Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Aspartame revisited

It looks like I poked a beehive when I criticized the anti-aspartame campaign yesterday. I got several accusatory emails, including one from the chief anti-aspartame evangelist herself, Dr. Betty Martini, D.Hum. I have never heard of a D.Hum before. Maybe you get them out of cornflakes packets. I reproduce below part of my correspondence with the D.Hum one:

I initially reiterated my point about the lack of human double-blind studies. She replied:

Dr. Walton's study was double blind. Who do you work for?

I was rather amused by the implicit suggestion of bad faith so I replied:

I work for BIG PHARMA, of course. No honest person could question your beliefs, could they? You can see more about my evil affiliations here:


With the lack of any sense of humour that one expects of fanatics, she did not apparently detect the sarcasm at all. She replied:

I figured as much. I'm not surprised. If you had read Dr. Walton's report you would have seen the link and the fact that it was double blind. Here is the link.


And what a link it is! She had to go all the way back to 1993 to find something and then it concerned ill-effects among a non-random sample of 13 clinical depressives who were fed doses of aspartame seven times a day in pill form, rather than in food.

Quite aside from the ridiculous "sampling", the fact that they got the stuff in pill form quite vitiates the study. Aspartame is supplied IN FOOD and unless you study it in food, you are pissing into the wind. As I have previously pointed out, the potentially bad metabolites of it have been shown to be susceptible to breaking down by other food components or their metabolites so it is the actual bottom line after that happens that we have to look at, not intermediary processes in isolation. And NOBODY seems to have shown any adverse effects from normal use of aspartame in a double-blind study.

I am sure the anti-aspartame evangelists will be sticking pins into a voodoo doll of me by now.

Popcorn addiction dangerous

A MAN who microwaved and ate two to three bags of extra-buttered popcorn a day for a decade has come down with a dangerous lung disease, apparently the first public case of "popcorn lung". Popcorn lung, or broncheolitis obliterans, permanently scars airways, eventually leaving victims fighting for breath and dependent on oxygen. When safety experts identified the disease in workers in popcorn factories in 2002, they said consumers were not at risk because of the relatively low exposure.

But after treating a Colorado furniture salesman, 53, earlier this year, doctors at the National Jewish Medical and Research Centre in Denver warned federal agencies. "We cannot be sure that this patient's exposure to butter-flavoured microwave popcorn has caused his lung disease," wrote the hospital's Cecile Rose."However, we have no other plausible explanation."

In response to the news, the Flavour and Extract Manufacturers Association on Tuesday recommended that members who made butter flavours with diacetyl consider cutting its concentration. The association made it clear there was no suggestion of risk from eating popcorn. "No, it's inhalation," Ms Rose said. "This patient described enjoying the smell so much he was actually inhaling the steam."

Ms Rose said she had been surprised by the man's condition. "So I turned to him and apologised and said, 'This is a really weird question. But are you around a lot of popcorn?' His jaw dropped, and he said, 'How did you know to ask me that? I am popcorn.' He described himself as a two-pack-a-day user. Sometimes more." Ms Rose and her colleagues tested the air in the man's home for diacetyl, a chemical used to produce a buttery flavour, while he was microwaving popcorn.

Ms Rose said the man's lungs have stabilised since he gave up eating popcorn - and he shed almost 15 kilograms in weight.



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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