Saturday, February 02, 2008

Calcium tablets 'raise risk of heart attacks'

So milk is bad for you now, apparently. This is a data-trawling exercise so the differences obvserved could well be random. If you examine enough variables, you are sure to find some that differ on chance alone

Calcium supplements taken by about a million women could increase their risk of suffering heart attacks and strokes, scientists said yesterday. Researchers found that women aged 55 and over who took the tablets to combat osteoporosis were almost 50 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those given placebos. Their chances of having a stroke during the five years of the study were elevated by more than a third.

Three million people in Britain suffer from osteoporosis, with one in three women and one in 12 men suffering from it during their lifetimes. The bone-wasting condition causes someone to break a bone, often a wrist, spine or hip, every three minutes. Some researchers have previously suggested that calcium supplements could protect against cardiovascular disease by reducing levels of bad LDL cholesterol. However, the evidence has been unclear. The supplements have also become popular following recent research showing that they can reduce weight gain in older women.

The new study, published on the British Medical Journal website, examined incidents of cardiovascular disease among women in New Zealand taking 1,000mg calcium supplements every day. Doctors in Britain recommend that women who have been through the menopause take 800-1,200mg of the supplements per day to reduce the risk of fractures. The new findings could also apply to women who do not take calcium supplements but consume a lot of dairy products, giving them a higher than average level of natural calcium in their diet.

Prof Ian Reid, of Auckland University, the lead author of the study, said that the increased risk of vascular disease seemed to outweigh the benefits of the supplements. Prof Reid used data from a previous study on bone fractures in which half of almost 1,500 healthy post-menopausal women aged 55 years or over were given daily calcium supplements, while the rest received placebos. Researchers found that women in the supplement group were 49 per cent more likely to have a heart attack and 37 per cent more likely to have a stroke, than those on placebos.

Judy O'Sullivan, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "More rigorous research is needed before any firm conclusions are drawn. "Anyone who has been advised by their doctor to take calcium supplements to protect their bones should not stop doing so in light of this study alone."


Fat comeback?

FAT could be back - in a healthy way - after an overhaul of guidelines that tell us what to eat and how much to put on our plates. After concerns about spiralling obesity rates led to fats being removed from the traditional five food groups, some nutritionists are pushing to return them to the table in the biggest review of Australia's national dietary advice in a decade.

The well-known healthy eating pyramid may also make a comeback, after it was replaced for a pie-style graphic in the Australian Guide To Healthy Eating devised for the Federal Government in 1998. The new food guide could have up to seven core food groups: bread and cereals; vegetables; fruit; dairy; meat, fish and poultry; meat alternatives such as legumes; and "healthy" fats.

The Heart Foundation says the low-fat diet advocated since the mid-1990s starves our bodies of essential nutrients and wants so-called healthy fats such as margarine and vegetable oils to be considered dietary staples again. "For a long time, the message around lowering the [number] of kilojoules in our diet was centred on cutting out all fat, but that's not healthy - we need to have some fats in the diet," the foundation's national nutrition manager, Barbara Eden, said.

The review will also look at the controversial claim that even the most careful vegetarian diet cannot substitute for the iron, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids found in meat, chicken and fish.



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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