Saturday, December 08, 2007

An argument for a low calorie diet? Or an argument for committed religion?

Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons also seem to have some health advantages but in view of the in vivo results of attenuated calorie consumption, it is the total calorie intake that needs investigation in the situation below

If you want to avoid cancer, live like a monk. That is the inescapable conclusion from research into one of the world's most renowned monastic communities. The austere regime of the 1,500 monks on Mount Athos, in northern Greece, begins with an hour's pre-dawn prayers and is designed to protect their souls. Their low-stress existence and simple diet (no meat, occasional fish, home-grown vegetables and fruit) may, however, also protect them from more worldly troubles. The monks, who inhabit a peninsula from which women are banned, enjoy astonishingly low rates of cancer.

Since 1994, the monks have been regularly tested, and only 11 have developed prostate cancer, a rate less than one quarter of the international average. In one study, their rate of lung and bladder cancer was found to be zero. Haris Aidonopoulos, a urologist at the University of Thessaloniki, said that the monks' diet, which calls on them to avoid olive oil, dairy products and wine on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, helped to explain the statistics. "What seems to be the key is a diet that alternates between olive oil and nonolive oil days, and plenty of plant proteins," he said. "It's not only what we call the Mediterranean diet, but also eating the old-fashioned way. Small simple meals at regular intervals are very important."

Meals on the peninsula, which the Prince of Wales has visited regularly and which can only be reached by boat, are ascetic and repetitive affairs that have changed little over the centuries, although there are variations between the 20 monasteries. The monks sit in silence while, from a pulpit, passages from the Bible are read in Greek. They eat at speed - as soon as the Bible passage is over, the meal is officially completed.

The staples are fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice and soya dishes, and bread and olives. They grow much of what they eat themselves. Agioritiko red wine is made locally from mountain grapes. Dairy products are rare - female animals are banned from the autonomous semi-state.

Life on Athos has changed little over the past 1,043 years. Breakfast is hard bread and tea. Much of the day is taken up with chores - cleaning, cooking, tending to crops - followed by a supper, typically of lentils, fruit and salad, and evening prayers.

Some of the seaside monasteries specialise in catching octopus, a delicacy that is softened up by bashing on the rock. Fish also feeds the Athos cats, protected by the monks for their mouse-catching prowess. Of all domestic animals, only cats are exempt from the ban on females. Some of the monks live in hillside huts or cliff-side caves perched above the sea as satellites of the main establishments, perhaps the closest that modern Christianity gets to medieval hermits. They depend for their sustenance on handouts of bread and olives.

On holidays and feast days such as Christmas and Easter, when other Greeks are feasting on roast meat, the monks prefer fish, their only culinary luxury. Father Moses of the Koutloumousi monastery, one of the 20 organised cloisters scattered over the Athos peninsula, said: "We never eat meat. We produce most of the vegetables and fruit we consume. And we never forget that all year round, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we don't use olive oil on our food." The olive-oil routine, which also applies to wine and dairy products, appears to have no religious significance, but is a way of eking out their supplies.

All the monks stick to the rigorous fasting periods of the Orthodox Church, in which a strict vegan diet is prescribed for weeks at a stretch. Michalis Hourdakis, a dietician associated with Athens University, said: "This limited consumption of calories has been found to lengthen life. Meat has been associated with intestinal cancer, while fruit and vegetables help ward off prostate cancer."

The lack of air pollution on Mount Athos as well as the monks' hard work in the fields also played their part, the researchers said. There was no mention, however, of whether the absence of women had any effect on the monks' renowned spiritual calm.


How good is the case for fluoridation of water?

The "anti" case is seldom heard but an outline is below. See also here

This is a medical treatment which defies every rule of drug management - administrated compulsorily every day, for a lifetime, regardless of age and medical circumstances (and with little prior education or choice for the community).

McCray seeks to relegate those opposed to his views as "nutters", including me - a medical practitioner vitally interested in early intervention medicine and spokesman for more than 3000 Australian doctors, dentists, scientists and other health practitioners - and my wife, a medical professional and dedicated researcher in this subject. Presumably it also includes a third of Brisbane's population; in a community forum in 2005, Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said he would not support water fluoridation because a third of residents rejected mass medication.

It must also include 14 Nobel Prize winners who oppose water fluoridation on scientific grounds, including Arvid Carlsson who led the successful campaign against fluoridation in Sweden, and who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2000. Is McCray's patronising argument also directed against the 12 North American scientific experts on fluoride who met regularly over three years (National Research Council USA 2006)? They concluded that communities with water fluoridation had increased rates of:

* Hip fractures - fluoride can make bones more brittle and cause joint stiffness and pain.

* Lowered IQ in children, even at low dose.

* Decreased thyroid function.

* Bone cancer - positive in animal studies and later to be seen positive in young boys by a 2006 study.

* Dental fluorosis - staining and pitting of tooth enamel.

We suggest the ADA is being negligent in not following the world's largest group of dentists, the American Dental Association, in stating clearly on its website the warning that fluoridated water should not be used for formula-fed babies.

This website should acknowledge also the research that at least 1 per cent of the population will suffer from allergic reactions from fluoride in water. Might it also include the Centre for Disease Control's acknowledgments in 1999 and 2002 that where fluoride is effective, it is in the topical (local) application to teeth? And is it unreasonable to expect the "all the facts" website be up to date and report the recent publication by the prestigious Lancet, of human neurotoxicity caused by fluoride in water - in similar concentrations now recommended by the dentists for Queensland's drinking water?

For obvious reasons, then, the following situation exists:

* Only nine countries in the world have fluoridation of more than 50 per cent of their public water supplies. Thus Queensland is presently "in step" with most of the world.

* Less than 2 per cent of Continental Europe's drinking water is fluoridated. Europe has abandoned the discredited practice over the past 30 years and with no loss to dental health.

* Japan, China, Scotland and Northern Ireland have rejected fluoridation. Israel has ceased expansion due to recent research exposing negative health effects.

Finally, less than 1 per cent of water used is actually drunk. Most water is for other household use including sewage, and for use by industry etc. Could a less efficient, more wasteful system of medication distribution ever be devised?



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 conditions 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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