Friday, November 16, 2007

Here we go again: Binge-drinking 'may not hurt the unborn'

Is there ANY medical "wisdom" that does not get reversed sooner or later?

PREGNANT women can indulge in binge-drinking without doing any harm to their unborn child, new research suggests. Oxford University's Jane Henderson and Ron Gray, along with the Danish researcher Ulrik Kesmodel from the University of Aarhus, argued that there was not enough evidence linking alcohol to fetal problems.

In their Systematic review of the fetal effects of prenatal binge drinking report published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, the researchers said that they examined thousands of papers on the subject. A number of studies have linked heavy drinking on a regular basis during pregnancy to stunted growth, birth defects and brain development problems. Less clear is the effect of occasional binge drinking, which amounted to about five drinks in one session in the studies Mr Gray and his team reviewed.

The researchers initially identified more than 3500 scientific papers between 1970 and 2005 looking at pregnancy and alcohol, which they winnowed down to 14 focusing on binge-drinking. They found little substantive evidence binge drinking once in a while caused problems such as miscarriage, stillbirth, abnormal birth weight, or birth defects such as fetal alcohol syndrome. But one study suggested binge-drinking could damage brain development resulting in reduced verbal IQ, learning problems and poorer academic performance. "However, this study only counted women as bingers if they binged throughout pregnancy, not just on a single occasion," the researchers wrote.

Animal studies had shown harmful effects from binge-drinking, which meant pregnant women should still take care no matter how much they consumed, Mr Gray said. At the same time, until researchers had more evidence, women who binge-drink on occasion should not fret unnecessarily about potential harm they were causing to their fetuses, he said. "When pregnant women report isolated episodes of binge-drinking in the absence of a consistently high daily alcohol intake, as is often the case, it is important to avoid inducing unnecessary anxiety as, at present, the evidence of risk seems minimal," the researchers wrote.

Adelaide-based National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Related Disorders (NOFASARD), pregnant women should not drink at all, let alone go on a binge. "The alcohol will reach your unborn baby within one minute and she/he will have exactly the same blood alcohol content as you do (and) the alcohol also stays in your baby longer than it does in you," the NOFASARD said. "Your baby's brain is developing before you are sure you are pregnant, the whole way through your pregnancy and continues to develop after it has been born. "Because researchers are not sure how much alcohol might cause harm most say it's safest not to drink any alcohol during this time."



There is a fuller description of the study summarized below here -- showing that the researchers' theories were not fully confirmed. Some types of cell were affected by administration of a derivative of vitamin A called retinoic acid but others were not. The important point to note, however, is that no actual cancer cells seem to have been detected. So the results are interesting but nothing more. Somewhat amusing that there is in the same issue of the journal an article about vitamin D and cancer. Vitamin D is much favoured by the antioxidant freaks. The article found that vitamin D had NO overall effect on cancer deaths

Lung cancer in former smokers could be prevented by a form of vitamin A called retinoic acid, concludes a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute this week. Former smokers remain at increased risk for lung cancer even after quitting, as lung cells that were damaged during years of smoking may continue to grow and become cancerous many years later. Researchers recruited 225 former heavy smokers and randomly assigned them to receive a daily oral dose of retinoic acid alone, retinoic acid plus vitamin E, or a placebo for three months. Small pieces of lung tissue were collected from participants before and after treatment, and examined for lung cell growth. Compared to placebo, both treatments reduced lung cell growth, suggesting that they could be beneficial for former smokers at increased risk of lung cancer.



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].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that 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.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correla-tion coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic condi-tions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his anal-ysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic condi-tions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.


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