Friday, September 10, 2010

Brain injuries in alcoholics may be linked to obesity

I was waiting for this one: "Fat makes you stupid". But generalizing from a non-sample of Polish alcoholics is drawing a long bow. And it's all a matter of "may be"s, with no testing of actual mental functioning reported. I wonder why not? Was such testing done but with pesky results? -- JR

The trifecta of alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking and a high body-mass index may be linked with alcohol-related brain injuries, a new study finds.

The study, published online Tuesday in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, looked at data on 54 male veterans age 28 to 66 who were dependent on alcohol and were in treatment and had not been drinking for about a month. In addition to noting the men's BMI, researchers also did brain magnetic-resonance imaging, looking at brain volume, blood flow and concentrations of metabolites in the brain. After controlling for factors such as age, the average number of drinks consumed over a lifetime and smoking, a higher BMI was linked with having lower N-acetylaspartate, a metabolite found in the central nervous system. Decreased NAA concentrations found via magnetic resonance may be an indicator of brain dysfunction or loss of neurons. A higher BMI was also associated with other markers related to brain injury.

"Excessive weight is not only a risk factor for cardiovascular disease or diabetes, but it is also a risk factor for developing dementia," said Stefan Gazdzinski, the study's lead author of Jagiellonian University in Poland.

"Obesity has been shown to be associated with worse decision making and problem solving throughout lifetime [But what does that mean? We are not leaping to causal conclusions again, are we?]. We had previously observed lower concentrations of some brain metabolites, markers of brain injury, in healthy non-alcohol-dependent people with BMIs in the overweight to obese range.

"Knowing that individuals in developed countries who overuse alcohol are usually heavier than individuals enjoying alcohol in moderation, because of the caloric intake, we wanted to investigate if excess weight accounts for some of the brain injury usually observed in alcoholics."


Big Brother in Iowa? School District Monitors Kids' Lunch Choices

Children have to memorize a four-digit PIN if they want to eat lunch! Brave New World, indeed!

An Iowa school district's lunch program asks children as young as 5 years old to memorize a four-digit PIN code so it can monitor what they eat in the school cafeteria -- prompting some parents to claim it's an unhealthy case of "Big Brother."

The Ankeny Community School District is maintaining a database that records what the kids buy to eat and then checks their food choices against national nutrition guidelines.

The program is intended to provide the children with more food options while ensuring compliance with new and stricter state-mandated nutrition requirements. But some parents are worried that the program infringes on people’s freedoms. And others want to know why their 5-year-olds need to memorize a PIN before they can tie their shoelaces, and what they’re supposed to do if they forget their four-digit number.

Garry Howe says he was shocked when his two sons brought home a letter from school last week informing him of the program. The letter included two sets of PIN numbers — one for Benny, 5, who is in kindergarten, the other for Nate, 7, who is in second grade.

It read in part:

Benny and Nate Howe, ages 5 and 7, of Ankeny, Iowa, are required to memorize PIN numbers as part of their school district's new lunch program.

“The PIN numbers will make serving lines more efficient and allow more time for students to focus on their lunch selections through our offer vs. serve program and daily salad bar. This will in turn accommodate increased meal choices and the relocation of our point-of-sale machine.

“Classroom teachers have been working with students to memorize their PIN numbers. As students “check-out” they will tell the checkout scanner their number. The scanner will record the items purchased and verify that a lunch is purchased that meets the new National School Lunch Program (NSLP) guidelines. The point of sale employee will also visually verify the student’s identity to ensure the appropriate number was given by the student.”

The letter went on to thank parents for helping their kids memorize the PINs and asked them to stress the importance of keeping the numbers confidential.

“My children have to memorize a four-digit PIN if they want to eat lunch at school,” said Howe, two of whose four children are in grades K-5. “It sounds like Big Brother to me....

“The PIN pulls up the child's picture for validation and records what the child is eating so Big Brother can keep track of my child's food consumption,” he said.

But the school district says the PIN system provides for quicker, more efficient and streamlined food service while ensuring what students select from the cafeteria complies with the law.

"We’re making sure that as they’re leaving the lunch line that the menu items they’ve selected match up with state law, so they’re selecting a meal that has all the basic [components] of good nutrition,” said school district spokesman Jarrett Peterson. “We’re not tracking what each individual child eats.”

The PIN program being rolled out this week is a response to Iowa’s 2008 Healthy Kids Act, which targets childhood obesity through an overhaul of school food, wellness and fitness programs throughout the state.

One provision of the law, which went into effect in July, says that any and all food offered on school grounds — in vending machines, a la carte cafeteria options, even fundraising bake sales — must adhere to federal guidelines.

Peterson said the school district is not storing the information in any kind of database. “We are not tracking each individual student’s meals, we are tracking to make sure the meals we serve are in compliance with the Healthy Kids Act,” he said.

But Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy and civil liberties advocacy center, said there is a growing trend of schools collecting student data and that schools need to be open with parents about what they’re doing with that student information.


1 comment:

John A said...

School District Monitors Kids' Lunch Choices

So much wrong.

But the silliest is the insistence
Peterson said the school district is not storing the information in any kind of database. “We are not tracking each individual student’s meals, we are tracking to make sure the meals we serve are in compliance with the Healthy Kids Act,” he said.

No polite way to say it - this is outright lies.

A database is being established, to show what foods are consumed. To say that, then say the data is not being stored, cannot be a mere gaffe - it is a flat-out and stupid lie.

And the only reason for requiring a PIN (or other identifier, eg a machine-readable ID card)) is to track the individual. Totalling which foods are taken over a period of, say, an hour and a count of persons taking food duruing that time can be accomplished without needing to know what any individaul has taken.

It is also implied, though not stated, that if an individual child does not take "appropriate" - aka "required" - foods the individual will not be allowed to leave until the government list is satisfied, and any such incident may be reported to parents if not some government watchdog: doubtless repeat "offenses" will trigger a home visit to upbraid the parents, perhaps removing the child for attitude adjustment - brainwashing - away from "abusive" parents.