Friday, December 28, 2012

Wonder of wonders!  Epidemiological caution

All the things I would have said about this finding are said in the article itself!

An over-the-counter health supplement commonly taken by older people to keep joints supple could help them live longer, research indicates.

Glucosamine could have similar protective properties to aspirin, believe US researchers, but without the chance of developing stomach ulcers that comes with taking the latter.

In an observational study of 77,500 people over 50, they found those taking glucosamine were 13 per cent less likely to die over an eight-year period, than those who did not.

Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre in Seattle believe the supplement might have protective anti-inflammatory properties.

However, writing in the European Journal of Epidemiology, they said there was only “limited evidence” this was the case.

Their study indicated those on glucosamine were 13 per cent less likely to die of cancer and 41 per cent less likely to die of respiratory disease, than those who did not.

They wrote: “Although bias cannot be ruled out, these results suggest that glucosamine may provide some mortality benefit.”

The study results were adjusted to try to take account of factors that could skew the results, such as age, gender, whether people smoked and social class.

However, it is possible that glucosamine has no real life-protective properties, and what the results actually show is that people who take glucosamine tend to take better general care of themselves.

An increasing body of evidence suggests that aspirin protects against a range of cancers, but this evidence does not at present exist for glucosamine.

Sarah Williams, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This is an interesting study, but it can’t tell us for sure if the glucosamine supplements themselves were responsible for the difference in death rates, or whether it could be explained by something else.  For example, people who take supplements might have generally healthier lifestyles than people who don’t.

"This kind of research will need to be repeated in other large groups of people to know more about any effects of glucosamine supplements on our health.”


Supermarket meals healthier?

Cookery programmes featuring the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson should not be shown before the 9pm watershed because their meals are so unhealthy, say doctors.

Researchers found celebrity recipes contain more calories and fat than supermarket ready meals, and less fibre.  Neither dishes by the likes of Jamie, Nigella, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or Lorraine Pascale, nor own-brand meals from leading supermarket chains, were healthy, according to a study by Newcastle University researchers.

They looked at the nutrient content of 100 recipes randomly selected from five of the chefs' books - two were by the ubiquitous Jamie - and compared them to 100 pre-made meals from Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

On average, the chefs’ meals contained 605 calories, while the supermarket meals contained only 494.  They contained about 50 per cent more fat - 27.1g per serving, compared to 17.1g - and about half the fibre, 3.3g rather than 6.5g.

The only measure where the chefs’ recipes were healthier was in terms of being less salty, containing 1.65g of salt compared to 2.00g.

So unhealthy were the chefs' meals as a whole that the authors of the study, published online in the British Medical Journal, thought broadcasters should consider only showing them late in the evening.

They wrote: “In the United Kingdom advertisements of foods classified as high in fat, salt, or sugar are prohibited during programming likely to appeal to children, and a 9pm watershed for advertising such foods has been advocated.  “No restrictions apply to the content of programmes with television chefs. For consistency, the nutritional content of all food portrayed on television, including that in programmes with television chefs, should be considered.”

For 15 years Jamie Oliver has striven to convince people of the health benefits of cooking their own food, so it is perhaps surprising that his recipes have received a red warning from experts.

Taken from two of his books - Ministry of Food and 30 Minute Meals - they made up 47 of the 100 celebrity chef recipes.  They included one dish - Cauliflower Macoroni - that contains a whopping 1,100 calories per serving, about half an adult’s daily intake. It also contains 58g of fat, roughly three-quarters of a person’s daily need.

A recipe for braised pork by Nigella Lawson - who has never made a secret her love of rich food - contained 1,340 calories.

Wholesome Hugh tended to have the healthiest of the chefs’ recipes, with many rich in vegetables.   But even his contained a blow-out dish, Gill’s poached lee and Dorset Blue Vinny Tart, coming in at a weighty 1,1178 calories a portion.

The authors wrote: “This study shows that neither recipes created by popular television chefs nor ready meals produced by three leading UK supermarket chains meet national or international nutritional standards for a balanced diet.”

Martin White, professor of public health at Newcastle University, said he and his team were “a little surprised” to see the television chefs’ recipes were less healthy.  He said: “The Government says that processed ready meals should not be eaten too often and meals should preferably be cooked from scratch.  “So we thought it would be interesting to see what the evidence actually showed.”

It was important that celebrity chefs cooked healthy meals, he said.  “They have become immensely popular over the years. I can’t help but believe that, with millions of viewers, they don’t have some sort of influence over our eating habits.”

Prof White admitted to being “in two minds” about suggesting their programmes being restricted to after the watershed, but said moves had to be made to tackle Britain’s obesity epidemic.

Studies showed that restricting advertising of high salt, fat and sugar foods during children’s programmes had proved “ineffective overall”, so perhaps tougher measures were needed, he indicated.

At a minimum the chefs should include nutritional information in their cookery books so readers could decide how healthy they were, he said.


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