Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diabetes link to germ-free environment

This theory became well-known in connection with asthma -- where it has not worked very well subsequently -- so much caution is advised. There could, for instance, be no group that disconfirms the "dirty environment" hypothesis more strikingly than Australian Aborigines. They commonly live in appallingly dirty environments that shock outsiders.

So what is their incidence of asthma and other autoimmune diseases? Is it low? Far from it. We read, for instance: "Contrary to popular belief, Indigenous Australians are more likely to have asthma than non-Indigenous Australians. This difference exists across all age groups but it is most pronounced in older adults, especially women aged over 35 in whom the prevalence for Indigenous Australians is double that for non-Indigenous Australians". Beat that! Another great theory stubs its toe on pesky facts. Aborigines also have very high rates of diabetes but I could not find a breakdown into Type 1 and Type 2

Amy-Lee Nakhl was the picture of health - but, in fact, she was at death's door. She ate healthily and drank lots and lots of water, just as the health experts advise. However, it was her never-ending water guzzling that prompted a relative to suggest that perhaps something was wrong. Amy-Lee's mother, Belinda, took her to the doctor where alarms bells rang. A quick blood-sugar test showed the then five-year-old's levels were at 38.5 - far above the safe 4 to 6 range. Suddenly, Amy-Lee was in hospital battling type 1 diabetes, a life-threatening condition that affects about 140,000 Australians.

Unlike type 2, type 1 diabetes is not preventable because it is not linked with lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise.

Work funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in the US backs the theory that the Western world's germ-free environment is leading to increased rates of some diseases. Mike Wilson, chief executive of the foundation in Australia, said scientists had found that mice kept completely free of bacteria had alarmingly high rates of type 1 diabetes. "Type 1 diabetes is caused by a combination of genes and environmental triggers," Mr Wilson said. "This research helps build our understanding of the increasing numbers of new cases of type 1 diabetes. It suggests there is a certain level of exposure to bacteria that is, in fact, healthy."

Mrs Nakhl said Amy-Lee, now 11, had been hospitalised many times since her diagnosis and even though she receives her insulin though a pump, rather than injections, the disease was a constant worry. "Every day is full of fear and it's a horrible life to live," she said.


Chicken-Haters Grilled By California Attorney General

Leave it to the PETA-worshiping Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to take all the fun out of eating. In October 2006, the deceptive animal rights group sued seven restaurant chains under California’s “Proposition 65” law, claiming that the eateries needed to warn consumers that grilled chicken contained a cancer-causing ingredient. Cancer? Don’t worry. Like most statements emanating from PCRM’s office, this tall tale was all fuss and feathers. You don’t have to take our word for it. The office of California’s Attorney General just put it in writing.

On Monday PCRM will go to court to argue for a settlement of its lawsuit, which would require some California restaurants to post cancer warnings about a chemical (called “PhIP”) that can form when chicken is grilled. But California Supervising Deputy Attorney General Edward Weil is urging a judge to reject that settlement, writing in his formal Objections that such a warning “would not be in the public interest.”

Why? It’s pretty obvious, really—unless you’re PCRM’s legal director, a self-described vegetarian who wouldn’t know much about cooking birds in the first place.

PhIP forms in tiny, trace amounts when you grill chicken. But if you don’t cook it, of course, there’s a risk of bacterial contamination. (Memo to vegans everywhere: This is why the rest of us don’t eat our poultry “medium rare.”) So, as the Attorney General concludes, a health warning would make no sense “where the chemical in question is created by a process [cooking] that actually has the net effect of making the food safer to eat, i.e., killing bacteria.”

It must really drive PCRM nuts that the cancer-causing properties of PhIP have only been established in laboratory tests performed on animals. While pondering that irony, we recommend this lime-marinated grilled chicken recipe from the “Cooking for Engineers” website. We’ve tried it. It’s juicy, flavorful, and guaranteed to annoy a vegan activist near you.


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