Sunday, February 01, 2009

Here we go again: Salty soups can increase cancer risk, says expert

The salt phobia is widespread but groundless.

People who regularly have soup with a high salt content could be increasing their risk of stomach cancer, according to an expert. Soups are one of the 'worst culprits' for hidden salt, she said, and a single serving of some leading brands contains half the recommended daily maximum intake. Dr Rachel Thompson, science programme manager for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommended making low-salt versions at home. She also suggested reducing intake of salt-preserved foods, such as ham and sausages, as well as pizza, some ready meals and breakfast cereals.

Salt is known to increase blood pressure and the risk of stroke and heart disease, but scientists also believe it is a cause of stomach cancer. [They also believe in global warming] The recommended intake of salt for adults is no more than 6g a day although the current average consumption is 8.6g daily.

Dr Thompson said: 'Fresh vegetable-based soups tend to have less salt than tinned cream-based soups which include bacon or ham, but even some of the healthier brands of vegetable soups still contain over a third of our recommended daily intake. 'This should be no more than 6g but we actually need far less. 'It is commonly known that salt increases risk of high blood pressure, but people are less aware that it also probably increases risk of stomach cancer. 'Even taking small steps to reduce your salt intake, such as always checking labels or making your own soup from scratch, is something positive you can do to help reduce your risk of cancer.'

According to the WCRF, the salt levels in Batchelors Soupfulls, for example, vary from 1.9g to 3g per single serving, which is 32 per cent to 50 per cent of the recommended intake, while Heinz Classic Vegetable soup contains 2g of salt per serving (33 per cent). A Batchelors spokesman said the company was committed to providing healthy, nutritious foods and was reformulating its Soupfulls brand to meet the 2010 Food Standards Agency target for levels of sodium.

Heinz said it was working to bring its best-selling soups within the FSA criteria. A spokesman for the Salt Association, which represents the industry, said a report by leading toxicological experts had found no grounds for believing that a reduction in the average daily salt intake in the Western diet would have any effect on the risk of developing any form of cancer.


British universities drop degree courses in alternative medicine

And not a moment too soon

Universities are increasingly turning their backs on homoeopathy and complementary medicine amid opposition from the scientific community to "pseudo-science" degrees. The University of Salford has stopped offering undergraduate degrees in the subjects, and the University of Westminster announced yesterday that it plans to strengthen the "science base" content of its courses after an internal review which examined their scientific credibility. Both universities are following the lead of the University of Central Lancashire, which last year stopped recruiting new students to its undergraduate degree in homoeopathic medicine.

The decisions by Salford and Westminster open a new chapter in the fierce debate about the place of awarding of Bachelor of Science degrees in subjects that are not science. Several universities run degree courses in complementary medicine, which include a range of therapies including homoeopathy, crystal healing and herbal medicine. But academics opposed to such courses regard them as misleading and damaging to the reputation of the universities that offer them.

In a letter to The Times today a group of scientists led by Professor David Colquhoun, a pharmacologist at University College London, say that they are encouraged that such courses are being closed down. However, they add that although some universities are now taking sensible actions in cancelling such courses, government policy on regulation of alternative medicine is in a mess because there is no official view on "which treatments work and which don't".

The University of Salford said it planned to wind down the undergraduate programme in traditional Chinese medicine "for financial and strategic reasons". He acknowledged that the course had been criticised by the scientific establishment, but said that the university would continue "to encourage and promote research into complementary and alternative medicine". He added: "It is not our role to comment on the views of others."

A spokesman for the University of Central Lancashire said that it would not be drawn into a debate about the scientific basis of certain forms of complementary medicine. However, he accepted that some of its courses had attracted "bad publicity" and said the university had commissioned a review of its courses in this area, which would be published at the end of March. "We have had academic debate within the university on whether these courses are scientific or not," he said.

A spokesman for the University of Westminster said the university had recently undertaken a review of its undergraduate Complementary Therapies courses as part of an internal restructure. "The review recommended that the delivery of the courses' distinctive scientific base be reinforced, along with the capacity of the department to conduct high quality research with due academic rigour," he said. He would not say whether the review had been ordered as a direct result of criticism of the courses, adding only that "graduates will continue to receive a grounding in scientific understanding and analysis".

Other universities have got around "pseudo science" accusations by offering such courses as arts degrees. The University Campus Suffolk, for example, offers a two-year foundation degree in holistic therapy as an arts course.

Other universities are more robust in their defence of their courses. Ian Appleyard, principal lecturer in acupuncture at London South Bank University, said that acupuncture should be studied for the very reason that it was not well understood from the standpoint of Western scientific medicine. Acupuncture had been used by a significant proportion of the world's population for thousands of years. "Recent large-scale clinical trials such Haake and meta-analysis from reputable institutions such as The Cochrane Collaboration, have shown that there is evidence to support the therapeutic benefits of acupuncture treatment for back pain and migraine," he said. [That is a barefaced lie. The studies he mentions showed that acupuncture had placebo benefits only]


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