Thursday, September 13, 2007

"The Pill" is back in favour!

As with all epidemiological data, this must be taken with a large grain of salt. The women who took the pill might have been healthier to start with and almost certainly led less risky lives (drug-taking etc.). The amazing thing is that official positions are being taken on the basis of these findings

Taking the Pill reduces the risks of a woman getting cancer later in life, according to one of the largest studies ever undertaken. The conclusion will reassure millions of women who took the Pill 30 or 40 years ago and are now of an age when the risks are growing. The study found that overall cancer risk was up to 12 per cent lower for women who took the Pill for less than eight years. But, for the minority of women who took it for more than eight years, the news was less good: for them, the risk of cancer increased by 22 per cent. The risk of developing bowel and rectal, uterine and ovarian cancers was most reduced. There was no evidence that the risk of developing breast cancer either increased or decreased with short-term usage.

“Many women, especially those who used the first generation of oral contraceptives many years ago, are likely to be reassured by our results,” the authors of the new study say. “The cancer benefits of oral contraception outweigh the risks.” Maria Leadbeater, of Breast Cancer Care, said: “The findings of this research will be welcomed by the thousands of women across the UK who have used, or are currently using, an oral contraceptive.”

The team, from the University of Aberdeen, used data gathered by the Royal College of Physicians since 1968, which asked 1,400 GPs to provide information on women who were taking the Pill, and a matched group who were not. A total of 46,000 women were recruited, aged 29 on average. All were married or in a stable relationship. The women were then monitored until 2004, and any cancers they developed were recorded. The team also had more limited data up to 1996 provided by the women’s GPs, giving them two sets of statistics from which to work.

The results, reported in the British Medical Journal, show that the Pill reduced the overall risks of cancer for most women, though the degree of benefit depended on which dataset was used. Using the main dataset, the team found a reduction of 12 per cent in the risk of getting any cancer. That represents one fewer case of cancer for every 2,200 women who have used the Pill for a year. The smaller dataset also showed a benefit, but a smaller one: a 3 per cent reduction in overall risk, equivalent to one fewer case for every 10,000 women per year.

The exception was for women who used the Pill for more than eight years – about a quarter of Pill-users. Their risk of cancer was significantly increased. The average Pill user in the research took the contraceptive for 44 months. Professor Philip Hannaford, who led the research team, said: “These results show that, in this UK cohort, the contraceptive Pill was not associated with an overall increased risk of any cancer; indeed it may produce an important net public health gain.” About three million women use the Pill each year in Britain and 100 million around the world. More than 300 million women have used the Pill since its launch in 1961.


Attack on restaurants

Nobody is mentioning the stupid bans on schoolyard activities that are the probable MAIN cause of any increase in childhood "obesity"

As America gets fatter, policymakers are seeking creative approaches to legislating health. They may have entered the school cafeteria -- and now they're eyeing your neighborhood. Amid worries of an obesity epidemic and its related illnesses, including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, Los Angeles officials, among others around the country, are proposing to limit new fast-food restaurants -- a tactic that could be called health zoning.

The City Council will be asked this fall to consider an up to two-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in South L.A., a part of the city where fast food is at least as much a practicality as a preference. "The people don't want them, but when they don't have any other options, they may gravitate to what's there," said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who proposed the ordinance in June, and whose district includes portions of South L.A. that would be affected by the plan.

In just one-quarter of a mile near USC on Figueroa Street, from Adams Boulevard south, there are about 20 fast-food outlets. "To be honest, it's all we eat," Rey Merlan said one recent lunch hour at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. "Everywhere, it's fast food everywhere." Merlan said it wasn't likely that a limit on new restaurants would change peoples' habits, even though he thinks it's a good idea.

A Times analysis of the city's roughly 8,200 restaurants found that South Los Angeles has the highest concentration of fast-food eateries. Per capita, the area has fewer eating establishments of any kind than the Westside, downtown or Hollywood, and about the same as the Valley. But a much higher percentage of those are fast-food chains. South L.A. also has far fewer grocery stores.

Thirty percent of adults in South L.A. are obese, compared with 20.9% in the county overall, according to a county Department of Public Health study released in April. For children, the obesity rate was 29% in South L.A., compared with 23.3% in the county. And the figures are higher than a decade ago. In 1997, the adult rate was 25.3% in South L.A. and 14.3% in the county. South L.A. also has the highest diabetes levels in the county, at 11.7%, compared with 8.1% in the county.

"While limiting fast-food restaurants isn't a solution in itself, it's an important piece of the puzzle," said Mark Vallianatos, director of the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College. This is "bringing health policy and environmental policy together with land-use planning," he said. "I think that's smart, and it's the wave of the future."

Fast-food restaurants haven't missed the cue: From their menus, diners can choose salads over burgers, yogurts over shakes and grilled over fried these days. And many food manufacturers have reconfigured their recipes to eliminate trans fats, the most unhealthful unsaturated fats made of partially hydrogenated oils.

But especially for children, what's to eat is not completely a matter of choice. Legislators in California and elsewhere are giving closer scrutiny to school food. In 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District was one of the first school districts in the country to ban soda, candy and other high-fat snack foods from school vending machines as of July 2004. The next year the school board decided to reduce sodium, sugar and fat in school lunches. At the federal level, there are proposals in the farm bill to spend an additional $3 billion over five years on fruits and vegetables for school programs.

A California law banning sugary drinks and limiting the fat and sugar content of foods sold in middle and high schools took effect in July. And the state enacted legislation last year to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables to be sold in corner stores in lower-income communities. Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs) introduced a bill in Congress in June that, among other things, would try to increase the availability of nutritious foods in economically depressed areas.


Australians to be paid to lose weight?

Many Australians who have recently been through what now passes for an Australian education will probably be unaware that the quote in the above cartoon is from a much-loved Australian poem by A.B. Paterson, called "The Man from Snowy River". Zeg appears to think that money might get results

TAXPAYERS should subsidise 12-week weight loss programs for overweight Australians, a leading doctors group says. The Australian General Practice Network also wants $40 million spent on a national program to teach good parenting techniques. And it is pushing for general practice nurses to visit nursing homes and carry out home visits to check on elderly and frail patients.

The network is calling on major parties to commit in this year's election to pay 75 per cent of the cost of a 12-week weight loss program, such as Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. The $170 subsidy would be triggered by a doctor's referral. Doctors would get feedback about a patient's progress six weeks into the program.

Subsidising weight-loss courses would cost taxpayers $27 million a year. The GP Network says evidence shows obesity is linked to low-income status. "Effective weight management programs do exist but access to them can be difficult," it says. "Fees to attend can be prohibitively high."



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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