Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stupid Brits to jump on the folic acid bandwagon. Who cares if it gives people bowel cancer?

Because America does it, it must be OK, seems to be their reasoning. The article below says that the experts have found no evidence of harm from folates. They were not looking very hard. I can find plenty and I am only a desultory reader of the relevant literature. Note this recent expert comment about folates and bowel cancer:

"Other reasonable hypotheses about one-carbon metabolism and colorectal carcinogenesis, based on our current understanding of the biochemistry and underlying mechanisms, have also not been proven correct. In a recently published placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial among 1021 men and women with a recent history of colorectal adenoma, supplemental folic acid at 1 mg/d for up to 6 years did not reduce the incidence of subsequent colorectal adenomas and might have increased it."

WHOA! The folate that Americans get compulsorily added to their bread did no good and seems to have done harm?? And do we see a double blind controlled study contradicting epidemiological inferences?? Who would have believed it! They go on to admit that two animal studies have shown that folate INCREASES cancer. Aren't you glad that your government is dosing you up with the stuff and giving you no say in the matter?

The addition of folate to our bread is more and more looking like an iatrogenic disaster to come. I think I should note once again that a folate expert has reported that the addition of folate to bread seems to have caused an upsurge in bowel cancer among Americans.

Bread should be fortified with folic acid by law to cut the risk of birth defects, the Food Standards Agency decided yesterday. The FSA board, which was split on the issue when it was last discussed in 2002, decided unanimously to back a recommendation from its scientific advisers for mandatory fortification of flour or bread, whichever is the more practicable.

In the US, Canada and several other countries, mandatory fortification has already cut sharply birth defects such as spina bifida. But Britain has hung back because of doubts about possible side-effects, and fear that "compulsory medication" would cause a public outcry.

The recommendation will now go to ministers, who will decide whether to implement it. If they do they could face opposition in the House of Commons but will be able to cite a mass of evidence gathered by the FSA.

The mandatory fortification of bread would include regular white and brown bread, but not wholemeal, enabling objectors to opt out. It would also be accompanied by controls on food that are already fortified voluntarily by manufacturers, such as some breakfast cereals, to avoid any possibility of an overdose.

The FSA board was given a range of options to consider, including the present policy of advising women planning pregnancies to take folic acid supplements. But half of pregnancies are unplanned, and the advice does not reach women in lower social classes whose diets are the most likely to be deficient. It has had relatively little effect.

The levels of fortification recommended by the FSA are 300 micrograms per 100 grams of flour, which it estimates will increase the average intake of the UK population by 78 micrograms a day. That should cut the incidence of neural tube defects by between 11 and 18 per cent, or between 77 and 162 cases a year. Greater reductions than this have been achieved abroad, and range from 27 to 50 per cent. But direct comparisons are difficult because they depend on the level of folic acid in the diet of each country before fortification began, and on eating patterns. The US achieved much greater increases in folic acid intake, probably because the amounts added to food exceeded the recommendations.

Dame Deirdre Hutton, chair of the FSA, told the board meeting in Nottingham that she supported the measure. "I don't believe it is the ultimate solution. I believe it is the best pragmatic solution we can get," she said.

The FSA board wants further advice on how folic acid can be added to bread without affecting cakes or biscuits. It called for more debate on how products fortified with folic acid should be labelled. Andrew Russell, the chief executive of the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, said: "We are delighted that the FSA board has taken the decision to recommend mandatory flour fortification to ministers. "It is a rare opportunity to benefit from a vitamin, and significantly improve public health. Now that the science has been listened to, we look to health ministers to speedily implement this life-saving measure." Between 700 and 900 pregnancies per year in the UK are affected by neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida. The majority are terminated when the defects are detected in antenatal checks.

The FSA estimated that the cost of NTDs was 136 million pounds a year, of which the greatest cost was in treating babies who died soon after birth. Of the 800 affected pregnancies each year, 110 end in stillbirths or deaths early in life; 79 in births of children who require treatment but have good life expectancy, and 611 in terminations.

The FSA's decision is in stark contrast to that of 2002, when the measure was rejected. The fear then was that fortifying flour with folic acid would conceal vitamin B12 deficiencies in older people, leading them to medical problems. The unknown effect of excessive folic acid consumption on cancer risk also caused concern. Since then, the US has found no evidence of harm.


'Magic bullet' devised to beat cancer

Sounds interesting

A new targeted therapy against cancer has shown impressive results in animal experiments. By using a beam of ultraviolet light to activate antibodies inside the tumour, a team at Newcastle University has created "magic bullets" that can use the body's immune system to destroy tumours while leaving healthy tissue unharmed.

They use antibodies - the body's own natural defences - that are injected into the tumour. But before injection, the antibodies are "cloaked" by attaching them to an organic oil that renders them ineffective. Once in place, a beam of ultraviolet light breaks up the cloaking chemical, bringing the antibody back to life. The antibody then binds to T-cells, the body's defence system, and triggers them to target the surrounding tissue.

Antibodies are the big growth area in cancer therapy. Drugs such as Avastin and Herceptin have shown good results in shrinking tumours, and 20 antibody drugs have so far been licensed, with many more in the pipeline. But targeting them precisely and avoiding damage to surrounding healthy tissue have proved stumbling blocks. The team, led by Colin Self, believes that its technique could reduce or eliminate these problems.

Two papers published today in the journal ChemMedChem report that in a small animal trial, the technique elimated ovarian cancers in five out of six mice, and greatly reduced the tumour's size in the sixth mouse.

The body is not very effective at using its own defences to fight cancer, possibly because it fails to recognise the tumours as a threat. The aim of the technique is to activate the killer T-cells to attack cancer cells and destroy them.

There are risks in activating T-cells, as the failed human trial last year at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow proved. In that trial, an experimental antibody treatment called TGN1412 caused such a huge response that six healthy human volunteers suffered serious injuries as their activated T-cells attacked almost every organ in their bodies.

The trial showed just how powerful boosting the T-cell response can be. The Newcastle technique ought to avoid these dangers because the T-cell response will be local - inside the cancer - and not general.

However, the process will require extensive testing in animals and human trials before it has any chance of reaching a cancer clinic. David Glover, an expert in antibody technology and in drug trials, estimated yesterday that even if all went well it would be a decade before such a product could reach the market.

Light-activated therapies have achieved some success against cancers, particularly skin cancers, but have been used previously to activate chemotherapy drugs, not T-cells. There are some limitations, as light cannot always reach internal tumours very easily. But Professsor Self suggested yesterday that in an operation to cut out a prostate tumour, for example, the method could be used at the end of the operation to destroy any remaining tumour cells that the surgeon had been unable to remove, and hence prevent recurrence.

The method offers a further refinement, in which the cloaked antibody is linked to a second antibody directed against the tumour in a "double whammy". When uncloaked, it recruits T-cells to attack the tumour at the same time as the antitumour antibody also attacks it.

Professor Self said yesterday that his team had "very exciting" new results that confirmed the findings and that he was raising money for a human trial. This will be aimed at treating secondary skin cancers in patients who are already suffering cancers of the internal organs. The aim will not be to cure them, but simply to see if the skin cancers can be controlled, as a proof that the technique works in human beings.

Professor Self said: "I would describe this development as the equivalent of ultra-specific magic bullets. This could mean that a patient coming in for treatment of bladder cancer would receive an injection of the cloaked antibodies. She would sit in the waiting room for an hour and then come back in for treatment by light. Just a few minutes of the light therapy directed at the region of the tumour would activate the T-cells causing her body's own immune system to attack the tumour.
"While our work indicates that sunlight doesn't activate these antibodies, patients may have to be advised to avoid direct sunlight for a short time."

BioTransformations Ltd, the company set up by Professor Self to develop the technology, hopes to begin clinical trials on patients with secondary skin cancers early next year.



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].

And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This idea emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.


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