Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Diesel fumes trigger speculation

Hey! Who knew? People don't like breathing in diesel fumes!

INHALING diesel exhaust triggers a stress response in the brain that may have damaging long-term effects on brain function, Dutch researchers said. Previous studies have found very small particles of soot, or nanoparticles, are able to travel from the nose and lodge in the brain. But this is the first time researchers have demonstrated a change in brain activity. "We can only speculate what these effects may mean for the chronic exposure to air pollution encountered in busy cities where the levels of such soot particles can be very high," said lead researcher Paul Borm from Zuyd University. "It is conceivable that the long-term effects of exposure to traffic nanoparticles may interfere with normal brain function and information processing."

Prof Borm and his team put 10 volunteers in a room filled with exhaust from a diesel engine for one hour and monitored their brain waves with an electroencephalograph (EEG). The level of fumes was similar to that found on a busy road or in a garage. After about 30 minutes, brain wave patterns displayed a stress response, suggesting changes in information processing in the brain cortex.

Further research is needed to determine the clinical effect of this stress and whether it has any long-term impact on verbal and non-verbal intelligence or memory abilities. Still, the result appears to be another black mark for nanoparticles found in traffic fumes, which have already been linked with increased rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. The study was published in the journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology and is available online at


The honey cure

At 42 British pounds for a 120g jar, the world’s most expensive honey recently went on sale in Harrods. Life Mel has a list of purported health benefits as long as your arm ? the scientists who created it claim the usual nutritional advantages associated with honey are maximised because the bees that produce it gather pollen from herbs such as Siberian ginseng, echinacea and Uncaria tomentosa that boost the immune system. They say that 2 tsp of Life Mel honey a day, on an empty stomach, sucked slowly, will supply a shot of antioxidants that leave you better able to fight illness and disease.

Life Mel has already established a reputation as something of a miracle nectar: a study published in the respected Medical Oncology journal last year showed that 12 out of 30 cancer patients given the honey after chemotherapy did not experience the usual plummeting white blood-cell count; other patients reported improvements in their quality of life. However, even the researchers, at Sieff hospital in Israel, where the honey is produced, and Oldchurch Hospital in Romford, Essex, admit the sample was small, and that the proven benefits are slight.

But haven’t we heard it all before? Is honey really a cureall, or is this just a load of hype? Trials conducted at the honey research centre at Waikato University, New Zealand, look more promising. The director of the centre, Professor Peter Molan, has focused his investigations on another super-honey, manuka, which is produced by bees that collect pollen from the manuka bush, which grows wild in New Zealand.

According to Molan, all types of honey contain hydrogen peroxide -- once used in hospitals as a disinfectant for wounds because of its antibacterial properties -- which is produced from an enzyme, glucose oxidase, which the bees add to nectar. Manuka honey appears to contain other beneficial ingredients, yet to be identified, which help it to fight bacteria. Molan has found that eating 3 tsp manuka honey a day can help fight throat infections and reduce gum disease, as well as maintain good digestive health. He has also shown that, when eaten regularly, manuka also aids memory and reduces feelings of anxiety.

At Aintree Hospital in Liverpool and at the University of Wales, manuka honey has been shown to combat MRSA when applied to wounds; other researchers have suggested it may also be useful as a dressing for eczema, sunburn and acne.

Despite these benefits, experts are not convinced that we should all be dipping a spoon into the jar every day. Lisa Miles, a nutrition scientist with the British Nutrition Foundation, points out that while honey may have its uses in specific medical settings, it contains 16 more calories (64) per tbsp than sugar (48). “It is just liquid sugar,” she says. “It has a reputation as being healthier than sugar, but, nutritionally, there are few advantages. Honey is 75% sugar and counts as added sugar in the diet, so don’t be fooled.” The only thing guaranteed to happen when you eat more of it, she says, is that you will put on weight.



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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