."


Yeasty discovery

AN essential ingredient in two Aussie favourites - Vegemite and beer - could hold the key to unlocking a cure for cancer. Scientists have found the yeast cell is similar to the human cell, pioneering the way for cancer treatments, according to Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Sir Paul Nurse. "The way in which you control cell division in yeast is exactly the same way in which you control it in humans," Sir Paul said. "This means that we can now use yeast to study the processes that go wrong in cancer."

In Melbourne for the 23rd International Conference on Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology, Sir Paul said yeast could also help in finding remedies for other human diseases such as diabetes. "Because we can work much more efficiently with yeast we can make tremendous progress," he said.

Sir Paul shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with two other scientists for his work in identifying and isolating the cyclin dependent kinase gene, known as CDC2, crucial in cell division in yeast and humans. The discovery has helped lessen the need for experiments on humans and animals, and has enabled investigations to be conducted much faster, Sir Paul said. Sir Paul will speak at a free lecture on Friday at the Lower Melbourne Town Hall, from 12.30-2pm.



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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