Sunday, March 09, 2008

Taking to drink could cut heart disease risk (Maybe)

A new offering to the cholesterol religion

Middle-aged people who have never drunk alcohol can cut their risk of heart disease sharply by taking to the bottle - especially if it contains wine. US doctors have found that the new drinkers rarely overdid it, stuck to safe limits and cut their risk of heart disease by 38 per cent in four years.

Although drinking moderately has been shown to have benefits in many studies, doctors have until now always been unwilling to recommend non-drinkers to take it up. The new results may embolden them. A team from the Medical University of South Carolina looked at heart disease in 7,697 men and women aged 45 to 64, all of whom started out as non-drinkers. Of these, 6 per cent became moderate drinkers during the ten-year study. Typically this amounted to two drinks a day for men and one for women.

After an average of four years the new drinkers were found to have a 38 per cent lower chance of developing heart or artery disease than those who continued to spurn alcohol. New drinkers who consumed only wine appeared to benefit most, according to the findings published in The American Journal of Medicine. Their risk of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke was 68 per cent lower than non-drinkers. People who preferred other drinks, such as beer or spirits, had an advantage over teetotallers, but not to a significant degree. There was no overall effect on death rates, probably because the study was too short to detect any decline through heart disease, or any increase because of cancer.

Dana King, who led the team, wrote in the paper: "A substantial cardiovascular benefit from adopting moderate alcohol drinking in middle age appears supported by the study. "The findings suggest that, for carefully selected individuals, a `heart-healthy diet' may include limited alcohol consumption even among individuals who have not included alcohol previously."

Researchers saw differences in cholesterol level and blood pressure between the drinkers and non-drinkers. Levels of "bad" low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were significantly lower among new drinkers, and levels of "good" high-density lipoprotein cholesterol higher.


Aspirin could help to reduce risk of breast cancer by 20%

But aspirin routinely causes stomach bleeding! Surely we can't have that? Ban aspirin!

Drugs such as aspirin may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer by about 20 per cent, according to a review of past studies. Experts analysed 21 studies involving more than 37,000 women and found an overall decreased risk for those taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They could also play a role in treating women who have breast cancer.

The researchers said that more studies were needed on the ideal type of drug, dose and duration, and that they had not considered the side-effects. High doses can increase the risk of heart attacks and other health problems. The researchers concluded: "There may be a role for NSAIDs in combination with endocrine therapies as either an adjuvant or palliative treatment for women with established breast cancer."

Ian Fentiman, Professor of Oncology at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, carried out the study, published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice.



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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