Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The chocolate wheelbarrow of Meneer Buijsse

I have finally tracked down the latest wisdom on chocolate from Brian Buijsse, who is something of a chocolate evangelist, it would seem. I reproduce the journal abstract below. The only praise I have for it is the last sentence in it.

The article is basically nonsense. They not only found an effect too tiny to support causal inferences but they found it only by comparing extreme quartiles, which is the statistics of desperation. In other words, they arrived at their conclusion by leaving out half of the data! I could say more (correlation is not causation etc.) but I think it is time Meneer Buijsse found another wheelbarrow to push. Buijsse thinks chocolate is good for your heart but the poverty of his results is more consistent with saying that it has no effect at all

Chocolate consumption in relation to blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease in German adults

By Brian Buijsse et al.

Aims: To investigate the association of chocolate consumption with measured blood pressure (BP) and the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Methods and results: Dietary intake, including chocolate, and BP were assessed at baseline (1994–98) in 19 357 participants (aged 35–65 years) free of myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke and not using antihypertensive medication of the Potsdam arm of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Incident cases of MI (n = 166) and stroke (n = 136) were identified after a mean follow-up of ~8 years. Mean systolic BP was 1.0 mmHg [95% confidence interval (CI) −1.6 to −0.4 mmHg] and mean diastolic BP 0.9 mmHg (95% CI −1.3 to −0.5 mmHg) lower in the top quartile compared with the bottom quartile of chocolate consumption. The relative risk of the combined outcome of MI and stroke for top vs. bottom quartiles was 0.61 (95% CI 0.44–0.87; P linear trend = 0.014). Baseline BP explained 12% of this lower risk (95% CI 3–36%). The inverse association was stronger for stroke than for MI.

Conclusion: Chocolate consumption appears to lower CVD risk, in part through reducing BP. The inverse association may be stronger for stroke than for MI. Further research is needed, in particular randomized trials.

Media article here

WI: Assembly panel approves bill allowing sale of raw milk

Gov. Jim Doyle said Tuesday he may favor legalizing raw milk sales to the general public, under the right circumstances. "I think we all understand what the issues here are," Doyle said when asked about the raw milk bill at a news conference in Verona. "There are some people who prefer to drink raw milk, and I think under certain circumstances that's fine. But I think we also need to know that the mass-milk market is one that is healthy and in control."

The governor's comments came after legislation to allow the sale of raw milk to consumers moved a step forward, with lawmakers saying there were enough changes in the proposal to address safety concerns and still meet farmers' needs. Twenty-five states allow some form of unpasteurized milk sales.

Advocates say milk straight from the cow's udder is a bacteria-rich food that can help fend off illnesses and has kept farm families healthy for generations. Critics dismiss claims that raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk, and they say the raw version is dangerous because of harmful bacteria it may carry.

By an 8-1 vote, the Assembly Committee on Rural Economic Development recommended approval of Assembly Bill 628 that would allow unpasteurized milk sales direct from farms licensed by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The legislation, including an identical version in the Senate, is expected to be voted on by the full Assembly and Senate before their session ends in April.

Would Doyle favor the proposal to legalize raw milk sales? "I have to see what comes to my desk," he said, adding that a bill could probably be crafted that would meet his approval.

Legislators have been swamped with impassioned pleas for and against raw milk sales. "I have heard from a lot of my public health people who are urging me to vote against this. On the other side, I believe in the people's right to do what they want to do, with some restrictions," said Rep. Ann Hraychuck (D-Balsam Lake), a committee member.

Under the latest version of the raw milk legislation, sales could only take place at farms where the milk was produced.

Farmers would have to post a sign declaring that raw milk does not provide the benefits of pasteurization - a process where milk is heated to a high temperature for a brief time to kill bacteria.

The sign would have to say that unpasteurized milk may contain dangerous pathogens. It also would have to say that raw milk is not recommended for certain people including the very young, very old, women who are pregnant or nursing, and individuals with diabetes or compromised immune systems.

Farmers would be prohibited from advertising the sale of raw milk except for an on-farm sign.

Their milk would have to meet all of the requirements of a Grade-A dairy farm license, including delivery of a portion of the raw product to a dairy plant where it would be tested for pathogens. And either the farmer or the consumer would have to provide a sanitary container for getting milk from the farm.

The ability to sell non-pasteurized buttermilk, butter and cream was removed from the legislation. Also, a farmer's license to sell raw milk could be suspended if pathogens were detected in two of four consecutive monthly samples....

More here

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