Thursday, August 11, 2011

That evil meat-eating again

The usual epidemiological rubbish. What they have most likely found is that the poor eat more "incorrect" food and the poor are less healthy anyway.

There is such a lot of anti-meat evangelism around in the health literature that many findings could be "rigged" (consciously or unconsciously) also. Many academic articles contain "disclosure" statements of various kinds. A disclosure of vegetarianism would seem appropriate in this field where applicable

Just two rashers of bacon a day can increase the risk of diabetes by more than 50 per cent, scientists claim. Eating a single sausage, small burger or a few slices of salami every day drastically raises the chances of developing the illness.

Research has found that just 100g of red meat every day – or half a normal size steak – increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes by a fifth. But they found that processed meat, including products made from mince and cold meats such as ham and salami, had a far greater effect.

Just 50g a day, the equivalent of two slices of bacon, one sausage or one small burger, increases the risk by more than 50 per cent.

At least 2.5million Britons suffer from type 2 diabetes, the form linked to obesity, and experts suspect a further million have the condition but have not yet been diagnosed. It occurs when their body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin to control its blood sugar levels. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include feeling very thirsty, needing to go to the toilet and constant tiredness.

Although the illness is treatable with tablets and injections, it can cause serious complications including blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers at Harvard University looked at the health records and diets of more than 440,000 men and women spanning a period of between 14 and 28 years. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that people who ate 100g of red meat a day were 19 per cent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. And those who had 50g of processed meat every day – one sausage or frankfurter or two slices of bacon – increased their risk by 51 per cent.

But the scientists found that those who normally eat one portion of red meat a day could lower their risk by a fifth if they ate other proteins including nuts, low fat cheese or brown rice instead.

There is now widespread evidence that red meat drastically increases the likelihood of major health problems including heart disease, strokes and some types of cancer.

The Department of Health has issued guidelines saying adults should eat no more than 500g of red meat a week. This amounts to three sausages, one small steak, one quarter-pounder and three slices of lamb.

Until now, however, there was little evidence that relatively small amounts of processed red meat could increase the chance of diabetes. The researchers say the risks posed by eating too much red meat are now known to be so great that the public should be advised to cut back and eat poultry, fish and pulses instead.

But Dr Iain Frame from Diabetes UK, said: ‘Based on analysis of previous studies, this research simply suggests eating a daily portion of red meat may increase someone’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. ‘The suggested increased risk is small so people should not be afraid of eating red meat as part of a healthy balanced diet.’


Killer T-cells wipe out leukaemia

THREE US cancer patients were brought back from the brink by a new therapy that turned their own immune cells into tumour killers, wiping out an advanced form of leukaemia, researchers said today.

The breakthrough stunned scientists and although the gene transfer therapy technique is still in development, it could offer hope one day to people who suffer from ovarian, lung, breast and skin cancers.

"We saw amazing results," said Michael Kalos, lead author of the study that appeared in Science Translational Medicine and was published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"These were nasty tumours that were late-stage, a lot of mutations that had bad prognosis," he said. "We saw massive reduction in tumour burden. One patient had over seven pounds (three kilograms) of tumour and it all disappeared."

Two of the three men in the study with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have remained cancer-free for almost a year, while the third has seen a slight recurrence of disease.

"Within three weeks, the tumours had been blown away, in a way that was much more violent than we ever expected," said senior author Carl June, who like Kalos is a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. "It worked much better than we thought it would."

Scientists removed a sample of the patients' T-cells and genetically modified them to attack all cells that express a certain kind of protein, CD19, which includes tumour cells.

They altered them using a lentivirus vector that encodes an antibody-like protein known as a chimeric antigen receptor. The protein is expressed on the surface of T-cells and designed to bind to CD19.

The scientists also engineered the T-cells to start triggering other T-cells to multiply as soon as they attached to a cancer cell, bringing on a faster death for the tumour but avoiding the side-effects of cancer drugs.

"We saw at least a 1000-fold increase in the number of modified T-cells in each of the patients. Drugs don't do that," said Mr June, describing the infused T-cells as "serial killers". "On average, each infused T-cell led to the killing of thousands of tumour cells."

In one case, a 64-year-old man had blood and marrow "replete with tumour cells". He saw little change for the first two weeks after treatment, but then started experiencing nausea, chills and fever.

Tests showed he was undergoing a huge rise in T-cell count, and a condition known as tumour lysis syndrome that can arise when cancer cells are dying off. By day 28, his blood showed no evidence of leukaemia.

A 65-year-old patient saw similar results, with no trace of leukaemia after a year, but a 77-year-old patient saw a slight recurrence of cancer after he was treated with steroids for the symptoms of tumour lysis syndrome. However, his tumour load remains far below what it was before the treatment.

Steven Rosenberg, chief of the surgery branch at the National Cancer Institute, described it as "important" and "impressive". He was not involved with the study but has published research on similar approaches to eradicating B-cell lymphomas and melanoma.

"You are taking advantage of the body's immune system by creating outside the body T-cells that can act against the cancer," he said. "You have to select the particular gene modification for each type of cancer but when you pick it wisely it can be very effective."

The other main form of treatment, bone marrow transplants, carries a minimum 20 per cent risk of dying from the procedure and cure rates hover at around 50 per cent.

While it remains unknown how long the treatment may keep cancer at bay, researchers were excited to see that "memory" T-cells remained months after the cancer disappeared, indicating the body is retaining some protection.

The next step is to try the technique in two children and at least 13 adults with CD19-positive leukaemia.

They are also looking to determine whether the approach could target non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and acute lymphocytic leukaemia, mesothelioma cancer cells, ovarian and pancreatic cancer cells.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the second most common type of adult leukemia after acute myeloid leukemia, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"I'm healthy and still in remission," said one of the three patients, who declined to be named. "I know this may not be a permanent condition, but I decided to declare victory."


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