Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Britain: Regulation frenzy over milk

The way that milk companies are allowed to market their products is changing today as health chiefs attempt to get people to reduce their intake of fat. Until now, European Commission regulations meant that milk could be marketed only within tightly defined ranges as whole or full-fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed. Strict rules governed the fat content of each.

From today, after lobbying by Britain, dairy products containing 1 per cent fat - above the level of skimmed milk, but below semi-skimmed - can also be marketed as milk. So can products with 2 per cent fat, above semi-skimmed but well below full fat. Health chiefs are convinced that this extra choice will encourage consumers to switch to products that have lower fat than their usual intake.

Currently, semi-skimmed milk - which contains 1.5 to 1.8 per cent fat - accounts for 63.9 per cent of the market. Whole, or full-fat milk, important for children's development, accounts for 24.7 per cent of all milk sales. It contains 3.5 per cent fat. Skimmed milk, which contains less than 0.5 per cent fat, accounts for 11.3 per cent of sales. Dairy industry experts believe that the change could boost milk consumption. Between 1995 and 2005 average consumption per adult fell from four pints per week to three.

In the US "1 per cent milk" is a popular concept. Wiseman's Dairy in Glasgow introduced "The One" three years ago, a product containing 1 per cent fat which until now could not be labelled milk. Sales have increased by 38 per cent in a year. Experts also believe that consumers can easily adapt to the taste if fat content is adjusted only mildly. Many people may switch from semi-skimmed to 1 per cent milk because there is only a little difference in taste. Similarly, adults who prefer full-fat milk could switch to a 2 per cent product. Food manufacturers are also expected to use low-fat milks and cheeses in sauces, ready meals and dairy-based puddings.

A recent scientific report for ministers by the Foresight Programme suggested that without urgent action to tackle diet, almost half of adults and a quarter of all children will be dangerously overweight by 2050. The cost to the country was estimated at 45 billion a year; of this, 6.5 billion would be needed to pay for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer and heart disease and the rest of the cost would be in absenteeism and benefits.

Judith Bryans, of the Dairy Council, said that introducing 1 per cent and 2 per cent milk would help to open up the market and result in products to suit modern tastes. "Some people like semi-skimmed but won't touch skimmed, but they might like something in between," she said. Rosemary Hignett, director of nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, said: "Using 1 per cent milk could help to reduce saturated fat levels in some foods and would be a positive move for the consumer."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "This provides an opportunity for the dairy sector to satisfy demand for innovative, transparently labelled, lower-fat products, adding further value to the dairy supply chain and helping the consumer to make informed decisions." Reducing the fat content does not lower milk's nutritional value in any way, said Susan Jebb, a nutrition scientist at the Medical Research Council.


Oldsters now kindly permitted to have a drink or three

These clots seem to think that oldsters will be listening to them

The over-65s should not be bullied into abstaining from alcohol by the belief that drink is more harmful to older people than it is to the young or middle-aged. Regular, moderate drinking poses no additional risks to the over-65s and can even bring health benefits, according to two studies from the Peninsula Medical School in the South West of England. For men and women, better brain functioning, a better sense of wellbeing and fewer depressive symptoms are linked to moderate drinking when compared with abstinence.

Researchers led by Iain Lang assessed the drinking levels of more than 13,000 people in England and the US who were aged 65 and over, and looked at the effects on physical disability, mortality, cognitive function, depression and wellbeing. They concluded that moderate drinking is fine for the over-65s - and, in some cases, it is better than not drinking at all.

"We are not advocating that elderly people should go out and get ridiculously drunk," Dr Lang said. "What we are saying is that current guidelines on drinking for the elderly are too conservative. A couple of drinks a day will do no harm and will have a more beneficial affect on cognitive and general health than abstinence. In the UK, the guidelines on alcohol consumption in older people are vague," he said. "Alcohol Concern recommends that older people `cut down' their alcohol consumption and that moderate consumption `might be too much for some older people'.

"In Australia and New Zealand, older people are advised to `consider drinking less'. In the US, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism sets limits for the over-65s of one drink a day, which is half of what they recommend for younger men. "These recommendations are based on assumptions about what happens to the body as it ages, and that it becomes less tolerant of alcohol. Our findings show that this isn't supported. There is no evidence to suggest drinking at moderate levels is harmful to older people. It can provide health benefits."

The research showed that 10.8 per cent of the US men, 28.6 per cent of the British men, 2.9 per cent of the US women and 10.3 per cent of the British women drank more than one drink a day. But the research also showed that those drinking on average more than one to two drinks a day achieved similar health results as those drinking up to one drink a day. "The worst results were from those who did not drink at all and from those who were heavy drinkers. The studies also found lower levels of risk of death or disability among English drinkers than Americans, although the authors did not understand why this should be.

Men and women who drank moderately enjoyed better brain functioning, a better sense of wellbeing and fewer depressive symptoms than those who abstained. The shape of the relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of disability were similar in men and women.

The results were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and Age and Ageing. The research by the team concluded that overrestrictive limits could do harm because people ignore them or because effort is wasted trying to persuade them to give up alcohol when it is doing them no harm. "Because overrestrictive limits risk encouraging nihilistic responses or fruitless clinical effort, a review is needed of the evidence base for the lower hazardous drinking definitions for older adults," they concluded in their report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Dr Lang said: "There is no reason why older people should not enjoy a tipple, as long as they are sensible about it. "Previous research has shown that middle-aged people can benefit from moderate drinking. These findings show the same applies to the over-65s."



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.

"What we should be doing is monitoring children from birth so we can detect any deviations from the norm at an early stage and action can be taken". Who said that? Joe Stalin? Adolf Hitler? Orwell's "Big Brother"? The Spanish Inquisition? Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde? None of those. It was Dr Colin Waine, chairman of Britain's National Obesity Forum. What a fine fellow!


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