Friday, September 21, 2007

Laughing gas not a big laugh at all

PARALYSIS can be caused by nagging, but not the type many husbands complain about. The term "nagging" is also used to describe the dangerous recreational use of laughing gas, or nitrous oxide. Brisbane doctors have warned the practice can trigger paralysis, reporting the case of a woman in her 20s who presented herself to the Princess Alexandra Hospital's emergency department after inhaling laughing gas.

Writing in the latest Medical Journal of Australia, they said the woman had been abusing nitrous oxide – used as a propellant in whipped cream dispensers – to mask the pain caused by a sprained ankle. "She was in big trouble," said neurologist Peter Silburn, who consulted on the case. "Her arms were weak. Her bowel and bladder had stopped working and she had lower limb paralysis."

Professor Silburn said nitrous oxide – also commonly used as an anesthetic – interfered with vitamin B12 activity in the body and could cause nerve and spinal cord damage, when abused. "It can have serious consequences," he said. "I think the message is worthwhile getting out there because apparently nagging is on the rise. People take it to parties. "This is potentially very serious. Patients don't always recover. If we can alert the community to that, that's a service."

The woman "nagger" who developed paralysis spent two days in intensive care and was only discharged after seven months of rehabilitation. When she left hospital, she was only able to walk short distances with the aid of a walking frame. Professor Silburn, who divides his time between the PA and St Andrew's War Memorial hospitals, said the case was not unique.


Lazy lizard source of diabetes drug

THE peculiar eating habits of a North American lizard have led to a new drug designed to help people suffering with Type 2 diabetes. Since the lazy lizard, known as the Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum), spends most of its time doing very little in an underground burrow, it developed a biochemical system for controlling the storage and release of energy. The key to the system is a compound called exendin-4, a hormone found in the lizard's saliva. It slows the the creature's digestion, enabling it to get by on just 3 or 4 meals a year.

The international drug giant Eli Lilly and California-based Amylin Pharmaceuticals have exploited exendin-4 in an injectible drug, exenatide, now available in Australia under the trade name Byetta.

Noel Field, aged 55, has injected Byetta twice daily for three years as part of phase 3 clinical trials of the drug in Australia. He has had Type 1 (adult onset) diabetes for 12 years, a condition which reduces the ability of his body to automatically regulate blood-sugar levels. "It's a bit of a mystery how they got it from the saliva of the lizard," he joked.

According to Gregory Fulcher - head of the Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney - Byetta "mimic" a human version of exendin-4, a hormone known as GLP-1. It was designed for people like Mr Field whose Type 2 diabetes is not properly controlled by existing oral medications like metformin or sulphonylurea, drugs which increase the ability of insulin to control blood sugar levels. Dr Fulcher - who led one of the Australia clinical trails - said the compound does not work for people suffering from Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes because they have too few insulin-producing beta cells.

Type 2 sufferers, though, still have enough beta cells in their pancereas to produce at least some insulin. Drugs like Byetta work along with the remaining cells, controlling blood sugars follwing a meal, reducing the amount of sugar released by the liver, slowing the emptying of the stomach and enhancing insulin production. "It's not yet proven but there are hints (Byetta) will maintain the insulin-secreting function of beta cells," said Dr Fulcher. If so, that would mean people would not need to inject insulin, doses of which must be adjusted by patients after monitoring their own blood-sugar levels.

While Byetta is the first drug of its class to be available in Australia under private prescription ($99 per month), other classes of diabetes are being developed to compliment drugs like metaformin and insulin. Byetta was listed by the federal regulator , the Therapeutic Goods Administration, last June.



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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