Sunday, September 09, 2007

The despised pacifier is a good thing after all

Advice that dummies [pacifiers] could dramatically reduce the risk of cot death is being overlooked by nursery staff, who still regard them as the lazy way to pacify a child. New research has found that years of anti-dummy prejudice means that child care professionals are failing to implement the potentially life-saving advice and passing it on to parents.

Staff at government and private nurseries are still heavily focused on weaning children off dummies. All those involved in the study had "dummy curbing strategies", and only a tiny fraction of managers and staff had heard that dummies had an important role in helping to prevent cot death.

The findings will be presented today by Dr Judy Whitmarsh, senior lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, at the British Educational Research Association annual conference in London. "The guidance is clearly not filtering down. Child care professionals are usually very quick to respond to new advice on child safety so this is very surprising," she said.

In 2005, the American Academy of Paediatrics found the risk of sudden infant death syndrome could be halved if babies fall asleep with dummies in their mouths, although the researchers could not identify the reason why dummies could save lives. In Britain, the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths and the Department of Health issued new advice encouraging the use of dummies.

Dr Whitmarsh said several factors may deter dummy use. There may be concerns that parents will fail to act on other advice regarding cot death, such as putting babies to sleep on their backs, and not overheating the room.

Dr Whitmarsh said the "demonising" of dummies was getting in the way. "Many people associated dummies with inadequate parenting. There is a myth that only lazy, working-class mothers use dummies whereas plenty of middle-class mothers use them too."


Ritalin for weight loss?

The drugged society marches on -- but that will be OK if "obesity" is the target, of course

A single dose of Ritalin appears to dampen adults' taste for calories and fat -- suggesting, researchers say, that the ADHD drug should be studied as a weight-loss medication. Weight loss is known to be a potential side effect of methylphenidate, best known by the brand-name Ritalin. Whether the drug stands as a potential weapon in the battle of the bulge has been little studied, however.

Theoretically, Ritalin could help overweight people control their appetite because the drug increases brain levels of the chemical dopamine, which is involved in feelings of pleasure and ``reward.'' Dopamine levels increase in response to food, and some research has suggested that people with normally low dopamine levels may be more vulnerable to becoming overweight because of the reward value they get from food. ``This is the theoretical basis for using Ritalin or other drugs that boost brain dopamine,'' explained Dr Gary Goldfield, the lead author of the new study. ``We hope it will reduce appetite, possibly by reducing craving, wanting and/or the reinforcing value of food.''

To put that theory to the test, Goldfield and his colleagues at the University of Ottawa in Canada had 14 adults take either a dose of methylphenidate or a placebo shortly before offering the volunteers a buffet lunch. They found that although the volunteers' pre-lunch hunger ratings were no different whether they took methylphenidate or the placebo, the drug did cause them to eat less. On average, they downed 11 per cent fewer calories, and 17 per cent less fat, Goldfield and his colleagues report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Since methylphendiate did not affect hunger, this suggests it might have dampened the rewarding effects of the food, according to the researchers. ``I would say that since methylphenidate ... reduced food intake and fat intake in only one administration, it should definitely be studied further as a potential weight-loss medication,'' Goldfield said. He cautioned, however, that it's too soon for people to ask their doctors for a Ritalin prescription. He said he and his colleagues are conducting a longer-term clinical trial to see whether the drug does in fact spur weight loss, and whether its effects on dopamine explain the benefit.



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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