Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Light drinking in pregnancy makes the offspring smarter and better behaved

And what a tizzy that finding is provoking! "Experts" (i.e. believers in the conventional wisdom) don't want to believe the evidence. They do however eventually get around to realizing -- now that it suits them -- that correlation is not causation and that women who can drink in a controlled manner are probably smarter anyway -- and pass that on to their children genetically. The results do nonetheless suggest that moderate drinking is not harmful

Experts warn mothers-to-be should not raise a glass to new British research showing "light drinking" during pregnancy has no detrimental effect.

The study tracked the long-term health of more than 11,500 British children born at the start of the decade and it found no sign of harm - and perhaps even a benefit - from mums who drank low levels of alcohol throughout their pregnancy.

The finding runs counter to official advice for Australia's impending mums and experts say there were factors that may have skewed the data and abstinence remained the safest approach.

“The finding ... was that children exposed to light drinking in pregnancy had better cognitive ability at age five years in comparison to children of mothers who did not drink during pregnancy,” said Dr Lucy Burns, senior lecturer and chief investigator at the University of NSW's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. “This was, however, only one of the many outcomes in the report, the majority of which found no improvements in child functioning.

“Given the increasing body of knowledge now showing that alcohol disrupts brain development in the foetus ... it seems most sensible to continue to promote abstinence during pregnancy as the best approach.”

The study rated new mothers from either teetotal through to light drinkers (one or two standard drinks a week), moderate drinkers (three to six drinks weekly or five at any one time), and binge or heavy drinkers (seven or more drinks a week or six in any one sitting) during their pregnancy.

About 60 per cent of the mums abstained during pregnancy while one in four (26 per cent) were light drinkers, one in 20 (5.5 per cent) were moderate drinkers and 2.5 per cent were heavy drinkers.

Their children's development was assessed at ages three and five years.

Heavy drinking mums were more likely to have children who were hyperactive and with behavioural and emotional problems. But, in a surprise result, children of light drinkers were found to be 30 per cent less likely to have behavioural problems compared to mothers who abstained.

Professor Wayne Hall, from the University of Queensland's School of Population Health, said it was “highly unlikely” that light drinking alone carried a benefit for children.

“It is much more likely that women who report drinking these small quantities have children at lower risk of developing behaviour disorders because they have better diets, are healthier, use antenatal care, are better educated (and) probably drink alcohol with meals.”

These benefits were unlikely to have been completely factored out by the researchers, Professor Hall said.

The expert reaction came as an Australian study was also released showing low levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy did not increase the risk of birth defect.

The study of 4,700 women who gave birth in Western Australia between 1995 and 1997 did however show drinking more than seven standard drinks a week during the first trimester carried a four-fold increased risk of birth defects.

“While this finding may provide some reassurance to mothers who unknowingly consumed alcohol before they knew they were pregnant, the best advice is still to follow the national guidelines that advise expecting mums to avoid alcohol in pregnancy,” said Dr Colleen O'Leary from Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.

The official advice of NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) is “for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option”.


Is it REALLY organic?

By Mischa Popoff (who is an organic inspector)

Organic food is better for you. Right? It's more nutritious. It contains more vitamins, minerals and other good things like antioxidants, plus it's fresher and tastier. Right?

Hold that thought.

Organic food is also more pure and natural. It contains far less harmful pesticide residues than conventional food. It's also relatively free of herbicides, fungicides and other "cides" used extensively by conventional farmers. Right?

Again, hold that thought.

Perhaps best of all, organic agriculture uses natural sources for fertility like composted manure or clover plough-downs instead of synthetic ammonium nitrate. A whopping 50% of synthetic nitrates run off conventional fields into rivers and streams and end up in oceans where they cause algal blooms which are lethal to natural ecosystems. That in itself is reason enough for many consumers to pay healthy premiums for organic food. Right?

Yet again, hold that thought.

There are many good reasons why organic agriculture is supposed to be better for the environment and for your health. There are even some good studies that confirm, for the most part, many of the assumptions outlined above. But no one is bothering to prove whether the farm itself is organic in the first place.

Imagine how many world records would be broken at the Olympics if they quit testing athletes. Imagine if an athlete only needed a dated and signed list of all the things he ingested over the last four years to "prove" he was clean. See anything wrong with that? This is how the $46 billion organic industry runs. It's a bureaucratized honor system with piles of paperwork that are somehow supposed to prove no one is cheating.

Feel better now?

Sure, organic farmers are probably an honest bunch. But why not test to make sure? I worked for five years across the continent as an Advanced Organic Inspector, and the overwhelming majority of the 500 farmers I inspected asked me that very question when I dropped by to look at their audit trail. Indeed, what's the point of bothering to do studies to see how beneficial organic food might be if we don't even know if it's really organic in the first place?

With 80% of organic food being imported from places like China, Mexico, Brazil and Chile, you really have to wonder what steps are being taken to ensure full compliance with organic standards.

The problem lies with the ever-expanding matrix of players between the farmer and the consumer: private and state certifiers, federal regulators, review committees, sub-committees, local chapters, inspector review boards, international policy boards, accreditation committees, technical committees, and so on. Then there are all the broker/traders, wholesalers and retailers who bring organic food to the store shelf. None of them are about to jeopardize their revenue streams by demanding once-annual tests of organic farms. Indeed, 80% of their business relies on cheap imports.

Governments consulted with all of these players to come up with national organic standards, but forgot to ask farmers and consumers what they thought. The result is the biggest "feel good" system ever devised; a system which fails to promote sustainability and doesn't even begin to promote soil fertility, purity or nutrition. There's no effort to stamp out fraud and negligence, or to improve what it means to be organic.

"Adequate" hardly begins to describe it, and you're paying for it whenever you and your family fill up on organic groceries.

SOURCE. Popoff has a book on the subject here. The blurb at least is worth reading.

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