Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fad diets INCREASE weight

Celebrity 'fad' diets are fuelling the obesity epidemic, doctors warn. They claim such plans are actually keeping people fat, with just one in ten Britons predicted to be a healthy weight by 2050. And they say weight-watchers should curb the amount they eat, rather than follow diets which offer only a short-term solution.

Diets that recommend eating only grapefruit, for example, or fruit and seeds found in the Bible should be avoided, says Professor Chris Hawkey, president of the British Society of Gastroenterology. He also criticised the Tiger diet - which advocates uncooked food and is reportedly followed by Mel Gibson - and the apple diet, which claims to boost the body's acidity and fight disease.

A survey commissioned by the BSG shows most dieters will try anything to get thin - except follow a sensible eating and exercise plan that has been shown to work. One in 20 women said they would try the Atkins diet to lose weight - even though only 2 per cent think it is good for their health. At the same time, one in five of the 2,000 Britons questioned admitted they would use weight loss pills to help shed excess pounds.

Professor Hawkey, speaking today at the Gastro 2009 conference in London, will claim ruthless promotion of unhealthy foods and diets has fostered over-eating and the growth of pathological attitudes to eating. These include anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia - an obsession with eating 'good' foods - and malnutrition.

Professor Hawkey said: 'In food fadism the virtue of favoured foods is exaggerated and purported to cure specific diseases, while supposedly harmful foods are eliminated from the diet. 'Foods fads are often based on a well elaborated scientific or, more often, pseudo-scientific theory but such is the complexity of diet that the specific value of the nutritional content is seldom tested.' And he will tell the conference: 'The problem facing society is not the content of our diet but the quantity we are consuming.

'We need to do away with quirky diets and get people to realise what will keep them healthy. 'In the majority of cases, simply increasing physical activity levels and eating sensibly will help prevent long-term conditions.'

David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: 'Diets don't work. You may lose weight in the short term, and there are a few exceptions when people manage to keep it off. 'But most people put the weight back on. The most effective way is making sustainable changes to reduce dietary intake and increase physical activity.'


Modern 'superdiets' based on myths, says expert

Another report of the speech mentioned above. This guy is a real truth teller. He even has some time for the hated Atkins diet

Superdiets such as drinking large amounts of grapefruit juice or eating only raw fruit and vegetables have been exposed as just food myths, a leading professor claims. Professor Chris Hawkey, president of the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG), said some people developed a “quasi-religious” attitude towards what was the best thing to eat, based on little or no scientific evidence.

He highlighted more than a dozen famous diets including rawism, which argues that cooking food makes it less nutritious, the grapefruit diet, based on the idea that an enzyme in the juice breaks down fat, and the alkaline diet, which seeks to maintain the slightly alkaline nature of the blood by eating certain foods. “Food has been shrouded in myths and fairy tales since time immemorial," said Professor Hawkey at the Gastro 2009 conference, which is being held in London until Wednesday. “But what’s important is to recognise that, despite the popularity of fad diets, we are losing a grip on the fight with obesity.”

He said the grapefruit diet, which Kylie Minogue has reportedly used, was unlikely to have an effect because the enzyme would probably be broken down in the gut before being able to get at body fat.

Professor Hawkey also flagged up the lack of evidence for the ‘chewing movement’, which dates back to the 19th century and counsels chewing 32 times to aid digestion. “[Former Prime Minister] Gladstone was apparently very eccentrically in favour of this diet. The idea is that salivary enzymes start digestion,” he said, adding that it was based more on “theory than evidence”.

However he had mixed feelings about the controversial Atkins diet, which says people should avoid carbohydrate and eat protein. “It is not terribly healthy in the sense that you are going to have a lot of fat, but if you lose weight then it is a good thing,” Professor Hawkey said. “The theory is that it resets the metabolic rate and there is some science to back that up.”


An apparent surgical cure for MS‏

Elena Ravalli was a seemingly healthy 37-year-old when she began to experience strange attacks of vertigo, numbness, temporary vision loss and crushing fatigue. They were classic signs of multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating neurological disease.

It was 1995 and her husband, Paolo Zamboni, a professor of medicine at the University of Ferrara in Italy, set out to help. He was determined to solve the mystery of MS – an illness that strikes people in the prime of their lives but whose causes are unknown and whose effective treatments are few.

What he learned in his medical detective work, scouring dusty old books and using ultra-modern imaging techniques, could well turn what we know about MS on its head: Dr. Zamboni's research suggests that MS is not, as widely believed, an autoimmune condition, but a vascular disease.

More radical still, the experimental surgery he performed on his wife offers hope that MS, which afflicts 2.5 million people worldwide, can be cured and even largely prevented. “I am confident that this could be a revolution for the research and diagnosis of multiple sclerosis,” Dr. Zamboni said in an interview.

Not everyone is so bullish: Skeptics warn the evidence is too scant and speculative to start rewriting medical textbooks. Even those intrigued by the theory caution that MS sufferers should not rush off to get the surgery – nicknamed the “liberation procedure” – until more research is done. U.S. and Canadian researchers are trying to test Dr. Zamboni's premise.

For the Italian professor, however, the quest was both personal and professional and the results were stunning. Fighting for his wife's health, Dr. Zamboni looked for answers in the medical literature. He found repeated references, dating back a century, to excess iron as a possible cause of MS. The heavy metal can cause inflammation and cell death, hallmarks of the disease. The vascular surgeon was intrigued – coincidentally, he had been researching how iron buildup damages blood vessels in the legs, and wondered if there could be a similar problem in the blood vessels of the brain.

Using ultrasound to examine the vessels leading in and out of the brain, Dr. Zamboni made a startling find: In more than 90 per cent of people with multiple sclerosis, including his spouse, the veins draining blood from the brain were malformed or blocked. In people without MS, they were not.

He hypothesized that iron was damaging the blood vessels and allowing the heavy metal, along with other unwelcome cells, to cross the crucial brain-blood barrier. (The barrier keeps blood and cerebrospinal fluid separate. In MS, immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier, where they destroy myelin, a crucial sheathing on nerves.)

More striking still was that, when Dr. Zamboni performed a simple operation to unclog veins and get blood flowing normally again, many of the symptoms of MS disappeared. The procedure is similar to angioplasty, in which a catheter is threaded into the groin and up into the arteries, where a balloon is inflated to clear the blockages. His wife, who had the surgery three years ago, has not had an attack since.

The researcher's theory is simple: that the underlying cause of MS is a condition he has dubbed “chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency.” If you tackle CCSVI by repairing the drainage problems from the brain, you can successfully treat, or better still prevent, the disease. “If this is proven correct, it will be a very, very big discovery because we'll completely change the way we think about MS, and how we'll treat it,” said Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, an associate professor of neurology at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The initial studies done in Italy were small but the outcomes were dramatic. In a group of 65 patients with relapsing-remitting MS (the most common form) who underwent surgery, the number of active lesions in the brain fell sharply, to 12 per cent from 50 per cent; in the two years after surgery, 73 per cent of patients had no symptoms.

Augusto Zeppi, a 40-year-old resident of the northern Italian city of Ferrara, was one of those patients. Diagnosed with MS nine years ago, he suffered severe attacks every four months that lasted weeks at a time – leaving him unable to use his arms and legs and with debilitating fatigue. “Everything I was dreaming for my future adult life, it was game over,” he said. Scans showed that his two jugular veins were blocked, 60 and 80 per cent respectively. In 2007, he was one of the first to undergo the experimental surgery to unblock the veins. He had a second operation a year later, when one of his jugular veins was blocked anew. After the procedures, Mr. Zeppi said he was reborn. “I don't remember what it's like to have MS,” he said. “It gave me a second life.”

Buffalo researchers are now recruiting 1,700 adults and children from the United States and Canada. They plan to test MS sufferers and non-sufferers alike and, using ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging, do detailed analyses of blood flow in and out of the brain and examine iron deposits.

Another researcher, Mark Haacke, an adjunct professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, is urging patients to send him MRI scans of their heads and necks so he can probe the Zamboni theory further. Dr. Haacke is a world-renowned expert in imaging who has developed a method of measuring iron buildup in the brain. “Patients need to speak up and say they want something like this investigated … to see if there's credence to the theory,” he said.

MS societies in Canada and the United States, however, have reacted far more cautiously to Dr. Zamboni's conclusion. “Many questions remain about how and when this phenomenon might play a role in nervous system damage seen in MS, and at the present time there is insufficient evidence to suggest that this phenomenon is the cause of MS,” said the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. The U.S. society goes further, discouraging patients from getting tested or seeking surgical treatment. Rather, it continues to promote drug treatments used to alleviate symptoms, which include corticosteroids, chemotherapy agents and pain medication.

Many people with multiple sclerosis, though, are impatient for results. Chatter about CCSVI is frequent in online MS support groups, and patients are scrambling to be part of the research, particularly when they hear the testimonials.

Kevin Lipp, a 49-year-old resident of Buffalo, was diagnosed with MS a decade ago and has suffered increasingly severe attacks, especially in the heat. (Heat sensitivity is a common symptom of MS.) His symptoms were so bad that he was unable to work and closed his ice-cream shop. Mr. Lipp was tested and doctors discovered blockages in both his jugular and azygos veins. In January of this year, he travelled to Italy for surgery, which cleared five blockages, and he began to feel better almost immediately. “I felt good. I felt totally normal. I felt like I did years ago,” he said. He has not had an attack since.

As part of the research project, Mr. Lipp's siblings have also been tested. His two sisters, both of whom have MS, have significant blockages and iron deposits, while his brother, who does not have MS, has neither iron buildup nor blocked arteries.

While it has long been known that there is a genetic component to multiple sclerosis, the new theory is that it is CCSVI that is hereditary – that people are born with malformed valves and strictures in the large veins of the neck and brain. These problems lead to poor blood drainage and even reversal of blood flow direction that can cause inflammation, iron buildup and the brain lesions characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

It is well-established that the symptoms of MS are caused by a breakdown of myelin, a fatty substance that coats nerve cells and plays a crucial role in transmitting messages to the central nervous system. When those messages are blurred, nerves malfunction, causing all manner of woes, including blurred eyesight, loss of sensation in the limbs and even paralysis. However, it is unclear what triggers the breakdown of myelin. There are various theories, including exposure to a virus in childhood, vitamin D deficiency, hormones – and now, buildup of iron in the brain because of poor blood flow.


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