Friday, September 07, 2007


The food additive warriors have obviously got desperate but their last fling has won them the publicity battle by fraud. The extraordinary study below (Summary from The Times plus journal abstract) tells us NOTHING about actual food. Prior studies have not given the adverse effects hypothesized so this time they just gave kids cocktails of chemicals in fruit juice. And some kids were slightly affected by some of the cocktails.

But the procedure is scientifically amazing. Components of any complex process must be examined in situ if we are to draw any bottom-line conclusions -- witness the poor transferability of in vitro to in vivo results. It is entirely possible for a chemical to be deleterious in one situation or combination and not in another. And it is known that the interaction of chemicals in food is very complex. So this research tells us nothing about what effects the chemicals would have in their normal applications.

Furthermore, the practice of giving a cocktail of chemicals also renders the whole exercise a virtual nullity. For all we know, the adverse effects could all have been caused by just one chemical in the mix! Normal scientific procedure is one of control. We try to vary NOTHING BUT the one variable under examination. That is the only way we can be sure that any given variable has some effect. So this study tells us nothing about any of the variables concerned.

It is of course possible that the various chemicals have to interact to produce a deleterious effect but that just underlines how negligent it was not to test their effect in situ. If interactions are important, it is important to show that the interactions being examined are real-life ones.

Sadly, however, despite its scientific nullity, the study would seem to have given the food fanatics the ammunition to get banned many useful additives that make food safer and more attractive. That they published such irresponsible rubbish is however another blot on the escutcheon of Lancet and shows again what a political propaganda outfit they have become. The irrational Greenie nature-worshippers have been facilitated in another one of their Quixotic crusades.


I thought that a quote about the study preceding this one was pretty amusing:

A further limitation of the earlier study design was the observed 'placebo effect'. A large proportion of children in the first study were unaffected (or, in some cases, showed an improvement in behaviour) when on the additives mix, but showed worsening when on the placebo

What pesky results! The additives were actually good for some children!

Another amusing point: There were two additive mixes in the study below and only one had "bad" effects. But the one that had bad effects on the 3 year olds overall did not affect the 8 year olds overall and the one that affected the 8 year olds overall did not affect the 3 year olds overall! What the heck can anybody conclude from that?

By being very strict about which data they allowed into the analysis, the researchers find find both mixes to be bad in the 8 year olds but that simply underlines how marginal the effects were.

Looking at both the prior study and the latest one, it is hard to avoid the impression that the results were essentially random. That some results in the study below apparently reached statistical significance rules out only one source of random effects: small sample size. That is all that a test of statistical significance does.

Britain's food watchdog is warning all parents today of a clear link between additives and hyperactive behaviour in children. Research for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and published in The Lancet has established the "deleterious effects" of taking a mixture of artifical extras that are added to drinks, sweets and processed foods. It has led the FSA to issue the advice to parents who believe their children to be hyperactive that they should cut out foods containing the E numbers analysed in the study.

Scientists from the University of Southampton, who carried out research on three-year-old and eight-year-old children, believe that their findings could have a "substantial" impact on the regulation of food additives in Britain. But the FSA has been accused of missing an opportunity to protect children and all consumers by failing to impose a deadline on manufacturers to remove additives such as Sunshine Yellow and Tartrazine from their products.

In the biggest study of its kind the researchers recorded the responses of 153 three-year-olds and 144 eight to nine-year-olds to different drinks. None suffered from a hyperactivity disorder. The children drank a mix of additives that reflected the average daily additive intake of a British child. The mixture was not a product currently on sale.

After consuming the drinks - a cocktail of controversial E numbers and the preservative sodium benzoate - the children were found to become boisterous and lose concentration. They were unable to play with one toy or complete one task, and they engaged in unusually impulsive behaviour. The older group were unable to complete a 15-minute computer exercise. Results varied between different children but the study found that poor behaviour was observed in children who had no record of hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder.

The results are certain to cause concern and it is likely many parents will remove or cut down on food and drink products that might provoke such reactions in their children. The problem for many parents will be how to police children's eating; although most foods are labelled, some sweets are sold loose in shops and school canteens. Schools can now expect to be inundated with requests for the ingredients of food and drink on offer to their pupils to be made known.

Jim Stevenson, head of psychology at the University of Southampton, who led the research, said yesterday that he thought there could be swift action against artificial colourants but that it could take longer to phase out use of the preservative sodium benzoate. At a briefing to publicise the results, however, he said that the FSA's advice was the most sensible course of action at present. Hyperactive behaviour was also caused by genetic, developmental and emotional factors and a change of diet was not a panacea.

But Richard Watts, food campaigner for the pressure group Sustain, said that the advice would cause confusion. "The agency needs to toughen up the rules quickly. I don't know why they did not give food companies a deadline to remove the additives. I think as an urgent next step any food with these additives should be classed as junk food and banned from TV advertising to children." He was also concerned about soft drinks available in schools and wanted the School Foods Trust to review the use of sodium benzoate. Ian Tokelove, spokesman for the Food Commission, said: "Manufacturers should clean up their act and remove these additives, which are neither needed or wanted in our food".

The FSA defended its stance and said the matter had to be resolved by the European Commission. Dr Clare Baynton, of the FSA, made it clear that the additives were safe and approved for use in food, and that further assessment was required. She put the onus on parents to monitor their children's diet. "It is for a parent to know what foods their children are susceptible to and whether their children react to to specific types of food."

The study builds on tests conducted on the Isle of Wight in 2002 which were inconclusive about links between additives and hyperactivity. Julian Hunt, of the Food and Drink Federation said: "It is important to reassure consumers that the Southampton study does not suggest there is a safety issue with the use of these additives. In addition, the way in which the additives were tested as a mixture is not how they are used in everyday products.


Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial

By Donna McCann et al.

Background: We undertook a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover trial to test whether intake of artificial food colour and additives (AFCA) affected childhood behaviour.

Methods: 153 3-year-old and 144 8/9-year-old children were included in the study. The challenge drink contained sodium benzoate and one of two AFCA mixes (A or B) or a placebo mix. The main outcome measure was a global hyperactivity aggregate (GHA), based on aggregated z-scores of observed behaviours and ratings by teachers and parents, plus, for 8/9-year-old children, a computerised test of attention. This clinical trial is registered with Current Controlled Trials (registration number ISRCTN74481308). Analysis was per protocol.

Findings: 16 3-year-old children and 14 8/9-year-old children did not complete the study, for reasons unrelated to childhood behaviour. Mix A had a significantly adverse effect compared with placebo in GHA for all 3-year-old children (effect size 0.20 [95% CI 0.01-0.39], p=0.044) but not mix B versus placebo. This result persisted when analysis was restricted to 3-year-old children who consumed more than 85% of juice and had no missing data (0.32 [0.05-0.60], p=0.02). 8/9-year-old children showed a significantly adverse effect when given mix A (0.12 [0.02-0.23], p=0.023) or mix B (0.17 [0.07-0.28], p=0.001) when analysis was restricted to those children consuming at least 85% of drinks with no missing data.

Interpretation: Artificial colours or a sodium benzoate preservative (or both) in the diet result in increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population.

The Lancet, September, 2007

Kidney treatment forsaken for 'natural cure' -- patient dies

People should not have to die before these quacks are pursued

VECKO KRSTESKI was desperate for a cure and Jeffrey Dummett advertised one, based on what he called the "eight laws of health: nutrition, exercise, water, sunshine, temperance, air, rest, and trust in divine power". Krsteski, a 37-year-old with chronic kidney disease, followed the program for two weeks - and died on day 14. Now Dummett is on trial for the manslaughter of Krsteski, who had suspended his conventional treatment to follow the naturopath's regimen.

Krsteski's doctors had prescribed dialysis four times a day, as well as regular medication, a controlled diet and no more than a litre of fluids a day, a Supreme Court jury was told yesterday. Then his sister told him about Dummett's program; Dummett advertised his services with the slogan "Need a cure?"

When Krsteski signed up for a live-in detoxification program in February 2002, he had no reason to distrust Dummett, who he believed was a doctor, the prosecutor, Paul Leask, told the court. He stopped his conventional treatment and started a liquid diet, the court heard. After nine days he noticed chest pains and numbness in his fingers, Mr Leask told the court. By day 10 he had lost 11 kilograms. On the morning of day 14, Krsteski was found dead.

Mr Leask said Krsteski had died of a heart attack, and the Crown sought to prove he had died prematurely because of Dummett's gross negligence. He had had a duty of care and a reasonable person would have realised the risk of injury, Mr Leask said. Dummett was guilty of manslaughter, he argued, because he had failed to inquire about Krsteski's kidney condition, or consult his doctors.

But Dummett's barrister, John Doris, SC, said Krsteski's autopsy revealed he had a "severely diseased heart" that had not been diagnosed by years of conventional treatment. "It was the direct cause of his death," he said. The doctor who performed the autopsy had found: "Mr Krsteski suffered from a severe disease which would have caused his death at a relatively young age," Mr Doris said.



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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