Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More amusing correspondence from the Aspartame (Nutrasweet) foes

Further to my post of yesterday, I received or had copied to me the following:

We are not in any way associated with Betty Martini whose rants embarrass us all. She is what one of my colleagues called "a self-appointed general"

There is a list on Yahoo, The Aspartame Victim's Support Group that at all times, for the last 10 years has had 1,000 people who list and share their experiences with aspartame.

I replied:

Testimonials are the stock in trade of the quack. They are of no worth in determining cause. Give me double blind studies.

Then the following was copied to me:

Mary... do you know what he's talking about...

A more sophisticated person replied, also copying to me:

He's saying all you're giving him are 'anecdotal' accounts - not double blind human tests with a large number of subjects made up of a 'control' group and an 'aspartame' group. Walton's was too small by scientific standards.

You get mired down in debating this guy, it could go on forever and you won't win because he is there to prove his predetermined point and to make you look bad. Like Martini, he will out-argue you and drag you down. We don't have to prove anything to this character. Those who believe will survive. Those who don't won't. Don't waste valuable time arguing with him. He isn't worth it.

These are obviously sincere people who have themselves had bad experiences that they attribute to aspartame -- but they are badly lacking in scientific understanding. The fact that some academic researchers will hop onto any bandwagon that will give them publications is a serious disservice to them.

Because of their lack of scientific background, they fail to understand that I am asking only for normal scientific caution and so interpret my comments as evilly motivated in some way. I noted at the beginning that I myself do not use ANY artificial sweeteners that I know of so my personal inclination would be to agree with them. I just ask for a conventional standard of proof before I do so.

Non-smokers suffer fewer heart attacks after ban

This could be just a statistical blip but it is an interesting straw in the wind

The ban on smoking in public places in Scotland is already beginning to have an impact on the nation's health, a conference in Edinburgh heard yesterday. The number of nonsmokers admitted to hospital after heart attacks fell by 20 per cent in the ten months after the ban came into force in March 2006, compared with the same ten months in the year before, Jill Pell, of Glasgow University, said. Other studies have shown that children's exposure to secondhand smoke has fallen, except among children whose mothers smoke, or those with two parents who smoke.

Professor Pell's study covered nine hospitals, which between them account for two thirds of all hospital admissions for heart attacks in Scotland. In the ten months of the year leading up to the ban, there were 3,235 admissions, while in the matching period after the ban, the figure was 2,684. Patients were asked if they were smokers or nonsmokers, and their answers double-checked through blood tests to detect levels of cotinine, the product into which nicotine is converted by the body. In nonsmokers, the fall in heart attack admissions was higher, at 20 per cent.

Professor Pell said that the reduction among nonsmokers was biologically plausible, because smoke contained a lot of toxins that could trigger heart attacks in people with coronary heart disease. "The difference between our study and earlier ones is that we have been able to show an effect in people who have never smoked. That can only be due to lower levels of passive smoke," she said.

Rates of heart disease are falling everywhere, but not as fast as this. Over the same period of ten months after the ban, admissions in England fell by 4 per cent, and the reduction rate in Scotland over the decade before the ban was 3 per cent per year. Sally Haw, principal public health adviser to NHS Scotland, who collaborated in the study, said she was confident that the figures were reliable. "It's a large study, we have confirmed people's smoking status, and we have used a robust definition to count admissions" she said.

Sir Richard Peto, of Oxford University, an expert in the epidemiology of smoking, said many things could affect admissions for heart attacks, including the weather. Fewer people suffer heart attacks when the weather is mild. "I'd be surprised if this drop were due solely to the smoking ban," he said. "I would like to see cigarette sales figures, to see if there has been any fall."

Jon Ayres, head of the University of Aberdeen environmental and occupational medicine department, said: "It's very difficult to believe there is anything fundamentally wrong with the results. I think the 20 per cent figure is good. If you look at the figures month to month, the effect seems to creep up since last year. This also suggests that the important thing was the smoking ban."

The study has yet to be published, but the conference coincided with the publication online by the British Medical Journal of three other studies. One found a reduction of 39 per cent in exposure to secondhand smoke in 11-year-olds and a similar decrease among adult nonsmokers. Cotinine levels in blood were used to measure exposure, and showed that most children have benefited. But in those with two parents who smoke, or with a mother who is a smoker, the drop was not statistically significant.

A study by Aberdeen University of nearly 400 staff at 72 pubs in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh also found health improvements in bar staff. The two-day conference at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre has attracted an international audience of health experts and policymakers.



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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