Saturday, February 23, 2008

Protein boosts early babies' brains

Brain damage with premmies is always a worry so this is very encouraging news

Premature babies given a diet richer in proteins have higher IQs as adolescents, a study at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London has found. The improved diet also changed the structure of their brains later in life, the scientists found, by increasing the size of the caudate nucleus. This is linked to higher intelligence.

The study tested verbal IQ levels and carried out brain scans among two groups of adolescents born prematurely in the 1980s. One group was given a high-protein diet in the four weeks after birth; the other a standard diet.

Elizabeth Isaacs, who led the research, published in Pediatric Research, said: "The data presented here are among the first to show that the structure of the human brain can be influenced by early nutrition. "Scientists have speculated that the size of the caudate nucleus might be influenced by nutrition in infancy, when the brain is undergoing its chief growth spurt. We now see that cognitive effects of early diet that we previously reported in childhood persist into adolescence."


Diabetes discovery

Scientists are closer to finding a cure for diabetes after they showed that human stem cells injected into mice can transform themselves into cells capable of producing insulin. A team in California made the discovery using adult mice. Abstract follows:

Pancreatic endoderm derived from human embryonic stem cells generates glucose-responsive insulin-secreting cells in vivo

By Evert Kroon et al.

Development of a cell therapy for diabetes would be greatly aided by a renewable supply of human beta cells. Here we show that pancreatic endoderm derived from human embryonic stem (hES) cells efficiently generates glucose-responsive endocrine cells after implantation into mice. Upon glucose stimulation of the implanted mice, human insulin and C-peptide are detected in sera at levels similar to those of mice transplanted with ~3,000 human islets. Moreover, the insulin-expressing cells generated after engraftment exhibit many properties of functional beta-cell transcription factors, appropriate processing of proinsulin and the presence of mature endocrine secretory granules. Finally, in a test of therapeutic potential, we demonstrate that implantation of hES cell-derived pancreatic endoderm protects against streptozotocin-induced hyperglycemia. Together, these data provide definitive evidence that hES cells are competent to generate glucose-responsive, insulin-secreting cells.

Nature Biotechnology, 20 February 2008


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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