Saturday, June 12, 2010

Claim: Girls with a high meat diet more likely to start periods early AND increase risk of breast cancer and heart disease

Pure speculation. Girls with a high meat diet may well reach puberty earlier but there is no evidence that they have health problems

A diet high in meat may put girls at higher risk of breast cancer and heart disease by bringing on early puberty, according to scientists. A study of 3,000 girls found that girls with higher intakes of meat and protein were more likely to have started their periods by the time they were 12 and a half.

Girls who start puberty early are believed to be at higher risk of a number of diseases - including breast cancer, ovarian cancer and heart disease.

The study, carried out at the University of Brighton in East Sussex, found that 49 per cent of girls eating more than 12 portions of meat a week at the age of seven had started their periods by 12 and a half. This compares with just 35 per cent of girls who ate fewer than four portions a week.

And three year olds who ate more than eight portions of meat a week were also more likely to have early periods.

A portion is defined as the normal amount of meat a child would eat in a full meal. A portion is therefore smaller for a 3 year old child than for a 7 year old one. A small meat-based snack such as a ham sandwich would only be around half a portion, but a Sunday roast would include a full portion.

However study author Dr Imogen Rogers, a senior lecturer at the university's school of pharmacy, cautioned parents cutting meat out of their daughters' diets. 'Meat is a good source of many important nutrients including iron and zinc and there is no reason why girls should adopt a vegetarian diet or that meat in moderation cannot form a valuable part of a balanced diet for children,' she said.

Zinc and iron were both needed in high quantities during pregnancy, she said, which suggests a diet rich in meat could prepare the body for pregnancy. 'A meat-rich diet could be seen as indicating suitable nutritional conditions for a successful pregnancy,' she said.

She said the findings needed repeating in other populations before firm recommendations on diet can be made. But she added: 'These results add to the evidence that it is healthiest to avoid diets containing very high amounts of meat.' [Really??]

The research, funded by the World Cancer Research Fund, was published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

The average age at which girls start puberty fell dramatically over the 20th century: perhaps reflecting easier access to meat. While the average is now 12, although the average is now levelling off.

Obesity is also a factor in the declining average age, but Dr Rogers said it could not be the only one because the average age was now no longer falling even though child obesity was on the rise.

Early periods could be linked with breast cancer - possibly because women are exposed to higher levels of oestrogen over their lifetime.

Dr Ken Ong, paediatric endocrinologist at the Medical Research Council, said there had been 'vast shifts' in the timing of first periods over the past century. He told the BBC that the link with meat consumption was a 'plausible' one.

'This was not related to larger body size, but rather could be due to a more direct effect of dietary protein on the body's hormone levels.'


Health superstition infects the British judiciary

A takeaway has been banned from opening near a secondary school in a landmark legal ruling. The decision by a High Court judge will force councils to take into account the health and well-being of pupils when making planning decisions. Mr Justice Cranston said that Tower Hamlets council, East London, 'acted unlawfully' by allowing a Fried & Fabulous to open on the site of a former grocery shop.

The takeaway selling burgers, chicken and chips was too close to the Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School, just 500 yards away, he said.

The unprecedented ruling follows a crackdown on unhealthy eating by national and local government. It comes a year after Waltham Forest became the first council to ban fast food businesses from opening close to schools.

Other local authorities are considering similar laws and yesterday's ruling means councillors could appeal against the planning permission of unhealthy takeaways if they are close to schools.

Tower Hamlets council had initially allowed the Fried & Fabulous but parents and teachers objected, fearing it would jeopardise the school's healthy-eating policy. Resident Edward Copeland was so angry that he brought the case to the High Court.

All 1,700 pupils follow strict rules stating 'no chips, fatty foods, sweets, fizzy drinks etc' can be sold at the school.

The school's head Catherine Myers was so concerned about the takeaway that she wrote a letter to the council explaining that the school was achieving outstanding examination results by educating 'the whole person'. She said the governors and student council and their neighbours 'objected strongly' and felt 'undermined' by a takeaway setting up.

'Approximately 500 students remain in school at the end of the day to take extra classes and already several takeaway shops quite cynically open up specifically to make a profit from selling cheap junk food to vulnerable teenagers,' she wrote.

Yesterday Mr Justice Cranston said that the councillors who had agreed the takeaway's opening had been wrongly informed that they could not take into account that it was so close to the secondary school.

After the ruling, Councillor Peter Golds, leader of the Tower Hamlets Conservative group, said: 'This is a very important High Court decision. 'It clarifies the law and sets a benchmark that will enable local authorities everywhere to take account of health and well-being - particularly of schoolchildren - as factors in determining planning applications.'

Schools have been increasingly adopting healthy eating policies over the last few years - many inspired by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. He launched a national campaign tied in with the TV series Jamie's School Dinners in 2006 encouraging schools to ditch unhealthy lunches and replace them with pasta and salad.

Many schools have gone further by banning vending machines on their premises and imposing 'lock-in' policies whereby pupils are not allowed outside school grounds in case they stray into takeaways.

Last year Labour-run Waltham Forest council shut down a Jamaican fast-food outlet that was deemed to be too close to a primary and secondary school. The council's rules - which apply only to those takeaways yet to receive planning permission - prevent them from opening close to one another or near schools and public places.



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John A said...

"Fats food" 500 yards, or 1500 feet, from schools - in urban areas, this is tantamount to a complete ban.