Monday, February 25, 2008

New drug 'curbs alcoholism'

QUEENSLAND scientists have discovered that a revolutionary anti-smoking drug could also be used to curb alcohol addiction, gambling and even depression. Clinical trials of the wider possible benefits of the drug, Champix, will start in the US next month, and if successful, could be available for a range of addictions within two years.

Dr Selena Bartlett, a neuroscientist from the University of Queensland, said she was convinced of the drug's potential to treat alcoholics, after just one dose of the drug cut alcohol consumption in rats by 50 per cent. She said Champix worked by latching on to "good feeling" receptors in the brain to block cravings for substances.

Dr Bartlett is working on the project at one of the world's top alcohol and addiction centres - the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Centre - at the University of California in San Francisco. As director of the pre-clinical development group she leads a team of scientists, including two colleagues from the University of Queensland. She said her laboratory had shown that the drug, already approved for nicotine addiction, also curbed alcohol dependence. "The finding is particularly encouraging as the animals did not turn to drinking in excess after the drug was stopped, a common pattern when people take current drugs to curb alcohol consumption," Dr Bartlett said. "The drug probably reduces both drinking and smoking because nicotine and alcohol trigger the same reward circuitry in the brain."

Dr Bartlett said that about 85 per cent of alcoholics smoked, so if clinical trials confirmed Champix was effective against alcoholism, physicians could prescribe it to treat both conditions. It is also hoped the drug could be used to treat problems such as gambling addictions, depression and other drug addictions in the same way.

The anti-smoking drug Champix was made available in Australia last month. It is listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and found to be up to four times more effective than other drugs.


Weight loss means hard work

SERIOUS slimmers must be prepared for a hard slog if weight loss plans are going to work, a new report suggests. American reseachers have revealed that you need to walk for about 90 minutes - every day - in order to stay slim. It would mean covering a distance of some 45kms a week.

The finding comes from the world's largest study of slimmers which featured more than 5,000 participants. Each dieter had lost at least 30 pounds (13kg) and kept it off for at least a year before joining the National Weight Control Registry at the University of Colorado-Denver.

Successful long-term dieters were disciplined about eating and did large amounts of exercise. Walking, combined with weight training or aerobics, was their favourite activity - and they burned 2,800 calories or more a week.

Dr Rena Wing, co-founder of the registry, told the UK's Daily Mirror newspaper: "To burn off that many calories, you would need to walk 28 miles (45kms) a week - more than a marathon. That's about four miles each day. That will take 90 minutes a day. "There's no way round it. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you really need to change your lifestyle."



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!


No comments: