Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An "incorrect" breakfast can be very good for your memory

EATING a less "healthy" breakfast cereal could improve your memory, Australian research suggests. A study has found that high-glycaemic index cereals, which are generally heavier in carbohydrate and sugar, help young people remember words better in the short term. The findings, presented to a world brain conference in Melbourne, may support pre-exam bingeing on glucose-rich foods, but the researchers caution that eating unhealthy foods is not a sustainable tool for memory.

Michael Smith, a PhD student at the University of Western Australia, compared the impact of low- and high-GI cereal on the ability of healthy teenagers to remember a list of words. The glycaemic index is a measure of how quickly carbohydrate breaks down in the body. Low-GI foods have a gradual effect, believed to be beneficial, while those with a high GI are rapidly digested and cause drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

Mr Smith found that the rapidly digested cereals brought memory benefits. "The adolescents that ate the high-GI cereal could actually recall a lot more words than those in the other group," he said. The researchers recruited 38 people aged from 14 to 17 and fed them either a high-fibre bran-based low-GI cereal or a popular corn cereal that is high-GI.

The teenagers were then asked to remember 20 words, including the names of fruit and vegetables, spices and tools. Results showed that when recalling the list 40 minutes later, the high-GI group was more prone to forgetting. But after 60 minutes they were recalling 1.5 more words on average than low-GI cereal consumers.

Mr Smith said while the difference was small it was significant and was the first time high-GI cereals had been shown to have such benefits. Studies have shown that low-GI foods are better for memory.


Internet defeating paternalistic Australian baby laws

If it's OK with the father concerned, why shouldn't couples know more about the biological fathers of their children?

Desperate Australian couples are buying sperm from anonymous "designer donors" through overseas websites. The donor dad's religious beliefs, university major, temperament, ethnic ancestry and even voice recording are available at the click of a mouse. The trend has astonished IVF experts because the commercial trade in sperm is illegal in Australia and donors in Victoria must be registered.

Ethicists say the situation makes a mockery of Australian laws. They worry that detailed online menus let parents try to craft their child's characteristics before conception. Donors are scarce in Victoria and experts warn the state's sperm banks could be depleted in two years.

Major US clinic California Cryobank confirmed it had shipped 20 vials to Australia in the past five years. The sperm bank advertises physical traits - even offering photographs of the donor as an infant. The results of a temperament test, which assess the donor as having one of four temperament types, are also available for a fee. Voice recordings of donors, sketches of his facial features, in-depth medical histories and even high school test results can be bought.

In Australia, donor details are generally limited to ethnicity and medical history, to ensure the donor's features match those of the social father. Specimens from the US site cost between $US250 and $US500 and a donor dossier can be bought for an additional fee. It offers anonymous and known donors, all medically screened, and ships vials in liquid nitrogen to any specified address.

Commonwealth and some state laws make it illegal to sell or receive human sperm or eggs in a commercial transaction in Australia. Offenders face up to 15 years' jail under Commonwealth human cloning laws, but donations with cash subsidies for out-of-pocket expenses are allowed. In Victoria, donor details are recorded so a child can track down his or her biological parent later in life.

British clinic First 4 Fertility, which destroys donor details after a year and is not regulated by health authorities there, says it has also shipped to Australia and wants to expand its business. "We're looking at how we can find a partner in Australia to run a parallel service to ours there," spokesman John Gonzalez said.

Monash IVF's Adrianne Pope said buying sperm abroad was dangerous because it could complicate a child's efforts to trace his or her paternity. Dr Pope said a chronic shortage of donors could be forcing couples to look overseas. "I'd imagine lack of supply is an issue," she said. "We will reach a point where we will run out, probably in the next two years, if we don't start to see a change."

To import sperm to Victoria, a person must have permission from a regulator, the Infertility Treatment Authority. Failure to comply carries a two-year jail term or fines of $25,000. Clinics and donors wanting to use imported sperm must sign a form promising it has not been bought commercially.

Bioethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini questioned the level of details available on the online sites. "I'd be very surprised if Australian clinics were offering that much information - it's more likely to be medical information," Dr Tonti-Filippini said. "When you get into that sort of detail it's a trade, and in Australia there's a very strong reluctance to trade around these things. "There are some basic respect issues involved when you start selling people's sperm, or eggs for that matter. "The idea that you can be conceived by some sort of trade is not one that most Australians would support."

About one in six Australian couples is infertile. Donor Conception Support Group spokeswoman Leonie Hewitt believed the online commercial sperm trade was thriving. "I've heard of it being done, and my concern would be what happens when that child grows up and wants to know its identity and medical history," Ms Hewitt said. "It's not just semen, it's eggs as well." Ms Hewitt said she knew of a Sydney couple who had imported sperm from Sweden and said hopeful couples had been bringing it in from Britain for years. She called for a national donor register similar to Victoria's.



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: