Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nutritionist sceptical of sausage-leukaemia link

Some cautious journalism for a change

Children who regularly eat cured and processed meat may be at a greater risk of leukaemia, a study suggests, but an Australian nutritionist says parents need not panic if their children have been tucking into hot dogs and salami.

Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health surveyed 515 children and teenagers from Taiwan, some of whom had leukaemia, and found that those who ate cured meat or fish regularly were 74 per cent more likely to develop the disease. Those who ate vegetables and soy-based foods regularly were 50 per cent less likely than their meat-eating counterparts to develop leukaemia.

However, the study, published in the online journal BMC Cancer, did not include a detailed examination of why the foods caused the higher incidence of cancer, and Australian researchers have questioned the findings. The Cancer Council NSW nutritionist Kathy Chapman said: "It's a very small sample size to be making these kinds of associations between diet and cancer risk. "Normally when we look at a study like this you would be looking at 20,000 participants.

"Also, the best type of studies are those which follow people up over time rather than asking them what they did in the past. I don't think it's time for parents to be panicking if their kids have been tucking into the hot dogs over the school holidays." The authors of the study have acknowledged their research is not definitive but recommend that children not eat large amounts of cured meat and fish.


Food packaging chemicals may reduce fertility

And pigs might fly. There have been so many of these scares based on the most tenuous evidence. Proper caution is expressed below, however

Chemicals found in food packaging, pesticides and household items may be linked to lower fertility among women, new research has suggested. A study of 1,240 women has found that those with higher levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in their bloodstreams tend to take longer to become pregnant than those with lower levels. The findings, from scientists at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), raise the prospect that exposure to the chemicals could be contributing to infertility. The study is published in the journal Human Reproduction.

The research, however, is preliminary and needs to be repeated. There is not yet any evidence that the association between the chemicals and lower conception rates is causative. It remains possible that higher blood concentration of the chemicals are the result of another factor that affects fertility, such as obesity. Women who eat more packaged food and thus consume more PFCs, for example, may be more likely to be obese and to have lower fertility as a result. Professor Jorn Olsen, of UCLA, who led the research, said: “We are waiting for further studies to replicate our findings in order to discover whether PFCs should be added to the list of risk factors for infertility.”

Professor Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility Society, described the link as tenuous, but interesting and worth following up. “This is an important finding and certainly warrants further detailed research, particularly in those trying for a family,” he said. David Coggon, Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Southampton, said: “This is an interesting preliminary finding that may or may not turn out to be important. “We first need to see whether it can be confirmed in other studies. It would also be helpful to establish the main determinants of exposure to the chemicals in the general population.”


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