Thursday, July 05, 2007

Scanner risks "exposed"

The article below is complete rubbish based on unexamined myths. It has been known for around a century that low doses of ionizing radiation are hormetic (beneficial). A lot of people on the outskirts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the A-bombs fell lived and are living to ripe old ages. And both cities are still major industrial centres

GENERAL practitioners are exposing their patients to high doses of radiation, and potentially cancer, by ordering unnecessary CT scans, a study has found. Researchers reviewed 50 requests for computed tomography scans of the chest at two private radiology practices in Cairns between August 2004 and March 2005. About two-thirds were considered inappropriate and could have been avoided or replaced by tests with lower radiation exposure, they said.

Cairns Base Hospital respiratory physician Graham Simpson, one of the study authors, said CT scans exposed patients to 400 times the radiation of an X-ray. "GPs are requesting these because they're scared of getting sued. In the current climate, everyone wants to do every hi-tech test they can so that nobody can say that they didn't do everything," Dr Simpson said. "All the GPs I've spoken to have been absolutely horrified when they've learnt what the dose of radiation involved is. "Nobody ever really thinks that that can have a consequence of causing cancer down the track but they should."

Medicare Australia statistics show that more than 235,000 CT scans of the chest were performed by private radiology practices in 2004-05. That excludes those performed in public hospitals and those billed to the Veterans Affairs Department. "Assuming that 70 per cent of requests (the average of the estimates from the two radiology practices) come from GPs and that two-thirds are inappropriate, this means that there may be an annual cost to Australian taxpayers of over $35 million for unnecessary CT examinations of the chest," the authors wrote in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.

They said the International Commission on Radiological Protection had estimated an overall risk of one fatal cancer for every 2000 to 3000 CT scans of the chest performed. That translates to about 40 fatal cancers a year in Australia. Dr Simpson said the figure did not include avoidable CT scans being ordered for other parts of the body.

In a corresponding editorial in the MJA, radiologists Richard Mendelson and Conor Murray said specialists were aware that diagnostic imaging was often inappropriately used. "Perhaps up to a third of radiological examinations are totally or partially unnecessary," they wrote. However, they said prohibiting referrals for CT scans by GPs would result in unacceptable stress on specialist services, long waiting times and, probably, increased costs. The radiologists called for more education for GPs and for specialists to take on a wider consultative role.


Dark chocolate helps the heart

As a regular eater of dark chocolate, I won't criticize this one! At least it was a control-group study instead of epidemiological crap

EATING a little bit of dark chocolate every day can reduce blood pressure without causing weight gain or other side effects, according to a study published in the United States. Previous research has shown that eating chocolate can lower blood pressure, but doctors have worried that any benefit could be offset by high doses of sugar, fat and calories.

The study conducted by German researchers at the University of Cologne sought to examine the effect of consuming small amounts of dark chocolate - which has lower levels of sugar and fat, said the study appearing in the July 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

A clinical trial carried out between January 2005 and December 2006 showed that 6.3 grams (30 calories) of dark chocolate a day was associated with a small but significant lowering of blood pressure, the study said.

The trial was carried out on 44 adults from 56 to 73 years old, including 24 women and 20 men, who suffered from pre-hypertension or stage one hypertension. Participants were randomly assigned over 18 weeks to eat either dark chocolate containing 30 milligrams of healthy polyphenols or white chocolate, which has no cocoa.

For those who ate dark chocolate, their average systolic blood pressure was lowered by 2.9 millimeters of mercury and diastolic blood pressure by 1.9 millimeters without a change in body weight, plasma levels of lipids or glucose, the study said. Systolic refers to the top reading for blood pressure, and diastolic the bottom reading. Consuming dark chocolate also helped reduce the prevalence of hypertension, or high blood pressure, from 86 percent to 68 percent, it said. The participants who ate white chocolate saw no reduction in their blood pressure.

While eating dark chocolate resulted in a relatively small reduction in blood pressure, "the effects are clinically noteworthy,'' the study said. For a population, a three millimeter reduction in systolic blood pressure would reduce the relative risk of stroke deaths by eight percent and the risk of coronary artery disease by five percent, the authors wrote.

The results of the trial were "intriguing,'' the study said, as having heart patients eat small amounts of dark chocolate would be much simpler than the conventional approach which requires patients to change their entire diet. Eating dark chocolate "is a dietary modification that is easy to adhere to and therefore may be a promising behavioral approach to lower blood pressure,'' the authors wrote. The researchers said future studies should examine the effects of dark chocolate in other populations and look at results over a longer period.


Now this is what I like to hear:

A glass of wine 'could cure your sore throat'. The research concerned does however appear to have been very simplistic

A regular glass of wine helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease and sore throats, say researchers. Both red and white varieties have powerful germ-killing ingredients, claim the Italian scientists. Their findings add to a growing body of research that demonstrates the health benefits of wine. Moderate consumption of red is already known to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's.

However, the drink's antibacterial qualities, although well- known by the ancient Romans, have been little investigated, said Professor Gabriella Gazzani, writing in the American Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Professor Gazzani's team used bottles of supermarket Valpolicella and Pinot Nero for their research, pouring the wines into bowls containing bacteria. "Overall, our findings seem to indicate that wine can act as an effective anti-microbial agent against streptococci bacteria and upper respiratory tract infections," she said.

The professor added, however: "We should still drink wine because it tastes good, goes well with food and is a pleasure to share with company. And we should still brush and floss our teeth the accepted way."



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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