Friday, February 08, 2008

Severe stress in pregnancy may be tied to kids' schizophrenia

A bit of chicken and egg here. They report that schizophrenics are more likely to have had relatives die while they (the schizos) were in utero. Perhaps the relatives of schizophrenic people die earlier because they too are schizo to some extent and schizophrenia is life-threatening in various ways

Children of women who suffer an extremely stressful event -- such as the death of a close relative during pregnancy's first trimester appear more likely to develop schizophrenia, a study reports.

Past research already bears out, somewhat, "the common conception that a mother's psychological state can influence her unborn baby," the researchers wrote in reporting their findings. "Severe life events during pregnancy are consistently associated with an elevated risk of low birth weight and prematurity," continued the scientists, Ali S. Khashan of the University of Manchester, U.K., and colleagues. Their paper appears in the February issue of the research journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

Schizophrenia, a disabling mental illness tied to abnormal brain structure, is increasingly believed to begin in early brain development, the investigators added. Environmental factors, including those occurring during pregnancy, and genes may interact to influence risk, they noted.

The scientists used data from 1.38 million Danish births from between 1973 and 1995. Using a national registry, the scientists checked whether any of the mothers' close relatives had died or suffered cancer, heart attack or stroke during the pregnancies.

Risk of schizophrenia and related disorders was about 67 percent higher among offspring of women exposed to the death of a relative during the first trimester, the team found. This risk was unaffected by deaths of relatives at any other time during or shortly before the pregnancy, they added, and the link they found seemed significant only for people with no family history of mental illness.

A possible explanation for the results, they said, is that chemicals released by the mother's brain in response to stress may affect the fetus' developing brain, especially early in pregnancy when protective barriers between mother and fetus are weak.


Stuff your face! Make a mint!

Britain: State-sponsored incentives, like paying obese people not to eat so much, will never work

Do you remember the sepia-tinted days when shopkeepers would give you 5p for the return of an empty fizzy-drink bottle? For me the memory of this early recycling venture excites a flush of shame. As children, our gang would pilfer the glass bottles from neighbours' porches and backyards and stuff our faces with sherbert on the profit. My more hard-faced schoolfriends went farther and would steal full bottles of Tizer from shop shelves, empty the contents down the grate, then return them to the same outlet, smiling innocently, to collect their wages of sin.

Fizzy-pop bottle crime was my instant thought when I read that the Government is considering giving fat people cash or vouchers to lose weight. What kind of crazed, inverted logic is this? Pay people to lose weight and you give them a motive to gain it in the first place. Don't be thin and a loser, folks. Eat all the pies and - wayhay! - it's payday. If history has taught us anything it is that where state-sponsored financial incentives are involved, human beings will find a way to double bluff the system.

We all heard the allegations during the foot-and-mouth epidemic that some farmers were deliberately infecting their livestock to claim the handsome compensation. Or the stories about people nicking M&S clothes just so they could return them sans receipt and take advantage of their generous refund policy. And the theory that some parents in this country push for their children to be prescribed Ritalin, the drug that combats attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, because they will then qualify for the 40 pounds or so a week "attendance allowance" that accompanies it.

Few anecdotes illustrate the point better than one submitted to the letters page of The Times this week about a town in Italy plagued by snakes where locals were paid each time they brought in a skin to the authorities. Guess what? It emerged that people were breeding snakes to trouser the money.

If the Government wants to give away cash, surely it should convey the right message and reward the already thin, the ones who don't eat buckets of KFC and who subscribe to gyms. Otherwise you may as well do something as daft as paying criminals to give up crime. Oh, hold on. Gordon Brown has considered that one before - a plan for troublemaking teenagers to be paid in vouchers, 20 pounds for every week in which they didn't make trouble.

It is fairly obvious that by introducing a system in which one can profit from obesity, one makes obesity a little more attractive. There are plenty of people in this country who fervently believe that disadvantaged teenage girls deliberately become pregnant so that they will land themselves a council flat.

What do the new obesity proposals do other than up those stakes? It's not just any kid you want, girls - it's a fat kid! Feed them Mars Bars and double your money.


A great way to create drug-resistant bugs and unleash them on the community

Mass antibiotic treatment for Australian Aboriginal communities planned

CANBERRA is considering mass antibiotic treatments in remote Aboriginal communities to combat the spread of sexually transmitted infections. An article in the Medical Journal of Australia suggests entire indigenous communities should be treated in places where infections are widespread. Report co-author Professor Frank Bowden says that in some northern Australian communities one in four young women is infected by either chlamydia, gonorrhoea or trichomoniasis.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday said she was alarmed by the situation and something must be done. "The current approach doesn't seem to be working. We haven't been able to reduce the number of STDs in indigenous communities - in fact they're increasing," Ms Roxon told ABC radio. "Obviously this is a serious public health issue and we do need to look carefully at how we can do things better."

The plan touted in the journal was a radical new approach to tackling rising STI rates based on a blanket treatment scheme similar to current practice for the infectious eye disease trachoma. The scheme would replace the current "screen and treat" programs, which have done little to improve the dire statistics showing one in four indigenous women has an STI. Under the plan, adults and children in indigenous communities with an STI rate over 10 per cent would automatically be offered a four-drug treatment covering chlamydia, gonorrhoea and a third disease, trichomoniasis - without being screened first to see if they have the disease. Treatment would start as young as 10 to combat rising STI rates in children.

Professor Bowden and Melbourne-based sexual health physician Katherine Fethers wrote in the journal that treating STIs in this way would be controversial because sex-related diseases were wrapped up in issues of morality, privacy, stigma, shame and discrimination. But they argue that the current health promotion approach for people in poverty and social hardship was problematic and even "dangerously naive". They said under-resourcing has meant that screening programs had had limited success in turning around rising rates. They said their proposal was in keeping with World Health Organisation practice for other types of diseases, and would be contingent on informed consent from each individual. However, the details of how it would be delivered would require "much debate and consideration", they said.



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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