Sunday, January 20, 2008

Oatmeal good for your heart?

This is basically a bit of nonsense. There is much research to show that you cannot affect your serum cholesterol (let alone your lifespan) by what you eat (though you can extend your lifespan by not eating!). But as someone who grew up on oat porridge for breakfast, I liked the thought below anyway. The journal abstract is here. It is a literature review with all the hazards of selectivity that are so often found with reviews

A new scientific review of the most current research shows the link between eating oatmeal and cholesterol reduction to be stronger than when the FDA initially approved the health claim's appearance on food labels in 1997. Dr. James W. Anderson, professor of medicine and clinical nutrition at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, co-authors "The Oatmeal-Cholesterol Connection: 10 Years Later" in the January/February 2008 issue of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Anderson presents a contemporary analysis to determine if newer studies are consistent with the original conclusion reached by the FDA. His report says studies conducted during the past 15 years have, without exception, shown:

* total cholesterol levels are lowered through oat consumption;

* low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the "bad" cholesterol) is reduced without adverse effects on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, the "good" cholesterol), or triglyceride concentrations.

"Whole-grain products like oatmeal are among some of the best foods one can eat to improve cholesterol levels, in addition to other lifestyle choices," Anderson said. "Lifestyle choices, such as diet, should be the first line of therapy for most patients with moderate cholesterol risk given the expense, safety concerns, and intolerance related to cholesterol lowering drugs." More recent data indicate that whole-grain oats, as part of a lifestyle management program, may confer health benefits that extend beyond total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol reduction, Anderson said. Recent studies suggest eating oatmeal may:

* Reduce the risk for elevated blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and weight gain

* Reduce LDL cholesterol during weight-loss

* Provide favorable changes in the physical characteristics of LDL cholesterol particles, making them less susceptible to oxidation (oxidation is thought to lead to hardening of the arteries.)

* Supply unique compounds that may lead to reducing early hardening of the arteries

"Since the 80's, oatmeal has been scientifically recognized for its heart health benefits, and the latest research shows this evidence endures the test of time and should be embraced as a lifestyle option for the millions of Americans at-risk for heart disease," said Anderson. Anderson co-authored the comprehensive research review with Mark Andon, a researcher and nutrition director for Quaker-Tropicana. [Who sell oats]


Kids hate clowns, research shows

BAD news for Coco and Blinko – British children don't like clowns and even older kids are scared of them. The news that will no doubt have clowns shedding tears was revealed in a poll of youngsters by researchers from the University of Sheffield who examined how to improve the decor of children's wards in hospitals.

The study, reported in the Nursing Standard magazine, found all of the 250 patients aged between four and 16 they quizzed disliked the use of clowns, with even the older ones finding them scary. "As adults we make assumptions about what works for children," said Penny Curtis, a senior lecturer in research at the university. "We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."



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!


1 comment:

Rob said...

Well, it certainly is true that only 20% of your serum cholesterol is derived from diet...that's right, up to 80% is produced by the body. Yet, oatmeal---and other viscous soluble fibers like those found in beans, barley and some fruits---have been shown to reduce serum cholesterol--but an amount approaching 10%.

So, how does all this work? A substantial amount of your cholesterol is produced by your liver. Your liver utilizes cholesterol as a building block for bile, the digestive juice that emulsify fats and allows these nutrients to be absorbed by your intestines. Bile flows from the liver into the gall bladder, where it is concentrated. It is then secreted into the intestines.

Once in the intestines, the body recycles cholesterol. A portion of this bile is broken down, freeing the cholesterol, where it mixes with the dietary cholesterol, and is absorbed into the blood stream.

Soluble fiber, like that found in oats, serves to bind the bile before it breaks down. This bile, including its cholesterol, is then excreted. Also note that there are prescription medications (e.g. Zetia) that work to prevent the reabsorption of cholesterol. Personally, I like the idea of a more natural approach.

But here is the challenge: a serving of oatmeal only contains about 2g of soluble fiber; if you are really looking to measurably affect your cholesterol levels (to the extent that a borderline high cholesterol individual like myself might be able to avoid a doctor's recommendation to take cholesterol lowering medications), amounts somewhere between 10-25/day might be required.

Moreover, for many of us, soluble fiber intake alone will not allow us to achieve our goals, but other nutrients can favorably affect blood lipids, including cholesterol. These include plant sterols, niacin, Omega-3s and monounsatured fats replacing saturated fats. And yes, each of these affects the cholesterol produced by your own body.