Friday, September 20, 2013

Sugar is 'the most dangerous drug of our time' and should come with smoking-style health warnings, says Dutch health chief

This is just an attention-seeking bureaucrat making baseless assertions.  If he was any sort of serious thinker he would address the question of distinguishing between people liking something and being addicted to it

Sugary foods and drinks should come with a smoking-style health warning, according to a leading Dutch health expert.

Paul van der Velpen, head of Amsterdam's health service, said that sugar is ‘the most dangerous drug of our time’.

The health chief - from a city that has a famously liberal attitude to cannabis - added that sugar is a drug like alcohol and tobacco and that its use should be discouraged.

Writing on a public health website, he said that users should be made aware of the dangers.

He wrote: ‘This may seem exaggerated and far-fetched, but sugar is the most dangerous drug of this time and is easy to obtain.’

He added: ‘Just as with smoking labels, soft drinks and sweet products should come with the warning that sugar is addictive and bad for the health.’

Mr Van der Velpen wrote that more and more people are becoming overweight and that this is increasing healthcare costs at a time when many governments are trying to save money.

He added that obesity could be tackled by encouraging people to take more exercise, but that changing people’s diets would be more effective.

He cites research which suggests that when people are eating fats and proteins they stop when they are full, but that when they are eating sugars they will keep eating until their stomachs hurt.

He believes this is because sugar is addictive and is ‘as hard to give up as smoking’.

As a result, he says sugar should be taxed in the same way alcohol and cigarettes are.

He also suggests that the amount of sugar that can be added to processed food should be regulated.


How a salt jab could be more effective for lower back pain than steroids

An interesting possibility

A saline injection in the spine could be more effective than steroids for treating lower back pain, a new study has revealed.

Spinal pain is a leading cause of disability in the industrialised world and epidural steroid injections - the most common nonsurgical treatment - have been the standard treatment for more than 50 years.

Yet the alternative spinal injection in the space around the spinal cord may provide better relief than steroids which can have adverse side effects.

Steroids raise blood sugar in diabetic back patients, slow the healing of wounds and accelerate bone disease in older women, the Johns Hopkins University study found.

Professor of Anaesthesiology Steven Cohen at the U.S. university said: ‘Just injecting liquid into the epidural space appears to work.  ‘This shows us that most of the relief may not be from the steroid, which everyone worries about.’

The research was prompted when more than 740 people in 20 U.S. states became ill with fungal meningitis and 55 people died after getting epidural injections of contaminated steroids last year.

Although better oversight might reduce that risk, patients can only get a limited number of steroid injections each year, even if their pain returns.

Professor Cohen said it was too soon to recommend that patients stop receiving epidural steroids, but added that their analysis also suggests that smaller steroid doses can be just as beneficial.

Fellow researcher Dr Mark Bicket said larger scale studies were needed to determine whether steroid alternatives can be just as helpful for back pain patients.

He said: ‘Our evidence does support the notion that, for now, reducing the amount of steroids for patients at risk may be advisable.’

The review covered medical records of 3,641 patients from 43 studies conducted in October 2012 and compared epidural steroid injections to other sorts of epidural and intramuscular injections.

Professor Cohen said the new analysis suggested that decades of mixed results of research on epidural steroid injections may have been due to the use of saline or anaesthetic injections as the comparison ‘placebo’ treatment.

He said: ‘It’s likely that those studies were actually comparing two treatments, rather than placebo versus treatment. Researchers may be wasting millions of dollars and precious time on such studies.’

The findings are published in the latest edition of the journal Anaesthesiology.


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