Monday, August 08, 2011

The attention seeking Greenfield now claims that internet use leads to autism

Greenfield speculates again. Criticizing TV and computer usage is her shtick but we have not yet heard what she thinks of the finding that regular Facebook users have MORE friends in real life than others

A neuroscientist has sparked a war of words after suggesting a link between increased internet use and autism. Baroness Greenfield, former [fired] director of the Royal Institution, believes digital technology could be leading to changes in people’s brains.

The professor of pharmacology at Oxford University has previously argued that constant computer and internet use could be shortening attention spans, encouraging instant gratification and causing a loss of empathy.

But a fellow Oxford professor condemned her remarks on autism as ‘illogical garbage’. Dr Dorothy Bishop, a professor of neuropsychology, wrote an open letter to Baroness Greenfield saying: ‘You may not realise just how much ill-formed speculation parents of [children with autistic spectrum disorders] are exposed to.

‘Over the years they’ve been told their children’s problems are caused by a cold style of interaction, inoculations, faulty diets, allergies, drinking in pregnancy – the list is endless.’

She believes Baroness Greenfield, who was speaking in an interview with New Scientist magazine, has ignored a body of evidence which suggests most, if not all, of the rise in autism is down to a widening of the diagnostic criteria and better understanding of the condition.

She said: ‘Most cases are diagnosed around the age of two, when not many children are using the internet. And this rise has been documented over the past 20 years, long before Twitter and Facebook.’

Baroness Greenfield said: ‘I have never claimed new technologies are causing autism. Rather, I’ve said that the increase in lack of empathy, that is documented scientifically, may be leading to behaviours like that and this should be explored.’

She said one recent Chinese study found excessive internet use can cause parts of teenagers’ brains to waste away. She added: ‘We may be in danger if we are creating an environment for the next generation where a premium isn’t put on eye contact, body language and hugging someone.’


How "light" food options 'have as many calories as ordinary foods'

They are promoted as the lighter option. But many supermarket ‘diet’ ranges are in fact heavier in fat and calories than standard versions.

Keen to catch the eye of the weight-conscious shopper, supermarkets and big brands have spent millions of pounds on formulating lower fat, sugar or salt versions of their most popular products.

But some of those ‘light’ versions actually contain more fat or calories, suggesting that the only pounds that slimmers will be parting with are those in their wallets.

A snapshot survey of supermarket shelves has revealed ‘light’ versions of crisps, salad dressings, biscuits, cereals and yoghurt drinks may not be as low-calorie as they first seem.

Walkers Lights are promoted as having 33 per cent less fat than ordinary crisps and around 115 calories per 24g bag – making them as calorific, weight for weight, as the brand’s Extra Crunchy cheddar and sour cream crisps. This compares to a standard bag of Tyrell’s sea salt and vinegar crinkle cut crisps – which are not even promoted as a ‘diet’ food – containing just 107 calories per 24g.

Salad dressing labels also bear close inspection. For instance, Pizza Express’s Caesar Light dressing, which is widely sold in supermarkets, contains 348 calories and 34.1g of fat per 100ml. In contrast, 100g of standard caesar dressing in the Tesco Finest range contains just 300 calories per 100g and 28.1g of fat.

Marks & Spencer sells its reduced fat rich tea biscuits using the slogan ‘more nice, less naughty’. They contain 34 per cent less fat than the chain’s standard rich teas. But, at 40 calories per biscuit, the calorie count is the same, and two more than in McVitie’s standard rich tea biscuit. McVitie’s Lights on the other hand contain more sugar than its standard Digestive.

How they add up

Kellogg’s Special K is heavily promoted as an aid to weight loss. All but one of its ten flavours contain more calories per 100g than the cereal giant’s sugar-coated Frosties. Special K Honey Clusters, for instance, contain 389 calories per 100g, compared with 375 for Frosties. The cereal also has 3g of fat per 100g – five times as much as Frosties.

Under European rules, the word ‘light’ can only be used to promote food when there has been a reduction of at least 30 per cent in calories, fat, sugar or salt. The anomalies arise because manufacturers use their own products as a benchmark, rather than similar products by competitors.

The 30 per cent rule means foods that are still high in fat, sugar or calories can still be labelled as ‘light’ – simply because levels are lower than in the standard version.

Food companies say they clearly set out the nutritional content of their products on the labels. PepsiCo, which makes Walkers crisps, said Walkers Lights contain fewer calories and less saturated fat per bag than its standard crisps.

Kellogg’s said Special K Original has an average of 114 calories per bowl. Spokesman Paul Wheeler added: ‘Importantly, it has been developed with the right balance of vitamins and minerals especially for the diet of women looking to manage their weight.’

Marks & Spencer said its reduced fat rich tea biscuits are labelled as being low in fat, rather than ‘light’.


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