Monday, May 10, 2010

Soft drinks can almost double the risk of pancreatic cancer

The usual epidemiological arrogance about causes. Most likely explanation for the findings: Poor people consume more sweet food and drink and have worse health to start with.

Here's another reason to avoid soft drinks: It can significantly increase your risk of pancreatic cancer. The damage to your teeth by consuming sugar and soft drinks may seem trivial now that research has shown they may also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, writes Roger Dobson.

A new study at Georgetown University in the US looked at sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages or soft drinks and the risk of pancreatic cancer in 60,000 men and women in Singapore over a 14-year period.

It found that those who drink more than two soft drinks a week almost double the risk of developing the disease.

And a second study over 16 years by the University of East Anglia, monitoring 25,000 adults in the UK, shows that those who had the most sucrose (table or white sugar) in their diet were twice as likely to get the disease as those who had the least.

Some 7,500 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK. It is difficult to detect and treat, and there are few early symptoms. Little is known about the exact causes, and it can develop for no obvious reason.

But new research is shedding light on possible risk factors.

Another extensive study of 160,000 people at the University of Hawaii looked at diet and pancreatic-cancer risk, and showed that higher intakes of fructose (a sugar that occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables and honey) and sucrose led to a 35 per cent higher risk of disease.

During the research at the University of East Anglia, participants kept daily food diaries and sucrose intake was calculated for each person.

The researchers have been looking for any dietary differences between those who went on to develop pancreatic cancer and those who did not.

Results show that those who consumed the most sucrose were twice as likely to develop the cancer, although why is not clear.

A key role of the pancreas is to produce insulin, which helps keep sugar levels in the blood at a stable level. One theory is that excess sucrose intake could trigger pancreatic cancer through increased insulin production.

Excess insulin may result in an increase in growth factors and other compounds that may stimulate growth of cancer cells.


Conflicts of interest in Obama's Food and Drug Administration

Suddenly, The New York Times is exorcised and agitated about potential conflicts of interest within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) committee structure. Some of the scientists serving in policy advisory positions could be unduly motivated to make recommendations on the basis of their own financial interests, a recent editorial warns. Stipulations are already in place to guard against conflicts that may open the way to decisions that are not in the public interest.

Ideally, there should no waivers but agency has made some recent progress, editorial points out. Whereas the FDA had been granting waivers to more than 15 percent of the members, it is now granting waivers to less than 5 percent. Although The Times articulates a legitimate concern, it appears to be feigned and not real.

Even as it huffs and puffs about potential conflicts, the editorial neglects to mention that the FDA has set up a panel on menthol with the aim of outlawing it in cigarettes. The panel is stacked with people who have a clear bias. In many instances they would stand to profit from the prohibition that is being entertained. This raises some questions.

If The Times has such faith in its editorial stance, why the sleight of hand? If there’s a bias at work here against certain products in deference to others, shouldn’t this find its way in the editorial? It would appear the outrage is highly selective and agenda driven.

“An important panel set up by the FDA has a near majority of its voting members getting paid by special interests who have billions of dollars riding on the outcome of the committee’s ultimate decision,” Bill Wilson, President of Americans for Limited Government, observed. “This is ludicrous.”

“The Obama administration continues its rhetoric about a balanced, objective approach to science - an approach that sets aside agendas and emphasizes science - but we keep finding that special interests trump scientific findings,” he continued. “On this advisory pane, the heavy influence of big pharmaceutical companies is overwhelming. Pharmaceutical companies stand to make huge profits if the committee takes certain actions like banning menthol.”

• Jack Henningfeld a voting member of the committee is a consultant to GlaxoSmithKline the maker of Nicorette gum who would stand to benefit financially from further restrictions on tobacco products

• Neil L. Benowitz was Pfizer consultant which makes the drug Chantix that aids people who want to quit smoking. Benowitz has also worked for GlaxoSmithKline and Nabi Pharmaceuticals

• Dorothy Hatsukami received grant support (See here) from Nabi Pharmaceuticals to study their nicotine vaccine

• The head TPSAC, Jonathan Samet, also received grants from GlaxoSmithKline and the organization he headed was funded by two different pharmaceutical companies.

“Remarkably, The Times could have inserted a few lines from its own reporting to provide readers with some perspective on the tobacco panel,” noted Kevin Mooney, the TimesCheck editor. “They are entitled to take whatever editorial stance they want. But when they go out of their way to avoid mentioning and highlighting conflicts that bedevil their policy goals, it gives good cause to wonder about what is omitted in the other reports.”



Drew said...

Where exactly on this blog or elsewhere do you describe your own theories about health? For example, what factors do you think make the poor people unhealthy? Most people would argue that the poor get unhealthy by doing all the things you seem to defend, but if you have an alternative explanation I'm all ears.

jonjayray said...

It's genetic

There seems to be a general syndrome of biological fitness (e.g. high IQ people live longer)

The less healthy tend to sink to the bottom of society -- partly because of lower IQ but there are many other obvious reasons