Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Not exactly a great surprise but that seems to be the conclusion below. Popular summary followed by journal abstract

MEDITATION may not only relax the mind, it could also reduce high blood pressure. In Current Hypertension Reports this week, researchers have combined the results of 23 published studies on stress reduction programs and high blood pressure. In each of the studies, participants were randomly assigned to either a stress reduction technique or placebo-type control for at least eight weeks. The transcendental meditation technique, which involves sitting comfortably with your eyes closed for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day, significantly reduced high blood pressure. This effect was not seen with any of the other forms of relaxation tested, including other types of meditation and stress management. On average, transcendental meditation reduced systolic blood pressure (the peak pressure in the arteries, reported first in a blood pressure reading) by 5.0 points and diastolic blood pressure (the lowest pressure in the arteries, reported second) by 2.8 points compared to no treatment. This form of meditation could be used alongside prescribed medications to lower blood pressure, say the authors.


Stress Reduction Programs in Patients with Elevated Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

By Maxwell V. Rainforth et al.

Substantial evidence indicates that psychosocial stress contributes to hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Previous meta-analyses of stress reduction and high blood pressure (BP) were outdated and/or methodologically limited. Therefore, we conducted an updated systematic review of the published literature and identified 107 studies on stress reduction and BP. Seventeen trials with 23 treatment comparisons and 960 participants with elevated BP met criteria for well-designed randomized controlled trials and were replicated within intervention categories. Meta-analysis was used to calculate BP changes for biofeedback, -0.8/-2.0 mm Hg (P = NS); relaxation-assisted biofeedback, +4.3/+2.4 mm Hg (P = NS); progressive muscle relaxation, -1.9/-1.4 mm Hg (P = NS); stress management training, -2.3/-1.3 mm (P = NS); and the Transcendental Meditation program, -5.0/-2.8 mm Hg (P = 0.002/0.02). Available evidence indicates that among stress reduction approaches, the Transcendental Meditation program is associated with significant reductions in BP. Related data suggest improvements in other CVD risk factors and clinical outcomes.

Current Hypertension Reports 2007, 9:520-528


If you had a close relative who had Parkinsons (the shakes), wouldn't it tend to make you depressed and anxious? If I had such a relative the fear of getting it myself would certainly freak me. But the geniuses below cannot apparently see that. They think there is some biological connection between Parkinsons and depression. Note also that there seems to have been no controls for observer bias. Raters should have been given histories of both relatives and non-relatives without being told which was which

Increased Risk of Depressive and Anxiety Disorders in Relatives of Patients With Parkinson Disease

By Gennarina Arabia et al.

Context: Relatives of patients with Parkinson disease (PD) have an increased risk of PD and other neurologic disorders; however, their risk of psychiatric disorders remains uncertain.

Objective: To study the risk of depressive disorders and anxiety disorders among first-degree relatives of patients with PD compared with first-degree relatives of controls.

Design, Setting, and Participants: In a population-based, historical cohort study, we included 1000 first-degree relatives of 162 patients with PD and 850 first-degree relatives of 147 controls. Both patients with PD and controls were representative of the population of Olmsted County, Minnesota.

Main Outcome Measures: Documentation of psychiatric disorders was obtained for each relative separately through a combination of telephone interviews with the relatives (or their proxies) and review of their medical records from a records-linkage system (family study method). Psychiatric disorders were defined using clinical criteria from the DSM-IV or routine diagnoses.

Results: We found an increased risk of several psychiatric disorders in first-degree relatives of patients with PD compared with first-degree relatives of controls (hazard ratio [HR], 1.54; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.21-1.95; P <.001). In particular, we found an increased risk of depressive disorders (HR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.11-1.89; P = .006) and anxiety disorders (HR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.05-2.28; P = .03). The results were consistent in analyses that adjusted for type of interview, excluded relatives who developed parkinsonism, or excluded relatives who developed both a depressive disorder and an anxiety disorder.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that depressive disorders and anxiety disorders may share familial susceptibility factors with PD.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64(12):1385-1392


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 correlation 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 conditions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his analysis 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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