Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stupid bird flu hype

Your "objective" BBC again

Somehow I missed it, but a BBC video from June of this year, now available on YouTube, is the most alarmist thing I have seen or read on pandemic avian flu. "If you were a terrorist wanting to design a biologic weapon, you couldn't do better than designing a virus like this," claims Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic within the first few seconds. "This is really nature's bio-terrorism." Later he informs us that, "The best scientific evidence is that one or two mutations will be enough to allow this virus to attach easily to human cells and thereby spread from one human to another."

We know now, from the research of David Finkelstein and his colleagues, it would actually take 11 or 12 mutations. Perhaps news of this research hadn't reached Poland in time, but his "best scientific evidence" is a pure fabrication.

Poland also informs us that what "really sent chills through the spines of virologists and vaccinologists, was the recognition that this virus [avian flu H5N1] had now jumped species from birds into mammals." Doubtful. Birds and non-human mammals (particularly swine, apparently) appear to play a vital role in each year's seasonal influenza. A team of researchers led by St. Jude's Robert Webster wrote in the journal Virology that, "most of the influenza virus genes that have appeared in mammalian gene pools over the past 30 years have been shown ultimately to have an avian origin."

Yes, some people will do or say anything to appear on the "telly."

Repeatedly the fear-umentary makes bizarre personifications of the virus, with the narrator more than once insisting the virus seeks "world domination." A Scots doctor tells us, "The human population has never been faced by a virus like this before. This is an utterly evil virus." Do these tiny pieces of protein come complete with Adolf Hitler mustaches?

The narrator also claims, "The virus has started to jump from birds to humans." Actually, the first reported bird-to-human cases were in 1997. It's said that Europeans have a longer view than Americans, but I suspect even Britons wouldn't consider events of a decade ago to be "just." The only "just" aspect of this video is that it's just plain awful.


Fast food: Damned if you do, damned if you don't

Report from Australia

FAST-FOOD makers have made efforts to stop using unhealthy trans fats - but the replacement oils are usually just as bad, an industry meeting was told yesterday. While some fast-food outlets have trumpeted their moves to abandon trans fats, the meeting was told they often turned to equally undesirable oils high in saturated fat. The nation's major fast-food chains, including McDonald's, Hungry Jack's and KFC, held the roundtable meeting to discuss their progress in switching away from frying oils linked to increased risk of heart disease.

"What we have seen, unfortunately, is in reducing trans fats, some of the industry groups have introduced fats that are very high in saturated fat, like palm oil," said Heart Foundation food strategy director Susan Anderson, who addressed the meeting in Sydney. "The commitment from the group today was to address both the trans fats and the saturated fats." Ms Anderson did not identify which fast-food providers had made the error.

A low-grade oil known to contain trans fats is also made up of 48 per cent saturated fat. Palm oil contains no trans fats, but its saturated fat content is 55 per cent. The companies were urged yesterday to switch to oils such as canola or grapeseed oil, which have no trans fat and are less than 10 per cent saturated fat.

Other fast-food chains represented at the summit include Domino's Pizza, Eagle Boys Pizza, Jesters, La Porchetta, Oporto, Red Rooster and Subway. The roundtable was chaired by federal Liberal senator Brett Mason, who said the sector had moved "very quickly" to address trans fat concerns and their focus was now on reducing the saturated fat in their food production. "It would be a bad thing if trans fatty acids left the diet and saturated fats went up," Senator Mason said. "Industry accepts that they do have a social responsibility to look at this issue. Let's face it, it harms people's health and it costs the community a lot of money." The fast-food industry is under threat of regulatory intervention unless sufficient progress is made towards cutting trans fatty acids by 2009.



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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