Monday, March 24, 2008

Drinking while pregnant risks autism in babies

This report is OK as far as it goes. There is no doubt that heavy drinking during pregnancy is harmful to the fetal brain and that the damage could in part manifest as autistic symptoms is no surprise. Note however that autism sufferers are often high-functioning in some ways and that is not characteristic of fetal alcohol sufferers. These findings are not then relevant to autism research in general. All they do is add symptoms to fetal alcohol syndrome

Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy may be putting their babies at risk of developing autism, according to new research. The consultant psychiatrist who alerted the medical profession to the finding that drinking while pregnant can give babies a condition called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) has now found that the consumption of alcohol by expecting mothers can also cause autism. The research is the first to suggest that autism may be triggered by the child's mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The findings will heighten concern about the increase in alcohol consumption among women of childbearing age.

More than half of all mothers drink alcohol while pregnant, according to the Department of Health. This week the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will issue a new warning about the dangers. A recent survey showed 8% of women aged 18 to 24 had consumed at least 35 units of alcohol, the equivalent of about 15 glasses of wine, during the previous week. Binge drinking among young women has resulted in the number of alcohol-related deaths in women aged 35 to 54 doubling between 1991 and 2005. Earlier this year, the British Medical Association warned that the increase in alcohol consumption by young women will be reflected in a rise in drinking during pregnancy and, subsequently, will put more babies at risk of being damaged by alcohol while in the womb.

Raja Mukherjee, consultant psychiatrist at Surrey Borders Partnership NHS trust, has spent the past 18 months examining children who have been damaged by their mother's drinking during pregnancy and found that a high proportion of them have autism. The research has been presented at scientific meetings. Mukherjee, who has presented his findings to medical colleagues, declined to discuss them in detail before their publication in a medical journal but said: "Genetic conditions are by far the most common cause of autism but that is not to say that other things cannot cause it, and prenatal alcohol appears, possibly, to be [a cause]. "Unlike genetic conditions, this is 100% preventable."

Mukherjee has previously warned against any drinking during pregnancy and believes that even low levels of alcohol may endanger babies. Drinking during pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the umbrella term for a range of disorders - from minor anomalies such as low birth weight to severe FAS, the symptoms of which include mental retardation and facial abnormalities such as a short nose. The number of cases of FAS in Britain has increased in recent years. So far the government and medical bodies have given out conflicting messages about how much alcohol it is safe to drink during pregnancy.


Hope for type 1 diabetes cure

RESEARCHERS are a step closer to a cure for type 1 diabetes after the successful transplantation of insulin-producing cells into eight patients. The breakthrough gives hope to the 140,000 Australians, who survive on daily insulin injections. Wayne Hawthorne, from the national pancreas and islet transplant unit at Westmead Hospital, said the experimental procedure might soon be a real option for everyone with type 1 diabetes, including children.

Scientists transplanted the insulin-producing islet cells from a donor pancreas into the patients' livers, where they began to produce insulin. In people who have type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system malfunctions, producing an auto-immune response that destroys these cells. After one treatment, the amount of insulin the patients needed to control blood glucose levels was dramatically reduced, in some cases to zero.

Mike Wilson, the chief executive of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Australia, said the treatment effectively reversed diabetes. "This is an incredibly exciting step forward for both the type 1 diabetes community and for the world-class Australian researchers who are rapidly advancing in this area," he said.

Only patients with brittle (unstable) diabetes, where blood sugar drops dramatically without warning, have been treated so far, but Dr Hawthorne said the aim was to treat everyone with the disease. However, he said low organ donation rates meant islet transplants would remain out of reach unless another way to source the cells was found.

Fewer than 90 pancreases become available a year for this type of operation in Australia but more than 2000 people are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Xenotransplantation, where animal cells are transplanted into humans, is an option being investigated. Last month scientists in the United States turned stem cells into insulin producers that responded to blood glucose levels. Islet cell transplants have been reliable and viable only in the past few years because there have been major scientific advances. About 200 patients worldwide have been treated, with 80 per cent of them not needing insulin injections 12 months later.

However, patients need potentially toxic immuno-suppressant drugs so their bodies do not reject the new cells, and the drugs have serious side effects that for some people are worse than the disease.

Last week collaborating researchers at St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne announced the successful transplantation of insulin-producing islet cells into a Victorian woman. Elaine Robinson, 54, no longer sufferers from life-threatening hypoglycaemic attacks and needs to inject only a small fraction of the amount of insulin she was using previously. A planned second transplant could eliminate the need for insulin completely.



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!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG, you have a blog on nutrition too?! I was going to suggest you look into this and create one, but it's already here, and goes back two years?! There goes *my* week, if I'm not careful. Thank you so much for this. I have a huge 'Science News' secondary research article folder about health and nutrition that I have yet to review and have plowed through a whole library of hard science and popular science books on diet. Based on low carb diets, my brother just lost 26+ pounds, and my lover 6 pounds in two weeks. Me? I drink too much beer, which though it may or may not be "free" calories, indeed screws up fat burning in the liver, so am slimming rather less abruptly, though unlike my brother, I have mere "love handles" and not a "gut".

Ha ha, you say obesity is 77% genetic. Well, guess what? That may change soon, as childhood obesity starts making 23 year old girls UGLY, but many 23 year old girls, still have intact insulin detectors and receptors, so instead of "fat" they simply have extremely attractive hourglass figures ("baby fat"), so is it any wonder that they continue to reproduce, given that only a few percent of males have a "fattie fetish"? This can also be observed in pornographic quality 23 year old girls out shopping with their morbidly obese mothers. Same eyes. Same hair color. But mom is dirt ugly since her insulin system has finally given up the good fight.

How else can you explain it? That morbidly obese women have learned to seduce average men? I'll admit to a drunken bout or two, but on sobering up, it's not like I wanted to turn a fattie fling into a real thing.

But that it is "77% genetic" hides a flaw, assuming for sake of argument that you believe in Free Will, by which I mean the difference between genetic predisposition for a behavioral trait and being utterly tied to that trait are not the same thing, despite amplification effects of small temperamental differences being amplified over time.

I was born with a VERY introverted temperamental disposition, for instance, yet now am, despite never dating in high school, an extremely bold introvert, able to successfully meet girls even on the poker-faced streets of NYC. If you are not aware of it, there is a very large online community that has developed a "street smart" empirical knowledge-base of how female sexual selection works, that most men are clueless about. I would call it an actual science, but I think "folk science" is a better term, especially given how politically incorrect it's Laws of Behavior are (one being if you are too nice to a girl, she will develop sexual repulsion towards you, period, end-of-story, much more than 77% of the time).

Guess what one of the more difficult strategic issues is, in trying to seduce a cute girl? Her "fattie" friend or two, who act as guards so the cute one can safely drink a bit too much and flirt like crazy with guys, but still get dragged home, alone! So many a strategy have been invented to diffuse such "cockblocks," mainly by befriending them first and ignoring the cute girl, which helps in more ways than one, since then the cute one tries to assert her "alpha female" status, and starts vying for your attention.

What I mean above though is that a disposition for obesity, just like one for diabetes or shyness, is both amplified by childhood personality development as well as, in the case of obesity, the US government's Food Pyramid which, even in weirdly subliminal pie-shaped-chart updated form, still tells everybody to eat highly refined carbohydrates as their main source of calories. People believe posters in doctor's offices, so they pig out on lasagna and "low fat" chips all day.

If they stopped doing that, then the 77% figure might become much lower, as in only a few percent even. That phenotype interacts with the environment means a deadly genotype is not a death sentence.

Here is an interesting graph that shows the effect of the 1970s till present Food Pyramid craze:

Sorry if you've already posted that, but it's my first visit to this site. I'll try to abstain from commenting on really old posts, but beware: a flashlight will soon scan your closets for dust.